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Originally from Los Angeles, #LatinoLit Silvio Sirias is the true definition of the bilingual, bicultural author who weaves his words through many worlds. Sirias, whose novel MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA won the 2007 Chicano/Latino Literary Prize for Best Novel, has written several novels based in Central America, a region that has influenced him even since he lived as an adolescent in Nicaragua. We had the chance to chat with Silvio about how he uses social media to promote his work and the advice he would give aspiring new writers.

 

Silvio Sirias

 

JRV: Has social media helped you promote your books and increase your book sales? What experiences have you had with social media?

Silvio Sirias: Social media—primarily Facebook and Twitter—played important roles during the virtual book tours of my two novels, BERNARDO AND THE VIRGIN (Northwestern University Press) and MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA (Arte Público Press). Both Facebook and Twitter helped spread the word regarding the schedule and the host websites. With the assistance of Condor Book Tours—and I highly recommend authors sign-up with enthusiastic publicists, such as Nilki Benitez—our efforts translated into larger audiences and, of course, momentary spikes in sales.

Regarding my experiences in social media, I’m far more adept at attracting attention—positive, I hope—on Facebook. Twitter is still somewhat of a mystery to me, even though I have been participating for more than two years. I think this is because the discourse in Twitter is slightly encrypted, and the vast amount of useful information that travels over this medium overwhelms me. Nevertheless, I’ve met many kindred spirits on Twitter—a Latino and Latina literature niche-group, as you would say, Julio—and this alone has been worth the effort. What’s more, Twitter has helped educate me—and substantially—about the world of publishing.

JRV: Everyone is saying that the self-publishing movement will eventually become how every book is published. Will large publishing houses become extinct? Why or why not?

Silvio Sirias: I’m jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon myself with a collection of essays entitled LOVE MADE VISIBLE: ESSAYS AND REFLECTIONS ON WRITING, TEACHING, and OTHER DISTRACTIONS. The reason I’m going this route is because, although a fun read, I think, Love Made Visible would prove difficult to place with a traditional publisher. As a result, rather than spending months sending the manuscript around looking for a home, for this project self-publishing makes sense. I’m hoping that readers who have enjoyed my writings in the past will support me on this solo venture.

I don’t think, however, that the monumental surge in independent authors constitutes a death knell for traditional publishers. Undoubtedly, publishers were asleep at the wheel when the tidal wave hit them. But at the helm of the book industry are creative, quick-thinking people. After they recover from the shock they will redefine their place in the market and carry on. That said, though, the absolute dominance they had in the industry is already a thing of the past. The present situation in the publishing world, and the freedom it now allows authors, reminds me of the Spanish proverb: “En río revuelto, ganancia de pescadores” (There’s good fishing in troubled waters).

But the problem I foresee with self-publishing is that there will be an almost crushing amount of chaff. As practiced gatekeepers, traditional publishers have an advantage: their ability to choose what they consider to be wheat. (And in the major publishers’ view of the marketplace that means what sells, regardless of literary quality.)

JRV: What is the best advice you would give new authors about promoting your works and using social media? What works? What doesn’t?

Silvio Sirias: I bow to your expertise on this matter, Julio. I’d urge them to follow you on Twitter (@julito77). Other than that, I feel that the best writers can hope for is to make readers aware of their work. Convincing readers to make a purchase, that’s a different matter. What authors need to keep in mind is that in the developing world of social media one has to be persistent, astute, yet very, very judicious. Social media will help sell a few books, but only great writing will keep readers coming back.

To Become a Fan of Silvio on Facebook: Click here.

To Follow Silvio on Twitter: Click here.

 

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One of Valdes-Rodriguez's New Twitter Profile Pictures

Her Twitter stream and Facebook is very active. She is consistently getting new followers and friends each day. And as author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez continues to battle with Hollywood, she announced on her social media networks that she will be self-publishing the third book of The Dirty Girls Social Club series.

Early on December 31, Valdes-Rodriguez, who is alleging that the TV script adaptation of her first Dirty Girls book is “racist and sexist,” posted a proposed book cover with the working title A Call to Mountains, the third book in the series on her YFrog account.

On December 31, her Twitter stream and Facebook page is active with responses. Her latest updates on these social networks reveal her self-publishing plans, and also how much money she has made in the past on advances and how much she would make it should were to be successful with her self-publishing efforts.

After listening to some readers, on January 1, Valdes-Rodriguez suggested a different title and cover. The fans have spoken: the new book series will be called Lauren’s Saints of Dirty Faith and a new cover was posted that met some reader approval:

After getting more feedback, on January 2, Valdes-Rodriguez added another cover on her Facebook page and made it official with this image, proving that the is taking the idea of “an interactive novel” seriously:

Here are just some of the updates she has posted on December 31, January 1, and January 2:

From Twitter

  • “Believe it or not, some of us still make art for reasons other than money. #latism #teamalisa
  • “Watching 8 Mile. Love Eminem. Relate a lot to him actually.”
  • “Lauren Book outline nearly done. Title: A CALL TO MOUNTAINS. Lauren quits Boston, retreats to NM, hoping for peace, spirituality, love.”
  • Okay, it’s official. DGSC book three’s title will be: LAUREN AND THE SAINTS OF DIRTY FAITH. Remember that y’all. 🙂
  • “@_luisantonio I will publish a chapter a week as ebooklets for 36 weeks, starting next month. .75cents a pop. actual book 4sale fall 2011.”
  • “@_luisantonio going the dickens route with this, see where it takes me. half chapt. avail on blog. full chapt at lulu.com for 75 cents.”
  • “My advances from pub have been about $30k lately. Self pub a chapter a week I need 833 reg readers to make that much in a year.”
  • “If Dirty Girls 3 sells same as DGSC 2 as self pub. I make $625k. If it sells like DGSC1 self pub I make $3 million. No more middle man.”
  • “And I’d make that charging you LESS than my publisher does now.

Facebook Updates

  • “To make the same amount I’ve made from publishing houses lately on a self-published serialized novel, I will only need 833 regular readers. Dirty Girls Social Club sold more than half a million copies. Book two sold close to 200,000. I think I can find 1000 of you guys to go on this journey with me!”
  • “‘Dirty Girls Social Club sets out to prove Latina can mean anything — black, white, rich, poor, Spanish-speaking, not Spanish-speaking.’ (Miami Herald)”
  • “Well, then. It’s settled. By popular demand, I declare this cover a winner! Thanks, all. I can’t wait for you to read this book!!! I am loving writing it.”

Valdes-Rodriguez, who talks about her challenges (dismal sales, personal issues) with the Huff Post , also mentioned that she will very likely be using lulu.com, a website for self-published works.

Finally, we want to thank everyone for participating in our readers poll: Is the Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez story relevant to you? The current results of about 100 responses (You can still vote):

  • It speaks to the issue of artistic and creative control. 35%
  • I want to see an accurate portrayal of Latinas on television. 26%
  • Enough already. We get the point! 16%
  • I think the story is too one-sided. 14%
  • The use of social media can help people get their stories out. 9%

Let us know what you think of Valdes-Rodriguez’s decision to self-publish?

UPDATE, January 1, 2011: The Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez blog posts referred to here no longer appear on her site. Valdes-Rodriguez hinted that certain blog posts would very likely be deleted in accordance to the statement she published at Please Respect NBC.

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