Are Writer Listservs a Thing of the Past?

Has anyone noticed the declining interest in listservs lately? I mean, I moderate four, five, maybe even six of them (lost count, sorry, guess my interest waned so much I lost count) on yahoo forums.

Four or five years ago, writers were scrambling to sign up to every listserv they could find just so they wouldn’t miss out on anything. In fact, writer listservs served very important purposes such as:

  • a nifty place to brag about your book
  • a nifty place to help others learn how to be published
  • a nifty place to scream the fact you did become published
  • a nifty place to rant and rave about the publishing industry
  • a nifty place to meet other writers and share your joys and frustrations

Oh, the list goes on.

But, now, we have social networks.

There have been great social networks that have popped up over the last couple of years, but my favorites are all from the Ning network which allow blatant book bragging:

And that list could go on and on, too.

As we have all figured out by now, social networks are great because now authors have a chance to brag, help others, scream the fact they became published and rant and rave about anything their heart desires to not just a few, a hundred or even a thousand (if the listserve was lucky enough to have that many members). With social networks, there is the potential to reach thousands of potential readers and it’s a rare listserv whose numbers could even come close.

An even greater advantage to joining social networks is that authors are realizing the importance of being found in the search engines through them. Listservs rarely have this advantage because the moderators often switch settings over to private, thus making it hard for anyone to find them and if you want to read them, you must join the group. Not so with most social networks who allow you to read what the members have posted and unless you want to comment, you don’t even have to join.

But, I feel the most important thing that contributes to lack of participation in these listservs is time which authors don’t usually have a whole lot of if they are on deadlines.

Because of these reasons, many listserve moderators are closing down shop. Even the moderators have learned how important the social networks have become to reach more readers and have thrown in the towel.

In the January ’09 edition of the Southern Review of Books, Jon Noring, founder of The eBook Community, a Yahoo group, was quoted as closing down shop. “The last couple of years we’ve seen discussion in this group trickle off to essentially nothing,” Noring says. Even with the membership tipping off at 3,400 members, the actual number of people who actively participate was very small, less than a hundred, according to polls.

My hunch? The ebook community has moved to social networks.

I might be in the minority but I can’t throw in the towel. Even if I’m lucky to see a few posts come through a day, I know there’s at least someone out there who is willing to contribute to a listserv I have built up over the years and, for them, I am truly grateful.

But I, like other authors, must learn to go where there is the most potential to sell books. Unfortunately, this may mean that listservs might not serve our needs in ways it once served and may either be revitalized into something that social networks can’t give us or may die a slow death.

How about you? Are you seeing less participation in listservs? Have you left other listservs for social networks?

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