Twitter for Authors

I love Twitter. I love Twitter a lot more than Facebook, because the latter likes to make decisions without my consent. Also, if you have an author page, Facebook doesn’t show your updates to all people who have agreed to see it. No, they only do that if you pay! What utter bullshit.

So I hang out on Twitter much more than Facebook. Everyone and anyone can see your posts. You can see everyone’s.

As author, I’ve found Twitter very useful in a number of ways:

1. Twitter is the most important and foremost source of raw, up-to-date news. I’ve seen pictures of things happening live that were only ever covered in retrospect by the major news services. I’ve seen scandals unfold. I’ve seen original tweets that were later deleted. I have a column called “News” and a bunch of news services go in there: A couple of science-related people, ABC news, Al Jazeera (the single best source of varied international news), the Rural Fire Brigade, traffic updates, a gossip columnist (gossip, however much it doesn’t interest me, is a GREAT source for characterisation). As author, news is the stuff you thrive on, and the more uncensored and pre-chewed, the better.

2. Twitter is great for asking questions. You know when you’re writing and all of a sudden, you can’t remember the word for that thing that goes in the thing that people do that thing with? Ask on Twitter. You’ll have your reply within five minutes.

3. Twitter is awesome for background information, too. People post links to blog posts. You discover a lot of interesting stuff.

4. Twitter is the go-to place for cat pictures. Or any other source of levity and goofing off. Sometimes you just need a laugh.

Noticed how I haven’t actually mentioned selling books yet? That’s because you don’t sell books on Twitter. If you want to descend to marketing-speak, what Twitter helps you do is “establish your brand”, and this is marketing BS for letting people know who you are and what makes you tick.

Those people might then follow your blog, because they like chatting with you. If you occasionally mention that you’re a writer, they may sign up for your newsletter. They may buy new books or specials. But that’s a secondary effect. Twitter does not sell books.

How do I know?

I tried. Two titles of mine have been part of tweet-bombs twice. Since you have to try everything at least once, I signed up for a Twitter campaign once, and once my book got picked up without me submitting it.

Both times, a couple of tweets with a  book link were tweeted and re-tweeted every couple of hours by various accounts. Copies sold as a result? Negligible.

It’s kinda fascinating to see a tweet bomb unfold. All these accounts retweeting the same thing. It’s amazing where these tweets go and who retweets them, and also, how long before the echoes of it die completely. I’m presuming that there are a number of authors using sites like TweetAdder to automatically spit out and pre-program hundreds of author promo tweets.

And why? Ye gods, why? It does not work. It clutters up my news feed. It annoys the shit out of everyone. It. DOES. NOT. WORK.

When you’re on Twitter, the “product” you’re “selling” is yourself. Be interesting. Be a real person. Please kill the auto-retweet feed.


Twitter for Authors was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

In anticipation

I don’t do many housekeeping posts on this blog, but I can’t see myself making another intelligent post before Sunday morning, when I leave for the US.

For those of you as yet unaware, I’ll be attending the Writers of the Future workshop and ceremony.
More details here

I’ll be away from 8-19 May. I will blog about this event, but I can’t promise that any blogging will happen while I’m there.

It’s more likely that I’ll be posting some brief snippets on Facebook or Twitter.

Meanwhile, I’m also on goodreads where I’d love to hear everyone’s book recommendations. Also check out the ‘Where to find my work’ page above, which now comes with nifty goodreads buttons.

it’s only useless banter

Facebook, blogs, Twitter, it’s all a load of useless banter that keeps me from writing.

Or is it?

Let’s take a step further back:

Marketing yourself as author.

I think far too many people assume that marketing is a nebulous thing that gets done by the publisher after you’ve published a novel. After all, they’ve got the budget, the flyers, the posters, the connections with review sites and publications. Do you know it costs to get a review in a publication as lowly as your local free newsrag? That’s right, the one with all the ads? Who reads this anyway? How many copies does that stiff and formal type of advertising sell? To make the question a bit more personal: have you ever bought something based solely on an ad in a formal publication?

Ahem. Insert resounding silence.

So how do you decide what books to buy? In my case, it’s because I’ve heard someone talk about the book in one of my networks. Sometimes I’m familiar with the author. Very often, the author is on my f-list, or I’m a member of their site, or something similar.

I largely buy books from authors who are out there themselves marketing their own books, even if only by offering ‘useless banter’ on a blog. I am allergic to formal, publisher-vetted-and-sanctioned promo-blurb blog entries. I can smell a commercial a mile off, and will run, but I love connecting with authors and reading about their writing, their dogs (or ferrets), their kids and their bird-watching habits. If I’ve seen the development of a book blogged, I am likely to be interested in reading it, because the author’s blog entries have made it real to me.

But how does that work for a new, relatively-unpublished writer?

Well, large networks do not pop out of the ground like mushrooms. You have to work on them. You have to keep posting content that engages people. When it does, more people will come, but none of this happens quickly. Today’s unpublished authors are tomorrow’s stars. Today’s agent-assistants are tomorrow’s hotshot agents. Today’s small press is tomorrow’s hottest-thing-of-the-year. The cohort of writers with whom you are going through the learning process will contain a few people who will make it big in one way or another. I can guarantee that there will be people who decide to start a small press voracious for new writers, who will be more inclined to give your work a break because they already know you. There will also be people who become editors. These contacts are extremely useful, but you must keep cultivating them, because you don’t yet know who these people are going to be.

And all the rest of your hundreds of Facebook ‘friends’ and your Twitter followers? Well, they’re your potential readership. Entertain them, and they will follow. If you’re on the cusp of a publishing deal, and you can offer the potential publisher a ‘friends’ list with two thousand members, they may well be more inclined to sign on the dotted line.

So… useless banter? Not in the slightest.