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Tweet, tweet

I joined Twitter a few years back, because I realized that despite my aversion to it, it’s a really useful tool for keeping up on publishing.  From being more in tune with what the industry is talking about and where it’s headed to the stronger relationships with colleagues and clients, it’s proven to be the right choice, however much time I might waste trying to condense my overly verbose thoughts into 140 characters.  I don’t think it’s for everyone, but it’s for far more people than I realized, including me.

Still, I find myself wondering what’s really effective in using the platform for networking and promotion.  How do you maintain a balance between participating in the conversation and drowning others out?  How many tweets is too many tweets?  How few is like not being on it at all?  How much honesty do you allow yourself?  Does diplomacy rule your choices, or is Twitter a place for your unvarnished opinions?

And how do you promote yourself without turning people off?  I’d say Twitter markedly skews my perception of success toward people who are wildly good at self-promotion, even though certain strategies drive me up a wall.  Even the strategies I hate sometimes work on me.

So the question is: what works for you?  Let’s assume that as a person who is reading a literary agency blog you’re not averse to the notion of marketing in general.  Have you ever bought a book because of Twitter or learned about an author that way?  Do you follow the authors you are fans of?  Do you use Twitter primarily as a tool in your platform or primarily as a vehicle for socializing?  Do you primarily hope to reach readers or to network with authors?  And what really turns you off?  What Twitter “sins” make you unfollow?

Update:  Whoops!  I somehow managed not to tag this at all, so here I was wondering why no one had an opinion on Twitter, but actually I just wasn’t getting notifications because WordPress didn’t know I wrote it.  Thanks everyone for your feedback!

19 Responses to Tweet, tweet

  1. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    While I don’t quite agree with an acquaintance of mine who beleives that “Twitter is a platform for people who have nothing to say to say it in 140 characters or less,” I have to admit I’m a lot more blogcentric when it comes to sharing thoughts. I visited another agency site recently where their last blog entry was two years ago, but they had a real-time twitter feed in the upper corner of their homepage. Apparently, as of a few minutes earlier, one of their star agents had just had a pleasant massage, and another thought rude people were unpleasant… I knew intellectual heavyweights like this would never be impressed with my paltry efforts, so I quietly slid out the side door to less intimidating circumstances. I’m a lot more likely to try to get a copy of a work into the hands of the People or Entertainment Weekly fiction editor by way of promo than I am to waste my time posting on social media that’s only read by other writers trying to promo their own stuff. Like I said, I don’t quite share my friend’s view of Twitter, but I’m inclined to believe that most serious social media junkies aren’t going to have the attention span to bother with a book of any kind. It also makes for extreme laziness in terms of condolences whenever somebody famous kicks off; a “tweet of sympathy” being like kicking sand on someone’s body as you pass instead of taking a few minutes to properly bury them. Now, if somebody can think of a way to say all that in 140 characters, I’m take back everything I just said and reopen my Twitter account tomorrow…………….

    • Lauren says:

      Some good points, but actually there’s a tremendous amount of tweeting by people who read more than almost anyone. If you do ever join Twitter, you might find the #FridayReads hashtag to be to your liking!

  2. Katie Newingham says:

    Kevin,

    You’d be surprised what people can say in 140 characters, and how a simple tweet can get people involved in a cause just by offering a link and a meaningful title. Take into consideration the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Sure, there were tweets that one might see as sweeping sand on the grave of a famous person, and one might wonder why all the attention for one man, when so many die of overdose or even in the midst of heroic duty, and don’t so much as make it into the local paper.

    But the thing is there were also tweets that were very empathetic toward the man, his family; many shared links to personal stories, or to research on the growing crisis of heroin addiction; all amounting to consideration for a class of people that are stigmatized.

    So many of us have members of our family or friends that struggle with addiction and in a day awareness was raised through the death of one famous and very talented man.

    Based on this response you might think I love Twitter, and that’s not true either. Like Lauren, I’ve discovered its value over time, but there are also some major downsides. I don’t know how many tweets are too many, and fail miserably on topics to embrace or avoid, but my goal is to err on the side of diplomacy – respecting other peoples views while sharing my own, occasionally. Not everyone sees it this way. And there are cliques.

    Overall, Twitter has been a place I find great books, connect with authors, agents and writers (not the ones who only use to market books), and socialize.

    • Kevin A. Lewis says:

      I’ll admit the value of Twitter for flash-checking other people in the business; the links to expanded sites are valuable. I’m pretty dismissive of it as an author-driven marketing tool; I think if you put something out there that grabs one person on the jungle telegraph,
      especially with a YA audience, the social media links will do the rest of the heavy lifting for you. That’s probably how VAMPIRE ACADEMY kept smouldering in the embers a long time after the CW had written the teen vampire franchise off. I’m still not big on funeral tweets; I found the most interesting comments re Phil Hoffman on the EW comment line appended to the articles after his death. (Posted one myself) I keep an online presence going, but strategic manuscript placement is a lot more important to my operation at this stage of the game. (Just ignore the stealth helicopters over your backyard, they’re just here to make your life more interesting…)

      • Lauren says:

        I feel compelled to note that VAMPIRE ACADEMY is the movie out now based on DGLM’s own Richelle Mead’s series of the same name, whereas the CW has THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, which is based on books from the early 90s. But if your point was that social media keeps television shows alive that would’be been canceled years ago in a pre-social media world, I’m in total agreement!

        • Kevin A. Lewis says:

          Sorry for the crossed acronyms here; my CW meant “conventional wisdom”, which you’ll admit hasn’t had such a high winning streak lately…

    • Katie Newingham says:

      I hear you on the helicopter noise. Without twitter, FB and reading all the blogs, I’d certainly have an extra hour in my day to write. If only my son didn’t like helicopters so much 😉 I’ll get there, ever. so. slowly.

  3. Joelle says:

    I like Twitter. And I have bought probably…oh…half a dozen, maybe more books that I’ve heard about on there. I’ve read even more than that from the library. And follow a lot of authors whose books I’ve read and loved (It’s great to be able to tweet them some love!). Sometimes someone will tweet something interesting and I’ll look them up and see they wrote a book that interests me. I have gotten a lot of recommendations from Twitter and taken action on them for good reads. If you send me a direct message asking me to buy your book, I block you.

    I used to hang out on Twitter a lot more, but the truth is I generally only follow people in the business, writers, editors, agents, publishers, and I find that so much of the talk is about publishing and so my thoughts turn to the business. I’d rather focus on the writing. Also, it’s hard for me to write and Tweet, so I generally visit Twitter once or twice a month and have an afternoon splurge of tweeting, reconnecting with writer friends I’ve met there. I’ve made some real time friends on twitter, as well as some email friends, and one thing I really love is connecting with other DGLM writers…those are most of the books I’ve purchased, actually.

    When my last book came out, I tweeted about good reviews and contests and blog updates on my site and interviews I did. I don’t think I would do so much of that again. I tried to sprinkle them throughout my tweets, but I have definitely stopped following people who can’t stop talking about their own books, so I try to err on the side of not talking about mine too often.

  4. Joelle says:

    P.S. One area I find Twitter invaluable is research. Need to know how they say something on the East Coast or in Alabama or Oregon? Just ask. Want to know what slang kids use for a certain word, or if something is dated, Twitterites are a wealth of instant information. It’s good if you want to buy something too, from a computer to software to table settings!

    • D. C. DaCosta says:

      Interesting. I just use Google, or check with Facebook friends who have lived there…or have relatives who do.

    • Lauren says:

      Oh, very good point! I find it’s often more useful for things that are tough to search–and to D.C.’s point below, for me more useful than Facebook unless I want a particular demo’s opinion. My Facebook friends are from a narrower spectrum of the world than my Twitter followers, but that would obviously vary from person to person.

  5. Tamara says:

    Twitter is like a cocktail party, and so it’s useful in all the same ways IMHO. Make friends, catch parts of conversations, trade gossip, be the first ones in the know. It isn’t a place for the hard sell. It’s the place to flirt, to entice, to hint, to be your best social self. After all, we authors are selling ourselves as much as we’re selling our books.

  6. Hillsy says:

    Piers Morgan is on Twitter…..I refuse to share any space with that meatsack of bile and greed.

    Charlie Brooker posited a really interesting idea that Twitter is just a giant video game, whereby people act out avatistic versions of their own lives in an attempt to gather points (followers). I think there’s a lot of truth in there, certainly Adam Curtis talks about people comodifying their emotions and acting them out online. Twitter is essentially a Facebook feed with a scoring system.

    Does everyone use it so callously? I’m sure not….but it’s got similar compulsion loops built into the structure as many of these new Free-2-Play video games….and I think it only needs a nudge to shift human behaviour from honest interaction to taioloring one’s language and choice of topics to appear more interesting, and thus more “popular”.

    People appear to like it – but it doesn’t do it for me….I mean, I reckon even someone as interesting, engaging and eloquent as Stephen Fry doesn’t have more than 5 genuinely new and interesting thoughts per day to share with the world.

    • Kevin A. Lewis says:

      Although I have no strong feelings about Piers Morgan one way or another, I did make a Heroic News Years Resolution never to breath any more of the same planetary atmosphere as Kim Kardashian… Only lasted as long as it took me to turn blue and pass out, though. What the hell, I gave it a shot.

    • Lauren says:

      Fair points, but I think all social media now has the same kind of quantification. I definitely have Facebook friends who are in it for Likes the way Twitter users go for the retweet/favorites, and the huge surge in photo meme posts that explicitly ask people to share to broaden a particular brand’s reach (often radio stations, oddly) are a testament to the fact that Facebook’s no safe haven from that gamification.

      I like social media, despite its flaws in that department. There are some hilariously funny people out there trolling for my retweets. I may not be willing to grant them the satisfaction very often, but it’s not an unpleasant way to spend some time if you curate your feed wisely.

  7. I like Twitter for some things, but I usually unfollow writers who do nothing but promote their book. I also unfollow most who do nothing but Tweet via@ Tweets… forgot the name of that app but it sends out tweets from your account but it’s really just a RT of someone else’s tweet. I used to participate in it, but found it irritating even then and so I quit and began to quit following the ones who stayed with it.

    Yes, I follow some of my favorite writers and I look forward to hearing about what they’re doing.

    Mostly, though, I follow others who have similar interests as mine aside from my writing. I like to hear about homesteading issues, outdoors and nature things, and herbalism. I hope that the products I produce interest this same group of people.

    Most of what gets Tweeted by me are links to blog posts I’ve made, and sometimes I do get into conversations with others. My first short story sale happened because of a Twitter chat with several magazine editors. But that was about communication, not about “selling” myself or my story. I asked about a need and an editor told me what she lacked in stories for her anthology. Then I set about filling that need and sold the story to her in the usual manner, but I think it was that initial conversation on Twitter that opened the door a bit more than it might have been otherwise.

    I like to go the my feed and see what’s there worthy of a RT, and I get discouraged when all I see is plain old self-promotion and very little interesting invitations to want to know more. I do tend to follow blog links that interest me and I’d like to see more of that, but not if it’s just to try and sell me a book.

  8. D. C. DaCosta says:

    Two thoughts:

    – My time is too valuable to spend it reading short snippets of meaningless chatter from strangers.

    – Twitter and Facebook and Blogging seem like standing on a cliff shouting into the wind and hoping that someone will somehow hear you.
    (As Noel Coward said about television, these things are for appearing ON, not for looking AT.)

    Maybe I’m just a Luddite.

    • Lauren says:

      Fair enough–after all, we all need to decide how to divide our time. (I’m just glad commenting on my blog entry was worth yours!)

      I’d argue that a) I blogged this into the void and you heard it, so it’s not as hopeless as that metaphor implies, and b) assessing the content by the content-delivery system isn’t necessarily going to give an accurate picture. But I’m saying this as a person who finds both social media and television have enriched my life, and I can see why anyone who hasn’t found what they like in either medium might err on the side of caution.

      There’s room for us all, happily!

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