Does Twitter Make Sense for Most Writers?


By

delete-twitter

Yesterday I read “Goodbye to Twitter Village, Part II: Lessons Learned” by author Benjamin Anastas. It’s a lengthy post about why, after more than a year on Twitter, Anastas has decided it’s a waste of time.

It’s hard to disagree with much of what he says. (Perhaps this comes as a surprise to those who see me as a big advocate of writers having an online presence, building platform, etc.)

Here are some of his points that I find striking and true—each encapsulating things I’ve told authors myself, again and again:

  • “It’s all ephemera, meant for instant consumption and destined for replacement by the avalanche of tweets to follow.”
  • “If I wanted to gain an audience on Twitter—and keep as many of them as possible from un-following me—I had to offer something beyond a promotional platform for my book.”
  • “I came to Twitter because I had a book to sell, and my misgivings about the whole enterprise meant that I would never be any good at it.”
  • “I’ve come to doubt Twitter’s value as a marketing platform.”
  • “My friend A. was right when he said that you had to enjoy Twitter for it make any sense.”
  • “Tweets won’t gain you followers. Publishing in the real world will.”

It’s how Anastas ends his article that’s sparked me to post about it:

Mystery plays a big role in our love of books, and by using social media to promote yourself, you’re only demystifying your work for everyone who follows you. And that makes you lose potential readers.

It’s a perspective I find most common among the more literary authors—a desire to preserve the mystique of their work, who they are, and what they do.

I’m pretty torn on this.

On the one hand, the whole author mystique game is very peculiar to the literary community. It’s hard to find commercial or genre authors acting like a Thomas Pynchon; you won’t find them saying things like “I don’t really write for readers. I think that’s the defining characteristic of being serious as a writer.”

On the other hand, I think it’s possible to use social media and keep the mystique in play. That’s part of the artistry. Use the tools to your own ends, rather than letting the tools use you (which I believe happened to Anastas—and it happens to all of us, at one time or another).

The paradox for me: Anastas appears to have no problem with blogging. (I think—maybe that complaint is in a different post.) I didn’t follow Anastas on Twitter, but if I did, I wonder if I would know as much about him as I do now, from reading this single blog post. Blogging is as much social media as tweeting, Facebooking, and all the rest of it. Anastas has a comments section where he invites people to “fire away.” And now here I am, engaging in a dialogue in my preferred venue, because I’d like to bring his provocative perspective to a wider audience, if I can—I’d like to stir a discussion and see what you think. Because I’m still deciding.

One favor to ask: Pair Anastas’s piece with the following RSA Animate video. It’s about 10 minutes of your time, but watch it and see how the two perspectives compare. Are they compatible? And if they’re not, will writers in the future be able to take the same path Anastas has: “I’ll go back to being a writer again. Just a writer. Not a writer who’s wasting his time on social media.”

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  • Daniel Anuchan

    While I might agree that twitter may not be the best platform for writers, I would not argue that social media in general is a waste of time for writers trying to build a following. Twitter is a nice place for me to get info from sources I don’t normally follow. Many of the blogs I subscribe to were introduced to me on twitter.

  • Atomic 27 Media

    I think the bigger question is really if most writers want to be entrepreneurs. I think that many, even those who are successful as indie authors, still run to a publishing contract merely because there are other people who can handle their marketing and promotion, and they can concentrate on their craft.

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  • http://josephratliff.com/ JosephRatliff

    If “selling your book” is your only objective with Twitter, it will be a waste of time.

    “Social” media implies conversation, and if none exists on your Twitter account, most likely you’ll be ignored.

    That being said, I’m running a “Twitterless” experiment of my own, and I have to say, I don’t miss it much at all.

  • Carmel

    Maybe the word for me (instead of demystification) should be oversaturation. I don’t Twitter, but I do follow some authors and musicians on Facebook. I’m curious at first about their lives, but what I really fell in love with was their work, and that’s what I want to read and re-read.

  • JenniferLynKing

    I agree, that the world is complex and becoming harder to navigate by the day. We have to pick our values and where we want to spend our time, whether we’re writers, or other professionals. There is only so much time in the day.

    Having said that, I believe social media can be a rich experience, one of networking and meeting others with similar values and backgrounds, who also enjoy learning and interacting with others. Twitter, certainly, is not a place to sell anything. It is a place to be yourself, and join in the conversations. People looking for results won’t find any tangible. It’s in the intangibles that social media may become a blessing.

  • Kathy Smiley

    If you walk into a bar full of people who want to listen to you, drop a backpack full of your books on a table and shout “hey, everyone, I’m selling my book today!”, you might receive a decent response. If you do it the next day, the response will be less positive. If you’re still doing it in two weeks, people will begin to actively avoid you.

    It is a myth that you can sell on social media… a huge social blunder. If you’re not willing to be social, to engage your readers in dialogue, to share your thoughts, and yes, even the dreaded “what I had for dinner last night” posts, you’re in the wrong place. Social media is NOT the same as advertising. It’s also not free, it’s quite expensive – it requires you to spend your time, time you could be spending writing.

    I follow a lot of authors. I have a lot of author friends. I buy books based on the recommendations of my friends. I have never purchased a single book because of what an author posted. If you want to sell books, make friends. That is the power of social media.

  • http://www.awriterofhistory.com/ M.K. Tod

    Manuel Lima suggests that the web of life is a networked structure. While Benjamin Anastas rejects one element of social media (and hence one connection of the networked infrastructure available to authors), perhaps he’s merely being selective in his use of the networked world of engagement. If his blog is useful, others in the twitter sphere will bring his ideas forward. From my vantage point, Twitter seems full of writers screeching through megaphones like circus barkers and people whose only reason to follow is so you will follow back. I’m not ready to give up yet but I’m tempted!

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    I do think that’s part of the bigger question, yes. I believe successful indie authors are attracted to traditional publishing deals because of print distribution to bricks-and-mortar stores. They usually know the marketing and promotion side better than their NY publisher—except when it comes to physical and mass-market merchandising of books.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Yes, looking for results (as a reason for participating in the first place) often has the unintended effect of poisoning the entire effort.

    Whenever I address the issue of social media at conferences, I like to help writers feel like they’re “off the hook” (they don’t have to use Twitter, FB, etc), to get them back to a beginner’s state of mind, then show them how to approach these mediums with a sense of play and experimentation. In other words, let’s learn how to have fun, and forget about taking our medicine.

  • http://SteveWeddle.com Steve Weddle

    He tried using twitter because he wanted to sell books there. It didn’t work for him, so he left. Seems fairly straightforward.

    As folks here have suggested, if you’re being social in your use of social media, you’ll probably have a better time of it. Of course, you still have those writers who seem more social and engaged, only to post “Oh, golly. Thanks so much to @REVIEWERPERSON for this great review of my book. LINK” and other #humblebrags, but that’s a different post, I’d imagine.

    And thanks for the WIll Self link. Hadn’t seen that.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Yes, I do think he’s being selective, which is necessary and smart. On the other hand, his closing statement gives him away (I think): ”I’ll go back to being a writer again. Just a writer. Not a writer who’s wasting his time on social media.”

    Perhaps his view of social media is narrow (it encompasses Twitter, FB, Pinterest, etc), and doesn’t include things like blogging. In that case, he’s open to being more than “just a writer.” He’s engaging with a readership (or taking time away from writing).

  • Robert Fleck

    I think this is exactly right. He’s misunderstanding what social media is. As long as he’s blogging, he hasn’t given up social media, only selected that part where he’s comfortable.

    I like the metaphor that Twitter is like a cocktail party, Facebook (and somewhat Google+) is a dinner party, and blogging is a quiet evening conversation by the fire. People find the place in that where they’re comfortable and that’s good.

    The advantage of having so many options is that people can choose the ways to interact that work for them. No writer should feel that just because another writer credits Twitter or Facebook or their blog for success in the business that it is the required way to reach success. It’s one person’s path. Not every person’s path. That’s something that we lose sight of more and more, it seems to me.

  • Julia Gabriel

    I don’t think he really understood how Twitter works. If you’re just posting random thoughts (or book promos), that’s like standing on a street corner in Times Square and shouting at people. But if you take the time to meet and make friends with people on Twitter (and it does take time, just like making friends in the real world does) it can be valuable and enjoyable. You won’t sell huge numbers of books but you can sell some. You can get interviews and guest blogging invites from people you meet on Twitter. And you can just plain meet interesting people who may or may not prove valuable to your career in the future.

    Twitter isn’t marketing — it’s networking. If you don’t enjoy networking offline, you probably won’t enjoy Twitter either.

  • Linda Paul

    I am relatively new to Twitter and I came to it kicking and screaming and rolling my eyes. I, too, wonder about its usefulness as a marketing tool, I understand that it is one more layer of exposure. Exposure is critically to marketing self-pub books. Once you’ve sold (or given) copies to your circle of friends & family, how are you going to reach the world at large? Twitter offers one additional tool in the arsenal. Used correctly, I can see that Twitter can surely drive up sales. (How else could Shades of Grey become a household name?)

    I confess that many of the books I see uberhyped on Twitter are clearly genre fiction that I can’t bring myself to take seriously. However, I have purchased several books that I would never have learned about w/o Twitter. And, in the process of trying to understand the Twitter paradigm, I have broadened my own knowledge base and understanding immeasurably.

    Does Twitter (social media in general) distract writers from writing? Sure. But so does the cat and the cup of coffee. It comes down to structure, scheduling, and discipline.I suspect that Anastas failed to build a community during his time on Twitter. There’s a lot of fluff, like the cotton falling from cottonwood trees, but inside that fluff, there are valuable kernels of support, knowledge, experience, and virtual community.Literary writers like Anastas may also fear staining their elbows by getting too close to the riff raff of genre fiction.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    An interesting distinction. I myself have become oversaturated by following some people and have had to unfollow. Scarcity can indeed be a virtue.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    I like to say that social media is rarely about the hard sell, only the soft sell (and sometimes not even that). Professional marketers know that a sale rarely happens at the first stage of interaction/engagement. Rather, awareness builds over time. So social media is excellent about building awareness that may end up leading to a sale. But it’s a long-term game, not a short-term exercise.

    Social media also is a great tool for building relationships/communities that then may become important later on, when you need help spreading the word about something specific.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Well said.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Yes, in all seriousness, my cat is probably my No. 1 work distraction when I’m at home, because my laptop is both her best friend (warm place to sit) and her nemesis (taking up my lap).

    Structure, scheduling, discipline. Amen.

  • http://www.themoonlightersguide.com/ Connie Brentford

    I suppose mystery might be a necessity for literary fiction writers but as a nonfiction writer my job is to demystify my subject for my readers. Twitter is great place for me to continue to teach in 140 characters or less and I get to pass along bite-size chunks from other thought leaders on the same subject (more value for my readers). A Twitter connection landed me an interview in a US magazine with 2M subscribers. So, book sales were really good that month!

  • http://www.awriterofhistory.com/ M.K. Tod

    One further thought is to find ways through social media to interact beyond the realm of other writers. On Twitter I keep looking for where readers are ‘hanging out’ but many of the folks who find me are other writers. Goodreads is an obvious choice but some of the small book blogs are great too.

  • Ed DeCaria

    Blogging IS social media. What we think of as pure social media today (FB, TW, etc.) often act as gateways/gatekeepers to longer-form blog entries, but both are essentially social in nature. The degree to which either form is used to socialize depends entirely on the user. They can both just as easily be one way streets.

  • Amanda McTigue

    About 3/4 of the way through Lima’s brill-brill-brilliance on the big picture, I was pondering scale, when he raised the issue. This paradigm shift “is true” — or, in some minds, “may be true” — but for anyone, and certainly for the writer, participating effectively in the reality of network requires and expresses POV. Lima is in God-view which is fab for philosophy and theoretical physics and doing precisely what he does. I, as a writer, operate on a different scale. I’m down with the words, the sentence, the intended communication whether “just to myself” or to readers. This is my choice. This is where/how I connect. So there’s a difference for me between a conversation and “the” network of all things. Duh, perhaps, but that difference is where writers get hung up, where more insight is needed. I’m in the universe of network through lines of conversation that aren’t general at all. They require focus and thinking just as this sentence does as I type it. The connections I’m making don’t jump in super-fast-forward like cool drawings and balloon boxes. When Lima cites the metaphor of the brain (did he mean “mind?”) as symphony (see Horowitz’s “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind”), the image comes in handy. There’s the symphony on the pages — notated, spread out before us on a very big table we can “see” its entirety. But, of course, the symphony exists most meaningfully played in time by players. It takes time. And skill. So the very good question being raised here, for the writer, is whether the time (as a function of application of skill) required to participate in the network through a particular channel (social media) is most effective. For me, the jury is out, though clearly not so regarding this particular post. Jane, thanks for opening this conversation!!

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Great insight, thank you!

  • Pamela Mason

    I do the same thing – try to reach beyond other writers on social media – and I’m starting to think that readers are reading books and living life face to face – not tethered to a network socializing and trying to build a writing profession.
    Thing is, unless he has a devoted following, where is he going to promote his blogs?

  • AJ Sikes

    I wrote a very similar post for my publisher’s blog about why I left Facebook. Pretty much the same reasons Anastas cites for ditching the Twitosphere. Facebook became a socializing form of media for me, not a form of media that I used to be social. On Facebook, I was a writer who wasted time on social media.

    Twitter, on the other hand, lets me engage in short conversations with people in publishing, writer friends and readers, and without the distracting ads, endless pictures of cats, etc. Using the lists feature, I can easily change between which group of followers/followed I want to interact with, and particular people whose tweets I really value (like yours and Porter’s!) I can easily pull up by going to your profiles (that is if they don’t show up in my feed to begin with). And can I say how much I’m in love with #MSWL?

    Per the RSA Animate on networks, I think I’ll always have at least one form of social media in addition to my website (which should be every author’s primary for of social media). As I grow, as my writing gets out there, as I gain readers, I may find myself drawn towards using Pinterest more (I just started pinning things this week). Or some new form of SocMed (coined!) might rise up and displace the current one(s) in favor.

  • FrancesCaballo

    I agree with Kathy Smiley’s comment. Writers who self-promote nonstop on Twitter or any other social media network aren’t likely to have the type of following or sales as someone who becomes known for sharing great content. I like Guy Kawasaki’s idea: become the NPR within your niche. Become known for sharing the best nuggets of information that’s available. He also reduces the 80/20 rule to 90/10; 90% of the time we should promote other authors, ideas, news items, etc. and at most 10% of the time we can tweet about our blog posts, books, stories, etc.

    Another problem I see is that authors often follow other writers instead of looking for readers by using the hashtags #amreading, #bibliophile, etc. Yes, writers are readers but we need to find other people who love to read as well.

    To address the matter of how time-consuming social media can be, there are a lot of applications that can economize our time on social media. Some of my favorites are: SocialOomph, Nutshell Mail, Social Bro, SproutSocial, Tweepi, and JustUnfollow.

    Finally, I’m not giving up on Twitter because my book is selling in every pocket of the US and the UK. That wouldn’t be happening without Twitter.

    Thanks for getting this conversation started, Jane!

  • Seeley James

    I’ve 30 years of sales & marketing experience in my past life. Without reading the post, I can tell you he’s right & wrong. He’s right that you cannot ‘sell’ your product over Twitter. Twitter is like TV advertising, it’s mostly ignored because it’s a ‘push’ medium. Blogging is more efficient for indies because people who read it are doing so voluntarily. They want to hear you.

    Indies have little time and (usually) little interest in sales. For that reason, the blog is a much more efficient use of time.

    Peace, Seeley

  • http://richardgilbert.me/ Richard Gilbert

    I am late to Twitter—like in the last two weeks—and don’t yet fully understand it, so I appreciate this. I truly was grateful to learn here the other day that I shouldn’t be feeding Tweets to my Facebook account. Of course. Duh. Now if I could only find how to turn that feed off!

    But regarding the comments here on blogging, I do think I understand that—and I see it very much as both a genre of writing AND as a form of social media. This is on my mind because July 17 I mark my blog’s 5th anniversary and am drafting a post about those lessons. Which came separately though they are inseparable.

    It sounds pretentious to say it, but I actually think of blogging, first, as a new literary genre, one partly distinguished by the social or friendship or reciprocity dimension. Those who understand the former but not the latter, or who choose to ignore it, don’t get many comments or followers though their posts might be brilliant. I guess there are those who understand only the latter, and treat their blogs like Facebook, but they’d likely fail for me on the writing aspect.

  • Thomas Burchfield

    It’s all what you’re willing to put up with. Me, I tried Twitter for a few years, but in the end found it boring, the tweets rushing by in a blur (It’s no good responding to anything older than an hour). Did I sell any of my books on it? I have no idea, maybe a few, but not enough to keep me there. I find Facebook easier to interact with and track. The conversations take place at a slower pace and allow for more thought. I have relatively few friends and, honestly, prefer communicating via my blog.

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  • http://about.me/mariadkins Mari Adkins

    from the very beginning, i was taught that social media is for LISTENING — so, not for talking. makes perfect sense to me.

    having said that, i left twitter back in the fall after having been there since its beta launch.

  • @kathybosin

    If you think twitter is a waste of time, you’re not following interesting people.

  • DJ Young

    I’m a writer who joined Twitter for one reason: to follow other writers and connect with them. To this end, Twitter has been brilliant. The bonus of it is that I’ve managed to follow some amazing minds who share timely, well-informed opinions and thoughts on the art and craft and help to keep me up-to-date with what goes on in the publishing world. Any followers I’ve gained in return are just a lovely surprise, but never the intent (I do not have a book I am currently marketing).

    I’ve found since joining Twitter (2009), that writers who ‘succeed’ with Twitter are the ones who ‘engage’ directly with other users, sharing something of themselves (especially their sense of humor), their experiences and keep the selling to an absolute minimum. These writers use hashtags like #litchat or #scriptchat and many others in order to ‘get their name out there,’ and I find nothing wrong with that, even if there is no book or other related product to sell. In fact, one of the most surprising things I’ve found are the number of writer collectives that have formed to share their work (short stories, flash fiction, etc) and provide an alternative to the commercial market. There is an aspect of rebellion about Twitter (see its use during protest events as an example) and many writers will use the medium to promote change (whatever that may be).

    Writers (and other artists) who complain about Twitter as a ‘time suck’ or useless in other ways do not, it seems to me, get the point of Twitter, which really isn’t about gaining a following, but about sharing what you have to share. If you are looking for some specific ‘reward’ for using social media, whether that is the sale of a book or fame of some sort, you’re likely to be disappointed. Giving without expectation is what gets you somewhere: be generous, be kind, don’t sit around waiting for people to follow you.

    Keep in mind that though you may have a thousand followers or more, less than half that number actually engage with you at any one time, many are ‘bots,’ or marketers looking for followers. A large number of followers can deceive the ego and if you don’t see it for what it is, you’ll be disappointed.

    As a writer in the (long) process of composing a novel (among other projects), I’m also aware that my presence on Twitter could pay off in the future when my work is finished and ready to be presented – I’ve made strong acquaintances and even friends that literally span the globe, people whom I’ve helped support, who will, I hope, support me in turn.

    Twitter maybe seen for short attention spans, but do not forget the long game of it – patience and generosity usually win out in the end.

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  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Agree with everything here, but that last paragraph (and line) really nails it.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Absolutely, Richard. Blogging is its own art form (or genre), which is why I so often am put off by people who talk about “blogging their book” without regard to how content online should be crafted very differently than a long-form and/or print reading experience.

  • http://richardgilbert.me/ Richard Gilbert

    Yes! Perfect analogy to this issue, Jane. I made the same mistake when I fed my blog and then my tweets to Facebook. As soon as you mentioned it I knew I was violating that social medium, and why my friends had stopped commenting on my blog feeds there. There are indeed genres and many subtleties in the social media world.

  • Kellye Crocker

    Mari, I think a lot of people forget the listening aspect. I believe it’s about sharing–giving and receiving. I’m curious about why you left twitter. Have you missed it?

    I love twitter but am often tempted to leave Facebook. I blogged from 2005-2007 and have no interest in doing it again (at least now), although “everyone” tells me I must as an aspiring author.

  • http://about.me/mariadkins Mari Adkins

    Oh they already have forgotten the listening part. It’s one of the
    reasons I left Twitter. When it first started up, it was about seeing
    what others had to share, then retweeting as appropriate. That was lost several years ago and only got worse toward the end of 2010 / beginning of 2011. I’m not sure why I stayed there as long as I did, to be honest.

    I’m always tempted to leave Facebook. But I’m fairly resigned that it’s a necessary evil. I’ve been blogging since 2000 and running my own website since 2002. It’s always good to have your own webspace

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  • Kellye Crocker

    Thanks for your reply! Interesting. I would have loved to see Twitter “back in the day.” Blogging since 2000? I admire that! Will check it out. I’ve taken down my website and haven’t gotten it up yet…on the list… :)

  • Heather C Button

    I use twitter to ‘sell’ on a limited basis. (My current version of sell is updating that I’ve posted something to my website.) My primary use for twitter is to network with other people, companies, and groups, to engage in conversation that can happen there, in real time, where it doesn’t happen on my blog. Perhaps it takes away from my own blog’s engagement, but how will they know I’ve posted to it if they don’t see it on the other venues?

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Whenever I have a new blog post, I always tweet about it, as well as post it on Facebook. Assuming that the post shares information (like this one), it’s not usually seen as pernicious. Some people rely on me to share links to new posts via social media—otherwise they wouldn’t know about them. So I’d say it’s totally appropriate to post such links.

    I also think one should engage/discuss posts anywhere people are commenting, whether that’s on Twitter, FB, or the post itself — rather than trying to redirect people. In other words, all activity is positive.

  • http://about.me/mariadkins Mari Adkins

    Twitter was a lot different when it first launched, that’s for sure. Yeah, the blogging thing – that’s back when you had to ask for an invite to LiveJournal! I’ve hosted my own since 2002, though.

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  • Renee Charles

    I use Twitter like a Worldwide Magazine Rack, and the blogs those 140 characters lead me to are the magazines. I have learned incredible things from other authors’ experiences. To me twitter is a community to grow from not a market to sell to. I believe the old saying about to sell books you must write books worth reading. I believe I have sold books because of what I have learned poking around on twitter (and then shared that knowledge with others). I don’t think I have sold any books because I posted something on twitter about how great my book is or that it got a 5 star review. IMO social media has its place, but the title says it all SOCIAL media not store front.

  • MichaelPeck

    If you quit Twitter because it’s not worth your time, but then feel the need to write a lengthy two-part essay to explain why, it’s probably not for you.

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  • Paul Aertker

    The comparison of these two perspectives (quitting twitter
    and the interconnectedness of everything) to me mirrors the publishing industry’s
    current shift (or rift) between traditional publishing and indie publishing.

    Traditional publishing has always been cloaked in mystery
    (hence the undecipherable rejection letters) and those on that side of
    publishing and writing may still see writing as something esoteric, some secret
    held by those at the top of the hierarchy. To me, there is no better example of
    “disorganized complexity” than that of traditional publishing.

    Those of us on the indie side seem to be more social not
    just for marketing our books but for honest collaboration with other writers AND
    readers. Indie writers and publishers are successful because of their networks,
    not because of their mysterious ways. People love meeting writers and knowing
    more about them. Writers are not “demystifying their
    work for everyone who follows them”, they are just being human. In the
    words of Joel Friedlander, obscurity is the enemy of the modern writer.

    The way to solve problems (or market books) in this new “organized
    complexity” is by being a part of the community or social networks, not by
    removing oneself from the discussion.

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  • Charles Hurst

    Interesting as I have just started the launch of my novel. I have read twitter is outstanding and that it is a waste of time. I keep it there and we’ll see. Thanks for the opinion though.

    Charles Hurst, Author of THE SECOND FALL. An offbeat Armageddon

  • dev

    Hi,

    I really liked the post but my question is not about it. I have a query about this one, http://janefriedman.com/2012/01/23/permissions/

    Can the title of a book be same as that of a song or book? Do I need permission to use that?

  • Wendy Ogden @eastbournewrite

    What a depressing article that was. My experience of twitter has been fun and friendly and I’ve got so much out of it that has helped my reading and writing. I follow people in a range of fields so get a variety in my feed that is interesting. Following local tweets is useful too and a way of building contacts, making friends even. I see tweets of amazing photographs of local scenery, and creative people doing street art that I can walk down the road and stand next to. Buskers I can listen to. An author in a nearby town came to my high street for a book signing. I fancied the book so went along and bought one. About a year later he tweeted that his first book was number one on Amazon so I was thrilled for him. When I followed the link to see the book I enjoyed at the top I liked the look of a wildly different one at the number two spot. I bought that and have just sold a review to a popular magazine.

    A local marketing business organises #tweetups for bus and social users to meet. Last week was my first attendance and their third birthday event. A finalist from Britains Got Talent, who lives locally and is on Twitter, did a show for us.

    I haven’t got a book to sell, yet, but when I do I will only mention it a handful of times on Twitter because that is the most I would like to read a promotional tweet myself. By being out there though, and occasionally entertaining, and seen locally as a real person it might trigger something.

  • http://garridon.wordpress.com/ Linda Adams

    I’ve never liked Twitter. I’m an introvert, and I always felt like I was at a party I didn’t want to be with everyone chattering at me and expecting me to be constantly on. I’ve only had occasional bouts of fun with it — and it took time away from writing to do. I’ve been focusing a lot more on simply producing stories (I’m not a literary writer; I’m genre). Being published in a major magazine will do more for getting me out there than me struggling to send tweets on a regular basis.

  • Noel A. O’Reilly

    Jane, one thing I’ve noticed about Twitter is that very few writers will follow you back. I have a separate account I use for tweeting about workplace issues and HR and most people will follow back. I get the impression with writers that it’s every man/woman for himself/herself – the other writers are the competition. I haven’t found it easy to connect with writers who share similar interests to me either but then I haven’t invested much time in it…

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  • Nina Amir

    I still find Twitter quite useful as an author. I do find that writers and readers follow me and those interested in the information I have to offer are happy to find and share the links to my blog posts. Readers of my book reach out to me on Twitter; it’s a highly accessible social media.

    I also find it a great place to connect with the media, especially fellow bloggers and podcasters. This means I land interviews and guest posts.

    And if I want a traditional publishing deal, the number of followers I have on Twitter still helps me convince a publisher I have author platform, as do the numbers I can show on Facebook or Linked in.

    A lot of what goes on on Twitter can be a waste of time. I use Tweetdeck to follow those that I really want to read and whose tweets I typically like to share. But I often find other tweets worth reading and sharing. Twitter can be a time sink if you allow it to be–or a great resource if you have a question that needs an answer as you are writing. It helps me actually connect with my readers (blog and book) in a more meaningful way.

    As for @janefriedman:disqus ‘s comment about blogging books, a writer savvy about blogging can write a long-form project for a blog and have it work in that format. Doing so, of course, is more easily (and possibly better) done for nonfiction, but fiction writers have told me that they are better writers after blogging their books. And their books benefit as well. And most writers who choose to blog books have definitely built platform (readership), but this is totally off the point of Twitter and writers.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    That may be true. I find that it’s easier to get follows when you’re involved in online or offline events tied to writing—e.g., if you tweet a writing conference, if you’re involved in a Twitter chat, or if you’re part of a community hashtag (such as #amwriting).

    It can be tough to feel like you’re spending your time well, especially in the early weeks or months, but I recommend the long-term view; it takes time for people to start to recognize you and trust you (as with any network).

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  • Jim Sellers

    I find this post and comments both helpful and confusing. The latter because I can’t tell if people have Twitter because they can’t get enough of it(endless feeds of comments and links from interesting people and a feed to make comments) and don’t care to evaluate the benefits it brings them. The former because I have the same question. I have a book out next month, I want to promote it and Twitter is automatically one of the 3 or 4 prime candidates for social media that people use.
    I’ve heard more people say “I’m done with Twitter” and I have to admit, I had an account years ago and had over 50 followers even though I had nothing to say. I couldn’t see the point.

    Now I need to establish my personal “brand” online so I have to have a Twitter account but not many will follow me if I’m only talking about my book and events I go to, so do I write things to get a following? If I don’t make full use of the service I’m wasting it.

    At least it’s free.

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  • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

    I just wrote and article called “Author’s Don’t Need Twitter” http://aalbc.it/authorsontwitter
    I stumbled across this article while looking to see if my article had been indexed in the search engines–I see this is a really popular site!

  • http://aalbc.com Troy Johnson

    I guess if you are using Twitter for the purpose it was designed–no problem, but if you are using it to generate books sales, as it it were your personal store front, you be disappointed.