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#Writers: How much should you tweet?

Emergency "Twitter was down so I wrote my...

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This article in the Globe and Mail advises you drop tweeting from your schedule. The main point is, writers waste time tweeting when they don’t have something to sell.

Well, yeah, but…

I’m not sure why anyone thinks a writer’s e-marketing time should be all or nothing. It’s probably useful to market to your audience, present or future. Your marketing time should not cut into your writing time. If it does, you either aren’t writing enough or not prioritizing. Blogging and tweeting to your market (present or future) should be a fun thing for you to do. If you don’t like it, then don’t do it.

I tweet, but always during time that would otherwise be dead time (e.g. waiting for something, while suffering insomnia or during commercials when I forgot to PVR something.) I enjoy blogging about writing and I make time for it. As a result, I watch a lot less TV than I used to do.

But writing time has to come first. The real question is, must you blog or make a book trailer or tweet to your followers? Can’t you just leave that to someone else when the time comes? (Answer: No. Selling anything means selling yourself.)

The Globe article suggests that it is often contests that curate bestsellers (especially in Canada.) Mm, yes, but what if you don’t write the sort of fiction that’s likely to even be considered by the Giller Prize panel? You can’t leave your book’s promotion to the whim of a handful of people, not when the power of the Internet is right in front of you.

It’s worth noting that publishers expect authors to shoulder most of the responsibility for promoting their books. Your publisher and agent will want you to have a blog as a home base that all your marketing efforts feed. If you’re into self-publishing, it’s all you, though that’s arguably not much different from what it ever was. (I’ve been a publicist and I’ve worked with publicists. What they’re doing is not rocket science. You can do it and if you won’t do that, at least control it.)

Do people follow you on Twitter and then buy your books based on those interactions? I bought a Scott Sigler book after he shot me a kind tweet. If Margaret Atwood alerted to her Twitter followers that she was holding a book signing at a particular bookstore, not only would they all get her message, that’s free targeted marketing to a group very likely to show up if they can.

Is social media marketing the norm for book marketing? Answers: Yes, no and not yet. Yes, because it’s the cheapest way to go. No, because the are many authors and publishers out there who haven’t embraced the full power of social media’s potential. Lots of people still think Twitter is about letting people know about that spicy burger from lunch backing up on you. They don’t get that Twitter can push information you want to you (sometimes information you didn’t even know you needed.) And finally, not yet, because I wouldn’t count on that “no” remaining stable.

Yes, there have been authors who did not promote themselves. JD Salinger became a recluse and never tweeted. However, that’s a lousy example for two reasons:

1. He was JD Salinger and we aren’t.

2. The world (and the world of publishing) has changed drastically, even among those who are reluctant to embrace new models.

For instance, the number of book sales reps has plummeted. Interactions through Twitter and Amazon Reviews and Blogs and search engines: All that technology has turned up the volume on the marketing environment so it’s hard to hear the tiny books by unknown authors who aren’t stepping up to speak for themselves.

Yes, I know you have lots of books on your shelves and most of your buying decisions were not influenced by anything you saw on Twitter. You’re right. But as e-books flood the market from self-publishers, you won’t be right about that for long.

Build your following now so when you do have something to sell, you’ll have lots of people to spread the word. If you don’t begin to market yourself until you have a book to sell, you’re already late.

First I have to buy in to you. Then I consider your product. Twas always thus, but now more than ever.

Filed under: blogs & blogging, book reviews, Books, links, Media, publishing, Rant, self-publishing, Twitter, Useful writing links, web reviews, , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses

  1. Jessica S says:

    More people seem to shop online than go into a bookstore (unless they already know what they’re looking for). So, I think tweeting is a good investment of your time, so long as you (as you said), they put writing first. If you look at my Twitter, you’d probably think I was on it 24/7, but in reality I tweet for a total of 15 minutes throughout the day. I do that for myself, as well as other clients. If you spend more than 15 minutes a day, then I’d say you probably need to cut yourself off. I tweet before I start work (I work from home), right before I take lunch, and then again, after I get off of work. Five minutes three times a day is truly more than sufficient for comment and responding and posting links one or two things I’ve written that day. The main advice I can give about Twitter is to remember that it’s supposed to be social. The more social you are, the more effective it is. You can have 18,000 followers, but if none of them are really emotionally invested into you, they probably won’t click your links or buy your materials.

  2. Jessica S says:

    I really should have read over that before I posted it… Please accept my apologies for the horrible sentence structure right-smack-dab in the middle of that comment. 🙂

  3. Chazz says:

    Fifteen minutes a day certainly seems reasonable. Sometimes I have a tendency to try to read every tweet and that way madness lies. I get so much good information pushed my way through links from people I follow, too. Consulting like-minded people can be much more efficient than a search engine.

  4. Jessica S says:

    I can definitely relate to that! It’s actually for that reason that I only allot myself 15 minutes a day. I always manage to fill up as much time as allotted. If I say I have two hours, I will undoubtedly need every minute of that time. If I say 15 minutes, I can usually accomplish just as much as I would have in the two hours. Timeframes are like self-fulfilling prophies to me. 🙂

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Bennington and Robert Chute, Robert Chute. Robert Chute said: #Writers: How much should you tweet? : http://wp.me/pRG3O-za […]

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