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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, , , , , , , , , , ,

#Giller Prizewinner gets screwed: UPDATED

Scotiabank Giller Prize

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Here’s the story from The Globe & Mail.

UPDATE: Gaspereau worked out a deal with one of my old publishers, Douglas & McIntyre.

And here’s my furious take:

Johanna Skibsrud won the Giller Prize and her publisher is holding her back. People pay attention to book prizes and make Christmas gift decisions based on that information. For any publisher and author, the Giller is an opportunity to sell more books and make more money for the author and for the publisher. Obvious stuff.

So, in the name of integrity, a small press that can’t handle a larger production run, isn’t working to put out more books to meet the demand. Are they trying to create more demand and get more publicity by enforcing scarcity? Maybe, although if that’s true, it won’t work.

First, it sends a message to your author and any future authors that they are expendable.

Second, if people can’t get the winning book, they won’t wait. They’ll just buy something else. There are plenty of books on the shelf.

Third, there’s Bobby Mcferrin. When Don’t Worry, Be Happy hit it big, it was a huge surprise and the record company only had 5,000 records out there. They worked furiously to get the record into store while it was still hot. Bobby did okay in the long ruin because that song went huge, but he still lost a truckload of money because of the long logistical lag in production. 

The publisher is “mulling.” And losing time and sales. Authors are paid pennies an hour as it is! How galling it must be to Skibsrud that her publisher isn’t capitalizing on the opportunity The Sentimentalists won. (And will this small press be her publisher next time? Doubtful.)

So far two large publishers have stepped up to help out the small Nova Scotian press. Instead, Gaspereau Press is worrying about the look of their medium. How quaint. And how utterly stodgy and old world in its thinking. No, the medium is not the message. The book is words on the page or words on a screen.

If they want to be a successful press that survives, they need to get the product out there before the market fades away. Successful books fund a list of less successful books (and the outright dogs, too.) Gaspereau prides itself on the look and feel of their books. Okay. If they want to be around long enough to make more precious books—birthing and blessing each one individually apparently—they need to step up for their author and for their own future. The story has it right. They have to decide whether they are printers or publishers.

If you’re thinking of submitting a manuscript to a small press, go ahead. They aren’t all this obtuse. After reading the Globe story, would you submit your baby to Gaspereau Press?

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Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, , , ,

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