The year of tweeting dangerously
Posted January 2, 2011on:
I just got a stat email from this blog host, telling me all about my blog health and activity and such. Most of the data was even correct. But it also reminded me how very different this past year has been.
I am an author (thought I’d throw that in just in case some of you didn’t know and couldn’t tell). A year ago today I had a twitter account I didn’t use, a wordpress account I didn’t use, a MySpace account and a Facebook and a Blogspot account I almost sometimes used. If we go back even further than just last year, my first social networking account was foisted upon me by my publisher and my wife between them, my page on MySpace.com. Of course, once it was up I took it over and started blogging myself, on very infrequent occasions, when my wife pushed me to do it.
My publisher and I would get together for specific bookselling events every year (the South Carolina Book Festival and Chicago’s Printer’s Row Lit Fest, if you must know), and every year she would be pushing me to do more (well, any) social networking, especially twitter. And every year I pushed my head further into the sand, with variations on the ‘Lalala I’m not listening’ gambit. Twitter scared me then, and to some extent still does.
The issue here is marketing, essentially walking up to total strangers and telling them they should read my book. It’s not something that gets a lot of good results, which just wreaks havoc upon my shy and introverted soul. There are better techniques than the Cold Sell anyway, most of which involve looking at what they get or want first, and then pitching the book at those people who already indicated that they want something like it. (Which actually sounds a bit creepy to me, like having a guy with a clipboard in the next aisle at the bookstore watching me, even if they do all that with computer programs now. The guy with the clipboard is still there, even if I can’t see him.) A version of this that I was pretty good at but didn’t like much was talking to strangers about some topic of mutual interest which I could then use to introduce the fact that I was an author and would you be interested blah blah blah. Again, creepy and manipulative, a social lie.
I prefer to be upfront about it. I set up a bookstore and asked people what they wanted when they came in. The important parts had already been taken care of: I had a specified role, bookseller, and I was responding to a real person, who had already shown an interest in the books I had. Marketing, especially on twitter, had none of those things. I would be just proactively throwing words upon the wind, hoping that they might fall onto good soil. Even worse than the Cold Sell, it’s like getting up on a ladder with a megaphone to hawk your book in a room full of people on ladders with megaphones.
My blogging switch got turned on, however, in part I’m sure because Echelon started the Echelon Shorts line and blog the previous September, and two of my stories were released then. I was asked to blog about my stories when they came out. I don’t know what happened, but in June I suddenly started to post blogs, one after another. Reminds me a bit of when I was studying German and suddenly started thinking in the language. If I had been sensible about it, saved them as drafts and posted them on a regular schedule I’d probably be back in October somewhere. I started using Twitter then, mainly to tell people that I had just posted a blog.
The funny thing about Twitter is that the more you use it the more reason you get for using it. The first several hundred tweets may feel like wasted breath, but eventually you find people to talk to, who talk back. I’m a lot more comfortable with that model, although to be honest I’m still a bit hesitant about constantly hawking my books every other sentence. Surely everyone who follows me there already knows I have these stories out…? Well, as it turns out, they may have heard but they may not have been listening. Unfortunately, constant repetition is something else I really don’t like, but at least in this case I can just go up and ask them.
So I guess that’s my task for next year, using twitter more effectively, figuring out how to use the Facebook author page I recently made, trying not to obsess about statistics. The feedback I get really helps me want to sell more, but then I start trying to follow it. I’m getting better at coming up with cool tag lines, and I’ve even seen other authors start using the same techniques, so I guess that’s praise of a sort. So come on along, grab a book, or two, keep me company, I could really use some.
I won’t lie to you.