Considering Twitter and such

But I do have a twit now.

I’m a Twitter newbie. Signed up about a week ago. Under orders. Well, not exactly orders, more like strongly advised. Because I have something to sell — books, and the consensus is that Twitter, as well as the other usual forms of social media, are good sales tools.

What is unsocial media, by the way?

I joined Facebook a while back because I had something to sell. Now Twitter. Were it not for that need, I probably would have avoided both of them, as well as the rest of the kind.

Maybe social media sites do sell things. I guess they must, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many people selling things that way.

But I can’t figure out how. The only way I can imagine selling something this way is through volume — massively high volume. So if a hundred trillion people might see your twat go by … I’m sorry, twit … and .00001 % might take a chance on what you’re selling, then yes, you sell a few.

I couldn’t figure out my first twitting week how anyone could deal with this scrolling list of boxes containing a few words, and certainly one doesn’t actually read all that. And I was, and am, only “following”18 twitting people. Those 18 people somehow generated hundreds and hundreds of passing twats … I’m sorry, twits … virtually none of which offered one interesting thing. I didn’t understand at first that you not only follow the person you are following, but by default, you are also following all the people following the person you intended to follow, so that following one person can easily mean you are following hundreds of their shadows. What does a Twitter page look like for people who have a thousand, a million, or a trillion followers? Even if it were possible to read that many little boxes of a few words, who would bother?

So I presume most of it isn’t even getting a glance. And anyone who has enough time to read all those twits is not someone you would really want to know, is it?

It took a while, but I did finally figure out how to use Facebook, rather, how to make it useful. I “friend” rarely and thoughtfully. I de-friend often and guilelessly. Beside the obvious reasons to de-friend (flagrantly stupid remarks from followers of one or another of the usual religious mythologies, finding a dumb ass political conservative stalking you, uncovering a Tea Bagger, and the like), a more useful reason is avoiding people who make their lives on Facebook, who post dozens, even hundreds of times, a day, and who have so many following friends that each of their posts generates hundreds more, until, like twats … sorry, I mean twits, of course … your eyes glaze over and you stop reading the thing.

A couple of times I have de-friended perfectly nice and interesting people simply because they had too many friends, so the comments to things they post quickly clogged up any useful space I had. (One of these people claimed more than 9,000 friends. Holy Crap, Mr. Jesus!)

Here’s what this is about. This Twitter rant was generated by a marketing person asking me this question, in response to my reluctance to follow most of her advice: But don’t you want to sell your books?

That is one of those “of course” questions. You’re supposed to answer yes and then follow the advice of the person asking the question. Who would answer no, anyway?

But it’s one of those trick yes or no question, like: Have you stopped beating your wife?

This is the consideration: What are you willing to do to sell your books? How much time being a salesman and not being a writer are you willing to offer? How much sewage are you willing to wade through in hopes you come across a pearl floating by on a turd?

Each person has to decide this through their own frame of reference and their own needs. I am wondering if, in my case, the answer to the question must be: No, I don’t want to sell my books.


16 replies »

  1. A lot of authors seem committed to self-promotion as a part of their job, daily routine even:

    I’m not an author so I can’t exactly ‘chime in’, but as a reader I’d be more inclined to get a copy if, say, the book is being advertised at a fiction web site (of decent quality and community of people) which I visit. Or, with the bunch of young American writers on my Facebook, I’d take a closer look if this writer’s stuff has 1. positive reviews at some literary journals or book review web sites I read; 2. good comments from our mutual writer friends or 3. the writer comes across as a serious, literary person, publishes a fair bit and/or engages in certain literary projects/collaborations I know of.

    I think the exposure and reviews/comments help, if you’re connected with a good number of writers who have their networks, and those people aren’t total nutcases as they appear to be from their status updates (I know a bunch of young writers like that – they’re not bad at all when they write and read others’ work). Sometimes people help each other out, too. This writer on my Facebook just sent me a hard copy of his book, because it’s worth more to him that ‘a good writer reads it (and maybe spreads the word)’ than the couple bucks he gets from Kindle. I’d read it and write about it somewhere. (Huh, it’s because I mentioned that I meant to get Kindle for Mac so I could read and review some of you guys’ books – I’m still too poor to do anything!!!)

    For mass marketing, though, I’m also skeptical how much things like Twitter can accomplish – a book for popular readership, probably, maybe even a cook book! A serious novel or collection of stories or poems? I think not. I wouldn’t buy a short story collection that has been tweeted like 10,000 times – I’d take that as a sure sign that the book is not for me.

    • The most interesting thing about the link you provided is that the person who wrote that post is a pretty bad writer. Maybe the best way to sell bad writing is to hustle it around like a used car.

      It is the opinion of a reader I am more interested in. Writers should stick to what they know how to do (the ones who really can write, that is), and readers should share with writers why they read what they read, and how they decide to read this or that.

      I think how you find books is not uncommon, and useful to know. I realize that my time would be better spent seeing to it that the more creative and prominent literary bloggers can read the book, and hopefully review it, than spinning my wheels on FB and Twatter.

      Send me your mailing by email, Nicole, and I’ll send you a book.

  2. I’m new on Twitter; but I treat all the social media more or less like a swimming pool – jump in, swim around for a while, get out. No possible way to keep up with the thousands of daily posts. I skim what I can, respond to what seems interesting, post some of my own stuff, and move on.

    The majority of hits arriving at my blog via links come from social media.

    • The majority of visits to this blog come from Google searches for things that have nothing to do with this site in particular. Because I have some posts about Buenos Aires, I get at least 20 visits a day from googling BAires. I have a photo on one of my posts of a couple kissing in the rain. I get at least 30 visits a day from people googling rainy day, kissing in the rain, etc. Because I have a post or two about Bratislava, I get quite a few visits from that google search. All in all, comparing visits that were clearly looking for me or for something about books and writing, I’d say it’s 50 to 1, with extraneous google searches in the majority.

      I don’t have much need for that kind of social interaction (FB and Twitting), and were it not for the practical necessity of publicizing my name as a writer and my books, I wouldn’t bother at all.

      I am aware of all that I am missing, some of it I would regret missing if I knew I was missing it, but I just don’t have the time or the energy to plow through such a mountain of stuff hoping to come across just one thing worth the time and effort.

      This blog as, far as I can figure, about 10 people who read it on a regular basis, bother to comment, and visit because they know what it’s about. But I get an average of 150 visits a day.

      I don’t know if this means anything worth meaning at all.

      • For a long time I got hardly any clicks at all on my Published Short Stories page. Now that I’ve gotten a few more things out and – probably more importantly – that I’m on Twitter, links to my short stories get clicked nearly every day. Not hundreds of clicks, you understand, but some. So somebody is out there, reading them (or at least clicking to the pages where they are). You just need one person, highly placed enough, to say yes. You never know who that person might be, or where they might come from. So I’ll keep on dipping my toes into social media. It’s just how things are done, for now, near as I can tell, short of liquid lunches in Manhattan. Which probably no one in publishing has the expense account for anymore.

  3. I use Twitter and Facebook for staying in touch with my friends and family, most of whom live far away from me. I love that I can have conversations with my NYC friends every day, even if we can’t meet for coffee anymore. Yes, what we have to say to each other is often silly, almost always inconsequential, but it’s an important part of friendships to share the daily fluff, too.

    Twitter and Facebook for marketing? Dunno. I have yet to be moved to buy or read anything based on a tweet or a facebook post. Most authors on twitter seem to be unable to sense the line between self-promotion and spam, and if anything it’s made me less inclined to seek out their work.

    • I can see the value of FB and Twitter for the purpose of staying in touch with REAL friends and family. I do a bit of that, too. Although in my case, only one of two daughters uses FB and neither of them twit. My sister has a FB account, yet I rarely see her post anything, and she does not twit. My best friends neither twit nor FB. Most of my “friends” are from Cyberspace and we’ve never met.

      Once I bought a book from a note from a FB friend. Never from Twitter.

      I buy books principally because I have read an in-depth review in a paper publication I trust — NY Times, New Yorker, NYRB — or because a friend recommends it and knows why.

      I think this means that for most readers there are two main sources for book buying: reviews in established media and recommendations of friends,

      I have also never bought a book because of a mention or review on any online journal, book club, or book blog.

      But maybe that’s just me.

  4. Twitter won’t sell any books unless you have a few thousand, or more likely, a couple of hundred thousand followers. But if you’re that popular anyway, you’re not on Twitter trying to hawk your books.

    Hardly anyone visits my blog. I get more hits on my old Blogger blog from images than anything, and that’s only like 20 a day or so. Scary porcelian dolls appears to be a favorite search term. My WordPress blog generally gets less than 15 hits a day, a fair number of those from people searching Google for Brad Green. They’re probably looking for the Australian football player, not the rantings of a worn out father of three. When I publish a post, I’ll get 75-100 visitors that generally stay around a while reading. 50-60 the next day, 25-30 the day after that, and then it trickles off to the normal, anemic flow.

    I posted on Twitter earlier that people should go read my blog because it’s damn good. 9 people clicked on the link. I have 512 followers. That’s a fucking horrible ratio.

    I could probably better those numbers if I actually posted more than once every month or so, but I’m just not sure it’s important enough. I’m not sure that it matters.
    And that’s my growing feeling lately about publishing at all. I’m just not sure that it matters. But, like Court, I also believe that it takes just one reader in the right place at the right time in the right mood to change a writer’s life. So, I put things out occasionally hoping to win that lottery.

    It’s a fool’s hope, that.

    But I like the connections and friends that I’ve made through social media and blogging, but I’m not sure it’s helped me in regards to publishing. It’s helped me feel less alone, though, and that’s worth something more than a handful of snow in the heat of summer.

    • For perspective. I have published 7 novels and been an author for 35 years. If you Google my name within quotation marks (to eliminate hits for the name Donigan or the name Merritt), you get more than 12,000 returns. I also have a bit of a network as a result of the Iowa MFA. I am a bit more prolific with my blog than you are, or any of this little group here, except when Court is putting up his rejection notices. Further, my blog is more eclectic: it’s not just samples of my writing, I also write about places and people and rants and nostalgic reveries and various nonsensical things. I post a lot of photos, and many of them are of very popular places.

      Given that, except for days when I post something new and announce it on FB, of the average 120-150 visits a day, less than five came because of me specifically.

      As you know, I started serialized my current novel (in-progress). Each chapter is a separate page, so it’s easy to track visits separately. Let me go have a look … be right back.

      These are totals since I started putting up the novel — Chapter 1 has had 26 views. Chapter 2 has had 15 views. Chapter 3 has had 3 views. Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7 have had 1 view each. Chapter 8 has had none.

      Hell, I can’t even give a novel away.

      I don’t think I want to know why 26 people came to Chapter 1, then it fell off by 11, and then went down to insignificant.

      And so far today I have had 88 visits. Here are some of the search terms that brought people: Buenos Aires, rainy day, stupid people, book fair stand, storytelling, kissing in the rain, Bratislava, rainy day pictures, rainy day love … .

      I just figured out where my new radical pessimism comes from.

    • I agree that something like Twatter is designed for people used to trying to express something interesting or beautiful or important in as few words as possible. I am at core a storyteller.

      Don’t shut up around here, Rose.

    • Yes, I do dip and peek and don’t spend all that much time with social media Internet sites. Most of my Internet reading time is devoted to news sources I can’t get easily here, following updates on the blogs of friends, and looking up stuff.