Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why Should Authors Twitter?

by Tom Mach

©2009 by Tom Mach

I just read an article by Sara Weinman entitled “Are Authors Who Twitter Any Fitter?” it appeared in the May/June issue of Poets & Writers magazine. She made several points that I had also pondered concerning this one question—what good is sending “tweets”, or user updates to strangers if you’re restricted to 140 characters?

Well, I’m an author, and the reason I twitter is twofold: (1) I want to let people know about new and interesting information on my blog (http://tommach-author.blogspot.com/) and (2) I want to read about some of the things people are doing—not just about the writing profession but about non-writing events. For instance, one tweeter told me she was going to the pool but that some people called it an ocean. That statement made me think of a new way of describing the ocean if the beach is part of your real estate and you imagine the ocean is yours as well. Another tweeter told me she couldn’t concentrate on writing because her kids were taking off their clothes. Obviously, you do get some weird tweets from time to time.

Sara goes beyond my two uses of Twitter in her article. She tells us that publishing folks such as authors, book publishers, and agents are using it as a business tool. I was already aware that firms such as Random House and Doubleday are on Twitter. I’m also aware that movie producers such as MGM and Warner Bros are on it as well So too are some literary agents and a long list of novelists and poets. But I’ve wondered how I, as an author, could possibility entice a book publisher about my book or make Oprah want to invite me to her show when I’m a complete unknown and have tell these people about myself in 140 characters? Well, the answer is, you can’t. But, as Ms. Weinman, points out, you have to set up a game plan so that these people have an incentive to follow you on Twitter and perhaps get to know you better.

I did not realize, until Sara pointed it out, that a few authors are tweeting links to influential companies and people, following them with information about their book signing tours, their synopses, and other gems. I know of one author (whose name I won’t mention) who is using Facebook to do similar things. She has actually two Facebooks—one under her name and the other list as “Fans of xxxx” with the xxx being her name. If you are fan, she sends you links about her latest books, tours, etc.

I was particularly impressed with Ms. Weinman’s observations of a novelist named John Wray. Apparently, he is twittering pieces of his novel “one 140-character installment at a time” While I admit that it’s good practice to cut down on unnecessary words, I don’t think it’s possible to reduce every sentence in your novel to 140 characters or less. Mr. Wray, if you can do this, more power to you.

One of my observations about Twitter, which is the same as Sara’s, is that twittering can be a huge waste of time if you’re reading every twitter message. Much of it is irrelevant (“I got up this morning.”…”This coffee tastes terrible.”…”I guess it’s time for me to start writing my novel”…) After I read several of these meaningless twitters, I feel guilty that I’ve wasted my time. But there are always gems among twitters. I’ve seen some very interesting URLs they post that I would have missed had I not seen it on Twitter.

Plus there are those writers, like myself, who enjoy writing blogs that his followers might enjoy as well. While it would be great for me to interest Oprah on appearing on her show, I have to quit believing in Fantasy Land and continue believing in myself. Because in the end, we really are “following” ourselves, aren’t we?

---Tom Mach

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