Thursday, June 11, 2009


So I have to admit, so far I’m not really getting Twitter. I know that millions love it, but I am not yet one of those millions. However, I also know that I tend to dislike transitions, and learning an entire new interface is always the Mother of Transitions.

Twitter’s interface feels unbelievably confusing to me, a veritable mish-mash of conversational threads. Personally, I prefer a nice clean hierarchy, one that clearly delineates the order and sequence of comments and groups them by topic. Trying to weed through all those cross purpose threads makes my head hurt. However, a wise friend of mine has suggested letting it flow over me like a river, so I am going to try that next.

Having said all that, I do have to say that I am charmed by the format, the short 140 character long bits of people’s lives. I have found my favorite tweets to be those of a personal nature. Some of my personal favorites tweets so far:

Jodi Piccoult: Best part of editing: Falling in love with a book all over again. I am so excited for you all to see HOUSE RULES!

I loved knowing that she gets as excited about her writing as I do about mine. (Of course, she has much more reason to). It was comforting, a small shared literary moment.

Alice Hoffman: I love Marin Went to Amy Tan's fairytale house, had crab sandwich on the dock, gazed at beautiful SF. On to Book Passage for reading tonight

Loved, loved, loved hearing these tantalizing little bits of her literary life. She’s also posted some absolutely lovely Twitter strings that basically amounted to a very moving short story about her sister in law.

Powells’ Book Store: David Sedaris is trying to scare the @#$@ out of us. Flight problems, but it is looking like he will be at the store on time at this point

My not so favorite part is being assaulted by urls. For some reason, that feels like cheating to me, as if by trying to apply a one size fits content to a variety of different platforms. But I also understand that that is part of the whole point of Twitter.

So for me, the jury’s till out on this. I’m not sure if I gain as much as I lose in terms of creative, mental, and social energy. I do think it can be a terrific promotional tool. Powerful, in fact. According Time Magazine, last month Twitter was key in organizing an anticommunist uprising in Moldavia! Talk about power!

In fact, in true serendipitous fashion, it seems like everyone is talking about Twitter this week; from Time Magazine to Publisher’s Weekly, to blogs and even some private lists that I’m on. If you’re on the fence about Twitter, I highly recommend reading all of these to get a full sense of what the service offers and can do.

The main problems I’m having are the commands and navigation features. Also, when I searched for Mary Hershey, she didn’t show up in the search box, nor have other people been able to find me in searches, which is kind of a huge stumbling block. (Note: I've put Mary and my Twitter links up in the sidebar in case you're looking for us.)

I’ve heard tell of people getting writing jobs or making critical editorial or agenting contacts via twitter. If any of you have any examples of how twitter has really benefited you, feel free to post it in the comments. Anonymously, if you prefer. ☺

And lastly, since this is a blog about promotion, I’ve been stumped as to how to make twitter work as a promotional tool. I mean I get the part of being able to communicate instantly with all your fans, but to what purpose? Luckily, on a yahoo list I’m on, author Katie MacAlister was talking about this very thing this morning and said I could quote her, so I am taking full advantage of her expertise.

"I was like that for a long time, posting once or maybe twice a day, basically "Going to start writing now" and "Done writing" types of posts.

Then I decided if I was going to Twitter, I needed to do it properly. So I learned how to reply to people who replied to my Twitters, how to do searches for my name, so I could reply to mentions of folks who weren't following me, and changed the way I Twitter to include more spontaneous

Like any online promotion, you really need to have a reason to Twitter. I'm sure people can use Twitter to sell books, but in my case, my goal is to sell myself to readers, not just one book. So I approach it as I do Facebook (and BTW, you can syndicate your Twitters to your FB page, keeping it looking fresh and active)--it offers me a way to reach readers and allow them to have a piece of me, if you will.

The number of people who follow me has increased by leaps and bounds the last month since I started doing this. I know some of it is word of mouth, and some of it is from folks who visit FB, Myspace, and my website, all of which have my Twitter feed. Does it sell books? Who knows. It does keep me in front of readers' eyes, and that's my goal."

I really think she nails it; the value of twitter to authors. Now I just have to gird my loins and follow her advice…


Anonymous said...

When I first got on Twitter, I felt exactly as you did. TweetDeck (downloadable) helps SOME, but still doesn't do the threaded conversation thing. I'd LOVE to find software that did that.

It is still not my favorite place, but I'm not as frustrated with it. I have the Twitter app on FB, so when I tweet, it updates FB, too. Although this is really irritating when I forward on someone's tweet & get my FB friends all confused. And I've just sort of let myself filter. I do a LOT of skimming, much more than on FB, because it's just harder to read things on Twitter. And if I even get a sense that someone's posts are kind of irritating, I'll unfollow. I have yet to really do that on FB. Twitter still feels more "stalker-ish" to me. I KNOW there are dozens of people following me JUST so I will follow them, and I never have that sense on FB.

But it's there. I have met some other writers on Twitter that I really enjoy going back & forth with. So I'm sticking around for a while. All I can say is, I think it takes longer than FB to get used to, but it does seem to happen.

And now I'm following you & Mary, just to complete the whole stalker thing!

Anonymous said...

At this point, Twitter doesn't appeal to me. But I can't say I'll never try it.

I have heard that the TweetDeck, which Becky mentions, is helpful in making your Twittering more organized.

Sherrie Petersen said...

I signed up on Twitter this week, just to reserve my name really, in case I ever figure out a reason to tweet. Using it is still kind of over my head and I don't have the patience to figure it out yet. Maybe once Becky has it mastered I'll just pick her brain :)

Edith said...

I'm new to Twitter too & trying to find the marketing benefits. I think it's better for connecting with Librarians & industry people than it is for finding actual teens. I attended Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer launch party on twitter & it was neat--really confusing to keep up with all the tweets though.

Kait Nolan said...

Twitter made absolutely no sense to me until someone made the conversation that it was like a giant conversation. Then I found there were all kinds of applications you can download like Tweetdeck or Seesmic, which lay all the different types of tweets (yours, your friends, the @replies) together so that you can actually FOLLOW the conversation. Now it's like one giant IM between a whole bunch of people. I love it.

Greg Pincus said...

First, I strongly agree that you should get a client like Tweetdeck to make Twitter much easier to understand (though still not perfectly linear!).

Also, I don't tend to think of Twitter as a way to make sales or find readers per se. Instead I think of it in terms of building a network or platform. There is an amazing interconnectedness on Twitter, so even if someone you follow/who follows you is not a parent, teen, teacher or potential buyer of your book... someone on their list of followers surely is. Engage with people... follow people... retweet people... and they will do the same. Then see where it takes you.

Most people who stick with Twitter have an "aha!" moment. I can share one of mine: when I was doing my blog event, 30 Poets/30 Days, in April, I averaged getting 25-30 visitors from Twitter on a typical day just from my tweeting and other tweets about the poems on my blog. On one atypical day, I was tweeted about by a Twitter superstar... and 1,000 people came and read children's poetry in three hours (and about 1,500 in total from that one tweet). Oh. I get it!

And finally, I recounted a good Twitter and promotions story at my new blog just yesterday that shows another way Twitter can work:

Twitter Chatting... and Happy Accidents

Keep on trying Twitter, and I think you'll come to enjoy it. And I'll see you there!

R.L. LaFevers said...

Wow, thanks so much everyone for the helpful advice and encouragement! I can definitely tell it's the kind of thing one can't decide on right away. Interesting that everyone has an Aha! moment. I am eagerly awaiting mine. Which should arrive much more quickly now with all this great feedback!