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Twitter and the Indie Author

Twitter and the Indie Author

Twitter is not the self-published writer’s friend. It’s the errant, time wasting friend who could quite easily lead you astray. Yet, we all do it – the indie writer and the traditionally published, the penniless debutant and J. K Rowling. We all give it precious writing time and countless valuable words. For most of us it’s a distraction and possibly an addiction. We like to kid ourselves, to try and convince others it’s – in some vague, ‘you-wouldn’t-understand way’ – a part of our job. I dread to wonder how near to a full-length novel my word count on Twitter would be.

Yet, for all that, every writer needs a Twitter presence. But to get the most out of Twitter, that page needs to be about you, the writer, not just your novel. Twitter, in many ways, seems a perfect fit for the writer. Like blogging, it can be a good way to keep writing skills sharp between books; a perfectly crafted 140-character tweet is a very difficult thing to do. Conveying your point with an economy of words is not a bad habit to learn. Twitter can, of course, be an invaluable medium to use to keep up to date with the publishing world, too – to follow other authors, publishers or agents, or to get a heads-up on submission opportunities or competitions. It is also not a bad tool for the more introverted writer; it’s as close to a staff room as a writer is going to get and even a tenuous sense of real life and conversation is no bad thing for this most isolated of jobs.

It’s a fine balancing act though. Let’s be honest, writers are tweeting with the number one aim of selling their books. But how best to do that? A quick glance at how some successful writers use Twitter shows it can be a wonderful thing; they are the ones who actually say something, who blog or joke or comment. They may not be overtly selling their books to you but they are making you laugh, or making you interested in something, or sharing a passion. Either way, you’re engaged with them – the way they write, their voice or their ‘brand’ – and will likely go back for more. Sure, if you’re mega successful, people will be flocking to your page anyway and hanging on your every tweet, but every writer should look at their content, even if it feels like shouting into an empty void. What are you giving your followers? Are you saying anything other than how great your book is? Why should strangers care? Every word in your novel has to earn its place. Maybe the same rule should apply to your tweets. Twitter isn’t free advertising space; it is an opportunity for communication and expression.

So How Should you Tackle Twitter?

The indie writer on Twitter carries a bit of a reputation, that of the blanket bombardment of Buy My Book! tweets. We’ve all done it. We know it probably doesn’t work but we still do it to some degree. There are many real chances on Twitter to subtly plug your book, though – you can write a blog, get a decent blogger review, run a discounted promotion, get local press coverage… Maybe you could get your Waterstones to stock it, or there is something newsworthy that ties in with it. Used sparingly, with relevant content to back them up, these tweets are much more effective and far less intrusive than a deluge of hard sell content.

I can account for a handful of books that I know I have been sold as a direct result of Twitter. Not many, but enough to know there is mileage in it for an author, and each one has come after direct conversations with that person, usually about something else entirely. But wouldn’t you be more likely to check out the book of someone you’ve interacted with? Sometimes we neglect the ‘social’ aspect of social media, and that is what it is all about.

Every word in your novel has to earn its place. Maybe the same rule should apply to your tweets. Twitter isn’t free advertising space; it is an opportunity for communication and expression.

It’s important not to ignore the local aspect too. If, like me, you don’t live in a big city and hundreds of writers aren’t clogging up your nearest Café Nero with their laptops, then the Twitter pages of your local paper, radio, magazine, or bookshop are what you should be interacting with because they, hopefully, should be extra interested in the fact that you have written a book. It may seem like the whole world is doing it, but never lose sight of the fact that writing a book in the first place is a big deal.

By far the most rewarding thing I’ve got from Twitter, and what really makes it a worthwhile medium for me, is getting to know other local authors, some of whom I now count as dear friends. A support network of like minds is utterly essential for any self-published writer. So, use Twitter to find other writers near to you, look for local writer’s groups, see what signings or talks are taking place in bookshops, go and buy their books, meet people and have real conversations far away from your keyboard and computer screen. And then go back and tweet about it, and pretend it’s work.

Russell Mardell is a self-published author, screenwriter and occasional short film director. He has also written for the stage. Find out more about his books:

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From the editor…

Events season is here. Perhaps you're heading to the Self-Publishing Conference this spring? Literary events are great opportunities for authors to network and learn more about the competition, and the market as a whole.

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