social media

Is Twitter relevant for me as a reader? I mean, I know I’ve been told a million times how critical it is to me as an author, but how about as a consumer of books, as opposed to a shameless self-promotion machine?

Another fair question is, to what extent does Twitter help me, versus suck my time and my will to live?

The answer to the first question is easy. Of the 15 or so books on my kindle that are currently unread, I’ve heard about 100% of them from Twitter. Now, that may well be it’s because I spend what small amount of free time I have, when not writing, on Twitter, thus I am what I eat. Having said that, Twitter has been undeniably important to my reading habits, and I’ve discovered several good authors I would never have encountered had it not been for their tweets.

How about as an author?

I’ve been told by my marketing guru friends that I shouldn’t be tweeting more than a couple of times a day. I’ve been told that posting repetitive tweets hawking my books is annoying, and the mark of a rank amateur – which I cheerfully confess to being. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a book marketing guru, and I can honestly say that if you ask 10 folks who have done well on the indie author circuit, all 10 will give you a different answer to the question of how much to tweet, what kinds of tweets to put out, how much to retweet, etc. etc.

Here’s what I’ve concluded.

First, I think that the social networking thing is evolving so quickly that it’s almost impossible to stay current on what actually works. Because what worked last week might not work this week. And because nobody seems to have any idea as to what will work next. As an example, we’ve all read the self-help tomes advising us to write a heart-warming, seemingly sincere blog that will then go viral, propelling us to success. Except that hasn’t happened. To anyone. Not a single person I can think of. Or know of. Or have heard of. If I’m missing someone in the last eight months who followed that counsel, please leave a comment and point me in their direction. Because I don’t know of them. Which leads me to conclude that trying to do so is probably right up there with the following the advice, “Start a burger restaurant selling cheap, mediocre crap, and then build them all over the world, and brand them with a cute cartoonish character – and you’ll be rich!”

In other words, I am of the opinion that those helpful tomes advising you on how to spend ever-larger amounts of your limited time on “going viral” are of questionable value. Or no value. As in, nobody has been able to achieve success following the formula, ergo the formula isn’t what made the author successful. Seems straightforward to me. If I publish a tome advising that dogs barking causes cancer, because my dog barks a lot at the mailman and he got cancer, then the test would be to check for other examples of that causal effect. Which has led me to be a big party-pooping buzz kill on social media, in general, and the hours spent working it versus the reward seen from the work. I have read the books on establishing a brand, and building a following, and Facebooking and Tweeting and everything else, and have applied myself with singular diligence. But I have no idea if any of it matters.

If one clocks the number of hours one would have to be on the various platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Triberr, etc. etc. etc.) one would quickly conclude that being a piece worker in a Malaysian sweat shop pays better on an hourly basis. So yes, I think you can reach people, but it’s a question of effort versus return. I could also reach a certain penetration rate if I stood at the beach and handed out cheerfully-colored 10 page excerpts of my work. I’m quite sure if I did so 15 hours a day, my penetration rate would increase, at least in an absolute sense – I’d see more readers giving it a whirl over their margaritas, the more hours I stood there. But that doesn’t mean it would be a good idea to do it.

I guess I’m questioning the usefulness of posting dozens of tweets per day. The salesman in me understands that frequency is key, but the marketer in me understands that sales and marketing are after different goals – sales cares about selling today, marketing is about positioning my brand (if bitter, old, cynical, clown-hating alcoholic misanthropes are a brand).

I think I’m going to try something in the next few days. I am thinking I’ll just stop tweeting for three or four days, and see what happens. If sales plummet, then I will know that Twitter is critical to broadening my reach and spreading the good news of Russ. If sales stay flat or increase, it will give me at least anecdotal evidence that it doesn’t much matter, and I would be better off throwing a tweet out every so often, and leaving it at that. I honestly have no idea which it will be. But I am interested in finding out, because as far as I can see, social media is consuming a large percentage of my time, which means I’m not writing, or living, when I’m doing it. So a part of me really wants it to not much matter, and just be yet another folksy truism that turns out utterly false.

I’ll let everyone know how it goes.

As always, it’s a great experiment.Ironically, I will be depending upon Twitter to spread the word about this blog. The circular futility of the act is not lost on me, but I can still laugh about it, so hey, at least I have that.

On other news, I am plowing through the edits on my next book, The Voynich Cypher, which has turned out much better than I’d dared hope. It will be somewhat of a departure for me – more of a pure suspense/adventure book than a conspiracy thriller. Hopefully it will be warmly embraced by young and old, rich and poor, male and female, black, white, brown, yellow, or of whatever orientation – religious, political or any other differentiating metric you like – and will be a mega hit, enabling me to infuriate my critics as well as the angry throng of clowns that continues to congregate on my front lawn once I’ve had a few pops to take the edge off (and don’t tell me we haven’t all been there). Alternatively, maybe a few people will think it’s a good book, in which case I’ll probably write another.

That’s all I have for today, folks. Kindly comment, if you feel a need to vent. Or don’t, and instead Tweet something. I’m sure I’ll see it amidst the thousands of messages that fly by every hour…


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