I’ve been off Twitter for a while, but since I resumed book writing mode I’ve been back with a vengeance, following and reading about what other authors, fans and reviewers are doing these days and how they use Twitter to interact with each other and the wider world.
It’s not pretty.
Twitter today is borderline unbearable. Every other author appears to think that the rules of engagement were written for everybody else to follow, and are confusing conversation with exclamation. It’s like being at the worst literary dinner party ever, each guest shouting out the title of their book as loudly as possible simultaneously, at set intervals, over an infinite number of courses. Even a spot of one-upmanship would be nice, but everyone is so busy composing their next ear-shattering tweet that there’s little chance of anybody noticing what everyone else is up to.
I thought bands were bad (and I’ve plenty of experience with those), but it turns out that authors are far, far worse. For people whose passion it is to communicate, I find it unfathomable that so many authors seem unable to construct any form of cohesive dialogue on Twitter.
If, as a reader, you were offered a free copy of someone’s new book based solely on a months worth of their tweets, whose book would you choose? The repetitive, automated Twitter exclamations of a writer simply telling you to buy, buy, buy his book, or the tweets of someone letting you into his world, tweeting as he writes, being human and, more importantly, actually being there?
I’d like to think you’d opt for the author you can connect with.
In light of all that, I’ve compiled a list of the top twenty things I personally think that authors should stop doing on Twitter RIGHT NOW. I’m not going to suggest what they COULD do. Rather, I’m asking authors out there the question; If you stopped doing these things on Twitter TODAY, what would, what COULD you do instead?
TWITTER LITTER – MY TOP 20 TWITTER NO-NOS
1. Stop shouting your book title
Simply repeating your book title, over and over again, in the hope that someone in their Twitter stream will see it and think ‘Oh, a book, I must buy that and take an interest’ is completely misguided. Seeing a book while you scroll through a list on Amazon is one thing; it’s what it was designed for. Using Twitter to promote your book in the same way is missing the point of Twitter altogether.
2. Stop quoting your own book
Tweeting a short quote from your book leaves it lonely and bereft of context, whilst coming across as exceedingly egocentric. So it makes no sense, and makes you appear arrogant. Nice.
3. Stop using those terrible cover graphics you made yourself
Just because you have some kind of image-mangling software on your computer doesn’t mean you should be using it. There’s nothing as wannabe as a terrible graphic for an awful book cover sporting a font we all know and hate, adding to the limited space in people’s Twitter streams with gaudy, out of date images that your niece or nephew could trump given two minutes on a speak-and-spell machine from the 80s.
4. Stop using your strap line
Simply stating your strap line in a tweet is possibly one of the most inert tweets known to mankind. If I want to read strap lines I’ll go to an online bookstore. I don’t even mind reading them on your own website. A tweeted strap line, however, is a waste of a tweet and everybody’s time.
5. Stop tweeting review headlines
I’m sure that you’re extremely happy with that five star review from some Amazon reviewer I’ve never heard of, but in this cynical age I have a horrible feeling that your mother or girlfriend wrote it, and even if she didn’t it’s irrelevant; I just don’t care, especially in a tweet.
6. Stop hash tagging the shit out of your tweet
Hashtags are cool. Unless they’re not. Sometimes I think I’ve got hashtag blindness and have to go and sit in a darkened room for ten minutes. For goodness sake, it’s more important to have a readable tweet than a findable one.
7. Don’t post the same automated tweet several times
Seeing someone promoting the same tweet about their book several times in a row is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. Not only does it prove that you’re on some kind of promotional assault using some automated software, it also makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. I always block/ban people the moment it happens.
8. Don’t make your tweet indecipherable
It’s not just the hashtags that can make a tweet unreadable, it’s also the other extraneous crap that people put in. Some people’s tweets look like a cross between html and the enigma code. Make sure people can at least understand what you’re on about.
12. Stop thinking that anyone cares about price
Oh look! That author has dropped the price of his book from not that much to a little bit less than not much! I must buy it now before it goes back up a little bit more! Said no one ever.
14. Don’t use stupid graphic letters in your tweet
Ok, so you’ve told me to buy your book. Adding fairy lights to the damn tweet really isn’t going to make me want to buy it any more. However, it is highlighting those tweets of yours that make me want to scream, so thanks for pointing that out, I’m now going to mute all your tweets so that my eyes don’t bleed.
16. Stop thanking people for following them
I am sure that you’re ecstatic about having some new followers, and perhaps you think that letting everyone know about them is going to make the rest of us think ‘Uh oh, he’s cool, need to follow him!’ Well of course that’s ridiculous, as I’m already following you otherwise I wouldn’t have seen your tweet.
17. Stop lying
You need to deliver what you promise. If I follow a link to your new book but find myself redirected straight to some hideous blurb-laden promotional pop-up-from-hell website selling me viagra for hamsters I’m going to be quite upset about it.
As you can see, I lied about the title of this article. In fact, there are only 17 points and not the promised 20. Doesn’t feel that great does it? If people have taken the time to click a link on your tweet then you’re obviously doing something right, but at least make sure you deliver on your promise and follow it up.
Twitter is a great tool and there are tons of authors and all kinds of people using it brilliantly to reach out to their readers and to cultivate new ones. I hope that this blog post has given you a chuckle and made you reflect, just a little, on how you can use Twitter to promote yourself in a more creative way. If you could only tweet four times a day, what would those tweets be? I’d be surprised if you’d choose any of the above and would elect to tweet in a more personal and meaningful way.
Agree? Disagree? Anything I’ve missed out? What’s working for you? Leave a comment below.