So, for my latest blog post, I want to talk about the use of Twitter, as well as other social media websites, for self-published, independent authors like myself. Now, I’ve only recently discovered what Twitter is and how it can be useful. Prior to using this website for promotional purposes I did not really see the point in it, I even mocked it. Then I changed my mind, I created a personal account and began to get involved. I followed some people I like; authors, bands, comic book creators, columnists for the newspapers I like to read, that sort of thing; and I began to see how it could be useful.
Since creating an account I have had some interesting experiences. I heard about a few events on Twitter before anywhere else. I experienced the news of the death of Terry Pratchett through this medium and saw the reaction of many people I respect. The Cecil the Lion story was in my feed before I saw it on the news. Actually, I think the only reason that this story, and many others, made the news was due to the reaction on social media. I realised that one story would often dominate my Twitter feed for the entire day as it bounced around the network and I began to see the power of this medium to influence the world around us. There were many others but that is not the point of this post. The focus is on the use (and pitfalls) of social media for self-published authors, so onwards!
Now, I am hardly an expert at the use of Twitter for promoting your work but I do feel like I have learned much from my short time using this medium. My formula is this: I send out a small number of tweets a few times a day, advertising my book, I post quotes from the novel to give a flavour of the work, I tweet out a link to my blog with a description of this week’s post, and I try to draw attention to the nice things that people have already said about my book. I am not the first person to advertise in this way but I am also quite careful. I do not tweet endlessly about my book for that would bore people very quickly indeed. I have unfollowed other writers for doing just that. I am also not looking to increase the number of people that I follow too quickly as I actually like to engage with those who choose to follow me. And it works the other way too. Were I to have millions of followers it would not be possible to engage with the majority of them but that is not a problem I currently have. Not yet, anyway 😉
On the whole, the people I have interacted with have been nice and often willing to retweet my inanity. In the first few days of having an account I was fairly obnoxious. I tweeted at a considerable number of people who had not chosen to follow me and though many ignored me some, very kindly, retweeted my advert about my new book. Eventually I realised that this was not really acceptable behaviour and I refined my formula and now I only tweet at those who have chosen to follow me. And even some of those have immediately blocked me. But I am also having fun with the medium. I have managed to get myself retweeted by some people whose work I very much admire, even if my tweets were promoting their work. Still, it is always fun when that happens.
And I’ve undoubtedly made some mistakes. I’ve waded into conversations that I should’ve left well alone and I’ve been duly rebuked. I’ve been blocked by a few people for being a bit stupid. Never for anything serious, but, for example for saying things that seemed funny in my head, but clearly did not read as such to the person receiving them. Eventually I learned that text carries no inflection or intonation and so you must be very careful with what you say. I’ve run into some very unpleasant people with views that I consider repugnant and we’ve had some interesting discussions. But so far I have yet to block anyone who has not blocked me first. I doubt this will last. I’ve also been blocked by someone I had a conversation or two with and very much liked and I have no idea why they did this. The discovery was quite perplexing and I was left wondering what I had done. Clearly they had not liked something that I had said but then that is what happens when you put your opinion out there. Others will not always agree.
I have yet to really encounter my first persistent troll and have found that the best way to end an argument is to simply stop replying. Now, this may give the person with whom you have been arguing the feeling that they have won the discussion but sometimes that is simply the price to pay to get out of a spiralling debate. And those discussions are usually worth leaving as soon as you can.
So far, to a small extent, my use of social media is working. I now have several people among my followers who have told me that they have read my book and have then given me rather lovely reviews (you can find them on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z). I also know of some others who are reading the book and letting me know whereabouts they are and I hope to hear their thoughts on the novel in due course. And it is a wonderful knowing that you have managed to persuade even a small number of people to read your work and knowing that somewhere out in the world people are (hopefully) enjoying the novel over which you slaved! 😉
I also recently discovered Reddit, another useful tool for those wishing to promote themselves and their work. I actually discovered it by accident when someone else posted a link to one of my blog posts. I got around 300 visits that day, far more than I had ever had in a single day before, and I so rushed to the site to work out how I could repeat the trick. This site is also not without its pitfalls but I have been able to draw more attention to my blog than I had without it so I recommend that you give it a go if you have a book or a blog to promote. It might help!
Now, I know that all of this doesn’t exactly amount to a coherent strategy but as I am making it up as I go along that is not surprising. I also don’t know if I will get the success that I wish to achieve with my novel through the use of Twitter and other social media but I know that I would not have a chance without it. Without the backing of an agent and a publishing company, independent authors will get nowhere without some means by which they can promote their work. And I feel that I am making ground and gaining traction, even if the process is slow. Really, bloody slow. Still, it’s better than nothing and without it I doubt anyone other than my friends and family would have read it. It’s an uphill struggle but for now there’s nothing I can do but keep on climbing!
Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!