Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To Tweet or Not to Tweet-Does it make a difference?

The first time I heard about Twitter was on The View. Yes, I live under a rock the majority of the time. To give myself a smidge of credit it was three years ago. Sherri Shepherd had set up her twitter account earlier in the week. Bubbly and excited, she couldn’t stop gushing over the social media tool and I was just as confused as Barbara Walters about what in the heck was a tweet.

When Twitter first launched in 2006 very few people understood its value. How in the devil did you use it? And who in the world would care about what you were doing unless you were a celebrity? Fast forward several years later, the Twitter craze is sweeping the world, sort of the way Facebook did.

Track celebrities, stay connected with family, make new friends, or promote your products any minute of the day. Many of your favorite authors tweet, giving you glimpses into their books, writing process, or even into their lives. However, I can’t help wonder if Twitter really makes a difference in sales.

I’m sure most of you have heard of Amanda Hocking, a self-publishing phenomenon. If you haven’t and you’re an aspiring author, then clearly I’m not the only one living under a rock. A young woman self-published a series of books and maximized her use of Facebook and Twitter to promote them. In less than two years, she was able to earn enough from her sales, under $2 per e-book, to quit her day job, signed with an agent and has a movie deal. A self-proclaimed obsessive tweeter, Hocking has admitted that it took a great deal of effort and time, and the promotion was exhausting.

Success stories such as Hocking’s are inspiring. They show us what is possible and uplift us with hope. Will the vast majority of fledgling authors, self-published or traditionally published, achieve this level of success even if they tweet? The sad reality is no. Whether or not it’s due to the fact they are misusing their tweets or the book simply wasn’t strong enough is up for debate.

What I do know is that there are many authors who have achieved success without Twitter. I had the chance to ask Carrie Vaughn, a bestselling author, if she thought Twitter was crucial to sell books. Guess what? Vaughn doesn’t tweet and she thinks she’s doing quite well without it. Even JR Ward has stated tweeting is not essential. Although Ward set up a Twitter account last year, she only had one tweet the last time I checked. She’s probably too busy writing.

If there’s a chance tweeting might make a difference in future sales, and if after we’ve written the best book possible it all comes down to sales, then why am I hesitant to jump in the midst of the Twitter frenzy?

Writing takes time. Writing a great book takes a great deal of time and revising takes even more. Throw in the edits required from your publisher, promotion that has been proven to increase sales, research, writing your next book, not to mention life beyond writing, and Twitter starts to look like a huge waste of time spent, well, socializing.

How many writers spend hours on Twitter every day and write things like, “I should be working right now instead of tweeting”? It makes me wonder if Twitter is really increasing their sales, building future readership, or just an addictive distraction sidetracking them from their primary objective—writing.

There will be the Amanda Hockings who show us what incredible things are possible with Twitter. There are also the Stephenie Meyers and JK Rowlings who have shown us it’s possible without Twitter. On the journey to publication, and even after you are published, there will always be something to compete for your time. If you plan on being a successful author, publishing multiple books, and selling, then you have to decide what’s the best use of your time every waking hour.

I’m not on Twitter and admit I’m a little intimidated by the tweeting whirlwind. Yet, if it does have a significant impact on the sales of many authors, specifically debut and midlist, then I’m more than willing to give it a shot. So, I’m asking for all those out there who do tweet to help me make an educated decision I hope I won’t regret.

How much time do you really spend tweeting every day?

Do you think it will help you increase readership and sales?

How long do you think it will take before you reap the benefits from Twitter?

As a reader, has an author’s tweets persuaded you to buy their book?

For a pre-pubbed author like me, is Twitter a savvy business tool or is it a social tool draining time?

44 comments:

  1. It can be a drain on your time and you need to watch the time you spend on it. It can be a valuable way to meet people and network. I do not get on Twitter and just cruise. I post things that are of value to writers - links to articles etc and I do participate in Man Candy Monday nights for a little fun with other writers but that is it.

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  2. I have made some of the best networking connections ever through tweeting...

    My tip to you would be don't feel like you have to read ALL the tweets the missed... Participate when you've got a minute and then jump back in later. It's quick and a great way to meet people and make connections... :)

    See you on Twitter!

    http://twitter.com/LdyDisney

    Lisa :)

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  3. Hello, I'm a twitterholic and former anti-twitter poster child.

    How much time do you really spend tweeting every day? Depends on what's going on. According to my friends I have a lot of discipline and if I have something to do, I don't tweet a lot. However, sometimes I tweet way more than I should. It depends on what I'm doing and what's going on around me.

    Do you think it will help you increase readership and sales? Yes.

    How long do you think it will take before you reap the benefits from Twitter? Honestly I've already benefited from it. I'm friends with authors, like I now have their phone numbers and we hang out, because I met them on twitter. They have asked me why I'm not submitting and demanded to see what I"m working on - because we're friends. That friendship wouldn't have happened without connecting via twitter. Also, I have the chance to chat about cupcakes with editors and the latest movies with agents I'd like to submit to someday. They might not remember me, but I know that so-and-so really likes vanilla bean cupcakes and submission packages that do x and z but maybe not y will still get looked at while this other one requires a - z, but not necessarily o.

    As a reader, has an author’s tweets persuaded you to buy their book? Totally. I do word sprints on twitter and several authors started in with the same group. I'd never heard of them before, but we started chating and I wanted to support them and know what they were writing so I bought all of their books. Want to know how much I've spent buying one author's books? Close to $40. There are a few agents and editors who suggest books and most of what they suggest I buy.

    For a pre-pubbed author like me, is Twitter a savvy business tool or is it a social tool draining time? I think it's a great networking tool. You get the chance to meet and connect with angents/editors/authors you wouldn't get to unless you attend a conference. You can ask them questions, and a lot of the time they answer you back.

    Tweeting is a personal choice as well. YOu're letting an audience into your personal life. FOr example I tweet about a lot of stuff, and recently I crewed a bicycle ride and tweeted about that and my mom's progress because I'm an extroverted sharer. For an introvert, maybe twitter isn't for you all the time. But I think everyone can use twitter evena little and still be effective.

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  4. I spend quite a bit of time on Twitter, though not as my pen name. I'm mostly on Twitter under my reviewer name, and I've been able to make a lot of friends who are readers, reviewers, and authors. It's a fantastic networking tool and has helped several of my author friends with their promo. I honestly believe that if a book is hyped up on Twitter it will sell better (I can tell you from experience - I've bought a TON of books simply because they were being talked about on Twitter).

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  5. Robin,

    Seems like giving back while on Twitter is definitely a good way to go. Helps to bond over relevant issues.

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  6. Lisa,

    I wonder if it's hard to sort through the tweets (since I'm not on it, I don't know). That way you don't miss the important ones, and can skim the others.

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  7. Cid,

    Great points. I know it's excellent for networking, but I had no idea it could that effective. Thanks for the feedback on sales from your perspective.

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  8. I have two Twitter accounts, one as an unpublished writer and one for my dance studio. I use the studio account regularly for announcements but I only periodically tweet on my writing account and only when I've written something on Facebook. (I have Twitter linked to Facebook so when I post it forwards it to the other.) I dream of the day when I'll have more interesting things to share. Until then, my tweets will continue to be few and far between.

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  9. Leigh,

    Thanks! That is exactly the kind of information I need to know. If actual readers are telling me they have purchased a book simply because of what they read on Twitter, it definitely makes a difference. Now, I wondering if the books you guys have purchased are from debuts, midlist, or established bestselling authors.

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  10. Sarah,

    If you know for a fact that you want to use Twitter as an author, then starting out slow is a good idea to build gradually as time permits. Maybe that might be a good approach for me. Dabble and learn until ready to go full throttle?

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  11. Read We Are Not Alone - Social Media Networking for the Writer by Kristen Lamb. Do you need Twitter? No. And yes, according to Kristen. Does it have to take hours? GODS no. If it does, you're hanging out because you want to. Can it help you build a platform? Yes.

    If nothing else, check out her blog. Google it - it should come up. Good luck!

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  12. Christine,

    Thanks for the advice and I'll check out Lamb!

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  13. I'm of two minds about Twitter. I have an author account and I tweet posts, interesting tidbits about my books and I retweet interesting tweets from people I follow. I also tweet really interesting articles. On very rare occasions I will get involved in a brief conversation. But it's quite hard to follow tweets, especially when twitter is busy.
    I've increased my followers via Twitter - definitely noticed an increase, however, Twitter can be extremely annoying. I don't need to know that you're stopped at a red light or polishing your toenails or that your dog just pooped - and that's a whole lot of what happens on Twitter. This is what some people tweet. :)
    I spend approximately 2-10 minutes per day on Twitter, replying to tweets and checking quickly on friends, and uploading anything interesting about my books, etc. That's it.
    Some authors seem to practically live on Twitter and Facebook. I don't know how they find the time to write.

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  14. Julia,

    Do you really only spend 10 min a day? That's incredible. I think to be effective with it, you need at least 30 min a day, but I could be wrong.

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  15. Isis,

    I was a Twitter-phobe for a long time. I also recommend Lamb's book--it got me started. It also introduced me to Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck allows me loads more control over my "streams" of tweets. I spend 10-20 minutes a couple days per week. I try to keep up with certain memes, but I've been hit or miss due to a death in the family earlier this year.
    My best advice is explore Twitter and see if you like it. If you don't like it, don't use it. It's not the most efficient way of getting out a message, and no one wants to be heavily marketed on Twitter. I love it because I dash in and out of conversations at the spur of the moment, I can retweet friends' tweets about their books, I can mention my book occasionally or see if someone is trying to reach me. I tweet because I find it fun, and those 10 minutes I dive into Twitter are a way of relaxing from other work--not another stressful expectation I've placed on myself.

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  16. Amy,

    Thank you for sharing your insight and unique perspective. As someone with a constant full plate and not a minute to waste, I really wanted to know your thoughts. Only spending 10-20 minutes a week is manageable, but the key sounds like to only do it if you'll enjoy it and to focus on networking, not necessarily selling.

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  17. I think of Twitter as a giant conversation. I've made many great contacts through Twitter by jumping in. If it's taking all your time away from writing, then that's a bad thing, but a little can go a long way. Using a good program like HootSuite or TweetDeck is key to getting what you want out of Twitter. That way I only pay attention to information relevant to me. And it is also a social tool. A good writer on Twitter puts up interesting blogs about the business, but also interacts with other writers, editors, agents, bloggers, and readers. I say use it wisely.

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  18. Darcy,

    Understanding how to make twitter work for you in an efficient way is vital, otherwise it's easy to lose your focus in the tweeting vortex. Once again, it seems like it should be used for networking, not selling.

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  19. Isis,

    I get on Twitter once a week to chat with a few people. I post my blog there and any new news, but I don't use it as a promotional tool as much as I use FB. Twitter is a place to meet people and chat briefly. If I catch something I'm interested in, I get in the middle and chat. lol

    The goo thing Twitter is the message has to be brief. That's good.

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  20. Isis, as you're discovering Tweeting can be fun and time consuming. I figure for promotional reasons it doesn't hurt. I've met a few writers and even have the Fox News Editor/Producer of my column following me--ok that's nerve wrecking. (smiles) My only advise, don't use Tweet as a "bitching platform" as some individuals tend to do. It'll might come back and bite ya. Be playful, be professional, be you.

    Now...about the "Man Candy Mondays"...please do tell.

    Live with passion,

    Dr. Charley..

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  21. I am unpubbed, so I'm looking for the best way to attract fans. I think you have to do something promotional, so it's a choice as to where you put your time (or money!).

    I've used twitter in a non-professional writing environment and have several hundred followers - the more you socialize the more you become part of the community, and community is one way to sell books. I tweet to two diverse groups, some other writers, others readers who share the same interests I do. If I find other groups I'll tweet to them as well.

    I am still building up my twitter world and I spend maybe ten minutes a day. I do leave the window open while I'm working,though, and I can respond to something if it takes my fancy. It doesn't distract me, but then that takes a certain level of self-discipline.

    I use twitter to steer readers to my blog post - I tweet every post - and from there to my website. I can see the impact on the site analytics, so I know that people are moving through the platform. I also have a facebook page which is nothing but a pointer. I still get a lot of traffic from that as well. So I guess I could say that the impact is immediate.

    I know that if I get several hundred fans it provides a place to market my work. In my day job I had some opportunities to take sales training courses, and I know that sales is just a question of numbers. The more people who have a chance to buy your book, the more will. Not every one, of course. But more than if you don't. And until I can generate enough money to afford advertising (and maybe even then) this seems like an inexpensive way to reach people with my message.

    Hope this helps

    (For some reason blogger refuses to accept my wordpress id - ErikaMoran.wordpress.com - so I id's this way)

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  22. I tried tweeting, but lasted only two days due to the time constraint. I'm crazy busy as it is, and I found adding one more thing overwhelmed me. So, I stepped back. But, I believe used properly, it's a wonderful venue.

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  23. I do have a Twitter account, but I have yet to post a Tweet...or sign on again for that matter...LOL I struggle just to read & comment on my friends blogs, and still I don't get as much writing done as I need to. I have no idea how people do it, especially people with kids.

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  24. Hi Isis,
    I just started tweeting and am reading Kristen Lamb's book as well. At first I found twitter to be overwhelming, but now I an using Hootsuite and it helps to manage it all. I also have my facebook news linked to the hootsuite and I only have to announce once and it sends it to both. That is a real relief. Ashley March says that twitter helps us connect to other authors and facebook to readers. do you need both? I find twitter is much faster and easier to use than facebook. But I'm doing both, and I set a timer for all my internet business, otherwise I would never get any writing done!

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  25. Isis, I've been contemplating Twitter, so this is very informative for me. Thanks for a timely post, and to everyone who's offered advice.

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  26. Isis,

    More than anything I think Twitter helps you keep tabs on the industy. I follow all the agents and editors I'm interested in. Just today an agent tweeted she was actively looking for more historicals to fill out her list. A couple days back, an Editor at Sourcebooks tweeted they were looking for a YA to step in for a last minute blown deadline. My dream agent tweeted she would love to see a RS with SEAL heroes. An agent at Carina Press tweeted the same thing. (I got a full request off that, which I would have missed completely if I hadn't been following her)Other agents will tweet their query status. For example "I have responded to ALL queries through such and such date. If you queried during this time and have not received a response--then resend."

    I have picked up Beta readers and CPs through twitter, made a ton of friends as well

    On average, I probably spend about an hour a day on it. 1/2 in the morning, another 1/2 at night. But twitter is a treat. The writing always comes first.

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  27. Go where your readers are and where your major influencers are. If they're on Twitter, then it makes sense to be there, if you want. Yes, not everyone will enjoy or benefit from Twitter. So do what you like in terms of networking. People can tell the difference. Social networking is about connecting with others. So above all, have a good time. And whatever you do, don't do twitter just because and only because you enjoy it! :-)

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  28. I go on Twitter as and when time allows. Sometimes that's every day and sometimes it might be once a week depending on my schedule. I think it's a good tool to connect with readers and other writers.

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  29. I like Twitter because it's quick and easy. I do most of my Tweeting and following from my phone. It doesn't take long to scroll through. And it's fun to share quick thoughts when I have them.

    I often hear publishing news (as well as other news) on Twitter first.

    It's also a great place to ask questions.

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  30. Sandy - 140 character limit sounds like a blessing in disguise :).

    Dr. Charley- Thanks for stopping by. Fox News... oye, no pressure. I think positive energy reaps better results over negative energy any time. If I join Twitter, I will definitely check out man candy Mondays.

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  31. Diana - That is my worst fear. To join, hate it or not be able to keep up with it, then flounder with an inactive account. It is definitely not for everyone.

    Donna- I wonder the same thing. With emails, posts on writing groups, blogging, FB, how do people have time to tweet if they are writing, working full-time, and have a family? I don't get it. I think I'm missing the big secret on how to manage it.

    Jessica- Hootsuite sounds like a good solution to the problem. I wonder if it is user-friendly. I need EASY when it comes to anything techy.

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  32. Stacey- I figured there were others out there in the same boat. I hope this helps you make a decision.

    Trish- Wow! Definitely useful, timely way to receive information.

    Beth- Enoying it seems to be an important aspect of it. I guess I won't know if I'll like it until I actually try it. From the outside looking in, it doesn't seem like fun. I appreciate the advice.

    Shelley- I guess knowing one's limit and being able to take a step back for a day or two when needed would help. Thanks for stopping by.

    Teresa- I guess I'd need to get a cell phone :).

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  33. I have connected to quite a few new friends on Twitter that I wouldn't of found any other way so I guess I have to say I like it. I won't let myself spend a lot of time there because there just aren't enough hours in a day.
    Mimi

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  34. Get Kristen Lamb's book, We Are Not Alone. She discusses social media for writers. I found it an extremely sane, almost, book about marketing ourselves as writers.

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  35. How much time do you really spend tweeting every day?

    I think the important thing to remember here is Twitter doesn't necessarily have to be a day long thing. A good friend of mine is on Twitter only 30 min a day. She reads the tweets coming through, replies to a few of them. She posts a few blog post links to her blog, a couple for other blogs she enjoyed, and then she gets off. Me? I'm a little different. I have it all day, running Tweetdeck while I work. But I turn off notifications while I'm writing so I don't distract myself.

    Do you think it will help you increase readership and sales?

    If you tweet AT people instead of WITH people, no. The key to Twitter is interaction. I don't follow everyone that follows me, but if they talk to me, I'll reply back. If they regularly talk to me, I will probably follow them.

    How long do you think it will take before you reap the benefits from Twitter?

    I can't really say. I've seen some people struggle, and others that took off at a dead sprint. It's all about how you use it, how much you interact with others.

    As a reader, has an author’s tweets persuaded you to buy their book?

    It's not so much persuaded. I've bought LOTS of books based off tweets from authors. Sometimes, an author I like a lot will recommend a friend's book, and I'll usually buy that. Agents that I admire will recommend books and I'll usually give them a lot.

    For a pre-pubbed author like me, is Twitter a savvy business tool or is it a social tool draining time?

    It can be both. Twitter is addicting (at least for me) and for the undisciplined, it can become a way to procrastinate and use as an excuse to not finish that book. Do I think it's essential? No, not really. But I know that no one read my blog until I promoted it on Twitter, and used the hashtag search terms to connect with other writers and readers.

    I think what I'm trying to get at here is that it doesn't require a whole lot of time. My friend tweets only 30 min a day. Another person I follow only tweets 15 min a day. It's all in maximizing your time.

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  36. I just started tweeting this past week. I try to hit Twitter once in the morning and then again in the evening. I do the same for FB, although, when time allows I check in with FB more often.

    I've tried to do some tweets based on my prior law enforcement career, i.e. 10 Clues You May Be Dating an Abuser. I've picked up a few followers, but no retweets yet...sigh.

    I'm going to keep up with it though. I think once you get a pretty good following it might help with book sales.

    I should probably get the book because I don't understand about hash tags and the other stuff that goes with the plain tweets. Oh, but I do know how to retweet stuff, and I think I've gained a few followers from that.

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  37. Mimi - Seems like discipline is crucial to avoid getting sucked in.

    Linda- Just ordered it. Thanks!

    Suzan - Thank you for the honest answers. Very helpful.

    Kathy - LOL. I'm like you. I don't get the hashtags or the lingo. I think understanding these details would help maximize tweeting time. I'll definitely learn in advance, if I decide to take the plunge.

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  38. I'm a tweep, he's a tweep, she's a tweep, wouldn't you like to be a tweep too...sorry, getting loopy :)

    I enjoy twitter but I do have to limit myself. I can get easily addicted.

    Tagged you on my blog today :)

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  39. Great post, Isis! Yes, it can be distracting if you let it but I find a lot of great agents share lots of great info on Twitter more than FB. It's just finding that balance and not allowing you to get sucked in:)

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