My first interaction with a writer on Twitter took place over two years ago. I had just finished reading Last Night in Montreal (Emily St. John Mandel‘s first novel) and loved it so much that I raved about it through my Twitter account (@CarrieMumford). Much to my surprise, Emily responded.
This interaction convinced me of the power of Twitter for readers. At the time, hearing from an author on Twitter was akin to meeting a movie star. Not only did I get a chance to ‘talk’ to a published author, but I also got to tell her how much I enjoyed her work. As an avid reader, this was thrilling.
Now that I’ve started writing myself, I’ve come to understand just how effective Twitter can be for writers as well.
3 Reasons Twitter Can be a Powerful Tool for Writers:
Here are the three main reasons I think Twitter can help writers, although I am sure there are many more ways (feel free to add them in the comments!).
1) You can spread the word about your work: Twitter can provide writers with an invaluable link to their audience. Not only did I, as a reader, get to tell Emily St. John Mandel how much I enjoyed her book, but I also spread the word to all of my contacts on Twitter. Research on marketing shows us that consumers are much more likely to trust a recommendation made by a friend (virtual or real-life); having people talk about your work on Twitter can be a great way to gain new readers.
2) Twitter is a portal to a community of writers: Life as a writer can be lonely. Twitter provides access to a community of like-minded people: authors, aspiring writers, bloggers, readers, publishers, poets. Even better, when you’re talking to others on Twitter you don’t need to get out of your pajamas, or show up at a specific time.
3) Twitter is a great source of news and information: As an aspiring writer, I use Twitter to keep myself in the loop about the latest developments in the publishing world, and to access articles that help me hone my skills. Each morning my Twitter feed provides an instant view of what’s going on in the writing world, from alerting me to new publications, to leading me to interesting posts from other bloggers.
3 Reasons Twitter Can be an Evil Time Sucker:
As useful as Twitter can be, it’s not for everyone. Even those of us who do use Twitter on a regular basis have most likely seen its dark side.
1) Twitter can be a fantastic procrastination tool: I have spoken to several people (in the ‘real world’) who think Twitter is a colossal waste of time, and sometimes I have to agree. I’ve fallen into the Twitter-trap more than once before: I’ll be stuck on a piece of writing and convince myself that a 5 minute Twitter break would be the best way to break through my writer’s block. Half an hour later, my writing time is up and my page is still blank. I’ve overcome this by setting specific times for my tweeting, but it’s still something I need to remind myself of every once in awhile.
2) Time invested might not equal value returned: Depending on what a you would like to get out of Twitter, you may become frustrated with the return on your time investment. Maintaining a Twitter account takes a fair chunk of time (especially when you’re getting set-up), and if you’re expecting to gather thousands of legitimate followers within days, you’ll most likely be disappointed. I think it’s important to determine what you’d like to get out of your Twitter account and how much time you’re willing to put in before you dive into the Twitterverse.
3) It’s not for everyone: Some authors (or people, for that matter), just aren’t into social interaction online. Jonathan Franzen is famous not only for his ridiculously good writing, but also for his dislike for the internet mixed with writing. Jonathan’s 8th rule of writing is: “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” If the idea of talking to people in 140 characters or less doesn’t appeal to you, Twitter might not be an effective tool for you as a writer.
Here are a few posts about Twitter and writers that I have found useful:
- Literary Tweets: 100+ of the Best Authors to Follow on Twitter
- The Writer’s Guide to Twitter
- Twitter for Writers – How Tweets Help Writing Careers
- Social Networking for Authors: Tips for Using Twitter Effectively
- How Twitter Makes you a Better Writer
As an aspiring writer, I have found the pros of using Twitter have outweighed the cons, but I know that’s not everyone’s experience.
As a writer, do you find Twitter an effective tool, or a time sucker that drags you away from writing? Have you had a chance to interact with any of your favourite authors on Twitter?
Images sourced from stock.xchng: Blue Birds