Rant Warning: This is an opinionated rant. You are entitled to your own opinion, of course, and may disagree with what I’ve posted here; but the chances are that if you do, you’re probably part of the problem.
I enjoy the back and forth that comes from collaboration and discussion. I suppose at some very elemental level, it’s this pleasure which provokes me to write; hanging up my ideas for all to react to. It’s an invitation to absolutely guaranteed rejection – at least half the time. OK. Most of the time. My wife worries about the psychic damage that may occur.
I try to reassure her that I see it as an academic thing, not personal. So the discourse goes on. There is one area of discussion that seems to provoke rapid, decisive behavior on my part. Author tweets.
I am always glad to receive that happy little email that I have a new follow from someone. I always like to read the profile linked to the notice, and from the description, figure out what they thought about my online presence and writing might be entertaining or useful. But many times, among their pastimes, or career choices, I see the dreaded words. Editor. Writer or, even worse… Author.
I’m not a self-hating writer. Woody Allen’s theory of club membership comes to mind, but I don’t subscribe. I understand how hard it is in this spin-meister controlled world, for an author to get the word out about their work. It takes a huge commitment of time and energy and the willingness to risk behaving foolishly in newly discovered venues. I’ve done it myself. But, there is one thing that really rankles me in the sphere of writer self-promotion. Author Tweets.
Now, while Mutual Tagging and Review and Freebie parties are annoying enough – the whole perpetual motion machine thing – they are still something that one has to stumble into. No, they aren’t as insidious and aggressive as logging into your Twitter account to find twelve consecutive tweets from a writer, methodically blaring out excerpts from his work, or ethereal questions about its impact upon the Olympian Heights.
Twitter, I believe is a very, very useful tool. I think it can be a really great way to create a dialog between a vendor and their customers and between an author and their readers. The marketing validity has already been proven. But this ceaseless beating of the old, tin drum – is it really necessary? I wish more authors would take a moment to consider the impact of their side-show act upon the midway regulars. If we’re there doing the same ourselves, the chances are we know where you hid the card. It’s not a fresh idea with us. Plus, you’re giving your hand away. You’re tipping it over every time your tweet has anything resembling “my book” in it. I see that too often and I walk away, or more accurately, I UNFOLLOW.
I really believe that it is possible to actually share things that are useful, or that communicate one’s own opinions effectively without a big sloppy “See what I did!” tagged onto the end. Readers are intelligent, resourceful people. They read. They can make judgment calls when it comes to deciding whether they find an author’s words worth paying for, or spending the time to read them. If they find something useful in what is written, they’ll decide to pursue it. Otherwise, no amount of repetition (I know repetition is considered a key element of success, but who made up those rules anyway?) or public flagellation will force their hands.
So, rather than spend our time finding clever ways to game the system more than it already is, why not actually try to tweet out something useful, something heart-felt, something of value? Your book probably (I’m going out on a limb, here…) has some really moving themes, or useful information, or common ground or thoughtful discussion in its pages. It’s the “why” that answers the question: why would anyone read this? If you can keep that in mind, and build up awareness of the useful material or awareness of the questions your work poses, without just hanging out your shingle or a bigger, brighter, shinier shingle, you will have succeeded while all around you others will be flailing around. Beating each other over the head with their newest book covers or scintillating reviews. You’ll keep my follow and I might even read your book!
Added thought: Not to say I don’t want to know when you release a new book, but I only need to hear the news occasionally, or it’s really no longer news, right?