Twitter: the Dark Side …

Darth Vader

Last time I wrote of my new-found enthusiasm for Twitter and many of the things I’ve come to appreciate about it. But every silver lining has a cloud, and so …

  • 140 characters. That limit is so frustrating at times. I couldn’t operate with Twitter as my sole social media outlet, but then there’s no need to. It’s just not suited to everything. You can always link to something more substantial, like a blog post.
  • Content. I had to unfollow a couple of people who looked initially OK but then re-tweeted some stuff that made me shudder. Also I feel I have to be careful being a children’s/YA author, not only with what I write but also things I choose to re-tweet or favourite.
  • Disposability. It doesn’t take long to churn out 140-character tweet, and there are an awful lot of them. A tiny proportion linger on for a while in the blessed afterlife of the viral, but the great majority have pitifully short lives, forgotten and ignored.
  • Selling. Lots and lots and lots of people desperate to sell lots and lots and lots of stuff. Which is fine in a way – and of course I want to sell some books, so I can hardly point the finger – and it’s not too hard to filter out what you don’t want to see, but …
  • Paid / sponsored content appearing in my feed, from organizations I don’t follow. Ugh.
  • Expressing an opinion is fine. More than fine. Obnoxiousness, intolerance, pitchfork-waving, smug self-righteousness, sheer rudeness and lack of respect, all behind the cloak of anonymity or distance … not so OK. But none of this is confined to Twitter. Social media didn’t turn people into jerks, it just made it easier.
  • Following. The irony of the contradiction between having / wanting 10k followers and any reasonable definition of ‘social’ is never lost on me. Most people, it seems to me, don’t interact in any meaningful and/or ongoing way with the majority of people they ‘follow’ or ‘follow’ them. But again that’s not just a Twitter thing, it’s ‘social’ media in general. Meaningful and/or beneficial associations and even friendships (and sometimes more) can and do arise from social media contact, of course. But it’s kind of difficult to do that with 10,000 people (not that I have that particular problem).
  • And in a similar vein, I’ve no idea how people can ‘sell’ me 1,000 ‘followers’ for $X. Not sure I want to know either. Not only is that cheating, it’s surely also self-defeating. How can people truly ‘follow’ you without making a conscious personal decision to do so? How much are such ‘follows’ really worth?

That’s enough rumination on Twitter for now. But I’m also using it to research a future book – more on that later. In the meantime, I’m on Twitter here.

Do you use Twitter? What for? Does the good outweigh the bad for you, or the other way around?

Life, and Twitter

The scream detail

‘Twitter?? Aagghh!!’

I’ve taken a break from this blog for a few weeks. This wasn’t exactly planned; it just happened, and there were two main reasons.

First, the usual: life and other stuff. Work, family. Summer. Writing: I completed the second draft of the next book in the Danny Chaucer’s Flying Saucer series, and then got it critiqued. Then there was marketing activity and obtaining reviews for DCFS.

However the second reason is more specific, and new: Twitter. Yes, after many years of resisting the allure of the tweet, I’ve finally succumbed. For a long time Twitter seemed to me the very embodiment of superficiality. I mean, how much of any substance or nuance can be said in 140 characters or less? I thought its main function was to enable celebrities and politicians to make asses of themselves more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

But finally, in my classic late-adopter style, i.e. somewhat later than the rest of the planet, I signed up. And much to my surprise, after a slow start, I’ve kind of got into the spirit of it. This is what I like about Twitter:

  • 140 characters. It can be challenging to fit what you want to say into that tiny space. But at least it’s quick, which is no small bonus in today’s hectic world. You can spend ages crafting a blog post, but it’s practically impossible to expend too much effort on a tweet. And like any limit it can encourage brevity and creativity, to focus on the very essence of what you want to say.
  • Content. Twitter is like the Internet in microcosm. Sure there’s piles of disposable junk and slicks of sleaze floating on an ocean of irrelevance. The banality of endless self-promotion is a bigger issue than the self-righteous pitchfork-waving types who tend to dominate public perceptions of Twitter, but the latter are certainly there. Yet among all that there is genuine humanity, wit and originality. There is some truly fascinating stuff being tweeted. You just need to filter out the rest as best you can. And …
  • Diversity. It’s the beauty of the Internet: whatever you’re into, or do, or think, you’ll find others who share your passions. And people who like to read books like the ones you’ve written, if you can reach them. Which brings me to …
  • Marketing. It’s quick and easy to sprinkle your output with links to reviews of your books, or to blog posts, or updates. But note ‘sprinkle’ not ‘drown’ (see ‘endless self-promotion’ above).
  • Exposure. If you tweet regularly and don’t just self-promote or re-tweet the work of others the whole time, people will follow you, and at a faster rate than I’ve experienced on WordPress. Of course, ‘follow’ doesn’t necessarily mean all those people will hungrily devour every missive you churn out thereafter, let alone buy your books. In fact, in most cases it almost certainly doesn’t mean that. But at least it gives a greater chance of a bigger audience than you might otherwise have.
  • The look. There’s not a lot you can do to customize a Twitter page, and what you can do is dead easy. You might see that as a drawback, but I like it. It’s sort of democratic. It means my Twitter page can look as professional as those of celebrities and corporations. Unlike websites or even WordPress blogs, where at least some time, design expertise and/or money has to be invested to make it look at least reasonable, let alone stand out.
  • Access. I was bowled over to get a direct message from one of my fave authors, Erin Kelly, after I mentioned her in a tweet. I can’t pretend I’m now a friend of the stars, but Twitter gives a unique opportunity for direct contact with people you wouldn’t otherwise have a hope of encountering.

But of course with the smooth comes the rough. Next time I’ll ruminate on some of the things I’m less enthusiastic about. In the meantime if you’d like to check me out on Twitter, click here.

Do you use Twitter? What for? How do you feel about it? Are you an old hand or a recent convert like me?

 

 

My New Year Writing Resolutions for 2015

Big Ben

“Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” – Neil Gaiman

Well that’s another Christmas wrapped up. Like many people I will now make the usual boring and/or over-ambitious New Year resolutions concerning fitness, flossing, family, finance, etc. And most of those will be broken by about 4th January. Some a bit sooner than that.

On the writing front, however, it’s a good time to focus on what I really want to achieve in the coming year. I have to be honest and say that this time last year I had little idea of what I was going to write in 2014. I had just finished BASIC Boy and published it on Amazon, but none of the various ideas I had for a follow-up ever really came to life. BASIC Boy has sold no better than its predecessor, Falling Girl, which made me question whether I should keep writing in the supernatural YA genre. It’s a very crowded market (mind you, aren’t they all?) and I haven’t been able make any kind of impact in it.

So the first half of 2014 witnessed a sorry litany of false starts and frustrated navel gazing. It wasn’t until the summer that I hit upon the idea of Danny Chaucer’s Flying Saucer and experienced the simultaneous joy and relief of seeing my writing spark into life again. At last I had a real project again, something I was truly enthusiastic about. I realised that writing for a younger age group was what I really wanted to do – for now at least.

Looking forward to 2015 … now of course what I want is for zillions of people to stumble upon Falling Girl and BASIC Boy, belatedly realising that they are in fact solid gold classics and proceeding to buy them by the truckload, thereby earning me enough money to give up the day job and pursue my writing passion full time.

However, back on Planet Earth, some more basic and achievable aims would be far more useful than daydreaming. So this is what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Complete Danny Chaucer’s Flying Saucer. I’ve recently finished the third draft, but I will do another spit-and-polish job on it. And then …
  2. Finally make a bloomin’ decision on whether to try to get a publisher or agent interested, or carry on along the self-publishing route. My instinct is the latter, but I really need to come up with some kind of coherent marketing plan, because as we all know it’s vanishingly rare for zillions of people to stumble upon your books on Amazon and buy them by the truckload just by chance. And so …
  3. Come up with a coherent marketing plan. I actually do have some ideas here, which might initially involve producing a pre-publication version of DCFS and giving it out free to lots of kids, possibly with the cooperation of my sons’ school. I hope thereby to gain some more useful feedback, and perhaps make further changes to the book as a result. (Note that my definition of ‘complete’ in #1 above is therefore somewhat elastic.)
  4. It also means sorting out the cover and blurb. I do already have a blurb, but not yet a cover.
  5. I also can’t quite get rid of the crazy notion of buying a load of cheap Frisbees and customising them with the DCFS logo (which doesn’t yet exist – there’s another objective) as a marketing giveaway. It’s probably just another of those bad marketing ideas I sometimes come up with, but I might just do it anyway.
  6. More sensibly … DCFS is not meant to be a standalone, so I need to produce a series plan. Initially this will comprise two further books, so three in total, but there could be more in the future.
  7. Outline the second and third books, and complete the first draft of book two by end February. Ideally I’d like the second book finished by the summer and the third book by the end of 2015; so that by this time next year I will have a short series.
  8. More generally, I want to do all I can to become a better writer. It’s an ongoing process. That means – among other things – reading widely and picking up tips and advice from a variety of sources, including some of the many excellent WordPress blogs on writing. And of course it means actually writing, as much and as regularly as I can. I should write some adult fiction as well as the DCFS series, maybe some short stories.
  9. Better networking and sharing with other writers, both online and off. I know a couple of other budding writers in my local area, and we’ve talked about setting up a writers’ group without ever quite getting around to it. Time is a scarce commodity, but maybe 2015 is the year to make it happen.
  10. Stop coming up with long lists of action points that I probably won’t achieve. Especially silly ones about Frisbees.

I hope you have a happy, peaceful, productive and fulfilling 2015.

 

And the weirdest comment award goes to …

Combover

I’m always delighted to get comments on my blog, and grateful to everyone who takes the time and trouble to make them. Recently however I’ve had a few slightly … strange ones.

Take this one I got last week, a comment on my post, Is Amazon actually evil?:

There are certain factors that needed to be considered while choosing a wig. Wash with specially-formulated wig shampoo and conditioner. These are available in different shades and colors which can perfectly complement with the natural look of your hair.

Now maybe I’m being a tad pedantic, but that doesn’t seem to have an enormous amount to do with the subject of my post. Granted Jeff Bezos is somewhat hirsutely challenged, but even his sternest critics are surely too polite to bring that up, and too sane to seek to connect it with his business practices.

I haven’t clicked on the link accompanying the above comment, but I’ve little doubt that it’s connected to someone in the wig business – a laudable profession I’m sure – and it’s part of some kind of marketing strategy. Well there’s nothing wrong with trying to make a living I suppose. I’m just not convinced I like them using my blog to do so, or that it will do them much good anyway.