Friday Five: Thoughts on My Twitterless September

So way back at the start of the month, I decided to try an experiment–to go all September without using Twitter. And, look, here we are at the end of that same month.

I have to say, it was a lot easier than I expected.  I’m not sure if that should make me proud of slightly embarrassed at how much time I spent with Twitter before September

Anyway, other than a few reflexive glances down to my task bar for the Tweetdeck icon and a few times when I thought about not tweeting my blog posts or comments, honestly, I didn’t miss it. For now, I’m not going back. No long-term promises, and I’m not getting rid of my account, but if you’re looking for me, you can find me at Facebook.

For my Friday Five, I’m going to do just a little analysis of what this might mean…about me. The thing to remember about Social Networking, I think, is that we can (and should) only do what works for us, not what appeals to others or what they tell us we “need” to be doing. So these comments are in no way judgements about people who like Twitter, who are happy & comfortable there. They’re just some thoughts I had this month.

1.The biggest thing I noticed about going Twitterless was that, overall, I felt less…twitchy. Yes, I’m sure the yoga has something to do with this, as well as my overall commitment to slowing down and taking time to relax. Still, in my online time, it was one less place to click over to, one less place to check in. And that felt…more like slowing down and taking time to relax.

2. I may very well be missing a marketing opportunity by not being on Twitter–a marketing opportunity for me, for The Writing & Critique Survival Guide, for future books.

3. Assuming #2 is true, I’m going to accept missing that opportunity. One feeling that has been hovering around the periphery of my brain lately and that this experiment seemed to bring to the forefront is that I can only do so much marketing. I didn’t like the feeling I had when I thought things like, “Maybe I should just tweet this blog post” or “Oh, the people on Twitter may not know about this review of my book.” Again, this one is definitely just me–I totally get and support the fact that we ARE in charge of marketing for our works, and that–if done respectfully and professionally–it’s a good thing to be doing. It just felt a little too me-focused for my personal comfort zone.

4. I don’t know if I got more writing time by staying off Twitter. But, again, it felt like there was just one less thing pulling me away from that writing. When I started tweeting, I had more time available for that writing, for working on my current WIPS, than I do now. (Life changes…fast!) My list of to-dos seems pretty chopped-up, most days. Taking one thing off it feels good.

5. I’m also going to let go of my newsletter. I blogged about the possibility back here, and people were really nice about telling me I should keep going. So I gave it another try, but it’s another thing that just isn’t getting done and another thing that doesn’t feel like my thing. I am going to keep track of the mailing list–keeping future doors open, but as soon as I get organized enough to get over to the newsletter website, I’m going to close the account. Again…you can find me here and on Facebook!

Am I glad I tried this? I really am–much more than I thought I would be. I encourage you to keep doing what you find fun and useful and, occasionally, check in with yourself and see what’s making you happy and what’s maybe not. And then–if you want–set up your own experiment. Just to see what happens!

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An Experiment: Twitterless September

A while ago, Debbi Michiko Florence blogged about Online Time Management. Her post got me thinking, and I decided it was time to get rid of my GoodReads account. It also started me wondering about what I really need and enjoy about social media, and I made one more decision.

I’m going Twitterless in September.

I’ve talked a few times about what I do and don’t like about Twitter. As an interface, I am just not crazy about it–I prefer the threaded conversations on Facebook. Also, I don’t like that I can so easily be followed spammers. For whatever reason, it seems like that happens more frequently than on Facebook, and I feel like I have to do more monitoring of it on Twitter. Which, frankly, I can do without. I do think I get more information about the publishing biz–more links to agent and editor and other industry blogs, and this is important to me. And, of course, there are people on Twitter that I love “talking to,” who just aren’t on Facebook.

If any of those people want to find me on Facebook, please do!

So I’m not at all sure that this coming month will be anything but an experiment. I’m not promising myself I’ll stay off, or making any other projections about what will happen. I’m thinking that maybe I’ll end up using it mostly as that industry resource and be more of an observer/listener than an active participant, but… I’m not sure how much time staying off Twitter will save me, I’m not sure if staying away will help me focus more and use my time more efficiently. I know I’ll have withdrawal the first few days. After that, who knows? For me, it’s a matter of looking at the fact that I’m using multiple social-media tools (like so many of us) and just wondering whether I really need to or want to.

Here’s to finding out.

One month. 30 days.

I can do this.

And, of course, you’ll hear from me at the end of the month about how it went. Meanwhile, I’ll see you here or on Facebook or at your blogs. Happy September!

Does Social Networking Sell Books: One Tally Mark for the YES Column

One of the big discussion topics around the net is whether or not social-networking actually sells books. For me, knowing that I’ve had discussions with writers, on Facebook & Twitter or blogs, who have then gone out and bought my book, the answer is a no-brainer…yes. The corollary question–perhaps the one that publishers care more about–is how many books?

I don’t know.

As far as I can tell, it’s still about word of mouth, about getting interested in a book someone is writing because I know them–whether in person or online–and then, yes, buying their book. Sure, yes, I guess in the old days, these people could have reached me with a mailer–a flyer or pamphlet, and I think they could, theoretically, have reached the same quantity of people in that way. The difference is, a flyer doesn’t mean KNOW that person. And, yes, on Facebook and Twitter, I do know them. Maybe not enough to bare my soul to (like they’d want that, anyway!), but definitely enough to be curious about their book.

I want to talk, today, about a specific case in point. Yesterday, I bought my first self-published novel.

I know. It’s 2011. Where have I been? Well, I’ve been where I think–if we’re being honest–a lot of us are. I am interested in the possibilities that online publishing is creating. I’m intrigued with looking at what’s happening now and with wondering where it’s going to take us in the next year, five years, decade. I’m watching friends and acquaintances experiment (aka letting them be the guinea pigs!) and hoping that the work they’re doing brings them at least a piece of dream-come-true.

I’ve also, I admit, been cautious/hesitant/reluctant to just grab a self-published novel off the shelf and dive into reading it. In this post, I talked about how we, as readers, can know that our work is ready to put out there. Flip the coin and, as a reader, I do wonder how the author decided their book was ready for me to fall in love with. Yes, as hard and challenging and painful as traditional publishing has been, some agent and/or editor has had their eyes and pencil on those books, has said…Go!

Anyway, yesterday I took the leap. I bought a copy of Anathema, written AND self-published by Megg Jensen.

Why? Because I know Megg from the blogosphere and from Facebook. We’ve talked back and forth, she’s been more than encouraging about my book, and I’ve followed her thoughts about her story and her decision to self-publish this book. I know it’s a YA fantasy, a genre I love, and I am seriously hooked by the cover. Because of these interactions, I know that Megg is smart and funny and thoughtful and creative. Yes, I do. Does that mean I know she can write a good book? Of course not. If I meet an author who has traditionally published their first book, do I know that THAT book is good? Of course not, again. But I make my buying decision on the same basis I made this one–my impression of the writer, as I get to know them. Unless you’ve read more books from an author, you take a risk with every book you buy. And even then, we all know there’s no guarantee that Book 5 will get us the same way Books 1-4 did.

Megg does not live in California. I could not have met her through a local writing club, in the YA section of a bookstore, or at a party. I could only have met her online. Through social networking. Which, yes, does sell books.

Will Megg (or I) ever get on the NYT bestseller list? Who knows. (Of course, if it ever DOES happen, you can bet YOU WILL ALL KNOW!) Will she sell more of her books by being “out there” on the Internet. Yeah. I really believe so.

Megg is running a contest through March 11 at her blog. You can win lots of cool things, including copies of Anathema AND an e-reader.  Megg has also offered to give away a copy of Anathema here (paperback OR e-book, your choice) to a commenter.

So…drop a thought into the comments.  Remember, this is not a post about self-publishing; this is a post about the sales effectiveness of social-networking. Any comment will enter you, but I’d love to hear about a book you bought because you knew the author online, or because you heard some online buzz. Also, if you’re published in any way, what do you think social networking has done for you and your books?

Megg’s contest is going until March 11, but I think I’ll wrap mine up sooner than that. Let’s make it a week–I’ll announce the winner Wednesday, March 2nd.

Enter away!

How I Use Facebook and Twitter…Differently

I’m sure this isn’t news to anybody, but I social-network. (Do you like the way I just turned that into a verb?!) I read blogs, post my own, play on Facebook & Twitter. I justify that I’m doing this because it’s good marketing for my book and a good way to keep up with what’s going on in the publishing industry, but at the root of it all is…I just have fun with it (criteria #1 for picking which, if any, social-networking form you want to step into).

One thing I like watching is how my own use of all these sites evolves and changes. Just as a for-example (look, another noun!), I still read lots of blogs, including the ones in my google reader as well as the ones I come across other places. I’m pretty sure, though, that I’m commenting less–either because I am busier, or because I tend to talk back & forth with a lot of the same people on Facebook and Twitter. Haven’t figured that one out for sure yet.

Anyway, thought I’d do a post not on reading blogs (redirection, much?), but another one about Facebook and Twitter–specifically on the different ways I use the two sites. So here you go…

1. For Facebook, I use the original Facebook site, both on my desktop and on my Blackberry. (Oh, yeah, did I mention the Blackberry–LOVE it!) For Twitter, I do not. Even though I’ve got my book up on my Twitter page, and it’s always fun to see that,  I do not like the interface there. Too…something? Maybe too much everything in one single thread and–even though the other stuff is often no more than a single click away, well, that’s a whole, entire click people. Don’t make me work. On my desktop, I use Tweetdeck, which lets me see regular tweets, tweets about & to me, and Direct Messages all at once, in separate columns. On my Blackberry, I’ve settled into Seesmic, despite the fact that its icon is a raccoon (not my happy animal). I like both of these apps a lot, but I’d dump both Tweetdeck and Seemic in a flash, if someone came along with a good, easy Twitter app that let me see threaded conversations in the same kind of display that Facebook uses.

2. I talk to different people. Well, okay, in essence, I pretty much talk to anybody & everybody who wants to listen. With Tweetdeck, I can send an update to Twitter AND Facebook at the same time.  But…I am one of the few people I know who plays and chats a lot at both sites. (I know you others are out there, jump in at the comments if you’re a tandem-FB/T-social networker & identify yourself!) So while I send my posts out into whichever world, I get responses and have conversations with some people on Facebook & some on Twitter. It’s one reason I have stayed with Twitter, even though I like the format less than Facebook–I have friends there that I want to keep talking to. I also really thing that I hear/learn more on Twitter about publishing and social media. I find my editors and agents there, although there are definitely some on Facebook, and I get links to more industry blogs and news. Oh, yeah, and I hear about it on Twitter first, when anybody famous dies. What’s THAT about?

3. I have different privacy “issues.” On Facebook, yes, I  have to keep going back to my privacy settings and changing things back to the way I really want them, not just some new way Facebook thinks I want them (Have you checked to make sure you are not now sharing your phone number with the entire planet?). Sure, this is a bit irritating and silly, but I hear about changes at the speed of light from other Facebook users, and–honestly–it feels more like a kind of slapstick version of 1984 to me than a really serious threat. I don’t put stuff out on the internet about myself that I don’t want people to know–which makes it my call, not Facebook’s, pretty much.

On Twitter, though, I have my tweets protected. I’m not sure what this means in terms of people who can/can’t see them, and I guess there’s something them showing up as “locked,” but again–I seem to be having plenty of conversations with people I like, so I’m not too worried about it. I do this, because it seems to be the only way not to get those “lovely” porn spammers following me. The only way I see this playing out is that, when you go to see my list of Followers, you do NOT think I’m sharing electronic lives with people who have nasty little “names” and profile pictures sharing WAY more than I want to look at. 

4. I write with people on Facebook; I chat with people on Twitter. On Facebook, writers will post that they’re digging into a project–either just to write, or with a specific goal in mind–and invite others to join in. We do, we “go away,” we write, and then we come back at a certain time to check in and post progress reports. Maybe there are people doing this on Twitter, too, but I haven’t come across it. It’s possible the threaded conversations on Facebook make it easier to see these writing gigs; I know they make it fun to participate. Oh,  yeah, and productive!

On Twitter, I have jumped into a few “formal” chats to get to know other writers and hear about what they’re doing. Different groups within the children’s writing gang (and probably a lot of others?) gets together on various days, at set times, uses a hashtag to let people find them, and chats on a set topic. So I’ll stop in at #pblitchat on Sunday night, or #kidlitchat and #yalitchat on other evenings. I don’t go every week, for sure, but it’s fun to catch up when I can.

5. I RT more than I Share. Tweetdeck makes it incredibly easy for me to retweet someone’s original tweet–it takes maybe 1/4 of a second. Seriously. Sharing on Facebook takes a couple of steps and a little more typing. Not a biggie, and if I really want people to know about something cool or important, I definitely click that Share link. But  I pass on more funny things, more links, more info on Twitter than I do on Facebook–simply because it is SO fast.

6. I “filter” just a little bit. There are times when I feel totally comfortable posting something on Facebook and maybe not so much on Twitter, so I’ll head over to Facebook and just status-update there, instead of via Tweetdeck. I don’t quite understand out why this is, what’s going on that makes me feel that way. Maybe because there are more people I know personally on Facebook? Maybe because there do seem to be fewer industry people on FB (cuz, you know, tbose guys are all reading my tweets with baited breath!), so I am at ease with a little more goofiness, a little less I-know-exactly-what-I’m-doing-out-here? Not sure. If you figure it out, let me know, okay?

I think those are the basics. I’d love to hear how you use either or both of these sites–leave a comment with your two cents. It’s social-networking, right? Jump into the conversation!

Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Etc…a Semi-Often Assessment

I’ve been blogging for several years now. I’ve been on Facebook over a year, I’m sure, and Twitter not quite so long. Every now and then, I stop and just look at what’s going on out there, at the conversations I’m taking part in, at the people I’ve met. And I’m pretty much amazed.

I’ve talked about social networking a couple of times here, discussing its value and its distractions. Since my books been out a few months now, it seemed like a good time for another check-in.

I have to tell you, I’m convinced.

I don’t really know how well my book is selling. I know that it is selling, if only from watching the stats on Amazon go up and down, and down and up. The most that tells me is that every now and then, someone heads over there & buys a copy. I know from my own blog stats that people do head over to the other links I’ve got up (IndieBound, Writer’s Digest, etc.) but I can’t tell you what they’re doing when they get there–browsing or buying.

What I do know is that people I have never met or talked to in person, people I would have been hard-pressed to even find out about without social networking, have bought my book. How? Well, frankly, because they’re nice enough to tell me. Or blog about it. Or recommend it on a discussion forum. Which, every time it happens, honestly makes me say, “Whee!”

Does this mean you’ll see me on the NY Times Bestseller List next week? Um, no. Does this mean I’ll be getting that butler anytime soon. Not so much. Does it mean that social networking has expanded my word-of-mouth capability, so that I have better chances of a second printing, sooner rather than later? I believe so. There are people talking about my book in Virginia, in parts of New England, in Texas. I’m in California. Yes, it helps incredibly to have Writer’s Digest behind this book–you could hide my mailing list in a teensy-weensy corner of theirs and never find it! I also believe, though, that by being out there on the Internet, I’m doing my part.

Honestly, I’d be out there even if I didn’t have a book to talk about. The Internet is an incredible place, or maybe it’s just the writers’ corner that’s so warm and welcoming. I get support, I hear about books, and I listen to jokes. Yes, I get overloaded; yes, I take breaks. It’s a party, though, that I want to come back to. For whatever reason, this in-person introvert is a happily extroverted social-networker.

If I was doing this JUST for the marketing & sales benefits, I think I’d go nuts. I have to remind myself to type in the title of my book the times I do mention it! I think if all I used social-networking for was sales and marketing, I’d need a Dorian Gray painting in my office, to collect all the bad feelings I’d be carrying around and hide them under a happy facade. I can’t work that way, and I don’t want to.

That’s the thing. Once you step out here, you’ll be handed plenty of “shoulds.” You should be on Facebook. You should be on Twitter. Get into a chat. Blog daily.

Sit back and watch your head explode. 🙂

You have to do it your way. And start slow. The one thing I’m learning lately is that baby steps work. Pick one thing and do it gently. Set up a Facebook page and add a dozen people. Sit with that for a while–read their updates, leave a comment if you want, post your own update every few days. Ready for more? Great! Add a few more friends. Or if you like a bit more craziness in your feed, go for Twitter. Post a few times in the mornings before you start work. Skim what’s happening in the updates, and don’t feel like you have to keep up. (I’ll tell you a secret…you can’t!) Play.

Is social-networking worth it? This month’s assessment says a definite yes. It’s worth it because it helps a writer connect up with other writers and readers around the world, to hear what’s happening with them in England or Egypt or Southern California, and to share what’s happening with you.

Sometimes this turns into a sale. Sometimes it turns into a smile, a laugh, or a new friend.

Okay by me.

Our Time Online: Where Do You Think We’re Headed?

Okay, guys, I know I’m spending a lot of time on this lately, but I had an in-person conversation today with some other writers, and the questions we raised are churning away. And I’d really like to hear what you all think.

Basically, we started out talking about Facebook fan pages. Which I have not really explored. We took a look at some and talked about what they seemed to be doing, and here’s where my brain went:

“Blogs are going away. Webpages are going away.”

I know, huge leap. And obviously none of this is happening overnight. But I am wondering if we’re in another of those transition times, when the online world–and how people use it–is shifting. Yet again.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. A few years ago, webpages were the main place readers went to connect with a writer. They were the primary tool that writers used to get to know their circle, whether it be other writers, agents & editors, or potential readers.

Then blogs came along. And blogs became cool, primarily, I think, because they were less static than a webpage. You could go to someone’s blog every few days (some, every day) and read something new, find out something “fresh.” Newer blogs, like this one, are basically a blog with a webpage attached. It means I can have the “static” info up there for people who don’t know anything about me, along with changing content every few days.

And now?

I’ve talked about the people I’m “meeting” on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve also “met” people on blogs, and I definitely still go to someone’s blog FROM FB and Twitter if I think their updates are fun or interesting.

But I don’t spend a lot of time at those blogs. I add all I can to my LiveJournal feed, and I check in with them as often as possible, and I try to leave comments. And I try to keep my own blogs at least semi-interesting and informative.

After looking at these Facebook fan pages, though, I’m feeling like they have an awful lot of the same features that my blog/website do.

Are these FB pages the replacement? And how long will it be before Twitter has the equivalent. (Frankly, that might already exist without me knowing!) Are we moving, again, away from one use of the Internet and onto another?

So, I have a few specific questions that I’m hoping you’ll help me with. I’m not a Yes or No kind of person, so I’d love it if you just dumped your thoughts in a comment, random or otherwise. And I hope everybody who stops by will look at the comments, for the info everybody is leaving there.

  • Where do you make your first online “acquaintance” with an author or reader these days?
  • Do you spend as much time reading and commenting on blogs as you used to? How do you think your blog-reading pattern has changed.
  • Where do you go to find information about an author?
  • What do you enjoy about blog reading?
  • What do you enjoy about Twitter and/or Facebook?
  • Have you played with following any author Fan pages. What do you think of the process/experience?
  • Where do you think your online community has its strongest base?

Comments are OPEN!

Twitter Update: My Latest Thoughts

Okay, raise your hand if you knew, when you read this post, that I’d say this:

Twitter is growing on me. And, no, not like mold.  🙂

Honestly, it’s still not my favorite social networking place. My brain chemistry is still happier on Facebook, with the layout of the page and the way you can follow comments directly off the original update.

But I’m getting better at skimming through the tweets. I don’t feel, anymore, like like I’m only seeing stuff I’m not interested in and missing the tweets I really want to read. Just to get a little scientific here, maybe it’s one of those ways I can stretch my brain “muscles,” carve some new synaptic paths–which, you know, is always good. If painful.

And there are some interesting things going on out there at Twitter. Here’s what I’ve seen so far.

  • I mentioned that I’d heard there were more agents and editors on Twitter than on Facebook. So far, this seems to be very true. Obviously, this doesn’t mean we writers jump all over them, but it’s interesting to hear what they’re saying to us and to each other. Also, agents do send out tweets that they’re open for questions–which does give us a chance to find out some specific info we’ve been wondering about.
  • This week, Jessica Faust and Kim Lionetti of the Bookends agency are doing twitter-pitch contests. They look like a LOT of fun. And let’s face it–really good practice. You’ve got a couple more days, and you can find out the details here.
  • Mary Hershey and Robin LaFevers of Shrinking Violet Promotions are trying out Twitter for a month. They’re challenging some of us to turn the tables a bit–instead of tweeting about what we’re doing, to tweet a question to everyone else about what theymight be doing. The other day I asked people what their favorite character in their WIP was doing, and I got some great answers.
  • There’s an interesting site called TweetChat. They set up occasional “conversations” on a specific topic. I believe there’s a weekly (?) poetry chat, and I stopped by once for an interview (where a moderator and everybody else tweeted their questions) with my friend Susan Taylor Brown. It was a bit chaotic, but fun, and I’d like to try a few more.
  • Follow Friday. I’m just gathering a few names to do this one tomorrow. Every Friday, tweeters (I refuse to call us twits!) send out a few ids of people they enjoying following on Twitter. It’s a nice way to check out other people you might want to follow, and it’s one of those good Sally-Field moments, too, when you see your id in someone else’s FF.
  • Retweeting. I do like this one. If someone tweets a thought or a link that you like or find interesting/helpful, you can retweet it. (If you download Tweetdeck, which I prefer to the Twitter page, there’s a button that makes this REALLY easy.) Basically, it means that the people who are following you will get to see the tweet, check out the link, even if they’re not following the person who originally posted it. It’s a nice feature–it means I get to see some good tweets I might miss, and it gives me a chance to “introduce” people to each other.

There are still a few weird things about Twitter. I’d still LOVE to find an app that threads the conversations for me–that shows updates and all subsequent comments in the same place. If you hear of anything like that, puh-lease send me a note!

I’ve got things set up so my tweets go automatically to Facebook. I like this–saves me retyping. BUT it happens automatically with my retweets as well, which gets confusing on Facebook. I’ve passed on a few announcements of someone else’s success or good luck, only to have my Facebook fans congratulate ME!

A few weeks ago, I started getting a LOT of what I call “icky” followers. Some of them were people who have nothing to do with writing or other things I’m interested in–the Twitter equivalent of the door-to-door salesperson asking me if I want to buy a dozen eggplants. (Note: I could be a vegetarian if I only liked vegetables!) But others were definitely gross, porn-type tweeters. Okay, no, I’ll call them twits. They weren’t tweeting to me, but they were showing up on my Followers page. The Followers page is where other people can go and see who is following you, in case there’s someone they might like to add to their own list. For me, this mostly means other writers are coming to see who’s following me. And then they would get, yes…ick.

If this happens to you, there is a way around it. There’s an option on the first page of your Twitter settings called Protect My Updates. If you check this box, then you get an email telling you someone has asked to follow you. You then have the option to accept them or decline them. There is a potential downside to this that Susan Taylor Brown (a social-networking guru, as well as a wonderful writer) was telling me about. She’s going to send me a note later describing how that all works, and I’ll update the post. So stop back in for the full story! UPDATE! So I went back & forth with Susan a few times–because she’s a VERY patient teacher (check out her online social-networking class here), and I am not the most fast student on this stuff. The basic thing seems to be that, when you protect your updates, you are creating an additional step for someone to follow you–some people may not bother, which might lose you followers. Also, they can’t see your updates when they go to your profile, so they can’t get an idea of the kinds of things you’re tweeting about. Same possible result–people may decide it’s not worth the effort/chance to follow you.  I can’t tell if that’s been happening to me or not. I am still getting people asking to follow me, and I’ve only said no to a couple–really just the eggplant salespeople! But, obviously, I wouldn’t know if people were passing me by. I know I’m supposed–in terms of promotion–to be in this for the numbers, but it’s hard for me to think that way, so I’m not too worried. Susan suggests also that these “icky visits” may go in waves, so I may try unprotecting for a bit every now and then and see if it makes a difference.

Finally, I found a couple of recent posts about the actual USEFULNESS of Twitter.

As a side note, I’ve personally had a couple of experiences on Twitter AND Facebook that have proven to me these are places I need to be. They may or may not lead to anything concrete, but I’ve gotten opportunities from both that I would not have gotten without being out there.

If you’re looking for me, I’m still at http://www.facebook.com/beckylevine and http://twitter.com/becky_levine.