Can Twitter turn you into a bestselling author?

bestselling author

Those of you who live in The Bubble will probably think Twitter can turn you into a bestselling author. Wrapped up in your own little world, dreaming that social networking will deliver you from corporate evils into the the light of a brave new order where shunned writers make it big.

Every trend brings its heroes and villains. The unknown wimp who suddenly discovers the right formula and “comes good”, the soulless marketing exec who thinks he or she can milk this “life” opportunity for all it’s worth. Social media, social networking, Facebook, Twitter, Beebo, the whole damn thing.

Here’s the question: What can Social Networking do for you? What can it do if you have the courage and time to embrace it, sell your soul to the nearest demon and set yourself on a road to…well, that just doesn’t bear thinking about.

Marketing is largely a numbers game.

That’s why you have SEO and social media experts who have around 50,000 followers and follow around the same number. They’re not concerned with quality. They’re concerned with quantity. They have 50,000 people. All they need is about 1% of that to make a sale.

Of course, they’ll give a broad grin, say they value you as a person and tell you how much you can make, but, if you look close enough, you’ll see there’s not much but personal dollar signs behind those eyes.

It’s all lies, sure it is.

A while back, there used to be books like the 10 minute manager or salesman. Remember those? The ones that said the first rule was to care about your customer. It’s an axiom that 99.9% of sales people and marketers generally ignore. Oh, they’ve pretended. But it’s not their priority. They are selfish individuals and, at the end of the day, if you have a different viewpoint from them, you’re of no use whatsoever.

So, as a writer, trying to sell your books online, who are you going to be? Are you going to sell your soul?

The customer is king.

To grow your fan base, you’re going to have to talk to your fans. You’re going to have to engage on a level that many of you may not be too comfortable with.

FACT: Word of mouth is the most powerful tool in your armoury.

What does that mean? The truth is, bad news spreads a damn sight quicker than good. If you’re rude to one of your fans they are likely to tell more people than if you were nice to them or they like your work.

So be nice. It pays to be nice.

I started this article mentioning The Bubble you live in. We all live in a bubble. And in that bubble, the world is just fine.

To make it in social media, you’re going to have to expand that bubble.

A lot of writers tend to throw their work out at other writers and writers are generally supportive of each other, especially in the self-publishing bubble. But that’s not the real world. It’s not the place your work should really be.

Your stuff should be out there. With the people who read, rather than write. With the true fans. That growing hoard of voracious fans who want to read your latest work.

The question is: How do you find your true fans? Who are they? What do they want? Who’s going to like your stuff?

I write what I want. I believe the essence of a writer is they are true to who they are. I say: This is me, this is what I am.

I write therefore I am. I am a writer. I do not write for you. Like it or not, this is me.

This presents a problem if you are looking to make money out of your writing. It generally means (unless you are extremely lucky) that you’re too inflexible to succeed in this brave new world. If you’re content with that, then fine. It’s what you are and I applaud you for your integrity.

If you’re writing for a particular market then you have to provide what that market wants. If you’ve developed a fan base, you have to keep the fans happy. You will become typecast, as the acting fraternity has it.

If you’ve been feeding them zombie mayhem for the last couple of years you can’t suddenly change to a deep social commentary and expect your die hard fans to go with it. Your fans control you. They define you. They gradually steal your integrity.

And you’ve been so goddamn nice to them.

So the first rules of social marketing are these: Know who you are, what defines you, what you have to offer and who you want to offer it to.

To any free soul, that’s going to be depressing. Isn’t it? Really? Maybe not. Maybe this is the point you get out your felt-tip pen and really discover who you are as a writer. This is the point you become serious about your art.

In the great big swing of things, you don’t amount to a hill of beans. Why should I take notice of you? Why should I read your stuff? Who the hell are you to pretend to be a writer?

Do you like giving a spark of terror to a 40 year old female who’s bored with her husband and kids? Do you want some semi-illiterate teenager to go: wow that’s minging (okay, I’m showing my age there)? Define yourself. Look at yourself closely.

The biggest copywriting/marketing thing is Radio WIIFM.

What’s In It For Me.

That’s what your customer asks. What’s he or she going to get out of your story? Are you giving it to them, with both barrels, straight between the eyes?

If you want to sell your book, then you’ve got to start asking serious questions. You can take this from two viewpoints:

  • This is what I write, who is going to be interested?
  • This is what people want, how can I deliver it?

Which viewpoint you take depends on the type of writer you are. But what it comes down to is asking the questions about your audience that matter. And until you do that, you can’t make a difference with social marketing.

Try this: Those who have followers on Twitter, bring up the list and have a close look at them. What percentage is actually useful to you? How many will be interested in what you write and how many are just collecting followers because they think it’s kind of fun? I suspect you will narrow down the list to about 10% or less who are truly useful. That begs the question: What’s the point of the other 90%?

So does social marketing offer a new world for us poor, forgotten writers who can’t find a publisher?

For some, maybe.

There’s that Darwinian rule. The survival of the fittest. A few of you are going to make it. I’m convinced of that and you’ll be the shining lights of our community. If you get the hang of social media and write reasonably good stuff, you’ll maybe shoot off into the literary stratosphere. The rest of us will watch you disappear into the distance, we’ll wave goodbye and we’ll shed a tear for what could have been.

End of the day, you could win the lottery. But how intelligently you engage with social networking is going to make or break you. Some people are going to be better at it than others – that’s the law of the internet jungle. They’re not necessarily going to be the best writers but they will be the best networkers.

So, if you want to make this your world and banish those mainstream publishers to the abyss, what do you need to do?

Discover all the benefits of social networking, learn how to do it and be comfortable with it. Be brave, bend it to your will and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Break out of the bubble, my friends. Go out into the big wide world and peddle your wares to the unsuspecting multitude. Tell them you’re here. Tell them you’re here to stay.

And damn the consequences.

And, if you still don’t succeed, then maybe that was meant to be and you can return to your comfortable bubble content that at least you tried…But maybe, just maybe, you’ll be the next best thing…

6 thoughts on “Can Twitter turn you into a bestselling author?

  1. Wait. Are you saying I’m not going to get rich and famous just by tweeting? I give up. 😛 But seriously, these are really good points, and I do have some people in my network that avoid being personal and simply tweet their goods. Buy, buy, buy… and I ask myself, “but why?” Why would I want to buy something from someone I can’t gauge the personality on. If all you do is say buy my stuff, I don’t get an accurate portrait of what I can expect from your “stuff.” So I don’t really care about it, and will not invest my time or money into supporting it monetarily or via word of mouth.

  2. Good points all around. Finding yourself, and what you want to do with it, what your goals are is very important. Can social networking help you? I say yes. For me it has opened my eyes to many things I never considered and has been educational, to say the least. Will it help me get that novel I am writing on the book shelves and become a best seller.. I don’t know, working on that and I’ll let ya know. But I think it is worthwhile to engage people on twitter, you just may find a golden nugget.

  3. Excellent analysis. Ultimately, it’s what happens out in the real world that matters. Social media & networking are primarily a means to an end, and are only an end unto themselves to a limited extend.

  4. Think this is the best advice on writing that I’ve ever read, & it applies equally well to music or anything else that anyone might want to sell online. One thing Twitter really DOES offer writers, though, is valuable training in keeping work punchy & fast-paced. The need to keep a message down to 140 characters trims all the fluff out of a writing style much more effectively than the toughest, most demanding editor could ever hope to do!

  5. Really cogent piece. Yes, it’s the people in the real world who could turn out to be the “true” fans of a writer’s work.Staying in the bubble and receiving words of support from other writers in the community is wonderful. And they may be the first in line to buy your stories. But unless one has hundreds of thousands of followers, it’s not going to be enough.So getting out of the bubble and speaking to unsuspecting multitudes it is!I find that I like to engage with people on Twitter, not because I am calculating how to use them in any future endeavors, but because many of them are so darn fun and interesting.

  6. I remember hearing in “I Should Be Writing” (one of the interviews-forget which one) that when giving away your work the ‘sweet spot’ publishers look at is about 1500-2k people subscribe to your blog or story. I would imagine the same would be true of Twitter followers who *actually* follow you for content. But darn it, thought for sure I was making it big time with my tweets! :)Thanks for the post.

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