Thursday, 28 October 2010

A Writing 101 Production - Part 12: Twitter Wisdom

Here's the thing.  I've been promising you Lovely Blog Readers a useful 101 post about Twitter since sometime before the fish crawled out of the sea and grew little stumpy legs.  Only now I find that all the nice technical authory bits I was going to say have already been said much better than I ever could.  I have, in fact, been gazumped and beaten to the wire by none other than the Crabbit Old Bat herself (that's @nicolamorgan for those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure...). So it is with much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair that I point you in her direction.  Her Help! I Need A Publisher blog is pretty much the best advice a writer can get, and her Twitter for Authors Parts 1-6 (look in the posts for August and September 2010) is a model of excellence which is impossible to better.  Damn but she's good!
No two authory experiences of anything are ever exactly the same, so I'm going to give you my own slightly more eccentric brand of Twitter wisdom anyway. Variety is the spice of life and all that, Lovely Readers.
So here's me answering 8 of your Really Important Random Questions about Twitter
(Yes. I know I'm interviewing myself.  It's fun.  You should try it sometime. No.  I am not delusional. Whatever made you think that?)
  • Why did you start tweeting? I'll be honest.  It was an idle moment.  I was bored.  This Twitter thing was starting to be talked about a lot (though far less than it is now--I joined up 18 months ago), so I thought I'd give it a go. I shut my eyes, held my breath and plunged in with both left feet. There was no Grand Authory Plan to Take Over the World via Tweets then. I'd like to make that clear at the start. (There is now, of course. And no. I'm still not delusional. Mwahahaha!) 
  • How did that work out, then?  Confusing at first, but I soon got the hang of it by just doing it. Thing is, loads of writers are not very techy and are quite scared of the big bad internet infecting them with Something Nasty, or crashing their computers and eating the manuscript which has taken them 10 years to write. I'm not very techy either, but I am quite willing to experiment and give things a go. I've talked about the importance of firewalls and backing up in Writing 101 Production Part 4 and I know that if things do go pear-shaped, I have done all I can to cover my (fairly ample) behind. I have to say I found things a lot easier once I'd discovered TweetDeck, and could organise TwitStuff how I wanted it.
  •  Hunh? TwitStuff? What are you on about?  Well, I found it hard to keep up with all the tweets for a start, once I'd started following people, not to mention the @ mentions and my own new followers.  Don't be under any illusions.  Twitter is a continuous cascade of information.  Something every second.  So getting organised was pretty important, otherwise I would have drowned.  TweetDeck allows you to make nifty little columns which you can name as public (everyone can see) or private (only you know they exist) lists and 'drag' people into (kicking and screaming if necessary).  I have, forinstance, a private 'bookies' column where I can skim through all the book tweets, another for 'friends'--and others for 'vampires' and 'mad tweeters'.  The latter are a source of much amusement to me, and include a lewd nun and several very eccentric wordsmiths. I can also keep track of hashtags in their own columns too (#SpeakLoudly let me watch all the tweets around this fantastic campaign without having to follow everyone who joined in).  
  • Talking of #hashtags and all that...explain--and what about those double asterisky things?  Now look, I told you.  Nicola Morgan explains all this techy Twitstuff in a fine and brisk manner.  There's a whole post from her on hashtags and other fascinating Twittery bits, so go and look. All I will add on the hashtag subject is that I like making up silly ones to enhance my tweets.  Such as #notwritingbecauseampissingaboutontwitter. As for the asterisky things, well, I might tweet something like "I don't understand this whole Twitter business *confused*"  It's a way of indicating mood or state of mind--like an emoticon (please tell me you know what an emoticon is?  PLEEEASE?).
  • So--what have you got out of it?  It's a strange creature, Twitter. I like it more and more.  I have fast and frantic conversations on it with actual-friends-I've-met and also with tweeters who I've never met, but who are soon bona-fide Twitter friends.  I jump into other people's conversations without a qualm (even quite famous people's conversations)--something I would never do in real life because I would consider it rude (and anyway, it would be hard for me to butt into a conversation that was taking place in America.  I'm versatile--but not that versatile!). I learn crucial bookish news via links and tweets from others.  I share my own book and blog news (but never as a hard sell--that's fatal, see below) and stuff I find interesting (might be a blog, or a book I've loved, or a fascinating piece of useless information, or a review). I've done some successful #bookgiveaways and competitions. I chat to booksellers, librarians, parents, industry pros, agents, publishers and lots more, including a load of delightfully bloodthirsty vampires and one extremely baaad faery boy, @sethmacgregor if you're interested--but hands off, he's MINE! I find it's a fantastically rich community which gives me more important information, quicker, than any of the other social media.
  • Does it sell books, though? Well, do blogging or Facebook fan pages or author websites sell books?   It's all a bit unquantifiable.  I have indubitably (one of my favourite words btw) sold some of my books via Twitter, because people have told me they've bought them--all the way from Australia in one case.  But Twitter is NOT about hard sell--if there's one thing you take away from this piece it should be that.  If you are trumpet-blowingly shouty and me me me, wonderful me buy my fabulous book all the time, it will put people off in droves.  I'm even doubtful about the value of tweeting your own blogpost links more than a couple of times, to be honest. I think that if you can get people to like you by being interesting/funny/interested in others, then by definition if you mention that you have a new book out, then some are likely to be more prone to buying it.  But for me the value of Twitter is more about building up relationships with nice people who like children's books than in hard selling. 
  • Do you follow everyone who follows you? And if not, then why? I don't follow absolutely everyone who follows me, no.  But if someone bothers to have a conversation with me, or RT's one of my posts, or engages with me, then I am much more likely to follow them back.  I also thank people for RTing and mentioning me in #FF (Follow Friday) or #WW (Writer Wednesday).  I'm all about the good Twitter manners, me.  I do delete and block obvious spammers and pornofollowers and 'bots.  Except the Custard Cream bot, obviously.   
  • Finally and most importantly, do you spend too much time on Twitter?  That's debatable.  If you believe that author platforms are important, as I do, then no (I tweet in short 2-15 minute bursts through the day, if I have time or during a coffee break).  According to my family, yes.  I leave you therefore with the graffiti Lovely Daughter affixed to my computer yesterday.  Chip off the old block, eh? (So proud!)  Now back to the 'super keyboard of might' for some more attack tweeting. Bye for now, Lovely Blog Readers--and if you pluck up the courage to join Twitter, do come and say hello to @lucycoats!

You can find all my other eccentric and useful Writing 101 Productions right HERE


Sarah Callejo said...

Thanks Lucy, I enjoyed this post and I agree with you that it is nicely complemented with Nicola Morgan's. However, I need to point out an error. One of your facts is wrong @sethmacgregor is mine!!!!

Lucy Coats said...

I'm very glad you enjoyed it, Sarah. But in turn, I am bound to point out that you are incorrect in your assumption about Mr Macgregor. I'd just like to quote from today's Absolute Vanilla blog interview with the faeryboy himself: "’re right, that Lucy Coats is hot stuff. She knows her faeries, too." Game, set AND match! *brushes hands together briskly*

Nicky S (Absolute Vanilla) said...

Great post, Lucy! Now, all I need to know is, do you give private lessons in tweeting, perhaps in conjunction with that hot MacGregor boy?
And by the way, on that point, about him being all yours - or anyone else's for that matter, I'm the one who has a date with him in Saturday night!
Share nicely, now...

Lucy Coats said...

Tsk! Nicky, you KNOW we always share our meals...! And if anyone wants to read the Absolute Vanilla post to see what all the fuss about hot faery boy is, the link is at
My final (yes FINAL, you girls) word is that the faeryboy will be visiting Scribble City Central very soon. Watch this space.

Now...can we PLEASE stick to Twitter-related comments from now on? *asks nicely*

Nicky S (Absolute Vanilla) said...

I did just tweet your wonderful blog post, dear one, and I didn't mention Him at all.

Lucy Coats said...

Thanks! I saw! Ah, the power of the tweet and retweet.... :-)

Stroppy Author said...

Nice stuff, Lucy :-)

Double asterisky thing 'It's a way of indicating mood or state of mind--like an emoticon'. Not quite. It means start/end bold. It's from the days of WordStar and WordPerfect (before Word, before Windows.... see how old I am?) when you had to put control characters in the text because there were no menus and no display of bold on screen. To test this, try typing *some words* in Word and you will see it switches to bold because compliance with WordPerfect was built into Word version 1.0 and never removed.

Jan Markley said...

Thanks Lucy! I'm just about to make the leap to twitter! I think it's time. Your info helped.

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks for the kind words, Lucy, but your post was excellent and a much-needed addition. You've nailed some extra points brilliantly.

But Anne, the double asterisky thing is NOW what Lucy says, because usage has mmoved on so quickly, don't you think? So what it used to be is one thing (which you're right about) but what it is on Twitter is like something in a new language. Or it's like a word which means something quite different in another context. imho

Lucy Coats said...

Anne--I'm with the Crabbit on this one. As usual, her flying fingers have beaten me to it! I still use the *asterisk* in Word for emphasis, just as you describe, but I do think it has morphed into something quite other on Twitter, which is, as Nicola says, evolving its own separate language rules. Actually, I love that it does this--I'm all for evolution in action!

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