BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK! WANNA BUY MY BOOK? HEY, BUY MY BOOK! YOU! BOOK GOOD! BUY!
Does this look familiar? If you’re a writer on Twitter, this is probably what your timeline looks like on any given day. Hundreds of writers, trying desperately to convince you to BUY THEIR BOOK! And why not? It’s only 10 cents, and their cousin Bob gave it five stars, so it’s gotta be good! Wanna buy it? Not now? Don’t worry, the exact same tweet will appear again and again and again and again (and again and again) in case you change your mind. Come on, 10 cents. Buddy, spare a dime?
I don’t know about you, but I joined Twitter so that I could connect with other writers. After all, meeting a writer in real life is a rare occurrence. I think I’ve spotted Bigfoot more often.
(To clarify: by writer, I’m not talking about “writers”, those folks who fancy themselves literary because of one poem they wrote in high school. There are, at present, about 100 bazillion “writers” in the world. No, I’m talking about real writers, people who study and practice the craft of writing on a daily basis.)
When I first joined Twitter, I immediately found what I was looking for. Writers! Real, honest to goodness writers striving toward a similar dream. I connected, made new friends, and traded frustrations. And trading frustrations felt so good. I wasn't alone in my struggles any more. I wasn’t the only one who worried about fictional people. I wasn’t insane! It was quite a relief. I finally fit in somewhere.
And then, gradually, everything started to change.
Writers who used to chat and discuss their careers suddenly became...well...spam bots. Gone were the tweets about first draft blues. Gone were the discussions about character and plot. Instead, BUY MY BOOK ads sprung up like weeds and crowded my timeline. It was as if all these bright, intelligent writers had been assimilated by some kind of marketing Borg. Resistance was futile.
So far, I’ve managed to resist assimilation, but that’s probably because of my innate loathing of advertising. Ads suck. Who likes an ad? They’re intrusive. You can’t watch a thirty minute TV show without sitting through 29 minutes of ads. Ads pop up on virtually every web page, and it’s always for the same crappy poker site. And now Twitter is no different, except it’s being perpetuated by writers.
Now, you may be thinking: “Dude, how else am I going to promote my book? I don’t have the money to hire a marketing team. I have to get the word out!” And you know what? I agree with you. You DO have to get the word out. But I think you’re forgetting one very important weapon in your arsenal:
One of the greatest opportunities of the e-book revolution has been the ability to connect, one on one, with readers. Thanks to sites like Twitter, we can promote ourselves to readers by making an honest connection with them. Most of the copies of "Gasher Creek" I’ve sold have been to people who like talking to me. They didn’t buy my book because of some repetitive ad, or because they were attracted to its temporary cover design. They bought a copy because they discovered the person behind the book. I made a human connection, not a marketing one.
And you know what? It works both ways. I’ve purchased a few books from authors I’ve met on Twitter, and I plan on buying more. I want to support writers with as many nickels and dimes as I can scrape together because I know they need the support. And I know this because I’ve spent time talking to them. I’ve listened to both their dreams and their frustrations.
We as writers should support each other, not barrage each other with mindless spam. We’re all reaching for a prize with a 99% fail rate—that kind of struggle requires reassurance. What we do is hard—damn hard, and it takes years of study and patience and persistence to even make an attempt. That’s a tough road to walk alone.
But if you want to continue being a Borg, that’s your business. Maybe telling a million people to BUY MY BOOK will result in a couple sales. But may I make a suggestion? Try stopping by every once in a while to say hi. It doesn’t take much to make a connection. I don’t need to become your best friend, I just need to know you’re a real person. Most writers (including myself) tend to be introverts, but we still have that human desire to share—after all, we are storytellers.