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Monday, 29 April 2013

On Twitter and an Open World… My new relationship with authors.

A guest post by Liz Wilkins (@Lizzy11268)

So, in my last little attempt at telling you about life from an avid readers point of view, I talked about my favourite authors and how my reading relationship developed with them over the years (post can be found here). Of course now, with the onset of Social Media, a readers relationship with those authors can be much more up close and personal. The biggest social media platform by far for this is Twitter. That weird and wonderful nether world found online, where you can chat away to people you have never met, find like minded individuals to discuss and dissect your favourite and not so favourite novels and indeed open your mind to new and wonderful reading possibilities. Add to this the explosion of self publishing , the fact that authors and publishers alike pepper Twitter with all the possible information you could need to make an informed choice, as a reader a whole new world is suddenly at your feet.
So from this readers point of view, I’ll talk a little about some positives and negatives when it comes to following authors on Twitter and their own individual ways of promoting their novels, and their use of Twitter in general. I’m going to use some of their names in vain when talking about the positive side and hopefully they will forgive me. There seem to be two fairly distinct ways that an author uses Twitter – one of which is positively brilliant, the other not so much…and a bit like a Job review I’ll start with the positives.
Some authors will chat away happily to their readers, to other authors and friends, whilst occasionally popping up a Tweet about their own books, other books they have enjoyed and well, just life in general. This is amazing – Turns out Authors are real people don’t you know! I have had the great pleasure of “meeting” some of these guys and they are truly wonderful to chat too. Terry Tyler is a great example (@TerryTyler4 ) She and I have bonded over our love of Coffee, and thanks to her I have an amazing new coffee cup (Yes Terry it really IS the best coffee cup in the world!) Occasionally she sets up a link to her own novels, and quotes parts of their reviews, but mostly she’s just a human being, talking to other human beings about the things that interest them. Would her novels have interested me without this happening in the background? No…they would not have been my first choice. Even after our initial encounters I resisted thinking they were not my sort of thing. But she’s so lovely, I went ahead anyway. I read “You Wish” and realised I had been an idiot. It was terrific – not my usual type of novel but I tell you, I now have all of her others on my kindle. No Twitter? I would never have known….
I wish I could mention all the awesome authors I have “met” on Twitter, sadly we would be here all day! You know who you are, you lovely people you. A quick shout out though to the wonderful Will Carver (@will_carver ) who is not only a terrific writer (Read Girl 4 if you dare – you won’t get any sleep!) but also knows his stuff when it comes to great books. Without him “The Book Thief” would have passed me by and my reading life would be the poorer for it…I return the favour- when he’s not so busy there are a few novels I’ve randomly decided he will like…look out Will I’m like a dog with a bone! There are many others. From my last piece you may remember my love for Neil White and Roger Ellory – both of whom I have a relationship with now on Twitter and my life is all the richer for it. I can’t leave this part of my blathering without mentioning the funny and talented Sarah Pinborough (@SarahPinborough ) who regularly has me laughing until I cry with her witty and often insightful outlook on life. So all in all, Twitter is an incredibly positive experience. I hope that I give back as much as I receive, I try.
There are negatives sadly as well – lets talk about some things that are definitely going to get my finger hovering over the “unfollow” button and an absolute determination to never read a book by that author no matter how good it looks on paper. When used as purely a marketing tool, Twitter can be the most boring place on the planet to spend an afternoon. I can’t be sure of the tools used, but its obvious that some Tweets are “automated”, set to spout off every so often, with no variety or life to them whatsoever. The only things mentioned in these tweets is the authors own novel/s, a link to where you can purchase them, and various “quotes” from the supposedly wonderful reviews these novels have received. ..send these authors a tweet and you will never get a response. I often wonder if they exist as real people at all – I know they must but my brain responds to them in a very negative way…like there is a robot out there somewhere in the mists of this strange Twitter world whose sole purpose it is to annoy and distract you from the more fun things in life! It doesnt work for real readers, I can promise you that. And oh my word, what about the hashtag phenomenon. Hashtags, when used sensibly, can be a huge plus on Twitter. Put the # before a sentence/phrase and anyone can search and find anything anyone has ever said about that subject. It is a handy thing for an author to use if they wish to let you know the genre of their novel. #Thriller for example. But hey, keep in mind you can have too much of a good thing! I saw a tweet the other day. It mentioned a book, linked to a review of said book, then following that I saw #Thriller #Romance #Mystery #Supernatural #Chicklit. Well what is it? Can it POSSIBLY be all of those things? Perhaps – but as a reader I’m going to avoid that like the plague because if a book doesnt know what it wants to be I don’t want to try and work it out. Too many great novels in the world to waste time on those you are unsure of. Add to that by the time I’d read the third hashtag my mind was wandering off into “What shall I have for lunch” territory…I’d lost interest. So there you have it. It would seem as if it is as well to remember that it is real people you are trying to reach out to on Twitter – not mindless automatons that do what they are told. The relationship has to work both ways to be a mutually accessible and beneficial one.
Twitter is wonderful though. I love it – the intimacy of it, and how it can brighten up an otherwise dull and listless day. In my teenage years, the only way I had of connecting with my favourite authors was a letter by snail mail. I wrote many letters, then sat in anticipation of a response popping through my letterbox. I do have a nostalgia for those days in a lot of ways – but oh the joy of “tweeting” an author to ask a question, or to say how much I am looking forward to their next release, and wow! Receiving a response. Having a chat. Interacting on a human and friendly playing field even if it is only in the online world. To finish I’d like to say the biggest thank you to those wonderful authors Sharon Sant and Jack Croxall for encouraging me to say my piece, giving me a platform where others can read my thoughts, and offering so much advice and help in general.
So, I wonder how other readers and of course authors view Twitter…Are you nodding your head at my thoughts in agreement or do you disagree and think that Twitter IS just a useful tool to market your product? I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts….