Friday, July 5, 2013

To Tweet or not to Tweet?

Around this time last year, I was thrilled to learn that Northshire Bookstore of Manchester, Vermont was going to build a second store on Broadway in my hometown of Saratoga Springs. Besides their shelves of eclectic books, a knowledgeable staff, and cozy cafe, Northshire hosts events featuring authors like Chris Bohjalian and Jodi Picoult. They also support debut and less known writers with signings, offer print on demand services, and stock critically acclaimed self-published books. Clearly, this shop will be a welcome addition to our literary starved main street.

To kick off their move to Saratoga Springs, Northshire celebrated by having Neil Gaiman, author of numerous bestsellers, his latest being The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Although I had heard of Neil Gaiman, I hadn't read any of his books. Still, I wanted to attend the interview, reading, and signing to help support Northshire and encourage more events like this. I bought two tickets for $45.00, which included a signed copy of Gaiman's new book. Wow, I thought. An author who actually can charge money for an appearance. Most simply hope that someone shows up when they do a signing.

Neil Gaiman (right) being interviewed
at the Saratoga Springs City Center

I suggested to my husband, Keith that we arrive at the City Center early to get a good seat. He wasn't convinced that was necessary and was quite surprised when a ballroom-sized hall was half-full an hour before Gaiman was scheduled to appear. At show time it was filled to capacity. Fifteen hundred fans gathered to hear words read by the author, then many waited hours for Gaiman's up close and personal book signature.

Capacity Crowd for a
Meet & Greet with Neil Gaiman

As a new author, I couldn't help but wonder how a writer goes from creating comic books to bestsellers. Of course, outstanding writing is part of the formula. I just finished reading, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Gaiman's engaging story and clear, vivid prose kept the pages turning. He truly is a master of his craft. But there are so many outstanding novels that never see the top one hundred on any reading list. What's his secret?

Talent, persistence, and luck?

Absolutely, but what else?

Ask a question then count on Poets and Writers Magazine to provide the answer. When I received my copy, none other than Neil Gaiman was on the cover. The article was entitled:  Locked in the Sweetshop: Seven Questions for Neil Gaiman. The one that really caught my attention was:

You're engaged with your fans on social media in a way that not many best-selling authors are. Do you think every writer should be on Twitter?

I was intrigued by this question, because new authors are pressured to be active not only on Twitter, but Facebook, Linkedin, Goodreads, the blogosphere, etc. In fact, it is rumored that literary agents and traditional publishers consider a potential client's social media activity before signing them on. So between a day job, family, and creating an online presence, when does a writer have time to compose stories? How does Gaiman answer: Should every writer be on Twitter:

"No. Absolutely not. I do it because it's fun. People who are interested are going to sign up and stick around because I'm obviously enjoying it. If you are not enjoying it, for God's sake don't do it." He continues by saying that writers should not tweet just to promote their books. "If you want to do it, you join Twitter. Talk to people. Talk to friends. Talk to famous people. Talk with anybody you like. If you want to get something read: Establish, be there first, and then say to people who are interested and like you, 'By the way I've got a book coming out,' and people will go, 'Oh, we'll go check it out then.' As opposed to coming on and going, 'The book, the book, the book, I hate this. Are we done.'"

Gaiman has a point. How often do people go shopping for a book on Twitter or Facebook? They go there to connect with people. If someone they're communicating with and like happens to be selling a book, they just might take a look.

For me, I'm not a big fan of Twitter, but I do enjoy Facebook, blogging and Goodreads, so I'll stick with those forums, not because I'm a writer, but because it's fun for me. If selling a book happens because of it, so be it.

Some recent Tweets by Neil Gaiman on Twitter:

"Took my Clarion Class to see a preview of Pacific Rim. We stumbled out happy from the adrenaline rush of a perfect monsters v robots film."

"Happy Independence Day. Buy a book to read this summer. It's like getting a whole world as a present, only somewhat more portable."

"I have just learned that drunk frat boys group-shouting "SWEET CAROLINE AH-AH-AH" is worse than Born in the USA, in case you were wondering."

Book of the Week:

“Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane   
What's your favorite social media forum? Your least? Have you ever bought a book because you saw it on Facebook or Twitter?  


  1. Peggy, I like the idea that authors should promote their work through the media they enjoy. That's where their energy and creativity will burdst out in a natural way. Your post has given me reason to review my promotion strategy. Thank you.

  2. Social media does seem to be part of the writing/publishing game, Stephen. I think the key is to find the venue you enjoy and focus on it, not try to master everything from Stumble Upon to Facebook. You'll miss your sleep!

  3. I tweeted your blog post because I like it and I personally think there are many others that need to read it!! :-)

    1. Thanks Raani! I too think Gaiman made some good points about tweeting.

  4. My problem with twitter is that I tweet and then never see it or the person again. I do get personal messages but even then I lose them after responding. Facebook s a gossip page which I use only for promoting myself and the authors in my promo group. Goodreads has shown some interest in my work but primarily wants me as a reviewer. The only good thing about reviewing a book is that when they like those 5 stars they often buy my book. I seem to get a lot of book buyers from Linked In and I don't know how they find me because I can never find them. I think I'm hopeless as well as helpless in marketing--and this is just the easy stuff.

    1. I'm right behind you with the marketing part of the book buisness.

  5. Haven't read Gaiman's book yet, but it's on my list.
    I have a Twitter account, but rarely Tweet because I don't really "get it"
    Someone described Twitter to me as standing in front of a roaring fire hydrant and periodically jumping in and trying to drink. Seems to me you miss a lot more than you take in

    1. I really do think Twitter is for famous people although I've been told I'm wrong. At the risk of sounding insecure, I don't think many strangers care about what I have to say. I'm with you, Carol. I really don't get it.

  6. Hi Peggy,
    I like the idea that authors should find what medium works for them to promote their work. I find it hard to keep up with all of the different social media options out there. One I just joined, and that I actually love, is Pinterest. So hard to imagine enjoying social media, and yet I am! I wish I felt the same way about Twitter, but I haven't felt that yet. Maybe someday...

  7. I have a Pinterest account, but don't visit it often. If I gave it a chance, I think I'd like it. I enjoy hunting the net for pictures, quotes, etc. Once again, this can eat a lot of time. I'll check out your page.