The Uses of Twitter: Flogging the Dead Bird

This is a rant, really. One pointed straight at some my fellow writers.

I love twitter. I love its liminality. I love the ephemeral quality of its flow. I’ve met some wonderful people there. Made some excellent friends. I’ve bonded with a lot of writers I’d have never met if it weren’t for twitter. It’s a great community. I get to chat with readers, authors, people I admire, artists and poets and painters and candlestick makers. But I hate people whose primary reason for being on twitter is trying to sell stuff and when I run across them I block them.

It’s called social media.

Not marketing media.

Not mall media.

I think twitter is a great place for writers. If nothing else, it sure teaches you to tighten up your sentences. At best, it’s a marvelous space to develop friendships.  To learn from other people. To broaden out your view of the world. If you need to know about ballistics at 5 am in the morning and want the short version, tweet  your question; someone out there is going to know. When I was researching amputees, I found out I had five surgeons following me and one person who specialized in prosthetic limbs. All generously willing to help me with research.

And writing is a lonely pursuit. It’s great to be able to take a break, have a little chat, and then go back into the salt mine. You don’t feel so isolated anymore. You’ve got company and yet you don’t have to angst over how to tell them it’s time to go home.

The #iamwriting tag is a wonderful way to get support when you’re going through a hard slog. The #nanowrimo tag keeps you in touch with other writers taking up the November challenge. The #artwiculate tag challenges you to learn how to use new words every day. The #haikuchallenge keeps your poetics limber.

The one thing that a lot of writers who are newly arrived on twitter think is that it is a place to flog their books. It’s not. Well, it’s not directly. There is nothing more boring and annoying than following a fellow writer only to find that they don’t want a discussion, don’t want to chat – they just keep tweeting their link to Amazon over and over and over.

If you want people to read your book, and you are on twitter, then give people a reason to think they might like it. Talk about your research. Discuss dialogue problems. Tell us about how you’re fighting with your main character. Blog about writing and tweet links to your blog page. Tweet tantalizing snippets to free chapters. If you follow other writers, it’s nice to pass on Calls for Submissions when you see them. It’s lovely to support fellow writers in their new releases or their blog posts.

And there are stellar examples of writers who know exactly how to be influential and compelling personas on Twitter. Take a look at William Gibson’s @greatdismal or Rachel Kramer Bussel’s @raquelita  or Marc Nash’s @21stCscribe . Take a look at Cameron Chapman‘s list of 100 great literary tweeters. Then take a look at their timelines. If you want to be a good literary citizen on Twitter, read and learn.

But for FUCK’S sake, don’t tweet that link to your Amazon book page again!

I’m not saying you should never promote your writing. When you have a new release, heck, celebrate and tweet it! Let us help you celebrate. If we like you, we’ll support you. And our aggregate reach is bigger than yours ever will be. But don’t keep doing it and doing it and doing it. It’s just fucking boring!

When I get followed by writers, the first thing I do is take a look at their timeline. If they aren’t discursive or reflective or just plain friendly – if all they do is tweet their sales links –  I block them.

And I bet most everyone else does too.

  10 comments for “The Uses of Twitter: Flogging the Dead Bird

  1. herman pett
    October 31, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    exactly! it just takes longer to get angry with spammers on twitter because they only have 140 characters to bore you with.

  2. October 31, 2011 at 10:45 pm


    It’s not just writers, though. Companies, writers, musicians, artists et al need to develop a dialogue with fans/users/fellow [whatevers], to draw us into conversation. That way, instead of reacting angrily when we see a tweet about a commercial release, we’ll celebrate with you.

  3. Adele (TouchofCinnamon)
    October 31, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    You make a great and valid point. I tried to say something similar recently (only briefer and not as eloquently put). Someone deleted me right after that lol. I want to get to know everyone on here. It’s those that I’ve managed to interact with that I’m wish listing and intending on buying their work.

    Too much advertising on Twitter and it becomes ‘white noise’ to me.

  4. TFP
    November 1, 2011 at 8:54 am


    Wisdom in your words as usual. I’m not a twitter user. Perhaps I should look into it a bit, yes?

    Thank you,

  5. Penny Goring
    November 1, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. x

  6. November 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    I was beginning to wonder whether I was being a bad businesswoman by never mentioning my book on Twitter. It’s good to know that I am not the only one who is annoyed by, and eventually blocks, those who plug the same book over and over again.

    • November 2, 2011 at 12:06 am

      I think it’s perfectly fine to tweet it every now and then. And I don’t see a problem with linking to teasers for the book, or blogging about process. But yeah, that constant repetition… well, it’s just like all the other bots.

    • November 2, 2011 at 1:34 am

      It’s fine to tweet it. It’s the people who tweet about their book or product and nothing else, over and over again, that put my back up and make me block them.

    • November 2, 2011 at 7:42 pm

      I’ve feel the same way! There is a level of shame involved in promoting my own books on twitter. Feels like prostitution in a way. But then I also worry that I really tweet nothing of substance. Mostly I lurk…and retweet clever tweets 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

one × 3 =