Tell me if this is a situation you’ve been in before: Your agent just sold your book to a publisher, and now you want to do everything you can to ensure your book’s success. The publisher tells you to get a website and to get on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You have a Facebook profile, and you’re not opposed to creating a separate author page, and you really enjoy Instagram—but you don’t like Twitter.
So, reluctantly, you get on Twitter. Your book doesn’t come out for more than a year, and you don’t know what to tweet about. You don’t even have a cover yet.
But you know the 80/20 rule. You try to befriend authors and booksellers. You advocate for other authors.
Yet still you don’t like Twitter. You prefer Facebook and Instagram, and you simply don’t want to be on this platform any longer. But you worry about upsetting your publisher or missing out on a marketing gold mine.
Here’s the truth: It’s okay to not be on Twitter.
Whether you have an agent or you self-published your book, you don’t have to be on Twitter. Whether you’re a YA novelist or an adult historian, you don’t have to be on Twitter. And whether you like social media or outright detest it, you don’t have to be on Twitter.
That said, Twitter—if used properly—can be an amazing platform for an author. On average, a tweet requires less effort than, say, an Instagram post, where a polished photo, a solid caption and a number of hashtags can be required for “success.” Twitter is much more of the moment, as conversations occur in real time and users tend to be more plugged in than they are on other social platforms. This can allow for interesting engagements and discussions that can’t happen as easily on Facebook or Instagram.
But that very nature—that immediacy and of-the-moment-ness—can also be a drawback.
The biggest complaint I hear from authors about Twitter is that they feel they need to be plugged in, keeping an open tab on their browser, or repeatedly reloading the app on their phone. These anxieties are overstated, sure, but that doesn’t mean they’re not real.
To these authors, I always say the same thing: Just get off Twitter. If it’s not for you, then it’s not for you.
To achieve any measure of success on Twitter, an author must, as with any social platform, to be in it for the long haul. Simply tossing up a headshot, putting your book title in your bio, and tweeting different variations of “Buy my book” every day won’t build you an audience. And lack of genuine enthusiasm for the platform will actually act as a deterrent. People will see no reason to follow you.
Readers aren’t stupid. If you use Twitter simply as a means to an end and don’t appear to have any interest in the platform besides directly converting a million sales yesterday, then readers won’t engage with you. And they definitely won’t advocate for you.
Interaction over social media is the digital equivalent of word of mouth, which is still the biggest driver of sales. In order to drive those sales, though, you have to appear trustworthy. You have to appear genuine—like someone who’s worth listening to and engaging with. Phoning it in on Twitter, or any other social platform for that matter, will not get the job done. And the hard truth about authorship today is that a digital presence truly is necessary (unless you received an advance so significant that your publisher will pour money into making the book sell). But again, that doesn’t mean you need to rely on Twitter.
It’s much better to build a functional author website that is optimized for mobile and shows up in relevant Google searches, to get on Facebook or Instagram, where you can take a less of-the-moment approach, and to create an email newsletter, where you can take an even less of-the-moment approach.
So relax. No matter what your publisher, your friend or any author says, if you don’t want to be on Twitter, then you don’t have to be on Twitter. It’s a platform that can be used successfully, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. It’s a much better strategy to focus on the things you do like.
And if you don’t like anything digital, well…better pray for a large advance.