Saying No to Twitter: What Authors Need to Know

It's Okay not to Twitter

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Today’s guest post is by digital services consultant and AuthorPop founder Daniel Berkowitz (@danjberkowitz).

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.

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Posted in Guest Post, Social Media.

Daniel Berkowitz is the founder of AuthorPop, a consultancy offering digital services for authors.

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Natalie Aguirre

Good to know that Twitter is not essential. I don’t get on there much because most of my time is spent on my blog. But I do want to try to figure it out more and connect to more writers. But I don’t feel quite as pressured.

Daniel Berkowitz

Hi Natalie, social channels are great tools to get the word out about your blog posts. Definitely worth experimenting with Twitter and/or Facebook to help expand your reach. Twitter is far from essential, but it’s very possible you’ll end up liking it.

A.R. Morrison

I feel this way, but about Facebook. I’ve realized lately how much I dislike the platform and actually prefer Twitter, funnily enough. Instead of forcing myself to stay where I don’t want to be, I decided to let my following know that Twitter is where I’ll spend most of my time connecting, but that I’ll still have (automated) updates on my Facebook for those who prefer to follow from there. It’s all about finding what works for you and understanding there will be pros and cons to whatever you decide. Really, it is what you make of it anywhere you… Read more »

Daniel Berkowitz

A.R., thanks for sharing your perspective. I think it’s spot on!

[…] Timothy Lewis explains how to run a Twitter chat. And for authors who aren’t fans of Twitter, Daniel Berkowitz says it’s okay to say no to Twitter. […]

Marquita Herald

I agree with A.R. Morrison. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Facebook for years and the mess that came to light last year about our data was being so freely shared (sold) fueled the fire, but when I downloaded a copy of my data they’ve been using and saw what I naively thought was private direct messages and contact info that sent me to the “delete this account” link and I decided to join Instagram which I really like it so far. I’ve also found Medium to be a good way to build recognition. I’ve been on Twitter for years… Read more »

Daniel Berkowitz

Hey Marquita, the privacy and security concerns around Facebook are real, and authors (and everyone else for that matter) should definitely be aware of them and tweak their privacy settings accordingly–if they’re still comfortable using the platform. As far as your book launch goes, like I said in the article, if Twitter feels right to you, then great. But if you’re most comfortable on Instagram and Medium (and maybe over email), then I think that’s plenty, and there’s really no need to extend yourself further. That is, unless you genuinely want to. Hope your launch is a success!

Leslie Budewitz

Thanks for this post. What do you think of the “outpost” theory, that authors should at least have a presence on social media channels they don’t fully utilize, such as a current profile and pinned post, updated only once or twice a year, say when a new book is on the way, and pointing back toward the main channels? (For me, those are my FB Author page, website, and newsletter.)

Daniel Berkowitz

Leslie, thanks for bringing this up! It’s definitely a good idea to claim your accounts on all platforms–really just so that you have them should you want to use them in the future, as well as to prevent someone from stealing your handle (unless, that is, your name is so common that someone already got it). As far as the outpost idea goes, I see no harm in it, and I think any tactic that makes it easier for the reader to find information about you, and to know where to go to find that information, is worthwhile. I just… Read more »

Amy Cornwell

This eased my mind! Thank you for the advice.

Daniel Berkowitz

Happy to help, Amy!

Star Ostgard

I think there are two possibly related things people don’t always consider with any social media. One, not all writers are “social butterflies”, in real life or online. Some don’t know all the in’s and out’s of the various “hot spots” and don’t really want to spend time learning about things they already hate dealing with, especially when it’s going to be an on-going thing (versus making an occasional public book-signing, for instance). Second, not everyone on social media knows how to act on social media, at least from a business POV. How much is “you” versus “the author”? Don’t… Read more »

Daniel Berkowitz

Star, these are great points, and I think they touch on the idea of authenticity I brought up. For example, pre-2016 US election, I think for authors there was an overarching idea of “don’t be political.” But since then, with everyone firmly entrenched in their view on either side and most people in the country believing we’re at some sort of tipping point, one could make an argument that it’s disingenuous to NOT veer into political territory on social media. Again, I think it comes down to being authentic. Unless you are a massive celebrity or you have some name… Read more »

Star Ostgard

Self-publishing is a whole ‘nother story. There, every author is publisher, publicist, agent – the whole ball of wax. So yes, they have to take advantage of social media. As to trade published authors, I personally would have no problem have an “author website” where books or appearances could be found. But, really, how much other promotional “stuff” is really worth the time and effort for an author? If we already have favorite authors, we’re keeping track of their releases already. As to new authors, I find them browsing the bookstores or even libraries, and getting the books in those… Read more »

Jacqui Murray

I feel this way about Facebook. I just can’t get into it. So, I’ve pared my presence down from about ten pages to three. That’s still too many.

[…] It’s Okay to Say No to Twitter | Jane Friedman […]

Edward Teja

I don’t get why you assume an author is on Facebook (evil) and not on Twitter (less so). None of those site are “necessary” and yet all can be useful. Taking Facebook as a given is promoting their monopolistic stranglehold and destroying dialog.