Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A moderate twitter success story

A few weeks ago, I posted a somewhat petulant rant about aspiring writers using twitter to tweet about writing and the writing life. I think part of what motivated my rant was jealousy (What? They’ve written another ten-thousand words while I’m staring at a blank page? They’ve submitted yet another story?) but part of it was that I just find such things boring. Others may not, though. And that’s . . . okay.

The overall point of my post was that I didn’t believe such things helped in marketing your work and, in fact, just might turn folks off to it. I suggested folks tweet about themselves, their lives, their interests, hell, even what they had for lunch. Personally, I find that far more interesting than word counts or submissions.

Do I understand why folks do it? Absolutely. There are so few places for “indie” (God, I hate that expression) writers to get noticed at all, so why not use twitter to blow your own horn a little (though my rant was against those who do it a lot.) There are also very few ways for unaffiliated writers to market their books, and the ways that are available (Amazon forums, Kindleboards, etc.) are filled with attention-whoring self-published writers that will step on your thread or posting in a heartbeat to get their own stuff noticed. Because of all that, aside from this blog, I’ve kind of given up marketing my own books at all.

Previously, when I released a free story on Smashwords, I’d create a thread alerting folks to it, mentioning my other books as well. I’ve also participated in other writer’s threads, trying to become part of the “community.” But when your own threads get very little response (hell, even a “Sounds interesting. Best of luck with it!” would be nice) it’s hard to feel part of the “community” at all.

Anyhow, I only say all that to say this:

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a flurry of sales, mostly of “A Truck Story,” my Red Sox spring training novella. I sold half-a-dozen within a couple of days, and a few dozen more within the next week or so. I also noticed sales of some of my other books (most gratefully, “Swash!”, my criminally ignored tale of pirates coming back.)

But what sparked the interest? I’d done nothing at all marketing-wise. Did someone read one of my works and post something about it? Did I get a mention somewhere? (I keep waiting to get a mention somewhere. . . whatever the hell that means.) Anyhow, the flurry of sales died down, and I’ve sold only a single copy of “A Truck Story” in March.

So the other day (not even thinking about my books) I clicked on “your tweets, retweeted” on twitter and saw that 22 people had re-tweeted something I’d sent to a sportswriter about the Red Sox. What must have happened (though I missed it entirely) is that the sportswriter retweeted my tweet to his thousands of followers, and 22 of those followers retweeted it to all of their followers. Some of those followers / Red Sox fans must have come to this blog, and the rest is history.

Of course I suppose was lucky, in that I had a Red Sox novella that was (inadverdently) brought to the attention of Red Sox fans. If I were a Red Sox fan who wrote romances, would I have achieved the same level (admittedly low) of success? Well, I did sell a few of the other books too. So I expect it would have helped.

Anyway, not sure what any of this means, except to reinforce that tweeting about your interests might, in the end, be more fruitful than tweeting about writing or the books you have for sale. As for me, I still hope someone takes “notice” of something I’ve written, hope that word of mouth on something or other sparks sales. Because it’s really hard to maintain the drive to keep writing when it sometimes seems that nobody at all takes notice of you. But I also believe that cream does indeed rise to the top, and if nobody is taking much notice of you, then there’s probably a reason for that too.

We’ll see what (if anything) happens with “Applewood,” my vampire novel coming out in March Though late to the vampire game, maybe it will take off – or maybe it will sink like a stone. If it does, I’m prepared to say I’ve done my best, anyway. And at that point, I’m also prepared to say that with regard to any pretentions I might have had about writing, the market will have spoken.


kate said...

Well think about it - you write about what you care about, you, tweet about what you care about, and you attract interest from other people like you, or who care about something in common. Makes sense to me. I don't care about writing, but if I care about what you write about, I'll probably care about what you tweet about, and buy your books.

Brendan P. Myers said...

My thinking exactly, Kate. Only wish I had your eloquence! That's exactly what I meant. And thanks for the comment. I appreciate it!