Thursday, December 03, 2009

Moody Tweets

by Michael

There's an excellent post up on the Vroman's blog today about the failed Rick Moody story-tweeting experiment. The piece makes very good points about the insularity of publishing, which is something I've given much thought to, especially as I've headed out West. If the same group of people has the same conversations in the same spaces over and over again, what good is it really doing us? How do we reach new readers? How do we hear what book-buyers really want?

For me, this isn't about the failure of Twitter to promote books (as some who have picked up on the story have been highlighting), but rather about publishing never looking outside itself for ideas, both about how to promote books and what kinds of books people want to read. It definitely got me thinking this morning. What do you think? Is Twitter just a bad way to promote books, or is there something more to be learned here?


  1. Twitter seems like a great way to learn about books -- if you're already a writer. None of the non-writers I know have any idea what Twitter is.

    I wish I knew how to spread book love around. My (teenage & post-teenage) students feel about books the way Superman feels about Kryptonite. The only reading they are happy with involves computer screens. Sometimes I wonder if you couldn't just hire several thousand cool-looking people to sit, engrossed in books, in public places around the world -- then just hope for the best.

  2. I read and I write and I have absolutely no idea how Twitter works. My cell phone is just that - a phone. Not a computer. I don't even text. I use it to talk to people and that's it.

    So if Twitter is being used to promote books, it's not getting to me or anyone I know (not that I know a lot of people). But if has helped sales even a tiny bit, then why does it matter? Is there really a BAD way to promote books if it brings in new readers?

  3. I tried my own Twitter experiment in tweeting fiction early on and it posed several dilemmas--post the story "feet first"? "Head first"? How will people see it--as text or when they go on the web? There seem to be two important themes in the blog post:(1) whether Twitter is a useful means of disseminating stories or (2) is it useful as a tool to reach more readers/potential readers to expand our understanding of what it is that they want or like to read? Right now I have more faith in the latter, and that there is untapped potential there for feedback and using Twitter for promotion of books and acting as a conduit for ideas. It calls for more creativity/ingenuity.

  4. What I think is that Twitter can work for promoting books if your target audience is fluent in the technology, and if the promotion is keyed to individuals outside of publishing. If the insiders are the only one's tweeting about it, then it doesn't do you any good. Who trusts those literary insiders anyway? (Kidding!)

    Getting nontraditional publishing related groups/individuals to tweet about a book is one way to expand the audience. Examples: MTV, ABCFamily, XM Radio, CNN--for the big guys. Or for the little guys, what about Girl Scouts of America, the Boys & Girls Club, heck even the American Legion, Knights of Columbus and Lions Club have Twitter pages. People trust what these groups have to say. It could be a cool experiment to try...

  5. There is definitely more to be learned here. You hit the nail on the head when you said, "If the same group of people has the same conversations in the same spaces over and over again, what good is it really doing us?"

    I've been contemplating the whole blogging thing (I'm not on Twitter) as it relates to reaching readers. I've tried to get a conversation going on my blog on why people read and write blogs and it confirmed what I have been thinking and what you said about's insular. Writing and publishing blogs are mainly writers reading about writing and publishing from industry insiders.

    Agent blogs are awesome for us writers but are authors who blog reaching much outside the aspiring author circles? It doesn't seem like it.

    I don't think it has anything to do with being tech-savvy. I have a lot of tech-savvy and Internet addicted friends and family and the only ones who read blogs or tweets are aspiring writers. And why would the average person read most blogs and tweets? What would they really get out it? Their time is better spent elsewhere. I know mine is. And it's why I try to step back from the writer side of me and view what I'm doing and what I'm writing from a potential reader's POV.

    I've been thinking a lot about how writers can become more than a lonely book waiting on a shelf to be picked and I don't believe tweeting or blogging are the way, at least not the way we do it now. Giving people something they want, something they need, something they didn't realize they were missing until they came across "your thing", is the way to reach people, to get them to buy what you're selling be it a product or a service or a book.

    Great post Michael!

  6. I think gaining a wide audience on a blog has much to do with the spin we put on our blog's intent. Though I am a writer, my blog is not a writing blog, per se. However, it is tied it in to a concept in my fiction manuscript, about living lives of our choosing, keeping our passions alive. Because my blog's scope is wide, my readers include photographers, painters, cooks, equestrians, gardeners, stay-at-home moms, and yes, writers too. What started as my way of building an internet presence has become an enjoyable extension of my writing, which engages readers from many walks of life in inspiring dialogue. So it seems really important to know the intent of a blog, and keep it focused on that.