Twitter Dos for Writers

Like all tools, we need to use Twitter (and other social media tools) for good and not evil. As writers, we are our product. We steer the company and we have control over what we put out into the ether. Once the information is out in the wild, we lose control, but the initial message and how we communicate it is all on us. Communicate it well.

Twitter is a fabulous way to build a circle of professionals to whom you can pose questions. It is also a concise and interactive way to build relationships with your readers. If you want a list of Twitter Dont’s, read the post from two weeks ago.

How do you walk the line between building a following and pushing your product too hard? Grab a cup of your beverage of choice, sit back, and let me offer you some advice to get you started.

Do

Have a good profile and keep your picture consistent across platforms. Your profile should not be too long or short and it should convey just enough information for people to find you. Don’t give your enitre CV or list every book you have ever written. Be concise and show your personality. My Twitter profile describes what I do, who I am, and is amusing (I think). If you use more than one social media platform, keep your picture consistent across platforms. This will help people instantly recognize that they have found the right you. After all, as an author, you are your own brand.

Use a management tool. There are many different ones to choose from, but I prefer Hootsuite. The free version does just about everything you need to control and stay on top of your different social media accounts. It allows you to schedule posts ahead of time which is especially helpful for promo tweets. Hootsuite makes it easy to keep up when people @ you or DM you and then allows you to respond quickly.

Be a human being. You are not a robot and your Twitter account should reflect the fact that you are a living breathing person who has good and bad days. Be yourself. Be funny. Interact with people. Tell jokes. Share successes and failures. Be real. People want to interact and follow people who have something to say or will share something which will enhance their day in some way. In order to be that person for someone else, you have to be real.

Schedule promo tweets to happen at different times on different days. If you share the same promo tweet every day at the same time, you are not reaching any new people and you are annoying the ones you are reaching. Use a variety of promo tweets and schedule them to happen at different times throughout the week. Be very judicious in how often you send promo tweets. Except on launch days or other special times, once a day is plenty. See the above suggestion for being a human being.

Follow people doing the same thing as you. Use the search and suggestion features to follow other writers. Follow authors you admire and tell them how much you love them. Find people with similar hobbies or researchers specializing in the topic of your next book. Better yet, find your local library or friendly librarian on Twitter and follow them. They will be tickled all shades of pink to answer your questions. Believe me. Librarians live to answer the questions of others. After you find people to follow, be a human being and talk to them.

Use the list function in Twitter. You can add people to different lists and then have those lists appear as columns in Hootsuite. The people you know IRL and the people you interact with often should be in their own list. This will enable you to read their tweets separate from the influx of tweets from others and continue to develop your relationship with them.

Be nice. I said this in my Twitter discussion of Don’ts, but I will say it again. Just be nice. Have opinions but have compassion for others and be nice. A good rule to follow is if you have constructive criticism, offer solutions to the challenge before you instead of just harsh words. We’re all in the same sea here. Just keep swimmin.’

What would you add to this list? What do you think is an essential skill or guideline to follow on Twitter?

Authors on Twitter

I have been on Twitter since it was just a few geeks, nerds, and librarians talking about technology… and what we ate for breakfast. These days, I follow as many writers, editors, and publishers as I do librarians. I love the way Twitter works and I am invested in it because I have been on it for so long.

This morning I read a post by Jeffe Kennedy, writer and editor, on the way Twitter connects people. It pushed me to write a post that has been percolating for some time. Jeffe recently got back from RWA (Romance Writers Association) and had an offer from an agent she originally met on Twitter.

Authors should be on Twitter. Authors should not just be on Twitter to sell their books. They should do what the rest of us schmoes do on Twitter, talk about stuff we love and crazy things in the world. This is not news to many authors. I see the ones doing it well talking about how to use Twitter all the time.

I am, above all, a reader, and here is why I like authors who do social media well.

I would estimate that 99% of the books I read now come through recommendations from from authors, publishers, and just people I know (many of whom are librarians or professional book people) on Twitter. I especially pay attention to recs for other authors from authors and editors that I already adore. I place a high value on their ability to spot and identify the dross. I am busy. There are a ton of books out there and I can not read them all. Luckily, I have a few hundred “friends” online who read the same stuff I do and can tell me STA and what I need to stay up late reading.

I can tell an author I follow that I just finished their book and squee all over them, from a safe distance. You know what? All of them reply back to me and thank me for the read. I have never been ignored. They are gracious and lovely to me, a nobody. How awesome is that? I love being able to say something nice to the person that just made the last few days fly by because all I could think about was the characters they created and put to paper. On Twitter I can say, “Thanks for your hard work and your characters. They made me laugh, cry, cringe in terror, and give a big fist pump in the air.” I have never written a fan letter, but I have tweeted thanks to authors multiple times.

I start following authors for three reasons: I read a book they wrote and loved it, they write a genre I like and are on my TBR list, or they are somehow connected with a publishing group, agent, or other author I like. I keep following an author for the same reason I follow anyone else: they are authentic online. They talk about their books sometimes, but mostly they talk about their life and I like seeing windows into their days. I feel more connected to them and to the characters they write. In the long run, it makes me a loyal reader and that is what every author wants, readers who will keep reading them and tell their friends to read it too (or beat them over the head with the book/ereader until they give in already and read the book).

I like having authors in my Twitter stream because it has made the writing industry less daunting. They have taught me about the process of writing fiction, the process of editing, the process of submitting to agents and publishers, and the process of handling life with an author’s brain. They have given me the flashlight I needed to start to consider what my own options are in the dark room that is Getting A Novel Published.

The moral: Authors, you should be on Twitter. You should be on Twitter and be authentic. Have fun. Be serious. Be whimsical. Be yourself. Your readers will adore you for it and come back for more every day, hour, minute. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

–Jane, refreshed

Balance in Writing

Last week, I read a blog post about the clinic that John Mayer did in the Berklee series. During the clinic he talked about about how social media changed his song writing and why he eventually stopped writing on social media sites.

And possibly more alarming, Mayer realized that pouring creativity into smaller, less important, promotional outlets like twitter not only distracted him from focusing on more critical endeavors like his career, it also narrowed his mental capacity for music and writing intelligent songs…

“You got the distraction of being able to publish yourself immediately, and it is a distraction if you’re not done producing what the product is going to be that you’re going to someday use the promotion to sell…I had to go through the same thing I’m talking to you about – what you have to go through – which is to completely manage all the distraction. Manage the temptation of publishing yourself.”

So, to avoid the temptation of publishing himself and to increase his mental capacity for creativity, Mayer deleted his twitter, stopped blogging, and created a strict regime for recording his next album.

Mayer’s advice to new artists as he told his own story paralleled something I have been thinking about for awhile. For a long time, I have been feeling like Twitter steals my time and thoughts from longer writing. Things I used to write in this space, I put up on Twitter.

This happens for a few reasons, the largest being that I have very little, very precious time to actually be on the computer these days. With two adorable and young sons, my alone time on the computer is almost nonexistent. Writing this post has been days in the making and suffered uncountable interruptions. I use my phone to respond to email, send Twitter updates, and look at Google+. I do not like composing longer pieces on my phone and so blogging takes a backseat, well more like the trunk, complete with duck taped mouth and hands tied.

When I do save something for a longer piece, like the Mayer quote above, it often languishes for days or weeks before I can look at it and then it is too late. I have often wondered if I should just ignore Twitter completely in the same way I ignore Facebook.

Then, last night I was reading my Twitter stream from Friday and saw this post by Jason Griffey echoing, for different reasons, a possible movement to disengage. Jason says this about the change in his writing:

What I don’t like is that my writing, thoughts, interests… the comprehensive set of my online self, really… are distributed and scattered. I was ok with it for a long time, and I’m becoming very much not ok with it anymore. In the past, I’ve dabbled with pulling things from those other networks back here, but that doesn’t actually bring any of the reasons I use them here….it just brings the content. Which isn’t always what it’s about.

Jason says that he thinks the possible solution, for him, may be a disengagement from some things, including the demise of Pattern Recognition. I understand his problem, that his identity and content has become disparate. I am interested to see how he solves this problem, as the issue still baffles me.

I think the ability to post things quickly sometimes steals my time to write longer things later. For me, this is the last outlet I would get rid of because it suits my writing needs better than anything else. I need this longer writing space, even if I do not get to utilize it as much as I would like.

Other social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, have duplicate content between the three for me, mostly. I would love to see facebook go by the wayside. I disagree with the practices at facebook, which I have written about at ALA TechSource. I stay on facebook so I can have access to other people and events there, but I rarely check my account. I know it will not go away until people stop using it but I can not stop using it until people go away from it. It is a cycle that is hard to break. For now, I will keep my access to facebook, but I have a feeling that may change soon.

I do not know what the solution is for me or how I will find more time to write here. I think of things to write all day long, but by the time I am able to sit down, the thoughts are gone or I am simply to tired to make sense of them. As always, life is a delicate balance, and the scales are not always even. What the balance is for this space is always evolving. I know I both need and want this space, whether anyone reads it or not. I also need and want Twitter because when I do get a chance to read it, I always learn something new. Every day should contain a new thing learned.

An Almost Streamed Meeting Causes a Ruckus

Something happened yesterday that I am still trying to understand. I am not talking about the shooting in AZ. This was much less tragic in the worldly sense, but more tragic to me personally.

An open meeting was closed to me because I could not physically sit in the room, though the means necessary for me to be “present” at the meeting were available and running; it was shut down for what I think are some shoddy reasons.

A disclaimer: I was not at the physical meeting, so my knowledge of what happened after the stream was cut off is limited to the Twitter hashtag #litabd11 and other backchannel discussions.

A word to the PTB, if you do not control the conversation and allow transparency, someone else will do it for you and the results will not be in your favor. I think the backchannels bore out the truth of that reality yesterday.

Briefly: Jason Griffey set up a Ustream if the LITA Board meeting so that members not physically present in San Diego could watch the meeting. This would also have ensured that members who were currently serving elsewhere at Midwinter could have watched the discussion later. The main speaker for the section of the meeting in question was a consultant who did an analysis of how the LITA leadership works and how we can make our organization better, at least that was what I gleaned from the tweets I saw from members in the room (which sounds a topic all the membership should have access to seeing). The board voted to suspend the live stream “during this portion of the meeting” (though for the record, the stream was never set back up). Jason has the recorded section of the meting up on his Ustream channel which shows the discussion of why the stream should be turned off. The sound is a bit wonky, but gets a little better. The discussion happens about 7 minutes into the recording.

For those not familiar with ALA or the processes of its meetings: The LITA Board meeting is an open meeting at ALA which means that any member of LITA is welcome to attend and participate. LITA stands for the Library and Information Technology Association.

There were three main reasons the board and other members present gave (in the video and on Twitter) for turning off the stream:

  • The board was not aware the streaming was going to happen and wanted a chance to discuss it first,
  • Streaming is a form of communication and should be discussed because a stream of the board would be seen as an “official” communication mechanism of the board, and
  • The information being presented by the paid consultant to LITA was copyrighted and he was paid to present to the board and not a large group (aka the entire membership).

The first reason given is valid, though knee jerk. I think (and this is speculation on my part) that Jason may have tried streaming this without warning the board to demonstrate the issue at hand, which it clearly did. The issue is that we should be streaming meetings and there is some disconnect about the why and how. People do not like to be surprised by things and will frequently reject the thing, good or bad, because the surprise factor is hard to get over. Jason got the knee jerk reaction he was looking for but unfortunately it was not in favor of streaming. The surprise could have given way to a, “What a great idea” discussion, but instead it was more like a “we want the opportunity to apply some red tape to this procedure so we’ll put it off reason” which brings us to the second reason given.

The second reason was that streaming constituted an “official” communication from the board and therefore should be vetted in some way. This argument reminds me of the discussions surrounding the LITA Blog when we first began that successful experiment. The same argument was made for not having a blog. We must get over this idea that everything that is produced should be polished to a high shine before being sent out to members. The internet is a beta platform. If you blog or tweet a meeting, people expect to see a meeting, not an “official” communication platform. If you wait around for “official” there will never be streaming of anything, including open meetings. Official communication methods from meetings, by the way, includes types notes that are out up somewhere, sometimes months after the meetings itself. This is not useful, though I think in the LITA Board’s defense their meetings minutes take less time to get the membership that want to read them. I think it is about time we got over this argument and accept the way technology works. I would expect that an association whose main purview is supposed to be about technology would inherently understand the meaning of change and flexibility in technology. Let us not forget this is an open meeting, but I will talk about that later.

The last reason given, while also valid, has some major issues as well. I do not know the exact rules about who owns copyright on material created by a consultant for ALA, whether the ALA body or the consultant is the holder of copyright for that material. For the sake of the argument, I will assume that the consultant retains copyright. If this is true, than the meeting, open or not, should not have been recorded in any fashion, including blogging and tweeting. However, there was more than one person in the room tweeting what the consultant was telling the board. Those tweets, while valuable, lacked context to some degree, as Twitter often does, so instead of a valid, whole picture of what the consultant was telling the board, we got choppy bits and pieces. In the world of the internet, streaming and Twitter are not that far apart except that one is better quality. Streaming would have given the consultant a better platform. If copyright was really an issue, a creative commons license could have protected the content of the message. After all the money we paid the consultant (I assume he did not do the work for free), should the members not be able to hear what our money paid him to do? Cindi Trainor did let us know that we could receive print copies of the consultant’s presentation if requested. I half wanted to request a copy just to put it up on the internet. I think that getting a print copy of the report is a waste of paper and postage.

My main issue with all this boils down to the fact that the LITA Board meeting is an open meeting. Open. Any member is allowed to attend and I think that should include me even though I can not physically be there. If the technology exists, and it does, for me to participate with the workings of my association, though other obligations and finances prevent me from attending, why are we not utilizing them? If the board is concerned that non-LITA folks might see the goings on of our association, then put the stream somewhere only members can access it. I would not advocate that route, however, since we all know nothing that secretive happens at board meetings. For actual secret stuff, we would have to record the conversations that go on in the halls after the meeting. Streaming meetings would open up opportunity for participation, which is what LITA is always saying it wants.

My secondary reaction is one of supreme disappointment. I love LITA, but I do not always feel that reciprocated now that I am not able to physically attend all the meetings. We are the technology group for the love of all that is holy, but we rarely act like it. Some of the tweets yesterday were arguing that the governing body should not be simply reactive to what members want and my response is “Why not?” Why can’t we experiment? Why can’t we try new things? Why does everything have to be official even when published on a platform, like streaming, Twitter, or blogs, that people know are not polished modes of communication? Why not test the newest technology (though streaming is hardly new) and show the other divisions how to do it? Isn’t that one of the things LITA is supposed to do with technology?

Lastly, and anyone with a shred on internet saavy knows this: If you do not control the message, someone else will. Yesterday, the LITA Board declined to try something new for reasons they felt were valid. As a result, other people, mainly members disenfranchised by the decision controlled the conversation via Twitter, and LITA did not come out the winner. They came out looking ignorant about the thing they are supposed to know about, technology.

I come away from this sad but unsurprised. LITA continues to be the thing I give my time and energy to in ALA because I want to make it better. I want to keep advocating for a technology association that actually is a leader in technology from inside the organization, even if I have to do so from miles away, on my blog, instead of on the live stream of the open meeting of the my board.

–Jane, this post is open for discussion

Net Neutrality Needs a Cooler Name

I have been listening to TWiT, The Week in Tech podcast, for a little while now and I really like the banter on the show. I am a couple weeks behind, but show 219 had a great discussion of net neutrality. The transcript is available, but here are my two favorite quotes:

Jason Calacanis: But for the leadership [of Comcast and AT&T], gosh how do you sleep at night knowing that you want to take something that’s been so valuable to so many. You don’t need to corrupt this, I mean you are making a lot of money already, last time I saw Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are crushing it, I mean how much more money do you DBs need to make? F you guys, greedy bastards. Really, I mean what..[ph] No, seriously these greedy mother effers (1:34:02) are going to, now they will start like oh, by the way, yeah, which level of internet service did you want, or do you, oh you haven’t subscribed to the voice over IP channel, we will get you HBO and VOIP and oh, there’s an extra fee for gaming packets and oh, you are a level 57…

Patrick Norton: It’s so scumbaggy. That’s the problem. It’s Internet – it’s the ‘Internet large ISPs Right to Take You Anyway They Can’ Act. That’s what this is all about. This is about AT&T wanting to be able to restrict VOIP access. It’s about Comcast wanting to rake it in on crushing P2P and other traffic they find annoying like video traffic. And what it comes down to is that in many cases they don’t deliver the level of service they want or they feel they are incapable of delivering a level of service the customers think they have paid for. You’ve got 16 megabits except we only want to give it to you when you are downloading one webpage at a time. Not for video, not for software downloads, certainly not for peer-to-peer. And you look at what’s going on and it’s really depressing. I mean how much money is AT&T spending on technical economists – I love that name. Well, if people actually really want to have this level of service 24×7 for downloads they would need to be equivalent of corporate account and that’s a $400 a month fee. We can’t afford to do this.

I liked that Patrick Norton pointed out that many people turn to the Internet to fill gaps in the services provided by Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. The Rochester house used to have Comcast everything and we got tired of being fleeced by them while being provided a sub-par service. We now have TiVo and no cable. Sadly,we still have Comcast Internet because there is not other alternative in our area that doe not require a phone line.

If you would like more information on Net Neutrality and the oxymoronic named Internet Freedom Act, please do some research. Here are some places to start.


Save the Internet
: you can send a letter to your rep

What is Net Neutrality?

Daily Show on Net Neutrality (from 2006! This issue is not new!)

Internet Freedom Act (official govt. page where you can indicate your support or not)

Also, the above act should not be confused with a similar bill, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which does support net neutrality. Net neutrality needs a better name so that ordinary people know what it means.

–Jane, the Internet should be an equal playing field

Twitter Updates for 2009-07-14

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Twitter Updates for 2009-07-13

  • damn damn damn fairly certain i left my fav jacket in the cab last night. :( #
  • had awesome breakfast w @pbromberg love love my librarian friends #
  • waiting for friends to pick us up and then we are off to luch #
  • lunch, lunch. geez, spelling already #
  • _bromberg #
  • http://www.shanachietour.com book coming soon! #
  • i wanna go work with #dutchboys @ala2009 #
  • check out dok flickr photos. they have 6000+ photos #dutchboys #ala2009 #
  • how can we make our libraries like dok? both physically and mentally? #ala2009 #dutchboys #dok #
  • RT mstephens7: …while in some libraries here in America we are imposing barriers on materials/services & putting “No Cell Phone” signs … #
  • the library cards #dok r AWESOME. simply amazing #ala2009 #
  • 3dok is so cool i want to cry. srsly tears of joy and hope of the posibilities #dutchboys #ala2009 #ilovedok #
  • this is the best thing i have ever seen at ala #ala2009 #dok director of dok is hilarious #
  • it is not about technology it is about people. #dok #
  • on way to red train to blog salon #
  • RT eprahs: Dinner with @Griffey @bsandlin @wanderingeyre Mr. Rochester and Wee Bairn @ Tilted Kilt #

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Twitter Updates for 2009-07-12

  • waiting to get on red to grand. meetin @lkoltutsky for breakfast at Mary’s #ala2009 #
  • on way to exhibits. have on i love nerds shirt. come finf me #ala2009 #
  • lube and condoms at the glbtrt table #ala2009 #alcoholicwhores09 #
  • on way to Palmer House. getting drink at Miller’s Pub b4 bigiwg #ala2009 #
  • boo hiss no wireless in bigwig room #ala2009 #
  • waiting for bigiwg to start. i can has nap now? #ala2009 #
  • at #bigwig and getting the history how we work talk from jon bc we r an IG that runs like a committee #ala2009 #
  • will be trying a speed dating style discussion at social software showcase. cool #ala2009 #bigwig #
  • be at the Social Software Showcase. monday 10.30 McCormick 184. it is where all the cool kids will b #bigwig #ala2009 #
  • #bigwig wants you to tag things in delicious u think others will find useful about social software “bigwig” #ala2009 #
  • discussing moving yourbigwig content/workspace to ALA Connect #bigwig #ala2009 #
  • seems like we r going to take ALA Connect out for a swim. cool. #bigwig #ala2009 #
  • bt Wrigley. having Goose Island brew. yum. go cubbies! #
  • online in friend’s apt. watching The Soup. So very tired #
  • getting ready for dinner. wish there was time for a nap #
  • on way to Rettig dinner at Hilton. exhausted after long day. have long night ahead #ala2009 #
  • air freshner in cab is “black ice” wtf does that smell like? #
  • on way to billy goat fom hilton #ala2009 #
  • i think i may have irritated some of my dinner mates. said ala council navel gazes #
  • i can see the river. finally #
  • headed to big bar to see @dwfree and @tombrarian #

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Twitter Updates for 2009-07-11

  • getting ready to leave for the hilton and the unconference! #ala2009 #unala2009 #
  • transfered from blue to red. waiting in red train. starving. will find coffee on way to hilton #ala2009 #
  • according to the station preacher here: “God is always knocking. ” amen #ala2009 #
  • how r things #
  • unconference going good so far #unala2009 #
  • follow unconference at http://connect.ala.org/node/77516 #unala2009 #
  • told librarian on train yest. that I like to come to ALA and talk to ppl smarter than me. in rm filled w them today #ala2009 #unala2009 #
  • matthew has awesome pictures on his slides #unala2009 #
  • Matthew: don’t be afraid to leap #
  • first discussion period now ongoing at #unala2009 #
  • going around groups to get sound bytes #unala2009 #
  • from web 3.0 grp: when something is effortless the adoption goes whoosh! #unala2009 #
  • steve: setting tone at unconference is important #unala2009 #
  • the managing change group is discussing how to shelve movies. lol #unala2009 #
  • from tech sand: where u put the chairs in your classroom is a technology gr8! #unala2009 #
  • tech sand: not sitting in rows in a classrm can b a technology. we r the tech. #unala2009 #
  • online ntwks: there r no standards and getting same conversation everywhere not gd #unala2009 #
  • online ntwks: the attitude between pple trying things and looking at for wk is different #unala2009 #
  • reference: we r not reaching the ppl we need to. info lit alone does not cut it #unala2009 #
  • gov docs: one issue is that docs r agency based and not topic based. i did not know that #unala2009 #
  • i am blown away by the conversations going on #unala2009 #
  • we have a few extra box lunches at #unala2009. come get something to eat #
  • getting ready for the afternoon session #unala2009 #
  • will have buttons left. If you want one. find me, will trade for others! #unala2009 #
  • i love librarians #unala2009 #
  • realized I have not been on the computer for long periods of time and my wrist is killing me #ala2009 #
  • packing it up to go to the EL poster sessions for a bit and then back at #unala2009 #ala2009 #
  • packing it up to go to the EL Poster session then back to the #unala2009 #ala2009 #
  • ppl always get mad at the shuttles. i am just happy to not have to pay 4 a cab or walk #ala2009 #
  • taking cab back to hilton. shuttle was too slow to meet my deadline #ala2009 #
  • decided Codslap! should be shared so gave mine away #ala2009 #
  • back at #unala2009 #
  • love the new hashtag #librariansfuckyeah #
  • if u left your bag at the #unala2009 i left it at hotel registration desk #
  • fed the Wee Bairn. waiting on pizza and @griffy @eprahs for an alert to meet #
  • gathering to meet @griffey and @eprahs #
  • it feels awesome outside in chicago tonight. cabbie has window open and i am lovin it #ala2009 #
  • had gr8 time at Big bar in Hyatt with old friends @griffey @eprahs @tombrarian over beers. #ala2009 #
  • now off to bed #

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