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Digital Media, The Writer's Life

The Twitter Hour

I have pretty much abandoned Facebook these days for all the usual reasons: too time consuming, too many games, too many apps that require your personal information. I heard some social media expert on the radio not too long ago saying Facebook would only last five to ten more years. Sounds about right.

The Twitter Hour

Instead I spend my social media capital over at Twitter. It’s the Internet of the now and the future. One hundred forty characters. Too short to bore your friends and acquaintances with details of your personal life. Too brief to ramble on about some cause de jour. Just a sentence or two, a link, and you’re done.

I’m closing in on 3,000 followers and follows, and do my best to limit follows to people who have something to do with the writing biz. That way, I’ve made connections with many cool writers and editors around the world, including some very influential folks I would never meet on Facebook or any other way. (For example, Oprah.com’s Deputy Editor followed me today, and I immediately followed back. I suspect some of these folks think I work for the LA Review of Books instead of the LA Review literary journal, but I’ll never tell.)

There’s a bit of a trick to getting the Twitter numbers up, told to me by a friend who just happens to have a book that includes the strategy—see This Week’s Pimp, on my home page. So now I spend an average of an hour a day finding and following writers, and dumping people who don’t follow me back. (Like my own LA Review, apparently too good to follow back one of its own editors. I could unfollow you guys, you know.)

And in spending that time I’ve come across so many people who want to write and read. It’s inspiring to see so many who love the things that I do, but it’s also a bit sobering, knowing that most of those writers are trying to get their novels published, just like me. 


About Joe Ponepinto

Co-publisher, with Kelly Davio, of Tahoma Literary Review. Author of "Curtain Calls," a featured Kirkus Review. Married to Dona. Dad to Henry, the coffee-drinkin' dog.


23 thoughts on “The Twitter Hour

  1. Joe, you could set the literary world on its ear and cut out the pernicious middleman, the publisher, in one fell swoop. Just figure out a way to write novels in chapters of 140 characters or less. Sort of like the haiku of novelization.Think of it like a much briefer and staccato version of a serial cliffhanger such as Stephen King’s ‘The Green Mile’. Just as the iPod and mP3 players have supplanted the vinyl record, eight track, and CD, Twitter can release writers from the confining shackles of traditional publishing. Short and sweet, that’s the ticket.

    Posted by socalsoxman | July 14, 2012, 1:58 PM
    • A good idea Rog, but yeah, it’s been done. Check this out: http://noveltotweet.blogspot.com/.

      Plus, most agents now ask for synopses of your novel that are essentially tweets of each chapter–2 sentences per, because even they don’t have time to read.

      Posted by jpon | July 14, 2012, 3:52 PM
      • It figures, by the time you think of something odds are somebody’s thought of it first. OK then, how about writing said mini chapters on post-its, then sticking them up in bus stations and laundromats, or even libraries? Nah, that’s no good…nobody goes to libraries anymore.

        Posted by socalsoxman | July 14, 2012, 5:55 PM
  2. I know what you mean about the sobering aspects of seeing so many writers on Twitter… And I feel like that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I was in the library yesterday, and I kept thinking about how many books are already in print, vying for readers’ attention — and how many more manuscripts are out there making the round, vying for agents so that they can vie for publishers, so that they can vie for readers somewhere down the line! But you’re also right about the potential for Twitter to help us reach all the right people — especially readers. There’s a strategy to it (which I’m still trying to master), but if we manage to align the stars correctly, we can at least discover a core audience for the work we’re producing. It might not be big — at least, not NYTimes best-seller big — but as you’ve pointed out in previous posts, “big” might not be the same as “good.” At the same time, writers like us (if I may be so bold) can use Twitter to cultivate the audience we’re trying to reach.

    Also, I left Facebook, too, for pretty much the same reasons you outlined.

    Posted by Marc Schuster | July 14, 2012, 2:07 PM
    • It’s a long process, and one that takes time away from writing (like so many others), but at least it gives every writer an opportunity to affect his/her own literary destiny, which I think can only help the writing community grow. And it’s very encouraging to know there’s a large and vibrant group of like-minded people out there.

      Posted by jpon | July 14, 2012, 3:56 PM
    • Huh, so you left FB as well. I left it about a year ago (same reasons–and I hardly used it, short of auto linking my blog posts to it), but my wife continues to use it. She throws posts of mine on her page that she thinks might interest her friends, which does help the audience. But FB IS so dang time consuming! And just because you’re an author does not mean you have to use EVERYTHING to promo yourself, IMHO (and I also read this from a PR person somewhere). And not as elegantly explained as the PR person said, but, basically, to employ the best tools for YOU, that you think YOU can use, and use well. Most bang for YOUR buck. And I use Twitter, and kinda like it, also auto posting there, as well. But it seems hard for me to “sit in front of the machine” the length of time required for adequate use of the medium, whe I already do it all day for my day job and early morning efforts before work. But…I do try to actively employ it every so often.

      But, there’s also GOT to be a way to get the smaller presses more of an audience. Good is good.

      Great post, Joe!

      Posted by fpdorchak | July 20, 2012, 12:47 AM
      • Thanks for the kind comments. You’re right about authors and indie presses having to find a PR tool that works for us/them, that is at least interesting to use. I don’t think FB is really set up for promotion, unless you’re willing to spend bucks to advertise. Twitter seems more organic to me.

        And like you, I also have to handle social media for the company where I work, so it does get tiring to come home and know I have to do it all over again–but at least I’m doing it for a cause I believe in!

        Posted by jpon | July 20, 2012, 1:53 AM
      • You’re welcome, Joe–but guess I mislead you just a tad: when I said “behind a machine all day,” I just meant using one–I’m not a social media guy, but a tech writer. :-] I then write fiction in the a.m. before my day job. So…get kinda tired spending MORE time “behind the machine,” was what I was getting at. Sorry about the confusion. But I agree about Twitter, it does seem more organic, useful than, say FB. But, hey, that’s a HUGE discussion, right? ;-]

        Posted by fpdorchak | July 20, 2012, 2:41 AM
      • Interesting. I too am a tech writer in my paying job, although not by training–just something I was able to get through a combination of the company’s desperate need for someone to create manuals and my desperate need for work. But since they didn’t have enough to keep me occupied, I volunteered to handle their social media, in which I had some experience.

        And yes, the FB, Tw, Linkedin, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, etc world would take volumes to fully discuss, and I’m sure some academics somewhere are working on it. For the rest of us, comfort and utility seem to be the parameters that guide our choices. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in say, ten years. Which social media will still be around, and which, like MySpace, will be forgotten.

        Posted by jpon | July 20, 2012, 9:30 AM
      • It will be very interesting to see how everything “nutates” out–but by then, I’m sure something new will rear its head! Personally, I still consider all this tweeting and FB and whatnot “word of mouth.” IMHO, it’s no different than the “olde tyme” backyard clothline chit-chat–it’s just updated for the times. And I don’t really feel all this “social media” will “save” anyone. It may delay the inevitability for some, but in the end, the work has to have some merit: either it’s well written, or it’s interesting (bonus, if both!)…on SOME level. If it’s bad, it’ll get talked around for a spell–batted about like a cat playing with a mouse–then dropped (hence the “delayed inevitability”), but if it’s one of the previously mentioned, it’ll keep getting talked around and interest will build as it will, slowly or like a wildfire., or in cycles of both. But good work has to get the “word of mouth” going, however that is definied, then, as I also read, all this social media get put to use properly as it should–by the READERS. They’re the ones who take it and run with it! The authors do their writing and interact as the decide, but social media is actaully the tool for the AUDIENCE. I loved that when I read that.

        I’m also in tech writing not so much by training, if you don’t count all my off-time writing fiction! :-] It was something I always wanted to try. It’s quite different than I imagined, despite having been “warned” about it. But I love writing, and to me “all writing helps all writing”…if you allow it to.

        Posted by fpdorchak | July 20, 2012, 10:08 AM
  3. I keep trying to get into Twitter, but I always feel like I’m only seeing half a conversation, because I only see the tweets of the people I’m following, not the people they’re talking @. At least with Facebook, I get to eavesdrop on the whole thing…which I suppose it what makes it such a giant time suck (that and all those games and apps, which I no longer play, because suddenly I have deadlines to meet ;-) But I do see a lot more people switching over to Twitter, abandoning their FB accounts.

    Posted by H.B. Pattskyn | July 14, 2012, 2:59 PM
    • The few times I go to Facebook (usually to wish someone a happy birthday), I’m blasted with ads and requests to sign up for games and apps, most of which are thinly disguised attempts to send me more ads. I think Facebook’s IPO, and the somewhat weak returns they got, has put pressure on them to prove it’s a viable marketing tool to the advertising industry.

      Posted by jpon | July 14, 2012, 3:43 PM
  4. The sheer number of writers out there is daunting. Best to just write and try not to think about it.

    Posted by Averil Dean | July 14, 2012, 3:41 PM
    • Maybe the best way to think about it is to imagine all those other writers as your future readers. :-)

      Posted by jpon | July 14, 2012, 3:59 PM
  5. I’ve gone the other direction. A surprise even to myself. I’d pretty much shut down my Facebook account to the bare nothings, and then …. I blame it on writing memoir and having a huge family where no one talks to anyone else. They (we) don’t talk, but we sure can text and Facebook. It’s so strange. But what I get out of it is this: Facebook keeps my blog and publications in the open, with easy access for any and all family members. The small bits of commentary I get from the now and then alleviate my stress in writing about all of us. Also, even though we don’t talk much, we all seem to remain a little more human to each other in this medium. (the photos of our families, etc…)

    Yes, this sounds strange, even as I type it, but there it is. I would have never thought this a year ago, or even 6 months ago.

    As for Twitter, I love your explanation of how it’s helping you. As for me, I’m not allowing any more WiFi distractions until my book is about read to query. I’m trying to keep my head down, to get the actual work done. Horse before the cart and all that.

    Posted by Teri | July 15, 2012, 11:13 PM
    • Glad to hear Facebook is working for you. Although it sounds like you’re in potentially dangerous territory writing about family :-)

      Posted by jpon | July 16, 2012, 9:40 PM
  6. Man, now I have to buy yet another book about social media–a type of book that I’ve been reading lately instead of reading novels and collections, like yours. I say this, but I am secretly excited now that another writer has supported it. Looking forward to reading it. AND to reading your novel when it comes out. Keep the faith, JOE. It will. It will

    And by the way, love the site’s look. It’s new-ish? Or I am oblivious.

    Posted by the circular runner | July 18, 2012, 8:38 PM
    • Thanks for the vote of confidence. I have to say those really help amid the sea of rejection. I do think it’s interesting how the commercial and literary seem to have split over the last few decades. Used to be people would at least try to read the great novels. But I still believe there’s an audience for challenging works, so we will keep writing them.

      BTW: I will suggest to Richard Stiennon that he package that chapter on social media in his book as a stand-alone epub file, and make it available to people (writers) without the rest of the business stuff.

      Posted by jpon | July 19, 2012, 12:16 PM
    • Oh, and yes, this is a new design. Thanks for liking it, because my wife doesn’t.

      Posted by jpon | July 19, 2012, 12:34 PM
  7. I’m still on Facebook. I have met some nice people there. In fact, a publisher of a literary journal found me there, solicited me, and subsequently published my work. That was so amazing I’m still reeling. Some nice published writers have taken the time to give me pointers about submitting work.

    I wish I “got” Twitter. I must be old fashioned. I’m still waiting for it to sink in. I have never had a conversation with someone I didn’t know from WP or FB there. I don’t like the idea of having to drop people just because they didn’t follow me or risk looking uncool. I just don’t get it.

    Posted by girl in the hat | July 21, 2012, 6:22 AM
    • True, Twitter is a numbers game as much as anything else, and I do it in part to show potential publishers I have that aspect of marketing reach. But I have made some good contacts with people I’d never have met otherwise.

      I’d guess I’d summarize the difference as likening Twitter as a comment made to someone in passing, and FB as sitting down with someone over a cup of coffee to discuss it further.

      Posted by jpon | July 21, 2012, 10:32 AM

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