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“It Has to Be about What You Stand For, and Who You Are”

posted December 23, 2010

Posted by Erin Brown in authors books marketing publishing social media

Jane Friedman (of the blog There Are No Rules) had a much-tweeted-about post last week titled “When (or Why) Social Media Fails to Sell Books.” Ironically, I clicked the link in the same spirit as the naysayers Friedman so often contends with—those who are hungry for some confirmation that this Facebook/Twitter stuff is just an unfortunate fad (like the infernal skinny jeans: surely this will pass in another season or two). But, of course, Friedman is not heralding the coming end of social media. Rather, she is pointing out the flawed logic in expecting social media to justify itself with direct sales figures or in rejecting social media after you tweet out a few links to reviews of your book . . . and the big sales bump doesn’t come.

Friedman’s not the first person to remind us that self-promotion—or “building a platform”—in the digital age is a nuanced and long-term project, a leap-of-faith investment, whose dividends are hard to quantify. But she hits the nail on the head nonetheless. Be creative, she is is saying. Participate. Bring something of immediate value to the table, and (this is critical) be willing to give it away.

Most importantly, it has to be about more than selling books—or whatever your goal might be. It has to be about what you stand for, and who you are.

Self-promotion, with integrity. Is that it? Coincidentally, this is the title of a great piece in Publishing Perspectives about Stephen Elliot and the interesting and innovative ways he has generated a following, both as founding editor of the online magazine The Rumpus and as author of The Adderall Diaries. With his house-to-house reading tour, his weekly personal e-mail to 5,000 subscribers, a self-designed iPad app for his book, and other outside-the-box initiatives, Elliot seems to exemplify much of what Friedman is talking about.

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Only in Japan: The Twitter Novel

posted February 8, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in publishing social media trends


A while back I mentioned the popularity of cell phone novels in Japan, the land of the tiny and compact. Well, now the rage seems to be the Twitter novel. It’s probably not really possible to write an entire novel in 140 characters, even if they do happen to be information-packed Chinese characters, but it is certainly an interesting concept, and bully for the Japanese for trying! It is likely that most Twitter novelists serialize their novels.

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Moody Tweets Up a Storm

posted December 9, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in publishing social media trends


On November 30 Electric Literature (about which I posted earlier in the month) launched a bold experiment with author Rick Moody, using Twitter to publish his latest short story in “microserial” fashion. It was Moody’s idea to write a story expressly for Twitter, and the task of writing a narrative that could be transmitted 140 characters at a time turned out to be quite challenging. “I became obsessed with the idea of creating for that character clock,” he told The Brooklyn Ink.


The resulting story, “Some Contemporary Characters,” took Moody five months to write and was tweeted in 10-minute intervals over three days, for a total of 153 tweets.

The project ran into some unforeseen difficulty, however, as the story was being simultaneously tweeted from about 20 other sources (who were invited by Electric Literature to participate), including Vroman’s and other bookstores. Anyone who was following more than one of these Twitter feeds received an onslaught of identical tweets. Also problematic was the decision by many sources to inject the story installments into their regular ongoing twitter stream, so that the story was constantly being interrupted by extraneous tweets.

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Twitter and the New Art of Self-Promotion

posted September 30, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in social media trends

I’ve been doing some reconnaissance reading about Twitter—why people use it and what they perceive its value to be. I am interested in what seems like an inherent paradox: Twitter is so widely and gleefully embraced as a tool for self-promotion (boost your audience, boost your sales, build your personal brand), and yet the prevailing wisdom on how to be an effective and popular Twitterer always seems to warn against being too . . . self-promotional.

The truth is, your followers want more than reminders about your upcoming public appearances and links to your glowing publicity (or merchandising tie-ins). In other words, they don’t just want to consume your product, they want to be connected to you. It seems they want what London-based blogger Leisa Reichelt calls Ambient Intimacy:

Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible [. . .] Twitter tells me when [the people I follow are] hungry, what technology is currently frustrating them, who they’re having drinks with tonight.

Who cares? Who wants this level of detail? Isn’t this all just annoying noise? There are certainly many people who think this, but they tend to be not so noisy themselves [. . .] There are a lot of us, though, who find great value in this ongoing noise. It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just acquaintances.

Knowing these details creates intimacy [. . .] It’s not so much about meaning, it’s just about being in touch.

In keeping with this idea that the most appealing and satisfying Twitterers are those who offer their followers some form of genuine two-way engagement, plus thoughts, ideas, and content that are not directly related to the Twitterer’s personal gain, check out this Mashable mega list:

Literary Tweets: 100+ of the Best Authors on Twitter

*As a side note, it’s great to see that two of the general fiction authors mentioned are not-so-distant graduates of the MFA program here in Missoula, Montana.

Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Story of a Marriage (2008), The Confessions of Max Tivoli (2004), The Path of Minor Planets (2001), and How It Was for Me (2000):


Amanda Eyre Ward, author of  Love Stories in This Town (2009), Forgive Me (2007), How to Be Lost (2005), and Sleep Toward Heaven (2004):




Extreme Tweeting

posted September 1, 2009

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling books publishing

twitter wit

Photo courtesy of Gawker

If reading 140-word tweets all day is not enough for you, how about a book filled with the cream of the Twitter crop? Well, you’d be in luck, as HarperCollins recently published the book Twitter Wit: Brilliance in 140 Characters or Less. Editor/compiler Nick Douglas reportedly received a $50,000 advance for the collection. And those who originally penned the tweets that appear in the book? They receive a free copy.

Contributors have also been encouraged to promote the book and were sent an “online buzz kit” from the publisher, complete with graphical ads they can post on their blogs, Facebook pages, or basically anywhere online. HarperCollins has also called on contributors to tweet about the book and to “get your mom, grandma, cousins, favorite barista and high school band teacher to buy one.” In addition, the publisher is sponsoring a video contest to promote the book. The winner will win an iPod Touch.

So what do you think of this marketing campaign? Is it brilliant or presumptuous? The contributors don’t receive royalties, so they have nothing to gain by the book’s success except bragging rights. Are you planning to buy the book?

For more on the Twitter Wit promotion, see this article from Gawker.

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