The Writer's Dilemma: Tweeting Your Good News

BlogHer Original Post

Liz Fraser had a fantastic post recently about how authors are using social media to self-promote and sell their work, and whether or not this is "career masturbation." Really, the post applies to any self-propelled medium -- from music to Etsy to being a Web designer. If you are self-employed and your success literally hinges on getting people to invest in your work (in other words, buy the product or service), you know that social media can be a lifeline, even if it can be a bit embarrassing to use it.

In an ideal world, we'd do our creative work behind closed doors and then someone else would swoop in and market it for us. We could just sit back in the shadows and pretend we have nothing to do with that nasty, monetary side of creativity. We're just the artist -- love us -- they're the money-grubbers -- hate on them.

But, of course, very few artists have someone else handling their monetary side. You have to become a super-duper big deal before people allow you that dignity of not sending out emails to lists hawking your latest book or Tweeting about how you're #4 on the UK Kindle bestseller list (oh my G-d, have I created a Twitter circle jerk by tweeting about my own career masturbation?).

I liked this post because it points out the incredible amount of work that goes into producing a published book. There are a lot of hoops to jump through if you're going the traditional publishing route. I think people focus on the finished product and don't realize all that goes into the book they're holding. All of the earlier drafts and the query letters and the rejections. For many published authors, the book that people are holding is not the first book they wrote. There are others, languishing in drawers or tossed completely because they were rejected by agents or not purchased by publishers.

And as Fraser points out, the ability to market your work makes the difference between whether you get more chances in the future:

The point is that getting published is extremely hard these days. And making money out of writing is even harder. So if you do, finally, reach that glorious moment of seeing your book on a shelf, and – praise be! – receive a letter or a Tweet from a reader who actually LIKED it….OF COURSE you are going to tell everyone you know about it! Because the more people who know about it, the bigger the chance that you might sell a second copy. And then, as you hardly dare hope, a third.

Further book deals depend entirely on sales. So if one goes badly, you’re screwed, basically. And if it goes well, you could be looking at a second deal one day.

There is a line that people can step over where they treat their Twitter account simply as a storefront to sell things to people, but what about the occasional tweet to remind people of your work -- you know, that work you are desperately trying to sell so there will be work in the future? That work you're trying to sell to make all the time you put into it pay off?

To see if it ever ends, if there is ever a point where you stop using your Twitter account in this manner, I looked up authors using social media. And I saw that despite having bestselling books and a movie made of Running with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs is still tweeting his news. Neil Gaiman does it and Meg Cabot does it and Andrew Sean Greer does it. In fact, I couldn't find an author on Twitter who wasn't tweeting from time to time about their accomplishments. And all of them had "made it" in the general sense of the word.

What are your thoughts on Twitter self-promotion for those in the fine arts or other self-supported fields? Is it career masturbation or a great tool for spreading word about your work?

Photo Credit: Kradlum.

Original for BlogHer

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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