There seems to be three main networking tools for authors. They are as follows:
There are more, to be sure, but I’m not going to list off all the other social networks out there (sorry Myspace). Most authors seem to have the trifecta working for them, but it wasn't until recently that I caved in and joined twitter. There are reasons why I finally gave in. Authors on blogs would be chatting about things that didn't make sense to me, referring back to contests happening on twitter, or some writer-type drama that everyone seemed to know about except me. The effect was like someone who has lost their cable and doesn't know what the hell is going on in the outside world because they can’t watch the news. Yes, okay. They could read the newspaper. Shut up, don’t ruin my metaphor.
To me, it felt like joining twitter would put my thumb back on the pulse of the publishing industry. Like I would suddenly be allowed into the group. The cheerleaders finally let the goth kid into their circle. Okay, that was a terrible metaphor. I’ll stop now. I apologize. None of you are cheerleaders; you’re all the cool goth kids. Screw the cheerleaders. Ahem, anyway…That was the reason I wanted to jump into the twitter swimming pool and splash around, but there was also a terror of the deep end…damn metaphors just keep cropping up, sorry.
So, why was I frightened by twitter? At this point you may sit back in your computer chair, arms folded across your chest and say – quite derisively – “Hah! She’s afraid of twitter. What a silly-banana!” What? You wouldn’t say silly-banana? Hah! You just did. But I’ll tell you why twitter scares me, just a tiny bit. Twitter, unlike facebook or blogging, seems so much more “in the now” to me. Does that make the slightest bit of sense? Some people seem to tweet their entire day on there. Or their thoughts at literally everything that happens to them.
-9:00 am:OMG! This bagel from Tim Hortons is so deliciously amazing! #yummy bagel
-9:02am: YAR! Traffic is so terrible. Waiting to drop little Bob off at daycare. #trafficsux
-9:10am:Little Bob just pooped in his diaper and it smells so bad! I don’t want my bagel anymore! #eeeeew
Aside from the fact that we don’t give a flying f-bomb about the fact that you’re stuck in traffic or eating a bagel, we really don’t want to hear about the fact that little Bob just had a bowel movement. If you’re going to have both friends and professional contacts on your twitter account and treat it as both a personal and business account, you need to remember that there are people reading your tweets that don’t want to know these things.
I know that, and I would like to think I would never slip up and post some intimate detail that will make people doubt my professionalism, but mistakes have been made. That leads me to another subject, the other reason twitter has me wary. Author twitter fits. And in one case, as I will talk about below – Agent twitter fits. But mostly author. Lots of author hissy fits.
Writers are a crazy bunch. We already know that. But occasionally you get the author that reacts (usually to a bad review) with a case of the bat-shit-insanzies. Yes, I did just make up a word. I’m crazy like that. Incidents like Alice Hoffman’s terrible reaction to a review by Roberta Silman, of the Boston Globe. Hoffman’s very public temper tantrum on twitter is now all over the net. There’s nothing more interesting then a viral hissy fit. The author went so far as to post Silman’s phone number and email address and encourage fans to “tell her what you think of snarky critics”. Well, that’s a professional, stable thing to do, isn’t it?
Twitter is like a clothesline online. You can either hang out your nice clean, pressed suites for work, or your nasty, stained unmentionables. Another case-in-point is that Laurell K Hamilton has frequently been accused of self-important twitter posts, and one that accused critics of her sex scenes that the only reason they didn’t like it is because “they weren’t getting any”. Like her readers were actually jealous of fictional characters or something. What can we learn from that? Twitter can also be used to drive fans away, if your smug attitude happens to shine through the cracks a little too brightly.
One of the worse incidents was when author Kiera Cass and her agent discussed a negative review. The agent went so far as to call the reviewer a “bitch”. They then discussed how they were going to go through and “like” all the positive reviews so they can bury the negative one. I’m honestly not sure if they thought the conversation was private, but it wasn’t. And now it’s pasted all over the internet. Forever.
I realize that it isn’t twitter’s fault. It’s a tool, and it’s all about how you use it. It’s like owning a gun. The gun isn’t going to walk out on little metal legs and shoot the guy across the street. It’s only dangerous if you have some kind of nutso breakdown. Or you have a major grudge against your neighbor and a sleepwalking problem, I guess. It’s not like I’m going to have this uncontrollable urge to write horrible messages on twitter. It’s just a bit intimidating how fast things can go viral on that site. Be careful what you write, right?
Some people aren’t catching on. Like author A.S Byatt. Her highly publicized hissy fit over a fellow author’s advance was appalling, and years after that she went on to lambaste J.K Rowling and pretty much every adult reader that dares to enjoy the Harry Potter series (apparently we are small-minded and have no notion of true literature. We are only amused by soap operas and reality TV). Yes, it’s popular to hate on what’s popular. We get it. Pssst, your jealousy is showing. How embarrassing.
But we don’t need twitter for that. Authors will always be a bit crazy. We've been having meltdowns since the beginning of time. It’s only now - that the internet is making them so much more sensational - that it’s news. We’re very capable of unprofessionalism in other forms, and I tell myself that if I can write a blog and be on facebook, I can manage twitter. You don’t need the internet to make a fool out of yourself. You’re either going to manage yourself well, or you’re not.