I don’t like Twitter

By Joe Moore

I don’t like Twitter. I know, I know, it’s the latest craze in shorthand communication on the Internet and by cell phone. And a bazillion people are joining ever hour. And you can “follow” your family and friends and famous people instantly.

But I don’t like it.

twitter Before I tell you why, let me explain what Twitter is for those that have been living in a mountain top monastery in Tibet and are excited that they are only now getting push button phones.

Twitter is a simple means of communicating between anyone and everyone. You type a description of what you’re doing right now such as what you had for breakfast, what color you painted your garage floor, what you thought of Adam on American Idol, whatever is on your mind, then share your tweet with your friends. Here’s the catch: you must deliver your message using 140 characters or less. The Twitter system sends your “tweet” to all your “followers” which are anyone that signed up on Twitter and then chose to “follow” you. And you get to see the tweets of those that you are following.

Twitter relies on cell phones for much of its interaction hence the 140-character rule. That’s about the limit of most mobile phone text messages. You also get your own special webpage to post your tweets and see the tweets of those you’re following.

The goal of Twitter is to make it easy for you and other tweeters to post and update their status from anywhere, anytime. So like their coffee in the morning, many tweeters post their first tweet while waiting for their Chock Full O’ Nuts to finish brewing. And there’s a lot of tweeters who make it a point to wish everyone goodnight as the head off to Dream Weaver Land. In between wakeup and lights out, you’re bound to read rants, raves, rehashes, relishes, and restaurant recommendations along with every other activity in a tweeter’s life.

There’s a Twitter-style shorthand—not quite as BFF-cryptic as cell phone text messaging, but almost. It takes a bit of getting used to, but you catch on quickly. And because you are limited to 140 characters, it’s created a cottage industry for long-character URL conversion to short-form at sites like TinyURL. That way, if you want to include a link in your tweet to some cool website, you can convert the address to a shorter form that saves on characters.

There are a couple of things you need to know before you start twittering. The system seems to crash often. This is because another bazillion members just signed up. So you’ll get errors and strange page configurations throughout the day. In order to see the latest tweets, you have to “refresh” your browser window. This gets old fast. And then there’s the question, If someone follows you, should you follow them back? If you don’t, is that considered an insult? You can also “unfollow” someone. This of course is the ultimate punch in the gut to your estranged followee. Tough love.

So, why do I not like Twitter? Because it’s usually more interesting than anything I’m doing at any given time, and I don’t have the willpower to turn it off and get back to what I do: write books. I don’t like Twitter or the people who invented it or the people who follow me or the people I follow or the people that I will start following today. I have a lot more to say on this subject but I have to run update my Twitter status. Happy tweets!

How about you. Do you love Twitter or, like me, hate it? It is a way to fill in the gaps of your life or is it a total waste of time? Please limit your answer to 140 characters (or more).

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Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, Oline Cogdill, James Scott Bell, and more.

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Building a Writer’s Platform

By Joe Moore

As the responsibility of marketing and promotion falls more and more on the shoulders of the author these days, one of the questions that agents and editors ask novelists is “What is your platform?” With the economy putting extra pressure on publishers, they expect writers to come to the game bringing a ready-made audience. They not only want but expect authors to already have established a fan base or at least a group of potential fans—and for new writers, this is BEFORE your book comes out. Even veteran, multi-book authors must have a solid, established platform. It’s part of the “new” business plan.

So what is a platform?

platform1 In a single word, your platform is your “brand”. Having a platform helps your relationship with your publisher, and it can assist you in selling more books.

So how do you establish or build your platform? The quickest way is to start with the Internet. Here are a couple of methods to begin nailing that platform together.

Website. There was a time when a website was only for the rich and famous. Those days are long gone. A writer without a website is about as logical as an author without a telephone. Outside of the bookstore, the author’s website is the “first impression” a potential reader gets of your brand. It’s truly a no-brainer. Your website is your billboard, your advertisement, your calling card. And the potential for delivering a creative message is only limited to your imagination. Essential elements on your website must include: a method for contacting you; a method for purchasing your book(s); a method for the press to gain information (digital press kit); an incentive to linger or return such as a contest or free sample chapters; a method to track your website traffic. Other considerations include continuity in your site colors and design that are in sync with your book covers or other branding elements, and a reasonable amount of interactivity such as a method of leaving comments or subscribing to newsletters and publication news.

Blogging. You obviously know about blogs or you won’t be visiting this one. A blog is an online method of expressing your thoughts with a means for visitors to leave a comment or opinion. As a writer, your blog will probably be about your writing, your books, or some other connection to your craft and career. Some authors like to venture away from their books and discuss other topics such as politics, religion, economics, etc. A word of warning: You’ve worked hard to establish and build your “brand”. Don’t blow it by pissing off your readers. At some point they just might reject your next thriller or mystery because they don’t agree with your position on unrelated issues. A blog can easily turn into a slippery slop.

Newsletter. As previously mentioned, your website needs a method for your visitors and fans to subscribe to a newsletter or news bulletin. If they’re a fan, they want to know about you and your books. When is your next book coming out? When are you going to do a signing in their area? Will you be at a particular writer’s conference? They want the news. And the best and most economical way to get them what they want is an electronic newsletter. There are numerous email-generating newsletter sources that you can use to put together a value-filled publication. A few suggestions are Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Vertical Response.

Write some stuff. Any writing credit is a good writing credit, and it helps build your platform. No matter what you write, whether it’s for the local paper or a national magazine, you’re byline will contain a mention that you are a novelist. So if the reader likes your article or how-to piece, and they see you also write thrillers or mysteries, that’s a potential plank in your platform.

Book forums. There are a ton of forums out there dealing with readers and writers. A good resource to begin finding them is groups.yahoo.com/. Others include WritersNet, Helium, Backspace, and Absolute Write. Make yourself known on these and similar forums and you’ll be adding to your brand and platform.

Social Networks. Sites like MySpace.com, LinkedIn.com, Facebook.com, Twitter.com and countless others are perfect for building your brand. The only potential risk is the time you might spend on these sites instead of writing your book. But they are a terrific source of finding your dedicated or new fans. A word of caution: see the note on blogging above.

Additional platform building tools include professional publicity photos of yourself and a strong press-ready biography. Also, memberships in writer organizations such as the International Thriller Writers or Mystery Writers of America help build your brand and platform among your colleagues and fans. The networking and connections made within these organizations and their subsequent writer conferences are invaluable.

How’s your platform coming? Any other suggestions on building a strong brand?

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Hard times for publishers

By Joe Moore

In her post yesterday, my friend Kathryn Lilley asked, "I’m also wondering how the book publishing business is going to survive in general?"

Like so many other segments of American business, publishing is hurting from the economic downturn. Publishing houses are downsizing, merging, laying off employees, and in some cases, temporarily halting the acquisition of new titles. Assuming that a congressional bailout is not in the cards, are there any other ways publishers can take action to save money and stay in business? Here are a few suggestions I think could help.

During the Great Depression, Simon & Schuster was the first publisher to offer booksellers the privilege of returning unsold copies for credit. The idea was to allow bookstores to take chances on new titles and help get unknown authors onto the selves. The practice has been in place ever since. With another possible depression on the horizon, maybe it’s time to change that practice. What if publishers offered stores incentives not to return books? Or eliminated the practice altogether? It would greatly reduce cost on both ends; the house could cut down on the costs of handling returns while the bookstore could take advantage of deeper discounts and rebates to increase their margins. Just because that’s always the way it’s been done, doesn’t mean it’s still the right way.

depression1 How about eliminating ARCs? Rather than facing the small-run, high printing costs of advance copies, put the galleys online and send an email to the reviewers with a private link to download a PDF to their computers. Even better, give the reviewers an ebook reader like the Amazon Kindle and let qualified advance readers download and read as many galleys as they want for free. You only have to give them one reader but it would be good for hundreds or thousands of downloads. It’s a cheap, green solution to the high cost of printing ARCs.

And to attract more readership cheaply, what about publishers using inexpensive social networking to market titles to increase their market share? Set up Facebook or MySpace pages with links to sample chapters of new titles and catalogs along with author interviews and book trailers using YouTube-style videos. Include the ability to click to purchase ebook or order a print version on the spot.

The bailout isn’t coming, but tweaking the publisher’s marketing and selling business model could reap results right away. Any other ideas out there to help publishers survive the hard times?

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Exposing myself is hard work

by Joe Moore

There are more places to expose yourself on the Internet than you can possibly keep up with. For me, it started a long time ago with a website, then another, then a blog, then another, and on and on. Sometimes it feels like a full-time job just to maintain and update all the blogs, forum profiles, and social networking sites where I have my profile and book news posted.

Most are available for public viewing while some are for those who register first. But when a news item or piece of info needs to be added such as a book launch or a signing, it can take hours just to update them all.

Did I change my Facebook status today? Did I post the newest version of the book trailer on YouTube?

Here’s a partial list of where I’ve exposed myself. As you can see, it can quickly get out of hand.

Facebook
Redroom
Kill Zone
InkSpot
Amazon Blog
Personal Website
Book Website
Thriller Website
Goodreads
Mystery Writers of America
Plaxo
Live Journal
Linked In (members only)

How many places do you expose yourself? Is it worth the time needed to keep everything updated? Do these sites generate books sales or just more busy work? Shouldn’t we all be writing rather than posting or updating or checking or commenting or . . .

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