First things first, always secure your real name on Twitter or whatever social media happens to comes next. Because yeah, sure, you might think being @sweetNseXXXiiiii69 is really awesome now, but the day will come when your real name – @johnsmith – seems more appropriate. Trust me: it’s long gone. (Bryan Bliss who hasn’t tweeted in nearly three years… I will have my revenge.)
So do that first.
Because if you don’t, you’ll spend your writing life with an awkward screen name like @Bryan.B.Bliss. Or one that is a bit much for a new writer: @THEbryanbliss. And worse, maybe every combination of your name (@blissbryan @bbryanbliss @bliss.bryan) is spoken for, and you’re stuck for the rest of your writing life being known as @sweetNseXXXiiii69.
You do not want this.
INT – TYPICAL LOS ANGELES HOTEL – DAY
A writer stands in the lobby of a spacious hotel bar. In the distance, a different group of writers laughs and sips at another round of drinks. The camera pushes in on NEW CONFERENCE ATTENDEE as he decides to network.
NEW CONFERENCE ATTENDEE
Hi, I’m John – I think we know each other on Twitter. It’s Krista, right?
MID-THIRTIES WOMAN (@COOLESTMUMEVA)
@COOLESTMUMEVA and her friends take a step back. They have heard stories of lecherous picture book writers.
NEW CONFERENCE ATTENDEE
No, remember – we had that discussion about querying? I told that story about how…
What’s your name?
NEW CONFERENCE ATTENDEE
John! John Smith!
No. On Twitter.
JOHN SMITH stands there awkwardly for a moment. The crowd, sensing his difficulty, starts to move away. John palms his business cards and forces the words out of his mouth with a smile.
Oh. Well. Have fun at the conference…
Do not be this person.
But say you did it right – say you are @johnsmith and everybody knows you, loves you – they are envious of you because your first book went to auction and you got a record advance for your first novel. (No, really – everybody would love you.) And better: the book comes out to both critical and commercial acclaim. You’re a National Book Award finalist, you win the Printz. John Green wants YOU to blurb his book.
And you decline because – who has the time?
Life is sweet. You’re a rock star. You wear black turtlenecks and berets and nobody can say shit because… well, you’re JOHN SMITH.
When this happens for you – and I’m sure it will – you do not get carte blanche with your Twitter dealings. You are not allowed to tweet things like: “Hey guys, check out my blog for some exciting new updates!” thirty times a day, then disappear for a month, only to return with another barrage of messages like, “Check out this review from Michiko Katuani!”
No. I will not allow this. In fact, I will unfollow your ass – JOHN SMITH or not.
What makes Twitter great is the opportunity to be yourself. Using it only as a platform for your brand is… well, it’s just counterintuitive. The worst thing you can do is let your advertising Tweets evaporate into the white noise of social media. And trust me: the more you use it as a personal messaging service, the less people will be inclined to pay attention. Because – FREE ADVICE – you being you is your brand. There’s a reason it’s called social media. Make some friends already.
I realize that navigating Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads and whatever else can be a real challenge for some people. It affects their ability to work, calling to them like a piece of pie calls to a dieter. Luckily, I don’t have that problem. I can jump on Twitter, see what’s happening, and jump back into my book. I’ve never had to take a Twittercation, or ban myself from Facebook. I can throw away that piece of pie.
But if I did, if Twitter was keeping me from writing, from moving forward on whatever book I was working on, there would be a very simple solution. And I would do it in a second. You should too.
It only takes a few steps and then you’re free.
Delete your account.
I know, I know – how will you hear about the latest YA coup? The gossip? The trends? Who sold what book to which house? How will you know any of this?
You won’t. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Because the last thing you want is to go to the writing conference and be known only for your Twitter prowess. People will say, “OH – John Smith! I follow him on Twitter! Is he published?” And then answer just might be: “No. But he sure can do some beautiful things in 140 characters!”
I assume none of us want that. So take it into your own hands. Be responsible – no be courageous. Do what it takes to make your writing better. And then, when you’re whipping out New York Times bestsellers, get back on Twitter and start talking about all your achievements.
But don’t expect me to follow you.