Sunday 12 July 2009

Twitter vs Facebook - what's a children's writer to do?

Social Networking is dangerous territory for writers. Perhaps more so for novelists. All the writers I know seem to suffer addictive tendencies - coffee, tea, alcohol, pasta, Facebook ... the compulsion that drives us to write pushes us in other directions as well.

The writing is going slowly. So what do you do? Instead of forcing yourself to work a chapter out, you check your Facebook profile for comments. An hour later, you've watched eight YouTube videos and exchanged pleasantries with an ex-classmate who used to bully you in high school.

We have to do it, we tell ourselves. Times have changed. The author can no longer rest on his or her craft - to sell our work in this big bad techno world, we have to be actors, podcasters, bloggers, marketers, facebookers and now ... twitterers.
Techno-savvy agent Peter Cox, interviewed on the Tall Tales and Short Stories blog, talks about publishers expecting authors to have a "platform" -
Publishers talk about a platform. They say what has the author got as a platform? In other words can you attract publicity can you bring buyers with you? In the non-fiction area it might be diabetics or left-handed people or pilots ... is there a public out there who already recognises you who will buy your book?
That's why every Tom, Dick and JK in the book world has started up a blog (well, not JK - she doesn't have to blog). I know authors who don't blog who have been advised by their publishers to start one.
What fascinates me is that some of the very people who are urging authors to blog do not read blogs, much less blog themselves. They don't understand the care that goes into blogging, the time it takes to write a post, the time and emotional investment in building an audience.
At the recent London Book Fair, there was so much talk of Twitter amongst publishing people that I signed up to find out what it was all about. Here are my findings:
  • It's like blogging. Except it's in 43 characters. I like that I can update my blog by embedding my Twitter feed at the top of the page. As a result, I blog less. But I've lost readers because not all my readers are on Twitter.
  • It's like blogging. Except your followers are somewhat more anonymous because your micro-blog is in such a big alphabet soup, any comments are quickly drowned in other Tweets.
  • People carry on conversations - but it feels a lot like eavesdropping ... and there's already enough noise in my home without eavesdropping on the conversations of strangers.
  • It's like blogging because it's addicting.
  • It's not like blogging because it's quick and you don't have to say much.
  • As in blogging and facebook, the early adopters and more sophisticated Tweeters are based in the US. If you live in the UK, you lose out because of the time differential.
In the Tall Tales interview, Peter Cox also said:
There is a 97% BS factor involved and if all you do is listen to the latest things ... you've got to twitter, you've got to have a blog ... it can drive you mad ... You have to look at these things strategically and work out how is your time best spent.
My decision: I'm going to stay on Twitter and Tweet occasionally - to see where it's going to go. BUT I think it's more important to make the social networking that already works for you work better. That means giving my blog some TLC and creating websites that are forward- thinking and audience building - as in, audiences that I actually am engaged in ... not an anonymous mass.
And of course most important of all: I'm going to concentrate on writing my book and writing it well.
After all, what's the point of having a platform if you've got nothing to show for it?


  1. Excellent post, Candy. I also use twitter occasionally, and try to link it constructively with my blog. I keep Twitter separate from facebook, though - twitter is for keeping up to date with what's going on that might affect my professional life, whereas facebook is (for me) purely social. In fact I hate it when authors big themselves up on Facebook or when organisations try to be my "friend". Completely agree with all your advice/tips about blogging - it does require time and care, doesn't it? You have to know why you're doing it and you certainly have to enjoy it. Bit like writing a book ... (Which I must now go and do!)

  2. actually my blog is just a nefarious plot to keep authors like you from writing. and yes, the main requirement for blogging is to enjoy it ...

  3. In fact, I think one of the attractions of Twitter is that it doesn't require time or care or much commitment. Which I think defeats the purpose of audience building.

  4. Yes, well exactly, any more platforms and I'm going to fall off due to excessive height above the ground.
    Excellent post, you've summed it up perfectly.

  5. It is a lot of running around in circles... after FB and sometimes checking in on twitter I have to remind myself to check my own blog. I guess if my blog is such that I even forget about it - how can I expect anyone else to care????

  6. In the past, authors wanted to communicate with their audience by writing books, and so it's hard to see how a blog can fail to damage this process. It's so much easier to communicate with a blog than with the hassle of getting a book published.

    Don't get me wrong I love reading my fave blogs and I like writing my own blogs too, but it's a teeny bit like junk food vs. wholemeal bread... :-)

  7. 1) Write your book(s)
    2) Blog
    3) Facebook
    4) Possible twitter, or not

  8. Hmmn. I agree with you, but also with the Bookwitch, Candy. I've joined Twitter (and am following you) 'just to see'. And like Nicola, I'm keeping it separate from FB. It's an interesting exercise in minimalistic writing--try writing a poem in 140 characters. Possible (I did it), but takes some thought. Perhaps best for haiku? The BW's list is correct--except that I sometimes use writing the blog first to get me into the 'writing zone' before moving onto my novel or whatever. I started off with a burst of daily blog writing, but I don't think that's necessary (and I'm a fine one to talk lately, having missed writing for a long while for excellent reasons). Once a week or at most twice is fine to keep readers satisfied, and to keep your 'platform' alive.
    Lucy at


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