All great conversations start on Twitter. No really, these days they do. I thank Twitter for most of my blog topics these days.
A few months ago I was researching the Leapfrog Tag reader on Amazon, and reading the reviews. Brianna is a huge bookworm, I’m not sure WHERE she gets that from 😉 but she loves books. We read every night and, sadly, when we’re searching for a punishment “reading” is what we have to take away. I know, it seems wrong, but when that’s the thing your kid loves…
Anyway, she loves reading and though she’s at that point where she can both memorize whole books to read back to herself, and recognize/sound out some small words, she’s really not quite reading yet. I’d seen the Tag reader around and thought this might be something she’d love, because it would both read the books to her and also help her read them one word at a time. But I like to research things before I buy them, and though I don’t use Amazon’s book reviews because…well, that’s a topic for another post…I do like to browse their product reviews and read both the favorable and unfavorable.
But I was fairly taken aback by some of what I read while perusing the reviews. People attacking those who said they’d bought this for their children, chastising them for buying something to read to their children instead of reading to them themselves. Accusing them of all sorts of terrible things from bad to lazy parenting. Um. Excuse ME? Talk about making huge assumptions. Man, reading those comments pissed me off.
As it happens, Brianna did get this (for Valentine’s Day) and she loves it. She uses it almost every night at bedtime. AFTER we’ve read to her and she’s in bed reading by herself. Yeah, I can see how that’s evil and bad parenting. Come on, people. Did you ever consider that maybe the person buying it wants to supplement their reading time, not replace it? Bah.
So right now, Brianna has three books for the Tag reader, the one that came with it plus Scooby Doo (she chose that) and an Ariel Princess one that I got on sale last week. She was pretty upset because the Ariel one was NOT the book she’s been wanting. She wants Walter the Farting Dog. I mentioned to Josh today that I was thinking of ordering it from Amazon and shipping it to my parents, so we’d have it for her Easter basket next weekend. He looked at me like I’d grown three heads (not just two). Apparently, he’s never heard of the Walter the Farting Dog books. I was surprised because I thought they were just popular enough that most people know about them but…nope, guess not. He kept repeating “farting…dog? Farting dog?”
So now my husband thinks I’m insane because I want to get our daughter a book about a farting dog. Of course, he didn’t really appreciate the humor behind the jelly-bean pooping reindeer that I put her in Christmas stocking either. That our daughter refers to as the “pooping reindeer” (which is totally what it’s called), causing him to scowl at me every time. Heheheh. Guess who’s got the larger dose of juvenile humor in our family? Just wait until he finds out someone told me there are pooping bunnies AND pooping sheep in the Easter Candy aisle 😛
I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile because, in the last month, my number of Twitter followers has tripled. It’s kind of weird and a little…puzzling because I’m fairly certain I’m 1) not that interesting and 2) more than a little inane. Maybe most of them are Twitter spammers. I did theorize that most of the people who “follow” don’t actually pay attention. That’s okay with me. I’ll still carry on the way I have been.
But that said, I think it’s important, if you follow me (or are thinking about it) that you know a few things.
1) I don’t autofollow (and hey, Twitter is getting rid of that feature anyway, but even so, I don’t follow automatically). In fact, if you look, I don’t follow a lot of people. It goes up and down depending on what I feel I can keep up with. I usually end up following someone because either someone else has recommended them or because they’ve replied to me on Twitter and I’ve decided I want to see what they’re saying at other times as well.
2) Not following you doesn’t mean I’m not interested in what you have to say, only that I can’t keep up with very many people. Don’t take it personally, please. Which leads to…
3) I think one of the best ways to manage your Twitter experience is to be willing to unfollow. I go through and unfollow/follow every couple weeks. Again, don’t take it personally (though I will take it personally if you unfollow me. KIDDING!)
4) Twitter is not my work. I don’t get paid to Twitter (or blog). If you read my blog, you know it’s a mish-mash of everything. My Twitter is even worse than that. Please don’t follow me if you expect only convo about publishing, books or editing all the time. You won’t like me. Plus, I Twitter a lot. I like Twitter. I try not to Twitter the really banal stuff, but I have my moments. And did I mention I Twitter a lot? Yeah. You might want to think about that before you follow me. Especially if you don’t like hearing about toddler vomit.
5) If you reply to me, I will try to reply back. I think I do pretty good at that. As long as there’s a response I can make. But there are times when I won’t respond back because I don’t have a response, am busy and away from Twitter, or just plain miss your reply. If you had a question and I didn’t answer, I probably missed it. Just ask me again, please! Also, I love it when people convo me on Twitter. It’s better than “speaking” into a vacuum. And I’ve found my Twitter followers are pretty funny people (who make good book recommendations!)
6) Just because I’m Twittering doesn’t mean I’m 1) not working or 2) at work. I know, seems contrary. But being online doesn’t mean I have to be working. I like to be online just for fun like everyone else. But also, if you see me Twittering, I’m just as likely to be doing so in between working on something. Either way, please don’t draw conclusions or make assumptions or have expectations about me based on whether I’m Twittering or not.
7) If I’m at a conference, I might Twitter workshops, etc from the conference. You might want to unfollow me during that time if it’s not of interest to you (and then follow again if you want). I don’t mind! I know what’s of interest to me is not of interest to everyone.
8) Last, please don’t query me on Twitter (or Facebook) unless we’re engaged in a conversation that would invite you to. I put my email address on my Twitter page so if you have a business-related question, you’re free to email me!
As announced on Twitter this morning, I’m super excited to tell you that Samhain is going to start offering our front and backlist in DRM-free EPUB format starting in May. We’ve got a good jump on this, we just need to give our over-worked formatter time to get it all together. Many of you know that I’m a big fan of standard formats, like EPUB, and also a huge believer in not using DRM. Samhain (and really, most epublishers that I know of) don’t use DRM and never have so for us the big announcement is really the addition of the new format, not the DRM-free.
Did you know that Samhain editors are on Twitter? www.twitter.com/samhainpub You’ll find most of the Samhain editors Twittering there, as well as our submissions coordinator. They Twitter about submissions, edits, editing, and life in general. Plus, we’re going to start doing some Twitter contests coming soon!
In the conversations from Twitter file: this past weekend I asked for recommendations for political thrillers and action adventure novels in the vein of Nelson Demille, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum. I got some great recommendations (and am always happy for more if you have them). I started with two recs. One from agent Deidre Knight for The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano. I bought it and loaded it onto the Sony last night. And devoured it. It’s a totally compelling read. The author has a very readable narrative voice and I had to keep turning the pages to see where the story would go next. The main character is interesting, though not entirely likeable, but that actually works for the book because she’s not a perfect character, but an entirely real one with real flaws. I don’t regret spending the $10 for this book and I highly recommend it!
The other recommendation that I followed up on was James Rollins. I decided to go with Sandstorm, the first in his Sigma Force series. I read the first few chapters after I finished The Girl She Used to Be and enjoyed them. I’m looking forward to this evening when I can pick Sandstorm up and keep reading!
The Twitter pitch (twitch) post is still going strong. I’m going to pull some of the favorites and highlight them in a blog post this week.
Last, unrelated to publishing but relevant, I’m going to be traveling a lot in the month of April. We just decided (today) to road trip to my parents’ in North Dakota for Easter. We’ll leave early next week and won’t come back until the following Wednesday. I’ll have a day to pack and regroup before I head to WRW retreat and from there to RT for a week! I’m a little tired just thinking of it but excited because we’ve never gotten to spend a holiday with them since we’ve been married (or since Brianna was born) because of the distance and work schedules. So yay!
ETA: The first thing to say is that a pitch isn’t necessarily about selling your book to an agent/editor. Time to move out of that mindset! Read on…
Here’s another one to file under conversations from Twitter. This came up this past weekend in a conversation about Blood and Chocolate by Annette Kurtis Clause. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it. Someone (@lihsa, follow the link for her article on it) on Twitter asked for a review/description and the challenge was on. 140 character review for a book? It’s the “elevator pitch” at its most refined!
Now, it’s been a few years since I read Blood and Chocolate so even though it’s one of the books I recommend often when someone asks for paranormal YA, I still had to stop and think how to refine it in an interesting way. Years after I’d read it. Hard!
I came up with: teenage female werewolf struggles to find acceptance in a world that doesn’t know about the supernatural. Moody, dark and emotional.
I don’t think it’s the best review/pitch but it does start to refine the ideas. I could make it punchier, ramp up the hook, really get someone interested. Let’s see…
Rebelling against her society. Searching for love. Desperate for a chance. Can this teen wolf reconcile what she is with who she wants to be?
Hmm, I’m not sure. I’m actually over by one character but I figure if I delete a space, I’ll be okay. What do you think? Better? It took me 15 minutes of fiddling to come up with that versus the first one, which I just popped off the top of my head.
But what I’m getting at is that it’s important to be able for authors to refine your book to its purest hook. The conflict, the angst, the info that’s going to make a reader, editor or agent want to pick it up to read, go find an excerpt, request a full or keep reading your query letter.
TV does this with what they call log lines. A one sentence hook meant to engage the viewer and get them to watch the show. Something that will easily fit in the TV guide or, for many of us now, on the guide channel. There’s no second chances when the viewer has only that guide to look at and base their decision off of. So the log line has to be good enough to convince the viewer to turn the channel right then and there, without a bunch of extranneous detail or someone saying “oh wait, that didn’t quite hook you? Well let me tell you just a little more”. The log line is it. The same should be considered true of the elevator pitch or, for purposes of my blog post, the Twitch (Twitter pitch. Ha! I’m funny).
At Samhain, we do something similar with each of our books’ blurbs, but we call it a tagline. If you go over to the website, the tagline is what you see on this page. Something to pique the interest of readers browsing our website, to entice them to click through to the book’s blurb and then excerpt.
I remember being at a conference a few years back and someone at our lunch table asking another author there about the book she wrote. I remember it was a historical but that’s all I remember because she spent the next 15 minutes talking, in depth, about the plot of her book and all the details. Ouch. Those are the times that I have to really struggle to pay attention. It’s harder if it happens during a pitch session because, let’s be honest, it’s hard for any of us to be talked to for 8 to 10 minutes without drifting off and thinking about lunch (unless you’re at lunch, in which case you’re thinking about your post-lunch nap and how much you’d like one). But I can be hooked by a plot refined down to its most interesting conflicts and ideas. Something that either makes me want to ask questions and find out more, or go buy the book and find out more.
In other words, the elevator pitch isn’t just for elevators. It’s for pitch sessions, query letters, the bar, NOT the bathroom, the bookstore, standing in line at the grocery store…well you get the idea. You’re selling your book. To whoever is your audience. Maybe it’s a reader, maybe it’s your dream agent. But the only way to sell it is to get them interested.
All this is to circle back around to what Twitter can do for your pitch. Twitter is currently the largest social media platform behind only Facebook and MySpace. But I believe it’s more open than Facebook or MySpace. Unless you have your Twitter account marked as private, anyone can read your Twitter page. Even those not “following” you. And you may end up with people following your Twitters that you might not have had the opportunity to communicate with/to anywhere else. But Twitter only allows you to type 140 characters (that’s spaces, letters and punctuation). It teaches you to refine your thoughts to the purest level and type only what you need to get the thought out there. And it’s because of those limitations that Twitter can help you refine your pitch. You only have 140 characters and you have a new book releasing, a new writing project in the works, etc (**please read side note at end of this post) and you want to tell people about it. How do you do that in 140 characters or less? You take your elevator pitch (you have one, right?) and you pare it down even further. No, it’s not easy, but once you do it, you can use it everywhere. Book promo, pens, websites, business cards, social media and in person.
Okay, you got it? So let’s hear your Twitch! If you don’t belong to Twitter and want to make sure you’re not going over the 140 character, open Notepad or something similar and let it do the count for you. If enough people leave their Twitter pitches in the comments, I’ll pull a few out and highlight their books/websites/blogs next week in a separate blog post. Ready, get set, Twitch!
**side note: please don’t query editors/agents on Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace. It’s really not the appropriate place because most of us use social media as a mix of work, pleasure and goofing off, and we’d prefer to get business related proposals that follow our submissions guidelines at our submissions email address.