Is Twitter a waste of time or an essential investment every new writer ought to make?
In the age of the internet, Twitter has proven to be a challenge and an opportunity. Like most authors, I’d far rather be writing than doing anything else, but if I only wrote and never took advantage of the internet, I don’t know how people who find out about my books.
Instead, the Twitter expertise of an Egyptian entrepreneur helped me find with readers. Thanks to Fady Mokhtar, I’ve seen my books reviewed on YouTube by “Booktubers,” and I’ve seen reviews posted by readers to whom I have no personal connection. Add to that, I’ve made friends around the world.
Fady has just launched his new website at booktips.co. If you are an author and have no idea how to use Twitter, Fady is your “go to” guy.
Why Bother With Twitter?
When my debut novel, Montpelier Tomorrow, came out in August, 2014, I had a Twitter account, but rarely posted. I’m not sure I even had followers, unless someone stumbled on my name accidentally.
I didn’t see the point of routinely getting on my phone and checking my Twitter feed. “I’d rather write than waste my time with social media,” I told friends. Like many people of my generation, I felt constrained by Twitter’s 140-character limit. I felt annoyed by the thought of having to get even more involved with social media.
I was wrong.
- Twitter helped me sell books beyond the circle of my family and friends;
- Twitter let me connect with individuals;
- Twitter introduced me to readers in all parts of the globe;
- Twitter helped me discover other authors whose books I enjoy;
- Twitter helped get my book into the hands of reviewers.
Plus, it’s fun! I changed from Twitter-skeptic to Twitter-fan.
This all began when I saw an ad for Booktips and connected with Twitter-Maestro Fady Mokhtar.
My Man in Cairo
I call Fady my “man in Cairo.” He’s the age of my grandsons, and he’s super excited about connecting readers and writers.
In a single year, Fady has taken me from 10 Twitter followers to over 32,000. He has worked tirelessly to promote the video previews of my books and to find aspiring authors who are interested in my blog about reading and writing.
Twitter Helps Writers Find Reviewers
My goal as a blogger is to make connections between book lovers of all stripes. That includes readers, unpublished writers, and published authors. The blog is all about helping writers write the best books they can write, and then helping them connect with readers. Fady has helped me take the blog from zero subscribers to more than 1,000. That makes my investment of time feel more worthwhile.
What has been even more rewarding is that Fady has connected me with individual readers in all corners of the globe, from the Philippines, to Italy, to Hungary, to South Africa. I’ve sent review copies to Helen in England and Rico (an Anne Rice aficionado and aspiring writer himself) in the Philippines. The reviewers Fady has found for me have posted on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble.
Here’s just one example, a YouTube review by a young, South African reader, Booksniffinfangirl. Is there any way I could have found this articulate, intelligent young woman without Fady’s help? I don’t think so.
Another very meaningful Amazon review came from Elda, a translator living in Italy.
Coping with a hopeless disease means facing your limits. In this very engaging and beautifully written novel, author Marylee MacDonald honestly shows us what a disruptive experience is taking care of someone seriously ill, even if it’s a member of your family and you love being helpful, like Colleen Gallagher, the main character…If you are looking for a book written from the heart, with real, three-dimensional characters that will remain with you forever, this is the book you are looking for!
I had hoped to meet up with Elda this summer when she visited Portland. I traveled to Oregon specifically so I could do that. Unfortunately, she was in Portland, Maine. We both had a laugh about the not-so-near miss.
Twitter Helps Writers Find Readers
What’s the upshot of all of this? Readers and reviewers have become my friends. I know about their reading tastes and the moments my writing touched their hearts. Whether I ever meet these folks in person or not, I’ve found kindred spirits.
But, is Twitter really effective in selling books? I don’t always know. However, Antal, from Hungary, wrote that he’d bought my book because I told him to on Twitter. (I wish all my Twitter followers would do that!)
Since then, he and I have gone back and forth about his son-in-law’s ALS and his daughter’s predicament in having to care for her husband, take care of her children, and hold a job. We’ve talked about politics and about Antal’s own books, which I can’t read because I don’t speak Hungarian. But we’ve had interesting conversations about aging and the general state of the world. Generally, if you hit it off on Twitter, you switch to email. Or, at least, I do.
Fady taught me that Twitter is a great place to connect in a meaningful way. Does it seem impossible to carry on a “conversation” in 140 characters? It did to me. But, think of that limit as a haiku. If you’re a blabber like me, Twitter imposes restraint. And, anyway, once you’re past the introductions, you can send a Direct Message, as long as you’re both on each others’ approved lists.
Twitter is a good way to let people know about special sales or to give them a taste of your writing through short quotes. As my grandmother used to say, “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.”
Certainly, anyone who dips a toe into the Twitter ocean risks feeling swamped by the number of authors relentlessly self-promoting their books. I try to avoid that.
I’m actually more interested in sharing what I’ve learned about the writing process than I am in bombarding people with promos. I share my favorite books and authors’ quotes. If I read a book I enjoy, I Tweet about it. And, on Twitter, I’ve even been able to post some of my favorite travel photos.
Twitter Helps Me Discover New Writers
Thanks to Fady, I have a broader perspective on what it means to write with the reader in mind. I’ve taken inspiration from the motivating messages and #writingtips that other people post. On 10-minute breaks from sitting at my desk, Twitter provides a respite from the endless writing and rewriting of my own stuff.
On Twitter I can share other writers’ struggles and make discoveries of my own. The wonderful scholar, poet, and fiction writer, Ros Barber, author of the novel Devotion, is someone I “met” on Twitter. I’m sure she doesn’t remember, but it was on Twitter that I found her novel, one of the best literary novels I’ve read in years. I met Ron Yates, author of the Finding Billy Battles trilogy, and Ron’s guest post gave me a badly needed week to catch up with my own writing.
The well known blogger, Jeff Goins, talks about “finding his tribe.” Though that phrase has become a modern cliche, Goins zeroes in on an important idea, namely that for every writer, there is an ideal reader, and vice versa. Twitter is where we can find each other.
Interview With Fady Mokhtar
Working with Fady Mokhtar has been one of the absolute pleasures in my journey as a writer. Here’s a brief interview of how he got started.
Marylee: Could you tell us a little about your background?
Fady: Sure! I grew up in Port Said, a small free trade town, and I studied management at the German University in Cairo. My management classes were taught in English, but I also studied English as a subject in the university.
Marylee: What’s your own history with reading?
Fady: I have been an avid reader ever since I was 14 years old.
Marylee: What are a couple of your favorite books?
Fady: I love books like George Orwell’s 1984, Alija Izetbegovic’s Islam Between East and West, and Eckhart Tolle‘s A New Earth.
Marylee: Aha, I can see you’re a “big idea” person! And how did you learn Twitter?
Fady: As many Egyptians did, I started to use Twitter during the beginning of the 25th of January Revolution. We used Twitter to keep track of what was happening in the streets. After that, every single success I achieved as an entrepreneur was through Twitter. Actually, I mastered the platform.
Marylee: I get that, but managing a revolution is quite different from connecting readers and authors.
Fady: I started to think about connecting authors with readers on Twitter at the end of March 2015. Actually, I knew nothing about the industry when I started, except that I loved reading. Every day, I watched videos and read articles about the publishing industry. I needed to understand how the industry worked before I chose how to structure my start-up. I love the idea of working in an industry that participates in building nations’ awareness.
Marylee: As you and I have worked together over the past year, you’ve stressed the importance of YouTube. Can you explain why you’ve found YouTube a good way for authors to find readers?
Fady: YouTube and videos generally are the most effective way to reach people on the internet. But that’s only if you manage to create the right content. Professional book trailers will attract more readers, but the trailers can’t be amateurish. Right now I’m thinking about how to create a platform where authors can meet professionals to create great book trailers.
Marylee: Do you have any Twitter tips for authors?
Fady: Two things. Authors should interact as much as possible with their followers, and they should find a mission or a value they want to spread. Twitter is a great place to do both these things.
Marylee: Where do you see the future of publishing?
Fady: I believe the automation of every single stage of publishing will change this industry. The challenge will be to distinguish the high-quality manuscripts from the low-quality ones. This is what we do in Booktasters. Finding avid readers for new writers is one of the many services my company provides.
More Twitter Tips
If you’re a reader interested in discovering new authors, or if you’re a publisher or author needing readers, you should get in touch with Fady at booktips.co.
Alternately, if you’re on a budget, read the articles below. Experiment with hashtags. There’s a lot happening on Twitter, and you don’t want to sit on the sidelines.
Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, a short story collection, and THE RUG BAZAAR, a chapbook. Her books and stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, a Readers’ Favorites Gold Medal for Drama, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and many others. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State, and when not reading or writing books, she loves to walk on the beach and explore National Parks.