Of Twitter, the Future, and Worrying
I wrote a little Thursday about that I think will happen to Twitter and what that means for writers, and K wrote in to request I expand on that, asking:
What has Twitter done/meant and not for authors, agents, and books; how well has it been meeting those needs; and what are your recommendations for authors now? Stop making free content for billionaires and get off social media in general? Double down on your newsletter where you own the content/contact info? I saw you’re joining Hive, looks like it’s only for Android right now- Kara Swisher is boosting post.news and lots of scientist/activist friends are checking out Mastodon… not a super specific question but just curious to hear what you think!
And you know what? I’ve been avoiding writing about this! For many reasons! Here are those reasons:
I don’t have any data.
I don’t have any data to tell you what to do. I can tell you that Twitter doesn’t drive much traffic basically anywhere, so while it feels like lots of people can or do see your tweets, it really depends on….so many things including how many followers you have and how well the algorithm slept last night. You can see your own tweet’s traffic (click the dots on a tweet and then View Tweet Analytics) and figure out just how many people do or do not see your tweets/click your links, etc. It’s difficult to impossible to figure out how the death of twitter will affect writers, on the whole and in particular. This is compounded by the fact that I think writers think that once they get their big following, their agent/deal/fame/fortune will follow, and it doesn’t really work that way, and/or we don’t have any data about how, if, or when it works that way.
Anecdotally, it’s become clear to me that Twitter doesn’t sell many books. We don’t really know, because there’s no way to follow a tweet to the bookstore, but it has borne out that just because something is big on Twitter, doesn’t mean it sells a lot of books. So you have to ask yourself what you expect out of Twitter (or whatever) and if it can actually give it to you.
Some really important stuff is not quantifiable.
The most important part of Twitter has turned out to be the friends we made along the way. The community. Your community. That isn’t measured in sales or clicks or analytics. It could be the writer you DM with for years who one day gives you a fantastic blurb. (Not that we know if blurbs sell books or not.) It could be the editor who reaches out and says oh hey you would be perfect for this project. It’s the following you grow that may follow you elsewhere. None of this is Twitter-specific, except for the fact that that’s where a lot of us have been for the last decade, and we’re fully entrenched. But people have these experiences on Tumblr and Insta and all the other places. Other smart people have already said that one of the biggest benefits of Twitter has been the way anyone, especially marginalized communities, can interact with those with power in their industries (and let’s focus on the good side of that for the moment) in ways that are impossible in the larger world. I think that happens on other platforms, but maybe it was better on Twitter. The loss of that is a big loss.
My best advice isn’t going to help most people.
My best advice is to build your platform on something you control, like a newsletter where you can take the content/subscribers with you. And that’s good advice, if I do say so myself. But if you don’t already have a lot of eyeballs on your stuff, then who is going to know about your newsletter? And if you don’t have a plan, a point of view, a concept for your newsletter, then what is the draw for anyone to sign up? It’s hard to get people to sign up for Updates and News!!! when you don’t have a book coming out or anything. It’s not if you build it they will come.
But also, you have to start somewhere. Maybe your lark of a newsletter turns into Your Whole Thing that creates your platform and leads to success. It’s just as likely to happen on a newsletter as it is on Twitter. It takes time and hard work and good content either way. So stake your claim somewhere and see what happens—if you have the time, bandwidth, and/or inclination to.
Writing is all about starting over.
We’ve all had to do it—scrap a thing and start over. IT SUCKS. No one wants to do it. But sometimes that’s what has to be done. Maybe that applies to Twitter, too. As much as it sucks, a lot of us are going to have to scrap what we’ve built on Twitter.com and start over somewhere else. It is not fair. It costs some more than others. Elon Musk is a horrible person who’s bad at his job. I don’t have a fix for that. I don’t have a prediction for when Twitter’s going to fully collapse (at least for us). Where you go to rebuild is up to you, and may be dependent on your genre, vibe, interests, and/or skills. But just like with books—even after you’ve been published!!—sometimes you just have to start over. It is what it is.
There isn’t one answer.
Like all publishing advice, what you should do next depends on…everything about you. There isn’t going to be one Twitter replacement. There isn’t going to be The Thing You Should Do that fixes this. There isn’t a way to replicate all you’ve built and grown on that ridiculous (luv you twitter) platform on a new and different platform. I don’t think there will be a Twitter replacement. I have trouble even imagining a post-Twitter world. I, too, am busy and tired and annoyed and waiting for someone to tell me where to go to have just the good things about Twitter again. I don’t want to research any of this mess, lol. But what I need is going to be different from what you need and we’re all probably not going to know if it works/fits/is right until we get in there and try some stuff.
If anything, try not to worry.
I mean, I know you are going to. But try not to because it will do absolutely nothing about this situation. And especially try not to worry along the lines of but I’m just starting out and now that Twitter is gone I’m never going to get an agent or a book deal and my whole career is screwed UGH. That’s just not true. Twitter has never be the one and only way to get a book deal. It has opened some doors for some, but for 98% of writers, Twitter has not been the single thing that has lead to success. Don’t catastrophize. Channel all that nervous energy into writing. Because you can’t sell a book if you don’t have a book.
I know none of this is particularly helpful in terms of OMG WHAT DO WE DO NOW THERE’S NOT GOING TO BE ANYMORE TWITTER???? Maybe, maybe, maybe that idiot won’t burn it to the ground or fill it with right-wing nutjobs. I don’t know. Maybe something better will come out of it, elsewhere. We’re just going to have to wait and see.
It’s for both iOS and Android, afaik. But no desktop/browser interface, which is a drawback to me.