Lots going on over on Twitter last week. Elon Musk reluctantly took over causing a tsunami of emotions. A lot of people talked about leaving (and still are), only to follow up that thought with, where else is there to go? Twitter is a unique experience, offering bite-sized content and opportunities to respond to other people in 280 characters or less. If you’ve read any of my prior blog posts, you’ll know I spend a lot of time over there, but I don’t use it as a promotional tool. Plenty of people do, and what started popping up in my feed after Musk took over surprised me. More than one person said, “If I have to leave Twitter, there goes my writing career.” As an example:
This is actually a common refrain, people depending on Twitter and nothing else because it’s free, and as long as you tweet regularly so the algorithms remember who you are, you can nurture a decent reach. But no matter how far you reach, after a while you will run out of people who will want to buy your books. Maybe that saturation point will take a while, especially if you’re new and you put a lot of effort into building your account, but anyone with a huge account can tell you that Twitter doesn’t sell books in the number they wish it did.
Where does compassion fatigue come in? Let’s first take a look at what it is. I hadn’t heard of it until I was chatting with my friend Sami-Jo about this very topic which led to this blog post. According to WebMD compassion fatigue is:
Compassion fatigue is a term that describes the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of helping others — often through experiences of stress or trauma. Compassion fatigue is often mistaken for burnout, which is a cumulative sense of fatigue or dissatisfaction.https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/signs-compassion-fatigue
When you think of Twitter and marketing, you think of posting promotional material like this:
Or maybe something not so fancy like this:
Add a link, and there you go. Something quick and cute that can reach hundreds, if not thousands, of people in a few minutes. I can see why Twitter would be people’s first choice. Free and easy, it gives off the illusion you’re marketing. I say only the illusion of marketing because to truly market and advertise your books, you need to show those ads to readers who read your genre and want to buy. Writer Twitter is full of writers, and while, yes, we are readers, we don’t read nearly as much as a reader who doesn’t write. Also, there is a mish-mash of genres on Twitter, and even if your promo reaches 1,000 of your followers, only 10 of those could read the genre you’re writing in.
So, let’s take this a little farther. You’re promoting your books, chatting with other authors, sell a handful, but not as many as you think you should because you spend A LOT OF TIME on Twitter (and buying indie books, but let’s not go there because a buy for a buy is icky and we don’t do that, right?). Time that could be better spent writing, if you’re honest with yourself. And this is where compassion fatigue comes into play. You start complaining about sales. Tweeting screenshots of your empty sales dashboard, moaning that a new release didn’t take off. Then some of your friends buy one of your books to cheer you up, and for that customer, you’ve reached your saturation limit. Then you do it again and again for every new release, and you get more bitter and more bitter because your friends aren’t going to buy every book you write. They can’t. They can’t afford $4.99 a book every time you release. They have their own careers and family obligations to see to, and let’s face it, $4.99 is a gallon of milk, right? They have kids they need to feed, and times right now are tough. You get angry your books aren’t selling because you need money too, they get sad and not a little upset because they’ve helped you and can’t anymore.
Complaining about sales when you use Twitter to find readers will only tell the people who have bought your books that their purchases weren’t enough.
When you complain on Twitter and you garner some sales from tweeting your empty sales dashboard, those sales turn into pity buys, and that is not a good sustainable marketing strategy.
So when someone says, I don’t have a writing career without Twitter, I’m baffled because yes, while it’s free, there are several other ways to promote your books. Relying on only one way is a fool’s game and one you won’t win. I’ve blogged a lot over the past couple of years on ways you can market your book that’s not Twitter, and those are: buy a promo from places like Free/Bargainbooksy, E-reader News Today, Robin’s Reads, Fussy Librarian, and more. Buying a slot in one of those reader newsletters will grab you more readers than hours of tweeting into the void. Write a reader magnet, set up a newsletter, and build your reader list through platforms like Bookfunnel and StoryOrigin. Learn how to use Amazon ads and run a couple of low cost-per-click ads. I would rather run ads and sell a couple of books a day than spend hours on Twitter begging people to buy my book. Publish consistently, and that means the number of books a year as well as not genre-hopping for a bit to build an audience for that genre.
I get that authors are afraid to sink money into their books, but ads and promos are only expensive if your book isn’t advertising ready and it doesn’t sell (after all, you’re supposed to make more than you spend. That’s the point of an ad.). I’ve seen people say, I bought a promo and didn’t earn my fee back. That’s a you problem, not a promo problem (and definitely not a Twitter problem). Likely, your cover wasn’t good enough, or the ad copy they ask you to write to go along with a picture of your cover wasn’t hooky enough. Maybe you were trying to promote a standalone when a lot of earning a fee back consists of read-through or the purchases of other books in the series.
The good news is, if you’re losing money on promos, you can adjust. Write something new. Replace your cover with something from GetCovers (their prices are very inexpensive compared to some that are out there). Workshop your blurb and change it on your Amazon product page. But out of anything you can do, stop complaining on Twitter. Your friends and followers aren’t responsible for your writing career. They can’t carry you. They want to write and sell their own books. After a while, they’ll get sick of seeing your promos and hearing you beg. They’ll mute you out of bitterness and a feeling of worthlessness that their support wasn’t good enough for you.
If Elon Musk shuts down Twitter either by fault or design, how fucked would you be? Would you consider your writing career destroyed, or would you simply adjust your sails and chart a different course? I’d miss some friends I’ve met on Twitter and don’t know how to contact any other way, and maybe I wouldn’t see as much traffic on my blog as I do now, but Twitter closing up shop would have zero affect on my book sales. That’s a good thing. If you depend on Twitter and you’re telling yourself you have nowhere else to go, you’ve trapped yourself there out of fear. Don’t do that. You are in control of your writing career, not Elon Musk. Figure things out for yourself because not everything is forever.
As for the tweet above? She did end up with a few pity buys, and maybe that’s the way publishing works for her, but it’s not the way it works for me, and I hope it’s not the way it works for you.
At some point I’ll probably get beat up for this blog post, and I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad or embarrass anyone. Writing and publishing for me is pretty much my whole world, and if I depended on one unsteady platform for my longevity, I would quit writing and funnel my passion into something else. It truly is a lonely road, and isolating yourself only makes it worse. There’s talk now that everyone will need to be verified on Twitter if they want their tweets seen, and the cost will be $11.00 a month. Why sink further into the pit if you plan on paying that? If Twitter isn’t working for you now, it won’t work for you then.
With the holidays coming up and a shaky economy, I wish all of you good luck writing and publishing and hope 2023 is your best year ever.