Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Asocial Networks #1: 15 Years of Online Writing


First a brief disclaimer: All that follows here is experience, not advice. My books are somewhat niche products and not for everyone (say, Amanda Hocking readers). So, nothing I say here on the ins and out of independent publishing and marketing should be taken as “advice” until, say, I draw enough income from book sales for a weekend in Monterey. Until then, I hope this provides the writers and indie publishers among you with useful insight and perspective on your own situations.

With a crude grumble, I’ve recently become a semi-frequent Twitter tweeter again.

I can’t recall the exact date I first stuck my foot in the Twitter Stream, but it was likely in 2010. A week passed where I tweeted articles like this and grew bored as the tweets rushed by—like photo captions without photos--until it all blurred like confetti and, without having drawn a single follower, I decided to sign off. Staring into a woodland stream is enchanting. Staring into the Twitter stream is not.

Then, seconds from good-bye, @peterstraubnyc became my first follower (and he’s more than welcome to crow about it up and down the streets of Manhattan: “I stopped @ThomBurchfield from leaving Twitter!”).

So I stayed on, all through the first six months or so after the publication of Dragon’s Ark in April 2011. No matter how hard and loud chirped though, I found Twitter a hard and weak branch to nest on.

While it’s admirably simple I’d compare Twitter, at best,  to a Friday night at the bar, maybe after my third Macallan, with quips pinging and ponging back and forth, like Abbott and Costello--but not all the time. I seemed to do more sending than receiving while following the likes of @hodgman, and @MrsStephenFry,  and occasionally sharing nods and pleasantries with the elusive, gossamer-winged @V_V_Nabokov.

I also gained a few followers, the most enthusiastic, and loyal of them being @DorianTB. Others were product purveyors—hair stylists, college-girl pornographers, and the like—who faded away. A few political activists, too. Others claimed to be independent publishing professionals, but only one, @jfbookman, would I openly recommend.

I quickly learned that, past an hour, it was no good tweeting my toe into the stream of any topic. Tweets age like a sun-baked corpse, drying up and blowing away like Christopher Lee at the end of Dracula . . . and they don’t rise again, either, not even as a ghost. The T-world gushes on, the thread of reason shreds, snaps, dangles in the Internet’s lonely deep space.

The implication is that, once you’re on, you have to be always watching, staring, anxious, as though the stream were a Wall Street ticker, in order to gain any value--a little like standing on a trading floor, isn’t it, amidst all those shouts? You might miss something, possibly life-changing. You never know, do you? I mean walk out the door, go a few blocks, there’s a bag with a million bucks right there on the street, right?

Once a week, I’d link one of these essays on Twitter, along with some publicity for Dragon’s Ark. I’d hang around for maybe fifteen minutes, half an hour, looking for something to respond to, an intriguing link to follow.

But, I dropped to once a week, feeling that was enough.

But, of course, it wasn’t. Because tweets fade so quickly, I have to appear more frequently, especially now that I have three books for sale. So, I’m back on a daily basis, tweeting links to both my books and my essays, at least once a day, Real Life permitting. I hang around a bit, looking for funny things to say, always sticking with my Golden Rule: If I have nothing to say, then nothing’s what I say.

Then it’s back to staring at the still, blue sky outside my window. 

Or: working on my editing business and writing Butchertown which is exactly what I should be doing.

As @BorowitzReport wisely says, “There’s a fine line between social networking and wasting your fucking life.”

I notice, at least judging from the 100 or so I’m following, that Twitter seems to have become very very much an advertising and marketing medium. Easily more than 50% of the tweets that blip past are links to books for sale, or other services. I place links like this every day to my 84 current followers. Twitter doesn’t seem to be a truly conversational medium.

I especially notice heavy advertising on the i-Pad app, which I do not use!

One more thing about Twitter: Two of the pages I post my et ceteras on, Blogger and The Red Room, offer widgets that will display my Tweets in real time. But I don’t use them because I don’t see the point exactly (unless Twitter is the end to your means). If you’re reading this on my official Blogger page, you’re exactly where I want you, and everyone, to be: reading my work and linking to where you can buy my books. Whether you do an RSS subscription or get on my e-mail list (tbdeluxe at, I’m hell of a lot easier to follow than I am on Twitter.

As for the issue of drawing and gathering followers, that’s a discussion better taken up within the frame of Facebook,

Meaning, you just wait ‘til next time!

Copyright 2012 by Thomas Burchfield

Photo by author.

Thomas Burchfield is the author of the contemporary Dracula novel Dragon's Ark, and the original screenplays Whackers and The Uglies (e-book editions only). Published by Ambler House Publishing, all are available at Amazon in various editions. You can also find his work at Barnes and Noble,  Powell's Books, Scribed and now at the Red Room bookstore. He also “friends” on Facebook, tweets on Twitter and reads at Goodreads. You can also join his e-mail list via tbdeluxe [at] sbcglobal [dot] net. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Elizabeth.

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