Writing for the News Feed

Hey, all. @gerryboyle here. I was advised that before publication of my next book I need to have “a more robust presence on Facebook and Twitter.” Okay, I said. Not a problem.

So here we are.

Still here.

Still thinking.


Writers everywhere know the feeling. Our craft requires solitude, privacy, contemplation. Economic survival in today’s book world demands that we be out there on public display like B-list celebs.

Now, it’s not that I don’t have a Facebook presence. I’m right here, reporting on my latest doings, sharing pix from my iPhone. Did you see my shot of the muskrats on the lake? How ’bout the finches on the birdfeeder outside my study window? Man, I really expected that one to go viral.

Twitter, too. You can follow me at gerryboyle. I Tweeted three times today: a story from The New Yorker about a pickpocket, an observation about the ironworkers I saw hanging steel in below zero weather, and the third, uh, I’d have to look it up.

Hey, who do I look like? Justin Bieber?

Well, no, but that doesn’t mean I’m not ready. In fact, I was at a Christmas party the other night and I was talking to a young guy about this whole subject. He had his iPhone in his hand, a beer in the other. I explained my new mission and he said he followed a big-time writer. He named the guy, said he had 50,000 followers.

“Shazam,” I said. “What does he Tweet about?”

“Anything and everything. Politics. The weather. Anything that comes to mind.”

Anything that comes to mind. That’s a little broad. I need some parameters, as in, what do people want to know?

So here I am, going right to the source.  What is it that a writer can say that isn’t in his or her books? Never mind that many of us are very private people. I can suck it up, open the curtain a bit. What is it that people want to know? Why should anyone care?

My thoughts on my pets? Don’t go outside much these days. Favorite books? finished a good Van Gogh bio. Kinda depressing. The weather? Need more snow for snowshoeing. Travel plans? Headed for St. Augustine in a few weeks. Nice old town. Politics? If there was a real fiscal cliff I would’ve jumped off it weeks ago. My books? Writing some fun stuff these days. More soon.

So I’m putting it to you, and I’ll bet I’m talking for a lot of writers who are in the same boat, who remember when they had a publicist in New York who sent out black and white headshots and press releases on actual paper. I’m not kidding. I remember a publicist at Putnam who said to me, “You guys write your books. It’s not like I can do much more. I mean, what else is there to say?” Or words to that effect.

But I’m ready to elbow my way into your news feed. I really am. Just give me a hint. If you don’t, I’ll start  Tweeting my next book, 140 characters at a time:

He bought the wicking online from a candle supply shop in Texas, calling the people up first to ask which type of wick burned hottest. 

Now that I can do.

PS I’ll Follow you back, my Facebook friend.


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17 Responses to Writing for the News Feed

  1. Paul Doiron says:

    Gerry, I feel your pain. Writing good novels and working social media have nothing to do with each other, as far as I can tell. I enjoy Twitter as a sometimes snarky place to find and share news, but I can’t believe any of my 2,000+ tweets has sold a single book. These days I just do it because I enjoy the conversation. And by the way, my handle is @pauldoiron.

  2. I tweeted this post around! I do a lot of retweeting, too. No idea if it’s selling books for me, but as Julie Hennrikus told us (she’s president of SINC New England this year), her circle of followers overlaps mine but isn’t identical by any means. She has a lot of theater lovers and Red Sox fans, for example. So if she retweets one of mine, it goes out to her followers, who then might send it out to theirs. Ripples in the pond. You never know.

    I’m @edithmaxwell and @tacebaker.

    • Gerry Boyle says:

      Thanks, Edith. Red Sox, that’s something I get. (Not sure their acquisitions are going to pay off. Big bucks for J.D. Drew’s little brother!). But as I say to Paul above, time is money. Or not.

  3. John Clark says:

    I twittered for a bit because it was supposed to be a great tool for sweepstakers, never mind writers, but a bunch of rogue salsa musicians (God’s honest truth) hacked my account…That was the end of Twitter for me. Facebook I like because it’s the perfect venue for quick snarky insanity and I like blogging because of the immediacy of getting a thought or image out there. However, there are times when I think standing at the Eastside rotary in Augusta wearing purple spandex while holding a sign that says buy my book or I won’t ever leave, might be just as effective. In the end it’s as much about time and personal comfort, but then I’m still making most of my $$ as a public librarian.

    • Barb Ross says:

      Rogue salsa musicians? John that is hilarious. (I’m sure it wasn’t at the time.) Or is that code for something I’m too unhip to understand?

      BTW I’m @barbross and @levelbestbooks but mostly #silent right now, though contemplating all this social media as I gear up for a new book this year.

  4. Gerry Boyle says:

    Purple Spandex. …. Hmmmm.

  5. Great post, Gerry. I can’t help with what to tweet, though. I am not on Twitter or Facebook, although I gather there are other people with all three of my names at the latter. It’s partly a security issue, partly a desire to guard my writing time. I spend too much time online already! Do publishers want me to get with the program? One does. One doesn’t care. I figure if people are spending that much time tweeting and on Facebook, they probably aren’t reading novels anyway.

    Kathy/Kaitlyn/Kate, the eccentric Maine curmudgeon

  6. thelma straw says:

    Wow, man, you have hit my hot button!!!! I agree with all your thoughts – I have been avoiding Tweet and Facebook – and want to punch my poor screen everytime I get a message re these! I keep hoping the fad will fade… does anybody really think to tweet or bookface will gain you readers? Or anything good??? Thelma, also in despairing Manhattan

  7. Sarah Graves says:

    Remember that old saying? 90% of publicity is wasted, but no one knows which 90% it is so we have to do it all. For me, though, it’s not so much the time that it takes as it is the disruption in the force that it causes, you know? Because doing it puts me in such a different head space. Like, hi everybody, look at meeee… urk.

  8. Lea Wait says:

    Oh, no. I don’t tweet. And I should tweet. I know I should tweet. I have this folder of articles saying I should tweet. I have nightmares saying I should tweet. Once someone even said I WAS tweeting .. that someone out there was tweeting under “leawait.” So maybe, somewhere, I AM tweeting. I just don’t know it. Maybe I’m even good at it. I hope my readers like what I’m saying … Because my editors say I should be tweeting. But I blog and do Facebook. (Friend me! Please!) And I write a couple of boooks a year. Or more. And now I’m feeling even more guilty, Gerry … Except .. maybe I should do Pinterest …..

  9. MCWriTers says:

    One of my thoughts for making the new year a better writing year is to consider hiring people to do some of the things I hate–like writing nonfiction book proposals. If someone will just send me the techno-savvy young person to do it for me, I will tweet.

    I belong to the group who says this is more of a distraction than a benefit, but will be eager to hear how Gerry’s tweeting is going.


  10. I started a blog and a Twitter account 3 years ago. Hated it all up to that. Wanted to just write.

    Then Harper Collins gave me a 3 book contract and put on the back of my ARCs that I had a “hugely popular blog” (do you want to see a pic?). Then my 1st novel sold for translation into 9 languages and I was shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year!

    So, I created a blog to help other writers with this social media malarkey. http://bit.ly/YNP9Kr

    My simple advice is this. Create short posts of value on your blog and Tweet about them, along with a few other Tweets. Then automate and go back to writing. Follow the link and read my posts to see how that is done.

  11. Paul Doiron says:

    For what it’s worth, I asked the social media guy at Minotaur where to direct my efforts and he said without hesitation, “Facebook.” I think it’s more conducive to building real relationships with your readers which helps when you have a new book coming out.

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