In these sultry Gulf Coast days, visiting is such an effort -- you've got to step out of your air-conditioned house and into your car, which feels like an oven set to 350 degrees. Of course, it also has an air conditioner which, if you turn it all the way up, cools you off right about the time you arrive at your destination. Or you can stay home and blog-hop. Today it's my pleasure to host poet J. Bruce Fuller, whose 28 Blackbirds at the End of the World I reviewed in an earlier post (June 6, 2010).
Take it away, J.
About a year ago I had a revelation. I decided to do everything I could to build a readership. If it is hard to build a career as a suspense novelist, it is worse for a poet. I realized that anything that could help me find the people who were interested in my work was a benefit, not a burden. The obvious choice for a Nintendo Generation guy like me was social networking.
I already had blog, which was mainly used for me to keep track of publications. I never really made an attempt to promote the blog, or for that matter, post anything on it that would be worth promoting. I decided to make my blog my “home base,” a sort of central hub that would serve as an archive of my career and a place to send people when they wanted to know more. Blogs are a great way to track all sorts of things such as submissions and publications, and lets you keep a long list of links.
I also had a personal Facebook account (who doesn’t?) but quickly realized that all of my family, friends, and old classmates are exactly the people who would be most interested in my poems. I had over two hundred people in my friends list who would read my posts and click my links—and the best part is, if you post it, they have to see it—it comes up on their page automatically. This core base of friends/fans is a writer’s bread and butter—if your mom and your best friend from college won’t buy your book, you’ve got real problems.
Then there is Twitter. With Twitter being the newest craze in social networking, many writers are hesitant to jump into the pool. I pondered over starting an account for a few months, but decided that it couldn’t hurt to try. Out of the three Internet tools mentioned, Twitter is the most likely to earn you new readership. It is a much more interconnected network of people, and it is easier to access the people you want to follow. There is no “accept friend request” button; anyone who is interested in you can follow what you post. Writers follow other writers who in turn follow you. I have discovered several new writers through Twitter, and developed better friendships. After a year of “Tweeting,” I am prepared to call the experiment a success.
There are pitfalls to avoid, the most obvious being that all this time spent posting and tweeting could be used for actually writing. This is true, but the fact is that most writers write on some kind of schedule, and as long as promotion doesn’t interfere with writing time then there’s no worry. Writing should be first, because if there’s no writing then there is nothing to promote. Sarah Weinman’s article for Poets & Writers, "Are Authors Who Twitter Any Fitter?", looks at the issue of social networking and brings up some more good points. In the end, writers must do what they can to stand out, and each new means of promotion that evolves should be given a fair look.
J. Bruce Fuller is the author of 28 Blackbirds at the End of the World (Bandersnatch, 2010), which can be purchased on his blog, http://jbrucefuller.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JBruceFuller.