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Writings on the Wall

Writings on the Wall

This post draws on a Facebook discussion I noticed in the Cinnamon Press authors group yesterday. There was a Cinnamon London event with Tamsin Hopkins and Hazel Manuel.

Please bring something to tweet with as Hazel is giving part 1 of the Twitter training sessions.
Also, please have some thoughts for our open discussion on why and how people buy books, especially poetry.

Basket Case

I think a lot of debut authors get taken aback when they realise how much is involved with making a book, once the writing is done and the pages are available for purchase — I know I was! You kind of assume that if your publication is in a publisher's website shop and listed on Amazon, that some kind of magnetic attraction is going to propel readers to the checkout page with your book in their basket.

I'm a member of the LinkedIn group Poetry Editors & Poets, along with 33,620 other members. Recently there was a post asking how a poet can get reviews of his or her new book. And yes, this is an important matter because if people haven't heard about your book, then the chances of them deciding to pop it into their shopping cart are much reduced.

But, as poets, we know there are one heck of a lot of poets out there trying to garner reviews and sales of their work. How do you compete in that arena? More and more, networking is becoming essential. I don't mean meeting other poets at readings and telling them, “Ooh, I've got a book out too now!” You've got to do more than that, and that means online networking.

Follow Me — My Friend and I

I suspect, if you actively participate on too many social media websites, that you are going to have very little time left for actual writing of your own poetry. It's difficult but, at some point, you've got to find a balance between having a presence and not getting swamped.

Here's the most important aspect of social media for a poet: it's not so much the work you put into promoting your own work, it's whether you take the time to promote other people's work. When you share somebody else's articles or reviews, that rarely escapes notice. If you mention another poet's book or article, then that too gets noticed, and if the author shares that with 1,000 followers on FB or Twitter, then there's going to be some who will pop over and read your article or follow your social media profile. As poets we know there isn't much money floating round in the poetry world, but there is a lot of value in reciprocal kindness. I think of it like karma — the goodness you put into the poetry community will find its way back to you when other people share your posts, read your articles and maybe even buy your books.

I stick to Facebook and Twitter, and you can find links to my profiles on this blog. Back in March I talked in Poetic Nuggets about how Twitter was becoming hard for me to manage, due to a problem with the app I used to use to access Twitter as a blind person. Nothing has really changed there — I'm still struggling to keep up with new tweets in my timeline, but I try and stop by most people's timelines periodically to stay aware with what's going on in their lives.

Short and Sweet

I notice far more posts on FB that contain something that somebody has said on Twitter, than I do Tweets about something somebody has said on FB. I love Twitter, maybe because I loved precis when I studied it as part of my A-level English language course.

I can't remember the precis prompt specifically, but it amounted to a sign at a forest trail, saying No cars, motorbikes, scooters, rollerblades, horse riders. Cyclists and skateboarders must dismount... There were some good precis from my classmates, but I played the trump with a two word reduction: Pedestrians Only.

Reading and Reviewing

There is a very insightful blog post written by publisher Nell Nelson of HappenStance Press, that sheds some light on the impact of reviews on sales of books; it may surprise you. One of my favourite reviews of Dressing Up came totally out of the blue! I'd not requested it, nor had I received a request for a review copy, but in April 2017 a review by Matthew Stewart on his Rogue Strands blog.

Giles Turnbull’s pamphlet, Dressing Up (Cinnamon Press, 2017), is set apart by the vivid texturing and layering of its imagery and narrative drive.

Early on in the poems, colour and tone often play a prominent role

Without knowing how that review came to happen, I do know that Matthew knew about my website and my pamphlet through social media posts and friend of a friend connections. Apparently in real life we're only 6 degrees of separation from anybody else in the world, but I suspect on social media it's rare to be more than 3 or 4 degrees. LinkedIn connections are either first degree (you are connected directly to a person), second degree (a friend of a person you are directly connected to) or third degree (a friend of a second degree connection). I don't notice connections on LinkedIn as much as I do on Facebook. FB tells you in several places how many mutual friends you have. I posted on FB last week about discovering a poet who had 51 mutual friends with me, though our paths had not crossed directly before; so I promptly sent her a friend request.

Networking, connections, friends and followers are the lifeblood of the poetry world. By and large it's something you learn for yourself, figuring out how many profiles you can follow before you get swamped in tweets or posts and learning to recognise the purely spam followers who will vanish again if you don't follow them back within a week. That's why it's brilliant to see events like the Cinnamon London one at the top of this post, where somebody who has advice on this will share it with fellow writers.

On the practicality front I think long and hard before following somebody on Twitter if they tweet an average of more than a dozen tweets per day; I simply can't read / listen to that many tweets and I can't spot tweets that might be of interest from the more routine ‘Toast for breakfast again!!!!!’ type tweets. I'm beginning to adapt to the two blind-friendly twitter apps, Chicken Nugget and Easy Chirp. Easy Chirp tells me that I am: following: 560, followers: 438, and tweets: 5082. My old Twitter client The Qube used to convert the total number of tweets into a daily average by dividing it by the date since the person joined Twitter. Without that handy approximation I start to worry if somebody has made more than 10,000 tweets. If they've been a member for 10 years than that's fair enough, it's an average of 1,000 tweets per year, or three per day, which is not going to swamp my timeline. If they've been a member for a year, then that's equivalent to 30 tweets per day which definitely will.

One thing I like in the Chicken Nugget client is that it has user timelines in addition to the main timeline. That means I can open a user timeline, whether or not I follow the user myself, and it will list all of their tweets. I can gauge from that how many tweets per day they really do post. If the person who joined in 2007 and made 10,000 tweets was pretty much silent for the first 8 years, then that means they actually might be posting a few dozen tweets per day these days. I also like those user timelines because I can easily skip to them to folloow a particular user magazine's Twitter feed. That means I don't miss a tweet that got swallowed up in the main timeline and, taking my profile as an example, of the 500 people I follow, three tweets per day is about par for the course, which means around 700-800 tweets on my timeline every single day. For the friends who post one tweet every two or three weeks, the chances of missing that tweet are high, but with the user timelines I can quickly tell if they've made a tweet recently.

Tools of the Trade

And I'll wind up this technical post with a simple reminder. There's always an alternative way of doing things! There is no reason whatsoever that a Twitter client designed for the blind might not make your sighted Twitter experience a lot more manageable. The blindness aspect simply means it's designed accessibly from the ground up, meaning that it's as easy as possible to navigate the interface regardless of whether you're using a mouse or keyboard shortcuts. If you're not on Twitter already, why not spread your poetry networking wings :)

You can find me on Twitter: @Bix_cool and Facebook: giles.turnbull.

Holly: Just finished reading everything. I've now read everything that's ever been written anywhere by anyone ever.
Lister: Will you go away?
Holly: DO you know what the worst book ever written ever was?
Lister: I don't care!
Holly: Football, it's a Funny Old Game by Kevin Keagan.
(Norman Lovett as Holly and Craig Charles as Lister, Red Dwarf, series 1, episode 5, Confidence and Paranoia)

#Poetry #Twitter #CinnamonPress @TamsinHopkins @HManuelWriter @CinnamonJan @roguestrands @Nell_Nelson

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