Monday, July 9, 2012

Authors on Twitter, or, The Problem With Selling Jesus

Let's be honest: evangelism is a rough gig.

And as trying as it must be to brave the tide of rude indifference as you hand out New Testaments outside the ShopKo, or to tell yourself that leaving Chick tracts in bathrooms is a legitimate and fruitful use of your time, the worst has to be the door-to-door business.

You show up, pressed and professional and with a holy gleam in your eye that would put a Fuller Brush salesman to shame.  You knock, and steel your smile as you venture the first words that will - God willing! - snatch this lost lamb in the Winnie-the-Pooh nightgown from Satan's slavering jaws... and she slams the door in your face.  Repeat dozens of times a day, every day, and it's a wonder you don't throw your bike in front of an oncoming bus and run off to join the Pepsi Generation.

Let's meditate for a minute on the real problem here.

When you knock at my door, you're making two sizable assumptions: first, that I have not already found Jesus, and second, that I am receptive to receiving Him.  (There's a third issue with the door-to-door model, namely that your ringing of the bell compelled me to stop fornicating or beating my children long enough to answer the door, which puts me in a coarse mood before the Word even enters into it.  But we'll leave that one aside.)

Is this you?  It probably shouldn't be.

If I've already got the Holy Spirit within me, then you've wasted your time.

If I'm a hellbound heathen and happy with it, then you've likewise wasted your time.

In fact, your approach works reliably only if I have A) not heard of or never seriously considered your faith, B) found myself unhappily lacking in the spiritual department, and C) cultivated a lifestyle and identity not radically incompatible with your beliefs.  That's a pretty hard trifecta to hit.

So what I am saying, aspiring authors of the Twitterverse, is that if you follow me, and I click and find that most of your tweets are hawking your book, there's really no incentive for me to follow you back.

First of all, if I don't read your genre, I'm not going to read your book no matter how good it is.  And secondly, let's say I DO buy your book, and read it, and give it eleventeen stars on Amazon and Goodreads and tell all my friends and blog about how Three Hundred and Eighty-Five Shades of Beige opened my eyes to the tyranny of accent walls.  What do I get for all that?  If the answer is "pretty much just more tweets about your book," then there's no reason for me to keep following you.  I have used you up.  You have nothing to offer but more annoying ads for Cheetos, when my fingers are already orange with the chem-o-cheez proof of my fealty.

So whether you're selling the Great Armenian Novel or a ticket out of perdition - please, y'all, think about your business model.  Leave my doorbell for the cops, and focus on selling yourself.  Make me think "man, s/he's so cool and rad and deep and interesting - this kind stranger surely possesses some unearthly wisdom.  It must be mine!"  That right there is the difference between "eh, nothing for me here" and "okay, Aunt Matilda, you know that grammarian Regency romance isn't my thing, but this author I know has a book out - it's called Pride and Parentheses, and you simply MUST read it."

By the way, I'm absolutely not an expert on how to do Twitter the "right" way.  That would be Kate Cornell, the blackest belt in social media that *I* know, and Ben M. Wallace - and if you're feeling adrift, I highly recommend his Giving the Bird: The Indie Author's Guide To Twitter.  (I know it says indie, but he'll let you read it even if you're not self-publishing.  He's cool like that.) 

And then we got the people who knock on your door at 6:30 in the morning on Sunday going, "Have you found Jesus?"  You just wanna come to the door nude and go, "No, help me look for him!  Come on!"


  1. Oh dear, this was a very funny post! And I feel the same as you, but I don't Twitter.

  2. I hear ya. I'm so not into Twitter, so usually I just use it to say "Hey, drink my Kool-Aid!" Guilty as charged, but I still think Jesus likes me:)

    There's just not enough time in my day to be any good at it. It's like a cocktail party from Hell. All the cool engaging people are having a great time while I stand by the bowl of dip and wonder why I bothered to show up.

  3. Oh, not at ALL, Pam - not for a second! You're not giving yourself credit for NEW CONTENT, which you make available three times a week for the low, low price of FREE. That is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about - after a month or two of following your blog, I know enough about you and the things you write about to throw your name out to any relevant person I meet - like, "Ah, so you're having a hard time with your MC's emotional arc after her sister dies in the car wreck? Hey, lemme tell you whose blog YOU need to read."

    Give yourself some credit here, ma'am - if it's getting crowded over by the bowl of dip, it might be less to do with the guacamole and more to do with you!

    (And thanks for the ego-love, K.E. - you don't have to tweet for your online presence to sparkle!)

  4. Okay, so I guess I've got the new content going on for me. I do post three death blogs a week. "Get your death right over here!"
    I am not posting my other blog to Twitter because I don't want to confuse people just yet:)

  5. Loved this! Tweeted it for you!

  6. Oh MAN, thanks so much for the shout-out, Angie! You are obviously one of those unearthly-wise types I was talking about!