Tuesday, July 28, 2009


G.M. Malliet

I joined Twitter some months ago, propelled by curiosity. Well, beaten down by the media hype, more like.

I enjoy technology, but to a point, and being the cautious type, I kept my Twitter updates locked as "private." This meant anyone who cared to read what I was up to, which was precious little, had to ask my permission. Then I spent three quarters of an hour choosing my color scheme, changing it from black to pink and back to black again, and uploading the image of my first book, then my second, then switching back to my first, which only seemed in retrospect like a total waste of time. Then I sort of sat back and waited for something momentous to happen, like my books immediately going into seventeen reprints. Of course, as so often happens, nothing did happen. The occasional request to follow me occasionally came in, but hardly was there what you'd call a groundswell of interest.

So I recently asked the experts at a Yahoo group called Murder Must Advertise (which is a must-join for writers, BTW) whether my privacy setting was negating the whole point of being on Twitter. (If there is a point to being on Twitter, that is, which is a whole other topic. If Bill Gates can decide FaceBook is a waste of his time, as he recently did, is there hope for any of these social networking groups?)

I was told that, yes, indeed, I had rendered the whole Twitter thing pointless. By this time only about 70 people could see the lovely color scheme I'd chosen, and they most likely did not care. And since I twitted or tweeted only rarely, my online participation was even more nonsensical than usual.

As an author, of course I want to take advantage of every opportunity to spread the word when I have a new novel coming out, when I'm doing a signing, etc. Twitter has the advantage of being 1) wildly popular, 2) easy to use, and 3) thus far, free. But I have to confess to some trepidation before following the advice from Murder Must Advertise to go public. How crazy would my life get if I took off the Privacy sign and let every scammer, every lost soul, every knife-wielding maniac, in?

That was a few days ago. I just took a look over at http://twitter.com/GMMalliet and now that I'm paying closer attention, I can see there was nothing to worry about. I was already following Eddie Izzard, who is almost guaranteed to be good for a laugh. Ditto The Onion. And Martha Stewart. (Not for a laugh, for homely domestic inspiration. Not too surprisingly, Martha tweets recipes in much the same way the rest of us breathe.)

But what mostly seems to have happened is that I'm hearing an awful lot about what Ashton Kutcher gets up to, practically on a minute-by-minute basis, which nicely answers the question of what Twitter is really all about. It's about Ashton, who you must know almost single-handedly started the Susan Boyle phenomenon by tweeting about her. Ashton, who has nearly 3 million followers.

Three million followers.

Mrs. Kutcher, AKA Demi Moore, has quite a following, too, but not as big as her husband's. You would think this would be a source of friction over there at Casa Kutcher, but no. The updates of these two are so downright homey, so cozy and mundane, even, it all reminds me of the feature in Us magazine (or something like that) that I read at the hairdressers: "Stars! They're just like us!" This editorial gem is illustrated by photos, no doubt taken by out-of-work art school students or passersby with a cell phone, of someone like Cameron Diaz, in full makeup, picking up her laundry; Tom Cruise changing a tire (just kidding); or some starlet shopping (what else?) on Rodeo Drive. Need I mention, if she were shopping at Target, well, then she'd be just like me?

Still, no doubt about it, Ashton knows how to work Twitter better than anyone alive, and I think we should be able to harness this to some better use than propelling a Scottish singer, however talented, to instant stardom (so she can be photographed picking up her laundry, just like us). Seriously, think about it. If the whole world starts following Ashton Kutcher, we will all, in some crazy way, be communicating. We may all find a common humanity, not to mention get the chance to swap recipes and share other important knowledge, like how to de-skunk a smelly dog, which was the latest crisis in the Kutcher household (answer might be tomato juice, but as Martha Stewart didn't tweet, she missed her chance to really make a contribution).

This could be the start of world peace, the end of war in our time, and all in less than 140 characters - plus the time it takes to decide on that all-important color scheme.

Gotta go now and pick up the laundry.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

It's hard to open up on Twitter, isn't it? I was a slow convert to Twitter, but have discovered that I'm getting much more traffic at my blog due to the application. I'm following mostly writers/reviewers/book people, and it's been a pretty painless way to keep up with the industry.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Lisa Bork said...

I was not familiar with Ashton Kutcher until he started dating Demi Moore (who's in my age group). Then I heard about him and Twitter. And, of course, he sells cameras. We authors could probably learn alot about promotion from him.

Alan Orloff said...

Funny post, Gin.

You seem to know an awful lot about pop culture (and US magazine). Research for an upcoming book?

Of course, I'm on Twitter, too, but I'm still trying to figure out what all the RT's and ##'s mean.

Deb said...

hope the paparazzi is there to snap you picking up that laundry. G.M. Malliet: Even with all her awards and zillions of books sold ... she's just like me! ;-)
(And, PS, I'm NOT joining Twitter. There must be some electronic line I won't cross.)

G.M. Malliet said...

Deb - I hung around the dry cleaners for *hours* and no one took my picture. Oh, well, I'll try again tomorrow.

Alan - you've given me an idea. I could write off the hairdresser visits as research on my taxes, couldn't I? I absolutely swear it's the only place I read Us or People. It's really like a library, when you think about it.

Elizabeth and Lisa - Only downside is, authors end up talking to each other on Twitter, Facebook, etc. It's what we enjoy doing, but it's probably not reaching readers.

Cricket McRae said...

Funny and inspiring post, Gin. I'm on Twitter, but so far haven't delved very far into figuring out all the ins and outs of the app. But a couple days ago I upgraded to an I-phone, and now I feel obligated to put it to good social networking use!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I like both Twitter and Facebook, though I find Facebook better for promoting my books (I don't care what Mr. Gates says). Both have led to an increase in my personal blog traffic and webpage traffic, though Facebook seems the better vehicle for staying in touch with readers and my family. On Twitter I mostly I follow other writers and publishing information. If I had to give one up, it would be Twitter, but for now the two co-exist in harmony. With all the social networking groups out there, these are the only two I bother with any longer.

G.M. Malliet said...

Sue Ann - Twitter and Facebook are about it for me as well - mainly I use Facebook.

MySpace I could not get the hang of. I still have an account there but never visit.

Cricket - I'll be following you!