Twitter is the Internet-equivalent of a cocktail party.
Imagine a large venue with people clustered in little groups, discussing everything from politics to the latest publishing trends. By the bar, there’s that famous author whose work you adore. Near the stereo, there’s another group talking about Abercrombie & Fitch. Oh, and in the corner, there’s three people from a writer’s group you want to join. There are people clustered around videos and pictures, people chatting about specific subjects, and even people from professional organizations in attendance.
You make your way across the crowded room and suddenly, somebody grabs your arm and shouts, “I wrote this book! Go buy it.” You wrestle your arm free and politely decline. A few minutes later, he shouts again. “It’s about unicorns! Please buy it.” Now you scan the room, lock eyes with the bouncer and jerk your head at this guy. He’s a spammer and you just blocked him. Good job.
You continue heading across the room. That famous author? She’s saying a lot of things.You listen for a few minutes. They’re witty. The people circled around her repeat every statement she makes. You watch for a moment but you’d rather talk with her, so you suck in a deep, bracing breath to gather your courage and ask her a question about her latest work, tell her how much you enjoyed it. She utters a few more pithy axioms; doesn’t make eye contact. You wonder if maybe she hasn’t heard you. You really want to talk to her and decide to try again.
“I really loved Ted. He’s my favorite character.”
Still no response.
You sigh and try not to take her rudeness personally. She’s a Big Deal Author and you’re not. You ease your way through clusters of people and someone mentions query letters. You need to know how to write a query letter, so you listen. The group says agent Janet Reid is the authority on query-letter writing. “Click this link.” You do, and find the Query Shark website is an amazing resource.
“Hey, thanks for sharing that link. It really helped me,” you say. To your surprise, the person turns to you and says, “No problem.” You spend a delightful half hour discussing each other’s work, what point you’ve each reached in the process, and what agents you’re considering. She tells you about another resource that could help called YALitChat. You’ve just made a friend.
YALitChat introduces you to more friends. Somewhere, you can’t quite remember where, you meet a fantastic person named Kimmie Poppins. She invites you to her group and later, to blog at YA Outside the Lines. You’re so damn honored, you can’t find the words.
On your way to the bar, you stop short and gasp. Here’s another big shot author, one of your favorites. His debut novel was on the best seller list for months. You tell him about the review your son and you wrote together and – swoon – learn he’s not only read it, he’s shared it. You can’t believe this famous author is talking to you and knows your name. You chat for several minutes about his book.
You hear a loud laugh in another corner and discover Janet Reid is here with some of her clients. Wow, you were just talking about her! You angle sideways, ducking under arms and behind backs to get closer and hear Janet talking about whiskey with Jeff Somers and Sean Ferrell and Bill Cameron. Should you interrupt? Would that be rude? You take another deep breath and risk it, telling Janet how helpful her website is. She turns and thanks you. You introduce yourself to her clients. You learn that Jeff has a lot of cats and Bill worships bacon. You learn Sean’s first book is coming out in a few months. You congratulate him. He thanks you. You find out Jeff writes a sci-fi series you’ve never heard of. He’s got the next book in the series coming out later that year. You make a note to read it; he seems so nice and is really funny. You don’t know what Bill writes and are too shy to ask. But they’re nice to you and make you feel welcome, so you decide to repay their kindness by checking out their books.
You buy books 1 and 2 in Jeff’s series and love them, even though they’re far outside what you usually read. In fact, you’re addicted. You tell him so and he thanks you. You mention in passing you tried to find book 3 but the store didn’t have it. He sends it to you, autographed. You’re now his biggest fan. You buy one of Bill’s books, love it so much, you buy all of them. When Sean’s book comes out, you attend the launch and he signs a bookmark for you. You still have it.
Your new friends introduce you to their friends and soon, it feels like you know most of the people at this party. You don’t feel so nervous anymore. You start drafting your query letter based on everything you’ve learned from Janet and from the YALitChat group. It works! You sign with an agent. You announce it and Jeff suggests taking you to dinner with Sean to celebrate. You hug yourself because that was almost as cool as signing with an agent.
Someone taps your shoulder. It’s Jeannie Moon, the writer from that group you’re thinking of joining. She invites you to their next meeting and you love it, become a member of the Long Island Romance Writers soon after. The LIRW group critiques your debut novel, helps you get it in pitch-shape. At their annual luncheon, you pitch it to an editor who loves it – sort of. She invites you to revise and resubmit but you have no idea what that means so you ask Bill Cameron for help.
He sends you a ten-page email so helpful, you keep it in your purse for years to remind you how nice people can be. You revise the manuscript and the editor loves it. The book will be published the next year! You’re giddy with pride. People congratulate you. Jeff does your first book trailer and you’re honored – it’s the best book trailer ever produced. Brooks Sherman invites you to speak on a YA panel with two other authors and you’re so excited, you can’t sleep the night before.
Soon, you learn you need something called a blurb. You ask people and a few respond with suggestions on how to get one. You decide to ask that Famous Author who loved your review of his book. He says yes! Oh, my God! You hand him the manuscript and thank him. You email him to remind him of the deadline, but he doesn’t respond. You email him again and he still doesn’t reply. You tweet him and even send a direct message, but, sadly… no reply. Being ignored really sucks, and even though you know he’s busy you can’t excuse his rudeness. His next book comes out, and while it feels childish, you don’t bother reading it. You’re busy too now and you’d rather fill your precious free time reading books written by people who respect you back.
The book is released and you meet bloggers and librarians and best of all – fans. Actual, real-life teenage fans who comprise your target audience and who like your work and can’t wait for more and you still can’t believe it. You wander around the party and every time you hear someone mention your name, you stop to thank them for reading your book. They’re so happy you’re talking to them, because now, you’re the Author and you’re busy, but never too busy to make people feel like they matter.
‘Cause, you know, they do.
You smile to yourself and know it all began at a party called Twitter.