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fiction, MA Prof Writing, marketing, social media, social networking

What has twitter ever done for us?

the-blind-giant“Social media has moved to a new venue, that’s all”. The novelist and digital world commentator, Nick Harkaway, says social networking has always been integral to the job of being an author. As both a successful writer himself – and the son of John le Carré – he has witnessed how the role has changed since the emergence of social media.

Once upon a time, he says, it was about “chatting up the reps and book buyers, knowing the lit ed of The Times”. Nowadays, it’s about being ‘discoverable’ online.

Of the ten authors I contacted for this short thesis on the role of social media in marketing fiction, eight are active social networkers. What does all this blogging, tweeting, FBing and Pinning do for them?


“Virginia Woolf wanted to portray the ordinary mind on an ordinary day. Twitter is exactly that”, says Nick Harkaway. For him, social media is the author’s office water cooler, a chance to mingle with the outside world and avoid getting disconnected.

The independently-published thriller writer JJ Marsh also finds a strong sense of community online.

In some cases, social media inspires authors. Kate Harrison has published 12 novels and the successful 5:2 Diet Book. She credits the online community for getting her started.

Self-published writers have always had to take care of their own marketing – more about that in my next blog – but now traditionally-published authors are also turning to social networks to get ‘discovered’.


Liz Fenwick publishes her second novel in May 2013, and also runs the blog of the Romantic Novelist’s Association. She gave a workshop at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival in April about the potential of online promotion.

Social media offers a kind of democracy to writers. The power to market fiction has shifted out of the hands of the big bookshop buyers and literary reviewers, into the fingertips of the author.

In the next blog, I’ll ask if self- or independently-published writers can teach traditionally-published authors a thing or two about social networking.


About jofurniss

I'm a writer, living by the jungle in Singapore.


4 thoughts on “What has twitter ever done for us?

  1. I agree about the unselfish nature of writers towards other writers on Twitter etc. Sharing of links, sites and so on has been a real positive for me in my experience of using social media.

    Posted by Clair Humphries (@clairhumphries) | May 8, 2013, 2:30 pm
    • Yes, all the writers I contacted on twitter (without exception) were certainly generous with their time, which gave me an insight straight away into this sense of community. Great to hear from you, Clair.

      Posted by jofurniss | May 8, 2013, 2:40 pm
  2. Have been reading your blog and have found it very interesting and it has made me reflect on how I approach the subject of book buying. Maybe it’s because I’ve not lived in the UK for over 8 years but I yearn for the opportunity to go into a bookshop and browse and come out with a selection of books for which I have taken the time to select and built up some anticipation to read. When I read I read and will set aside a few hours to read a book in it’s entirety. Lucky me, I know!

    Would I want to be connected to authors through Social Media? Not really as it’s about social contacts and I have a really defined line between personal and professional communication and the way I communicate in the two spheres are very different.

    But maybe I should use Twitter more to help with identifying new authors and books I do want to read as I have found the scope of authors that I read narrowing as I do not have the opportunity to go and browse the way I used to when we lived in the UK.

    Very thought provoking, thanks Jo!

    Posted by Rebecca | May 13, 2013, 8:28 am
    • Thanks for taking the time to comment – I’ve focused on the writer’s perspective on marketing books, but of course the reader’s experience is vital too!

      Posted by jofurniss | May 13, 2013, 10:35 am

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