I have often mentioned the “show, don’t tell” rule in my blog. MMJaye, a regular around here and a great supporter of Indies in her own blog, kindly wrote this guest post for me, tackling the rule from a novel perspective: how to use it when tweeting. Enjoy her excellent post, which, I admit, was an eye-opener for me.
“Show not Tell” on Twitter: a guide to “clickable” tweets
The “show don’t tell” rule has been drummed into every writer’s head. Traditional publishers and editors swear by it. Some Indie authors are less than enthusiastic about it, but, no matter how much you use or respect the rule, you have to admit that it does invest your writing with one major attribute: it becomes evocative.
What surprises me, however, is the fact that although writers accept that “show don’t tell” leads to evocative writing and therefore elicits a reaction from the reader, they totally disregard this rule in their promotional tweeting. Sure, 140 characters won’t allow for much but, still, there are ways.
Tweets that tell
Here’s a list of common tweets that “tell” rather than “show”:
- “The most exciting thriller ever!”
- “Another 5-star review for (title)!”
- “You won’t be able to put (title) down!”
- “Read (title) on Wattpad!”
- “Don’t miss out! (title) only 99c!!”
Now if you’ve used these tweets yourselves and keep track of your Twitter statistics, you’ve probably noticed they got tons of retweets. Indeed, if you use the right hashtags, have a retweeting service, you are a member of a group or especially if you campaign through Thunderclap, any tweet you hash out (pun intended) will probably be shared with a potential outreach in the tens of thousands.
But what’s your ultimate goal? To get tons of RTs and FAVs or have people actually click on your link and go to your site?
The problem with the tweet templates above is that they’re so overused that what sticks with people is the enthusiasm of the writer. They’ll want to share, to help the author out, but this is not enough to make them leave Twitter and go check out a link. So how do you get tweeps to become more involved and go the extra flick of the wrist to click on a url?
Tweets that “show”
Think “show don’t tell”. Let’s try this on the examples above.
Telling tweet: “The most exciting thriller ever!”
Says you. Show me why. “International espionage, exotic locations, action-packed scenes” might do the trick, but why not go all the way and add an actual snippet that will draw a reaction from me?
Showing tweet: “A thick clod of dread thudded onto the pit of his stomach.” The acclaimed new thriller by @JohnnyWho (+link)
Now, you have me! Alliterations, puns, original analogies, evocative words … surely you have those in your book. Don’t tell them … show them off!
I know for a fact that I sold a copy of Fate Accompli, my newly-published debut novel, through the snippet I have included in my scheduled tweets:
“Staying is a mistake.”
“Why don’t I feel it?”
“You don’t know what’s coming next.”
I chose a sexually charged moment as I’m trying to sell a contemporary romance. That said, try to use actual snippets of your book, even if you need to edit some words out to make them fit. Don’t make them up. Inventive, yes, a fraud, no.
Telling tweet: “Another 5-star review!”
Now that’s a bit trickier, but going down the same route, choose a snippet of the review that “shows”. Avoid generic attributes such as “exciting”, “amazing”, “wonderful”. They, too, fall under the “telling” category. I have but a few reviews so far (I expect quite a number in January, yay!), but only a couple of days ago, I received a great review by a book blogger that I wanted to share like gangbusters. That’s the excerpt I chose:
That tweet created actual engagement and a lot of reactions. I did have sales the next day but, frankly, there’s no way to know for sure if these were a direct result of the showing tweet. Knowing I did my best, though, makes me feel good!
I recently reviewed Rayne Hall’s myth-busting “Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Easy Fixes.” What I did for my review tweet was to use an eye-catching phrase from the book itself:
That’s a great way to catch the attention of an author that matters to you. You show that you cared enough to be creative about their work.
Example 4: Wattpad tweeting
Wattpad is a good way to make your work visible to readers. Many readers of my genre (romance) find authors through this platform, and I often see writers tweet about adding extra chapters of their books there. But it seems that all they do is notify:
Telling tweet: “Another chapter of (title) on #Wattpad!”
When I first posted the first three chapters of Fate Accompli on Wattpad, I tweeted about it by writing a mini summary of what goes on:
Showing tweet: “4 Chapters of #Fate Accompli on #wattpad!
Why is Monica obsessed with working for Alex, hiding who she is?
That tweet got tons of RTs, and my uploaded work on Wattpad reached 1,000 views in just under a week. The effect of a well-phrased, intriguing pitch on Twitter was further proven when I uploaded the fourth chapter and tweeted about that exclusively:
“Chapter 4 of #FateAccompli on #Wattpad!
Monica revisits her past, featuring Alex and a ton of humiliation!
Maybe it was the concept of humiliation that drew attention, but that chapter had many more views compared to Chapter 3, which didn’t receive special attention.
Bottom line: we have shed blood, sweat and tears to hone our craft, and we have the right tools under our belt (no pun intended this time!). Why not use them on every form of writing, not least our platform building through which readers will get to know us first?
Rachel Thompson (@RachelintheOC) has been using this technique even before publishing Broken Places, the follow-up to her bestselling Broken Pieces.
Showing tweet: “It’s only in the quiet spaces between our stars that I feel you now” ~ Night (Broken Places) out soon http://ow.ly/FSh3I”
And where can a link of unpublished work take the reader? To Rachel’s Poetry Pinterest board with even more quotes of the upcoming book. There’s an idea!
When Nicholas told me that he wanted to tweet about Runaway Smile, I suggested the following:
“An unshared smile is a wasted smile: read Runaway Smile, my #free children’s #book, on http://bit.ly/1xqb4Jv”
I’m delighted to see he is now smoothly employing this technique in his tweets about his heartwarming children’s story!
Thank you for reading and special thanks to Nicholas for hosting me today!
Who is MMJaye?
MM Jaye is the pen name of Maria Messini, a bilingual Greek native. She is a certified translator and has been teaching the art of translation for over fifteen years. Writing was Maria’s idea of therapy when, back in 2009, her spirits had temporarily nosedived. Fate Accompli is her debut contemporary romance, the first book in the Aegean Lovers series, available in two heat versions: Clean & Spicy. She lives in Athens, Greece with her husband, daughter and Kindle.
Thank you, Maria, for your eye-opening post. Readers, I just read her book, Fate Accompli, and I’m amazed at her skill. I found myself skimming through the book in order to find out what happens next, laughing out loud and moaning with frustration with her heroine – and I’m not even a romance reader! You can read my review on Amazon.