Authors on Twitter: The Danger of Being Too Clique-y

Last week I talked about ways to chase away Twitter followers. Thanks, by the way, for all the retweet love on that one. :)  One of the things I talked about was that you shouldn't follow loads of people just to get people to follow you back because it's not genuine and makes you look like a spammer (i.e. people will see you follow 40k tweeters and how can anyone really keep up with that?)


However, after a conversation with Jamie Wesley about what annoys her about certain authors on Twitter,  I'm starting to wonder about that high "follow" vs. "follower" count. In the Twitterverse, there is this impression that you must be really important/supercool/whatever if you have a high number of people following you, but you personally only follow a handful of people. Basically--everyone wants to be your friend, but you only grant that "privilege" to an elite few. (High school never ends it seems.)

Now most people who do this do it not because they're being a "twitter snob" but because they don't want to be overwhelmed by three thousand peoples' tweets. I TOTALLY get that because I follow about a thousand people and that got way too hard to manage,so I had to start using lists (more on that later). And if you're, for instance, an editor or an agent--where everyone is seeking your attention--it makes sense to limit who you follow only to people you truly have a connection with in some way.

However, I think for an author this practice can really shoot you in the foot instead of helping you. We are writers. We want to connect with readers. We want to sell books and build a fanbase. Right?

So why-oh-why if you're an author would you only follow your "clique" of friends and not follow your readers, the people who are paying their hard-earned money to buy YOUR book? 

I know it's silly, but you know how much better I feel about an author if I @ her/him on Twitter and the person responds? All of a sudden, this author's coolness factor has jumped off the charts. It makes me like them more. It makes me want to support them and their books because they are REAL and FRIENDLY and APPROACHABLE. And if they follow me, then wow, I'm really won over.

On the other hand, if I follow an author and they don't follow me (fine), but then they ask questions of their readers/audience and I respond--and get no response or even a general "Thanks to everyone who commented", then I feel a little huffy. Now if you're Stephanie Meyer or Stephen King or whatever, then it's understandable. Uber-fame gets you a pass. I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about your average author who has a few thousand followers.

When they don't respond or acknowledge, plus don't follow--the impression that is left is--this author thinks they are too important/busy/big-time and doesn't feel like their readers are important enough to acknowledge even after they've asked directly for their help. So when that same author hops back on Twitter and is announcing their book release or contests and asking for retweets--well, I'm just not that motivated to go out of my way for them.

So the question is, as an author, how do you 
a) Make your readers/followers feel important? and 
b) Do so without being bombarded daily with 80 bazillion tweets you're not interested in?

Answer: Lists!

Twitter allows you to make both public and private lists. Then you can use a program like Tweetdeck and have your main column just the tweets of people on that list. For instance, I follow over 900, but there are only about 100 on my "super awesome people" list. It's private, so no one can see if they are on my list or not. But this makes it manageable to follow, while I'm still able to follow "in general" the other 800 people in another column if I want. And if I end up interacting with someone who is not on the list and making a connection, it's easy enough to add them to my super awesome list.

Doing this allows me to have my cake and eat it too. I can have my clique of people who I talk with regularly while not alienating new people who may become great friends or readers or whatever one day.

So what do you think of this method? How do you feel when an author you like interacts with you or follows you? How do you feel if they don't do those things? And do you think someone is less awesome if their follow vs. follower ratio is closer to even instead of lopsided?

Today's Theme Song
"High School Never Ends" - Bowling For Soup
(player in sidebar, take a listen)