What Do Twitter Readers Want?

Medium logo

Medium logo


Maybe some of you saw it: a list of what readers want on Medium.  Medium is a site that, in reality, attracts some very talented writers who cover every subject on the planet from books to banks, from entertainment to ecology.

Today, Medium emailed “What Medium Readers Are Hungry For.”  (As an aside, it appears as if my posts have not come close to dishing up what Medium readers crave.)

Tweet. Tweet.

Tweet. Tweet.

So, what do you want?  Another ad to buy a book or sign up for 1,000 Twitter followers or tips on how to find love and happiness?  Maybe so.  But what I’ve learned under the tutelage of one savvy marketing guru (and supported by all kinds of surveys), is that social media doesn’t sell.  It’s like trying to get folks to buy a lawn mower when they live in an apartment or to shell out money for a book about, say, siblings, when adults are onlies and they have no children.

With a Twitter Tweet limited to 140 characters, the format is down and dirty.  Abbreviations are common; links are de riguer.  Photos help a lot.  But they eat up a lot of characters.

But back to the question: What floats your boat in the tweets you follow, “like”, retweet?

I won’t give you too many subjects Medium readers want.  And, mind you, there is no word limit. Posters can write to their hearts’ content.

  • Poetry (Really?  I thought the nay sayers have decreed that poetry [excluding rap] is dead.
  • Feminism (Again.  That’s a surprise!  The name Gloria Steinem means little or nothing to the majority of young females today.  And who would ever think of burning her bra?)
  • Black Lives Matter  (Hmmm . . . Bill Clinton didn’t seem to think so a few days ago.  And I’d reckon that the majority of Donald Trump supporters want all those black folks [and Muslims and Mexicans and immigrants period] to go back where they came from.

What subjects do you want to “like” on Twitter? When you get a Direct Message in which one of your new followers thanks you and then tries to sell you something, how often do you click and buy?  Do you hunger for longer tweets?  What’s the value of having followers who somehow found you but have absolutely nothing in common?  (Followers with “Christian values” on chick lit sites with lots of sex.  Or CEOs of janitorial services who follow self-described slobs.)

Is more more?  Or more less?  Or less more?  (I opt for the last, but the odds are not in my favor.)




What’s In A Middle Name?


If you ask world renown composer, bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding, she’ll tell you “a lot.”

In an NPR interview with Michel Martin, Spalding explained that the idea behind her new album, “Emily’s D+ Evolution,” came to her in a dream.  Emily is Spalding’s middle name and a “long-hidden part of herself.”

The album conceptually addresses the always exciting, sometimes messy process of reconciling the aspects of our selves that are in conflict.












This got me thinking about my middle name; rather, the middle name that I officially changed years ago.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand that my middle name, Ida, was not the name of my step-grandmother but of the paternal grandmother who died before I was born.  All I knew was that the name was old fashion, just plain ugly and the impetus for much teasing.  (To this day, one of my dear friends still calls me Ida.  He loves to get a rise of me and, for many years, succeeded.)

My step-grandmother, Ida, could be abrasive, cold.  Her severe eczema ran up her elbows and the backs of her arms. My mother and she didn’t get along.  And Ida rarely laughed—at least, not in my presence.  So, every time I was in trouble and my mother hollered “Jane Ida,” I cringed.

My siblings and I called Ida by the Yiddish name for grandmother, Bubbe. But everyone else used her given name.  So, whenever our extended family got together on Sunday afternoons, for the Jewish holidays and all other celebrations, I heard my middle name bandied about more times than I could tolerate.

I hated the name Ida.

I don’t remember when I decided to use my family name Mersky as my middle name, officially erasing Ida forever.  It was probably in the mid-1980s when I published my first book.  I’d remarried, changed my last name for a second time and deemed it the perfect time to rid my life of Ida.

It didn’t dawn on me then how kicking Ida out of my life would wound my father.  I had substituted our family name Mersky and assumed he’d be delighted.  Wrong.  He never talked about Ida #1, how she died and why he’d left home shortly after to live with his Uncle Johnny in Minneapolis.  But from the few comments he made after I eliminated Ida from my life, it was clear that I’d hurt his feelings.  It was if I’d said:  “I don’t love your mother.”

Hell, I never knew the woman.  I’d seen just one black and white photo of a young woman, a babushka wrapped around her head, the bodice of a plain dress.  She, too, had immigrated from Russia.  I don’t recall whether she and my Zede knew other from the shettel outside of Kiev or whether they met in the States.

It was if that Ida had never existed.  Wiped clean.  What was she like?  Lively?  Innately intelligent though uneducated?  Did she learn English?  Hold a job?  Love my father and his younger brother?

I’ll never know.  All the members of her generation are long gone.

When Ida #2 died in Dallas, Texas, I didn’t attend her funeral.  I was busy.  Besides, I’d never set foot in Texas and was intent on maintaining my boycott of the Lone Star state. I didn’t like the politics, the bigger-than-life, full-of-themselves Texas persona.  As far as I was concerned, Texas could secede and go it alone.

It might be interesting to follow Esperanza Spalding’s lead and spend a little time with the “real” Ida and to reconcile the part of myself she represented.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll reclaim her and consider changing my middle name once again.



Well, according to my first literary agent, Berenice Hoffman, there is no such thing as bad PR. Any review, negative or positive, is good.  The review gets your name out there (wherever “there” is), and we all know that name recognition (Today, we call it a brand) is what it’s all about.

I needed to remind myself of Hoffman’s pronouncement (Was she preparing me for the shit to hit the fan?) because I got a one-star review today on Goodreads.  I have to assume that the reviewer HATED the book, but she didn’t have the guts to say so.  She just clicked on one measly little star and sent her non review out into the world of social media.  Couldn’t she have shown a little mercy on this first weekday of the New Year and clicked on one more star?

Okay.  My day didn’t start well.  But I was determined not to let one illiterate nobody ruin my life. So, I went online.  And what do you know?  The first article (rather, study) I found was titled  “Positive Effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales.”  Bingo!  And if the authors of the study representing The Wharton School and Stanford didn’t know what they were talking about, who would?

Now, in all fairness, the study does give sway to situations when negative PR is . . . well, negative. But as I scanned the piece, I found this:

. . . negative publicity may increase sales when product awareness or accessibility is low.  If few people know about a book released by a new author, any publicity, regardless of valence, should increase awareness.

Well, I’m not exactly a new author but I’m surely not a household name.  (Hell, even friends have trouble spelling it.)  But, in the scheme of things, despite my dogged efforts to the contrary, those friends and a few strangers know about the book.  (Okay, so it made it to #1 on Amazon in its category for about a day or two.  Let me crow just a bit because, right now, I want to disappear into the proverbial sludge pile and never return.)


The study’s big wigs went on and analyzed book sales of books featured in the New York Times Book Review, and also did experiments in which people read reviews of both real and fictitious books and were then asked how likely they’d be to buy them. The results?

  • Positive publicity does have a positive impact. Overall, a positive review in the New York Times Book Review boosted sales of that book by 32 to 52 percent. (Oh, how I wish that someday . . .)
  • If you’re relatively unknown, there is no such thing as bad publicity. For unknown authors, a bad review actually increased book sales by 45 percent.  (Yippee!)
  • If you’re more established, bad publicity is actually bad. For authors that were better-known, a bad review resulted in a 15 percent hit to sales.  (No worries.)


You’ll excuse me now, won’t you?  I have some 5-star reviews to reread.