Confession time: participating in social media does not come easily to me. For one thing, I’m sort of a private person, and uncomfortable with the idea of someone knowing my every move, or worse yet, my every feeling. I’m also not much of a photographer – I mean, have you seen my Instagram lately? The artistry of the snapshots leaves much to be desired. And when it comes to turning the camera on myself, I’d rather get a deep cleaning in the dentist’s chair than take a selfie.
But there’s one social media platform that I’ve become comfortable with, maybe even grown to love, and that’s Twitter. Designed for brevity, Twitter limits your updates to 140-character posts, or “tweets.” These bite-sized morsels of information allow you to compose quickly, peruse at a glance, and connect with everyone from Harlequin to the President.
It took me some time to figure out how best to use Twitter as an author. But with a few years of experience under my belt, I’ve come up with some tips and tricks worth sharing that can help you to use Twitter most effectively.
Kristin’s Totally Subjective Dos and Don’ts of the Twitterverse*
- Do make connections. I’m not talking about getting as many people to follow you as possible. I’m talking about connecting with people on a very real, authentic level. If you’re having a hard time thinking about what to add to your Twitter feed, start with your writing: What are you working on? What are your challenges? Where are you going to set up your writing space today? Find other writers who are writing in your genre and tweet at them. Participate in hashtags like #1linewed and #amwriting, which implicitly invites other people to tweet at you. Take part in Twitter chats like #RWChat. By putting in the time and effort, you can build your community organically.
- Don’t wallpaper your feed with promo. If all you do is show up on Twitter every once in a while to promote your book – or worse yet, schedule the same tweet over and over and over again – you’re not going to get a lot of people who really care about you or your books. When it comes to Twitter, canned promo is just another reason to scroll. However, once you make those authentic connections, you’ll have people who really care about you, are interested in what you have to say, and maybe, they might even want to buy your book! As long as there’s a high ratio of entertaining or educational tweets to promo or marketing, then when you do send out a promotional tweet, you run less of a risk of scaring off potential, or even existing, followers.
- Do get educated. Opportunities for writing advice abound on Twitter. Some of my favorite accounts to follow are:
- Jami Gold. A writer herself, she links to articles – some her own, some from others – on many different topics, ranging from setting career goals to editing your story. (Side note: If you’ve never checked out her worksheets, I highly recommend them.)
- Naomi Hughes. A freelance editor, Naomi frequently posts tips on story structure, pacing, conflict, and much more. Many of her tweets are storified, as well. I’ve saved so many of her informative tweets, and reference them often.
- Chuck Sambuchino. A contributor to Writer’s Digest, he posts a lot of information on how to query, how to find a literary agent, and perhaps most importantly, provides links to new agents who are actively looking to build their lists. His Twitter feed is an invaluable resource for someone who’s in the query trenches.
- Don’t worry (too much) about followers. A lot of people seem to be concerned with hitting a certain number of followers – if I can just hit 100, 500, or 1000, then I’ll totally be dominating Twitter! But the truth is, having a lot of followers doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot. There are even services out there that offer followers for pay, and people are catching on to that, rendering follower counts less significant. Of course, you do want to have an audience, though. So worry more about the content you’re creating – this will help you attract real followers who are actually paying attention to what you tweet.
- Do seek out representation or publication – if that’s what you’re looking for. There’s no better way to connect with agents and editors than on Twitter. Many of them have a strong Twitter presence, and freely interact with other publishing professionals and aspiring authors. Many of them post their manuscript wishlist requests under the hashtag #MSWL. And several times a year, there are sponsored “pitch parties,” such as #PitMad and #DVPit, which agents and editors will scroll through and favorite – essentially, a request for a partial or full.
- Don’t pitch your book. Unless you are participating in one of the pitch parties described above, agents and editors will bristle if you attempt to pitch them on Twitter with your book. Think of Twitter as a water cooler, where everyone from publishing gathers to take a five-minute break to chat. You can ask them questions – many of them will gladly clarify questions on their wishlists or submission requirements if it’s not already clear from their websites – but don’t expect to get a request for pages by tweeting them an unsolicited blurb of your book.
What about you? When using Twitter, what’s worked for you and what has been a total failure? Share your experiences in the comments!
* As always, YMMV.