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More and more authors, from unpublished novices to international heavyweights, are getting involved with Twitter. If you’re planning to join them, here are some tips for good author tweeting:

Setting up your account

  • Be yourself, not your book. In the short term, it may seem like a good idea to set up your Twitter account as the title of your book, but it’s probably better to use your own name instead. There are two reasons for this:
    1. People are more likely to respond to a person than a book – it feels less like advertising, and it’s more natural to build a relationship with a person.
    2. Think long term. If you do get followers for this book, what happens when your next one comes out? Do you change the account details, confusing people, or open a new Twitter account for the new book, and start again from scratch? Tweet as yourself, and your account can grow with you through your whole career.

    (You can still promote your latest book as part of your identity – in your profile image, as the background image on your feed, with a mention in your bio line.)

  • Provide a bio, url, and profile photo. Before you tweet your first tweet, take a moment to compose a good line to go in your bio, just to let people know who you are. It may not seem like much, but a single sentence can change you from an anonymous twitterer into an actual, live person worth connecting too. The profile photo is important too, as it helps establish your identity. Finally, don’t forget to add a link to your blog or Website.
  • Don’t follow anybody until you’ve made a few tweets. When you follow somebody, they’ll get an email. They’ll probably then come and have a look at your feed to see who this new follower is. If there’s nothing there, they’ll go away and forget all about you. If you’ve posted a few interesting tweets, they’re more likely to follow you back, or at least take note.

Getting Followers

  • It’s about quality, not quantity. Okay, sure, it’s nice to have lots of followers, and always an ego boost to pass those milestones like 100, 500, 1000, 1,000,000… But Twitter isn’t a popularity contest; it’s about connecting to the right people. That’ll take some time, and happen organically as you take part on the conversations and become an active part of the Twitter community.
  • Don’t just follow everybody you find. It always looks a bit spammy when a Twitterer is following ten times as many people as they have following them. Follow people who genuinely interest you.

What to Tweet

  • Don’t try to sell your book. If you come on Twitter and start posting hourly tweets along the lines of “Read my book, it’s grrrreat!” then nobody is going to pay any attention. Reverse the situation: if you were in the market for a new car, would you buy from the Twitterer who just tweets variations on “my used cars are awesome!!!11!” or would you buy from the one who takes part in conversations about mechanical issues, always has the latest news on new models, etc.?

    If you’re interesting, people will investigate and find out about your books. If you practice the hard sell, they’ll just ignore you.

  • Share news about your writing The above notwithstanding, it’s perfectly acceptable to talk about your work. Here are a few ways to do it without coming across as a spammer:
    1. Tell us how the new book’s going
    2. Let us know about upcoming readings and signings
    3. Let us know about new publications, how the sales are, link to good reviews, etc. etc. etc.
  • Play nicely with the other children. If somebody’s annoying you on Twitter, just ignore them. A heated argument in packets of 140 characters isn’t going to help anybody. And remember that libel laws apply online too!
  • Get involved with the conversation. If people are talking about your field, or reading in general, see if you’ve got something interesting to add. Alternatively, if you’ve found a news story elsewhere, share the link. You can use URL shorteners like Bit.ly to get the link down to a manageable size.
  • Retweet the good stuff. If somebody’s shared a link to a great story somewhere, retweet it and spread the word! That said, don’t just retweet everything people say. Do it in moderation, and save it for the best lines. To retweet, copy and paste the tweet, along with “RT” and the name of the original Twitterer, complete with the @ sign. eg “RT @thefictiondesk Check out this great link: http://bit.ly/Zi8qt”

If you’re unpublished…

  • Twitter really, really isn’t the place to find a publisher. If you’re unpublished, and having no luck submitting your manuscript through traditional channels, having easy access to all those publishing folk on Twitter is just too tempting for some writers to resist. But resist you should: Twitter isn’t a place for publishing deals, and sending tweets or direct messages to publishers and agents will at best be ignored, at worst get you blocked by the very people you’re trying to reach out to. Show your professionalism by keeping your submissions where they belong.

And remember…

  • Talk, don’t sell. Twitter’s not a marketplace; it’s more like a common room. Pull up a chair and make friends, not customers. Trust that if you’re interesting enough, the people you talk to will find out for themselves what it is you’ve written, and make their own decision over whether they’d like to get their hands on it.

15 Comments on “Twitter Tips for Authors”

  1. Stephanie Cowell Says:

    I am relatively new to Twitter and this is all very helpful! Thanks so much! It’s sort of the instinct I have had about how to progress there but this confirms it.I will explore your site later! Glad to find it!

    Stephanie
    CLAUDE & CAMILLE: A novel of Monet (Crown, April 2010)
    MARRYING MOZART (Viking Penguin)

  2. Petulia Says:

    This is very helpful, and not just for authors!

  3. John Wiswell Says:

    There are a lot of Beginners Guides to Twitter out there, but this is probably the most sensible and concisely explained. Good work!

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    Thanks Rob. As ever, your advice is extremely helpful!

  5. Mike Griffiths Says:

    Thanks this was helpful

    It is hard to balance turning a few people on to some writing action once in a while and avoiding the spamming. Sometimes I have the almost opposite experince on Twitter and feel that talking about myself and not promoting is frowned upon.

    But I’m learning.

    Mike Griffiths

  6. Biblibio Says:

    While I doubt I’ll ever turn to Twitter (even in a time of need), these are also relevant tips for author blogs. Great advice.

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  8. Kristen Escovedo Says:

    Rob,
    Thanks for the concise breakdown of tips for writers. I think both novice writers and seasoned authors who are new to the social media scene alike can benefit from your advice. With so many social media tools and conflicting advice about their usage it is easy to get overwhelmed or over-enthused.

    I especially appreciated the caution about finding publishers on Twitter, which seems very tempting when things aren’t moving as fast as one would like.

    Thanks for your insight. @kescovedo

  9. R.L. Geerdes Says:

    Well written, concise instructions. Thank you for taking the time to create these tips.

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  11. Helen Hollick Says:

    very useful information, thank you. I have found, from experience, that it is far more productive to talk to people about my books as general chat, rather than ram them down people’s throats as in “read my books”.

    I want my readers to be interested in me, as an author, so they feel comfortable with my books and eagerly await the next one to be published.

    Sharing general chat is the best way to make long-term friends, not just collect followers.

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  14. Marie Pinschmidt Says:

    Thanks for the tips on proper protocol. I shall put them to use.

  15. Lisa Preuett Says:

    Very helpful information! My first book is coming out in a couple months and I am trying to navigate through all the social media tips for marketing.

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