Annie On Writing

December 16, 2009

Twitter for Writers

This article first appeared over at Write Anything.

Social networking and the opportunities it presents for self promotion and marketing for writers has gone from strength to strength this year. Facebook, in particular, continually advances applications such as fan pages, event promotion and blog networks which make excellent platforms for writers to present their work to a wide audience. However, its Twitter which is proposed to be the platform for writers as their community voice. If you have not yet opened an account, or perhaps have done so, but unsure where to go from, read on for a few tips on how to build your Twitter cred and widen your follower base.

What is Twitter?
Twitter is a live feed on someone’s thoughts or links and promotions. In 140 characters, people express their reactions or reflections upon events in their lives, or encourage others to read pertinent or interesting information they have found by adding a link. The idea is to seek out people whose tweets (the 140 character lines) you find interesting or helpful and follow them. By adding value or items of interest, you will gather followers and thus have a database of people to promote to.

Twitter, for the uninitiated, is like being given an invitation to one of the ‘popular peoples parties’, you arriving alone and unsure and then wandering about desperate to fit in and not look like a loser. Its easy to become lost amongst the inane chirping, from what someone has had for breakfast to links to porn sites. Like any form of marketing, have a specific outcome for your reason to have a twitter account. For most writers, it is to build an online presence and credentials as a professional or expert in a specific genre or area.

What should I Tweet?

  • Links to interesting blog posts or articles with a brief description or reason others would want to read it. Its defiantly fine to tweet your own blog posts, articles and stories; but its also good online karma to link others work. If you’d like to point out an article of interest to writers ( for example) start off with a # and follow with the are of interest – eg #writers. This makes it easy for people to search for tweets aimed at that area.
  • People on twitter ask all sorts of questions; seeking immediate expert information, advice or opinions. You can search for key words on areas you feel you have some expertise or knowledge on and then answer these questions beginning with an @. Eg @annieevett – this will alert that person you have answered a question or are mentioning them in some way.
  • Perhaps you are gathering opinions or information about something – ask questions that are relevant to your niche. This will not only gain you insights to info you may not already have, but guide you to fellow twitterers who may share similar interests or expertise.
  • Retweet good posts from others. To do this, simply copy and paste the full Tweet and put “RT @namehere” in front of what you have copy and pasted.
  • Follow Friday is a great way to develop good Twitter karma. On Fridays, tweet the Twitter handle (@namehere) of people you think others might like to follow. Use a hash tag (e.g. #followfriday) and relevant niche (e.g. #writing) to make it easily searchable.
  • Here at Write Anything, we’d love you to follow us ( see the little symbol at the side to click on to follow us) and to  promote our Fiction Friday Posts – so tweet our great stories with #FictionFriday and either links to your favourite entry or a general link to our FF page.
  • There are even online writers groups who have weekly challenges to tweet flash fiction using a prompt. (now that’s a short story!) I have temporarily have lost thier handle (am not at home or on my pc whilst I write this post). Anyone know it?  Please put in the comments.

Who should I follow?

A number of well known celebrities and authors have begun twittering items of interest. With this in mind, make a list of people you respect or would like to have some sort of professional interaction with, and search to see if they have twitter accounts. Before following anyone, check back on what they have tweeted in the past few days and see if this the sort of information you would like to continue to receive.
Continually seek out others in your niche, genre ore expertise and follow them. Its been said that the best way to start is by restricting the amount of people you follow to around 50 who are specifically in your niche. Watch who they follow and reply to and then make your mind up if you, too , would like to follow them. I have been as guilty as the last person in following anyone who has been kind enough to follow me. All this results in pages of unrelated tweets and links to things I am not interested in at the moment. Regular pruning of the people you follow is advisable.

Maria Schneider is a freelance writer and a prolific twitterer of good quality relevant information. You can follow her at http://twitter.com/mariaschneider She has compiled a list of Twitter follows for writers, which I have found extremely interesting and have copy and pasted with thanks and full credit here:
First, everyone on Twitter follows these two guys and they follow everyone back. They’re kind of like the Grand Poobahs of Twitter.
Guy Kawasaki: http://twitter.com/guykawasaki
Chris Brogan: http://twitter.com/chrisbrogan

Literary Agents
Janet Reid: http://twitter.com/Janet_Reid
Lauren MacLeod: http://twitter.com/BostonBookGirl
Colleen Lindsay: http://twitter.com/ColleenLindsay
Jenny Rappaport: http://twitter.com/jennyrae
Nathan Bransford: http://twitter.com/NathanBransford

Authors and Publishing Industry Bloggers
Paulo Coelho: http://twitter.com/paulocoelho
Kevin Smokler: http://twitter.com/Weegee
BoSacks: http://twitter.com/BoSacks
Maud Newton: http://twitter.com/MaudNewton
Ron Hogan: http://twitter.com/RonHogan
Lit Park: http://twitter.com/LitPark
MJ Rose: http://twitter.com/MJRose
Jason Boog: http://twitter.com/jasonboog
Lee Goldberg: http://twitter.com/LeeGoldberg
Mignon Fogarty: http://twitter.com/GrammarGirl
Sarah Weinman: http://twitter.com/sarahw

Book Publishers & Publicists
Chris Webb, John Wiley & Sons: http://twitter.com/chriswebb
Grand Central Pub: http://twitter.com/GrandCentralPub
Penguin Books: http://twitter.com/PenguinBooks
Dzanc Books: http://twitter.com/DzancBooks
Graywolf Press: http://twitter.com/GraywolfPress
Softskull Press: http://twitter.com/softskull

Twitter, like many of the social networking systems can suck your time and energy away. However, if you see it and use it as a valuable tool to gather specific information or to promote work you have found of interest, then it can only serve you. Lets face it, as writers we want others to read our work and to build a loyal fan base. Twitter has opened many opportunities within the writing community to do just this.
What’s been your experience of twitter?

Have you used it as a tool for promoting yourself or your work – or just as a social medium?

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