Quick and dirty Twitter tips for writers

I spend a lot of time on Twitter. I'm not the chattiest writer on there but I love to see what's happening in publishing and have connected with some excellent people. When I was querying agents, I used the medium to get to know certain ones before I sent anything out: what were they like to their followers? Did they promote themselves well and would they do that for their authors? Did they enjoy what they were doing or did it seem like a drag? It was revealing, to say the least. 

As my career progressed from new writer to newly-agented to writing full-time, I saw Twitter as a business tool with a little fun thrown in. Publishers were researched, readers and reviewers met and high-fived, and I saw the potential for greatness -- and plenty of disaster. Here's a few tips I've picked up along the way:


Let's start with the basics:

Twitter is a soundbite of information so you're forced to give the reader the most bang for their second's worth of attention. How you do it is to keep it friendly, informative, and not waste their time with photos of your lunch. 

For business:
Start by following those who interest you. Get to know them via their twitter feed before you start chatting them up; you need a little background or else you'll become noise on their  feed. It's great to drop them a tweet in response to one of theirs, just remember to keep it professional: no whining, cursing, or promises of bundt cake if they read your MS. They may respond -- or not. It's a busy Twittering world out there.  ;)

Peeve: One thing I see as a huge mistake are twitterers who follow a ton of people only to unfollow soon afterward because they either aren't immediately followed back or, if they are, unfollow them to build their numbers thinking they look more in demand than they actually are. When I'm followed by a person with a very large number of followers, I take a look at their posts. Are they only promoting themselves as a product or do they actually take the time to interact? 

For writers:
Please don't pitch your MS to agents or editors via Twitter. While saying hello and forming a relationship is lovely, going in for the kill does exactly that - it can kill your chances at a real chance when you query later.

Get involved with twitter chats. Debbie Ridpath Ohi has an excellent site for writers and Twitter that breaks Twitter down in more detail plus a listing of chats to get involved with. Chats are a great way to meet authors in your genre and learn more about the business. And they really do want that bundt cake. 

It's a tricky thing since many businesses/writers/artists do it crazy wrong. Instead of building an audience with give and take, they blast out URLs with a call-to-action demand to buy their book, etc. That nearly always gets me to unfollow them since that's all they talk about. Instead, promote yourself once or twice a day (if that) with a good-quality link to whatever you're doing. A blog post, a video, etc. Give them the information, then let them decide what to do next.

More important than promotional tweets, is to say hello to your followers. Ask how people are, RT (retweet) others' tweets and view it as another way to reach out to your audience. Once the ball gets rolling, you'll have a built-in fanbase who may then RT your links to their followers. This is the best part of Twitter in my opinion. Be genuine and friendly. They're there to relax and chat, not be bombarded with sales calls. 

The # symbol is a dandy bit of promotion without being a pain. Added to the end of a tweet, it can be snarky or sweet depending on how clever you want to be. My advice is to use it sparingly but get your message across. I'll do something like #zombietarot when I'm talking about zombies or tarot. You can also use the hashtag to link a word (like #zombie) within your sentence so it shows up in a larger search. Example: If I searched for #JaneAusten, everything hashtagged with #JaneAusten would come up on one search page. When I'm talking about ghosts, I'll end a tweet with #ghosts #haunting #hauntedobject (no space between words).

When promoting something coming in the future, use Twitter to build excitement. Give your followers something to look forward to with a small contest (like a book giveaway) or keep the release of your product in mind with targeted promotions at the best time of day, usually around 10a, when people meander onto Twitter after work gets settled down. 

Remember to keep it sassy, short and simple. Twitter is for soundbites, not novels. 

What are your best Twitter tips? Do you use it for business or keep it mostly personal? I mix both these days so give me a holler at @staceyigraham

Image credit: believeinbooks.org


  1. I use it for links, but not much more than that.

    There's an idiot on this side of the border, a hockey commentator who thinks he's right about everything and has no idea how stupid he is. Don Cherry recently sent out a series of tweets, not understanding the limits of 140 characters, ranting about foreign aid.

    1. It's a strange and powerful thing in the wrong hands.