Tips for authors: How to use Twitter
Writers and How They Can Best Use Twitter
By Lisa Turnbull
Don’t dismiss it. Twitter is not just another networking site. Yes, perhaps you are overloaded with having to keep up with all the other social networks you’ve signed up to, but can you afford to ignore the one most commonly used by writers who want to stay in touch? Of course you can do this through other networks, but Twitter offers a uniquely flexible yet disciplined style of communication that has not yet been matched by its competitors. Twitter will give you instant access to a huge network of writers, many of them sharing the same problems and experiences as you, which makes it an indispensable tool in a field where a large number of contacts are essential as part of a wide ranging marketing strategy. With so many people in the publishing industry also tweeting – from editors to slush pile readers – this is a great way to keep in touch with what’s happening in their corner of the writing world. Whatever field of writing you are working in, you’ll also find your readers on Twitter.
The soft sell sells
The beginner might use the brute force approach: ‘Did the butler do it? Read my book and find the answer!’ Clearly this isn’t going to take you very far, and neither is tweeting about what you had for breakfast and every other little detail about your life between then and sunset. You need to be smart and consider how to promote yourself as a writer in a way that will increase your sales. A better approach is to give a taster of each chapter, using Twitter as a trail of breadcrumbs to lead your reader in. The constraint of squeezing what you want to say into 140 characters is a great discipline. If haven’t already learnt the lesson that less is more, learn it now and use it well. Give them a taste of your literary style in just a sentence or two, blow them away, and they may want to see what else you can do.
Give and take
The followers are rolling in; now you need to build some one-to-one relationships. Avoid incessantly pushing your product and instead engage in their lives and find a common thread. If a friend or acquaintance of yours tells you he’s written a book, you’re bound to be curious. The same applies to your Twitter community. If you write a blog, keep it up to date and share it with your followers by linking it to your tweets. Twitter is highly effective for increasing traffic to your website. Just being on Twitter gives you an advantage. If anyone knows your name and can’t find you on Twitter, they’ll lose interest; you’ll also be flying under the radar of agents and publishers. Some people post tweets exclusively about writing opportunities, so keeping in touch can be a good way of boosting your career.
These days, readers expect a two way dialogue with authors, so you need to engage with them and answer their questions; emails, forums, responding to blog comments, and above all communicating with them through Twitter, which is the fasted way of responding to a wider audience, will help your writing come alive to them. If your contacts are genuinely interested in your writing, the dialogue will be enjoyable. You’ll get instant feedback from readers and reviewers, and it’s faster than email and cheaper than text messaging. Through their responses, you can learn what works best in your writing. You can test the waters by linking your tweets to new writing on your blog, and if necessary you can make adjustments before publishing in print. Twitter is also one of the best online sources of news. Follow the right people and you’ll stay in the loop.
As you become more familiar with the world of Twitter, you’ll find that an essential element of its success is the way people with similar interests group together and keep in touch. This can be a great help researching a subject: just send out a tweet asking for information. For writers, using the amwriting hashtag will allow you to post updates of what you are working on, and you can assess the writing of other members of the group as well as their comments on your work.
Get used to the technology
Writing can be a lonely occupation, but you don’t have to feel isolated. The modern writer needs to get media savvy and use all the technological advancements possible to achieve the age-old ambition of all writers – to be read by as wide an audience as possible. All day we are on our various devices trying to write and communicate with our editors, readers, potential readers, other writers, friends and family, and trying to keep everything in the air at once. Cultivating a broad footprint in the virtual world will boost your marketing.
A good way to broaden your impact is through video, which can be shared via Twitter in a number of ways. TwitVid is an easy to use video sharing site that supports uploaded videos from the web, email or webcam. Twiddeo is another option, whose Greasemonkey script allows Firefox users to play Twiddeo videos direct from their Twitter homepage. Twitc is a versatile, one-stop shop for sharing multiple files of various types, and it can also be used to import videos via URLs. TwitLENS is another easy to use app that does the same job, but it also supports Twitter OAuth for secure login. With a range of options, the sharing of videos and MP3 music files is becoming increasingly simple. From mp3 converters to Youtube downloaders, access to great new music is increasing by the day. Besides it’s usefulness as a means to share music via Twitter, Youtube downloaders are a boon for any writer who wants to listen as he works to his favorite music video tracks on his MP3 player, but without the visuals. If you write while travelling, you need to save power, and playing videos is one of the easiest ways to run down your battery.
Successful writers have always been self-publicists. Twitter is just another tool for the modern writer to get out there and shout about himself – like Mark Twain in his ubiquitous white suit, saying: ‘Look at me. Here I come in my white suit!’ or Charles Dickens, the supreme self-publicist, with his stage tours and public readings, or Ernest Hemingway’s relentless branding of himself as the epitome of heroic masculinity. Gore Vidal, in usual waspish mood, put him down like so: ‘Hemingway is still the master publicist, if Capote will forgive me…’ – killing two birds with one stone, while typically pushing himself to the fore. Today we have the example of Mohsin Hamad, displaying perfect humility in person but relentlessly re-tweeting choice quotes from his best reviews, earning him criticism in some quarters; but everybody is at it and they always were, it’s just the medium that has changed. Used properly by writing about what you know will interest people – your area of expertise, not your cat’s eating habits or your latest phone – Twitter is a fantastic way to promote your work. Georges Simenon once planned to write a novel while sitting in a glass box, surrounded by his readers. Sitting at your computer and tweeting to the world, is it any more bizarre?