Writers and Twitter: how to get noticed for all the right reasons (and not be a dick)

writers and twitter: how the twain should meetHere’s the thing: I joined Twitter many, many years ago, and never really got the hang of it. The site seemed rather cryptic and pointless, and the concept was lost on me. I was always a fan of long, emotive ramblings online, so short and random strings of characters, a seemingly complicated interface and a distinct absence of my personal friends on the platform were the final nails in the coffin- in those days, we all used to enjoy hanging out on Facebook, or *GASP* in real life places, like the pub (oh, how times have changed).

So my little Twitter account lay neglected and abandoned in the back of my priority list until roughly one year ago, when this humble indie author decided she needed to put her marketing nous into play and invest a bit more time on social media in her writer capacity.

And in doing so, I have learned two things:

  • Twitter for writers can be a marvellous, rewarding place that helps you to sell books, build brand awareness and become part of a wonderful, friendly and supportive community
  • Twitter is also full of people who, quite frankly, need to read this blog post.

I don’t say this out of arrogance. I still have a long way to go to to be an ‘influencer’, whatever that is. But I say this in a state of sheer frustration as I observe behaviour in others that makes me want to curl up in a cringe ball and die. These people tend to be repeat offenders, too, the social media equivalent to repeatedly trying to jam a square peg into a round hole, only to eventually mutilate the hole so much the peg eventually fits- the end result being a highly uncomfortable experience for everyone involved.

So here, dear readers, are my heart-felt tips to help you ‘win’ at Twitter instead of being THAT PERSON.

Practical Tips for Authors on how to succeed at Twitter

  1. Stop trying to sell your book.

Tips for writers on TwitterI know, right? Rubbish marketing advice, straight from the outset. Pfft, what kind of Author are you if you aren’t trying to sell your own stuff?

Well, here’s the thing. From experience, people are much, much more likely to buy your book if they have first bought into you who are as a person.

Let’s use the pub as an analogy, as I like the pub.

Let’s imagine you’re in the pub, sat next to a roaring fire, sipping the finest ale, lovely warm dog curled at your feet, and all of your friends are sitting around you, laughing, joking, having the very best of times.

A stranger approaches. They look friendly. ‘Mind if I sit here?’ they say.

‘Sure,’ you reply, because, you’re a friendly person too. The stranger sits, and smiles at you.

You open your mouth to ask them what their name is, and try to get to know them. Before you can get even one word out, the stranger leans forward, whips a copy of their new book out of a pocket on the inside lining of their jacket, and starts beating you around the face with it.

‘BUY MY BOOK!’ the stranger screeches, over and over again. ‘BUY IT! JUST BUY IT! BOOK! BUY MY BOOK!’

Your friends sit, horrified, as the stranger beats you unconscious with their latest literary offering and then leaves, disgruntled, because guess what: you didn’t buy the book.

Then, you never hear from them again.

This has happened to me multiple times in the Twittersphere. Aggressive, boring and sometimes maniacal self-promotion. That person has no interest in me, only how much money I spend buying their shit.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use Twitter to try and sell your latest novel, collection, anthology, whatever.

Now, let’s imagine this differently. The same person approaches you in the pub. They sit, and you chat for a while. During the course of conversation, you learn things about each other. Chatting is fun, humorous. Other people get involved in the conversation. By the end of the evening, you have both had fun.

And guess what? You just put the stranger’s book into your shopping cart. Because the chances are, if you enjoyed conversation with them that much, you might enjoy their writing. Might- this is no guarantee of an enjoyable book-reading experience, but you are a damn sight more likely to give it a go as a result.

So, in short, don’t be a dick about selling your book. Relax, connect with like-minded writers and readers and enthusiasts, get involved in conversations, have fun, tag each other in silly twitter challenges, share GIFS, and ALSO promote your book, in a friendly, non-aggressive way.

It’s worked a lot better for me so far than the other method.

2. Stop hijacking other writer’s tweets to sell your own shit (unless they ask you to)

Hijacking other's tweets is just not cool. Oh, man, I hate this one.

So let’s go back to the pub. You’re in the pub, and your friends have asked you about your latest book. So, you start talking about it. ‘Okay, since you asked, this is my book,’ you say, ‘And this is….’

Without warning, a stranger jumps up from nowhere, whips a copy of their book out from that inside jacket pocket, leaps in front of you, and starts waving their own book around.

‘LOOK!’ they say, ‘I WROTE A BOOK TOO! LOOK! YOUR CONVERSATION ABOUT YOUR BOOK IS A LEGITIMATE PLACE FOR ME TO INTERRUPT AND START TELLING YOU ABOUT MINE! LOOK AT IT! BOOK BOOK BOOK BOOK! HERE’S A LINK TOO IN CASE THE POINT ISN’T COMPLETELY CLEAR. I WROTE A BOOK! ’

Now, there is a time and a place for posting links to your own works on someone else’s tweets. And that is when a person has SPECIFICALLY ASKED YOU TO DO SO.

Like this:

https://twitter.com/PartyFreckle/status/1085701570229137408

OR LIKE THIS:

https://twitter.com/LordSteerpike/status/1090106987302522880

NOT ON A TWEET LIKE THIS:

https://twitter.com/NickSetchfield/status/1090203051221286912

He’s trying to announce the launch of his new book guys! DON’T POST ABOUT YOUR OWN GRAND WORKS OF FICTION IN THE COMMENTS THEN!

So we clear? Good. Use a little common sense, feel the mood, figure out when it is appropriate to post about your stuff on other’s tweets. DON’T hijack another person’s tweet to promote your own shit unless they have specifically asked you to do so.

3. Stop sending female Authors pictures of your junk

Seriously, stop it. If I wanted to see those parts of your anatomy that you are clearly proud of, there are websites where I could no doubt look for it, or another tiny penis clones exactly like it.

I’m not interested.

And no, I don’t want to hear about your stinky foot fetish either. Piss off.

I’m not changing my profile picture to something gender-neutral to avoid perverts, either.

Come on, guys.

4. Use Direct Messaging responsibly

This is a continuation of the post above. Unfortunately, unless I have interacted with you in some way, or you have a genuine query, writing proposal or are answering a question directly, I’m unlikely to answer out of the blue messages asking me personal questions. My writer twitter account is professional, I treat it like a more casual version of LinkedIn, really. I do not answer personal questions via DM unless I feel that I know and trust that person. Think about what you send people before you hit that send button. Is it a question you can ask that person out in public? Is it really necessary? What is your agenda?

5. If you don’t like something, DON’T TAG THE AUTHOR IN YOUR CRITIQUE

I mean, come on.

Let’s work this into the pub analogy, once more.

So, you’re in the pub, and you’re talking about the latest Stephen King book. And, let’s say, for the sake of the visualisation, that you aren’t a big fan, you’re disappointed, it didn’t float your boat, whatever.

In the old days, when this happened, people kept these discussions where they belonged: IN THE PUB. Or, they posted an honest review to their website, blog, a book review site, whatever. There was no expectation that the author would see this review, but if they did, it was something they had control over. Choose to read, or not.

And guess what? If Stephen King were ever to one day physically walk into that pub, not a single person would rush up to him immediately to tell him how much they hated his latest work.

Not a single person, unless that person were truly awful.

They would probably swallow that opinion, smile, shake his hand, and maybe talk about, to his face, the stuff they DID like. Or just maintain a polite silence. After all, no one is saying we all have to like the same stuff, and that’s cool and fair.

And everyone came out of the encounter happy.

THIS DOESN’T MEAN YOU CANNOT HAVE AN OPINION. Opinions and critiques are what makes creators better at their craft.

But.

Writers do not want to wake up in the morning and find themselves tagged in a tweet like this:

‘@Writerdude’s latest book is the pits. Can’t believe I wasted my money on this rubbish tbh. This book sux’

This is the online equivalent to opening your door on a sunny morning only to find a rude, belligerent person standing there holding your latest book and saying ‘I came here to tell you this was shit.’

I mean, really…what am I supposed to do with that? Oh, wait! Let me rush indoors and rewrite my entire novel to accommodate this opinion: that it’s a bit shit. Phew, thanks for that- you’ve saved me from a career filled with mediocrity and failure.

This goes for all creations really, not just books- films, art, whatever. And, sadly, it’s really common these days, and after a while, it probably becomes like water off a duck’s back, and ninety percent of these miserable tweets will get lost in the twittersphere anyway.

But, still, just to be clear on Twitter etiquette: this is not okay behaviour. It is rude, and disrespectful. And totally unnecessary. Why do you think you have a right to bring your opinions to this person’s attention in this way? You don’t.

And the absolute worst thing is that I have seen WRITERS DOING THIS TO OTHER WRITERS.

I mean, come on, my dudes.

If you wouldn’t say it to a person in real-life, face to face, then you probably shouldn’t say it to them on Twitter.

Don’t tag creators in your shit-shoving rants about their work.

6. Support other writers, authors and creators.

support other creators on twitter This is how we end: on a positive note. Support other writers in your space. They are not the competition, they are part of the same wonderful creative community that you belong to. Promote their stuff, leave a review, alert your own followers to their promotions, get involved. Help spread the word, organically, lovingly, without malice.

Those creators will, in turn, do the same with you and your work.

Over and out, Twitterers. I’m off to the pub.

9 thoughts on “Writers and Twitter: how to get noticed for all the right reasons (and not be a dick)

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