Why writers should use Twitter

June 8, 2009 · 37 comments

At a recent meeting with my critique group, I found myself explaining the merits of Twitter for writers.

This was surprising since I was dead-set against Twittering just six months ago. I didn’t want another distraction in my life, and I didn’t understand why I needed Twitter when I already used Facebook.

But Twitter is far more useful than Facebook for sucking up information and promoting myself, especially now that I’m working at home, alone. Twitter has become my virtual water cooler, helping me stay in the writing loop and find inspiration.

How have I used Twitter as a writer?

  • News & Blogs: Since I follow writers, agents and publishers, industry news shows up in my feed, as well as links to blogs on writing. It’s like getting a glimpse of other writers’ RSS feeds.
  • Inspiration: I converse with writers who are working on projects similar to mine. We tweet about challenges and share personal progress, which makes me feel less alone in this endeavor. I’ve also met at least one writer who has offered to read my manuscript when it’s complete.
  • Ideas: On Sundays from 3 – 6 p.m. EST, I usually stop by #writechat, a weekly live conversation on writing. Not only is it a great place to connect with other writers, I’ve also picked up some great ideas there, including using a dry-erase board for story planning and going to Review Fuse for feedback.
  • Events: I may have been the only aspiring author who wasn’t at BookExpo America last week (or did it just feel like that?), but I followed the publishing event through its Twitter hashtag, #BEA09. I can spout off panels from the event, happy hours, book giveaways — If I didn’t already tell you I wasn’t there, I could have tricked you into thinking otherwise.
  • Exposure: Even when I tweet about topics other than myself, my profile drives traffic to this blog and my Web site.
  • Jobs: Initially I scoffed at Twitterers who claimed they’d landed freelance jobs through the social-media network — but not anymore. I’m now one of them.

So the question is: Are authors who Twitter any fitter? I’d say so. What about you?

If you’re looking for book industry folks to follow, check out editor Jennifer Tribe‘s lists of book trade people on Twitter and authors on Twitter. They’re the best round-ups I’ve seen.

Freelance writer Maria Schneider also has a great list of Twitterers who writers should follow. And Mashable blogged recently about 100+ of the best authors on Twitter.

Who do I follow? A few of my favorites:

Writers/authors:

@GirlsSentAway (freelance writer)
@jtlongandco (author)
@susanorlean (author)
@mariaschneider (freelance writer)
@smtwngrl (freelance writer)
@thecreativepenn (author)

Literary agents:

@ElaineSpencer
@BookEndsJessica
@elanaroth
@DanielLiterary
@ColleenLindsay
@RachelleGardner

Book Bloggers:

@thebookmaven
@DevourerofBooks

@mawbooks

Please find me in the Twittersphere, too: @alexisgrant.

Now I’d like to hear from you: Writers, how do you use Twitter?

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth S. Craig June 8, 2009 at 7:37 am

Thanks for all the useful information! I’m new to Twitter, and really scoffed at the idea it could be useful to me. It’s become VERY useful though. I’ve had a UK reviewer offer to do a review, I’ve networked, and I’ve gotten informative links.

Thanks for the links you shared with us, Alexis.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

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Marvin D Wilson June 8, 2009 at 8:39 am

Great bunch of links here. I’m a big Twit myself. :) Hey did you hear about the merger coming up with Youtube, Twitter and Facebook? Yep. It’s going to be a great big one site does all called YouTwitFace – LOL

The Old Silly From Free Spirit Blog

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kay June 13, 2009 at 7:41 pm

props to conan o’brien for this. it was from his monologue. sadly, the only thing remotely funny all night.

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Jane Kennedy Sutton June 8, 2009 at 9:01 am

I was happy to learn you recently got to my blog through a tweet since I don’t seem to use Twitter very effectively or as often as I should. I’m hoping with these with these helpful links, I can improve. Thanks.

Jane Kennedy Sutton
http://janekennedysutton.blogspot.com/

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Jajang Habib June 8, 2009 at 9:36 am

Hi, I am genuinely inspiration to make account at twitter, although I am not great author. May me pal up with you also?

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KJ Smith June 8, 2009 at 9:37 am

Great post and some good info! I’m a Twitter newb, so I enjoy all the insight.

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Devourer of Books June 8, 2009 at 9:51 am

Thanks for listing me as one of your favorite book bloggers!

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Alison Driscoll June 8, 2009 at 9:53 am

I do a lot of freelance ghost-blogging, which requires me to wear many different hats for a variety of industries. Twitter allows me to ask questions about subjects I’m less familiar with and get a real person’s take on topics, a more insider view I might not otherwise be able to find through traditional research online.

Twitter allows me to reach out to “experts” in many different fields and write better, more convincing articles that are more appealing to the target, in-the-know audience. And, it’s faster than live interviews, email or drawn out web searches. The brevity of the medium also makes for more useable quotes that get to the heart of the issue or question.

Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/alisond and help further my research!

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Alexis Grant June 8, 2009 at 9:57 am

Thanks for adding this — It’s interesting to see how other writers use the social network to meet their own needs.

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Galen Kindley June 8, 2009 at 10:45 am

You’ve made some very good and key Twitter points. I’ll consider these as I go forward in twitterdom. However, I found there are some negatives. For example, some tweets are simply things I don’t care about, or, need to know. Okay, I can get by a *few* of those, and, I understand that kind of tweet helps us get to the human element of the person. Got it.

However, when these nonsense tweets become so frequent and of no real use, they assume the character and nature of spam…hence…they get “unfollowed.” Yes, I understand that’s no skin off the “offenders” nose. I’m just sayin’..Kindley goes elsewhere.

Another annoyance. Nothing from a given tweeter all day, then 10 tweets in a row about things of marginal interest.

I do like information tweets…things that can be used not necessarily by me, but someone. Those have value. However, things like, “I just fed the cat” repeatedly issued. Hmmmm not so sure that’s all that helpful to anyone. And nine more just like it, within two minutes, are, well, not really worth reading.

I guess the key is following the right people. Trust me, I’m working on that.

Best Regards, Galen.
GalenKindley.com

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Alexis Grant June 8, 2009 at 10:46 am

You got it — The key is following the right people!

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Patricia Stoltey June 8, 2009 at 12:07 pm

I was also one who doubted the benefits of Twitter. Thanks to Dani, I did it anyway, and I’m finding it useful in a number of ways. The hardest part is limiting the time I spend there.

Patricia
http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com

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Patrick Hester June 8, 2009 at 3:12 pm

I’m glad you wrote this – I’m having a devil of a time getting people to see the power of Twitter for writers (or for anyone really) who want to build a following and communicate with that following.

I’m glad to see people like Neil Gaiman, Diane Duane and Kevin J Anderson embracing social media and hope that other authors will follow their lead.

With the publishing industry changing, authors and especially new authors, need to build a following however they can if they want to succeed.

~P

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Elle Parker June 8, 2009 at 3:52 pm

This is an excellent post! And it absolutely mirrors my own experience with Twitter, which I think I started about the same time you did.

I’m loving it!

Elle Parker
http://elleparkerbooks.blogspot.com/

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Karen Walker June 8, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Whew! Thanks for the great links. I’m going to follow every single one of them and see if it helps me feel better about Twitter.
Karen
http://www.karenfollowingthewhispers.blogspot.com

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julielomoe June 8, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Thanks for the motivational post about Twitter – and to the others who commented about how useful Twitter can be. I’m on Twitter, but I vow to get up to speed on it this week . . . maybe, unless I can procrastinate some more.

Julie Lomoe
Julie Lomoe’s Musings Mysterioso
http://julielomoe.wordpress.com

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NA Sharpe June 8, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Great post! I think I am slowly gettting the hang of twitter. I have found some great folks to follow and resources. As a result I am getting books to review on my kid book review blog (cool!) and have found some very cool informational people to follow. I also like the way you can interface blog posts to tweet them and send folks back to your blog, and have your tweets and your friends tweets also show up on Facebook – I find a lot of tweets I have missed this way from friends and am able to comment on them.

Nancy, from Just a Thought…

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Enid Wilson June 9, 2009 at 3:10 am

Thanks a lot Alex for the links. They look great. I have bookmarked it for future reference. And I haven’t stopped at the writechat yet. Worth trying.

Steamy Darcy

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Mary Anne Hahn June 9, 2009 at 8:00 am

Grreat article, Alexis, and right on the money. I have been recently using Twitter to promote my site, blog and ezine for writers with much success. I’m making some excellent connections there, too, with some terrific writers and marketers. My Twitter address is http://twitter.com/writesuccess – I’ll make sure I’m following you as well!

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kay June 13, 2009 at 7:38 pm

one of the things not yet mentioned here is that it [twitter] can help to form part of the all-important platform & branding of an author or would-be author.

OTOH, recommend judicious use and, of course, following of netiquette, such as it may be for twitter. recently an author who shall remain nameless sent out an endless stream of highly annoying, multi-exclamation point tweets, day after day after day, about a book released two months ago. i should have done more due diligence before i automatically re-followed him, because i would have seen that that is all he tweets, so his value added is virtually nil. if he would have sandwiched in some other info, i could better have stomached the ceaseless and overt self-promotion.

just one more tool in the tool belt.

//kay

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Marlies Bugmann June 13, 2009 at 11:56 pm

Thanks for the great info – like many, I scoffed at twitter first (I’m a quiet sort of person); then, when I realized I’ve got myself into a genre of books where I’m just about alone in the English speaking world (translating a German travel fiction author of the 1800s).
Knowing how to go about using twitter to find ‘anyone else out there’ who knows this particular dead poet will be a valuable tool. I use facebook already but found, in the short time I’ve been cruising around twitter, that there is a lot more to-the-point information being disseminated at twitter.
Thanks again for your info.
Marlies

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Greg Pincus June 14, 2009 at 2:30 am

Those are all excellent reasons to tweet, and I’d definitely add research to that list, as well. I use it for creating community and having conversations, too.

For those looking for other writers to follow, there are some Useful Lists of Twitterers about 2/3 of the way down this page, all of them writer oriented:

http://bookpromotion.wetpaint.com/page/Twitter

Also, just this week, I chronicled a story of an author-editor chat on Twitter – another way to use it – that got some great PR (for a handful of people):

http://www.thehappyaccident.net/chatting-and-happy-accidents/

I really have a lot of fun on Twitter – something helped tremendously by using a client like Tweetdeck rather than the Twitter.com interface – and I think that’s a key reason I like using it. It might not be for everyone, of course, but I really think it has a lot to offer.

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Kristen Fischer June 19, 2009 at 9:27 am

This is a great collection of resources!! (I’m at @kristenfischer) if you’re interested:)

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Peg June 25, 2009 at 12:34 pm

I’m an aspiring picture book author who has a few magazine credits. I feel that any help I can get is more than appreciated. I’ve bookmarked several blogs as a result of seeing a tweet on it on Twitter.

I’m fairly new to Twitter and found most of the reason you listed as reasons why twitter works for me. I have met wonderfully helpful authors on Twitter that share articles that I would never have found on my own.

I’m not financially able to attend conferences so meeting fellow writers and others in the field is a challenge. Thanks so much for sharing this.

Peg/twitter.com/peg366

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Nancy November 24, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Great info! In fact, I connected to your blog through twitter via lostgirlsworld. :) Love your site!! Good to meet another fellow travel writer. Sounds like you’ve seen amazing stuff during your travels in Africa. Can’t wait to see how your book progresses.

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Alastair Humphreys December 4, 2009 at 4:58 pm

This is a really helpful post.

The most common use of Twitter is…
to waste time when we should all be writing!!

I am guilty as charged…
Al

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Bosibori April 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm

I was dead set on not joining Twitter…….not anymore!
http://www.bosibori.wordpress.com

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GoldSalebol May 23, 2010 at 5:16 am

hi.
That tips are great, thank you ..
I love your blog…
thank you again carry on…

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Laura Keller March 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Great tips. Thanks for helping me work out my love-hate relationship with Twitter!
Laura Keller recently posted…A Year Around the World in PhotosMy Profile

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