Twitterquette: 5 Tips for Authors

When I first joined Twitter two years ago, I knew nothing about using it.Β Learning to post my thoughts in 140 characters or less was excruciating; talking to myself (because I had no followers to speak of at first) brought back unpleasant memories of my high school wallflower days;Β and I committed just about every faux pas possible. I like to think I’ve grown beyond most of the mistakes, but sadly, I see too many other authors committing the same ones…over and over and over again.

While many others before me have shared their tips for using Twitter, it seems the message hasn’t entirely gotten through — and that’s unfortunate, because the mistakes being made are costing writers: in followers, in sales, and in just plain goodwill. So I thought I’d add my voice to the pleas for proper Twitter etiquette in the hopes that a few more will take heed. And if you’re one of those writers scratching your head about your lack of followers or complaining that Twitter hasn’t done anything for your sales…? Then you’re one of those who may need to take heed.

  1. Your profile: It’s fine to include something about your work, but your profile shouldn’t be just about that. Followers want to know something about the person behind the work. My own profile reads like this:Β Author of The Grigori Legacy, where police procedural meets angel mythology. Wife, mother, gardener, coffee snob. Twisted sense of humor. Prone to random tweets. As you can see, I identify my work, but then I tell people about who I am…and I guarantee I get just as many followers (if not more) because of my twisted sense of humor, coffee addiction, and random tweets asI do because of my career path. Have fun with your profile and make it unique. Then, before you post it, put yourself in a potential follower’s shoes and answer this question honestly: would you be someone you wanted to follow?
  2. Include your photo: or your dog’s photo, or your cat’s photo, or your book cover, or anything other than the egg that’s the default. The lack of photo suggests a spam account and potential followers will pass you by on that alone.
  3. Autoresponders: If you’re using (or thinking of using) one of the many auto-response apps in order to thank new followers, don’t. Just don’t. No matter how you format these things (and yes, I know because I tried), the receiving party knows that it’s an auto response. I would rather receive no response — and just assume you’re grateful — than be told in no uncertain terms that you can’t be bothered to take the time to do so yourself.
  4. Autoresponders part 2: If you absolutely must use an autoresponder (and again, I beg you not to do so!), under no circumstances should you include a buy link to your book. Not even if it’s free. There’s a place in your profile to include a link to your website or blog (which is the proper place to include buy links for your books). If I’m interested in seeing your work, I will click on that link. If you direct message me with an auto response that includes a buy link? I will unfollow you. This brings me to the topic of…
  5. Self-promotion: As many Twitter users do, when someone follows me, I usually check them out before deciding whether to follow back. If your tweet stream is nothing but self-promotion, I’m not interested. Yes, we understand you’re excited because you have a book out — but take a look around you and you’ll see that half of Twitter has a book out. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but trust me: on Twitter, publishing a book is really not that special. Instead of bombarding your followers with constant “buy my book” messages, talk to them. Engage with them. Have real conversations with them. Tweet links you think others will find interesting (but don’t just re-tweet other people’s stuff…a little RT love goes a long, long way). People are far more likely to buy your books — heck, they’re more likely to look at them — if they’ve gotten to know you a little. Behave like the proverbial used car salesman, however, and not so much. That’s not to say you can’t ever promote your books, because of course you can. New release? Tell us about it. Stellar review? We want to hear. Special event? Knock yourself out. Just don’t do it in every single tweet, and remember to intersperse other things in there, too. (The rule of thumb is no more than one promo tweet for every nine “other” tweets.)

One of the most comprehensive guides to Twitter that I’ve found on the Internet is from writer and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi (@inkyelbows). She covers every possible question you might have about Twitter — and some you probably haven’t even thought of. Spend some time going through her collection of posts at her Writer’s Guide to Twitter and start putting her tips to work. If you begin treating Twitter as the social media that it’s supposed to be, the marketing will follow…

…and you may even make some new friends along the way. πŸ˜‰

P.S. Have a question? I’ll do my best to answer. Have a comment? I’d love to hear. Did I miss a faux pas you think needs to be here? Tell me! πŸ™‚

P.P.S. Oh, yes, and you can follow me on Twitter at @lindapoitevin. πŸ˜‰

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19 responses to “Twitterquette: 5 Tips for Authors”

  1. Reanna Avatar

    This! So this! And quite timely, too. I ranted a little earlier this morning (and the other night) about authors who only self-promote.

    You are one of the best authors to follow on Twitter. Not only do you share parts of your life, but you are constantly engaging your followers. That’s the purpose of Twitter to me – interaction with people.

    1. Linda Avatar

      So glad you liked the post, Reanna! And yes, that was the lesson I learned about Twitter, too…probably why I love it so much now! πŸ™‚

  2. Bea @Bea's Book Nook Avatar

    I’m posting a link to this in my publisher’s author’s group. I’ve had convos with several about managing their accounts and engaging with followers but it might go down better coming from another author.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Excellent, Bea! So glad you found it useful. πŸ™‚

  3. Madelle Morgan Avatar

    Hi Linda,
    Thanks for the tips. I’m such a newbie – 17 followers! This info really helps.

    1. Linda Avatar

      You’re so very welcome, Madelle! And your comment has nudged me to approach ORWA about doing a Twitter workshop in the fall, so maybe I can help you even further. πŸ™‚

  4. Elaine Avatar

    My one other addition would be to chill on the retweets sometimes. Linda, you don’t do this. But there are few authors I follow that every tweet is a retweet about some other authors work. I’ve had to go and change their settings to not show retweets it was getting so bad. I don’t mind hearing about other authors and new books coming out. But tweet it yourself!

    (I hope that made sense!)

    1. Linda Avatar

      That totally made sense, Elaine, and I agree. I just amended the post accordingly. πŸ˜‰

      1. Elaine Avatar


  5. Peadar Avatar

    That’s a brilliant write up Linda and so true of many people trying and failing to promote themselves on twitter including authors unfortunately.

    Apart from the Grigori Legacy being a good read πŸ™‚ you have the ability in 140 characters to make people feel welcome and not just another random follower. (Even though technically you followed me, but i don’t tweet I reply :-p )

    This was they key to making me buy the first two books and I am looking forward to the third when released in October.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Aw, shucks, Peadar… *blushes* Thank you so much for your kind words…and I’m so very happy to have ‘met’ you. πŸ™‚

  6. blodeuedd Avatar

    Great advice πŸ™‚
    Authors can be awesome on twitter…just do not spam me. And I do not link those, thanks for following back please go here and buy my thanks

    1. Linda Avatar

      I’m totally with you on that, Linda…drives me nuts! πŸ˜›

  7. Denise Avatar

    I think another thing authors need to be aware of is NOT to flame people who don’t like their books on their twitters or facebook. I had one author do this to me and while I just laughed, I won’t be reading anything of hers again and she definitely got an even worse post about her behavior than her book. I also had another, extremely popular author, start an argument with me because I made a comment about how I felt her alpha male was abusive. She sent me an apology email but it really read like someone made her send it and once again, I won’t be reading any of her books again. Authors need to remember that not everyone is going to love their books, or even like them, and in my opinion if they can’t take the criticism of negative reviews then they shouldn’t read them. [I could probably write a whole blog post just on this subject. But yeah.]

    I agree with a lot of what you’ve said in this post. Another thing for me is NOT to post spoilers for an upcoming book that’s not even out yet. And I mean major plot spoilers. I unfollowed an author I really liked because she kept posting major spoilers to her newest books without warning that she was posting them. I haven’t read her last 3-4 books. Most readers don’t like major spoilers.

    Also I love that you chat back with your followers. When I followed you I hadn’t yet read your books but I saw, through my friend Michelle, that you do a lot of chatting with followers so I checked out your feed and that’s what made me want to read your books.

  8. Linda Avatar

    I DO do a lot of chatting, don’t I? No wonder I’m always grumbling about tight deadlines… πŸ˜‰

    And I’ll bear your caution in mind as I start posting teasers for SINS OF THE LOST…no spoilers for the first two, I promise! πŸ™‚

    1. Denise Avatar

      I’m not sure I’ve seen you post teasers. I know a lot of authors post snippets to their blogs/facebooks and link to twitter and not actually post the spoilers. Which gives the reader the choice to click and read it or not to. πŸ˜€

      But I LOVE chatting with you! πŸ˜‰ Those pesky deadlines! πŸ˜‰

  9. Julie Avatar

    Oh my. Your post on etiquette is so much more comprehensive than mine, but I was only complaining about the constant self-promotion. I think I should just clear my post out and publish a link to yours. THANK YOU for saying what followers everywhere want to say to the people they follow.

    1. Linda Avatar

      LOL, Julie — I’d say leave yours up, because there can never be too many reminders on the self-promo thing…but feel free to link over here if you’d like. πŸ™‚

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