You’re a writer. You’ve been writing for years, maybe. Months. Decades. Weeks. Or you just started today. You took to the Internet today, curious about this “Twitter” all the kids are talking about. You stumbled across this blog post somehow, by some miracle. This is probably on the 4th or 5th page of Google if you search for “I am a writer teach me how to Twitters,” so congratulations on finding it!
I’ve prepared some hypothetical questions you might have, and I’ve answered them here. I am by no means a Twitter master, but am a simple writer like yourself just trying to pay it forward by explaining some of the shit that confused me when I first started and wondered, “Okay uhhh how do I do this?” So here we go!
Twitter, pfftt, do I even need to be on it?
Well, no. Not at all. You can be totally successful as a writer and never set digital foot on Twitter.
The same could be said for the entire Internet, to be fair.
Let’s flashback to me, when I was first stumbling around the Internet. I made a Twitter account a long time ago, couldn’t figure out how to use it, and promptly ran away from it. A year or so later, I was putting together a spreadsheet of agents I would be interested in querying my manuscript to. All of them had Twitter handles (a handle is the @nameorsillything that you use to find someone on Twitter), so those handles got their own column on my spreadsheet. But I didn’t do anything with them. Yet.
More scrounging about on the Internet. I was all up in these articles and advice columns about how to query, etiquette of querying, etc. Many of these articles said to interact with agents and other writers on Twitter, or reminded the reader to act professionally on Twitter.
At that point, I thought, “Well, I guess I should go give Twitter another try.”
I’M SO GLAD I DID!
Fine. I’m on Twitter. Now what?
Okay, first thing, add a profile picture and a little description of yourself. When the picture and description are both blank, it weirds people out and they won’t follow you back.
Do you have a profile picture and description? Hooray! Now, my friend, follow those agents you think would be a good match for your manuscript!
You don’t have to interact with them. I’m so socially anxious I can’t even interact with strangers over the Internet, so I haven’t personally tweeted at most of the people I follow.
When you follow someone, you will see the tweets they post. If someone follows you, they see what you post. It’s the CIIIRRRRRRCLE OF LIIIIIFE!
Your “agents who are cool” list could be anywhere from 10 to 50 agents, or even more. Follow all of them, and then read what they’re tweeting, and who they’re retweeting.
Sofiya, WTF is a retweet?
Oh, sorry. Let’s say Person A tweets a funny video of a bear playing a trumpet. And Person B sees this original tweet, thinks it’s funny, and wants to share it with their own followers. Instead of having to go look up the bear-trumpet video and posting it, they can just press the “retweet” button.
There are two types of retweet. One is just a plain old retweet that posts the initial post and that’s it. The other is a “quote tweet” where you can make a comment about the retweet. So Person B quote tweets Person A’s bear-trumpet video, and says “THIS BEAR IS SO TALENTED!”
Okay I followed all these agents. Now what?
Read their tweets! Find out if these agents are people you personally like. A very important part of a good author-agent relationship is being able to stand one another. If everything they say on Twitter makes you want to slap them until their eyeballs fall out, you should probably never query them. Neither of you would be happy.
Let’s say one of the agents you follow retweets something another agent says, and you think that other agent sounds funny or cool. Follow them. If you see someone retweet another author and you think that author’s tweet is good, follow them. The more people you follow, the wider the net you’ll be casting for new follows.
I keep hearing about hashtags. What are those?
Hashtags (AKA pound sign AKA #) are a great way to keep up with a conversation.
Twitter is scary because at first glance, it looks like an huge mess just being vomited up everywhere. People who don’t know how to make sense of this mess get scared and run away, never learning how to make sense of this beautiful disaster.
Let’s say you want to find tweets of other people who are writers. A good hashtag to search is #amwriting. You can narrow it down by searching #amwritingfantasy or #amwritingscifi or any number of other combos. When you search #amwriting, you’ll only see tweets that were tagged (hashTAG, get it?!?) with #amwriting, and usually only people who are actually writing will tag their posts with that.
Some hashtags I routinely use are:
and lately… #STRANGERTHINGS2
When should I unfollow someone?
Whenever you want to, babe.
I unfollow people when I don’t enjoy what they tweet anymore. Someone whose profile says they’re a writer, but all they do is post ultra-polarizing political stuff all day, I will generally unfollow. I don’t enjoy insane political stuff; that’s why I don’t go on Facebook anymore. My Twitter time is writer networking time (generally), and I like to stick to that theme.
Or sometimes I follow a writer, and after a few weeks of following them, I just don’t care for their attitude about writing or other topics, so I’ll unfollow them.
Unfollowing doesn’t mean you don’t like someone, necessarily. It just means you don’t want to read what they’re posting. Even if you like someone as a person, you might not like their tweets. I wouldn’t like the tweets of most of my real life friends or family, guaranteed.
Okay, what else can I do on Twitter?
There are lots of fun Twitter contests, or little writing events. There are weekly themed events where you post an excerpt in accordance with whatever the theme is, just for fun. You meet new people that way.
A lot of writing-related contests on Twitter are pitch contests. You tweet your best 140 character pitch on a certain day during certain hours, and patrolling agents will possibly say they like it. Rules vary for each contest, so if you do end up signing up for Twitter, follow @writevent to keep up with all these fun things.
And… that’s it, really. It’s not hard. Just participate, follow a bunch of people, interact, say hi, post stupid gifs, and soon you’ll be on your way to a successful Twitter experience!
P.S. while you’re at it, follow me! @igotsaturnip ❤