Montreal Twestival 2009 Cupcakes by clevercupcakes

Do you tweet?

In an age where authors are having to market themselves more and more on Twitter, Facebook, and personal web pages/blogs, online presence is becoming essential. We’ve become a society where you have to market yourself as well as your book.

Now, if you are not already a Twitter convert (and I understand there may be a straggler or two), I know where you are coming from. I resisted the Twitter trend until last fall. I mean, how could I possibly express myself in only 140 characters?

Turns out you can fit a lot into 140 characters.

Twitter has probably become one of the most influential and useful tools in my writing arsenal. At least when it comes to motivating myself to write. Here are a few ways that Twitter can help you in your writing (btw, my Twitter account is @TheGladElf if you don’t already follow):

1. Connection- What really got me hooked on Twitter was when I started following some of my favorite authors. I was getting up to the minute updates on where they were on their current WIP (work-in-progress for the noobs or the acronym deficient, like me). Twitter is a great way to see what the big names (or not so big names) are doing and to get in touch with other writers who are at the same stage that you are. And there is some really great interaction. Find a Twitter chat to participate in, get to know your peers and the people who’ll be reading your books. Getting yourself out there is key to building an audience.

2. Information- If you know anything about the publishing/writing industry it is that it changes constantly. Staying up to date in the latest doings is key. Following accounts like Writer’s Digest (@WritersDigest) and Publisher’s Weekly (@PublishersWkly) will keep you in the loop and informed. I’m constantly finding links to other’s blogs and to web pages with great information.

3. Motivation- One of the awesome things about following other writers is that they are usually very vocal about where they are on their current WIP. It’s nice to see someone else where you are or where you want to be. And it is a constant reminder to you to pick up your pen and get to work. If my favorite authors can manage to write a book while promoting another, going on tour and buying anew fridge what excuse do I have that can compare. Although, you might want to disengage from Twitter to write. It can be distracting. Just a little. Or just a lot.

4. Promotion- Let’s face it. You write because you want people to read your writing. I’ll admit it at least. Because first thing I do when I write something is shove it in my best friend’s face and demand “Read!” Twitter is a great way to keep people updated and interested in your own work. Especially if you blog (which you should). In the last month since I started really using Twitter to post links to my blog (TweetDeck and scheduled tweets are a wonderful thing) it has become the most dominant form of referral to my blog.

5. Fun- First off, I did try to find a “-tion” word for this, but celebration wasn’t quite right and distraction just seemed offensive (and fun rhymes, sort of). Anyways, Twitter is fun. It cracks me up. I mean, I knew that I loved Ally Carter’s (@OfficiallyAlly) humor in her books, but she Tweets funny stuff too (as well as important, informative stuff). Also, you never know who’ll tweet back. A certain author might have tweeted a picture of a page from their upcoming book. And me being me, I might have gone ahead and read even though I knew it would only drive me crazy (relief comes next week, thank goodness). My retweet/reply read something like “AAAAGH!!!” and she tweeted back. Now, I did not take a picture of my computer screen and have it framed…but I might have thought about. Just might have. Suffice it to say, that one moment made a bad day much brighter.

So, I’m sure that by now you have been won over to the wonders of Twitter, or maybe you were already won over, but there are just a couple more things that I would like to mention. Because on Twitter, nobody wants to be that guy (or girl). You know, the one that nobody wants to follow. So before I go, five things that I have learned to help you tweet smarter (can you tell I’m all about the numbered lists?):

1. Be relevant- I think this is the one I run across the most often. Consider your audience. Do they really need to know what you have for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Everyday? If you’re a chef, maybe. But for the most part, try to refrain from the daily doldrums. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t add a little personal flair or give a brief (key word, brief) glimpse into your perosnal life, but try to keep in mind your audience and what they are looking to read. In my case, anytime I come across a tweet about writing, or about someone’s book or just, something that has me rolling on the floor laughing, I’ll retweet it.

2. Be careful- Once you hit “tweet”, it is out there until the end of eternity. You can’t get rid of it. It’s kind of like that tattoo you got on Spring Break. Tweet with care. Double check that your wrods have all the letters in the rihgt places. And be careful what you tweet. Think twice and then thrice. and try not to offend anyone famous or rich.

3. Be nice- You know that thing your mom told you. Yeah, that one. I won’t repeat it, but, keep in mind that this may be the first impression that people get of you. Or the second. Have you heard of the “lost the job” horror stories because people assumed the big man didn’t do Twitter (Or Facebook, etc.)? It’s not just that you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. It’s that you want to create a professional persona here. It’s okay to disagree with someone, but be polite when you do. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.

4. Be giving- The world revolves around the sun. Not me. Not you. You know and I know it. So don’t just tweet your own stuff. You want people to follow you? You have to follow people. You have to do more than tweet links to your blog. You need to contribute and be useful. And part of that is helping share what others have brought to your attention. Best way to get someone’s attention? Retweet their stuff (but you should also be picky, make sure anything you RT matches up with the last three factors).

5. Be real- By which I mean, be you. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people out there who are going to get some part of your personality. Who are going to find it entertaining and thought-provoking and fun. Don’t try to be someone else on Twitter. I mean, if your M.O. is jerk-face, you might want to censor it a little (unless you’re famous, apparently it’s okay then). But otherwise, feel free to be you. Because that’s who your readers are going to want. And that is who they will connect with.

Obviously, I’m a Twitter baby. So please, chime in with any other advice or tips or enlightening (funny) stories you might possess.