Twitter Tips for Writers

I raved about my former Writer’s Digest colleague, Maria Schneider, a couple of weeks back — towards the end of a long rambling post that no one but my wife probably read — because she’s put together one of the best websites for writers out there at

She’s not only producing some great content including tips on writing and getting published and links to great free resources, she’s interviewing writers and agents, hosting a vibrant and active community, and has even started offering workshops on everything from writing an effective query letter to intensive fiction workshops designed to help you finish that novel.

Her post today about Twitter was particularly timely as I’ve started using it a lot lately, both personally and professionally, but I’m not sold yet on its real value. I’m still in the early stage of what she likens to “being at a cocktail party where you know no one”, but her tips on how writers can get the most out of it and 25 Twitterers to follow is a great resource:

There’s a bunch of publishing types using Twitter and following them is tapping into the zeitgeist—a never-ending stream of conversations, random thoughts and links. It gives you access to lots of smart, interesting, connected people.

But if you’re just getting started on Twitter it can be really intimidating, so I’ve made this list of 25 good follows for writers composed of the twitterati, book bloggers, agents, publishers and writers. This is by no means an exhaustive list of twitterati, but it may be a good start for you. Check out who these folks follow to find many more.

There are several people on her list I wasn’t following whom I added, including Bo Sacks (who surprisingly only has 83 followers?!?!) and Ron Hogan, and I was glad to see my old publisher Soft Skull there, as Richard Nash has a very high signal:noise ratio (something many Twitterers, myself included, haven’t quite figured out yet).

I’ll add to her tips that you can also do a version of Google Alerts on Twitter Search, and get an RSS feed for any topic of interest being discussed on Twitter.

Like Facebook and Google Reader, it can be a real timesink if you let it, especially if you get caught up in the numbers game instead of seeking out quality content — don’t be afraid to stop following someone; they won’t be notified! — and spend too much time sifting through tweets tracking people’s lunch choices and bowel movements, but used correctly, it’s an excellent marketing tool, stripping blogging and social networking down to their most essential elements and eliminating all external distractions.

On a related note, check out “Twitter: Email With A 140-Character Limit?” for some best practices and a great compare and contrast with email:

Twitter Lessons for Email, or Vice Versa

1.    Make every word count.  Twitter gives you only 140 characters to convey your message, including spaces and punctuation. That’s about 15 to 25 words, fewer if you include a link or URL.

Similarly, with overflowing inboxes, more use of preview panes and mobile devices, your email subject line and above-the-fold copy must sing. Choose your words carefully. Go for impact. Good copywriting is more important than ever.

Twitter is almost the perfect example of Seth Godin’s take on the Internet, that it’s not “how can the market make me money” it’s “how can I do things for this market,” because it puts relevance before revenue. Interestingly, he doesn’t use it himself and seems to view it somewhat skeptically, saying it “is a protocol, of course, not a company or even a platform,” and when it comes to marketing, likens it to the telephone:

Venture Beat says that Twitter made Dell a million dollars. That’s nuts. Did the phone company make Dell a billion dollars? Just because people used the phone to order their Dell doesn’t mean that the phone was a marketing medium. It was a connecting medium. Big difference.

For now, for me, I’m enjoying playing around with it, using it to automatically update both my Facebook and status and my site status here, and over at the 9-to-5 I’m using it as one of several “connecting” mediums to reach out to our existing and potential audience.

Follow me!

One thought on “Twitter Tips for Writers

  1. And I have few more:
    1. Do not spam – if your messages on follower page cover what other he/she is following, posted, there are chances that he/she unfollow you.
    2. Avoid crap – “Drinking coffe” has no value.
    3. Avoid @xxx – to understand context you have to follow xxx
    4. Place date of blog post on top of page – what you are writing isn't timeless.

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