16 May 2015

Twitter for Authors ~ Ten Top Tips

Twitter was launched in July 2006, so it will be celebrating its tenth anniversary next year. I‘ve been regularly using Twitter since July 2009, so it’s interesting to look back and see what I’ve learned over those six years. I remember being mystified about the point of Twitter and wondering why anyone could be bothered to share 140 character observations. I am still bemused by some tweets I see – although every once in a while you see something touching, poignant or funny.

For authors, Twitter is a relatively easy way to connect with readers around the world and share news of your work. Twitter can be fun and is also a useful way to keep pace with the rapidly developing world of online publishing and understand other authors.  I can easily understand how some people find it addictive – but setting a simple ten minutes a day limit takes care of the impact on your writing. Here are my top ten tips:

1. Tweet as an author

If you’re new to this, a useful place to start is the Twitter Media Developer’s best practice advice. You may tweet just for fun and that’s fine but it helps build your readership if you make it clear you are an author and what you write about. This is part of your author platform and your tweets can promote your work by raising awareness of posts on your writing blog - and can appear on your Amazon author page (which will be covered in a later post.)

2. Only promote your own work for about 1 in 10 tweets

It’s only a ‘rule of thumb’ but a good principle to follow. (Imagine if you were at a party with an author who only talked about their books the whole time.) If you are determined to promote more often, social media specialists recommend the rule of 3: Tweet the same information once in the morning, once in the afternoon with a ‘tweaked’ title and once in the evening with another different title. If you're still not convinced, see this post and see if you agree with the comments here.

3. Make sure your photo works as a small thumbnail

Your profile picture is next to every tweet you send, so it’s worth giving it a bit of thought. I read some advice once that recommended it's best to use a picture of your face - and it has to work at 48px square. Some authors make clever use of the cover of a book they are promoting but others seem to forget that the square format means the title is often cropped. While you are at it try to create an interesting background and banner – just sign in to your account, click on Edit Profile then upload a profile photo or header image. (You may need to experiment to make sure it displays as you want – see Pauline Cabrera’s (@Twelveskip) Twittertemplate guide.)

4. Make effective use of Twitter search

It can be tricky to find people who share more obscure interests, so insert a keyword or URL into  Twitter Search and it will show you all the related tweets. It doesn’t matter what URL shorter was used and you can also check out the top tweeters and any responses that share a URL. See Aaron Lee’s post for more details.

5. Add writing related #tags to your tweets

You should generally expect that only people who follow you will normally see your tweets – unless you do something like use a hashtag #.  Interestingly, hashtags are not an official function, as they emerge from the user community as an effective way of making tweets on the same topic easy to find.  My favourites are #Writing and #Histfic

6. RT things you find really useful, fun and informative

It is “social” media, so treat Twitter like conversation. The more others like what you share in your tweets, the more likely they will be to check out your book. Keep an eye open for useful tips and interesting blog posts. Interact with people who follow you, check out their web sites and learn from them. You can also reach similar author’s readers by re-tweeting something interesting about their books or blog posts.

7. Only send direct messages when you have something important to ask

Some people recommend you can send a direct message to new followers with a note of thanks, invite them to check out your exciting Facebook page or buy your wonderful book. The problem is that if it’s automated it can come across as insincere. My personal rule is only to send Direct Messages when you are asking a private question, such as inviting a follower to guest post or when you are replying to their direct message – so resist ‘auto DM.’

8. Don't use follower validation tools

The idea of follower validation tools is good, in that it stops the wrong kind of followers. The problem is it can also put off potentially interesting and useful new followers. Similarly, you will reduce followers if you choose to protect your tweets - unless you have a really good reason. In all the time I've been using Twitter I've only needed to block one follower for obscenity and I simply unfollow anyone who tweets 'spam.'

9. Organise your followers into useful lists

Setting up some lists makes it really easy to see tweets you find genuinely interesting. You can also subscribe to other people’s lists – check out my list of authorsTo. set up a list, from your Twitter profile click lists then the "create list" button at the right. Add followers to lists from their profile pages.

10. Use free tools

There are plenty of free Twitter tools to help make sense of what your followers are up. As I am based in Wales I use buffer to schedule my tweets while I sleep (and America wakes up) - or when I’m writing! Try the Crowdfire App  to help find the right people to follow and analyse your success.

Tony Riches @tonyriches

Do you have some great Twitter tips you would like to share? Please feel free to comment


  1. Great tips Tony, thanks for the link.

  2. I can't believe anyone recommends the awful auto DMs - everyone hates them. Often, I unfollow someone as soon as I get one, and so do many others. Don't do them!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I agree Terry - and the worst ones are 'Buy my book.'