#26-twitterAuthors are often reluctant to give Twitter a try. After all, for those who write entire books, it might seem improbable that we can connect to our audience in 140 characters or less. But Twitter is easy, and a fantastic way to quickly branch out to find new readers!

Our thanks to journalist and author Laura McNeill for these Twitter tips, and below that, several more fabulous Twitter references for authors.

Getting involved and being active on social media is a must-do when building your author platform! And, sure, it’s easy to put off signing up for Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest until tomorrow … or next week … or next month… but getting started doesn’t have to be scary!

twitter-101-for-authorsTwitter is a favorite of mine, and I’ve loved the ability to connect with so many other authors and readers. An important note: Though the perception is that authors “sell” books through social media, I believe that smart authors use social media to connect with readers, bloggers, reviewers, and book lovers, and form relationships.

Ready to get started? Here’s a simple 10-step guide to using Twitter.

1. Choose Your Username

Choose your username (or “handle”) wisely. It’s what your readers, bloggers, and reviewers will see every time you Tweet. For that reason, it may be best to stay away from usernames like @fritolover, @luv2getfreebooks, and @crazyaboutguyz.

As an author, you need to keep it short, simple, and professional. Choose a handle that identifies you easily. Mine is @lauramcneillbks.

2. Create a Snappy Bio

Take some time to create a witty and concise bio. Remember that quite a few people on Twitter may have previous knowledge of who you are or what you do!

So, using 160 characters, create something memorable, quirky, and jam-packed with important information.

Here’s mine:

HarperCollins Author. Mom. Tide & Buckeye Fan. Lover of books & all things pink. Represented by McIntosh & Otis. Center of Gravity (7/15) & Sister Dear (4/16)!

3. Choose a Great Photo

Just as important as a great bio is choosing the best photo for your profile. Authors should use a close-up, clear, professional, and well-lit picture. Are you smiling? Do you look approachable?

Scroll through other authors’ profile pictures. Which ones stand out? Which ones are fuzzy?

Don’t hesitate to ask a friend to snap a dozen photos – and chose the best one. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

4. Go Ahead and Tweet!

Once you have your photo and profile in place, send your first Tweet. Make it something simple, enough to let people know that you aren’t a spammer or robot!

Not sure what to Tweet about? Consider mentioning a book you’re finished and loved, a new bookstore you’ve visited, or a quote that seems particularly appropriate for authors.

5. Follow Other People

Invest time into finding other Twitter users who share interesting information, whether it’s a new article on editing, a fabulous piece of advice, or a must-read article about social media.

This process is a bit of trial and error. It’s okay follow someone for a while and then unfollow them – but eventually you’ll find your “group” of Twitter friends who share great information, retweet your Tweets, and don’t hesitate to reach out beyond the Twitter-sphere to follow you on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

6. Talk about It

Start reaching out to others and getting a conversation going. Try asking a question and see what sort of response you get. People love answering questions – especially controversial or hot button topics!

Also, respond to what other people are saying. The ‘reply’ feature on Twitter is important – use it – and treat it like a face to face conversation. Use humor, share interesting insights, discover common interests, and talk about your writing life. You’ll connect with people in a hurry!

7. Promote using the 80/20 rule

If you have a new release, a sale on your book, or a special event happening in your author world, definitely promote on Twitter – politely! Balance those Tweets with other valuable information – share articles, reviews, news, and tips, as well.

If you are going to run a special, add some humor to your Tweets. One example:

Tweet-ExampleDon’t forget to promote others, as well. Retweet posts about your favorite authors, retweet great writing tips, give new releases a shout-out.

Try to follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of your Tweets should focus on sharing good information with others, including other authors’ achievements, book news, and cool quotes. Most of the time, those other authors will return the favor and retweet your posts. Author karma works. Pay it forward!

8. Don’t Spam

When you do have a special event or new release: Please, do not spam the Twitter-sphere with “Buy my book” 100 times a day. People will unfollow you. I promise.

9. Respond to Everyone

As a new Twitter user, try to respond to anyone and everyone to grow your connections. When someone retweets you, mentions you in a Tweet, or favorites one of your Tweets, say thank you!

It’s important not to use an automatic reply system, no matter how convenient it sounds. Your job is to engage with folks and begin conversations.

10. Ignore the Follower Count

Don’t pay attention to your follower count. Building a quality Twitter audience takes time. You are building relationships with people – and if you are doing it right – the numbers will come.

Again, and I can’t stress it enough, Twitter is not a platform for authors to “sell” books. Connect with readers, bloggers, reviewers, and book lovers, and form relationships. Once people trust you and know that you’re authentic, then, and only then, they might be interested in checking out your novels or stories.

Have an example of how you’ve used Twitter to make a new connection? Share with your comment below!

52C copy2Laura McNeill, author of Center of Gravity, adores hot coffee, good manners, the color pink, and novels that keep her reading past midnight. She believes in the beauty of words, paying it forward, and that nerds rule the world. She lives near Tuscaloosa, Alabama with her two sons. Visit Laura’s site at Lauramcneill.com

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