Twitter for authors – who to follow in the book world

May 28th, 2013

Most writers are advised to go on Twitter by their publishers. Or if you’re hoping to be published, you’ve heard that Twitter is where authors, agents, publishers and booksellers hang out. But it’s also a resource. You can ask questions, hear about publishing news, debates, competitions, awards,tips and deadlines. If something big is happening, your Twitter friends will tell you to turn on the TV, and when you’re stuck in stationary train, you’ll probably find out why on Twitter. And if your books are about a particular topic or location, you can stay on top of what’s happening there even if it’s miles from your desk. Best of all, it’s a place where writers chat to each other. So it’s much more than just somewhere to promote your books.

I wanted to suggest a comprehensive list of book people to follow, but as I tried to compile one, I realised that the brilliant thing about Twitter is that my list will never be your list. You tailor-make your own. But I can suggest a strategy for compiling an interesting and rewarding Twitterfeed.

One of the best ways to get new followers is to follow people. A percentage of them will follow you back. Social media trainer @zoe_cairns suggests following 20 a day. But there are no shortcuts. Don’t use those ‘get more follower’ programmes. You want interesting people to chat to, informative people or those who might actually read your books not herdsmen in Ulan Bator. Read every profile yourself, then decide. But it’s in the spirit of Twitter to be generous. If in doubt, follow.

Start by following other authors, especially those in your genre. Some authors only follow or chat to a small number of people, others may not necessarily follow back, but do engage widely. In my Twitterfeed @susanhillwriter (Susan Hill), @joannechocolat (Joanne Harris) and @SophieHannahCB1 (Sophie Hannah) are good repliers, as are @rowancoleman, @alimcnamara, @judithkinghorn, @veronica_henry, @chadwickauthor and @dorothykoomson. @MarianKeyes does interesting things, like create Twitterfeeds for her characters. Male authors seem to come in two categories: obsessive self-promoters who pound your timeline incessantly with their 5 star reviews, and charming chaps who barely mention they’ve, er, got a book out, and who say interesting things.  Try @peterjamesUK and @sjtoyne for starters.

A few male authors also set up automated direct messages that say ‘hi, thanks for following. Check out my website/download my new novel and tell me what you think.’ Sometimes, if you DM them back, you find that you have already been automatically unfollowed, as they move onto fresh prey. I’m sorry to be sexist about this, but I get about one male author a week (that’s over 100 since I started Twitter), and I have never experienced it from a female author. Unfollow, unfollow.

Next up is bloggers. Lots of bloggers are authors and vice versa. Some, like @novelicious, have even developed into publishers. They’re increasingly influential in the industry, and are very interactive, following and replying freely. Bloggers come and go, as many stop to write their own books, so it’s very difficult to find a definitive list of who’s good at any one time. Claire King (@ckingwriter) has recently done a series of bloggers on her blog, so check that out for ideas. Most bloggers guest blog, so once you’ve found one you like, they will be interacting with others. Good publishing industry bloggers include @samatlounge and @danoosha. @cathryanhoward is always interesting on self-publishing.

See who other authors and bloggers are following by clicking on ‘Followers’ on their Twitter page or seeing who they interact with. Then follow away! You will soon feel part of a community.

Follow your publisher, or any you’d like to be published by, but many publishers have so much to read and write that they don’t tweet or follow back as much as writers do. Agents have just as much to read and write, but are less weighed down by corporate structures, so can be a bit more trenchant: @caroleagent (Carole Blake) and @missdaisyfrost are the two grande dames of agent tweeting. Add lots more agents if you’re looking for an agent, because they do often tweet illuminating advice.

Bookshops. Follow your local bookshop, and any bookshop that has more to say than ‘this is our next author appearance’. @gulliversbks (Gullivers Books) in Wimborne tweets nicely. Some branches of Waterstones are good to follow, too. After that, there are the organisations: the Public Lending Rights (@PLR_UK)  the Society of Authors (@Soc_of_Authors) The Authors Licensing & Collecting Society (@ALCS_UK) etc. Plus the writers’ associations (@RNAtweets, @the_cwa etc) They tweet interesting and relevant information for writers.

Obviously, if someone has 8,000 followers and is only following 217, they’re not likely to follow you back, but they could be interesting. If they’re not, unfollow them later on. It’s not like a party, where you could get stuck with someone. It’s quick and easy to unfollow, (via www.justunfollow.com) or click on the ‘following’ button below their profile. They’re unlikely to notice.

So, finally, if someone follows you, or Twitter suggests someone who looks like they might be interesting or read your book, check out their profile and follow them. They might be fun. They may follow back, or check out your website. I used to worry that if I followed too many people, my timeline would get clogged, but most people cope successfully with following 500-1,000 or more. Every so often, do a bit of unfollowing, then follow some more.

And while you’re about it, please do follow me (@ninabellbooks), my publishers (@BTweenTheSheets) and my literary agency @marigoldengreen at David Higham Associates. Thank you.

Next blog is ‘What do you actually say on Twitter? Twitter etiquette and the rest…’ And is it really OK to RT compliments?

One Comment so far, please feel free...

  1. Heather Hill Says:

    May 29th, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Great suggestions. I am an as yet unpublished writer, working from home but I refer to Twitter as my ‘water cooler moment.’ You know that moment during 9-5 office jobs when you take time out to stretch your legs, get a drink & have a chat with colleagues? Writing can be such a lonely thing. I’ve found so many friends & writers there, it’s a fab & wonderful place. If you are not there yet, go! You have to be disciplined about it timewise but you gey great support, hints & tips. Follow me too! @hell4heather :-) I follow back and chat!

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