This post was originally published in the December installment of my WITCHES & WONDERMENTS newsletter. To sign up for future newsletters, go here.
Like just about everything writing related, there is a lot of bad advice out there on the internets about how to utilize social media as a writer/author. I’ve made meaningful connections on Twitter and even found my agent on there, so it can be a powerful tool for your career. It can also be a powerful tool for making a complete fool of yourself.
Want to avoid making a huge mistake? Here are a few tips I’ve learned in my time on Twitter, I hope they’ll help you avoid being a butthead.
1. Follow, don’t stalk:
It’s painful to watch one person liking and replying to every last thing someone, who is clearly not their best friend, tweets. Twitter is made for interaction, yes, but there are also limits and boundaries. When you’re querying, it’s tempting to follow agents and try and decipher clues from their tweets about your MS (more on than later) but it’s also important to remember that A) You are not the only person querying them and B) hanging on an agents every word is not only not effective, it can get super annoying super fast.
Same goes for authors. I understand the impulse to tweet excitedly to and about your favs, but you should also be careful you’re not flooding their mentions everyday and becoming a nuisance.
Pay attention to how many times they interact with you. If you’re always tweeting someone and they never respond, scale it back. This could mean they’re busy and didn’t see your tweets or that they don’t want to respond to you, especially if you’ve tweeted them multiple times: take the hint and utilize your time and effort with someone who’s interested in interacting – but display the same respect for their boundaries as I mentioned before.
2. Don’t be Generic
This sounds meaner than it is, but what I’m really trying to say is unless you have something funny/meaningful/important to add to a conversation – you should probably stay out of it. When an agent tweets about yet another querying author being rude to them, you can be sure there will be at least five, “PEOPLE DO THAT?” comments from querying authors.
This comes off as desperate, because it is. We want to show agents WE would never do something like that, so we respond with manufactured shock, with a question that you already know the answer to. Yes people do it, that is why they are tweeting this. It sucks, but you don’t have to respond unless you have something that’s actually adding to the conversation. If your tweet is the same as ten other authors, you’re not adding anything but clutter.
This also applies to conversation on more sensitive topics like racism in publishing. I’ve seen authors who, likely trying to be good allies, reply about that one time an agent rejected them too because they wrote about an old woman and isn’t that just so ageist and when will our plight as women end? (yes I have seen this exact thing play out) in response to a black, brown or Asian writer expressing their frustration at the state of publishing. Not everything is about you, so it’s okay to like something and not respond or, even better, boost the voices of marginalized writers instead.
Lastly, there are the people who tweet things like “Just had coffee,” or “Just picked my kid up from school.” I am sure these are all thrilling events for you, but at least give us a gif, or something to make the tweet interesting. For example, “Just had coffee,” would be a lot more interesting if it read something like, “Just had coffee and I’m ready to tackle my day/revisions/not fall asleep at my desk.” Add a cute gif like this one:
And your tweet will be fun, easier to relate to and not…pointless. Think of your tweets as a line in your book, unless it’s moving the plot forward (contributing to the conversation in some way) then cut it. That doesn’t mean every tweet has to be some deep, meaningful thing, trust me I tweet ridiculous things all the time, but it does have to serve a purpose, otherwise why did you tweet that particular thought as opposed to the 5 billion others floating around in your brain. Filter it out for us so we see the good stuff.
3. Find Friends Who are on Your Level
I know the writing community can seem cliquey at times (& yep sometimes it is) but there’s a logical reason for this: Writers often come up together. Meaning, writers who become friends before they have agents/are published can sometimes form little circles and stick together. Usually this isn’t for any of the stuck up or exclusionary reasons we might suspect, but more like when you’re in school and have a graduating class. It’s just something that happens naturally because going through the querying process and going on sub are stressful experiences that lead to lots of crying together and bonding.
So how do you “break in” to what seems like a super closed off circle of people chatting with one another? Make friends with authors who are on the same step as you. Interact with authors who are querying too, who are still revising, who are plotting out a new book because they had to shelve the old one. It can be a lot easier to relate to someone who is in the same place you are in your career, especially since the problems don’t end when you reach certain goals.
I’ve run into situations where some of my writer pals get angry at their more established friends for complaining about something like a slow submission process or issues with their cover. How can they complain about that when I don’t even have an agent! You might think. Or I’d be happy to just be published, they’re so ungrateful! But the truth is there are problems no matter where you are in the process and it’s hard to understand being frustrated over a badly timed cover reveal when you’ve been working on chapter seventeen for the past nine weeks. I get it. But remember that there will be pressures and problems in every phase of your publishing career. That doesn’t make those issues more established authors face better or worse, they’re just different.
This is not to say that you can’t make friends with established authors too, you totally can and you can learn a lot from them! But don’t think you have to be friends with JK Rowling to be part of the writing community. The community is what you make of it.
4. Don’t be Precious, Be humble
So, there is a big difference between interesting and special snowflake. Lots of new writers crash into the Twitter scene expecting to make an impact immediately. They pitch agents at inappropriate times, tag people they don’t know on their blog posts over and over again, and have a general disregard for Twitter etiquette because they think rules don’t apply to them. They think they’re super special.
I know your mom probably told you you were special and she was likely right, but you’re also just one voice in a sea of voices that have already been talking for years before you arrived. Respect the space and read the room. Follow the example of other writers who are well regarded in the community, they usually have their own “brand” which really just amounts to their personality. Make sure your personality is not being misinterpreted as “annoying AF.”
This can apply to authors who have already achieved some level of success too. If you are constantly tweeting about how you got your agent and how, “YOU CAN DO IT TOO!” or how, “I’m so lucky!” your feed is gonna get real old, real fast. I can already guarantee you’re muted by at least twelve people. I’m probably one of them. It’s totally cool to help authors and tell your story, I do it all the time, but try not to come off as a humblebrag either. Publishing is a wild ride and that person you’re condescending to could lap you before you can say New York Times Bestseller.
5. Stop Thinking Everything is About You
I know it’s hard not to think things like:
“Omg this agent just followed me and I queried them last night that means they’re gonna sign me!”
“Omg this editor just liked my tweet about my dog and I am pretty sure this means they are going to buy my book!”
“Omg this agent just tweeted about a manuscript with a weak ending that they’re rejecting and I KNOW FOR A FACT IT’S ABOUT ME!”
I have done all of these things and more and trust me none of it leads anywhere good. You’re stressing yourself out for likely no good reason. The only news you should rely on as accurate, is the news you receive via your inbox. Don’t read into tweets, follows, likes or subtweets. Every time you feel the urge to, get off Twitter and go write for ten minutes, or take a walk. Seriously, it’s good training for the future because being on submission doesn’t make the temptation to read into things any easier.
6. Be Yourself. No, Really.
The big secret to success on social media really amounts to this generic piece of advice right here: be yourself. OH NO I BROKE MY OWN GENERIC RULE! Jk I made it funny with this sentence. It sounds simple because it is. Do you like video games? Tweet about them. Are you angry that they cast some ugly troll as one half of your OTP? Yell about it. Did you get a beautiful new lipstick that looks amazing on you? Snap a selfie and post it. Social media for authors isn’t about books and writing all the time, nobody wants to follow a book robot.
If you feel passionate about the things you’re tweeting, it will show. When someone treats Twitter like an awful task, that shows too. Have fun with your account, talk about the things you enjoy as well as writing and you’ll have a much easier time of building a platform.
7. Bonus Tip: Don’t tweet agents links to your book on Amazon.
When an agent tweets that they’re searching for a certain kind of book, they mean in their query inbox not an already self-published book. Responding to an agent with a link about how great your book is will not help you unless it’s already a run away bestseller and I’m guessing if you’re tweeting it at agents, it’s not. Similarly, you might want to hold off on tweeting at them about the book you plan on querying them with too. If they ask for something on twitter using the MSWL hashtag for example, mention that in your query but not on Twitter. It can work on very rare occasions but the truth is the only way to truly know if an agent wants your book is to query them.
I say this with love, stop being annoying and good luck!