Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Twitter, Relevancy and You: An Author's Brief Guide to Online Presence

Guest Post By Sara M. Harvey
With the Literary Underworld Blog Tour!
So social media is an integral part of any author’s platform, whether you’re established or just starting out, whether you’re self-pubbed, small-press, or traditionally published. One of the keys to establishing a rapport with fans and potential fans is providing content that sets you apart as unique and worth listening to. No matter what your background and interest, if you think you’re worth reading, you are worth Tweeting.
The trick is going to find something that you find interesting enough to talk about and the public will find interesting enough to read regularly. Quick tip: it is NOT just endless tweets about books promotion. Sure, promote when it’s relevant, when you have a new release or got a shiny new review, but don’t do it daily. No really, just don’t. No one wants to read that.
I’m going to repeat myself: NO ONE WANTS TO READ ENDLESS TWEETS/FB UPDATES ABOUT NOTHING BUT YOUR BOOK. Also, don’t use birthday greetings on FB or anywhere else as a platform for self-promotion. Just don’t, that’s tacky and it makes you look like a total asshole and then no one will want to buy your book ever, no matter how good it is.
But what should you be doing?
Let’s break down some popular authors’ Twitter feeds and find out what they are saying and doing and what makes them interesting.
Wil Wheaton (he’s an author, really!) tweets under @wilw and his stuff varies from beer-making to dog pictures to behind-the-scenes talks about whatever TV show he’s filming. He’s witty and hilarious and takes himself so not seriously at all. My favorite tweets are him and John Scalzi or The Bloggess going back and forth.  I’ve loved Wil since I was twelve and it was tremendously  uncool. I do not regret sticking to my guns on this one! 2.1 million followers.
Neil Gaiman tweets under @neilhimself. His feed varies from blog post snippets (which is ok because it leads to outside content which is awesome), quotes, tour info, random shout-outs to his wife (Amanda Palmer), links to other peoples’ projects and feeds, well-thought-out RTs, and lots of dog pictures (although not as many of late as there has been in the past). 1.7 million followers.
The Bloggess tweets as, you guessed it @TheBloggess and her tweets link mostly back to her blog which is ok because it is HILARIOUS.  I can’t fully explain what she’s like except hilarious. Seriously, you’re going to have to go and follow her just because she’s that funny. She makes anything funny, it’s her superpower. She doesn’t tweet about her pets so much as her collection of taxidermied animals in strange costumes. 270,000+ followers.
Cory Doctorow tweets under @doctorow and he’s one of the most important voices on the internet in terms of freedom of information and artists’/authors’ rights. His twitter varies widely by what he’s doing but always includes useful links (to boingboing of course!) pertinent to copyright and intellectual property debates and other useful and fun stuff as well as pictures. 250,000+ followers.
Laurell K. Hamilton tweets under @LKHamilton and to be honest I don’t know why I am following her. I did for a specific reason at one point but I can’t remember now. She tweets the usual stuff, sometimes funny, sometimes pointless. No dog pictures. 35,000+ followers.
John Scalzi tweets under @scalzi and it doesn’t say that his is a verified account but it totally is. He’s a sci-fi author and critic and damn hilarious. Last week he went to Neil Gaiman’s house and had himself covered in buttercream frosting by roller derby girls for charity.  That’s all you really need to know about John Scalzi. He also has adorable pets that get a lot of face time. 34,000+ followers.
Cherie Priest tweets under @cmpriest and her feed is always a hoot. Her mainstay is current writing metrics and lots of pet photos (she has a new dog and he’s adorable!), but her witty one-liners and takes on everyday life keep me coming back to her every day. Just under 10,000 followers.
Laura Anne Gilman tweets under @LAGilman and is one of my favorite to follow. She’s a writer and an editor and she’s very well read and well spoken. She gets political, but never hateful or vitriolic. She always has something sharp to say and her RTs are worth their weight in gold. Cat pictures on occasion, sometimes a dog. 3,500+ followers.
Jacqueline Carey tweets under @JCareyAuthor and seriously she could tweet the color of her socks everyday and I’d read her. She’s my favorite author and a good friend so she’s on my top author list regardless. She’s new to Twitter and still finding her way around using it effectively. She tweets the usual stuff- what she had for lunch or where she went running (with her dog!) and book tour info and the occasional promo or contest. Recently she’s been tweeting a lot more links to articles and other content that folks who read sexy fantasy or history might enjoy (like a YouTube link to the science of orgasm and the recent discovery of a Demotic [ancient Egyptian language] dictionary). Like Cherie, her take on the world around her is always funny and enlightening and she will never disappear from my twitter feed. 1,200+ followers.
So where am I going with this? Well, one commonality is dog-related content, but that might just be me.  The second is that all these authors are those whose work I admire and read and who I also find engaging and entertaining in real life. After pet pictures, the ability to consistently make me laugh is high on my list of folks I follow. Tied with this is the ability to consistently make me think or at least linking to content that makes me think or allows me to learn. I am a sucker for dog pictures though (I have three dogs, myself and should really increase my dog-related content!)
Since I’m not personally hilarious all the time, I have tried to generate content readers night find engaging through my “Textile Trivia of the Day” or #ttotd feature. This is easy for me to do, I have a master’s degree in costuming and I teach it too. So coming up with 140 characters’ worth of something to say about fabric is pretty reasonable for me to do every day. This sort of thing I recommend- try to find something you are interested in and post a little something about it every day, every other day, or once a week.  Consistency is key here. Having consistent content is what makes people come back to your feed often, looking for more content.
Don’t be a chronic re-tweeter. Try to curate your RTs so that they mean something to someone who might not have the context or know the people involved. Nothing more boring than a twitter feed full of nothing but RTs and links without any sort of narration or context. My litmus test: if you’re bored writing it, people are going to be bored reading it.
You are going for relevancy. You are trying to build a base of people who value your words, both the ones you charge for and the ones you give out for free 140 characters at a time. Twitter can be an excellent marketing tool, just as long as it is used with aplomb.

SARA M. HARVEY is a founding member of the Literary Underworld Authors’ Collective. She writes dark fantasy for the Apex Book Company and New Babel Books. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, daughter, and three dogs, all of which feature prominently on her twitter feed @saraphina_marie.
 Use the code LUBLOGTOUR at for 15% off your order during the Literary Underworld Blog Tour!
7 TIMES A WOMAN: In a mythic reflection of old Japan, the kitsune Rei-Rei is given the seemingly small errand to "tame a dragon" that will part her from her true love, Inari, for lifetimes to come. 
Reborn through seven lifetimes, Rei-Rei fulfills her pledge, remaining the steadfast love of Sha Tano the Dragon — no matter how many times she is murdered by his dark twin, Kage and his minions. From courtier to courtesan, Rei-Rei comes into each life knowing that her destiny lies with the dragon prince but something deep in her soul sings of another lover in another time. 
With every incarnation, she pieces together the fragments of her existence and strives to find a way to complete the impossible task and finally go home. When the dark dragon Kage learns of her true nature, he seeks to strike a blow that will destroy his noble brother, and Rei-Rei, forever.


Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting on The Writers' Lens. Your comments will enter you in this week's giveaway drawing for an ebook of NORMAL by Janet Bettag.

This is T.W. Fendley. You can also find me at and on Twitter @twfendley.

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