Using Twitter as an Author
Twitter is a great way to connect with the different component parts that make up the publishing industry: agents and editors, other writers at all stages of their careers, and readers, including book bloggers. The best way to use Twitter is any way that connects you to people in a positive and supportive way and also shows you can be a courteous professional. As someone whose career picked up largely because of Twitter, here are a few tips.
Connecting With Other Writers
Writing is a solitary process, yes, we’ve heard. But it doesn’t have to be. Even now, in the middle of COVID-times, I meet every morning on Zoom and get some words in with my friends. You can use Twitter to find your writing peers in a lot of different ways, some varying in intensity.
Engaging in pitch contests and sharing the pitches you like will earn gratitude from your fellow writers.
So will sharing their short stories or essays. Interacting with other writers on craft and publishing threads is also great, even if they’re not the person who started the thread! There are also plenty of hashtags to scroll through, and during Twitter events like #AMM (Author Mentor Match) and #PitchWars, many people will be looking for critique partners (CPs).
Also, pay attention to the opportunities like the above that will hook you up with mentorships with more established authors. Twitter is one of the easiest ways for these programs to spread information, and if you’re on it and following the organizations or individuals who run them, you’ll be the first to know. It’s how I learned about the Writers in the Margins program (now defunct) and got set up with Lara Elena Donnelly, who helped me on my manuscript and introduced me to other writers who have now become my peer group or further mentors. SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) also has a regular mentorship program.
Talking enthusiastically about books of more established writers you like is also great! But remember, they don’t owe you anything--even if you share a marginalized axis.
They’ll be grateful you appreciate their work and maybe later they’ll remember that or boost your pitches later in the future--but maybe they won’t. And that is okay. It says nothing about you and it doesn’t make them a jerk who doesn’t want to help other people get ahead. It means they’re protecting their boundaries and guarding their time. If they have the bandwidth to help other writers, they’ll do it in their own way and on their own time. Look for craft threads, blog posts, or essays, and show your appreciation if it helps. This is not about attaching yourself to someone famous so you can ride their coattails to glory. Everyone can see that and no one wants to be used.
Connecting With Agents And Editors
This seems like the elusive goal, right? Get noticed by an agent or editor and your dreams will all come true. Well, maybe, maybe not. The first thing to do is start following editors and agents who rep the kinds of things you like or who are known for doing advice sessions on Twitter. Don’t feel bad about following a lot of them, don’t feel bad for liking their posts. That’s how the platform works. If they have an #AskMeAnything (AMAs), go ahead and ask them some of the questions you have about publishing or representation or going on sub (just make sure it’s not easily Googleable). If they talk about a client’s book, tell them how excited you are for it, or if you read it and loved it. Pay attention when they talk about their #mswl, or Manuscript Wish List, even if it’s not your manuscript exactly, and engage with them about topics you’re mutually interested in. For example, I chatted with some editors about decolonial fantasy and sci-fi and sparked solid connections. It turns out that knowing which editors are interested in that kind of stuff is helpful when you’ve got a book about overthrowing a colonial empire.
Pitch contests also come in handy here. If you catch their interest but don’t get an immediate bite on your manuscript (or can’t submit to them because they’re an editor who only takes agented submissions), they’ll probably follow you. Maintain the connection as you keep working on other things. Post your short story sales or essays. If they were interested in your pitch, they might keep watching your career and reading your new material. When the time comes--they’ll remember.
Connecting With Readers And Book Bloggers
Possibly the most important, especially once your book is out. However, you don’t have to wait until you’ve got a book coming to start learning your base.
Think about it this way--you probably started writing in part because you like to read, right? That makes you a reader. So connecting with readers is also connecting with peers. The best way I’ve found to do this is to be loudly enthusiastic about the books you enjoy, and engage with others who like the same thing. For example, I’ve made a lot of Twitter friends on the basis of the phrase “sword lesbian” alone. I like to read about sword lesbians, I like sword lesbians in my art, and not by coincidence at all, I write about sword lesbians. See where I’m going with this?
The people who read books we like might also like your book. It’s a circle. Of readers. Or something. The point here is to find your people and share your genuine excitement about the thing you all love--stories. This includes book bloggers! Find book bloggers who help you find the books you want to read! Follow them, share their posts, and then, if they show interest in your book and you think they’d be a good reader, see if your publicist can get them an ARC. Just remember that they’re not obligated to like your book, and you don’t have to (read: should probably not) interact with their tweets about your book if they don’t tag you. (That includes subtweets.)
And then, when you’ve got a book coming out, talk about your book beyond just asking people to buy it. Engage in some of the WIP memes where you can poke fun at your characters--talk about their foibles, their favorite coffee drink or what drink they would be, etc. It’s fun for you and for readers and it lets them get to know you and your characters. Talk about how they’d get along with characters from other books! (It’s how I ended up with amazing fanart of one of my characters arm wrestling with Gideon from Gideon the Ninth!)
Finally, the primary caveat.
Social media is not the end-all-be-all of a writing career. If none of this works for you, if it doesn’t feel right or feels forced, or takes up too much time from your writing, it’s completely okay to not be on Twitter (or Insta or Facebook or wherever).
Actually, here is the final-final caveat.
Remember that most people on Twitter are people, too. (Some are bots. Be wary.) But in publishing, most people are people. And as such, you should approach them like you’d want to be approached--courteously. Don’t fake enthusiasm to climb others. The key to everything above is being genuine.
Be respectful of others’ time and comfort levels--no invasive DMs, no pestering for answers to your publishing questions or eyes on your manuscript, and no complaining about other writers/professionals/bloggers--the industry is small and Twitter is public. (There are appropriate ways to air grievances. There are also real grievances and petty ones. Think hard about the difference.) That also means, sometimes the best opinion to have on Twitter is the one you keep to yourself.
C. L. Clark
Cherae is the author of The Unbroken, the first book in the Magic of the Lost trilogy. She graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA and was a 2012 Lambda Literary Fellow. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she’s not writing or working, she’s learning languages, doing P90something, or reading about war and [post-]colonial history. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in FIYAH, PodCastle, Uncanny and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She’s also a co-editor at PodCastle and edits the SFWA Blog. You can find her on Twitter @C_L_Clark.
The Unbroken comes out March 23rd, 2021! Pre-order links for both UK and US can be found via https://clarkwrites.wordpress.com/the-unbroken/ or the BIPOC Bookshelf's Bookshop!