Twitter Tips for Writers: How I went from 80 followers to 1800 with 8 simple strategies

twitter logoTwitter is an essential part of any writer’s platform. But it can be a daunting place to try to figure out. Which is why I, like so many writers, made an account then promptly let it lie fallow for years.

Last November, with 80 followers, I finally realized that in my pursuit of book publication, Twitter has the potential to be a powerful ally. I started working to cultivate a larger following. Here’s what has worked for me:

1. FOLLOW BACK! — The number one rule of Twitter is reciprocation. Unless you’re Beyonce  or Neil DeGrasse Tyson (and who among us is?) then almost no one but porn bots, sales bots, and your mother will follow you just for being you. Take time to follow the real people who take the time to follow you. (Don’t follow back the sales or porn bots though. That way lies doom).


2. Identify your communities. Think about the topics that you most want to tweet about. For example, I tend to tweet about writing, motherhood, Alaska, food, art, sex, and current events. Look for and follow people who are tweeting about the things you care about.

3. Use hashtags. Identify some of the hashtags associated with your communities and start using them. The topics themselves make a good start for hashtags. For example #food will attract people from the #foodie community.

hashtag4. Find the community hubs. Community hubs are accounts that are centered around a single theme and promote people within that community. For writers these may be indie author promoters, literary journals, agents, etc. They may also be readers who have an enthusiasm for particular types of writing such as erotica or flash fiction. Hubs generally have a lot of Followers, a lot of people they are Following, and tend to tweet or retweet people who are actively promoting. These are a great resource for finding new writers and readers to follow.

5. Watch your ratio. Keep your Following number higher than your Followers number. But not too much higher. 10-20% is a good number to aim for. Do not follow anyone who’s Following number is dramatically lower than their Followers number. (Unless it’s NDT or Beyonce, and you’re following out of genuine interest). Having uneven Following/Followers ratios is a red flag. It tells you that the account is not reciprocating when followed.

6. Make a routine. Set aside a time on day or two each each week (I do Sundays and Wednesdays) to search for people to follow, cull people who haven’t followed back, and follow back people who have followed you. Allow yourself 20 minutes or so for this.

7. The Mute button is your friend. As your Following/Followers grows, use the mute button to control what appears in your timeline. Obviously it isn’t possible to listen to 1800 people all the time. Be selective about what you hear by tuning out accounts who you’ve Followed back, but who don’t necessarily have the same interests as you. For example, if you write historical romance, it might be okay to mute some of the sci-fi writers in your feed, and vice versa. Don’t worry, if you’re in the same communities, their most liked and retweeted tweets will still get through to you via the networks you’re engaged with.



8. Use pictures. As writers, we tend to forget that not everyone gets as excited by words as we do. But we still want to be read. So use a visual to draw attention to your tweet.


Twitter Tips for Writers: How I went from 80 followers to 1800 with 8 simple strategies

Early Readers

Just a quick note to say that my early readers have finished with the manuscript and I’ll soon be starting revision #10.

Yay! It felt really done last time. But now that I look at it again, I see that it’s solidly good but needs some muscling up. It’s nice to get to a point where it feels like it is it’s own being. My little book’s all grown up.

Hopefully after this edit, I’ll be able to narrow my focus for my other two projects. I’m at that lovely messy point with them where I have NO IDEA what the plot is doing. It’s both exciting and exasperating.

A note on early readers:

I chose 6 people of the 15 or so who offered:

2 bailed. 1 because of over-commitment. (But she gets a pass forever, because years ago she was one of the saints who slogged all the way through the god-awful 200,000-word first draft of my first attempt at writing a novel). And the second because she didn’t care for the genre.

1 commercial fiction reader. This was very helpful. I write lit fic. But having a commercial reader gave me lots of useful criticism on pacing and plot.

1 actress. Always a good choice. Actresses know how to give constructive criticism. They also appreciate emotional nuance.

1 English teacher. I haven’t gotten this critique back yet, so we’ll see how it goes.

1 wild card. Someone I know only marginally, but who, if they hate it, I won’t run into in the grocery store. I’m awaiting this one as well.

My husband has also read it, but his feedback is almost useless, because he loves everything I write. (I’m sorry, darling. You know it’s true).

I feel primed and ready. I want to jump on the beast and start surgery. I have a game plan and notes. I know just where to start.

I just wanted to take  a moment to say how very grateful I am for my early readers. If you find early readers who are honest and insightful, treasure them. They’re worth their weight. Also, keep a rotation of people for different projects, because you don’t want to burn anyone out.

And reciprocate. Read for others. Even if they haven’t read for you. What goes around comes around.

Now. To the manuscript!

Early Readers

Prepping to publish

Forgive my two month hiatus. It was the result of a combination of the holidays, a grand tour of the southwestern US, a long, deep, terrible chest cold, IT issues, and mid-winter hibernation instinct.

Yesterday, I recommitted to my 2015 writing goal, by taking a workshop on preparing to publish.

The class was offered by 49 Writers  and taught by Deb Vanasse .

I cannot recommend it or her book “What Every Author Should Know”  highly enough.

Since I started writing fiction 4 years ago, I’ve been avoiding thinking about publishing.

Writing a book is like hiking up a large mountain. You keep your eyes trained on the ridge ahead of you.

“There’s the top,” you tell yourself. “I’m almost there. I’m almost done. I’ll be done just as soon…”

As soon as I’ve completed the story.
As soon as I’ve revised and edited.
As soon as I’ve fixed that one scene.
As soon as I’ve scrubbed away that one character.
As soon as I’ve rewritten the last four chapters.
As soon as I’ve finished the 10th revision.

Every time you reach the ridge, there’s another one just ahead. Just a little higher. Just a little farther.

But now that I’ve finished my book and delivered it into the hands of my early readers, I have to admit something I’ve become increasingly aware of. The last few years have felt like a mountain, but they’re only the foothills.

The mountain is still ahead. Publishing.


While the mountain is largely obscured to those who are on the trail, it is fully visible to your friends and family who are not making the climb.

They helpfully stand at the bottom and say things like, ‘When are you publishing your book?” or (my favorite) “When will you be a rich and famous writer?” (Seriously, just because I’m climbing a mountain doesn’t mean anyone’s going to crown me king of it when I get to the top).

I haven’t avoided the topic completely. I just haven’t delved.

It’s obvious that so much is changing in the world of writing and publishing. Self-publishing. Agents. Print on demand. E-books. When you’re trying to get a good story right, and get it on the page, the changing landscape of modern publishing is enough to make your head spin.

There’s so many routes up the mountain and so many people climbing them that it’s easy to find wild success and wild failure stories for every path. But I think I’m finally ready to tackle the mountain. I’ve decided (for now) to try a traditional path. Networking. Queries. Agent. Editor. Publisher. Sales team.

With a different project, I might choose a different path. But this seems like the right route for this time and this book.

One of the exercises we did for the workshop was to imagine two different outcomes both set in the future five years after publishing.

The first was our wildest fantasy of our lives as published writers. Fame? Fortune? Accolades? Independence? (My fantasy involves Emma Thompson swooping in to insist she direct a film version of my book and mentor me in screenwriting).

The second outcome is the reality of what we expect. To be able to pay our bills? To write a sequel? To teach in an area of expertise?

Looking at the two futures side by side, Vanasse encouraged us to look at the one item on the list that was the same in both futures. In other words, in your wildest dreams and your most grounded reality, what is the same? This will tell you why you are writing.

For me it was this: Five years after I publish my first book, I want to be working on my second or third or fourth.

No matter what, I want to keep writing.

So, it looks like the ridge just ahead is destined to be a part of my permanent landscape, and when I reach it, there will always be another one, a little further, a little higher.

There will always be edits to make, continuity errors to fix, queries to send, synopsis to write, and revision upon revision upon revision upon revision.

This thought is both exhilarating and exhausting.

But at least I know now – while there may be resting places, there is no summit. There will always be another ridge to climb. The mountain goes up forever.

I’ve wiped off the sweat and had a drink of water. I’ll need to camp here for one more revision before I head toward the next ridge, and the one after that, and the one after that.

Except this time, I know what to expect.

Prepping to publish