Twitter basics for authors

Copyright Marisa Allegra Williams (@marisa) for Twitter, Inc.

Judging by the e-mail I receive, there are a lot of authors who want to start using Twitter but don’t quite know how to get started.

So . . . if you’re up and running on Twitter, move along, move along. There’s nothing for you to see here.

If you could benefit from a short course on Twitter basics, keep reading.

Resources for getting started

I’m posting this article as a resource that I can send people to in the future, as I get requests for information and help.  (And please, if you know someone who’s struggling with the Twitter set-up process, send them the link to this article.)

There’s a lot of helpful information online. Here are links to tutorials that can help get you up and running:

You’ll find these two helpful articles on this site:

A few more tips for authors

Many times, authors open a free Twitter account simply because they keep hearing, “You have to be on Twitter!” Taking this advice, they set up a profile, then say, “Now what?” (Here’s a tip: Don’t check your bank account for massive electronic deposits generated by book sales you can credit to Twitter.)

Here’s the deal with Twitter: You should be using Twitter for book promotion purposes only if your book’s target audience is using Twitter. If the people you wrote the book for don’t use Twitter, don’t use it for book promotion.

If your book’s readers are using Twitter, here are a few basic tips you’ll find helpful:

  • Don’t use your book cover for your profile image. Use your  head shot. People use social networks to connect with people, not products or logos.
  • Do some tweeting before you start following people. That’s because once you follow somebody, they’re likely to look at your Twitter page to see if they want to follow you back. If you don’t have any Tweets on your Twitter page, people won’t know what to expect from and will be less inclined to follow you.
  • To find people to follow, look up authors in your genre on Twitter. (Often, all you have to do is type Twitter.com/authorname into your browser to find them.) Then follow some of the people who follow that author. Some will follow you back; that will help you build your list of followers.
  • Don’t be overly self-promotional. Instead, offer links to information that you think your followers (or the people you want to follow you) will find helpful. Make 80 percent of your tweets helpful or interesting information and 20 percent related specifically to your book.

Finally, manage your expectations about Twitter. I find it more valuable for professional development than for anything else. I learn a great deal from the links to articles and blog posts that people I follow share. I’m not sure I could stay current on the ever-changing book industry without it.

If you go into it expecting to see instant sales, you’ll be disappointed. But if you use it to connect with people you can learn from, you’ll be more than satisifed.

What questions do you have about Twitter basics that aren’t answered at any of the links offered above?

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  1. I just ‘saved’ this…
    Looking forward to having my Children’s Picture Book accepted and published, then away we go! Lotza stuff to know, to prepare, to do…I’m hoping to be out of limbo soon with something concrete to offer…my book and/or E-BOOK about Siblings!

    1. Ahhhh…siblings! I’ve got 6 of them so that’s a subject I can relate to. Good luck with it, Sylvia!


  2. I’ve been dragging my feet on Twitter but need to get on the bandwagon. Like Slyvia, I also have a children’s book coming out this spring (a You-Decide tale where youngsters create their own story ending), so I want to explore launching and tweeting. I pinned your article on my ‘social media for indie writers’ board, and I’d also like to credit you and repost on my blog. Please keep your good ideas a-comin’!

  3. Oh the questions I have!! Okay, I have just begun to try and promote my self-published picture book during the last few weeks. I have hastily set up a twitter account, have begun a very sparse Pinterest page, and did a KDP select free book promotion for one day. On that day I tried to tweet about my promotion. I hadn’t had time to socialize on Twitter first, so I am afraid I made myself rather obnoxious and tweeted my promo ad several times before I tweeted much of anything else . I tried at least to target accounts that I thought might not mind shameless promotion.
    That’s really my question: Does sending tweets to accounts like KindleKidsBks, Kids Books Today, or Free Daily eBooks do anything? These accounts are more like groups or services, seems to me. Am I supposed to hope they read my tweet and retweet it? Or should I work to build relations with individual people, other writers and illustrators, and tweet and retweet with them?
    I have another question: You mentioned not putting the book cover in the tweet. But aren’t picture books about pictures, and wouldn’t my target audience want to see book covers? And who is the target audience for picture books? Moms? Or other people in the Picture book industry? Too bad little kids aren’t on twitter. They are the audience!
    Sorry to ask so many questions. I’m so overwhelmed and confused!
    Your blog is great, thank you for it!!!


    1. Diana, for this question: [ Does sending tweets to accounts like KindleKidsBks, Kids Books Today, or Free Daily eBooks do anything? ], I would ask them directly. Each one will tell you what they’d like from you, how they’d like it delivered, etc.

      Re. this: [You mentioned not putting the book cover in the tweet. But aren’t picture books about pictures, and wouldn’t my target audience want to see book covers? ], you’ll see that I said don’t use your book cover as your account PROFILE photo. That’s not the same thing as including the book cover in the tweet.

      To answer your question about who is the audience for picture books, in general, it’s people who buy them for children, but you should be able to narrow that down further based on the topic, etc.

      In general, you’ll do best if you don’t think of Twitter as a sales tool but as a tool that lets you help and serve others. It’s also a great resource for learning.

      I recommend you read some of the materials at the links above if you haven’t done so yet.

      Good luck!


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