Saturday, April 3, 2010

Guest Krista Davis: Twitter For Authors -- Part I

Twitter 101 -- The Basics

MySpace was all the rage a couple of years ago.  Now you hardly go there anymore.  Then came Facebook.  You’ve befriended your high school crush and about 3,000 other writers.  Have you sold many books?  Who knows?  You have, however, spent countless hours befriending people and reading about other writers and their lives when you should have been writing.  The last thing in the world that you need is to waste time on yet another social site.

Happily, Twitter is a little bit different.  It can be used as a Facebook-like entity, but it has much bigger marketing capabilities.  They call it viral, because tweets (the messages that are posted) spread in amazing ways.  The other big bonus is that messages can only be 140 characters long.  So while you could spend hours reading tweets, you really can’t spend too much time writing them.

It took me quite awhile to understand why Twitter is such a great marketing tool.  If you have already joined and become disillusioned, I understand completely.  I went through the same process.  When you join, all sorts of strangers begin to follow you.  Before you know it, your Twitter page seems to be full of disjointed and unimportant messages from a bunch of people you don’t know.  Do you really need to know that Jane Doe is going to bed now?  Or that John Doe is waiting for a flight?

Ah, but reaching people who don’t know you is key to marketing.  So that’s a good thing.  I like to think of Twitter as a big billboard.  If you paid a small fortune for a billboard in Times Square, a lot of people would walk by it.  Some would notice, others would be too busy flirting or drinking coffee or tweeting.  When you send a tweet out into the world, some people will notice it and others won’t.  There are a few key things, though, that increase your chances.

Joining Twitter is fairly simple.  Go to and click on JOIN.  However, do not protect your tweets!  You are there to see and be seen.

The Basics
# is called a hashtag.  It denotes a subject.  So, for instance, if you want people who read books to read your tweet, you would put #books in the body of your tweet.

@ designates a person or company.  I am @KristaDavis.  If you put #KristaDavis in your tweet, it won’t do you much good.  Only people searching tweets containing KristaDavis would see it.  Your Twitter address will be @YourName.

Remember all those tweets that started coming in fast and thick?   Imagine what will happen when you’re being followed by 1,000 people.  (And you will be if you work at it!)  You need a mechanism to keep track of the subjects that interest you.  Personally, I like TweetDeck.  (  It allows me to break subjects into columns.  For instance, since I write the Domestic Diva Mysteries, I can follow people tweeting about baking, Foodbuzz, books, reading, and recipes.  It also lets me know if I’ve been mentioned in a tweet, which I want to know because it might require a return tweet.

When I use TweetDeck, I’m not seeing the thousands of tweets that come in, just the ones that interest me.  Keywords for writers are #book, #books, #writing, #author, #writers, #write, #litchat, #amwriting, and #tweet4lit.  There are more for young adult writing, for NaNoWriMo, romance, paranormal, and countless other things.  This is where you need to understand your own brand and post to the #subjects that pertain to your writing.  All writers can use the broad subjects like #write, but you need to consider who your readers are and what interests them.  If you’re at a total loss, think about the things you like -- your favorite sports teams, books, movies, or hobbies.  That will get you started, but you’ll maximize the advertising value if you can target subjects that appeal to readers of your books.

How do you get people to follow you?  Easy.  Days of the week have special designations to spread the word.  Greetings are sent on #MM which stands for Meow Monday as well as Mystery Monday. #TT which means Tuna Tuesday. #WW for Writer Wednesday and Woof Wednesday. #FF is the most general -- Follow Friday.

To compose a message, you simply write something like: #writers #books Super blog on pitching to agents!

That means people following the subjects #writers and #books will see your tweet.

You can also bring your tweet to the attention of others by naming someone:  #writers #books Great blog by @JessicaAgent on pitching to agents!

Remember, you only have 140 characters to convey your message.   Consequently, you have to be smart about it.  If you write:

#writers #books #Great blog on #pitching to agents! yourname

The #s in front of “great” and “pitching” are wasted because there probably aren’t people reading tweets on the subject of great or pitching.

Another way to get people to follow you is to RT or retweet.  Let’s say one of your followers reads greatblog and thinks it’s good advice.  He hits retweet (usually located on the tweet itself) and he’s done.  He has just sent your message to his followers.  It will look like this:

RT @yourname: #writers #books Great blog on pitching to agents! FollowersName

And then one of his followers re-tweets it to her followers:

RT@followersname: RT @yourname: #writers #books Great blog on pitching to agents! FollowerOfFollowersname

And that’s how it becomes viral.  It all started with a tweet that you sent out into the world.  It was re-tweeted by one of your followers and re-tweeted again to another group  of followers.  Who knows how often it will be re-tweeted and who it might reach.  That’s the billboard on Times Square.

Tomorrow, Twitter 102 -- a few FAQs about Twitter.
National Bestselling author Krista Davis writes the Domestic Diva Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime.  Her most recent release is The Diva Paints the Town.  The Diva Cooks A Goose will be in bookstores in December.  Learn more about Krista's books at and visit her at, where she blogs on Saturdays. Follow her on Twitter at @KristaDavis.  She promises to follow you back!