Twitter basics for authors – what is Twitter?

Twitter basics for authors – what is Twitter?

What is Twitter?

First seen / guest blog on Ryder Author Resources

Twitter bills itself as a micro-blogging service. If you’re looking at that and thinking ‘that’s just great, I’ve already got a website, an actual blog, and an Amazon page – I need more things to keep updated like a hole in my head’, keep reading.

Don’t think of Twitter as ‘oh dear god, not another one’ and start thinking of it as an authors’ coffee bar. Or Irish Pub. Or drum circle. Wherever you go to talk shop and meet like-minded people.

What Twitter probably won’t do for you is get you a ton of eager new readers. I’ll be absolutely up-front about that. My following on Twitter is over 9,000, and I sincerely doubt I’ve sold more than a couple of books there. It’s not a place to set a series of ‘hey, my book’s awesome, buy it here!!!’ posts and forget about it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.

What Twitter has done for me is find me my cover designer, my logo designer, various reviewers, and a lot of fellow authors with excellent tips and experience to share. It’s where I met the author group I mostly work with for joint promotions and blog hops.

Getting started on Twitter

Start small, grasshopper. Get an account, if you haven’t already.

Head over to https://twitter.com/ and sign up. If you’re creating this account primarily for author-related stuff, do yourself a favour and pick a ‘handle’ (the part that comes after the @) that has something to do with your author name. Don’t use a book or series title, unless you plan to start and keep up a new account for each book or series you launch.

Now set up your profile. You’ll need a short bio, an author photo, or at least something that you’re willing to be represented by (a lot of people won’t follow back blank profiles), and a header image. If you head on over to my profile, https://twitter.com/steel_jo, you’ll see I’ve used a book banner for my header, but you don’t have to. They’re easy to change.

Don’t put your website link in your bio – that takes up valuable real estate and you get a separate spot for it in set-up. On the other hand, if you have a link other than your website that you want permanent pride of place for, get it a shortlink (see bitly.com, for example) and stick it in.

Do use hashtags in your bio – not enough to overwhelm it, but two or three are fine and make you easier to find. Write horror? Try something like ‘writing #horror, living da dream’. Like marathons? Hashtag it. The hashtags make you searchable. Rumours keep running around Twitter that the hashtags are no longer necessary, but I’ve been there 8 years and I haven’t seen any actual footprints of that particular change, so for a whole extra character, I’d hang onto them.

Hashtags are also the basis for Twitter chats, where you can tweet with people real-time. Learn more about that here.

Is this thing on? Nothing’s happening

Yes, it is, and now you’ve got, or possibly tweaked, your account, let’s get stuck in.

Twitter is all about how many people you follow, and how many people follow you. It’s not like Facebook, where ‘friending’ someone you don’t know and have never met makes you a stalker.

So, if you just started your account, let’s head out to find you some people to chat with. Two options: up at the top right, you’ll see a ‘search’ option. If you know some people, type them in there and follow them. If you don’t, then type ‘#amwriting’ in there. You’ll see a page come up with ‘top’, ‘latest’, ‘people’, etc. Head on over to ‘People’ and follow some of the people whose bios make you grin. Once you run out of those, try another search – I write #scifi, so I’d type that into search and repeat the exercise.

Don’t get upset if not everyone follows you back – some of them will, and that’ll get you started, and it’ll give Twitter something to work with for that section on the right-hand side of your profile headed ‘People to follow’.

As a regular exercise for Twitter, I recommend taking twenty minutes each weekend, and finding 50 or so new people to follow. The following weekend, unfollow all the folks who haven’t followed you back, rinse, and repeat.

Get Tweeting

Following people is all very well, but if you never add any content, followers evaporate fast, so start Tweeting. Top right on your profile, right by the search option, you’ll find the ‘Tweet’ button.

Tweets can contain text (obviously), photos, .gifs, and polls. The character limit is currently 280. Let’s start simply and give you a tweet to ‘pin’ on your profile.

Put together something you’d like people to see as soon as they land on your profile (don’t repeat your bio), something like an intro to your work. ‘Hey, nice to meet you, I’m exploring what happened in #Oz after the Tin Man found his #heart – come and meet the cast!’ plus a website link, for example.

Once you click ‘Tweet’ it’ll show up on your profile. Usually, things you write, or retweet, show up in reverse chronological order, so your older Tweets vanish pretty quickly. To keep a Tweet at the top of your profile, click the little downwards-pointing arrow at the top right corner of the Tweet. You’ll see ‘share’, ‘copy’, ’embed’, and ‘pin’ options. Click ‘pin to your profile’.

It’s considered polite to retweet pinned posts if you’re visiting someone’s profile – it gives their tweet a boost, and lets them know you’re alive, while putting content in your feed. Win-win. Change out your pinned post fairly regularly – at least once a month. Your followers should get a notification when it changes, which gets it a bit more traction than your run-of-the-mill ‘Whoops, there goes my #coffee’ posts.

Pro tip – Twitter lists

So you’ve found Jensen Ackles’s profile, and followed him, and you’re watching Twitter with baited breath for the moment he follows you back. Sorry, ain’t never going to happen. Doesn’t mean you can’t follow him, but you don’t actually have to follow him or have him follow you to see what he’s posting on Twitter.

Enter lists, my favourite thing on Twitter after the .gif wars.

You’ll notice, in your Twitter profile or the ‘Home’ view, you’ve got the search box, a little round photo of you, and the ‘Tweet’ button in a row up the top right? Click once on that round photo, and you’ll get a drop-down menu. Second on that menu is the ‘Lists’ option.

Lists are collections of people whose content you want to see. You don’t have to follow people you add to a list, and they don’t have to be following you.

Lists are important, because once you pass about 200 people you’re following, your Twitter ‘Home’ feed updates so frequently you’ll never catch up on everything that happened while you were at work.

However, if you add people whose posts (Tweets) you really want to keep up with on to a list, you can browse whatever they had to say once you’re at home with your feet up.

I keep a list of people who post useful marketing tips, a list of my close friends, a list of people I publicise with – you get the idea.

Be a real person

Even if your Twitter account is primarily for your writing, don’t just blast your books there. Be a person. Tweet about the asshat who barged in line and kept you from your vital coffee and how you went mutant zombie killer on her ass before you woke up with your cheek stuck to the Starbucks table. Tweet about your pets, or your travel plans, or what you’re reading, or how much editing sucks.

Retweet other people’s posts. It gets you good cess, and inclines them to help you out by doing the same (that pinned post is really helpful for busy people – it give them something of yours to retweet without having to skim down twenty retweets in your feed).

Join a few chats, if you can. If you see an interesting news article, use the Twitter share option – or if there isn’t one, you can usually copy and paste the link into a Tweet.

The golden rule is something like 5% blasting your stuff and 95% everything else. You can play with that a little – if you blog, for example, I recommend retweeting older posts that are still relevant once in a while – it gives your feed content and boosts engagement with your website, but make sure it’s not a constant stream of ‘my books are awesome, buy my books!’.

Oh, and do check your Tweets *before* you post. There’s nothing like typos in a post designed to showcase what a great writer you are to make people wonder, and there’s no ‘edit’ function in Twitter – you wear it or you delete it, and even deleting can’t make it unseen by anyone who’s already viewed it. It’s worth taking a few seconds to proofread.

Have fun!

Ryder Author Resources

RAR is the author’s secret weapon in all things branding, marketing, and book review-related. Check out their site for who they are and what they do! www.ryderauthorresources.com

Twitter chats and how to find them

Twitter chats and how to find them

WTF are Twitter chats, anyway?

Twitter chats are based on hashtags. If you’ve spent more than five minutes on Twitter, you’ve noticed that Tweets fly past with #amwriting, or #IDGAF embedded in them or stuck on the end.

Sometimes, a hashtag is just that – a way to find related content across the whole wide Twitterverse. Need inspiration? Search for #quoteoftheday and you’ll find as many Tree of Life moments as you can stomach. Want to find out what #Jlo’s been up to? There you go. Feeling like a walk on the dark side of life? #INTJ.

A Twitter chat is when a group of Twitter users schedule a time to discuss something together under a specific hashtag. They tag all their Tweets with that hashtag, and people online and looking at that hashtag can see what they’ve said and respond.

Why should I take part in Twitter chats?

It’s a great way to meet like-minded fellow-travellers and learn new things. As an indie author, I haven’t met a lot of readers on Twitter, but I’ve met many writers, marketers, artists, and subject matter experts – quite often, via a chat or a hashtag. If you participate in chats, you may make friends and gain followers, both directly through the chat and if someone retweets your nugget of wisdom.

Basically, exposure, exposure, exposure.

What are some good Twitter chats for writers?

Excellent question. Another good question is ‘How do you define good?’. Personally I like chats with plenty of participation that aren’t so rigid that I feel awkward chiming in, so here are a few to drop by and try.

  • Sundays, 6 PM – 7 pm GMT: #happywritingchat does pretty much what it says on the tin – writers having fun and writing irresponsibly.
  • Mondays, 9 PM – 10 PM GMT: #sparklybadgersunite is a chat for writers of all stripes to meet up and discuss what they’re working on, what they’re reading, and what they’re watching. It’s informal, fun, and occasionally degenerates into epic .gif wars.
  • Wednesdays, 2 AM – 3 AM GMT: #bookmarketingchat is a chat focussed on (you guessed it) book marketing.
  • Wednesdays, 1 AM – 2 AM GMT: #authorconfessionchat – it’s good to experiment with new writing ideas, and to confess your results. #authorconfessionchat also runs daily author challenges; check out the schedule for each month on the moderators’ profiles and have fun!

If you search for five minutes on Google, you’ll find a lot more, but these are active as of early 2019 and well worth an hour. You’ll meet new people and have a chance to try some writing challenges.

Halloween, Samhain – when the ghosts walk among us

Halloween, Samhain – when the ghosts walk among us

Hallowe’en, All Hallows Eve…Samhain – when the ghosts walk among us

Samhain skeletonWelcome to Hallowe’en, the day when the boundaries between worlds grow weak.

Malicious spirits and the unquiet dead press across thresholds, seeking revenge, closure…or entertainment. With the rise of the Christian church, and the prohibition of the ancient rituals, their access has grown easier as the years pass.

Before All Hallows Eve, when Christianity prefers that the world consider the lives and the deaths of saints and martyrs, was Samhain, the night between – between the old year and the new, between summer and autumn, between death and life itself.

The ancient Celtic clans left offerings of food outside their homes to appease the wandering, the mischievous, and the malevolent, hoping that they would accept the gifts and take trouble elsewhere.

Bonfires were fed through the night on the hills and in the villages to hold back the forces of death and decay.

Others wore masks, hoping to confuse the vengeful dead and see them take their search elsewhere until the dawn came.

Samhain Sparkly Badgers halloween 2018Today, disguises and food are a ritual for children, and bonfires cause air pollution. The ancient rites of the Light are nearly extinguished, and the dead rejoice as the veils thin.

Watch yourself, as the world turns closer and closer to Samhain, and voices murmur in empty rooms. Watch yourself, when you feel a chill. Watch yourself, when you see a familiar face in the crowd.

It’s Samhain.

Ryder Author Resources – book reviews and more

Ryder Author Resources – book reviews and more

Ryder Author Resources

…well, they do pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, reliably and within the meagre range of my budget; they offer author resources and services, including outreach to book bloggers, promo images, beta reading, blog tours, Facebook and Twitter management, and they’re willing to talk to you about other things on an ad-hoc basis.

I first met RAR! through my review blog (oh, yes, I do). They struck me as professional, (extremely) patient, and someone to look up when I had some cash to throw at book reviews for my own books. Among other things, I especially appreciated that they stayed in touch on social media, and seemed to have a similar sense of humour. (I’m not sure if that last is actually a compliment, but moving on…).

The set-up

Ryder Author Resources recently (well, since July 2018) updated their website, and the services they offer out of the box are clearly outlined on their author services page, along with how to get in touch with them to discuss other things.

They offer either package quotes, or an hourly rate for longer-term things, like looking for book reviewers. For longer-term things, they send out weekly updates to you on what they’ve been up to and how it’s going. The invoices show up monthly and itemised, with online credit card payment options – it’s all very painless and simple.

The results

Awesome! Not only have they patiently and persistently hunted down sci-fi reviewers, they also put me onto Hidden Gems, and all told Through the Hostage is now well past the miraculous 15 review mark on Amazon and headed for twenty-five. That’s not even counting readers who review to private blogs and / or Goodreads, or a few fantastic folks who review everywhere they have an account.

I was nervous about going in with any kind of professional publicist, as prior to Ryder Author Resources, I’d had a string of bad experiences, including someone who absconded with a substantial amount of cash and did absolutely nothing, but RAR! has gone a long way to restoring my faith in humanity. The team behind the RAR! are also genuinely nice people, and the weekly update emails and online exchanges are always a fun experience.

I’d definitely go in with them for reviewer outreach, and based on my experience with them on gaining a few more reviews for Through the Hostage, I don’t have any qualms saying that if they say they do something, then it will be done, and you’ll have a fun team behind you on the way.

Social stereotypes and why they need burying

Social stereotypes and why they need burying

Society takes itself so damn seriously. There are such a lot of unwritten rules (see also ‘stereotypes’). Sometimes you just need to wear assless chaps and a suit jacket and walk on your hands for a bit. Do something the bastards don’t agree with, it’s good for society as a whole.

This thought came to mind when someone followed my Twitter feed (I know, awesome, right?).

This particular account was for a women’s self-defence organisation. Very laudable, I fully approve of women learning to kick ass. However, this account had a banner image of this determined-looking young woman with a clenched fist stretched out in front of her, the other one resting up on her cheekbone, and immaculate make-up. The sports bra was a nice touch, too. It was very scary. (No, I’m actually not being sarcastic. Bear with me again – I’m about to explain why it was scary.)

Making a fist is important. Doing it wrong means you go all Clint Eastwood on someone and damage yourself much more than their manly jaw (broken hands are not fun. Believe me). This chick was show-casing the how-not-to of fists.

Stretching your fist out as far as you possibly, possibly can is also a really crappy idea. It’s a really crappy idea because it means you’re off-balance, which means all your mugger has to do is grab your arm and yank, and there you are all spread-eagled on your ass for them.

Having a guard up between your head and incoming, on the other hand, is a great idea. However, if your guard hand, all fisted up, is resting on your cheekbone, it’s fundamentally not going to work. Ever seen those little desk ornaments, where there’s a row of suspended ball-bearings, and you can drop the one on one end down and the ball on the other end flies up and away due to transfer of momentum? Similar principle.

How not to fight

‘Cos everyone fights in their undies…

Basically, this women’s defence group’s set-up made me think of all the reasons that every female fighter I’ve ever trained with has put up with years and decades of being patronised rigid, usually by both genders.

Partner up with a male? “Oh, but I don’t hit women!” (Top favourite response I ever heard on the mat to that bit of chauvinistic crap was “That’s fine, I have no problem hitting men.”.)

Get asked by a friend what you do for fun? “Oh my, but surely you can’t enjoy that very much? I mean, women can’t fight, it’s so…violent!”

Listen to that kind of nonsense for a while, and you must either develop a very fuck-you attitude to social stereotypes (you saw that awesome response I quoted, yes?) or you get discouraged and move back into line, and a stereotype gets propped up a little longer.

“Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees.” ~ Sir Terry Pratchett

So yes, that particular Twitter account made me groan and pound my head on my desk a little bit; not because I object to women learning to fight (quite the opposite), but because it propped up every single damn stereotype about female fighters while purporting to train women to be all independent and badass.

A truly great banner image would have been a woman who actually knew how to close her fist, standing as if she meant to do some damage, and wearing a top that wouldn’t result in her flashing someone if it got grabbed sparring. I’d have followed like a shot. Retweeted, even.

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