Twitter can be a minefield, even for the fully initiated. But fear not! PHS superhero, Holly March, is here to share her top tips for survival and guidance on the road to Tweet success!
I have seen a lot of people in the #WritingCommunity who know how to do the #AmWriting thing but just are not quite sure how to rock their Twitter. It is easy to get caught up in thinking the more followers you have, the better you are doing and “only” having a few is a bad thing. Well, I’ve been on there eight years. I am also a long time denizen of the interwebs. So I’m here to help you with Twittiquette!
Here are some do’s and don’ts for an author on twitter.
1. Never, ever, send someone something unsolicited.
Never use an auto-DM—the messaging system is called Direct Messaging; older denizens may refer to them as PMs for Private Messaging—to advertise your book. No “Hi! Thanks for Following Me! Here is my book! Please buy it!” No, Flora… No!
This includes advice. Twitter is a place where people take their writing breaks, crying I cannot get this right! You are not there to tell them “that’s because you use too many metaphors”. You can ‘miss me’ with that behaviour! But, it’s ok to say “do you want some advice?” or "I get that, and when I do, I do this." And it is always… always… always ok to say “I’ll read yours if you read mine”. Not all of us can afford to pay a beta reader yet, so swapsies is very popular.
In addition, you should not message someone without @ing them first. “Can I send you a DM?”, “Is it ok if I ask you some questions in DM?”, “I need some help/I think I can help, can I message you?”
And if anyone sends you a DM unsolicited starting with “Hey” or “Hey, Gurl/Boy/endearment” you block them fast. That never ends well.
2. Don’t just talk about your book being on sale.
I am a fan before I am a writer. The writers I have started reading over the past year have all been recommendations from fans or writers I’ve started chatting with and noticed them mention their book being out afterwards. You should talk about your cats, about your kids, about your holidays, and cooking disasters. Most importantly, talk to people about theirs!
Engage in hashtags like the ones above but also writing games like #CharacterChaos, #HeroesAndVillains, #WIPWorldbuilders, and so many more, as well as writer chats and Q&As like #UKRomChat. Even if you don't take part, keep an eye out for #REVPit, it is a goldmine of advice. By all means stick a “Hey, everyone!” in the #WritingCommunity hashtag, but if you join those long threads of auto-followback authors, all you get is a timeline filled with “please buy my book”.
And that is not the way to make friends.
And Twitter is a social network. It is a place you can find historians and writers and cooks and fans of every TV show just by clicking the search icon and looking for #RuPaul or #WynonnaEarp. But you can find that out elsewhere.
Talk to authors who write books like yours especially. Their fans will see you in the comments and check out your profile and may follow you from there. Sitting staring at your follower number helps no-one!
3. Ask yourself, "Does this represent me?"
Before you leave twitter after a session, click on your profile and scan down the last ten tweets. It’ll display what you have said and what you have Retweeted, but not conversations.
If you have gone down a rabbit hole of RTs you just might have how awful the world is on your timeline.
You need a potential agent or reader to say “yeah, they’re about what I’m about, so I might like this!” If you write about eco-fairies saving the world one dew drop at a time, loads of pro-Big Oil and NRA hunting ads are not going to garner interest. If you write about cowboys and then RT a load of articles about how stupid farmers and livestock traders are and how country music sucks… well, you get the picture!
I try and always tweet something straight up before bed, a goodnight and sweet dreams, though I live with insomnia so usually I wake up to utter nonsense quasi-philosophy filling my last few tweets.
4. We’re all in this together.
As I said in my copyright piece last month, it is important that we here in #Romancelandia stay united against piracy and copyright. If you see an author asking for help with RTs, you RT them. If not from basic empathy then from the knowledge that it could be you some day.
If it is happening to one of us, it is affecting all of us.
I recommend following Beverley Jenkins and Courtney Milan, both of whom have their fingers on the pulse and are very highly regarded in the writing community.
5. Try not to change your Avatar/Profile Picture too often.
People scroll quickly and for people with 1000+ accounts on their timeline, you want them to remember you as a friend and a writer. Update it, but I really recommend a face for the Avatar, even if it is a drawn one. Your Banner is the place for, This is my book, people, you should buy my book. That and the Pinned Tweet, which you should utilise, are your advertising spaces!
How to put this next one delicately and with my usual delightful finesse?
6. Don’t shit on someone unless they’re shitting on someone else.
Do not attack someone for their beliefs. If, however, they are using those beliefs to hurt or exclude or invalidate or bully someone else or a subgroup of humanity, then by all means, my dear darlings, unleash hell. If you are scrolling through your new followers and you find someone who disagrees with you a) you do not have to follow them back*, and b) you can Block them from seeing your account and it stops their stuff showing up on your timeline or your followers’ timelines.
If you see someone being attacked and trying to defend themselves, by all means step in! Especially with a marginalised group, as it can take some of the heat off them. Women of colour and those who are trans and non-binary are often more vehemently attacked and criticised. (I once had to step in to help a friend who was having to explain why someone couldn’t “identify as black”. She was being both mansplained and whitesplained at the same time. #facepalm) People of colour and queer people shouldn't have to be the ones doing the heavy lifting of education, and they shouldn't have to be on their own when they're being attacked.
* I only follow back people I engage with or who seem 'like totes in sync with me'! If someone follows me because I’m a writer, fine, but I’m not going to follow back someone who posts baby pictures and religious stuff because that is not my scene. It’s likely they’ll soon be unfollowing the acerbic-mouthed practicing witch anyway!
7. You will learn stuff.
You will learn factoids and see new paradigms. You may well have to face your own privilege. In this context, privilege has nothing to do with money or class. It is simply the ways you are protected and better off simply because you belong to a non-marginalised group.
Truth: Black women are massively badly done to in the romance community in particular. Google RWA RITAs if you want more detail.
Truth: People of Color and Indigenous people are also hugely underrepresented on our shelves.
Truth: the #OwnVoices movement is finally shutting down people who sensationalize and appropriate cultures not their own, making money off a narrow market or stereotype. If you are challenged. try not to be defensive, but accept what you are being told.
Truth: the LGBTQIA+ community is still classified as a genre, even though it clearly isn’t.
Truth: You are more likely to get a book deal about Trans or Autistic characters if you are not Trans or Autistic.
It may be uncomfortable to have to face these truths, but get on board, because the truths above need to change. If you are in a position of privilege you could “Mute” these words and never see them on Twitter. But people who are affected by them need that option. They need to have days off and just hide from the constant reminders of colonialism, allocisgender heteronormativity, and constant attacks on their religious centers. If you are in a position of privilege it is your duty to keep talking. It is your duty to RT, to amplify, to engage.
Help people. Be an Ally and amplify, but never speak for a group of which you are not a part. If you are going to talk about things that could upset people—say, people who have had miscarriages or survived sexual assault—use the abbreviation CW for “Content Warning” at the start of the tweet and put a generalization for what might follow.
Don’t use slurs, even mild ones like ‘welch’ and ‘gypsy’. Try not to gender your announcements: “Hey Everyone!” not “Hey, guys!” or “Hey, ladies!”
Be nice. I know I do not have to explain why.
8. If you personally know people you then connect with on Twitter, you do not go over their heads and contact people they know with information they share on twitter.
You do not congratulate them on their kid coming out of the closet, or commiserate with how hard they are struggling with mental health, especially in public.
It is a safe space. People have to be able to express themselves because they may not feel able to do so offline. Do not take that away from them.
Finally, I’ll say this:
Feel free to follow me @marcherwitch I have a Twitter List filled with writers who I have at some point followed. I know I need to weed it because there are a few super right-wingers in there I then blocked after they turned nasty, but for the most part they are excellent, glorious human beings just like you! And, of course, make sure you’re following @pinkhearter #ObviousPlugIsObvious
Holly March writes #OwnVoices romantic fantasy. You can find out more about Holly on MarcherWitch.Com or, as above, on Twitter.
Share your top tips for romance authors on Twitter below, or over on the site itself using #Twittiquette. And remember bullying exists everywhere. You can be a force for change and trust. Uncertain of how you should respond, then ask a trusted friend before you Tweet.