Saturday, 22 June 2013

Sunday Special: Ten Rules For Authors On Being A Good Twitizen

Twitter can be a godsend for authors, especially new ones. It's a way of getting your name out there to a huge amount of people who haven't heard of you. As great as this is, though, there's the potential for it to go spectacularly wrong. (Don't worry, this IS rare - but to minimise your chances of problems even further, check out these ten top tips.)

Disclaimer: This is from the point of view of a reader and blogger, not an author, obviously.

1. Don't respond to or retweet negative reviews - I am absolutely sure that there are some authors who can respond to negative reviews with grace and sophistication. I think I saw one once. That's it, though - one. Authors responding to reviews run the significant risk of making themselves look bad, and that tends to hurt them far more than criticism of the book does. The other reason for not responding to negative reviews is that in general, negative reviews are far less likely to be shared than positive ones. Most people on Twitter are only too thrilled to retweet positive reviews of a book but it's much rarer for them to enjoy passing on critical ones. I think every negative review I've seen that has had lots of people commenting on it and retweeting it has been as a result of the author, or someone close to him or her, initially drawing their fans' attention to it.

This goes triple (at least!) if you build up a large number of followers on Twitter. As Foz Meadows says in this superb post, you're "punching down" if you choose to bring their attention to a negative review, especially one written by a reviewer with far less of a reach than you have. Assuming you don't know each and every one of your followers personally (and on Twitter, does anyone?), then even if you don't intend your tweet as a 'call to arms' asking fans to defend you and attack the author, some will almost certainly take it that way.

Having said that, if a reviewer DOES draw your attention to a review - and in virtually all cases, this will be a positive one, because nearly all reviewers are too classy to shove negative reviews in author's faces - then they're inviting you to respond. Saying 'thank you' then is absolutely fine, and will probably give the reviewer a smile a mile wide.

2. Don't spend ages talking about your book - Nothing bores me more than authors who just constantly spam my Twitter feed with updates about their own books, retweets of reviews, and so on. The 90%/10% rule, tweeting nine times as much about other things than about your book, is a good one to follow.

3. But don't completely ignore it - If you've written a book featuring a homeless character, for example, and people in your Twitter feed are talking about books about homelessness, then it's absolutely fine to mention it! Don't just say "BUY MY BOOK" - but join in the conversation and tell them a bit about it.

4. Tweet and retweet things several times - If something's worth sharing, it's worth sharing a few times. This goes double, or triple, if you've written a post (on your own blog or someone else's), or been interviewed. I try to space tweets out with links to particular posts and send maybe 4 over 30 hours or so, at different times of the day, so that as many people as possible get a chance to see it. The other key thing here (tying into point 2 above) is that you shouldn't JUST be retweeting tweets about your own books. If you see an interesting tweet, pass it on!

5. But don't retweet EVERYTHING - Especially not all at once. A dozen retweets in a row is incredibly annoying as it fills up your followers' feed. Also, please take the time to have a look at something before deciding whether to RT it - it can save potential embarrassment!

6. Sometimes, you need more than 140 characters to make a point - This doesn't mean you should send 4 tweets, or even worse, 6 or 8. Three is just about okay, I'd say (preferably numbered so people can see that they're connected) - if you can't fit it into 400 or so characters, I'd seriously consider blogging about it and just tweeting a link.

7. Don't worry about keeping up with everything - The best advice I've ever been given on Twitter personally is to treat it like a party. Load it up, take a look at what's going on, join in some conversations that are going on at the moment. Don't try and catch up with what was happening six hours ago - that way madness lies!

8. Apologise - You may still screw up. Being honest, lots of people do - in life as well as on Twitter. People will respect you if you apologise in this instance. (At least partly because apologies are so rare on the internet!)

9. Don't be a git - This was Laure Eve's advice. Hopefully the above 8 points will help you to avoid that, but it's probably a good idea to state it explicitly as well.

10. Don't respond to or retweet negative reviews - Seriously, it's worth saying twice.

Do you agree with these 10 (okay, 9) rules? Leave me a comment and let me know!

I previously wrote about this with the post To Tweet Or Not To Tweet, That Is The Question, while Zoe Marriott posted her own Five Simple Internet Rules For Writers also.

Many thanks to Laura of Sister Spooky and author Steve Vernon for taking a look at a draft of this post and providing advice.


  1. I definitely agree! But I'd throw one in about RTing your good reviews, too. The only time I'm ever interested in a review RTed by an author is when the author says it was really meaningful to them in some way. Just to see you *got* a good review? I'll catch it on Goodreads, thanks.

  2. Great points! Interaction is definitely one of the best things about twitter... and we can't very well interact if we're pointing to ourselves all the time, can we? :)