It's a crime! (Or a mystery…)

Using twitter part 2

Twitter Tips Part Two – Behavioural Issues

Part two of the article I wrote, recently published in the CWA magazine, Red Herrings.  You can find part 1 here.

It can be easy to offend and/or alienate with an exclusive approach over an inclusive one on twitter.  But don’t worry as there have been pioneers before you.  Let’s start with two examples of anonymized feedback:

@ANOther1: Do you know the trouble with writers on Twitter?  When they follow you they say “it’ll be great to talk to you” then just plug their books.

And on the day part one of this short series landed on your doormat, @WorldBookNight asked: … here’s a list of grumpy writers. Who would you add?

@ANOther2 offered this in return:  I would add Crime Author whose strong opinions really offend people.  Though I still love h** books it’s a real struggle!

And yes, that was a real, live author of crime fiction.  (It’s been a while, so a case of Louis Roederer Brut will give you the name, if you’d like to furnish…)  So where are the pitfalls here?

PROMOTION (and the Blatant Self-Publicity tweet, #BSP).  There are no doubts that an incessant stream of self-promoting tweets puts people off, enough to unfollow the tweeter and in some cases to result in a report for spam and a blocking (harsh but true).  If that’s all you tweet, expect to be doing it into the ether very soon.  A few such tweets throughout the day are fine, but make the majority of your tweets something else.  It’s best to interact, to get into a conversation.  Where you may hope for a further spread of your promotional tweets, the ‘Pls RT’ was once considered de rigueur, but is seen far less these days.  If a follower wants to support you/sees your tweet as worthy of RTing to their followers they will perform the deed.

Beware the DM to ask for the RT.  It may be discreet but save this for those who are real friends, those you could email/phone to ask.  A reciprocal follower may be available for a DM, but there is no real relationship in the early days of tweeting.  This approach has been tried and tested by one author wanting to keep their latest book in the Amazon charts.  The first phase of irritation manifested itself in DMs between friendly followers who asked if they were alone in hating this approach.  The second phase saw some followers publicly mocking/deriding the author tweeter and even declaring, with no name mentioned, that they were unfollowing the author.  That author was able to recover by pulling back on the BSP tweets and because enough of their followers felt a close enough relationship to continue support.

Here’s the outcome of the learning curve: if something is thrust in your face enough, all you do is walk away from it.  It can be the chugger on your local High Street, the digital TV package provider on your doorstep, or the BSP tweet from an author for their latest tome.  Be warned.

OFFENCE.  This can arise when tweeting those ‘strong opinions’.  They don’t have to be of a political nature, they can simply be related to your work/industry/thoughts on one specific topic.  For every one follower you may see on your side and sympathetic, five or more may remain silent hating your thoughts – and see arrogance, depending on the way it’s said.  If you feel very strongly about what you have said you won’t be bothered about losing followers, but be aware that it can happen.

Beware also of irony and sarcasm in this area, as some may not see it in your tweets.  Twitter does not provide a good platform for #irony and #sarcasm, with many taking each tweet literally.  (And those tags are not used routinely.)

HUMOUR.  Sadly, humour follows the sat nav route of ‘Offence’ in many respects.  Where we have one tweeter’s idea of humour, and three or so friends may engage, the silent majority may remain unimpressed.  Beware here the outpouring of a constant stream of consciousness in ‘humour’.  If you aim to use twitter to engage readers, this may not be the route.  Indeed, your readers may be disappointed to find a ‘shallow’ world at odds with what you write.  Above all, consider having many of your tweets in the style of your work to get readers on board.  If you want to do ‘flaky’ on twitter, expect your sales to match, unless ‘flaky’ is your unique selling point.

CLIQUES.  Want to relate to and engage with your readers?  Be aware of your comfort zone.  It is all too easy to fall into the trap of engaging with your fellow agency/publisher’s sign-ups and close reader friends only, RTing them only, and it’s so obviously evident when it happens.  I have seen this so much over the last three years and I have unfollowed quite a few.  You have a book out soon?  Then follow, engage and connect with your readers as well as those you are closest to.  Only talk to ‘your crowd’?  Many will unfollow because they’ll feel outside the club.

Also, be careful when tweeting about parties such as launches and publisher celebrations.  Avoid the exclusive club feel as the majority of readers simply don’t receive invitations.


‘Tweet smart’ may involve:

  1. The ‘report’ tweet for self: updates on factual items such as latest news of book releases, book offers – on Kindle for example, forthcoming events & appearances, TV deals & airing, other news.
  2. Replying to queries seen in mentions, whoever asks.  It engages your fellow tweeter and creates a budding relationship for your books/with your readership.  Failing at this is like blanking someone at a party.
  3. Sharing interesting and key articles/tweets with your followers as a first time tweet or RT.  Be generous to the book world at large here: RTing only those in your publisher’s/agency’s stable is cliquey and we should all be encouraging reading and the dispersal of good books.  Make it broad if you have the time.
  4. Have some fun in hashtag games, generously RTing the witty offerings of others when they delight you.
  5. For the #FF (follow Friday) activity remember it’s about recommending tweeps follow someone for a reason that is not personal to you.  Tweeting ‘#FF @darling1, always a fantastic and supportive friend when I need him’ won’t wash unless it’s the Oscar ceremony.

Great tweeter examples in the author world:

  • @Marikacobbold – Marika is a top performer in engaging others.  She periodically appears on twitter to chat and draws people in.  She does extremely little self-promotion, but fellow tweeps develop an interest in her work, leading to sales.  And when she does tweet something in the league of #BSP it can be disarmingly modest.
  • @stavsherez – a more recent recruit to twitter, Stav is the proverbial duck to water and he’s very quickly brought people onside.
  • @david_hewson – a brilliant mix of tweets and known for his clear stance on copyright theft.
  • @jeremyduns – as above, with Jeremy leading the way on the fight against plagiarism and lazy journalism.

Happy tweeting!


This entry was posted on July 12, 2012 by in Crime Writers' Association and tagged .
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