Twitter Etiquette for Writers: Part 1 Newbie Tweeps

Everyone’s telling writers to build their platforms. Reach out to your readers. Market yourself. The go to solution for most authors is Twitter. Yet if you’ve never used it, the whole experience can seem overwhelming. I started in earnest last April. Through hard work and plenty of tweeting, I went from 8 followers to 215 followers in just a month. It can be done without ruffling feathers or becoming a spammer.

Getting Started
This is the easiest part. Click over to and sign up. Choose a username. Some folk will pick a fancy handle that they think is clever. I hew to something that sounds more like you as writer. With new Twitter, the concept I moot. Twitter displays your real name first and then your twitter username.

Your username will have the @ symbol in front of it. This is important as it’s the only way to directly contact other tweeps. Without a username, you’d be shouting everything out for all to hear.

Tweets and Hashtags
These are the life blood of the twitter universe. Tweeting is a simple 140 post about anything. As a writer, your tweets will most likely be how many words you’ve typed today.

A tweet will go out into the universe, but typically no one will see it. How can this be? Because you didn’t tell anyone you were writing it. Wait, you say, if the whole universe can see it, then how come I don’t get a response? Mostly because people can’t find your tweet. There are 300 million users. Who’s going to find you?

If you have a followers, then they can see your tweets on their stream. But as a newbie, you’re unlikely to have any followers. Therefore, you need hashtags. Hashtags use the # symbol to make a word searchable. For example, #write clues readers in that your tweet will be about writing.

Common hashtags for writers:
#IAHB (Indie Author Hand Book: Tips for independent authors)
More writer hashtags

You can combine multiple hashtags in one tweet. For example, say you’re writing and just passed the 10,000 word mark. Your tweet might read:

Just passed 10K on WIP. So excited. #amwriting #wordcount

Be sure to avoid putting a period on the end of the hashtag as this will change it.

Retweets and Abbreviations
One way to build readership and get more people to read your tweets is through retweeting. A retweet takes another person’s awesome tweet and sends it back out to the twitterverse. Basically, you’re saying that someone’s tweet was so awesome, everyone should read it.

The trouble is, you only ave 140 characters to tweet. If people want to retweet you, they may not be able to. If you use ALL of your 140 characters in your tweet, there’s no room for a retweet. A retweet adds RT @username to your original tweet. For example:

Just attended writing conference in San Diego. Speed dated with agents. I met with four agents, 10 minutes at a time. They asked for my MS.
139 characters

A retweet would look like this:
RT @username Just attended writing conference in San Diego. Speed dated with agents. I met with four agents, 10 minutes at a time. They asked for my MS.
Now it’s 152 characters, and that’s too many.

Ideally, you should make your tweets about 120 or 125 characters. This allows for multiple retweets.

You can also save space using abbreviations:
WIP (work in progress)
MS (manuscript)
POV (point of view)
YA (young adult)
MG (middle grade)
DM (direct message)
RT (retweet)
TY (thank you)
SO (shout out)

Mentions and Direct Mentions
Mentions are your way to have a semi-private conversation. Mentions are also a way to build followers and readership. When you mention someone, you send a message just to that person. However, people who follow both people will be able see this message and possibly jump in. For example:

@username What did you think of Apple’s new release?

If you move the @username anywhere by at the start, then everyone can see this tweet. That way, you could respond to a person, but make your response public. I reserve this for responses that are witty or interesting.

Apple’s crushing Amazon with it’s new publishing program. @username

If you want to send someone a message that’s completely private, you use a direct message or DM. Only the recipient can read this and respond.

On the next post, we’ll go over how to be polite and tweet effectively. If you’re rude, you’ll lose followers or possibly be banned from Twitter.

Tim Kane


About Tim Kane

Tim Kane is a young adult fiction writer.
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13 Responses to Twitter Etiquette for Writers: Part 1 Newbie Tweeps

  1. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 02-02-2012 « The Author Chronicles

  2. Lots of great info, thanks for sharing

  3. Marianne Su says:

    Been on twitter since August and I’d say this sums it up. Nice concise overview for the twitter newbie.

  4. Am very glad I found this. Very helpful. I have questions…!! How does the ‘reply’ function that you see at the bottom of every tweet work? I think my responses are appearing for everyone to see, which I don’t want. Also the original tweet doesn’t appear so my reply hangs out there (apparently) unconnected to anything. What’s the time to use that function and when not to? Thanks so much, Tim!

    • If you reply to someone, then that person can read it and Twitter allows them to see the original tweet that you responded to. This creates a mini-stream of conversation. So not to worry. Additionally, when you reply, Twitter automatically puts the @username first, so only you and your friend can see it. BUT, anyone who follows both of you can also see it. That’s not a concern because this fosters a conversation. That’s what Twitter’s all about.

  5. Loved this, Tim! So glad you addressed the mistake of keeping the tweet sweetly short so there is room for a reply. A lot of seasoned tweeps do this and I don’t know why. I always cut my group mentions off around 118-123 for this reason. There is nothing more annoying than being mentioned in a group S/O and having to cut someone out of it to reply, which I WILL do if it’s someone who I don’t follow or who I don’t know. If the tweet was automated by @ffhelper, I ALWAYS take that out, which instantly allows for nine more characters. Of course, you can always take everyone out of the tweet and reply solely to the originator, but that usually starts a conversation, and I don’t always want to go there…

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