22 February 2009

How Twitter can help you improve, market and publish your creative writing

There seems to be an awful lot of hoo-hah about Twitter at the moment.

I first set up my Twitter account a couple of years ago and quickly abandoned it, thinking it a twaddlesome alternative to text messages.

Well, I don’t mind admitting, I was wrong. For those of you who have done a similar thing, try reading Joanna Young’s recent post on why it’s worth sticking with Twitter, over at Confident Writing.

I went back to my Twitter account when I launched Write for Your Life. Since then, I’ve come to understand Twitter’s ability to provide access to all manner of people who are either writing, interested in writing or writing about writing.

Not all, but there are many creative writers who might consider a platform like Twitter to be counter-productive. They might also think it a place for journos, bloggers and beatniks, but not, in their fictional words, serious writers.

It’s nonsense. All writing is serious, now more than ever before. Creative writers need to start taking the bull by the horns and realise that in today’s world, there’s more to writing than simply the act itself.

At the moment, Twitter is ‘the thing’. How long that lasts is irrelevant. As a writer, you can harness its power right here, right now.

Meet other writers

This has to be the number one reason why you should use Twitter if you’re a creative writer.

Writing can be a lonely process at times. There are plenty of writing groups, courses and spoken word events out there, but they can be hit and miss and don’t suit everyone. However, all writers need support and advice at some point, and Twitter is an absolute goldmine.

Imagine a huge, and I mean truly massive, network of writers who share similar passions and interests, and are willing to share their wisdom and experience. Well, that’s Twitter.

If you want to meet and share ideas with fellow writers who are going through the same highs and lows as you are, sign up now.

Make contacts in the publishing industry

Maria Schneider recently posted a list of good publishing industry people to follow on Twitter, over at Editor Unleashed. High Spot Inc also posted a directory of book trade folks who are using Twitter.

Together, these lists cover the full range of publishing types, from literary agents and publishers to libraries and print suppliers. These people are right there, on Twitter. They are online and directly engaging with writers, every single day.

Let me say that again.

Online, people in the publishing industry, including literary agents and publishing houses, are interacting with writers. An industry that for so many years has seemed closed off, is finally opening up. It has to. The world’s gone digital and they’re rushing to catch up.

Make the most if it. Get a Twitter account and follow people and organisations relevant to your writing. I’m not saying send a quick message to Bloomsbury saying, ‘Wanna publish my novel?’ and you’ll end up with a six-figure book deal. Of course not.

What I’m saying is, through Twitter you finally have a chance to communicate and create a dialogue with the industry. Get involved. Chat to people. Watch trends. It’s all happening and it’s happening now. Like never before.

Promote and market your writing

Perhaps the main reason Twitter has taken off is because it provides a quick and dirty route to promoting your work, whatever that may be.

For example, as soon as I hit publish on this post, I’ll Tweet my near-300 followers (woohoo!) and tell them about it. That’s near-300 people who might decide to click on the link I give them and find themselves right here, on Write for Your Life. And if that’s you, right now, may I welcome you with a quick, ‘Cooeeee!’

But this is a blog I’m promoting, a format that relies on online marketing and social networking. How can a creative writer, whose work is (usually) in a very tangible and offline format, use Twitter to market their work?

Well, first, see my previous points on meeting writers and making contacts in the industry. These people and organisations are a good place to start if you want to tell relevant people that you’ve got a poetry collection coming out soon, or you’ve been signed by a literary agency.

But Twitter can also give you access to potential readers. You know, the general public. Particularly if your writing is in a specific genre or covers a certain subject.

For example, if you’ve written a novel that revolves around, I dunno, basketball, you can follow, chat with and mention your work to people who like to shoot the ol’ hoops. Or if you write erotic fiction, say, Twitter can give you access to, well, people who read erotic fiction. It’s that simple.

In an economic climate where writers are expected more and more to take on the responsibility of marketing their work, Twitter is an excellent tool for reaching out to your audience.

For more information on how to promote your writing on Twitter, I heartily recommend ‘Using Twitter for Book Marketing‘, a post on Self-publishing Review.

Publish extracts of your writing

There are plenty of writers out there who are using Twitter as a publishing platform in itself. Sometimes it’s for a bit of fun, such as Copyblogger’s recent haiku competition, which ludicrously, I didn’t win.

Competitions like this and other attempts at 140-character creativity tend to involve writing something from scratch. There are Twitter novels, Twitter poems and many other methods for using the Twitter format to create something new. Quite exciting, really.

But what if you want to publish an existing piece of writing that doesn’t necessarily sit easily with the 140-character format?

Well, poems are made up of lines and stories are made up of sentences. If you occasionally throw in the odd choice quote from your writing, it can help you a) market you work, and b) express your personality as a writer. It doesn’t matter if it’s completely out of context, so long as it’s, you know, thought-provoking.

Here’s a potential tweet of mine:

From the start of my novel: Benny paints pictures with his eyes closed.

Again, I’m not saying that publishing extracts on Twitter will bring you fame and fortune, just that it can add to you experience as a writer.

Jude Calvert-Toulmin is a regular in the comments section on this blog. She’s been tweeting extracts from her work and has even set up an entire Twitter account dedicated to her novel.

Create a virtual notepad

Finally, here’s a suggestion for those writers who consider Twitter a social networking time drain and nothing more than a chance to waffle our lives away.

Truth is, if you have a Twitter account, you don’t actually have to follow, be followed by, or communicate with anyone whatsoever. You have that option. It’s in the settings.

And what would that leave you with? Well, it would leave you with a single web page that you can post short messages to from your desktop, web browser or mobile phone at any time of the day or night.

That’s a virtual notepad, right there. A quick, easy-to-use space to store your thoughts and ideas.

Personally, I’m all for carrying an actual notepad, with pages and everything. But sometimes it simply isn’t to hand and I need to find somewhere else to track my thoughts.

And really, that fits Twitter’s remit perfectly.

Where do I start with Twitter?

Well, first of all, head over to the Twitter homepage and set up your account. Then, for more technical information about the ins and outs of using Twitter, Darren Rowse’s TwiTip is a great place to go.

After that, start following people with similar interests and if you have a problem, ask your new found cyber-friends!

Share, share and share some more

So there we go, a few ways in which creative writers can use and benefit from Twitter. Over to you.

Has Twitter had an effect on your creative writing? Have you seen any novel (pun very much intended) ways that people have used Twitter to market or talk about their writing? Or is Twitter just a great big waste of time?

26 Comments

  1. What a comprehensive post Iain, thanks. I’ll be tweeting it when I hook up later on – and checking out some of those lists of industry lists of people to follow.

    Although I many use Twitter for friendship and fun I do also very much see its network and promotional potential, and will be hoping my friends and followers will help me to get the word out about things I do in the future, including a published book from my blog (gulp) which is coming out in a few months.

  2. That indeed was an elaborate article on why every creative writers should move with the time and utilize the potentials of twitter. I am sure that every writer can make use of the points you explained to his/her benefits.

    Thank you for sharing such an excellent post.

  3. Thanks for this post, Iain! I think it is a wonderful description of what Twitter can be.

  4. PS Isn’t it hoo hah? Or hoo ha?

  5. Dear Ian, Jude:
    This is a great post, one that I am definitely going to share with Published & Profitable friends and members.

    Information is great, love the resources to follow. A prototype of doing things right.

    I agree that the best thing that happened, marketingwise, in February was the directory of authors and publishers on Twitter. I’ve discovered several great fellow travelers and lots of good information.

    Best wishes–

    Roger C. Parker

  6. I really like the idea of using twitter to reveal lines or sentences from my latest poem or story. I’ve been using it to share six word stories.

  7. I haven’t really gotten too systematic in my use of twitter.

    That being said, I think it can help one write in a more concise manner, getting to the root of a message. It forces you to be truly concise. I like that aspect of it.

  8. Zoe

    It’s great to read an article that shows how Twitter is relevant specifically to creative writers. I haven’t yet made an online space for my own creative writing, but this fits right in with the research I’ve been doing/writing about lately in the area of online publishing.

    Like Gabriel, I really like the idea of tweeting excerpts!

  9. Iain (Author)

    Thanks for your comments everyone, I’ll repond to you all later today. In the meantime, here’s another example of how to use Twitter to market your work.

    Jean Hannah Hedelstein, another regular commenter, has a book coming out, Himglish and Femalese so has set up an account for the book itself, which she’ll Tweet to alongside her regular account.

  10. Great post Iain.

    I’ve certainly read my fair share of “how to use twitter to market your business” type articles but I do believe this is the first I have read aimed specifically at us writers.

    I use TweetDeck as my Twitter client as it lets you classify who you follow into groups. Needless to say I have one group titled writers and bloggers and it’s by far the largest group I have on there :)

  11. Excellent post. Twitter for me is a great way to find and connect with people, who have the same interests as me.

    I’ve met some really great folks on it and without Twitter it wouldn’t have been possible.

  12. Hey Iain, Great post.

    Twitter is a wonderful tool for writers. It has allowed me to touch agents, publishers and other writers that otherwise I would have spent DAYS trying to find. Most are helpful and interested in playing along.

    George

  13. Cheers, Iain! This is an interesting post – I am yet to decide what genuine Twitter utility has for my writing career (apart from an amusing procrastination device) but I shall let you know…

  14. These are great tips for using Twitter to promote creative writing and make some connections within the writing community and publishing industry. Creative writers need to make better use of the web in general!

  15. Very good article Iain and thanks for the mention.

    I have very mixed feelings about Twitter as I have witnessed so many people who complain about not having enough time to do their work, spending literally HOURS on Twitter, tweeting. That’s why I pre-schedule my book excerpt tweets a week in advance, then I don’t even have to think about them. I don’t usually put more than one tweet a day on my personal Twitter, and I don’t use it for chatting. I still think Twitter is very middle class, elitist, and faddish.

    Also, Twitter is like any other social networking tool. Keep it in a time box and don’t let it jump out into your working hours.

  16. > I still think Twitter is very middle class, elitist, and faddish.

    To clarify why – y no tx spk?

    I’m tempted to start making all my Tweets in text speak, just to flout the unspoken rules and piss off the plethora of snobs on there.

  17. I was directed here by Zoë.

    I have to say that I agree with all your points and though I’ve experimented with tweeting my favorite lines of my entries, I find Twitter way more to useful to have voyeur conversations and offer my 0.02 cents if I have something to say.

    My top referrer is usually Twitter – and I don’t yet understand why.

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