The Twitter Tornado

Fellow Memphis writer H.C. Playa requested a guest entry for her blog, and this is the result.

On January 1, 2016, I did not have a twitter account. I didn’t know what a hashtag was and I didn’t care. Now, four and a half months later, I have 1500+ followers, more than 1400 tweets, am following more than 2000 people…oh yeah, and I sold my first novel, because of twitter. Within six weeks.

Say what?

Twitter is the center of the 21st Century literary world. You can post on facebook, have a really tricked out website and be the life of every party. You could be a prose sorcerer, writing novels so magical they change lives. It does not matter: the literary vortex for the modern writer is twitter. Fortunately, twitter is easy.

Many writers may already have an active twitter account, and simply need some hashtags to get going with the writing scene. Others might not have a clue what twitter is, or why it matters. So let’s start where I started, the beginning.

Think of a tweet as a post, except a tweet can only have 140 characters. You quickly learn the twitter shorthand, but an unexpected side benefit to this is learning how to be concise. Your tweets are visible to anyone who is following you, or who checks out your profile. The make them visible to a larger audience, you use a hashtag.

Hashtags are the pound or number symbol on a keyboard, #, put before a word. That sends the post to a page where all such hashtags are posted. Think of it as a bulletin board. Common ones for writers are #amwriting, #amediting, #amwritingsf, etc. On a busy day, these hashtags can get more than 5,000 tweets.

You will have to create a twitter name an your online ID, and a way for people to connect to you. This will be prefixed by the @ symbol. For example, when someone wants me to see something, they type in their tweet my ID, @jointhebrigade1. Think of this as my address. It will also display a name I want to be known by. For authors, it is recommended that you use your real name, as I did, William Alan Webb. That way, readers can find you more easily.

You can find all kinds of commiseration on twitter, as writers share the common experience. But the fun part is selling your book through a twitter event. These are scheduled well in advance, and the following is a short sampling of the dozens of events:

#sonofapitch, #pit2pub, #pitchapalooza, #PitFest, #PitMad, #QueryKombat, #PBPitch.

All of these events have differing rules, and those rules are posted well in advance at their hashtag. What makes them awesome is that you never know who is reading the tweets.

The daunting part is, you get a limited number of tweets, it differs from contest to contest, to describe your book, along with its genre and target audience. And if that makes no sense, let’s break it down.

I sold my book at the very first event I entered, #pit2pub. This stands for Pitch to Publishers. Forty three invited small presses were reading the tweets, along with who knows how many unofficial ones. During a 6 hour window you were allowed to make three tweets promoting your book. If a publisher was intrigued by your tweet, they would click the ‘heart’ symbol, meaning they liked it. During an event, this means ‘send me more material according to my query guidelines.’ It’s up to you to find their query guidelines, although honestly it’s quite easy most of the time.

During the event, I received four requests for material. It wound up being three requests for the full manuscript, and one partial. From this I was offered two contracts, accepting one from Dingbat Publishing, a small press in Texas. The publisher and I hit it off right from the start.

My winning tweet was: #pit2pub #A #SF #T In desolated America, innocent slaves are saved by Nick Angriff & the 7th Cavalry riding to the rescue. Bad guys beware!

Dissecting this, #pit2pub is the hashtag. #A = the audience, Adult. #SF = Science Fiction #T = Thriller. None of that is a secret code, the events, publicize these lists. The book pitch itself cannot possibly tell everything about your book, so you can’t try. I’m not going to lie, however, writing a good twitter pitch is hard and takes lots of practice. I probably wrote a hundred variations of this.

If you go to #pit2pub right now, all of those tweets are still there to see.

Other events are structured differently. One of them, I think it was #sonofapitch, had more than three thousand discreet entries. In other words, three thousand people with completed manuscripts were hawking them to the judges. The ones in your genre are your competition, and often become friends.

Finally, there are hundreds and hundreds of agents on twitter looking for manuscripts. Want to have fun? Check out #mswl. That stands for Manuscript Wish List, a real time event where agents ask for manuscripts in genres they want to read right now. That event became so large there is now a huge website where the agents list what they would like to see from a writer.


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