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Twitter: The New Glue of the Book World

February 5, 2009

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Are you a Tweet? Or a Tweeter, Twitterer, Twit, Birdie, etc? Regardless of what charming epithet you may think to dub it, the word is out: Twitter is the newest fad in digital neuroticism. (We mentioned it way back in ‘07, but its recent rise has been so meteoric, and so important in cementing the book community, that it’s definitely worth revisiting.) Twitter is a “micro-blog,” one that limits your total characters to 140 per post. This means a certain level of succinctness that I, regrettably, find difficult to attain (this post, for example, is 3370 characters).

But that’s part of the challenge and the fun: spread the message in the most concise way possible. Think of it as a series of unlimited online text messages. Said messages are spread to your followers, who need only subscribe to your account to follow your every digital budge, shift, or stir. And when Times Online reports even famous persons tweeting their hearts out, you know that it’s a smart move (personally and professionally) to join the fray.

[Time out for a moment: Is it silly that it made me rather happy when I discovered the hilarious Stephen Fry was the most popular of the “famous persons” on Twitter? Followed by the beloved Neil Gaiman at lucky thirteen. And spread the love for Kevin Smith and William Shatner. And I am such the nerd.]

I mention the Twitter today firstly because I have finally become a Tweet, this being my preferred soubriquet. (Greenleaf has also been Tweeting for a few weeks now as well. Follow us!). Secondly—and more important to you—I mention it because it’s a unique service that offers authors a marketing apparatus that is simple, free, and at your fingertips, accessible via computer and phone, day or night. Tweet, and your followers shall hear the call. As I have mentioned before, authors and would-be authors creating and maintaining a digital presence—a way for people to find you—has become increasingly important. And for authors, especially those who are self-published or with independent publishers, services such as Twitter are invaluable as an addition to websites, social networking pages and blogs, through which Twitter can provide a seamless interconnectedness through the use of applications or widgets. Once you’ve built up a few hundred followers—hopefully relevant ones, and ones you interact often with via Twitters @ replies), do something as simple as giving away five free galleys or copies of your book to the first five respondents. The contest will most likely last a matter of minutes, and you’ve gotten your work into the hands of readers who will, hopefully, enjoy your book and then talk (or Tweet) about it.

And remember that Twitter, like all manner of online apparatuses mentioned, is not only for spreading the word about yourself. It is also about discovering others. I will do unto you as you have done unto me: the more people you follow (or friend, or message, or e-mail), the more who reciprocate in kind, and the stronger your following will grow.

If you’re completely new to Twitter, start an account, follow a few people, and then watch and listen to get a feel for how it works. (Here’s a good guide to Twitter etiquette.) To learn about more writers who Tweet, check out Felicia Day’s blog, which has a growing list of authors on Twitter. Jennifer Tribe also has a terrific list of publishers and other book people who Tweet.

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