Authors Helping Authors · Marketing

“Building Your Author Platform on Twitter” by Tony Riches

Tony Riches5I remember being mystified about the point of twitter and wondering why anyone could be bothered to share 140 character observations. I am still bemused by some tweets I see – but others can be really thought provoking and every once in a while you see something touching, poignant or laugh-out-loud funny.




Twitter can be fun and is a really useful way to keep pace with the rapidly developing world of online publishing and understand other authors. (See Anne Trubek’s NYT article ‘Why Authors Tweet’) Best of all is the direct contact with readers and other authors all over the world. It’s an easy way to support your favourite authors and encourage new writers. I can easily understand how some people find it addictive – but setting a simple half hour a day limit takes care of the impact on your writing.

1. Tweet as an author

If you’re new to this, a useful place to start is the Twitter Media Developer’s Twitter for Authors advice. Of course, you may tweet just for fun and that’s fine but it helps build your readership if you make it clear you are an author and what you write about. This is part of your author platform and your tweets can promote your work by raising awareness of posts on your writing blog and can appear on your Amazon author page. It can be complicated running two twitter accounts but as an experiment I’ve had one running for the main character from my current WIP and it seems to be working well, as she’s building up a good following as a bit of pre-publicity.

2. Only promote your own work for about 1 in 10 tweets

It’s only a ‘rule of thumb’ but a good principle to follow. (Imagine if you were at a party with an author who only talked about their books the whole time.) If you are determined to promote more often, social media specialist Morgan Barnhart recommends the rule of 3: Tweet the same information once in the morning, once in the afternoon with a ‘tweaked’ title and once in the evening with another, different title. If you’re still not convinced, see this post.

3. Make sure your photo works as a small thumbnailTony Riches2

Your profile picture is next to every tweet you send, so it’s worth giving it a bit of thought. I read some advice once that recommended it’s best to use a picture of your face – and it has to work at 48px square. Some authors make clever use of the cover of a book they are promoting but others seem to forget that the square format means the title is often cropped. While you are at it try to create an interesting background and banner – just sign in to your account, go to your settings, click on the Design tab then click on Choose file to upload a background image. (Your file must be smaller than 2MB and you may need to experiment to make sure it displays as you want – see the Lunametrix sizing cheat sheet.)

4. Make effective use of twitter search

It can be tricky to find people who share more obscure interests, so insert a keyword or URL into Twitter Search and it will show you all the related tweets. It doesn’t matter what URL shorter was used and you can also check out the top tweeters and any responses that share a URL. See Aaron Lee’s post for more details.

5. Add writing related #tags to your tweets

You should generally expect that only people who follow you will normally see your tweets – unless you do something like use a hashtag #. My favourites are #Writing and #Amwriting see Susan Noble’s Hashtags for Authors and Simon Kewin’s post for another 38!

6. RT things you find really useful, fun and informative

Treat Twitter like conversation. The more others like what you share in your tweets, the more likely they will be to check out your book. Keep an eye open for useful tips and interesting blog posts. Interact with people who follow you, check out their web sites and learn from them. You can also reach similar author’s readers by RT’ing something interesting about their books or blog posts.

7. Only send direct messages when you have something important to ask

I’ve seen other people recommend you can send a direct message to new followers with a note of thanks, invite them to check out your exciting Facebook page or buy your wonderful book – but if it’s automated it can come across as insincere. My personal rule only to send Direct Messages when you are asking a private question, such as inviting a follower to guest post or you are replying to their direct message – so resist ‘auto DM.’

8. Don’t use follower validation toolsTony Riches3

The idea of follower validation tools is good, in that it stops the wrong kind of followers. The problem is it can also put off potentially interesting followers. Similarly, you will reduce followers if you choose to protect your tweets – unless you have a really good reason. In all the time I’ve been using twitter I’ve only needed to block one follower for obscenity and I simply unfollow anyone who tweets ‘spam.’

9. Organise your followers into useful listsTony Riches4

Setting up some lists makes it really easy to see tweets you find genuinely interesting. You can also subscribe to other people’s lists – check out my list of 500 authors

To set up a list, from your twitter profile click lists (under Direct Messages) then the “create list” button at the right. Add followers to lists from their profile pages.

10. Use free tools

There are plenty of free twitter tools such as Tweepi and Tweetdeck to help make sense of what your followers are up. As I am based in the UK I use buffer to schedule my tweets while I sleep (and America wakes up) – or when I’m writing! Try twtrland or followerwonk to help find the right people to follow and analyse your success.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~Tony Riches is an author based in Wales UK. He has a writing blog at and is on twitter @tonyriches

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