What is Twitter? Is it where uber-rich people with nothing better to do pass their leisure? The platform by which the president attempts to disseminate official policy? I’m going to be frank with you and admit that I don’t really know. The power of 140 (or 280—the debate still rages) characters is an elusive one.

I’m not here to teach you how to use Twitter. Honestly, I’m still learning myself, and I would be talking myself out of my taille if I told you how to do it right. There are already a million authors writing about how newbies should be using their Twitter accounts, and you can find an endless cavalcade of helpful articles on your first Google search:



These people have already done the work for you.[1] They’ve even compiled you a list of essential hashtags.

If you’re a newbie author, you should be on Twitter.

Of course, I’m sitting here sipping hot chocolate out of a bowl in the French Alps. I can’t force you to do anything. However, Twitter was the avenue by which I ultimately landed my first book deal,[2] and if you’re still not listening, perhaps I can woo you with pragmatism.


1. The literary world revolves around Twitter.

Sorry. That’s just that, and there’s really nothing you and I can do about it. For some bizarre reason unbeknownst to me, the literary community has nested itself right in with political dynamos, media superstars, and political activists. Strange bedfellows, mais non?

But alas, tis true. Everyone from agents to publishers to authors to editors is chirruping via le petit oiseau blue, and Twitter is the first place you’ll hear about agenting announcements, books sales, cover reveals, reviews, and anything else you can be and should be watching as a newbie author. Prime example? The grand manuscript wish list, or #mswl, is tweeted every Wednesday. This is a place where agents will specifically call for the manuscripts they’re looking for.

Want to impress an agent with your subversive secret author skills? Want to be proactive about your literary matchmaker prowess? Twitter stalking is a great place to start.

2. Those “opportunities” I’ve been talking about.

Remember when I said that luck is preparation meeting opportunity? I still stand by that. And believe me when I say that there are legions of opportunities hovering in the wings of the Twitterverse just waiting to be tagged and swept away by a newbie author.

Take Brenda Drake—an exemplary example. Here is an author who has built a platform far larger than her books based off (and I quote) “making connections.” Brenda is the genius behind #pitmad, Pitch Wars, and the Twitter Pitch Party. She uses these hashtags to connect authors to agents, publishers, and mentors, and I am only one of hundreds of authors who have struck gold by this avenue.

Do you also remember when I said that I sold my book on Twitter? Well, #pitmad was how I did it.  I’ll do an in-depth article about Twitter contests later, but if you’re querying, you might want to check it out.

3. Twitter is a way to find your people…

Are you a middle grade writer? A reader of historical fiction or an independent author looking for an audience? Your community may be waiting for you at the end of a hashtag. Twitter is a cacophony of shares, opinions, and cute animal pictures, but a few of those rackets may be jiving on your wavelength. Take a look around and see what you can dig up. By participating in hashtags like #mgbookmarch or tagging conversation hubs like @mgmafia,[3] you’re not only doing someone else a service, but getting your name out there to the magnates of your genre. I mean, Neil Gaiman participated in #mgbookbattle. Neil Freakin’ Gaiman.

4. …and help your people find you.

Twitter may not be your best advertising platform (according to Mark Dawson’s experiences, Facebook advertising gleans better results), but it can be a great connection point.  I’ve met illustrators, editors, beta readers, ARC reviewers, publishers, and agents based off my Tweets. If you skulk around long enough on the right forums, you will be noticed, and what transpires just might surprise you.

“But Hannah!” you cry. “I don’t want to use Twitter! It’s evil and soul-sucking and I have no idea how to put a gif on top of my poll!”

Fear not, fellow newbies! Voila, Hannah’s Best Twitter Practices for the Newbie Author:

  • The 80/20 rule is a good one to follow. That is, 80% of your tweets should be about other people (sharing interesting articles, salacious pictures, retweeting relevant material, etc.) leaving 20% to promote your own work. Trust me, I’m not knocking shameless self-promotion (Hey, did you know my book debuts 9 October, 2018?), but deluging your followers with spiel after spiel of advertisements gets tiresome, and that’s the fastest way to be UNFOLLOWED. 
  • As soon as you start tweeting political, you’re political. As soon as you’re political, you’re polarized—for better or for worse. Me? I flee that stuff like a cat from a cucumber. That’s not because I don’t enjoy discussions about sex, politics, and religion. I just prefer not to have them behind the mask of my keyboard.
  • Participating doesn’t mean Tweeting 24/7. Like something. Retweet it. Quote it or tag a friend. Twitter isn’t about spluttering your own opinions as much as it is about participation.
  • Yes, use Twitter to promote your stuff. Do you have good news to share? An article you’re particularly proud of? Feel free to post it up. Give it an eye-catching picture, label it with some trending hashtags, and you may be surprised what you fish out.
  • Take your time. Like any social media platform, your Twitter needs time to expand organically. Unless you’ve got exclusive, scandalous pictures of Miley Cyrus, don’t expect for your account to blow up with hundreds of followers and thousands of shares. Don’t give up. Keep plugging away. It’s never too early to start, and little by little, you’ll amass a platform that you can use to springboard yourself later in your career.
  • Remember, remember, remember! Like all social media, Twitter is first and foremost a source of entertainment. That means if you want to succeed, you have to be entertaining. Take it from James Breakwell or @XplodingUnicorn, a man who literally made his fortune Tweeting funny things about his daughters.


james breakwell example


See what I mean?

So there you have it. Get on Twitter. Now. Is it absolutely obligatory? Absolutely not. Could it be a chance to stumble upon that porte-bonheur that tips the scales of fate? Absolutely yes.  

[1] And believe me, I am all about other people doing my work for me.

[2] Albeit, rather circuitously.

[3] You’re welcome, MG folks.


H. Kates is a war gamer turned author. Her middle grade fantasy, PATEL PATTERSON AND THE APOCALYPSE KEY, debuts October of 2018.

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