Twitter survival guide for authors and writers

Pile of square tiles with Twitter icon

Ah, Twitter, that crazy-daisy pot of noisy drops in an enormous social ocean. Here’s how you can make the most of your time there as an author or writer.

Before we dive in, know that this post is based on my personal experience of Twitter. Other writers may well do things differently and achieve greater success, and all the best to them. I can only tell you what I know. Here goes.

Some Twitter basics


Hashtags are the bread and butter of Twitter. They can denote many things, including the audience for your tweet, its subject matter and more. Think of them as keywords. They look like this: #writingcommunity #amediting #amwriting. Including one or two in your tweets gives it a higher chance of being seen. However, use too many hashtags and engagement does drop off.

Contact other people on Twitter

If you want to contact someone with a public message, include ‘@’ followed by their handle (another name for a username, eg. mine is @debemmitt), no spaces, anywhere in your tweet. They will receive a notification about your message, but bear in mind that anyone can see your message.

If you want to direct message (DM) someone, click on the envelope icon on their profile. This will be a private message that only they can see. You can only DM people who are following you, or who have opted to receive messages in this way. Find out more details about DMs on Twitter’s website.

Who will see your tweets?

Not all your followers will see all your tweets. That would make Twitter even more unwieldy than it already is. Engaging and posting regularly will increase the likelihood of more people seeing your tweets.

Be prepared for the long haul

Twitter can be hard to get a handle on. When you first join, it feels as if you’ll never get a foot on the merry-go-round, let alone get a chance to choose your favourite horse (metaphor going off on a weird tangent).

Persistence pays off, however. As long as you engage regularly and post stuff that other people want to comment on and share, you’ll see your follower numbers slowly but steadily increase.

Engage regularly on Twitter and post stuff that other people want to share, and you'll see your follower numbers slowly but steadily increase. Click To Tweet

In my personal experience, the critical mass of followers is around 2,000. Before that, don’t get too concerned with numbers. They will go down as well as creep up, and numbers aren’t everything.

Sure, the more followers you have, the more your tweets are likely to be seen by someone. However, if you’re purely on Twitter for the numbers, you won’t get the best out of it.

Engage with the #writingcommunity (commmunity, comnunity)

The #writingcommunity on Twitter is enormous and very supportive. It’s incredibly rare to see trolling, arguments or bad speak on the writers’ threads, which (call me naive) I find heart-warming.

Comment as often as you can on other writers’ tweets, making sure to also Like them, and Retweet if you feel what they’ve said is worth sharing. The more you engage in this way, the more Twitter’s algorithm will like you, and your own tweets stand a better chance of being seen by more people. Of course, you’re engaging to get to know other writers, not only to increase your popularity, right?

Of course, you’re engaging on Twitter to get to know other writers, not only to increase your popularity, right? Click To Tweet

There are regular writers’ lifts (#writerlift, #writerslift). These are a way to increase your following and your Twitter presence. A member of the Twitterati (what Twitter users are called in India, love this term) will publicly invite people to comment on their post, and follow others on the same thread. If you do this, others will reciprocate.

As this tweet from @WhitneyHemsath points out, many variations of the #writingcommunity hashtag have popped up. Hey ho, we’re busy writers with busy fingers, we don’t have time to proofread our tweets!

Connect with agents on Twitter

Twitter can be a great way to get in touch with agents. Some hashtags related to this activity are:

  • #mswl – this stands for ‘manuscript wishlist’ and is used by agents on the lookout for specific genres or storylines.
  • #amquerying – used by authors and writers who want to share the pain of the current stage of their manuscript.
  • #pitmad – PitMad is a quarterly pitch party on Twitter, for authors with completed, unpublished manuscripts across genres. (There are also genre-specific ones, eg. #KissPitch for romance and #sffpit for science fiction. You can pitch your book in a 280-character tweet, using the #pitmad hashtag, and if you’re lucky, an agent will express interest. For more details about what PitMad is and how to get involved, see About #PitMad on the website.

Twitter etiquette (Twittiquette)


  • treat others as you would like to be treated. In life as online, right?
  • get involved in conversations. There’s no point in joining a social media platform if you aren’t going to be sociable. You don’t have to spend your life on Twitter (please don’t), but schedule a bit of time each day to catch up on conversations, retweet useful/interesting tweets from others and share something interesting.
  • promote other people’s stuff. This is a bit of “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”, but also contributes to the community feel of the writer arena.


  • unfollow someone just because they don’t follow you back. The writing community on Twitter are a friendly bunch by and large, but they aren’t obligated to “return the favour” of following you. Even if they intend to do so, there are myriad reasons why they may not be able to in your perceived acceptable timeframe.
  • set up an automatic direct message to all your new followers. While this may seem a friendly thing to do, or a smart marketing move if you mention your book/website/blog, it can come across as a bit desperate, especially as it’s clear it’s automated and not a personal touch.
  • only tweet promotional stuff. This gets boring really quickly and will put people off from engaging with you. Think about how you feel about others who never tweet except to market their work.
Don't only tweet promotional stuff. This gets boring really quickly and will put people off from engaging with you. Click To Tweet

These are just a few of the what-to-dos and what-not-to-dos as I see it. Take time to get familiar with the platform, see how popular Tweeters do it and experiment!

Talk to me

Twitter is a massive topic. Do you have questions that I haven’t covered here? Tell me about your experience on Twitter, share stories. Is it a big confusing mess or do you have it sorted (if so, tell us your secrets!)

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