Like quite a few agents, I spend a bit of time sussing out potential clients on Twitter. Maybe you queried me and included your Twitter handle; maybe you didn’t include it and I Googled you. Maybe you’re not querying yet, but you followed me and I clicked through to your profile (I really do this, and I’m not alone!). While there are no hard-and-fast rules of Tweeting that are guaranteed to impress all agents, there are certainly some basics (Disclaimer: I can’t speak for all agents here, only myself). So, without further ado, I give you seven tips for writers who want to rock Twitter:
- Your username. If possible, pick a username that’s your real (or pen) name, or something close to it. Agents will see @Jane_Smith as much more professional than @JaneyCat523. Also, you should always be thinking ahead in your career: when your book is published, your readers are going to want to find you quickly. An intuitive Twitter handle makes it easier for readers to connect with you. (Okay, it also makes it easier for agents to find you on Twitter once you’ve queried us and we’re interested in learning more about you.)
- Your bio. You don’t have a lot of space, so make the most of it. You might identify primarily as a mother to three adorable kittens (aww!), but if you’re looking to be taken seriously as a writer, I wouldn’t recommend putting that first. Make sure to include the genre(s) in which you write and a link to your blog or website, if you have one. I’ve clicked through to author websites before, read about an intriguing WiP, and emailed the writer from there! If you’re a member of a writers’ organization, like the SCBWI or RWA, you might mention that. A cool identifying tidbit—it could be as crazy as “Silver medalist in curling!” or as simple as where you live—helps make it personal.
- Your picture. Keep it classy. It doesn’t have to be taken by a professional photographer and you don’t have to look like a model. A simple headshot will do. Make us think “book jacket!”
- Your reading tweets. Tweet about books you love. It’s okay to @ authors in your tweets! They’re people too, they’ll often write back, and it’s great to get involved in the community. If you hate a book (or even a certain genre), don’t needlessly eviscerate it. These things can come back to haunt you when you’re trying to get an agent (she reps the author!), on sub (the editor offered on that book—or even acquired it!), or being published (you need a blurb, and the author and all of his/her friends found your burn online). There’s no need to lie and say you loved something when you didn’t, but don’t go out of your way to be mean. Karma, y’all.
- Your writing tweets. One of the great things about Twitter is that it allows authors to share and bond over their thoughts on the writing process. You can get—and give—a lot of helpful advice. If you’re querying, though, I’d advise against tweeting about the rejections you’ve received thus far. I’m not saying that agents are like lemmings; we’re not going to reject you just because other people have. We know this business is subjective. But we don’t want to sign someone who comes across as overwhelmingly negative. Conversely, if you received a full request from your dream agent, it’s best to keep that mum for now. First, it’s the professional thing to do. There will be many times throughout your writing career when you’ll need to keep something private, and it’s good to practice that now. Second, if I’m interested in a query and I see the author gushing online about how they’ve connected with their One True Agent, I probably won’t want to spend the hours it’ll take to read the manuscript, take notes and throw my hat into the ring.
- Your fun tweets. It’s perfectly fine to tweet about your personal life, of course! Just try to tweet things that are appropriate to the genre and audience for which you write. If you’re writing middle grade, you don’t need to be tweeting sex tips. If you’re writing a memoir of your time as a phone sex operator, sex tips are totally appropriate. You’re always building your brand, even before you have an agent.
- A sort-of secret about how agents use Twitter. When I’m interested in a writer, I look to see which other agents they’re following. That gives me a sense of who else she might be querying, and it also makes me go ACK! I must email her now! I can’t let Agent X get this one! If agents I know are following the writer I’m interested in, that’s even more telling, because they’re probably interested, too. Several of my agent-friends have confessed to using similar tactics, by the way. So now you know. Nothing like a little friendly competition to stoke the flames!
These tips are, of course, no substitute for a great manuscript and a killer query letter. Those always come first! A great Twitter account alone isn’t enough to get an agent, but a badly handled account can be enough to turn off an agent who might otherwise be interested in your work. Happy Tweeting!