By Anna Patrick, Digital Publicist
We can trust authors to pen hundreds of pages without batting an eyelash. But how does their craft stand the test of a 140 character limit? Twitter poses a unique challenge for authors who want to preserve the quality of their signature prose style while engaging with readers and posting book content in a space where it can be difficult to be heard.
The following list consists of 10 authors who have not only risen to the challenge, but in their own unique ways have become writers to emulate as the social media world continues to expand. There are poignant takeaways from each of their styles, which set them apart from the crowd.
Read on for a takeaway from each of these must-follow author-turned-Tweeters:
Paulo Coelho. When it comes to social media strategy for authors, look no further than Paulo Coelho. I’ve written about him before, highlighting the way he posts timely quotes from his upcoming novels (in an aesthetic, re-tweetable way), and links to his blog posts for his frequent “30-second reads.” He also has a great way of enticing followers to engage, such as posting pictures of readers posing with his new title. Bonus: if you are an author who writes in multiple languages, Coelho is a great example of how to tweet for a multi-lingual audience. Warning: following Paulo Coelho will most likely result in frequent re-tweets.
Margaret Atwood. Atwood joined Twitter in 2009, after the release of one of her titles. In a brilliant piece about Twitter she wrote for The New York Review of Books, she recounted her decision to join the Twittersphere at the suggestion of her website curator: “’You have to have a Twitter feed on your Web site,’ they said. ‘A what?’ I said, innocent as an egg unboiled. To paraphrase Wordsworth: What should I know of Twitter? I’d barely even heard of it. I thought it was for kiddies.'” Needless to say, five years and 520k followers later Atwood seems to have gotten the hang of it. Her tweets are thoughtful, and she’s not afraid to use hashtags.
In her own words as told to The New York Review of Books: “… Typical of ‘social media’: you’re always saying things you shouldn’t have said. But it’s like the days of Hammurabi, and those of the patriarch Isaac in the book of Genesis, come to think of it: once decrees and blessings have made it out of the mouth—or, now, in the 21st century, out of the ends of the fingers and past the Send button—you can’t take them back.”
One of the quickest ways to lose followers, and potentially destroy your reputation, is to tweet something too controversial that alienates too many people. Atwood’s rule of thumb is worth emulating. Also worth emulating: using hashtags to increase your exposure and jump into conversations. Creating a hashtag for your book is also a great way to see who’s talking about your latest title.
John Green. Though he wasn’t included in a list of Top Tweeters by The Guardian, I felt that John Green deserves more than just a nod – I would argue that he is one of the best examples of an author using Twitter to directly engage with his audience. For a Young Adult author engagement on social media is crucial, and helped turn John Green into a rock star in his own right in the YA world.
So how does he do it? Twitter chats and mixed media tweets. As for the former, either solo or with a fellow author, Green has live Twitter “chats” with users who simply ask him questions using a pre-determined hashtag. Users engaging in the chat simply follow the hashtag, and are encouraged to either re-tweet or favorite their favorite answers or ask a question and jump right into the conversation. As for the latter, mixed media, Green includes YouTube videos and other forms of online video to connect with followers in a deeper way. Green and his brother run their own YouTube channel, where Green gets in front of the camera for short clips covering a range of topics from back to school to his experiences in Africa with Bill Gates.
See remaining authors and strategies after the jump.
Maureen Johnson. This list wouldn’t be complete without author and close friend of John Green, the hilarious Maureen Johnson. This YA author loves engaging with her readers on Twitter, and has a lot of fun doing it. The way she chronicles little moments in her day, like a chance encounter she had while in line at the super market, gives fans an intimate look into her world that draws them in. She’s known to re-tweet responses that make her laugh, and shares personal photos that draw her audience in, such as adorable photos of her dog Zelda. One technique she does that I love is the way she will re-tweet a question or concern that a follower has and use it to start a mass conversation, this way she addresses issues that her audience cares about directly in a thoughtful way, promoting a targeted discussion.
Joyce Carol Oates. If you want a prime example of both how to work your signature voice and style into your Tweeting and how to properly produce wit in 140 characters or less, Joyce Carol Oates is the woman to follow. Oates is able to deliver that perfect one-liner regarding any news topic or relevant conversation with mass-appeal, which is a great strategy for getting involved in a trending topic that may not necessarily relate to you as an author or directly to the subject matter of your book. Which is fine, because Oates’ winning strategy allows potential readers to find her and allows long-time readers to get to know her better.
Neil Gaiman. The great thing about Neil Gaiman’s Twitter is variety. You can read tweets ranging from comments on his work to his random thoughts. He has also been known to ask his following for suggestions on a multitude of topics, from what pottery classes to try to how to end a chapter he was struggling with. What book-lover or aspiring author wouldn’t want a window into a writer’s mind, or, better yet, to have a hand in his story? He is also a big re-tweeter, which is a quality that entices potential followers
Jackie Collins. A strategy to highlight that Collins uses frequently is cross-promotion with her other social media networks – many of her tweets include links to her Facebook. It’s also a sneaky way to get around the 140 character limit. By writing an intro sentence and then linking to a larger text-based post on Facebook you can both get your point across more gusto and simultaneously drive traffic to your other social media platforms. Collins also keeps her voice on multiple platforms consistent: lots of exclamation points and trendy “abrevs” galore.
Sloane Crosley. Crosley, hilarious author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake, isn’t afraid to let you know she’s a New Yorker. Many of Crosley’s tweets are New York-centric, mentioning local restaurants, clubs, places she has visited and recommends. She is included on this list because she has mastered the art of being a local, which is an important strategy for any Twitter user. Whether you’re from a big city or a small town, your local following is also likely to be your most loyal. She also tweets her thoughts and comments about places she’s traveling to, which is a great way to tap into local area followings as well.
Meg Cabot. A seasoned author, Cabot is a great example of how to combine multiple titles under one Twitter account, showcasing tweets that are appropriate to position yourself as an author with multiple titles. Cabot’s tweets also give a 360 degree view into the life of an author, as many of her tweets acknowledge (humorously!) the struggles of writing. You can also get a glimpse into her personal life, which includes lots of tweets about her cat.
Sherman Alexie. Alexie, in my opinion, is an unsung hero on Twitter. He has mastered two very difficult strategies to pull off: being funny, and discussing political or world issues relating to his subject matter in a way that isn’t offensive, often using humor. Alexie’s subject matter includes difficult topics like inequality and racial stereotypes. Most authors would steer clear of those subjects on Twitter, relying on Atwood’s strategy mentioned above. But for authors whose books have central themes based on issues like the ones Alexie focuses on it becomes necessary to acknowledge them, and in a sensitive manner. If that applies to you as an author, Alexie is a great author to follow.
Related: Four Ways Authors Can Use Twitter