Twitter: The Author's LinkedIn

Thursday, March 17, 2016

by Porter Anderson (@Porter_AndersonThe Hot Sheet
If I could turn back the clock and get into the room when Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass were putting together their ideas for Twitter, the first thing I'd say is, "Don't call it Twitter!" With more than 1 billion registered users and more than 300 million of those active, the tweeterie is a lot more serious a medium than its flighty name suggests—especially in our business.

The publishing industry uses Twitter as two things, an in-house messaging service and a kind of LinkedIn-lite: a who’s who. As a point of interest, I find that UK publishing executives are likelier to have Twitter handles and engage on the platform than are US publishing executives. So much for that fabled British reserve, right? But many of our colleagues, in far-flung parts of the world, monitor tweetly doings, even if they don't make themselves visible there.

I've come to know that Twitter's secondary function in publishing—as that directory, a roster in which you need to be discoverable—is being overlooked by too many writers.

If I hear of an interesting book coming out, the first place I check for information on its author is Twitter. Why? Because I want to know if that author is engaged with readers and colleagues. If I tweet about that author's book, will the tweet carry the amplification boost of an author's Twitter handle?

One statistic, from 2013, indicates that in that year, there were an average 1.6 billion searches made on Twitter daily. You want someone interested in finding you to be able to spot you, easily and without a lot of guesswork.

Oddly, even high-profile authors sometimes make it difficult to spot them on Twitter. If you run a name search there and get, say, 10 people with that author's name—and not one of them can be confirmed as the right person, the author you're looking for—that writer's visibility is being compromised.

As an author who wants to be found by readers and industry players, you want to consider some tips to help "surface" your presence on Twitter.

  • Be sure your Twitter name is as close to your own name as possible. And just your name. Not "author" or "writer" attached to it. If you're having trouble getting it, try an underline in the middle (as in my handle @Porter_Anderson).
  • Be sure your picture is (a) professionally made—not that party shot from three years ago with your husband's disembodied arm around your shoulder; and (b) your picture: not your cat, your children, your favorite vacation spot, nor your book cover. Especially not your book cover. Twitter is one of the social media. They're social because they're person-to-person. Ever shaken hands at a party with a book? Of course not. Be yourself, not your titles.
  • Put the word "author" into your bio.
  • Put a title or two into your bio. I like to see titles in all-caps because it makes them pop.
  • If you mention something or someone else who has a Twitter handle, use that handle (with its @-symbol). Why? Because then people can click on that and learn more, you've "lit it up" in the Twitter system. So, if you've published through IngramSpark and would like to say that, be sure you use @IngramSpark to boost that signal.

Bottom line: Take a test drive on Twitter as if you're a Hollywood producer who's just heard about your book. Search for yourself. How easy would it be to find you? Discoverability is everybody's biggest concern today. With Twitter as a go-to resource for networking in the publishing industry, you'd be amazed how many folks are missing these simple steps in making themselves findable. There's more in the importance and practice of good Twitter bios from my Hot Sheet partner Jane Friedman here. And one side advantage of good Twitter protocol is that you meet key comrades there. Jane and I originally met on Twitter and have been great friends and colleagues ever since.

Porter Anderson

Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) BA, MA, MFA, is a journalist, speaker, and consultant specializing in book publishing. Formerly with CNN, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media, he is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives, founded by the German Book Office New York, the magazine for the international publishing industry. With Jane Friedman, he produces The Hot Sheet publishing-industry newsletter, providing expert analysis and interpretation in a private subscriptionemail newsletter, expressly devised to give authors the news insights they need, free of agenda and bias. Anderson also writes the #MusicForWriters series on contemporary composers for Thought Catalog.