The Power of Twitter for Writers Looking to Publish
If you’re anything like me, you set up a Twitter account when it was just reaching popularity in 2008-2009. You followed the short list of your friends who had a Twitter account. Then, for funsies you followed a few starlets just to add to your following list and to be trendy (I’ve followed Ellen DeGeneres since day one). If any of this rings true for you, then you (bored and let down) may also have left your Twitter account stagnant for the next four years. This was certainly my Twitter story.
Just last year, I realized what millions of Americans already knew about this social medium. For some people, 3,000 of your closest friends are on Twitter, and for you, this is why Twitter matters. For the rest of us, finding a niche for your account is vital to its usefulness. For years, I already had a niche – writing. And when it dawned on me to devote my Twitter to all things (and people) writing and publishing, I realized something: Twitter is an indispensable medium for writers looking to get published.
Primary Account or Secondary Account: When it comes to devoting your Twitter to writing and publishing, you may not want to fill up your primary/personal account with all things writing. In which case, you may want to set up a secondary account. For me, my primary account had become sad, thin, and depressed. It was quite happy to be re-appropriated as a personal/professional account.
Deleting the Extraneous Crowd: The first step I took was to delete the organizations I had followed that posted ALL. THE. TIME. and did not matter to me in any way. I had only followed maybe 40 people and organizations originally, but that number included all branches of the Huffington Post. If you follow all branches of the Huffington Post, then that takes up your timeline by itself. My first step then was to delete all the obvious clutter.
Following Literary Magazines: I was shocked to find hundreds of Twitter accounts devoted to various literary magazines, both university sponsored journals and independent magazines. I began following all the journals I knew accepted poetry, particularly journals I admired and/or hoped to one day submit to / be published in. I made a decision very early on – a decision I’ve stuck with – to ONLY follow journals relevant to me as a writer: journals, magazines, online zines and publications that I either found stimulating to read or specifically that I hoped to submit to for publication. Let’s be real: there are thousands of magazines and journals out there. I want to be able to scroll through and actually see almost all of the timeline daily. If you follow thousands of nameless journals, it won’t have the same effect.
Why follow journals / magazines? Journals and magazines tweet when they are opening for submissions and when they are looking for a specific genre / specific themes. For example, the poetry magazine RATTLE publishes one themed issue a year. Sometimes, these themes are very broad themes like “love poems,” but sometimes a journal is looking for a very specific theme like “ghost poems written by Florida poets.” It just may happen that you have a ghost poem in your repertoire and that you are a Florida poet. As such, learning about a niche call for submissions like this one that applies to your work will exponentially increase your odds of getting published.
Following Book Publishers: Many of the reasons for following literary magazines and journals also hold true for following book publishers. When I began searching my favorite presses, I found all of them … and then hundreds more. As I write mostly poetry, I followed all poetry publishers whose names I already knew, including university presses with strong poetry divisions. Again, I made a conscious choice to stick with publishers who were (and still are) most relevant to me as a writer (though I also followed a few big names just to stay up-to-date with the big-daddy moneymakers: Random House, Harper Collins, etc.). Monthly, I’ll follow some new press that I just recently learned about, but overall, I’d rather keep my list manageable. Here again, book publishers tweet calls for submissions, book contests, new and recently published titles and a lot more.
Following Submittable & Duotrope: If you’re knee-deep in the publishing industry like me, then you know about Submittable and Duotrope. Both are very useful to follow on Twitter because they tweet when various literary magazines and publishers are opening/calling for submissions. However, they also tweet about publishers and magazines who currently do not have a twitter, so following both of these sites gives you an insider’s perspective on a wider range of publications. Also, Duotrope is a useful “writer’s resource,” but it costs money to join. Many writers find it useful for publishing, but by following Duotrope on Twitter, you receive some of its updates and useful information… for free.
Following Writers You Admire: I feel as though I don’t need to mention following fellow writers you personally know. I have several peers that I follow on Twitter and greatly enjoy reading their updates, successes, breakthroughs. But along with following writer friends, there is much joy in following your writing idols. As I was searching magazines and publishers, I received notifications like “do you want to follow Sherman Alexie, Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Gilbert?” Why, yes I do. I clicked follow on all major writers whose names I came across (making a few exceptions for those whose work is just not my thing). Here in lies one of Twitters most cherished attributes: you can actually follow the big names, the celebrities you admire, and occasionally you can tweet them and have them tweet you back. There literally may be no better way (as of now) to keep up with people who inspire you. It was awesome to follow a writer like Major Jackson and have him follow me back.
The same is true of Facebook. I recently discovered one of my earliest writing idols on Facebook – the poet Merrit Malloy. I requested her Facebook friendship, and she kindly accepted. So now, I receive updates about her new work and see posts on her daily musings. What a small, intimate world social media has the power to create.
Creating Your Own Brand: All in all, I followed some 345 magazines, publishers, and writers and had a handful follow me back. So, then I had to confront my own media identity. When writers and writing organizations looked at my profile, what did they see? I wanted to have the opportunity to develop name recognition and have the chance to make contacts, so I checked the handle @christiecollins to see if it was available. Unfortunately, it was not, and I didn’t want to be @chriscoll181. This is a lesson in early name choices. In 2008, @christiecollins may have been available, but I didn’t understand then how important it was/is to claim your own name. Try to create a handle as close to your name as possible. (Also, even if you don’t want an author website right now, if “yourname.com” is available, BUY IT NOW and save it for later because it may not be available in a year. Chances are if “yourname.com” is available then it probably costs less than $10.00 a year to own. BUY IT NOW). I decided to stick with my original @prettyredshoes handle, which has since lead me back to my PrettyRedShoes blog, newly updated as a blog about creative writing. Develop a niche for your Twitter. Be professional and specific with your profile. Be consistent with your brand. And let Twitter work for you.