Insights into Social Media for Authors: Channeling Twitter

Here is the last segment of this week’s social media series before we say sadly say goodbye to Man of la Book. If you missed prior posts in the series you can find them here and here. And we’ll be back with more interviews with authors, bloggers, and publishing experts on in our next series on Authors and Social Media, coming soon.

First question: are there any favorite author Twitter feeds you follow? Why?

My favorite authors to follow are Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself), Chuck Palahniuk (@chuckpalahniuk) and Jason Pinter (@jasonpinter). They talk about writing, life, research, and you can always find them engaging with their followers.

It seems that the most popular tweeters constantly a) tweet constantly and b) link to breaking news, blogs, etc. According to your profile, you are a book blogger, engineer, “wood worker,” father and husband. How is that you can also tweet with such enthusiasm?

My secret is that I’m pretty good with technology. Combine that with obscene laziness and you find good solutions for such issues. I use the cotweet online utility to send out tweets at intervals (30 min. to 1 hour), but check Twitter several times a day to answer questions, interact with others or see what I might be missing (sometimes not much, but that doesn’t stop all of us on Twitter from checking anyway).

But don’t be fooled: it takes great patience, persistence and hard work. Though often a great substitute for real work.

What impact do you think Twitter has for authors promoting books?

A not so simple answer.

Readers usually follow authors who they have already read. Those authors get the lions share. Not fair, still true. Some authors barely even need to tweet to be followed.

But readers can stumble across authors if they’re writing interesting content, having conversations with or being compared to, the authors they’re already following. If new authors are unremitting in making connections, inserting themselves into pre-exisiting dialogues, or using hashtags to attach themselves to trends or develop trends of their own, these authors will begin to get visible. And in time, may amass the popularity of those grossly followed authors.

Yes. I’d say keeping your audience engaged, answering questions posed of you (even if just a few each evening), talking about your research (or if a novelist, your writing process), books you’re reading, and yes, even about your new book, are all good tactics. If all I see is “Buy My Book!” tweets, that author quickly falls of my radar screen.

What is one way Twitter has affected the book industry generally?

Twitter has had the same effect on the book industry as it has had on other industries, which is immediate and unfiltered feedback. Publishing has never been considered as “open” or “inclusive” beyond literary reviews. Twitter has turned this mentality on its head. While always important (but not always welcomed), publishers, publicist, bloggers and authors need to realize how to channel that energy.

Great point. I see it as a personal question: Am I bold enough to not only speak my mind but to hear what others have to say about it, good and bad? If feedback is negative, is there a way to channel bad publicity into good? These are questions most don’t think to ask at the outset, but should, perhaps before we leap. Maybe our next series will be “Why Twitter Isn’t Right for You.” And we can feature Ashton Kutcher.

To learn more about Man of La Book, you can go right here. Thank you for visiting, and hope you’ll come back soon!

If you have insights, success or horror stories on using social media as an author, I’d love to interview you for the next series. Contact or post your comment below.

Richard Cohen

"The highest compliment one can pay “How to Write Like Tolstoy” is that it provokes an overwhelming urge to read and write, to be in dialogue or even doomed competition with the greatest creative minds… That Mr. Cohen is an editor, that his love of literature comes in large part from awe in the presence of better writers than he, is no small matter. His love is infectious, and regardless of how well he ends up teaching us to write, that is miracle enough." — Stefan Beck, The Wall Street Journal

“An elegant, chatty how-to book on writing well, using the lessons of many of the world’s best writers . . . [Cohen] draws on plentiful advice from past and present literary titans. . . . The process of gathering advice from prominent contemporary authors such as Francine Prose, Jonathan Franzen, and Nick Hornby gives Cohen the opportunity to tell any number of amusing, often discursive stories about great literature and authors, mixed with the writers’ own observations.” — Publishers Weekly