How Children’s Authors Should Use Twitter

Personally, for years I didn’t understand the appeal of Twitter for authors at all. Number one, in the beginning, you only had 140 characters. Why even bother?

Occasionally, I would run across an article online talking about Twitter pitch parties—and again, my response was, “Huh?”

Why Children’s Writers Should Use Twitter

Twitter bird with laptop

It turns out there are some good reasons to hang out on Twitter:

·  Industry folks (agents and editors) are active on Twitter

·  Chats are a great way to connect with other writers

·  Great source for finding mentorships, critiques, and freebies

·  It’s possible to connect with influencers

·  Benefits are immediate, even without followers

·  Doubles as an up-to-the-minute source of breaking news

Twitter is viewed as the place to be to pick up insights from those in the publishing industry.

Many agents and editors hang out on Twitter, and most allow their comments (“tweets”) to be public. In other words, you can see what they are posting even if you don’t follow one another.

If you are looking for information about what kind of stories agents and editors are looking for, Twitter is a treasure trove of clues. Many industry folks will post their manuscript wish lists here, and use the hashtag #MSWL.

Also, sometimes an agent will announce they are open to submissions on Twitter—and this is the only place they share this information.

The other huge feature of Twitter for writers are pitch parties. Many writers credit a pitch party as the way they landed their agent, or got a publishing contract. Author K.L. Kranes provides a nice overview of pitch parties in her blog post.

Connect With Other Writers

Another useful feature of Twitter is it offers a way to connect with a community of other children’s writers in a meaningful way.

There are regularly scheduled chats that take place where people gather just to chat. The moderators usually propose a topic a help keep the discussion going. It’s a place to ask questions, share tips, and build friendships.

By participating on a regular basis, you will often find a number of people who show up on a regular basis. As long as you participate (in a helpful and friendly way—which of course you will!) you will quickly find yourself building meaningful relationships among those who show up.

Some Twitter chats for kidlit writers include:

  • #kidlit chat on Tuesdays 6-9 pm ET
  • #PBChat Wednesdays 7-9 pm ET
  • #MGLitChat Thursdays 9 PM ET
  • #KidlitArt Thursdays 9 PM ET
  • #YALitChat (Does not appear to be currently active)

Chats can be confusing to follow. The tweets can come through your feed at a fast and furious pace. You can just do a search for the hashtag and watch what comes through—but it can get pretty confusing. It helps if you click on the “Latest” tab to keep things in order.

Tidal Wave
Get ready for your feed to be like this.

There are tools available to help you organize your feed that can make chats easier to follow. The one I’ve used is Tweetdeck. It is owned by Twitter (and it’s free!) so it’s easy to integrate with your account. You just search for the chat and it will create a new column showing tweets with that hashtag.

Connect With Industry Influencers

One of Twitter’s most valuable features is that you can reach out to anyone without needing some kind of connection first.

So, for example, let’s say you admire a certain children’s book author who is seen as successful or of some renown. I’ll use Laurie Halse Anderson, author of many award-winning books, including Shout, Speak, and Chains, as an example.  She has over 56,000 followers. Yet, if you were to comment on one of her tweets, or reach out to her, there’s a good chance she will respond.

Celebrity signing autographs
It’s like meeting a celebrity!

I’ve reached out to influential people in other industries, even sometimes direct messaging them, and had them respond. It’s so exciting to see a reply—it’s like shaking their hand (or I guess maybe doing an elbow bump)—and experiencing a real connection.

Keep in mind that you should never abuse these opportunities. Always be respectful and polite, and don’t just bombard people with Tweets to try to get their attention. But if you have a legitimate comment or question, then by all means, go ahead and reach out. (Keep in mind some do not allow DMs, but a surprisingly large number of people do).

Look For Opportunities and Resources

If you follow a bunch of other writers and publishing folks in the kidlit world, your feed will be filled with news about books and events related to kidlit.

Children’s authors are always tweeting about other people’s books. Many feature other authors on their websites, and announce the publication of a post on Twitter. Oftentimes, this is also accompanied by opportunities for a free copy of the featured author’s book. Authors also give away manuscript critiques as a way to help out other writers.

If you check your feed regularly, keep an eye out for these opportunities! Because who doesn’t love free stuff?

Authors and publishing folks also share great resources about the world of kidlit all the time. There might be an interesting webinar coming up, or a course, or a helpful article.

A Huge Following is Not Necessary

One of the nice things about Twitter (although it can also have its downsides) is that everything is available to everyone. You don’t have to follow someone to see their tweets. If you want to know what Jason Reynolds is up to, all you have to do is click on his account and you can see everything he has tweeted, retweeted, or commented on.

If you want to regularly see what someone is up to on Twitter, then all you have to do is follow them. No request necessary. Just click “Follow.” Done.

Also, following other people is a great way to gain followers. Okay, maybe not Jason Reynolds, as he is a pretty busy guy. (He has almost 100,000 followers, but he only follows less than 2,000). But for the average person on Twitter, that’s all it takes.

You Don’t Need a Lot of Time

How long does it take to read 280 characters? About 10 seconds, right? So you can skim through a whole bunch of tweets in a short amount of time.

Even if you just spend 10 minutes, you can definitely get a quick hit on what’s going on in your feed.

hour glass with laptop
10 minutes can go by pretty fast

Of course, the hard part is limiting yourself to 10 minutes. Twitter, like other social media, can generate some interesting conversations, and it’s easy to start down a trail and not come out for several minutes. Hours, even.

Setting a timer might be a good idea, to remind you to get back to doing other things. Like writing.

How to Manage Your Feed

Looking at your Twitter feed can feel like an avalanche of information coming at you, with no rhyme or reason to it.

One way skilled Twitter users control their feed is through the use of lists.

Basically, you can create lists based on whatever criteria you want. So, for example, you could create a group for all the picture book writers you follow. Or you could create a list of agents.

After you create a list, you can simply click on it (from the left-side menu). Twitter will then show you activity from people on that list.

Here are a couple of helpful articles that explain how to set up lists on Twitter.

How to Set Up Twitter Lists and Regain Some Sanity

How to Create and Manage Twitter Lists

Pay attention to what they say about whether to keep your lists private or public.

The one big downside of creating lists is there is no way (at least that I have found) to do this in bulk. So if you are following thousands, organizing everyone into lists will be a monumental task. The best thing is to do it a bit at a time. And the earlier you start the practice, the better!

Try to Be a Good Friend

Twitter provides the best value when you remember to use it as a way to build relationships. Meaningful relationships, not just for the mutually beneficial stuff.

Think of it as a way to become friends with a lot of people you might never meet in person. Talk to others in ways that are helpful, or supportive, or just plain friendly. Boost other people’s tweets that are worth boosting by retweeting them. Respond to questions and participate in polls.

And stay away from any unpleasant or snarky threads. Those don’t serve anyone.

Treat others how you would like to be treated. Be yourself. Don’t be self-serving, because people will pick up on it and then nobody will want to be your friend.

Bonus Tip: Catch Breaking News

If you want to get a quick summary of the latest news or hot trend of the day, Twitter is a great source. Just check out the What’s Happening feed and you’ll get up-to-the-minute highlights. Some of it will be serious news, some of it will be ridiculous, and some will be just plain head-scratchers.

So put those 280 characters to good use. Children’s writers should use Twitter to make some new friends, build a community, and enjoy the funny comments.

Just try to stop after ten minutes!

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