Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

Twitter for Writers (Writer's Craft)Twitter for Writers by Rayne Hall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve had this review to write for about a year. That says more about me than it does about the book. But I’ve genuinely wanted to review it all that time and now at last have done so. That says more about the book than it does about me.

Rayne Hall is a professional working writer, mostly of fantasy, horror, historical fiction and non-fiction, with a loyal fan base and an awesome cat called Sulu. I’m not a big reader of the genres that she writes in so her guidebooks on writing, and Twitter in particular, were of more interest to me than her fiction.

Rayne kindly sent me a review copy of Twitter for Writers after I engaged with her on Twitter. Ok, after I pestered her on Twitter. Just kidding. I like Rayne’s writing style and approach to social media, we follow each other on Twitter, and this was the book of hers that I most wanted to read. So I just asked nicely.

Let me say right out the gate that Twitter for Writers is a great primer on how to use Twitter if: 1) you’re an author, 2) self-published or indie and / or 3) you want to use Twitter to sell your books. No more, no less. It’s especially useful to writers who work in similar genres to the author.

The book gives you an overview of Twitter for the uninitiated writer, how to do stuff like build an audience and drive traffic to your website, and is perfect if you write SF, YA, Fantasy, Horror etc and want to use Twitter to pimp your wares without annoying your followers.

As it was a review copy I was asked to give my honest, unguarded opinion, including on which chapters I found most useful or entertaining, but also to speak a little about my background and how I use Twitter.

I’m an NCTJ-qualified journalist, currently working in the third-sector, who blogs and writes fiction on the side. I’ve used Twitter both personally, as an independent writer, and professionally, managing accounts for charities, creative industries and human rights organisations.

My personal account is supposed to be funny but I probably come across as a sarcastic git, part-time pedant and full-time grumpy arse. I even invented the hashtag #unfollowsunday — but the less said about that the better.

I spend an unhealthy amount of time on Twitter. At the time of writing this I’ve over 11,500 followers, mostly fellow writers, but I’ve yet to try my hand at selling books there. So my perspective on the application of this book is skewed in favour of people who promote themselves without shouting BUY MY BOOK with every single tweet.

Rayne offers some solid advice about starting a conversation, rather than a sales pitch, and how to tweet stuff that is relevant to your audience. For example, if you write vampire novels then talk about vampires — not about your novel.

She also gives practical advice on marketing and how to write engaging content, including models of successful marketing tweets, how to strike a good balance between marketing and conversation, and advises you to avoid automated Direct Messages like the plague.

Any fiction writer would do well to take this advice to heart. Far too often writers market at people rather than talk to them. To readers of your timeline all the typical author tweet says is: “Buy my book. Buy my book. BUY. MY. BOOK.”

There was, at least from my perspective, also some advice that was a little questionable. Namely that it’s ok to use non-photo pictures for your profile picture such as a painting or cartoon. There are of course plenty of examples of people that do this, for any number of reasons, but in my not-so-humble opinion it’s dead wrong. This is a just personal bugbear of mine rather than a damning indictment of the book.

People prefer to connect with people. Because psychology. So use a photo of your face. And not just of your ear, eye or forehead. You’ll get much better results with a real photo of yourself — it’s fine if you disagree but I refuse to justify myself to a cartoon squirrel.

And don’t get me started on cat pictures. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean your pictures of your cats. I love cats. Cats are awesome. And Rayne, for example, uses lovely pictures of her cat to promote her books to good effect. Every writer should have a cat — we all need our familiars. It’s just internet memes like lolcats that I can’t stand. No, you can’t ‘has cheezburger.’ Go back to Facebook. At least writers’ cats are good at spelling.

It just goes to show you that there’s no one true way to ‘do Twitter.’ Everyone thinks that they do it better than anyone else. And everyone annoys someone else at some point because they’re ‘doing it wrong.’ And they’re all wrong, of course, because I do it better. Just kidding.

I liked the sections where Rayne candidly confesses mistakes she made, lessons learnt, and strategies she tried that didn’t work. And I loved (laughed out loud at) the hilarious aside on weird reasons she gets unfollowed. I’ve been unfollowed for some weird-ass reasons over the years. My favourites to date include because I use British spelling (I’m English), because I like the music of Nick Cave, and the venomous death threats I received because I’ve never read Harry Potter.

To be honest I didn’t learn anything new but no doubt a Twitter newbie would find the book much more helpful. Most of the so-called advanced strategies, such as scheduling tweets, I already do. If I died today you’d still get daily tweets from me until the end of the year. But it was still a worthy read, for me, and validating / reassuring to see the process of another writer and realise that my own process isn’t far off the mark.

The most practical advice I picked up from the book was that if you want a tweet to go viral it should be visual, funny and relevant — and the best size for an image on such a tweet is 512 by 1024 pixels. I think of these as ‘hero tweets’ because the hero image makes it perfect fodder for pinning to the top of your profile. Tweet something visual, funny and relevant — preferably with a call to action such as a link to your website — and people will most likely share it. Pin it to the top of your profile and even casual visitors to your profile will see it and respond.

I came away from reading Twitter for Writers feeling like the sort of person who could write his own how-to book on Twitter but is too lazy to do so. I really should get out more or get off my arse and write something — even if it is just a grumpy guide to Twitter. I could call it ‘Antisocial Media.’ Or, you know, I could just stop drinking whiskey, put on pants and leave the house.

I’m @jamesgarside_ on Twitter if you want to say hi.

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Rule of thumb

Posted: November 4, 2015 in graffiti living
Tags: , , ,

This is the ‘notes on the back of an envelope’ of a post I was going to write about why Facebook is shit.

But then I deleted Facebook — again — and I hate Facebook so much that I can’t be bothered to write about it.

  • Social media isn’t social
  • Facebook is a consensus tranceFacebook can eat my shit — and tries to on a regular basis
  • Privacy. Whuh?
  • Facebook owns your face
  • Do you want Farmville with that?
  • Facebook isn’t real
  • Facebook friends aren’t friends — they’re pod people
  • Antisocial media: We don’t want to see by default what everyone else is doing
  • I love cats but hate cat pictures and cats that can’t spell
  • Admit it — if your life was that interesting, you wouldn’t be on Facebook posting status updates about it.

Deleting Facebook is like slitting your wrists: melodramatic, upsetting to your friends, and unlikely to kill you. But still preferable to Facebook.

Facebook: fake friendships with real people.

Twitter: real friendships with fake people.

Social media expert: someone who hates Facebook and loves Twitter.

I can’t be arsed to write the rest — if you need me, I’m on Twitter.

The personal revolution is far more difficult and is the first step in any revolution.~~ Michael Franti

I’m releasing some of my weirder and wilder bookmarks into the wild and linking to people that have influenced me as a writer.

First up we have three mind-bending essays by the brilliant and incisive Alex Burns from Disinformation.

I read them 14 years ago and they broke my head open — so much so that I even recently asked the author on Twitter how to find them so that I could read them again.

If you’ve ever thought about twisting your head out of shape or starting a revolution, this is a good place to start:

personal mutations 1: by way of introduction
personal mutations 2: asleep at the wheel
personal mutations 3: condemned to repeat it

These essays had a massive influence on me at the time — along with the writers and artists I discovered as I went down the rabbit-hole.

The complete Disinformation archives are also available online.

There’s plenty more where that came from if people are interested. If not I’ll stuff them back under the bed and read them by torch-light.


  1. Don’t be a dick (Try to play nice with the other children)

  2. Be yourself (I’m a part-time sarcastic git and full-time grumpy arse, but I mean well)

  3. Don’t feed the trolls (and resist the urge to set an angry mob onto them)

  4. Follow / Unfollow who you want (I prefer friendly creative types; sarcasm is an added bonus)

  5. Don’t act butt-hurt if someone Follows / Unfollows you (all we are is words on a screen)

  6. Talk with people, rather than market at them (take part in the conversation)

  7. Be funny (and if you can’t be funny, be careful)

  8. Be a goat, not a sheep (freedom of speech means nothing without freedom of thought)

  9. Respond whenever you can (so long as you add to the conversation or are sufficiently sarcastic)

  10. Share interesting stuff (no-one gives a shit what you ate for breakfast)

It’s ok to break any of these rules, such as when you’re drunk or in a bad mood, so long as you’re fucking hilarious.

[I originally wrote this as a comment in response to a blog post by Chuck Wendig. I’ve posted it here because I’m a narcissist and too lazy to write a new blog post.]

[Update: This post was kindly reblogged by the ever funny-and-entertaining RA Frenzy (a Richard Armitage fansite). They also linked to my post No-One Gives a Shit About Your Blog which they reblogged before. The nicest thing about this? They shared it, of their own free will, because they thought it was funny.]