Hacks for Hacks: How to PWN Twitter

That's what she twittered.
photo by Robert Scoble

In the old days, writers built a following by earning the esteem of readers through great writing. Today, through the magic of social networks like Twitter, you can simply pretend to read thousands of strangers describing their brunch. Not familiar with Twitter? Webster’s Dictionary defines Twitter as “Kinda like Facebook, but without Farmville or family members you’re trying to avoid.” Lots of authors are using Twitter to advance their writing careers 140 characters at a time (yes, those count toward your daily word count). Here’s a few ace tips on how you can dominate the Twittersphere.

Follow the leader

There’s a 1:1 ratio of Twitter followers to book buyers, according to a study that probably exists somewhere.

Twitter allows us to establish relationships with thousands of potential readers every day. There’s a 1:1 ratio of Twitter followers to book buyers, according to a study that probably exists somewhere. You can get followers simply by following lots of people. Unless they’re inhuman monsters, they’ll feel pressured to follow you back. Yeah, this will clog your feed with flame wars and Pinstagrams or whatever, but you’re going to unfollow everybody once you get to 15,000 anyway.

Interactive fan mail

Follow your favorite author and tweet at her how much you enjoy her work. On Twitter, you may get a response in real time! These replies are like finding a unicorn in the mule stable. Make sure to retweet your fame-by-association so your friends will seethe with jealousy. A Twitter conversation constitutes a binding social contract declaring that you and Famous Author are now BFFs.  All big-time writers know this, so don’t be shy about palling around with your new buddy when you see her at a con.

140 characters

Great writers make their characters come to life. Consider tweeting as one of the characters in your novel.  Hey, Twitter’s free — why not set up accounts for the whole cast and have them talk to each other? This is much cheaper than that medication your doctor recommended, and a great way to build buzz and entice me into buying your book. Well, not me specifically, but somebody, I’m sure.

Ask for reviews

Twitter allows you to connect on a deep level with potential readers all over the world, then plead for them to review your self-published book on Amazon. Reward good behavior by announcing every time someone dishes out more than three stars — it’s like saying, “C’mon, kids! Everybody’s doing it!” Your Twitter page will look like a long stream of high-fives. But how many times is too many to ask for reviews? Ha, that was a trick question. It’s never too many!


Be sure to tag all your posts with #amwriting. #amwriting is a tag that alerts your followers you’re engaged in the thrilling activity of sitting in front of a computer encoding letters on a white screen. Other popular writer hashtags are #amediting, #coffee, #chocolate, #caffeine, #livingthedream, and #payattentiontome. Always use at least three hashtags in every post to promote maximum tagability (if not comprehension). Feel free to make up your own, or do what I do and just write #hashtag.

Know your audience

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Twitter, it’s that nobody reads books except other writers. Why else would writers tweet about nothing but writing?

Writers must cater to their readers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Twitter, it’s that nobody reads books except other writers. Why else would writers tweet about nothing but writing? Focus your tweets on the creative process, sharing links to your blog post on creating likeable sidekicks, making oblique references to characters in your unpublished novella–if it’s not about writing, it doesn’t belong. Writing is the sexiest and coolest–if not the payingest–of professions. Don’t waste time trying to appeal to random strangers when you could instead create your own impenetrable cocoon of cool (cocool?) with other scribes doing the same thing.

Congratulations! You’re now an official Twitter expert. You may now write “social media consultant” on your resume, and mention “I have 15,000 Twitter followers!” in novel queries and when introducing yourself to strangers. With my advice and some perseverance, you may eventually get the coveted blue check mark next to your name, at which point you are declared the winner of Twitter, and agents are required by AAR bylaws to represent you.


About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Jen, and his sons, Elliott and Wyatt, and he looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.


  1. says

    Hahaha! Finding a unicorn in the mule stable – classic line. :)

    I see you’re a Nebraska native – I was born and raised in Nebraska and I’m still here. I sometimes wonder if that will ever change… ;)

  2. Sevgne says

    Funny post. Reminds me of the song the dwarfs sing in The Hobbit:

    “Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
    Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
    That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates–
    Smash the bottles and burn the corks!


    “That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!
    So, carefully! carefully with the plates!

    “And of course they did none of those dreadful things, and everything was cleaned and put away safe as quick as lightening, while the hobbit was turning round and round in the middle of the kitchen trying to see what they were doing.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit)

    I’ve never got into Twitter culture even though I’ve owned accounts for years. I occasionally like to follow #events on tweetchat. And very occasionally I tweet. But that’s about it.

    What do you think has made Twitter so popular for writers?

    (On a completely divergent note, I hope the Koch Brothers don’t try to take it over…I today read they’re trying to get into the newspaper industry.)

  3. says

    ha! Seriously though, I’ve had to unfollow a few high brow authors, one man in particular, who retweets EVERY nice tweet someone sends to him, a link to every Goodreads review, etc. It’s just unseemly.