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Ask Annie: 5 Twitter Mistakes Writers Make and How to Avoid Them

Ask Annie Neugebauer Writer Unboxed logo [1]

You’ve covered a lot of policy and etiquette in your blogs, but I was wondering if there are any pitfalls you commonly see writers making on Twitter? And if so, what should we do to avoid them?


Hi Anonymous! I love this question, not just because you’re eager to avoid the pitfalls but also because you specified that you want to know how to do so. I appreciate that focus on positivity and taking action.

I have so many answers to this one that I’m going to break it into two parts. This post will cover my first 5 and my next one will cover 5 more. Thanks so much for your question!

1. Tweeting word counts.

You know what’s not interesting? How many words you wrote today. Ouch! I’m sorry, but if I don’t tell you, who will? It doesn’t matter if you had the best day in history or literally only typed one word; most people don’t care. They’re not trying to be mean, but unless we’re directly affected by the outcome of said word count, it really isn’t interesting.

“But Annie, tweeting my word count keeps me accountable. What am I supposed to do?” The answer: find a source of support – and take it off Twitter. Every writer needs fellow writers with whom they celebrate and commiserate. Lots of writers need an accountability buddy – no shame in that! The trick is taking that connection off Twitter, to a private place. Even if you find your buddy on Twitter, Twitter isn’t the place to tweet said numbers. Better options include email, texts, a group forum, a private Facebook group, etc. Keep your followers happy and yourself accountable; it’s the best of both worlds.

2. Over-promoting your work.

This is so tempting. The busier we get, the harder it becomes to even get on Twitter, much less to post idle chit-chat. Some days I find myself hitting only the “important” things in my tweets. Read: self-promotion. It’s a necessary evil. The problem comes in when promo takes over and you become spam. No one likes flyers on their car [2], remember? So how do we keep from becoming nothing but promotion machines when we have so little time to dedicate to Twitter?

Cut back. In most cases, your Twitter content should be no more than 30% self-promotion. Under no circumstances should it be over 50%. That means that if you can only get on Twitter long enough to tweet three times that day, only one of those tweets should be a link to your work. Need to share your work more often than that? Get on Twitter and tweet other content more often than that. I’m sorry, but there is no shortcut. And honestly, you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you do otherwise, because once an account becomes that promo-heavy people write it off as spam.

3. Pitching agents and editors.

It’s tempting, but don’t do it. Unless you’ve been directly invited or there’s a sanctioned Twitter pitching event going on, Twitter is for social interactions, not business.

If you want to query an agent or editor, do it the old-fashioned way; send an email.

4. Only interacting with writers.

[pullquote]Most readers aren’t that interested in the nuts and bolts of the writing process. They want books, not how-tos. [/pullquote]Writers are great (really great), but you’re on Twitter to find potential readers too, remember? Sure, other writers can be readers, but for the most part they’re too busy trying to get you to read their books to stop and read yours. So branch out a little; find and follow other people. They’re out there. I know; I saw one once at Target!

But seriously, this also means tweeting about things besides writing. Most readers aren’t that interested in the nuts and bolts of the writing process. They want books, not how-tos. So instead of talking about writing, try to include content that will appeal to the same crowd that you want to read your book.

5. Sharing submission statuses.

There’s no reason to go this alone, but there’s also no reason to broadcast every rejection you receive. We all get them. We all know. Keep a lid on that pot, yo. Likewise, although it might be tempting to tweet “I got a request!” joys, it’s wiser to keep those quiet as well. As sad as it may seem, many (most) requests still turn into rejections, and if you never update us about that request result, we eventually figure it out. So rather than tweeting stats, rejections, or even maybe-pile updates, wait until you have some final, positive good news to tweet about submission statuses.

Feeling lost in a sea of responses? Again, the solution is simple: use your off-Twitter support group (even if you meet the wonderful folks there to begin with). They should be happy to cheer you on, mourn your losses, and celebrate your victories – in private.

Do you have a question about Twitter that you’d like answered here on Writer Unboxed? You can leave your question in the comments below, fill out this quick, easy online form [3] – there’s an anonymous option if you’re shy – or simply tweet your question with the hashtag #AskAnnieWU [4]. (You can send them to me directly @AnnieNeugebauer [5] as well.) I look forward to getting more of your questions!

About Annie Neugebauer [6]

Annie Neugebauer is a two-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated author with work appearing and forthcoming in more than a hundred publications, including magazines such as Cemetery Dance, Apex, and Black Static, as well as anthologies such as Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volumes 3 & 4 and #1 Amazon bestsellers Killing It Softly & Fire. She’s a member of the Horror Writers Association and a columnist for Writer Unboxed and LitReactor. She's represented by Alec Shane of Writers House. She lives in Texas with two crazy cute cats and a husband who’s exceptionally well-prepared for the zombie apocalypse. You can visit her at www.AnnieNeugebauer.com for news, poems, organizational tools for writers, and more.