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Twitter for Authors

Retweets and Mentions and Hashtags—Oh, My!



Hashtags, retweets and mentions are among the tactics used to build a Twitter following for authors and their books.

Oli Scarff / Getty Images News
Twitter (found at twitter.com) is a social media portal that builds community and fosters communication among those who share interests. For authors and those who want to be, Twitter can help establish you as a voice in your chosen arena, and help aggregate an audience for you and your book.

For those whose job it is to do book marketing and publicity (and that very much includes the authors!), Twitter can help spread the word about book publication, good reviews, booksignings, and other news relevant to a book and its potential readers. Here’s some information and advice on how to get started using Twitter.

Open a Twitter account
If you’re new to Twitter and tweeting, it’s a good idea to open an account and refer to it while you read this. Opening a Twitter account is free and easy and looking at tweets will help you to understand what’s written here. If you need help, refer to this handy article about the steps of opening a Twitter account.)

When setting up your account, it helps to know that the maximum length of your username (like @PetersonValerie) is 15 characters; the maximum length of your profile/bio is 160 characters; the maximum length of your tweets is 140 characters. Read this overview of Twitter to understand what a makes a good username, what you should include in your profile, etc.

Understand the fundamental tools of the Twitter “conversation”
Twitter is a social media and relies on the exchange of tweets to keep the conversations flowing. This exchange happens in a variety of ways.

• Tweets
As stated, tweets are 140 characters or less of anything you'd like to say.

"To sleep perchance to dream... except when I've had too much caffeine."

"Enjoying Julia Child's bio! http://publishing.about.com/od/Books/a/About-Julia-Child-Iconic-Cookbook-Author-And-Tv-Food-Personality.htm"

While you’ve got 140 characters to play with, try to keep your tweets under 100 or so—that gives it room for the retweet characters without cutting off any of your own message.

Also, when sharing links, you can use a link-shortener to conserve characters for the “meat” of your post, it’s wise to use a link shortener, like bitly.com or tinyurl.com (these are free; you simply type in your URL and press enter and you’ll get a shortened version).

"On the beach, enjoying Julia Child's bio! Bon Appetit!!! bit.lyxxxx

• Mentions
Mentions are a shout-out to another Twitter user, indicated by tweeting their username. For example, “@TheGinaBarreca congrats on the new book! Bit.lyxxx”

• Retweets
Retweets are like “forwarding” someone’s tweet to all your own followers. Retweets are arguably the lifeblood of the Twitterstream, keeping information flowing to larger and larger audiences. Retweets are indicated with a RT and the username of the retweeter, as in “RT @AboutPublishing: @TheGinaBarreca congrats on the new book! Bit.lyxxx”

• Replies
Replies are just that: replies to someone’s tweet. Everyone can see your replies, even though they are generally meant for one person. "@AboutPublishing thanks for the retweet!"

• Direct Message
In addition to retweets, mentions and replies, there is also Direct Message. Unlike “replies,” these messages (which start with DM) are private and only appear to the person to whom they are sent. However, you cannot direct message anyone who is not following you. For example, “DM @TheGinaBarreca what time is signing tomorrow?”

• Hashtags
Hashtags are markers that help define the subject (or subjects) mention in a specific tweet. A hashtag is indicated with a #; there are no spaces or punctuation in a hashtag, and it cannot be all numbers.

Common wisdom holds that you shouldn’t use more than three hashtags per tweet—but there are no tweet police that I’m aware of, so I say if the hashtag fits…

While hashtags are frequently stuck at the end of the tweet, they can be used organically in the tweet (and that way the link stands out at the end).

Check out some examples and explanations of hashtags specific to writers, authors and book publishing professionals.

Examples of Book Promotional Tweets
Now that we’ve explained retweets, mentions, hashtags, etc., it’s time to see it all put together.

As an example, let’s say that author Gina Barreca is doing a booksigning at the Madison, Connecticut bookstore, R. J. Julia, and her publicist tweets a notification. As a follower, AboutPublishing gets the tweet, which might look something like this:

@TheGinaBarreca #booksigning #CT @rjjulia 10/9 at 7:00pm More Info at Bit.lyxxxx #MakeMineADouble

AboutPublishing retweets to its followers, and the tweet looks like this:

RT: @BookPRGirl: @TheGinaBarreca #booksigning #CT @rjjulia 10/9 at 7:00pm More Info at Bit.lyxxxx #MakeMineADouble

Now that you understand the fundamentals of the Twitter conversation, check out these Twitter hashtags specifically for authors and the publishing industry.

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