Welcome to task 4 of the Basics of Author Online Presence Challenge. To catch up on previous tasks, go here.
I’m sure you can’t wait to start using the hashtag for this challenge to show off how well you’re doing. You’re in luck. Today’s platform-building task loves the use of hashtags.
It’s Time to Join Twitter
Why? Because that’s where authors hang out. We find writing buddies on Twitter with whom we can commiserate, celebrate and do wordsprints with.
On Twitter, you can ask other writers questions about writing and publishing, find beta readers and critique partners, and join in finding an agent during #PitchWars and other such opportunities.
How to Join Twitter
Go to Twitter and create an account. Remember to add your blog’s URL in the space where they allow you to add a link to your website.
As you set up your account, remember to change the banner (perhaps a favourite photo or free image), add your profile pic (the author photo you took on day 2) and fill in your bio (we’ll look at what makes a good bio in a moment).
Do not make your profile protected. You want people to find you.
And try to use your author name as your Twitter handle. If it already exists, add something like “author” or “writer” or, I’ve seen people do this, “real” to your name. I know that it’s not always possible to use your author name as your Twitter handle, but at least make sure that it’s the name people can see as part of your profile.
Because of Twitter’s character limitation, my full name and surname (my author name) doesn’t fit at all. So I did what I did in school: I shortened my surname. On Twitter I’m Ronel J van Vuuren (everyone who has this incredibly long surname shortens it the same way on Twitter). It does confuse some to think that the “j” stands for a middle name or something, but that’s life. I made my Twitter handle @miladyronel. Some people get confused as to the gender of “Ronel” (despite the pretty pink beret and chunky necklace in the author photo), so the “milady” is there to stop confusion and, of course, because Milady De Winter was such a badass in The Three Musketeers.
Dos and Don’ts of Twitter
Now that you know the basics of setting up your Twitter profile, let’s look at what you should and shouldn’t be doing.
- Don’t use your book’s title as your Twitter handle. You are going to write more books, aren’t you?
- Don’t use your author bio to sell your books. It’s there to sell you (your author brand).
- Don’t only share your own content – you’ll come off as needy and selfish.
- Don’t tweet anything you don’t want your parents/ best friend/ employer to see. Some tweets live forever.
- Don’t spam people with direct messages (DMs) to buy your book/like your page/whatever.
- Don’t be negative or offensive. Don’t rant. Twitter is a positive place where people quickly unfollow negative accounts.
- Don’t unfollow just because you can. If you’ve followed someone and they follow back, don’t unfollow them just because. You’re trying to build connections, not anger people. (Though, if they’ve suddenly started to tweet inappropriate things, by all means unfollow and block and report them.)
- Don’t protect your tweets. Make your profile public.
Why make everything public? Because you want to make it easy for people to find and follow you. That’s also why you have to make sure that your blog’s URL is filled in on your Twitter profile and why you should have a “follow on Twitter” button on your blog and make sure that your Twitter handle is part of your post publicising feature (usually under customize or settings on your blog).
- Do use appropriate hashtags to promote your tweets. (We’ll look at the proper use of hashtags later in the challenge.)
- Do follow people who have the same interests as you. (Other writers, people who like folklore as much as you do, etc.)
- Do follow people who can benefit you. (Publishers, literary agents, ezines, @Writer_2_Writer, etc.)
- Do check who’s following you on your “Followers” page. Follow back if you find them interesting/relevant to building your platform.
- Do share your blog posts via Twitter.
- Do share interesting articles/pictures/news.
- Do share other people’s stuff. (Remember to @mention them.)
- Do share regularly. (You can use Tweetdeck or something similar to schedule your posts in advance. Sharing regularly leads to more followers.)
- Do have an awesome author bio. (Without one, people won’t know if they should follow you.)
So how do you write an awesome author bio?
Remember when you had to describe yourself in a sentence on day 2? Get that sentence in front of you.
Ronel Janse van Vuuren is a Rottweiler pack leader who writes dark fantasy filled with folklore and mythology.
Now, your name is already there in your profile, so there’s no need to use precious space naming yourself again.
A Rottweiler pack leader who writes dark fantasy filled with folklore and mythology.
Not bad. But is there anything else from day 2 that can look good in my bio?
Flash Fiction judge on Cracked Flash Fiction Competition.
Can I add hashtags that will draw in my target audience (readers and writers)?
A Rottweiler pack leader who writes dark fantasy filled with folklore and mythology. #flashfiction judge @CrackedflashFC
Using the username of the competition automatically links to their Twitter page and gives credibility to my claim as judge. And the hashtag is a popular one.
But here’s the thing: I don’t only write dark fantasy. I do usually write about Rottweilers, folklore and mythology. And certain words describe a person better than others.
Author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. Rottweiler mum. Occasional flash fiction judge @CrackedFlashFC.
Better. I tell you what I write about (folklore and mythology) and who I write for (New Adults, Young Adults and children). I also tell you a bit about myself (Rottweiler mum) and my position in the writing world (flash fiction judge). Don’t litter your author bio with too many hashtags: three are more than enough.
#Author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. #Rottweiler mum. Occasional #FlashFiction judge @CrackedFlashFC.
I got my point across without mentioning my new book, newsletter or anything whiny anywhere (yes: telling me to “subscribe now” or “buy my book here” sounds whiny and needy). Your author bio is about extending your brand, not about selling books or building email lists.
You’ll see that my tweets are about writing, Rottweilers, folklore and flash fiction – as advertised in my author bio. Smart branding right there.
Remember: all of your efforts to build your online presence is about author branding. Be consistent.
There’s a lot more about Twitter you probably need to know, but that’s all for now. I don’t want to overwhelm you. Though you can check out my “Trying out Twitter” post for more info.
To tweet about today’s challenge, do something like this:
I’ve set up my Twitter profile! #AuthorOPChal
Did you set up your Twitter account? Did you connect your Twitter account to your blog? (Check out your blog’s settings to do that.) Did you send out your first tweet? Great! Share your username (@username) in the comments and let’s see who wrote the most intriguing and suitable author bio. Bonus points if you use the hashtag for the challenge (if you use it in your tweets about the challenge, everyone here can follow what the others are doing as the challenge moves along).
Author: Ronel Janse van Vuuren
Ronel writes dark fantasy filled with mythology and folklore, some of which can be read on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. When not leading her Rottweiler pack or arguing with her characters, she’s writing award-winning fiction.