Wednesday 25 March 2015

7 Reasons for Unpublished Writers to Join Twitter

I recently returned to an old creative writing class to talk about Twitter for half an hour. If you’re on Twitter, you’ll know that half an hour isn’t long enough to explain how it works, and with all the questions, I ran out of time to complete the workshop I’d prepared. So, I’m going to run an ‘Introduction to Social Media for Writers’ course in Surrey in April. 

During my talk, there was some discussion about whether an unpublished writer would gain anything by being on Twitter. So I thought I'd write a blog post explaining why I think Twitter's worth it for unpublished writers (of course, I'm referring to those who'd like to be published in some way, at some point in the future).

Twitter has enhanced my life as a writer, and I find myself defending Twitter whenever anyone questions its existence. Your Twitter timeline can be a river of opportunities, and you never know what you might catch. 

As long as you’re careful about the time you spend on Twitter, ie: not all day every day*, you’ll still get your writing done. Three authors who manage Twitter well are Alison Morton, Talli Roland, and Sue Moorcroft. Alison was a guest on this blog in February with ‘Alison Morton on Twitter’, Talli will be a guest with a post about Facebook on 24 April, and Sue will be a guest with 'Balancing Writing with Social Media' on 5 June.

*Yes, I spent hours on Twitter, when I first joined. Those were the days, back in 2011, when Twitter was more chatty than promo-based and it was easy to get caught up in conversations with several people at once, for ages. Since then, I’ve learnt to manage the time I spend on Twitter more efficiently and I maintain the accounts for The Historical Novel Society (@histnovsoc) and @neetsmarketing using a 'strategy' which involves shortcuts and ways to find the right content to share as quickly as possible. I schedule Tweets on Tweetdeck in advance and drop in to those accounts now and again during the day to find good content to retweet. If I become a published author, I’ll probably manage my Twitter account in a similar way, with personal Tweets as well, like those I currently post from my @neetswriter account (and not too much of my own promo ideally).

If you struggle to get yourself off Twitter: The key is to set a timer (I use the one on my phone), it’s the only way to ensure you get your writing done too. For a personal, writer’s Twitter account (like my @neetswriter account), 10 minutes per day is manageable during busy times, if you go about it in the right way. Initially you’ll probably need to spend more time on Twitter, to familiarise yourself with how it works, and to gain followers etc. Once you’ve built up your followers, a Twitter account is easier to manage.

Here are 7 Reasons for Unpublished Writers to Join Twitter:

1. Promote your blog:

If you have a blog, you need to be on Twitter to tell others about your posts. You can promote your posts on Facebook, but my neetswriter and neetsmarketing blogs receive a great deal of hits via Twitter. (In the Alison Morton on Twitter post mentioned above, Alison says that Twitter 'is a strong source of visitors'). And the more you’re on social media, the more likely your name/blog posts are likely to come up in a Google search, apparently. Here's a post on something similar: Twitter Strikes Deal with Google to Let Tweets Appear in Searches, via AdAge

2. Stay up to date with the publishing industry:

The publishing industry changes almost daily, especially because of the “ebook revolution”, and there are plenty of links to blog posts and articles which tell you what's going on. You become familiar with the names of literary agents (and which agents work for which agency), independent publishers, traditionally published authors (and who their agents are), and successful self-published authors. 

3. Build an online profile:

A good online profile can only be a positive, when submitting to agents and independent publishers, who I’ve heard often Google your name when receiving submissions. This happened to me last summer when an agent reviewed a full manuscript for my Book 1, and said that although the book wasn’t for her, I have a great profile. The best rejection so far, if only she'd liked the book. 

4. Be ready to go when you’re published:

‘When’ (of course!) you are published; traditionally or self-published, you’ll have your Twitter account ready ‘to go’. It takes a while to gain a substantial number of the ‘right’ followers, ie: followers who might want to read your tweets, or books at a later date. If you aim for the traditional route first and struggle to get a book deal, your Twitter account will be set up and ready to go in the case that you choose to self-publish. Having a social media presence is essential if you’re self-published. The New Romantics Press can tell you more about that in their guest post, 'Marketing Books Using Social Media', on 15 May.

5. Find the company of other writers:

There's a lovely writing community on Twitter (who you can often find through #amwriting). I’ve met other writers who have given me feedback on the full manuscript for my Book 1, and whose novels I’ve read before they were published. Michelle Flatley included me in the acknowledgements for her wonderful novel, 'My Beautiful England' because I gave her feedback on the first few chapters when it was in its early stages. What a lovely surprise that was when I reached the end of the published novel! Some writers have given me great advice re which path to follow when I get stuck, ie: 'carry on with Book 2, leave Book 1 alone for a while…', which I’m now doing (see Getting Back Into Writing After a Break on my neetswriter blog). Writing can be lonely, and there aren’t many writers around in everyday life, so it’s nice to be able to speak to them online. Because other writers ‘understand’ when you say that you’re stuck on a point in your plot, you’re frustrated because you can’t focus on your WIP, you continuously get lost in research, or you can’t work out how to make your main character a less irritating person.

6. Be inspired by your peers and published authors:

Sometimes when I’m struggling with my WIP, and I see Tweets saying, ‘Wrote 2000 words in the past hour’, or ‘Just won a short story competition’, or even ‘I got a book deal!’, this makes me think, I need to GET ON WITH IT, and stop dithering. Blog posts and articles written by successful authors are often inspiring, and they can give you ideas on how to finish your novel, get published etc. Being on Twitter is a great way to find out about writing competitions too, if that’s what you’re into. I’ve stopped entering them for a while, as I went through a phase of using them as a form of procrastination.

7. Get answers to questions about research:

I once tweeted a question about how long it would take a stagecoach to get from the Cotswolds to Surrey in 1750. Someone replied almost instantly, directing me to a brilliant website, an eighteenth century version of The AA Route Planner. Sometimes I see great blog posts on the eighteenth century, and find out about research books that way too.

So, there you go. If you're not on Twitter already, are you convinced that it will only enhance your writing life?! (if you manage it carefully, of course ;-))

If you’d like to find out more about my ‘Introduction to Social Media for Writers' course in Surrey on 25 April, email me at, and I’ll send you further info.

Here's an interesting post by Gina Holmes, via Women Writers: 'Marketing Your Novel: Prepare in Advance!'

Previous posts on Twitter:

Friday 6 March 2015

The Romaniacs on Blogging and Using Social Media

L-R: Catherine, Celia, Laura, Debbie, Sue, Vanessa, Jan, and Lucie
My guests today are The Romaniacs, who set up their group blogTwitter account and Facebook Page in February 2012. They are: Laura James, Jan Brigden, Sue Fortin, Lucie Wheeler, Vanessa Savage, Catherine Miller, Debbie Fuller-White and Celia J Anderson.

L-R: Laura, Me, Sue (and Lizzie Lamb)
When I first joined Twitter in 2011 (as @neetswriter), I met Jan, Sue, Laura, Catherine and Debbie; and we chatted often about our writing and read each other’s blogs. Shortly after that, I met them, and the other Romaniacs: Vanessa, Celia and Lucie ‘in real life’ at Romantic Novelists’ Association (“RNA”) parties (photos from RNA Winter Party 2011 above and below-names in brackets are non-Romaniac friends, who are RNA members). The Romaniacs are a lovely, fun, upbeat and talented group of writers.

L-R: Me, Sue, Catherine, (Liz Harris), and Jan.
The Romaniacs met through Twitter as members of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme. Laura, Sue and Celia are now published, and Vanessa and Lucie have literary agents. The Romaniacs' name derives from a typo on a tweet and they describe themselves as: ‘kindred spirits who share a passion of writing’. The Romaniac blog is ‘a place where everyone can chat about romance and writing, air their views and compare notes about the trials, tribulations and joys of juggling writing and everyday life’. Find out more about each individual Romaniac here, and get to know the girls in this ‘The Romaniacs The Apprentice’ vlog:

I’ve invited the girls to answer questions on blogging and using social media as a group. Thanks very much to you all for agreeing to be guests on my neetsmarketing blog. Here are eight questions for eight Romaniacs, one for each of you! Some may be easier to answer than others ;-)

Is there anyone ‘in charge’ of managing the Romaniacs blog, or do you work together? How do you organise yourselves?

Debbie: Although Sue tends to be our technical whizz and Laura the powerhouse for ideas, the blog is very much a team effort. Quite often one of the group comes up with an idea for a feature and we will bat it around until we have a title and each agree our input and when we’ll slot it into the schedule. For example, Anita, organising this post is Jan’s baby, so she gave us the brief and a deadline for when she needed our contribution, chivvied us along to make sure it was done, and pulled it all together. It was her suggestion that we each choose a question to answer. Often when we meet up, we’ll have a session or two of sitting round the table, brainstorming ideas for new, up and coming blog posts and special features to keep the blog fresh and current. The beauty of our group is that we know each other so well; we’re on the same wavelength, etc. We all have different strengths, we compliment and respect each other so no-one ever puts anyone else down. In fact, because we’re all motivated and so in tune, we often have to rein in the ideas as we can get carried away! The other thing to mention about our blog is, because we’re such good friends, if anyone has a domestic crisis or is ill, we work together to re-jig the schedule and cover one another. It works all ways

How often do you post on the Romaniacs blog, and are guest posts important to you?

Vanessa: Just before Christmas, we had a Romaniac weekend away at Debbie’s house and one of the things we talked about was the importance of regular posts – we currently have weekly and monthly series and in between, we have guest posts and individual posts. So, on average, we post three times a week. Over the years, we’ve had huge support from fellow writers and guest posts are very important to us, whether they’re book launch posts, author interviews or individual blogs. Regular guest posts on a wide variety of subjects means we really do have something to offer everyone!

Who came up with the lovely idea for the ‘Life Cycle of a Writer’ series of posts? Do you find a series of blog posts draws readers back to your blog?

Catherine: This was a great example of how sometimes being part of a group can take your ideas and make them better. I'd originally suggested doing more of an aspiring writer type blog, but as that no longer encompasses all of us, we needed to do something different. We discussed it during our Romaniac Sparkle weekend away, and decided we wanted to blog about all the different stages a writer experiences, the highs and the lows. Vanessa came up with the Life Cycle Of A Writer name on the spot, over breakfast, as we all flapped our hands about a lot (as The Apprentice style video demonstrates). There were lots of ideas discussed at that breakfast, many of which are in the pipeline. It's dangerous when we get together.

Which is your most popular blog post, and why do you think that is?

Sue: Sometimes it’s the title which draws attention to a post and sometimes it’s the subject matter. Our most popular blog post, in terms of hits, has been ‘Writing Like A Butterfly’. This post has always received a lot of attention, partly because of the topic of writing and partly because of the word ‘butterfly’ in the title. Other posts have been popular due to their content. One on swearing in a novel received a lot of responses and another on writing sex scenes from a male point of view created a lot of interest. Similarly, when we’ve blogged as a group, where we all contribute to one post, these are usually more light-hearted and always bring lots of people to the blog. People often say they enjoy the friendliness and fun of our group blogs – something which probably comes across naturally as we do have lots of laughs together, both on and off-line.

How do you manage a Twitter account and Facebook Page as a group, do you take turns? (How do you ensure all mentions are replied to etc?) Do you use your individual Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote the Romaniac blog posts too?

Jan: We all have access to both Twitter and Facebook Romaniacs accounts, so can dip in and out to tweet, check something, reply to any comments or messages, etc. I tend to mainly take charge of monitoring and updating our Twitter page, once any links/blog posts have initially automatically published, as I thoroughly enjoy the role. I try to tweet/share a good balance of conversational, promotional and informative posts, which I then revise during the day, accordingly, as well as checking for any replies, mentions, RTs, etc, ensuring that everyone is acknowledged or thanked. We all also use our individual accounts to help promote our Romaniac posts, which is great as it guarantees wider exposure and interaction.

How would you go about promoting a blog post on Twitter and Facebook? For those of you who have published books, do you promote these books via The Romaniacs?

Lucie: Promotion with The Romaniacs is a team effort. We all rally together and share, tweet and Facebook all our posts. Our blog is linked up to Twitter and Facebook so when we post something, it automatically uploads to these sites. Then we each use our individual profiles to share and retweet. We don’t have set times to share things, however we are aware that not everyone is on the same time zone as we are, so we make sure that things are retweeted and shared to ensure all corners of the world have a chance to see them. We try to make sure our posts go out first thing, this way, those who log on before work get a chance to see them and, also, it gives us the whole day to promote. We treat each post the same – whether it is a post written by one of us, or a guest post; all posts are shared and promoted in the same way. We also, sometimes, promote our posts via each others personal blogs. This is a good way to draw in new readers and subscribers. For those of us who have published books, it is very much the same. We will always do a piece on our blog promoting the fact that one of us has a book out/coming out, and then the normal process of sharing, etc, commences.  Also, if we find a post that we particularly enjoy and we think it would be of use/interest to our readers, we will share/retweet this, too. Ultimately, we work the same as everyone else, just with eight pairs of hands promoting as one.

It looks as though you had a lot of fun making ‘The Apprentice’ vlog above. Who came up with the idea for filming vlogs? Are they easy to make, and have you had much response to them?

Laura: Ah. I believe that was me - the shy, retiring Romaniac. We’d been discussing the idea for some time, as we feel the way forward in today’s whirl of social media is to add the personal touch and, having put a few vlogs out on my own site, I felt confident enough to try a Romaniac one. Being in front of a camera doesn’t come naturally to everybody, and I’m really proud of the way the Romaniacs have embraced the film star lifestyle. We've received a great response so far, which is wonderful, and we'd like to thank everyone for taking the time to watch and comment. We're still perfecting and tweaking. Perhaps we could introduce a Vlog Oscar ...

Has being part of The Romaniacs raised your individual profiles online, and helped your writing careers?

Celia: Being part of such a warm-hearted, supportive gang of writers has not only raised my profile as an author, it's given me the confidence to go out there into places where writers meet (RNA conference, Festival of Romantic Fiction, etc) and not be afraid to say what I do and what my hopes are for the future. The other Romaniacs never fail to cheer each other on when the writing (and the rest of our lives) is going well, or to boo in a really big way when everything seems to be going pear-shaped. We are friends first and a writing group second now. I would not be without them.

Thanks again for being my guests today, and I wish you all much success with your writing careers.

Find out more about the Romaniac publications here. The Romaniac anthology, 'Romaniac Shorts: Fashionably Brief' is available from Amazon.

And congratulations to Catherine who has recently been awarded the RNA's Katie Fforde Bursary!

My next guest on the neetsmarketing blog will be 24 April, 'Talli Roland on Facebook'!

Previous neetsmarketing posts:
Is it Worth Paying to Promote a Facebook Page?
My Beginner's Guide to Twitter for Writers
3 Ways to Retweet on Twitter (rewritten 18 March 2016)
Alison Morton on Twitter