twitterMany authors simply dismiss Twitter. They imagine Brooklynites and Los Angelinos strolling city streets while on their smartphones punching tiny keyboards. If the demographics of your book’s readers don’t match those who use Twitter, why bother? No one seems interested in tweeting what they ate for lunch, where they went shopping, or the funny thing their kid said. How can you say anything meaningful or valuable in one sentence?

Dismiss Twitter at your own risk, writers. With 554 million users, the average number of tweets per day is 58 million as of May 7, 2013. Projected advertising revenue from Twitter for 2013 is $400 million. It might surprise you to know only 43% use their phone to tweet.  Every day another 135,000 people open a Twitter account. Forty percent don’t tweet at all. They read other people’s tweets.

Twitter is not a megaphone for an author to pick up and shout into the Twitterverse: “Buy MY book!” Many self-published authors continue to use Twitter in this way, much to the annoyance of their Tweeps. Twitter is a many-to-many communication channel which makes it more like a crowded party with many conversations going on simultaneously. Join the conversation only when you have something to say, something of value to share with those whom you have been reading.

Twitter is more interesting, more fun, and more fruitful if you consider it a writer’s tool instead of a marketing platform.

Twitter possesses tremendous research potential for a writer of non-fiction and memoir. The search engine allows you to discover valuable new information by the use of hashtags and keywords. #FlagDay brings up every tweet which uses these two words in that contiguous order. There I discover there will be an Impeach Obama March in Washington, DC on June 14, around the rest of the nation a variety of parades, sales, and public commemorative events. I learn that Haiti’s Flag Day was May 18, read links to essays about the history and meaning of the U.S. national holiday. In 10 seconds of scanning these 140 character messages, a great deal can be discerned.

This means if you are doing research and fact checking for your manuscript, Twitter is a handy tool to have at your fingertips. With a different algorithm for its search engine, you will find material not yielded in a Google search. Tweets often include a link to content that does not fit in 140 characters.

Journalists have discovered the power of Twitter in their reporting skills. In this new era of citizen journalism, breaking news is often tweeted. So it is a source for   story leads. Journalists often pose a question or seek specific kinds of sources as they investigate a story. When researching the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, Cathryn Prince connected with German citizens, Polish historians, poets, those who endured the last days of Operation Hannibal, and World War II enthusiasts through Twitter.

As an author prepares a book proposal, Twitter becomes a sharp instrument to use in crafting a marketing strategy. Using hashtags (#) and keywords (search terms) an author can find associations and organizations of relevance; with conferences, newsletters, journals,membership lists. Twitter can help you find bloggers and book reviewers whom you would want to review your book. Cultivating connections on Twitter can lead an author to influential opinion leaders whose endorsement for your manuscript may prove helpful.

Twitter can also help your writing craft. Using hashtags like #storycraft, #Memoirchat, and #YALitChat you can engage in real time online conversation with other writers. Furthermore, Swenson Book Development LLC is not the only one tweeting information intended to help authors. If you struggle with your editor’s margin note — show don’t tell — you can search #showdon’ttell and up pops dozens of writer resources to tackle this issue.

Add Twitter to your writer’s toolkit.

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