The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

How Twitter works and why people in publishing should consider using it

Someone walked into my office the other day and saw my Twitter screen.  Caught in the act?  Actually, it was about 4:30 p.m. ET on a Thursday and I was in the middle of a #followreader discussion about successful book promotion strategies.

You see, Twitter is possibly the most robust network to link readers and the publishing community since Gutenberg built his printing press.  I realize Twitter doesn’t work for everybody and I’m not suggesting that everyone use it — there are days when even I don’t have the time (or simply can’t be bothered) to type even 140-character status updates — but what must be recognized is  that Twitter is no longer the latest fad among tweens; it has since evolved into an incredibly powerful communications tool (and it can be fun, too).  I realize I’m pretty much preaching to the choir with this post, but please feel free to share the following with colleagues / authors.


Most people now know the Twitter basics: you have 140 characters to update your status and you have a list of people whose status updates you follow and a list of people who follow your status updates.  But for all practical purposes, what does that mean?  Why should authors and people in the publishing industry use Twitter?  Here are some reasons why:

Networking: Although most publishing houses, literary agencies and book publicity firms are in New York — which means many of us see each other in person — many are not.  And of course, media exist all over, as do readers.  Twitter is how we meet.  Publisher @artepublico uses Twitter to connect authors with the media.  @calli526, a book publicist, uses it to connect with the media.

Promotion: Twitter can be used to talk up a book, blog, event, author, giveaway or pretty much anything else.

Feedback: For example, @benrubinstein polls his followers for ideas and suggestions.

And here are some specific examples of how Twitter works:

#followreader is a weekly publishing discussion conducted on Twitter on Thursdays at 4 p.m. ET and moderated by @charabbott and @katmeyerwho also blog at Follow the Reader.  (Summaries of the discussions are posted on the blog for people who miss the Twitter conversation.)  Here’s a tip, though: for Twitter discussions, it’s best to use an application that’s optimized for chats like Tweetchat.

@RustyShelton and his colleagues at Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicity  developed a Tweet the Author service.

— Author Anastasia Ashman posts about how she uses Twitter.

@meredithkessler points out that Robert Olen Butler’s @TweetsFromHell was picked up by @LATimesbooks and followed by major critics and Butler fans.

— Literary agent @janet_reid found a panelist for a publishing conference via Twitter and has also used it to fact check some locations/spellings/customs.

— When I write a blog post, I try to tweet about it (and include a link to the post).  That means my post could potentially be seen by the 1,267 people who follow me.  Realistically, a tweet won’t be seen by all of one’s followers, but even if only a fraction of those people see an update and click through to the link, that still amounts to a lot of eyeballs.  (And certainly a lot more eyeballs than if you’re not using Twitter.)  Similarly, some authors will tweet about upcoming events to let readers know where and when they will be speaking or about reviews and interviews.

— And lastly, how do you think I found the examples for this post?  Yup, you guessed it.


What are your Twitter success stories?  Do share.

August 5, 2009 - Posted by | Social Networking


  1. Oh goodness, I hadn’t heard about Bob’s tweets from hell. How hilarious and such a good way to tie in to his book. Thanks for this list; it’s definitely going to get circulated around my office.

    Comment by TJ Dietderich | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  2. Twitter’s a great professional networking tool and source of information, especially for those in publishing. It’s become a regular piece of my daily online routine over the past six months, and I’ve “met” a variety of smart, interesting people and have been “attended” a number of great conferences via hashtags.

    Comment by Guy LeCharles Gonzalez | August 5, 2009 | Reply

    • Hashtags have definitely made Twitter much more useful! Guy (or anyone else) — what publishing hashtags do you regularly look up?

      Comment by Yen | August 5, 2009 | Reply

      • Conference hashtags are the best for finding interesting new people to follow (#TOC, #BEA09, #CMSUMMIT, etc.), but I also keep an eye on #followthereader, #editorchat and #platformchat.

        Comment by Guy LeCharles Gonzalez | August 5, 2009

      • Great #s from Guy “eye on #followthereader, #editorchat and #platformchat.” I also suggest #writerchat
        Any suggestions for #s about mystery readers/writers, etc?

        Comment by Jim @groovymystery | August 5, 2009

  3. As a blogger Twitter has connected me to other book lovers, bloggers, authors, publishers, publicists in a way that would be impossible otherwise. Although I don’t work “in” the publishing industry, I feel as though I am a part of it. And I personally think that’s exciting. I blame Twitter almost entirely on being asked to be on a book blogging panel at BEA. Nothing can top that.

    Comment by Natasha @ Maw Books | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  4. Well here’s a twitter story: Since you posted this on twitter, I’ve gotten five followers in the past 5 minutes, 1 per minute! Oh the power of the web…. nice post Yen!

    Comment by Courtney | August 5, 2009 | Reply

    • Definitely instant gratification.

      Comment by Yen | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  5. I found a wonderful childrens writer/graphic designer on Twitter, just signed them to Perseus/Running Press.


    Comment by Renovation Therapy | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  6. I’m embracing Twitter at last. Maybe it can connect me to a new publisher:>

    Comment by How to Party with an Infant | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  7. I love twitter and how it connects me to other readers, bloggers, authors, and publicists. It’s always a good time and a great place for discussion!

    Comment by Amy @ My Friend Amy | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  8. I resisted Twitter but, since I succumbed to the siren’s tweet, the number of people visitng my website and my blog have gone way up! Plus I get to live the NYC book life vicariously via @RonHogan.

    Comment by Sherry Jones | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  9. Steve Pressfield (War of Art, Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, etc) joined Twitter 1-to-2 months ago.

    Three weeks ago, he launched “Writing Wednesdays” on his blog – http://www.stevenpressfield.

    The welcome he received from people on Twitter, who are fans of his book The War of Art in particular, inspired him to start “Writing Wednesdays.”

    In addition to writers (the core focus of The War of Art and Writing Wednesdays) Twitter has introduced Steve to dozens of other artists, who also have been inspired by The War of Art – photographers, illustrators, singers, actors, etc.

    Point is: YES. Twitter is a great people connector.

    As a publicist, I welcome this connection. In the past, “buzz” was created by connecting with reviewers/journalists, and via ads targeting readers. Twitter provides direct contact between readers and authors. Personal interaction, which didn’t occur in the past, is now possible. As an example:

    Last week, Steve asked readers to send him their favorite The War of Art quotes. He chose one of the quotes submitted, and wrote an article based on the theme of that one quote. By doing this, he wrote a reader-inspired article and addressed a topic of interest to his readers. It was posted to his blog this morning.

    Future “Writing Wednesdays” articles also will be inspired by one of the quotes submitted.

    In the end, Twitter has connected Steve, on a one-on-one basis, with his readers, who in turn have offered feedback that authors don’t always receive.

    Exciting! More publishing houses, authors, etc. should be connecting via Twitter.

    Comment by Callie Oettinger | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  10. Great advice. I’ll pass it along to the authors I media train for their book tours.

    Comment by Vickie Jenkins | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  11. Great commentary. I wasn’t sure what I was doing here, but now I know (smile). Thank you!

    Comment by Saundra Washington | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  12. The most common reason I hear from people for why they aren’t interested in Twitter is that they aren’t interested in seeing what someone had for breakfast. I always tell them, if that’s what the people you are following Tweet, you’re following the wrong people.

    As a media relations professional, I get the most value in Twitter from following media contacts and journalism/media thinkers. They point me to all kinds of interesting commentary and analysis on the media that I doubt I’d find on my own. And, I also find following other PR professionals is helpful. They also point me to lots of interesting and useful blog posts, news stories, etc.

    Besides, if someone is posting only about their pet, breakfast, etc., you can always unsubscribe. They won’t even know!

    Comment by Kama Timbrell | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  13. I love this book publicity blog! This was a great post with great Twitter references for writers,publishers, authors, etc…
    I am just learning how to use social media for marketing purposes…Thanks again!

    Comment by John R. Austin | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  14. […] The Book Publicity Blog discusses How Twitter works and why people in publishing should consider using it. […]

    Pingback by The Great Geek Manual » Geek Media Round-Up: August 6, 2009 | August 6, 2009 | Reply

  15. I use it to post links to our newly published book reviews. And when we do a giveaway, I usually tweet once/day to remind people. We get several entries for every tweet.

    I follow a lot of authors and publicists, and I’m not really interested in what they’re cooking for dinner or how much time they spent at the gym that day, but I do frequently get some fresh genre news from their tweets.

    Comment by Kat Hooper | August 8, 2009 | Reply

  16. I participated in my first tweetchat recently and it was alot of fun!

    Comment by Livia | August 9, 2009 | Reply

  17. My company just started using Twitter. Although we hope Twitter will help draw attention to our site and upcoming books, I find it just as important for what I’m learning from other people. Thanks, Yen, for the post!

    Comment by Tom | August 10, 2009 | Reply

  18. The thing I love about Twitter is that you get to know a side of a business that you can’t get from a company’s website or Google. Even if the account is registered to a big house, it’s usually just one or two people posting. Meaning a significantly better networking tool and significantly more fun than your average blog post!

    Comment by marianschembari | August 18, 2009 | Reply

  19. […] The Book Publicity Blog (Penguin Publishing House publicity) – “How Twitter works and why people in the publishing world should consider using it” […]

    Pingback by Anonymous | December 8, 2009 | Reply

  20. […] The Book Publicity Blog (Penguin Publishing House publicity) – “How Twitter works and why people in the publishing world should consider using it” […]

    Pingback by 3.3.10: The New Reality of Book Publicity — Why the Web Matters and Where to Start : San Francisco Book Review | March 4, 2010 | Reply

Leave a Reply to Renovation Therapy Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: