The New York Times declared 2010 to be the year of the hashtag. I have to admit I was late boarding that train, so 2011 was my hashtag year. But yes, I am Hope, and I'm a Twitter addict.
Twitter is my social media of choice. It's quick. It's more on the targets I follow than Facebook. Because it's brief, there's little fluff, and what fluff there is can be easily skipped. It's like a stream of bullets instead of skimming through blogs hunting for the one-liners that make sense.
Twitter saves and uses my time, and I like to think that it does more of the first than the second.
Yet many people are afraid of it or feel it isn't informative enough. If they've ever wanted to keep up with a ballgame, follow a particular author, get to know agents or locate markets/contests, they are missing a phenomenal opportunity. Especially since you can control who you follow. Especially since you can create a trend in the matter of a day.
How I use Twitter
1. To follow agents.
They are the gatekeepers these days. They talk about changes in the industry. They laugh about what they don't like and praise what they do. They talk about each other. Every once in a while, one will talk about exactly what she/he wants to see in a pitch. They tell you how a conference is going and whether it's any good. They give me a better comfort level for traditional publishing. (@greyhausagency @JanetKGrant @RachelleGardner @literaticat @BostonBookGirl @DanielLiterary @jennybent)
2. To find calls for submissions.
Magazines, contests, even editors (@WorkmanPub @otherpress @graywolfpress @GrandCentralPub @gothamwriters @thewritermag ) will post their needs of the moment, especially if a deadline is coming up. Have a particular magazine you'd love to snare? Follow it. Reply to its tweets. Some have been so daring as to pitch and land a gig with tweets, but you have to be savvy at pitching in 140 characters or less. Some agents and magazines provide Twitter-only contests.
3. To keep up with publishing advances, changes, screw-ups.
Writer's Digest (@WritersDigest) has some great tweets. They announce new agents seeking clients, contests, webinars, conferences and deals. Publishers Weekly (@PublishersWkly) gives you quick snippets of the industry's shifts and shutters. (@GalleyCat @ShelfAwareness @PoetsWritersInc @eBookNewser @elizabethscraig)
4. To follow authors.
The famous provide insight into their world, travels, even hopes and goals. Twitter gives you an additional layer to these folk. (@joe_hill @jamesscottbell @maryalicemunroe @vickihinze @MJRose @Jenna_Blum @MargaretAtwood @neilhimself) The up-and-coming authors educate you by demonstrating their marketing prowess. (@JodyHedlund @SarahMMcCoy @thebirdsisters ) I've learned so much from these people. I also connected with other authors publishing via Belle Books, my publishing house, and we've discussed meeting and even co-promoting since so many of us are in the Southern US.(@kimberlydbrock @JMcCannWriter)
5. To follow book reviewers and bookstores.
Not only do I want to see what they like, but I want to see if I can add them to my list to review my book in the future. (@jennsbookshelf @bookladysblog @BethFishreads @justonemorepage )
6. To follow events.
If I cannot make a conference or even online class, I can usually find a hashtag that does it for me. In using a hashtag I can follow comments from those who are in attendance. They often quote speakers and reply on whether they enjoy or dislike the event or orator. Helps me decide whether to attend in the future. (#MLA12 #bookexpo #BKBF11 #ala11 )
7. To find jobs.
Yes, employers are posting on Twitter.(@jobsforwriters @write_jobs @Ed2010news @freelanceWJ )
8. To follow conversations.
Sometimes people will start conversations that become regular like #FridayReads #journchat #litchat.
9. To follow charity/nonprofit interests.
Girls Write Now mentors girls primarily through writing. (@girlswritenow )
Some like Ian Greenleigh (@be3d) suggest that every book have an official hashtag to help spread the word. I'm all over that! When we have the title ironed out on my suspense novel (due out from Bell Bridge Books in February 2012), you'll be the first to know that hashtag, and we'll send it all over the world!
Don't let it overwhelm you. Start slow. Go to www.twitter.com and sign up. Click on a few names to follow, using the search mechanism, and there you go. Before long you are tweeting, and learning, and staying ahead of the game.