How to Twitter

Twitter instructions

Embarrassing admission time: I have a chronic case of boomer tech when it comes to social media.

Longtime readers know I relentlessly advocate for elevating publishing out of the oldpub tar pits and into the newpub promised land. I'm the first to ditch obsolete publishing bromides and embrace newly emergent best practices.

Yet is was recently pointed out to me that my Twitter game was amateur hour. In effect, I'd been using the platform without reading the instruction manual.

In fairness, it's not as if they issue the manual to everyone who signs up for an account. If Amazon obsessively fixes things till they're broke and Facebook is a Byzantine confidence scheme, Twitter is so badly programmed and managed that its incompetence is indistinguishable from malice (h/t Daddy Warpig).

That last point seems like a strike against using Twitter in the first place, but the prevailing state of chaos down at Twitter HQ can work in your favor. As the redheaded adopted stepchild of Big Tech, Twitter is often the last to get the memo when a dissenter is sentenced to techno-exile.

Anyway, the first step is admitting the problem. Many people forget that you then have to take the other steps.

I'm pleased to report that I have at long last entered Twitter noob recovery with the help of savvy creators like Adam Lane Smith, Jeff Putnam, and Jon Parker.

Which Twitter vices have these gentlemen helped me identify and overcome?

First and foremost, they made me realize I'd been stuck in the Oldpub Marketing Department Mindset. My approach to Twitter used to be mechanistically tweeting A, B, C, & D type tweets X times per day. Straight out the legacy media marketing playbook.

What my fine colleagues helped me realize was that by taking this approach, I'd been talking at potential readers instead of talking with them.

Hang around the indie publishing scene for any length of time, and you'll hear authors--even some big names--swear on a stack that Twitter is death to book sales.

Try an experiment and check out the timelines of authors who say they can't sell books on Twitter. Nine times out of ten, they're not engaging with readers in optimal ways for the platform.

If, like me, you've heard it said that the key to Twitter success is authentic engagement, but you didn't have the first clue what that meant, allow me to expand on the concept.

A couple days ago, I sent out this tweet using the engagement philosophy I'm learning from my author friends.

Result: My sales that day were five times higher than average.

What's more, those sales were overwhelmingly books from my older Soul Cycle series. That tells me this was new readers discovering my back catalog.

In light of these results, what actionable advice can I give hungry young writers looking to build a Twitter following who will actually buy their books?

Authenticity is key

Most importantly, but perhaps counterintuitively, you've got to be genuine in how you present yourself.

People are so inundated with fakes and prefab personalities that they're starving for interactions with real human beings.

A lot of brand gurus will tell you to put up a slick front that portrays you as some kind of infallible ubermensch. That kind of public image comes off as dull. In storytelling terms--and marketing is storytelling--it's the Mary Sue of branding.

Flesh-and-blood human beings who encounter everyday challenges--and sometimes fail--resonate with people far more than unblemished bronze idols.

If you want to build trust, you have to present yourself on the level, warts and all.

Converse, don't dictate

As for the nuts & bolts, you foster engagement by adding value.

  • Retweet quality content.
  • Don't just RT. Include our own insightful commentary. It's gotta be more than, "Agreed" or "Concur".
  • Like and RT anytime someone comments on and RTs your tweets.
  • Don't be afraid to tag in users with bigger followings than yours.
  • Don't argue with users whose followings are smaller than yours.
  • Talking politics is a double-edged sword. You'll gain followers, but they'll expect you to talk politics all the time.
  • If you do go the political pundit route, stake out a position, be willing to change your mind when new information presents itself, and be up front with your followers. Don't shill.
That about exhausts my current level of Twitter boomer recovery. What other tips do the Twitter virtuosos out there have to share?


  1. I bailed on Twitter years ago when A) It became clear that they were going to silence me eventually anyway and B) they were completely unhelpful when my account was hacked and I had to resort to shutting it down completely for two weeks to resolve the issue. It just didn't seem worth it to stick with a platform that had it in for me. Of course, I'm not attempting to sell books.

    Anyway, think you could join us for a talk soon?

  2. • Pray you don't get flagged for wrongthink and throttled, which renders your account worthless for marketing purposes.

    1. I already was shadowbanned and had my follower count capped. Adopting the methods outlined above got around the throttling.

      Adapt. Circumvent. Overcome.

    2. Brian
      With regards to authenticity how much is too much?
      I'm referring to Fr Brendon's pinned tweet on this issue

    3. Both/and is the key.

      Marketing is storytelling. Should you make your story as entertaining as possible? Of course!

      My point is that presenting yourself as human is more entertaining than writing yourself as a Gary Stu.

      How much is too much? You determine your own level of involvement. I set myself a few hard and fast ground rules:
      >I don't talk about my family online.
      >I don't post pictures of them or myself.
      >I don't give identifying details of past employers.

    4. Brain,

      Thanks for the excellent advice about the family.
      That's the one area where I would exercise the most caution.

      As for virtuosos How about taking a look at Marianne Williamson? She's utterly kooky but I was thinking of how her type of tweets needs to be adapted by us to the Lord's service.
      There's a real hunger for the true, beautiful and good