From the New York Times: Twitter for Novelists

by | Jan 10, 2012

Although I had a Twitter account early in 2009, I didn’t really start using the service until the end of the year.

But when I started reading Tweets and interacting with people on the service, I had an immediate attraction to it, and the amazing ways people communicate in short bursts of text.

When Twitter became so popular that it could play a central role in political movements and help plan popular uprisings, it started to look like it might be around for quite a while.

Explaining it to others, I’ve often remarked it seems more like a utility—like your electric or gas service—than like software.

The big payoff for me was when Apple decided to treat it exactly like a utility by embedding Twitter’s functionality in their new iOS5 operating system for mobile devices including the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Authors Are Catching On

As social media have matured authors have moved onto the social platforms in large numbers, and for many reasons. Some are pushed by their publishers, others really enjoy the opportunity to engage with readers outside the occasional bookstore signing.

One thing that’s bedeviled fiction writers who want to use Twitter is exactly what to do. It seems much easier for a nonfiction writer to Tweet about a subject and provide links to useful resources.

The best thing I’ve read on how fiction writers approach Twitter was a great article in this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review.

Author Anne Trubek—who does not list her Twitter handle (@atrubek) in the article—surveyed writers from Gary Shteyngart to Salman Rushdie to Margaret Atwood and many others.

Rather than me tell you about it, go read it here:

Why Authors Tweet

The authors span the continuum from those who don’t want to show a personal side on social media, to others who revel in it and who have accumulated large followings.

The Address of the Future?

More than any other form of social media today, I expect Twitter to be with us for a very long time. It’s a basic form of instant communication that can be used one-to-one, one-to-many, or even privately, and it’s the fastest way that any kind of event or content or thought can go viral.

Since I got started, I’ve published 8,373 messages on Twitter. Almost all of them are links to other people’s work that would be useful for anyone interested in the world of writing, design and book publishing.

If you do the same you may be as lucky as I am, to acquire 8,767 followers, to find 5,960 people to follow, and to make connections with an amazing group of individuals.

Twitter also is the second-largest source of traffic to my blog, sending thousands of readers here every month.

Pretty soon we may be able to do away with a lot of the virtual addresses that now festoon our online personalities. I must have at least 10 email addresses myself. Who needs it?

Someday we’ll just have our “@” address: @JFBookman is mine. What’s yours? Want to connect? Click this button:

Click to join me on Twitter

Click to join me on Twitter

Twitter button:

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Matt Tomerlin

    Twitter has been an invaluable source of new readership for me, but I think it’s important to not just use it for self promotion, but to have fun with it and engage followers. It can get annoying when an author spams promos and review blurbs for his/her books over and over. Twitter is a more open, casual environment.

    In my opinion, Facebook has become far less useful now that they’ve limited the amount of people who can actually see your posts. Roughly one third of fans who have liked my page will see anything I post, unless I “boost” each post with money.


  2. Peter Noah Thomas

    This is very helpful. I am just getting into twitter. I follow several people in the industry like Joel, and I have been getting a lot of value out of the tweets and links I read each day. Now I need to start participating more. I will get there. :)

  3. Randall St. Germain

    I started on twitter in June of 2010. At the time, I was very reluctant because I didn’t understand it very much. I thought my book would be released during the summer and Twitter would help me get the word out, and connect with others. As it turned out, my book took longer than I had thought and wasn’t released until later in 2010. By then, I had over 1000 followers. Anyway, I’m still learning, but it’s helping me get the word out both on my book and my blog. Plus there is so much useful info (as well as a lot of crap). I haven’t used Google+ yet but that’s another option. My problem right now is that there’s so little time and just blogging is taking up enough of it. Joel, I do enjoy your tweets and your blog posts. Keep up the good work.

  4. Thomas Burchfield

    Thanks as always, Joel: I also think it’s a matter of author taste and temperament. I don’t use Twitter much–once a week at most–as I find its stream hard to stay with, as it becomes a blur. I almost dropped out shortly after I first signed on but stuck with it because author Peter Straub started to follow me–and he was my first! It was fun like trading quips on a Saturday night at the neighborhood bar, but I found I had to keep on it all the time and if I waited too long to respond to anything well . . . I ‘d waited too long. The parade had gone by. I don’t get too many readers from there either (most seem to come from Google). I’ve found Facebook more compatible for my needs. I’ll be writing more about this later on my own page. Cheers!

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thomas, I think each of us has to find the things that suit us best. I’m not a big user of Facebook, although I like to connect with old friends there, I do no Facebook marketing to speak of, it just seems big and messy to me. But I really enjoy Google+, and will be spending more time there. Thanks for your input.

  5. Adan Lerma


    i like and use twitter, but tend not to follow back all the people who first follow me, if it seems the connection isn’t really based on mutual interests

    it seems there’s a debate as to whether to do it the way i’ve been doing twitter, in terms of followers, and in simply accepting all comers and following them all back

    with the latter, my question has always been, then how does one read that many tweets!

    this is a legitimate question for me, and would like to hear your thoughts

    thanks joel

    • Joel Friedlander

      Adan, I do pretty much the same thing. I appreciate people who follow me but, if they are publishing tweets in an area that doesn’t interest me, I generally don’t follow back.

      When following lots of people, you need to adapt different strategies. I use lists and #hashtags quite a bit to filter the streams from Twitter and just review one stream at a time, which is much more manageable.

      • Adan Lerma

        thanks joel, i’ve been tinkering with lists, but the hashtags sounds interesting

        i really appreciate it the tip, and info re how you handle followers from with other interests

        also, wanted to say, i believe it was you who a bit back replied to me that i probably didn’t know how fortunate i am to have so much backlist content to digitize, and when i read that i thought, yeah, ok, big deal – so just wanted to let you know i’m “beginning” to realize how true and important that comment was for me

        i think it was you who’d told me that, but either way, i associate it with you, probably because of your incredibly helpful posts and information, thanks so much, sincerely,


        • Joel Friedlander

          Yes, I remember the conversation. And I’m still willing to bet you will realize what a great position that puts you in.

          • Adan Lerma

            that’s a bet i’m willing to help you win ;-)

            thanks so much joel!

  6. George Angus


    I’ve been with Twitter for over three years now. I find it to be an excellent resource. I’ve met people and read articles that otherwise I never would have found.

    It takes a bit to get going (although not as long as one would think) and once you do, it is very valuable.


    • Joel Friedlander

      In fact, we met on Twitter, didn’t we? It’s been a while, but many of the writers I feature on the blog as guests originally came from Twitter. Kinda neat.

      • Kristiana Gregory

        Thank you for this, Joel … am an author new to Twitter, still trying to figure it out & wondering how to attract followers. Since most of my books are for middle-grade readers, perhaps they are still a twitter-less group?

  7. Joe Mazzola

    I’ve been using twitter to promote my work already, and I think that is a very clever thing to do because it keeps people from adding too many frills and distracting from the actual content. Also, it is set up to make it easier for word-of-mouth to spread with retweets.


  8. Karen Williams

    I’m still trying to figure Twitter out. I found this article, and its links, very helpful! Thank you!

    I need to set up my phone to make it easier to keep track of tweets as there seems to be an expectation of catching them closer to real-time, like texts, rather than periodically, like email. Setting that up’s next up on my technology to-do list.


    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi Karen,

      I use Twitter on my phone quite a bit. There are numerous good free apps for smartphones, too. I don’t always get to see tweets in real-time, but Twitter is very malleable, and you will find your own way of using it that makes sense for you.

  9. Ryan Hanley


    For a long time I think there was a perception that twitter lacked creativity and substance. How many articles were written about how no one wants to read what you’re eating for breakfast…

    But after a few years of widespread usage it seems that people are beginning to realize you need to be more creative to add value in such a small space. And the format allows us to give more referrals (through retweets) to our fellow content creators.

    I think we’re already connected but if not @RyanHanley_Com


    Ryan H>

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, Ryan, just followed you, looking forward to your tweets.



  1. Your Questions About Publishing Basics Books - [...] it had to be Nunn. I've only read one. Got a recommendation?Powered by Yahoo! AnswersRelated BlogsBetty asks…Anyone know of…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *