Getting Started on Twitter: A Quick Guide for Kid/YA Writers

Newbie to Twitter? Writing books for kids or young adults? Here are five easy steps to jumpstart your use of Twitter:

1. Join.

I recommend using a real name if possible. Or a pen name if you use one. It's your brand, right?

2. Personalize.

Write a snappy 160 character bio. Link to a website or blog. Use a photo of your real head. If published, upload a .jpg of your most recent book as your background. Don't tile if it gets headachey. If not published, upload a .jpg of something bookish, artsy, or representative of you, either from your own photos or something you find via Creative Commons.

3. Tweet.

Your first 140-character message will be what people see, so make it good. In fact, try to make every tweet good. Your writing is the best ad for your writing, and Twitter is a fabulous showcase. So don't say, "Oh, here I am on Twitter!" or something equally inane. Be witty, pithy, or sweet, but let this first tweet display a bit of who you are. Or who you want us to think you are, anyway.

4. Follow.

Start by following a few of the most active and informative Kid/YA people on twitter: @gregpincus, @inkyelbows, and @taralazar (additions? share them in the comments). They all post tips and links galore. Or track these five chats related to the industry: #askagent, #pubtip, #followreader, #writechat, and #kidlitchat. Consult Debbie Ridpath Oni's list of the best chats on twitter related to writing.

5. Learn the rules.

You communicate on Twitter in seven ways.
  • Tweet by composing messages that are 140 characters long. Better still, make them shorter in case somebody wants to forward your tweet along.

  • Reply to somebody else's tweet, so that your tweet starts with @mitaliperkins blah blah blah. People who follow you will only see this tweet if they follow you and the person to whom you're replying. Putting a "." before "@" in a reply beginning with someone's twitter name (.@mitaliperkins blah blah blah) lets all your followers see that reply instead of only those who follow both you and the person you're answering.

  • Re-tweet interesting stuff. If you quote someone exactly, start with RT @mitaliperkins blah blah blah. If you paraphrase, say it your way and then end with (via @mitaliperkins).

  • Direct message somebody, or DM. This is only seen by the recipient. You may only DM people who actually follow you, not everybody you follow.

  • Link to a web page or blog in your tweet. Shorten these links using I recommend signing up for an account as their statistics will tell you which of the links you've shared are the most popular or helpful. Feed links to your own blog posts using twitterfeed.

  • Hashtag to participate in a chat, topical discussion, or conference. If you were at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators National Conference in LA last month, for example, you'd tweet something related to the conference and end it with #scbwi09. You can even invent your own hashtag. Don't worry too much about this one, you'll get the hang of hashtags soon enough (along with other twitter extras).
Check your Twitter home page once a week, once a day, once an hour, whatever suits your fancy and schedule. Don't feel like you have to read it all nor respond to everything. Dip your toes in every now and then, read and tweet when you can, and you'll find this venture both fun and professionally enriching. I promise. Questions? Tweet them to me @mitaliperkins.