This week’s Block comes to us from Jennie Jarvis at Five Writers. Jennie has worked in the film and television industry in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and New York City before returning to her home state of Florida. Since moving back to Florida, Jennie has successfully built and coordinated screenwriting competitions as well as served as a judge for film and theater competitions. She has a long list of impressive accomplishments which you can learn about here. But one of my favorite things about her is that Jennie has recently completed her first novel, The Book of Melanie, for which she and her agent are diligently seeking publication. She is represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Agency. Jennie can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JarvisWrites and on Twitter @JarvisWrites
My other favorite thing about Jennie is that she gives excellent writing advice. Here, see for yourself.
“I refuse to tweet.”
That was my motto for years. I thought that the idea of Twitter was ridiculous. It’s like Facebook, only it’s just status updates? What’s the point? It’s a bunch of teenagers and celebrities complaining about the drama that they caused in their own lives or about what they ate for lunch that day. Why in the world would I waste the mental time and energy to explore the Twitterverse, even for a moment???
I look back at those thoughts now and groan.
My Twitter conversion began last fall when I first heard those two buzz words that have intimidated me ever since: Writer Platform. Earlier this year, we here at 5writers.com were fortunate enough to have two amazing guest blogs that specifically addressed the importance of a writer building a strong platform, so I won’t restate that again. What I will say, however, is that every single agent, editor and writer that I heard talking about platforms all mentioned Twitter.
At first, I really thought that the importance of Twitter was to reach out to readers – especially if you are writing young adult or new adult – and while that’s somewhat true, there is a lot that can be done on Twitter long before the book is even sold. I went ahead, bit the bullet and created a Twitter handle (@JarvisWrites) and oh my, I saw the light.
While there are plenty of whining teenage drama queens and over-pampered celebrities on Twitter, there is also so much more! Here’s a quick breakdown of just a few of the amazing resources that I’ve discovered on Twitter:
- Every single agent and editor that I’ve ever met at a conference (and pretty much every professional in the publishing industry overall)I’m not exaggerating. As soon as I met someone at a writing conference, I found and followed him or her on Twitter. Sometimes, I could even hop on my phone at the conference and follow them as I spoke with them. This immediately allowed me to interact with them in a much more in depth way. Sometimes, I was able to get a sense of their personality BEFORE even saying hello. By meeting them both in person and on Twitter, it amplified my networking results.
- Incredible articles on the craft and business of writingThe craft articles are really great, but what I find the most helpful is the business information. Everything that I’ve learned about recent changes in the industry, I first saw on Twitter – from Barnes and Noble’s decision to eliminate the Nook tablet to the finalization of the Penguin and Random House merger. By letting others do the research for me, I can stay up to date without really having to look for the information (I’m lazy when it comes to research; I’m not going to lie).
- Open calls for submissions for agents and digital pressesWhile I met my agent face to face at a writing conference, I still queried dozens of agents before I officially signed with her. All of the blind queries that I sent out were a direct result of seeing the agent’s call for new submissions on Twitter. This way, I knew what they were looking for before I queried, minimizing my rejections and maximizing my requests for pages.
- Hashtags that focus on cool industry stuff#askagent is a great place to ask an agent a burning question or to spy on questions that others may have. #MSWL allows agents to share their wish lists so that you can find the agent that is secretly looking for a book just like yours. #pitmad allowed writers to submit their 140 character query and any agent that favorited the query was requesting pages. #queryparty features an agent or a group of agents going through their email queries, explaining why they pass or accept on a pitch. While it can sometimes take a bit of work to find some of these hashtags, once you do, the results are golden!
- Aspiring and professional writers around the worldBy making connections on Twitter, I’ve developed cyber-friendships with people that make me feel a bit less isolated in the bubble that can be a writer’s life. When I tweet that I had completed a new book, I was flooded with congratulations from others that knew the mountain that I had climbed. When another writer stressed about how long it was taking to her to hear back from an agent, I was able to share my experience with her to help make her journey a little easier. The writer’s community is truly a community; in order to be a part of that world, we have to dive in.
- Other non-writer resources and fun stuffI’ve gotten so much else since joining Twitter, from reconnecting with some of my former students to getting restaurant recommendations for my recent trip to London. I first found out about the Boston bombings on Twitter, as well as the death of James Gandolfini and Obama’s visit to South Africa. I’ve had personal interactions with some of my favorite celebrities (I literally squeed when I got a tweet from John Barrowman – Doctor Who, Torchwood, Arrow), and I’ve been able to give personal compliments to some of my favorite So You Think You Can Dance dancers (it’s a guilty pleasure).
By now, I image that I have given you a bit of motivation to give Twitter a try, but where do you start? How can you go from being a Twitter novice to an expert in the least amount of time possible?
Here are my recommendations:
- Create a Twitter handle that will reflect your personal and professional brand. Since I was debating between writing as J.L. instead of Jennie, I just used my last name when I created my Twitter handle. However, if you know what name you want to publish under, then you can use that as your handle. If it’s not available, then try to find something that will be memorable. Remember that your Twitter handle should be a part of your branding, so don’t use something that doesn’t represent you as an individual (@mybigbootyishot and @Iwritevampirelovestories may be funny, but it’s not the best for branding).
- Search for other writing professionals that you already know in real life. Whether you have been to conferences and can look up agents and editors that you have met or if the only people that you can look up are members of your critique group or college program, start with the people that you know. Check out who they follow and see if you want to follow them as well.
- Search for your favorite celebrities. Whether you like actors, comedians or musicians, who you follow will tell your followers a bit about your personality. Choose wisely. If you are writing horror, then you may want to follow Stephen King, but if you write erotica, then you might want to follow someone like GeekGoddess or another more appropriate group.
- Find the companies that you are interested in working with. Whether it’s a literary agency or a publishing company, most reputable companies have their websites online, and this can give you an idea of who you might want to look for on Twitter.
- As you submit query letters to agents or manuscripts to presses, find them and follow them. If they send you a rejection letter, don’t unfollow them. Just add them to your list of industry contacts.
- If you have a hard time deciding where to look, then just look up who other people that you admire follow and follow the same people. Honestly, that’s how I started. I found someone that I knew was well connected, and I just followed all the people she followed.
- Once you have figured out who to follow, start tweeting!
- Don’t flood your followers newsfeed with too may tweets (no more than four at a time!)
- Make sure that you aren’t spending all your time promoting your own book. No one wants to read nothing but ads in their news feed.
- If the only thing that you tweet is links, then you are considered a spammer. Make sure that you tweet personal comments too!
- If you submit to an agent, don’t harass them on Twitter about reading your query or your manuscript. They have a lot of clients. Respect that!
- Respond to some of the messages that you see and have fun!
I hope that this blog gives you a bit of a start in the Twitterverse. Go on out, create an account, follow me (@JarvisWrites), and I’ll see you on Twitter!