hitch-spellboundThe next step on your publishing journey, dear readers, is setting up the loathsome Twitter account.  If this seems contradictory in the extreme, it’s because it is.

No one, darlings, could have fought signing up for a Twitter account harder or longer than yours truly, despising the concept of it with every fiber of my mouse.  It was my last line in the sand, one which I was never going to cross.  I mean, I could rarely reduce my thoughts down to a 500-word blog post (okay, never, actually—they always clock in at 900+), much less transmit a thought into a mere 140 characters!  This is the end of civilization as we know it, I was forever arguing!  It is madness!

But, alas, here I am, 2200 followers later.  This would seem to make me the rather unfortunately perfect person to convince all of you of Twitter’s, er…worth.

It all started as follows:

Feeling as though I had the blog, the website and the newsletter momentarily under relative control, I stupidly decided that I may have just a few extra minutes a day to squeeze in one more social media outlet.  Naturally, I turned to the pesky publicist s and asked for their hallowed advice.

“Should I pursue Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr or LinkedIn to find more followers?” I asked, feeling rather confident that I could probably handle any one of these.

“Twitter,” was the response.

“But,” I chuckled, “Twitter wasn’t one of the options, heh, heh.”

“Twitter.  Twitter and Facebook are the most effective way to build a platform,” they said in a robotic sort of voice, which suggested there was no room for counterpoint or discussion.

Deep sigh.

I spent a few weeks cursing the publicists—whom I was paying good money to, by the way, to torture me—and having imaginary discussions with them about the downfall of society and a variety of other things, before I finally caved in to their imaginary peer pressure.

As expected, my first tentative perusal of Twitter left me feeling like I had crash-landed on some alien planet where I was required to not only complete a vague sort of mission (self-promotion?) but to do so without any knowledge of the language or the terrain.  It all seemed hopelessly impossible to make something intelligent out of what seemed a garbled mess.

I nearly gave up several times, convinced that this old dog really couldn’t learn this new trick, but, determined to do whatever it took to help get my “baby” out into the world and sufficiently armed with a large vat of wine, I resorted to watching several YouTube videos on how to navigate Twitter.  I tried doing this in private with my pc’s volume turned low, but I was of course discovered by my thirteen year old who, after he got up from rolling on the ground in a fit of laughter, made me promise never to tell anyone—especially anyone at school!—about the shameful thing I had just watched.  When he had calmed down, I cornered him and forced him to fill in the still-empty blanks, thereby successfully completing my Twitter tutorial.

Armed now with this little bit of information, I decided to set up an account and peruse the territory further.  This did not cheer me.  Twitter seemed to me to be such a vast sea of nothingness that it made Facebook look like the Encyclopedia Britannica.  I felt like a missionary from some bygone century sent to live amongst the natives and to not only make sense of their heathen rituals and practices, but to find some sort of meaning in them.  I felt cheated.  I mean, even St. Patrick at least had a clover to work with.

Eventually, however, in the vast miasma of sports and political rants, celebs, cat pictures, recipes, inspirational memes and a shocking amount of porn (speaking of watching shameful things), I managed to find and nurture a little group devoted to books, of all things, most of them being fellow authors in various stages of their careers.

The publicists’ advice (you should be recognizing a distinct pattern by now) was to go to my favorite authors and tweet what they are tweeting.  I had already gotten around having to reveal to them that all of my favorite authors are dead (see Step 8) by creating a “fake” list of favorite authors.  Or to rephrase: a list of contemporaries that I sort of admire.

This proved to be initially quite depressing, however, as all of my “favorite” authors seemed to be tweeting out fun and exciting things they were preoccupied with, such as going to trendy restaurants and art galleries, drinking champagne, doing research at a remote castle in Scotland, having book signings, launching boats, appearing on talk shows (or at least a podcast or two), and drinking champagne, or did I already say the champagne thing?

I know that what you’re going to say next is that you have nothing to tweet, darlings, and that’s probably true.  I mean, can anything worthwhile be communicated in 140 characters?  I think not.  Except I suppose there’s “I love you” or “I hate you” or “clovers can be a symbol of something else”.  But I’m getting off topic.  The important thing is not so much what you are tweeting, but rather that you have a social presence.

You have to start somewhere, even if what you have or are doing doesn’t seem all that exciting.  A good rule of thumb for Twitter is to operate in thirds:  one third of your tweets should be about your book (finished or not), one third should be about you (not your kids or pets), and one third should be about sharing other useful content that you’ve come across (yes, some can be surprisingly be found out there).  Obviously, I’m not perfect at this or I would have more than 2,200 followers, but it’s a start.

Next week, for what it’s er…worth, I’ll give you some actual Twitter tips!  Promise!