Savvy Authors Blog: 18 Essential Etiquette Tips for Twitter Writing Contests

I don’t know about you guys, but I totally dragged my feet to get on the Twitter boat. It was only after posting to Twitter was mandatory for my job as an editor that I actually make an effort to learn what it was about. From afar, Twitter seemed this strange place where people gave a play-by-play of their day—what they ate, where they went, personal musings.

Plus, as a writer, the notion of limiting myself to a few characters was daunting. (Why would writers subject themselves to such torture on purpose?) Alas, I soon found myself binge following every fantasy author and literary agent I could find and checking my newsfeed late into the evenings—gobbling down all of the public industry insights these professionals were freely offering to anyone who had a mind to look.

Twitter, I quickly discovered, was the home of not a few writing contests for hopeful writers—particularly ones wanting to get their stories in front of literary agents and editors. Some of the contests, such as #PitMad, #SFFPit, #SonOfAPitch, #DVPit, and others offered writers the opportunity to pitch their book to agents and editors via a specific hashtag, while other contests, such as Pitch Wars and Pitch to Publication, paired writers with mentors and freelance editors prior to the agent round.

For each type of Twitter contest—whether an editorial round is included or if it’s strictly a Twitter pitch event—there are certain rules of etiquette a writer should follow in order to achieve optimal results (which could be anything from connecting socially with other writers to connecting with agents and editors). Consider the following 18 essential etiquette tips:

  1. Always be polite on social media. ALWAYS. This includes not only how you speak to (and about) the agents/editors/contest hosts, but also your fellow writers.
  2. Follow the rules of the contest. People do notice if you don’t follow the rules, which can reflect poorly on you. And the rules could be anything from pitch time and frequency, to permitted genres and age levels, to how to Tweet (using certain hashtags).
  3. Use the proper hashtags for the event. This includes not only the event hashtag (such as #SFFPit), but also the correct age group and genre hashtags (such as #YA #F). This is to your advantage because agents and editors use these hashtags to narrow down their search when scanning through the Twitter feed.
  4. Be social—interact with your fellow writers. Twitter contests are some of the best places to meet fellow writers, who often become your best cheerleaders or even critique partners.
  5. Ask lots of questions! For most writing contests, there are several opportunities to ask the event hosts, editors, etc. questions about the event. Keep an eye out for those hashtags and don’t be afraid to ask questions. (Come prepared!)
  6. Say thank you. These agents/editors/writers are giving up their valuable time and energy to make these neato events happen, so be sure to thank them for their help in giving you a platform to get your writing out there.
  7. Use the @ to say thank you or to ask questions. Make sure to use not only the hashtags when asking questions, but to use specific folks’ Twitter handles as well so that they know your question was directed at them. Those Twitter feeds can get pretty cluttered, and this is one way to make sure you are heard.
  8. Follow experts in the field—they Tweet some awesome advice from time to time. But don’t just follow them, interact with them also! They’re people and like to interact with (polite) fellow book nerds. But don’t expect folks to follow you back just because you followed them.
  9. Refrain from posting negative Tweets—use the power of your words to uplift people rather than tear them down. Remember: Twitter is a public place and the publishing industry is smaller than you think. So always be kind and think of the golden rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
  10. Don’t pester agents/editors/writers to retweet you, share your blog, or talk about your book. That’s considered poor etiquette and makes you look needy/spammy. Instead, follow them, engage them as people, and let your work shine in its own light. If they want to share your work, they will.
  11. Try not to Tweet too many times. You want to be active on Twitter, but there’s a fine line between active and spammy. In general, try not to Tweet (or Tweet back to people) more than 20 times each day.
  12. Refrain from monologues about yourself and interestsInstead, ask people about their interests. Like in-person interactions, show interest in the person you’re talking to. That’s how you make friends!
  13. Don’t Tweet in the third person. Need I say more?
  14. Don’t retweet people who are retweeting you.
  15. Don’t send an automatic DM to someone who follows you. That’s spammy and will quickly earn you an unfollow.
  16. Don’t pitch your book directly to an agent or editor on Twitter. That means no DMs or Tweets at an agent or editor. It’s a big no-no for etiquette. Instead, keep an eye out for Twitter contests that agents and editors will be attending. Follow the rules and let your writerly prowess shine through, and you’ll get their (eager) attention that way.
  17. Be careful not to Tweet too often from outside accounts (such as Instagram and Facebook). If you think about it, writers/agents/editors can follow you on those platforms if they’d like to. Followers are much more interested in your original posts on Twitter than from other platforms.
  18. Talk about things besides your book. People like people who act like… well, people! Be your silly/serious/personal/sarcastic/relatable self and talk about the world, mutual interests, etc. Twitter is more than just a marketing tool.