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.


Loretta Nyhan said…
Wonderful post! I've been kind of a wallflower on Twitter because I haven't taken the time to really learn how to use it. This helped so much. Thanks!
Bonnie A said…
Great post! Allow me to add another favorite tweeter, @taralazar.

I got started by following Tara's list of children's authors & illustrators on Twitter, which she keeps updated on her blog:
amithaknight said…
Wow! Great advice, thanks! I wasn't really sure what to do with my flailing twitter account.
Gregory K. said…
Great post, Mitali... and thanks much for including me.

I found a lot of people to follow by looking at who was having conversations I'd be interested in. You can do that by looking at the hashtags you mention (you can easily find over 100 people talking children's literature in the #kidlitchat column) or by using and searching for topics you're interested in.

And I agree Twitter's both fun and professionally enriching. Good times, indeed!
Carsten said…
That's funny. I already followed all the people you mentioned.
My account is

I would recommend signing up at
Then search the bios like this:
@bio children's books
@bio ya books
@bio writer
or similar.
You will then get a list of people with similar interests.
Then you click on some of them and read their bios and follow them if they suit you.
Thanks for the clear and concise tips! You've cleared the fog!
Mitali Perkins said…
So glad it's helpful and thanks for the extra tips, everybody!
Inkygirl said…
Wonderful post, Mitali! And thanks so much for including me. :-)

I've included a link to this post at the beginning my Twitter Guide For Writers:
SAVanVleck said…
Wonderful advice, I'm finally getting it. Thanks so much
Margo Dill said…
I found your post here through Twitter. :) WOW! Women ON Writing had a really great article about Twitter in their last issue. I read it and it's how I got going on Twitter, and now love it. It might help some of your readers? Here's the link:

Thanks again for this and all your great tweets! :)
Lucy Coats said…
Excellent advice (found on Twitter). I shall now go and retweet it for UK children's/YA writers. Thanks, Mitali
@lucycoats on Twitter and also at
Karen Bass said…
You're tempting me, Mitali. I'm teetering but haven't fallen off the edge yet.
Marjorie said…
Thank you so much for this - we are just looking at Twitter for PaperTigers and I felt I was starting to walk through a treacle mire of jargon - I may be back soon to say we are up and running... or perhaps I should do that directly through Twitter :-)
papapapapa said…
Great Post! I am fairly new to Twitter and this was a great source for information.
Liz H. Allen said…
Thank you so much for this post. I've just joined Twitter after reading about it in inkygirl's blog. I'm still a little nervous about it all, but I'll get there.
Melody said…
Thanks! Just found your blog from Shrinking Violet Promotions. :) I've been recently trying to dive in with Twitter as a writer's marketing tool, and this was VERY helpful.