Is Twitter good for writers, or just another time waster?

Are you on Twitter, and do you find it's beneficial to your marketing efforts? It was strongly recommended - in fact a required assignment - in the online Blog Book Tours course I recently completed, and some writers are finding it really helpful. I'm now on it; in fact you're welcome to become one of my followers if you like. But I'm not very active, because I'm not yet sold on the benefits. Opinions, anyone?

Julie Lomoe's Musings Mysterioso

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Please give me a couple of days. I'll get back to you.
Gary-

Your twitter site is pretty darn good.

Small Comments

You have an intriguing background picture and the colors of the background and links work well together.

You put in the link to your blog – excellent. Mention it in a tweet every now and then.

Put something more specific in your bio.

Larger Comments

You have 63 followers, and it appears that they are a broad mix of people. You have a guy from Kirkus Reviews, the Crazy Dutch Woman, and Debbi Mack from Crime Space. They are from all over. You have attracted plenty of people other than the twit-hos. This is really good.

As for those you are following, I would cull any of the ones that are obviously not aligned well with your purpose – even if they are friends of your's. Since their tweets end up on your page, you want material your followers are likely to enjoy. So, thrillerwriters is probably one to keep. As much as I like her, CrazyDutchWoman is probably one to let go. MurphyMilano must go as well. Never, ever de-follow Ernest Borgnine, no matter what I have said here. Dude is cool.

Your tweets are short, but they lead to the remaining questions which are really only one question: Is what you tweet something that your desired audience really wants to hear? Show you care about your subject. Your blog shows it. So should your Twitter page. Why not follow a disturbing crime in a Japanese English language paper by tweeting comments and links? For that matter, research an ancient crime and spread the action out over a week or two with some insights.

In your case, do something similar with one of your already existing books. You can show them off without going over the top. Got something new published? Recently arrested yourself? You must post those events. If you want some form of financial payoff, you want followers who will talk about you, so tweet the neat stuff that keeps them looking forward to reading you. Then mix in the businessy stuff.
Ernest Borgnine's on Twitter? I gotta follow that guy. What's his handle?
Thanks! I love the guy. Saw him interviewed on TCM--he seems like a genuinely nice person. And funny!
I think that he is. Also, if you want to see a really great performance in a really good movie, watch Emperor of the North Pole. He got to be so evil. He is also Mermaid Man on Spongebob.
Like others, I was sceptical about Twitter. I would never, I said, join anything with such a stupid name which probably (I assumed) summed up what it was like.

Then two writer colleagues whose views I respected both sang its praises, so I decided to try it for a few weeks. What have you got to lose? Now I wouldn't be without it.

You do need to have a few ground rules, though. You don't have to follow everyone who starts to follow you. I did start to follow a few writers I know, but one of my rules is 'three strikes and you're out'. Anyone who posts boring stuff, I just stop following them. Life's too short. Anyone who wants to follow you but is obviously into porn, spam, marketing or other such stuff – just block them.

In addition to writers, agents, publishers and some PR companies, I also follow Samuel Pepys, Barack Obama and Raymond Chandler – yes, someone posts lines from the great man's works, which always enliven the day when they arrive.

I follow the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, and through that have made contact with various publishers and publishers' PRs, and some authors whose work I like. I have learned a lot from people's Tweets, had some laughs, shared some thoughts, and generally found it to be like being a member of a club but one where you get to choose your fellow members.

If you've tried it and don't like it, fair enough. But don't knock it till you have tried it. You might be making false assumptions – as I was myself.
@Mike_Gerrard
Took the words right out of my mouth, Mike.
Yes, correct.
Thanks, Mike, this is great advice, and it helps clarify some of the things I was confused about.
What's the handle for the Raymond Chandler quotes?

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