Before you decide to follow someone on Twitter, what’s the first thing you look at?
Probably the bio.
Let’s assume you’re on Twitter because it’s part of your author platform—whether you’re in relaxed mode or professional mode. Have you written a bio that’s likely to attract followers or turn them away? Let’s look at four basic components:
- Name and handle
- 160-character bio
Your photo will be showing up in a tiny, tiny square. For that reason, I recommend a clear and closely cropped image of your face, with good contrast. Here are a few examples.
I’ve also seen successful use of illustrations, cartoons, and logos for Twitter avatars—and of course some kind of recognizable logo is usually the default for companies and organizations.
Name and Handle
Choose a handle as similar as possible to your actual name, or to your other social network account names. You may need to be somewhat creative (add underscores, initials, numbers, etc).
Even if your handle becomes alpha-numeric soup, you can and should add your actual name. Again, we’re discussing the Twitter account as a component of author platform.
I do not recommend adding “Author” to your actual name. I don’t recommend it for the handle, either. Save “author” exclamations for the bio.
Here we get to the real meat of the issue. What do you say in so few characters? Sometimes it’s easier to show you what to avoid rather than what to do. See below—name and handles removed to protect the innocent.
A strong bio will give people:
- information about your industry or work, if that’s why you’re on Twitter
- a good indication of what you’ll be tweeting about (explicitly or implicitly)
- a little personality and/or where you might find common ground
Notice what I did NOT say was part of a strong bio:
- a list of every book you’ve ever published
- exhortations to go to Amazon to buy your book
- a laundry list of all your hobbies and interests
There’s nothing wrong with putting your most recent book title in your bio. Just don’t make your bio sound like your book release is the only reason you’re on Twitter.
Twitter gives you the opportunity to list one link in connection with your bio (though you can stuff your bio with more—not recommended, since you may come off as a promotional whore).
The best place to link is almost ALWAYS to your own website. If you don’t have a website, and you’re a serious author, then what are you waiting for? Your efforts on social media will go much further if you have some place for people to visit and uncover more about you and your work.
For unpublished writers
People often ask if their bio should say something like “Aspiring writer looking for agent.” That’s not a horrible thing to state, but if it were me, I’d say, “Working on [X book/genre] about [Y topic].” Few people clamor to meet more aspiring writers. Interesting people working on interesting projects: Yes!
What kind of Twitter bios do you like or dislike? Share your tips in the comments.
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.