Mystery authors: Why you can’t afford to bypass Twitter.

I don’t know why I’m more of a social-media creature than most of my age peers, but it puts me in a position to see an interesting phenomenon. Traditional and cozy writers are often in the 40+ demographic, and the vast majority are not on Twitter.

One of the most useful things about Twitter is that it allows you to search everyone’s comments for a certain topic of interest…say, cozy mysteries. In June of last year, there were 190 million Twitter users, or tweeps. They generated 65 million tweets a day. Spreading the news of a book release to all their fellow tweeps took one click of the Retweet button.

If you’re promoting your new cozy/traditional mystery releases in bookstores or on blogs, then you may have a problem. People who spend time on Twitter find their book recommendations there. And if you’re thinking, “I target readers who are 40+, so they won’t be on Twitter anyway,” ask yourself this: Do you want to sell your books five, ten, or 15 years from now? Because people who grew up using Twitter and Twitterlike platforms are not going to magically stop using them when they reach a certain age.

How do people find information on Twitter? How do they help others find their stuff? One way is through the use of hashtags.

Let’s say I want to find out what brand-new thrillers are out there. I would get on Twitter and type #thrillers in the search field. tells me that the high number of tweets about #thrillers so far today is 53, at 8:00 this morning (Bless those unpaid publicity interns). The high point so far today for #cozies is seven. Let’s compare the seven tweets on #cozies to the more general #books. doesn’t measure that in individual numbers, because it’s too many. Instead, they say that at one point today, .14% of the total Twitter traffic was marked #books. In June of last year’s numbers, that would be over nine million tweets about books. Heck, #cats only made it to .05%. Cozy writers with series about #crafts? #crafts hit .01% at one point today, or 650,000 tweets. Definite sweet spot.

Here are some guidelines for using hashtags, followed by examples.

  • Standardization. Thus, tweets about this year’s Bouchercon are labeled #Bcon2011. Last year, it was #Bcon2010.
  • Brevity. Tweets can only be 140 characters long, so #bestmysterybooks, while appealing, takes up too much real estate in your tweet.
  • You can search on multiple tags. So while #mysterybooks didn’t show up at all today, #mystery #books had three tweets. Someone  out there is trying.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. Get on Twitter and search your topic without a hashtag in place. Keep changing your search until you find the most pertinent tweets on your subject, and use whatever hashtag they’re using. That’s how I found out about #Bcon2011.

Twitter isn’t rocket science, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You don’t need to follow people or get into conversations. But when you write a blog post about your cozy’s characters, or interview a fellow author, or announce a book release, get on Twitter and say something like,

Interview with Rhys Bowen, author of Molly Murphy #cozies. #mystery #books

[The original URL (the http part) for that blog post made the tweet too long, so I went to, cut and pasted it into the field, and clicked the button to make it smaller.]

Here’s another example.

Death in Show now available on #Kindle ! #cozies #books #dogs

Help me colonize Twitter with the #cozies hashtag. Do it for the children.


Additional articles:

Twitter for Writers, author Elizabeth Spann Craig

Things I Should Probably Say About Twitter, author Elizabeth Spann Craig


Costolo: Twitter Now Has 190 Million Users Tweeting 65 Million Times A Day

Upcoming Promo Tip post: Syndicating your blog on Facebook’s Networked Blogs.

9 thoughts on “Mystery authors: Why you can’t afford to bypass Twitter.

  1. Great post. I am on twitter, but I am still quite new to it, and I never understood the purpose of hashtags. Perhaps I will actually start using them now. (btw, I’m @NinaJMansfield)

  2. Website is a work in progress, but I’m learning Twitter. I agree with you it is a valuable tool. Need a link to follow you on Twitter. Thank you for a good post.

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