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I joined Twitter several years ago, largely for promotional purposes, but while I've since amassed a respectable list of legitimate followers, I haven't successfully made much functional use of the account. I mainly use it for personal expression, and while I occasionally link to some of my online publications, I'm not sure how many people those posts actually reach.

I am working on a new novel, and I know that some people have successfully built an advance fanbase for their work through Twitter and/or other social media. Are there good guidelines for doing this successfully? I've seen some other writers on Twitter post what amounts to a writer's diary, but I'm not sure how compelling people actually find that approach. I've also thought about commissioning and publishing character sketches, but that can quickly get expensive, and might be premature. I've also thought about publishing excerpts, but I worry about copyright issues, and what prospective publishers would think.

Realistically, I'm probably at least a year away from completing the book (let alone selling it). However, it seems like starting early and building steadily is a more productive social media strategy than doing a sudden late push.

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I think you are starting too early. I've written advertising professionally, not for books but for new products. Translating that to a novel, I'd probably wait until you've finished a first draft and know what your book is about, have a feel for your characters, etc. The reason for that is simple, I think people will get tired of waiting for the book that never seems to come.

The thing you could do NOW with the twitter account is try to engage people, in reading your twitter account, responding, etc. This is essentially the strategy behind blogging in general: The idea has been around since newspapers were invented, and broadcast radio and TV, it is to use content people want to read, as a means to advertise to them (which is what makes the money).

So what can you tweet about that is entertaining? Puzzles? Short Stories at 20 lines per day? Quizzes? Jokes? How about critiques of new books?

That's up to you personally, but the point is to figure out how to get people accustomed to reading your tweets, and not want to block you, which they might do if all they have ever see from you is ads about your book, which is just spam.

I'd use the rule of advertiser supported television: 75% entertainment, 25% ads.

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