by Michelle Wolfson

So I was at a writers’ conference the other day and a published author was telling me that she wants to find an agent now to bring her to the next level, especially when it comes to marketing her books. Her publishers haven’t spent any money marketing her books and she’s willing to do things on her own, but she claimed she needed an agent or publisher to tell her what to do.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but those days, if they ever existed, are long gone. That’s not to say that I don’t strategize with my clients and help them come up with marketing ideas, because I do. But the burden of marketing your books and yourselves is on YOU. There is nothing you can do marketing wise with an agent that you can’t start doing, now, on your own, without one.

I was recently in a meeting where we discussed how when we were kids, if we liked a book and wanted to get in touch with the author—if that slightly outlandish idea even occurred to us—we made a series of phone calls, probably to the publisher, and ended with a typewritten or handwritten letter to the author, which, who knows if he or she ever saw.

Today, it’s not only possible, but completely expected that readers/fans be kept up to date on authors’ lives and their writing through blogs with regular updates and special features. Readers expect to “friend” authors on Facebook and MySpace pages. And even more, they expect to be able to conduct conversations with them through email and twitter. And they expect answers! There is nothing unusual about this and in fact an author who is not doing these things is at a severe disadvantage.

Now I used to tell all my authors to start blogging and I still think it’s great and I highly recommend starting/having a website with lots of great stuff on it. But blogging is a very serious time commitment and as one of my authors said, the key is consistency so people know how often to check it. So if you are going to blog inconsistently, you probably need to be doing something else pretty big too.

That big thing is TWITTER! I love Twitter! Twitter is an amazing way of spreading your message from one to many. Twitter is also a great way to conduct quick, short one-on-one conversations with people. But along the one to many line, which is really the key for authors trying to build an audience, I think the secret key to twitter is the retweets. This is basically the equivalent of an email forward. If you have a message that you tweet and one of your followers retweets it, it could get retweeted multiple times and it could spread to thousands of people even if you only have a limited number of followers. That can gain you followers and of course spread your message far and wide in a matter of minutes or hours.

But you can’t wait until you have an important message like “My book is coming out Tuesday” to get on twitter and expect that one of your five followers will retweet it and it will spread to the masses. You need to start tweeting now and build your audience. And it takes time, like anything else. But I think the time commitment is less and the potential reach is greater. And in my mind, that makes Twitter a huge winner in the social media game.

So I will leave you with the Top 10 reasons to GET ON TWITTER NOW: (Please note that each reason is <140 characters and could easily be tweeted)

10. To build your brand and platform for when your next book comes out. Duh.

9. Because it takes time to build a following and you want to have tons of followers when your book comes out.

8. Because Twitter is the NBT (next big thing)—and it’s already here!

7. Easy to keep up with industry trends and breaking news on Twitter

6. It’s so much fun!

5. Tweet Your Heart Out was such a great title for this post

4. Connect with other authors, publishers, industry gurus

3. It’s cool

2. It’s fun to ignore people because you’re too busy tweeting about them

1. So you can follow @wolfsonliterary!

See you all in Twitterville!

Michelle Wolfson is a literary agent and founder of Wolfson Literary Agency, LLC. She is seeking authors of commercial fiction and nonfiction. In fiction: mainstream, mysteries, thrillers, suspense, chicklit, romance, women’s fiction, and young adult. She is drawn to projects with a standout voice and strong interesting characters. She is also interested in practical and narrative nonfiction projects, particularly those of interest to women. Michelle holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.B.A. from New York University. Before founding her agency, she spent four years with Artists & Artisans and the Ralph Vicinanza Agency. Before that, she spent several years working outside of publishing, first in nonprofit and then in finance, and she brings the skills she learned in these areas, plus a lifetime love of reading, to the table as an agent. Recent and soon-to-be published books include projects include Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon: A Guide to the Best Time to Buy This, Do That, and Go There by Mark Di Vincenzo (Harper Perennial); Chill Out and Get Healthy: Live Clean to Stay Strong and Be Sexy by Aimee Raupp (NAL); New Job, New You by Alexandra Levit (Ballantine); In the Shadow of Freedom: A Boy Soldier’s Heroic Journey to Manhood and Liberation Tchicaya Missamou with Travis Sentell (Atria); Elite Hands of Justice: Selena’s Story by AJ Menden (Dorchester); PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White (HarperTeen). For the latest agency news as well as submission guidelines, please visit the company website.