Twitter and the 5k Follow Cap

There are two camps when it comes to followers on Twitter.

Camp A believes in following back anyone who follows them. I’m in this camp myself, with a few exceptions. I won’t follow back accounts I believe to be bots, or accounts that only promote a product, for instance. Sometimes I’ll pass when the person following has zero connections to writing or books, as I want to keep my feed writing-related. But if a person is clearly a person and their interests are writing-adjacent, I’ll follow back.

The others group, Camp B, wants to limit their social media to meaningful interactions. They only follow back people who interact with them a lot, or who post interesting content. Their platform tends to be more intimate, restricted to those they consider friends.


I see many folks in Camp B express something like, “I don’t care if people unfollow me right after I follow them because I’m not in the numbers game,” and I completely respect that.

However, if you follow a lot of people, Twitter might make you care. I’ve had three mutuals run into the dreaded 5K cap in the last week. Essentially, they follow 5,000 people, hoping for follow-backs, or maybe just interesting content. Then, without warning, Twitter cuts them off. They try to follow a new writer, even one who follows them, and they get an error message.

To avoid spammers, Twitter allows anyone to follow up to 5,000 people, regardless of how many followers you have (with daily limits). HOWEVER, once you follow 5,000 people, a cap kicks in, and you cannot follow more than 10% more accounts than follow you. So if you want to follow 5K, you have to have 4,500 followers or more, or you’ll be unable to follow anyone else. To reach 6K, you need 5400 followers, etc.

There’s no cap on how many can follow you, and you’ll see really famous people with millions of followers who only follow a few dozen. But once you follow 5K people, you need to watch your margins.

This is the point where unfollowers padding their own numbers can hurt you. I have two tips to address this.

First, cull your following list. Every now and then go through the list of folks following you on a laptop or desktop (the mobile version of the app won’t let you see the full list). Consider unfollowing the folks who unfollowed you. There are apps to track this as well, but I’m not a fan of their privacy policies. They’re collecting all of your Twitter activity to sell to marketers, and not offering much in return.

Secondly, consider letting spammers and bots follow you. Don’t follow back, and mute them instead of blocking. They’ll pad out your follower numbers and muting keeps them off your feed. Unless your DMs and posts are locked, there isn’t much they can do as a follower that they couldn’t already do to bother you.

Now if you plan to keep your following list tight and cozy with people you know, this isn’t an issue. But if your goal is to build a big platform and all the connections and creative knowledge thereof, this is something to pay attention now, before you hit the 5K cap.


There are obvious advantages to a large Twitter following for indie-press and self-published authors who have to do their own marketing. It’s an easy platform to build, and once you find that fine line between spam and self-promotion, it’s a great way to drum up interest and reviews! But for traditional publishing, the opinions are mixed.

Some people in the Twitter writing community have said that an agent turned them down for having fewer than 5k, or even 10k followers. When asked, most literary agents I’ve seen offer an opinion on the matter say it isn’t necessary to have a large following, but given two equally good books, a publisher may prefer the author who can build a social media platform.

What it comes down to is that the best way to sell a book is to write a really good book. No amount of social media presence will make a poorly-written story better. If you’re writing between family and a job and only have time for one thing, focus on the writing. But once you have that really good book, a social media platform might give you an edge to get it out into the world. And in an intensely competitive industry, an edge is an edge.

3 Lessons from #Pitmad

Since my post giving A Basic Guide to Twitter Pitches, I’ve been back in the trenches with the March 2019 #Pitmad pitch party.  It’s a much larger, more general event than #SFFPit, with books pitched from all age groups and genres.

But even though I came away without an invitation to query an agent, I came away with a lot.

Three Lessons from #PitMad:

1.  Pitch Parties Have Multiple Goals

Sure, we all want that like from the dream agent or publisher!  But a pitch party is also a great networking event.  Use the day to re-tweet and comment on the pitches of others, and follow those you think you want to interact with.  I didn’t snag the interest of an agent, but I interacted with almost 200 new followers, growing my mutual support network of writers online.  I also got to tighten my pitch, which in turn helps me write a tighter query letter.

2.  Every Pitch Party is Practice

There’s another #Pitmad every three months, and more specialized pitch parties in the meantime.  If you participated in practice-pitch events beforehand (like #pracpit) you probably got valuable feedback on your pitches.  Whether or not you reached your goal during the pitch party, it’s important to do an analysis afterwords of how your pitch could be improved next time.

3.  Bigger isn’t Always Better

#Pitmad is a big event, but  even though I got a lot more attention for my pitches (over 225 retweets and 30 likes on my 8am pitch), all of that attention came from non-agent participants. By contrast, my most widely-boosted pitch in #SFFpit had only 39 retweets, but I had four respectable agents like my pitches, and subsequent queries turned into two requests for full manuscripts.

Because Pitmad is larger and encompasses all genres and age groups, some agents might not consider it worth their time to comb through the thousands of pitches to find what they want.  A targeted pitch party does the screening for them.  You also have a lot of competition for a few, overwhelmed agents, and only three pitches per project.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t do ALL the pitch events. But consider using the larger event as a practice round, and focus your attention on the smaller, targeted event. And always remember that pitch parties and contests are only one way to get an agent.  The majority of writers still get there through traditional querying.  Your success may be through the slush pile, if you don’t give up!