Twitter is an incredible networking tool, and it can be used effectively for marketing as well. But I also see lots of authors who don’t know how to do that and many more who are turning potential followers off. So here is my list of five top do’s and don’t's.
1. Incessant self-promotion. Yes, Twitter is a great place for people to find out about your book. But because of the steady stream of new information in the Twitterfeed, it can be hard for your marketing to stand out.
Some authors think the way to get around that is to post and repost things about their book several times a day. Sometimes they’ll pile up tweets about reviews, purchase info, and releases, one after the other. Don’t make that mistake.
When I see “Buy my book!” “Free on Amazon today!” “X calls my book brilliant!” tweets tweeted by the same author sometimes dozens of times in my feed, I hit the unfollow button. In fact, when I’m deciding whether to follow someone or not, I take a quick look at their profile and if all I see is a steady stream of that kind of “buy my book!” information, I don’t.
I asked tweeps one day how they felt about this and they all said the same thing: unfollow. There are far too many interesting people on Twitter to follow someone who engages only in incessant self-promotion.
2. Auto DMs. I often follow someone only to find an instant private message in my Twitter message box seconds later. These messages always say something like “thanks for the follow! Check out my website at …” or some variation of the “buy my book” tweets referred to above.
This also results in an auto-unfollow on my end. I see enough criticism about the practice on Twitter to know that most tweeps react the same way.
After all, I have only just followed you because I thought you might be interesting. Before I’ve had a chance to see if that’s the case, you’ve shoved your business card in my hand. Don’t make our first contact about self-promotion. If you do, trust me, it will be our last.
3. Notices. Twitter is a great place for notifications. If you have a new deal, if the book is out in paperback or ebook, if there’s a new review, if you’ve posted something on your blog, if you’ve updated your website, have a reading, event, or launch — yes, absolutely, tweet about it. I’m interested!
But a couple of tweets a day is enough, although there is nothing wrong with repeating your tweets later in the day to catch the evening crowd.
And don’t make these your only tweets. Someone said there is an 80-20 rule on Twitter: 80% about other things, 20% about your book. I think even 20% can be a little high, particularly if it comes all at once. Scatter your news between your tweets on other topics; break it up.
4. Be interesting. If you post interesting tweets on a variety of topics, people will follow you, and they’ll see the posts about your book eventually.
But talking only about your book (again, that all too-common incessant self-promotion) is a real turn-off.
You have opinions, share them. You’re a writer; you’ve created entire alternative universes. You have imaginary friends! For God’s sake stop tweeting about what you plan to have for breakfast or lunch; no one cares.
If you don’t know what to say yet on Twitter, check out your Twitter feed and retweet those tweets you find interesting. In fact, some of the most interesting people I follow simply post links to news stories they find interesting, and since the stories they find interesting are interesting to me, so are they.
5. Use your profile info wisely. I see a lot of Twitter profiles that say things like “Devoted mother of two, enjoys writing romantic fiction, cooking, and running.” And sometimes, there’s not even a profile picture, just an egg.
You have 160 characters to work with, slightly more than a regular tweet. This is the one place where you can actually market your book without offending anyone. And hundreds, if not thousands, of people will check it out!
Name your book title, describe the genre. Indicate if it’s out, or when it’s out. Add the website link (Twitter provides a separate space for this), and put up your book jacket cover or your author picture as your profile pic. Remember, too, you’re the brand you’re selling, not your book.
If you have any characters left, mention that you run and like to cook: networking on Twitter is about finding people with common interests. But don’t lose a great opportunity to use all that free advertising.
Or to re-use it. You should also update your profile from time to time. If your book wins awards, if it becomes a bestseller, if it’s released in e-book format, if you have a new author pic, that’s the place to do it. Trust me.
5. Tweet about other authors. It’s funny how marketing other people ends up being a great way to market yourself, but that’s how it works.
Retweet other authors’ successes, their blog posts that you enjoyed, the books you loved reading, info about the industry. You’ll find that the tweeters you promote will promote you as you build relationships with them. Remember, marketing doesn’t sell books: books sell when other people talk about them, rate them, rave about them, or encourage their friends to buy them.
That’s what’s great about Twitter — it’s not just a hive of information, it’s a network of people, too. And then it’s not incessant self-promotion anymore, it’s the very best kind of promotion there can be for your work — word of mouth.