Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Author’s Guide to using Twitter to Generate (nearly) Instant (moderate) Success and (modest) Income!

So, now you’d like to hear how to use Twitter to sell a million copies of your book, right?

Well, it is, in fact, possible to do exactly that. It’s also possible that you could buy the winning Powerball ticket this afternoon. Possibilities are wonderful, but if you are or want to be a commercially successful writer, it’s best to deal in things that are not only possible but also probable. So, put those dreams of runaway riches aside for now, and recognize that, like anything else in life, the game of book marketing and promotion is one where your reward is largely determined by how much time and effort you’re willing to invest, and how wisely you use your limited resources.

If you don’t already have a Twitter account, that’s a necessary first step. Give some thought to how you will present yourself in your Twitter profile. Our intrepid Twitter frontier-scout, Alana Renfro, offers the following suggestions:

• Match your Twitter background to your website background and your Facebook fan page.
• For the same pseudonym/brand, match your profile avatar photos across all social media.

This goes back to brand building. If you have a book or a series of books you are trying to promote, you may want to consider using your book cover as your profile picture. This is especially true if you’re already using other social media such as Facebook. There’s a reason that corporations put a lot of thought into logo design; you want to reinforce your particular brand every time someone sees your avatar, even if they don’t take the time to read every one of your tweets.

When you first start using Twitter or any other social media, it’s like throwing a party in your back yard; you’ve designated place for the festivities, but if no one shows up, it won’t be much of a party. Twitter is especially useful for connecting with strangers, but making that connection in the first place can be a little tricky.

In his very short book entitled How to Really Sell eBooks, author Jon Merz recommends using a platform like Tweet Adder, which automates the process of following others, allowing you to add hundreds of targeted followers to your list. Now, I know you’re probably thinking: ‘I don’t care about following others, I want them to follow me!’ You can’t just make people follow you, but often if you take the step of following someone else, they will reciprocate; that’s a basic tenet of social networking. And the first most important step in using Twitter effectively is to get as many followers as you can. If only half of the people you follow turn around and follow you, then you will need to follow 2,000 people in order to get 1,000 followers. The good news is that you don’t have to follow those people indefinitely. There are other software applications that will let you scrub non-reciprocating accounts from the list of people you follow, making room for more.
Tweet Adder isn’t a free service, but there are other ways to add followers that will require you only to spend a little time and effort. One very effective way is to take a look at who’s following your favorite author, and then start adding them. It requires a lot of scrolling and clicking, but it does work. I went from only a couple dozen followers to over 800, just by following people who followed three of my favorite authors. My current ratio: Following 1,239; Followers 823. And the best part is, I add a few new followers every day even though I haven’t gone on a “following” expedition in several weeks. Once you start the process, it builds its own momentum.

So, once you’ve got some followers, how do you promote yourself effectively? Alana, the stage is yours:

• Make a 30 second video thanking new Twitter followers for following you, mention your books and link to that on your personal D[irect] M[essages]s for your 1st line of communication with a new follower. Be yourself in the video. (As an advertising professional, I have to add, please be aware of your surroundings and plan what you wear, as well. You are your brand.) If you have the chance, read the follower's profile before thanking them for their follow to say something personal, or instead of personal DMs, send a weekly thank you @ mentioning new followers.
• Find your most enthusiastic followers and praise them, maybe send them a special note. Interact and give them the opportunity to run with a project for your blog. Create a planned Twitter party or group with a hashtag (keep the hashtag short & simple) that is relevant, or let your top 3 followers collaborate to do so.
• Respond to all of your Twitter followers if possible. For some authors, they gain a drastic amount of new followers daily—if so, then institute an automatic DM that goes out to a new follower. It should be personal and again resonate emotionally.
• Some people like to plan some of their Tweets and keep a social media schedule. For example, they plan out for the week some images/ videos/ blog posts/ resources/ events/ witty jokes to intersperse amongst their spontaneous pantsing tweets.
• Don't only market yourself and your books. There are natural ways to share your book that are interesting and engaging. If [a media source] has written something about your book or you are featured on a blog, by all means share it! If someone writes a brilliant review on Amazon, share it and start a conversation. If someone tweets about your book, RT it.
• Invite followers to post photos of places from your books. Or ask them to take photos with your book in the most exotic places they can think of. Or photos of just your book itself in silly spots. They can use your Facebook page to post them, or their twitter photo URL of choice (like TwitPic, yfrog, Moby, posterous, etc).
• By all means, please tell your followers about your upcoming novel—if you have a date it will be released do a countdown... and once it is a month away, everyday post the countdown once in a fun way on your Twitter and Facebook, like "27 days 11 minutes 15 seconds". Try not even mentioning what the countdown is about... let them figure it out. Intersperse your mundane everyday tweets with one or two links to your blog and new book site, ask them about the new cover and what they like most, start conversations, but remember to pull the follower into engaging, don't push the book incessantly. To put it in geek speak, you want them searching for the elusive unicorn, not running from the attack of the undead-please-dear-god-make-them-stop-tweeting-zombies. That leads to...
• Don't inundate your followers. There's no quicker way to being unfollowed than inundating a twitter wall with an avalanche of more than 11 posts within an hour... even worse 6 posts within a couple of minutes... space it out. Being enthusiastic has great merit, but use your proactivity strategically. Utilize a Twitter service to plan your tweets if you will be away for a long period of time and can't space it out, like HootSuite, Seesmic, Tweetdeck or TweetLater.
• If your @ public messages go for more than 4 postings, move it to Facebook, e-mail, or start a new line and see if you can involve any other followers. Twitter is not a chat service for long-going one-on-one conversations. Users don't want to see you only talking with one person the whole time and it will cause you to lose followers.
• If you've got a Twitter profile, a Facebook profile, a Facebook fan page, and a blog, your social media can start to look like a gordian task. Utilize an application like HootSuite, Seesmic or Tweetdeck, which combines the mayhem in a simple application in one stroke.
• Think before you Tweet (or Facebook). There's a running joke about how there should be a breathalizer on all social media... 'nough said.
• Use hashtags. If you do a search for writing hashtags you'll find countless lists. Also, find the #chats and engage in those, if interested.
• Try out Writer Wednesdays #WW where you feature other writers to follow.
• Promote and share how great other followers and writers are. The Twitter community is all about the golden rule, and readers enjoy seeing you tweet about someone else for a change.
• Everybody makes mistakes. If you do, own up to it gracefully, and move on.

And there you have it: Alana’s Rough Guide to Twitter. It can be, as she pointed out, a daunting task to manage your social networks, but in today’s media savvy world, a writer’s success is directly tied to how much effort they are willing to put into self-promotion. This isn’t, as some might have you believe, about finding a way to instant success and riches; it’s just what writers have to do.
Special thanks again to Alana Renfro for her sage advice. Be sure to add Alana @novelpursuit when you get your Twitter account up and running!

Sean Ellis is the author of the Nick Kismet thrillers, The Adventures of Dodge Dalton, and other adventure and pulp novels. He is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resources Policy from Oregon State University. Sean is also a member of the International Thriller Writers organization. He currently resides in Arizona, where he divides his time between writing, adventure sports, and trying to figure out how to save the world. Visit Sean’s website: http://seanellisthrillers.webs.com

1 comment:

  1. This has made us really re-consider Twitter as something that we ought to take seriously after all. thanks for the pointers; you've made this aspect of social media a bit less daunting and a good deal more accessible. You've been very helpful!


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