If you’re a self-published author trying to further your ebook marketing strategy with Twitter but are baffled by the platform, then this article is for you. It’s basic stuff, yes, but when it comes to Twitter it’s best to start off small. I myself found the platform to be quite a fickle beast to begin with!
If you don’t know about the marketing powers of Twitter yet, my Quick Reasons Why Authors Should Embrace Twitter article is there for your consumption. I’ll briefly mention that I’m no expert on Twitter – I’m just writing about my own experiences and what has worked best for me.
Firstly, in a nutshell, what the heck is Twitter and why on earth do you need it?
Nutshell answer: Twitter allows you to build book buzz by growing a network of readers (Followers); reader interaction and an active, engaging and informative profile will help achieve this.
OK, so you’ve set up your Twitter account – now what? To keep things light, I’ll list the main elements of Twitter, plus how and why they’re of benefit to self-published authors. I’ll also drop in a few useful tips. (As you read through all of this, don’t worry if you ever feel confused – just don’t give up! Remember: the main way you’re going to get to grips with Twitter is by actually using it!)
So, let’s break the Twitter anatomy down:
Like any social media platform, this is a place where other users can see info about you, though details are very brief in contrast to platforms like Facebook. A self-published author profile should contain the following:
- Photo – A snap either of you or your book’s cover. TIP: Use a photo of yourself; it’s more sincere and will make other Twitter users want to interact more (after all, who wants to interact with a faceless person?)
- Header – This is a graphic that appears behind your Photo. TIP: Use an image that further promotes your book or it’s genre; a white rose covered in blood could work for a romantic suspense novel, say, or you could simply use your book’s front cover
- Your Name & Handle – Both will be displayed for all to see – you can use your real name or pseudonym (Handle is another word for Username)
- Description – A short sentence about your interests and what you do. TIP: Don’t stray too far away from your work and anything writing related; that said, there’s nothing wrong with adding some humour to make yourself sound approachable
- Location – Where you reside in the world. Simple as that.
- Link – An address where your book is sold, your author website or blog, etc. TIP: Adding your book distributor’s page can sometimes scream PROMOTION, so it might be better to add something like a blog so readers can get to know you better first
- A Bit of Customization – You can play with your profile’s design by selecting a custom background image and link colour. This is a great way to distinguish yourself and create a unique, professional look. TIP: Colour schemes should be easy on the eyes as some can clash with tweets, making them hard to read – not good!
Messages consisting of 140 characters (Microblogs). When you have news and thoughts, type away and let your Followers know about it. Your Tweets can literally be about anything – but don’t just Tweet about your books, where to buy them and how great they are, or you’ll be perceived as spammy! Instead, have a nice variation of Tweets. So, if you write romance novels, in addition to Tweeting quotes and review snippets, you could Tweet links to articles about interesting related topics. Realise that people don’t want to see a huge list of Tweets which shout ‘BUY MY BOOK!’ – they want to discover other interesting stuff too! Your self-promos should be a maximum of 60% of your overall Tweets – maybe lower.
TIP: If you can’t think of anything to Tweet about to get the ball rolling, just write about the one thing you know will engage both authors and readers (your main target audience): writing and reading, of course!
Followers & Following
To build your reading community, you’ll need to catch the interest of lots of other Twitter users. Getting Followers can happen in two main ways. Either you Follow them and they Follow you back, or they simply Follow you. Here’s a couple of different scenarios showing how this might come about:
A Twitter user finds out about your book via Amazon or Twitter itself, say, and now wants to keep up with news about your work – so they find your Twitter profile and ‘Follow’ you. (They are now a ‘Follower’)
- You ‘Follow’ another user on Twitter – this may be a reader, author, or other person, company/organisation of interest. This user takes a look at your profile, finds you interesting and so ‘Follows’ you back. (Just as above, they are now a ‘Follower’)
There are a few things you need to know about Following in regard to Tweets: Two users can only read both of each others’ Tweets if they are both following each other. Um…that sounds a bit confusing, doesn’t it? It’s quite tricky to word it, though, to be honest! – so try this explanation for size instead: (each letter below represents a user)
- A Follows B – A can read B’s Tweets, but B can’t read A’s
- B Follows A – B can read A’s Tweets, but A can’t read B’s
- But if both A and B Follow each other, they can both read each others’ Tweets
You’ll have to do a fair bit of Following to start with for it’s unlikely anyone will want to Follow someone with very few Followers. Why not search for some other same genre self-published authors like yourself? The indie author community is very strong and friendly, and they will most likely Follow you back. Get chatty (more on that shortly), talk shop – have some fun! You could see who their Followers are, most of which will likely be readers; Follow some – and again, get chatty! They might Retweet some of your Tweets (more on that shortly, too), and when they Follow you, their Followers will be able to see this also. Then those users might Follow you as well, and so on, and so on… (See where this is going?)
If you ever hear the term ‘Tweeps’ bounced around on Twitter, by the way, this is just another word for Twitter users in general. Think of it like Facebook users calling each other Facebookers (mmm…it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? – no wonder that one never caught on!)
TIP: When someone Follows you, it’s curtious to thank them. You can do this by mentioning them in ways like this: @newfollower Thanks for following! Or, you could send them a Direct Message (Mentions and Direct Messages will be covered below shortly). Also, don’t try to follow the entire Twitter universe! – try to keep your Following count less than your Follower count. In other words, don’t Follow more people than Follow you! If it’s excessively high it can make you look very spammy, so be patient and let your numbers grow more organically.
If a Follower sees a Tweet of yours they like, they may decide to share it with their Followers. For example, upon seeing your Tweet (which says there’s an extract of your new book on your website), they think their Followers will be interested in this – so they Retweet it. This is a very, very powerful tool. Imagine one of your Followers has 10,000 Followers of their own – that Tweet has just reached all of those people. It has now gone viral, exposing your book news to 10,000 people!
Of course, you too can RT your Followers’ Tweets. If someone has Tweeted a link to a spectacular article on how to write evocative characters, say, and you think your Followers will enjoy reading it, you can then RT it at the click of a button! Pretty cool, right?
TIP: Some authors on Twitter seem to do nothing but RT other authors’ self-promo Tweets. In return, the RTer then gets their Tweets RTed. (I hope that’s not too confusing – basically each author is scratching the others’ back in an attempt to make their promos go super-viral) Although this means their promos are being seen by thousands of people, it doesn’t mean readers are more likely to take notice and buy their books. I’d avoid this tactic as it makes your profile seem very impersonal and overtly spammy. RTs can be greatly helpful, yes – but in moderation. Also, if someone RTs a Tweet of yours, it’s nice to thank them – especially if they’re helping create buzz round your work. And if you RT someone else’s Tweet which is news, it’s good to mention them and the news source (you can put @theguywhowroteit via @indieauthor at the end of the Tweet, for example).
You will be mentioned on Twitter from time to time, usually in ways such as:
- Direct conversation: @twitternewbie Hey Twitter Newbie, just been over to Amazon and seen your book – looks fantastic. Any tips on plot building?
- Mentioned out of etiquette: Thanks to my new followers @twitterpro @twitternewbie @twitternovice
- or something like: Check out this awesome article on characterization, authorbloglink.com – news via @twitternewbie
Make any sense? Basically, the first one is just a user who wants to chat one-on-one. Simple. The other two are just users mentioning you out of etiquette; in the first instance, you’re being thanked for Following, and in the second, for providing the news article that user is now Tweeting to his Followers (you wrote the article – so you’re getting the credit)
When someone puts an ‘@’ in front of your Handle in a Tweet, you’ll be notified about it. Keeping up with Mentions in other users’ streams is virtually impossible – that’s why Twitter places duplicates in the ‘Connect’ tab in the upper left corner. From here you can see everything, which is sorted into two categories:
- Interactions – This includes interactions of all kinds, including Mentions, who has Retweeted your Tweets, and also who has Followed you
- Mentions – This shows your Mentions only; anytime someone has replied directly to you or has thanked you will show up here
TIP: Don’t shy away from getting chatty with your fellow Tweeps. This is how you build a community of readers, after all – so be nice to them! Discuss writing, reading and any common interests. Also, even though time doesn’t always permit, try to always enforce the etiquette described above when possible.
Direct Messages (DMs)
These are another form of message you can send to other users. DMs are less commonly used for interacting, but it’s still worth sending a few to get used to this feature. They can be seen by the recipient only – they are not broadcast publicly on Twitter. So if you want to chat about a topic you’d rather the whole world didn’t know about, this form of messaging is the one to choose.
TIP: It’s worth checking your DM inbox every now and then – there might be an important message from someone who wants to review your book on their blog, say, or perhaps one from an agent looking to represent you (hey, you never know!).
Chances are, even though you’re a Twitter newbie, you’ve heard of Hashtags. They’re on TV, in magazines – just everywhere! But what’s it all about? Imagine you’re a reader seeking books currently free on Kindle. You search Twitter for the keyword ‘Freebooks’, and a load of results appear including Tweets featuring that keyword (like this: #Freebooks).
A bit confusing? Try it this way:
Let’s say that you, as a self-published author, want to inform the world that your book is currently free on Kindle as part of an Amazon Free Promotion. You want to spread the word as far as you possibly can, right? But how are Non-Followers going to find your one Tweet amongst the billions of other Tweets written that day? Easy – you’re going to distinguish your Tweet and help Twitter filter it. You could write it like this, for example: Readers, are you looking for a #free dark romance novel with a killer twist on #kindle? myauthorsite.com #freebooks
It’s not the most tantalizing tagline – but you get the gist. Now, did you notice the Hashtag placement? In addition to your current Followers seeing your Tweet in their stream, any Non-Followers searching for the keywords ‘Kindle’, ‘Free’, or ‘Freebooks’ will have the chance of reading it. You’re creating exposure. These users may decide to Follow you and possibly download your book!
TIP: When Hashtagging keywords, it’s best to enter a maximum of three in each Tweet. Any more and you may as well write: This is one of the spammiest tweets you’re going to read all day! One other thing: a Hashtagged word can’t have any spaces; ‘free memoir’ would have to become #freememoir or #free_memoir (though it’s best to avoid underscores – it’s rarely entered into the search bar).
Imagine you have 1000 followers – that’s an awful lot of Tweets to keep up with, isn’t it? So you decide that you need some organisation, that you only want to keep tabs on 50, say, comprising of select indie authors and indie news websites. You can sort these users into Lists with individual folders within, so it’s easier to navigate through Tweets. This is a mightily helpful feature you should take full advantage of.
TIP: Create a number of different folders and keep this aspect of your profile updated regularly. Twitter can seem like an awfully cluttered place sometimes, especially when you see thousands of Tweets flying at you from your Tweet stream. Lists equal order!
If you’re thinking ‘how on earth am I going to find the time to manage all of this everyday!’, don’t worry. Seriously – this is a perfectly normal reaction, and I felt exactly the same once. But fear not, the next article in this series (now available here) will help make your Twitter life tremendously easier – so much so that it’ll save you masses of time! We’ll be looking at management apps, automation, and more.
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I truly hope you enjoyed this article and that it has helped sink in some of the fundamentals of Twitter. Have anything else you’d like to add that could help self-published authors out there with conquering Twitter? Let your thoughts be known in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!