To busy authors, Twitter can be a chaotic jungle. Given that Twitter is an important part of your author platform, how much should you be tweeting? Should you be actively promoting your books, or focusing more on conversations with fans?
We asked successful authors on Twitter to share the secrets of their success. Instead of replying with the usual vague ‘best practices’ that people typically blog about, they had tons of actionable tips to share on how authors can use Twitter more effectively to reach their audiences. We’re excited to share their advice with our readers!
Here are the top tips they have for using Twitter:
Promote new or discounted books without being spammy
I know the current wisdom is that you’re not supposed to sell your books on Twitter, but I think there’s a big difference between yelling “Buy my book!” and letting your followers know you have a new release or a sale on a book. I truly think that if one of my books is, for instance, having a BookBub promo, my readers want to know that they can add it to their ebook collection for $0.99. And people who’ve connected with me on Twitter — maybe they’ve seen the Must Love Dogs movie but have never read one of my books — might also want to find out if my books are their thing at that pretty risk-free price.
When I have a new book release coming up, I’ll tweet about it. When I do, I’m straightforward: ‘My new book is up for preorder today’ with a picture and link. When a prominent review site gives me a good review, I’ll post it or retweet. I generally don’t retweet reader reviews or automated Kindle tweets like “I just bought Exigency by Michael Siemsen” because ew. Why do people retweet that stuff? It reads as ‘Someone ACTUALLY bought my book!’
Use images to drive more clicks
Occasionally, I will directly promote my books, especially during a sale or new release. There are generally two strategies I find most effective:
- A short, bold quote from the book I know people will respond to.
- A photo of the book’s cover or a teaser inserted directly in the tweet (not a link to Facebook or Instagram) that’ll hopefully encourage followers to click on it and then retweet and/or favorite.
I measure this using Twitter Analytics, which allows me to see which pictures or quotes get the most attention, and I always track clicks via Bitly to see where they’re coming from.
Keep up with the newest promotional tools
The second Twitter introduced Cards in promoted tweets, I jumped on it and blasted my latest Sci-Fi release to everyone in that interest segment (via Twitter Ads), with an eye-catching image of the book cover, because I know it grabs the eye of SF fans. Whenever a new promo tool like that comes out, I jump on it, because:
- It’s still novel to the users so they’re more likely to look at it, click, etc.
- The ad prices are usually super cheap because they’re new, so it’s a safer investment.
That campaign received somewhere around 200,000 impressions, 30,000 ‘engagements,’ and 2,200 link clicks. I sold around 1,500 books over those two days — a huge spike.
But, really… don’t be spammy
Too many authors hit fellow users with requests as soon as they follow each other; ‘buy my book’ being the biggest turn-off. Twitter is primarily a business machine, I know, but a little decorum doesn’t go amiss.
Having a marketing plan is great… but it shouldn’t look that way unless you’re a non-fiction author with the Key Steps to [some kind of] Success! Be cool, non-desperate, and show your personality. The direct self-promotion (‘Star Stabbers 2 is on sale today for $0.99!’) should be the exception. If you’re having to think about your Fun:Promotional ratio, you’re promoting too much. If you know you have a sale coming up next week, chill out on promo posts for a week.
The biggest mistake I see other authors making is constantly tweeting links to their books, or books put out by their friends. We get it. You’re an author. Some repetition is okay, but if all you do is send out links, you’re teaching the people who follow you to ignore your tweets.
Just as quickly as you were followed, you will be unfollowed if your content doesn’t provide some value. That value can be humor, interesting articles, teasers and tidbits about your books or simply a vehicle to get to know you, but the person following you has to find some value to pay attention and engage. For every one promotional post there should be two to three that aren’t (if not more).
Provide a behind-the-scenes look at your work in progress
Right now, I’m on a mini roadtrip conducting research for a pivotal scene in my WIP. Posting pictures to Instagram and Twitter has been great for engagement, especially when I use the words ‘mystery’ or ‘secret’ for the locations I don’t want to disclose because of spoilers.
My tweets are formulated snapshots of my current book and as each new book arrives, I will weave in a new set of snapshots.
Seek out and connect with a relevant audience
My goal on Twitter is more to expand my connections and discover new resources than to sell books. For instance, when writing my historical fiction (Civil War) novels, I networked with re-enactors, historians, and historic sites. In writing my new romantic military suspense (Meant to Be, June 2015), I connected with Navy SEALS and other military resources that otherwise I never would have had the opportunity to engage with. The widow of a Navy SEAL that I met through Twitter became one of my early reviewers and gave me a wonderful endorsement that is more meaningful to me than any literary review could ever be.
Reciprocate retweets and make it easy for others to reciprocate for you
When one of my Twitter followers throws some RT love my way and I have some extra time, I try to reciprocate by retweeting something for them. So I go to their page and scroll through their tweet thread. But if I can’t find something to retweet quickly, I don’t. So my suggestion is to pin a tweet to the top of your page, a tweet that you’d love to have other people RT for you. And even if they don’t retweet it, they’ll see it first if they check out your profile.
Respond to fans who reach out
I reply to every beautiful one of them, and I avoid being generic in my replies. Instead of “Thanks @patsyonrye2391!”, I’ll say something more thoughtful and specific to their tweet.
I don’t necessarily reply to everyone who mentions me, but I at least favorite their tweet.
I never forget for a moment that my readers give me the gift of my career, so I always answer @ mentions, unless it’s something spammy. What I don’t do is answer DMs on Twitter (or on Facebook). There are just too many of them, many of which are auto replies, and trying to keep up with them was starting to get in the way of my writing.
Build relationships with book bloggers and journalists
As I was starting out and building my base of blogger connections, Twitter was my lifeline. I followed authors I respect in my genre and saw whose reviews they were sharing, researched those blogs, and pitched my own book to them. Bloggers are critical to your success as an author and the relationships that I’ve built from initial Twitter exchanges have been invaluable.
Lots of requests for interviews, speaking engagements, and even collaborations have come to me via Twitter, so I think of Twitter as an open doorway to opportunities like that.
Earn trust by showcasing your unique personality
There are people on Twitter who will make you pause as you’re scrolling through your timeline because you want to see what they say. They’ve said insightful things in the past, for instance. Or they’re funny. Or they have good book recommendations. Whatever it is, that person has earned your trust with time. You know from experience that if you give them attention, you’re going to get something good out of it. Be the person who makes people want to stop scrolling.
I use Twitter to give fans a flavor of who I am. I have a naturally sarcastic demeanor and I find Twitter to be the perfect avenue to share my random thoughts. Fans get a kick out of it and I have fun crafting the tweets. I also use it to engage with the bloggers and fans that post reviews and photos. My younger teen fans get really excited when I personally engage, and reaching them is a challenge. My engagement shows them I am taking the time to read their reviews and pay attention to how they feel about my work.
Have you found Twitter to be an effective element of your author platform? If so, join the conversation and share your tips for fellow authors in the comments below.
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