How to use twitter as an author to reach more readers: tips, etiquette & twitter marketing strategies

A few weeks ago, in this post on book marketing, I outlined the basics on how to build an effective engagement and outreach strategy as an Indie author. While Craig and I continue to work on the marketing follow up to How to Self-Publish Your BookI will periodically touch back on some of the fallout topics from that post. Today I thought I’d talk about Twitter marketing, since one of the most common places authors start when they self-publish is Twitter, and there’s often a lot to learn.

Twitter basics: How TweetDeck will make your life so much easier

I’m going to start by assuming you’re new to Twitter, but that you have an account and understand what an @ handle is, what it means to follow, be followed, and send/receive direct messages.

So you’re using Twitter, but you really don’t know where to start.

The most important tip I can give you at this point is to go to the website and use that website for Twitter when you’re managing it on your computer. (Or, if you’re on a Mac, there’s a handy desktop app to easily use Tweetdeck.)

Tweetdeck is a software that lets you use Twitter with much more efficiency. You can log into multiple Twitter accounts at once, and it allows you to add columns to the screen to keep tabs on the tweets.

Let’s assume you just have one Twitter account for your author Twitter. Here are some columns you’ll have in Tweetdeck (and if you don’t have them you can simply add them by clicking on the “add columns” button, which looks like a + on the left).

  • Home column (displays the tweets by everyone you follow, all at once)
  • Notifications column (displays all the tweets where your @ handle has been mentioned, or lets you know if someone has followed you)
  • Messages column (displays your private messages)
  • Scheduled column (shows all tweets you’ve scheduled to get tweeted at a later date)

Twitter tip: pin your promotional tweet to the top of your feed

There’s one exception to the above suggestion about TweetDeck. Whatever your most important promotional item is, create a tweet for it using the Twitter website (since TweetDeck doesn’t let you edit your own feed of tweets).

Usually, if you’ve just published a book or if you’re about to publish it, this tweet should have a link to where readers can buy (or read about) your book, and it should include the cover added as a photo to the Tweet itself, a brief log-line, and relevant hashtags.

For those not familiar with the term, a log-line is a (usually) 1-sentence hook that summarizes conflict, stakes and character for your story. You’re essentially telling readers at a glance what they can expect if they click on the link.

“In a world where art is illegal, a weaver whose skill is a gateway to magic discovers she’s the heir to a long-lost throne.”

That’s a log-line I used at one time for Blood Dawn, and as you can see in that I’ve capture character (the weaver), conflict (she’s an artist, therefore she’s doing something illegal), and stakes (if she’s the heir to a long-lost throne then that means it’s on her to use her criminal power to supplant the powers that be, overturn their harsh laws, and assume her rightful place).

Writing a log-line is hard, and you may find you come up with many of them and they will change with time as you get different reader input, or you might find different log-lines bring out different aspects of your book and belong in one place over another. For Twitter, the log-line you use should be short and should tell new prospective readers who click on your profile just what your book is about.

If you’re having a hard time, don’t overthink it. Create one. Pin it to the top of your feed. You can always make a new tweet and pin it to the top (the original will get unpinned and will jump down to wherever it belongs in chronological order in your feed of tweets).

Limit self-promotional tweets to 20%

The purpose of pinning a promotional tweet to the top of your feed is twofold.

On one hand, it means prospective readers when they click on your profile to check out who you are and what you do will see that tweet right away when they look through your feed. It lets you list your book front and center. (You’ll also find that several people will retweet it or like it — this is because, being pinned to the top, it’s there in place for them to help you share it.)

On the other, it avoids the need to tweet about your book or book deals incessantly.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with tweeting about an important event or a time-limited deal. This is important and is more of an update / event that counts as notifying your fans of something important.

What I’m talking about is repetitive tweets that aren’t sharing anything new, but are rather pushing for the same result on something old. Good examples of this are tweets that continue to read something to the effect, “Get [My Book XX Goes to YY] on Amazon for only $0.99!” along with seven hashtags, i.e. #kindle #kdpselect #amazon #readers #books #buymybookbuymybookbuymybook. (That last one isn’t actually a hashtag, but if you want to be the first to create it, be my guest.)

To be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have promotional tweets that highlight something from your book. In fact, you should have several of these that go out throughout the week, and I’d recommend using Tweetdeck to schedule them. (More on that below.) However, try to limit it to approximately 20% of what you tweet.

How does this look in practice? Don’t get your calculator out. Simple open up your Twitter feed in the Twitter app on your phone (or on the Twitter website) and comb through everything you’ve tweeted. Roughly 1 in every 5, or 2 in every 10, or 8 in every 40 tweets should be promotional.

A useful rule is to schedule 7 unique promotional tweets to go up every week (you can queue them all on one day), then during that week make a point of tweeting about 30 times. The tweets can be simply sharing something about your day, a thought, how your writing’s going (but not too much on your writing — readers want to get to know you not just your books and how you write them).

Also, and this is a big one: tweet @ other people. In fact, I want to call that the Golden Rule of Twitter, because if you’re stuck on how to tweet about 30 times in addition to the 7 or so scheduled self-promotional tweets you’re generating, you’ll kick yourself out of that rut as soon as you get in the habit of, say for 5 minutes every morning scrolling through your “Home” feed and seeing if there’s anything you can comment on. Hit “reply” to a tweet — maybe one of your readers read a book you absolutely loved and commented on it and you want to say something to add to the conversation. Really, get creative. Think of that Home feed on Twitter as a large party room full of people and you’re in there listening to snippets of what people are saying and looking for opportunities to jump in.

You can also retweet books of other authors that you think your readers might like, or blog posts these authors might have shared. Just be careful with this as excessive retweeting can alienate your audience. I have unfollowed many people because I noticed, as I was going through my Home feed, there was nothing but retweets from them, and nothing from them.

What is the point of all this? 20% is not a magic number. You can go ahead and queue 10 promotional tweets for the week and tweet only 25 times in addition if you want. The point is this: a new prospective reader checking out your Twitter feed is going to see that for the most part you are an engaging person. You don’t just retweet a bunch of things. You don’t sell sell sell. You don’t obsess about your writing. You share things about yourself. You interact with other people. You’re all around a cool person, the kind of person they want to follow, and maybe, the kind of person whose books they might just check out…

Scheduling tweets and SocialJukebox

I have two confessions. The first is that I don’t tweet as much as I should. That said, I follow the 20% rule by default since I’m not promoting a book! That said, I direct the strategies of several Twitter accounts through my editing and cover design company, and have established systems for those who run them to follow the 20% promotional, 80% engaging rule.

The second confession is that the resource I’m about to share with you is something I’ve never actually used, but it’s something we use to manage content on some of our Twitter accounts. It’s called SocialJukebox (here’s the link) and I’m not going to teach you today the ins and outs of it. However, it is easy to use and easy to learn so I’m going to tell you how it will make your self-promotional tweeting life a walk in the park.

Let’s say you follow the above strategy of 7 promotional tweets per week. You go into TweetDeck and create 7 tweets. Perhaps you have some great quotes from your book, or catchy log-lines to highlight different aspects of it. The point is, one day of the week you have to go in and spend some time (maybe 20-30 minute) creating all these tweets and setting a date and time for them to go live, and you have to do that again each week.

SocialJukebox does something quite amazing. Why create something new every week when you could instead sit down for an entire evening and write up about 40 awesome tweets, then put them all in place and let a program like SocialJukebox randomly choose 7 of them to go live at times you set in place. If you want to let it run and you forget about it, SocialJukebox will keep to the schedule you put in place, so you only need to go in if you want to change the tweeting times, or if some of the tweets feel old and stale (or if you’ve had some inspiration and thought of better tweets).

Lastly, your author bio, #dont #fill #it #with #hashtags

Hashtags are great. There are many that are useful to writers. #amwriting #amwritingfantasy #amreading #amediting #writing #writer #writers #reading #readers #books … I could go on and on.

(Quick tip: if you don’t know what to pick for hashtags, pay attention when you look through your Home feed. There’s a good chance you follow some authors who are doing the same thing you’re doing. What hashtags do they use? Click on them and see if lots of people use them, or if the content in that feed is somewhere your tweet would fit.)

One place hashtags should not go is your author bio, for the same reason why you shouldn’t relentlessly tweet for people to buy your book. Why? It’s pretentious. If you’re a #writer who is always #amwriting, then let those hashtags go in the tweets that show this.

Instead, use your bio to tell people who you are. And not just who you are, but why you do what you do and what drives you, as well as why you’re cool and worth following. Not literally in words, but your “why” should come through, as well as a few neat things about you. Think of it as your whole self in a few brushstrokes.

Do you write erotica where gender doesn’t matter? Your bio might read “Erotica author, lover of all pairings. Passionate LGBT2SQ+ enthusiast, dragon queen, also called crazy cat lady.”

You also don’t need to put your website or a buy link in your bio. There’s a “website” field in your profile where you can link to your blog or website. Simply use every space available to you to communicate what you do, and most importantly, why you do it, and, with what space is left, show a bit more. It’s the same reason you want to have about 80% engagement tweets: it makes new prospective readers more likely to want to follow you, interact with you, and hopefully, check out your book(s).

What about emoticons and cool character combinations? Go for it, if that’s natural to you and part of who you are. Ask me, it adds flare and shows you know how to have fun.

Enough for now, but I hope if you’re new to Twitter I’ve given you lots to dig into. Please let me know if you have any questions. I feel like even with this more in-depth discussion, I’m still just scratching the surface of what I could share!


About John Robin

John Robin is an epic fantasy writer, professional editor, and lover of imaginary worlds. He write stories about magic and myth, human suffering and the power to rise above it. He loves world building, coffee shops, mathematics, chess, and is an avid author community builder.
This entry was posted in John's blog, Story Perfect Newsletter Posts, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How to use twitter as an author to reach more readers: tips, etiquette & twitter marketing strategies

  1. Susan says:

    Terrific post, John. A ton of good information to think about and use here — thanks for sharing this!

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