I got a tweet yesterday on my private account–not that it’s protected or anything, but I just mean, on my non-book account–from an author imploring me to check out his work online. I had never encountered this author before, and I really had no bloody idea why on earth I should want to check out his “fiction” in a magazine–no, I mean really, I had no idea why he had approached me or what about me made him think I might connect to his work. A quick glance at his Twitter told me that he didn’t really know why I would like it, either–most of his tweets had the same indiscriminate message blasted at a number of targets: Check out my work “X” at website Y!
Being the sweet, caring, and politic person that I am, I told him he was doing it wrong.
To my surprise, he answered back. “Please enlighten, I am too new to Twitter.” How to encapsulate it in 140 characters? I promised him I’d write a blog about it, so here I am, writing a post about it. He’s not the only person who can benefit from this information, really–I get and see a lot of ill-advised tweeting from people who think it will help boost their sales, but don’t understand that Twitter is not an advertising forum.
If you’re an author who has heard that social media is the way to get readers, but you don’t know how to do it or it hasn’t been working for you, fear not–I’m here to help. This post is specifically about Twitter, but the basic concepts can be used for any social media.
Problem: You post lots of information about your writing, but not very many people are following you or visiting the links that you post up.
Would you watch a television channel that was all commercials, or peruse a website that was all ads? Unless the channel or site was dedicated to exceptional examples of advertising, I’m guessing that you would not. Building your Twitter account with the primary aim of using it to directly market your books–such as by Tweeting random people “Hey you should read my book” or only posting about events related to selling your book–means that you’re basically creating a “channel” that is wall-to-wall advertising. The people that you do manage to get to follow you will probably mentally block your feed within a week.
Solution: Spend the majority of your time on social media building genuine relationships and putting out desirable content.
Social media is called that for a reason–be social! Talk to people. Make friends, remembering that the person who goes on incessantly about their own projects comes off being a tiny bit self-absorbed. Instead, ask people about their projects. Form collaborations, or guest post on blogs. Put yourself out there, and be generous and genuine. Or, barring that, be wickedly funny. People on the internet love the lulz. You get followers because there’s something in it for them to follow you.
Not talking about your projects may seem counter-intuitive, but remember what I said about the all-advertising channel. People will turn it off. You can talk a little bit about your projects, but know when ease back. Good things to post are (brief) information regarding events, upcoming publications or appearances–”news,” in other words, especially items that would be helpful to other people. I personally find you can get away with repeating “news” once or twice if you space it out, but too much repetition causes that mental off-switch that you want to avoid. (People on Twitter can be a little tetchy, too. The etiquette rules are quite complex and can be difficult to grasp before you have been there for some time. Playing it safe is better at first.)
Problem: You put out awesome content, and you have a decent amount of followers, but people are still not reading your books.
So, you’ve done step one–you have developed into an awesome tweeter, people are willingly following you–you might even have more followers than you are following at this point, and it’s kind of a big deal when you cross that threshold for the first time. But your sales are still pretty abysmal. What gives?
Solutions: Various potential solutions.
One problem is that you might not be connecting with the right audience. People on Twitter tend to run in circles a lot of the time; I myself have two different accounts, and my follower bases couldn’t be more different, save a few core people that follow both. A very few. My @thebooksluts account has–you guessed it–a lot of readers, writers, and a few publishers that I interact with regularly. My personal account has far more political followers, along with people who are local to where I live, and some people who cook, because I connect with people very differently on that account than I do on my booksluts Twitter. If you write crime thrillers but, because you play video games, have a lot of RPG aficionados as Twitter friends, they’re probably less likely to read your books. Not that you should dump your gamer friends, but consider widening your audience to connect with bookish types who like crime thrillers.
If you have acquired a few trusted confidants, try DMing them and asking if there’s something you’re doing wrong or that you could be doing better. Don’t come off needy or whiny, just that you’re looking for tips to improve communication without being spammy. I find that doing this privately is the best route, as any other conversations are very public, even if they don’t “feel” public. Your friends might be able to give you some great insight.
Make sure, too, that all of your social media is working together. If you’re linking people from Twitter to, say, a blog, and the blog is turning people off for some reason, or your website or what have you, it might not be because of your tweets at all.
Problem: I found someone on Twitter who has a book blog or a website and I want them to feature my book, but after I tweeted them a link, they basically told me to piss off or they ignored me. What did I do wrong?
Starting a conversation with a link to your work is like asking someone out on a date while showing them your genitals. A little romance first would be nice! And really, if you’re trying to (ahem) expose yourself to people who will read your book, this is the way to go, rather than approaching random people on social media. Why? Because book bloggers and websites that feature reviews have fans who want book recommendations. You want people to read your book, and the blog audience wants suggestions on awesome new books to read, so it’s really a match made in heaven if you can get the reviewer on board.
Solution: Romance us, dammit!
First, read the blog or website that you want to be on, or think that you want to be on. You might find out that you actually do not want to be on the site–maybe you write books that the reviewer doesn’t tend to enjoy and he or she would give you a bad review, or maybe the blog audience isn’t your audience.
See if there is a protocol for pitching a book to the person for a review or a feature. Many book bloggers have this on their site. If they have this, then you just follow the protocol. Following the protocol scores MAJOR POINTS because a lot of people? do not follow protocols. A lot of people do not bother to read things that have been posted up, or seem to think that those posts do not apply to them, or something. It makes us predisposed to warm fuzzy feelings when instructions are followed.
If there’s nothing like that on their website, and you have ascertained that your book goes with their audience and their tastes, start by saying something like this: “Hey! I was reading your site and I loved it. I especially liked review of X. I wrote a book that is quite similar to X, do you accept books to review?” Approaching the person like a human being and letting them know that you actually have read their blog will get you in quicker than indiscriminate tweeting; asking if they accept books rather than “will you accept my book” is smart, too, because it’s less pressure for them. If I feel like I’m being pressured, I almost always say no.
Tip: Don’t try to be tricky and sneak your book into conversations that are not about your book. Seriously. Even if you try to make it seem funny, it’s not funny because we know what you’re doing, and it makes us feel like pieces of meat that you look at with dollar signs in your eyes. “Got a vacation coming up, huh? Does that mean you’ll finally have time to read my book?! Eh?! I’m just kidding, we kid, oh this is so funny–but no, seriously, are you ever going to read my book?” Yeah. Don’t do this.
Remember, above all: social media =/= social marketing.
Nobody goes to social media because they desire marketing. Even super famous people with a zillion followers don’t spend all their time sitting around saying “buy my book/watch my show/etc!” They wouldn’t have a zillion followers if they did that. The point of Twitter, if you’re using it to connect with your current or potential future fanbase, is that just being on Twitter and doing a good job at Twitter reminds them that you are there. It’s exposure. And sure, when your newest book gets published, you’ll want to tweet about it–”So happy! My new book finally hit the presses today!”–but the way you would share it with friends, not consumer sheep.
How ’bout you guys? What turns you off when it comes to Twitter marketing? Have you found any tactics to be successful? Tell us in the comments!