…helping you tell a better story

Tweet On! (Or Don’t)

A couple of weeks ago, I taught a class for Book Publishers Northwest called Tweet On: How to Use (And Not Abuse) Twitter to Build Your Platform and Sell Your Books. It was a fun evening, despite (or perhaps because) I don’t currently have a projector that works with my laptop, and so was reduced to drawing the Twitter homepage on a white board:

The Twitter homepage, whiteboard style

The Twitter homepage, whiteboard style

There was one attendee, though, who was not impressed. He announced that he was skeptical of this “social media thing.” He’d tried Twitter already, but didn’t get anything out of it. He used words like shallow, and inane, and silly.

Over the next couple of hours, I made my best case for why Twitter is a valuable tool in an author’s marketing tool belt. I talked about how it’s full of book clubs, journalists, editors, and millions (millions!) of readers, plus subject matter experts and influencers who are talking about topics you’re interested in. And how Twitter offers you access to all of them, giving you the freedom to hear what they say and share your own ideas with whoever wants to listen—no invitation required.

We talked about Twitter etiquette (don’t try to sell books directly; do interact with personal responses and re-tweets; don’t spam people with direct messages asking them to do things; do get personal and share relevant and interesting pieces of what you’re doing).

We talked about how to stay organized and not get overwhelmed by the flood of words scrolling across the screen.

I felt like most of the room was with me, but this one guy was not having any of it. “It’s all a waste of time,” he grumbled.

“Okay,” I said. “What isn’t a waste of time for you? What parts of sharing your work with readers do you find engaging?”

It turned out that he is a scientist involved in very detail-reliant research, which he regularly blogs about. He uses his blog to engage with others in his field (potential endorsers and influencers) and to share his ideas with the world.

We talked about ways to link his blog to Twitter, and how to use keyword searches and hashtags to find others who are also sharing their research and conclusions. I was looking for ways for him to humanize the complicated work he does.

He listened politely, but I could tell he wasn’t interested.

“Another option,” I told him, “is to just quit Twitter completely.”

Some birds just don't want to tweet

Some birds just don’t want to tweet.   (Photo by OC Always)

It wasn’t what he expected me—the teacher of a Twitter class—to say, but it was the best advice I could give. Because here’s the thing:

There are too many authors on Twitter—and Facebook, and Instagram, and Snapchat—because they think they have to be there. Someone told them that a marketing strategy MUST involve social media, and so they go grudgingly. But they don’t do it well. They treat their time there like a chore, not a social encounter. And it shows.

Bad social media marketing won’t work. It will feel shallow, and inane, and like a waste of time, because if you’re not doing it with a genuine interest in the other people who are there, it is a waste of time.

If you want to promote that book you’re writing, you must have a plan for how you’re going to market and support it. You have to establish yourself, publicly, as someone who readers will recognize and trust. (And no, your publisher isn’t going to do that for you; that’s not their job.)

But there’s no perfect, guaranteed template for book marketing. There’s no secret formula that if you combine two weekly Facebook posts with a daily tweet and quarterly sales promoted on Bookbub, you will sell enough books to pay off the mortgage. And with only twenty-four hours in a day, you can’t try all of the things that are working for other people.

So give yourself permission to say no to the things that don’t work for you.

If Twitter makes you miserable, don’t do it.

Now, before you wipe your hands and walk away, I do encourage you to genuinely try Twitter (or whatever marketing channel you’re avoiding) before you decide you don’t like it. Commit to spending a month seeking out the accounts of people who interest you and watching what they say. Spend one week paying attention to your own experiences, and identify 3-5 things per day that you do, or read, or think that would be relevant or interesting to the people who read (or will eventually read) your books. Try to engage with a few people, and see if a genuine conversation develops.

But then, if you still haven’t found your voice, and you’re still miserable, then let it go and find another way to reach your readers. Do more public speaking, spend more time creating a value-driven email newsletter, reach out to network with more influencers, pay for advertising, give books away to reviewers, or hire a sky writer.

Somewhere out there is a marketing channel that works for you.

A little bird on Twitter told me so.


Shameless plug: If you’re not sure where to start with your author marketing strategy, check out my book The Author’s Guide to Marketing: Make a Plan to Attract More Readers and Sell More Books (You May Even Enjoy It) 

And if you do tweet, you can find me @bethjusino


1 Comment
  1. Preach it. Now where can I find a sky writer for my platform?

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