Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thursday Tips: Tweet to your advantage

11 Twitter Tips for Authors:
Hi everyone! I've been a Twitter-o-holic for about four years now. In fact Twitter informs me that I've tweeted something like 16,600 times(!). I owe a lot in my writing life to Twitter: it's where I found my trusted circle of beta readers, it's where I found my literary agent, and it's where I've connected to so many other authors who've shared opportunities and information with me.
As you can guess, I'm a huge fan of Twitter! So I thought I'd take a moment and share a little of what I've learned. Hopefully there's something here that every author can use, whether you're published yet or not, already active on Twitter, or debating whether to join. (This is all based on my personal experience and what's worked best for me.) So remember, as with everything in writing and publishing, there is no one right way. we go!

1. Twitter is about making connections, not about selling books.
Yup. If you join Twitter thinking people are going to flock to your feed and you'll sell millions, think again. Fellow tweeters respond to actual interaction. Your goal here is to make friends first, which will ultimately help you sell books. And this leads to . . .

2. Be real. Use your personality.
Okay, that's two tips in one. You're so getting your money's worth here! Wait, this is free. Never mind. Anyhow, what should you tweet about? Tweet about drafting and editing. Join the conversation on the #amwriting or #amediting hashtags. Tweet about books you've read and enjoyed (and tag the authors!). Talk about other things that interest you. Respond to other writers' tweets about books and writing and well, anything. Just don't -- and I repeat don't -- tweet direct sales pitches for your book. (See Tips #4 and #7 for when and how to do sales pitches.) Genuinely interacting with other writers on Twitter is what will make you friends. And friends are what we're after here. These are the people who will help spread your good news and who will exchange marketing opportunities with you. You want them in your corner!

3. Lurk for a while.
This is for the newbie Twitter users out there. I get that it's overwhelming. And I get that you feel the need to jump in right away. But, my biggest piece of advice is to create an account, and then lurk for a while. Follow people who interest you. Find your favorite authors and follow them. Interested in self-publishing? Follow the big names there. Want to check out traditional publishing? Follow agents who represent your genre(s). Curious about small presses? Follow them and their editors. Follow people who organize writing contests, follow those who give solid writing and publishing advice, follow people who are interesting to you! And take some mental notes about how they tweet. Then, when you're ready, finish setting up your profile and start interacting with them. Wait, a profile? That takes us to . . .
4. The necessaries.
You need a real picture, not the generic egg, or else you'll look like a bot. Profile pictures that'll make you look professional: your author photo or your book cover (if you're published). If you don't have those and don't want to use a selfie, put up something that reflects your personality but still looks professional: your dog, your coffee mug, a stack of your favorite books. You need a link to your website in the website linky spot. You need that big banner behind your profile pic to actually have something in it. (If you're published, this is a great spot to show off all those book covers or a close-up of that gorgeous cover art!) And your profile blurb needs to be professional. This means you should include something about what genres you write, the title of at least one book (if you're published), name of your publisher (if you're with a publisher), and something that'll make you seem human (this can be something funny or something you love or whatever strikes your fancy -- just keep it professional). And for the love of the sweet baby Jesus, avoid the hashtags in your profile, unless they're conversation-related. (See why and what I mean about conversation-related in Tip #9.) Finally, you need a pinned tweet. This is the tweet that'll show up at the top of your feed whenever someone clicks on your profile. Here is a great place to sell your book! How you do that is up to you. I change mine every month or so, and I don't always do a direct pitch. For instance, my pinned tweet as I write this is a picture of ARCs of my upcoming book. So you've got your necessaries. Now what?

5. Don't Sell. Engage.
Yup, I already said this, but it bears repeating. Constant sales pitches are why people will unfollow you on Twitter. You do not want to be that writer who thinks Twitter is their own personal used car sales lot. Instead, you want to be that awesome person everyone invites to their parties because they say fascinating things and are genuinely interested in other people. DO: respond to other people's tweets, share others' good news, share your own good news (see Tip #7 on how to do this), talk about stuff that isn't related to books or writing, encourage people who seem to need encouragement, be a joiner (whether it's writing contests or a call for blog posts or someone asking for book suggestions or whatever). DON'T: auto-DM new followers (unless you want to be immediately unfollowed), get stalkery and respond to everything someone else tweets, tweet grumpy stuff, join in Twitter flame wars, get upset if people don't respond to all of your tweets. Basically: Do unto others and be positive. Always. Save your rants about the guy who cut you off this morning for your personal Facebook page.

6. Know your audience.
This is really important. And it changes depending on where you are in your writing and publishing journey. When I started on Twitter, I was pre-published and my audience was other writers. And that was about it. So we commiserated about querying and revisions and plot bunnies and it was all great fun. Then I became published. Suddenly, my audience also included parents of readers, teachers, librarians, book bloggers, my editors, my agent. Let's just say I do a lot less complaining these days because I'm super aware of how these people will perceive me on Twitter. And because I write children's books, I'm conscious of my language and the content of my tweets. Not because kids will see them, but because the people who might buy my books for kids will see them. I don't get political on Twitter. I don't get involved in any arguments on Twitter. Twitter is my public face and it remains professional. But, because I write funny books, I let that side shine. I joke with writer friends and tweet silly things that happen to me. The takeaway here? Marry your professional self with your human self in a way that'll appeal to -- and not alienate -- your audience.

7. The Three-Times-Per-Day Rule.
Okay, so say something awesome happens. Your book is out! You've got a great new post on your blog! You win an award! Yay!!! Of course you want to share this with your Twitter pals. And you can -- carefully. For one day (ONLY one day), tweet the news three times. Once in the morning, once at mid-day, and once in the evening. That's it. Why? Because since you've been interacting with people and being interesting and non-sales-pitchy and therefore building up your followers and friendships, these people will help you spread the news. They'll be excited for you and retweet it and reply to you. Your news will spread without you coming across as HEY LOOK AT ME BUY MY BOOK! See how awesome this is? Speaking of retweets . . .

8. Don't go retweet crazy.
Because it's annoying and people will unfollow you if you fill their feed with sixteen retweets in a row. Instead, carefully select what you want to retweet. Make sure it'll appeal to your audience. Retweet people's good news, or something funny they've said, or the link to a useful blog post. But here's the catch -- don't just retweet it. Be sure to add a little something in the comment space above your retweet about why you're retweeting this. People are far more likely to click, engage, or retweet if you make it personal.

9. Hold the hashtags, Heather.
Have you ever seen a tweet like this? "Buy my #book! #Thriller #Romance #Suspense On #sale for $7.99 on #kindle, #nook, #kobo! #deal #amazon #authors" Can you even read that? It looks even worse on Twitter with all the hashtagged words showing up in a different color. You can bet people's eyes will glaze right over it before they move on to something more interesting. Bottom line: no one clicks on non-conversation-oriented hashtags, so you're wasting your time and possibly annoying your followers for nothing. When should you use a hashtag? Only when you're engaging in a conversation. For example, I use #5amwritersclub when I'm chatting with tweeps writing at 5 a.m. Or #pitchwars when I'm talking about the Pitch Wars writing contest. Or #amwriting when I want to chat with other people who are drafting. Why use hashtags then? Because the hashtag will make sure your tweet shows up not only in that specific hashtag's feed on Twitter, but also in programs like TweetChat, which people use to isolate and participate in Twitter conversations. It's harder for people to respond to you in these conversations if you forget the hashtag.

10. Check out your stats.
At the bottom of each of your tweets, there are a group of vertical bars that look like the old iPhone signal bars. Click on that, and it'll show you how many people saw your tweet, how many clicked on it to expand it, how many then clicked your profile, how many commented or liked your tweet, and how many clicked a link you included. You can use this to help gauge what time of day is best for reaching people and what kinds of tweets people find most interesting. Also, on your profile page, there's a "Your Tweet Activity" graph that'll show how interactions vary from day to day. And followers? Don't stress if you lose some. There are a ton of bots on Twitter that'll follow and unfollow you and mess with your numbers. Best advice is not to pay attention to your number of followers at all. 

11. Have fun! And disengage when you need to.
Everyone needs a social media break every once in a while. I love Twitter, but I can admit that it gets tiring and overwhelming. Sometimes everyone else's good news can make you feel not so great about yourself and your work. Take time off if you need it. Your followers aren't going anywhere.
I'm on Twitter as @gailecn. Tweet me about this post, and I'll be sure to follow you back!

My Bio:
Gail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She once drove a Zamboni, has camped in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris.
Gail is the author of the Aladdin/S&S middle grade novels BREAKING THE ICE, the YOU'RE INVITED series (co-authored with Jen Malone), and the upcoming OUT OF TUNE (11/8/16) and SEVEN SIDES TO EVERY STORY (co-authored, Summer 2017). She is also the author of the young adult novel, EXIT STAGE LEFT (Epic Reads Impulse/HarperCollins).
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Buy Links:
EXIT STAGE LEFT (ages 14+)
BREAKING THE ICE (ages 8-13)
YOU'RE INVITED series (ages 8-13)
OUT OF TUNE (ages 8-13; available for pre-order)
Gail Nall
Author of Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction
Books for Ages 8-13 (with Aladdin/Simon & Schuster):
Breaking The Ice (available now);You're Invited (available now) and You're Invited Too (available now); Out of Tune (November 8th, 2016); Seven Sides to Every Story (Summer 2017)
Books for Ages 14+ (with EpicReads Impulse/HarperCollins):
Exit Stage Left (available now)
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