I’ve recently seen a few online conversations about the role of social media in book promotion, particularly the impact of Twitter for authors, and these discussions generated a whole bunch of thoughts about how effective this platform can be for writers.
As a reader, book blogger and digital marketing professional, I come across author tweets all the time – some amazingly effective and others not so much. I’ve bought tons of books after seeing authors tweet about them. Sometimes this is because of their voice, and sometimes it’s because the subject captures my interest. If there’s lots of hype, I’ll always check the author’s Twitter account before making a purchase.
So do writers need to be on Twitter?
Generally, from my perspective, I’d say yes. There are exceptions and of course, not every writer is on Twitter, but there’s an active book community on the platform looking for regular inspiration so you may lose some of this market if you opt out. And if you don’t have a digital presence anywhere else, Twitter is one of the easiest social media outlets to maintain. It still takes effort though, and readers appreciate this, so don’t feel obliged to post multiple times a day.
It’s better to tweet quality content a few times a week, rather than hastily pump out a few half-hearted updates or retweet stuff just to fill the void. Here are some of things I notice as a reader, as well as a few social media tips that I use in my own job as an arts marketer.
1. Interact with readers
No matter how many times you tweet, personal engagement with someone who has read and loved your book will gain you a fan for life. Bestselling authors Stuart Turton and M.R. Carey don’t post often, but when they do, they acknowledge great reviews and reply to their followers. This creates real loyalty and connection.
2. Be mindful of your audience
As someone who has been a part of the writing community, I know how easy it is to join in with book industry chat on Twitter and sometimes these discussions include rants. I’m sure that many readers don’t mind it when their favourite writers talk shop, but I much prefer hearing about the books.
When you get published, you move from a circle of friends into a wider sphere. Remember to consider your readers when you tweet. What are they interested in? How can you spark their curiosity? You don’t have to be a sales machine. In fact, its better if you don’t directly push your books, but do mention them and the part they play in your lives. Remember that we see all your tweets – even the ones that aren’t really directed at us.
3. Share useful content
Following on from the above, aim to share content that will bring value to your readers. And no, this doesn’t mean constantly re-posting special offers to try and sell your books. Things we like to see:
- Information relating to your subject or themes
- Fan artwork
- Your reading lists
- Relevant news or research features
- Funny anecdotes
- Fascinating inspirations
- Strange hobbies (or even normal ones)
You don’t have to be totally positive all the time, but too much doom and gloom probably isn’t going to sell books either. Readers want to see your successes, find out more about what makes you tick and are keen to learn from you, particularly if you’re a non-fiction author. Advice for aspiring authors is always welcome too.
4. Ask questions
Ask your Twitter audience questions. Perhaps you’re looking for reading recommendations, travel inspiration or bizarre stories? If so, reach out to your fanbase. This not only generates chat, it also creates fascinating threads for others to follow.
5. Include images where possible
Photos bring posts to life so try to include these in posts occasionally. We’re nosy so want to see your favourite pens, notepads, writing places, bookshops and travel destinations etc. You can edit these within Twitter by clicking on the brush icon in the bottom right-hand corner and landscape format is best (at the moment). Although GIFs can be popular too, many of them have been over-used so go easy on these.
6. Don’t feel you have to promote every author’s publication news on Twitter
This is a really tough one to navigate. Although it’s lovely that the writing community is so supportive, it doesn’t really make me want to buy a book. I realise I may be in the minority here, but excessive congratulatory tweets and promotional boosts make me switch off after a while. I’m more likely to be swayed by a carefully-crafted recommendation.
7. Consider what you want to achieve as an author from your Twitter platform
Twitter can be a unwanted distraction for lots of authors so think about what you really want from the platform before you start to promote yourself. Your publisher should be able to help you with this, and if not, then come up with a plan yourself. Do you have other channels that you prefer? It may be that you decide to post once or twice a week, and ramp it up a few months before publication. Jot down some targets, and ideas for posts in advance. Give yourself a 10 minute slot for posting each day and stick to it.
8. Check your Twitter Analytics to maximise content
If you want to reduce your time on Twitter, while still maximising your account, it might be worth checking out Twitter Analytics. To see your metrics, access Twitter on a desktop and you will see the option More at the base of the navigation menu on the left-hand side. When you click this, you should be able to enable Analytics. This shows you your top tweets and top followers. It’s not worth obsessing about the stats (unless you really want to!), but these will give you insights into which content works best for you. You can then use these as a guide for future posts.
9. Find your niche
Some authors like Stephen King, Joanne Harris and Neil Gaiman are gifted at Twitter banter – partially because they’ve had a lot of practice (and are fantastic writers). It’s not like that for most people though, especially when social media is way down at the bottom of your priority list. To get around this, think about carving a couple of niches that are related to your writing. These shouldn’t be the sole focus of your account, but they can form its backbone – giving your account a clear identity and drawing in followers who share your interests.
10. Don’t be afraid to take a break on Twitter
Everyone needs to take a break from social media occasionally, especially if you have multiple platforms on the go. Although, you may lose a few followers, it’s important to weigh this up against the benefits you’ll gain from having a breather. If you don’t have any major announcements on the horizon, work out how long you need, announce that you’re leaving for a while and then prep up a few special posts before you return. Updates move so quickly online that most people might not even notice that you’ve gone.