Monday, 14 August 2017

Twitter: the writer's best friend?

This week, we are looking at an important online tool to help authors market their books: Twitter. Several of our authors are active on Twitter and it can be an invaluable aid to spreading the word about their books, blogs and other activities.

All writers who want to sell their work have to put some effort into marketing. It doesn't matter whether you are a big fish in a large genre pond or a very small fish in a small niche pond, some level of marketing is required of all authors. For example, well-known writers like John le Carré and Ian Rankin still have to do book launch tours and make public appearances even though their publishers can afford considerable budgets to market their books.

But where does social media come into the frame? And in particular, what value is Twitter to the writer and publisher? JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author, has a huge Twitter following and is a very active Tweeter; so is Ian Rankin of crime fiction fame. It seems clear that they are aware of its value to them as both authors and public figures, or they wouldn't use it. So how does Twitter work? And how can it help the lesser known authors and publishers?

With Twitter, you can reach thousands of potential readers, not only through building up your own followers, but through the activities of others too. It is a little like a pyramid. You start with one tweet (a brief message of 140 characters). This tweet is then re-tweeted (RTd) by a number of your followers, and may then be re-tweeted again by their followers. If, as can happen, your followers have several thousand followers of their own, the potential reach of your single tweet is enormous.

The trick, however, is to be a person and not just a tweeter and re-tweeter. It is fairly easy to build a large number of followers with a little time and effort. Twitter will suggest like-minded followers to you, and you can also find them by using hashtags that reflect your interest in your query field. For example, those who write and read memoirs will often use the hashtag #memoir to find other writers and readers they can follow, and who will hopefully follow them too. Once you start following others, they will most likely follow you too and you can start interacting with them. Such interaction is very important for the Tweeter. People buy from people first and foremost and if you come across as a friendly, generous and interesting person, you will start to build a following of genuinely interested people, rather than just collecting numbers.

Another important key to using Twitter well is to target your tweets, again by using hashtags. Val Poore, whose book Watery Ways focuses mainly on canal cruising, barges and boating, uses the hashtag #boatsthattweet to reach other boaters who might be interested in reading her book. She also uses other boating and travel related hashtags and she is convinced this has helped her to reach a wider audience than she would otherwise have done. Val has a list of boaters that she talks to regularly on Twitter and she has found they have not only bought her book, but are also generous in re-tweeting her marketing tweets, specifically those with the targeted hashtags.

Lastly, a 'pinned' tweet can also be useful as it helps your followers to support you. Make sure you create a tweet that you want people to RT for you and using the action options offered, pin your tweet to the top of your timeline. Followers visiting your page will be able to simply RT this tweet without having to scroll down to find one that's going to be of help to you. Try and change this now and then as your supporters could lose interest if they have to keep re-tweeting the same message.

As with all these tools, however, consistency is the key. It isn't necessary to spend hours a day on Twitter, but some designated time each day can bring its own rewards. Happy Tweeting everyone!

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