Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Business of Writing: 7 Dos and Don'ts of Twitter Marketing for Authors #MFRWOrg

Marketing meme c2016 by Kim Headlee.
Woman jumping rope photo c2015 by undrey
Depositphotos ID 73127357.
Welcome to Twitter Marketing for Authors 101 on The Maze!

Today you get to benefit from my observations of what has and has not worked for me, marketing-wise, on Twitter over the past couple of years. Why is this important?

As a general rule, a reader will not take a chance on buying the work of a new-to-them author until s/he has seen mention of the book or author at least seven times. Twitter is great for improving those odds, especially if you can build a network of faithful retweeters. 

Contrary to popular belief, Twitter can result in sales—or at least, increased click-throughs to your author page or your book's product page. This exposure is what marketing is all about. Any resulting sales after that are pure gravy.

I'm going to start with the "Don'ts" because I'm contrary that way. :D

  1. Don't assume that there is any privacy in Twitter, even in Direct Messages. Structure your tweets and messages as if you're broadcasting them to the entire universe, including your Mom. Okay, so this isn't strictly marketing, but you can damage your author brand if you tweet something that you really didn't want being seen by God and everyone.
  2. Don't start a tweet with someone's Twitter handle (@whatever), because the tweet will be seen only by you, @whatever, and mutual followers of you and @whatever. Just a single character ("." is common) in front of the "@" will increase your tweet's reach many times over. Most of the time, I try to start the tweet with a word of thanks or other type of greeting.
  3. Don't #use #hashtags #too #much #in #your #tweets. It's annoying as #Hell and can make the tweet hard to read depending on your display settings. And #don't punctuate #hash-tags because that creates something you #didn't intend ("#don", "#hash", and "#didn", for example). You can, however, take advantage of this functionality to punctuate your Twitter handle, creating tweets like:
    Read all of @KimHeadlee's books because they're fantastic!
    Note: An underscore ("_") character may be used to separate words; for example, #Be_the_story, but that can be more trouble than mashing the words together, as in #BeTheStory. Those two examples do yield different Twitter searches; try it!
  4. Don't tweet/retweet nothing but stuff about your books. That gets real boring real fast. Bored followers are not engaged followers.
  5. Don't send out automated "Buy my book"/"Like my Facebook page"/"Connect with me on LinkedIn"/"Anything else" Direct Messages to new followers. Twitter's DM system is clunky and too annoying to live, especially with the lifting of the length restrictions. I (probably) will never unfollow anyone for sending me an unsolicited DM, whether automated or not, but I most certainly will never buy your book/like your Facebook page/connect with you on LinkedIn/anything else just because you commanded me to do so in your DM. And if you insist on keeping your automatic "welcome" DM, go ahead and keep it long winded too. That's an automatic guarantee that I won't read any of it as I'm activating the "Delete" function.
  6. #KASIWC by @KimHeadlee
  7. Don't automatically follow everyone who has followed you just because it's convenient and you're pressed for time. That can lead to some very questionable content showing up in your Twitter feed or DM inbox. As a rule, I do not follow anyone who offers to sell me followers on any platform, any account where either the profile or cover pic looks creepy or stalker-y, any account that has not yet tweeted anything, any account wherein all the tweets beg for money, any account that doesn't tweet at least something in English, or if the account's "about" statement or tweets or retweets violate my ethical code. It's a rare day when I look at my Twitter feed anymore; I usually go straight to notifications and start retweeting from there. Even so, I don't want questionable content in my feed, or as an excuse for someone to send me yet another unsolicited DM begging for something from me.
  8. Don't use common handles (such as @amazon) or hashtags (such as #Kindle) in your tweets. The former is an utter waste of tweet space because nobody monitoring @amazon is going to care about =your= lone tweet, let alone retweet it, and your book will get lost in the ginormous pile of #Kindle-tagged (or #romance-tagged, etc.) tweets in about four nanoseconds. The object is to go for hashtag uniqueness. Click on #KASIWC if you have any question about how well this technique works.
  1. Do check out a new follower's profile. If appropriate, retweet something of theirs or send him/her/it a direct tweet (just keep in mind Don't #2, above), and then follow the account back, because the more accounts you follow, the faster your following will grow. I admit this can be time consuming, however, and antsy people may unfollow you if you don't follow them in half a heartbeat, but in case you haven't noticed, there are PLENTY of birds in the Twitterverse sky. And the antsy people may follow you again anyway, especially if your content is worth following. For the record, I try to check my followers list once a day, usually in the evening (ET), so if you have followed my @KimHeadlee Twitter account, please be patient; I'll get to you! You shouldn't be antsy as a writer anyway. :D
  2. Do engage personally with your followers whenever appropriate, and perhaps include a link to your book or author page if they have left a clue in their profile or tweets/retweets indicating that they might genuinely be interested in your work. Failure to perform this bit of basic research and social media etiquette can cause you to run the risk of being branded as a spammer by having too many users block your account or lodge complaints about you to Twitter Support.
  3. Do set up worldwide Amazon links for your books and author page to increase your odds of landing foreign sales. A great site for this is, because they allow you to specify your own Amazon Associates ID for any business unit where you might have one (US, UK, CA, etc.). I do get a fair number of affiliate sales that way, and you can too.
  4. Do include balanced content in your tweets, such as blog posts about hobbies and pictures that interest you, other writers' tips, and so forth. A great way to do this, if you blog (and if you don't, read why you should HERE), is by setting up a free account at and then becoming a member of "tribes" of like-minded bloggers. After having been on Triberr for more than a year now, I am a member of 30+ tribes not including my own, I have 1K tribemates (other bloggers to potentially share my posts), a combined Twitter network reach of 14M (solo, my Twitter follower list is >14K at present), and within the first six months, my daily blog views increased one hundred fold. I don't care how bad you think you are at math (which is a fallacy since mathematics and language are processed in the same region of the brain ;-), that's a LOT of increased exposure.
  5. Do set up cross-posting to Twitter with your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. This is another way to vary your content (unless all you're doing is a 24x7 infomercial about your work on those platforms too; see Don't #4, above).
  6. Do establish a free account at or other such tool that allows you to easily manage your follower and following lists. My personal preference is to unfollow anyone who has unfollowed me the instant I follow them, because I'm not on Twitter to feed anyone's ego but my own. (Hey, ya can't fault a gal for exercising Truth in Advertising! :D)
  7. Do establish a free account at or other such tool for scheduling tweets (my personal rule of thumb is one of my book-related tweets per hour), and save all your tweets as Drafts so you can tweet them again, using Hootsuite's link shortener, from time to time.

    If you have hundreds of reusable tweets, as I do, then I also recommend backing them up somehow. I use Excel, with separate tabs for each novel plus one for "other" tweets (my profile and web site pages, newsletter signup, etc.), and I have recently added a date/time column corresponding with the date/time I created the draft tweet in Hootsuite so I can find it more easily when I want to change it or use it.

    There are other such services out there (, for example), but Hootsuite is in bed with Twitter and stands a much better chance of surviving what I have dubbed the "TwittRNazi App Pogroms." I've done the independent third-party-app route, and I have way too many tweets to risk going with a tool that might be shut down without notice or forethought. (Having Hootsuite recently chop a character off the "allowed" limit for plain text in scheduled tweets that include a link—without notice, and in spite of the fact that Twitter itself didn't raise its 23-character link size algorithm to 24—was annoying enough.)

    I haven't yet opted for the paid Hootsuite upgrade; if anyone has anything positive (or negative, for that matter) to say about whether their paid service has been worth it, I would love to hear about it in the comments!

There are a few other Twitter marketing trends I've seen lately, such as "quoting" (read, "hijacking") someone's tweet just to include a link to your totally unrelated item. Sometimes I retweet those and sometimes I don't, depending on how many of those I get in my notifications, how annoyed I am either by the hijack itself or if one of my cats has just crash-landed on top of me (I work underneath their tall perch, so this happens more often than you might think :D), and whether Jupiter is aligned with Mars.

Given a choice between receiving an automated Direct Message and an automated "welcome" tweet, I much prefer the latter—and most DMs I receive get deleted unread—but whether or not I retweet your "welcome" tweet depends upon its content and if I can use it to help balance the content of my Twitter output. Usually I'm happy to do so, but there have been exceptions too.

Thus endeth Twitter Marketing 101 for Authors. 
Happy writing, marketing, and tweeting!

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  1. Hi Kim: Great advice. I did use the paid option of Hootsuite a long while back. You could upload Tweets in Bulk (although you needed to follow a very specific style sheet in excel format), the problem being that this had to be uploaded every day and it did not solve my problems of possibly being out of range and with no access to Wi-fi for lengthy periods of time. It also meant either creating several different collections of tweets or having to always repeat the same ones in the same order, that I felt was equivalent to Spam. I went back to the free version after a few months. I didn't see any positive results when I used it, but perhaps it has been changed since. I have used TweetJukeBox (I still do) but it became less reliable before it went from beta into a paid option and now I've moved on to Feed140 for playlists. That allows to alternate tweets and mix them and match and it can be set on continuous only sending a certain number of tweets per day.

    1. Olga, thank you so much for sharing your fantastic observations. I'm with you -- although I can make Excel bark in three different languages, I will not pay Hootsuite to generate what could be construed as spam.

      I learned about Tweetjukebox from one of your posts last year; now I'm going to have to check into Feed140! Just from the home page, it does look promising.

  2. I get a kick out of reading your posts on these topics, and I learn something every time. I use Hootsuite Pro, and it's because the paid version lets me upload tweets and schedule them in bulk. I do a month at a time and it saves me a ton of time. Your mileage may vary depending on how often you tweet. Thank you for covering the #issue #with #hashtags! Excellent advice!

    1. #I #know #right??? :D
      Thanks for stopping by, Kayelle, and I'm glad I can help!

  3. Great advice!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Tweeted and pinned to Writing Process board.

  4. Thanks Kim #5 is my pet peeve, #6 makes sense.
    Una Tiers

    1. LOL, I presume you mean "Don't #5" -- it's my pet peeve too. It wouldn't be so bad if the Twitter Direct Message interface was something within shouting distance of being useful. Thanks for visiting today! :)


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