We are writers.
We sit at our desks—for some that may be a beautiful antique mahogany beast that grandpa used when he started his insurance business some one hundred years ago. For others it may be the Macbook they carry into their baby’s room while she naps, and for others it may be the good old pen and paper that writers have used for centuries.
While the process of writing has not changed, how you get your words out there has changed so monumentally that even as I write this, PR firms are closing, publishing houses are restructuring, and editors are questioning the job security they’ve enjoyed all these many years.
And why? Social media, baby.
Q: What is social media and why should we as writers even care about it? I imagine you are asking yourself the same questions I asked myself about one year ago—what does Twitter have to do with my story? How does A—my book—have anything to do with T—Twitter?
Let me break it down for you.
- As of June 2010, about 65 million tweets are posted each day, equaling about 750 tweets sent each second, according to Twitter records (Wikipedia, 2010).
- Twitter is about networking at its most basic level. Everyone in the writing business is on Twitter. Editors, publishers, reviewers, critics, readers, and of course, writers. You can choose to ignore Twitter but you risk losing relevance with an entire segment of readers.
- Social media also includes Goodreads, Facebook, as well as Linkedin. Are you on those too?
- Twitter is a perfect format to post writing samples where people can get a good feel of your writing style. *Don’t have a blog or website? You should. It’s free and easy. Check out Blogger or WordPress, the most popular blogging formats.
- Regardless of whether you publish independently or the traditional route, you need to start marketing your book NOW. Social media allows you to do that. Publishing houses no longer have the money to give you the big push; independent booksellers depend on you to fill the stores. The onus is on you to market yourself.
So how do you start?
I feel you really need to focus on five main points: branding, retweets, links, attention, and follows. I’ll review each here in detail.
Here are my suggestions:
1. BRANDING: Join Twitter with a cool, easily remembered name that relates to who you are as an author. Mine is @RachelintheOC. This easily cements not only my name but also my location in the world. Brand yourself up front. Use a picture of yourself. People want to know who you are. If you stick up a pic of your eye or a car, they don’t get the warm and fuzzies. Then, most importantly, stick with that picture. If you keep rotating your pic, you keep rotating your brand. Get it?
Pick three words that describe who you are as a writer. Yep, just three. Then write your tweets around those three concepts. If you’re all over the place, people will have a hard time identifying what you represent and will unfollow you—and every unfollow is a potential lost reader of your future book!
For example, my three words are Mancode, coffee, and parenting humor. The Mancode is something I started writing about earlier this year and has become by far my most popular subject in both my blog posts and tweets. My very first Mancode post, Men are from Seinfeld, Women are from Friends has been RT’d over 180 times with over 30 comments and innumerable tweet responses. The interest garnered from this subject has led me to start writing a Mancode memoir.
Point is, people now come to my Tweet stream and blog for my Mancode humor. If I start talking about say, the political situation in China, that might be a problem for me and my over 4,000 Twitter followers could drop like flies.
Bottom line: be consistent. Stay positive, make friends, use the golden rule.
- Join writer’s groups! I cannot stress this enough. Get yourself out there. Use your genre as a starting point. Find other writers in your same genre and hit them up! Those are easy follows.
2. RETWEETS and HASHTAGS
A retweet (or RT) is when you resend something out those interests you, or someone does the same for you. RTs take up extra space because Twitter names, or handles, have to be included so in actuality you really only have 120 characters or less if you want someone to RT your tweet. Keep that in mind when crafting your tweets: 120 or bust. (You can use Twitlonger for longer tweets, though that requires additional clicks which some folks just won’t do and is something you shouldn’t count on.)
As a writer, I find the 120 rule to be the ultimate of flash challenges—be witty, pithy, and wise—just do it in 120 characters or less. And hey, while you’re at it, leave room for someone else, could ya?
Did you thank that person who RT’d you? You should. That’s part of the golden rule, my friend.
HASHTAGS are great for two reasons: they are a shorthand way to tell others what the heck you (or someone else) is talking about without a long-winded explanation, which we just don’t have room for in 120 characters (remember: 120 or bust). For example: You could be talking about say, memoirs. Instead of having to explain in every tweet that you’re talking about memoirs, you simply do this: #memoirs. Now, isn’t that much easier?
You can also use hashtags to search on a particular topic. Simply click on a hastagged topic inside a tweet and every item that has been written about that topic will come up, links and everything. So say you want to search on something very specific, say someone’s name, a public event, a disorder—really anything—could come up. Kind of like a mini-search engine for Twitter.
3. LINKS I spoke about RTs above. If you want to increase your rate of RTs, you need to shorten your links. What does that mean exactly? What is a link? Say you have a blog post that you want people to read so you click on the URL up in the corner and hit copy. You figure you’ll just paste it into your tweet and hit send, right? Wrong. Because of the space limitations of Twitter, and the fact that you want to stay within those 120 space or bust limits, you need to get in the habit of always shortening your links.
How? Super easy. I use bit.ly or owl.y (which is affiliated with Hootsuite) but you can use tiny.url or really any shortener that you are comfortable with. Several of them are integrated into the most popular Twitter clients like Tweetdeck. Bit.ly is easy, free, and it tracks lots of analytical stuff for you, if you like that sort of thing. The most important thing is that you do it, otherwise your tweets will use bit.ly suffer from newbie disease.
Thank me later.
4. ATTENTION You probably feel as if no one is paying attention to you when you first start out on Twitter. It takes a lot of effort and interaction. RT others you admire. Don’t spam (repeat the same tweets over and over). Don’t RT your own long links. Be witty. Read a lot of other people, stay positive, comment occasionally, start slow. Here’s the thing: nobody’s paying attention until you screw up—then everyone is.
- I’m a founding member of @IndieBookIBC aka the IndieBookCollective which is a super resource for any writer, already published or new to the industry, to learn how to get your book published without the middleman. We can teach you more of the techniques learned above in a FREE webinar workshop format starting in mid-October! Our workshop schedule will be posted on our website and on our stream so check us out and sign up.
- Our founding members @WritingNoDrama and @kaitnolan are indie published (except for myself—I’m at the WIP stage) and bring a wealth of resources to the table. We have guest posts weekly from an array of writers that have been out there, forging their path in the indie world. We’re also working with editors and publishers to help you have the most up-to-date info and resources.
5. FOLLOWS: Make it a goal to reach 2,000 followers within two months of joining Twitter. That’s considered the industry standard and is easily attainable if you know how.
- Why join our collective? I myself have gone from 600 targeted followers to over 4,000 since March using the same techniques we’re teaching you and I prune my stream weekly. My blog hits have gone from 80 to over 2,000/month. I’m building my fan base while I write my book.
Building a social media platform takes work. It’s not hard work though, and clearly the payoff can result in dollars in your pocket when your book comes out. Following = fan base = readers.
Now, I haven’t even covered #MentionMonday (#MM), #WriterWednesday (#WW), or #FollowFriday (#FF) which can really help you to discover and earn more followers. I’ll save that for my next post. Or to learn more, check out the workshops mentioned above.
If you’re going the traditional route, agents will look at your Twitter stream and blog to see what kind of following you have. Indie booksellers want to know what you bring to the table and expect you to fill signings. If you can’t answer these questions, you have a real problem. But one that we can help you solve.
Your writing is what gets you noticed, but your hustle is what will sell books.
You can make Twitter work for you. I have.
Rachel Thompson is hard at work on her memoir The Mancode: A Survivor’s Tale based on her eighteen-year marriage. When she’s not tweeting, she’s chasing her two kids around, searching for coffee, or attempting to enjoy a vodka martini–dirty, extra olives. Based on the fact that Rachel is a pale redhead living in a sea of blondes in Orange County, CA, and that she doesn’t drive a luxury car or have a plastic surgeon on speed dial, she’s waiting for her pink slip any day now.
Cruise by our website. Check us out. Join the collective and see you next week!
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