Monday, July 6, 2009

Viral Marketing, Pt. 1 of 4: Twitter

When you think about it, the writing life really isn’t fair. Here you are slaving away over your masterpiece of a Great American Novel, sweating over it for months, years even, until it’s the most perfect piece of literature you can imagine. Then you give yourself copious gray hairs and bite your nails to the quick waiting for your query letters to finally turn up a positive answer. You corral the agent, the agent corrals the editor, until finally—voila!—you’re published. Now the only thing you’ll have to worry about for the rest of your life is writing the Great American Sequel, while your huge publishing company does its job and sells a hundred bazillion copies of your book. Easy-peasy, right?

I have three small words for you: Not so fast.

In the rapidly and sometimes painfully evolving world of book publishing, the reality of success is a long, hard road of learning how to toot our own horns and promote our own books. Another reality is that few authors are natural born marketers. Most of us are much more comfortable hiding behind our keyboards than we are touting our wares under the guise of a marketer. Add to that the fact that both writing and marketing are full-time jobs unto themselves and you’ve got three more words: Life’s not fair. Successful author Judy Winter notes:

…I’ve discovered that the ongoing demands of promotion often leave little time and energy for authors to do what they do best: write. For a creative soul, that can be incredibly frustrating. But if authors want to ensure their works remain alive and viable in the publishing world, wearing the promotion hat cannot be avoided.

Fair or not, writers who aren’t willing to get their hands dirty and learn to market their own works aren’t going to make a success of themselves. But there is a bit of good news in the midst of all this sickening reality, and that is that marketing (art form though it may be) is actually very user friendly. Earlier this year, when I finally got serious about my own marketing, I tackled it head-on and have been delighted to discover that this is something I really can do. And if a grumpy introvert like me can do it, anyone can!

In this post and the ones to follow throughout the month, I’m going to share just a few of the many tricks I’ve learned as I’ve stumbled my way through the wasteland of self-promotion. Please feel free to share your own experiences: what’s worked and what hasn’t. We’re all learning how best to market our work, and it’s important that we pool our experience so that we can each build the best marketing strategy possible.


With its seemingly random and chaotic stream of tweets, Twitter can be more than a little bewildering at first. But it’s actually one of the easiest and most far-reaching networking platforms. Since joining Twitter, my blog stats have nearly doubled. A few tips:

  • Download TweetDeck. This is the best manager for Twitter I’ve found, primarily because it allows you to divide your followers into groups, so you can cut down on the static and focus on the people who are worth your time.
  • Make your tweets personal. The biggest secret to successful networking is to keep your interaction focused on the people and not the advertising. Ninety percent of your tweets should be self-promotion free.
  • Make your tweets valuable. Don’t just tweet aimlessly about what you’re having for lunch. Give people what they want, and they will come back for more. Being the schedule-dependent person I am, I’ve come up with a mini tweeting schedule to make sure I’m consistent: 9:00 a.m.: My latest blog link. 12:30 p.m.: “Question of the Day” (these writing-related questions have proven very popular). 2:00 p.m.: Link to a helpful writing-related site. 4:00 p.m.: A “status line” about something I’m doing that day or some observation I’ve made. 6:00 p.m.: Quote about writing. The rest of my tweets are responses to others. I’m always on the lookout for tweeple with whom I can interact, and I’ve established some very enjoyable contacts.

Helpful links: Free Twitter Designer: Design your own professional-looking background. Backgrounds often separate the pros from the rest of the pack.

Twitter Counter: Keep track of your stats.

Tiny URL: Shorten long website addresses so they fit within the 140-character tweet limit.

InRev TwitIn: Manage your follower list at a glance.

TwiTip: Receive daily tips on how to maximize your Twitter experience.

Part 2: We talk about utilizing other social media sites, including Facebook.

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