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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  2. I'm learning to love Twitter--although I'm not as organized using it as you are. One other site I'd add is This lets you set up a series of posts and times well in advance and is great for promoting when you can't be at your computer. It also allows you to set up thank you and welcome messages to new followers, and revolve them so folks won't all be getting the same ones. There are so many other benies to this, it's worth a peek!

  3. Excellent Post! I tried the TwitDesigner but could NOT figure it out! lol I twitter but don't know that it is all that effective for me yet. Not that it needs to be...I'm an unpubbed gal, but I know in the future I will have to learn to do it right!

  4. I have to admit that Twitter is one spot I haven't gotten to yet. But this post makes it sound not too bad.

    Okay, goal for the week: Get signed up on Twitter. :)

  5. Great post. I'm on Twitter and hoping it'll help me reach new readers once my book comes out.

  6. @Linda: Thanks for adding the TweetLater link. I wanted to add it myself, but I've had some Internet issues this weekend. :?

    @Sherrinda: TwitDesigner took me a little bit of figuring too. If you ever want to try it again, give me a holler (you can use the contact box in the right-hand column) and I'll see if I can't walk you through it.

    @Lynnette: See you there!

    @Tam: Being on Twitter *before* the book comes out is definitely the right idea. Taking the time to build some relationships is the key to getting (and keeping) people interested in your books.

  7. Great post. Thanks for the info.

  8. You're welcome! Glad you got something out of it.

  9. Ooooh, that word (Twitter) makes me shiver. Does twittering take much time or is it less involved than blogging and the other social networking sites? I've been keeping my distance because I know have very little extra time to devote to an additional social networking thing. You seem very organized, however, and actually make it sound simple enough. I still don't quite understand it, though... :D

  10. You can spend as much or as little time on Twitter as you want. I check my account four or five times a day for five-ten minutes. Actually, I would suggest that it's a good social platform if you *don't* have a lot of time, since interaction is limited to 140 characters. It's networking on the go!

  11. Good post. I'm glad I got Twitter, because I met so many cool people (like you!), but I find it very addictive. Whenever I'm writing I always manage to find away on it.

  12. I agree! It's almost ridiculous how easy it is to connect and communicate with people who share your interests.

  13. I agreee. Especially with people all over the world.

  14. Alright, Katie. It's all your fault! LOL I'm now on twitter. I signed up as lynnettebonner and I'm currently following Danny Glover, (grin) - he was the only person in the list they started me with that I was interested in following :). So I'm not sure how to find people yet, but I'll go play with it and see if I can't figure it out. :) See you all there.

  15. I am on Twitter but I doubt that this is the most effective way for me to market my books. I have always gone by the motto that when something becomes really trendy, stay away. I believe that there are many more effective ways to promote books that will give me ten to twenty times the bang for your buck that Twitter will.

    Interestingly, when I was at Book Expo in New York in late May, at the Adams Media booth I picked up a postcard advertising a new book by Janelle Randazza to be released in October. It it called "Go Tweet Yourself: 365 Reasons Why Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Other Social Networking Sites Suck." I will definitely be reading it.

    Bestselling author Seth Godin says, "The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility, and build the connections you'll need later." Twitter may be one way, but I believe that there are many more ways that have a much greater "WOW FACTOR".

    Ernie Zelinski
    World's #1 Corporate Escape Artist
    Also World Class Author and Innovator
    Author of the Bestseller How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free
    (Over 100,000 copies sold and published in 7 foreign languages)
    and the International Bestseller The Joy of Not Working
    (Over 225,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  16. @ Ernie: Did Godin say how to build a following? We who are just starting out use whatever's free to us and Twitter is just one way we have to build a following(this post is the first of four parts).

    Mike Hyatt with Thomas Nelson Publishing just wrote an article about why TN's not going to any more book expos. I've never been to one. Would you be interested in telling us what they're like?

  17. @Lynnette: I'd start out by joining a Twibe and following the members. I add five new members a day, and since it's unspoken Twitter policy to follow back anyone (except spammers) who follows you, I've picked up lots of great followers this way.

    @Ernie: Twitter's just a very small piece of the puzzle. As it has grown more popular, it has also grown less personal and, thus, less effective. But it still carries it own heavy share of merit. I wouldn't write it off if I were you. (Although you do have me interested in that book you mentioned.)

  18. I am on twitter @terragarden and enjoy tweeting there for a few minutes each day. I look for people who interest me, especially readers, writers, Christians, gardeners, people who have cats, patriots, and since my book has the theme of celebrating Christmas, people who celebrate this holiday.

  19. Just ran by your Twitter profile page to make sure I was following you and noticed that you're up to to 2,000 followers. Way to go!

  20. You helped me soooo much with this post. I can't thank you enough! I needed a Twitter manager yesterday. Keep up the good work!

    Janalyn Voigt

  21. Excellent post. Thank you for sharing this info and your marketing experiences.

  22. You're very welcome. Glad you found them helpful.