Sorry, authors, but if you’re not using Twitter, you’re doing the writing thing all wrong. Well, there’s also the chance that you don’t care about selling books or that you’re Thomas Pynchon. If those two don’t apply to you, think about it this way: Stephen King doesn’t struggle to move a few copies, and he does the Twitter thing really well despite not needing it to achieve a new level in his career. Sure, building up your account, getting followers, staying connected, being entertaining, and spending time on Twitter all sound more like work than fun, but the fact remains that Twitter is a great social networking site that allows you to connect with people in different ways and can be used as a marketing tool much more regularly, and successfully, than Facebook. In any case, I want you to sell books, so here are some things you need to do:
- Be a human. People hate bots. If you tweet a link to your book and disappear, you’ll probably get silence in reply. Be there. Interact with people. Reply to things. Retweet things you dig. You’ve probably heard a lot about “becoming a brand,” and Twitter is the perfect place to do it. Go look at Danger Slater and the amount of funny stuff he tweets. Go look at Brian Keene. The man probably has ten times more deadlines that you do, but he’s great at being on Twitter, replying to fans, giving his followers various types of content, and letting them feel like they’re part of whatever he has going on at the moment.
- Remember that community building is not about you. It’s nice when someone shares your tweet with their followers, right? Well, repay the favor. I’m not saying that Twitter should be a huge quid pro quo, but when you let folks know that you’re there for them, some of them will decided to be there for you. Support other authors and maybe karma will do its thing. This is one of the elements that makes Twitter superior to Facebook in terms of getting new eyes on your work. Let’s say someone with 1,000 followers retweets your book. Not everyone will see it, but some new eyes might. Then, maybe one of those people who just discovered you digs what you do and decides to click that retweet button. This easy way of sharing things means that your tweets can be ignored three times in a row, but then you nail the perfect tweet at the perfect time of day and six retweets later 1,500 people have seen your original tweet. Sorry, not all of them will buy the book, but if one or two do, you’re already winning.
- Leave the anger at home. I’m sure you have all kinds of opinions about Hillary and Trump and guns and everything else, but that’s what Facebook is for. Go there and get in arguments with idiots whose minds you won’t change if that’s your thing. Twitter is different. Be funny. Be engaging. Be entertaining. Need to sulk? Wanna complain about how hard writing is and how awful rejection is and how much editing sucks? Go ahead, but make sure that shit you’re saying is funny or entertaining because the second you start repeating the same complaints everyone else has, you’re no longer worth following. The one thing most authors don’t seem to understand is that negativity turns people off. If I check out your tweet and it makes my day a bit better, I might click on your profile to see what else you’re up to. If you’re spewing venom and hate the world, I’m gonna go look old MadTV episodes on YouTube because fuck your negativity.
- Learn how to use the damn thing. Links are great, but so are images, articles , and videos. The more varied your content, the more people you will appeal to as a brand. Think about what you like to share and share it. Then think about a tweet that made you clink on a link. Why did it work? Figure it out and then try it yourself. Make a few images with your book cover. Write blurbs over some photographs (check those copyrights!).
- Don’t fear a little work. You know how you check your Amazon rankings obsessively? Well, now you will have to use some of that time to study Twitter analytics. They’re easy to read and almost immediate, so you can learn what works and what doesn’t pretty quickly. Send out a tweet at 3:00pm and see how it does. Send something similar out at midnight and compare the two. One tweet was ignored and the other one got 30 interactions. What was the difference between them? Was it content, time, something else? Pay attention and take notes. Also, read about the best times to post if you have time to do it. Schedule your stuff if you need to. If you post 15 times a day on Facebook and share a link to your book twice, you’re a pain in the ass. On Twitter, if you do the same thing, a minuscule amount of people will notice because Twitter keeps going and won’t show people your stuff ten hours from now unless they go look for it. Again: it’s all about learning what works, so keep your eyes open and try different things. Check out what successful authors are doing and learn from them. Include people in your comments. Talk about what you’re doing, the movies you love, the tunes you’re listening to. Learn how to use hashtags. Say what you will about them, but there are account out there that are programmed to retweet certain content as long as it has the right hashtag on it. That means you will have a retweet half of the time as long as you pay attention.
- Have fun. This is about selling books, sure, but it’s mostly about making new friends, checking out what others are doing, and keeping you connected to the world in yet another way. Now go out there and have some fun.
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS (Broken River Books), HUNGRY DARKNESS (Severed Press), and GUTMOUTH (Eraserhead Press). His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, Marginalia, The Collagist. Heavy Feather Review, Crimespree, Out of the Gutter, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HorrorTalk, Verbcide, and many other print and online venues. You can find him on Twitter at@Gabino_Iglesias.