When I started writing Collapse at the end of February, I did painstaking research on how to promote the book to the masses. Most of that research pointed back to Twitter and that bothered me a great deal. I couldn't understand Twitter for the life of me. My opinion of Twitter up to that point was "If people want to know what is going on with me, they should just check my Facebook page." I started up a Twitter account and set about writing my novel. I checked back a week later and had gained a minuscule amount of followers (most of them porn or spam, would that be considered porny spam or spammy porn?)
I was determined to figure out this mystery that was Twitter. I had absolutely no clue how it worked. I did so many Google searches it was ridiculous - What is this "RT" that people keep putting in their tweets? Why are people using the pound symbol # and what does it do? And the acronyms, oh the acronyms! FF, DM, FYB, and many more. I still find myself searching to find the meanings for these little twitter codes.
I've decided to share my knowledge as I understand it. Please comment if you care to add some helpful information.
If you have the basics down, feel free to skip down to the next section. This is for the people that were like me at the beginning and had to search for the meaning of "RT" - it means "Retweet" by the way.
Followers - Your most valuable asset on Twitter. How do you get followers? We will discuss that in the next section.
Following - Are the people that you are following. The easiest and most effective way to get followers is to follow people in the hopes that they follow you back. At the start, you can follow up to 2000 people before Twitter enacts a follow limit. As an indie author, who should you follow? We'll discuss that later.
Tweets - The micro-blogging feature of Twitter. You can send out tweets up to 140 characters.
Hastags (#) - You can put a hashtag symbol in front of keywords or phrases to help categorize your tweets. This function helps people do searches for tweets by category. More on this later.
RT - Retweets. If you find a particular tweet that you like, you can hit the retweet button and share it with your followers. This is also a very valuable tool in supporting other indie authors.
DM - Direct Message. Other followers can send you direct messages that can't be seen by the public. It is important to note that if you send a tweet to someone it is public for all to see.
This aspect is what puzzled me the most in the beginning. I thought for some reason that I would just automatically gain followers as time progressed. Like I mentioned earlier, I set up the account and came back a week later to discover the only followers I got were porny spam (I like that term better, LOL).
Simply put, you gain followers by following other people and count on them to follow you back. As mentioned above, you can initially follow 2,000 people before Twitter before a follow limit is placed on your account. After that limit is in place, some secret algorithm kicks in that allows you to follow between 200 to 500 more people than are following you. You will want to weed out the people that you are following that are not following you back. Some free websites out there tell you who's not following you back so that you can unfollow them. One site that comes to mind is who.unfollowed.me. There are a few others out there like it. A word of warning, if you follow and unfollow large amounts of people too quickly, Twitter will put your account in Twitter Jail for "follow churn". My advise, don't do both on the same day. If you want to weed out your unfollowers, do it once or twice a week and never on the same day that you follow a bunch of people.
Who should you follow? Well, if you are trying to promote your book, you want to follow people that read books. Search for hashtags that will bring up book readers like #bookworm, #booknerd, #booklover, #bookaholic, #lovetoread, or terms like "avid reader" or "book suggestion".
SENDING OUT TWEETS
The best way to get word of your book out to the masses is by tweeting about it. However, it is even more important not to spam your followers, which I was very guilty of in the beginning. If enough people report you for spam, Twitter will suspend your account (commonly referred to as "Twitter Jail") I had to learn this by trial and error since I had no clue what constituted spam. During my free time I would sit in front of my computer surfing the internet and watching TV and would send out tweets every five minutes. That is WAY too much. A good rule of thumb is to send out tweets no more than every twenty minutes. If you want to send out more tweets, I wouldn't recommend sending them out any less than every fifteen minutes.
Another important factor in tweeting is to have a long list of tweets. If you send out the same three tweets at twenty minute intervals, your followers will consider that spam. If you send out three tweets an hour, that is seventy-two tweets in a twenty-four hour period. I would shoot for a list of at least forty-eight. If you can bump it up to seventy-two, that would be ideal.
Make a list of tweets and ensure that they are no more than 140 characters. Make a list of shortened links to your book and/or your blog. I highly recommend using the website bitly.com. Just copy and paste your link into the website and in return you will get a shortened link. Some people use tinyurl.com and that's fine, however, bitly will give you a link that is on average five characters shorter than tinyurl More characters mean longer tweets. Twitter does have a feature that will shorten your links automatically, but I advise against it. I used it for a while and many people responded saying the link didn't work. Maybe Twitter has worked out the kinks? Not really sure, I like bitly.com and use that exclusively.
What should you tweet about? Well, you are a writer so I would hope you have the creative juices to come up with some on your own. ;) The key to tweeting about your book is advertising. Draw people's attention and make them wonder about your book. Make the tweet a little vague but not too much. Make people question "What is this about? Let me click on it and find out." I would advise against empty claims about how amazing your book is "Check out my book!" "You can't miss this exciting read!" "This is your next read!" "Don't miss the next big thriller!" The best thing to do is simply present your book and let people draw their own conclusions. A word of caution, your list should not be made up entirely of "buy my book." It needs to have more substance to it, promote other authors, promote your blog, add some flavor to it.
What genre is your book? You can start there. "Looking for a good romance? Check out ..." "Are you a fan of spy novels? Check out ..."
Another good thing to tweet about are the reviews for your novel. " (Title) has 23 Five Star reviews!" "(Title) has been called (insert snippet of review)"
You can also use pieces of your promotional blurb from your novel. "Detective John Doe will find out that his next case will define his career" "John Doe will discover the secret of a lifetime" "How long before John Doe meets the woman of his dreams?"
Do you have a blog? Drawing readers to your blog is another fantastic way to spread the word about your book. Make up tweets about each of your blog posts. You can rest assured that I will have a few tweets about the very blog post you are reading now.
Anyone in the advertising business will tell you that you need to come up with several tag lines that define your book. For my novel I came up with several, the most effective one being "In 2027, America Will Fall" Other taglines were "Second Great Depression. Terrorists On Our Soil. Major Cities Locked Down." "Civilization is Fragile" and "Are you prepared for the Collapse?"
HOW TO SPREAD YOUR TWEETS
Now that you've come up with your tweets, how do you spread them into the Twitterverse? You can use several hashtags that indie authors use to help promote each other. Just include them in your tweet and other indies out there will retweet them for you. The two best ones that I know of are #BYNR and #authorRT. Just include those hashtags and other indies will help you spread your tweets. Ensure that you return the favor. I have those two hashtags as saved searches. I call them up a few times a day and retweet five to ten at a time. Sometimes my tweets get retweeted up to ten times in a day. Great way for indies to help each other out.
There are several twitter accounts that will retweet your tweets when you mention them in your tweet. I know I'm only scratching the surface here so I hope that people will comment with more. The ones I use are @WritersRT and @WritersReTweets.
A word of caution: don't use too many hashtags in your tweets. Twitter advises two to three hashtags per tweet. If you venture beyond that, your users will consider it spam. I learned that from a very irate woman that sent me a tweet asking me to please die in a fire and stop spamming the hashtags. (No joke, she actually tweeted that) Lesson learned, while she was far from tactful in her request, she was in fact correct. Try your best not to spam the hashtags.
The best way to spread your tweets is over at the World Literary Cafe. Every day, you can sign up to be on a tweet team. Each team consists of ten team members. You post your tweet and include #WLCAuthor and the other nine members of your team retweet your tweet. In return, you have to tweet the other nine people's tweets. In addition, you must also tweet the Daily Tweets designated by the website. You can be on as many teams in a day as you want, you just have to be sure to retweet everyone. Fantastic group of people. Really helps spreading the word.
SERIOUSLY? THIS SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF WORK
Well, yeah, it is a lot of work and can consume time that is better spent writing books. There are several great programs out there that will schedule your tweets for you. You simply input your tweets for the day and either a specific time or time interval (remember my tip, every twenty minutes). One of the most popular is Tweet Deck.
If you are looking for a program that does it all, I highly recommend Tweet Adder. It cost a little money but it is worth every penny. It does it all. You can create lists of tweets and save them for later use. It will automatically add followers based on search terms that you input (refer to the above section - Gaining Followers). It will even unfollow people that have not reciprocated your follow for a certain amount of days (I recommend 2-3 days).
Good luck in the Twitterverse! :)
Follow me on Twitter at @CollapseNovel and @RStephenson5