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Using Twitter Effectively

A Session with Michael John Sullivan

The publishing world has become an ever-changing journey for authors. They are now asked to not only write the Great American Novel, but also market and promote the story. It’s become a complex problem for many writers, including me. First, how much should an author promote his or her story? Second, what social vehicles should we use?

The first question has led to periods of angst for most authors. We certainly want readers to buy our books, but when does promotion become spam?

The answer to the second question is like an onion in that it has many layers. For this discussion, we’ll focus on Twitter.

Do you need 10,000 followers to be successful?

The answer is no.

Is there a number you should shoot for in this social weapon?

No. It’s all about the effectiveness of your followers.

Twitter is a quick-hit social media format, unlike Facebook where more engagement is likely. To be successful on Twitter, one must know how to use hashtags, understand your followers, and encourage those followers to re-tweet your thoughts to their followers.

The big problem with Twitter for authors is that authors tend to follow other authors. This is fine if the group who follows you is supportive and willing to retweet your thoughts. However, if your tweets are going unnoticed and without many retweets, you will need to search for a more effective group of followers.  An author can have 20,000 followers but if the bulk of the group is passive and uninterested, then you’re wasting your keystrokes.

You need to find those who would be interested in the stories you tell, depending on the genre of your novel. Utilize Google to find readers’ forums, bloggers, and websites that lean toward promoting heavily and marketing the type of material you write. Any good website has a tweet button to follow.

There are some solid articles available about the art of tweeting. I found this one to be informative and easy to follow:

Effectively using hashtags is also an important skill for authors to learn. I found the book Twitter for Dummies another worthwhile read in understanding how to make them work for you. This book is filled with solid information on how to use Twitter to your advantage.

My novel, Everybody’s Daughter, is a time-travel mystery involving a teenage daughter and her father surviving in first-century Jerusalem. When I tweet a reference to it, I make sure I include in the hashtags “#timetravel #spiritual #Jerusalem.” Adding a hashtag puts you in the feed of those following that tag, too. This gives the follower a feel for the story and an idea of whether or not they should re-tweet it.

I’ve also published a children’s series called The SockKids. These are stories about a family of socks that travel and have fun adventures. On Groundhog Day, the theme of weather was trending on twitter. Since the groundhog predicted another six weeks of winter, I took one of my children’s stories with a link and included the hashtag. I related the tweet to the groundhog, too, saying: “Six more weeks of winter. A chance to read more to your children. #groundhogsday

My sales boosted that day. I successfully combined a sales pitch with an active trending topic. It felt natural in doing it this way, too. I wasn’t stepping over any line or reaching.

The more precise and transparent you are with your tweets, the better. Fellow tweeters appreciate this and are more likely to support you. This will also help you with sales.

There is no simple and easy way to sell more books through Twitter. You’ll need patience and persistence. It takes a great amount of time to build up a loyal following. You’ll recognize the givers and takers over a period of a few months. Stay away from the takers. Support the givers. Retweet your followers with a big audience. Retweet your followers who have similar type of interest in your genre. For example, you would want to retweet a pastor’s thoughts if you write Christian fiction. The goal here is to receive the same courtesy. This is a win-win for you if the pastor retweets your information about a book you wrote.

You win on Twitter the same ways you win on Facebook or on any social media outlet. You win by being simple with your thoughts and making sure those who see it are interested in your ideas.


About the Author…

Michael John Sullivan writes intensely emotional stories that blend heart-rending domestic drama with spirit-stirring fantasy. The combination is as fulfilling for the reader as it is rare and prompted Rainy Day Reviews to say of Everybody’s Daughter, “The last time I remember talking about a book this much was after I read The Help.”

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