Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

Twitter Tips for Authors

February 19, 2016

 Ok. I admit it. I just don’t get Twitter.  My promotion savvy brother, Ken Ross, advised me when I was becoming an agent, that I should market myself on social media, which means Twitter. So I signed up and waited around for followers. After the first 20 prostitutes tried to contact me, I gave it up. Today we are having a guest blog from Charlotte Ashlock, who is digital editor at Berrett-Koehler Books in Oakland. She likes to tweet and seems to be having more luck at it than I had. Here’s her advice.

Use what you already know

I’ve introduced a lot of beginners to Twitter, and they always have anxiety about how to behave in this new environment.  My answer?  Use the social skills you have been practicing for decades of your life!  Those skills will serve you just as well on Twitter, as they do at your workplace’s water cooler or your friend’s cocktail party.   You’re not as ignorant as you think you are.  Sure, you might be worried you don’t know the right hashtags— the ones the cool kids are using.  But what do you do when you’re dropped into a new environment “in real life?”  You’re super nice, you listen a lot, and sooner or later, you just pick up the vocabulary that is unique to that environment.  Trust me; mastering Twitter will be MUCH less stressful than mastering the middle school cafeteria back in the day!

Build relationships, not followers.  

Many authors are focused on building their follower count because they think they need big numbers to impress their agent, publisher, or readers.  I understand and sympathize with the pressure to become more impressive, but I think it is misguided.  My own Twitter name is CrazyIdealist, and maybe it’s the crazy idealism talking, but I feel the point of life is to give love, not receive popularity!  If you have 10,000 followers and not a single one of them cares about you, what’s the point?  It’s a common strategy for authors to follow a bunch of people, just so those people will follow them back.  This kind of self-serving behavior is ultimately a waste of time.  I think you should follow people you would enjoy talking to, and take the time to really have good conversations with them.  That way you have 100 real relationships instead of 10,000 fake relationships.  100 people who recommend you is worth more than 10,000 people who don’t know you.

Your most important tweets are your replies

So how do you build relationships, and “have real conversations?”  Spend most of your Twitter time replying to the tweets of others.  Twitter is a place where too many people are talking and not enough people are listening; so if you’re a good listener, you’ll stand out from the crowd!  People will remember you more for responding to them, than for the most clever tweet you could possibly write praising yourself.    “Focus on the other person,” is not just marriage advice, sales advice, and mental health advice— it’s also social media advice.  It’s good all-purpose advice!

Be as classy online as you are offline

I see a lot of authors who think that just because they’re online, the rules are different.  That leads to weird behaviors, like spamming people with commercial tweets, insulting people who don’t agree with you, or even just thanking people obsessively.   If you wouldn’t say, “buy my new book!” twenty times over at your friend’s baby shower… don’t say “buy my book!” twenty times over on Twitter!   And if you see hotheads losing their heads over politics— that doesn’t mean you have to lose yours!  Conduct yourself with the grace and poise you would exhibit in a real life situation.  And finally, although thanking people occasionally is nice, you are not obligated to thank people for every retweet, comment, or favorite.  In real life, you wouldn’t say “thank you!” every time someone spoke to you.  That wouldn’t be necessary.  Use real life as your guide.

Sell your message, not yourself

A lot of writers struggle with building their online presence, because they don’t want to be self-promotional.   Let me tell you, your instincts are sound; being self-promotional does turn people off.  But you know what doesn’t turn people off?  Being promotional about a cause, message, or higher purpose, is usually something people respect immensely.  So instead of saying how great you are, talk about the importance of a message or theme within your book.  This applies to both fiction and nonfiction.  Is your character self-conscious about his/her appearance?  Tweet about body positivity!   Did you write a book of time management tips?  Talk about what you like to do with the time you save: more time to bake cakes, hug the dog, etc.  If you rant about your passions, instead of about yourself, you’ll stay interesting!

Remember, Twitter is not Facebook

Sometimes Facebook users get frustrated by Twitter because they’re not used to having a length limit on their writing.  But don’t be discouraged!  Often, removing the meaningless filler words from your sentences is enough to get you below the character limit: which is great practice for writing tighter generally!  If that doesn’t cut it, simply write multiple tweets, each one a reply to the last, to link them all nicely together.  Or, my favorite hack of all: type what you want to say in a text editor, take a screenshot of it, and tweet the screenshot.  There are so many ways around the length limit, it’s not even worth thinking about.

Here’s what I think is actually the crucial difference between Twitter and Facebook: Twitter is designed for forming new relationships, and Facebook tends to be more focused on building existing relationships.   On Facebook, reaching out to people who don’t know you, can come across as bizarre (or even creepy!) if you don’t do it right.   On Twitter, there’s nothing weird or creepy about starting a conversation with a stranger.   After all, people are there because they want new connections!   So long as you avoid the obvious no-nos (selling, flirting, and politically attacking) people will be absolutely delighted to hear from you.

 And always stay interesting, my friends.

circle-head-150x150Charlotte Ashlock is the Managing Digital Editor and Treasure Hunter of Ideas at Berrett-Koehler Publishers, a nonfiction publisher specializing in business, current affairs, and personal development.  For more valuable social media advice, check out the book she edited: Mastering the New Media Landscape, by Barbara Henricks & Rusty Shelton.

 

Linda Watanabe McFerrin on Social Media for Writers

May 12, 2010

Linda Watanabe McFerrin is an author and  teacher of creative writing.  Her new novel, Dead Love , is being published this Fall by Stone Bridge Press . Dead Love is an incredible Zombie story that takes place in Tokyo, Haiti, Malaysia,  and Netherlands.  For those of you who have, how shall we say, somewhat exotic taste in the sexual, you will be turned on by the slightly green, slightly clammy, slightly putrescent  sex scene.  You can find out more about it on Linda’s  Dead Love blog   and her website . Linda will be attending the Book Expo America Convention  in New York this month and will be signing copies of Dead Love there on Thursday,  May 27.

Linda understands that the hard work of the writer really begins after the book is written. Book publishing, has become focused on the mass audience. They concentrate their resources on the few big blockbuster books and frequently give short shrift to everything else. That is why it is essential for the writer to promote her own book. Linda is going to talk to us today about social media for writers.

Andy: Linda, welcome to Ask the Agent. Tell us why it is so important for authors to understand the new social media and how to use it to promote books.

Linda: Well, Andy, though my undergraduate degree is in English and Comparative Literature and my Masters is in Creative Writing, I also have a background in sales and marketing. Even though I spent years doing sales and marketing in the apparel industry and knew how important marketing is, I had trouble applying what I’d learned to my own projects. Artists and writers sometimes recoil from this part of the process, but if you are getting  your work published,  it means you want to share it.  Visibility is critical to achieving that end. We expect our publisher to provide this, but sadly, it’s often what’s missing. What’s really exciting … or, I should say “revolutionary,” is the way the Internet has made new and volatile communication channels available to everyman and everywoman. Writers can now reach the potential audience online directly and without the costs and restrictions that used to be associated with that kind of outreach.

Andy: So let’s break this down to the major venues: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc.   Can you go through each of these and tell us their strengths and weaknesses?

 Linda:  Sure. Let’s walk through the fundamentals and let’s do it in bullets. That’s easiest.

  • Website : This is the foundation of any online presence. It defines the artist and the artist’s product. My first website went up in 1998 and it has served me well and saved loads of time. It certainly eliminated the need to mail out lots of author bios and portraits and it allowed people I hadn’t yet met to become more familiar with my work.

 

  • Blog: Many websites today are no more than this. Blogs are the new journalism and one of the key sources of information and interaction on the web.

 

  • Twitter: The fastest moving, most mobile method of interaction is the phone or the hand-held device. Twitter is a micro blog designed for short, immediate, and constant updates.

 

  • E-mail: This is still the most widely accepted method of online communication. In 2009 ninety trillion emails were sent. The average number of emails a day is 247 billion. Clearly, this is where contact lists are key.

 

  • Facebook and other online social media networks like Myspace: There are so many of these. They are a super way to expand a platform and reach out to those with similar tastes. Each network has a distinct identity. Best to know what it is and whether it meets your specific needs before sinking time into development.

 

  • Google and other search engines: These tie it all together. We feed search engines with content and we use them to find content relevant to our objectives.

 

I use all of these on a daily basis and could devote hours and pages to further defining each and every one of the areas. The Internet is massive, fast moving and, once you overcome certain insecurities, it’s also fun. For a totally shocking real-time update on statistics, you can go to http://www.peterlang.us/index.php?s=statistics and read and scroll to the “Social media statistics in real time” section.

Andy: Ok. It sounds like it is essential to develop an Internet marketing and promotion plan and to take control quickly. We can assume that your publisher is too busy to labor in the Internet trenches. What are the elements of a good plan?

Linda: A good plan begins with a well-crafted Mission Statement. To be really clear on something, you need to know what you want to achieve. I want, for instance, to use the Internet to reach out to readers who would enjoy but might not know about my work. It’s actually a lot like the writer’s task of selecting a protagonist and defining his/her inner and outer story goals, which is—as any writer knows—key to developing a plot.

Andy: Describe how you are implementing the plan for Dead Love.

Linda: I have four websites: www.lwmcferrin.com, the oldest (1998); www.leftcoastwriters.com, www.hotflashessexystories.com, and the newest: www.deadlovebook.com. For Dead Love, the most active is the www.deadlovebook.com site. Everything about the book finds its way onto the site and is mirrored variously in other Internet locations. www.deadlovebook.com  is the hub where the bulk of my content in support of the novel is captured. It has a fairly high ranking with search engines. Erin, the near-zombie Dead Love protagonist posts daily on the site in a blog called “The Daily Slice.” It’s a little bit of the dark side, often but not always zombie-related. I share the link with social media networks on an ongoing basis. To me this is the new journalism. Erin reports on Dead Love related topics—literary, pop culture, current events—every day. The novel is also serialized on the site in bite-sized, easily digested segments once a week.

Andy: Penguin Books has a spiffy little .pdf pamphlet on Internet marketing for writers that lays out the fundamentals of Internet marketing. But you are saying that the author needs to be an expert in this. What resources do you recommend to help the authors improve their expertise and develop strategies.

Linda: Things are moving so quickly in the social media area that it’s difficult to keep up. I’ve had a number of marvelous advisers every step of the way and I was truly resistant at first! Bradley Charbonneau www.likoma.com  got me started with my new site models. Laurie MacAndish  King www.laurieking.com  also helped tremendously. I deeply respect the knowledge and advice of Cheryl McLaughlin www.cherylmclaughlin.typepad.com  ; she created my first YouTube video. Then there’s social media guru, Peter Lang www.peterlang.us, my current key mentor. Peter’s recommendations follow. These are online resources and tools that are available to everyone:

http://www.google.com/reader/ (Follow top industry sites in order to keep up with this ever changing online world)

Resources:

 http://Mashable.com (a favorite!)

http://www.searchenginejournal.com/

http://www.quickonlinetips.com/

http://www.toprankblog.com/

Tools:

http://bit.ly/

http://sendible.com/

http://pluggio.com or  http://hootsuite.com

http://mailchimp.com

Andy: Do you do any consulting on this?

Linda: I do, but with a “total marketing” focus. I work on brand establishment and communication for writers. I have a new program that allows for a full year of training and consulting. I meet with selected writers every month to discuss platform and marketing and tailor outreach programs that work in today’s fast-paced, hyper-creative environment. The program features guest speakers in major marketing areas online and in print. It’s intense and exhilarating, and if anyone’s interested, they should send me a note via Facebook, which is one of my favorite Internet playgrounds.

Andy: And what about traditional media? Advertising is expensive,  but is there any way an author can exploit it to promote their work?

Linda: Certainly. I’ve used postcard mailings to drive web traffic, and when we go to  the BEA (book) Convention later this month, I’ll be signing advance readers copies of Dead Love. There’ll also be Dead Love T-shirts and buttons. I used to direct art for a major T-shirt line and I love T-shirts; they are wearable art. Also if a writer has expertise in an area, that writer should be publishing stories that demonstrate that expertise both in print and online. I think the key thing is to produce interesting and enlightening content. That’s what writers are supposed to do. The problem has been, in the past, that there was no sure outlet for all that creativity. There is now with the Internet. Finally, we have a way to share it.