One of my more popular blog posts here is “The fine art of Twitter stalking,” which explains how you can use Twitter to essentially hand-sell to people who are following authors like you, and/or describing themselves as avid readers.
I’ve refined that a bit in the year and a half since that was posted, so I’m going to share what I do more often now. I should warn you that, just as before, it’s laborious, and it won’t work for long unless you have something like the free app Crowdfire (formerly JustUnfollow) in your toolbox.
Step 1. Make sure your front stoop looks nice and is ready for business
Make sure your Twitter profile is attractive and offers a call to action. It should…
- Explain who you are clearly and positively without getting obnoxious (in other words, don’t fill it up hard sells and hashtags)
- Have reasonably attractive graphics. This does not have to be anything crazy. Go to another wonderful free app at Canva.com and you can create something just the right size that looks pretty darn good. (Pro tip: The less design knowledge you have, the more you should rely on their attractive templates.)
- Include a link to your web site under your info (or use a link to your Amazon author page if you’re exclusive to Amazon in mostly one country — I’m not, so I don’t).
- Mileage varies a LOT on this one, but personally I try to make sure I haven’t been loading up my Twitter stream with promos. This is the number one reason I don’t belong to some otherwise appealing writer’s groups. Their authors may be doing much better than I am, though, so do whatever works for you.
- Here’s the selling part: Include a pinned post at the top that could at least potentially lead someone to do something you want. Include one call to action with a key link. If your own blog page doesn’t tend to convert people, or you don’t have one, use your Kindle author’s page, or product link, or whatever would work best where your readers live. (Obviously, you might want to play around with different options here.) I probably have my best luck when my free little romantic comedy is pinned to the top, but I will vary it depending on the audience I’m going after.
TIP: Canva is great for creating just the right size Twitter graphic, too, like this one. I’ll vary the actual buying link, but the others are right there in the graphic, so people who are intrigued can go look it up at their favorite retail site.
There are surely ways to track this and and improve my performance. Finally figuring THAT out might be one of next year’s resolutions.
Step 2. See what other authors your readers are buying
As noted in the original twitter-stalking post, Amazon’s author pages make this easy. Just go to your author page and look at the links under “Customers Also Bought Items By.” You still have to use your judgment, and results will be skewed if you’ve recently been promoting (the authors promoting at the same time are the ones who will show up most) — but dig down and you’ll find authors who appeal to the same readers who should like your stuff. For indie authors, your best bet will almost always be other indie authors, because their readers already know that we don’t all have cooties.
If your book has gotten a bit moribund, or you’ve already hit up everybody on your also-bought list, you can dig down even further and check out the also-boughts for those authors.
An example of using my judgment about also-bought authors: “The Awful Mess: A Love Story” crosses over into religion and spirituality, specifically, into progressive Christianity. Some of my also-boughts are Christian “sweet” romance authors. I have to be careful there, because the category “Christian fiction” runs conservative and some of those readers will be offended by the cover, let alone the content. Other authors in my also-boughts are mystery writers. Would their readers be interested in my women’s fiction? It’s probably worth trying.
Step 3. Search Twitter for “by [author name]“
This gets you to tweets posted by people who have read and/or reviewed on Goodreads or their own blogs. (At least for now it does. All of this is subject to change. Amazon, for example, no longer gives people the option to tweet their purchases.)
Step 4. Follow people who appear to be genuine potential readers
Check out each potential reader to make sure he or she is:
- A real human rather than a fake spam account
- Still active on Twitter
- A relatively kindred spirit
Bloggers probably expect most books to go to them free, so they are not your best prospect. However, you might want to think of them as a potential reviewer and take note accordingly — you might create a list of them, for example.
And just because their counts may suggest they never follow back doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow people — remember, the goal is to entice people to check out your book, not to get them to follow you back. (Though that can be a nice bonus.)
Out of a dozen or two dozen people you follow, maybe one might be interested enough to actually purchase your book. You’ll have to decide for yourself if this labor-intensive approach is worth it. Note that it will also help you build your Twitter audience, however. And you might just find some good reading for yourself along the way.
Step 4. After a week or so, unfollow the people who’ve shown no interest
No, you’re not being a jerk. You don’t hang around outside of people’s doors when they don’t call you after a date, do you? And this wasn’t even a date.
Besides, Twitter won’t let you keep following new people if your ratio gets out of whack. And once you get past a few hundred people, you’re certainly not hurting for material to read in your Twitter stream. So unfollow people. Crowdfire makes this easy. (There is a daily limit if you’re doing it for free, but I almost never reach it.)
Personally, I usually follow everyone back who doesn’t appear to be a spammer, marketing something I have zero interest in, of dubious integrity, obnoxious, or impossible for me to translate enough to figure any of that out. This is a social medium. That means it should be a two-way street. So if you’re not following me back, you’d better be a celebrity or extremely informative about something valuable — and for that, to be perfectly honest, I can put you in a list instead of following you.
All of this could change at any moment, of course. There’s talk of Twitter going all Facebook on us. Which it has the right to do.
Want to add any tips of your own, or tell me where I’m going wrong? Please do!