Another technique for finding new readers on Twitter

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…

  1. Explain who you are clearly and positively without getting obnoxious (in other words, don’t fill it up hard sells and hashtags)
  2. Have reasonably attractive graphics. This does not have to be anything crazy. Go to another wonderful free app at 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.)
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

twitter promo exampleThere 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.

detail from author's page screenshot

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.

TheAwfulMess_3DAn 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!

The fine art of twitter stalking

When I first tried Twitter — because it was one of those things all authors were supposed to do — I was instantly addicted. I enjoyed getting little tidbits of this and that. At first I was only following a few of my favorite bloggers and comedians and magazines and such, and it was easy to keep up. But as I followed more people and organizations, I began to realize:

  1. I have no hope of keeping up with this.
  2. This takes a lot of time.
  3. This isn’t selling any books.

So I started ignoring it for days at a time. But at some point I dipped back in and came across a post from Joel Friedlander – a man wise in the ways of indie publishing and generous about sharing his wisdom – in which he suggested that authors should build their Twitter networks not by following other authors, but by following people who describe themselves as avid readers.

And that works. A bit. Mind you, it’s laborious. I think of it as hand-selling. I’m doing well with it if one out of every twenty or thirty people I follow gets curious enough to check me out, and then also gets curious enough to buy or borrow my book — but that’s something. It’s enough to keep The Awful Mess: A Love Story from sinking into an utter abyss in the absence of any other marketing efforts.

Probably even more valuable than the sales, I’m building a list of fairly targeted followers. Although not very many people I follow immediately buy my book, a fair number of people do follow me back. Which means I can still talk to them. So there’s some potential there over the long term.

Of course, this strategy only works up to 2,000 or so follows, at which point Twitter decides you’re creepy or something and shuts you off.

When this figure neared for me, I signed up for an account at I’m personally not a fan of people’s daily tweets of how many followers and unfollowers they have, so I opted out of that, but I do occasionally tweet my own variation of their suggested tweets. It’s only fair to give this valuable free service some shout-outs now and then. (It’s not the only one available, either, so feel free to look around.)

Anyway, with this one, everyone gets 25 free unfollows a day. The occasional tweet on their behalf entitles you to fifty unfollows a day. And your non-followers are neatly organized with the oldest ones first.

So I go through that list and I clear out most people who haven’t followed me back, unless they happen to be particularly interesting.

I also tend to pretty quickly unfollow people who send me chirpy direct messages without following me back. I don’t mind being hit up with a marketing message, but a direct message suggests a willingness to interact, and I can’t DM back people who haven’t followed me. So that just seems rude. (First I’ll usually wait a week or so to see if they’ve just forgotten to pay any attention to their account.)

I do the same for most of the hapless folks who auto-DM me back to tell me they use TrueTwit validation. (DON’T use TrueTwit validation.)

And I will probably always follow more people than follow me, barring sudden fame (and I’m not holding my breath on that one). I find a lot of people interesting, and as I said before, I enjoy getting these little morsels of information.

Anyway, now that I’ve unfollowed enough to clear up space for more follows, I stalk writers whose work seems enough like mine that their readers might like my stuff, and I follow their followers — if they talk about being readers.

This isn’t all that easy, because most of the authors I idolize don’t have Twitter accounts, and Jane Austen, for example, has been dead way too long to be tweeting anybody, although she is associated with a surprising number of Twitter accounts. So I hunt for readers of women’s fiction and “smart chick lit,” or just about any Episcopalian who will admit to reading. Also, if anyone mentions being a Kindle addict, I’m on them like fat on bacon.

Of course, I’m late to this game, clearly, because other indie authors are in fact the majority of the followers of most published authors. I ignore them unless they speak of avid or voracious reading themselves or just seem to be an unusually kindred spirit. I usually ignore librarians and booksellers, too, because neither will have easy access to my book right now and will probably sniff at me in disdain. I also ignore people with locked accounts, people who haven’t tweeted in weeks, people whose politics and religious attitudes suggest they’d happily consign me to hell, and people who do nothing but tweet contests and marketing messages.

Along the way I’ve noticed that dark chocolate and red wine merit A LOT of mentions in women’s profiles. It’s actually quite fascinating to see how people from all over the world sum themselves up. (I’m stunned that I haven’t yet come across a single mention of long walks on the beach. It’s not really a hook-up oriented medium, apparently, or maybe I’m just looking at the wrong demographic for that.)

My next stage with Twitter will be organizing the people I follow into lists. I had no idea what that was until recently, and it makes so much sense. You can put the people you follow into categories, public or private, and then focus on that category only when you’re interested in it. Sounds like a good January project.

Do you have any Twitter tips, techniques, or pet peeves that you’d like to share?

Twitter Screenshot 2013-12-16 11.02.37