29 November 2015

E-Book Marketing Doldrums? 2: Using Twitter

Twitter doesn’t sell books. Well, in the week since I’ve started this marketing upgrade it’s sold two of mine I wasn’t expecting and, more to the point, has added three people to my Newsletter list – this in the face of the previous eight months’ desert. Twitter can help build your platform. This is my ongoing goal.

I’d better mention that I don’t own a smartphone and haven’t come to grips with my Hudl tablet, so on-the-hoof interacting via social media of any description is anathema to me. I work on my laptop and the distraction of social media streams flitting past my eyes or pinging in my ears is beyond the pale. This means that scheduling is required, manual and automatic.

Twitter itself lives in the moment; applications such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite enable scheduling, and also ‘quoting’ which allows more than the bog-standard 140 characters. Whereas it used to be a text-only medium, it is now, as are all social media streams, image heavy.

I use Hootsuite, mainly because it was the first application I tried many moons ago. However, until this week I’d not taken the time (a morning) to learn how to use it properly (‘quoting’) or to discover via Googling the problem why my images only showed up as a link (change Hootsuite’s preference from ‘ow.ly’ to ‘pic.Twitter.com’). 

A first try. I'll sort the text, honest.
Most of my images are, naturally, portrait-shaped book covers, whereas Twitter arranges images as a landscape at a 2:1 ratio (1024pixels x 512px optimum) and cuts oddly those not adhering to this ratio. By viewing the Home feed I’ve found that other authors tackle this by creating suitably shaped billboards which can take a variety of interchangeable text. This is now an ongoing project for all my titles.

An adjusted Facebook header, so not quite 2:1. Needs work.

Of course, even clueless me realises that a deluge of book promotions will endear me to no one. Tweets should engage, inform and entertain with advertising one’s wares way behind. For me, this is where automated scheduling comes into its own. Hootsuite offers a dashboard of streams populated with Tweeters of my choosing.

Some time ago I set up a stream to include writers I know. This has been expanded to include people and organisations who Tweet information complementing the subjects and locales used in my novels, from @Medievalists and @BLMedieval - British Library Medieval Manuscripts (Hostage of the Heart), @Roman_Britain (The Bull At The Gate) to @NorthYorkMoors (Torc of Moonlight). Each evening I go through this handy stream and schedule RTs (reTweets) scattered across the following day.

Twitter itself offers a list facility, and I use private lists for authors grouped by genre as this is how I started, pre-Hootsuite. Any RTing has to be done manually, so I might check a list as I close for lunch and RT a couple of Tweets that draw my eye. If I RT’d ten my feed would look as if a bot was operating it, which is how I would be acting.

I also have posts from a few blogs coming direct to my Inbox, notably English Historical Fiction Authors whose posts could grace many an academic forum. Those within my time periods, or those I just find fascinating, I jump back to the blog and Tweet from the base of the post.

This is the time to ‘Like’ Tweets in which I’ve been ‘Mentioned’. People who take the time to RT my Tweets I Like and/or thank. A bit of appreciation goes a long way. Often I RT one of their Tweets as a thank you. However, I find it surprising how often a Tweeter does not use a Pinned Tweet, basically a flag indicating which of their Tweets they would appreciate being RT’d. Make it easy and keep it changing. I’m not going to RT a Tweet that has been sitting at the top of a stream for four months. As soon as this post is uploaded a Tweet to it will replace the Pinned Tweet from the first post in this series. Find it at https://twitter.com/LindaAcaster

As to promoting my own titles, for ease of counting characters I dedicate a Word.doc to hold previously used Tweets. I’ll copy & paste a couple into the scheduled mix ensuring the timing is right for the title. For instance, Beneath The Shining Mountains has sold reasonably well in the USA but hardly made a mark in the UK, therefore there isn’t much point Tweeting the title at 8am GMT; the USA is 5-8 hours behind London time. Anyway, who buys books straight after breakfast?

I use #hashtags, not very well I have to admit. During the week I came upon #CleanRomance (and later #CR4U) and I am certain that one attached to a Tweet for Hostage of the Heart sold me a copy in the USA. The novel is what I term a ‘sweet romance’ but there is no hashtag for that description.

I'm finding that Twitter need not be a distraction, it can be tamed and become a useful tool. I treat people as I want to be treated and my Follower numbers are steadily increasing. None of this is a one-week job. To think of it in fiction-writing terms, it’s a sub-plot that reflects and bolsters the main storyline.

Three links I found particularly useful this week:
http://louisem.com/50053/how-to-make-blog-graphics + resources list
It does what it says in its title.
A comprehensive infographic and list of Twitter hashtags.

Ongoing: study hashtag use in other people’s Twitter streams [obvious - doh!] and check who uses them. Would these people be good to Follow?

Launch Update: On Friday I announced on Facebook a tease, ie no title or cover image:
     “A week today I'm launching a new Supernatural Short for the dark nights of winter - the type of story where the sucking of the wind could be a disembodied voice, twigs scratch at the window, and doors creak where they've never creaked before. This story stars a shed.
     I'd like to say it is a paranormal, but unfortunately that word has become a euphemism for... obviously I'm writing in the wrong genre :-) ”

My Facebook account is linked to Twitter, so it was Tweeted automatically, though obviously not in that depth.

Finally, in this blogpost I’ve gone into more detail than I intended because I was contacted during the week by a writer who found the Make a Plan post useful. If you’ve found this one useful, please Tweet it – LOL! Thanks.


  1. Another excellent post, Linda. I particularly like the links to the graphics info (though you might like to tick the box that allows these to be opened in a new window, so you don't lose readers from the blog).
    I looked at the Hootsuite preferences, but I can't find anywhere that allows me to change the URL that you suggested. Maybe because I work on a Mac it's different?
    You've clearly done a lot of work on this. Many thanks for saving us that time.
    Good luck with the launch!

    1. Thanks for dropping by Stuart, and for the heads-up on the links. They *should* be opening in a new tab as that is how I have the facility checked. Blogger seems to have a glitch.

      As for the Hootsuite preferences: Top left of the Hootsuite dashboard >click on the round Owl/avatar>scroll down past Organizations to My Social Networks>left click the gear icon on the Twitter panel. Under Image Uploads and "Select which image upload service you wish to use" mine stated Ow.ly. Click the button at the right of the box to bring up pic.twitter.com. Hopefully that should sort it.

    2. Thanks, Linda. Sorted! And thanks for the 'likes' idea. I hadn't even noticed it was there!

    3. Ah, that's me. Trying to be helpful to the end. I need to allocate time to work out how a Tweet from a Blogger blog can automatically include the author's Twitter handle, as it does with WordPress. Are you listening Blogger?!

    4. If I remember rightly (and there's no guarantee that I do!) if your Twitter account and Blogger account are associated, your handle should appear automatically. I think.