A Crash Course
By Nick Younker
Indie authors have been on the scene now for years, but getting their work out there is still one of the biggest challenges they face in the marketplace. Even though Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) gives you some options for getting your work seen, it usually falls flat.
For most indie scribes, money really is an issue. Show me an author who makes a living off his/her writing and I’ll show you my summer house on the lake. The truth is, very (emphasis on very) few writers make a living off the craft.
So what can an author do to get their book out there with little to no money? Social media is the golden egg here, but there are some downsides to it. Facebook used to be a good place to get it out there in their groups, but the social media network got hip to that and now suspends authors who over-post, especially in groups. Coincidentally, they will later send you messages promoting their advertising services.
In my humble and experienced opinion, the only real place to promote your book(s) for free is on Twitter. But there’s a dance to be learned before you start pasting book links to your Twitter feed.
For those who are currently using Twitter and have amassed a comfortable amount of credible followers, you can skip down to The Algorithm section to get the details you need. For those who are new, continue reading below.
First of all, don’t be a dick. If you’re trying to get followers on Twitter, the last thing you want to do is SPAM some poor bastard that made the mistake of following you. Don’t send him/her a DM, begging them to buy your book. Don’t reply to their tweets with a link to your book and don’t tag them in one of your tweets with a link to your book. Trust me, that’s the fastlane to getting unfollowed, blocked and/or suspended on Twitter. Your “Tweeting” career could be over before it starts if you pull that bullshit.
Now that we’ve gotten over the hump, let’s look at how you can build a list:
Followers – This is the first thing you need when you start tweeting. An audience is essential to getting your message out there. If you’re a novice, then you need to send out a few tweets first, then follow some interesting people.
Honestly, there is no foolproof way to get people to follow you. But having some tweets in your working genre that aren’t spammy is one hell of a good start. If you write in horror, then appeal to the horror genre by tweeting movie pics or polls that people might find engaging. Use the #Horror hashtag when applicable. Don’t be surprised when you don’t get any likes or retweets in the beginning. Remember, you’re still the new kid on the block and the algorithm, and the people, still don’t know you exist.
The next logical step is to click on that #Horror hashtag and start engaging with horror people. Comment or like the tweets you find interesting and people will start engaging with you.
DO NOT hire a service to get you followers on Twitter! They are dead leads, robots or zombie accounts that have been set up only to make the service money and you will not get any engagements or sales from this. Twitter will also penalize you for this, but you’ll read more about that below in The Algorithm.
It will take you some time, but your followers will begin picking up. Remember, this is not a race and you have to really put in the time if you’re serious about leveraging the power of Twitter. You’re essentially building credibility for the first several months.
Tweeting – This should be a no-brainer, but you have to start tweeting. Some think this is the easy part, but tweeting everyday with a steady flow of information coming to your followers is not quite as easy as it sounds. You need to be consistent with using the platform if you want people to start responding to you. What’s even more important is getting the Twitter algorithm to pay attention to you.
But don’t forget about that whole “spammy” thing. It’s okay to tweet about your book once a day, but if you flood your Twitter feed with it, you’ll be ghosted by the community. Make sure that less than 10 percent of your tweets are self-promotion is a good rule of thumb, but you can play with that number.
Retweeting – Don’t forget that Twitter is a great place to get news and opinions from other people. There’s bound to be several things that you like and it might be a good idea to retweet those people. Try to refrain from politics, if possible. That shit’s way too loaded these days and could end up backfiring on you.
One good thing that comes out of retweeting is followers. Not only could the person you RT’ed follow you, but people that search through the retweet list could also follow you as well. Trust me, it happens.
The Algorithm – This part is for those of you who have established your Twitter presence and are having a hard time understanding why you’re not getting many impressions. Novices should take this information in, but know that it might not apply to you at this point.
First of all, there is a false narrative that your tweets will show up in all of your follower’s newsfeeds. That could not be further from the truth unless they have all turned on your notifications (don’t count on it). But there is a cure for it… if you’re willing to put in the work.
Let’s just take a second to understand how the Twitter algorithm works. It’s no secret that all social media networks use an algorithm to decide who sees what in their newsfeed. Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter all alike have to use this in order to give their users a better experience. It’s also a way for them to weed out junk tweets, bots and SPAM. And for those of you who think your book link is not SPAM, this will be a rude awakening.
In theory, the algorithm wants to find the tweets that a user will be most likely to interact with. So how does it do that? Well, there are many factors that make a difference, but a user’s past activity is the most important one. Who does that user reply to, like or retweet the most? Who does that user have the most interactions with? That’s the main factor for the Twitter algorithm to decide if that user sees your tweets in their newsfeed.
Right now, I bet you’re wondering just how you can “beat” the algorithm. The answer to that is “no way in hell.” The only way you can beat the game is by playing the game. You do that by never letting an opportunity pass you by. If someone replies to one of your tweets, do not simply “like” his/her reply. That person took the time to give you a response, so the least you need to do is take the time to give him/her a response of your own.
The basic takeaway here is to always do something to increase your engagement. The Twitter algorithm is spying on you at all times, so make sure they know your tweet is getting engagement. Chances are, you will end up having a 5 – 10 response exchange with that user, and each response counts as an engagement. Each engagement ranks you higher in the algorithm and gives you more exposure, or “impressions.” The more impressions you get, the more people may interact with you. The rest is like interest building on a savings account, with each engagement compounding the impact the tweet makes it further and further.
Never take your followers for granted. Don’t let them interact with you and retweet your tweets without some form of recognition or reciprocation. Look at their own Twitter feed and find something you like or reply to one of their tweets. It strengthens your relationship with that user and the algorithm translates that into “valuable content” for that user to see your tweets. It’s almost the same as that user turning your notifications on.
As you may have already figured out, having thousands of followers means this process will take you a long time to get the high impression count that you’re seeking, which could translate into more people liking and retweeting your book tweets. These people will also soften toward you and sometimes buy your book.
In the end, that’s the whole reason for having your Twitter to start with, amirite? Book sales and Amazon reviews are the rewards for this, so take it seriously from the beginning and you may end up with a writing career (minus a day job).
Just to recap, Twitter does sell your books for you, if you treat it right. Use it the way it was originally intended, which is for people to interact with one another. The algorithm will reward you if you reward Twitter with what it wants. Sending tweets is only 20 percent of your job. The rest is non-stop engagement. Do that and you will have a very successful run on the social media giant.
Tags: Book, horror, sales, promoting, twitter, amazon, kindle, social media, facebook, google, indie, self published, author, writer, novel
Wise words indeed, Shane. It’s always a problem trying to balance the need to spend quality time marketing and leaving enough time and energy to write the books in the first place. Needless to say, I Tweeted this! 🙂
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Thanks, Cat! Much appreciated.