Category — On Book Promotion
I admit to being late to Twitter. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get why I should be, or how anyone else could be, interested in 140-character updates about people’s lives. But now, not only have I “joined the conversation,” as they say, I also manage several Twitter accounts (one of my own, and three for the day job), and I use the time-saver that is HootSuite (more on this later).
When it comes to book promotion, Twitter is great for some things, not great for others. And I have to admit that, as anyone who follows me @MidgeRaymond knows, my Twitter personality has suffered a bit of a dissociative identity disorder. Translation: I’m all over the place. I tweet about books, publishing, writing, about my writer friends and what they’re up to, and about all sorts of other random stuff. But what I’ve learned about Twitter is that people like to follow you for a specific reason — for example, they’re fellow writers, or they love to read. So in an effort to be more focused, I’ve been working on narrowing my Twitter life down to tweeting about all things bookish — and it not only saves me time but it gives followers a clear idea of why they’re following me in the first place.
So how can a writer best use Twitter?
First, choose an account name that fits your goals. You might use your name, as I do, or you might use the title of your book, as author Rebecca Rasmussen does for her novel, The Bird Sisters (@thebirdsisters). Once your account is set up, find people with similar interests, news, and information to share — as soon as you begin to follow people, people follow you back, you’re all receiving and transmitting tweets, and you’ve officially “joined the conversation.”
Note: Take your time. If you follow zillions of people at once, you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of tweets coming your way and won’t be able to process anything for the volume. You also might look a little nutty if you’re following 10,000 people and only have 2 followers yourself. So take your time, check out what people are talking about, and engage. It takes some hanging out on Twitter, but by taking the time, you’ll learn what makes interesting tweets (basically by noting which ones you read and which you don’t) and what all those cryptic little abbreviations mean (RT for retweet, #FF for Follow Friday, the plain old #hashtag that makes for easy searches). You’ll learn how a reply is different from a direct message, and that it’s polite to credit someone whose link you’re retweeting.
And of course, as you’re learning all this, you’ll be tweeting the whole time yourself. So, what to tweet?
There are plenty of “rules” about Twitter, but I don’t believe we need to follow them (mostly because everyone has an opinion on it, and the “rules” change accordingly). So tweet about what’s interesting to you, and be as focused or as loose as you’d like — the most important thing is that you say something tweet-worthy. Here are a few guidelines.
- Be relevant. Offer content that your followers can use; don’t just tweet about what you had for breakfast. Offer links to interesting articles and blogs, offer writing exercises and tips; offer quotes by famous authors. You’ll want to tweet things not only that your followers will enjoy reading but that they’ll be inspired to retweet as well.
- Be interesting. I could also rephrase this as, Don’t over-promote. Even if you’re on Twitter to promote your book, if every tweet is all about you and your book, that’s going to bore people quickly. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with showing off a good review or tweeting about an upcoming event — but be sure to produce some other content as well.
- Include links. To me, this is the most useful aspect of Twitter — finding tidbits that I haven’t already seen or read. There’s only so much you can do in 140 characters, and I find that the most useful, interesting, and entertaining tweets usually have something attached (and, as you’ll find out quickly, you’ll need to use a link shortener like bit.ly or Tinyurl).
- Network. Follow people and organizations that interest you, and start to build a network. Always do your best to respond to direct messages (unless they’re only blatant sales pitches, which often they are) and follow people back when they follow you (if they are of interest to you, that is; some of them won’t be).
- Try out the tools. It wasn’t until I had more than one Twitter account that I tried HootSuite, and I love it. There are a great many Twitter tools out there — so many it’s a little overwhelming — but they are worth knowing about, and in general, it’s great to keep learning so that you can use Twitter as best you can for what your goals are. One excellent resource is MediaBistro’s All Twitter, at which you’ll learn about the latest tools as well as get Twitter news and tips.
- Be generous. Even though I originally joined Twitter with my own book promotion in mind, I use Twitter often to promote writer friends’ events, to link to their blogs, to show off their work. And one cool way writers can promote other writers is with #StorySunday, originated by The Short Review, in which readers link to their favorite online short story of the week.
- Have fun. Be creative. Think outside the newsy tweet. Enjoy. But while you’re being creative, take care not to be so “out there” as to lose followers (i.e., see “Be relevant,” above).
- Keep your balance. Another important thing to keep in mind is how much time being an active Twitter user takes. To be fully engaged, you really have to spend some time reading tweets, interacting, replying, retweeting, and so forth — when you would probably rather be (and should be) writing. So allow yourself an allotted amount of daily Twitter time, and then get back to work.
And, finally, how do you know if any of it is “working”? You can attempt to measure your success in book sales, in the number of followers you have, or you can check out your “Twitter influence” with such tools as Klout. But keep in mind that for a writer, success may mean something different — such as how much you’re learning and sharing, or how well you’re staying connected to the online writing community. I suggest defining your own goals, and measuring your success from there.
See you on Twitter!Tweet
May 18, 2011 No Comments
When I learned, in 2008, that my first book would be published, I didn’t even have a Facebook account. (I was also the last person on the planet to get an answering machine in the eighties and the last person to get a cell phone in the nineties.) In general, I like solitude, or being with people face-to-face. So it was with great reluctance that I signed up for Facebook, which as most writers know, is pretty much non-negotiable if you have a book out in the world that you actually want people to read.
I discovered that, even for someone who likes her solitude and face time, it wasn’t difficult to get hooked on Facebook. Let’s face it: It can be addictive. The good news for writers is that for at least part of the time you’re on Facebook, you’re doing legitimate work. The bad news: The rest of the time, you’re not — and you have to balance this Facebook time with writing your next book, with not ignoring your family, and probably with your day job also.
So I wanted to offer a few Facebook tips for writers that will help you achieve that balance:
- First, consider setting up a book or author page so that you don’t necessarily need to combine your author life with your personal life. (See below for more on privacy issues.) I have my own personal Facebook page, but I post the majority of book news on my Forgetting English page. While I know that most of my Facebook friends do care about the book, I also know that they have lives, and they don’t need to hear about every review or every event, especially if they’ve already read the book or have already been to a reading. So having a separate page also allows people to “Like” the book if they want updates, or not to if they don’t. Another thing to keep in mind if you don’t have a separate author/book page is that you may not wish to be Friends with every reader; you may want to keep your private life more private. (Again, see below for more on privacy.)
- Make friends. Facebook is a great way to reconnect with old friends, colleagues, acquaintances — I was thrilled to have recently connected with the high-school English teacher who played an enormous role in my becoming a writer; until now, she hadn’t realized I’d written a book — so this was wonderful. And Facebook provides an even better way to stay connected to new people you meet at readings and conferences (who needs business cards anymore?). So do be open to friend requests from fellow writers, readers, and others — but be sure to accept friend requests only from people you know or want to know (you can always de-friend them later, of course, but this is very awkward). And reach out and connect with readers, writers, and students yourself; try to include a personal message if it’s someone you don’t know or don’t know well, or someone who may need to be reminded of where he or she met you. (And if your friend request isn’t accepted, this article offers seven possible reasons why.)
- Don’t be overly promotional; it’s the quickest way to get hidden or even (gasp!) de-friended. I know I’ve been guilty of this on occasion — it’s hard not to be enthusiastic when your book first launches or when a great new review comes out — but you always have to balance this with the danger of becoming boring, or annoying, or worse.
– You’ll definitely want to show your personal side, but don’t offer Too Much Information. Readers love getting glimpses into writers’ lives — to a point. Stay focused on offering readers a little more than they can get from the bio on your book jacket without taking away all the mystery or freaking them out with details they may not want to know about you.
- Be respectful. If you want to attract a wide audience for your book, carefully consider political rants or offbeat humor posts before posting them. It’s not that you shouldn’t be who you are — you should, especially if you have strong opinions that define you; again, readers love getting to know writers — but just know that what you say affects how you’re perceived.
- Keep your social media separate. Different forms of social media are, and should be, used in different ways (I’ll be writing about Twitter for Writers in an upcoming post). Some believe that everything should be networked — that your blog posts and tweets and status updates should all be connected — but in fact, this can be counterproductive in that your followers/friends are then inundated with every single update in every format possible. And sometimes — especially around book-launch time when you’re in promotion mode — this can be too much, and you may be hidden or de-friended from the very people you hope to engage. So while it may take a little extra time, don’t bombard all your accounts with every bit of information you want to disseminate. Choose the best option for each outlet, and go from there.
- Be active. This doesn’t mean spending all your time on Facebook, however. I could lose myself for hours and always find it a challenge to stay active and engaged on one hand, and to get work and writing done on the other. Try setting yourself a schedule — a half an hour in the morning, a half an hour at night; one hour a day; one day a week — whatever works. My friend Kelli Russell Agodon inspired me to try Facebook Fridays, in which I only log onto Facebook one day a week. It works very well in general, but I do cheat when I have book news to share or vacation photos to show off. Find a rule that works for you, but give yourself room to be flexible about it.
- Safeguard your privacy, and that of your friends and family. Facebook has gotten a lot of bad publicity when it comes to privacy issues, but in fact, it’s often the users themselves who offer up far more information than Facebook does. The first line of defense is not to become friends with anyone you don’t know personally — but of course this isn’t realistic for authors trying to promote books; the goal is to reach out and connect with readers everywhere. So you may be opening up your Facebook profile to a lot of strangers — most of whom will be wonderful people, some of whom may not be. As this Wall St. Journal article reports, it’s possible that your Facebook page may be examined for anything from jury selection to custody battles — providing another good reason not to reveal too much to the general public or to friend anyone you don’t know. And check out this article about how much you may be revealing to criminals on Facebook without realizing it.
So here are a few good rules to go by in terms of protecting your privacy while being open to connecting with readers:
- Do not include on your Facebook profile anything that can be used to access any of your personal information (including email, banking, day job passwords, healthcare accounts, etc.). For example, I don’t include anything in my profile that you can’t find on my web site or blog. And, yes, this will exclude many of the things that make Facebook fun, such as your birthday, your pets’ names, your hometown, your alma mater, etc. But think about it: The passwords you use and/or security questions you answer to access your bank accounts or credit cards usually have to do with things only you will know (supposedly). So consider this before you share it all online.
- Adjust your settings to keep certain things private: your friend list, your email, your phone number, your address; any of these can be used to hack into a bank account either by phone or online. (And I’m not just being paranoid here; I’ve seen it happen.)
- Disable the Places feature that “checks you in” — which essentially means that everyone on Facebook knows exactly where you are when you post. If you’re on a book tour, naturally you’ll be posting about that — but do keep in mind that all of your connections will then know you’re out of town and for how long. Again, avoid putting your address anywhere, especially if your place will be empty while you’re away. And while you’re at it, you might also mention that you have a big, hulking neighbor keeping an eye on your home and dog-sitting for your Dobermans.
- Enable https, which is under Account Security — this enables secure browsing and will help prevent your account from being hacked into (surely I’m not the only one who’s gotten emails from friends saying, “Sorry, that nasty video wasn’t from me — my account was hacked!”). This is especially important if you’re using a wireless network or a public computer.
- Take care with apps and games. For increased privacy, one thing you’ll want to do is uncheck the boxes in the Info Available to Applications setting — Facebook encourages you to check all the boxes, saying “the more you share, the more social the experience,” when in fact, the more you share, the more vulnerable you are. And as this article outlines, even those fun “games” people enjoy on Facebook, like “25 Things About Me” and “Who Knows You Best” can reveal information that you don’t want the wrong people to have, especially if you use any of this sort of information to log into bank accounts. Remember that recent one about describing your first car? I thought that was a fun one too … until I noticed that this is one of the security questions my bank uses.
- Be careful what you post. If that WSJ article above isn’t eye-opening enough, I’ve also read about health insurance companies using Facebook to deny insurance claims. So be aware that your updates and photos may be telling others … and share only what you don’t mind the whole world knowing, just in case.
All that said, don’t be so paranoid that you don’t have fun on Facebook — in fact, the most fun for me on isn’t necessarily the ability to share but the ability to chat with others and to enjoy their photos and news. And perhaps this is the best way to view social media, especially as an author who uses Facebook in part for book promotion: To remember that while it’s a great way to get the word out, it’s less about self-promotion than about about the give-and-take.Tweet
May 11, 2011 2 Comments
Many thanks to Randy Susan Meyers for hosting me at the fabulous Beyond the Margins blog today, where the topic is Learning to Disconnect, and how we writers need to find that challenging balance of writing and promoting our work.
Join me at Beyond the Margins today, where you’ll learn a few tips for how you can best achieve that delicate balance.Tweet
May 3, 2011 No Comments
I’m delighted to be a guest today at Word Love by Randy Susan Meyers — a fantastic blog about writing and all aspects of the writing life. In addition to hosting this terrific blog, Randy is the internationally bestselling author of The Murderer’s Daughters; visit her web site to learn more and to read all the fabulous reviews.
April 21, 2011 No Comments
Today I’m thrilled to be a guest on the fabulous Savvy Verse & Wit blog, where I share some thoughts about my writing space (complete with before and after photos!). We’re also doing a Forgetting English giveaway, so come visit and enter to win a copy of the book.
April 18, 2011 No Comments
Today I’m delighted to be a guest on Erika Dreifus’s popular and invaluable blog, Practicing Writing, to which I’ve been addicted for many years. Erika is a contributing editor for The Writer magazine and Fiction Writers Review and an advisory board member for J Journal: New Writing on Justice. Her beautiful story collection, Quiet Americans, was published earlier this year.
With thanks to Erika for hosting me, today I’m offering Ten Tips for a Writing Life, a few things that I find helpful to keep in mind as a working writer. I’d love to hear your tips as well, so stop by and share!
April 15, 2011 No Comments
Today I’d like to thank Susan Rich, author of three beautiful books of poetry (the most recent of which, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, is a finalist for the Poetry Book of the Year award), for hosting me on her blog today. Today’s topic is Writing About Place, and I offer a few tips for how all writers — from poets to novelists — can best write about place.
So join me over at The Alchemist’s Kitchen blog. It’s a place you’ll want to visit over and over again.
April 13, 2011 No Comments
I’m thrilled today to be blogging at Seattle’s Crab Creek Review, one of my favorite literary magazines, about putting time and space between yourself and a piece of writing (it’s true: absence really does make the heart grow fonder).
April 12, 2011 No Comments
Forgetting English will be reissued next week — on April 11, to be exact! — yet my official “book tour” doesn’t start until this summer, stretching into the fall. Q: So what can an author do when scheduling doesn’t allow travel between the book launch and the book tour? A: She can set up a Virtual Book Tour.
What is a Virtual Book Tour? It’s simply another way to get out there and do what you do — talk about your book, connect with readers, answer questions — only this way, you’re doing it all virtually instead of live and in person. The nice thing about this is that, unlike with a live book tour, on a virtual tour you can wear yoga pants the whole time (unless, of course, you go onto Skype or do any video chats).
For example, here are a few things I’ll be doing on my Virtual Book Tour:
- I’ll be a guest blogger on several writer/reader blogs (check back next week for directions!)
- I’ll be doing interviews and/or Q&As on reader/writer blogs
- I’m doing several giveaways (among them, this one on Goodreads)
The nice thing about the virtual tour is that the possibilities are seemingly endless: You can go anywhere. The fact that you can do this also makes it a bit overwhelming. Over the last few weeks that I’ve been planning this tour, I’ve come up with a few tips to share with you…
- Just because you can do everything doesn’t mean you must do everything. At least not all at once. Launching a book into the world is a big deal, and it’s tempting to want to do every single thing you can. However, you’ll probably go a little insane if you try this. I suggest a schedule that includes daily events the first week, then tapering it down a bit to 2-3 events per week over the following weeks. This will give you good buzz in the beginning, then allow you to breathe again.
- Start developing relationships early. You don’t want to be rushing to get events lined up at the last minute, and you also don’t want to be demanding of your fellow bloggers. Ideally, you’ll have a good writers’ network in place — if not, start networking well before your pub date. And, most important of all, ask not only what your fellow writers can do for you but what you can do for them: Offer them guest spots on your own blog; ask them how you can help them out, too.
- Have FUN! Don’t make book promotion a chore, or you’ll grow to hate it. Doing so much writing and talking in a short period of time can get exhausting, so you’ll have to find your own balance to avoid burning out. And while many people will tell you that you have to base all your events around the book launch date, I’m more of the mindset that “every week is book-launch week,” in that, for one, book promotion never really ends; and two, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t fit it all into one week, or even one month. Rather attempt to cram everything into a short period of time, you’ll be better off in the long run if you think about ways to promote your book all year, and all the time.Tweet
April 7, 2011 10 Comments
This is the first post that will eventually become a semi-regular series on book promotion — which, I have learned, makes writing look like the easy part.
Today: Let’s talk about book trailers. I debated whether or not to make a trailer for Forgetting English when the book came out in 2009. Even as a writer and reader, I must confess that I’ve always found the concept of a book trailer a little strange; while movie trailers for films are an obvious marketing strategy, I think it’s a challenge for most writers (particularly fiction writers) to do justice to their books in a media that isn’t an obvious match with the product, i.e., words and story and the imaginative collaboration they create with the reader. How to translate this into video was a mystery to me. Actually, it still is.
The main problem for fiction writers, I think, is how to portray our stories visually. We write because we love words, after all, and not all of us are also actors or have a great visual sense or have the budget to hire professionals. I’ve also found that attempts to dramatize a novel for the tiny screen can backfire in a huge way if not done just right. That said, I’m not sure what that “right way” is. Many writers get around this challenge by focusing on something else other than the story itself, such as the author or book’s backstory — a great solution in that it gives readers a little something more than what they already know from the jacket copy or author bio.
Challenges aside, there are definitely a lot of great book trailers out there. One of my all-time favorites is Dennis Cass’s award-winning trailer, Book Launch 2.0 — which is not only hilarious, but it does everything a book trailer needs to do: engage, entertain, and pique interest in the author and the book. The trailer doesn’t actually mention his book, Head Case, which I might have done — but it’s still a great one.
I also like Judy Reeves’s book trailer for A Writer’s Book of Days — the trailer does a wonderful job of showing us what’s at the heart of the book: writing and inspiration, creativity and compassion. Even though the book is nonfiction, it tells a story — one that perfectly fits the book’s themes.
As Alan Rinzler points out in a blog post on book trailers, research indicates that you’ve got a viewer’s attention for about three minutes — but I’d go even shorter than that. I rarely watch anything for more than a minute or two — “Book Launch 2.0″ was an exception because it was so funny, and you’ll note that Judy’s trailer is almost exactly two minutes long.
Yet even after watching a few good book trailers and more than a few bad ones, I came up with no great ideas for my own book. Promoting a short story collection from a university press has plenty of marketing challenges, and creating a book trailer seemed to be among the bigger ones. So Forgetting English went trailer-less for nearly two years, and in the meantime my husband, John Yunker, published a novel, The Tourist Trail, and he too began to wonder if he should do a trailer. Because he self-published his book and needed all the promotion he could get, we began thinking of ideas, all of them terrible. While we both agreed, naturally, with the reviewer who called John’s book “epic, sprawling, and strikingly cinematic,” we still couldn’t find a way to create a trailer that wasn’t melodramatic and lame.
Then he had a great idea — one that had nothing to do with the subject, content, characters, or themes of his book. But it didn’t need to. And best of all, his idea incorporated my book, too. So we put together a script, picked up John’s iPhone, and did the whole thing over Thanksgiving weekend. It cost us nothing but time.
And this is one of the important things to consider — how much time and/or money are you willing to invest in a book trailer? For us, the answer was a holiday weekend and zero money — so we had the perfect budget. But authors do have to be aware of the costs involved and to know that it might not be a great investment, especially since no one really knows how well book trailers sell books. Also, once you have a book trailer, the next challenge is to find ways to get people to view your book trailer. We were fortunate that many in the literary community showed it some love, including Poets & Writers, Shelf Awareness, GalleyCat, The Seattle Times, and many generous bloggers, Facebook friends, and tweeters (we thank you all). And we’ve noticed a slight uptick in book sales (we’re thankful for that, too), but nothing overwhelming, which makes us glad we didn’t spend a fortune. Still, it was worth doing in that it got our names and our books out there, and from the feedback we’ve gotten, it’s given people a few moments of fun.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes a good book trailer — send them along!
And, finally, here is our book trailer, Love in the Time of Amazon.com, for your viewing pleasure:Tweet
January 20, 2011 2 Comments