Okay, let me repeat that: Twitter does not sell books. And by that, I mean, authors who write really valuable, amusing, aha-moment Twitter feeds--they sell books. By being engaging, authors build a following, and ultimately, increase their book sales. A simple formula that somehow, authors make more complicated. Then, you find yourself talking to the hand: Don't tell me about Twitter, these authors say. Just don't go there. But you should. As an author, brander and social media hired gun, who has been doing a deep dive into Twitter with authors for the last six months, I offer you this advice. Love it, leave it, laugh at it, but whatever you do please RT. :)
Note: If you already have a decent (1,000+) following on Twitter, you can probably skip to #2. Or read number one and think, "Phew. Glad I've done that."
1) For Twitter authors who want to get in the game. If you don't already have a blog, and one that is connected to Twitter, start one this week. I know, you don't want to blog, you don't have time, you wrote a book for goodness sake! You ask, why do I have to write a blog now???? It's all in the book!!! Buy it! The answer: Having a 'platform' (read: blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed) is what agents and publishers demand. Using Twitter is also smart if you are going to self-publish. You are building your own platform for marketing and PR.
Please, don't argue that point. Instead, find a way to enjoy the process of creating a platform. Find a system and a niche that takes minimal time and is of maximum interest to you. Found it? Now begin posting on all things you/your sweet spot. Do what I call 'Posting Lite'. Create short compelling entries with links and terms that don't say: I need to sell books! But show: I am freakin' fascinating. Come back tomorrow for more! DO NOT send your followers to a half-fired up blog because you are so excited you created a blog. That is like writing a review of a great exhibit where the art hasn't yet been hung on the walls.
2) Start here if you are already testing out Twitter: Enjoy lift off. I can remember the day I was working on a Twitter campaign for an author. The book hit #149 on Amazon.com and the publisher emailed to say: 'We've Got Lift-Off'. What I think happened: We put up a particularly smart post, it caught on fire in the blogosphere and on Twitter, and it held the attention of other smart thinkers enough that they clicked straight through to buy her book. After weeks of toiling and not getting much bang for our buck, we had lift off. As my friend and mentor @jonathanfields of www.careerrenegade.com has said to me more than 15 times (who's counting?): Be passionate about what you do. Be original. Don't be a Tweetbot. He's right: The news that Steinbrenner has passed, Spain won and the Gulf is in trouble--probably not your turf. You are wasting valuable effort and clogging up the Twitterfeed.
3) Be You, not Chris Brogan. How you view the news, your voice, your humor, your friendly encouragement or smart commentary--that will make you a Twit hit. This is tricky but crucial. If you are a former magazine editor, think of tweeting as you would writing heds and deks or coverlines. Go beyond FLAT ABS in 10 DAYS! That's everywhere. How are you different? One of my favorite tweeters, who I networked with during some of my Tweet travels is @timbrownson of howtoberichandhappy.com. The blurb on the back of his book (of the same name) says: "Ask more questions, not the same questions more often." So true in Twitterland.
4) Start Personal Twitter Lists. Each one should have a topic name that fits the different pockets of your life. For you, it's a genius ways to do a deep dive into your niche, get connected and remind yourself where to find great conversations. For others, lists offer well-researched, helpful, thoughtful resources. Still not sold on lists? Think about this: If you don't create swimming lanes, you're gonna get lost in the bay. For instance, my friend @claudiac of www.denvercereal.com is a writer, marketer, beekeeper and fitness fan. Woah, Nellie! Yet when I look at Claudia through the lens of her lists, I don't feel overwhelmed. I always learn something. In fact, I'm even tempted to peek at her personal beekeeping buzz list.
Aside from the organizational aspects, Twitter lists show you are a connector, that you have crucial information and that you want to share that on Twitter. Don't fill your lists with the top guys and think you will get noticed for it. Tom Peters and Penelope Trunk are cool, and what they write is worthy, but listing streams of these well-known authorities can actually make you look less connected and innovative. Show me the lesser-known gems--and then, even more important, plan to actually do something with them offline! I explain below...
5) Go Real World. Simply put, getting your network talking on Twitter is one thing. Moving them to action--to buy your book, to donate to your charity, to show up at a round-table or seminar with you, to contribute to your site, or to do anything with you in real life? That's your goal on Twitter. For every 10 or 20 people you follow, find one that you can engage with in some real way. Trading resources, articles, advice or making helpful introductions. Basically, engage your following. Stay on message, and try, as often as possible, to bring that real message into the real world. Eventually, you will sell books via your Twittering. Give it time. Don't think, oh, I've chatted @so-and-so up a bit, now I can sell him on my book. Twitterers smell the sell and they click away. With every conversation your Twittering sparks, ask yourself: Now what do I accomplish by twittering with this person? That may be, how can you help them, or how can they inform you. You are on a mission. The mission is not to sell books. It can be to create a network of women to meet face-to-face at an upcoming conference. Or your mission might be to raise $1000 per month for a charity connected to your book. Write your heart out, enjoy the ride and don't tweet to sell books. Find a separate but related mission. Otherwise, I fear you are wasting your time.