I was one of the MAD men.
In the decade before I turned to writing, I worked in advertising agencies, and spent at least $20 million dollars of clients’ money on print and TV advertising, mostly with good results I’m proud to say.
During my journey along the ‘avenue’, I saw a ton of promotional spending by publishers trying to kick-start sales of their latest books.
You see, books become bestsellers largely via word-of-mouth recommendation, but a critical mass of initial readers is needed to get that wild-fire process started. So publishers often paid for an opening burst of expensive publicity to get the ball rolling.
But times have changed. For the increasing numbers of authors who e-publish their own books, spending a fortune on promotion isn’t a realistic option. They need a way to achieve this initial ‘critical mass’ without having to sell the family silver.
Similarly, traditional publishing houses are no longer willing to spend money on promoting new authors. Instead, they actively seek out and choose to publish new authors who demonstrate they can get the ball rolling themselves.
So what’s the solution?
Enter Twitter – The Greatest Word-of-Mouth Marketing Tool Ever Created
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed Twitter popping up everywhere in the media. It has recently expanded to well beyond 100 million active users. In fact, it brings visitors every day to this very blog you are reading. (Maybe that’s how you arrived here?)
I consider Twitter to be the greatest word-of-mouth marketing tool ever created – something I would have killed to have had at my disposal back in my Mad Men days.
But more importantly, it’s a God-send for authors who don’t have a large budget, and who don’t want to be a pushy ‘salesperson’.
How Twitter Works For Authors
The real keys to Twitter’s power are its viral power and its community-building ability, both of which can help bring readers flocking to your books.
When you’ve written a great book, readers tell other readers about it. Classic ‘social proof’ kicks in: “If other people are raving about it, then it must be good. I’d better read it too.”
With over 100 million people all around the world interacting and chatting to each other on Twitter, the potential for this viral spread is incredible.
But here’s the best bit – if you know how to use Twitter properly, you can achieve this promotional effect without having to be a pushy ‘marketer’. You won’t get anywhere by constantly spamming people with “Buy my book!” tweets, that is a complete waste of time.
Instead, by actively participating in the book community on Twitter and forming friendships and connections there, you can achieve long-lasting publicity for your books without ever having to ‘sell’ at all.
It’s all about carefully building up a community of the right followers on Twitter – readers, book bloggers, other authors and publishing industry people.
Nuturing Your Followers Stores Up ‘Reciprocity’
The secret sauce that builds support for your books is the power of reciprocity – the returning of favors.
You store up goodwill by continually going out of your way to Tweet about your key followers, plus leave supportive comments on their blogs, and generally help them along their pathways. When it’s time to launch your book, they’ll pay back by recommending your work and sending tweets about it to their own communities.
It’s the power of reciprocation, because it’s human nature to want to ‘return the favor’. This is your community in action, which is where Twitter is supremely effective.
Real Life Example: How Twitter Helped A Cartoonist Break Free & Cartoon Full Time
This Twitter ‘community in action’ strategy has been a major force behind the success of social-commentary cartoonist Hugh McLeod.
A mere few years ago he was quite literally a nobody in terms of visibility. But over three years he gradually built up a platform of Twitter friends, who are now helping him successfully promote his new cartoon book – ‘Freedom Is Blogging in Your Underwear’.
Hugh tweeted recently “I knew that if I got my material in enough places that word-of-mouth would eventually kick in.”
It certainly did ‘kick in’. Hugh is now one of the most popular cartoonists on the planet.
Good Things Take Time
Even with the help of Twitter, author success takes time. Cartoonist Hugh McLeod didn’t just pop up and start tweeting ‘Buy my book!’. He built his presence, relationships and community over several years. And this is now starting to bear fruit.
Your writing ability and style needs to develop, and Twitter (and other online assets) need to mirror this by steadily growing at the same pace.
If you’re interested in learning how to do this the right way, my Twitter for Authors mini-course covers everything you need to know.
For those of you who are e-publishing your own books, it’s a remarkably easy way to increase your sales. You’ll become familiar, then fascinating to readers, and they’ll increasingly talk about you and your books. And that is the point at which having a bestseller really does start to become a reality.
And for those of you looking to get a traditional book deal, a visible Twitter following says to the publisher that you are the one they should pick, as you are willing and capable of helping ignite the sales process.
Do you use Twitter to promote your books? Do you think Twitter is more useful for authors than Facebook? Do leave a comment below.
Article written by Jonathan Gunson
Author / CEO Bestseller Labs
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