Why Writers Should Love Twitter (Hint: It’s Not Just About Selling Books)

Why Writers Should Love Twitter (Hint: It’s Not Just About Selling Books)

When I launched my ebook A Writer’s Bucket List in early 2013, I had a Twitter bonanza. The platform is my favorite way to connect with colleagues and readers, so I naturally lean on it for self-promotion. However, I knew not to expect much for direct sales, even from directly-promotional tweets.

Many authors are struggling to figure out how to use Twitter to sell books. That’s because Twitter doesn’t sell books.

Instead, the social medium is part of the long game of building your author platform so you can engage with readers elsewhere and, eventually, possibly sell books to some of them. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it.)

It may seem counter-intuitive for a platform with a limited character count, but I’ve made some of my closest professional connections through Twitter. Users are open to meeting new people when they’re there. Compare that with networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, where people often restrict their connections and information to people they already know, and Twitter is your obvious launching point for building a community around your brand as an author.

Here’s how you can use Twitter to grow your community and, indirectly, increase interest in your books and services:

Make it easy to opt in

Tweeting is an easy way for someone to support you. You can even provide pre-written tweetable messages and a Click to Tweet link, so that all they have to do is click.

Even if they don’t expend much effort, once someone has supported you or your product, they feel more invested in you, more interested in seeing what you do next, and more likely to stick around.

Send thank-you notes

Whenever someone shares your book — or anything else you’ve written — on Twitter, they also probably @mention you. Since you’re directly notified of their support, you can easily follow up with a thank you.

This isn’t always the case if they share via email, Facebook or another channel. This opportunity to say, “Thanks for sharing!” creates an extra point of contact, prompting conversations and deepening your connection with loyal readers.

Boost your morale

Tons of @mentions streaming in throughout the day can fuel you with the positive attention you need to keep active, especially during an exhausting book launch or major promotion. This is a little vain to admit, but I definitely appreciate (and sometimes desperately need!) those virtual pats on the back that remind me people are enjoying and supporting my work.

Utilize lists

Using Twitter lists is not just a neat way to organize your social and professional connections; it’s also a simple reminder to connect with certain people, and a way to showcase those you love. Most important for me are two private lists: a “Notice Me” list (prompted by Alexis Grant) to forge connections with leaders in my industry, and a “Helpful Besties” list to keep up with and support people who have been particularly supportive to me over the years.

I also have public lists for “DIY Writers” and “About Writing” that serve to both keep me connected to my community and help show them off to my other followers.

Hop into Twitter chats

An awesome way to help members of your community connect with each other, plus regularly revive momentum around your author brand, Twitter chats are one of my favorite “promo” activities. Join existing chats for bloggers or authors in your genre, or host one of your own that gets people talking about your unique message. They’re the perfect way to connect with tweeps who already love what you love!

Become a go-to resource

You may already know the “80/20 Rule” of social media: spend 20 percent of the time talking about yourself, and 80 percent talking about others. Not only is it a good practice to promote the blog posts, books, and resources of others in your niche or genre, but it’s also a way for you to make your Twitter feed a must-read for your followers by ensuring they’ll always find something valuable there.

80/20 rule of social media

Ask questions

Want to get people talking to you? Ask them something! Your Twitter followers might not speak up when you share your brilliant thoughts or latest articles because they’re intimidated or afraid to intrude. But if you reach out to them and welcome their comments, they’ll be happy to share — sparking a conversation and letting you get to know a little about what makes them tick!

Share life and biz updates

This one is pretty obvious, and it’s probably what you’re already doing on Twitter if you’re trying to sell books or grow your platform there. I’ll add that talking about yourself on social media doesn’t have to be all about you.

Share updates and tidbits from your life as a burgeoning author as another way of connecting with followers, not promoting yourself. Show not only your victories but also your vulnerabilities, setbacks, even–gasp!–failures, so your followers understand they’re connecting with a real human, not a promo-bot.

How do you use Twitter to connect with your community and grow your author platform?

Filed Under: Marketing


  • Rachel Nichols says:

    I do most of my tweeting as retweets with a few direct messages, but people seem to follow me anyhow. (Not sure why.)

  • Craig says:

    This is a great post! As someone who just recently got on twitter, I will definitely be referring back to this frequently.

    I hated twitter with a passion, just because of what I perceived it to be and because of celebrities and marketing, etc, etc… Then, pretty much everyone in the world said you will have trouble getting an agent/publisher without an online presence. (So twitter and a ‘blog’ were created.)

    Now that I actually use twitter daily I do like it. It is a great resource for connecting with people who have similar interests or a service you might someday need. I get almost all my news and advice from twitter as of a few weeks ago. I feel so much more in the loop with the world and with the writing community now!

    • Dana Sitar says:

      I felt the same way when I started with Twitter, Craig. It’s a sort of overwhelming platform to dive into, but after you spend a little time getting used to it, it’s addictive!

  • Dana Sitar says:

    Thanks, Francesca. “Helpful Besties” is my favorite list! Most of my connections and colleagues are online, and it’s easy for communication with some people to drop off after, say a single guest post, or a big launch. But sticking them in that list helps me keep tabs on what they’re doing (and in my description for the list it says explicitly, “Stay in touch – they’re awesome, and don’t forget to thank!”)

  • Awesome tips, Dana!

    I’m a big fan of Twitter lists, too. They help me keep tabs on individuals and connect with specific groups of people. I have a specific list for clients (and I keep updating it as I get new ones) so I can regularly keep in touch. And like you, I also have a list for leaders in my industry. I love your “Helpful Besties” list and I’ll definitely create one myself. 🙂

  • Elke Feuer says:

    Great post, Dana! I love what you said about the 80/20 rule. I used to be the other way around, but when I made the switch I connected with more people and sold more books. Go figure.

    I love the 80/20 rule! I’d rather spend time talking with people than creating a mountain of posts trying to get people to buy my book.

    Hope you find your happy medium, Amanda!

  • Amandah says:

    Interesting point about the 80/20 rule. I’ve heard a couple of online marketers say that the rule is backwards. They recommend spending 80 percent promoting and 20 percent talking about others. Maybe you can create a happy medium.

    • Dana Sitar says:

      I personally don’t focus on the numbers that much, but this rule illustrates my philosophy: Focus on community engagement, not on selling to your audience. Especially on social media, where people go to have fun, hang out, and meet new people, not to see commercials.

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