Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Feel Like a Bird (tweet, tweet!)

copyright Aaron Paul Lazar, 2011

Several months ago, I promised to review Carolyn Howard Johnson’s new guide, Frugal and Focused Tweeting for Retailers. Although it wasn't aimed directly at authors, we are all retailers, so I figured it applied to me just as much as someone who owns an online shop, for example. I’d been feeling guiltier by the day when I didn’t get to it, and it was starting to weigh on me. Heavily. A promise is a promise, right? I hated not fulfilling it.

Of course, to be honest, there were some perfectly good excuses to explain my lax behavior. Some of you know how crazy my writing life has been lately. With FireSong, Terror Comes Knocking, For the Birds, Essentially Yours, and Don’t Let the Wind Catch You all scheduled for release in the next 9 months, I’ve been editing and polishing and contributing to cover ideas, and editing, and editing, checking ARCs (“advanced reader copies”), and editing and…  Get the picture?

So when it came time to do a little promoting for the FireSong eBook (April 5, 2011), in advance of the July print release, I decided I needed to honor my promise to Carolyn, as well as beef up my Twitter skills.

Sure, I was “on” Twitter. And I’d occasionally “tweeted” about new releases, about articles I wrote on Gather or here on Murderby4, etc. I probably had about fifty tweets over the past years. I was proud of my 75 followers – some friends, some others who just happened to find me. But the only way I used Twitter was only to shout out into the wilderness about me and my stuff.  

Not so cool.

Whenever I went to my Twitter page, I’d enjoy seeing what my friends were tweeting about their books. I’d follow their links to  interesting articles or sites. But I really didn’t “get” Twitter. Of course, I knew that the rich and famous used it to tweet their every move, from putting on their slippers to taking a bath. That seemed rather silly to me. And I knew some friends used it to keep in extremely close touch, sort of a miniature version of texting.

But whenever folks “followed” me (the term used to describe a connection, sort of like “friending” on Facebook), I’d just think, “Oh! That’s nice!” And there I let it all stop.

So, after reading Carolyn’s guide (chock full of great tips!), I realized I was going about it all wrong. She taught me that the beauty of this system is not to simply broadcast your news into an empty void, but to connect with people – for real – by offering them something and starting up a relationship. A gift, a freebie, a connection to a great site… that’s what it’s all about. Not so hard to understand, and I'll never understand why I didn't quite "get it" here on Twitter.

I learned about retweeting (which I’d never really appreciated, either), and discovered that if you followed a tweet with “Plz RT,” folks might be inclined to hit their own retweet button and send your news onto their group of followers. If everyone does this, tweeters get hit a much broader target.

I still haven’t quite got the “hashtags” down, or figured out yet how to create “lists,” although I am apparently on a bunch of other people’s lists… LOL. I understand that hashtags are like keywords. If you include a hashmark in front of a term like “#mysteries,” it is then searchable. I think. Ha. See? I’m still learning and need to dig even deeper into Carolyn’s book.

So, after my awakening, I decided that I’d try to network more and offer more freebies on Twitter. I began to search for Tweeters who had “mystery” in their title or bio. I found some great folks, like mystery bookstores, who had thousands of followers who apparently loved mysteries.

I scoured through their lists of followers, “followed” folks who seemed to like to read or write mysteries, and have been doing that now for the past month – about 10-20 per day. When these folks “follow” me back (about 50% seem to respond), I try not to just blast them with “buy my book,” but I now do two things. First, I offer my thanks for following back, make a comment about their website or book (yes, I check them out!), etc. We sometimes get a conversation going, and they often check out my site. Secondly, I send them a tweet with my eBook sales that are currently available, with a link to my site.

What’s happened is I’ve connected with a number of lovely people, we’ve frequently purchased each other’s books, and it’s been fun! (You should SEE that long list of books I have waiting to read on my Kindle! Wow!)

I’m up to about 350 followers today (from 70), and have truly met some wonderful people.

Now, I started to find this whole “Oh my God, I haven’t tweeted today” thing a little unwieldy. On top of working full time and running our household pretty much singlehandedly, I had all these books to get out, and was still aching to write something fresh. Time was at a premium, and I couldn’t sit around all day sending out tweets.

Mayra Calvani, author of many award winning fiction and nonfiction books, including The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, has been advising Twilight Times authors regarding promotion techniques. One of the tips she gave me after reviewing my marketing plan was about the plethora of applications out there to help folks with Twitter. Thus I discovered Twuffer, where I can automatically schedule my tweets for anytime, any day. I’m not sure if it’s the best one out there, but it’s simple and it works great.

Here are a few sample tweets I’ve been using. Some I use as the “second” message after touching base personally with the folks who follow me. Some I just send out there randomly throughout the day. I’m sure I could do better, such as including the hashtags, etc. with my “free” or “sale” words. But it’s so hard to get info into that tiny little bit of space. Being a writer, it kills me to have to shorten words or leave spaces out between sentences. And as you can see, it’s hard for me to stop talking. :o)

Hi, Susan! Thanks for following back. Love the cover art on your new mystery, very nice! Sending another note with eBook sales, FYI.

Here’s a note I might use to follow up.

EBook SALE. Old-fashioned country mysteries that make you feel good & are rather addictive, in a good way. Plz RT

And here are some freebies that I advertise throughout the day on occasion. You’ll note that I use tiny urls to get shorter website addresses:

Ebook Sale, 99cents Fast-paced European mystery. Paris. Vienna. Germany. Nasty Villains.Wild chase scenes.Mazurka.

FREE EBOOK, Literary Sampler. Read samples of three authors’ work. Mysteries. Children’s. Vampires. More. Plz RT

FREE WRITING ARTICLES, "slice of life" essays, tips, advice, photos. Where does he GET those ideas?  ;o) Plz RT

A strange talisman. A 50-year-old secret. An obsession over a vanished brother. Healey's Cave. $2.99 Plz RT

Okay, so I’m sure many of you folks are much more experienced than I am here – I’m definitely a Twitter newbie! But I’m learning, and am grateful for all tips! Let’s talk about it, below. ;o)

So, have a wonderful Easter with your loved ones, rejoice in Christ's rising, and if you love to write, remember to write like the wind!

                                                                                                             - Aaron Lazar




Here’s my mini-review for Carolyn’s book:

Carolyn Howard Johnson has written another excellent guide, this time it's suitable for anyone selling a product. I happen to be a writer, and learned a great deal about tweeting to improve book sales. For example, I never knew what "Retweets" were or that one could request them. Written with a straightforward, easy to read style, this is a great reference book. I particularly loved this quote "So let's think that if we give freely and with confidence our good deeds will come back to us. If we act accordingly, we can successfully use all kinds of sites on the Web." Carolyn's positive and optimistic outlook shines through in this book - coupled with astute common sense and experience. Buy it today!


Ellie said...

I know loads of people don't get twitter but I think it's invaluable if you have any sort of presence on the web that you want to share. And even the random things have an audience of some sort. It's nice to know I can vent my anger and people with sympathise!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hey, Ellie. That's an aspect I hadn't appreciated. You can just shout out about tearing your hair out over a scene or something, and get some instant feedback, can't you? Very cool. Have a wonderful Easter day.

Mayra Calvani said...

Thanks for the plug! I also read and reviewed Carolyn's book. I found it quite informative.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hi, Mayra! Thanks for stopping by. ;o) Happy Easter!

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those VERY late newcomers to the party. Just started my blog and signed up for Twitter this past week. Finally convinced I need to jump on the marketing bandwagon. (You must understand something here. My 8-track player did not give up without a fight.)
Think I am going to sign up for the career management track at the Killer Nashville writing conference. At first, I wanted to take the "writing track," but I really think I need a lot of help on the marketing side.
Things have sure changed. I used to think it was all about the right words in the right order.

I hope everyone had a pleasant and blessed Easter! Now if you will excuse me, I need to go jump on the treadmill.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hi, Bryce. I know how you feel. (and I need to get exercising, too, LOL). I pine for those good old days when all I did was write, and imagine the next book, and write some more. Of course, in those good old days, nobody but me and my family read my stuff, so... maybe this is better? Hmmm. Sometimes it's hard to know!