I hear two big reasons for people not trying Twitter: they don’t want to connect up with a whole world of readers, and they don’t want to lose the time they figure it will take to “read all those messages” — and write them!
I’ll explain as we go along why neither of those is is a REAL problem. But first — here’s what Twitter really can be.
If you could afford it, would you love to get postcards designed that promoted your book, or your home town, or your love for other books — and mail them to friends, relatives, and, especially if you’re writing a book headed for publication, to possible interested readers? Let’s see, figure $300 for the card design and printing, and if you send it to a thousand people, that’s another $350 or so … and how are you going to feel about repeating that, next week or tomorrow? Right.
So, Twitter is a postcard. A free, quick, fun postcard. And there are two reasons people will look at your “tweet” (that’s what you call a Twitter message): for the picture (yes, like the postcard’s front), and for a message that they know is meant exactly for them — that is, something that includes an index term that they’re already looking for. Those index terms in your Twitter message are called hashtags, because they begin with what’s now called a hash mark (used to be a pound sign for some of us): #. A hashtag looks like this: #mystery. If you include that in your tweet, then everyone who’s looking for news about mystery books has a chance to notice it.
They notice it, because they are using — just the way you probably will — a tweet sorting program such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite (I use the latter, have used the other also), and they’ve asked it to show them the tweets that have exactly that keyword. See? You’re not “talking to” or “mailing your postcard to” the world — you’re sending it to people who love mysteries. (You can narrow this with other hashtags like #thriller or, my personal fave, #Vermont — or especially something you know the young adults in your circle are sorting with.)
Experiment: Start a Twitter account if you haven’t yet. You need your e-mail address and your choice of a Twitter “handle” (what you want people to see as the name of the person sending out those postcards — usually your authoring name or real name — I’m there as @BethKanell). It’s simple enough to go to Twitter.com and just fill in the blanks and push a few buttons, but if you want extra reassurance, here’s a basic guide to print out: http://michaelhyatt.com/the-beginners-guide-to-twitter.html (I would skip the phone stuff as you start, unless you’re already totally hooked to your smartphone).
For your first tweet, go back to that postcard idea — if you’re into YA mysteries, what do you want on your postcard? A book cover or image of something related to a mystery, right? You can do this in two simple ways: with an image, or with a URL (that is, a website address). Have one ready when you want to send your first message.
Now the YA mystery emphasis: Choose that image or website or message with your audience in mind! As an example, would you want your readers to associate you with a classic Nancy Drew cover? Or a spooky cave near your house? Or a nighttime urban street scene? Pick one — and “postcard it” — that is, send it as part of your tweet.
What happens then? Thousands of people potentially see your tweet and one or two may do one of three things: retweet it, favorite it, or reply. You’ll get a message (via e-mail) if someone does that — so no, you don’t have to watch the Twitter feed (that stream of ongoing messages) after all! And … if you use one of the Twitter management programs I mentioned earlier, you can look for other people’s tweets in the areas that interest you, and do one of those three actions yourself. We can talk later about how this multiplies the number of postcards you’re effectively sending … to people who already want them.
What’s the point? Well, tell me — how pleased are you when you get a postcard with a picture that interests you and an intriguing message?
Oh, you probably thought I was going to tell you all about how to fit a message about your book or your writing or your favorite mystery into 140 characters, the well-known limit to a tweet. Hint: Don’t bother counting. Twitter will “tell you” if you’ve gone on too long. And it will actually collapse website URLs for you, making them much smaller.
Here’s an actual tweet I sent out this morning, to let people know about my review of a Singapore mystery by Ovida Yu (you’ll see that Twitter collapsed the URL — I sent this from the blog where I’d posted the review, at Kingdom Books):
#Books, #Mysteries — Classic to Cutting Edge: #Singapore Mystery: AUNTY LEE’S DELIGHTS, Ovidia Yu. http://kingdombks.blogspot.com/2013/11/singapore-mystery-aunty-lees-delights.html?spref=tw …
It’s all easier than you think. Me, I spend about 10 minutes per day on some aspect of Twitter. Sometimes less. Meanwhile, it’s working for my mysteries and reviews and more. It’s my electronic postcard collection — and I’m having fun both sending and receiving them. I hope you will, too.
More info: Twitter newbies, look here for nicely grounded info and reassurance. Wanting to improve (and again be reassured), look here. If you are a Twitter pro, look here for an interview that links this with storytelling (and zombies!). And I’ll come back to all this in a later post, after providing the basics for four social media of use to YA mystery writers and fans.
To connect your tweets with Sisters in Crime New England, please do include this: @SinCNE.