Monday, August 6, 2012
Advice for Authors: Create a Twitter Profile that Sells
Many social networking pundits agree that Twitter can be a powerful tool for authors looking to sell their work (Jonathan Gunson, for example, calls it the most effective book advertising tool ever).
But like most social media tools, Twitter is only powerful if you use it effectively. If you're an author hoping to use Twitter to sell books, then how you describe yourself on Twitter is an important component to encouraging a potential reader to follow you. It can also help a book blogger, reviewer, or media producer/editor who is researching you learn more about how you’ve positioned yourself as an author. Remember, how you describe yourself on social media sites is a crucial part of creating a platform and presenting yourself to those who might buy your books.
With that in mind, here are my thoughts (from a publicist’s perspective) on the do’s and don’ts for authors regarding how they describe themselves on Twitter and other social networking sites. First, the don’ts:
1. Don’t deprecate yourself
I’m stunned at the number of authors out there who describe themselves in unappealing terms. Some of the most common self-deprecating monikers are “loser,” “geek,” “nerd, “newbie,” and “wannabe.” I recently came across one author who described her own books as “smutty”; another who claims that he is an “ineffective woman chaser,” a third who calls herself a “troll.” Now I know that some of these descriptions are meant to be funny, but there is so much overuse of these kinds of statements that they’ve lost their uniqueness and risk falling flat with readers. Some might argue that the terms “geek” and “nerd” are a badge of honor for those who are technically competent, but if that’s true, consider positioning yourself with more positive words that might entice readers, bloggers, reviewers, and media folks to see you as an expert, rather than a person who describes himself with over-used and self-deprecating terminology.
2. Don’t label yourself as “aspiring”
Okay, maybe you’re new at the writing game, but if you’re in the process of writing anything, even for the first time, it’s perfectly okay to simply refer to yourself as a writer (no “aspiring” adjective necessary).
3. Don’t say you’re a bestselling author unless you truly are
There are bestselling authors out there, most of whom either have big-time breakout successes or extensive backlists. In either case, these people have sold many, many books. If that isn’t true in your case, please don’t label yourself as something that you aren’t.
4. Don't use religion and politics as descriptors unless they're relevant to your readers
Many authors list Jesus as the first item in their Twitter moniker. Others throw in the terms “conservative” or “liberal.” While this kind of disclosure is fine for those who write Christian or political books, it’s not always great for selling. Remember, some of the readers you may be looking to attract will not be Christian (or Buddhist, or Jewish, or whatever other religion you’ve mentioned). Likewise, if you list yourself as liberal or conservative, you’re sure to scare off the other half of your potential readership. Keep religion and politics out of your descriptions, unless you want to sell only to those who think, and believe, as you do.
5. Don’t refer to your husband, wife, or kids in your profile unless they have something to do with your book
Listen, we’re all members of some family or another. Unless your book is about parenting or family relationships, consider saying something else about yourself that potential readers might find more interesting and relevant.
6. Easy on the cat references
The other extremely over-used descriptors I see out there are “cat-lover,” “cat-owner,” “owner of XX number of cats,” etc. Unless you’ve written a book that has something to do with felines, consider leaving Fluffy where he belongs, on your living room couch.
7. Food is good, but watch that it doesn’t become the only thing that sets you apart
If you’re a cookbook author, then yes, by all means mention certain types of food in your profile. But if you’re not, realize that mentioning anything having to do with coffee (or caffeine), alcohol, or chocolate has been used by thousands of other Tweeps who can’t find something more creative to say about themselves.
8. Don’t overkill with hashtags and website addresses
#There’s #nothing #worse #than #trying #to #read #a #string #of #words #that #are #preceded #by #hashtags #or #anything.com.
9. Don’t say “I follow back” – just do so
Now for the do’s:
1. Think like a journalist
The best advice for positioning yourself to your readers comes from the school of journalism, where writers are advised to focus on the who, what, where, when, and why of the story. The same guidelines apply for your Twitter moniker: tell potential followers who you are, what genre you write, and, if relevant, name your books. A good example is the profile for well-known mystery author LJ Sellers, who describes herself thus: Author of the bestselling Detective Jackson mysteries & standalone thrillers: The Sex Club, The Gauntlet Assassin, The Baby Thief, and The Suicide Effect
2. Keep your profiles brief
No one likes overkill in anything, even Twitter profiles. Remember that less is more when it comes to describing yourself, so be brief and descriptive. A good example comes from self-publishing guru, JA Konrath, whose Twitter profile is simple and elegant: I write thrillers
3. Keep them on-point
If your goal is to use Twitter to sell books, then make sure that’s a main point of reference when you describe yourself. If you have other goals for yourself, list them in your profile. For example, best-selling suspense author Bob Mayer describes himself thusly: NY Times Bestselling Author, Speaker, Consultant, Former Green Beret, CEO of Cool Gus Publishing
4. Be professional
In summary, if you want yourself and your books to be taken seriously by readers, then be serious about how you present yourself on social media sites. Your potential Twitter followers (and, hopefully, future fans) will thank you for it.
Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her at email@example.com, or visit her at www.paulamargulies.com, on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications.