Twitter and Book Marketing

Is Twitter a useful way to market your books?

If you’ve read my previous article on social media, you’ll know that my advice goes against conventional wisdom.

In this article, I want to dig into Twitter—what it’s good for, and what it’s not good for—and how you can avoid the common time sinks and pitfalls most authors run into.

Let’s start here:

Twitter and Book Marketing

Strategy vs. Tools

Never, ever assume that you have to use any one platform or tool to be a successful author, even when it’s my advice you’re reading.

Every single activity that gets your non-writing time should be required to make its case for why you’re using it.

Just like Facebook, email lists, blogs, GoodReads, and Amazon… Twitter is just one more tool in your marketing toolbox.

You only should use it when it makes sense for you, and don’t when it doesn’t.

Let’s start with an example I’ve used before …

Imagine me having this conversation with my wife:

Her: “I need you to build something new for the house. I need…”

Me: “Should I use a hammer? What about a screwdriver? I probably, definitely need a saw.”

That’s getting a little ahead of myself, isn’t it?

Because before I can choose my tools, I first need to know what she needs me to build. Then I need to find the right plan for how to build it.

Only then can I decide what tools are needed for the job.

Using Twitter or any other online marketing tool works the same way. Before you make the decision to use it or not, you have to understand how it fits into your overall author platform.

And you need to know what it does well, and what it doesn’t do well.

If you try to use Twitter for something it’s not designed for, you’re just going to get frustrated with the lack of results.

I could try getting a nail into a board by using a screwdriver. I may get it started, but ultimately it’s the wrong tool for that job, and I’m only going to end up frustrated.

The realization that “Twitter is just a tool” is the missing ingredient in so many authors’ blogging efforts [1].

What is Twitter good (and bad) for?

Here are things Twitter is good for:

  • Connecting one-on-one with individual people: Because of the way people immediately and openly interact on social media, it’s often easier to connect with them on Twitter than by phone or email. You can also get past a lot of gatekeepers by directly reaching out to someone on Twitter.

Here is what Twitter is Bad for:

  • One-to-many communication: You can take a look at your own Twitter analytics here. But be ready to be depressed. I downloaded my stats for the past month, and here’s what I found: My average impressions (people who had my tweet show up while scanning their feed) was 10.1%. My average engagement (someone clicking a link, retweeting, liking, etc.) was 1.88%. That means only 10% of the people that follow me even had my tweets show up in their feed. The vast majority of your updates on Twitter don’t get seen by the vast majority of people following you on Twitter.

If you can build up 10,000 followers on Twitter, roughly 1,000 of them might see an update. And less than 200 will engage with it in some way.

AYP: Addressing Your Protests

At this point, when I’m talking about Twitter, I usually start getting a lot of pushback.

So let me address several common questions/arguments:

“But I heard a story about Author X doing _____________ on Twitter, and they sold a ton of books!”

We’ve all heard these rumors urban legends lies stories about an author doing something on Twitter and selling a bazillion copies of their book.

I’ve been behind the scenes on these launches and talked to the people running them often enough to know that one of two things happened:

  1. It was a complete fluke. They may have done something on Twitter that sold a bunch of books, but they don’t really understand how or why it worked, and it’s completely unrepeatable. Lightning strikes from time to time, but I don’t count on that happening to me.
  2. More than likely, the author was doing a lot of other stuff behind the scenes. This idea is something else I point out in my article about social media. In most cases, the social media presence is the visible tip of the iceberg in a book launch. It’s what everyone can see, but it’s not what is really selling books.

Posting on Twitter is not the way to sell a lot of books.

Sure, a handful of your connections will buy your book when you announce it. But it is not a one-to-many strategy that will reliably sell thousands of copies of your books.

“But I like Twitter! Why are you telling me to not use it for marketing?”

This is where I encourage you to separate pleasure from work.

I binge-watched the show Patriot last weekend on Amazon Prime. I did that for fun. I didn’t call it “story research” or tell myself that I was getting valuable work done.

If you’re on Twitter for fun, then go for it. I’m not telling you what to do with your free time.

What I am telling you is all of the hours you’re spending scrolling, retweeting, liking, and replying on Twitter is not book marketing.

It’s not helping your long-term game of building a platform that will support a book launch.

“But it seems to work for me!”

My answer to that: “Great! Test it.”

Use a service like Bitly to see how many people are actually clicking links that you post on Twitter. Then track your book sales, to see if people on Twitter are actually buying your book.

It’s important that you test your assumptions and get data to make decisions.

Twitter feels like it works because there is immediate feedback and interaction. However, when I’ve actually tested it, the sales numbers I get are abysmal for the amount of time it takes to build up a big following.

What do I do with all those followers?

I hear this question a lot. What if you’ve already built up a solid following on Twitter? How can you use that in some constructive way?

First, change your strategy. Focus on using Twitter to connect with interesting people one-to-one, not to build up a huge following.

Second, invite people to join your email list. As I’ve said before, building up your email list should be your #1 strategy. Email does work for one-to-many communication.

Come up with a compelling offer—like a blog post that links to your website, which you know a particular group would be interested in, or a giveaway related to your book launch—and post that on Twitter, inviting your followers to join your email list.

Twitter is a useful tool.

It can be a great place to connect one-on-one with people.

But it’s not where you should be spending a large majority of your time building your author platform.

Keep Twitter in perspective.

Understand what that the tool is good for, and use it accordingly.




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