Monday, March 2, 2015

Promoting Your Book in 140 Characters or Less

~A post for new writers who haven't had the pleasure of promoting their books yet, or authors who are new to social media.

Social media, such as Twitter, has changed our world in amazing ways, but it has also created a world of short attention spans.  Everyone wants to know a brief summary about their favorite things so that they have more time to do their other 500 favorite things at the same time.  This short attention span can make it very difficult for an author to promote their book.  With smaller advertising space and less time to grab a potential reader's attention, the author has to be clear, concise, witty, friendly, energetic, compelling, organized, thoughtful, and entertaining.  This is not an easy task given that you must do all of these things in 140 characters or less.

Book Summaries:
Everyone who writes a book should be able to talk about their book, in fact, they should love talking about their book.  If they took the time to write it, hopefully they are excited to tell anyone and everyone about their book.  The problem comes when the writer has to write a summary of their book.  Talking about the book is easier than writing a one paragraph summary about it.  When we talk about things we love, we embellish and try to engage the person we are speaking to by highlighting parts that they would find interesting.  Writing a short summary takes all the fun out of the book and cuts down 200-600 pages of material into a short synopsis.  Choosing the wrong words can kill a book before it even sees the light of day. 

How do you cut down your 600 pages of prose into a few sentences that will interest a reader?  First, you must think about your audience.  Who is your target demographic?  For a younger audience, the summary should be fun and entertaining.  For twentysomething audience, you need to be relevant and fresh in your approach.  Older audiences will want a more refined summary.  Think about who you want to read your book and then write the summary for them.

Be honest about with your book summary, but add detail to it.  Instead of saying that your book is, "The Best Travel Guide for New Jersey", say that it "takes a closer look at the rich history that New Jersey has to offer" or "follow our guide to see the amazing arboretums and proud farmlands in the Garden State".  Don't be afraid to romanticize topics that aren't considered romantic.

To write your summary, step back from your book and don't think about all the fun dialogue or weird characters that you love to write about.  Think about it from a strangers perspective who knows nothing about the book.  Break down the elements to get the basic idea, and then add the detail.

Here's an example of my breakdown for The Third Throne:

What is the main idea of the book? A young woman struggles to survive the horrors of Hell only to learn her true destiny.
What is the genre? Romance/Erotica that falls into the Paranormal subcategory
What do you want the reader to know about the story?  It's an emotional journey for both the young woman and the Angel of Darkness as they learn what love and sacrifice mean.
What are the common themes? Deception, darkness, duty, faith, compassion, and kindness
What should they take away from the book after they read it? Love comes in many forms, but it isn't always easy.  Sometimes, to love someone, you must sacrifice something in return.

When writing a summary, it's sometimes hard to describe the book without giving away too much of the plot.  I suggest putting the big reveal, or the surprise ending in a box and locking it away.  Decide what plot lines you don't want to talk about, but find a way to hint at them.  Even though there is a surprise ending and the main character is really dead the whole time, find a way to lead the reader close to the truth, but don't give them them whole picture.  Entice them find the secret, but don't give the secret away.

Turning Your Summary into 140 Characters:
In the old days, before the internet, and mobile phones, if you wanted to sell a product, you had to actually speak to people.  A friendly voice, or a well-groomed appearance was usually enough to grab a client's attention.  Once they had their foot in the door, they had to impress someone with their prepared speech about their product.  There was a sales technique called and "elevator speech" that salespeople used.  The theory was, you had to be able to tell a client about your product within the length of time it took for the client to ride the elevator and convince them to set up a meeting to discuss their product a length before they left.  Once in the meeting, they could employ whatever means they needed to pitch their product.  Twitter has taken that elevator speech and reduced it from 30-60 seconds to 5 seconds.

In the fast pace world of Twitter, the average reader will only glance at a tweet briefly before moving on to something else.  Once you have your well thought out summary, you have to chop it down even further.  If you have used Twitter before, you know how to type a tweet about the weather, or how cute a celebrity is, or how amazing your children are, but that's easy compared to shoving 600 pages into a sentence or two.  The problem comes when you have to add the link to your book or website and then add hashtags.  Once you have your Bitly or account, you still have to be cleaver enough to write all about your wonderful book in a sentence.  It's frustrating and annoying, but it has to be done if Twitter is where you want to promote yourself.

Again, you must think of your target audience.  The idea needs to be brief, eye catching, and interesting.  You may have to try different approaches until you find something that works for you.  Selling your book at $0.99 is fine, but you still have to mention what the book is about.  This where #hashtags come in.  Hashtag the genre, a keyword, or anything that's relevant.  Do a search for different keywords to see what they pull up.  You may have to try out a few before the right one sticks.

Adding photos is also a great way for people to recognize your book cover, or your face, or your product.  "Photos" can be used to give you more room to write about your book.  You can create a .gif of a great review or snippets of your book to work beyond the 140 characters since they appear as attachments.

Advertising a book takes time and patience.  It takes followers and friends.  Don't be afraid to retweet a book from a different author.  Helping them can sometimes help you.  If they are nice, they will return the favor and retweet one of your posts.  Your tweet may be seen by 8000 followers of a different author, broadening your range.  Hopefully, some of their followers will like you and start following you.  Be creative and search for authors in similar genres or genres who might also be interested in what you write.  Remember to thank or mention that author for helping you out.

There is no guarantee that Twitter will help to sell a single book, but it will get your name and your book out into the world for people to remember and recognize on other promotional sites.  It's only one tool that an author can use to gain name recognition and to seek out advice from others who have been where you are. 

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