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I've been doing this self-publishing/Twitter stuff for ten years now. I assume many new writers do as I did back in November 2011: sign up because they've just published their first book and someone told them, 'If you're a writer you need to be on Twitter'. Then they plunge in without having a clue what they're doing. Yes, me too. Hence this post.
Every social media site has its own culture, and you don't understand it until you're in it. It takes a while to learn - which is why I still see, every day, activity I've been reading about not doing since 2012. You may be using Twitter purely to chat, discover and be entertained - the original use of social media! - but if you want to find readers for your book(s) and you're doing any of the following, you might need a re-think...
1. Only following and interacting with other writers
It's lovely to meet other writers, especially if you don't know any in real life. Your new virtual friends understand the highs, lows and angst of what you do, and are there to give advice and opinions, etc. Several writers and bloggers I've met on Twitter have now become real life friends. This is social media at its best: finding people who share your interests and who you would otherwise never have come to know. People who do what you do.
But they're not the target market for your book.
Over time, some of them might love what you do and become your regular readers. I can think of six writers I've met via Twitter whom I number amongst my favourite authors. But that's over a period of a decade, and although you're so grateful for those publication day sales and early reviews that give each book a nice kick start, you won't reach the reading public (i.e., people you don't know) unless you broaden your horizons.
If you were a clothes designer, your first sales port of call would not be other designers, even though they wear clothes, too. If you were a painter, you would not target other artists to buy your work. Yet every day thousands of writers talk only to their fellow scribes on social media, spend time adding their links to #writerslifts and those #writer #indieauthor #shamelessselfpromo tweets, or those that say 'hey, add your links and I'll buy 3 books'. And round and round it all goes as they promote their work to each other.
Step outside the #WritingCommunity. Talk to people who share your other interests - and views. Follow book bloggers, avid readers, the followers of well-known authors who write in your genre. Who live in places in which your books are set. In order to find your readers, you need to get out there.
2. Making your bio all about your books
Never mind book sales - which of these bios would make you want to investigate further? Maybe take a look down their tweets and click the link provided to find out more about them and their work?
Anne Author @AuthorAnne
Author of The Book, The Other Book, The Third Book and The Short Story Collection. Available on Amazon. #KindleUnlimited.' ⛔ DMs, Politics
Will Writer @WillWriter
Writer: 3 novels and blog. Keen hiker. Trying to write 4th novel but, you know, Netflix and Assassin's Creed. Cat lover.
Anne tells you nothing about herself except that she wants you to buy her books. Which suggests she is only on Twitter to make this happen. Will, on the other hand, has told you of five interests you might share, and indicated that he might be fun to know.
A bio should be about you. A link to your site or Amazon author page so that anyone who wishes to can look up your work, is all you need.
3. Forgetting the link on promotional book tweets
I see this so often. A short description of the book, the information that it's currently discounted at 99p or free, and the cover. And that's all. No link. Yesterday I suggested to someone that she put the link on a tweet, and she said she didn't have the room. Well, shorten the description! Play around with those 280 characters! Other times when I've made the suggestion, I've been told that the link is in their bio, or (worse) that it can be found on Amazon.
It's possible that some people, if particularly interested in the book description, will go to your bio, but significantly fewer will bother to bring up Amazon and put the name of the book into the search. Attention spans are short, these days. Twitter is a fast-moving, constantly changing site. The majority want a link they can click, right there, or they'll simply move on to the next tweet.
4. Asking and answering those daft questions
The person who tweets 'If I was buying your MC a drink, what would it be?' does not give two hoots what your protagonist's favourite drink may be, or indeed what colour biro you use. Most people who ask these questions do so to increase interaction on their profile, so that Twitter's algorithms will make them more visible (i.e., appear in more people's feed). That's all. If you like, you can ask some questions yourself. 268 people may reveal to you the flavour of their antagonist's favourite jam. But bear in mind that as many will mute you as will answer the question - and being muted isn't like being blocked; you will never know.
Incidentally, I believe the same goes for the 'add your links and I'll buy three books' tweets. Or 'I need new books to read - please answer with your recommendations'. I reckon most of them are algorithm manipulators. Not all, but most. I daresay now and again these do result in sales, but not very often.
This is a piece of advice that should be repeated in every single writer/social media advice post until everyone understands (unlikely, I know). Here it is: do NOT send unsolicited DMs or tweets to new followers asking them to read/buy/review your book. EVER. Even those who are polite to you and show an interest would still rather you didn't. A LOT of people immediately unfollow anyone who does this; others block, or report.
Similarly, if you see someone tweeting about their book, do not reply with a link to yours. That's right, even if it's in the same genre. Don't 'hashtag hijack' to promote your work - in other words, adding a vaguely relevant hashtag to your book tweet. For instance, I'm in a group that started the hashtag #PostApocFriday. Every week one of us decides on a theme relevant to a post-apocalyptic world (for instance 'silence' or 'education' or 'weapons'), and anyone who wants to can post an image, interpreting the theme as they wish. Inevitably, the hashtag sometimes gets added to people's promotional tweets about their books. That's hashtag hijacking.
6. Attempting stealth review swaps
This has happened to me a few times. I've received a new review on one of my books and, because I recognise the name on the review, I've sent a DM to the person concerned to thank them. We've had a couple of friendly exchanges about writing/books, and then the other person hits me with it: would I be interested in reviewing one of her books, too?
My reply is that I don't do review swaps, because this is what this is, albeit not directly. Inevitably, once I say no, the writer in question will never read/review me again, despite having raved about the first one to an extent that made me blush.
If someone has talked to you on Twitter they are probably already aware of what you write. If they want to read your book, they will.
(Also, if another writer follows you back, please don't introduce yourself by asking if they would like to do a review swap, as happened to me this morning - many of us are actively against them!)
The latest in my series of mini TV and film reviews, with trailers and 'where to watch'. If you have trouble finding where any show/film is available in your country, this is a good site: Justwatch. Just put the name of the show into the search, and choose your country further down, from the drop-down menu. It shows where you can stream, buy or rent. Or you can put 'where can I watch ***' into whichever search engine you use, or go to the programme's own site, if it has one.
If you would like to see more posts, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching. If you get as far as the bottom, 'Older Posts' will take you to more.
Film: Small Engine Repair
(Google Play/Youtube online, Spectrum TV, also in AMC theatres)
I loved this film. Drama set in small town America usually ticks a few boxes for me, and Jon Bernthal and Shea Whigham are marvellous as Swaino and Packie, two long-time friends in Manchester, New Hampshire, whose old mate Frank (John Pollono) is getting his life back in order after coming out of jail. Frank is also trying to repair his relationship with his daughter, Crystal (Ciara Bravo), hindered by visits from his fiery ex-wife, Karen.
Three months after getting out, Frank invites Swaino and Packie round for a special lads' night at his small engine repair premises - beer, a special whiskey, steaks, a boxing match on TV, some blow ... and much more, that they never would have suspected. Suddenly it turns from a drama about three old buddies and their unresolved issues, into something much, much darker. As another character says, you have to be careful what you put on the internet, because it's there forever...
Jon Bernthal's Swaino was delightfully like TWD Shane at times (made me feel nostalgic for those early seasons), and he and Shea Whigham performed some of the best 'banter' scenes ever - what terrific actors they both are. Perfectly written and executed dialogue; a great cinematic pairing. I notice that Jon produced the film, and that his daughter Adeline played Crystal aged six, in one flashback scene.
I was slightly disappointed by the ending, but it really is a splendid film and I can't recommend it too highly.
Series: Billions - Season 5
(Stream: Sky, Now, Google Play, buy on Amazon or Apple)
And the story rolls on—I'm not quite as impressed by this show as I was at first; the way everyone speaks in that short, sharp, self-consciously clever fashion has started to get on my nerves a little. I'm not sure if it's because it's all getting slightly repetitive (you would think Chuck Rhoades would find something other than hating Axe to motivate him, by now), or that my tastes have changed. Anyway, if you watch this you'll probably already know that Damian Lewis has now made his last appearance (due to developments in his personal life) and that Corey Stoll as Mike Prince is taking over as the person-with-whom-Chuck-and-probably-Taylor-want-to-get-even-with. Stoll is vg as Prince, but he's no Axe; however, I'll continue to watch it, I'm sure!
Film: The Many Saints of Newark
The early years of Tony Soprano - the younger him is played by Michael Gandolfini, son of James, and very convincing he is too. The film gives great insight into the old days when Dickie Montisanti (Christopher's father)and Tony's own father ruled the roost, and I was delighted to see Johnny played by Jon Bernthal. Young Corrado (Uncle Junior) is excellently portrayed by Corey Stoll with a nose extension, while Vera Farmiga plays Livia. It's jolly good, and made me want to watch the whole of The Sopranos again, from the beginning. Which I did, over a period of a few weeks, and which of course I award 5* plus yet again :)
Series: Dr Death - one season only
(Amazon Prime, Peacock streaming service)
I first became aware of Joshua Jackson when he played troubled, betrayed husband Cole Lockhart in The Affair. Seeing him as Dr Christopher Duntsch, a character who couldn't be less like the lovely Cole, made me realise what an excellent actor he is.
This is a true story about a neurosurgeon convicted of malpractice. Patients died or were rendered immobile, but still he was able to continue practicing. Alex Baldwin and Christian Slater play Doctors Henderson and Kirby, who campaigned to bring him to justice.
It's extremely good, but I warn you that it's upsetting and haunting to see how these poor people suffered in this way, and the fact he was allowed to continue and spin his lies, excusing himself, for such a long time. The episodes zig-zag between the present and his past, showing how his bizarre and dangerous personality developed; it's a structure that works very well. Highly recommended.
Series: Animal Kingdom - Season 6
The Cody boys find out what life is like without Smurf to hold the crime family together, not just practically but emotionally. I liked this season a lot, especially because, throughout, the present story alternated with the past, showing how Smurf took herself from single mum of twins (Pope and Julia) living in a trailer, to matriarch of a crime empire. This took the whole show to another level, I thought.
If you haven't seen this show yet, I recommend! Ben Robson continues to be totally lush as Craig ;)
Series: Person of Interest - Seasons 1-2
(UK: Buy only - Apple, Amazon, Google play. US: Stream on HBO Max)
Mysterious reclusive billionaire computer programmer Harold Finch has developed a programme for the government that will predict terrorist acts, but he decides to use it for another purpose - its ability to predict the perpetrators or victims of other crimes. He then recruits a former CIA agent to stop these crimes happening.
There are 103 episodes of this across 5 seasons; I've probably watched about a quarter of them. It's good - I wouldn't totally rave about it but it's definitely worth watching.
The Walking Dead Season 11
(US Stream: Netflix, AMC, fubo DIRECTV & others, UK Stream: Disney +)
Just loved it, and roll on Season 11b, starting on Feb 20, 2022!
Episode 4: Full Review HERE
Episode 5: Full Review HERE
Episode 6: Full Review HERE
Episode 7: Full Review HERE
Episode 8: Full Review HERE
Documentary: The Velvet Underground
About the early years of Lou Reed and John Cale, and their creative history. John Cale and Moe Tucker provide much insight into the life and times, as do others interviewed. Most fascinating to learn about Cale and Reed's creative processes, and if you're too young to remember the 60s and 70s, it'll make you nostalgic for a time before you were born.
Documentary: Maria by Callas
(UK stream: Virgin. US Rent only: Amazon, Apple, Google play & others)
The life and work of Maria Callas in her own words, using her letters, interviews and performance. I thought it showed more about her than it would have with a narrator; it's beautifully made. I never knew that Aristotle Onasis was the love of her life, and she of his; their affair continued during his marriage to Jackie Kennedy.
She seemed rather lonely, throughout, whatever relationship she was in, whatever was happening in her career. A few times she mentioned sacrificing the possibility of having a family, for her music; then was an aura of sadness about her whenever she did so.
Film: Cop Shop
(UK Stream Google Play, rent Amazon, Apple, etc. US Rent Apple, Amazon, lots of others)
Fairly ludicrous action romp set in a police station (hence the name), starring Frank Grillo, Alexis Louder and Gerard Butler, with lots of people getting killed, or getting shot or stabbed but still being able to get up and run around and kill some more people themselves. You know the sort of thing. Entertaining, but that's about as far as it goes!
(TWD watch: Secondary stars include Chad L Coleman and Jose Pablo Cantillo - Tyreese and Martinez)
Documentary: Last Man Standing
(US Rent: Amazon, Google Play, Apple, DIRECTV. UK stream: Virgin TV Go. Buy: Amazon, Apple etc)
Documentary about Suge Knight, Death Row Records, the murders of Tupac and Biggie Smalls, and corrupt LA police officers. All of which I find oddly intriguing. Some lovely film of the young Tupac, before all this, which was a bit on the heartrending side - how intelligent he was, and how charismatic.
Series: Y The Last Man - Season 1
(UK Stream: Disney +. US stream: Hulu)
Deadly virus that only kills men - except for one, the man-baby son of the new president of the all-female world, played by Diane Lane. How it affects transgender people is something I never quite got my head round (i.e, whether it affected men who used to be women or women who used to be men, and whether it affected people who were or weren't taking which hormones) but I probably wasn't concentrating. I watched about 4 episodes then gave up on it. Quite entertaining in parts but I believe it's offended some easily-offended section of the viewing public; it's already been cancelled.
3* ⭐⭐⭐ (but do bear in mind how much I've watched; see below!)
This is more of a bewildered comment than a review. I know this series is massively popular, lapped up like viewers across continents lap up Downton Abbey, but, as with that, I don't get it. I've tried to watch it twice now, and been unable to get past half way through episode two. I love the story idea, the scenery is great, I'm fascinated by the history and I would have loved to know what happened, but I am totally put off by the woman who plays the lead, who is one of the most wooden, unconvincing actresses playing one of the most unlikable characters I've ever seen in a TV drama. Prissy, patronising, smug, with the demeanour of that teacher you couldn't stand at school—I found myself hoping one of the rebels would run her through with a sword so that we could settle down and watch the rest of it. I'm guessing that doesn't happen, though.