Writing, life, politics

How Not To Market Your Book Via Twitter

Marketing a book is hard. I know. I’ve done it, and not necessarily that well. But the other day I came across an attempt so stunningly inept that I felt compelled to talk about – albeit with some attempt to mask identifying details, so I don’t feel like I’m being over-cruel.

The principles of using Twitter, or any social network come to that, seem to me to be pretty basic. Be honest, be yourself, engage in genuine two-way dialogue, and don’t see others purely in terms of how you can use them and what they can do for you. Other people don’t exist for your convenience alone. They have their own needs and desires, and if you’re looking to them to help you out in your needs and desires, you first need to look at how you can help them out with theirs. Entertain them. Inform them, like about the various guides and courses they can learn at LCT. Help them. Then they might help you. It’s not hard. After all, those are pretty much the rules for all networking, both on and offline.

So what was this attempt that so amused and horrified me? Well below is a screenshot where I’ve displayed the bloke’s entire Twitter history to that point on the left with, on the right, the image that he was sending links to:

Yes. He’d written an entire total of six tweets at that point, only one of which was not related to his book – and that was in text speak, which in my humble option isn’t the best choice to make if you’re trying to present yourself as a serious author. He’d made no attempt to craft any kind of online persona, but had instead simply dived in with spammy type messages sent to various organisations to advertise his book.

And what of the spammy type messages themselves? Well after starting with one that did at least have some kind of message and a link to his website, he then gave up on that and just starting sending a link to an image that contained the front cover and back cover blurb. No explanation. Just a link.

The only reason I found out about it was because I follow one of his “targets” and they did retweet it, but with an added comment explaining to him that people don’t usually click on links that come from people they don’t know and which have no accompanying text.

Writing a book is hard. It takes a lot of time and effort. After all that, I’m slightly mystified as to why someone would appear to put in so little thought and effort as to how they might market it.


  1. Henry

    His use of Twitter may be amateurish, but his website is polished, and his excerpt, albeit not the sort of thing that I would choose to read, looks like a good example of his genre.

    A lot of writers, particularly of an older generation (his bio claims he was born 1 March 1962) don’t find the principles of using social networks to be “pretty basic”. And many writers would prefer that people buy their work because it is good, not because they are “friends” on the latest social media.

    Another, different approach to marketing books is this: readers who enjoy your book really want is another book. So, rather than ‘blogging, or tweeting, or whatever social media is fashionable, what a writer should really do is write.

    Not just my opinion:-

    I enjoyed “Game Night”, and I’m looking forward to seeing your new novel. I didn’t buy “Game Night” because I knew you (I’ve met you about three times, at conventions) but because gaming friends said it was good.

    I will still be looking out for it even if you don’t tweet again until you announce it.

    • Jonny Nexus

      Hi Henry,

      Firstly, thanks for the reply.

      It’s interesting that you tracked him down! It was because this was a bit of a snarky, pointing at a car-crash type of post (perhaps too snarky, in hindsight), that I tried to mask his details. But I realised a little later on that I’d left a “loophole”. Not that it matters, and it’s interesting to here your thoughts having “drilled down” further, which is something I’d neglected to do.

      I think I’d half agree with what you’re saying, or perhaps agree, but with a twist.

      My thoughts are that it’s fine to do things that you think might help you market a book, but you should only do them if you would have enjoyed doing them anyway. If you do something *purely* to market your book, then it’s quite likely doomed to failure, as you’ll probably come across as false.

      So I blog and tweet primarily because I enjoy them. I was very much into LiveJournal way before I even thought of writing a book. If I wasn’t trying to become a writer, I’d still blog and tweet. Equally, I go to science-fiction conventions because I enjoy them. I might, while there, have half an eye for networking, but I’m there because I enjoy it and I only do things that I want to do.

      I think the problem with saying that a writer should just write is that more and more, the business of letting readers know that the book exists is left to the writer. This is the case not just with self-published authors, but with authors published by big established publishing houses also. (I’ve heard publishers say that whilst they won’t ever take on a bad book simply because the author is good at self-promotion, an author’s ability to self-promote might be a deciding factor as to whether or not they take on a good book).

      And finally, yes, word-of-mouth recommendation is the best promotion there is. But in your case it might be that if you follow your chain back, through the friends that recommended Game Night to you, to the friends that recommended it to them, you might perhaps find someone who only found out about it because I tweeted or blogged something?

      Finally, thank you very much for saying you liked Game Night and that you’re looking forward to the next novel. That is really cool to hear.

      And I hope I haven’t come across as too snarky!

  2. Sabrina

    Better use a fecebook page instead of twitter. FB-Pages has all functions and better promotion capabilities

    • Jonny Nexus

      Hi Sabrina,

      I think it’s not an either/or issue. Some people use only Facebook and some use only Twitter. So if you want to get to *all* of those people you need to be using *both* platforms. So I have a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

      But because life is short, and because I personally enjoy Twitter more, I’ve set it up so that I can put things in an tweets and then have them come out on the Facebook page. Although I do sometimes try to take the extra effort to do something as a dedicated Facebook past (things like blog entries and so on).

      Hopefully, that’s a reasonable medium.

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