Thursday, January 31, 2013

6 Tips for Tweeting Your Novel - Finding a Hook in 140 Characters or Less

Tweets about your novel are advertisements, plain and simple. We writers cringe to think of "pushing" our novels, but facts are facts. In this day and age, we can't crawl away in a corner and hide from the marketing monster. 

The real trick to advertising our books on Twitter or any other blurb-posting-social-networking site, is finding the right 140 characters (or whatever brevity the site demands) that won't sound like we're shouting, "Here comes a sales pitch!" but will cause our followers to say, "Whoa!" and click a link.

I'm sure I've written plenty of those "gag me" pitches myself. So what kind of tweet might actually stir interest without being off-putting or just too easy to mouse past?

There are a few, but first, you have to realize that no matter how genius the tweet, it isn't going to appeal to everyone, because not all your followers will be drawn particularly to your kind of novel. Really, I read zero sci-fi. No matter how perfectly crafted, startling, or mind-bending your tweet, I'm probably not going to click through and investigate your novel even if I thought the tweet snappy or clever.

The same goes for some people who see my tweets. If inspirational or historical novels don't interest them, it doesn't matter how fantastic my tweets are. Those folks aren't my intended audience.
But, for those who are, several things matter:

First, does the tweet offer them something enticing and different? There are a zillion tweets about how "she is stalked by a killer". Well, that might be a great book, but I'm a bit immune to that mention in a tweet because I see it so often. Tell me something different. What makes her stalking unique? Or how can you give me that same information without using the same worn-phrase. Think smart adjectives or sharp verbs. (I believe tweeting is one place where adjectives can be helpful.) Here are two such tweets I like from Nike Chillemi:

SANCTUARY POINT mystery series. Tiny village, close knit families, heinous killers. #inspy #1940s

Cryptic message cut out of newspaper headlines. Is the killer hunting reporter Kiera Devane? PERILOUS SHADOWS

Second, include the book title whenever possible like Nike did above. Studies show most readers need repeated exposure to a book before they become interested. I think this is especially true when they can't see the cover. In that case, they need to see the title again, and again, and again. The repetition will hopefully create some buzz. I would also suggest putting the title in ALL-CAPS. Here are two tweets by Barbara E. Brink that each employ a clever play on words giving meaning to the title and definition to the genre:

Where murder & wine make the perfect vintage…CRUSHED #kindle #napa #mystery #romance

Jael plans to destroy the Bishop once & for all, but first she has to milk the goat… SHUNNED #vampires #Amish #humor #YA

Third, make the best use of quotes from reviews and endorsements. Don't just say it's a 5-star review. Give a powerful sample, some WOW words from the reviewer. If a reviewer called it a delicious read or a ripping good adventure, use it! Reviews are another place where adjectives can work in your favor. Also, if you're going to quote a review, use the hashtags  #review or #reviewer, or else put the quote in actual quotation marks so you don't sound like you're making up your own brag. 

Lastly, unless you truly don't have room, remember to include the title of the book, as I said in point two above. Here's an example of great use of a review or possibly it was used as a back cover endorsement. In it, I also like that author Janalyn Voight gave the name of the reviewer. That lends credibility:

★★★★★"Suspense, danger, visions, love, secrets..."I LOVE THIS BOOK!" Kim Justice: DawnSinger #YA #Adventure

Fourth, be creative. Come on! We're writers! Our blurb or tweet is the same thing as our elevator pitch, and needs to pack the same punch. Put effort into it. Don't be dull. Offer excitement, romance, adventure, intrigue, wit, fear, something that stirs our emotional curiosity. Key words like those in the tweet above that provide summary for the feel of the story are very important. Here's one of mine in which I also played off the word "renovation" because the heroine is a landscape architect:

Lapsing judgment, betrayal, doubt. Sean needs renovation for a HEART NOT TAKEN. #Christian #contemporary #romance

And this one puts the plot in a nutshell:

Jesilyn longs for her twin's fiancĂ©, and he can't tell them apart. THE BLACK ROSE #Historical #Women's#ChristFic

Fifth, Show, don't tell. This advice isn't just for the actual story-telling. Use clips in your tweet --you know -- novel hook lines. Include a hashtag like #novellines if you can fit it. The key is to allow your fellow tweeters to enjoy a snapshot, a brief moment of voyeurism into your book. In my opinion, this is one of the single, best ways to capture interest for your novel.

NOTE: When you use a hook line, it's very important that you step outside yourself as the author for a minute. Divorce yourself from your masterpiece. Really look at the line you've selected from the viewpoint of someone who knows zilch about your story and ask yourself the tough questions: Just because it's a great line to me, because I know the plot and am emotionally attached to the protagonist, would an outsider find it to be a great line? Does it have the power to entice on its own?

140 characters minus the ones needed for the title, link, or a hashtag isn't much room to entice a reader with a hook line, so don't use trite lines. Find something simply smashing. Here are a couple I've liked from Tammy Doherty, one from Marcy Dyer's new YA release, and several of my own I had fun digging up:

“He wants me all to himself, Abby. That’s what he said. No more working here at the saloon." CELTIC KNOT #ChristFic #Kindle

“You killed her David. You killed your wife and child. Surely they’ll hang you for this.” CLADDAUGH #eBook #Christfic

"Just so we're clear," he whispered, "I don't have a girlfriend." Down & Out #Christfic #john316authors

"You're a catty girl, Margie, all willingness and wiles," he said softly. THE GREEN VEIL #novellines #Inspy #HistFic

"Kelly has his demons, same as me. He's just possessed by them differently." THE RED FURY #novellines #kindle #histfic

She moved closer. "I mean, me marrying Mitch, doesn't have to change anything." THE GREEN VEIL #Inspy #Hisfic

"I like a little fight in a gal, but that ain't what I'm payin' for tonight." THE BLACK ROSE #ChristFic #HistFic

Sixth is a brief word on hashtag diversity. Think outside the box when it comes to hashtags. Instead of just using #novel, #HistFic, #romance etc. think of the how your novel addresses those types of things. Does it deal with a former alcoholic anti-hero? Tweet #alcoholism. In my novel The Black Rose, the protagonist is a twin, so I hash-tagged #twins. My books are set in 1800s Wisconsin, so sometimes I use the #WiHistory hashtag. Is your novel about a little old lady who knits away while she solves mysteries? Maybe you can use a combination #knitting #reading hashtag. Do a few searches on interesting hashtags and see what kind of tweets they turn up. Don't make up a hashtag no one else uses, unless you're trying to create a brand for one you hope will go viral.
Finally, you know those novel tweets you glaze over when you're scolling down Twitter, the ones that make you yawn? Just pause at them and ask yourself why.  And then, well... just don't tweet that way! :)