Why to Give a Twit: The Challenge of Finding Readers

A tweet can make a difference.

I see this happen all the time. But many writers I’ve advised to blog and tweet, will grieve: “no matter what I do, I don’t see anyone coming to my blog!”

But then, suddenly, one day, one hour, and within ten seconds, that changes, and one of the most influential Twitterers falls upon your blog, and tweets about it to his thousands of followers. And suddenly, you see 20 new follows and an unprecedented spike in your web traffic; if you’re published, maybe even a spike in your Amazon ranking.

In publishing today, there is no such thing as “build it and they will come.”

Authors and their marketers, whether hired publicists or family and friends, must actively and daily promote themselves within the broader community; believe in the merit of a blog post, just as they do in the power of their books. And relentlessly pursue the reading public, as they once pursued agents and editors.

1/3 of successful promotion is talent,  1/3 is tenacity, and the rest of it is luck. You can create your own luck by giving a twit.

Beyond the big media hit authors can only sit and hope for, there’s something very powerful in terms of potential publicity that I advise all authors to do:

  • Commit to one tweet a day as you get started, and if you do, you’ll find the minimum 3 tweets a day in the weeks surrounding publication will be a breeze.
  • During this time, utilize Twitter to find your favorite authors, or discover new bloggers who share your interests. Engage in conversations; show interest in their opinions, and help to promote their own posts and books. Forge authentic relationships.
  • As you begin to approach your book launch, anywhere from 6 to 1 month ahead of publication,¬†reach out to contemporaries–the most influential bloggers, leaders, authors in your category, or simply those you like–to introduce yourself and ask whether they’d like to see a book. As you sense appropriate, you can make additional asks, like “Would you consider a guest post or interview with me? Or reading the book and offering an Amazon review if you like it?” If you have a pre-existing “social” relationship, this ask will be stronger.

The rejection will be fierce. We are all, in publishing, well-familiar with rejection! But you will get at least one response if you persist in writing that one little email a day, and maybe more enthusiasm and support than you expected, from someone who is willing to do at least one of the things you’ve asked. And what goes around comes around. If you are the next bestseller, that fellow author, currently more recognized than you, may be knocking on your door. (I’m also not underestimating the gratification of personal relationships that our virtual world allows. Forming a bond with a like-minded stranger can be a gift in of itself.)

Be realistic about what you’re requesting. A bestselling author promoting her own book, or working on a new one, or simply overwhelmed by book requests, may not have the time to read another book. Your response should express humility:
“Completely understood, and congratulations on your success! Would you mind then sending a few tweets out, given your influence, around my book’s publication?”

You might find the person is happy to do so.

And you might also find that this tweet, in aggregate with the others who have agreed, adding thousands to thousands of eyeballs, actually moves books for you in that wonderful, viral way we love to see happen for books. You might also find, suddenly, that your blog has an audience.

Here is a dismal truth about our publishing world: the lion’s share of the marketplace is given to bestsellers: authors who have likely published before, or haven’t, but have reputations that well precede their books. This may change. But for now, if you are a reader, you are most likely going to read what your friends are reading, which someone most likely saw on the bestseller’s list. These bestsellers become monopolies, and the Twitter feed for these authors, virtual empires. When these authors speak, people listen. When they publish, people buy.

But here’s the good news, and a founding belief of my company, because you cannot remain in this industry without optimism: there’s a minority, but a sizeable when national minority, of what I call true book “fangelists:” people who read anything and everything, one book or more a week, and these are the people we need to target in our social efforts, on the off chance they’ll find a book they haven’t heard of, fall in love, and spread the word.

Remember, I’m a blogger and a “small business promoter” just like you are. I’m investing my time in blogging, and I’m giving a twit, because I do believe that someday, you’ll hear me.
#GiveaTweet when you can to an author who’s recently approached you, or about a book most wouldn’t have heard of, which you personally loved. Your most minimal efforts can go a long way.

[This post has been modified from the original version. Thank you to those authors who have lent their input!]

Paul Jarvis

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— CAL NEWPORT, bestselling author of DEEP WORK