Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Alison Morton on Marketing a Book Series

Today, my guest is Alison Morton, who I've known for a number of years. Alison worked with me on promoting the Historical Novel Society ("HNS") conference in Oxford 2016, which was a lot of fun, and we often catch up at HNS and Romantic Novelists' Association events. Alison is author of the popular and beautifully marketed Roma Nova Series, and this post is part of the blog tour for RETALIO, which will be released on 27 April 2017. Find other posts in the blog tour here

There seems to be a trend for book series at the moment, and I know from pitching as a writer at conferences that many agents and publishers are looking for them. Alison has written a really helpful post with tips on how to market a series below. Thank you, and over to you, Alison! 

Alison Morton on Marketing a Series

When I wrote my first book, I was thrilled I had completed it. Holding the shiny covered paperback in my hands in March 2013 was a never to be forgotten moment. The second book was in the pipeline and came out seven months later with the third one the following June. But Books Two and Three weren’t quite the obvious success that the first book was (and continues to be). Now the sixth is about to come out and I’ve learnt some new lessons since Book Three.

Why series are attractive to readers:
Firstly, readers like to read more about the same characters and places. Finding out what’s happened to familiar friends, if the pesky villains have been threatening them or their lover is still faithful, without having to learn a new world draws readers straight into the story.

Secondly, readers care more about finding and sticking with a good author and a well-written series than in getting everything cheap.

A strategy:
A series should feature recurring elements. Some focus on the same setting and at least some of the same characters. Other series centre round an object or particular place, e.g. through the ages, others on inter-connected families.  Familiarity and availability of ‘more’ are the two selling points.

Make it easy for a new reader. Firstly, ensure your books can be read as standalones, i.e. that each story is properly resolved and does not end on a cliffhanger.  I have thrown my Kindle on the floor for less. Secondly, consider a second entry point for readers. For example, my Roma Nova series consists (so far) of two trilogies, one set in the ‘present’ and one in the late 1960s to early 1980s. New readers can start the series at Book 4, read Books 5 and 6 then happily go back to Books 1-3.

Some practical basics:
You really need three books as a minimum when you switch to series marketing.

Of course, all the books should be edited, proof-read, well designed inside and correctly formatted. Use a professional designer to ensure covers are stunning and carry elements that link them, such as fonts, a logo, style, recurring motif. This gives your books a brand, an identity that readers can spot instantly. Each book then reinforces the visibility of the others in the series. If your series books don’t have such visual links, I strongly recommend new covers.

Publish your books on as many platforms as possible at home and abroad: Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and B&N Nook at a minimum for ebooks and Lightning Source (via Ingram Spark) and Create Space (Amazon) for print.

For mainstream published books, the publishing house should have done this and will use their own resources to publicise and market your books for at least an initial period. After that, you may like to join in here…

Now, if you are at the three book stage, you will have already developed your own website/blogsite/blog and set up a Facebook page from your Facebook personal profile. (More on this here. Anita: thanks for mentioning my post, Alison!). And of course a Twitter account! 

By now you will probably have started a mailing list of subscribers (with their consent!) who agree to receive either regular newsletter or purely notifications of new books. I write a monthly newsletter to keep reader interest and also post mailing list only offers (subscribe here
). Regular contact gives an author direct access to interested readers who will be a receptive audience to the next book in the series.

Consider allocating a marketing budget, however modest. While you can do a lot for free, the day will come when you need to boost a post on your Facebook page, enter paid promotions, or pay for advertising or some PR/marketing help. 

Down to tactics:
In the run up to publication day reveal the cover and blurb, tell people on your own blog/website and social media where the book is on pre-order (with links). If you have a newsletter, it’s better to tell your loyal subscribers first!

Logic tells us a reader won’t purchase the latest novel in a multi-book series without reading the previous novels. You need to sell the entire series. A good tactic is to sell as many copies of the earlier books as you can in the run-up to release week, to refresh interest in the whole series.

Hopefully, you will have already blogged earlier about your characters, what they eat, drink and wear, their values, aspirations, faults and about any context, such as historical, as well as the setting, all focusing on the unique nature of your series and its themes. Now is the time to step this up, emphasising the continuity as well as hinting at new developments in the forthcoming book. In the ten days before launch day, I blog every day with snippets about Roma Nova, the book background and the characters. Exhausting, yes, but it reinforces your book’s world and series brand.

Oh, and do make sure you have a series hashtag. It’s worth spending a while developing this as it has to last. Check for any unfortunate coincidences, TV programmes, political connotations and keep it clear and direct. I started with #RomaNova and wondered why I was getting a lot of Russian interest. I changed it to #RomaNovaSeries!

Advance Readers and reviews:
Seeing ten reviews in the first week not only brings happiness to the author’s heart, it prompts Amazon to give your latest book some attention, i.e. it features it on their email to subscribers. You may then see sales of your earlier books as new readers will go and look for them.  So gather some reliable friends, bloggers, mailing list subscribers, those who follow you on Facebook or your blog and offer a free advance copy. You can’t make a review a condition of receiving the advance copy, but you can strongly hint! It’s wise to have built up a ‘street team’ of readers beforehand.

Approach bloggers with an offer of an advance copy for review and also offer to write a guest post or answer an interview. Bloggers become very busy, so it’s wise to set this up as early as possible. If you’ve had previous books reviewed or mentioned by them then this is the time to renew that relationship!

Sales tactics:
If you have three books and you’re selling your fourth, make the first three into a box set and sell at a promotional price.  This will make life easy for a reader new to the series, and who doesn’t like a bargain?

Another tactic is to reduce the previous book by say 50% the week/10 days before the new book comes out. And let people know via social media, a boost on your Facebook page, Twitter and a free promotional service advert.

To keep the momentum going, it’s a good idea to promote via a few paid services such as BargainBooksy, BookSends, eReader News Today, Robin Reads, and (for sci-fi/fantasy) Book Barbarian.

Free or not?
I couldn’t reconcile myself with offering one of my precious babies for free until I had published my fifth book. INCEPTIO was the book of my heart, but less emotionally as Book 1 it was my series starter. In hard terms, it was a product that could be used as a loss leader.

I use INCEPTIO as the gift for people who sign up to my Roma Nova newsletter (which I hope is interesting in its own right!) and if I do any joint promotions with other authors. But it still sells on the retail sites and at a competitive price. This is the ‘hook book’ for the series and prompts readers to investigate the next, and hopefully the next….

Anita: Thanks for a really generous and informative post, Alison, which I know will be helpful to many authors. Best of luck with the launch for RETALIO! 

Find out more about Alison and RETALIO below:

Alison Morton, writes the acclaimed Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.

The first five books have been awarded the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices.  AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. The sixth, RETALIO, is due out on 27 April 2017.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds a MA History, blogs about Romans and writing.

Now she continues to write, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband of 30 years.

Social media links
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site: http://alison-morton.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison_morton
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5783095.Alison_Morton
Alison’s Amazon page:

Buying link for RETALIO (multiple retailers/formats):

RETALIO book trailer: https://youtu.be/Mql2Mm3ytJc


Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century.

Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracised, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Helen Hollick on Discovering Diamonds

Today, my guest is Helen Hollick, a bestselling historical fiction author who knows a great deal about self-publishing. 

I've known Helen for a few years online and I was lucky to meet her properly 'in real life' at the Historical Novel Society ("HNS") Conference in Oxford, September 2016, as we were both members of the committee. Helen has a huge hat selection, is wonderful company; and you can find out more in her bio at the end of this post. Recently, Helen set up her own review blog for historical fiction, Discovering Diamonds, and I invited her to write a guest post to explain more, so over to you, Helen...!


For several years I was Managing Editor at the HNS for reviewing Indie historical fiction, but times change and I decided to head off into a new direction and a new venture – my own review blog for historical fiction. The ultimate aim, to review books good enough to recommend to other readers regardless of the production process or sub-genre. A good book is a good book, whether it is indie, self- or traditional mainstream published. 

Assembling a good team to support me was the first step. As it turned out I had a host of enthusiastic people who wanted to come on board:  e-book editor Nicky Galliers, assistant editor author Annie Whitehead, graphics designer Cathy Helms, and an eclectic collection of eager reviewers, some who are writers, some just avid readers and some with a foot in both camps.

The intention was to post one review a day (except Sundays) but I wondered if perhaps I was being a little ambitious? Would one a week be more practical? When Discovering Diamonds was initially announced in December 2016, and submissions for reviews were requested. The response was enormous and immediate. Within days there were enough good quality e-books pouring in to fill the entire month of January and most of February. We launched on 1st January 2017 and attracted over 1500 page views in that first week, along with a host of new submission requests. So the #DDRevs team is certainly being kept busy!

We only review historical fiction (and maybe the occasional non-fiction, by invitation only). Our definition of ‘historical’ is any novel that has 75% of the story set pre-1950 (this is because I was born in 1953 and I refuse to be thought of as ‘historic’!) At our discretion we will review something history-based set later than this time limit, but there has to be a strong historical interest connection. I am thinking of novels such as Alison Morton’s wonderful Alternative History Roma Nova series, which are modern-day thrillers, but based on the presumption that the Roman administration survived, a theme which readers of Roman-Age novels, especially mystery/thrillers, would find intriguing and exciting.

From the submissions we select which books to review which means just because we receive a book it doesn’t mean it will automatically receive a review. Our Discovered Diamond status is the equivalent to five stars, with a Diamond Review being four stars. Occasionally, for debut authors showing great potential we also include a 3+ star equivalent  rating, with the review containing some helpful constructive criticism – maybe another edit will be suggested to pick up some missed typos, or perhaps a note to watch a tendency to ‘head hop’. Let me stress that we are not a critique service, but our view is that potential good authors (especially indie authors) need encouragement and support to start the climb up that long, steep, ladder, and the entire #DDRevs team take great pleasure in seeing these new authors improve and grow as they write more books. But in order to do so they often require that little bit of courage and confidence to keep going, a thing that is so easy to destroy if enthusiastic encouragement is not given. We do not, therefore, publish poor reviews. I am of the firm opinion that if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all. I wish more readers leaving comments on Amazon would also adhere to this!

That is not to say that if we do not select a book it must be poorly written – far from it! (Although, I must add, a few novice writers should perhaps consider finding a different hobby.) Most of our submissions are not selected because of incorrect formatting or presentation. To be taken seriously as a professional author a book must look and feel good – which means correct formatting of the text, a well-designed cover, all the usual requirements of copyright etc on the opening page. Type face not so small it can’t even be read with a magnifying glass, so a suitable size and type of font is essential. And of course the story must be a good read! We are looking for quality produced books that are value for money to buy, and are suitable for recommending by ‘word of mouth’ (the best way for authors to sell books!) We also want authors to be proud of their Discovered Diamond logo which they can use how and where they like, and is presented when their book is reviewed. Our hope is that this logo will become recognised as a standard for a quality read, in the same way that Indie BRAG and the Chill With a Book Award operates.

We primarily only accept e-books (mobi or e-pub) not paperbacks or hardbacks, this is because we do not charge a fee, so there is no funding to cover forwarding books to various reviewers. If there is no e-book version, or if there are complications we can occasionally arrange to receive a paperback edition. We do not accept gift vouchers as they are too complicated to use when other reviewers are involved, and PDF versions, unless professionally produced as an ARC edition, are not always suitable because our reviewers use a variety of e-readers and PDFs can often become incorrectly formatted on certain devices.

But Discovering Diamonds is not just a place to post reviews. On our Sunday pages we have a Book of the Month and Cover of the Month slot (with also a Book and Cover of the Year award to follow!) A Guest Spot, and our Reader’s Voice section where we hope to draw readers into having their say about various issues. After all, what is the point of writing a book if no one is going to read it?

That’s where we come in…

Anita: Thanks very much, Helen for taking the time to write this post! And best of luck with your new venture. Find out more about Helen in her bio, below.


Helen Hollick moved from London in 2013 and now lives with her family in North Devon, in an eighteenth century farmhouse surrounded by thirteen acres of fields and woodland. A variety of pets include horses, three Exmoor ponies, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks and geese.

First published over twenty years ago, her main passion is her pirate character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne of the nautical adventure series, The Sea Witch Voyages.

Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) – the story of Saxon Queen, Emma of Normandy. Her novel Harold the King (titled I Am The Chosen King in the US) is a re-telling of the events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings. While her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, set in the fifth century, is widely acclaimed as a different telling of the Arthurian Myth. Helen is published in various languages including Turkish, Italian and German and as a supporter of indie writers, she co-wrote Discovering the Diamond with her editor, Jo Field, a short advice guide for new and novice writers who are interested in self-publishing.

Her latest book to be published is a non-fiction Pirates: Truth and Tale, released in the UK in mid-February 2017 and is due for release in the US a little later. myBook.to/PIRATESTruthTale (Amazon Universal Link).

For other members of the Discovering Diamonds Team see About Us on the Discovering Diamonds Review Blog :
Helen Hollick : www.helenhollick.net
Twitter: @HelenHollick #DDRevs
Subscribe to Helen’s Newsletter: http://tinyletter.com/HelenHollick
Cathy Helms : (Graphic Designer and Cover of the month judge)
Indie BRAG:
Chill With A Book:

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Jean Fullerton on Author Talks

I met Jean Fullerton at my first Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) meeting, back in 2010, where she made me feel very welcome. I got to know her through the RNA’s London Chapter which she ran for several years, and last year she attended one of my social media courses for writers. I’ve heard Jean speak a few times at conferences. She’s a fantastic, witty speaker, and she does a lot of talks-for writers and readers, including talks on cruises (doesn’t that sound nice!). 

I remember listening to Jean one Sunday morning at an RNA conference a few years ago. Many of us were exhausted as we’d been there since the Thursday or Friday, and there had been late nights with much Prosecco consumed. Still, Jean held the attention of an audience which filled the biggest lecture theatre on site and made us laugh, but also she explained about plotting in terms which everyone could understand. I asked Jean if she’d be interested in writing a post on author talks for this blog and she kindly agreed. Thank you Jean, and over to you!

Can You Hear Me at the Back: Undertaking Author Talks by Jean Fullerton 

Long-established author friends tell me that a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away when the only place you could buy a book was in a shop, all an author had to do as far as promotion was concerned was hand the book over to their publisher who would do the rest. 

Sad to say, like milk bottles on the doorstep and afternoon postal deliveries, this way of doing things in the publishing industry has disappeared. Today authors, be they traditionally or independently published, are expected to undertake a great deal of promotional activity. So, to use that awful corporate phrase, we must work smarter, not harder.

As all my books are family sagas set in East London, my core readers are women who have family ties to East London. Therefore, my target audience is very likely to be where the inhabitants of East London were rehoused after WW2 i.e. North East London, Essex, Hertfordshire and Kent, but how do I reach them?

Being an outgoing sort of gal, I decided to put together a talk called Inside the Writer’s Mind. I then contacted the WIs and Townswomen’s Guilds, U3As and the Association of Women’s Clubs along with libraries and family history associations in the target area to offer myself as a guest speaker.

That was in 2009 and the rest as they say, is history. Since then I’ve undertaken hundreds of speaking engagements. I now have a dozen talks including subjects such as Victorian East London, Victorian Medicine and District Nursing Before the NHS, linked to my current Nurse Millie and Nurse Connie series.

Having cut my speaker teeth with local groups six years ago, I contacted a cruise agency and was taken on as an enrichment programme speaker on cruise ships.  Since then I’ve done a couple of cruises a year with 4 or 5 lectures apiece plus the added bonus of having my books in the ship’s shop.  I’ve been to some wonderful places such as St Petersburg and the Arctic Circle and I've met some lovely people. I know! It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.

Now some of you might be daunted by the thought of standing up in front of 50-200 people but it is a wonderful way of raising your profile and I have some tips that might help you get started.

You do know what you’re talking about. Yes, you do. How can you not if you’re talking about your life as an author or the research for a book?

That said, you must prepare. Know what you’re going to say and in what order. Write bullet points for yourself not the whole script. There’s nothing more unprofessional than a speaker reading their talk. After you’ve done the talk a few times, you won’t even need to look at your notes.

You cannot just ramble on so time yourself and have a watch or clock where you can see it. If you’re given an hour, talk for 40-45 minutes then ask for questions and don’t forget to mention you have books for sale.

What people don’t pay for they don’t value. Other than libraries, I always charge a fee plus travel expenses. Be strong: If they say they haven’t got the funds then say no or it will cost you money to  entertain them for an hour.

Always take books to sell and cards to distribute so people can get ebooks if they prefer. Always discount the price on the back of the book and take a pen to sign them, and change.

Get the exact details of where you’re going and the parking along with a mobile contact number in case of last minute problems. 

Always wear something comfortable and ask for a glass of water.  

If they offer you a microphone take it as it will save your vocal chords.

You won’t dry up. Honest!  If you lose your thread, take a sip of water and ask if anyone has a question at this point. Chances are someone has and it will get you going again.

One or two people will fall asleep. Don’t worry. You’re not boring, it just happens especially during afternoon talks.

From time to time you will get members of the awkward squad in the audience (usually men who think you need their incisive input) but don’t let them bother you. Just push on. You’ll learn to deal with them.     

Many organisations use PowerPoint so master the programme. I prefer to give PowerPoint talks because changing images keeps the audience focused and I can put all the names and dates I need to remember on the screen. I’m sure Anita could do a whole blog on PowerPoint presentations but a quick rule of thumb is no more than 20 slides for a 45 minute talk and 90% images and 10% text. Again, don’t read from your slide. 

Lastly, if you do decide to take your courage in your hands and start giving author talks: good luck and enjoy. 

Anita: Thank you, Jean for such a helpful and clear post! Find out more about Jean and her books below.


Jean was born and bred in East London and is a true cockney. She is also a retired district nurse and university lecturer. She joined the RNA in 2003 under the New Writers’ Scheme and has never looked back.

She won the 2006 Harry Bowling Prize for her novel No Cure for Love and signed with Laura Longrigg at MBA Literary Agents the same year. She has published two East London series with Orion one set in the mid-1800s and the most recent featuring pre-NHS district nurses Mille Sullivan and Connie Byrne in the years following WW2. She has recently moved to Corvus, part of Atlantic Publishing and is currently working on a new East London series featuring the Brogan family during the dark days of WW2 the first of which, Pocketful of Dreams is due out in the summer.

Over the past ten years she has undertaken hundreds of speaker engagement to WIs, U3As and on cruise ships. She is also a regular writing workshop leader at the Romantic Novelists' Association and the Historical Novel Society conferences. She has been shortlisted for and won several awards and is married to a minister in the Church of England with a parish in Bedford

Jean’s latest book: Wedding Bells for Nurse Connie.

It's 1948 and the nurses of the East End of London are making the most of life post-war. For Connie in particular, things are looking rosy as she looks forward to planning a future with her sweetheart, Malcolm. But, as many a young bride-to-be has proved, the course of true love never did run smooth and Connie finds herself having to grapple with interfering mothers and Malcolm's reluctance to set the date.
But while there are many obstacles to overcome before walking down the aisle, at least Connie can relax in the knowledge that she'll soon be married to the man of her dreams, can't she?
Life at work isn't all smooth sailing either. The newly-formed NHS is keeping the nurses of Fry House extremely busy and as ever in the life of a nurse heartbreak lurks at every turn. But there are some new faces to keep things interesting. And one in particular might be the answer to all of Connie's problems...

Meet Jean on:

Website: www.jeanfullerton.com  
Twitter: @JeanFullerton_

Monday, 23 January 2017

Beginner's Guide to Twitter for Writers 2017

I first wrote this post in January 2015, amending it a year later. Now, in January 2017, I’m re-writing the post to incorporate changes to Twitter, and to add answers to questions made by clients and course attendees. Since Twitter updates in 2016, images no longer take up any of the 140 character limit, and a user has the ability to retweet themselves. Both of these changes are beneficial. For authors, the option to include book covers, blog tour graphics etc without impacting the character limit is helpful. The option to retweet your own tweets is worth making the most of too (and you can also Quote Tweet yourself, although this isn’t done much).

Updated 31 March 2017: Twitter has now made changes to how replies work too. Find out more in this article via Social Media Today. The following changes have been made:

1) @usernames no longer count towards the 140 character limit.

2) '.@' no longer works if you wish for a tweet to be seen by all your followers when replying to someone. The Twitter Help Center explains in this article how to achieve the same effect, and here's an excerpt: 

"If your Tweets are not protected, then all replies are public, but only relevant people, such as those who follow you and someone who is part of the conversation will see your reply in their Home timeline, even if you begin your reply with ".@". If you would like all of your followers to see your reply, the best way to do so is by Retweeting or Quote Tweeting your reply."

Added 19 April 2017: I've noticed with changes to the way replies work, that when replying to a group tweet, users don't always realise they're replying to everyone. It's easy to remove @usernames from your reply, as per the screenshot below, by removing the tick for who you don't wish to include. Be careful not to copy users into tweets they wouldn't want to be copied into.

In this beginner’s guide to Twitter for writers, @username means the handle (eg I’m @neetsmarketing) of who I'm talking about in an example and RT means retweet.

Please note, I’ve written this guide from a UK user’s perspective, which tends to have a hint of the personal touch. Other markets may be more open about self-promotion than the UK one. The assumption in this post is that you already have a Twitter account set up. To set up a Twitter account click here, and to set up Tweetdeck, which allows you to use columns for lists and searches, click here. You may prefer Hootsuite, but I find Tweetdeck works better for me.

Use a handle which matches your author name:

Sometimes your name will be taken already, but you can add author to your name or: writer/writes, books, UK, or by including an initial etc. Underscores can be used, but I’d use them as a last resort, mainly because they're more difficult to remember (and you want your network to get to know your @username). And if @egusername is taken and you use @eguser_name, someone may use @egusername by mistake when mentioning you, meaning tweets meant to be seen by you appear in someone else’s notifications. I also find that unless someone is already well-known, usernames with underscores don’t always come up in Twitter searches. 

Profile photo (no eggs!) and header photo:

When setting up a Twitter account, add a profile photo that looks like you, if possible (!). Ideally, use a profile photo which makes you recognisable when meeting someone in real life, at a writer’s event or book launch etc, as then you’ll find someone you know online is more likely to approach you. Sometimes authors change their profile photo to their latest book cover (if the book is about to be, has just been released), which can be worthwhile. Use the same profile photo on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram etc too, if you can-this way everyone will always know it’s you and follows/friending will probably be automatic whenever they see you.

A header photo should fit in with your brand, and could be a Twitter banner created by you or a graphic designer to include one or more of your book covers. Or it could be a photo of a location in your latest/upcoming novel.


Put enough in your bio to make someone want to follow you as they’ll make their decision in a split second. If you’re a member of an organisation like the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) include this and other RNA members are likely to follow you back. Include as much about your brand as possible: if your books are set in Italy, include this and Italy fans are likely to follow back. If you write 18thc novels, include this so those writers and historians follow you back.

Pin a tweet to your profile:

This is useful for gaining new followers as they’ll see this when viewing your profile, along with your bio; plus it saves time for those in your network who wish to reciprocate when you’ve retweeted one of their tweets.

Who to follow:

Follow writers, readers, agents, publishers and people who know about/are interested in what your book is about eg: country houses, cooking, Italy, gardening, art. To search for accounts with words mentioned in the bio (or similar accounts), eg librarian, book blogger, reader; key words relating to your brand: use the search bar and click on People. 

Aim to follow others like you, and look at who your peers and idols are following. Some writers say that having other writers as followers isn't going to help them, but writers can be incredibly supportive of each other. They're more likely to read your blog and share your posts; and writers read. They might buy your book, and write a review or tell friends (who are likely to be avid readers) about it or book clubs. Plus if a writer in your genre is raving about your book to their followers, they are introducing you to their readers.

When you follow 5000+ people (this used to be 2000), the following can become tricky if your Follower/Following ratio isn't right. Find out more here, and via Social Media Today here

If you're nearing the 5000 Following mark, it’s not worth using up a follow on someone with 25,000 followers if they’re only following 200 people (ie: they won’t follow you back). If their tweets are essential to you, you can add them to a Twitter list. You don’t have to follow someone to add them to a list, and you don’t have to follow everyone back. See more on lists below.

Check and control the number of people you follow by using a website like Crowdfire. I don’t use Crowdfire for anything else, and wouldn’t advise tweeting updates via Crowdfire such as ‘120 people unfollowed me this week’.

Replies (see more at beginning of post re recent changes): 

If someone mentions you (eg beginning tweet with your @username):

Reply in some way (unless they’re spammers, or tweeting dodgy photos: see point below on how to block/report spam). Clicking on Like is an acknowledgement and is the equivalent of clicking the Like Button (or reacting) on Facebook, but it's better to reply saying something, if you have time (I also use Like to monitor what I've actioned in my notifications). If someone RTs your blog post or a tweet you constructed, try to say thanks-you can save up and mention lots of people together. It’s OK if you miss the odd one, but it can look unappreciative if you never acknowledge a retweet (and it's unlikely they'll do it again). Sometimes though if your tweet receives a phenomenal number of retweets as part of a popular hashtag, a general thank you which includes the hashtag works.

If someone mentions you in a tweet without including your username, you won’t see the tweet unless you search for it. Search for your name in Twitter often to find these tweets, or add a column in Tweetdeck/Hootsuite to catch them.


Use hashtags to reach beyond your followers. If you compose a tweet without a hashtag, only your followers (or those subscribed to a list with you included) will see it, or someone searching through your tweets (if they’re not protected-I wouldn’t advise protecting your tweets if you’re an author and want to build your profile).

Using a hashtag means your tweet is more likely to be seen by others following the hashtag eg #amwriting #amreading #histfic #romance #chicklit #crimefiction. I’d only use two at the most, three at the absolute max. Using the wrong hashtag can make you look as though you don’t know what you’re doing, so research one before using it. Use hashtags for popular TV or radio programmes etc which you enjoy, or which are part of your brand eg. #thearchers #invisiblecities. Use hashtags for #coverreveal #preorder #kindledeal etc too. There are so many out there, with some being more effective than others (look at what your peers and idols are using), it’s worth investigating what would be useful to you. If you attend a writing event, use the (right) hashtag to find other attendees or to report from the event. Eg London Book Fair #lbf17.

Find readers through common interests by looking up hashtags for subjects you’re interested in, and find hashtags which are related to your book(s). If your book is set in Cornwall, find readers through #Poldark, for example (see Liz Fenwick's guest post for more on this).

Make the most of blog sharing hashtags such as #MondayBlogs and #wwwblogs to promote blog posts (not book promo though). Bear in mind that you should only take part in these hashtags if you’re going to reciprocate by retweeting other tweets which include the hashtag. 

Twitter chat hashtags: there are a lot of these such as #askagent, and they can be fun to join in with, plus they’re a way to grow your network.

How do you compose a tweet?

You have 140 characters
Make sure links work (they currently take up some of the character limit).
Include @usernames for anyone mentioned, rather than actual names-unless they’re not on Twitter
Use images
Use relevant hashtags to expand your reach (ideally no more than two, three max).

Make some tweets more personal:

Photos of your outings and baking, general observations about the frost on the lawn or a woodpecker on the bird-feeder. These tend to be some of my most popular tweets.

Share content by others and interact to build relationships:

Especially by those in your network or relating to your brand.

And make the most of the Quote Tweet option when retweeting, by adding your comment when you have something to say. Share content from others like you, otherwise how can you expect anyone to share yours? If you write romantic fiction, you could tweet links to blog posts by other writers of this genre. If you write Georgian historical, you could tweet links to posts on Georgian stuff. If you create your own tweets to share content, include the writer’s @username where possible rather than their name. This means they’ll definitely see you’ve shared their post (and they might RT it too). And if someone RTs your tweets, try to RT theirs, not necessarily immediately, but at some point. More on this in my post, 3 Ways to Retweet on Twitter.

Interact to build relationships, and to make being on Twitter more interesting. Congratulate peers and idols on their writing achievements etc.

Making friends/building your network:

I've made so many friends on Twitter, many of whom I've met 'in real life' at RNA, Historical Novel Society, Society of Women Writers and Journalists’ events, and other events such as at the London Book Fair, and book launches. Other pros of being on Twitter as a writer are learning more about the craft of writing and the publishing industry. 

3 don’ts!

Don’t thank someone for following you, if you’re not following back (such a cheek): They will probably then unfollow you.

Don’t include ‘Please RT’ in any Tweet: It looks desperate and will probably have the opposite effect. 

Don’t mention @username someone with information about your book, blog etc, expecting them to RT this.

When to use Direct Message (“DM”):

For me, Direct Message is best used when you talk to someone online often and want to ask something like ‘Would you be interested in writing a guest post for my blog? If yes, DM your email address’ etc. Or if someone’s won a giveaway competition and you need to ask for their postal address. You can usually only DM someone if they’re following you, unless an account has enabled the option to receive DMs from anyone (more likely for a business). I prefer Facebook Messanger for these kinds of exchanges, although you need to be Facebook Friends with who you’re talking to, otherwise your message could be filtered and they might not see it. Some people do ignore Twitter DMs too, which is worth bearing in mind. Direct messages can also be sent to groups and you can find out more here.

Don’t DM new followers with spam, asking them to like your Facebook Page, visit your website, buy your book etc. This can lose you followers, or get you reported for posting spam. And it’s annoying.

How to block someone and/or report them for spam:

Go into the @username profile, click on the wheel and the option to block or report will appear.


If you know someone professionally/personally and they do a lot of promo and/or over-retweet, you can opt to mute them without causing offence. Read more here.

From Twitter analytics

Use Twitter analytics to see which are your most popular tweets, and more.

From Twitter analytics

Put a Twitter button and feed on your blog and/or website:

Why write a fabulous blog post, but not promote it on Twitter? (and Facebook). Why not have links to your Twitter @username (and Facebook Page) on your blog? Sometimes I see a great post that I’d like to share on Twitter, but I can’t tell if the writer of the post is on Twitter (usually they are), and sometimes I can’t find their name on their own blog. This is a missed opportunity to have your work shared. Put a Twitter Button, and if you can an embedded timeline on your blog and website.

Taking Twitter to the next Level:

Using Twitter lists:

Set up Twitter lists for groups of people in your network such as members of RNA, HNS, CWA; writers, readers, book bloggers and reviewers; plus for subjects relating to your brand. Twitter lists are great for when you don’t have time to look at all tweets by those you follow. If you want to stay on top of blog posts/writing news written by, for example RNA members, you can scan the tweets in your RNA list. You don’t have to follow someone to add them to your list. Set up private lists rather than public ones, as if you set up a public list, everyone you add will receive a notification. Find out more about Twitter lists in my post, 'What Can Twitter Lists Do For You?'

Subscribe to Twitter lists created by others in your network/relating to your brand as well, if those lists are useful to you.

Schedule tweets to get ahead with Tweetdeck/Hootsuite:

With scheduling, you can spread out professional tweets such as a link to a blog post, promo for a book etc and you can tweet in different time zones.

If you publish a blog post, schedule it for a few days with different hashtags, images and wording. Same for cover reveal, pre-order, new release, paperback release etc. You can also schedule tweets promoting your talks, events, courses etc. 

Scheduling takes off the pressure, leaving you able to drop in when you have a spare moment to share content from others, and to tweet live.

Do searches:

I add columns to Tweetdeck for my important Twitter lists, hashtags and searches. This is handy if you use more than one Twitter account and want to follow someone from all accounts at the same time, or retweet from more than one account (be careful when scheduling, liking, and replying to tweets if using more than one account, by ensuring you’ve clicked on the correct account). 

Set up columns in Tweetdeck/Hootsuite for hashtags, and relevant search words including your own name, book titles, links to your blog and website. 

Use temporary columns for the titles of your blog posts, and hashtags for events such as the London Book Fair #lfb17

My training packages:

I’ve done a great deal of training over the phone/via Skype on Twitter and Tweetdeck (plus on Facebook), and I set up and trained a social media team for the Historical Novel Society before handing over to a new social media manager. Email me at anitajchapman at gmail dot com, to find out more. 

Information on what I do as a freelance social media manager with clients in the world of books via my website

I also run Social Media Courses for Writers6 May 2017 (fully booked), and 7 October 2017, both at Holiday Inn Bloomsbury, London. To book, contact me via my website

Other neetsmarketing posts about Twitter:

Guest post: Liz Fenwick on Using Twitter to Connect with Readers

My article for Women Writers, Women’s Books: How to get the most out of social media as a writer