Friday 6 February 2015

Alison Morton on Twitter!

Thank you to Alison Morton for being the first guest on my new neetsmarketing blog about social media for writers. I first met Alison on Twitter back in 2011, and then in person at the Romantic Novelists’ Association ("RNA") parties. She is an inspiration, both as a writer and as a user of social media.

Alison writes alternative history thriller novels; the first in a series of three, INCEPTIO was shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award, and along with the second, PERFIDITAS, was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Both books were shortlisted in the Writing Magazine 2014 Self-Published Book of the Year Award. Her third novel, SUCCESSIO was also awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion and became the Historical Novel Society indie Editor’s Choice forAutumn 2014. In December 2014, SUCCESSIO was selected by The Bookseller as Editor’s Choice in the magazine’s inaugural indie preview. Find out more about Alison on her Roma Nova blog.

When INCEPTIO was published in March 2013, Alison was a guest on my neetswriter blog, and I went to her launch for SUCCESSIO in June 2014. This was a lovely event, and broadcaster, Sue Cook interviewed Alison about SUCCESSIO and her writing (see the video above). I wrote about the launch on my neetswriter blog here

I’ve invited Alison to answer a few questions about Twitter, where she’s known as @alison_morton. Alison is from Kent, but lives in France and her tweets tend to be mainly about her life in France and her garden, history (especially Roman and alternative), current affairs; and her books. Plus I like to chat to Alison on Twitter about those little things, like what colour wine we’re going to open later (or most recently that we need to watch the food intake post-Christmas). L

Alison, I’m so pleased you agreed to be my first guest on this blog (you are brave!). You were one of the first people I followed, and I can’t wait to read your answers!

What is your Twitter bio?
“Thriller writer, Roma Nova alternate history series - INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO. 'What if' explorer, Roman nut, wine drinker”

Which ingredients make an effective Twitter bio?
Something that absorbs the tweeter’s time, e.g. a job, or fab hobby, something they aspire to, a ruling passion, plus something quirky. 

A side note - beware bios that literally say nothing – they may be a sign of a spammer.

When did you join Twitter?
July 2009 in which time I’ve notched up 45,000 tweets. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not!

Should writers, both published and unpublished be on Twitter?
Everybody should be on Twitter. J

Seriously, it’s a great place for writers to garner sources of information, discover the best blogs to follow, to keep up with writing and publishing news and exchange tips with other writers, famous or not. Also, you see some impressively silly but cute pictures as well as historical, wondrous or moving ones - terrific stuff for writers’ inspiration.

What advice would you give on Twitter etiquette?
Be nice – it’s that simple!

More practically, don’t overdo anything and don’t, please, come on Twitter for 5 minutes and retweet everything in sight in that time. I do not want 30 retweets from you choking my Twitterstream all at once. By all means, retweet interesting stuff, but keep in to 5 or 6 at a time and add a little personal comment in front of each RT.

And you look needy/desperate if you ask for retweets or followers, so best not to.

How much time do you factor in, roughly, per week for Twitter?
Too much! I spend 15-20 minutes in the morning catching up with US friends, waking UK and European ones, then a quick look at lunchtime, then 20-30 minutes in the evening, unless I get caught in a fascinating conversation or a tweet-a-long or take part in a Twitterchat (I expect you’re going to explain those at some stage, Anita!)

Do you schedule tweets, how far in advance do you schedule, which system (Tweetdeck or Hootsuite) and why?
Yes, I schedule, using Tweetdeck. It means I space out my information and promotional tweets so nobody gets bombarded, plus I can reach out to different groups of people at different times. Scheduling is particularly useful for organising tweets in different time zones.

How important is it to engage others in conversation on Twitter?
Crucial. That’s the essential reason for Twitter, and it’s fun. I regularly tweet with writers, readers and real people(!) on all continents. We talk books and writing, of course, but also about domestic stuff, films and places as well as current events. We promote and support others’ book promotions, but I don’t generally if I didn’t know them. I make exceptions for fabulous books.

Do you agree that a mixture of personal and professional tweets make a Twitter feed interesting, eg: “I’ve been weeding the garden…”, with a photo of your vegetable patch?; “I wrote a blog post about what inspires me to write” etc?
Yes, or your conversation will be dull, but make it remarkable, e.g. a spectacular sky, the first daffs, you with a spade looking agricultural or supping a glass of wine the first time you can sit outside on a spring evening.

Do you retweet much (and what kind of Tweets)?
A reasonable proportion, but only if I think my followers (and theirs) would find the tweet interesting, informative or amusing (A bit like the BBC remit!)

How do you find relevant content to share on Twitter, do you use Lists and search hashtags?
Now, I have to admit I don’t use lists to categorise tweeters – I might miss something! After a while you discover and narrow down those tweeters who most interest you. Much of the content I retweet comes from blogs of people I discovered via Twitter. And, of course, I retweet my own blog posts!

Yes, I check hashtags, e.g. #althist #histfic frequently. Hashtags are invaluable if you’re having a Twitterchat, e.g. #futurechat; then I use Tweetdeck to filter the tweets into a single column so I can follow the conversation easily.

And do you use the above-mentioned hashtags in your Tweets?
All the time, and loads of others! For readers, hashtags identify which tweets in the ocean of tweets are interesting for them. Some of my favourites are: #authors  #books   #romance  #reviews  #amwriting   #amreading #readers #fiction #novel #free #selfpub #histfic  #althist #mystery #espionage  #thriller

If you’re running a promotion with other authors, a hashtag is very useful, e.g. we used #firstinseries for this post.

I also use comic ones to add flavour to the tweet, e.g. 
#daftfact  #notaclue #whatdidyouexpect

Does Twitter drive much traffic to your Roma Nova blog?
Google Analytics and Wordpress stats for my blog both confirm that Twitter is a strong source of visitors. Facebook is the other big one, of course.

An essential on your blog is a little row of buttons at the bottom of each post where visitors can click to forward the post to Twitter and encourage more visitors. And you should set up the automatic plug-in on your blog to tweet your latest blog post automatically to the Twitterverse.

Would you say that you sell more books from being active on Twitter?
Hahaha! I really don’t know. I hope to make readers aware of my books, to highlight offers, or a new blogpost around the books. If I add a photo or one of the book trailers, those tweets seem to get more retweets and favorites.

How would you compose a Tweet to link to this post, to entice your followers to read it? 

Read how long term tweeter @alison_morton maximises her Twitter presence. Great tips! @neetsmarketing [and attach below photo]

Thank you, Alison, for taking the time to answer these questions with such informative answers. It's interesting to find out how you go about using Twitter, and I know many writers will take note of your invaluable advice. Best of luck with your novels, and see you on Twitter!

My next guest post will be on 6 March from The Romaniacs on 'Blogging and Using Social Media as a Group'.

Find out more about Successio and Alison below:

SUCCESSIO: Roma Nova – the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century – is at peace. Carina Mitela, the heir of a leading family, but choosing the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, is not so sure.

She senses danger crawling towards her when she encounters a strangely self-possessed member of the unit hosting their exchange exercise in Britain. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband Conrad’s lost daughter and Conrad tries to shut Carina out, she knows the threat is real.

Trying to resolve a young man’s indiscretion twenty-five years before turns into a nightmare that not only threatens to destroy all the Mitelae but also attacks the core of the imperial family itself. With her enemy holding a gun to the head of the heir to the imperial throne, Carina has to make the hardest decision of her life…

SUCCESSIO is available through your local bookshop or from Amazon and other online retailers here
Social media:
You can read more about Alison, Romans, alternate history and writing here on her blog
Amazon UK authorpage,  Amazon US authorpage.

My previous posts on this neetsmarketing blog:

My Beginner's Guide to Twitter for Writers

3 Ways to Retweet on Twitter (rewritten 18 March 2016)


  1. I really enjoyed this informative post, thank you. I'm one of those who hasn't quite mastered the art of sending interesting/clever Tweets, so any advice is useful to me.

    Congratulations to Alison for her well-deserved success, her books are wonderful.

    1. Thanks for reading Georgina, and for your comment. Glad you found the post informative-Alison gives great advice!

  2. Still new to Twitter so found this very helpful - thanks!

    1. Glad you found Alison's answers helpful Helen, thanks for reading and for your comment!