People ask me lots of questions each day about how best to use Twitter for selling their books. vectorstock_83942

You can probably guess my answer: DON’T. The hard sell never works (and I know: I was a pharma rep and sales trainer for fifteen years).

Twitter is an excellent marketing tool, however, and the best way to use it to ‘sell’ is by establishing relationships with readers, being an expert in whatever it is that you know by providing blog posts, information, resources, etc., and interacting with people who could be potential buyers of your book (or whatever it is you are selling).

Let’s deconstruct.


Tweet length. 140 is a fallacy. A tweet should be no more than 117 characters if it contains a link. Why? Simple. It’s far easier for us to RT (retweet) you if we don’t have to edit or shorten. Think of Twitter as someone snapping their fingers. If RTing you takes longer than a snap, forget it.

Promo tweets vs. Content tweets. I suggest a balance between links (promo) and no links (content). Regardless of whether your link goes to promote another author, a blog post, a New York Times article — doesn’t matter. Anything with a link is considered promotional. If it requires someone to click (i.e., a pic, a video, an article), it’s promotional. Lots of authors start to get defensive when I discuss this, but the bottom line is this: does it require a call to action? Are you asking someone to click? Then it’s promotional.

Many people have many rules for balancing promo to content: 80/20 for example. 80% content (no links), 20% promo (links), when in actuality, it’s usually the other way around. I’m not here to preach to you THE RULES. Do whatever works best for you. However, be conscious of asking people to do too much for you, particularly if you don’t give back (RT them).

Subjects. When people first start on Twitter (or really any social media), they think: My god, what on earth will I talk about? That’s a natural adult-learning reaction. Adults learn by doing, and Twitter seems intimidating with all the hashtags (#), rules, and whatnot. But it’s really not. Here’s what I suggest:

Use keywords or key phrases that interest you. This is your basic branding. So…what do I mean? On my author account, I tweet about social media, books, authors, love and relationships, and sexual abuse. These are the topics I write about or that interest me (okay, and Nutella — yes I gave it up but that doesn’t mean I still can’t write about it :) . It’s important to establish quickly who you are and what you do, and you can establish that easily via keywords.

Attribution. If you’re going to quote someone or pull a line from an article, Twitter (and common sense) requires you to give attribution. Sadly, sometimes people see a funny line or quote a lyric or movie line, and use it as their own. Guess what? That’s plagiarism. Not good and can get you banned from Twitter. Always give attribution.


Biography (aka Bio). I see lots of unbranded bios and it kills me because people are missing out on wonderful branding opportunities. We are branding, all of us, whether we intend to or not. If you tweet funny things, people will expect your book to be funny (which may or may not be the case). If you tweet about Nutella, people will expect a mention in your books (and yes, I discuss chocolate in my second book, The Mancode: Exposed). Branding is about managing expectations and we all do it, whether it’s a conscious effort or not.

So, to brand your bio, be sure to use at least two to three keywords we discussed above. Let’s take a look at my current author stream bio:

Rachel Thompson


BROKEN PIECES 2013 Global eBook Award Nominee inspires #sexuallyabused women. Founder @BadRedheadMedia #MondayBlogs. Devout #martini-ist.

Searching for martinis ·

There’s a lot going on here, but let’s break it down.

  • I have my real name and my Twitter handle (important to have your real name so people can search for you)
  • I have the title of my latest book, an award mention, and a keyword that discusses my topic.
  • I also mention my business handle (@BadRedheadMedia and by adding the @ sign, it creates a hyperlink to that stream).
  • I keyword #MondayBlogs, which is a blog meme I started a few months back to encourage bloggers and author to share their latest post and RT others (BTW, thousands participate each week so jump in anytime!) By using the # sign, I create a hyperlink here also.
  • I lighten things up in the last line by adding a mention or two about martinis (mostly because well, a) I love them and b) I started #MartiniChat on Fridays with @JackieBernardi, 5pm PST. Join anytime!)
  • Notice I have two URLs. You have 160 characters for you bio. Tip: Shorten a link to your website or book using, so it fits into the 160 characters. Then add another link in the area that says WEBSITE. Two links — viola! Not only is this smart business, using bitly allows you to customize and track clicks!
  • For location, I don’t share where I live, mostly because of creepy stalker people, but as you can see, I created an opportunity for humor by putting ‘Searching for martinis.’

Avatar (aka Avi). Use a real picture of you or, if you’re tweeting about a company, use the company logo. This is not a hard and fast rule, simply a guideline. Many people choose to remain anonymous on Twitter so they use a stock photo. Whichever you choose, make sure it’s a high-resolution photo, so it doesn’t appear pixelated if someone clicks on it.

Header. Last year, Twitter introduced headers. If you have a Facebook or Google+ profile, you already know what this is. If not, take a look at Twitter’s Help Section here. Here’s an example from NBC’s 30 Rock, which is instantly recognizable and fun, while still being branded.

30 rock header image

Background. There are millions of backgrounds for Twitter. There’s NO reason whatsoever to have just that basic light ‘Twitter blue’ background except laziness. In your account options, click DESIGN. Pick a premade theme (sigh, if you must), click on Themeleon (just below the premades) or upload your own background (ie, something you’ve had designed).

Take a look at my @RachelintheOC header, photo, and background here.

Next post I’ll look more closely at targeting readers and ways to go about that. I welcome your questions and comments below!