Monday, May 24, 2021

Marketing Tips for Writers: Twitter Hashtags

I) Why bother with Hashtags

Twitter hashtags are potentially useful for accomplishing the following:

- Expanding your audience: Insert your tweets into existing conversations on topics related to your book or of interest to prospective readers or the press. 

- Promoting an upcoming event, such as a book launch or reading, by creating a hashtag that other people can use.

What follows is a summation of advice from avowed experts and my own experiences following that advice. This blog post is geared toward novelists and fiction writers -- online marketing is generally easier for non-fiction writers.

Note: This post assumes some basic knowledge of Twitter. Some previous posts, if you need a refresher

Disclaimer: In 2014 I made a big push on Twitter and as of today, I have not been offered any Pulitzer prizes or Guggenheim fellowships, but I'm giving in another shot on the advice of an agent I met with earlier in the month.


II) Things to Try 


1) Find and use hashtags employed by authors of books similar to yours. 

My first book God Bless Cambodia and my novel in progress are love stories featuring romantic dysfunction, bathroom humor, and white guys behaving badly. (I know, I know -- I'm tone deaf, out of sync with 2021, etc)

Unfortunately, after checking out authors with similar work, I found no useful hashtags. One of my comp authors used hashtags mainly to promote his work (@jonathan tropper). Two other comp authors, Sam Lipsyte and Joshua Ferris don't use Twitter, and a third comp author, Philip Roth, is dead.

Verdict: Not useful for my work 

Try Lit-Map if you need help finding comp authors for your work can help you find comparable (comp) authors



2) Find hashtags related to themes or topics in your book

My books and one-man shows include neurotic, mildly offensive humor so I searched for comedians, such as Larry David, Greg Gutfeld, and Chris Rock – didn't find them use any useful hashtags.

God Bless Cambodia, my first novel, includes a lot of travel writing – the narrator takes a trip around the world and had a rotten time. I was able to find plenty of hashtags related to travel but most were promoting travel not saying it sucks. 

Verdict: Not useful for my work

3) Find hashtags for your genre 

Here's a list of hashtags for different genres (scroll to the middle of the page)

Another place to find your genre: See how comp books are categorized on bookseller sites or at the local library.

My books don't fit neatly into a genre. God Bless Cambodia falls somewhere between commercial fiction and literary fiction and has been classified under "absurdist" and "comedy," on some bookseller sites and, at the public library, under "Man-woman relationships -- Fiction," "Voyages and travels -- Fiction," "Depression in men -- Fiction.

Verdict: Not useful for my work

4) Use hashtags used by the local press: arts reporters, book reviewers,

Even if your tweets don't result in immediate coverage, you might build some visibility and generate coverage at a future date because reporters will be familiar with your name. Remember the old axiom of advertising: need to hit someone seven times before they'll notice you) What are local arts media and authors using?

Verdict: this has promise


5) Create your own hashtag for a theme in your book or an upcoming event your hosting.

 How to create your own hashtag: When creating a tweet, adding a “#” to the beginning of an unbroken word or phrase creates a hashtag.

For my Twitter account @chronicsingle, I created a hashtag a few years back called #chronicsingle.





Here's a hashtag I created and am going to try out. For songs, movies, books, etc that were funny some years ago but will likely be offensive now, I created the #wontflyin2021 by simply typing it into a tweet. 


Step 1 for creating a hashtag


And here's what a tweet using the hashtag #wontflyin2021 looks like. Note: I tried to weave the hashtag into the actual tweet.


The finished product


Note: If you're using a Twitter to promote an event, be sure to ask attendees, the press, etc, to use the hashtag in any tweets.

Verdict: Could be useful


III) Tweet Etiquette for Deploying Hashtags


- Weave the hashtags into your tweet – classier but not always practical

- List them at the end of your tweet – easiest

- Don't use too many. Twitter and other experts recommend no more than two per post.



IV) More Marketing Tips for Authors


More on Hashtags

Twitter Refreshers 


Previous Blog Post: Covid Query Process for a New Novel


 Video trailer for my first novel God Bless Cambodia


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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Covid Query Process for a New Novel


On the Publishing Roller Coaster -- again


My second novel is almost done so I'm preparing to query agents and then, if I have no takers, small presses. The small press that published my first novel, God Bless Cambodia, has first right of refusal on the new novel but in light of my less-than-stellar sales (about 400 copies), it might refuse.

To prepare for the worst case, I attended a recent writing conference  and paid $200 a pop to two agents who read my query letter, synopsis, and first twenty pages.

Worth noting:  

- Of the 65 agents at the conference, all but two said they were looking for books by featuring LGBTQ and BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) authors/themese.

- most were young white women

- five were men

(Full disclosure: I am a whiny, middle-aged white guy and my books feature a narrator who is a whiny, middle-aged white guy. Oy, vey)



I met with the two agents who seemed more open to books from authors who look like me. One was a young Asian woman and the other was a guy about my age. 

What the Agents Said

Neither agent found my material offensive but both agreed that my odds of finding an agent and a big publisher were slim because of my genre: absurdist, raunchy, comedy featuring white guys behaving badly – a genre that used to be known as "laddie lit." The book is a heterosexual love story and the female love interest is an Asian woman – since I am not an Asian woman, publishers might ding me for cultural appropriation. 

Both agents empathized with my book being out of sync with the times and one expressed concern for their existing author clients who were middle-aged white guys and having a difficult time finding publishers. Despite Covid, publishers are still acquiring books, the agents said.

One agent was OK with the query letter, said they never read synopses, and thought the opening of the book and the first twenty pages were fine.

The other agent loved my query letter, didn't like the opening scene of my book, and suggested I boost my social media presence from my current 10,000 followers on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Youtube, etc. to 60,000 followers.  (I always thought that social media was not important for fiction writers but I am going to follow this agent's advice.)

Note: To promote my first book, I created and attended events where I read scenes and performed two one-man shows about the book at amateur theater festivals, libraries, and other venues (link to calendar). Due to Covid, all my events during the last year have been virtual – this has been a poor way to sell books. When I was doing in-person events, people occasionally bought books. Hopefully, this will change by this fall when I can go live again.

Another note: I had no previous theater training but took acting classes and hired a theater director. My acting isn't great -- but I'm what's known as a story-teller: my material is memorized, has a story arc, and I tell the story (scenes from my book) with minimal acting. 


Here's a sample (yeah, you could probably do this)


My Book Marketing To Do List

1) I revamped my website using one of these template. The idea was to simplify the home page and add more images.

2) I am brushing up on my social media by following the advice of book marketing experts like Fauzia Burke,  Jane Friedman and others. Future posts will describe those efforts and what's working and what's not. I am also sharpening my skills with tools designed to make managing social media easier such as:

- Hootsuite: let's preschedule posts to appear on multiple platforms. Last Saturday, I scheduled a week's worth of posts to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

- iunfollow – to jettison people I'm following who are not following back. If you're following more people than follow you, you can be perceived as a social media loser.

3) My Social Media Accounts

a) On Twitter: I have two accounts:

- @rsquaredd (currently have 6,021 followers) for professional posts about publishing and for following industry news, libraries, and agents.

- @chronicsingle (currently 1,283 followers) for raunchy comedy and edgier fare. I am attempting to woo fans of authors/comedians with work similar to mine: Curb your enthusiasm, single life, fringe theater festivals. I also need post using hashtags they use.

b) Facebook: I have a personal page (3,230 friends) and an author/performer page (1,843) I will likely post personal and raunchy comedy stuff on the pages

c) Instagram (53 followers) I have a professional page to which I am posting comedy stuff – photos with captions.

 d) Linked In (3,030 Connections) for posting publishing and professional stuff. I haven't done much with this in years but may start. 

c) Youtube (16 subscribers) I've posted probably 40 videos over the last eight years. I am a Youtube loser but the videos do generate some traffic for my website.








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