Read This Before You SELL SELL SELL Books On Twitter

By Rachel Thompson
nerd two at computer

This title is a bit misleading, because I don’t feel authors should be using our streams to SELL SELL SELL.

I am an author. I tweet a lot, mostly about topics that are of interest to me (Nutella, relationships, love, loss, sexual abuse, music, books, social media). I tweet my own books (well, mostly just Broken Pieces, my latest release, and once in awhile my first two humor books) MAYBE a few times per week. Mostly, I refer folks to my bio where there’s a direct purchase link.

Lots of authors tweet nothing but links to their books. This is a mistake — it’s off-putting and annoying. Below, examples:

‘Here’s my latest book: It’s All About Me. Please buy, review, tell everyone you know!’ NO. #unfollow

I tweet a lot of music — what I enjoy, lines from songs (always with attribution). I got this yesterday: ‘If you love David Poe, you’ll LOVE my new single. Click here to view and share with your network!’ NO. #unfollow

‘Did you see the DVD yet of my documentary on pigs who live in penthouses?’ Me: You may want to read this article I wrote about not selling your stuff on Twitter. Him: Okay, sure. But did you buy my movie yet?’ NO. #unfollow.

Let’s deconstruct.


When you first started on Twitter (for the sake of this discussion, I’ll use Twitter, but the principles apply to any social media network), you were probably a puppy: ‘woot! all these millions of people will now know about my amazing book! Tweet links, tweet links, tweet links!’ The mistake is: nobody cares. Nobody knows who we are.

We are raised to think we’re special, wonderful, unique beings. Unfortunately (or actually, fortunately in this case), social media isn’t ‘All About Me’ media, it’s ‘Social’ media. I’m not sure why some authors get this and some don’t. To be fair, authors aren’t the only ones constantly hawking their own work — I see musicians, artists, and many charities and businesses also doing the ME ME ME thing. To me, this just reeks of newbie-ness, of inexperience, and even desperation. And really, is that how you want to be perceived?

So, what to do? Gawk: watch what others do, figure out the lingo (Twitter’s HELP section is quite complete and there are millions of articles about how to use it on the net), learn. Focus on being your authentic, true self, not being an automaton spewing out book links.


I’ve been on Twitter since 2009, and I’ve learned a lot about human behavior just observing interactions there. What I’ve found: the authors who make a real effort to connect with readers, bloggers, and reviewers (more below) sell far more books by NOT selling, but by talking with people and sharing great content.

What a concept: talking, connecting, interacting!  

To be clear, I’m not opposed to all self-promotion. We all have rent to pay. I share links occasionally to my books. I’m opposed to constant, unrelenting, hard-selling self-promotion, particularly when accompanied by defensiveness and attitude. At this point, I will simply unfollow you.


Many authors start on Twitter (or FB, etc.) and follow other authors. That’s fine and all (we are, for the most part, supportive), but the authors who go into Twitter expecting something from their fellow authors will be sorely disappointed — most of us are so swamped with our own work, it’s all we can do to interact (‘make a friend, make a sale’), let alone read your books, review them, and promote them for you. That’s not OUR job, to be blunt.

Your job is to find ways to promote your work that are not obnoxious. I recommend relationship-building, advertising, promotional book groups (where you support authors and they support you on specific events — Facebook, G+, and LinkedIn have the most groups, I’ve found), blogging (participate in #MondayBlogs — share ANY post, retweet others. On Mondays.), guest blogging, interviews. None of this falls in your lap like a bucket of love from the sky — you have to find your opportunities.

This disconnect — this wanting others to do our work for us — this is where authors hit trouble. That and expecting others (anyone! everyone!) to turn our stream, which we’ve worked for years to cultivate, into their own personal commercial. It reminds me of drafting in cycling.

I’ve heard it all — rationalizations about how you don’t have enough time (pft. Use Hootsuite to schedule across your platform, interact live when you can), that you have no money (pft, doesn’t cost anything to ask someone how they’re doing), or retweet (RT), follow, or list someone.


Here’s the thing: Twitter (or any channel) will not sell books for you. What it does do is increase your visibility, and if done correctly, creates a reader base for when you need beta readers, or want to create a street team, when your book does come out, when you have a promotion, or some major accomplishment that you want to share. I’ve found readers, bloggers, and reviewers (whom I go out of my way to follow) are open to helping me because I’m not constantly barraging them with random requests — particularly when we interact the very first time.

Remember, this isn’t a sprint. You have time to build your base and connect with influencers. And by connect, I do not mean annoy the hell out of them.


Share snippets of your work (a quote here and there), pictures, videos, blog posts (yours and others), news. Chat, be yourself. Don’t talk about your book constantly (or your lunch — that’s so over). You have an avatar, bio, header and a background on Twitter — four places where you can take full advantage, using links there. IF you have a promotion, politely ask your followers and author friends to share a tweet. Even tweet it yourself once or twice, max.

Bothering people to buy your books doesn’t work. If you think it does, fine. I will not be following you or helping you promote your work. I’m all about helping other authors — if you ask me nicely and send me Nutella (kidding!), I may RT you. If you ask me to read and review your book, I won’t. Not because I’m a meanie, but because you need to be connecting with bloggers and reviewers who are FAR more influential than I. Plus, I have to be conscious of how many book tweets go out on my stream, how much promotion I’m willing to share. As should you.

Remember, social media is not advertising or free commercial broadcast time. If that is how you use it, you may want to rethink that strategy.

How do you use social media as part of your author platform? I’d love your thoughts and suggestions!