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This Indie Author Pledges to Leave Twitter Hashtags Alone

In the past six months, I’ve been thinking a lot about social media and marketing in general. I’ve spoken to several bestselling fiction authors who’ve built their followings based not on social media strategy but by simply writing more books. More books sell more books, and that is the mantra I’ve adopted.

That’s the reason for the change in my blogging. I’ll be doing the occasional Thriller Thursday when it strikes me, but my time is very limited, and I need to spend it writing. And you know what? True crime isn’t the only thing I’m interested in. So when I do blog, I’m not going to follow any preset rules. I’m going to write about what I want to.

And to the point of this post: Twitter hashtags. Let me say first I speak from experience on this, as an author with only two books out. It is VERY easy to get caught up in tweeting about your book several times a day, or by joining a group who will do it for you in exchange for your pimping their book. But guess what? Nearly everybody does it, especially the newer authors, and the vast majority of those Twitter links are ignored, because they are nothing but white noise. I know this because I’ve used to track my click-thrus, and despite many, many RTs, the click rate was dismal.

Even worse, I’ve used hashtags like #FridayReads, #bookworm, #mustreads, #Goodreads, and those hashtags, to my knowledge, were created for readers to talk about the books they loved. Not for an author to promote their own work. Same with many of the groups on Facebook. They’re supposed to be for support, networking, or just chatting up books, but they quickly become laden with desperate authors eager to get a sale or two.

It’s happened on Goodreads as well. I know authors get frustrated with Goodreads, but there’s a reason most groups are strict about promotion. The mods are protecting their online safe place, one of the few locations left to simply chat about books without a salesman coming in.

I say this pointing fingers only at myself. I’ve done it more times than I would like to admit. It’s only in the past couple of months I’ve backed off, and guess what? Sales didn’t change. August was lousy all around for most of us, but September is picking up. And I’ve done nothing differently because I’ve been working hard to write more books.

So here’s an apology to all Twitter users who just want to chat about books. I’m sorry for hijacking your tags and promoting, and I won’t be doing it any more. It’s bad business and not a way to build a following. When I do tweet anything about my books, I will be sticking to the appropriate hashtags: #amazon, #kindle, #nook, #indie, etc.

I’d love to take back my Twitter feed from the endless spam of links and be able to chat a few minutes every day. Leaving those hashtags alone is a good step. Easing off the link spam is another. Sending out conversational tweets and joining hashtag conversation is another–if I have time to do so, and simply for the sake of chatting about like-minded interests, not selling a book.

For me, the bottom line is this: my books will sell my books. Great word of mouth and praise like TIN GOD’s being a finalist in the Best Indie Book Awards will sell my books. Bombarding people on Twitter about it produces poor results, makes me look bad, and makes me feel less than professional.

How do you use Twitter? Do you believe it’s overloaded with links? Is that how it should be, or should it be about connection?

15 comments on… “This Indie Author Pledges to Leave Twitter Hashtags Alone”

  1. Totally agree with you! I know many writers who have stopped hanging out on Twitter because it’s so many promotional links – and not just for books but for blog posts too and other friend’s books. Which is fine to a certain point. But, overall, I don’t think it’s as effective as author hope it to be. If it is – it’s probably coincidence. 🙂

    • Hi Laura! I’m sorry to hear that so many writers have stopped hanging out on Twitter. It used to be a good place to talk shop. You’re right, it is good to a point, and I do want to support fellow authors, but it is way overrun. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Good points, Stacy. I’ve been using Twitter less and less. Mainly I tweet to touch base with my writer tweeps and to put the word out about blog posts. Only time I tweet about my books is when I have news about something different (new cover, new release, etc.) I will be more careful about using some of those hashtags from now on.

    • I am trying to back down from too many links in general. Even with Triberr, I’ve stretched my intervals to two hours and only do a few a day. I just don’t see that it’s effective. Thanks!

  3. Good choice, Stacy. I’ve also cut back on blogging because I want to spend more time writing, and since my time is limited nowadays — it’ll just mean less social media, period.

    Twitter is making me nauseous. I love the quick and colorful exchange between strangers, but the endless self-promotion and link tweeting is almost ruining it for me. Almost. I intend to unfollow anyone who tweets more links than updates, and more self-promotion than promotion (or mention) of someone else’s works, and I will refrain from tweeting anything I read online (like a blog entry) unless I also want to discuss the content with others, for which I will start the conversation. If I don’t have anything interesting to share, I just won’t share anything that day. I guess that’s a good way to at least keep spam out of my own life, and make Twitter feel like fun again.

    You’re so right when you say that no amount of self-promotion will ever match writing quality books, and then MORE quality books. I personally haven’t clicked a single link to a book that its author was pitching on social media, and neither has any of my friends. But I’ve bought and recommended books of authors I’ve seen interacting freely and just being themselves, simply because I was curious what their minds could come up with in terms of fiction. I don’t have any numbers to back me up, but I strongly suspect that being a person and expressing one’s creativity through social media has a much better come hither factor than even the finest marketing strategy.

    • Good for you on putting writing first! You won’t regret it.

      I feel the same way about Twitter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried a hashtag or scrolled through my timeline in hopes of finding someone to talk to and came up with nothing but links. I

      I think your strategy sounds like one we should all follow. And you have a good point on why readers DO click through on Twitter. It’s not because of book links, but because the author herself (or himself) intrigued them. Great comment, and thanks!

  4. I’m not a writer but a reader and part-time blogger. Sadly, I pretty much bypass author self promotions unless it’s a first-time Tweet about a new book or a sale announcement. I tweet about reviews to reach other readers. Many of my followers are authors but more are people like me…really interested in finding good books to read.

    I applaud your decision to abandon repeated promotions, either on Twitter or other sites like Goodreads. As a moderator of several groups on Goodreads and Shelfari, I can’t tell you how annoying it is to have an author swoop in and blast the group with promotions outside of the space devoted for that purpose. What we do love, however, is when an author participates in some of the group discussions, especially one that is appropriate to the genre of your books. It may be time consuming but I believe there is a payoff. Members get a sense of how your write and think through those expressions. I know I’ve invested quite a bit in those authors’ works when I’ve had a chance to get to know them at that level.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Hi there! I think many readers treat the self-promotion exactly as you do, and that’s a big part of why I am scaling back. I just don’t think it sends the right message.

      I know what you mean about Goodreads, and I do need to get in there and chat more about books in general. But by the time I actually have time to chat, I’m usually spent, lol. I do think it’s very cool when an author gets into discussions, though. It’s nice to just be able to talk books.


  5. Hi Stacy. I myself have been spotty on social media all summer because I’m trying to prioritize my writing. If I don’t produce good writing, then nobody will ever read me. It’s as simple as that. I was getting tired of so many tweets being about self-promotion rather than social engagement. There’s nothing wrong with once or twice a day doing some self-promotion with a couple of hashtags, but it always needs to be balanced out with personal connections sans hashtags. As for blogging, I’d like to get back on track at least twice a week because I think the routine of it is a discipline I need. But I’m writing my posts shorter and faster so I can get back to larger projects.

    • Hi there,
      I’m so glad you’re trying to prioritize your writing. I’ve been doing the same, and it’s a great feeling. You are right – it really is about producing the best writing you can. I think one thing many of us crave is instant gratification when it comes to anything marketing, and it doesn’t work that way. The connection takes time, and like you, I’m willing to chat here and there, but the writing comes first.

  6. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Because I’ve actually found books to read because of mentions on Twitter and Facebook. It’s a tricky balance. There are groups on Facebook who are there strictly for promotion, but I don’t know if readers actually go there looking for those promoted books. I just wish I knew the magic formula….

    • You’re right, Lauralynn, it really is a tricky balance. I do know some sell books on Twitter, but I think using it as a tool to sell books is a mistake. Does that make sense? I don’t think there is a magic formula, unfortunately. We just have to find what works and not overrun our followers. Thanks!

  7. I blog because I enjoy the community. I read because I love to read, both books and blogs. I tweet now and then but mostly society and politics. The world is broad and interesting. I think you are right.

  8. The Twitter and I have a love/hate relationship. Found and interacted with some fabulous people there; but quickly tired of the endless self-promo. Feels like a 30 page magazine with 2 great articles and 28 pages of ads, sometimes.

    My sister started a non-profit org, and from her seminars and studying, they say it averages nine “touches” before a person will want to donate. I think the point of Twitter or any social media is to “touch” people, and interact, not blast ads.

  9. To this day, I find my very best conversations on Twitter, but I hear I’m a minority on that. My eyes pass right over all the “buy my books” chatter and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. With the use of Lists and various tools, I still see the tweets I want to see and leave the rest alone.

    As far as you changing your strategy, good for you. You’ll have tons more fun on Twitter now, I’m sure. All the pressure will be OFF and you can just enjoy yourself. 🙂

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