Personal selling on Twitter: yes, it can work

This book was successfully marketed on Twitter by personal contact from author to potential reader.

People thought I was nuts to sell a book on an individual, 1-to-1 basis on Twitter. With this “serious” title on its launch nearly two years ago. The book is about how to write nonfiction books and get them published. I found that automated tweets that work for the lower-priced gift books – even using all the right keywords – didn’t work with anything like the same success as the personal touch.

Not as crazy as it sounds

For starters the number of people tweeting about their literary works-in-progress is relatively small. This meant my target readers were reachable on an individual basis without it taking me 8 hours a day to tweet to them all. (It took me an hour a day, tops.) I found them through Tweetdeck, which is one of several Twitter management tools available on the market today. I could afford to tweet with them personally, because although the book was not self-published my royalties were substantial enough to justify the time.

Secondly, writing a book is not like buying a can of baked beans, a software package, some jewellery or finding easier ways to fill in your income tax forms. Even with non-fiction which this particular book promotion was about, the process of writing it and getting it published can be as agonising as dropping your pants and sitting down for the duration on upturned drawing pins (thumbtacks in North America!) People take their books very, very personally.

So when someone comes along on Twitter with an obviously many-times duplicated “how to write a book in ten minutes and get it to sell thousands by next week” service offer, it’s going to be about as welcome, and as believable, as a chocolate teapot.

Approaching tweeters direct is not spamming

A couple of times during the course of the book launch I received spiteful responses from people who had gotten these targeted messages. “Spam! You’re blocked!” shouted one … “go peddle your books somewhere else” sneered the other. But there were only those two. As for the rest, it was no coincidence that over the next couple of months the book hit the number 1 spot on the Amazon (UK) best-sellers list in the “writing” category, and is still selling well today.

Not only did I sell lots of books, but also I made many new friends who messaged me and emailed me to thank me for my interest in their book writing projects. Since that time I have helped several of them by giving them a bit of free advice on their individual projects. I have been hired by three of them to copy edit their books, and by two more to ghostwrite their books for them.

And a large number of them have become loyal subscribers to this site.

It may be a relatively labor-intensive way to sell books, but it’s easier and cheaper than bricks-and-mortar book tours, and with more and more book sales taking place online nowadays it’s a lot more effective, too.

Would I do it again?

Yes, but depending on the nature of the book. Where the target audience is easy to identify and isolate, as in the case of this example, it’s ideal. But for books with a broader, more general appeal to wider and more diverse audiences, to target individuals would probably be spamming .

This book has a wider and less specific remit, so needed broader-based marketing.

For example, one of my more recent books is a general tips/advice title about business writing. Not only would be it pretty hit-and-miss to target anyone on Twitter who runs a small business, but also it would be impossible to do on an individual basis due to the vast numbers. It would only be feasible using an automated system which works, too, but in different ways.  And as I’ve said in an earlier post, general promotion (whether automated or not) works very well for the lower unit cost gift books – especially at gift-giving times of the year.

This personal selling on Twitter also, I imagine, works very well for other products and services in appropriate circumstances. What do you think?

Get the writing help you need and gift books your folks and friends will love

…in Suze’s bookshop