Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TUESDAY TIP Start Selling Today: How to Write Promo Tweets (for Indie Authors) #Twitter #indie #pubtip #promo #myWANA #IAN1 #WLC

Today's Tuesday Tip is going to try to advise you on how to write those much-hated promo tweets. You know the ones I mean, the sales pitches to readers that you hope will get them to click through to your book page and ultimately buy the book.

First of all, understand that separation of tweet and sale. The tweet's sole purpose is to get the reader to click through to the book page. Stop. That's all the tweet is supposed to do. You cannot sell a book from a tweet anymore than you can get hired from a resume. Or it's rare. Focus your tweets on getting a click to the book page and focus your book page on getting the sale. Don't try to skip steps.

On the other side of the jump-break, I'll revisit some material covered early on in my Twitter Series. In the article (ironically) titled The Headline IS The Story, I briefly discussed writing those magical 140-character sales pitches. Now I can apply nearly one-year's worth of tweeting experience (if not expertise) and share my lessons learned. Click through to see why I haven't chosen to write a "better" headline than the one on this blog/tweet (haha)

The 4 U's - All Branded as You
When you write a promo tweet, even though it's a sales pitch, it needs to sound like you. When you write a book, your authorial voice is there, whether only in the dialog or in the diction of the narrative passages, something about your book is uniquely you.

Likewise, your promo tweets need to sound like you. They need to match your voice because that's how you brand your tweets. The problem is, you only get 140 characters and you have to include certain information so it's a non-stop balancing act. The good news is there are "rules" for structuring a headline and they can be applied to structuring a promo tweet.

Over at Copyblogger, they define the so-called "4 U's of Headline Writing" and we can apply them to promo-tweet writing. A headline or promo tweet should be:
  1. USEFUL to the reader,
  2. Have a sense of URGENCY,
  3. Convey that the idea is UNIQUE; and
  4. Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way
As an Indie Author, I'm not so sure you can make your promo tweets "useful" or "urgent" but let's see what happens when I start dissecting the process. Okay, your story's plot has a conflict (trust me, it's in there! every functioning story has a conflict) so you can use that conflict to drive the "urgency" part of your tweet. The "usefulness" and "ultra-specific" aspect can be satisfied by the methods you provide for finding your book. That is, the link to the store will be useful (and mentioning a free sample is useful) and you can use hashtags for the ultra-specific part. If you're targetting iOS users, for instance, use the ultra-specific #iPad hashtag and then be sure to use your link in the Apple iTunes Store. Here's how an Apple iTunes URL is constructed (just change the ISBN to your own number)

                     country code ^                    ^ISBN ^

That's pretty awful so I've created a shortened URL for it: http://bit.ly/iTunes-CondResp. Way easier to remember, right? In fact, I've created several of those. If you're not already familiar with Bit.ly, be sure to check into it. You can customize your shortened URLs (free of charge) or purchase a customized shortner like the big companies have done (Amazon, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NY Times, etc. all have customized shortened URLs). You can also use the customized shorteners purchased by these big wigs.

Forex, "amzn.to" was purchased by Amazon so anyone who wants, can create a free shortened Amazon link. I created http://bit.ly/US-CondResp but because that goes to the US Kindle Store, I can also give that URL as http://amzn.to/US-CondResp. They both go to the same page, but the "amzn.to" version is more "ultra-specific" isn't it? And more useful. It immediately tells me this is a Kindle link to the American Kindle store. In fact, I also have created a shortened link for the UK Kindle Store (http://amzn.to/UK-CondResp). I use that one in conjunction with the hashtag #KindleUK.

Making your hashtags and links useful, unique and ultra-specific leaves you the rest of the tweet for the "urgent" message about your book's plot. See? Using the 4 U's works! ^_^

Have I successfully applied the 4 U's to the headline of this blog post? Let's see. It's a tip, so that makes it useful to you, my reader. I suggest you can get immediate results (Start selling today) so it has a sense of urgency. I have branded it with my ultra-specific parenthetical "(for Indie Authors)."

Yeah, okay, that's not ultra specific but it is a deliberately-repeated brand style that is uniquely Webbiegrrl. I have several "(for Indie Authors)" series here on the blog and soon, in eBooks. The content of this post, while adapted from Copyblogger's (and my own earlier post) is definitely uniquely Webbiegrrl and for Indie Authors. Maybe my headline's not all that exciting but it does satisfy the 4 U's and match my chosen branding.

Next Headline Please
Over at Copyblogger, the 80/20 Rule of Headlines is defined as: 8 out of 10 people will read the headline but only 2 out of 10 will read the article. If you have a tweet  with a link, probably 80% of the tweeps who see the tweet will read it, think about it for a few seconds, but yeah, I'd wager only 20% will click on the link. Worse, of those, only 20% again will read the first screen they see on the other side of the click. The headline needs to grab them or they'll move onto the next available headline, and you'd better believe there's another one right there, conveniently located on your book page.

When you link to a book seller's site, like Amazon, there are already a lot of advertisements present on the screen, competing with your message. That's right, your book page is selling other products for the book seller's site, not just your book. That means your book's sales pitch needs to really deliver 100% of what your headline promised. After all, you're still only getting about 20% of the readers in a perfect world. In an imperfect world, 80% are clicking on another "headline" (one of those ads the site/host has blinking, flashing and distracting your readers from your message) and leaving your book page as soon as they've arrived.

The way to retain your reader's attention is not just to make your book page deliver on your headlines, but rather make your headlines deliver your book page. Work backwards. Make the book page sell the book. That's what it's supposed to do. The promo tweet should sell the link to the book page not the book, itself. So focus your promo tweet composition effort on making headlines that work.

8 Headline Styles - One to Match Every Brand
Copywriter Bob Bly discusses 8 Headline Styles that Work in his book, The Copywriter’s Handbook. While these are more geared towards bloggers selling widgets, services and companies, at least one of these will match your approach as an Indie Author in your sales efforts for your brand. Remember, you're selling your brand, not your book (even if all you have is one book, your publishing business is actually an Indie Author Brand). Look over the 8 styles in the list and choose one or more that sounds like you. For purposes of these discussions, let's assume all links lead to book pages.

1) Direct Headlines
These are the ones that came from the sentimen Just the facts, ma'am. There's no attempt at snappy phrasing. This style is deliberately terse. If you like to just cut to the chase, this style's for you.

2) Indirect Headlines
This one makes the reader wonder about something specific (forms a question in their mind) without actually asking a question. The book page must answer the question or you'll lose the reader as soon as they start reading your book's description but for a mystery writer or genre fiction, this style works exceptionally well. Exploit your skills at cutesy phrasing and trendy hashtags for this style. Also, if you're trying to start new hashtags, this style might suit your brand.

3) News Headlines
Similar to the Direct Headline, this one not only cuts to the chase, it informs. This could include a new book release announcement, improved cover art, a lower price or some special offer for a limited time only. Many of you use this style headline, from what I can tell reading my own twitterstream full of book promo tweets. Ask yourself, is this really the best representation of your brand? If it is, go forth and announce the news. I suspect, however, you're using this style tweet because it's the easiest to figure out how to write. Don't be lazy. Brand your tweets authentically.

4) How to Headlines
Offering free instruction on how to do something seems to be the most popular headline out there – online and off. People love to get stuff for free and people who are selling things love it even more. If you, like me, are trying to establish yourself  as a fiction writer but also as a content expert, you should make sure to use some of these headlines, sprinkled in with your book sales tweets. I don't yet have my first Romantic Suspense novel done/released, so these tweets dominate my current stream of linky-tweets.

5) Question Headlines
These are most similar to the Indirect Headline but written in the explicit form of a question which you must answer on the other side of the link. While Indirect Headlines spurs the reader to wonder, this style flatly asks a question. For instance, I could have titled this blog's headline Do You Need Help Writing Promo Tweets? and that would've been a Question Headline. I didn't because my headline style better reflects my brand.

If you like to ask and answer questions, if that's your personal style, then Question Headlines are for you. There are a lot of promo tweets out there, seen daily, that can be rewritten as Question Headlines. Think about it--just be sure your book page (description blurb) answers the question. A good example would be a question about the plot--or rather, the conflict in the plot. Then the description needs to immediately answer the question. This is why I say you should work backwards.

6) Command Headlines
Written in the imperative form, this could be anything at all. Tell the reader what to do--if that's your style. I advise against phrasings such as Buy BOOKTITLE before it's too late! style commands but do whatever matches your brand or "authorial voice." You have a style; you just need to find it.  If you like to just say Subscribe today! then do it. In fact, I use this style a lot at the footers of my blog post, so for me, it's not really a headline so much as a closing sales pitch. No one likes to be told to buy something, though, and if you haven't already heard, books are bought, not sold. (See Branding for Indie Authors to learn more about that subtle distinction.)

7) Reason Why Headlines
These have to be the single-most popular non-fiction promo tweets. Indie Authors (and book bloggers) who are trying to promote themselves as experts in some aspect of the publishing industry will find this style is for you. If you don't feel this is compatible with your brand, stop and take another look. Enumerated lists and quantified headlines that give X number of solutions to a common problem will get you more clicks than you can count. These headlines are far more useful for promoting a blog or non-fiction "how to" book (even more so than the How To Headline) but you can phrase a book pitch as a "Reason Why" headline. An example I used in my Twitter series was "Twitter Basics: 3 Tools You Need to Master."

8) Testimonial Headlines
Okay, this is my favorite. Snippeting out quotable pieces of book reviews and phrasing them as a headline is a great way to sell a book. It uses other people's endorsements to validate your worth. It assures your readers that you're not just full of yourself, you're full of something that others found interesting, too. ((grin))

8a) Snippet / Excerpt Headline
Another variant on the Testimonial Headline is to snippet out a sentence, plot point or really popular piece of dialog but you don't have a lot of room. This is still just a headline and that tiny little snippet of your book still has to sell the entire concept so think carefully about which pieces you want to snippet.

I've tried a few of these, using Lacey Townsend, the world-class sniper Heroine in my upcoming Romantic Suspense novel. However, since I don't actually have the book on sale yet, it's kind of hard to document whether or not my method's working. I do get a lot of click-throughs to the blog to read the free snippet / excerpt that I link from these tweets.

The straightforward testimonial tweets work best for tweeting about book reviews. In fact, those of you who tweet something like 25 5* reviews for BOOKTITLE have actually hit on a good, solid headline formula. It may or may not match your brand, but if you have the numbers to back up the testimonials, go for it. My conclusion? This headline style is not for those of us just starting out and is better-reserved for those with a dozen or more book reviews already in place.

Additional Headline Help
Get more headline-writing tips in the 11-part Magnetic Headlines series at Copyblogger. Yes, they're selling widgets or blogs but selling is selling and headline writing is an art form. Like learning to write fiction, you need to read and practice to learn how to write headlines. Copyblogger has some great examples!

What's Next...
Next Monday, I'll dive into Immutable Law of Branding 1: Expansion. I might even combine that discussion with Immutable Law of Branding 2: Contraction. Actually, I've already drafted the post and I have, in fact, coupled the two sides of the same coin together, just like I did for the Immutable Laws of Marketing (Laws 18 and 19).

Make sure you don't miss any entries of this new series by subscribing to this blog on your Kindle (works for both devices and apps, all platforms). It's just 99c a month and you can try before you buy: free for the first 14 days. Subscribe here.

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