My view on authors tweeting/retweeting – you may not like this…

Big time preface – YMMV. Everyone’s does. There are authors that do nothing but tweet book links, and they do fine. There are authors who aren’t even on Twitter, and do fine. And the converse – authors doing nothing but tweeting book links not selling a lick, and authors who aren’t tweeting aren’t selling.

Before you say, “Hey, I’ve seen YOU sending book links on Twitter, you hypocritical jackass”, relax. Yes I’ve tweeted about my books, and yes I’ve retweeted others’ in the past. But if you scroll through my stream (if that doesn’t sound icky, I’m not sure what does), you won’t find anything outside of price change announcements or new review mentions for a very. Very. Long. Time. I actually gave up hawking my own crap on Twitter well over a year ago after doing some of my own experimentation. Know what I found?

It. Doesn’t. Work. 

Again, YMMV, and feel free to dismiss my conclusions. But my A vs B comparison test, for my works, was very definitive. I spent over a month doing on/off weeks of tweeting/not tweeting. At the end, I tallied the results, and found absolutely no change in sales volume. The number of books I sold per day was no different between the weeks I tweeted the hell out of them and the weeks I stayed totally silent. No difference at all, not even a blip. My book sales have zero degrees Kelvin to do with tweeting about them. And that also relates to retweets. How? Because during those weeks I tweeted, I got retweets – just the nature of the medium. And during the weeks I didn’t tweet, I received (duh) no retweets.

Oh, and along the way, way back when, I probably pissed off a goodly number of Twitter followers who took me out of their lists or unfollowed me, and any future messages, like my upcoming cure for the common cold and tomorrow’s Powerball winning numbers, will never be seen by them. I’ve also lost them forever as a possible reader.

Now the reason I figured I’d put my thoughts to ‘paper’ is that I’ve been in contact with a fellow author, a woman who writes well outside my genre, and I’ve been watching what she does. Very interesting. She retweets other authors’ book links like a possessed madwoman, and with a purpose. She wants retweets of her own, which is understandable. And she gets them, in droves.

She herself has just over 10,000 followers on Twitter. She’s been on Twitter, according to the stats, only since this past summer, yet has over 74,000 tweets – an impressive online volume of over 300 tweets per day. Per DAY, folks. I don’t think I have time to inhale a breath 300 times per day (no need to correct me medically here…). She receives between 10-20 retweets of each of her own book links, each time, which is at least two dozen of her own tweets per day. And that’s impressive, so many people retweeting her links. It’s because she’s retweeting theirs, which makes sense. So she’s on average receiving 240 to 480 mentions of her book, per DAY, on Twitter to who knows how many hundreds of thousands of Twitterites, her own 10k followers notwithstanding. That’s a massive volume of Twitter mentions. Like mind-boggling. Her book is being mentioned maybe 500 times per day. So how does that translate to sales? She must be rolling in it, right?

She has one novel published, and it’s priced at $.99 (not that that has anything to do with it, but it needs to be mentioned because she’s making less than 35 cents royalty on each sale). Her current rank on Amazon (most of her tweets are Kindle; I’m not ruling out BN/Kobo sales, but they are certainly a small parts of the pie historically, and by nature of the links she sends).

Current rank on Amazon in the paid store: 310,167

Self-published authors know exactly what that ranks means. For those of you who don’t obsess in watching the KDP reports (ahem), I’ll tell you: not a whole heck of a lot. My guesstimate on sales volume would be around 2 to 3 copies per week, so maybe a dozen sales in a month. (Check out Edward Robertson’s quickie formula, which is quite accurate from what I’ve measured myself). This book is in a popular category and has an average ranking on Amazon of 4.5, with no 1-star reviews.

I am NOT belittling her or making fun of her sales. I’m not naming names – she may even be a he, so there. I’m just illustrating using a real world example (and my own experiment) how the medium of Twitter just ain’t what authors think it is. This woman, for all her hard work online (300 tweets a day? Good Lord…), is pulling in maybe four bucks a month in Amazon royalties. And that sucks. My opinion, should she (or he!) ever ask, would be to quit that craziness and spend that 300 tweet time per day writing another book, but she (or he!) hasn’t asked. (As an aside, she’s doing this manually and does not have an automated system to retweet certain people or lists or keywords. Don’t ask me how I know…I just do. There are ways to tell…)

Why doesn’t it work? Just off the top of my head, my first conclusion is that a lot of authors online are followed by…wait for it…other authors. It’s a great community, but we’re all writing and trying to sell. Don’t bombard each other with your own book links. We’re all too poor to buy books, and I mean that in two ways: money and time. My Kindle account is rife with books I haven’t gotten to, and may never get to, because my priority is writing the next one. (I can’t read a book while in the midst of writing – otherwise my thoughts, ideas, dialogue, etc. pull too much from that work.)

Another conclusion – Twitter is a volatile medium, one not truly suited for effective commerce. In order to be seen as much as possible by the widest audience possible, an advertiser (don’t kid yourself, authors – you are advertisers) needs to send many messages throughout the day in order to hit the right target when that target is watching. Which is why you see the same TV commercial several times each evening on the same channel – consistency and repetition in the message. So what happens is that advertiser is overdoing it to those who spend a lot of time on Twitter, and those messages are ignored (or the tweeter is taken out of a list and never looked at again) just so Johnny who checks his feed once every other day sees the message. (In other words, you’re pissing people off.)

I will mention my books from time to time, usually in conjunction with a sale price, or a mailer promo, or maybe when receiving a new review (I do like to crow whenever I have the chance, be warned). But I’m not the type to tweet incessantly, and probably never will. Because it simply doesn’t work.

Feel free to disagree, vent, call me names, whatever. But I’d love to hear your thoughts, or perhaps your results…