Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Writer's Hustle - Rachel Thompson

We are writers.
We write.
We sit at our desks—for some that may be a beautiful antique mahogany beast that grandpa used when he started his insurance business some one hundred years ago. For others it may be the Macbook they carry into their baby’s room while she naps, and for others it may be the good old pen and paper that writers have used for centuries.
While the process of writing has not changed, how you get your words out there has changed so monumentally that even as I write this, PR firms are closing, publishing houses are restructuring, and editors are questioning the job security they’ve enjoyed all these many years.
And why? Social media, baby.
Q: What is social media and why should we as writers even care about it? I imagine you are asking yourself the same questions I asked myself about one year ago—what does Twitter have to do with my story? How does A—my book—have anything to do with T—Twitter?
A: Everything.
Let me break it down for you.
· As of June 2010, about 65 million tweets are posted each day, equaling about 750 tweets sent each second, according to Twitter records (Wikipedia, 2010).
· Twitter is about networking at its most basic level. Everyone in the writing business is on Twitter. Editors, publishers, writers. Here’s but one of many examples of a Twitter success story.
· Twitter is a perfect format to post writing samples. What I mean is not only can you use your 140 characters (really 120—more on that in a minute) to be witty, pithy and wise, you can tweet out a shortened link (more on that also) to your blog or website* where people can get a good feel of your writing style. *Don’t have a blog or website? You should. It’s free and easy. Check out Blogger or Wordpress, the most popular blogging formats.
· Regardless of whether you publish independently or the traditional route, you need to start marketing your book NOW. Social media allows you to do that. Publishing houses no longer have the money to give you the big push; independent booksellers depend on you to fill the stores. The onus is on you to market yourself.
So how do you start?
Twitter is easy, free, and is an excellent marketing tool. Many people are somewhat confounded by it however, due to the character limitations. First off, you really don’t have 140 characters if you have any hope of someone retweeting (RT) you (120 is standard for RTs), so as a writer Twitter is an excellent challenge. Newbie tip: Using or tiny.url to ALWAYS shorten your links helps immensely in meeting the 120 character minimum.

Here are my suggestions:
· Join Twitter with a cool, easily remembered name that relates to who you are as an author. Mine is @RachelintheOC. This easily cements not only my name but also my location in the world.
· Brand yourself up front. Use a picture of yourself. People want to know who you are. If you stick up a pic of your eye or a car, they don’t get the warm and fuzzies. Then, most importantly, stick with that picture. If you keep rotating your pic, you keep rotating your brand. Get it?
· Make it a goal to reach 2,000 followers within two months of joining Twitter. That’s considered the industry standard and is easily attainable if you know how.**
· Pick three words that describe who you are as a writer. Yep, just three. Then write your tweets around those three concepts. If you’re all over the place, people will have a hard time identifying what you represent and will unfollow you. Every unfollow is a potential lost reader of your future book!

For example, my three words are Mancode, coffee, and parenting humor. The Mancode is something I started writing about earlier this year and has become by far my most popular subject in both my blog posts and tweets. My very first Mancode post, Men are from Seinfeld, Women are from Friends has been RT’d over 180 times with over 30 comments and innumerable tweet responses. The interest garnered from this subject has led me to start writing a Mancode memoir.

Point is, people now come to my Tweet stream and blog for my Mancode humor. If I start talking about say, the political situation in China, that might be a problem for me and my over 4,000 Twitter followers could drop like flies.

· Join writer’s groups! I cannot stress this enough. Get yourself out there. Use your genre as a starting point.
· Learn how to tweet. Sounds simple but it’s true. There is a Twitter culture that you need to learn, especially for writers. Gawk for awhile, get up to speed with what other writers are doing, learn about lists, hashtags, shortened links, retweets, and more. Become informed.
· I’m a founding member of @IndieBookIBC aka the IndieBookCollective which is a super resource for any writer, already published or new to the industry, to learn how to get your book published without the middleman. We can teach you more of the techniques learned above in a FREE webinar workshop** format starting in mid-October! Our workshop schedule will be posted on our website and on our stream so check us out and sign up.
· Our founding members @WritingNoDrama and @kaitnolan are indie published (except for myself—I’m at the WIP stage) and bring a wealth of resources to the table. We have guest posts weekly from an array of writers that have been out there, forging their path in the indie world. We’re also working with editors and publishers to help you have the most up-to-date info and resources.
· Why join our collective? I myself have gone from 600 targeted followers to over 4,000 since March using the same techniques we’re teaching you and I prune my stream weekly. My blog hits have gone from 80 to over 2,000/month. I’m building my fan base while I write my book.
I won’t lie to you. Building a social media platform takes work. It’s not hard work though, and clearly the payoff can result in dollars in your pocket when your book comes out. Following = fan base = readers.
Don’t kid yourself--if you’re going the traditional route, agents will look at your Twitter stream and blog to see what kind of following you have. Indie booksellers want to know what you bring to the table and expect you to fill signings. If you can’t answer these questions, you have a real problem. But one that we can help you solve.
Your writing is what gets you noticed, but your hustle is what will sell books.
Contact me at @RachelintheOC or at @IndiebookIBC and I’ll be happy to talk with you further.
You can make Twitter work for you. I have.

BIO: Rachel Thompson is hard at work on her memoir The Mancode: A Survivor’s Tale based on her eighteen-year marriage. When she’s not tweeting, she’s chasing her two kids around, searching for coffee, or attempting to enjoy a vodka martini--dirty, extra olives. Based on the fact that Rachel is a pale redhead living in a sea of blondes in Orange County, CA, and that she doesn’t drive a luxury car or have a plastic surgeon on speed dial, she’s waiting for her pink slip any day now.
You should follow her on Twitter at @RachelintheOC or @IndieBookIBC. You can also find her blog at She’s also on Facebook.


  1. Hi Bill--you're welcome. Glad you found it useful. If you have any questions, hit me up here or over on my stream or blog. Or ask Chris--he's a good bloke. I'm sure he'll send me a little message.

    (My, it's nice over here. I like the red-haired gals. I'll have to visit more often. :)

  2. They're lovely, aren't they. A new edition (my company logo).

    Sure, I'll pass messages on, Bill. And thanks for coming by.