I noticed you set up a Twitter account not long ago, and as a self-employed businessman I think it's a great move. Twitter can bring you lots of new fans, and it can also help you find customers and makes sales, it's amazing marketing tool but it's far from self-explanatory, so I've decided to share with you everything I know about how to use Twitter to your advantage.
1. Target market and contemporaries
First of all you need to decide two things:
Who is your target market?
Who are your contemporaries?
For me my first answer would be something like 'cake enthusiasts', 'bag enthusiasts' etc. and my second answer would be 'craft sellers' and 'small business owners'. For you I would guess your first answer might be 'historical fiction enthusiasts' and your second answer 'self-publishers' and 'small business owners'. We have a little bit of an overlap, but not much!
Now you need to start tracking these two groups down. Use the search function on Twitter and search for one of your key terms.
Try 'search all people' to bring up a long list.
Read through the profile information on the list and you'll find a mixture of your target market and contemporaries, and follow anyone who looks like they might be interested in your work. Imagine it like an opportunity to give out a lot of business cards all at once, follow follow follow! You'll be amazed how many people will follow you back automatically, just out of curiosity or interest.
Search regularly for any and all key terms and keep following. Aim to follow around 200 people to start with (yes, really!)
2. Monkey see, monkey do
Once you have a long list of people you're following it's time to watch what they're doing. This is most important for the 'contemporaries' group. When I started following other craft sellers on Twitter I found out about all sorts of pre-existing organisations who help to publicise small businesses (check out Purple Dog for example) as well as twitter events that anyone can join in with. There's a 'Handmade Hour' (Wednesday 19:30-20:30) where lots of people watch the hash tag #handmadehour. By tweeting something like 'Look at this item I made #handmadehour' and including a picture suddenly I had a captive audience. Find out if there's anything similar among your contemporaries, either in writing or publishing and join in. #newwriting looks promising as does #IndiePub
If you see a contemporary doing well on Twitter then take a look at who they follow and who they interact with. Follow who they follow and take a leaf out of their book.
Once you start to join in twitter events you'll notice that the most popular Twitter feeds are maintained by the chattiest people. Some people have the gift of the gab, but twitter isn't just about self-promotion, it's also about lending a hand and interacting with others. If you see another start-up with a product or service that you think deserves promoting then retweet, tell them you like their product. You might make a useful contact, and that person is much more likely to share your products in the future.
Lots of people will send you a welcome message when you follow, consider whether it's worth doing the same (e.g. Thanks for following, have you seen my website?). It's not mandatory, but it seems to work for lots of businesses.
4. Repetition, hesitation, deviation
Finally imagine what a billboard would look like advertising your books. What would it say? Twitter is a lot like a billboard, with lots of potential customers driving past at high-speed. If something's worth saying it's worth saying a dozen times. Every time you repeat an important message you increase your chances of people noticing your tweet, and take note of twitter rush-hours on evenings and weekends to increase your visibility. Just reword your tweet and no one will mind if you repeat yourself (and they won't mind if you hesitate or deviate from the subject either).
There are lots more things to learn about Twitter I'm certain (for example did you know you could pay to promote a tweet saying 'buy my book' to everyone who likes Sharpe or James Bond?) but I'm still learning about all that myself. With a little luck you'll be teaching me how it's done before I work that out.
Keep tweeting and keep writing, lots of love
Note: For my regular readers my Dad is the author of a series of historical spy novels 'Most Secret'. He also runs a self-publishing website helping budding authors get into print and break into the world of e-publishing. Please drop by and say hello. www.chelonist.com