Twitter #hashtag chats emerge as future of author-driven book marketing

The publishing industry has changed as has the way readers consume books. Author-driven marketing needs to be creative, and what better way to reach readers than via social networks?
Written by Jennifer Leggio, Contributor

It's no secret that the publishing world has changed. People are self-publishing in both the physical and digital sense, though digital is booming. Book deals are becoming easier and easier to come by and the pace of publishing is rapid-fire. Readers are even shifting the way that they absorb content. With so many changes and noise, authors and publishers alike must get more savvy when promoting their titles. Laura Fitton, author of "Twitter for Dummies" and founder of oneforty.com, has done just that.

Beginning December 13, Fitton will embark on the first ever Twitter #hashtag chat book tour, or #booktour, during which she will virtually visit a growing number of popular #hashtag chats to help participants learn how to get more value -- both personal and professional -- out of Twitter.

While authors have taken to online promotion in the past with webinars and the like, #hashtag chats are much more interactive. Participants not only get direct access to the author for tips and guidance, but they also get to read other participants' reactions to the author, as well as "eavesdrop" on the author's conversations. This not only promotes Fitton's book, which is directly relevant to those on Twitter, but also expands her already great Twitter exposure.

So, why a virtual book tour and not a physical one?

"We did a physical book tour last fall, but not for the second edition when it came out this summer," Fitton said. "What we love about the #booktour idea is that an author can do it anytime in the book’s launch cycle, not just those crazy early days. It’s also as much about oneforty.com as it is about the book itself. Most people have questions about how to use Twitter that are best answered by showing them the right social tools."

Fitton's #booktour will be a hands-on experience for each of the chats' participants. Not only will they be interfacing with one of the foremost experts on Twitter, but they will immediately be putting into practice what they are learning during the chat. As this is the first time something like this has been done, Fitton recognizes that she's taking a chance.

"It’s an experiment, but if it works well it changes a lot for authors and chat organizers. #hashtag chat culture is really interesting - some great communities have formed there - some that last and some that are just event-based flashes in the pan," she said. "So we hope to give the #hashtag chats some attention, and encourage content/guests to support their ongoing groups."

Mark Coker, founder of ebook publishing and distribution platform Smashwords, agrees that #hashtag chats are a valuable way to reach out to potential readers, even those outside of the social media space.

"Yes, #hashtag chats work well for any type of book," he said. "In addition to enabling true conversation via audience participation, it also promotes community among participants who can start new Twitter relationships with other attendees."

"Authors, just like marketers of any other product or service, need to find innovative methods to create multiple connect points between their target audience and their product," Coker continued.

As more authors adopt digital promotions of their books, the foundation of book publicity and marketing will continue to change. According to Fitton, the physical book tour is already antiquated, but she also doesn't diminish the value of face-to-face connections.

"Book tours are pretty outdated," she said. "But I was talking about the idea with AJ Vaynerchuk, and he pointed out that a real weakness of the #booktour idea is the lack of face-to-face. I agree, that’s a loss, and an author like Gary Vaynerchuk who can get butts in seats reliably wouldn’t be all that well served. But for authors in the long tail, digital publishing, self-publishing, etc. it makes a lot more sense to fish where the fish are."

The other nuance to the #booktour is that Fitton herself, not her publicist, is at the helm of this tour. Many changes in the publishing industry have put the mandatory onus on the authors to promote their books. This is a change that will be important for current and future book authors to note.

"Author-driven virtual promotion is the future of book publishing. Books reach a global audience, and what better way to efficiently reach and aggregate an audience than to go online," Coker said. "Online offers the ability to efficiently segment and reach your audience, and then then leverage multiple senses to engage at a deeper level. Some consumers choose to engage with plain static text, others enjoy a Twitter conversation which is just text, others want to hear and see a presentation by video, and others want to combine all of the above in a live audio/video/audience  participation event. For the author, it's still a highly leveraged, low-cost one-to-many marketing opportunity."

Any #hashtag chats interested in booking Fitton for the #booktour can reach out directly to her on Twitter at @Pistachio. A full list of #booktour dates and chats is available on BookTour.com.

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