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Social media tactics: Avoid the Twitter time-suck

Social media tactics: Avoid the Twitter time-suck

My goal with this post:

To give you clear tips on how to arrange your Twitter activity. The tips will be practical and will help you manage your personal and professional sharing. Let me know how I did in the comments!

I did it. I finally did it.

I’ve been on Twitter since 2007, which means, well, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about tweeting since 2007. Oh, I have a lot to say. I have a lot to share. I always spot interesting conversations. The problem for me has never been finding things to disperse. The problem has been The Twitter Time Suck.

The Twitter Time Suck is:

  1. The black hole of starting to tweet interesting material and not being able to stop.
  2. The anxiety around whether my tweets are having maximum impact, which leads to more tweeting.

I’ve spent the last several years trying to find a way to make posting take less time but be more rewarding. What do I mean by rewarding?

  • Just as every conversation I have with a person is part of the fabric of my life, I want my posts (on every platform) to reflect who I am (NO PRESSURE!)
  • I enjoy connecting with someone.
  • I like to get traffic to my site.
  • I like to sell books.

If those four points sound familiar, and you also fret about The Twitter Time Suck, then I may have some good news. I’ve found a perfectly reasonable system to keep my tweeting to 15 minutes per day.

Last year I started to manage social media for The School of Visual Arts’ MFA Visual Narrative program in NYC. It’s a fantastic low-residency Masters degree with faculty like Benjamin Marra, Joe Kelly and Edward Hemingway. Because the focus of the degree is on visual storytelling you can imagine how daunting the task of sharing information via Twitter was to me. Remember, I still had to manage my own social media efforts. Having so much to dig through easily led to brain-hurt.

So I started to try a few things to help me juggle it all. I’ll spare you the trial and error.

This is where I landed

1) Use your morning activities:

We have coffee, we shower, we brush our teeth, we read the news. Morning routines (even busy ones) are where many of us quietly review our priorities and our dreams/wishes/aspirations for the day. There’s a lot to find in that mental landscape. Be mindful of your thoughts. Don’t just think them and let them go. If the warm water on your head makes you think of something funny, say it out loud. That will help make it real and memorable. If you want to share it with the world, well, then you have your daily observational tweet!

If you come up with more than one thought, jot it down in a txt file asap. You can tweet it later using…

2)  Hootsuite. Use it.

Hootsuite allows you to queue up your tweets. This is the critical task in any effort to simplify tweeting. You can also use Hootsuite to post to Facebook and LinkedIn. Yes, I’ve used Buffer and Klout. Hootsuite is the best.

3) Set your tweet limit for the day.

My limit is six tweets. For some, that’s low. For some, that’s high. Find your limit and stick to it. But don’t worry about it if you go over or under your number. Worrying wastes time ;-) If you have an account that bridges both personal and professional, then break it down like this at first. Adjust as needed:

50% content tweets (cool articles, helpful posts, beautiful images, quotes)

25% professional tweets (book excerpts, deals, product images)

25% personal tweets (jokes, observations)

4) Tweet your best stuff again. And again.

Be sure to tweet your good stuff often. Don’t worry about it being seen by everyone every time. It won’t be. To stand out in the noise you need to put your best foot forward, and sometimes that best foot is wearing an old shoe. Yeah, my metaphors suck today, but I’m still right.

Tip: If you sign up for Twitter ads you can get incredible insights into what tweets get the most engagement.


Track this data and retweet the posts that have legs to them. Logically, you wouldn’t lean on tweets that are based on breaking news too many times. But if you make a funny observation about life, really it’ll never get old!

Sticking to these rules for my Twitter-life has cleared up my head so I can pay attention to work and family and Angry Birds Star Wars.

What do you do to maximize your time-spent:impact ratio?

Book trailer or no book trailer? The question that burns…

Book trailer or no book trailer? The question that burns…

Many of us think in words. Authors are like that. Our thoughts take on a distinct inner voice — dependent on mood, muse and cups of coffee.

So when we’re faced with the option of building a book trailer, with words and pictures and animations… well, it’s daunting.

With an NYU Film School education and several years of playing the Hollywood game, I’ve set out to craft a trailer for my upcoming series, The Camelot Kids. I’m delighted with it so far, so I thought I’d share some basic rules that have helped me focus.

Here are my impressions of what works, what doesn’t and how to avoid the common mistakes I spot in book trailers every day.


book previews donts

start-simplebook trailers terrify me



Here are some resources for you to dig into:

Tools for book trailer creation

Adobe Voice for iPad

A spectacular tool. I don’t use that word lightly. That’s the term I save in my quiver for special occasions.

The app on the iPad does everything and does it well. You can make a slick presentation within minutes. If you want to make a fast, elegant trailer that focuses on your writing style, character voices or humor then Adobe Voice can help you. Oh, and they have tens of thousands of stock images for free. The app adds the correct credit to the end of the video so you’re pretty safe.

I can’t recommend this app enough.


Some quality book trailers have been done with Prezi tools. Like Adobe Voice, the service will help you look slick. But unlike Adobe Voice, you don’t have simple and searchable access to free, accredited images.

Graphicstock and BigStock are (as of this writing) offering a free one week trial to their library of images. You need to give a credit card to get access, but you can cancel if you don’t think the service gives you enough value.

Blue Yeti mic for book trailerIf you decide that voice is a critical component of your trailer, then you really can’t go wrong with Blue’s Yeti mic. It looks great and sounds even better. While the sensitivity can be high it’s nothing that can’t be adjusted for with a little distance from the mic.

Book trailers that work

Fantastic book trailers and the reasons they’re so good

7 Brilliant Book Trailers

A funny piece in The New Yorker about book trailers


Have you made a book trailer? What do you think of book trailers? Let us know in the comments!

By Ben Zackheim


You might also like:

How to write an author bio that sells books

Choose the best genre for your book on Amazon

8 tips for a powerful book description (video)

8 tips for a powerful book description (video)

Welcome to the first in a series of video tutorials!

The series will cover best practices for today’s author. I don’t want the information to be useful to one type of writer or another. I don’t care if you’re self-published, small press-backed, big publisher-backed… good info is good info. Authors are in this thing together. The more we share our common experiences, the better we’ll steer our own boats.

Let me know what you think in the comments!


Choose the best genre for your book on Amazon

Five steps to choose your book genre on Amazon

Cheat sheet. Use it once you’ve read the rest of this post!


In my last post, I covered the general rules of choosing the right genre for your book. I spoke briefly about Amazon’s categories. I’ll go into more details now.

The ground rules for Amazon categories are simple:

Every genre on Amazon gets to have its own tidy list of popular titles.

Each of these lists is often visited by fans of those genres.

Amazon scours their popularity lists for books to promote.


So how do you show up on a popular Amazon list?

Choose the right genre when you publish your book on Amazon.

Once you’ve identified which genres you belong in, you need to decide which genre is easiest for you to get in the Top 20. We’re shooting for the Top 20 because that means your book would show up on the first page of that genre’s Amazon page.

Good place to be…

After we find the easiest genre to place in, we’ll shoot for a tougher genre. Just to keep things interesting!


How to choose the right genre for your book on Amazon

Okay, let’s say we write a Mystery ebook for kids with a female detective (like oh, say, Shirley Link). Here are some of the possible categories on Amazon. I dug these up by rummaging through Amazon’s genre lists (seen on the left hand side of this page)

Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives

Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives/Detectives

Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Action & Adventure

Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Beginner Readers

Kindle ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Chapter Books

Kindle ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Women’s Fiction/Mystery, Thriller & Suspense/Women Sleuths

Any of these genres would work for the book. So how do we choose which genre we can get to #20 in?

Using Theresa Ragan’s sales estimator, I get a ballpark idea of how many books I’d need to sell to crack the top 20 of each possible genre.

So the #20 book in Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives/Detectives is Nancy Drew & The Bungalow Mystery.

But, more important to us is the book’s overall Kindle rank of 39,589 (see image below).

Checking Theresa’s sales estimator, this means the book sells between 3-15 copies per day.

Nancy Drew: The Bungalow Mystery sales rank info from the book’s product page on Amazon:



On the other hand, Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives is a tough one. The 20th ranked book has an overall Kindle sales rank of 3,239. This means the book sells between 30-50 books per day.

Spirit Animals Book 1 sales rank info from the book’s product page on Amazon:


I think I can manage to sell 3-15 books per day, but 30-50 will take some ingenuity. If I can find a way to crack the tough Action & Adventure Top 20 list then that will mean much more exposure to more people. I’m willing to claw my way up that genre’s listings over the long haul. One good sales day could be a game changer.


It’s fine to choose low-popularity genres for your picks. You’re more likely to be seen by fans of those genres if you rank high! But don’t be afraid to experiment if you’re not happy with sales. Yes, it’s possible to lose sales because you’ve changed genres, but if you do it with a marketing plan to back it up then you can gain crucial customer knowledge.

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments. Don’t forget to use the cheat sheet above. And pass it on to a writer friend.

Thanks for reading!

By Ben Zackheim

Helpful tool: Sign up for EBookTracker to get details on any book’s ranking over time. The tool won’t help you see actual sales, but it will give you insights around your favorite genre’s movers and shakers.


You might also like:

Amazon has a bridge to sell ya!

The $1.1 Million question: Is KDP Select worth it?

5 steps to choose the right genre for your book

5 steps to choose the right genre for your book

How important is book genre?

Here’s a worst-case scenario:

1974: Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, is released. The publisher lists it as a Biography by accident. The book sits on the wrong shelf across the country.

2014: No one knows who Stephen King is.

Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but when you choose the wrong genre for your books on Amazon you’re choosing the wrong shelf. Simply put, that could destroy the book’s chances.

Luckily, we can change genres as often as we change writing software. Every online retailer allows you to genre-hop until you find your right audience.


5 simple steps you can take to choose the right genre:

1) Go to a bookstore!

Okay, this is going to sound trite. If it does, then head to #2. But it worked for me! If your book was inspired by a particular novel or author, then go find them on the shelf.

Now imagine that your book sits next to it.

Does it feel right?

It sounds loopy, but it really works! Especially if your book is a mix of many genres.


2) Armed with your best guess, head to the BISG site.

Click on the genre you chose in #1 and study the sub-genres on BISG.

Then bookmark BISG! Why? Because new genres pop up every year. The BISG site is the most transparent method of spotting a new mainstream, “official” market for your work.

And guess what? Most booksellers comply with the BISG list!


3) Head to the major online booksellers and find your niche.

These sites are your stores. You get a place on the shelf. You get a small display. You get a few seconds to make the sale. So know your store.

Luckily, with the BISG list you whittled down the choices so you don’t need to dig as much now that you’re about to dive into the morass of online bookstore genre lists! How big a mess are they? Well, here’s the Mystery genre list of four top online stores.



And check out this small taste of what genres each store offers: (all lists are from April, 2014)


Amazon genre list

[showhide type=”genrelist” more_text=”>>Click this link to show the Amazon genre list” less_text=”>>Click this link to hide Amazon genre list” hidden=”yes”]

#s in parentheses are the total number of titles in that genre

Arts & Photography (939,077)
Biographies & Memoirs (691,601)
Business & Money (1,967,372)
Calendars (136,574)
Children’s Books (1,110,182)
Christian Books & Bibles (652,410)
Comics & Graphic Novels (410,241)
Computers & Technology (496,343)
Cookbooks, Food & Wine (187,337)
Crafts, Hobbies & Home (430,882)
Education & Reference (4,512,483)
Engineering & Transportation (710,286)
Gay & Lesbian (52,727)
Health, Fitness & Dieting (610,932)
History (3,805,653)
Humor & Entertainment (453,318)
Law (566,246)
Literature & Fiction (3,178,315)
Medical Books (771,156)
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense (272,265)
Parenting & Relationships (165,447)
Politics & Social Sciences (1,597,281)
Religion & Spirituality (1,271,853)
Romance (435,075)
Science & Math (1,518,315)
Science Fiction & Fantasy (287,324)
Self-Help (309,223)
Sports & Outdoors (254,091)
Teen & Young Adult (279,009)
Travel (414,616)


Barnes & Noble genre list

[showhide type=”genrelist2″ more_text=”>>Click this link to show the Barnes & Noble genre list” less_text=”>>Click this link to hide the Barnes & Noble genre list” hidden=”yes”]

Art, Architecture & Photography
Bibles & Bible Studies
Business & Money
Children’s Books
Computing & Internet
Cookbooks, Food & Wine
Crafts & Hobbies
Education & Teaching
Fiction & Literature
Graphic Novels
Health & Fitness
Home & Garden
Libros en español
Mystery & Crime
Politics & Current Events
Science & Nature
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Sports & Adventure


Kobo genre list

[showhide type=”genrelist3″ more_text=”>>Click this link to show the Kobo genre list” less_text=”>>Click this link to hide the Kobo genre list” hidden=”yes”]

Artists, Architects & Photographers
Composers & Musicians
Entertainment & Performing Arts

Business Reference
Career Planning & Job Hunting
Entrepreneurship & Small Business
Finance & Investing
Human Resources & Personnel Management
Industries & Professions
Management & Leadership
Marketing & Sales
Personal Finance

Contemporary Women
Crime & Mystery
Gay & Lesbian
Historical Fiction
Media Tie-In
Science Fiction

Action Suspense
Essays & Letters
Fiction – Young Adult
Literary Theory & Criticism
Movie & Television Tie-Ins
Short Stories

ABCs, 123s
Beautiful and Interesting
Comics, Graphic Novels & Manga
Creative Kids
Français, Español and more
Knock knock, Who’s Funny?
My Family, My Feelings, My Friends
Natural World
People and Places
School Tools
Sports and Recreation
Two Wheels, Four Wheels, No Wheels

Cozy Mysteries
Historical Mystery
Police Procedural
Traditional British
Women Sleuths

Art & Architecture
Family & Relationships
Food & Drink
Health & Well Being
Home & Garden
Reference & Language
Religion & Spirituality
Science & Nature
Social & Cultural Studies

Inspired Romance
Romantic Suspense
Science Fiction & Fantasy

High Tech
Science Fiction
Space Opera


Smashwords genre list

[showhide type=”genrelist4″ more_text=”>>Click this link to show the Smashwords genre list” less_text=”>>Click this link to hide the Smashwords genre list” hidden=”yes”]

African American fiction
Children’s books
Cultural & ethnic themes
Gay & lesbian fiction
Graphic novels & comics
Humor & comedy
Literary collections
Mystery & detective
Science fiction
Themes & motifs
Thriller & suspense
Women’s fiction
Young adult or teen

Antiques & Collectibles
Art, Architecture, Photography
Business & Economics
Career Guides
Children’s Books
Comics (nonfictional)
Computers and Internet
Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits
Education and Study Guides
Engineering, trades, and technology
Gay and Lesbian
General reference
Health, wellbeing, & medicine
Home and Garden
Language Instruction
New Age
Politics and Current Affairs
Relationships and Family
Religion and Spirituality
Science and Nature
Sex and Relationships
Social Science
Sports & outdoor recreation
True Crime


The lists above don’t include all sub-genres! So yeah, there are a lot of options. Again, BISG will help you focus.


4) Choose every single genre that makes sense.

Every. Single. One.

That’s probably a lot, and that’s okay. Write the list down somewhere safe. You’ll need it for #5.

Each online seller allows you to choose a different number of genres. Choose the genres that feel right. Or choose the genres that solid data supports.

Important note: Make sure your honest with yourself and choose a genre that actually fits. Just because your book includes a cameo of a handsome vampire doesn’t make it a New Adult Paranormal Romance. If you choose the wrong genre for your book you will hear from the readers — with bad reviews (see #5 for my experience).

Important note #2: Some bookstores don’t allow you to choose the precise genre you want. In this case, write to their support team and tell them you’d like placement in a certain genre. They’ll do so, but it may take a while.


5) Measure performance and make changes

This might be controversial advice, but it makes sense. If you don’t think your book is finding an audience in the genre you picked, then consider changing to another one.


[blockquote author_name=”” width=”50%” float=”left”]Upside: You might hit the nail on the head.[/blockquote]

[blockquote author_name=”” width=”50%” float=”left”]Downside: You might disrupt any momentum you were getting in the genre (which is info that none of these stores shares with us).[/blockquote]


I changed genres for the Shirley Link series on Amazon from Young Adult Mysteries to Kids Mysteries. I was getting a lot of downloads in Young Adult, but most of my reviews were *enh* to awful because young adults thought my books were too young for them. While I haven’t yet shown in the top seller list on Kids Mysteries, I’ve seen excellent reviews since I made the move.

It’s a tough call, sure. But if your book isn’t moving after a couple of months, try changing one of your sub-genres before you spend cash on a promo.

What tips do you have for genre seekers? Help out a fellow writer in the comments.


By Ben Zackheim