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Christian Editing Services | Best of the Blogs | 11 November 2017

Lots of news this week!

Social Media

280-character limit on Twitter

Twitter has historically allowed just 140 characters per tweet. A few weeks back, they announced they were trialing 280-character Tweets with a select group of users. The trial must have gone well, because almost everyone can now Tweet 280 characters (the exceptions are users tweeting in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, because the nature of these languages means they don’t come close to the 140-character limit).

But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

People are on Twitter for links and pithy comments, not essays … although I’m sure the longer Tweet length will come in useful in Twitter Chats such as @ BadRedHeadMedia’s Thursday #BookMarketingChat.

Publishing

Pronoun

MacMillan has announced they will closing Pronoun, their ebook distributor, in January 2018. Pronoun has experienced problems over its’ short lifespan, with complaints of lagging dashboards and slow responses to questions. But it attracted attention because of the benefits it offered, including full 70% royalty on Kindle books priced below $2.99 (Amazon only pays 70% royalty on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99).

I guess this answers my big question about Pronoun: how were they making money if they were offering higher royalties than Amazon? The answer: maybe they weren’t.

Draft2Digital

In better news, Draft2Digital now distributes to Amazon. However, they still don’t distribute to Google Play (which many authors saw as the major reason to use Pronoun).

StreetLib

I have heard some indie authors are using StreetLib to distribute to Google Play—they even have a one-click “import from Pronoun” option. Have you used StreetLib? What was your experience?

Writing

Dismemberment aka Floating Body Parts

Cait Reynolds visits Kristen Lamb’s blog to share about Dismemberment: Taking Characters Apart in all the Wrong Ways. This is perhaps better known as floating body parts, but dismemberment is more attention grabbing.

I once read a sci-fi novel where the alien species could take their heads off and throw them around the room. They could even swap heads (although that was frowned upon by the more conservative among them).

Result: every time I see dismemberment like “she threw her head” in a novel, I’m taken out of that novel and taken straight back to 1992, when I read the novel where Mr and Mrs Basketball-Head are stressing because their daughter wants to play Swap-Heads with some hot alien she’s just met.

Editor-me tells this little story every time I see dismemberment in a novel (although I call it “floating body parts”, which is much less fun).

I just wish I could remember the name of the novel.

Reading

Christy Awards

The winners of the 2017 Christy Awards were announced on 8 November. While I haven’t read all the finalists, there were two surprises for me:

  • Joint winners for Historical Romance: I haven’t seen this before. I’ve seen four finalists because of a tie, but not two winners.
  • The brilliant Long Way Gone by Charles Martin was the Book of the Year, but didn’t win the category. Again, in previous years, the Book of the Year has been one of the category winners.

Reviewing

This might be just me, but has Amazon removed the ability to vote reviews as “unhelpful”? I’m only seeing a thumbs-up button. We know Amazon is forever changing things, and we also know sometimes these changes are tests run for a select group of users (such as Twitter’s initial tests of the 280-character limit). I also know many people (especially authors) have been asking for Amazon to remove the “downvote” button for half of forever—their wish may just have been granted.

Can you see the downvote button on Amazon? Or do you just get the thumbs-up I see?

Amazon Review - Then There Was You by Kara Isaac

 

Twitter Rules

Understanding the Twitter Rules: How does Twitter Define Spam?

Spam is unsolicited mail or messages. Most email programmes do a relatively efficient job of syphoning unsoilicted messages off to the Spam box. Twitter, it appears, does not have such capability. Instead, it takes the blunt instrument approach of suspending the account.

When Twitter suspended my account last week, they suggested I check the Twitter Rules find out where I’d gone wrong. My first reaction was that I hadn’t. But then I read the rules

Let’s look at the rules in detail.

There are three sections to the rules:

Content Boundaries and Use of Twitter

Pass. I’m not tweeting anything illegal, pornographic, or violent.

Abusive Behavior

Pass.

Maybe.

I”m not making threats, engaging in hateful conduct, giving out private information, impersonating anyone, harrassing anyone, or threatening to harm myself.

However, I do “operate two accounts with overlapping use”.

But I don’t operate two accounts “in order to evade the temporary or permanent suspension of a separate account”. I operate a personal account (@IolaGoulton) where I share book reviews and blog posts on writing craft. And I’m the volunteer administrator for a writing group (@ACWriters) which shares blog posts from group members (including me). Some of those are posts on writing craft, and some are book reviews.

I can see that if you compared the two accounts, it does look like they have overlapping use. And I do operate both. But I have no nefarious intent or motive. The problem is an algorithm can’t measure intention. It can only monitor action based on predetermined rules.

Spam

My first reaction was that of course I don’t spam on Twitter. But according to the Twitter Rules, Twitter’s definition of “spam” is wide. Very wide. And it includes some of my activities—activities I’ve adopted based on the advice of Twitter experts with a large and engaged follower count.

Let’s examine what is considered spam in the Twitterverse:

I’m not username squatting (inactive accounts can be removed), sending invitation spam, selling usernames, posting malware, or phishing.

But then there is general spam, which Twitter defines in a long list:

If you have followed and/or unfollowed large amounts of accounts in a short time period, particularly by automated means (aggressive following or follower churn);

I follow around 500 people a week, and unfollow those who don’t follow back. My current Twitter following is over 13,000, so that’s a relatively low percentage (~4%). I would have thought this was designed to cover Buy 5,000 Twitter Followers Today! clickfarms, not someone who adds and deletes a few dozen followers over her morning coffee.

Crowdfire reports Twitter is actively targetting accounts with aggressive following or unfollowing patterns, and Twitter points out that using “Get More Followers Fast!” apps is not allowed.

If you repeatedly follow and unfollow people, whether to build followers or to garner more attention for your profile;

I do regularly follow and unfollow people to build my following. It’s a tactic many Twitter experts recommend. But I don’t follow and unfollow the same users over and over and over. I use the paid version of CrowdFire for following, then unfollow around a week later if they don’t follow back.

For [paid] users, we hide users they’ve previously followed so they don’t end up irritating Twitter users by following them again and again.

If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates

I do mostly post links. It’s called curating content. Curating content is a tactic recommended by many Twitter gurus, and is practiced by many major accounts (including the @Twitter account). It’s modern marketing at work: the principle of reciprocity (via Robert Cialdini and Seth Godin).

In my uneducated view, it’s also possible for accounts to have too many personal updates (e.g. what people ate for breakfast, and the accounts of many prominent politicians). But I can take a hint: more pithy one-liners coming your way. MaybeTwitter thinks the internet needs more stupid.

If a large number of people are blocking you.

I hope not, but how would I know? Twitter only shows me how many people I’ve blocked.

If a large number of spam complaints have been filed against you.

Again, I hope not, but how would I know?

If you post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account

This is where it gets tricky.

I use SocialJukebox (see Introducing SocialJukebox) to repost old blog posts—my own posts, and posts from group blogs. I can set how often I want posts to repeat—anything from 0 days up. I thought I had all my jukeboxes set at 30 days, but found I didn’t. Now I do.

I also use RoundTeam on the ACWriters account. RoundTeam automatically retweets any post mentioning ACWriters (many of which are mine, because I’m one of the most diligent Tweeters in the group). RoundTeam also retweets tweets from group members. Again, many of these tweets are mine.

Oops. I may have a problem. Unintentional (it’s not my fault I’m the most prolific Twitter user in the group). But a problem nonetheless—I’ve had feedback that Twitter doesn’t like Roundteam.

I have now changed the RountTeam settings to exclude me from the retweets. Avoid even the appearance of evil and all that.

If you post multiple unrelated updates to a topic using #, trending or popular topic, or promoted trend

If you send large numbers of duplicate replies or mentions

If you send large numbers of unsolicited replies or mentions

If you add a large number of unrelated users to lists

If you repeatedly create false or misleading content

No, no, no, no, and no. The “large numbers” is disturbingly vague, but I don’t do any of these things.

If you are randomly or aggressively following, liking, or Retweeting Tweets

If you repeatedly post other people’s account information as your own (bio, Tweets, URL, etc.)

If you post misleading links (e.g. affiliate links, links to malware/clickjacking pages, etc.)

If you are creating misleading accounts or account interactions

If you are selling or purchasing account interactions (such as selling or purchasing followers, Retweets, likes, etc.)

No, no, I don’t think so, no, and no.

I have posted Amazon Affiliate links, and I don’t know if they are marked as such, and if that’s considered misleading. The Tweets are automatically generated by Amazon when you push the little Tweety Bird button at the top of the screen. The idea is to share book specials, or tell your followers you just bought a book. You know, to advertise Amazon. Sorry, Amazon. I guess I won’t be clicking that any more.

If you are using or promoting third-party services or apps that claim to get you more followers (such as follower trains, sites promising “more followers fast”, or any other site that offers to automatically add followers to your account).

I do use CrowdFire, but it doesn’t add followers automatically – only those followers I select (which I could do through native Twitter, then just use CrowdFire to manage unfollows). I don’t use follower trains or #FollowFriday or #FF, although I’m sometimes included in #FF posts from other people. But I can’t control that.

In conclusion …

Do I spam or don’t I spam? I know of one author who tweets a buy link for one of her books every ten minutes. I think that’s spam. She has over 350,000 Tweets, fewer than 5,000 followers, and a measly 16 Likes. That’s some form of engagement from 0.004% of her posts. Does she sell books this way? I don’t know.

In contrast, I’m not selling anything, and my 12,000 posts have attracted over 2,800 Likes—a much more respectable 23 engagement%. Which of us is the spammer?

This experience has reminded me that Twitter, like every other social network, is not my property. They let me play there, but that’s not a forever thing. The purpose of social media reach should be to drive people back to my property: my website, and my email list.

Which reminds me … if you’re not on my email list, sign up on the right. I email once a month, and include updates to Christian Fiction Publishers (a new edition is due out in January), links to my blog posts for the month, and other useful information for Christian fiction writers.
Twitter Account Suspended

5 Lessons Learned from Getting My Twitter Account Suspended

Or, how I accidentally violated the Twitter Rules and got my account suspended three times, shared here in great detail so you can learn from my mistakes and ensure you don’t get your Twitter account suspended.

Last weekend, my Twitter account was suspended for allegedly exhibiting automated behaviour that violates Twitter’s rules. Long story short, my account was suspended three times before I worked out what I’d done wrong (at least, I hope I worked it out. My account has now been active for a whole 72 hours without a suspension).

I’ve since discovered that other authors are having similar problems, hence this blog post. Yes, I know I said I’d be posting about plotting with Michael Hauge, and I will. But first I want to cover what I did wrong, and how you can prevent the same thing happening to you.

Avoid Using Twitter for Blog Comments

The first time my account was suspended, I was trying to use Twitter to authenticate a comment on an unrelated book review blog. I thought this was the problem. In hindsight, it may have contributed to the problem, but I don’t think it was the cause.

The comment was a form of automated behaviour, which well have triggered something in the Twitter algorithm that got me shut out. Or it could be one of several other factors (as you’ll see).

Lesson One: Don’t Use Twitter as a Login Unless Necessary

This is actually good online practice. If you use Twitter to log in to every app in cyberspace and someone hacks your Twitter account, they can do a whole bunch of things in your name. Not good.

Avoid Autoposting from Social Networks

I’m a book blogger, and I spent a few hours on Saturday uploading book reviews to sites such as Amazon, Goodreads, and Riffle. I was behind, so I probably uploaded ten reviews to five or six sites each.

My Goodreads and Riffle accounts were both set to autopost certain links to Twitter (which I knew was the case for Goodreads, but had forgotten with Riffle). Again, there weren’t a lot of tweets—maybe ten or twelve over a two-hour period—but that might have been enough to trigger the algorithm.

I reviewed my Twitter feed, and found the Goodreads and Riffle tweets. I deleted them, and edited the settings on both accounts so that nothing is automatically tweeted.

Lesson Two: Don’t Autopost to Twitter from Social Networks

Even when the social network gives you the option. I have to admit, this annoyed me. I was trying to be a good member of the bookish community by sharing links to reviews of books I’ve enjoyed, and I got punished for it.

As I was looking through my feed, I noticed some Tweets that were autoposts from Instagram. This isn’t a good idea. Apart from possibly falling foul of Twitter’s rules, the picture doesn’t show up. You’re better posting directly from Twitter.

Be Careful About Using Autopost Apps

I use Buffer and SocialJukebox to retweet old blog posts and book reviews, and RoundTeam to retweet from members of one of my many writing groups. Blogging experts typically recommend you promote your evergreen posts on social media. There are many tools designed to assist: Buffer, Hootsuite, ManageFlitter, MissingLettr, RoundTeam, and SocialOomph, to name a few.

Some experts recommend tools which automatically post based on selected keywords. I abandoned that idea after about three minutes, when I realised that using “Christian” as a keyword (or even “Christian fiction”) would get me a combination of faith-based content, and content that was decidedly more steamy.

So my practice is a little more time-consuming, but it means I have personally read and curated every Tweet. Well, almost every Tweet, because I was using RoundTeam for that small group of trusted writer friends. My bad. Because something, somewhere, decided this automation was violating Twitter rules.

I had no idea what I was doing wrong, so I shut off posting from Buffer and SocialJukebox. I’ve switched Buffer back on, but I think I’ll wait a few more days before restarting my Jukeboxes. (If you don’t know about these two programmes, check out my previous posts: Introducing Buffer and Introducing SocialJukebox.)

Lesson Three: Limit the Number of Apps you Use

This situation showed me I actually had no idea how many apps I was using with Twitter.

Review Your Twitter Apps and Permissions

Twitter settings include a list of apps we have allowed to access our Twitter account. So I checked out my list (in my Settings and Privacy menu). It was a lot longer than I thought. Many of them were apps productivity or curation apps I’d checked out, decided not to use, and forgotten about.

But I hadn’t revoked Twitter access.

My bad. I was unpleasantly surprised to realise how many of these could post on my behalf. I couldn’t see any tweets from them on my timeline, but what did that mean? Had they been autoposting and the posts deleted?

I clicked Revoke Access to pretty much everything (although most of them were read-only access in the first place), leaving only the apps I have paid subscriptions to (e.g. Buffer and SocialJukebox), and those that seem necessary (e.g. apps to comment on WordPress blog sites).

Lesson Four: Don’t Give Apps Posting Rights on Your Twitter Accounts

Unless you need them, of course. I’ve trialled perhaps a dozen apps, but only use two on a regular basis. But the others still had posting rights, and some might even have been still posting (e.g. MissingLettr, which schedules Tweets for up to a year in the future).

Be Careful With Multiple Twitter Accounts

I’m also the “owner” of a group Twitter account for a writers group, Australasian Christian Writers. The ACWriters Twitter account uses a different email address than my personal account, but both accounts use the same mobile phone number for authentication . . . which effectively links the accounts.

I happened to mention I’d been having problems with Twitter to one of the other group administrators. She checked the ACWriters account and saw it had been suspended (interestingly, when I checked it, everything looked normal).

I logged into the ACWriters Twitter account, and had to go through the whole unlocking rigmarole. Three times. This got me wondering: was it my “bad” behaviour that got my account suspended? Or was the ACWriters account suspended first? I don’t know, and I guess I never will. But it did show me that actions (and suspensions) on one account impact on the other.

Most of the activity on ACWriters is automated. The account doesn’t generate any native tweets, but posts links to new posts on the Australasian Christian Writers blogs, retweets @mentions, and retweets Tweets from blog members … including me. And Twitter might have interpreted that as me trying to toot my own horn.

Lesson Five: Don’t Have More Than One Twitter Account

Or, if you do, run them off separate email addresses, separate mobile numbers. And don’t have Account A set up to retweet Account B and vice versa, because Twitter calls that spam. Yes. The Twitter Rules contain dozens of possible ways you can spam, and some of them surprised me.

So while I never set out to violate the Twitter Rules, I did.

I’ve tightened my account, reviewed who and what can post, and done as much as I can to break the link between my two accounts.

I’ll be back next week to update you on my progress, and to talk through the Twitter Rules and work out what I might have done wrong … and what you might be doing.

Meanwhile, have I missed anything?

Best of the Blogs

Best of the Blogs: 14 October 2017

The best of the blogs: must-read posts on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your books.

Writing

Modern fiction is written in scenes … and that’s something a lot of modern writers don’t fully understand. In this excellent (and detailed) post, KM Weiland takes us through the basics of scene structure, gives reasons why we often get confused between scene and sequel, gives an alternative way of looking at theme, scene, and sequel, and provides an example from her own work. This is a great reference post.

Editing

Great writing is more than an interesting plot and wonderful characters. It’s also hooking the reader with every single sentence. Sacha Black explains in Getting Jiggy with the Nitty Gritty, or, Improving Your Sentences in a guest post at Writers Helping Writers.

Note: don’t get bogged down remembering these nitty gritty details as you write your first draft. But do consider these tips as you write and edit. That’s the time to cut the dross and power up your sentences.

Publishing

Ebook Piracy

Tim Grahl discusses whether ebook piracy is a bad thing or a good thing in Ebook Piracy = Sell More Books. He argues that for most authors, the enemy is obscurity, not piracy. If no one knows you exist, they can’t buy your books. He also shares a video clip of author Neil Gamain sharing his view on piracy—that his own sales went up in the countries in which his books were most often pirated. Gamain also says:

Because the biggest thing the web was doing is allowing people to hear things, allowing people to read things, allowing people to see things they might never have otherwise seen. And I think, basically, that’s an incredibly good thing.

Tim Grahl also shares some tips for trying to turn pirate readers into paying customers. If Neil Gamain’s publisher can’t stop ebook piracy, nor can you. But you can at least try and turn piracy to your advantage (e.g. if you upload your book to the main pirate sites, you control the content and can make sure it includes your email signup links).

 

You’re writing because you want to share your ideas, right? If you’re a Christian author, you may also want to share the Good News. People who might never pick up a Bible or a Christian book might find your pirated novel. And read it. Is that a bad thing?

Marketing

What Works?

New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak shared 9 Book Advertising Tactics I’ve Tried … And Which Ones Worked at the BookBub blog (yes, she recommends BookBub). She found print advertising didn’t result in sales (it may have increased awareness, but that’s impossible to quantify).

She also hosted a reader event for 150 people. Even though she charged $40 for tickets, the event still cost her $7,500. A better option might have been to join in with other authors, or speak at a reader-organised event. If you write Christian fiction, check out the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat as an option. Plans are in the works for a 2018 event.

Author Interview: Bethany Turner

I’m sharing this interview because Bethany Turner is an example of how you can break a lot of the writing and publishing industry “rules” if your writing is strong enough. Examples:

  • It’s written in first person
  • She talks directly to the reader
  • The first 10% of the book is backstory
  • It uses the (unrealistic, IMO) Love at First Sight trope.
  • And the (hated, IMO) Other Woman trope
  • It includes swearing
  • The hero and heroine are sexually attracted. In Christian fiction.

Despite all that, it’s the first book I’ve read this year where I immediately wanted to sit down and read it again.

She also broke several publishing industry rules

  • Turner admits she didn’t read the genre (Christian romance)
  • She never read books on writing craft or attended a conference
    She didn’t have an agent
  • She got a contract from a major publisher by submitting to Writer’s Edge (the first fiction example I’ve seen in years)

I don’t recommend following Bethany’s example—she is the exception, not the rule. But I do recommend reading the interview (and her book, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, which I featured yesterday on #FirstLineFriday).

Social Media Fun

Finally, for laughs: 30 of the Funniest Tweets About Social Media

My favourite is #18, with #19 running a close second. What’s yours?

 

Best of the Blogs: 25 March 2107

Best of the Blogs from Christian Editing ServicesBest of the blogs: the best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Writing

Kristen Lamb is back again this week, asking: Do Some People Lack the Talent to be Authors?

Does writing take talent … or just a whole lot of practice and a willingness to learn? What do you think?

Marketing

Book Descriptions

Why is it so easy to write 80,000 words, yet so difficult to condense that down into a brief book description which sells? BookBub have eight hints to help write a book description which sells. Well, it sells books for BookBub. It might not sell on Amazon, which permits longer descriptions.

Cover Design

Joel Friedlander has published his monthly cover design awards. James Egan and Damonza solidify their reputations as the cover designers to save up for.

Possible trends to note included several covers with characters turned away from the reader or in silhouette, and one which used an italic font. There were also a few covers with yellow or orange. Joel warned against this a couple of years ago, but I’m now seeing a trend for thriller or suspense novels.

As usual, it’s worth looking through the full list (100 covers) to see what works, what doesn’t, and why.

Branding

Jenny Hansen shares a fabulous post on author branding at Writers in the Storm. Read Helpful Hacks to Build a Strong Online Brand.

Twitter

Andrew Pickering visits Social Media Examiner to share 7 top tips for using Twitter to Drive More Traffic to Your Blog. I’m only doing three of these. I’m sure I can add three more with only a few tweaks to my sharing routine. One might be a little more trouble—anyone want to guess which of the seven I’m least keen on?

Award Finalists!

The 2016 Grace Award finalists have been announced, and Kiwi Christian author Kara Isaac is a finalist in the Romance/Historical Romance category.

And Romance Writers of America have announced the finalists for the RITAs, the romance world equivalent of the Oscars … and Kara Isaac is a double finalist—First Novel, and Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements. Congratulations, Kara!

Reader Question: Should I Hire Someone to Build my Social Media Presence?

Today I’m visiting Australasian Christian Writers to answer a question from a reader:

Building Your Social Media Presence

An agent liked my manuscript, but said I needed to build my social media presence before he’d consider representing me. I work full time. Should I hire someone?

Short answer: Maybe. Long answer …

Maybe. It depends on what your agent means by a social media presence, the kind of books you write and plan to write, on your brand, and on what God wants for your writing …

To read the rest of this post, click here to visit Australasian Christian Writers.

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in a future blog post, please email me via www.christianediting.co.nz/contact, or tag @iolagoulton on Twitter.

Best of the Blogs: 30 September 2016

The best posts I’ve read in this week on writing and social media, a fun video … and two giveaways.

Writing

KM Weiland at Helping Writers Become Authors has an excellent post on the differences between scenes and chapters: 7 Questions You Have About Scenes vs. Chapters

And Joanna Penn, on 7 Steps to Writing Your First Novel

(Hmm. There must be something significant about the number seven.)

Social Media

Two articles on social media this week, both from Social Media Examiner.

First, Twitter has introduced something called Twitter Cards. Here’s how to use them: Using Twitter Cards for Business

Second, a detailed guide to using Medium–which I don’t use, but now I’m wondering if I should! What do you think? Here’s the guide: Medium for Business

Thought

Yes, many of us feel we’re becoming overwhelmed by social media … and that’s not always a good thing. In I Used to Be A Human Being, Andrew Sullivan muses on his social media journey, from non-user to addict to recovery. This is a long article. Very long. So long I gave up halfway through, which I suspect partly defeats the purpose of the article. Or perhaps it reinforces the fact we’ve become a planet of skimmers rather than readers.

Fun

And for a bit of fun … 17 British accents in just five minutes:

Giveaways

I’m also currently running two giveaways, partly to test out the KingSumo WordPress plugin I’ve recently purchased. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so I want to see if it’s worth it! Check out the giveaways, then come back and tell me what you think in the comments.

One Kindle copy of My Hope Next Door by Tammy L Gray.

Click here to enter the giveaway (ends 5 October)

Click here to read my review of My Hope Next Door

One Kindle copy of An Aussie Summer Christmas novella collection

Click here to enter the giveaway (ends 10 October)

Click here to read my review of An Aussie Summer Christmas

Relz Reviews

And if you’re really in the mood to score some free Christian fiction, head over to Relz Reviewz, where uber-blogger Rel is celebrating her ten-year anniversary of blogging with a heap of giveaways.

 

What’s the best blog post you’ve read this week? Share in the comments.