If you’re an author on Twitter, you’ve probably seen a good number of profiles that promote books. They have their own hashtag, and if you include their hashtag in your tweet and/or follow them, and they’ll retweet you.
That’s not what this post is about. Frankly, I’m not too familiar with these services or how effective they are. (If you have any experience with these Twitter services, feel free to share in the comments!)
But this post is mostly about finding your readership more organically through Twitter hashtags.
What Is a Hashtag?
We’re starting with the basics. Hashtags are used on Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ (and somewhat on Facebook) to help people find conversations they’re interested in. They look like this: #Hashtag. I can only speak with knowledge about Twitter hashtags, but the concepts should be similar across the different platforms. Think of a hashtag as a 24/7/365 online conference on your favorite subject, with people frequently posting in about the topic in the hashtag.
Anything Can Be a Hashtag, But …
You’ll see some pretty creative hashtags out there! #WhereIsSuperGlueWhenYouNeedIt, #ICantGetEnoughOfCaramelGellato, #WishIHadABabyElephant. None of these, by the way, have ever actually been used on Twitter. (I checked.) They’re my attempt to represent the sometimes uber-creative use of hashtags.
On the other hand, there are established hashtags that get traffic every day, every hour, or even every minute. (Can anyone say #AmWriting?) If you want to connect with people of similar interests, these are the hashtags you want to use and follow!
How to Find Hashtags to Draw Attention to Your Books
What is your book about? And I don’t mean, “Guy meets girl, etc.” What topics are in your book? What non-fiction topics that people are discussing in the real world? Write up a list.
Is your book a western romance? Think of western things that people like to talk about. #Cowboy, #RanchLife, and #ForeverWest are a few hashtags you should be paying attention to. #WesternExposure is a fun one for photos of the west. (Great retweet material!)
Is your western romance set in Wyoming? Use and follow #Wyoming. (I know. Head-thunk moment.) Apparently, Wyoming is celebrating it’s 125th anniversary in 2015. #WY125 is a good hashtag this year.
Does women’s suffrage play into your story? (Wyoming was the first state to grant women the right to vote.) Believe it or not, #WomensSuffrage is a real hashtag! History buffs still like to talk about it. And don’t forget #History and #OldWest.
Find Your Hashtags
I don’t write westerns. So how did I find all these hashtags in the space of a few minutes? I started with a few obvious ones like #Cowboy, #Wyoming, and #History and saw what other hashtags people were using in addition to those. I clicked through to see how much traffic they got (a good hashtag should be used at least every few hours), and passed those along to you. It’s not that hard!
Awesome Success Using Hashtags
One of my favorite hashtags for my own use is #LakeGeneva. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, is the setting for my upcoming novel, and wouldn’tcha know, the townspeople have established their own hashtag.
Thanks to #LakeGeneva, I’ve found some great people to connect with. Some have become my followers and shown interest in seeing the book when it comes out.
But here’s the best success I’ve probably had off a hashtag: Just the other day, I checked in on #LakeGeneva and commented on a tweet put out by a local gift store. We conversed, we followed each other, they checked out my website, they saw I had an upcoming book set in Lake Geneva, and next thing you know, they threw out the idea of hosting a book signing when my novel comes out. Talk about flexing your hashtag muscles!
The trick to connecting with people who may be interested in your fiction is to think of it (for a moment) as non-fiction. Isolate the topics in your book. (Ask a friend for help if you can’t see the non-fiction lurking in your novel.) Hop over to Twitter and pretend you’re looking for conferences for enthusiasts of your topic. Jump in, interact, and see what comes of it!