Friday, August 16, 2013

Spread the Word with Hashtags

No, not the kind of hash your grandparents swear they were happy to eat when they were kids. These have no taste.

Twitter, the 280-character communication tool, is a boon and a bane for authors who want to publicize a book. Even if they buy into the idea of tweeting a link to a book, it takes a long time to get a lot of Twitter followers (aka fans) who will read the tweets.

And then there is the time-suck element. Can tweets lead to higher sales or just take time away from writing? The answer is yes and yes.

First, a definition. says that "a hashtag is an easy way for Twitter users to categorize Tweets that share a common topic or belong to a particular group. The hashtag is used to highlight keywords or topics within a Tweet, and can be placed anywhere within a post."

Basically, when you put the number sign (#) before a word/phrase, people with this interest see your tweet.

If the right audience reads your tweets sales may go up a bit, but there are a lot of variables. First is how to reach people who might like a book, which is where hashtags come in, and second is timing.

Which Hashtags to Use

While you could make up hashtags, there might be no recipients. To know if a certain hashtag exists, type it in the search box that is just above the tweets received (the box with the little magnifying glass). For example, type #mystery or #mysteries to see if there are people interested in those topics. (There are.)

A hashtag will likely exist for anything you think of. If not, you can create one by following instructions on It takes time for a hashtag to get many followers, so initially find ones that are similar to your interest. For example, a woman is the protagonist of the Jolie Gentil series, so I initially checked #womensleuths. Later I found #femalesleuth and #womansleuth. Plural versions often exist. I send tweets to all of these hashtags from time to time.

Hashtags count against the 140 characters you can have in a tweet, but the links to sites do not.

Samples for Writers at Work

#writer or #writers
#author or #authors

Samples to Publicize Books or Articles

Genre-specific hashtags generally help promote a book more efficiently, but if your work crosses genres or you think everyone wants to read your book (dream on), try those below. Make sure the link corresponds with the hashtag--use the BN link for the #nook hashtag.
#novel or #novels
#goodread or #goodreads
#ebook or #ebooks
#bynr (which stands for be your next read)

Samples for Mystery Writers

There are hashtags for every genre. I write mysteries, sometimes with a touch of romance, so these two genres are highlighted here.

Consider staying away from general terms such as #crime or #cozy, which go to more than readers. If your mystery is not a thriller or hardboiled, stay away from those hashtags. You won't snag more readers by targeting an uninterested audience.

Samples for Romance Writers

#RWA (stands for Romance Writers of America)

Varied Other Samples

Some of these are general, others give you a way to get started in genres other than mystery or romance.
#youngadult  or #youngadults
#newadult or #newadults
#lowvision (for audio books)
#audiobook or #audiobooks

UK Readers

#kindleuk (the Amazon hashtag for the UK)

If you use these hashtags (or those for any other country) make sure the link to the book is the Amazon (or other) site for UK buyers.  Amazon has a list of all its international sites. This matters because, for example, a German reader cannot purchase a book at the Brazil Amazon site.

Finding Relevant Hashtags

One hashtag can lead to others. If you go the the list of tweeters who get the #mystery hashtag there may well be similar hashtags in the tweets you see.


...really is everything. While there are night owls, more people see a tweet during typical waking hours. Maybe that means more sales, maybe more sales come when fewer people are awake at night and they don't see as many tweets. Whatever you think, it's probably best not to do all tweets at the same time every day.

People generally see only a few of the tweets that come to them--those that come while they are looking at the screen. After posting a tweet, the screen will soon say how many have been posted in the next half-minute or so. That could be 150 or more! I send similar tweets to the same hashtag every day or so, because almost no one will see the same tweet twice.

And speaking of time. Let yourself have ten minutes a day for tweets. Perhaps more if there is a new book. If you keep a list of hashtags and copies of 140-character tweets, it's possible to send dozens in ten minutes. More than a few minutes a day and marketing tweets can detract from writing.

Here are a couple of my samples.

Get ready for weekend w fun cozy mysteries. Start w boxed set--humor & murder at the Jersey shore. #throwbackthursday

#author #writer I donated books to libraries damaged by Sandy and you can too. For indie authors. Well run effort.


Unless you construct elaborate tracking scenarios that are linked to your books (not!), there is no easy way to judge impact except in the broadest sense. I can say that, as a self-published author, I had no international sales until I started tweeting. I have fewer overall sales if I stop tweeting for a few days. That's good enough for me.

If you want more, check out 500+ Hashtags for Writers, which I wrote in spring 2014

Many of my tweets deal with the Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery series. You can learn more here


  1. Good article. For young adult novels, you can also use #YAlit (and #kidlit for children's books). A Google search for "twitter hash tags" and something else in your book – "travel", the region, crafts or cooking – also usually turns up a good list of hash tags that might be related to your story but are not specifically about books.

    1. Thanks for the ideas, Kris. I do a some YA writing, too, so I'll add those to my list.