Helping authors publish

Tag: social media

Mastodon for authors

After Elon Musk took over Twitter in 2022, there was a great deal of disruption, and some people started looking for alternatives. One alternative that got a lot of press was Mastodon. This article will explain how authors can set up a Mastodon account, and get the most out of it.

What is Mastodon?

In some ways, Mastodon is similar to Twitter. It’s a micro-blogging social media site, which allows users to post short messages known as toots. Mastodon has equivalents to Twitter’s retweet and like functions, known as boost and favourite on Mastodon. There are differences, of course. The one that seems to cause the most confusion is that there isn’t a single place to sign up. Anyone can set up a Mastodon instance (also known as a server), which means that there are lots to choose from, and this can confuse people, but it’s not as complex as it might sound.

It’s probably easiest to think of Mastodon as being similar to email in many ways. Just as your email address is made up of your local name followed by your server (eg, a Mastodon handle is similar (eg But whatever email service you use, you can send emails to other services, and people on other services can email you. In the same way, Robin (on, Jen (on and the Author Help account (on can all follow and interact with each other.

Enter key on a computer keyboard with the word "Register" on it.

Register an account

Although it’s not essential, there are advantages to joining an instance that is focused on books and/or authors. Mastodon has a local feed which shows posts from people on the same instance, as well as a federated feed, which shows posts from people all over Mastodon. So the local feed on a book-focused instance will be more interesting and useful. Here are some servers that fit those criteria:

Every instance admin can set their own rules, so make sure you check the rules before joining. Once you’ve found one that is a good fit, click the “Create account” button. Once you’ve accepted the instance’s rules, you’ll be presented with a form asking for your display name, user name, email address, and password.

Screenshot of a Mastodon edit profile page.
Editing profile on Mastodon

Set up your profile

Once you have an account, it’s a good idea to add at least a bio and a photo to your profile. This will make it more likely that people will follow you when they come across you. You can also add a header image, and a link to your website in the “Profile metadata” section. If you’re migrating from Twitter, you can use the same profile image and photo as you used there.

Screenshot of metadata and verification section of a Mastodon profile page.
Editing profile metadata on Mastodon

When editing your profile, there is a section labelled “Verification”. This has a short piece of HTML code that you can add to your website to verify that your account belongs to the owner of the website. Adding that code to your author website will allow people to verify that the account belongs to you.

It’s also a good idea to write an introduction post. Add a #introduction hashtag, and use hashtags for anything that people are likely to search for, such as #author and the genre that you write in. There’s no full-text search on Mastodon, but it is possible to search for hashtags, so they’re very important. If a hashtag has multiple words, be sure to capitalise the first letter of each word to make it easier to read, especially for screen readers (eg #MilitaryHistory instead of #militaryhistory). After posting, pin the introduction post. To do this on the web interface, click the three dots at the bottom right of the post, and select “Pin on profile”.

A woman sat at a table with an open laptop on it. She is looking at her phone and smiling.

Using Mastodon

In general use, there are a lot of similarities between Mastodon and Twitter. You can post toots, which can be up to 500 characters long, and can include images or polls. For longer messages, you can reply to your own toot to create a thread. You can favourite, boost, and reply to other people’s toots.

Many authors that use Twitter say that the best part of it is the conversations that they have, and this is also true of Mastodon. Remember, it’s social media, and people are there to be sociable. It’s important to be part of the conversation — reply to and boost other people’s posts. Your own posts should be more than simply links to buy your books. There’s no need to discuss private things, you can talk about your research, how the writing is going, what you’ve been reading, etc.

Privacy and content warnings

The privacy level for each toot can be individually set. The default is Public, which means anyone can see it. Unlisted means that anyone can see it, but it won’t appear in searches, timelines, etc. This is useful when writing a thread — the initial post can be set to Public, with the rest of the thread set to unlisted. Anyone that clicks on the first post will see the rest, but the replies won’t clog your followers’ timelines.

The other options are Followers only, which means that only your followers will see it, and Mentioned people only, which is analogous to a direct message. Note, though, that direct messages aren’t completely private — the instance admin will be able to see them.

Screenshot of a user setting the privacy on a Mastodon post that has a content warning.
Setting the privacy on a Mastodon post with a content warning

Mastodon also allows a content warning to be applied to a toot. When you set a content warning, you add a message which is all that is visible by default — users have to click to open the full message. This is useful when posting things that some may find difficult, and some servers may require self-promotion messages to be behind a content warning.

Hashtags and groups

As mentioned earlier, there is no full-text search at Mastodon, but hashtags are searchable, which makes them very important. There are also groups, which boost any posts that they are tagged in.

This is a short list of useful hashtags for authors:

  • #author
  • #authors
  • #bookstodon
  • #WritersOfMastodon
  • #writing
  • #WritingCommunity

Be sure to include any that are relevant when posting. Hashtags can be followed in the same way as accounts, so it’s worth following some to find interesting conversations to join or people to follow.

The following accounts are groups. If you mention them in a post, they will boost your post, so that it is sent to their followers. Again, it is a good idea to follow at least some of them so that you can get involved in the conversations:

A student in a wheelchair choosing a book in a library


The culture at Mastodon emphasises inclusivity and accessibility. Using camel case (capitalising the first word of each word) in hashtags is an example of this.

Screenshot of adding text description to an image on Mastodon.
Adding text description to an image on Mastodon

Another important part is in the use of images. If you add an image to a toot, add a text description or caption. This is important for anyone using a screen reader, as this is what the screen reader will read to tell the user what the image is. We recommend following the Alt Text Reminder bot, which will send a reminder if you forget to add alt text to an image.

Finding people

There are several ways to find people on Mastodon. Searching appropriate hashtags is a good start, and once you find someone interesting, it’s worth looking through their follows and followers lists.

There are also directories of accounts that post about specific topics. They each have a different approach, so you may find different people on each:

Have fun

Mastodon is probably different to other social media that you’ve used, but that means that you can treat it as a fresh start. Remember that social media should be enjoyable. Don’t get hung up on things like follower numbers, but rather concentrate on finding people that you enjoy talking to and taking part in interesting conversations. There are no guarantees that you will sell books, but if you enjoy your time there, then that will matter less.

International Day Of Disabled Persons

It’s the International Day Of Disabled Persons, so here’s a short list of easy ways to make your web pages and social media posts more accessible.

When writing hashtags, use BumpyCase (also known as CamelCase). It’s better for screen readers and is less ambiguous (note the difference between #CarEbook and #CareBook)

On web pages, use headings to communicate the organisation of the page, not to make the text bigger. If you want bigger text, just adjust the font size. Again, this helps screen readers and accessibility tools. It also helps with SEO.

Use clear link text on web pages. The text in the link should describe what it links to, even if read out of context. Avoid link text like “click here”, that doesn’t indicate what is being linked to.

Always set alt text (“alternative text”) for images. In the alt text field, describe the image as well as you can. If you’re not sure what would be useful, remember that any alt text is better than nothing. On Mastodon, follow the Alt Text Reminder bot to get reminders if you forget to add alt text. On Twitter, the Alt Or Not browser extension can help.

Use a website theme that has good contrast between text and background. Light grey text on a white background is much more difficult to read than black text on a white background.

For more information, see the Content Best Practices chapter in the WordPress Accessibility Handbook, or the Web Accessibility Initiative’s web accessibility tutorials.

Introduction to Book Marketing

If you want to sell books, you will need to market them. This post will give you a head start on book marketing. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, but just an introduction.

For self-publishers, book marketing is a long-term activity. Your book will be available at online retailers for ever, unless you decide to take it off sale. You don’t need to make a big splash at launch.

Have a Good Product

Before you start, make sure that you have a good product. Your book should be properly edited, have a professional cover, and have a solid description. If you don’t have these three in place, time and effort spent on marketing will be wasted.

Write More Books

If you only have one or two books, the best thing you can do to sell more books is to write more books. It’s hard to hear, but it’s good advice nonetheless. Having multiple books means that you can experiment, and every time someone reads one book and enjoys it, they might buy all of your other books. This is especially true if you write a series — anyone that enjoys the first book is likely to buy the next one.

Set up a Website

If you haven’t done so already, set up an author website. Ideally use your name as the URL, but if it isn’t available, try adding something like “author” or “books”. Make sure that your website has a way for people to sign up to your mailing list.

I recommend WordPress, since it is easy to update, widely supported, and there are lots of themes, so you can make it look the way you want it to.

Set up a Mailing List

Use a service such as Aweber, MailChimp, or Seva to create a mailing list. Whenever you have news (a new book, a sale, whatever), email your list and tell them about it. These are people that have specifically chosen to hear from you, so they’re more likely to buy your next book.

Add an “About the Author” section

Make sure that your book has an “About the Author” section at the back. Include links to your website, mailing list, and your other books. When you release a new book, update this section in all your other books to add a link to the new book. When a reader gets to the end of your book, these links give them a chance to immediately buy more of your books. If they enjoy your writing, they’ll want to buy more of your books. Make it easy for them to do so.

Set up Your Page on Author Central

Log in to Amazon Author Central using your Amazon login details, and fill in as much information as possible. Make sure that all of your books are listed. If any are missing, use the “Add more books” button to claim them.

Set up a Facebook Author Page

Set up a Facebook page under your author name. This is not the same as your personal profile. It is designed for fans to follow, and allows you to post things of interest to your fans without having to let them see your personal profile and information. You will also need an author page to run Facebook ads.

Make the First in a Series Free or Cheap

If you write a series, make the first book in the series free or cheap. This reduces one barrier to people trying this first book. Because it’s the first in a series, the readers that enjoy it will buy the next book in the series and hopefully every other book in the series.

Amazon won’t let you set the price to free, though other retailers will. So to get it free on Amazon, make it free elsewhere, then contact KDP support and tell them that it’s free elsewhere, with links to the free book at large retailers (Apple Books, Kobo, B&N Nook). Ask them to match the free price.

Add an Excerpt

Add an excerpt from your next book to the back of the book, with a link to buy the next book. This is most effective if you are writing a series, and add an excerpt from the next book in the series.

Paid Advertising

You can buy adverts on Amazon, BookBub, and Facebook. These can get expensive quickly, so make sure you limit the maximum spend.

Google AdWords is also a possibility, but very few authors report success with it. On the other hand, many authors have had success with Amazon, BookBub, and Facebook ads.

Run a Sale

You can change the price of your book at the online retailers at any time. Take advantage of this to run a sale. Drop the price, then advertise the sale via social media, your email list, paid email lists, paid advertising, etc. After a limited time, put the price back to the normal price.

Email Advertising

There are many email lists that promote cut-price and free ebooks. These lists collect email addresses from readers, then email them links to discounted and free ebooks. You can pay to have your book included in one of these mail shots.

These sites all have minimum requirements, which vary from site to site. Most of them require a minimum number of customer reviews on Amazon, so check that you meet the criteria before applying. BookBub is the biggest, most expensive, and most difficult one to be accepted for, but the others can also have a significant impact.

There are many of these sites. This is a short list of ones that are generally recommended:


There are lots of book bloggers on the web, many of whom specialise in particular genres. Getting a book reviewed by a blogger with a large following can lead to more sales, and some bloggers will also leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Google “book blogger” and your genre to find book bloggers in your genre.

Before contacting a blogger to ask for a review, make sure that you read their review policy. If they don’t review self-published books or books in your genre, move on. When you write to them to ask for a review, be polite and courteous. Remember, you’re asking them to give up their time to help you.

Apply to be Included in Vendor Promotions

If you are distributing with Draft2Digital, make sure that you are signed up for email notifications of promotions being run by vendors. To do that, sign in to your Draft2Digital account, then go to Account -> Notification Preferences.

Ensure that the Global Unsubscribe header is ticked and green, and that the Promotional checkbox is ticked and green.

Draft2Digital will occasionally email you about promotions that vendors are running. The email will include a link to a form that you can use to request that your book be included in the promotion.


Book marketing is a huge topic, and this is just a short introduction. There are more articles in the marketing category, and our weekly newsletter often has links to information and advice about marketing.

The Alliance of Independent Authors has a Self-Publishing Advice Centre, with lots of advice about all aspects of self-publishing, including marketing. If you join the Alliance, you can access a private members-only Facebook forum, where you can ask specific questions and get answers from experienced self-publishers.

© 2023 Author Help

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑