apps, Book Promotion, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media

Litsy: The Instagram Of Books?

 

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Last year I heard about a new social media app for bookworms called Litsy, from Writer’s Unboxed.  Then I heard about Litsy again on Publisher’s Weekly, who heralded it as the Instagram for books.  Needless to say, I ignored it, I really didn’t need to sign up to anymore social media sites.  Seriously, I have signed up and abandoned more social media sites than I care to count.  However, last month, I got an email announcing that Litsy had been purchased by LibraryThing.  Remember them?  They were the number three site for bookworms but they kind of fell off the map.  So why on earth would LibraryThing buy Litsy?  Perhaps they were going to merge platforms, Lord knows LibraryThing’s website is clunky and slow.  Plus, most companies buy others for either resources or in order to eliminate competition.  I’m assuming it’s the first and not the latter.  Anyway, I was intrigued and had to find out what was going on, so shamelessly, I signed up for yet another social media account.  *Sigh*

What Makes Litsy Different

Unlike Goodreads and LibraryThing, Litsy is a mobile app like Instagram and Snapchat but with books, of course.  What sets Litsy apart is their book recommendations based on real users rather than algorithms.  This can be a relief for those who are tired of algorithms and keyword based gate keeping.

Litsy is heavy on images and pretty easy to use, if you can figure out Instagram and Snapchat, Litsy will be a breeze.  Once you setup your account, you can choose to start posting reviews, pictures, quotes or even blurbs but be sure your text comes with a picture of some sort.  You can find free images to accompany your posts here:

 

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They don’t call it the Instagram of books for nothing!

 

Here Are A Few Tips: Don’t forget to upload a picture of your own book cover if it’s not in their database.  You can check that out by going to their search engine and typing either your author name or book title.

Also whatever you do, don’t forget to become a community member of your genre, that’s what social media is all about, so join a book club, or start one of your own.

What Do You Post?

Here is a list of things of ideas on what to post:

  • Share a short quote from your book
  • Upload pics of your book cover
  • Hold giveaways
  • Give a review on a book you enjoyed.
  • Ask a question or for a book recommendation

 

Problems Authors Might Have With Litsy

Litsy is new and therefore still finding it’s way in the online world, so authors are going to have to grow and evolve along side it.  This could be a dealbreaker for some who have come to expect certain sophistication and privileges with more mature social media sites.  Here are more cons:

  • The community size is much smaller compared to Goodreads
  • There is a limit of 300 characters per post
  • Members of the site sometimes refer to themselves as Littens. No, I’m not kidding.
  • There is no syncing between LibraryThing and Litsy yet.
  • Their database is small making it difficult to find certain books and authors.
  • People are given a score based on their account activity kind of like Snapchat. This is how they measure influence.

 

My Personal Experience

I used Litsy for about a month, okay, I lurked for about a month and during that time I followed a lot of interesting people who were passionate readers.  Though the community is small, it is engaged.  However, you have to get used to the idea of relying on images and not words to get your message across, this means I won’t be posting too often.  I don’t have the time to stage a photo shoot with my book nor do I want to scour the internet for images.  I’ll use Litsy for only strategic marketing or promotional purposes.

Also as I was writing this article, Litsy announced they were going to be offline for maintenance purposes and it would only affect the app for about two hours.  However, once the site was back up, there were major issues, people couldn’t see their notifications, or search the database for basic information.  It took a better chunk of the day for them to get the site back up and running normally again.  And since their site only allows 300 character posts, they had to take a screenshot of a Facebook post along with an apology.  Apparently, even their admins and support staff aren’t immune to the rules.

Litsy Explanation Full
My screenshot of a screenshot of a Facebook post.

 

I’ve never experienced anything like this with an app before.  I’m hoping this isn’t a frequent thing with Litsy.

The Verdict

All in all, I think Litsy is a great addition to the online book world.  Mainly, because they reach the younger demographic that live on their phones and love to take selfies.  Honestly, I believe Litsy could be a good thing for authors writing in the YA and romance genres since their demographic is mostly young and female.  However, like Snapchat, Litsy, may take some getting used to but I think it could be worth it for those having a hard time targeting Millennials and Gen Y using other channels.

 

Well what do you think, have you tried Litsy?  If so, let me know in the comments section.

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apps, Book Promotion, Marketing

Snapchat For Authors

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Just say the word Snapchat to an author and you’ll probably get a confused look or a flat-out eye roll.  For those of you who aren’t 13 years old, Snapchat is a mobile social media app, and it’s not quite like any other.  Snapchat has its roots as a popular sexting app for college kids because the content disappears after 24 hours.  And with the proliferation of social media use, many teens were finding their posts and embarrassing photos being used against them when applying for jobs or colleges.  This need for privacy and control over personal content triggered what social media marketers have now called: the mass exodus from Facebook, where millions of young people either abandoned or deleted their Facebook accounts.

If you are an author marketing to teens and young adults, then Snapchat is definitely the place to check out.  As of 2018, the site boasts of over 187 million daily users reaching 40% of people between the ages of 18-24.  It’s gotten so popular that even the White House joined in 2016.  Millennials and Gen Z are a demographic that’s hard to reach, and nobody knows this fact better than Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, who tried to buy the app in 2013.

Why Snapchat Confuses Older People

Snapchat isn’t like the other social media sites by design, because all posts (snaps) are not permanent. Snaps are deleted after 24 hrs of being viewed (unless you take a screen pic) and those snaps that remain unopened are deleted after 30 days.  Snaperchatters are rewarded with points and trophies for account activity, which can be too video gamish for most adults.  Another deal breaker seems to be the pointless small talk, as well as Snapchat’s silly photo filters.

Snapchat pic for Writing By The Seat of My Pants
Really not feeling this.

As you can see, Snapchat isn’t a place to be serious, so you can’t treat it like Twitter or LinkedIn.  That fact alone, disqualifies authors who schedule content and blast it out to all their social media accounts.  Those techniques just won’t work on Snapchat, I’ll explain later, but for now, let’s see where authors are tripping up.

Where Everyone Goes Wrong

As I said previously, Snapchat is a spur of the moment type of site.  Most young people send private messages and respond to snaps with more snaps of their own.  You are often rewarded for keeping threads going for extended periods of time with points which can can earn users the right to access trophies for completing certain tasks or reaching milestones.  This is a psychological trick the site uses to keep people on Snapchat for longer periods of time and it works well.

Also, like other social media sites, video is a popular feature however, unlike all the other sites videos on Snapchat are only 10 – 60 seconds long.  That means traditional marketing won’t fly here.  So not only do you have to be brief, but you need to be interesting in a visual format. This can be a challenge to authors who are used to expressing themselves through the written word. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, there are authors and book reviewers doing well on Snapchat.  But before I tell you who, let’s get the basics down, below, I’ve listed five important steps to getting started on Snapchat.

Step #1: Watch A Few Snapchat Tutorials

For those of you willing to take the plunge into the Snapchat universe, there are several tutorials that you should check out before signing up:

Step #2: Get Followers

Okay, so you have a basic understanding of Snapchat, now it’s on to the next step and that is getting your first followers.  The common advice for building a following is to leverage the ones on your other social media accounts or from your email newsletters.  However, if you don’t have either one, you can find Snapchat groups where you can promote your account.  Just be sure to mention you’re an author and are looking for people who are into books and be sure to share your snapcode.  If you don’t know what that is please, return to step one!

Below are a few Snapchat groups you can check out:

Another way to find Snapchat followers is to go to the search engine of your chosen social media site and enter the words “snapchat” and look for promotional groups.  I’ve found Facebook and Google+ to be excellent sources to find Snapchat communities.

Step #3: Stay Away From Third Party Apps

I know a lot of authors want to manage their time wisely on social media and the best way to do that effectively is through scheduling posts.  Sadly, Snapchat still wants people to post content directly through their app. This policy will most likely change in the future, as it did for Pinterest and Instagram but for now, users are stuck in a scheduling purgatory.  There are scheduling apps that do exist but all of them violate Snapchat’s terms of service. That means your account could be suspended or shut down if you’re discovered using one, which is why I’m not mentioning any of their names here.

Step #4: Find A Few Influencers

Now that you have a few followers, it’s time to start networking with influencers. Since Snapchat doesn’t have a normal directory, people generally go to an app called Ghostcodes.  Ghostcodes, is a database of Snapchat users who are looking for followers. They sort out accounts under the categories of; storytellers, entertainment, business and even viral stars.  Now, I know what you’re thinking Rachel, didn’t you just say that Snapchat forbids third party apps?  The answer is yes, I did, but Ghostcodes isn’t a third party app, which means it’s not an app that links to your account, so you’re free and clear.

For those not interested in being a follower, you can always ask to be featured on the app, but you’ll need to fill out this form.

Other directory apps that are similar to Ghostcodes include:

Step #5: Figure Out What To Post

Since your content disappears after 24 hours, and videos are only 10 seconds, time is of the essence on Snapchat.  I know that sounds like a bad thing but Snapchat can be ideal for things like a flash sale or even a cover reveal.  The types of content that do best are snaps that are humorous, unique, and relevant.  Here are more ideas on the type of things you can create on Snapchat:

  • A quick author reading
  • Hold Q&A’s
  • Share advice or tips
  • Announce a sale, giveaway, or offer a coupon
  • Share a short quote, or joke
  • Snap a live event
  • Upload a book trailer
  • Create a story based on older snaps or photos from your camera roll. You can introduce yourself, or put together a little slide show explaining your work.

Book People On Snapchat

Despite what you may believe there are YA authors, as well as book reviewers on Snapchat, so it would be wise to watch and observe how they use the site if you’re struggling with ideas.  Here is a small list of just some of them, you’ll have to search for them in Snapchat’s search engine:

  • BookFerretSnaps (Reviewer)
  • Zoe Sugg (Author)
  • RomanceBeckons (Reviewer)
  • OneIllLouise (Author)
  • JohnGreen (Author)
  • BookRiot (Reviewers)

In Closing: A Discussion On Bad Marketing & Respect

Teens initially left traditional social media like Facebook, due to lack of privacy and respect.  It doesn’t matter that Facebook is the biggest social media site in the world, teens saw that it wasn’t serving their needs so they took off.  In fact, social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk, made this comment about Snapchat: “There are two things that are very true when it comes to teens. One, it’s not cool to hang out at the same club as your mom (Facebook). And two, you want to lock your room.”  So far, Snapchat covers all these bases.

And while we’re at it, I have to mention a huge mistake I see adults committing on social media and that’s trolling (rudeness and disrespect).  You might be shocked to see how many authors love to discuss how dumb and weak Millennials and teens are.  Now here’s my question, how can an author despise the very people they’re trying to sell to?  YA authors in particular, need to be careful and use tact when addressing tragedies or when giving unsolicited advice.  If it’s not from the heart and from a place of understanding, then it’s best to keep it to yourself otherwise, you may come off as a know-it-all or worse yet, a shill.  Remember, good marketing requires that you care, and if you can’t do that, then do everybody a favor and just stay on Facebook.

Rachel Ruebens Snapchat Pic

apps, Book Promotion, Marketing, writing

Chatbots: How Authors Are Using Them For Marketing And More!

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Image via Pixabay

In the past three years, a new type of book marketing has emerged using internet bots which has indie authors buzzing.  Now bots have been around for years, but they were only available to those who understood coding or had deep pockets to hire someone else who did.   Today,  I want to explain the possibilities as well as the pitfalls of this new marketing tool.  But before we move on, let me explain what a bot is…

According to Techopedia, an internet bot is piece of software that is programmed to do automated tasks on the internet. This can include things like; answering questions, collecting data, selling products, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.  In an article from the Atlantic, it was estimated that more than half of all internet traffic now consists of bots.  So you’ve most likely encounter one either on social media or at a major retailer’s site.  Internet bots can be a life saver for small businesses, because they save both time and money.  Imagine having a bot greet a person who just signed up for your email list right on your website, or who answers questions on social media.  Now let’s take it a step further, image a bot conducting a giveaway or doing deep research on your behalf.  Neat, huh?  Well that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this type of technology.

The Publishing Industry Is Already Onboard

Last year, Harper Collins launched its own Epicreads chatbot for teens on  Facebook Messenger, they also have another bot called, Book Genie both bots offer book suggestions to readers.

 

Epic Reads Bot
Epic Reads Chatbot

 

The traditional publishers aren’t the only ones getting onboard with social media bots, indie author Nick Stephenson, has a bot of his own on Messenger as well.  His bot alerts you to new articles and free video training.

On the Self-Publishing Formula podcast, host James Blatch spoke with indie author Kerry Gardiner, who gave examples of how authors are using bots in order to;

  • Build up their email lists
  • Increase their social media following
  • Ask for reviews
  • Create choose your adventures for readers

She has a bot of her own which she created for her website called, BookBotBob.  On the site readers choose whether they want a free or discounted book.  Once the choice is made, the bot eventually moves the conversation over to Facebook Messenger.

Kerrys Book Bot
BookBotBob Chatbot

Kerry also has a course in which she teaches indie authors the in’s and out’s of creating a bot for Messenger.  (Not affiliated.)

The Pitfalls of Automating Your Marketing: A Warning

There are numerous stories of people who have used bots to automate their marketing and failed miserably.  The results include situations where bots spouted inappropriate gibberish at random people, to bots that got social media accounts deactivated for violating terms of service.  Remember, before creating your bot for a social media site learn about the rules because bots need to be approved before they can deployed on any site.  For example, did you know that on Facebook Messenger, promotional content is allowed for standard messaging but not allowed for subscription messaging?  Strange, huh?  To learn more, check out more about Facebook’s rules and regulations for developers here.

How To Create Your Own DIY Bot

Believe it or not, it’s not that hard to learn how to create a bot, because these days you don’t even have to know how to code to do it.  There are several services also that will allow you to create a basic bot for free (restrictions apply).  The service that lots indie authors are going gaga over is ManyChat because it’s a free site and easy to use.

Here are just a small list of resources which can help you to design your own bot:

If You’re Not Technically Inclined

If you aren’t technically gifted, you can always find someone to do the job for you.  Below, I’ve list several websites where you can find a freelance chatbot developer.

Final Thoughts

Marketing experts believe that bots are here to stay but there are others who believe that AI devices like voice assistants are the future, and will make bots obsolete very soon.  Personally, I can’t say what the future holds but if bots can help make our lives easier now then why not use them?  They are much cheaper than hiring an assistant and they don’t need rest nor do they give you (the boss), attitude.  If you’re an overwhelmed author who can’t find the time for things like social media or email marketing then bots may be the answer for you.

 

 

apps, Publishing, writing

Should Indie Authors Bother With Chat Fiction?

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Image via Pixabay

Last year, I came upon a newish trend in fiction and that was chat fiction.  For those of you who aren’t hip to what teens are up to, chat fiction is basically storytelling presented as chat messages.  Chat fiction has caught the attention of Wattpad, as well Amazon, who have invested in this new form of storytelling.  In fact, some of these companies are actively looking to commission work in order to help populate their catalogs.  I’ll get to that later, but first, let me answer the question why?

Why Are Teens Reading Books On Their Phones?

To understand this trend or evolution in storytelling, you have to understand why teens are reading these stories on their phones and not on a laptop, or an ereader like a Kindle.  According to a 2013, Pew Research Center report 74% of teens aged 12 to 17, accessed the internet on phones and tablets.  Many also reported that they often share a computer with a family member like a parent or sibling.  This means that their phones are a personal item they own and don’t have to share.  Also, most phones can access the home wi-fi network, so bills won’t be too high.

Whose Idea Was This Anyway?

Chat fiction is a spin-off of cellphone fiction that became popular in Japan during the early 2000’s.  Called keitai shousetsu, meaning cellphone novel, this form of storytelling became a phenomenon among middle grade teens and commuters in Japan.  Several Japanese authors became very popular by writing poetry, as well as short, serialized stories that people, mainly teens, read on their phones.  The most popular cellphone stories were picked up by traditional publishers in Japan, or made into movies, and even anime.

Fast forward to 2012, a tech entrepreneur is on a sabbatical after selling her company, and as you can imagine, she’s writing a book.  While writing her YA novel, she has serious doubts as to whether it would resonate with teens and questioned whether kids even read books anymore.  So she and her husband did several experiments and learned that teens would read books but only if they were short and intense.  We’re talking just a few minutes or less than 1,000 words.  So this author had an idea to create stories that kids could read on their cellphones however, unlike keitai shousetsu, these stories would take the form of chat messages.  The app she created was called, Hooked and became popular in both the iTunes and Google Play stores.  This caught the attention of big companies like Wattpad, who created their own chat fiction app called, Tap and Amazon, not wanting to be left out of the party, created Amazon Rapids.

The most popular chat fiction apps include:

Good News: Hooked Will Actually Pay Authors

Hooked is currently looking for authors who can deliver an interactive experience for their readers.  That means choose your own adventure type stories as well short, fast paced stories.  However, this must all be written in a chat like format, so this will be a challenge for any author.  But if you’re up to it, here are some tips when submitting:

  • Must be familiar with smart phones particularly, chat features
  • You need to be able to write short fiction, as in three minutes short or under 1,000 words.
  • Though places like Hooked, accept multiple genres like sci-fi, they say horror and thrillers do best on their site.
  • The compensation isn’t a change your life type of pay but better than the nothing that the rest of the other apps seem to offer.

Stats About Hooked’s Users

  • 69% of users are between the ages of 18-24.
  • More than half of their users are female.
  • The majority of stories on Hooked are user generated but the most popular ones are from commissioned works.

 

Hooked Story 1
Sound of the Century from Hooked (Click on the pic to see the rest on Instagram)

 

Yarn is also considering paying writers somewhere down the road but as of this posting has yet to launch that project.

In Conclusion…

Is chat fiction a fad?  Who knows, many people thought online fan fiction was a fad but that’s still going strong since 1998.  Only time will tell if young people will continue reading on their phones.  Although I doubt it, like with most technology, phones will continue to evolve and if you know anything about young people, you know things that are cool now, quickly become obscure.  In the mean time, if you’re targeting middle graders or teens and aren’t having a lot of success reaching them, this might be a potential tool for you.