Book Promotion, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media, Writing Business

How To Handle Online Trolling & Harassment: Author Edition Part 2

Image by StockSnaps via Pixabay

Yesterday, I discussed reputation monitoring but today, I’m moving on to reputation management.  In this post, I’ll give you the tools to go on the offense if you find you’re being target by an individual or group looking to harm your business.  This post goes a little beyond social media and deals with general online harassment but I still believe it’s something authors need to know.  I hope these posts will empower you to take control of your online image and grow your publishing business with confidence.  

P.S. I am in no way affiliated with the products and services mentioned in this post.

Reputation Management

Did you know that there is an entire industry built around managing online reputations?  There are quite a few services that work with individuals to help them either deal with a crisis or monitor the internet for any negative press.

Unlike reputation monitoring, a reputation management service influences and controls a person’s or business’ public identity.  They scan the internet using special software or just use Google, then start a campaign against anything that can be considered damaging to their clients.  For example, actor Charlie Sheen, allegedly paid a fixer (A PR manager who specializes in crisis management), to scour the internet for anything that pertained to him having HIV years before his public confession in 2015.  Later on I’ll discuss some services that can help you with an online crisis but right now let’s explore the dark side of the internet.             

Worst Case Scenario: You’re Being Attacked

Okay, let’s pretend that someone is actively campaigning to make your life hell, what can you do about it?  Well let’s figure out how bad things on the internet can get first:   

#1: Doxxing (Info Dumping)

This includes publically announcing anything such as bank account, social security (e.g. national identity numbers), and credit card numbers.  If you find that your personal information is being shared online there are ways to get it taken down by contacting the owner of a given site and request they remove the info.  If your info is dumped on social media you can report the post or contact the site directly and request it be removed. Most will comply since they don’t want to face any lawsuits nor do they want their website’s rank to be demoted in the search engines.  If this is a website and there is no contact information you may have to resort to contacting the hosting company of the website.  You do that by Googling the words: WHOIS and the website’s URL.  If you can’t find the name of the owner, you will most likely find the host company.  Feel free to shoot off an email to them requesting the removal of the content.

Now let’s say you’ve completed these steps and the information is still appearing in search results, even days after the content was taken down.  Did you know you can request that companies such as Google and Bing take it down from their search engine?  Below is a list on where to find that information:  

*More Useful Tips*

Information like your address, phone number, and names of your family members are freely available online on sites such as; FamilyTreeNow.com as well as Spokeo and the search engines like Google and Bing can do very little about that.  Data is a big business and many times it’s being scraped by various corporations you’re doing business with such as credit card companies, social media sites, and retailers so it’s nearly impossible to remove those things completely from the internet.  If you really want to find out how much of your data is floating around in cyberspace just Google your name as well as your city then see what pops up.  Fortunately, most sites allow you to request the removal of information but you do have to contact them directly or fill out forms. 

If you don’t want to spend time doing all that, there are services like DeleteMe, and OneRep that will go to these sites and fill out all the paperwork for you, however, they do charge a fee.  Also, keep in mind, they can’t rid the internet 100% of your data.  

Now that’s just the tip of the iceberg once your information is out there, you are at risk of identity theft.  There are companies that will monitor your social security number and monitor your credit line for a fee such as LifeLock or IdentityForce and they will even provide you with legal consultation if your personal information is ever compromised. 

 

#2:  Harassment

Harassment can include such things as ordering 100 pizzas in your name and sending it to your house or someone making insulting or inappropriate comments.  However, that’s small stuff, because cyberstalking is considered the most serious form of online harassment and it includes someone who is always making contact with you even despite your protest.  That means making comments on your social media posts even after you’ve blocked them.  (Lots of stalkers just create another account and proceed with their harassment.)  Stalking is considered serious because the harassment can wind up offline.  Case in point, several years ago, there was an author that admitted to stalking a book reviewer who gave an unfavorable review on Goodreads.

Important Tip: If you find online harassment going offline, you must document it and take that evidence and contact your local law enforcement in order to file a report.         

#3:  Reputation Damage

There have been many cases of people being defamed online and if someone is campaigning online to damage your reputation you may need to go on the offense and start countering the damage.  You can use the internet the same way a troll does by drowning out their content with your own by doing interviews on blogs, podcasts and even do guest posts for major websites.  Sounds an awful lot like marketing, doesn’t it?  Anyway, this won’t cost you any money but it does cost time.  However, if you are too busy and don’t have time, you can hire a service to do this for you.  Like celebrities, you can hire a firm to wage war against the reputation damage.  It’s costly, which is why many people don’t bother with it but if you’re determined to fight, there are services like ReputationDefender and BrandYourself that will help by posting positive articles and even build websites that will help you reclaim your reputation online.    

#4:  Hacking Websites, Social Media & Email Accounts

It’s not rare to hear of a celebrity’s phone or social media accounts being hacked.  Most of the time these types of hackings include posting gibberish or pornographic material to the victim’s account, it’s rarely personal.  In fact, the terrorist organization ISIS (ISOL) was targeted in 2016, by the hacker group Anonymous, who posted gay pride images on the terrorists’ Twitter accounts.  They (Anonymous) are also engaging in information doxxing by collecting financial records of terror groups and giving them to various governments around the world.  This is a clear example that no one is safe from hacking not even terrorists.        

So how do you protect yourself from a hacker?  Well having a strong password is a start, which means a password that includes numbers, symbols as well as upper and lowercase letters.  For example, it’s a bad idea to use your initials and address because that’s too obvious, that information can be found online as I said before.  However, something like your nickname, plus your kid’s school bus number, and a random symbol make for a pretty strong password.  Even short phrases like: ItIsWhatItIs2019$ is stronger than your pet’s name and address.    

Also, don’t forget to change your passwords often because when you’re under attack, security should be your first priority.

A Balanced View

I hope this post empowered you to pursue social media without fear, after all, there are over 3 billion people using social media worldwide. This is expected to grow as the internet becomes globally accessible.  And as more people use social media, the drama will become more common but we authors don’t have to be sucked into the dysfunction. We can handle ourselves with confidence even when the waters of social media are churning all around us.  I hope you never have to use any of this advice or experience any of the scenarios I discussed but if you do, you now have the tools to fight back and take control of your online reputation.      

 

Book Promotion, Marketing, Social Media, Writing Business

How To Handle Online Trolling & Harassment: Author Edition

Image by Geralt via Pixabay

This post is based on a chapter in my latest book: Social Media Hacks: What The Other Authors Already Know. I plan on discussing this book and more with author Marsha Casper Cook, on her podcast: Michigan Avenue Media – World of Ink, Tuesday, May 7th, at 4 p.m. (EST). Join us and learn the real deal about marketing books on social media.  

It’s a sad fact but according to a 2017 survey taken by the Pew Institute, 41% of U.S. adults claim to have been victims of online harassment. Respondents also said the most common forum for it to take place is on social media.  Case in point, in June of 2015, E.L. James, author of the bestselling novel 50 Shades of Grey, held a Twitter Q&A session where she received an avalanche of verbal abuse.  Surprisingly, several of the disparaging comments didn’t just come from random trolls but from those within the publishing industry!              

Though a few authors did come to James’ aid, it did little to slow down the insults and vitriol.  In fact, this Twitter Q&A was such a disaster that it made the news!  Media outlets such as; USA Today, Time Magazine and Us Magazine all covered the Twitter fiasco.        

So How Do You Prevent A Disaster Like This?

Sadly, there is no way to prevent trolling 100% but there are ways to be prepared in the event that anyone wants to hijack your online events.  One tip an author shared with me was to invite your family and friends to your online events just so that there is at least one friendly face in the crowd.  Also, an important fact to remember is that trolls generally attack in groups and responding to their comments just keeps the altercation going indefinitely.  That’s why you always hear the advice, “Don’t feed the trolls” all over the internet.  Now would this have helped in E.L. James’ case?  Probably not, but her situation was very different.  E.L. James is an international star as well as a controversial figure in the publishing industry.  This type of individual will always attract trolls.   

The Why Behind It All: The Psychology of a Troll

Most trolls are trolling because of their ego, while some trolls are part of a greater trolling community and are encouraged to do as much damage as possible.  Trolling can include anything from lies, insults, and even humiliation.          

Internet trolls were the focus of an article in Psychology Today where a Canadian study focused on profiling internet trolls.  It was discovered by scientists that people who troll are generally sadists that enjoyed making others suffer.  The study also implied that many trolls fell within the; Machiavellian, narcissist and psychopathic range.  So there’s a wide spectrum of trolls who lie, insult or actively try to do damage to random people they find on the internet.               

 

Who’s At Risk?

As I revealed earlier, 41% of U.S. internet users reported having experienced online harassment.  The main forms of harassment include things like; name-calling, intentional humiliation, stalking, and threats.  The biggest groups to experience online harassment are young people 18-29 years at 67%.  Men are more twice more likely to experience general harassment while 53% of young women (18 – 29) reported being sexually harassed.  Another interesting thing to note is that half of the participants of the survey claimed they didn’t even know the person harassing them.  So this isn’t personal, at least not for the troll.                   

What To Do If You’re In the Crosshairs     

If you are the target of trolling on social media there are several ways to deal with it.  For example Facebook, Instagram and Youtube allow you to moderate the comments of a post.  If someone is sending you direct messages privately, you can report those as well.  The good news is that almost all of the major social media sites allow you to block an individual completely so don’t be afraid to use any of these features if you need to.   

But what if you’re facing a more organized attack?  What if you have several people trying to get your social media accounts banned or taken down?  Like it or not, this is a popular method of trolling where multiple people will repeatedly report an account or page.  They’ll falsely report that a page or group is posting offensive material or is even linked to terrorism!  The most popular accounts on social media have had this issue at one point or another.  Sadly, it can take days or weeks to get the account back after an investigation.  If you find that the trolling is too intense, you may want to step back and set your account or page to private on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter until the smoke settles.           

Going on the Offense

If you’re truly afraid of stalking, and trolling the wisest thing to do is to pick a pen name.  Many online writers do it to protect their privacy as well as their egos from the insanity of the internet.  It creates a mental barrier from the praise as well as criticism that some authors find intrusive.     

To take things a step further, and remain anonymous to even agents and editors is to create a company and sell your intellectual properties (books) to publishers through it.  Some of the really crafty authors go further and hire a trust company then, put all their assets into the trust for further anonymity so that nothing can be traced, not even their copyright registration.                

Monitoring Your Reputation

Even if you manage to remain anonymous you are still responsible for maintaining your image especially, since you’re considered a brand.   There are a lot of tools available to you to monitor what’s being written about you online.  I don’t recommend it to people who are sensitive or highly anxious.  However, if you’re a masochist like me and are curious enough to brave the unknown you can gain insight into what readers really think about your work.      

Free Tools

To Respond or Not To Respond?

So what happens when you find something like a negative review or a scathing article?  Do you defend yourself or walk away?  Believe it or not, most situations don’t require a response.  If someone is just saying mean things then, it’s best to let it go.   However, if someone is spreading lies and making untrue allegations which is considered libel language or even slander under the law, then you may have to act.  That could mean anything from sending a cease and desist letter or even an email demanding corrections or retractions be made. Just remember to keep the tone professional and not whiny or childish.    

Now before you start writing emails to all your haters (reviewers) just remember that they are allowed to have their opinions about your book.  They are allowed to hate the book, heck, they’re even allowed to hate you!  Just because they don’t like your work that doesn’t make them tacky or stupid, it just means they don’t like your book.

Wrapping it Up   

Okay, I know that was a lot but tomorrow, I’m going further into this topic and give you tips on how to defend yourself from online abuse and harassment. Trust me, it’s not what you think, there are ways you can manage your online reputation like a pro and they don’t include you giving up all human interaction.   

Book Promotion, Business, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing, writing, Writing Business

The Struggles Of Promoting & Publishing Erotica

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Pic via Pixabay

Ask any author who writes erotica and they will tell you that publishing and promoting can be tricky these days.  Case in point, on December 3rd, Tumblr, announced they would no longer allow pornographic content after several reports of child pornography on their site. This scandal caused Apple to ban Tumblr from their Apple app store. In response, Tumblr banned pornography and during their announcement, they said they would only allow certain forms of adult content such as erotica stories. However, as Tumblr deployed their new anti-porn bots, several innocent people got caught up in the net when their content was incorrectly labeled pornography.  If that weren’t enough, Youtube, has also long been accused of restricting LGBT vlogs and even demonetizing them.  So it’s reasonable to assume that anything with sexual content can be banned on social media.  If you write and publish erotica, or even steamy romance, this can be troubling not to mention, annoying as hell.

Unfortunately this isn’t anything new, most authors in these genres will tell you stories of petty people who report their content and even try to get them banned from sites.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes in our Facebook group when a religious author, let’s call her Petty LaBelle, for anonymity purposes (I don’t want her reporting me after all!).  Anyway, Petty LaBelle kept reporting this erotic author’s posts whenever she saw them in our group.  P.S. I was the admin, so every week for about a month, I would see this lady’s report in my inbox.  In the ten years of this page’s existence we never had an issue like this before.  To make a long story short, we reached out to the author of the erotic novel and apologized then, later featured him on our podcast.  It was also explained to Petty LaBelle, that erotica was allowed on the page and she needed to chill out with all the snitching.

Why Is Social Media Clamping Down On Adult Content?

For those of you who have been living under a rock, this past year has been pretty tough for social media.  From data breaches, hackings and scandals, none of the major social media sites have gone unscathed from the criticism of consumer groups and even world governments.  In fact, sites like Twitter and Instagram, are scrambling to clean up their platforms due to a law that passed in the U.S. called FOSTA/SESTA, which is a law that is intended to curb online sex trafficking by punishing websites who foster or are found complicit in sex trafficking.  This law has sent social media and most of the internet in a tizzy.  It also explains why some social media sites have gone to extremes and are now banning accounts as well as any posts that have adult content and not necessarily, those that are violating any sex trafficking laws.

How Do You Stay On The Right Side Of Social Media?

The most obvious way of staying in the good graces of any social media site is to not violate their community guidelines or terms of service.  If you are actively promoting erotica novels or adult products you might was to reacquaint yourself with the rules because they have most likely changed in the past few months.  Here are the community guidelines for the top social media sites:

Tip: It would be extremely helpful if all authors would learn about marketing on their chosen social media site.  Many of the major sites offer free courses that help guide you through the process from advertising to promoting, I blogged about it last year in a post called: Why Authors Need To Learn Social Media: The New Reality there, I list a lot of free resources.

Remember The Time Amazon Was Caught Deranking Erotica?

Last spring, several authors woke up to find that their books had been delisted or recategorized courtesy of Amazon.  Many of these authors were romance and erotica authors who were stunned by the sudden and quiet reshuffling of their books.  Authors claimed that their books were relegated to a separate list away from the rest of the population regardless of how well the book was selling.  Amazon however, claims mistakes were made and rectified it but it goes to show you how erotica is being treated these days.

Is There A Safe Place For Erotica Writers To Promote Their Work?

There are safe areas online for authors to promote their erotic literature and steamy romances without being harassed.  There are newsletters and blogs that still welcome erotica authors with open arms.  The best tip to finding these communities is to find an erotica author that you like and stalk them online.  Research where they’re being interviewed or where their books are being reviewed and hit those places up.  Below, I’ve compiled a small list of places where erotica authors and their books are welcomed:

Passionate Ink

Passionate Ink is a chapter of the Romance Writers of America, and they have a newsletter as well as a website you can check out that’s free but if you want to take workshops and go to conferences, you’ll have to pay membership dues of $35/yr.

Harelquin Junkie

A romance site that welcomes erotica and reviews books, holds live chats, and even offers guest posts as well as author features.  They have a thriving community of book worms that love to speak their minds, so it’s worth giving them a look.

The Erotic Book Review

This site offers reviews, features as well as articles on relationships and sex.

Under The Covers Book Blog

Under The Covers Book Blog offers traditional book reviews as well as author features, release calendars (where they announce publication of a given book), and Youtube book hauls for their readers.

All of the sites I mentioned also offer advertising which leads me to my next point…

Where To Advertise Erotica?

Fortunately for erotica authors there are still plenty of places that will accept their money below, I list just a few of the major discount book newsletters:

Have A Seat, I’m About To Preach

I’ve said this several times on this blog, but I’ll say it again: You have to find book bloggers, influencers as well as book communities and support them.  If someone takes the time to review your book or send you a kind word, you need to remember those people and help them out when you can.  Offer to reciprocate any favors and most importantly, keep these people in your network.  You don’t need social media or Amazon for that!  As time goes on, promotion won’t feel like such a chore and you won’t have to keep starting over with each book launch.  Anyway, I hope I this post helps a few of you out there that are overwhelmed by all the drama that the internet is giving you.  If you know of any tips that could help authors who publish and promote erotica, let us know in the comments section.

Advertising, Book Promotion, Business, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing

Advertising Options For Self-Published Books

Bare Organics (1)

 

Recently, a friend of mine asked me where was the best place to advertise her book?  At first I had no answer, sure I had written a blog post years ago called, ‘Cheap Advertising For Indie Authors’ but that was outdated.  And to be honest, most of the places I once advertised at are now defunct like, Pixel of Ink, whereas places like Fussy Librarian, have changed their rules because of what has been dubbed, The Amazon Purge.  We all know about BookBub, but not everybody can afford that, so where are the best places to advertise now?  I decided to go on a mission and find out.

Before I go on, I have to give the obvious disclaimer:  Advertising of any kind isn’t going to guarantee book sales.  In fact, I met an author whose book sales went down while doing a BookBub ad, imagine that!  Also, I am not affiliated with any of the sites or services mentioned.

Trends In Book Advertising: Social Media & Amazon Ads

Thriller writer Mark Dawson, started a Facebook advertising course that was very popular among indie authors looking for a cheaper alternative to BookBub.  However, not all authors saw success, for example, YA and children’s authors didn’t seem to get the results that romance authors do.

Then a year later, Amazon ads became hot and this made more sense.  Instead of luring people to Amazon from Facebook, why not advertise to people already on Amazon?  Chances are they’re at Amazon to buy something so why not entice them with a book?  Indie author Brian Meeks, created a course on Teachable for those looking to master Amazon ads, it has a $500 price tag but if you can’t afford that, he also has a book available on Amazon for $9.99 here.

If you’re not sure which one you want to try, Amazon has weekly free webinars for beginners and Facebook has courses that are also, 100% free. Also, Dave Chesson, of Kindlepreneur has a free course on Amazon ads.

The Obvious Problem:

The biggest barrier for most authors is the learning curve, it requires authors to study copywriting, keywords and graphic design.  Not all authors are capable or willing to learn these things.  Many indie authors work 9 to 5 jobs or have personal obligations and this is just another hurdle in the publishing world.  That’s where discount newsletters like BookBub become a Godsend.  You just give them the money, and they handle the rest but as I said previously, not everyone can afford it.

Alternatives To BookBub: Those ‘Other’ Discount Book Sites

Believe it or not, BookBub is not the only discount newsletter geared towards readers.  There are others and though, many of them don’t have the reach of BookBub (which has 3.4 million subscribers in crime fiction alone) they are cheaper and some of them reach hundreds of thousands of readers.  Like BookBub, many of them charge according to the popularity of the genre as well as the type of ad such Deal of the Day type of ad or a simple slot in the newsletter.

Below I only listed those that feature book sales and not freebies sites:

  • Kindle Books & Tips: Reaches 600,000 people on their two apps and 150,000 on their email list, social media and blog, they cost around $25 – $125.

 

  • Book Gorilla: Reaches 350,000 followers over a range of platform such as apps, social media as well as email and costs around $40 – $50.

 

 

  • Ereader News Today: Has 200,000 subscribers as well as 500,000 Facebook followers and costs around $40 – $150.

 

  • Robin Reads: They have around 194,000 members and cost around $45 – $85.

 

 

  • Bargain Booksy: Reaches 150,000 people through all their channels and costs around $40 – $200.

 

  • Book Sends: Has 120,000 subscribers and costs around $20 – $125.

 

 

  • Read Cheaply: Has 70,000 engaged newsletter subscribers over 23 genres.

 

  • EreaderIQ: Has around 47,000 email subscribers and cost around $10 – $40.

 

  • Book Barbarian: Has 54,000 hardcore sci-fi & fantasy subscribers to their daily newsletter as well as 19,000 Facebook fans and costs around  $30 – $50.

 

  • Book Runes: Has 30,000 active readers and costs $25, they also do combo promos with Booksends.

 

  • EbookSoda: Has 22,000 subscribers and 40,000 Twitter as well as 12,000 Facebook followers.  Their prices range from $9 – $20.

 

A Tip For A Stress Free Experience

The first thing I would recommend an author do before putting down any money is to read the rules of these sites carefully.  Several of them have requirements regarding; reviews, covers, and pricing.  Also, some of them offer refunds while others do not, so author beware.  The author I mentioned earlier, said he got a partial refund from BookBub but isn’t allowed to discuss the details.  Go figure.

Now there you have it, updated advertising options, if you know of any more sites that I  should check out, please let me know in the comment section.

 

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:

 

Screenshot_2018-05-17-03-41-34
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.

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.