writing

Content Creation For Indie Authors: Answering The Question: What Do I Say?

 

Content Creation For Indie Authors
Image via Pixabay

When it comes to book marketing many authors approach the subject with dread.  They just don’t know where to start and I understand, it’s hard to write books and be a marketer.  Effective marketing requires not only grabbing a reader’s attention but keeping it as well.  I broached this subject last year in my post:  How to Communicate with Readers but today, I hope to go more in depth.

Despite what you may think, you don’t have to put yourself on display like a celebrity in order to maintain a following.  You don’t have to post selfies, or pet photos to keep your readers engaged on social media. You also don’t have to divulge deep, dark secrets with your email subscribers.  In this post I want to present some old school methods used by publishers as well as newer techniques which hopefully, will give you ideas on how to keep your readers engaged through smarter marketing.  Hopefully, you will find ideas for your social media posts, or email newsletters.   Now keep in mind, some of these techniques are free while others are not.

So let’s get started…

Idea #1: Make a Game

Did you know that you can create games and puzzles for your readers based on your book?  There are several websites that allow you to make games like; crossword puzzles, word scramble, jigsaw puzzles, and even sudoku.  You could even create a crossword puzzle for a contest, and announce the winner within the puzzle!  Your imagination is the only limit here.  If you’re interested, here is a list of websites to check out:

I personally created a crossword puzzle for this post on ProProfs Brain Games, just click on the image to check it out:

Crossword Puzzle For WBTSOMP

 

Idea #2: Create an Infographic

A few years ago, infographics were all the rage and were used primarily to convey complex ideas in a visual format.  But over the years, I’ve seen books broken down into infographics such as Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen and even Harry Potter.  You can even make a funny character chart for readers, it all depends on you.

Course Hero InfographicImage via Course Hero

Here are a few free sites that allow you to create infographics:

Idea #3: Do A Top Ten List

If you’re a romance novelist, you could create a list of the hottest lead characters in the Regency period and encourage readers to contribute.  If you’re writing a historical, that takes place during the Civil War, you can create a list of the biggest battles fought during that war and casually mention that your book takes place during one of those battles.

Idea #4: Do Character Interviews

Since time beyond remembering, the publishing industry always has liked to insert author interviews at the back of a book.  However, if you don’t feel comfortable being interviewed, use one of your characters to do all the talking.

Idea #5: Make A Meme

Memes have become a part of social media for years and you could easily use one to promote your book.  Here’s one I created years ago with the help of a friend and author Karen Vaughan.

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If you’re interested, here are a few places to check out:

Wrapping it Up:

Well I hope this gives you a few ideas when it comes to content creation as well as book marketing.  I also hope that you learned a few things, as in why it’s so important to make marketing fun.  You know the saying, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” The same goes for marketing, if it’s not fun for you, it’s probably not gonna be all that fun for your readers either.

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apps, Book Promotion, Marketing, writing

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

instagram_4aefca2317
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.

writing

Instagram For Authors Part 2

Instagram for Authors Me 2

In my last post. I talked about Instagram and how authors can use it to build a social media following as well as what type of content to post.  Today, I’m going into the specifics on how to use Instagram to promote a book.  I’m also going to give a few ideas on when to post as well as how to maximize your time spent there so that you don’t spend all day posting pretty pictures.  So without further ado…

A Free Feature Authors Can Use For Book Promotion:

Instagram recently released a new feature (copying SnapChat) called, Instagram Stories where you can post a series of pictures, or videos for 24 hours.  Why would somebody want to do that?  It’s to create a sense of urgency and trigger the impulse mechanism within a human brain which can be ideal for things like:

  • A presale
  • A limited sale
  • A book giveaway
  • Or even a contest

The images or videos appear as a slideshow and you can post throughout the day. The only drawback is, there’s no ability to interact with your followers because there are no comments or likes for these kinds of posts.  If you’re interested, here’s a post from Instagram’s own blog which goes into further detail.

Instagram Carousel

Last year, Instagram launched a feature of slide shows posts called Carousel where users can load up to 10 photos or videos to one single post just like the Stories feature but without the time limit.  Like the Stories feature, users can spread their posts out over a period of a day or several weeks building up to a big sale or your even the release of your next book.  It’s all up to you.

Here are more ways authors can use Instagram’s Carousel feature:

  • Post a set of teasers from your work
  • Reveal a book cover
  • Announce a book release
  • Have a book sale
  • Hold a giveaway
  • Host contests
  • Post a series of book trailers

A refreshing example of an author using the carousel feature wisely is author Krystal Sutherland, who used it to display her book covers in various languages.  Also, blogger Ana Hoffman, took the feature and used her pics to introduce herself, as well as her work to her followers.  These two ladies knocked it out of the park.

Instagram Polling Stickers

One big complaint that many users had about Instagram was it’s very basic features.  I mean, there really wasn’t much you could do to engage your followers outside of responding to comments. So in response, Instagram recently introduced polling again, copying SnapChat’s Polly service.

Ways authors can use polling:  

  • Ask about questions about pricing for example: Is $5.99 too much for an ebook?
  • Opinions on book covers.
  • Thoughts on book titles.
  • Ask about various characters for example: Do you think Character A deserves his own book? Should Character B get the ax?

This feature can be very helpful to authors wanting to mine data from their followers.  And the good thing is, people love to give their opinions so it’s not considered intrusive.

Scheduling Used To Be A Complicated Business On Instagram

Sadly, Instagram didn’t allow third party apps to post to their site until this past year.  I have to admit, I do make it a point to preschedule things just so my account doesn’t lie dormant for months at a time while I write my next book. However, I only use the services approved by Instagram, I’ll list those later on.

Before I do that, I’ll discuss why authors should consider scheduling apps.  During a book launch, you might be asked to do interviews or even write a guest post on a popular blog.  Most hosts would appreciate it, if they don’t require an author to promote the project on their own social media sites.  Now I know that sounds like common sense but you’ll be surprised at how few authors actually do this.  It’s not because of ego or the fear of marketing but usually because during a book launch, authors are busy or just plain nervous.  Nonetheless, this can be seen as rude or unprofessional by those trying to help promote us and our work.

What can scheduling/ reminder apps help authors promote or remember?

  • Book signing dates
  • Radio or television interviews
  • Online or offline book tours
  • Holiday posts: Wish your followers a Happy New Year or World Book Day. Yes, that’s a real holiday.
  • Post while on vacation or even while sick.

Many authors use these scheduling apps for pretty much all their social media accounts, though I don’t recommend relying solely on these apps to post, I do believe they can be aides in helping keep authors organized.

The more popular scheduling/ reminder apps are: 

There you have it, more tips and ideas for authors who want to use Instagram for their book marketing.  If you have anymore tips, please let me know in the comments section.

 

writing

Instagram For Authors Part 1

Instagram for Authors Part 1
Image via Pixabay

Instagram, is one of the fastest growing social media sites in the world with over 800 million monthly users.  With a user base that is between the ages of 18 and 29, it’s globally the most popular social media site beating Facebook and Twitter for online engagement.  I’ll admit when I think of Instagram, I image teen girls posting those duck face selfies or foodies, posting pictures of every crumb that touches their plate.  So I really didn’t believe that Instagram had anything to offer me, or any author for that matter.  I mean, I’m a writer and writers write, they don’t do pictures let alone, video.  However over the past several years, I’ve been seeing the trends in social media go from long form text to short visual posts.

Don’t believe me?  This past year, Facebook began letting their users choose to frame their text posts within bright eye-catching backgrounds.  This is mainly because their algorithms favor images and video over text which has left a lot of people complaining about reach.  So this was Facebook’s answer to the problem…

Rachels Happy Halloween on FB

Corny, right?  It’s no secret that visual media works better than plain text, it’s one of the reasons why Facebook purchased Instagram back in 2012.  It’s also the reason why the most popular and fastest growing social media sites are the ones with richer content like pictures and video.

So using my brand new Instagram account, I went to work and started studying how authors and readers use the site successfully.

Okay, So What Do Authors Post About?

At a place like Instagram, a long form post is not very practical. The content you share on Facebook or Twitter is most likely not going to work here.  You need to tell a story with your posts which shouldn’t be too hard for an author.  Below, I’ve listed several examples of how authors are using Instagram to share their work and reach readers.

Ideas For Instagram Posts:  

  • Share quotes (usually short)
  • Include teasers from a WIP (work in progress)
  • Ask questions to followers. Here’s writer @macxlopes asking followers if they would even want to read his book if it were published.

View this post on Instagram

Time to embrace my fear… #walkingwithwords

A post shared by Mãcx £õpes (@macxlopes) on

  • Share behind the scenes peeks. For example, author Barbara Freethy posted a pic of her cat starring intently while she worked.
  • Post pics of book swag like this one from author K.S. Thomas.
  • Reveal new book covers via pic or video.
  • Upload book trailers.
  • Do a live video. Many authors and celebs use live videos to do live Q&As but you can also use live video to make announcements about publication dates.

Here’s a tip: If you have a text post you’d like to share on Instagram be sure it’s written on visually appealing pictures or backgrounds. There are many sites that offer free graphic design software like; Canva, Stencil and Crello.  These sites will provide backgrounds, and even resize your work according to the requirements of various social media sites.

Book Related Hashtags

After figuring out what to post, the second step on my journey was to find all the book and publishing related conversations.  To my surprise, it wasn’t hard to find readers and book reviewers.

  • #Books 24,140,100 people used this hashtag in their posts
  • #Bookstagram: 14,223,284 posts
  • #Bookworm: 8,347,983
  • #Reading: 14,298,588
  • #Writing: 7,730,884
  • #Author 3,612,412
  • #Ebook: 892,842
  • #Shelfi: 836,264
  • #Readers: 565,197
  • #ReadersOfInstagram: 394,919
  • *Bonus: #Bookstagrammer: 1,251,555 to help you find reviewers on Instagram.

Tip: There are several sites that track the most popular hashtags being used on Instagram like TagBlender, RiteTag and Hashtagify.me.

A List of Popular #Bookstagrammers:

I recommend just looking at these accounts to observe and learn about how Instagram functions.  Find an author in your genre and look in the comments section.  Engage and follow them, these people are your target audience.

More Word & Book Related Accounts:

There you have it, tips authors can actually use for their Instagram accounts.  Stay tuned for next time, because I’ll be sharing how to use Instagram for book promotion as well as sharing useful apps.

 

Advertising, Book Promotion, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Networking, Publishing, Social Media, writing

How To Market Your YA Book Part 2

Book Marketing
Image via Pixabay

A few years ago, I wrote about marketing a YA novel and since then lots of things have changed for one, there are more marketing avenues as well as many more pitfalls.  When I wrote that post in 2013, mobile phone usage was on the rise worldwide and tablets were new.  Fast forward 4 years and mobile phones are a necessity, while tablets are now being used by cats and infants.  I kid you not.

In this post I answer the questions, where are the young people and what do they want?  Also, I address some important trends that are revolutionizing the publishing industry.  So let’s get started…

More Media, More Problems

In the past few years, Facebook, has reigned as the undisputed king of social media with over two billion monthly users but it does have competition particularly, when it comes to reaching young people.  However Facebook tried to resolve that issue by purchasing two popular apps Instagram and What’s App.  Despite that, it’s still hard to find teens on Facebook itself, preferring; Instagram, Snapchat, Kik or Periscope, to the overpopulated, Facebook.  These newer platforms have a growing and active user base of 13-34 year olds, which has the attention of online marketers looking to reach Gen Y and Z.

Why do young people favor these sites you ask?  Because most of them have richer forms of content like video and gifs which are ideal for quick scrolling.  You know they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and this is especially true for short videos which dominate the feeds of most teens.  That means if you want to reach this demographic, you’ll have to use visuals like video and eye-catching images.

Short Is The New Long

The trends in publishing on both the adult and teen market is shorter, serialized books.   In fact, many online retailers have launched programs like; Kindle Singles, Kobo Exclusive Shorts and Nook Snaps which all feature short books.  Even bestselling author James Patterson, has begun focusing on shorter and cheaper works.  It seems those within the publishing industry have been watching indie authors closely.

Your Advertising Has To Be Different

Indie authors have been told to build a strong brand which is good advice but most teens say they don’t feel connected to any particular brand.  In fact, they say most brands don’t understand them at all and sadly, they’re right.  Gone are the days where you could just yell BOGO (Buy One Get One) and get someone’s attention.  Today, the question is can you contribute to the conversation teens are having or are you just trying to take it over?  The advice that most marketers give today is to make your ads look like native content which basically means that your ads shouldn’t look like ads at all.  Your advertising has to add to the conversation —their conversation.  So if your book can’t mesh with what teens are talking about, then it may not be as marketable as you think.

Young People Don’t Wish For Diversity, They Demand It

We live in a global society and this generation of children has grown accustomed to being exposed to different cultures and customs.  Gone are the days of living in a homogenized bubble, young people want to explore and learn, if you can provide these things, you stand to make a splash.  In 2014, the hashtag: #WeNeedMoreDiverseBooks became a movement when a Twitter discussion about the lack of diversity in the children’s genre went viral.  Several major publishers finally heard the cry and began publishing books with diverse worlds and characters.  Since then books like Listen, Slowly, by Thanhha Lai, and The Jumbies, by Tracey Baptiste, have rose to the top of the bestsellers list.

Social Media Influencers Are The New Celebs

Gone are the days where the radio or television executives chose the next big star today, algorithms and SEO determine who gets an audience and who won’t.  The party is online for teens and young adults, because the internet offers them a plethora of choices that traditional media just cannot.  Many of these choices are DIY Youtube channels and Snaps where regular people entertain, post tutorials and review products.  I talked about this in a previous article called: Booktube for Indie Authors which opened the eyes of a lot of authors who knew nothing about this subculture of book reviewers.  To the shock of many marketers, teens consider Youtubers legitimate celebrities right along the lines of Taylor Swift and Kylie Jenner.  This means that to teens, Booktubers are seen in the same league as the New York Times reviewers.

Young People Aren’t Difficult, They’re Different!

This paragraph may anger a few people but I have to tell it like it is.  Many older people fall into the same trap of previous generations who criticized or dismissed their youth and did so at their own peril.  When the World War II Generation ignored the Baby Boomers (think Vietnam), they in turn were ignored and marginalized later on in politics, and pop culture.  If you don’t try to understand this generation then everything they say and do will be foreign or scary.  You will miss out on modern culture and even risk losing an opportunity to make relationships which is the backbone of any marketing strategy.  So don’t run from them, do your best to understand them, who knows maybe they will take the time to listen to you as well?

writing

Awards For Indie Authors: The Truth

Awards for Indie Authors
Image via Pixabay

Not long ago, I was approached to judge an award contest but declined however, I noticed a few things odd about this particular contest as well as several others that are indie-centric.  I saw everything from hidden fees, to flat out pay to play type contests and wondered, why do they need to charge for this kind of thing?  I mean can’t these organizations get sponsors?

There are so many ways to raise money these days from starting a Kickstarter campaign to even setting up a Patreon account, so why are these organizations charging indie authors for these awards?  They mean absolutely nothing to the industry at large and do zilch but take money from authors.

The Actual Awards Themselves

Some companies are serious and hire a quality graphic designer to design their award.  However, there are others who don’t and use stock photos kind of like this one I found on Dreamstime. All you gotta do put some text to it and voila, an instant graphic you can slap on a book!

If it’s this cheap to get a graphic, then how about those hunks of glass that are physical representations of the contest?  I went online and found several awards that were eerily similar to some of the ones being given out to indie authors and discovered the prices for these hunks of glass can range anywhere from $10-$150+.

It Only Gets Worse…

There are some companies that hold actual award ceremonies which are held at convention centers or banquet halls where the ticket prices can range anywhere from $75 and up.  Now here’s my question, if an author is the guest of honor, then why aren’t they allowed in the building without paying a cover charge?

Why Are Authors Doing This?

It’s called social verification and it’s the oldest marketing trick in the book.  You see people (customers) think a product is more special if it has someone else’s seal of approval.  However in order for this to actually work, the endorsement has to be from a reputable source.

According to marketing experts awards can serve as a third party endorsement.  However, indie authors can also get this by securing reviews by prominent people in their industry and by getting a blurb from an author who’s popular in their genre.  And all this can be done for free.

The Harsh Truth

Although it’s been proven that awards can help a career, you need to score the right award.  Sadly to this day, many indie authors are excluded from most of the major awards within the publishing industry.  Not to say there aren’t any legitimate awards for self-published authors, there are, but many aren’t well known.  For example, there is no Nobel Prize or Newbery Medal for indie authors.  I believe this will inevitably change as the industry continues to evolve.

How It Really Works

In traditional publishing, a publisher or agent submits a novel to the proper agencies and if there are any fees involved, they pay it, not the author.  They do this because it’s in their own best interests if their authors have accolades from the publishing industry.  It reflects well on their business.

In self-publishing, it could be said that since you are the publisher that you ought to pay any fees associated with the award.  However, that creates a conflict of interest because if you win, your contemporaries can say that you paid for the honor.  So as you can see, there is no winning here.

Do Awards Sell More Books?

According to industry sources yes, but again, only if you win the right one.  Awards have been known to boost sales, through lengthening the shelf life of a book.  For example, winning a Pulitzer Prize can increase sales by 3 fold and keep a book on the charts for an extended period of time.

At The End Of The Day

There’s no doubt that entering award competitions are a personal choice.  It’s nice being honored but it’s not necessary, there are plenty of indie books that sold well that haven’t won any awards.  If bragging rights are important to you then this money will be well spent.  However, if you’re on a shoestring budget like most indies are, then this is just another way for people to separate an author from their money.