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.      

 

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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.

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

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

Why Authors Need To Learn Social Media: The New Reality

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Image via Pixabay

Lately it is becoming more and more common place for agents and publishers to assess an author’s platform before signing them.  That means they are looking for authors who can reach the readers they are targeting.  In fact at the Digital Book World Conference & Expo in 2017, representatives from Hachette and Perseus admitted they are checking out author platforms and social media engagement then reporting those findings at their acquisitions meetings.  Like it or not, publishers are using social media as a measuring stick so wouldn’t be nice if we could impress or at least pass the inspection?

While doing research for my upcoming book Social Media Hacks for Authors, I came across several resources, in the form of courses and tutorials that can help authors who struggle with social media.  And here’s the plus, many of these resources are available for free directly from the social media sites themselves!  I understand that many authors can’t afford the more expensive social media courses so I went on a mission to find the help we all need for free or at the very least, real cheap.

Below I list several resources and no, I’m not affiliated with any of the services or products mentioned.

Direct From The Horse’s Mouth

Did you know that Facebook has its own set of video tutorials that cover everything from advertising to analytics?  Twitter, also has a Skillshare video featuring their marketing manager Sandra Vega and you can view it for free.  Below I list the top 7 social media sites in the English speaking world.

General Social Media Courses

If you want to go further in your education there are several websites that will help you with your social media marketing.  The course topics range anywhere from content creation to targeted marketing.  Some of these are free while others have both free and paid options.

Tip:  Take advantage of the free material and later, if you feel like taking a more targeted course like Mark Dawson’s Advertising for Authors then go for it.

In Closing

Don’t be discouraged if you’re not an overnight sensation because building a following takes time nonetheless, you do have to start.  Gone are the days where social media was optional, today’s authors are expected to have an online presence no matter if they choose to go the traditional route or not.  Yes, this is more work but it is also a good thing because whether we choose to go traditional or not, our audience will follow us, not our publisher.  It’s this connection to your audience that is the key to a long-term career and isn’t that what we all want?

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 change.  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?

Beta Readers, Book Reviews, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing

Why Book Reviews Are Important: The Stats

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Image via Pixabay

Recently, there was an article in Publisher’s Weekly, which featured a literary agent giving his opinion on book reviews.  It was called, “Why Most Amazon Reader Reviews Are Worthless” and despite what the title implies, I agreed with some of his views.  In it, he talked about how publishers used to con their way on to the NY Times bestseller’s list by purchasing books at the outlets they knew the NY Times used to gauge their list.  He then compared it to today’s Amazon algorithm which favors quantity over quality and drives some desperate authors to purchase reviews.  Anyway, he’s right the system is corrupt and always has been but reviews still matter when it comes to online marketing.  Let me show you how…

Reviews Aren’t Important, They’re Vital!

Today’s consumer usually does their research before making a purchase and online reviews either motivate them to buy a product or walk away.  Reviews in fact help them learn about your book from people other than you.  According to a 2014 survey by Bright Local, consumers are 84% likely to trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation.

So how many reviews does it take to form a positive or negative opinion in the mind of the consumer?  According to the survey, after ten reviews 88% of customers have already formed an opinion of a product.  So good reviews are important, don’t let anybody tell you anything different.  In fact, I’ve seen several authors incorporating Amazon reviews onto their websites via widgets.  Another technique I noticed is authors building a sales page for their book and including reviews right after the blurb.  Bestselling indie authors Bella Andre has her reviews right under her blurb as does J.F. Penn.

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Image via WikiCommons

Faking It Until You Make It Or Social Proof?

It’s been said by some marketers that people are sheep and will follow a crowd and sadly it seems to be true in certain aspects.  An old trick used by new restaurants desperate for buzz, was to hire people to stand in line or sit at tables to make the place appear busy.  Even if an identical restaurant was across the street serving the same food, the one that appeared busy was always chosen by patrons.

The psychology behind social proof is the idea of social influence, people following the crowd in order to avoid ridicule or missing out.  And it’s not limited to restaurants, in October of 2016, talk show host Wendy Williams, admitted to hiring screaming teenagers to stand outside of her studio and sit in the audience for pop star Justin Bieber’s television debut (at the 18:10 mark).  She says, they did it to make him look like a big deal.  This practice is called astroturfing and it’s used by politicians, corporations and yes, even artists.

This type of thing isn’t exclusive to show business, there are authors over the years who have used smoke and mirrors to inflate their image. For example, it’s been alleged that sci-fi author and founder of Scientology, L.Ron Hubbard’s followers purchased his books by the dozens to make him appear like a big deal after his death in 1986.  By the way, this  kind of stuff is considered black hat (unethical) marketing but that doesn’t stop a lot of desperate people who need that fifteen minutes of fame.

Back To The Point…

The reason why celebrities and artists do this is because it works.  I don’t recommend you buy fake reviews and astroturf your Amazon page because with technology today, that can be easily detected.  However I do recommend that you try to get at least ten good reviews in the beginning.  I know of authors who passively solicit for reviews years after their book’s been published.  Imagine if you pitch ten reviewers per week and only half of them respond, you’ll still have five new reviews per week.  That adds up to 260 at the end of the year.  Also, don’t stop at Amazon, try to get good reviews on Goodreads, as well as any other major outlet your book is sold.

In Closing

I know we grew up thinking that books made it to the bestseller’s list based on merit and popularity but that’s not 100% true.  The missing piece to this equation is hard work and smart marketing, you don’t have to be sleazy and trick people into thinking your books are popular.  If you’re in this for the long haul and want a career in publishing, then time is on your side.  I believe people who focus on their fifteen minutes of fame are selling themselves short.  Most readers these days don’t care if a book was a NYT bestseller, that’s been proven, but what does matter is if you connect with readers through your work.  The readers matter the most, not the lists or awards because without our readers all those things are meaningless.  This is the biggest reason why genuine book reviews not only matter but are vital.

Blogging, Book Promotion, Marketing, Networking, Publishing, Social Media

Why Bother With A Platform? Hint: It’s Not About You!

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Image via Pixabay

When I first started out in 2007, many of the marketing gurus told writers that a website was optional.  Some of them were telling writers that Facebook or LinkedIn were more than enough for a web presence.  But a lot has happened since then and with social media sites charging for visibility, it’s nearly impossible to reach an audience organically.  Also, there’s the control issue, does a business owner (you) really want a middleman controlling when and if you have access to your readers?  So today the advice is to get people FROM social media on to your newsletter or website.

This doesn’t mean abandon social media completely, what they mean is have other avenues that you can rely on to get your message out there like podcasts, blogs and of course newsletters.  If you can only reach your readers via Facebook then you might want to take things to the next level and start branching out.

I can already hear you all asking: why are we doing all this work?  It’s hard and at times tedious, well I’m glad you asked…

Reason 1:  Information Gathering

I know many authors are blogging and on social media believing they’re there to build a massive platform (whatever that means to them) but that’s not exactly why.  The truth is you’re reaching out to readers because you need to learn from them.  And by the way, social media is a great place to mine data from customers (readers).  As you put your life and thoughts on display, you should be exchanging information with your readers, so try asking them questions (open ended ones) such as:

  1. What authors are you reading?
  2. Name one personal pet peeve you have about modern books?
  3. Who are the most influential authors today?
  4. What kind of stories do we need to see more of?
  5. Which book character deserves closure and why?

Author H.M. Ward once discussed meeting with a New York publisher and when she began talking about her demographic, she was astonished when one of the executives asked her, “How do you know this?”  Well duh, she monitors her social media and newsletter analytics.  By the way, she has over 50,000 subscribers on her email list and over 59,000 Facebook fans.

If you feel like you don’t know what to say, study the indie authors who are good at connecting with their readers people like; Mark Dawson, Bella Andre, Adam Croft and Marie Force.   Look at their social media accounts and subscribe to their newsletters and see what they’re doing right.

Reason 2:  Showing Your Expertise

This is particularly for nonfiction authors who need to show their knowledge of a given subject.  A platform gives you a non-censored channel that you can use to educate or inspire.  It also gives you an opportunity to connect with other thought leaders in your field.

Reason 3:  Promotion… Of Others

It goes without saying that promotion is one of the main reasons authors build a platform.  However your books aren’t the only thing you can promote, you can promote other authors, there are tons of them out there who have little to no support, and a shout-out or friendly word never hurt anyone.  Another good idea is to promote your readers, these are the people who should get regular shout-outs.  Thank them for their positive reviews and support.

Reason 4:  All The Cool Publishers Are Doing It!

Over the past few years, several major publishers like Penguin Random, Guardian Books and even Harlequin have started their own podcasts.  Those same companies also have newsletters and social media sites even though they’re already household names.  Despite what a lot of authors think, they’ve been watching indie authors closely and have been taking notes. This means we indies need to step up our game, and that requires us to learn from each other.

In closing, if you learned anything I hope it was that you can’t depend on anyone to reach and build your audience.  This is your job no matter if you’re a traditionally published author or an indie.  It’s your job to know who your readers are and what they want.  This is what a platform is really about, it’s not about stats or image, it’s about connecting and building relationships, real ones that will endure your entire career.