Sci-Fi and Fantasy Humor author John Logsdon and I are having a blast with our new author podcast!
It’s called You Should Be Writing! (With the exclamation point! Just because!) We’re up to episode 14 and each one has been more fun to do than the last. Does that mean that each one is better than the last? Absolutely not even a little bit, no.
We discuss the indy book publishing world and all of its peaks, valleys, oceans and trolls under bridges. Reviews, newsletter sign ups, the newest gurus, the latest tools… we have it all. We do the podcast every Friday (though we’ve missed a few over the hectic summer). If you want to keep up to date and maybe even show up for the taping, just Like our YouTube page.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Twitter. One day I think I understand it and the next day it’s filled with some faux outrage (faux-rage?) thingy that makes me want to turn the world off. But my love affair started up again once I realized that Shirley Link’s success as a perma-free book is primarily due to the cacophonous bird.
But now I want to take it a step further. I want to pay to get access to their huge audience. I want this for two reasons. First, I want to sell my $1 eBooks. Second, I want to grow my mailing list.
So I attended a great Q&A with some Twitter employees who were eager to educate me about spending my hard-earned money on their promo tools. They clarified a bunch of nifty-sounding services that you may have heard about but had zero idea how to leverage. That’s right. They gave tips on how to promote a tweet and they even explained Twitter Cards.
It turns out if you use Twitter Cards and promoted tweets together you could drive some incredible (valuable) traffic.
Here’s what they taught me.
How to promote a tweet according to Twitter:
First sign into ads.twitter.com. I’ve found this site to be the easiest way to tweet. I like the way it lets me schedule posting times AND it how it allows me to attach images with 100% guarantee that the image will show up in the actual tweet. That’s not the case on Hootsuite where I’ve found that the image often gets cut out of the tweet.
Plus, it’s the only site where you can create a Twitter Card. Why would you want to do that? read on!
I think Twitter messed up in calling these things Twitter Cards. It’s a bad name for a cool idea. When I picture a card in my mind’s eye I picture, well, a card. Like a business card. Or a playing card. A Twitter Card is more like a visible attachment that hangs from the bottom of your tweet. What else could they have called it? A Twitter Tail? A Tweet Board? Yes, those are awful ideas but you get the point.
This is an example of a tweet with a Twitter Card attached to it.
The actual Twitter Card is the lower half of the tweet, including the image, the Shop Now button and the text “Armor up with The Camelot Kids! Only $1 for a limited time.” You can make that button read anything from “Shop Now” to “Download” to “Sign Up”. The larger image spot is a great way to stand out on a busy feed.
You see the text “Want a good fantasy read? One reviewer says TCK “will take you back to the day when you first read Harry Potter…”? That’s the tweet I wrote. After I wrote it I attached the Twitter Card by pasting its url in the tweet. it’s pretty simple to set up.
But once you get a few cool Twitter Cards set up, what do you do with them? Simply put, you target your audience, set your budget, assign some tweets to the campaign (with Cards attached) and press the Fine, Take My Money button.
The one hour talk covered best practices for promoted tweets/Twitter Cards. Here are the basics, with some icing:
Experiment with targeting usernames. It allows you to get into the feed of followers of specific people.
Experiment with targeting keywords. The important thing to understand here is that keyword targeting scans for tweets in real-time on the service. They do not target overarching interests, old tweets, or bios. I didn’t know this before. Socialbro will take your money to target that kind of metadata.
Experiment with images. You may have great copy but the image might need a refresh. Play around with the most eye-catching imagery you have.
Check your dashboard often to spot places to tweak. Twitter reporting (which also resides on ads.twitter.com) is robust and relatively clear.
Set up conversion tracking to measure your campaign’s effectiveness. Just follow the steps Twitter lays out.
All pretty standard stuff so far, right? Well, here’s some good stuff to add on top:
Separate your campaigns by objectives and targeting. Don’t make a campaign that’s meant to get sales AND sign-ups. Each goal needs its own campaign.
For username targeting go for 30 names per campaign.
For interest targeting select the most specific categories possible. Do not exceed 2 interests per campaign.
Avoid using hashtags, @’s or urls in your Twitter Cards and promoted tweets.
Do 3-6 tweets per campaign to give the Twitter elves something to work with.
Twitter loves fresh content so swap in new stuff often. “Often” being a relative term that should be dictated by data in the reports.
Use the Lead Gen campaign for email sign-up campaigns.
Expect a 1-4% engagement average.
Do NOT pause and stop campaigns. This damages the performance. Plan and budget ahead. You can start small and ramp up the budget and number of tweets as you build confidence.
Here’s a list of resources they provided to get started:
[Tweet “Spend an hour a week listening to one of these podcasts for writers. Go in with eyes wide open!”]
From Joanna Penn‘s excellent selection of business tips to The Self Publishing Podcast‘s eerily helpful smack talk, there’s something here for you to enjoy.
The Self-Publishing Podcast is one my my favorites, with Sean Platt (@SeanPlatt), David Wright (@thedavidwwright) and Johnny B. Truant (@JohnnyBTruant) lobbing inside jokes peppered with fantastic ideas. The charm of the hosts is a big part of the draw but their success can’t be ignored. My money is on these three authors hitting it BIG and it’s fun to watch their careers grow. What’s the benefit for us? We can draw parallels with their hard work, disappointments, victories and struggles. It’s like an epic serialized story with three guys sitting on their asses.
Best enjoyed with: A red chili lunch with espresso chaser.
Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) is a staple of the indy community. She’s been sharing her experiences as an author and entrepreneur for a few years, so her perspective has weight. She’s recently started to focus on the craft of writing as well. I like Joanna for her optimism and her focus on the future. Anyone who can make me feel good about this tough business has earned my attention!
The Reading and Writing Podcast is a great way to hear from your favorite authors about their latest books and the writing life. From Dean Koontz to Lee Childs to Walter Mosley, this podcast snags some of the best writers in the business. Straight-forward, insightful questions from the host Jeff Rutherford (@JeffRutherford ) make the podcast a must-listen for those moments when you just need inspiration and guidance. At 181 episodes (and counting) this is the legacy podcast that should be on everyone’s subscription list.
The Self-Publishing Roundtable is a storied podcast with high turnover. People come, people go, but it always remains informative. They cover everything from marketing tactics to creative tips. The conversations are intelligent, focused and current. For example, one of the newest episodes cover Mastermind Groups. Yes, Masterminds are packed with buzzy-sugarness but they are a useful way to get inspired fast.
Best enjoyed with any slow food. Good for the digestion!
The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast covers, um, Science Fiction and Fantasy marketing. Lindsay Buroker (@GoblinWriter) of The Emperor’s Edge fame joins Joseph Lallo (@jrlallo, The Book of Deacon) and Jeffrey M. Poole (Tales of Lentari) to discuss tactics and strategies for one of the most popular genres. The podcast is relatively new but the years of experience shine through. From showing up at shows with 3D printed swag to maximizing free promotional days, this one covers the tried-and-true and the cutting-edge.
If soothing British accents are your thing, then you need to tune in to Rocking Self-Publishing to find a mantra. If you like soothing British accents that are saying something useful then browse the Rocking Self-Publishing library. Packed with wisdom, inspiration and common sense it’s a welcome break from the grind. Simon Whistler (@RSPPodcast) is enthusiastic and hungry to extract useful information for himself and his listeners.
Best enjoyed with: Tea (spiked with tequila). Bacon.
This new podcast also enjoys the presence of Lindsay Buroker (she’s everywhere!) The show is low-key and informative, with co-host Adam Poe (@xAdamPoe) touching on topics that we have questions about. Pay special attention to episode 7 where he goes over how to get your books on Google Play. He’s found some success there and recommends authors get their books up for sale ASAP. I also enjoy The Writing Podcast‘s wise choice to interview traditionally published authors. We all have something to contribute to this writing life.
So there you have it! My favorite podcasts for writers. Every one of these shows is consistent, informative, well-intentioned and worth checking out. If you end up becoming a fan, tell them I sent you! ;-)
What are your favorite podcasts for writers and authors? Answer in the comments below…
Second, this contest is being run and fulfilled by Amazon, using their new Amazon Giveaway service. It took about three minutes to set up. Their instructions need to get ironed out a bit, but it’s live (after waiting for an hour).
The cool thing is that you simply buy the item you want to give away and they take care of landing pages and fulfillment. They also made the process a “Click on the box to see if you win!” deal. Those are fun. And, maybe best of all, they allow you to require a Twitter follow to enter the contest.
My cousin is a musician. He’s worked his entire professional life amidst notes; touring with a successful band for years, producing several fantastic CDs and teaching. When iTunes slammed into the planet and made music digital and cheap he was angry.
“Too bad, cuz,” I’d say. “You know what they say. Adapt or die!”
Okay, I didn’t say it like that, but it’s the message that he probably took away from our debates.
Then Spotify and its ilk pushed music even further into the ether. Songs became not just a commodity, but a common element. Like air, except louder and with a riff.
Poor music business.
But what if indy authors have more in common with our musical peers than we think? What if the proliferation of subscription services is sending us down a path of permanently earning less for our books.
I’m an optimist. I believe that the writing life is a wonderful life. I know it’s here to stay. But it may need to change into something different.
So I got to thinking. Stand back. It’s a dangerous thing. Ask my wife. Or my cousin.
Here’s my take…
Musicians have concerts. Gigs can add some cash to the coffer as music sales drop through the stage. At gigs, bands sell CDs (and LPs!) to the audience.
But writers have nothing similar. Book readings are the closest thing, but they’re not as essential to the reader as live music is to the music fan.
So are we doomed to just maneuver the same turbulent sea of shifting tactics to survive Amazon’s whims, or Facebook’s changing policies, or a tiered Internet?
Believe it or not, I’m going somewhere positive with all of this.
What if writers need to produce their work to find that alternate revenue stream? Produce our work? What the hell does that mean, Ben? Well, what if I need to make The Camelot Kids a comic book and a weekly animated short for it to make me money? What if Shirley Link is a monthly podcast and a small indy film? Maybe your book is a future YouTube hit? What I’m searching for here is that secondary revenue stream that leverages the wonderful book we’ve written and builds upon it for a modern audience.
Does that makes sense? I mean, we tell stories. On paper. On touchscreens. But maybe we need to ponder other ways to tell our stories.
Maybe we need to tap into these social network thingies and find audio recording, film making, 3D animating peers who will work for a cut of the profits.
As importantly, maybe new services need to spring up that help us make our books into animated movies, or plays, or films, or games, or virtual reality experiences. Yes, there’s ACX. There are fun toys like Booktrack. Those are along the lines of what I’m talking about, but what I’m starting to see is that I need to break out of my comfort zone (even more than I already have). I’m starting to see that the same way that musicians had to learn to set up a gig, perform and connect with music fans in a whole new way, well maybe in some twisted, introverted wordish way that’s our future, too.
What do you think? Could you envision writers as media producers? Do you think a successful indy author will need to be a successful media producer in the near future? Is the thought too terrifying to ponder? Or does it excite you?