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.
This is either a “No duh, Ben” post or a “Holy cow, that’s cool!” post. I was playing around with Facebook search the other day and found it to be much more useful than I thought. There may be a buried tool in there to help people find you and buy your book…
I typed in the name of a friend of mine to see what he’d been posting recently. I usually see much more chatter from him and I was worried about his Facebook silence. He’s also a fan of my work and we share a love of Fantasy books that will keep us close, even in the afterlife (where I’m sure our perspectives on Fantasy will likely change).
Well, I found that he’d been posting as often as ever but Facebook decided to show me less of his life. Thanks Zuckerberg!
But I noticed something cool in my friend’s Interests column. He’d recently liked Snow Crash (he’s slow sometimes) and it got me thinking.
Can I search for all of my friends who like Snow Crash?
I typed “Friends who like Snow Crash” in the field and, boom, got a list of friends who like Snow Crash. Okay, maybe that makes sense to you. Facebook is, after all, a social network!
But then I typed “Friends of my friends who like Snow Crash” and you know what? I got a list of people, most of whom I don’t know, who like Snow Crash.
How is this useful?
Well, imagine that you’re targeting lovers of Snow Crash in your marketing efforts. Now imagine you could compile a list of people who may be interested in your book and they’re a free nudge away from giving your book a shot. All you have to do is let your direct friend know that you think their friend may be interested in your work and ask them to call out their buddy in a FB post.
So this is how it would work:
1) Determine what books your book is similar to.
2) Search for friends of friends (FoF) who like each of these books.
3) Make a list of FoFs, who your mutual friend is, and which book the FoF likes.
4) On launch day, announce your book and then ask the friends with FoFs to comment on your launch post with a direct call-out like: “Hey [FoF name] I think you may enjoy this book. It’s like [Name of similar book that the FoF likes].”
Yes, you could spend a few bucks to reach the same person but they’re more likely to respond to a recommendation by a friend instead of a sponsored post in their feed.
Mind you, I haven’t tried this myself but it seems like a no-brainer way to get the word out about your book.
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:
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?
The basics of social media fluctuate around the edges. Use your real voice, be useful and go heavy on images when you can. But if you look at the list below you’ll see some essentials that are harder to spot.
The basics of social media: Facebook
* Consider making a Fan page for your work. This means you can keep your personal separate from your professional connections. Yes, you can still promote your work from your personal page once in awhile (just don’t make a daily habit out of it).
* Put up a great pic in the header with the following specs: 851 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall on PCs. Loads fastest as an sRGB JPG file less than 100 kilobytes. If it’s more than 100k it will get pixelated!
* Share other posts and Like other pages. This will help people see your taste and influences.
* Post every blog post on Facebook as well. You can link to the post or post it in its entirety, depending on what you want to get out of the post.
* Add pictures whenever possible. Generally, people prefer images to text.
* Use Facebook Insights! This is available only to Facebook fan pages, not personal profiles. The insights will tell you what’s working and what is not.
* Contests are a wonderful way to get new followers. Use Giveaway Tools at http://giveawaytools.com/ and enable their Facebook tab feature, which will place the contest on your Facebook page.
* Post often about what’s going on, but don’t forget to ask questions, too.
The basics of social media: Twitter
* You get 140 characters for your bio. Use it well. Engage, amuse and throw in one or two hashtags to show what you’re all about.
* Snag a Twitter handle that resembles your brand/story. This will make it more memorable.
* Post a large-rez image for the twitter profile page. Use a great profile pic. Here are the dimensions:
Profile pic: 400 x 400 px
Cover photo: 1500 x 500 px
* Twitter will continue to drive people to use their profile pages so be ready if they flick the switch and make it a primary destination!
* Be nice. You can challenge people, but be respectful too. Same rules that apply to a party, apply here.
* Pin your best tweet to the top of the profile page. Here’s how:
Go to your profile page.
Find the Tweet you’d like to pin and click the ellipsis icon (•••).
Select Pin to your profile page.
* Use hashtags for your events and deals. This will help you track interest.
* Use Hootsuite! It’s a great app that lets you schedule tweets ahead of time. It also lets you follow “conversations” in their own tab. So you can follow the hashtag #infographics (for example) to see what people are saying about that subject in real time.
* Use a link shortener. These are the shortened urls that you see sometimes that “hide” the long string url. Hootsuite uses its own shortener AND it gives you access to the metrics behind that short link.
* Retweet often. You’ll find buddies this way.
* Always give credit by mentioning “via @[Twitter Name]”
* If the person who follows you shares your interests then follow back.
* Twitter is getting more visual so feel free to share images of your own and others’
The basics of social media: Blogging
* What do you bring to the table? Focus on posting about your interests, NOT what you think people are interested in reading. If you just focus on what other people are looking for then you’ll run out of inspiration after a week.
* Plan your posts a full month to one year ahead of time. By doing so, you remove the arduous task of deciding what to write about! Use a calendar to track your content plan.
* Be genuine. Your voice must be your own for it to stand out. People can spot fakery and casual-contrarians from a mile away.
* Post regularly! The kiss of death is silence. Yes, the pressure is on. You can do it.
* Don’t put Share buttons everywhere, just put them in one or two obvious places.
* Use your blog as a tool to grow your fanbase by offering the option to subscribe to your blog. This way people will get an email whenever you update the site. You can put the subscribe button in an obvious place. Every blogging platform offers a version of this feature.
* Every post must have a large title (H1), a smaller sub-title (H2) underneath and preferably some bullet points within the post. This is how people browse a post AND it’s how Google scans your page.
* Guest bloggers are waiting to post on your blog. Ask around. They’ll bring their fans with them, too.
* Guest post yourself. Find new fans by sharing your work with new people on other blogs.
* Pay attention to comments! Answer quickly and give it some thought so people know there’s a real person on the other end of the keyboard.