Easy Breezy Summer Publishing (Part 2)

Last week, I launched a new summer series on self-publishing, particularly as regards publishing and marketing your book during this busy time of year–and how to take advantage of our July theme of freedoms and independence while doing so!

Today, I want to talk about the flip side of freedom.

You might call it … UNFREEDOM*.

(*After all, there has to be some sort of language to describe the opposite of ‘freedom’ which isn’t problematically tied to this nation’s long and deeply troubling relationship to captivities of various kinds … right? I’ll make the attempt, while recognizing and honoring the tight spot into which the English language … and the history of American expansion … has put me. Here goes!)

Point: Self-publishing authors are constrained by their circumstances, and therefore limited as marketers of their works. Let’s slow down and look at some of the speed bumps in our way!

independence, bird

Time.

The first constraint you’re likely to hear about when talking with self-publishing authors about their marketing attempts is how difficult it is to find the time to market well! After all, most indie authors aren’t living lives of leisure; they’re working, sometimes multiple jobs, to pay the rent and bring in the groceries. They usually have families; often, young kids and sleepless nights are also on order. In this kind of typical environment, it’s hard enough to find time to sleep much less write much less market your books for sale to the general public! And this problem also often inspires a great deal of self-doubt and frustration, as the marketing goes on.

Why don’t people just buy my book already? Hint: if it were that easy to sell books, traditional publishing houses wouldn’t have dedicated marketing staff, either! As a self-publishing author, you’ve written and signed a contract with yourself to do whatever it takes to become a published author … and that includes signing away a large chunk of your time.

Suggestion #1: Protect your time by slowing down long enough to sort out your priorities, and set a schedule that is both ambitious … and attainable.

Money.

Here’s the other big speed bump, right? If you don’t have the time, energy, skills, or access to do what needs doing in order to market your book, you’re going to have to fork over some cash to make it happen! Of course, how much you spend is going to vary greatly depending on what path you take towards publication; vanity presses often tout their marketing successes, but often prove disappointing in results anyway, and the really good self-publishing companies–with dependable, expert staff who’ve been in the business long enough to give you a really good leg up–cost a pretty penny.

Spending some money is unavoidable. Breaking the bank … is.

Suggestion #2: Guard yourself against both amazement and disappointment by doing your research ahead of time. Don’t trust a company’s own press releases for your data, either! Do your due diligence and check out customer reviews, and as with my suggestion for time, go ahead and slow down long enough to plot out what services you can take care of effectively on your own … and which ones you really need help with!

Energy.

Alright–it’s time to take a deep breath and feel your body for a moment. Are you sitting in a chair? Criss-cross-applesauce on the hardwood floor? Hanging from the rafters? Are you comfortable? Are you feeling … a little … sleepy?

We’ve mentioned this every now and again on SPA, but it’s always worth mentioning again: a person doesn’t wake up each morning with endless energy! Energy is a budgeted resource, and your body has no qualms about letting you know when you’re close to running the tank totally dry. Like, right now, my eyes are burning from having worn contacts all day, my knees are aching from walking in to work, and I can’t stop yawning no matter how hard I try–all of which are signs that I’m about a half hour from keeping the neighbors up with my zzzzs.

As a self-publishing author, you need to pay close attention to your energy level: it comes at a premium, and just like time, once it’s spent you’re done. There’s no writing when tired, and even coffee will only get you so far. Sleep, my friends, is inevitable!

Suggestion #3: Build some select mindfulness-based practices into your daily writing routine. Check in with your body when you sit down in your chair. Are you actually feeling good and comfortable–and energetic? If your body is screaming “NO MORE! I CHANGED THIRTY DIAPERS TODAY!” then it may be time to back off, allow yourself to get some sleep, eat the right kind of meal, and do a thing which brings you joy. Make a promise to yourself to come back the next day in a better frame of mind and body, and I guarantee you’ll produce better work–work you can be proud of!

Skills.

Look … we’re not all born with a Wacom tablet or a Master of Business in our hands! It’s okay if you don’t know how to set up social media accounts … THIRTY DIFFERENT WAYS … or how to design your own book cover, including blurb, ISBN, LOC numbers, and so on and so forth.

Knowing what your skill set is, and how best to take advantage of what you already know how to do, is absolutely imperative! So, too, is knowing where your skill set runs out, and therefore when you ought to turn to established and verifiable experts–such as those employed at various self-publishing companies, or working on a freelance basis.

Suggestion #4: Before you sit down to submit your book for publication, sit down and sketch out all of the different little processes which go into making a book, from start to finish. EVERY SINGLE ONE. (There ought to be at least thirty!) Only then can you come back and say–“Ah, yes, I can easily take care of those, but not anything to do with Goodreads giveways or writing a press release!” Listing everything will feed straight back into allocating where you spend your time, money, and energy … so make sure you get it right before the wheels are in motion and momentum is pulling you in another direction!

Access.

Last but certainly not least, one of the most oft-mentioned barriers to self-publishing–an unfreedom–is the strictures placed upon indie authors by those with the knowledge and access to make things happen. Indie authors are often left out in the cold, with no recourse but to generate their own networks and influences from scratch … which, yes, can work but often doesn’t. Meanwhile, traditional publishing houses–who have, by the way, refused to evolve to fit the changed world around their signature markets!–snigger behind their hands and offer little or no help at all … because, I assume, they don’t want the competition.

Oh, if only you could imagine all the wonderful ways we might help each other!

But what a pipe dream. Traditional publishing houses have good reasons (from a business point of view) to try and uphold their monopolies by restricting access and denying support to indie authors looking to break out. I’m talking about everything from email lists of potential customers who they hold in reserve, contracts denying their authors from collaborating with self-publishing authors, and so on.

Access is a big problem for indie authors. If you don’t know who to get in touch with to get this certain thing done, it doesn’t get done.

Suggestion #5: Don’t despair. As I’ve mentioned, some authors have made it! There are some existing networks and resources in place to help you … but just don’t expect to find easy access to knowledge and the means to act upon that knowledge within more “mainstream” or “traditional” circles. I mean, take us for example. We’re here for you–every week!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Marketing BASICS : Investing in a Little Advice

Your book isn’t just a product, as neat and simple as that might seem to make things when it comes to marketing; it’s much, much more.  It is, in every way and shape and form, an investment.

  • you have already invested valuable time, energy, and other resources in writing it; and
  • you will continue to invest valuable time, energy, and other resources in marketing it.

More importantly, however, you should constantly monitor how you are spending these resources in respect to spreading the word and promoting it to fans and followers and readers alike.  In a impossibly cool and detached financial sense, you need to know when you’re spending more on your book than you should be––and then be prepared to take action.  (Though, let’s face it, who of us is ever cool and detached about our precious offspring of the imagination?  Not I.)  The Return on Investment (ROI) of your book should always reflect a balanced approach and a sustainable increase of returns.


 

Welcome back to my series on marketing B.A.S.I.C.S.!  This is the fifth in a series of blog posts where I tackle the fundamentals of marketing in hopes of making things a little more manageable for you, the self-publishing author.  Four weeks ago I launched the series with this introductory post, followed by:

This week, as you might have guessed, we’re taking a look at:

  • I. “Investing in a Little Advice.”

So, what happens when your investment isn’t paying off?

First off, I’d like to remind you that no matter what profit you make off of your book in financial terms, it’s an absolutely fantastic thing that you’ve done!  You’ve written a book!  You’ve published it!  You’ve sent it out into the world for others to be changed by!

Secondly, I’d like to clear up a myth about self-publishing: you don’t have to go through it alone.  Let me phrase it a little differently:

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.

I wish I had known this sooner––I wish I’d felt convicted of the truth of this sooner.  I’ll be the first to admit that one of the greatest appeals to me of self-publishing is that it provides a platform to and a haven for the fierce individualist, exactly the sort of person to incur the wrath of Traditional Publishing for wanting too much artistic control, among other things.  But the truth of the matter is that self-publishing is for everyone, including the insecure first-time author, including the burnt-out and disillusioned veteran author, including the technologically-challenged author, including the risk-averse author, including authors who find themselves at the end of the rope and in desperate need of assistance.

The indie community isn’t just a community of self-assured and confident entrepreneurs; we’re far more diverse than that.  And the indie community is a remarkably non-judgmental, unsnobby collection of people, in possession of vast and varied resources and an overwhelmingly supportive, generous spirit.  I promise you, if you hop on to a forum or listserv or social media group dedicated to indie authors and pose a question, you will be inundated with advice and shared resources.

Of course, sometimes what you really need is targeted advice.  If you have been posting promotional material to a blog or social media platform for a long time with very little engagement, or if you’ve been spending hours upon hours obsessing over marketing only to sell very few books, it’s time you sought professional advice.  But where to begin?  Even just a quick Google search for “Consultant for self-publishing a book” turns up “About 7,330,000 results,” which says a lot about the growth in this sector of the publishing industry––even once Google’s many duplicates, oblique references, outdated listings, and other “wrong” search results are set aside.  Seven million results!

There are a lot of marketing consultation websites out there geared toward you, the self-publishing author, ranging from freelance consultants (including many who’ve transitioned from being publishing consultants within Traditional Publishing) to personal marketing assistants with hybrid/self-publishing companies.  Freelance consultants can be excellent, but it’s difficult to know which ones have the know-how you need.  The benefit of going through a hybrid/self-publishing company is that every consultant has been vetted for expertise, experience, and the quality of their insight.  That’s a pedigree worth exploring.

marketing consultant

No illusions here: when it comes to seeking professional advices on marketing your book, you’ll have to spend some money.  Remember how I spoke about your book as an investment?  So too any money you spend on marketing is the same.  The only difference is, exchanging money to save yourself the time and energy and frustration of sorting out all the details on your own is what we might call a “fair market value.”  It’s worth it, in other words, to see your book’s future set on a solid foundation and to use your time far more effectively in writing the next book.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

From the Archives: “5 Ways to Increase Book Sales by Giving Away the First Chapter”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: June 17th, 2011 ]

I love Amazon!  I frequently search for books on Amazon.  I pay attention to what Amazon recommends for me.  I have a Kindle and often check Amazon’s list of “Top 100 Free” Kindle Ebooks.  As a reader, the choices for “what to read next” are endless.  My “to read” list is never under 25 books.  Readers have so many choices these days, so, as an author, how do you convince readers to choose your book to read next?

One idea is to give away the first chapter of your book.  Everyone likes getting something for free, right?  The first chapter will give the reader a taste of the book and will entice them to want to read more.  There are a few ways you can get your first chapter into the hands (or onto the screens) of your potential readers:

  1. Add a message in your email signature asking your contacts to let you know if they would like to receive a copy of the first chapter of your book.  For those who reply, send them a PDF copy of the first chapter and let them know where to buy the hardcopy if they like it and want to read more.
  2. Put an ad in your local newspaper with a short (1-2 sentence) synopsis of your book, inviting potential readers to email you for a PDF copy of the first chapter for free.  When you email the file to these contacts, let them know where to buy the hardcopy if they like it and want to read more.
  3. Similarly, put an ad on Craigslist (in the “free” section) with a short synopsis of your book, inviting potential readers to contact you for a free PDF copy of the first chapter.  And – you guessed it! – when you send it to them, let them know where to buy the hardcopy if they like it and want to read more.
  4. First Chapter Plus publishes and distributes a monthly e-catalog, which includes the first chapters of print and digital books, and mp3 clips of audio books to over 35,000 opt-in subscribers.  This listing will include the necessary details for where potential readers can find and purchase a copy of your book.
  5. If you’re a blogger, publish the first chapter of your book in a blog post or link to a PDF file where your readers can open the first chapter and read it.  Be sure to let readers know where to buy the book once they’ve read the first chapter and want more.  Author Ian Lurie actually allows his viewers to read the entire contents of his book, Conversation Marketing, online.  See how he does this here: http://www.conversationmarketing.com/internet-marketing-book/

DISCUSSION: What are some other ways that you might distribute the first chapter of your book to potential readers?

by Kelly Schuknecht

The world has shifted somewhat since 2011.  By that, I don’t mean to suggest that my original points are somehow now invalid––they’re all still great ideas and, except for the newspaper advertisement and First Chapter Plus (which runs about $100 for one month of promotion) they’re free–but I do mean to introduce social media to this list.  Back in 2011, most of the more popular websites (such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) already existed––but they hadn’t yet quite reached the cultural tipping point where they are now at, where a single post can go viral and by force of sheer momentum, alter reality offline, outside of the internet.  This makes for some very good news for you, the self-publishing author, especially when it comes to promotions like free sample chapters.

Here are three more ways to get your first chapter into the hearts and homes and hands of your potential readers:

  1. Take advantage of your existing social media presence (and maybe even beef it up a little).  There’s never been an easier way to spread the news that you have a sample chapter out there waiting to be read than by alerting your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Tumblr, and elsewhere.  Not familiar with one of these social media platforms?  It might just be worth taking a look to see whether it might be of use to you, both for this promotion and for other networking purposes.  Except for Tumblr, none of these platforms can actually serve as host for your chapter’s file––with Tumblr, you can just copy and paste into a text post, and it will preserve almost all of your formatting––but part of their appeal is that they create exactly the right kind of “bite-sized” bits of information that makes for shareable content.  My suggestion is this: upload your .PDF file online or steal your Amazon book listing’s hyperlink, and paste that link into a cute little promotional post for each of these platforms.

    Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 6.59.08 AM
    Fans will sometimes do the sharing for you, as with this sample chapter to George R.R. Martin’s next book that appeared on Tumblr recently.
  2. Take advantage of the Kindle Store’s automatic sample*––in several ways.  Did you publish through KDP, or Kindle Direct Publishing?  If you did, then 10% of your book is automatically accessible to your readers for free.  It’s worth noting at the outset that one of the downsides to publishing through KDP is that you can’t choose which chapter or what content is made available this way, but such are the hazards of publishing through a large company with little customizability.  If you do publish through Amazon’s KDP, however, take full advantage!  As I mentioned above in point #1, you can grab the hyperlink to your book listing and share the sample chapter’s availability far and wide.  Additionally (or alternatively) you might use the automatic sample as a guidepost to what you should steer clear of including in your own promotion.  If Amazon, for example, offers the first chapter, you might upload a .PDF to your blog of chapter two.  This might prove to be an especially clever move, since dedicated readers will have to access both your Amazon book listing and your personal blog––and doing so increases their exposure to your product, which in turn increases the odds they’ll purchase your book!
  3. Make it visual, and make it embeddable.  Software designer Nathan Barry writes that “moving from a text link to a more visual graphic can double the number of downloads of a sample chapter. That’s expected since it is much more visual and will grab more attention.”  How do you go about doing this?  First, create a graphic snapshot of your book’s cover or first few pages––something attractive that intimates the look and feel of your book––and then use a software app or program like ConvertKit to generate email subscription and download options.  This will create an embeddable piece of HTML code that you can insert into your blog and any other platform that allows for HTML content.

    Authority-Full-Form
    image credit: nathanbarry.com

And there you have it: three new ways to engage your readers with the wonderful promotional tool that is the free sample chapter!

* NOTE: several other publishers, including indie and hybrid self-publishing companies, offer sample chapter options.  You should always inquire after the options by contacting your Personal Marketing Assistant.

 

 

If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Marketing BASICS : Selling Readers ON Your Book, Not Just Selling Your Book to Readers

Welcome back to my series on marketing B.A.S.I.C.S. here at Self Publishing Advisor, of which this is the fourth installation.  Three weeks ago I got the series underway with this introductory post, followed by an exposition on the “B” in B.A.S.I.C.S. (“Building an Online Presence“).  Last week, I answered the burning question of “What does the letter “A” stand for, then?” with a not-so-simple answer tackling various ways and means of “Ascertaining Your Ideal Reader.”  This week, as you might have guessed, we’re taking a look at the next letter in B.A.S.I.C.S. as we examine just how to go about Selling readers ON your book––and not just selling your book TO readers.  If the distinction seems a touch unclear, consider it this way: there are a lot of reasons why people do or do not buy specific books, and it only rarely can be defined as ONLY a financial transaction.  Ultimately, a book’s larger success can be credited to the author’s creation (and after, cultivation) a fan following made up of readers who really love and connect to the book.

As I mentioned last week, this series emphasizes marketing for new or first-time authors, but this point––this letter “S”––carries a lot of meaning for even the most experienced of authors.  There’s no point in an author’s professional career––even a blockbuster success of a career––where free passes are handed out.  No matter what stage of the self-publishing process you are at, you must continually strive to connect to your readers, and to create a product that is more than just attractive to them––you must strive to create a product, a book, that blows them away.  Each and every time.  This, too, is one of the most important and foundational of steps to crafting a successful marketing strategy.

selling a book

So, how DO I sell readers on my book?

  • Even before you publish your book, build community.  Spread the word!  Launch countdowns and promotions (like giveaways of Advance Reader Copies, or ARCs) on social media early.  And don’t forget to reach out!  Many first-time self-publishing authors find their most passionate advocates to be other members of the indie community.  Why?  Not only do they understand the rigors and narrative of self-publishing, but they’re by and large a welcoming bunch with extensive and generous networks––networks made up, in part, of avid readers looking for their next great book.  You shouldn’t approach the indie publishing community, online or off, as a chance to steal eggs from someone else’s basket, though: humility is a quality that belongs in the self-publishing community every bit as much as it does in fairy tales.  And, seeing a little of themselves in you, many established indie authors will be willing to put in a kind word for you with their readers.  One day, you’ll be able to pay it forward in the same way.

 

  • Share.  You’re not just selling a book––you’re selling the larger narrative surrounding your book, and that narrative intersects with your own life in ways that you won’t always be able to predict.  A key ingredient to selling readers on your book is to follow in Steve Job’s footsteps and be your own product’s biggest fan; your book is a beautiful and wonderful thing, and your enthusiasm for can be positively infectious.  Never be ashamed to share with your readers your passion for what you’ve created, and to do so in as many creative ways as you can think of: radio and blog interviews, posts to Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr and Vine that reveal the “behind the scenes” elements that give a book its own life and render you, the author, into an interesting character in your own right.  (And trust me, you ARE interesting!  You’ve written a book, after all.  You’ve put a piece of yourself out in the world for other people to engage with and respond to.  Whoa.)

 

  • And last but not least: Publish the book that you would want to buy.  If you’re only halfway sold on the concept, execution, or presentation of your book … well, let’s just say that readers are usually looking for the same things in the books they buy as authors really want to see in the books they publish.  Give every detail of the process––from conception through creation to final publication––the same level of care and attention that you might give to a priceless work of art.  The comparison is only fair, as your book is art.  And I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Put a Little Soul Back Into Marketing This Christmas

This is the time of the year when there’s snow on the roads in my part of the world, the days are short and dark by five in the evening, and everyone’s going a bit stir crazy.  Tensions are at a fever pitch, but so too is that special brand of optimistic cheerfulness which washes over and around the people I care about.  Some people may not celebrate the religious aspect of the Christmas holidays, but you can’t help but love some of the perks they bring with them: hot cocoa and cider to drink, quilts and kittens and friendships to keep us warm, generosity to celebrate in giving and receiving.

It seems almost callow, perhaps, to talk about marketing in the midst of all this good-feeling.  What does the commercial machine have to do with empathy and generosity?

Here’s the thing: What’s good for you as an author and what’s good for your relationships is also good for business.  

human christmas tree

I’m not just talking about the “family-friendly” or “family-owned” propaganda issued by big businesses like Starbucks or Chipotle or REI; I’m talking about your relationships on a personal level, and starting from the ground up.  The real revolution in how we do business has to start with actual human connection rather than the cold and soulless opportunism that we’ve been taught is the marker of successful companies and their high-level officials.

So this Christmas, I’m not going to encourage you to break out a couple of new strategies for self-promotion success for several reasons–including the fact that I already did so last Christmas: here, here, and here––but rather to refocus on what you consider the most valuable and worthwhile aspects of your relationships.  I guarantee you this: if you put your friendships and your loved ones first, the rest will fall into place.  Friends want to hear about what each other do and love and are working on, and when your relationships are in tune you’ll know instinctively when it’s a good and natural and 100% organic moment to do so.

Who you are as a writer fits within a broader framework of who you are in connection to the other people in your life.  Authenticity isn’t just nice; it’s imperative.  It just makes sense that what’s good for your relationships would be good for spreading the word about your book, and the ingredients for a joyful and happy holiday season would also be the perfect recipe for a productive time for you as a self-publishing author!

 


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

An Indie Author’s Social Media Primer | Summary Edition

Well, it’s been quite a project, this social media primer of ours!  I hope it’s proven as useful to you, our readers, as it has been enjoyable for me to write!  I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to take a lingering glance in the rear-view mirror, and write a bit of a retrospective on what it means to carry out a social media marketing campaign–and how a primer fits in.

We’re here,” I wrote in that initial blog post, first and foremost, to talk about how to market your self-published book.”  And therein lies both the value and danger of social media as a marketing tool.  If you really are using social media effectively, as a natural and organic extension of your existing work and personality, then you’ll most definitely benefit, and your book sales will most definitely benefit as well.  If you approach social media as an all-purpose tool and the only tool you need in your toolbox–or if you present yourself falsely, inauthentically, or otherwise find yourself at odds with your fans–or if you bite off more than you can chew–or if you find yourself slipping into social media as just another time-waster–then you’re missing the point of being an author on social media.  These are the pitfalls, or at least a few of them, and they should not be taken lightly or underestimated.

social media

Here’s the trick to being a self-published author on social media:  You must always remember that you are, first and foremost, a writer.  And as we’ve said before here on Self Publishing Advisor, the absolute best decision you can ever make in marketing your book is to write another book.  If social media helps you spread the word, and helps you keep writing, then it has a place in your campaign.  If it distracts you, or distresses you, or eats into time you would otherwise spend writing, then you should revisit the expression “effective marketing.”  There is, however, a great deal of value to trying something new, especially when you hit a roadblock.  It is my hope that, by providing a primer guide to each of the major (and some of the minor) social media platforms, I may take some of the guesswork and fear out of launching yourself into the world of social media.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to bypass some of the misery and second-guessing and mistakes that I myself have made over the years–and find a new home, a new community, and an engaged readership in some unexplored corner of our digital universe.

The List:

  1. First Thoughts
  2. Twitter
  3. Tumblr
  4. Instagram
  5. Snapchat
  6. YouTube
  7. Pinterest
  8. Goodreads
  9. Etsy
  10. LinkedIn
  11. Flickr
  12. Facebook

Thank you for helping me build this Social Media Primer!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

An Indie Author’s Social Media Primer | Flickr

Remember when I wrote a primer for indie and self-published authors looking to make their debuts on Instagram?  Well, I’m back this week with a new primer geared towards those of a visual bent.  But instead of looking at one of the Big Five (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram), I’m going to take a quick gander at one of the less talked-about tools in the indie author’s toolbox: Flickr!

flickr

There are, of course, several key differences between Instagram and Flickr.  If you’ll remember, the top 5 “best practices” I recommended for Instagram users were to (1) “Go for the gut;” (2) “Think regular, but not too regular;” (3) “You’re in the inspiration business, so share yours;” (4) “Use the hashtags and @username functions;” and last but not least, (5) “Don’t posture.”  While intuition, inspiration, reliability, authenticity, and metadata remain important when you make the leap to Flickr, the platform is so different that their manifestations must also be.  In fact, I’d suggest we rethink what makes a Flickr image “social” altogether.

Debunking the Great Flickr Myth: “It’s just a place to store photos.”

While it certainly is a place to store photos, Flickr isn’t just a high school locker we pack full to overflowing.  Other visually-oriented social media websites like Instagram or Pinterest “capture” their users by making it easy to interact with photos and share items within the platform itself, and while you can certainly share links to Instagram and Pinterest content, the format of said sharing creates a hit-or-miss prospect when it comes to non-users viewing your material.  That is, someone may choose to follow a link … or they may not.  You may also end up with duplicates of all of your pictures if you have Instagram set to upload photos directly to dedicated Facebook albums.  Not ideal, right?

A lot of people think Flickr is just another cloud storage option, like Dropbox, only complicated by the fact that you can also comment on and interact with the photos on Flickr itself.  Is it trying to be a social media platform, or cloud storage, or what?  When you approach Flickr with the expectation that it will look and feel and function like either Pinterest or Google’s outmoded Picasa Web Album system, you’re bound to get bogged down in a messy and unintuitive tangle of groups and discussion boards and so on.

It’s so much better just to skip all of that chaos and focus on what Flickr does really well, and what it can specifically do for you, an indie or self-published author.

Top 5 Best Practices:

1. Embed, embed, embed.  One of Flickr’s absolute best features is its embedability.  What do I mean by this?  I mean you can copy either a hyperlink for an individual photograph, or a hyperlink for an entire slideshow, and integrate this code into your blog or website to display continually there.  Why is this useful?  First off, you can create either one-off blog posts which feature beautiful high-resolution images (a Flickr specialty)––as The Daily Beast’s Nicole Villeneuve has done in her “Moveable Feast” article––or you can create a slideshow as a permanent feature of your website, as the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health demonstrates here.  While other social media platforms may enable you to interact with your friends’ photographs within the contained environment of their networks, Flickr fills in the gaps by breaking your images out into any web forum imaginable.

2. Ramp up the quality.  Instagram’s strength is that it relies upon timeliness, and a certain “in the moment” quality that brings immediacy and spontaneity to the table.  Flickr, on the other hand, allows its users to upload truly high-quality photographs with minimal compression and data loss (comparatively, at least).  Other social media platforms capitalize on users’ general satisfaction in simply sharing an image, no matter what quality that image is, quickly and easily.  But Facebook compresses all images by as much as 80 percent, which results in a great deal of fuzz and blur.  Flickr displays images at full resolution, making for giant and gorgeous incarnations of your photos in well-curated, smoothly synced pages.  It isn’t just a place where “hip” amateurs upload happy snaps; it’s a digital home for serious photographers.  Take advantage of both Flickr’s 1 terabyte of free storage and its cachet!

3. Think like a designer.  Perhaps this one’s a little … unconventional, but Elite Truong recently wrote a lovely article for Poynter that provides a lot of great pointers on how authors can learn a little from their more visually-inclined fellow artists––and I’m feeling inspired.  Think of Flickr as a medium, just as you do the white page of your word processor (or the physical paper of your notebook!).  How can you build narratives with images that reflect or complement the narrative you’ve already shaped into a book?  You don’t have to become a watercolorist or a professional photographer overnight––but, but––you can definitely steal a hand from their playbook when it comes to connecting with new audiences or better connecting with existing ones.

4. Cross-link your description fields.  As with any other website, Flickr is rich in possibility when it comes to metadata.  You can tag and even geotag your images, add titles and descriptions, and direct viewers to click on hyperlinks that lead back to your personal website.  You can create thematic sets, albums, and slideshows; each new collection that you curate generates its own wave of metadata, which renders you more findable.  There’s so much metadata on Flickr, in fact, that sometimes it can be a struggle to decide just where to begin.  The description field?  Definitely.  The title?  Oh, yes.  You can even tweak some of the camera settings (like aperture and focal length) that are displayed alongside your images.

5. Think “Portfolio” rather than “Scrapbook.”  This is not to say that scrapbooks aren’t awesome.  They are.  They simply aren’t a one-size-fits-all tool for every situation.  Sometimes, you need a beautifully-built, professionally-presented, visually stunning home for your images.  And whether you, as an author, are posting behind-the-scenes pictures of your writing space, or perhaps high-resolution illustrations of certain pages of your upcoming children’s book, or even art prints of certain favorite quotes from your works, there’s no better way to get new readers to do a double take than with a Flickr slideshow.  A handy rule of thumb might be: If a picture is something you simply want to share, then Instagram or Facebook may be well and good; if it’s something you want to sell, then Flickr will showcase your product to maximum visual impact.

Most Overlooked Feature:

Let’s face it, Flickr as a whole is an overlooked feature.  Sure, it may be making a bit of a comeback since its makeover at the hands of former Yahoo! executive Marissa Mayer, but it’s still not the first social media platform that authors think of when they’re looking to branch out into something new.  And as I mentioned before, there are some ways in which it converses easily with other platforms––there are groups, discussion boards, metadata fields, and profile pages to fill out––and ways in which it stands out.

When push comes to shove, Flickr is not a substitute for any of the Big Five, simply because its many users don’t quite amount to the critical mass of millions or even billions that the upper crust of social media websites has locked in.  Its specialized tools are, however, an asset and a credit to a much-needed niche if you happen to be looking for something a little … glossier … than Instagram.

I hope you’ll join me in building this Social Media Primer!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of social media know-how. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.