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.

An Indie Author’s Social Media Primer |LinkedIn

If you’re not already a member of LinkedIn, perhaps you’re familiar with the following scenario: you wake up on a lovely Monday morning, high-tail it in to work with only minutes to spare before your shift at the factory plant or in the cubicle farm or out at the library begins; you pull up Microsoft Outlook to check your email and set up your day’s schedule, only to find … thirteen emails from friends who want to “add” you to their “professional network on LinkedIn”?  What in blazes does that mean?  Is it a scam or something?

linkedin email

No, it’s not a scam–I promise!  The emails are just an incredibly weird side effect and the only negative feature I know of to setting up a LinkedIn account.  (When new LinkedIn users have the chance to add friends to their network, the website mines their email contacts to generate networking possibilities, and doesn’t visually make it clear which of the folks you click on to connect with already have accounts and which ones do not).  So while the emails may clutter up your inbox, they’re not meant to be malicious–either on the part of LinkedIn, or the friends who send them.

linkedin

All this begs the question: What exactly is LinkedIn, and how can a self-published or self-publishing author best make use of the platform?  This social networking website touts itself as “The World’s Largest Professional Network,” is run by CEO Jeff Weiner (of Yahoo! fame) and a board chaired by founder Reid Hoffman (of PayPal and SocialNet.com fame) with the purported goal of connecting users interested in more career-driven networking than is made possible by, say, Facebook and Instagram.  It seems to be doing a fairly good job of achieving this end, as its approximately 364-million-strong user base can attest.  Any self-published author looking for a new weapon in his or her repertoire should definitely keep LinkedIn at the top of the shortlist!

Debunking the Great LinkedIn Myth: “It’s all work, and no play.”

LinkedIn certainly attracts a different user base from, say, Snapchat–but that doesn’t mean its users aren’t making full use of the platform’s more “social” aspects for recreation and enjoyment.  And as this article on the Daily Dot points out, industry professionals are being led into blogging and socializing by the platform–book lovers and self-publishing author’s don’t have to fight or struggle to carve out a niche … it already exists.  Users log in to LinkedIn, on average, less frequently than the average Facebook user (according to Mashable in 2013, the average Facebooker checked the app 15 times a day).  But engagement on LinkedIn is, contrary to some folks expectations, extraordinarily high.  This may be because LinkedIn is a destination website, a place to go rather than a place to go through to get somewhere else or to burn some free time.  Users see LinkedIn as a tool, and they’re more likely to actually read the blog posts (for example) that they see on there than ones they might stumble across elsewhere.

But what is a self-published author to do?  Setting up a LinkedIn profile will benefit anyone, but what are some ways that an author can make special use of the platform?

Top 5 Best Practices:

1. Groups, groups groups.  Other social media platforms have group discussion boards–last week, for example, I specifically pointed out Etsy’s group features–but not all groups are created equal.  What may seem perfunctory or underdeveloped or a programming afterthought elsewhere has been brought close to perfection on LinkedIn.  You can tell that group memberships and discussions were a priority of the website’s developers, as the interface is clean and smooth and easy to interact with.  You can find or create groups, manage groups, join groups, and participate in groups you’re interested in without worrying about the content being dumped straight into indexing search engines for everyone running a Google search to see–LinkedIn’s algorithm is much more picky in what it offloads than, say, Goodreads’.  You can customize the privacy settings of the groups you manage, rendering some public and free to join, and others private or invitation only.  And all that I said above about user engagement being high on LinkedIn?  There’s no better place to see this engagement lived out in the round than in LinkedIn’s many active groups.  So: join a few!  Start a few discussions!

2. Keep tabs on the “Topics” page.  A simple search shows a beautifully put-together page in the Topics section of LinkedIn dedicated to none other than the subject of self-publishing.  These Topics pages serves as a kind of constantly-updated newsletter of everything posted to the website–articles, blog posts, groups discussions, presentations, companies, and industry trends–that relates.  You can find what characteristics or “skills” LinkedIn users engaged in self-publishing share (“Creative Writing” and “Editing” the top two–no surprise there!), or you can access a slideshow on “How to Write a Book in 10 Days” … just to provide two examples among many.  Don’t underestimate LinkedIn’s Topics!

3. Make it your first stop on the research train.  Are you looking to self-publish and you haven’t decided what company best represents your interests?  Many indie, hybrid, and self-publishing companies keep active LinkedIn pages, and you can take full advantage of this by connecting with the company itself or any of its employees who also have LinkedIn profiles.  Outskirts Press is a great example of a hybrid publishing company with a rich LinkedIn presence–many of its authors, author representatives, and executives are present there.  You can do your due diligence with ease, just by perusing a company’s profile and exploring the information presented there.  Want to know if you can trust a company to provide the best quality print on demand books for you?  Want to find agents, editors, or other collaborators?  Check LinkedIn.

4. Boost your credibility.  As I’ve mentioned already, LinkedIn attracts users who are highly engaged but who are also looking specifically to build business-oriented networks.  Accounts are reviewed by LinkedIn staff to verify that users are not using fake or ridiculous names, which is just one layer of the self-reinforcing professionalism that makes LinkedIn special.  If you want to create a brand around your name as a self-published author, there’s literally no better place to get started.  Creating a polished LinkedIn profile that takes full advantage of the metadata and the form available (enter as much information as possible to make yourself as findable as possible!) will allow you to feel confident that a publisher or agent who Googles your name comes up with something that confirms your reliability, credibility, and professionalism.  There’s not much more you can do to help yourself stand out from the pack!

5. Use the Pulse.  Just over a year ago, LinkedIn opened up its “Pulse” blogging platform to all users–a privilege that had previously been reserved for about 500 key “Influencers.”  Perhaps because it began with such constraints, Pulse retains some of its aura as a voice for the truly expert, and it’s a beautiful illustration of how a blog can indeed be seamlessly wound up with a social network.  Pulse offers all or most of the features you might find on a blog platform like WordPress, with great customizability and the option to include hyperlinked text.  Posts on Pulse automatically display as both a part of your user profile and your connections’ home page feeds.  They show up in search engine results, too.  The best part about Pulse is that you don’t have to use it as a blog if you don’t want to–you can use it as a secondary publishing platform.  Because Pulse allows for beautiful long-form posts, you could feasibly offer whole chapters or even an entire book (in chapters) for your connections to read!

Most Overlooked Feature:

The “Projects” section of your LinkedIn profile is an excellent–and under-utilized!–feature that you should definitely take a second look at.  Why?  Because it’s not just a spot to list ongoing works in progress … it’s a fully linkable and functional tool.  You can connect a project to an Amazon book listing, an author webpage, and to its actual editorial or publishing team!  I mean, how neat.

linkedin projects

Best of all, the projects section is a dedicated space, which means that the information you input there won’t get shuffled off of your profile page or lost in the aether.  Unless you choose to remove it, a book you list as a project becomes a permanent feature of both your page and the page of any other collaborators who confirm their connection to it!

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.

From the Archives: “Soliciting Book Reviews for your Self Published Book”

Welcome back to our new 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: August 18th, 2008 ]

If your self-published book is available for sale at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble (BN.com), and other sites, you want to be sure your online listings have book reviews. You can always be sure your book has at least 1 review by asking one very close friend or relative to write a review for your book.

Once you have one review, your job is to solicit others. Obviously, if you’ve given some of your books away to friends or families, you should ask them to write a review in exchange for the book. As you continue to give them away, suggest to your customers that it would be helpful to you if they took the time to write an honest online review.  People like to help people, but usually only do so if you ask.

BONUS: Once you have reviews, you can use them in quotes for further promotion. For example:

“Best Book Ever!” — Amazon.com review.

Your book detail page on Amazon and Barnes & Noble have links for writing reviews of your book. If you haven’t done that yet, do it right away.

Remember, in order to write a review for a book on Amazon, each reviewer must have an Amazon account with which they have purchased something. This is how Amazon verifies the identity of the reviewer. They don’t need to buy your book, per se, they just need to buy something, anything, from Amazon. But it is nice if they DO buy your book, so suggest that to your friends first.

book review

Seven years on, and we’ve had ample time to expand upon the notion of book reviews and how beneficial they can be for your self-promotion strategy as an indie or self-published author!  And when I say ample, I mean that we’ve literally written essays on the subject.  For a litany of our best book-review-related material, check out this link, and this one, and this one.  Oh, and don’t forget our last in-depth primer post on the matter!

If the intervening years between 2008 and 2015 have taught me anything, it’s the power and influence of positive––and authentic––book reviews.  Which is why, when I look at my words from so long ago, the ones I want most to revisit are these: “[Reviewers] don’t need to buy your book, per se, they just need to buy something, anything, from Amazon.”  While the fact remains true that an Amazon reviewer isn’t strictlyr required to buy a book or an ebook to review it––and there are certainly many circumstances in which readers may legitimately acquire a book without purchasing it through Amazon or purchasing it at all––I see now that my words, out of context, might encourage authors to strong-arm their friends and loved ones into posting Amazon reviews out of obligation, rather than genuine interest.  I cannot stress how wrong I would be to encourage this notion.  Reviews should never be given unwillingly.  

Let me say that again: Reviews should never be given unwillingly.  We should try to avoid creating situations in which false approval is the platform upon which we launch our careers as authors.  As indie and self-published authors, we’re striving to shake off the constraints and residues of the so-called “Big Bad Publishing Institution,” a process which puts the torque into the word “spin” and serious money behind works and authors that critics are paid to laud.  We can work the system, yes––and self-promotion is in large part knowing how to cultivate a certain degree of cunning––but we should never sacrifice our self-respect.

Which is why we keep revisiting this idea of the book review.

There are so many ways in which we can be both cunning and conscientious, both the serpent and the dove.  Our past posts will lead you deeper into the specifics, but suffice it to say: don’t be afraid to go after reviews, and to openly and honestly ask for them, to outright challenge your readers and those who fall within your social sphere to offer them up … and also, don’t forget that the best review is an honest review, and the best way to keep hooking in good and honest press is to write another brilliant book.  Even better, if that’s possible, is helping out a fellow indie or self-published author by exchanging books and promises to support each other with favorable––and honest!––reviews.  What better way to cut through the bureaucratic red tape of traditional publishing than to participate in the broader exchange of thoughts and ideas with the whole self-publishing community?  Up and at ’em!  ♠

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 | Goodreads

In contrast to last week’s post, which looked at a social media platform that is less-used (might I even say underused?) by indie and self-published authors, this week we’ll be examining the other end of the spectrum–at a platform that has been mined so often and so thoroughly for its marketing potential that setting up a profile has almost become a requirement.  I’m talking about Goodreads, if you haven’t already guessed, a website we’ve looked at before on Self Publishing Advisor.  Fortunately for us and for you, however, it’s a website that keeps evolving, and keeps generating new possibilities.  I can definitively say that most authors know some of the buzz about Goodreads, but very few know all of the ways in which this platform can be of use.

Goodreads

For those of you who are new to Goodreads (and don’t be ashamed if you are, despite what I just said about authors definitively knowing things–there’s always going to be some new corner of the Internet to explore!), what is this website?  In short, it’s a cross between Facebook and Amazon for readers and writers and those involved in the dissemination of books.  All users can create profiles, log the books they’ve read or are reading or want to read, rating them out of five stars and posting book reviews as they go.  You can find your friends by interlinking your Goodreads account with Facebook or Twitter or Amazon, or by using their email addresses.  (Goodreads was purchased after its stratospheric rise by Amazon, so a lot of its features (like reviews and “buy from these retailers” links) are already well-integrated into that other behemoth of the book industry.)

Authors get even a little more love, in that they can create specialized “Author Pages” that list their books (including pictures of their book covers), link to blog posts, and allow authors to create and manage book giveaways.  Goodreads is so passionate about making promotion easy for authors that it has even put together a comprehensive web page describing how to best use their features–you can find that here–and have left me almost nothing to add except a little style and flourish.

No, that’s a lie.  I still have a lot to say about Goodreads!

Debunking the Great Goodreads Myth: “If I have Facebook and Amazon, I don’t really need another spot to store all my book recommendations, do I?”

Oh, but there’s something so incredibly satisfying about falling into a community that shares your passion for literature, isn’t there?  Amazon was created to sell things, and its “social” structures were integrated into that website after they were proven to be marketable.  Facebook was created to be social, and its “profitable” structures were integrated into that website after they were proven to have social elements.  Goodreads, on the other hand, was designed around the reading experience, to aid and abet readers and writers in sharing their love of literature.  Both social and marketable elements shaped the platform’s earliest concepts, and so the fusion of these two aspects is 100% seamless.  To be sure, it won’t replace your Facebook or your Amazon account, but it occupies a third space–and an equally compelling one, in my opinion.  It fills a niche and fills it perfectly.

Top 5 Best Practices:

1. Set up an author page.  Do it.  There’s no excuse not to, not when the resources are literally right there at your fingertips, delivered on a platinum platter by Goodreads’ own staff.  And if you’ve already published books, don’t worry–you can “capture” existing books in the system and take ownership of them, even if one of your readers has beaten you to entering the vital statistics into the system.  And if you run into trouble, the Goodreads staff are always quick to respond to both emails and posts in their help forums.  There’s a seemingly endless list of possible situations that the staff will troubleshoot for you.  Remember all of my past references to “findability”?  Setting up a Goodreads author page and filling in as many of the empty fields as possible will, without fail, make you more findable.  Have you googled a book recently?  More than half of the top search results for the average book link back to Goodreads–reviews, book pages, author pages, and forum posts.

2. Be a reader–an active reader.  Quite apart to the other benefits of being an avid reader (which I’m sure you are, already!), being an active reader on Goodreads has some serious benefits for your self-promotion methods.  The more books you review–actually review, not just leave a three- or five-star rating–the more people will see your name and follow the name back to your author page, and land on your books.  Even established authors with big followings will benefit from reading and from using Goodreads as the tool it was designed to be–a platform for sharing one’s passion for the printed (or digitized) word.  Other readers pick up on passion, enthusiasm, and authenticity.  I have been followed by a whole host of strangers on Goodreads who see my reviews, and you can bet they form a perfect nucleus of potential new readers.

3. Encourage your readers and followers to write reviews.  Elsewhere, even offline or apart from Goodreads, reviews are a wonderful–or even necessary–component of a sound marketing strategy.  Whenever you click on a book page in Goodreads, you’re delivered a whole sheaf of reviews, and the ones with the most “likes” are prioritized by the website to be displayed at the top of the sheaf.  Other readers and respond to reviews by liking, or by replying with their own comments.  However you incentivize the posting of reviews on your own books (see my next point), make sure that you do incentivize it!  At the very least, encourage your readers to check out your Goodreads author page.  The more people who interact there, the more links and metadata that is generated, and the more “findable” you are through indexing search engines like Google and Bing!

4. Host a giveaway!  I’ll admit it, I’m a giveaway addict.  (And I know I’m not alone–FREE BOOKS?!?!  Who wouldn’t be?!)  Goodreads makes hosting a giveaway so incredibly easy.  I will sit there for hours perusing the list of upcoming giveaways, signing myself up and crossing my fingers that I win this or that one.  New readers will find you simply by virtue of the fact you’re holding a giveaway … and this is before you even let your existing fans and social media followers know that they can enter!  (And again, don’t be afraid of the Goodreads forums.  There’s a lot of excellent information to mine there.)  You can only host a giveaway if you’re a book’s author or a bookseller, and there’s a heavy emphasis on giving away new books, upcoming releases, and new editions of previously published books.  By limiting giveaways in this way, Goodreads has cultivated a certain level of respectability and credibility that you won’t find in a lot of other places.

5. Join a group.  Goodreads is built around networking, so make sure to take full advantage of all of the networking options on the website–whether that’s creating a book list through Listopia, or posting reviews of books you’re reading, or posting blogs to your author page, or joining a group.  The groups are where a lot of the fun happens, and you can find a group to fit even the most specific interest.  There are book groups based on genres, on careers (librarians and booksellers are well-represented, as you might expect), on where you live or used to live (the LA Transplants book club group looks quite interesting), what you do in your leisure time, and, of course, a whole bunch of groups that cater specifically to you, the indie or self-published author (including this one!).  If you haven’t already found “your people,” you might just find them in a Goodreads Group.  You’ll find encouragement, information, instruction, and feedback.  The key to a good group experience is, as with all things social media, living as authentically online as you do offline.

Most Overlooked Feature:

In my mind, this one comes down to two possibilities: Goodreads Events, and Listopia.  In some ways, I feel as though Listopia is on its way out while Events is still quietly going strong and perhaps growing in its possible offerings.  In essence, you can use Events to organize real-life or digital meetups, including book readings and sales or online promotions.  You get to invite both current Goodreads users as well as non-users (by sharing the link), and you can manage each event to meet your personal preferences for a “public” versus “private” or “restricted” guest list.  Yes, Facebook also provides options for event invitations and meetups, but they’re less specific to the book industry–and, simultaneously, less likely to be stumbled-upon by new readers.  In any case, you can’t hurt your chances by trying it out!

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.

An Indie Author’s Social Media Primer | Pinterest

We’re not the first to write about the ways in which you can use Pinterest to help market your book, and we won’t be the last.  Why?  Because books are first and foremost a tangible object with incredible visual (and tactile) appeal, and Pinterest is a social media platform designed and built to showcase beautiful things.  Emphasis on “things.”  Pinterest is often described as a kind of digital bulletin board, and whether or not you actually use bulletin boards in real life, it is a powerful tool for collecting objects–most of them real and actual physical objects–together into one easy-to-access-and-modify place.  It may not have been specifically designed for books, but Pinterest is definitely a book-lover’s dream … and a haven, too, for self-published authors.

Pinterest

How does Pinterest work?  Users create profiles, find and follow their friends, and have the freedom to tag these friends when “pinning,” not to mention respond to or “re-pin” these friends’ “pins.”  You can create just one Pinterest “board,” or many.  You can even determine which ones are public and which ones are private, and invite your friends to pin to your private boards with you!  (As with every other social media platform, Pinterest has created its own semi-exclusive vocabulary.)  Depending on whether you’re using the mobile interface on your smartphones or other smart devices, or whether you’re using the desktop interface on your computer or laptop, these pins are displayed tiled across your screen in a visual “feed.”  So far, you’ll note that Pinterest provides many of the same services as any other platform–like Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter–only with a more visual twist.  In fact, I would say that Pinterest resonates with Instagram the most, since both of these mediums were designed exclusively to showcase visual content, and as such have attracted users of a more artistic bent.

So, how does the indie, hybrid, or self-published author take advantage of Pinterest?  First, we have to address a certain … stigma … that Pinterest has acquired.

Debunking the Great Pinterest Myth: “Isn’t it mostly just recipes and wedding ideas?”

Forbes has published an article on it.  So has the London School of Economics.  And a whole host of marketing professionals (such as SiteLogicMarketing).  In the United States, yes, some 83% of Pinterest users were female–but in the UK?  That number drops to 44% female.  And even in the predominantly female American user base, many big brands are making use of Pinterest to market meaningfully to men.  In her Forbes article, Michelle Greenwald writes that Pinterest’s emphasis on “lifestyle” makes it prime territory for companies to “[add] brand value and [communicate] all the ways the brand can fit into its customers’ lives.”  Yes, wedding companies and Etsy entrepreneurs and watercolorists have a good handle on the marketing potential of Pinterest, but so too do companies like Bit9, Go Pro, ESPN, IBM, and GE.  When push comes to shove, purchasing a new washing machine or scoping out a new piece of tech is just as much a lifestyle-building decision as collecting ideas for bridal bouquets.

Top 5 Best Practices:

1. Take advantage of your own cover art.  Your book is beautiful.  Own it!  Throwing together a Pinterest board that features your own book’s cover art should be amongst the first things you do with Pinterest as an author; the existing visual impact of your book is simply too great a resource to waste!  You can fill the board up with illustrated quotations from your book, or perhaps photographs of your book in various locations–out “in the field, in its natural habitat” so to speak.  And don’t forget about your book trailer, if you have one!

2. Put together an “inspiration board.”  What inspires you when you’re writing?  Art?  Music?  A really well-executed NPR interview?  Set the mood for both you and your readers by putting together an inspiration board that features images, sounds, and atmospheres that evoke the world you’ve created within the pages of your book.  You know those playlists that authors will put together to go with their books?  An inspiration board is kind of like a playlist, only the content can be much more varied (and usually, much more visual!).

3. Pin contests and giveaways.  There are all kinds of giveaways, contests, and sweepstakes running on Pinterest at any given moment, but often the most exciting ones involve books!  Consider offering ARCs (Advance Reading Copies), singly or in bundles, to your readers via a Pinterest contest–and to enter, perhaps challenge each contestant to pin a picture of themselves holding your book in their favorite reading nook or space.  This kind of contest turns into loads of free marketing for you, in part because it requires creative thinking and engagement on the part of your readers, and in part because for every person who enters and pins a picture, dozens more of their friends and family will be exposed to your book as it crops up in their Pinterest feeds.  Just be sure you know how to navigate the fair use guidelines and contest requirements as stated by Pinterest!

4. Never underestimate the power of similarity.  Those “if you like this, why don’t you try this?” ads are on to something, and Pinterest-savvy authors are taking note.  One of the best things you can do on Pinterest is to dedicate a board to books that resonate with yours.  Pin books (or book covers, with their Amazon listings linked in the descriptions, to be more specific) of the same genre, or featuring characters you like, or that employ plot devices that somehow exist in conversation with those you use.  What purpose does this serve?  As with any social media platform, you have to do a little creative manipulation to make yourself “findable” by your ideal readers.  The more links you generate, the more connections you make easily accessible, the more people will find you and follow you on Pinterest.  And don’t be afraid to “send” pins to or otherwise get in contact with other pinners whose interests resonate with your own; the worst thing someone can say is “no, I’m not interested in featuring your pin on my board of recently self-published historical fiction novels” … but they might be eager to pin it!  You won’t know until you ask.

5. Don’t be afraid to set up or convert to a “Business” account.  That’s right, Pinterest is doing its best to make it easy for you to build your brand!  There are certain advantages to using a Business Profile as opposed to a Personal Profile, including access to analytics and other platform-specific tools that help you track what pinning activities are proving successful, and how to focus your time, energy, and attention where it’s going to do the most good.

Most Overlooked Feature:

If you haven’t heard of your “source page,” then you’re missing out!  Pinterest sends out notifications when users re-pin your pins, but often these notifications don’t actually tell you how many users are pinning directly from your page and how many are re-pinning from other peoples’ feeds or from Pinterest’s built-in “suggestion” algorithms.  Your source page is pinterest.com/yoursite.com, so if your username was “selfpublishingchampion,” your source page would be pinterest.com/selfpublishingchampion.com.  Hop on over to your source page to see which pins are or are not performing well on Pinterest–it’s a good sign if users are pinning directly from your site, since that means they’re more likely to have seen more than just the one pin; they will have seen more of the content surrounding your book!

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.

An Indie Author’s Social Media Primer | Snapchat

We’re five weeks into my unofficial primer for indie and self-published authors looking to master social media, and this week I’ll be examining what is often perceived as the most “faddish” social media platform of all, Snapchat!  In past weeks, we’ve taken a gander at some bedrock philosophy for social media marketing as well as peered rather more closely at Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.  But when push comes to shove, these three social media platforms–and Facebook, which I’ll get to in due course–are far more widely used by authors to reach their followers than Snapchat.  Why?  Because on Snapchat, everything is temporary.

Snapchat

Let me hit the “rewind” button for a moment.  What exactly is Snapchat, for those of us who aren’t already familiar?  It’s an app.  Specifically, it’s an app(lication) that can only be used and viewed from tablets and smartphones running Android or Apple’s iOS platforms.  Users take pictures or videos (“snaps”) and distribute them to a controlled list of recipients; these recipients (termed “friends” within the app) can view the snaps for only a few seconds (the length of time is determined by the snap-taker) before they are irrevocably lost to the ether (with a few exceptions).  Snappers can customize their pictures and videos with a few filters and the addition of some (limited) text before sending them, but the app is about as streamlined as they come.

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of aggressive marketing through Snapchat yet, it’s probably because the app interface prioritizes privacy.  Unlike Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and to an extent Facebook, Snapchat was designed primarily for use between people who know each other in real life, and for use on the fly.  Even Instagram can be viewed on a regular laptop or desktop computer by using an internet browser–but then, Instagram is a forum for the artistic and beautiful, and Snapchat is a forum for the wacky and weird and private and time-sensitive things.

Debunking the Great Instagram Myth: “It’s all about the nudes.”

We’ve all heard the stories: Snappers who find themselves in compromising situations when someone takes a screenshot of their latest snap, in which they are sans clothing, and distributes this screenshot without approval––and, apparently, a conscience.  The fact that snaps don’t stick around has led some to––and I’m putting this indelicately––regret their choice of friends, but those who use Snapchat for this kind of exchange are in the minority (as they are with every other social media platform out there).  Snapchat is not just about nudes, or even about the oft-reviled “selfie.” 

If those who you follow with the app are the sort of people who spend their lives mountain climbing or heli-skiing, then you will end up watching a lot of GoPro camera footage.  If you follow a librarian, bookseller, or author, you’re going to be seeing a lot of books and, very likely, clips of their favorite shows (with bonus giggles and voiceover reactions!).  The sum of your Snapchat experience is determined by the people that you already like and trust.  Snapchat does not promote narcissism or self-absorption––it helps friends share the texture and material of their lives with those who are physically absent.  It also, importantly, promotes storytelling!

John Green on SnapchatJohn Green on Snapchat

Top 5 Best Practices:

1. Let people know you’re on Snapchat.  Because this particular app doesn’t operate on hashtags and a search engine (unlike Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and pretty much every other platform out there), you can’t quite make yourself “findable” on Snapchat the way you can elsewhere.  You have the option of adding people by Username, from your Address Book, by Snapcode, or proximity (even if another snapper is “Nearby,” you still have to opt-in to this feature––so again, your privacy is protected).  The easiest way to get others to add you is to make an announcement outside of Snapchat––on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on.  You’ll receive notification that someone else has added you, and you can decide if you want to become “mutuals” by adding that person back.

2. Think of incentives that make use of Snapchat’s time-sensitive nature.  A snap can only be viewed for 24 hours after you post it, and once someone taps their screen to view your snap, they only have 1 to 10 seconds to view it before it disappears (you determine how many seconds they have when you post the snap).  Snappers can choose one snap a day to “replay,” but once they choose to replay a snap once they can’t replay it again, or replay any other snaps that day.  This feature means that your followers usually only have one shot at getting your joke or viewing your behind-the-scenes footage.  And while this may seem prohibitive to self-promotion, it isn’t!

Retailers can tell you that a timed incentive––like a 24-hour promotional discount, or a 24-hour giveaway competition, or a 24-hour scavenger hunt––is a great way to hook in new readers.  Joe Warnimont writes that one streetwear company (Karmaloop) routinely grabs people, dresses them up with items from their clothing line, and then takes a snap of those people holding a picture of their latest promotional code.  It might seem convoluted, but this kind of time-sensitive and exclusive material (only available to followers on Snapchat!) can generate a lot of buzz for a writer.  You might take a leaf out of Karmaloop’s book and take snaps of strangers holding pictures of quotes from your book around town, or you might branch out and offer a one-day-only discount for your book on Amazon.

3. Take advantage of Snapchat’s “Stories” feature.  One of Snapchat’s more interesting features is the way it allows users to build “stories” out of multiple snaps.  Every snap you choose to post to “My Story” (an option visible in the “Send To…” tab) is compiled together.  If you post five short videos (or three short videos and two still pictures) to your story, your followers will view them all in sequence when they tap your name on their “Recent Updates” feed.  Some snappers go all-out with their stories, using the ten-second time limit as a jump cut to a new scene or clip, while others use their stories to quite literally tell stories(with illustrations, of course)!  As an indie author, you’re used to telling stories in at least one medium.  Why not try another?  Statistics show that the majority of Snapchat’s users do, in fact, enjoy viewing their friends’ stories in addition to their individual snaps.

[ SIDE NOTE: if you have a particularly awesome day, you can save your stories to your phone.  Just tap the ellipsis (“…”) to the right of your story and select the correct option to store it in your photo app. ]

4. Frame your content for Millennials.  The average Snapchat user is young––in their teens or twenties––and female.  This is painting with a broad brush, certainly, as there are plenty of snappers who do not identify as Millennials or female––but the statistics do create a big picture of who’s likely to find you Snapchat (as opposed to, say, Twitter).  On the whole, snappers are more likely to be deeply engaged with the content they view than the average Facebook user, so it’s worth considering what sort of material a young woman is going to respond to.

5. Don’t panic.  Snapchat feels different, so very different from the Big Five (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest).  Its basic architecture and interface is alien to folks who sit in front of computer screens larger than three by five inches.  It takes a while to get used to, and to figure out how to use, and to enjoy working with.  It can also be highly addictive––which is one reason why it’s a good idea to give it a try.  New readers might just become addicted to your book!  Still, it’s not for everyone.  (It turned out not to be for the King of Young Adult literature, John Green, who gave up on it within minutes of his first snap.  (Although it’s worth noting that he was already so incredibly popular that he didn’t exactly need to try any new avenues for self-promotion.)  Snapchat isn’t for everyone, but it is for the young and up-and-coming Millennial generation, which also happens to be one of the greatest per-capita consumer demographics when it comes to books––physical books and ebooks!  Which is to say … give it time.

Most Overlooked Feature:

Live video.  You heard me.  Live video.  If you’re in the midst of a Snapchat conversation with a friend or reader and your camera button flickers blue (it’s normally yellow) and you hear a strange noise, that means that both parties are actively viewing the conversation and you can start a live video chat.  Essentially, you can do the Snapchat equivalent of Skype or Google Hangouts or FaceTime with your fans.  All you have to do is tap and keep your finger down on the camera button.  A circular image pops up––live feed from your smartphone’s camera––and you drag that circle to the bottom before releasing to keep the video going.  Each party has to do this step separately in order for both people to see each other: which is nice, because you’ll never be forced to show your face, if you’re not in the mood or not free or not sure what’s happening.  It is entirely possible to have a one-sided conversation as a result, which is slightly less fun than it sounds.  Still!  Imagine all of the possibilities for you to surprise your fans with quick hellos and insider information!

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.