Marketing, Self-Publishing, Tips, Writer's Life, Writing, Writing Advice

Social Media, Take Two

Social Media

To recap our discussion last week, we went over the general trajectory of social media sites for the coming year to hopefully pinpoint where to devote your social media time…but what do we do while we’re there?

Before we dive into the particulars today, let me make a statement on how I feel about social media—be forewarned, my opinions are not always popular.

Social media can be, and often is, a huge waste of time. It is also hard to avoid and even harder to avoid when you’re trying to promote yourself and your work: so it is almost a necessity. Sure some authors manage to get by without finding themselves shackled to tweets, posts, likes, and pins…but even well-established, traditionally published authors use social media to connect with their readers.

That said, as indie authors we can’t afford to lose any of our precious writing time. Our editing time. Our research time. Our revising time. Our design time. Our formatting time. Our educational time. (If you don’t think becoming a successful indie author requires some sort of education, I fear for you.) If you’re following my train of thought here, pursuing this passion requires an indie to wear a lot of hats. Each particular hat requires a lot of time…and social media isn’t the best of bedfellows with productivity. Always keep that in mind.

If you’re content with your writing journey remaining a hobby, then perhaps this advice does not apply to you…but if you want writing to replace some or all of your income at some point, then I urge you to think of social media in a new way: as yet another tool. Tools should be used when necessary, put away when not, and you should always know how to use them.

And that is what I want to explore today. You’ll notice I will make some confessions along the way about mistakes I have made, and my own personal goals for this platform in the coming year. You should also know the majority of these findings come from my own personal experiences. Yours will probably vary. To find and follow me on any of these platforms, click the icons below.

Anyway…let’s go!

FacebookFacebook | Of the social media sites I used prior to two weeks ago, Facebook is my least favorite for marketing purposes. I think it is safe to say that Facebook is mostly used to keep track of family and friends. I took a quick poll of my own friends and family and next to no one said they use this platform for anything else: more than one of these people volunteered the fact they never click the ads that pop up in their feed.

For an indie author, breaking that barrier is difficult. Your family and friends will likely share posts you make, comment on them, etc. but will that cross the even more daunting barrier of getting what I call outside engagement(By this I mean you’re attracting the attention of new people, those outside your established circle. I.E. Not your mom or best friend.) Getting attention, in this manner, on Facebook can be like threading a needle with your eyes closed, one handed.

Perhaps this is why I find Facebook to be so stupidly tedious. There’s so little return on the time investment. It’s disheartening to look through the analytics. So, I’m here to admit: I suck at using Facebook. I’ve been trying to read a little here and there about how to improve my FaBo game, and I was surprised by a few things I read.

It seems when it comes to other social media outlets, hashtags are the name of the game…not so much when it comes to the Book of Face. According to PostPlanner, hashtags may be crippling our posts! Now I’m not sure what sampling of posts they used for this study, but here goes:

  • Posts with 1 or 2 hashtags averaged 593 interactions
  • Posts with 3 to 5 hashtags averaged 416 interactions
  • Posts with 6 to 10 hashtags averaged 307 interactions
  • Posts with more than 10 hashtags averaged 188 interactions

Ian Cleary from Razor Social says using pointless hashtags on Facebook is, and I am paraphrasing, a turn off. Don’t do it. Stick to only relevant hashtags and only use two.

Peg Fitzpatrick from Canva (I LOVE CANVA!) reminds us that even though using too many hashtags on Facebook can oddly limit a post’s reach, we should still embrace them as they are one of the only ways to expand your reach without paid advertisements. (Which, by the way, I know next to nothing about, therefore I don’t feel qualified to give any advice on the subject. Perhaps another time.)

I guess the moral of the story is: Hashtag wisely, folks.

Cons: Hard to find legitimately new followers, unless you have some degree of notoriety and people will already be searching for your name. If you want to be seen by fresh eyes, you’ll almost certainly have to pay for ads, and there are no guarantees at all you’ll see any clicks. The analytics page isn’t as easy to decipher as Twitter’s.

Pros: Your family and friends will likely share your work for you with their family and friends.

My Facebook goals for 2018: Post consistently while also experimenting with what content works. I’d like to have a minimum 300 FaBo followers by the end of 2018. I have a lot of work to do.



Twitter (3)Twitter | 
I have had much more luck navigating Twitter. The use of hashtags on Twitter is much more user-friendly than it is with Facebook, and used much more often which is great! And not so great. It’s the very definition of a catch-22. You can’t be seen if you don’t use the popular hashtags…and sometimes you can’t be seen when you use the popular hashtags. Why? Because everyone else is using them too, and the most popular way to view them is to view the latest tweets at the top. Meaning your tweet from thirty-seconds ago with the hashtag AmWriting is now probably 20-30 tweets down, if not further.

One of the things Twitter does amazingly is their analytical tools. You can easily monitor your most popular tweets and when your best times of day are. If Twitter is something you’re looking to get serious about as a tool, you really need to familiarize yourself with the analytics. This will help your impressions and your follower count blossom.

My favorite thing about Twitter is the ease of finding other writers.

My least favorite thing about Twitter is it can be really damn difficult to find readers.

The writing community on Twitter is vast. Ever expanding, really. We’re everywhere, sharing our work and hashtagging like it’ll save the world! But, as for people who are just seeking to find a new author or a really good book…I’ve yet to really find the magic formula for this. Sorry.

You can, and probably will, sell a few books to people you meet on Twitter. After all, writers are readers. Just really freaking busy ones with their own stories to write. I went on an Indie diet in 2016 and part of 2017, and every book I bought was found on Twitter. So, don’t give up…just don’t get discouraged, either.

I think the best possible way to utilize Twitter as a writing tool is to use it to network with other writers. Find people to share in this journey with you. Learn from them. Teach them. Read other indie work. Befriend and be involved. This is where I have found 95% of my beta readers. In that sense, Twitter has been invaluable.

But never forget that you aren’t writing your novel if you participate in every single writer’s chat and hashtag game. Do these things, fine, but sparingly.

Cons: Can be hard to find readers seeking out Indie authors, therefore not the best way to make sales. Because the writing community is so vast and there is always some sort of chat, event, or game going within it making getting lost and inadvertently wasting time is easy to do.

Pros: Such a vast and active writer community. It’s easy to find help, guidance, support, inspiration, beta readers and critique partners.

My Twitter goals for 2018: Learn even more from Twitter’s analytics tools, and use the data to increase impressions, interactions, and up my followers by 25%.



GoodReads2GoodReads | 
You want to find readers? GoodReads. This website is a reader’s delight. It’s easy to find new books and new authors, more finely tuned than on any other social media outlet. It’s a beautiful relationship. There are really only two reasons for a person to be on GoodReads at all: either they’re a reader or a writer. It’s the best site for a captive audience.

But…well…GoodReads has made a controversial move in the indie author arena. One of the things that has been so gosh darn attractive about GoodReads has been their giveaway platform. It was so easy for readers to find great, new material this way because it was a free service to authors, and allowed readers to participate in giveaways with peace of mind. Now, GoodReads is going to charge out the proverbial ass for hosting a giveaway. If you’re an indie author PAY REALLY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THIS:

Standard Giveaway will cost authors/publishers $119, per book. There’s not a lot included with the standard giveaway, except for paying an awful lot of money to give something away.

Premium Giveaway will cost authors/publishers $599, per book. SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS to give something away for free. What do you get for this exorbitant fee? Special placement. That’s literally the only difference. Both packages also offer an email to contest winners reminding them to leave a review for your book.

I don’t know about you, but this new change doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies. My pragmatism dictates that GoodReads is providing a service, and they should be able to charge people for that service if they want to. I’m fine with that part. But I am not so fine with the amounts being charged. I think it’s grossly excessive and really doesn’t allow indie authors a shot at a competitive edge.

My advice for using GoodReads going forward is to make the most out of your page, utilizing the interview questions, trivia questions, etc. etc. but, I don’t recommend shelling out that much money for a giveaway. The odds are really stacked against indies for a ROI in this giveaway arena. Run your own giveaways and save yourself the money. Look at books in your genre, see who is reading and enjoying them. GoodReads is a great tool to learn and study your key demographic!

Cons: Giveaways are no longer free, and the fees are astronomical.

Pros: Users are usually dedicated readers who seek out new material. There are ways to interact with fresh faces. GoodReads is more powerful than it may seem at first glance.

My GoodReads goals for 2018: Jazz up my page, and try to initiate more interaction with readers, utilizing their message boards and browsing books related to mine and finding out all I can about my key demographic. (Which might help with other social media sites in the long run.)


 

Instagram (1)Instagram | I do not know very much about Instagram, to be honest. I’ve avoided it for a long time, and it is going to take a lot of diligence and practice for me to make using it a habit. What I do know about IG is that it continues to grow and gain momentum at a rate I never imagined.

 

For those that don’t know, Instagram is all about posting images with engaging captions and multiple hashtags. Hashtags are very important in Instagram, as people do scroll tags in order to find content relative to their interests, unlike most of Facebook users–Facebook being IG’s big papa.

Instagram Stories is apparently the hit new thing, though it really isn’t a new thing. New doesn’t last very long on the internet. Basically, Stories is a way to share multiple images on IG that tell, well, a story. As a writer, you might like to compile some pictures that show your habits during a full day of writing. Your coffee, your desk, your computer screen (if yours looks like mine, it’s framed in a myriad of post-its), the sandwich you have for lunch, a sneak peek into your day planner, a close up of your editing notes…you get where I’m going here? Stories seems to be a way to give even more of a glimpse into what goes on behind the curtains.

Cons: I’m not certain it will be the easiest place to sell books, as I think people skim for images more than they will click buy-links. Time will tell me if my prediction is correct.

Pros: It’s the hip place to be on the internet, apparently. It’s growth is expanding, and the experts at Entrepreneur.com believe it will be the best social media site for marketing in 2018—time will tell if that proves true for the Indie author community.

My Instagram Goals for 2018: Learn to use it and make a point to use it more frequently. I’d like to gain 1000 followers by EOY.


Pinterest (1)Pinterest: I am a habitual Pinterest browser…rarely do I ever post things. I’d like to do a better job with this. Currently I use private inspiration boards, but I’d like public ones. Also, I fully intend on making shareable and printable documents that are so popular on this platform—which I think is more viable than trying to find book buyers.

Instagram (2)Google+: Use for hangouts if you’d like to have group discussions, otherwise it’s currently a waste of time in my humblest opinion. I am still holding onto hope, however, that the geniuses at Google will someday figure out how to revolutionize their social media side…until then, I won’t utilize this platform.

YouTube (1)YouTube: If you’re braver than I am, starting a YouTube channel might be a great idea. Don’t do it if you aren’t 100% sure, however. Nothing comes across worse than someone trying to force themselves to be comfortable in front of the camera, or worse yet, professing expertise on a subject they know nothing about. While I technically do have a YouTube channel, I only have two videos posted: my book trailers. Creating book trailers isn’t a surefire way to sell books, but it can’t hurt. In fact, I noticed after posting my most recent trailer, I did sell a few copies of my eBook for Sex, Love, and Technicalities.

If you do decide to make a trailer for your book, as with everything else you publish, make it to the absolute best of your ability…which might mean hiring someone to do it for you if you lack the skill or are unwilling to learn the skill. (I will be doing a more thorough blog post in Quarter 2 of 2018 on producing a quality book trailer.)


My BIGGEST pieces of social media advice:

  • Be authentic, whatever platform(s) you use. Don’t be someone you’re not, because that is a tough act to keep up for long. We all fall back into our old habits before too long. If you’re not a naturally comedic person, don’t try to be, because…
  • We’ve talked a lot about selling books…but don’t sell your books. You’re selling you.
  • Follow etiquette. Don’t spam people. Don’t invade established hashtags with the intent of some sort of coup. Give credit where credit is due, always.
  • Social media is only a piece of the author platform puzzle: don’t neglect the other parts.
  • The old adage “you catch more flies with honey” always applies.
  • It is absolutely fine to start building your author platform while working on your debut work…just don’t forget to also work on your novel. The interest you’re building in yourself and your book needs to actually go somewhere.

 

That’s all I have for you today. When we reconvene on Thursday, I’ve got a special interview I know you’re just going to love!

Until then: Happy reading and writing, my friends!


SLT   SLF Cover

Are you a fan of Women’s Fiction? Find my novels on Amazon in eBook and paperback.

Both eBooks are free with Amazon’s KindleUnlimited.

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Announcement, Getting To Know Aila, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized, Writer's Life, Writing

Sex, Love, and Formalities : Launch Day

WIN

First things first, there is still time to enter the giveaway above. The lovely Vania Rheault is hosting this giveaway on her blog, and you can find my interview with her here, where you can find out how to enter the giveaway. (If I may say, one of the teas I selected for this giveaway is so good I had to buy extra so I wouldn’t be tempted to keep it all for myself!)

On to the ugly author confession: I didn’t have a blog post for launch day.

That must be breaking one of the Writerly Ten Commandments. Whoopsie! *sigh*

What can I say? It’s difficult being a full-time worker by day and a writer by night…especially for someone like me who often times comes home thinking about the day I’ve had and planning for the day I hope to have tomorrow.

I didn’t exactly rest on my laurels, though. I was an active participant in my launch day because if I’m not, who will be? (Aside from my #1 cheerleader, Vania!)

This particular book launch was much different than my first. How? I’m glad you asked.

1 – I wasn’t stressing the eBook layout issues I had with the first one. This time there was no other company trying to hijack my book through some weird back door. (Pulling your eBook off the digital shelves on its launch day is a horrible feeling–one I hope I never feel again.)

2 – I already had a reader base. A small one, mind you, but a reader base nonetheless. I went into this launch day knowing I already had sales lined up. This was an interesting feeling. I was excited because I knew a few people were excited to read the continuation of Brie and Liam’s love story…but I’ll admit I’m also a little petrified because I hate to disappoint people. At the end of the day, I wrote the book I wanted to write, told the story I wanted to tell…and I think that’s lovely.

3 – I realized that by publishing book deux I obtained something I didn’t have before: The beginning of a back list. Since book two wouldn’t really make sense unless folks were familiar with book one, I decided to make Sex, Love and Technicalities free for the first five days of Formalities’ launch. THIS WAS A HUGE HIT….

Because…

And I really…

Really…

Really…

Wish I had a drum roll to play for you.

Let’s pretend! Badadadadadaddadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadaadadaa….

Sex, Love, and Technicalities made it to #14 on the Amazon Best Sellers List (free books, mind you) for Women’s Fiction > Crime!!!

Fourteen.

I cried. I did. I really shed a tear or five-hundred. Now, I know this isn’t going to make me famous and I know that I didn’t even make a dime from it because they were free books… But to see your title on a best seller’s list is…I can’t even.

Then my husband told me I made it onto two additional best seller’s lists simultaneously! I was on three separate Amazon Best Sellers lists. (As of this post, I’m still hanging on to the Top 20 in Women’s Fiction > Crime!!!) I may not have made a penny, but it made me feel like a million bucks.

Point number three on this list was a long one. A good one, but a long one.

4 – Amazon apparently hiccuped while setting up my paperback title from IngramSpark. It’s technically listed…just not functioning. This is a letdown on launch day, yes, but I only know of about three people who had intended on ordering the paperback on launch day, and they don’t seem to be too peeved. I’ve spoken with Ingram and they’re confident it’ll be fixed within 24-48 hours. Fingers crossed!

5 – The people in my personal life seem to take me a little more seriously as an author now that there is an official book two. People who more or less smiled and nodded whenever the subject of my writing came up are now actively GOOGLING me. For instance here’s a couple questions I’ve been asked this week: “Did you know you had a 5-star rating on Amazon?”   “Oh my God! Since when was your book available on Barnes and freaking Noble?!”

Yes, I could even hear the interrobang.

It was my turn to smile and nod. 🙂

There you have it. Five things about my book launch I’ll file away to remember for the next one…I’m hoping for late Spring 2018. New year, new book, new lessons. I’m looking forward to it.

Speaking of looking to the future, I really do intend on making blogging a much more regular feature on my agenda. And by agenda, I really do mean that. In order to help further organize my life, I bought an Erin Condren LifePlanner, and I am working out a blogging schedule that will hopefully work out better for myself.

In the meantime, if you are interested in reading Sex, Love, and Technicalities, the eBook is available for free on Amazon until December 1st, and you can find that here.

The sequel: Sex, Love, and Formalities, can be purchased on eBook here.

And don’t forget to enter the giveaway where you could win a signed copy of each!

I’ll leave you with the book trailer for SLF. I’m so proud of it! xoxo

Announcement, Getting To Know Aila, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized, Writer's Life, Writing

Author Confession

@AilaStephens

I sometimes wonder if other authors grieve their characters once they’ve finished writing a book or series. I finished writing Sex, Love, and Formalities a few weeks ago, with minor tweaks here and there based off editor and/or beta feedback…but for all intents and purposes, the story of Briella Logan is finished.

She’s the first character I’ve ever created who has seen the finish line of not just one, but two books. She’s my first entry into the publishing world. I’ve spent over two years agonizing over her syntax, her emotions, her likes and dislikes. I know the lifetime of backstory that readers will never know.

For instance, when Briella was in high school her father was in the hospital and when he came home, Brie made him dinner and he said it was the best thing he’d ever eaten—and that’s why Brie decided to become a chef. It *never* comes up in either story, but I knew how she came to that decision. I know that she secretly listens to Alanis Morrisette while she cleans house, but changes it to something else if someone comes home because she’s embarrassed to be seen dancing around using a whisk as a microphone.

I know why Liam never, ever mentions his parents. I know that although Liam fawns over Brie’s gourmet cooking, he sometimes craves overcooked Toad in A Hole like his grandmother made him on the nights his mom abandoned him on her doorstep. I know Liam doesn’t like horror movies because he hates not being able to help the damsel in distress.

If I am being honest, I’d write a hundred more Brie and Liam books because I just adore writing them. They’re not always the best versions of themselves they can be. They’re flawed. Perhaps that’s what makes them so real to me.

I won’t write a hundred more books about them, though. I will probably never write another book about them. I’m comfortable with where I’ve left them. I feel like it’s finished and nothing further would do them justice. (Not to mention I have other ideas and characters to bring to life!) But I will miss them. I’ll probably catch myself daydreaming about what Brie is doing. I’ll write a recipe and wonder if it’d be up to snuff in her eyes.

I don’t know if I’ll always feel this attached to my main characters, but in a way I almost hope I am. I hope I always care this deeply for getting their stories just right. I hope I always find myself this invested in the lives of my characters, because I hope it always translates in the writing.

Please don’t think me crazy. Brie and Liam, Alex, John, Kara, Heidi…they’re just characters I had floating around in my head and I gave them some dialogue on the page. Trust me, I know this. But I hope if you happen to pick up a copy of either SL&Technicalities or SL&Formalities, you’ll adore them as I do.

I know it’s not uncommon for readers to feel sad when they say goodbye to beloved characters, but writers speak up! Have you ever felt saddened to finish writing a book or series?

Until next time my lovelies, happy reading and writing!

———————————–

The conclusion of Briella Logan and Liam Abbott’s story, SEX, LOVE, & FORMALITIES, will be available in paperback and eBook on November 28, 2017.

Self-Publishing, Tips, Writer's Life, Writing

Let Me Be Frank

Self-Pub Mistakes“A teachable spirit and a humbleness to admit your ignorance or your mistake
will save you a lot of pain. However, if you’re a person who knows it all, then you’ve
got a lot of heavy-hearted experiences coming your way.”
-Ron Carpenter, Jr.

So as I mentioned last week, my launch day wasn’t the thrill it was supposed to be. I didn’t tweet about my book–and haven’t once–since then.

I’m sure my husband would protest, (HA!) but alas: I am not perfect.

Instead of pouring my heart and soul out, let me just give you a little lesson in all that went wrong for me on that day and the days leading up to it. If I had a nickle for every red flag I overlooked, I could quit my day job. (If anyone wants to send me nickles to get that process started, my P.O. Box is… *wink*) In all seriousness, please learn from my mistakes.

Without further adieu:

1.| I should have recruited more help. The people helping me were FANTASTIC! But, I should have had people reading the eBook in multiple formats, because I wasn’t just putting it on Amazon. I was using IngramSpark and my book appeared on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and obscure Japanese websites for whatever reason. So, while the formatting may have been decent on one platform, it wasn’t on all and this was something I didn’t consider. Mostly because…

2.| I purchased a layout for my novel. [This isn’t exactly a mistake, but there were definite lessons to be learned.] I’m not ashamed to admit it, I wasn’t getting results on my own that I was happy with, and I didn’t have time or patience for learning InDesign on the fly, so I purchased a Word-friendly book layout that was supposed to translate perfectly from print to eBook. I am 99% sure I even paid a little extra for the duality. I’m debating on whether to link to the company because I am quite frankly debating on whether I will use them again. Their information is listed in the front matter of the book because a.) it was a requirement of purchasing the layout and b.) because I’m thrilled with the way the paperbacks look.

However, what I did not, can not, and will not like or understand about this is what happened to the metadata of my eBook. This company automatically inserted itself in the metadata as both author and publisher of my book. And my eBook layout problems only seemed to occur whenever I corrected the metadata. For legal reasons, I will not say that they were definitely the cause of my eBook layout problems, but I will say that it is a matter I am still looking into.

3.| Every time I needed to fix an issue with the eBook, it cost me $25 to do so. This was my fault, 100%. I knew that when/if I needed to make changes to the print version that it would cost me $25. I did not know the same applied to the eBook. With the layout problems I was facing, this was staggering. I am singing IngramSpark’s praises because they did not give me any trouble whatsoever when I asked begged them to release me of my eBook contract. Within 48 hours every trace of my error-riddled eBook was off the market and it was mine again to obsess over and check for those blasted formatting errors.

cautionSide note: If you’re going the IngramSpark route, I will be doing a more thorough review of my experience with them, but I will say this much quickly: Unless you are absolutely certain your success hinges on your eBook being available in every possible market, having your eBook with them will be an expensive venture. eBooks are updated regularly, and $25 each and every time adds up. Research the absolute hell out of the pros and cons of using their digital distribution services before you decide.

Their print service is exceptional, though. Truly top notch.

4.| If you’re an aspiring author and you’re not on Goodreads, hear this: Get on Goodreads. It’s powerful. Oh, and while you’re there, follow me. I ignored this valuable asset for far too long. You can do a lot of things here to set your book apart, like add video trailers, create quizzes and trivia for fans of your work. Have discussions with your readers in a way that other social media outlets simply can’t compare.

5.| I am not sure why I didn’t do this step, because I fully intended to, but I wanted to send out 15 or so ARC (Advanced Release Copies) to hopefully get some reviews before launch day. (This also would’ve alerted me to those formatting errors, too.) This was a monumental mistake on my part. Don’t be like me. Send out ARCs.

At the end of the day, you know what? I have a book. Relatively few people can say that. Even if you make every single mistake I did (Don’t, because you’ve read about them now) and you have a completed book that you’re proud of, that is an amazing thing! Don’t let a few mistakes and bumps along the way cause you to lose sight of your accomplishment. Dig your heels in, do your best to make it right, and make a vow to do better next time.

Do not give up on your writing dreams!