How the hashtag do #Authors use Twitter? #pubtips

Images from ShutterStock.

Images from ShutterStock.

TWITTER FOR AUTHORS

Almost all authors know about Twitter.

Few authors feel that they really know how to use it.

Some authors believe that Twitter isn’t as effective for book marketing as it once was.

Other authors believe Twitter isn’t for them.

Yet many authors do use Twitter quite effectively.

One important note is that there isn’t just one way to use Twitter.

So you can find the right combination of tips to fit your needs and personality.

Twitter Tip #1: Make the Most of Hashtags

What you want is a hashtag that your target audience actually checks out. Otherwise, your hashtag is wasted.

This takes some research. But the research is worth it because once you find an effective, relevant hashtag, you can use it not just for your current tweet, but for hundreds of related tweets in the future.

Many authors simply throw a hashtag sign (#) in front of any relevant word that seems to come to mind: #romance #mystery #book #kindle #actionpacked.

That’s just guesswork. Are readers in your target audience actually searching for tweets with those hashtags?

Find a variety of relevant potential hashtags and check them out. Look at the tweets that you find there. Is the content that you see there likely to draw in an audience? Next consider the Twitter users who made those tweets. If the best content is coming mostly from the same source, there is no reason for people to search for that hashtag: They can simply follow that one user and get all the best content that way. But if good content is coming from multiple sources, it would be easier to get that content by searching the hashtag than paying close attention to every tweet coming from a few different users.

But even if there is great content there, it’s possible nobody in your audience is actually searching for that hashtag. A little trial and error on your part may help you find gauge the effectiveness of a hashtag, as you can monitor your tweet engagement (you also need the kind of tweets likely to generate that activity).

If there is good content, but it’s drowned out by poor content, that’s a problem, too. It takes time to find a great set of hashtags, but it’s worth it if you do. (But keep in mind that those might not remain effective forever.)

Find authors with books similar to yours who appear to be using Twitter effectively. Check out the hashtags that they’ve used.

Note the #pubtips hashtag that I used for this post (publishing tips). I first learned about this hashtag when I saw Amazon KDP use it in a tweet with a publishing tip. Check it out here (you can learn a lot, as it’s packed with publishing tips):

https://twitter.com/hashtag/pubtips

You can even help inspire readers to regularly search for a particular hashtag. For example, you might get together with several other authors in the same genre, and come up with an idea for semi-weekly tweets likely to attract those readers. You might be able to get readers in the habit of checking out tweets in a particular hashtag. You have to put on your creative hat, and think of what kinds of tweets would draw in your audience. Something simple that you and others could do, which readers would appreciate.

Twitter Tip #2: Don’t Overdo the Hashtags

Two hashtags per tweet is a good rule of thumb.

#Nobody #will #read #a #tweet #that #looks #like #this #########!

Twitter Tip #3: Find Twitter All-Stars

Find and follow authors (both in and out of your genre) who appear to be using Twitter effectively.

You can learn a great deal about Twitter just watching from the sidelines for a couple of months. But you have to get good seats.

Beware that not everyone with a huge following is using Twitter effectively.

So look beyond the follower count. Also pay attention to engagement, as well as you can judge it from your perspective. If the content happens to engage you, especially when you were just checking it out to see how it’s done, you definitely want to pay close attention to those tweets.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Do they include links? Are the links in the beginning? at the end? somewhere else? What kinds of links are they?
  • Do they include images? How often do the tweets include images? What kinds of images? Is there text in the images? (Even pay attention to size, color schemes, and font styles.) What aspect ratio do they use? pixel count? (Right-click on an image to check out its properties.)
  • Which hashtags do they use? How many hashtags do they include in a typical tweet? Are any of these hashtags relevant for any of your tweets? In what context is each hashtag used?
  • How often do they tweet? How often do they retweet? How often do they self-promote? (If ever.) Do they ever draw up a new tweet to help promote someone else rather than simply retweet? If so, in which situations. Do they ever click the Twitter share button to tweet about relevant articles that they discover online?
  • How do they make effective use of that very limited character count? What kinds of words are they using, and where are they putting them?
  • Observe Twitter etiquette with regard to tweet frequency, direct messages, retweets, thank you’s, etc.

Twitter Tip #4: Get Started

You don’t have to turn into a Twitter pro overnight.

The first step is just to get started with something. Otherwise you’ll never get there. It will continue to be a nagging feeling that maybe you could (or should) be using Twitter more than you are now.

I’m not one of the Twitter pros yet. (When you find one, you’ll know the difference.) But I’ve taken the plunge, I’ve grown a following, I’ve followed many authors, I’ve done a ton of research on how to use Twitter (haven’t yet applied it all, but I’m getting there)… and that’s the way marketing works. You keep trying to improve and learn and try new things, and some of it will pan out. I started out with a simple WordPress blog a couple of years ago, and now I have a respectable following and average about 300-400 views per day. It functions as a content-rich website now, with most of my traffic coming from search engines, but it didn’t start out that way.

So if you want Twitter, or your blog, or any other aspect of marketing to work for you, the first thing is to take that first step and get it started.

Remember, you don’t have to build Rome in a day. You can take small steps and still eventually get there:

  • If you haven’t already done so, sign up for Twitter and setup your profile.
  • You can feed your WordPress blog posts (or Facebook posts) into Twitter. This will help give you some content at Twitter to help attract an initial following. It also helps connect an author who prefers WordPress or Facebook, for example, to potential followers who prefer Twitter. Let people follow you from their favorite platform. (But watch out for possible double or triple posts. For example, don’t both feed WordPress into Twitter and Twitter into WordPress—just do one or the other.)
  • When you come across an article that’s relevant for your audience, use the Twitter share button to tweet it. This will give you something different to share on Twitter.
  • Follow authors who appear to use Twitter effectively. This may help you learn some handy tips and build up the confidence to take a bigger plunge.
  • Then you can gradually start to apply various tips that you’ve learned.

Twitter Tip #5: Search for Twitter Help

This is the information age. Take advantage of it.

Use a search engine to find helpful Twitter tips for authors.

Here are a few to help you get started:

Check out the comments for my blog post. You might find some valuable tips there. If you have any Twitter tips, feel free to share them in the comments.

If you leave a comment with a tip, please include your Twitter handle (@you) so people can check out how you use Twitter.

Twitter Tip #6: Use Twitter Analytics

Measure tweet engagement, check out follower demographics, and more.

Using Twitter actually gets you an abundance of information (that can help you market better as well as better understand your audience).

And it’s free:

https://analytics.twitter.com/about

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Research & its Value for all Authors

Image from Shutterstock

Image from Shutterstock

RESEARCH FOR AUTHORS

Every author can benefit from research in multiple ways.

Research isn’t just for nonfiction authors. It’s not just for the content of the book.

There are many kinds of research relevant for authors, including:

  • Researching the mechanics of grammar or style, or the art of storytelling, for example.
  • Researching historical, geographic, language, or other elements relevant to your plot.
  • Researching how people react to names, places, and ideas you’re thinking about using in your book.
  • Researching how beta readers react to your story.
  • Researching the potential market for your book concept.
  • Researching reader expectations for your genre.
  • Researching helpful marketing strategies.
  • Researching publication tips, like writing the blurb or designing the cover.
  • And, of course, researching content for nonfiction, educational books, or historical fiction.

Here are some examples of how research can help:

  • Any kind of research can be a helpful marketing point.
  • It demonstrates your motivation to write your book well.
  • Character sketches, idea bubbles, maps, etc. make for nice bonus material on your website.
  • Writing-related research helps show readers that a great deal of work goes into preparing a book.
  • It helps you develop a professional image as an author.
  • Research helps strengthen your author biography.
  • It gives you useful content to post on your blog or author website.
  • Bits and pieces of research here and there can help you build buzz or create a content-rich website.

Many of the things writers already do and take for granted can be presented as a form of research. And when presented as research, they can make a favorable impression upon potential readers.

PERCEPTION

The last fantasy and sci-fi novels that I read were immediately followed by about the author sections, and in each case the author section each author mentioned a great deal of research that had gone into preparing the book.

In one case (Jeff Wheeler’s Legends of Muirwood), even though it was a fantasy novel, I was intrigued to learn that the basis for much of the magic in the book related to Medieval Europe. It wasn’t just random. Most chapters of the book begin with a fictional “quote,” while the author’s note at the back begins by describing the author’s passion for collecting quotes.

In the other case, (Bob Mayer’s Area 51 series) the author had blended actual events with fiction. The author also demonstrated how the military component has authenticity and described his obsession with mythology.

Reading about how these authors had done their homework just after I finished reading their books:

  • It made me more eager to check out the next book in the series.
  • It made it easier for me to recommend their books to others.
  • It left a favorable impression just as I was about to head over and review the book.

Does your book involve other cities? Don’t you have to research the layout of the city? Don’t you have to research the culture, lingo, and accents?

Does your book involve a military component? Don’t you have to research the military? Don’t you have to research the technology?

How do readers know if your book is realistic? Showing that you did your homework helps. It can also help inspire reader interest.

Showing that you’ve done your research also helps to create a positive perception about you and your book. It helps you build a strong brand as an author.

Marketing that perception helps you play to your strengths. Have you done anything to master the art of writing or storytelling? Do you have firsthand experience regarding the setting of your book? Do you have any expertise relevant to any of the subjects involved of your book? If you do, it may pique a reader’s interest.

MARKETABILITY

Some research can help you make your book more marketable:

  • Keyword research. Visit Amazon.com and start typing keywords into the search field. You’ll see popular searches. Note that the results are different depending on whether you search within all departments, books, the Kindle store, a category, or a subcategory, for example. Results are also different for searches on Kindle devices. You should try a variety of possibilities. You want keywords that are specific (to help you stand out better), popular (so they get searched for), and highly relevant for your book (so you don’t get overlooked in search results).
  • What to write. Search for books that you might be a good fit to write. See what’s selling, what’s not. See if the market’s already flooded, or if there is a need that you can fill.
  • Packaging ideas. When you search for similar books, you come across a variety of covers and blurbs. These can help you get ideas (but don’t be a copycat), and can help you gauge what customers expect to see (though there isn’t just one kind of cover that signifies a particular genre). Follow other authors and you can learn some of their marketing ideas.
  • Content expectations. Read similar books to learn what readers are accustomed to in your subgenre (that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do the same; but there are some features that most readers of a subgenre strongly want, so that can be helpful to know).

MY RESEARCH

I publish nonfiction, including math and science books. My background is physics, which I teach. I do all sorts of research for my books.

But, as you may know, I also have a sci-fi series that I’m working on. I’m in the beginning stages, and as I come across publishing decisions that I must make—like research—I’m sharing these experiences on my blog (with all the other kinds of posts that ordinarily write here). The image that I included with this post gives a subtle visual clue (though it will be set in modern times).

I’m doing much research to help write my series, such as:

  • Researching actual scientific data that may relate to extraterrestrial visitations of earth (in the past or present). Puma Punku in Bolivia, for example, has some fascinating finds. Most of such “evidence” isn’t necessarily “conclusive,” but can seem compelling and I find it fascinating. I want to know what my audience might know, and I want to make possible connections (after all, it’s fiction) that seem both deep and plausible.
  • Researching differences between writing fiction and nonfiction. I’ve been writing nonfiction avidly; obviously, fiction is quite different. I read a ton of fiction, especially sci-fi, fantasy, and classics, which will help. But writing isn’t quite the same as reading. For example, if there is a fight in my novel, I’ll need to describe the fight scene. (Fantasy author Charles Yallowitz gave me a great suggestion for this: Research some choreography.)
  • Researching sci-fi books in my subgenre that my readers are likely to be familiar with. I’ve already read some, but I’ve found several others. It’s kind of cool that the series that I’m writing is helping to fuel my own reading list.
  • And much more. I’ll save much of my research, including the details. It’s not just for writing the series, but much of it also figures into my marketing plans. You’ll see if you follow along.

CHANCE TO WIN 4-BOOKS-IN-1 ON SELF-PUBLISHING

You can win my 4-books-in-1 paperback book on Self-Publishing with Amazon.

This is an Amazon Giveaway hosted by Amazon. If you win, Amazon will fulfill the order and ship your prize directly to you. Click the following link for your chance to win. Every 300th entrant will win. Up to two winners.

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/3f7daee9a66b9548

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Mar 25, 2015 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See the Official Rules at http://amzn.to/GArules.

READING SURVEY

If you haven’t already done so, please participate in a survey on how people read books. The more participation we get, the more meaningful the results will be.

Here is one question, for your convenience. (If you’ve already answered this before, please don’t answer it a second time.)

You can find more questions here:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/surveys

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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How to Get 100,000 Views of Your BLOG (21 Blogging Tips)

Blogging Tips T

BLOG SUCCESSFULLY

I first began blogging actively on WordPress in December, 2012.

Only a little over 2 years, and my blog has reached 100,000 views and nearly 4,000 followers. My blog averages over 400 views per day presently, and the viewing frequency steadily accelerates.

If I can do it, you can, too. I believe it.

It’s not rocket science. (Just ignore the fact that I have a Ph.D. in physics. I didn’t use any physics to make my blog.)

In fact, I’m sharing my blogging ‘secrets’ today to help you do the same.

It’s not just me. I meet many other WordPress bloggers with many more views and followers than I have.

If you’re not there yet, don’t worry. You can get there, too.

I’ve created multiple blogs and webpages with WordPress, BlogSpot, GoDaddy, etc. By far my most successful blog or webpage is this WordPress blog. We’re fortunate that WordPress helps with visibility in search results. I find that the WordPress community is also very helpful, interactive, and positive. It’s a great place to be.

WORDPRESS BLOGGING TIPS

Here are 21 simple tips for better blogging at WordPress.

At the end of this article, I also reveal my two best tips for better blog traffic, and discuss those two tips in detail.

1 Readability

You can’t afford to lose any potential readers, right? They’re so hard to come by.

So your blog needs to be as readable as possible.

Black text on white is easiest to read. Use this for body text.

2 Skimmability

People read books. But they skim blogs.

Use headings, bullets, boldface, color, quote blocks, indents, images, etc. to make your blog skim-friendly.

Help the reader identify main points and see which parts of the article have relevant content.

3 Who Are You?

Setup your Gravatar. Check it periodically to ensure that it’s current.

Look for Users on either your dashboard or on My Sites.

Manage your photo through the Gravatar service. This will be your visual brand when you comment, for example.

Complete your profile. Be sure to add other links. For example, authors might add an Amazon Author Central page and a Goodreads page.

4 Publicize

Look for Settings > Sharing from your dashboard (click WP Admin from My Sites).

Add your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social media sites here. This will allow you to feed your WordPress blog directly to those sites.

(But check out my previous article about how Amazon uses Facebook and Twitter, and also check out the comments section in that post. That only takes a minute and it’s a better way.)

5 Sharing

More important, add the sharing buttons in Settings > Sharing.

This allows people who read your articles to share them via Twitter, Facebook, etc.

(If you include a hashtag in your title here at WordPress, that will help if anyone shares your post on Twitter.)

Remember to add the Print and Email options. Some people who read blogs actually like to print the articles out.

Be sure to scroll down and check the boxes for the posts and pages where you want these buttons to show.

6 Twitter & Facebook Widgets

Here is a little secret: Your Twitter and Facebook following adds to your WordPress following, so they actually help make your blog seem a little more popular than it really is.

Go to Appearance > Widgets from your dashboard.

Add the Twitter Timeline and the Facebook Like Box. Just drag them over to a sidebar. Then click the dropdown arrow to open a menu and customize them.

7 Interaction

Let your readers like your page, comment on your page, and perhaps even reblog your posts.

The likes and comments make your blog appear more interactive, and help your page stay fresh longer.

Some people try to look “pro” by removing the likes. The idea is that if there are a mere 13 likes on a post, you’re not really so popular, huh?

Who are we trying to fool? If I don’t even see the like button as an option, my first thought is that the number of likes must be really tiny.

Or, in some cases, the idea may be to encourage Facebook interaction instead. Ah, but I loathe to have to login with so many different accounts. Look, I’m already here with my Gravatar. Let me use that.

Make it simple, encourage interaction. It’s hard to get, so take what you can get.

Turn likes and reblogs on under Settings > Sharing and discussion options under Settings > Discussion.

8 Can Your Spam

Nobody wants to see that junk on your blog.

Go to Settings > Discussion to adjust comment permission settings.

I like the option where a previously approved commenter can comment again another day.

Do you really want your most loyal followers to be pending moderation? No.

But you don’t want to give the spammers a free reign either, so it’s a good idea to manually approve those who are new to your blog.

But then you better remember to check for comments that need to be approved. Don’t make them wait in limbo for days.

9 Tags & Categories

Choose tags and categories for each post. Choose just a few of each.

Specific tags likely to actually be searched for are best.

Categories should be somewhat broader than tags, but still, specific is better.

Example: I recently wrote some articles on Amazon’s new advertising tool for KDP Select authors.

Good categories may include Amazon, KDP Select, and advertising, with more specific tags of advertise on Amazon, KDP Select advertising, and Amazon Marketing Services.

Narrower tags are better. Suppose someone is searching for the keyword “advertising” on Google. My post specifically on advertising books through KDP Select isn’t going to be relevant for most searches on “advertising,” so what’s the point of that broad tag? My specific tags make this more relevant for search engines.

Categories can be somewhat broader. While “advertising” may be too broad for use as a tag, if I have other posts in the category of “advertising,” then search engines can see how relevant my website overall is to that topic.

It’s more effective to have just a few categories and a few specific tags. Piling these on or using broad tags doesn’t help.

Tip: I start typing searches at a search engine, and it pulls up popular matches as I search. You can get more detailed analysis from Google, for example, but this is good enough for me. I want a specific tag that’s actually searched for enough to show as a popular match, but not so general as to be too popular for me to ever achieve reasonable visibility.

10 Search Engine Visibility

The tags that you add should naturally fit into your article. If indeed they are relevant, it should be natural to work them into the text and headings.

Don’t overdo it. Google will smell a rat. Don’t just string keywords together. That will be very obvious, not only to Google but to your readers, too.

Your article needs to read well, but also signify what the content is about.

11 Branding & Straying

You want to develop your own brand as a blogger. This way, readers know what to expect in the way of content from you. And as your website begins to attract visitors through search engines, you want those search terms to be relevant to your blog.

But you don’t want to post 100% within the same topic, even if it’s a broad topic. It’s okay to write occasionally about other things, or to post something more personal and show that you’re human. You don’t have to give out personal info, but you might once in a blue moon relate an experience. You can make your blog a little personal without giving away personal info.

A little variety is actually good. You may actually attract more followers that way. You can balance some variety.

But you want your brand to be clear through the variety.

When I browse through my WordPress reader, I see some posts and the style of the photo or the style of the beginning clearly reveals whose blog it is. Those blogs have a definite brand in terms of appearance or style. Brand recognition. But you also want the content of your brand to show through, even if your blog has some variety.

If you want referrals, recommendations, and links to your home page, it should be clear what people should expect from your blog. What is your brand? No, don’t tell it. Show it.

12 Don’t Lose Traffic

Every extra click loses internet travelers along the way.

If it takes 2 clicks to reach your website instead of 1, you’ll lose traffic.

In Settings > Reading, you can choose to display the full article or a summary.

If you choose summary, this creates an extra click that some followers must click to reach your article from the WordPress reader.

(Some know that they can get there in 1 click. But those hoping to read your post in the reader will waste a click realizing that wasn’t possible.)

Some won’t make the trip. It’s just an internet fact.

But the WordPress stats can be misleading.

If you switch from showing the full article to showing a summary, your view stats may actually increase. But this can be misleading.

Here’s what might happen. Someone who likes your blog might add your home page to their Favorites toolbar. So they visit your home page to read your articles. If you’re showing the full article, they can read 5 articles on your home page without any clicks at all. They read 5 articles, but you only get 1 view.

Now you switch to showing only a summary. Now this reader visits your home page, but has to click the Read More link 5 separate times to view those 5 articles. Suddenly, your view stats go up. But really, your pages aren’t being viewed more than they had been. It’s just counting different now that someone has to click the link to read the rest of the article.

But this may be a bad thing, forcing those clicks to up your views. Because some people won’t make those clicks. Some people who could have read 5 articles without a single click now won’t read 1.

However, there is another consideration: upload time. Let’s say that you have a lot of high-resolution images in your posts, most of which would show after the Read More point. This could slow down the load time of your home page. Then people might visit your blog and close it out because it takes too long to load. In this case, switching to summary may help more than it hurts. You have to weigh the pros and cons (and maybe test your website out from several different computers and devices).

13 Writing

If you use the WordPress.com dashboard and if you write in Visual mode instead of Text (for HTML)—find the option at the top right when you’re writing the post—click the Toggle Toolbar icon at the top right of the icons on the top toolbar to open up other options, including an option to change from Paragraph to Headers, change the font color, indent a block, or insert a special character, for example.

WP Toolbar

(Can you imagine not knowing that these other options are available?)

Use the headings (with the icon in Visual, or using HTML in Text) for headings in your blog post. The words in your headings, or in the text divided by the headings, may help to show search engines how your content is organized, for example. Headings also aid in skimming versus reading.

14 Images

You have many options when it comes to images, even without using HTML, just with the Visual menu writing a post at WordPress.com.

Click the Add Media button. You can upload a file, or insert an image from a url, which lets you display an image from another site (but check the image use guidelines first). Find the image, right-click, and copy image location. The link often ends with .jpg or .png, for example, when you paste it in. This may not work with images on some sites, like Facebook.

If you’re not using an image that you made yourself, check the image use guidelines for that image. You don’t want to be in violation of content theft.

When linking to an image through an image url, click the button for alignment. You can also link the image to a website with the bottom option.

For example, you can find your book on Amazon, copy the image url (right-click the image and copy image location), paste it in when adding an image url at WordPress, then copy the url of the book’s product page at Amazon and link to that. When someone clicks on your thumbnail in your post, it will then take the reader to your product page.

You probably don’t want to feature your own book (or other product or service) visually at the end of every post. You don’t even need to link to your book’s product page in every post. You could use your sidebar to feature your book (or author page). Look: Your followers already know about your book. You don’t need to shove your book in their face constantly. People finding your blog for the first time will see your sidebar and discover your book that way. I do mention one of my books in plain text at the end of each post, which has some branding value, and helps for those visitors who ignore your sidebar.

When adding your own image, you can set the size, edit the image in WordPress, add a caption, etc. It pays to explore your options.

Returning to the issue of content theft, some immensely popular blogs, especially those that are image rich and feature incredible images, often don’t allow reblogs. If someone reblogs your post, your images show up in their media history at WordPress. (Crazy, huh? Maybe it’s so that those images will stay on their reblog even if your blog goes south… I dunno.) But unless your images really are such a prized possession, you may need the reblogs if you can get them. At least, post a notice regarding copyright and image use on your sidebar or at the end of your posts. (It doesn’t prevent abuse, but at least you’re asserting your rights.)

15 Don’t Play Hard to Get

Go to Appearance > Widgets from your dashboard.

Add the Follow button to your sidebar. Choose Follow Blog: Follow Blog via Email. (If you choose to show your followers, it will include Twitter and Facebook followers if you add these through sidebars, too.)

Some people prefer to follow by email, so include this as an option. WordPress users will also see a Follow button at the top of the page to add your blog feed to their reader. For others, you can also add the RSS Links button to your sidebar, so they can subscribe to your blog feed.

Here’s one benefit of the follow by email option. Once people follow hundreds of bloggers, their WordPress reader becomes jam-packed. They have to be really selective to keep up with those posts, or just read the most recent posts. It just becomes too much.

So how do you, as a reader, following hundreds of blogs, make sure that you read 100% of the posts by your favorite bloggers? The answer is simple: Follow your favorite bloggers by email.

Follow many blogs in your WordPress reader, but only your favorites by email. (Actually, you can do both for a given blog, and I believe it will count you as two followers.)

Also, follow yourself! Not for the stats. But this way you can see how your own blog looks in the WordPress reader and in email. Follow yourself both ways.

But don’t like your own posts. That would be vain. 🙂

16 Why Are my Main Headings in CAPS?

I now begin all of my posts with an image followed by a heading (using h2) in CAPS.

For example, this post begins with the heading, BLOG SUCCESSFULLY.

Why is it in caps, instead of just capitalized like Blog Successfully?

That’s because your blog post looks different on your website, in the WordPress reader, when fed into your Author Central page, when fed into Goodreads, in the emails of those who follow by email, etc. When I put the headings in caps, the excerpt for my post looks okay across the board, but if I just capitalize it, I’m not happy with how the excerpt looks in some cases.

On my website, my heading and the first paragraph show up on different lines.

However, when my blog feeds into my Author Central page, the heading and first paragraph run together.

So if I don’t use caps, here’s how my excerpt would look to shoppers viewing my author page:

Blog Successfully I first began blogging actively on WordPress in December, 2012. Only a little over 2 years…

It looks grammatically incorrect. What kind of IDIOT (that would be me!) starts a sentence with, “Blog Successfully I first began blogging…”

So in an effort not to look like a fool, I put my headings in caps. Here’s how it looks at Author Central with that subtle change:

BLOG SUCCESSFULLY I first began blogging actively on WordPress in December, 2012. Only a little over 2 years…

Still not perfect in this case (it works better when the first word has more than one letter), but the caps provide some helpful separation.

You don’t even have to start your post with a heading.

But you should see how your posts look everywhere they might be read and on different devices.

17 Feed Your Blog

I feed my WordPress blog into my Amazon Author Central page and into Goodreads.

This is easy with WordPress. Just take the url for your WordPress website and add /feed/ to it. For example, my blog is https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com, so my blog feed is https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/feed/. I just paste this feed url into the appropriate fields at Author Central and Goodreads.

My most successful website or blog is my FREE WordPress.com blog, which includes .wordpress. in the url. I actually own the domain http://chrismcmullen.com, housed by GoDaddy, but all the traffic is presently over here with the free WordPress site. Everybody and their uncle and their uncle’s uncle will tell you that it’s better to buy the domain (which I did, but for me, that’s a different author site than this one, with far less traffic).

(Certainly, that looks more professional, right? But I wonder. When I see a link I’m not familiar with, I’m reluctant to click on it. Sorry, but even if I know John Doe, I don’t want to go to JohnDoe dot com. There’s a lot of stuff floating around on the internet that I’d like to avoid. But when I see a url ending with .wordpress.com, I trust that site because I trust WordPress. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get your own domain. Remember, I have one, too. Just maybe it’s worth rethinking this “common knowledge” that it’s better to use your own domain than to have the “wordpress” in it.)

18 Blog vs. Website?

Some people think it’s more professional to have a website than a blog. But you know what? If you feed your blog into your home page, it keeps the content on your website fresh. Fresh content is good for search engines, right?

The truth is that a website can have a blog, and a blog can become much more of a website than just a blog.

I started out with just a blog, and now my website has several pages. But my homepage features my blog.

Remember, you don’t have to build Rome in a day. You can start out with a blog, and once in a blue moon you can add a page, and eventually you’ll have a professional site with both a blog and pages of helpful content.

What you really want is a content-rich hub that will attract your target audience. You want to attract search engine traffic with a content-rich website. But all those weekly (or so) blog articles that you post will become the content for your content-rich website, provided that you post relevant content sometimes. And that blog will keep your content-rich website fresh.

The other pages will also have helpful content, so that people will want to add your website to their Favorites and revisit your site periodically.

Content is king. See my BEST TIP #2 at the end of this article.

19 Your Image

Be professional. You can add a personal touch, and that’s a good thing, but still cast yourself as someone who behaves professionally.

Try to avoid stirring controversy where it’s not necessary.

Try to avoid using your blog for public complaints that might not seem professional, like authors complaining about reviews.

Remember that your blog is public, not private, and the internet has an elephant’s memory.

20 Why You?

There are many great blogs to read.

Many blog readers follow hundreds of blogs.

So… the post you’re writing right now… why should people read it?

No, don’t tell. Show.

The beginning should hook the reader. It should make the expectations clear. It should create interest; not give it away.

The supporting image should help attract interest, too.

A striking, relevant image can snap the reader alert, creating interest in your post.

Even after the reader visits your page and begins reading, there is no guarantee that the reader will stay.

So you must work to engage the reader throughout.

21 Back-up

You’d hate to blog for months, posting dozens of articles, to one day wake up and find it all gone.

So periodically back-up your blog.

It’s amazingly simple. And quick. I thought my blog was enormous and would take an eternity to download, but it just took a moment.

Go to Tools > Export. Then click export. Simply download a file and save it to your computer or jump drive (maybe both, just in case).

BEST TIP #1 PATIENCE

The first key is patience.

You start out with one post, no views, and no followers.

It can be agonizingly slow in the first few months. That’s normal.

I averaged over 400 views per day this week. But I was averaging in the single digits per day my first few months. It wasn’t until my 5th month of active blogging that I finally surpassed 300 views per month. I now average more views in 24 hours than I averaged in 30 days back then.

If you blog effectively, your stats can really accelerate months down the road.

The good news is that it often isn’t linear.

I remember those early days.

You do calculations like:

After 1 month of blogging, I have 200 views, 30 likes, and 10 followers.

At this rate, if I blog for 10 years, I’ll only have 24,000 views, 3600 views, and 1200 followers.

That wouldn’t be much to show for 10 years of hard work.

But it doesn’t work that way.

Why not?

  • As your following grows, so do your initial views.
  • As your following grows, you tend to get more reblogs, retweets, and Facebook shares.
  • As your following grows, the likes and comments make your newer posts appear more active.
  • As you write more posts, you improve your chances of generating search engine traffic.
  • It can take several weeks for your blog posts to gain visibility in search results.
  • As you write similar posts, this may help your visibility with search engines, too.
  • As you write similar posts, you develop a brand as a blogger.
  • As you mention your blog’s url in all of your other marketing (e.g. bookmarks, author page in your book), this slowly adds more traffic to your blog.

Hence, things tend to accelerate.

So don’t sweat the early numbers.

See if you can make the numbers grow from one month to another. Do this consistently, and you have great long-term potential. Be patient.

BEST TIP #2 CONTENT

Content is king.

You don’t have to write 5,000+ word posts. In fact, shorter may be better, say around 1,000 words.

It depends on what you’re writing. Some bloggers build much traffic posting a poem every few days. There are some photoblogs that mostly post an image a day that have impressive numbers. Posting an inspirational note every day can gather a following.

But who is your target audience? And what will attract that audience?

Look beyond the views, likes, and follows. But I’m not saying these numbers aren’t important. They are: Your active followers provide the interaction that you need for your blog to feel worthwhile. They provide the support your need to be patient and the feedback to help you improve. And their likes and comments make your content appear interactive when latecomers arrive to the scene.

But there is another highly significant number that can signify excellent long-term potential.

Look at the number of views you’re getting from search engines. Look for older posts to show in the list of your 10 most popular posts of the day. Look at the search terms used to find your blog.

If you write content-rich articles, WordPress gives you good prospects of building significant traffic from search engines.

Search engine traffic pulls in new people from your target audience (if you choose your content wisely). These are visitors who didn’t already know about you, your blog, or your products or services. Hundreds of visitors find my blog each day from search engines. You can do it, too.

In the beginning, you’ll have no search engine traffic. This starts out very slow and can take months to really gain traction.

It also takes good content, and a wise choice of tags and categories (see tips #9 & 10 above).

Once you get any regular search engine traffic to some of your posts, your blog views can accelerate tremendously in the coming months.

Study the posts that are generating search engine traffic and try to figure out what you did right. That will help you when you write future posts.

Without search engine traffic, you write a post, it receives several views and likes for a few days, and then that post drops off the map completely.

If that post later starts finding regular traffic in search engines, that post adds many more views to your blog over the course of a year than your most popular posts generate in their first week (unless you have the good fortune for a post to go absolutely viral).

If your content is good enough to generate search engine traffic, it will also be good enough when it’s fresh to help please and add to your following.

Focus on creating helpful content for your target audience, at least with some of your posts, and good things are likely to happen.

FREE RESOURCES

The WordPress help pages have plenty of helpful information.

Every blogger should check out One Cool Site’s Blogging Tips. This site is packed with valuable blogging tips for using WordPress effectively. I’ve learned much from this site.

http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com

If there is something specific you’d like to know about blogging at WordPress, try using Google to find your answer. Or try asking experienced bloggers. In my experience, WordPress is a helpful and friendly community, happy to share knowledge and tips.

Follow experienced and effective bloggers. You’ll probably learn some helpful tips seeing how they manage their blogs. Occasionally, bloggers even share their blogging tips right on their blogs.

LAST WORDS

Blog from your heart.

Write what you enjoy.

Enjoy what you write.

But also consider what’s effective and what your audience wants.

Because you’ll enjoy your blog more when you develop an active audience.

Ideally, what you want to write and what your audience wants you to write would be one and the same.

If that’s not quite the case, you could do both—just mix it up.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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How does Amazon Tweet & post to Facebook?

Tweeting

POSTING TO TWITTER & FACEBOOK EFFECTIVELY

One way to learn how to do something effectively is to find someone else who is doing it well.

Amazon knows a thing or two (!) about marketing. So let’s see how Amazon uses Twitter and Facebook.

Obviously, Amazon has a huge advantage when it comes to building a following. People seek out Amazon because the company is famous.

But… just like everyone else, Amazon must tweet and post to Facebook effectively in order to engage that audience.

So what we might learn from Amazon is how to engage an audience with Twitter and Facebook.

Let’s look at two examples from Amazon. If you’re an author, these pages are actually relevant. They post a lot of helpful publishing tips, so it’s worth following these particular Amazon pages.

AMAZON KDP’S TWITTER & FACEBOOK PAGES

First, we’ll look at Amazon KDP.

You can check out Amazon’s Twitter page here:

https://twitter.com/AmazonKDP

Here is the Amazon KDP Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/KindleDirectPublishing

CREATESPACE’S TWITTER & FACEBOOK PAGES

Next, check out CreateSpace.

Here is CreateSpace’s Twitter page:

https://twitter.com/CreateSpace

Find CreateSpace’s Facebook page here:

https://www.facebook.com/CreateSpace

HOW AMAZON TWEETS

At both Amazon KDP and CreateSpace, look at their recent tweets.

Here are a few things that I notice:

  • About 25% of the tweets include images.
  • Both KDP and CreateSpace post 1-2 times per day.
  • The images in the tweets are consistent in size. They are 1024 x 512 (or 1024 x 576).
  • The way the images are spread out and the same size gives a nice appearance.
  • Most of their images feature writing or reading, consistent with the brand. These are publishing services.
  • The images look nice. They also include a small quote or a little text, just large enough to read, but not imposing, out of the way of the foreground.
  • The tweets provide links to relevant and helpful content for their target audience, i.e. the content relates to authorship or publishing.
  • The tweets usually include a single, but highly relevant hashtag.
  • Many of the tweets link to other helpful sites, e.g. articles, contests, or posts appearing on author’s blogs. (KDP actually linked to one of my blog posts a few weeks back, and CreateSpace did this with a different post of mine more recently; you can still find the link to my name readily at CreateSpace.) That’s pretty cool that they link to authors’ blogs.
  • Most of the tweets going to other sites (i.e. not Amazon) specify “via” and include the @ to designate the author’s Twitter handle.
  • The information found in the links is often very useful to authors. Content is king.

DIFFERENCES WITH FACEBOOK

Now look at the Facebook pages for CreateSpace and KDP.

I notice much of the same as noted above, but there are a few differences:

  • The images are more square. They are usually about 940 x 748. Amazon knows which size works best for each.
  • Every post has an image, instead of just 25% of the posts.
  • Amazon makes its own image and uploads that image for the post. If you click on the links, you’ll see that the images on those pages are different. (If you simply insert a url into a Facebook post, Facebook automatically finds an image to show, if available. Amazon inserts its own image instead, and Amazon’s image is the one that shows.) Using their own images helps Amazon achieve a consistent brand on their site, and ensures a uniformity in size, too. (Plus, then there is no question about image use rights.)
  • The Facebook posts appears to engage the target audience over a much longer period of time. I still get a few referrals from a link to one of my articles (about the use of color in cover design) that was posted by CreateSpace on Facebook over a week ago, whereas the referrals from Twitter dropped off after just a few days.
  • Although KDP and CreateSpace post the same url links at Facebook and Twitter, they don’t simply feed the posts from one to the other. They actually take the time to post separately to both Facebook and Twitter. The wording is different. The photos are sometimes the same, but cropped differently so that Twitter’s photo is 1024 x 512 and Facebook’s photo is 940 x 748. (Don’t simply change the aspect ratio to do this. Crop them differently.)

WORDPRESS TO TWITTER & FACEBOOK

So we shouldn’t auto-feed our posts from WordPress to Twitter and Facebook. (I’ve been guilty of that. But now I’m seeing the light.)

Why not?

  • The image size that works best isn’t the same across all platforms. Amazon uses 1024 x 512 (or 1024 x 576) at Twitter and crops it to 940 x 748 for Facebook. The squarer look appears better at Facebook; the more rectangular look appears better at Twitter. Amazon has a uniform look on both sites by feeding separately.
  • The auto-feed to Twitter doesn’t show the photo from WordPress. Note that Amazon only includes a photo with about 25% of their posts at Twitter, but 100% at Facebook.
  • Amazon changes the wording of the posts from one site to the other. This way, people who follow you at both Twitter and Facebook get a little variety, even when both posts link to the same article.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Great Time for Authors to Shop for Promotional Supplies

Author Michelle Proulx’s cool bumper sticker.

CYBER MONDAY

Black Friday. Cyber Monday. It’s a great time to enjoy holiday savings.

But not just for t.v.’s, clothes, and gifts.

Authors can find great deals on promotional supplies, too.

It’s a great time to order bookmarks, posters, business cards—even domain names.

Look for great deals at Vista Print, for example.

Don’t get so busy shopping for gifts that you forget to look for great deals on author supplies.

I discovered author Michelle Proulx’s bumper sticker recently and thought it was pretty cool.

Michelle is currently running a successful IndieGoGo campaign, which includes this bookmark in the Swag Bag option.

http://michelleproulx.com/2014/11/29/perk-spotlight-imminent-danger-bumper-sticker

The featured book, Imminent Danger, is a great read. If you enjoy space opera, look for its re-release: It will be worth the wait.

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday, and it’s free: www.readtuesday.com.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books for the price of 2) now available for both Kindle and paperback

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Do Beautiful Authors Have an Advantage?

Bag

AUTHOR PHOTOS

Customers don’t just see your books—they see you, too.

  • You have your author photo right on your Amazon product page. (If you don’t, it’s noticeably missing.)
  • Your face also appears on your blog, Goodreads page, and other online pages.
  • You appear in the book on the about the author page.
  • Your photo is also part of your press release kit.
  • You may also show up on promotional and marketing materials.
  • Your image may appear alongside any articles that you publish.
  • YOU are most certainly seen in all of your personal marketing endeavors, which can be some of the most effective marketing that you do. (Good luck hiding there. Or if you ignore these opportunities, even worse.)

You want to be seen.

Really, you do. Your author photo on your Amazon detail page offers proof of your humanity. It can help convince customers that you are

  • professional
  • humble
  • confident
  • thoughtful
  • playful
  • family-oriented
  • ALIVE!

When you add yourself to the shopping experience, whether in a photo or in the flesh, you make the reading experience more personal.

PHOTOGENIC

Not all authors feel that they are photogenic.

Some authors are intimidated by how they perceive society’s evident standard of what it means to be beautiful.

Many authors tend to be shy.

There are authors who feel that their images would detract from sales more than they might help.

Lucky authors who happen to not fall far from cover model status—do they have a distinct advantage over the other end of the spectrum?

Or maybe they don’t have to look like cover models, but just have to fit into some idea of how an author should look—or how the author of a certain kind of book should look. Does that provide a marked advantage?

Is it about the LOOK?

Or is it about the BOOK?

The look or the book: Come on, now, the book is far more important, right?

Yet that look sure can come into play.

NOT A DATE

Readers, hopefully, are looking for a good book—not a good date.

It’s the content of the book that matters most.

You buy a book and read it because the words show potential.

Not because the author’s picture shows potential.

Because the story shows potential.

Not because the storyteller has the right look.

You’re not dating the person. You’re dating the book.

READERS

But don’t readers already realize this?

They are readers. This isn’t the whole of society. Avid readers are just a slice of society.

Of all society, wouldn’t it make sense for the people who love and crave books to most appreciate and look for inner beauty, versus outer beauty?

Wouldn’t readers favor the words over the look?

Wouldn’t they explore the biography more than the author photo?

Wouldn’t they check out the author’s social sites to help judge character, rather than appearance?

COVER MODELS

Unfortunately, look may matter to readers.

One thing we know is that many customers do judge books by their covers.

Fantastic covers help to attract attention.

Lousy covers receive less attention.

Does this mean that the LOOK trumps the BOOK?

PRECIOUS WORDS

Or maybe these are apples and oranges.

A good-looking cover may be a sign that the author wanted to perfect all the details.

That the content inside the book was worthy of extra effort on the cover.

That the words and story inside eagerly need to be shared.

The reader will carry this book around, too. The cover has to meet some standards.

But the reader won’t carry the author photo around (unless, of course, it appears on the cover).

Maybe the same customers who judge book covers don’t also judge author photos.

OPINIONS

What do you think?

Do you think the author’s appearance matters to readers?

Is beauty an asset for authors?

WORD

I have a little word of the day for you.

Pulchritudinous—physical beauty (of a person).

What do you think? Not such a beautiful word?

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday, and it’s free: www.readtuesday.com.

Please support the Read Tuesday Thunderclap. This will help spread awareness on the morning of Read Tuesday (December 9, 2014). It’s easy to help:

  • Visit http://thndr.it/1CkO2Bg.
  • Click Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr and sign in.
  • Customize the message. (Optional.)
  • Agree to the terms. All that will happen is that the Thunderclap post about Read Tuesday will go out the morning of December 9.
  • (The warning message simply means that Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr need your permission to post the Thunderclap message on December 9. This is the only post that Thunderclap will make.)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books) now available for Kindle pre-order

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Authors: Have Your Manuscript Ready for a… Surprise?

Cover Problems Pic

AMAZON PUBLISHING

It appears that Amazon is launching a new publishing program. Look for an announcement to come in the next couple of weeks.

The reason for this article is just to give a heads-up. If you happen to have a novel in the works and this program may be of interest to you, you have a chance to get your manuscript and packaging in gear.

The terms may not (but may) interest bestselling published authors or thriving self-published authors, but may attract midlist published authors and many self-published authors.

Evidently, the program will include Amazon-featured marketing. This is likely to draw huge interest, assuming that it means more than the usual customers-also-bought lists and such. For example, if it includes featured placement or small ads, that could make an incredible difference. Amazon will have a vested interest in these books, so there is compelling reason for Amazon to include featured marketing in the offer.

You might be wondering, “How do we know about this?”

  • Amazon sent an email to select authors, notifying them about the program. The email included a link to an Amazon page, allowing authors to sign up for additional emails.
  • The Digital Reader and Publisher’s Weekly made initial announcements about this program on September 22, 2014.
  • Amazon sent a follow-up email this morning.
  • (Well, if you want to be a pessimist, you’ll ‘know’ if and when Amazon makes an official announcement.)

Update: The program is now live. It’s called Kindle Scout: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/submit.

It will begin with just the following genres:

  • romance
  • mystery
  • thriller
  • science fiction
  • fantasy

This new Amazon publishing program will be like a publishing deal for Kindle. The terms are better than many traditionally published terms, though the royalty rate isn’t as high as self-publishing with KDP.

  • $1500 advance. (Many indie authors are already excited.)
  • 50% royalties for e-books. (20% less than self-publishing, but it includes Amazon-featured marketing, which may easily make up the difference.)
  • A 45-day exclusivity period and easy rights reversions (unlike many traditional publishing contracts that make reversions difficult to come by). (There are some conditions. You’ll want to read these carefully when the program launches.)
  • Amazon only wants exclusive rights for e-books and audio in all languages. You get to keep the print rights (so you can self-publish with CreateSpace and keep 100% of your usual print royalties.)

What exactly is Amazon-featured marketing?

That’s the big question. If it included on-site advertising, that would be awesome. If it just means customers-also-bought lists and the usual benefits of publishing with KDP, then it would be a dud. (Basically, you’d be trading 20% of your royalties for a $1500 advance.)

The Digital Reader defined Amazon-featured marketing to mean enrollment in KOLL and Kindle Unlimited (well, you could get that by self-publishing!) and eligibility for targeted emails and promotions. This sounds great, except for that tricky word, “eligibility.” You’d hate to get no extra on-site publicity or featured placement at all.

Well, Amazon would have a vested interest in the success of books in this program. It seems reasonable to expect Amazon-featured marketing to be more than what’s merely automatic with KDP. I think we need to wait for the program to launch and see how it goes.

Get ready!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Complete manuscript. (Never before published. Or self-published, I suspect, but you can ask Amazon for clarification.)
  • 500 character (or less) book description. (Does that include spaces? Probably.)
  • One-liner (45 characters or less) to grab interest.
  • Biography and picture.

Any author who’s interested in this program (even if you’re unsure), has a chance to get ready. Advance preparation could make the difference.

If you prepare now and decide later that it’s not for you, what have you lost? Everything you prepared will still serve its purpose when you instead self-publish or traditionally publish your book.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Finish your manuscript. This is required.
  • Perfect the first 3000 words. This part will be publicly visible. Voting will be based on this. You want to show your best stuff early, and grab attention right off the bat.
  • Get a great cover that fits your book well. This will surely make a difference in catching interest. It will make a difference in selling the book, too, if published.
  • Perfect the blurb. Don’t summarize the book. Arouse interest. Keep it short.
  • Perfect your one-liner. Observe the character counts.
  • Get ample feedback on your cover, one-liner, title, blurb, and first 3000 words.
  • Build interest in your book and create buzz. Voting is involved in the process. (Not sure how this will be regulated or applied.)
  • I’m thinking minimal front matter (just whatever the program requires, if anything). It’s about creating interest in your story and selling your idea.

Effective marketing skills will surely help. You need good packaging (cover, blurb, look inside) and the ability to create interest in your book.

There will be a brief Q&A opportunity with readers to sell your story (and the story behind you coming up with the story—you know, like all those amazing success stories you read about).

Good luck!

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Authors’ Best Friend Is… Ape!

The Story Reading Ape

If man’s best friend is… dog,

Then authors’ best friend is… ape.

The Story Reading Ape, that is.

Chris, the Story Reading Ape, is an avid supporter of authors:

  • Frequently supporting authors with guest blogs and promotions.
  • Housing helpful resources for authors on his blog.
  • Posting words of wisdom for authors.
  • Supporting authors with reblogs.

The Story Reading Ape’s blog is very author-centric (and therefore quite reader-centric).

Check out the resources on the Story Reading Ape’s blog:

http://thestoryreadingapeblog.com

Once there, click Authors Resources Central. Check out:

  • Author Promotion
  • Guest Author
  • Information about CreateSpace, Kindle, and Smashwords
  • Proofreaders
  • Professional Editors
  • and more

Chris, the Story Reading Ape, had no idea that I was writing this post. He is just so generous in his support of authors, I thought we should do something nice in return. 🙂

Don’t get the two Chris’s mixed up. I’m Chris McMullen, not to be confused with Chris, the Story Reading Ape.

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Better

Better

The Good and the Bad

Better can be a great concept:

  • Trying to do better leads to improvement.
  • Not satisfied with how things are, it can be a great motivator.

Yet the concept of better does have drawbacks:

  • Other people may feel jealous of someone who seems to be better.
  • A feeling of superiority can lead to a variety of social consequences.

A Better Balance

The trick is to try to derive the benefits of the idea of doing better while avoiding the drawbacks.

I will apply this specifically to books and authors so that we have a concrete example in mind.

Striving to write a better book, focus on these positives:

  • Use this goal to motivate your writing.
  • Do research that will help with your book.
  • Seek feedback that may help you improve.
  • Think of how your book may benefit readers.
  • When dealing with criticism, remind yourself of the extra efforts that you made.

but avoid these negatives:

  • Feeling that your book is better than others. It probably is in some ways, but can’t be better in every way; so in some ways, it will be worse. Not every author has the same priorities: Maybe richer, more in-depth characterization appeals to you, and this makes your book better to readers who appreciate this, but it doesn’t make your book better to all readers. Maybe realism appeals to you, which makes your book better for readers who want that, but for those who want a fantastic world different from reality, it’s not better. Maybe your story is better, but the way the words are strung together isn’t. Different books are better for different readers. No book is best. Find one book that thousands love, and you’ll find that hundreds hate it.
  • Claiming that your book is better than another book. It may seem tempting to say, “If you liked ___, you’ll love ___,” but this can cause problems. First, this creates unrealistic expectations. Second, you don’t want to insult another book’s loyal fan base. It can be helpful to mention another book to give an idea of what to expect, but if you do this, do it in such a way that it in no conceivable way makes your book sound better than the other book.
  • Feeling that you’re a better author. Maybe you spent more time studying the craft of writing, but others may make up for this through life experience or imagination. Maybe you have done years of research, while others have a gift for knowing how to please an audience. You may be better in some ways, but you can’t be better in every way.

It is definitely worth trying to do better. This pursuit leads to better books, which creates more enjoyable reading experiences.

Trying to write a book that is better, in various ways, than other books you’ve read is good. Other readers are likely to appreciate this. But not all readers will agree.

Trying to improve over what you’ve seen other authors do, in various ways, is good. But you won’t be better in every way.

Comparing yourself to others can lead to jealousy, if other books seem to be selling better or receiving better reviews. Comparing yourself to others can lead to an air of superiority if your book seems to be above average. Either way, thee comparisons can create big problems.

There is one person you should compare yourself to. That’s you. Try to improve over your former self. That’s a noble ambition, it will make the world a better place, and you have no reason to feel jealous or superior when you’re comparing yourself to yourself.

About Me

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Authors, What Are You Selling?

Selling

The Question

Aren’t you selling more than just a book? much more?

If all you’re selling is a book, that’s a big problem for you: It’s easy to find books. The library has thousands. You can find thousands in bookstores, millions on Amazon, and hundreds at yard sales.

It takes more—much more—than just a book to make it worth reading.

  • What more are you offering than just a book?
  • Who is likely to benefit from what your book offers?

You want to identify the benefits your book offers, the people most likely to appreciate those benefits, and figure out how to match those people (your target audience) with your book.

Well, duh!

But many authors either aren’t doing this, or aren’t taking full advantage of this seemingly simple logic.

Features vs. Benefits

People don’t buy anything.

People don’t buy features.

People may buy benefits (if those benefits are a good fit for them and they perceive the benefits as a good value).

Example: Someone asks you, “Was self-publishing your book easy to do?”

  • Nothing special: “The writing was fun, but the editing and formatting were nightmares.” You missed a golden opportunity here to introduce a benefit.
  • Features: “It was because I really enjoyed the writing, which took two years, and I hired an editor for the tedious part.” This highlights two features: Ample time spent on the writing and having your book edited.
  • Benefits: “I really enjoyed the months that I spent studying swordsmanship and how to describe it in fiction, and I hired an editor to make sure it reads very well.” First, if you’re really into swords and sorcery, this sounds authentic. Second, people don’t care for the editor (that’s a feature), but they may appreciate that it will read well (that’s the benefit).

You might be thinking, “Well, if you mentioned the editor, it should be obvious that the book should read well.” But not necessarily. For one, there are different types of editors. Some customers might interpret mention of the editor to mean that there are no spelling mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that it will read well.

And not everyone will make the connection. Sales people have better success when they describe benefits than when they list features, especially when they describe specific ways that a product will benefit each individual.

Example:

  • Nothing special: “This television measures 27 inches diagonally.” Everyone is thinking, “So do many other televisions.”
  • Feature: “This television comes with picture-in-picture.” Many customers are thinking, “Well, I don’t need that. I’d rather save money.”
  • Benefit: “With picture-in-picture built-in, your husband won’t have to change the channel during your soap opera to check the score of the game every few minutes.” Now if this applies to you, you may be starting to consider the benefit that this feature offers. You might not have considered this benefit just from the feature itself. You might have interpreted the feature to mean you could watch two shows at once, which you didn’t intend to do.

Just-a-Book Marketing

If all you have to offer is a book, then it should be satisfactory to just:

  • Tell people that you have a book. That should do it, right? Maybe tell the genre, too. But a romance novel is still one of thousands. What makes it special?
  • Keep mentioning the title so that people can remember it. But if they do remember, why should they read it?
  • Show people the cover so they can see it. But if they do see it, why should they care to find out what’s inside it?
  • Advertise that it’s on sale. But people don’t buy prices. They need a reason to want the book before price helps to create value.

Branding is important, and branding does involve getting your target audience to see your cover, your title, and your name multiple times over a long period so that they recognize it.

But branding is more effective when they associate some benefit with your book.

When you hear Sony, do you think high quality? When you hear Costco, do you think large quantities and good savings? When you hear Disneyland, do you think your kids would be happy to go there? When you hear McDonald’s, do you expect fast service and low prices? When you hear Bounty, do you think absorbent?

You want to associate some benefit with your brand. Then, when your target audience is shopping for a book in your genre and remembers your book, they will have some positive quality to associate with it.

They might not buy your book just because they recognize it. But if they recognize it and a benefit comes to mind, this greatly improves your chances for a sale.

But it’s not just about the book. It’s about you, too.

More-than-a-Book Marketing

There are two ways to offer more than just a book:

  • Mention a specific benefit that your book offers.
  • Remember that the author is an important part of the book and marketing.

This second point can make a big impact on marketing effectiveness. We’ll get to this in the next section.

Your product description is a valuable marketing tool. Think about the important benefits that your book offers your target audience. These benefits should be clear from reading your blurb, but fiction is a little tricky because the benefits generally must be implicit.

The author’s biography provides a chance to show how the author is qualified to write the book. For nonfiction, this is often a relevant degree or experience. For fiction, if you have a writing degree, you should play your card, but if not, you may still have relevant experience. Have you traveled to the place where part of your book is set? Have you spent a significant amount of time learning or studying a relevant skill, like forensics for a crime novel?

Instead of trying to brand just your book’s title, you might develop a concise phrase to serve as a hook. Use this to create interest in your book and to associate your book with a positive quality. Anywhere you mention your book’s title, you could include the hook next to it, such as at the end of blog posts, emails, or on business cards. You can even mention it in person, at readings, signings, or anytime you get the opportunity to interact with your target audience and the subject of your book comes up.

Example: Instead of just mentioning the title, A See-Through Relationship, you could also include the hook, “What if you fell in love with a ghost?”

It’s not easy to come up with a clever, appropriate, effective, very short hook, but it can really be worth it if you pull it off. It’s definitely worth spending time thinking about this.

I bet you recognize some company slogans. The hook works for authors much the same way.

When you have the chance to describe your book, online or in person, you want to make the benefits of your book clear. The better you know your target audience’s interests, the better you can show them how your book may benefit each individual.

The Author

It’s challenging to get people interested in your book.

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party, but it’s not an ordinary cocktail party. 90% of the people in attendance are sci-fi enthusiasts, and you have a science fiction book.

Suppose you set your book on a table in the center of the room and leave. I bet a few people will pick up the book, if the cover has good appeal, and check it out. But it’s just a book, and people didn’t attend a cocktail party looking for a book. They went to the party to meet people.

If instead you leave your book at home, but this time you stay at the party, there is a good chance that you will meet many people and get people interested in you.

You have a pulse. You move around. You talk. You interact. Unlike your book.

It’s easier to get people interested in you, the author, than it is to get people interested in your book.

Once people become interested in you, let them naturally discover that you’re an author, and their interest in you may translate into interest in your book.

By discover, I mean waiting for, “So what have you done lately?” instead of volunteering, “I just published a new book.” Wait for the prompt.

Use this to your advantage: Interact with your target audience, both in person and online.

You have a personality; your book doesn’t. You can interact with people; your book just sits there.

People in the target audience who personally interact with an author are more likely to check out a book, buy it, and leave a review than some random stranger who happens across it.

Online, a large number of people can come across your book. But to most of them, it’s just a book they see while passing through.

On your product page, your description may help to show the benefits, but first you need them to find your product page.

In person, your interactions can help to get people interested in your book through their interest in you, and then you can show them the benefits personally. Now you’re selling more than just a book.

You can also provide the personal touch online. You can also let people see that you’re more than just a name; you can help them discover the person behind the book.

More Than Just an Author

Chris McMullen, more than just the author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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