Author Platform: Maximizing Social Media

Social Media
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Last post we defined Author Platforms. So tell me, what is an Author Platform, do you remember? It’s how you show your unique qualities that “brand” you as a writer or artist…with the ultimate goal of leading to book sales. It’s a long term goal, not a RIGHT NOW CLICK HERE goal. No one likes the CLICK HERE RIGHT NOW guy, amiright?

Social media is one of the main ways you create your brand. Since most of your readers will never meet you in person, it’s how most of your readers get to know you. This post is gonna look at ways to maximize social media so you can give yourself the best platform. We’ll talk through some real examples, screenshotted below.

If you need to take a step back and get a basic primer on Twitter, check out https://bitsykemper.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/twitter-101-the-basics-for-writers/

General social media tips to support your Author Platform:

  1. Be you, all the time.
  2. Have fun! Every tweet/post doesn’t have to have something to do with writing or illustrating, but each one should still reflect who you are and what you stand for. Remember the part about the real you needing to shine through?
  3. Sorry to say this, but people are people. And by that, I mean selfish. I’m not judging. It’s fact. We are always asking ourselves WIIFM? As in, What’s In It For Me? No one has time, and we make decisions in a snap. You need to do whatever you can to convince me, quickly, that what you have to say will benefit me. And then come through. So don’t just tell me your book trailer is finished and give me a link. Tell me what the trailer is about, what I’ll see, why it’s worth watching. I need to know WIIFM or I’m not going to click. Even if I like you. I just don’t have time.
  4. Other people are selfish–but you need to be giving. Stop talking about how great your product is. Let us figure that out on our own. Your book really should be able to speak for itself…or at least let others do the talking. A tweet like”Another great review, my work is profiled yet again! Click to see the latest url.2937y5/iji…” gives me no incentive to click. It’s blatant bragging. But what about “What an honor to be included in this roundup, check out the other Best 2016 Reads by Buzzfeed at url.8724r34r/…” or “Thanks for the kind review, Donna, it was nice being your guest blogger this month. I bet no one can guess how many puppies were harmed in the making of that video! [link to Donna’s website].” Do you see the difference? One is “Look at me!!” Another–the preferred method–is “There’s something in this for you, have a look.” You want to be of service. Your book or link or review just happens to be one way to help. [See #6, below.]
  5. Interact. But don’t pester or hound.
  6. Don’t ask people to buy anything. You’re in this for the long haul. Your goal isn’t to be a blinking neon sign. An exception to mention buying anything of yours would be a one-time sale, like “My publisher is offering a rare 10% off all books, if you order by April 12th: url.9838/….” and that link just happens to take people directly to your book. Do you see how that’s a soft sell, vs something like “Hey! Save a buck on my book, here’s the link:…” or “Buy now! Five stars! Great read! Click here! url.562/rl…” Ick. You need to give a reason, an incentive, to get people to care about your book before you start thinking about ways to get them to buy it.(See #4, Stop talking about how great your product is.)
  7. Retweet, repost, forward, quote**. There is SO MUCH content out there, you really don’t need to recreate the wheel every day. But don’t repost other stuff from other people all the time. Have a few ideas on your own. [**Be sure you reference the originator when you quote or reference, don’t be a butt by trying to pass it off as your own.]
  8. Skip the preaching. About anything.

The more I like your posts, the more interested I will become in finding out more about you, whether that’s going to your website or your Author Bio page or to a bookstore. It’s funny, at least five or six people I follow on Twitter I had no idea were authors–NYT best selling authors at that! (In my defense, I don’t write or follow YA so there’s no reason for YA author names to be familiar to me.) I just like their Tweets and started following them. I found out they were authors by seeing their names at Scholastic Book Fairs and at the (real) bookstore. I ended up reading two of their books, and I don’t read YA! So the formula works. A found out a few people I follow and friended are editors at large publishing houses that shyly don’t mention it on their bios. It could be a case of like attracting like. Or it could be a case of interesting and consistently worthwhile posts.

Let’s look at some Dos and Don’ts. They’re all real examples. Except for Mo Willems, I don’t know any of the people mentioned. (These slides are taken from a presentation I gave about Author Platforms…it’s my content so I’m allowed to cut and paste :-))

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Like I said, I don’t know those people, I just find their bios really cool. Effective. You ‘get’ them by reading those short few sentences. And you want to get to know them better. When looking you up, most people won’t go any further than your bio. Maybe your first few tweets/posts. But that’s it. Make them want to follow you. People DO judge books by their covers, and people by their social media bios. Make sure yours represents you in the best way possible.

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See the trend? Don’t be a jerk. Share don’t brag.

When’s the best time to do all this sharing? I’m not saying I agree, but here are some studies:

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Personally, I think the best time is morning, early in the week. But that’s me, party of one. I never commissioned a study. It gets tricky with time zones, and audience, so those studies might know best in general terms.

There are many forms of social media. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Vine, plus Blogspot and WordPress…ACK! Which are most effective overall? A July 2015 study from SmallBizTrends.com shows the following, as it relates to small business (which technically, you are):

1. Facebook

This is the biggest social networking site with the largest number of users. There are more than 1 million small or medium sized businesses advertising here and it is estimated that larger companies are spending as much as $100 million on Facebook advertising per year.

2. Twitter

Twitter is loved for spreading the word via tweets. This site has revolutionized social media. Approximately 81 percent of Twitter’s advertising revenue comes from mobile and there is a $200,000 cost estimated for a 24-Hour Promoted Trend on Twitter.

3. LinkedIn

LinkedIn helps to build professional networks and engagement with other users. It is the world’s largest professional network being used for this purpose. Today, it has over 332 million users and each second adds two new members, all of which attracts marketers.

4. Google +

This site has 300 million monthly active users and is used for relationship marketing. It has over a 53 percent positive interaction between Google+ users and brands.

5. YouTube

YouTube is expected to generate $5.6 billion in gross revenue in 2016. Currently, there are 6 billion hours of video watched on YouTube per month and 1 billion videos watched over mobile phones per day.

6. Pinterest

Pinterest marketing is another social media tool helping brands to grow rapidly. There are over 70 million users of Pinterest of which 80 percent are women and 20 percent are men. Over 9 million users have connected their accounts to Facebook.

7. Instagram

Marketers know the usefulness of Instagram marketing and use Instagram to market products and services. It is a wonderful platform to share visual stories.

There are more than 300 million monthly active users on Instagram, of which 75 million are daily active users. Instagram is widely being used for business marketing.

8. Tumblr

This microblogging platform is used for sharing photos, videos, audio, quotes, text or anything that you’d like to market. It has more than 420 million users and 217 million blogs created, making it a favorite.

9. Flickr

This image and video hosting social network has over 3.5 million images uploaded daily by users and offers massive online photo storage.

10. Reddit

Reddit is a social networking site used for entertainment purposes, where registered members share content and direct links. It has 174 million monthly unique visitors.

Editors Note: This article has been revised to reflect correct percentage of Pinterest users by gender as provided by RJMetrics.

 from http://smallbiztrends.com/2015/07/social-media-sites-statistics.html

How do you decide which is best for you?

  • Don’t look at numbers of users. Where is your reader, or target buyer? Go where they are. You’re better off with 100 of the right people (your target market) than 2,000 of the wrong ones (fluff). Flickr and Tumblr, for example, have a young teen audience. If they aren’t buying your books, don’t spend time there, unless it’s something you enjoy on your own time. Pinterest? Older and/or hipster, crafty types. Only spend time in either of those places if you know how to speak their language. LinkedIn is a good place to find companies looking to hire writers but not a good place to pitch your book to them. Don’t be a poser on these sites. People’ll catch on right away that you’re only there to market. And as we’ve talked about: no one likes that guy.
  • Pick one, or two. No more than three. And do them well. Don’t even try to do them all. No one does everything well. Something will suffer and it shouldn’t be your reputation.
  • Don’t let people forget about you! Be persistent, but not annoying. Aim for consistency. Blog every 3rd Friday of the month, or every Tuesday at noon. Tweet 3x/day or every morning or every Sunday. Do what works for you, or what you think works best for your readers. If you’re aiming for at-home moms, for example, don’t post at 3pm during the week when we’re out picking up kids from school, or on the weekend during family time.
  • If you can’t be consistent, be worth it!

Hopefully this has been helpful. If you’re just get started, these tips should help you put the right foot forward. If you’re already in the game, it’s not too late to correct your course.

Get out there and start talking to your readers and potential buyers! They can’t wait to be impressed.

Creating an Author Platform

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Quick quiz: You’re told you need to work on your “Author Platform.” You:

  1. Smile politely, then go back to searching online for cute cat outfits
  2. Nod, smile, then furiously Google “Writers’ d” hoping you’re not the last to know what the heck that is
  3. Think “Oh, yeah it really is time I update my Facebook, Twitter, blog and website,” then dig right in
  4. B or C but definitely not A (unless it was a really good sale)

Correct answer: D.

What is an Author Platform? And why do you need to care?

Let’s break it down. Author. Platform. It’s like a compound word. (Author Platforms or Writer Platforms, no matter what you call it, are the same thing, don’t get hung up on author vs writer. For the sake of ease, we’ll use the terms synonymously here. I’m also capitalizing the words here for effect, which is unnecessary elsewhere.) A writer or an author is someone who has written something. A platform is a raised surface, something you’d stand on for better visibility. Like a stage. Put the words together and you’ve got an image of a writer standing on a, well, platform, a little taller than everyone around them. They stand out; you can spot them in a crowd.

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That’s the writer you want to be.

You want to be the writer/author that people can find easily or can recognize…the one that stands out. And you’ll need a platform on order to do it.

“Author Platform: your visibility as an author, utilizing your personal ability to sell books through who you are, the connections you have, and the media outlets you use.” –Writer’s Digest

I think of the term as a less-commercial way of saying “author branding.” It means how you present yourself to the public, and how you are seen/viewed by readers, agents, editors, fellow writers/artists and anyone else paying attention. It’s a way of showing your unique qualities that “brand” you as a person, as a writer, or artist…with the ultimate goal of leading to book sales.

Don’t confuse it with image. Image implies something perceived. You’ll be putting the real, flawed you out there, just like you do for your main characters. An Author Platform should be based on truth. You’re not an actor hiring a publicity agent to get media attention. You’re you, showing who you are, with the ultimate goal that the likeable you is worthy of following or noting or reading or acknowledging, and it will at some point lead to book sales. Isn’t that why school visits, book signings, special promotions, launch parties and all that exist, to sell books? Well you’re the in-person version of that, the walking billboard, the neon sign, open 24/7. Except when you’re asleep. Or whatever. You know what I mean.

You are NOT shaking hands and asking people to buy your book all the time, oh no, you’re missing the point. No one is going to follow or buy the book from a guy that’s sending pestering Tweets or spamming Facebook posts or always standing up in groups asking people to buy their books after the meeting. Boy is that annoying or what? I hate that guy. What I’m saying is you are your brand. You represent you. So be respectable. Make me like you. Make me WANT to buy your book. If you do it right, you will probably never have to say the words “Buy my book.” I’ll decide I want to on my own.

 

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Note this is a Writer Platform, not a book platform. This is about you, not your book. Why? Because you’re more than one book. If you brand yourself too closely with one title, on the next book you’ll have to do it all over again. That confuses people. They can handle lots of books, but they only want one you. Brand yourself correctly and all your books will easily fall under that one umbrella…you!

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Everything you post online becomes a part of your brand. Your Tweets, your FB posts, your blog updates. Your forwards, your shares, your likes. It all shapes the person people see. Those who have never met you can only form an opinion based on what they see. And that’s based on what you do. How you reply to comments. What you post or repost. It’s not always what you say, but how you say it. The way you talk to your friends. The way they talk to you, even. It all paints a picture.

Is it a picture you want the world to see?

If it’s not, start reworking some things. I’m not saying change who you are. I’m saying let the real you shine through. Be proud of who you are. Let that freak flag shine, guurl!

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Here are some random posts and Tweets by me, some go back years. They are all over the map. And yet, you get a pretty clear picture of who I am. If this was the only thing you ever saw about me, you’d get me.

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My writing style, not surprisingly, mirrors me. If you write gory horror, it would be weird if you have a video blog about adorable kittens. If you write humor, it would be unsettling to see your Facebook page dedicated to the ongoing memory of 9/11. Not that there’s anything wrong with posting about either of those. But it’s a disconnect to see an author grounded in one thing have a public face that is so very different than what you think they’re rooted in.

Does that mean someone that writes YA can only post about teen things? No no no. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is, no matter who you are, you need to be consistent. If you write horror and freaking love kitten videos, THAT’S OKAY, don’t pretend you’re not that kind of person. But give people a chance to resolve the image they probably had with reality. You could clarify at the start of your page or blog “Can you believe someone that writes bloody woodshed scenes for a living is a marshmallow in real life? When not creating blood and gore, I’m actually all about pet adoption, as my blog will show. Join me as we watch another darling rescue…” In three sentences, BAM, you just let you shine through.

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If you’re not funny, don’t try to be funny. Love data? Share data. Into cars? Talk cars. Are you a jerk? That’s okay too. Personally, I like jerks. I mean, you always know where you stand. They are never going to blow smoke. But there’s a difference between being a jerk and being mean. There is no reason to be mean, ever, so stop it now. Sad, mopey type? You don’t have to be peppy and perky to be liked. It’s all right to have a sad and mopey tone but too much and that gets old. Jerky or mopey, you’ll want to change your tune at some point or people will change the channel. Ya get me bro? It’s really not what you’re saying. It’s all about how you’re saying it. Make people want to listen!

The more people know and like you, the more willing they’ll be to take the time to hear what you have to say, and ultimately more likely to buy what you write/create. Remember, the (not so secret spy) goal for having that platform is to eventually get people to buy your books WITHOUT EVER SAYING “BUY MY BOOKS.” You won’t please everybody, no one does, but those that stick around will want to know more and more about you. That’s why you need to be consistent (and likeable if not pleasant) with every form of public participation.

Does everything you do and say need to go on record? No. You have a personal life that deserves to stay personal. Some writers create a Twitter or Facebook account for their main characters. It’s a little weird, maybe, but it allows them to get away with saying stuff the real them couldn’t. It certainly helps with branding of the book! Would it brand you? To some extent. But not as effectively as your own account can. For the most part, only REALLY successful books/characters can pull this off (as in NYT best sellers, not Amazon best sellers) (oy, that’s another topic for another day). It’s more a numbers thing. It might not be worth Tweeting as your MC if you’ve sold 50 copies of your self-published title. It would take a long time to grow a following. You could have an account for your book, but who wants to follow that? It’s too direct, too in your face, too salesy. There no way around “I created this just to sell books.” And that feels icky, can we all agree on that?

Imagine if Johnny Depp (hubba hubba) had a Twitter account for Captain Jack Sparrow, his Pirates of the Caribbean character. That would be fun. You’d know that Johnny Depp is the man behind the curtain and would enjoy hearing what his character is thinking. You’d know Johnny is pulling the strings. But personally, I’d rather have Johnny Depp’s direct thoughts (and his direct contact information, but I digress). His “Actor Platform” is different than his “character platform.” And there’s a whole other Pirates of the Caribbean Twitter account dedicated to the movie itself. Do you see the difference(s)?

The movie franchise is successful enough to pull that off. You are not (sorry). They waited until the sales and fame went through the roof before creating the accounts. Well, they would have, I just made this example up. You’ll want to wait, too.

Again, don’t confuse your Author Platform with a book platform or your character’s platform. If you came across a Twitter account for an Indy film main character, you’d be much more invested in the main character and less invested in the actor behind it, because it would be a lesser known actor. People would be following it because they love the character, not just the actor that portrayed her or the screenwriter that created her. The people that follow it would be the people that already saw the movie or read the book, so it probably wouldn’t lead to sales. Branding and following, sure. But not sales. If the Indy movie had its own movie account, the following would be a tenth, nay a hundredth of the Pirates following. It’s just not as popular. In the Jack Sparrow example, Johnny Depp is already so intertwined with the character that all the accounts benefit both the movie franchise AND Johnny (ah, calling him Johnny is like we’re BFFs <emit school girl giggle>).

Back to you. You have a life outside your authoring and illustrating. Everyone has a home life. It’s perfectly okay to have a website or Facebook account for your friends and family, and a separate one for your readers/fans/professional peers. Even if your personal website and your author website have two different URLs, they reflect the same person. It’s still you. The sites cater to different audiences.

Many authors have one site/URL the splits into two, where you “Click here to learn about author/artist Josie Beans” and “Click here to learn more about real estate expert Josie Beans.” Can’t say I’m a huge fan of that specific example, since they are so very different industries, but it’s a thought. How else would real estate clients know Josie is an author/illustrator and how would readers know Josie is in real estate? (It begs the question why would readers need to know you sell real estate, but again, your call.) If you’re an artist that sells art like pottery as well as an illustrator of books, it would be a perfect place to have one URL that splits into two. It’s the same basic skill set. It works.

So…who are you? You have so much to share, you are very talented, and I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing. It might be hard for you to narrow it all down. A defined focus will better help define your brand, and will ultimately help you in the end. I’d much rather buy books on coming of age from an author that fishes and restores cars that from one that  fishes, restores cars, is an entrepreneur, networks at the Chamber, sells beauty products, works at the local coffee shop, teaches knitting to seniors, plays the trumpet, likes to travel, etc etc. It makes me wonder how committed they are to any one thing, and if writing is something they are just doing “for now.” I want to support an author that is doing this because they simply can’t do anything else, even if it’s something they do on the side. Heck, I do it on the side and I have 14 books! I’m a mom & wife first, writer & writer helper second. But I’m committed to writing, and no matter what else I may post or write about, I think my Author Platform proves that. So when you’re promoting yourself, highlight only a few key aspects of what makes you you. Don’t make me think you’re too scattered to trust.

Let’s summarize. When looking to start an Author Platform, keep this in mind:

  1. Remember everything you do online creates or supports the you everyone sees…so
  2. Be the person you want other people to see, consistently
    • But make sure it’s the REAL YOU, not a fabrication
  3. Don’t align yourself too closely with any one title, because you’re more than one book
  4. You’re a really good person, you have great value, and we want to get to know you! Help me understand who you are by highlighting just a few key parts of you, not every single detail

I realize some of you might be chomping at the bit right now to go rearrange some things. Maybe erase some posts or rants? Great! Clean stuff up. Dust some stuff off. Clarify some things. Get ready to invite me over. Let’s have a cup of tea. (Or wine, it’s your house :-))

My next few posts are going to go into detail on how to best work social media, your website or blog, and things like conferences and author visits to support your Author Platform.

For now, be thinking of how to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward, in everything you do online.

Have you learned the hard way from anything you’ve posted online? Please share! I love a good “what was I thinking?” story!

2016 NY Writers Conference: Who’s With Me?

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I’m headed to one of the largest children’s book writing conferences in the world: the SCBWI Winter Conference (why our annual winter conference is in NY [where it’s supposed to be 8° this weekend] and the summer conference is in LA, I’ll never understand, but that’s another topic.) And OVER A THOUSAND fellow writers and illustrators will be there too. The event boasts many top (dare I say famous) editors, agents, art directors, authors & illustrators in the children’s publishing world. It’s going to be a fantastic few days of learning, inspiration, and friend making.

The large mix of attendees is weighted a little heavily towards the beginner, with many in the intermediate and many many in what I’d call the “seasoned professional” category. The NY conference is a little different from other SCBWI conferences in that, given the proximity to so many publishing houses, it practically rains editors and agents. You’ll see them at conference keynotes, intensives, panels, awards ceremonies, heck, even elevators. Some of them just show for the Art Show or Gala Dinner. Many of them are either new or overworked and don’t travel much, so you won’t see them elsewhere.

If you’ve never been, and have wondered if it’s worth it, I have to give it a hearty YES YES, two cramped writing thumbs up. And not just because I love my NY roots and will find any excuse to go back. But because it’s a writing experience like no other. It’s not a pore-over-your-workshop-notes-and-guarantee-yourself-an-aha-moment. It’s a wow-I’m-really-a-writer-surrounded-by-other-writers-and-this-is-where-I-want-to-be-moment. If you don’t have one of those while you’re there, well, you might not be a writer after all. And that’s OK, too. Isn’t that an important learning moment as well? No matter what you walk away with, I promise you won’t regret your decision to attend. There’s a reason a thousand people from around the world will be at this thing.

Now if you happen to be one of these thousands of fellow conference attendees this week or sometime in the future, and are fearing for your life because you’d rather be in your jammies creating in the privacy of your home and not in the middle of a grand ballroom surrounded by all these cat ladies, here are some conference tips to maximize your trip.

Conference tips:

  1. You’re not going to get a contract (seriously, toss that thought right now), but you WILL make contacts. These connections might lead to a contract some day. But don’t pressure yourself, or others. Listen. Learn. Be present. Follow some new people on Twitter and Facebook (follow this blog!). It’s kind of like college-you aren’t really there to memorize the Periodic Table; you’re Continue reading

3 Ways to Rock Your Bio

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, right? Your bio may be the only time someone decides if they’re going to invest more time or energy into getting to know you, into hiring you, or into trusting you. So you want to put your best foot forward. Make that both feet.

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This image was brazenly and randomly stolen off the internet

1. Know Your Audience  What is the bio for? A book flap? Conference? Website? School visit? Who is reading it? Make sure your qualifications match the reason you’re there as a speaker, writer, professional. You’re a complicated (yet attractive) beast with many facets. You can’t possibly put everything down every time; nor would you want to. Play up your experience for that circumstance, adapting as needed. If you’ve written a piece on molecular biology, your stint in improv has no place in that bio. Your experience as a second grade teacher might, if the piece was written for grade schoolers. If it’s for college level, though, just mention being a teacher. Do you see what I mean? Highlight what uniquely qualifies you or makes you stand out for that situation. Do your audience the Continue reading