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Instagram for #writers

These days, it’s hard to escape the feeling that you need advanced design skills to promote your books effectively. A lot of the author folks I see on Instagram and Pinterest with followers in their thousands and tens of thousands regularly post beautiful, professional images of sleek iMacs, instead of ancient, battered laptops as this writer uses, accompanied by meaningful quotes.

I’m flummoxed. My design and photography skills are crap, my marketing budget negligible and I keep muttering to myself, writer NOT designer. Different skill set!

Anyway, I’m trying to make smarter use of Pinterest and Instagram as they are thought to be more useful to writers than Twitter. I’ve come up with some ideas. Feel free to borrow them:

Hashtags—for many of you, this is stating the obvious but you need the writer or book genre related hashtags, such as #amwriting, #writerscommunity, #bookstagram , #romcom etc., even though the writer in me loathes hashtags.

An extract from your book—this is my favourite one as it gives you the opportunity to share your writing. I find an extract, copy it from the book, expand the font size to 16 or 18 and then use the snipping tool to make a screen grab, share it in Dropbox and upload to Instagram from there.

Screen grabs are great in general because you can do things such as copy one of your reviews on Amazon (a positive one, obvs), the words THE END when you finish a book and your dashboard on Kindle Direct Publishing or Kobo if you hit an upwards-soaring run of sales.

Hand-written notes you then photograph—another goodie. In 2019, few of us see other people’s handwriting. Mine isn’t brilliant, but it’s readable. If you can ask a question or make a funny point, even better.

Shameless use of your pet—okay, so then you attract likes and comments from the cat lovers, but I reckon many of them are voracious readers too. My cat, handily, likes to park himself next to my laptop. Endless photo opportunities with the hashtag #catsandwriters

Book covers, obviously—and you can share versions you’re considering and ask people which one they think is the best. Again, you can post them on Instagram via Dropbox. (You need to upload the Dropbox app to your phone to do this, and be aware that on a free account there are limits to how many devices you can put the app on.) When you pay a designer to create a book cover for you, it is worth paying the extra for promotional images which can be used on all the social media platforms. This gives you a library of images to use for one book.

Home-made covers—because I post most of my writing on Wattpad, I create home-made covers on Canva. Canva is useful in general for creating images and you can use it for Instagram and Pinterest posts.

Infographics—I’ve done one so far, but a list of points about writing (and particularly if you’re offering advice) works brilliantly as an infographic. If you label it well and edit the metadata, this makes it more likely to show up in Pinterest searches.

Videos. You can create home-made ones on Lumen5.com and they’ll offer you the option to download file sizes good for Instagram or Pinterest. I created mine from the blurb for my book on this blog.

Pictures of what you imagine your main characters look like, which works well on Pinterest for visibility.

Here are some of the examples of pictures I’ve used on Instagram:

Book + Main and plans, plans, plans

Books + Main on Emma Baird's blogPlans for this year included smarter social media use—y’know, instead of that jumping from platform to platform, creating accounts left, right and centre, updating all of them in fits of enthusiasm and then tumble-weed for weeks at a time.

Reader, that was me. Not any more; I now have a spreadsheet. Yes, yours truly has come up with the super-sad spreadsheet which outlines what platforms she will use and when. Lord, it’s a thing of joy. I’m tempted to upload it here so you too can marvel at it. It’s the Marie Kondo approach to organising my butterfly brain and getting rid of the clutter.

Honestly, I keep opening this spreadsheet and gazing at it, awe-struck. A double bonus is that I recently found out how to do strike-through font in Excel, so not only do I have my list but I CAN CROSS THINGS OUT WHEN I’VE DONE THEM.

So, bye-bye Pinterest and Google+, cheerio to random log-ins to accounts* and hello Book+Main and scheduled postings and checks. Book + Main, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a new platform specifically designed to connect writers of women’s fiction and romance in particular, with writers. It seems the ideal place to be. It’s predictably pink and hearts-like in design, but there we go. For the moment author accounts are free and you can showcase your work there.

I’ve posted up what they refer to as ‘bites’. Book + Main’s creator reasons book blurbs rarely give you a feel for the writing, whereas an extract will. Unlike Amazon, the writer gets to choose the extract so it doesn’t have to be the first few pages. I’ll report back—hopefully with news that my account has taken off, I’ve been bitten thousands of times and my book sales have soared.

I love the new and shiny, and every time I embark on something new, I tell myself this is going to work—hooray! As Winston Churchill once put it, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

I embrace that saying fully.

*time wasting, social media’s main role in my life so far.

Ten Reasons to Delete Facebook

delete facebookAre you sure you want to delete your account?

Hell, yeah. Cheerio Facebook. It’s been okay knowing you…

I’m as guilty as the next person of kneejerk reactions. I sign petitions without finding out more about the issues. I throw my hat in with stuff trending on Twitter. When a famous bod’s words are taken out of context, I tut without bothering to read the whole interview.

The Cambridge Analytica stuff was alarming, but was it enough of a push to press that delete button? I’ve hung onto my account for the last year because I thought I should be on it. I work in communications. I try (and mainly fail) to sell books. Two (sort of) reasons why you should be there. I added up the pros and cons of remaining. The plus points list was jolly feeble.

Delete!

  1. No more accidental, drunken posts. You promise yourself you’ll never ever do it, but wine o’clock comes round. Bye-bye inhibitions and hello Too Much Information.
  2. You’ll feel a bit secretive and quite powerful.
  3. You’ll never have to go to a kid’s birthday party again. Well, you might. A real-life one. But Facebook often feels like being at one long children’s party you RSVP’d to, saying ‘no, ta, I’m busy’, so they brought it to your house instead.
  4. You can genuinely claim not to have seen anything on Facebook, instead of pretending you missed the latest holiday snaps/ill status/kid’s birthday pics. when you don’t comment on something.
  5. No more working out weird Facebook etiquette. Do I say ‘happy birthday’ to this person, even though I’m going to see them in the flesh later today? Do I ‘like’ something (anything) on someone’s account just because I haven’t done so for a long time? If I miss commenting on a child, am I a rotten friend?
  6. No more fear of missing out. I’m an adult, but occasional pics of my friends enjoying a night out make me feel like I’m twelve all over again. Why, why, why didn’t they invite me?! Now, I won’t see it.
  7. No more of that heart sinking feeling when you read views you never suspected a friend/family member held. Brexit? Casual racism? Calls for capital punishment? Islamophobia? Hating cheese?
  8. No more lectures. I love it when someone lectures me on politics. Said no-one, ever.
  9. No more wondering why everyone else in the world has the photography gene and I don’t. Seriously, my photos are s**t. The rest of the world appears to take beautifully composed and focused shots. Yes, Instagram is all about pics. But I don’t know most folks on there personally. They can’t judge me for my lack of skill.
  10. Time! One less social media platform to procrastinate on is A Good Thing.

Wattpad – Advice for Writers

wattpadDo any of you use Wattpad? Wattpad, if you’re not familiar with it, is an online storytelling community where people post stories, articles, fan fiction and more.

You create an account and upload stories via the website or the app. Wattpad has 16.9 million unique visitors every month and an average of 30 minutes spent reading. It’s an interesting experience for an author because Wattpad breaks down the information for you. The site will tell you how many reads you get and, crucially, the percentage of a chapter that is read.

Bracing stuff!

Wattpad success stories include Lily Carmine, whose book The Lost Boys clocked up an impressive 33 million reads. She eventually landed a deal with Random House UK thanks to an editor who’d read her book on Wattpad.

Standoutbooks offers the following advice for authors wanting to publish on Wattpad:

Upload a whole book, not a half-written one. If you get engagement, it’s best to make the most of it. You can’t upload chapters regularly if they’re not yet written.

Be prepared to give your book away for free. If there are only one or two chapters uploaded, this will irritate readers.

Remember it’s social media. Respond to comments. Follow other people. Use the comments to send messages to your readers, telling them of other books to come and suchlike.

Be aware of the audience. Most Wattpad users are teenagers and 20-somethings. The genres that do best on Wattpad are science fiction, young adult and fantasy.

I began to upload a story recently, uploading a chapter or two a day. My readership is very small, but it’s loyal. Unknown American readers are reading the book. They read every chapter, which is gratifying. I feel duty-bound to keep posting because they’ve done so. I plan to upload a YA/fantasy novel next, seeing as those genres seem to be the most successful.

Self-Published Author on His Way to Making Millions

This week’s Luton Today newspaper featured a story about a self-published author who is on his way to making his first million pounds through self-publishing.

When you’re a self-published author yourself, stories such as these are always inspiring to read. The author in question – 29-year-old Adam Croft – is currently making £500,000 from his self-published crime stories, keeping up to 80 percent of his royalities.

The newspaper quotes him as saying that he needed a “technical brain” for self-publishing, which I took to mean as needing to be able to use social media to create buzz round his books. He told the newspaper that his market was mostly middle-aged women and that he targeted them through Facebook.

Half a million pounds a year… to be honest, I’d settle for a lot less than that. Profit would be nice for a start. And then perhaps enough money to keep me in expensive cat food (now required to help manage my too heavy moggie’s weight. Boy that stuff is expensive).

Like all stories you read about self-published success, the tale in question does ram home the importance of marketing and savvy social media use. You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on it, but working out a strategy and spending time on targeting people is crucial.

Time I learned that lesson, hmm?

Killing Them With Kindness

TrollsThere’s an individual who has gained a certain amount of notoriety of late – I won’t mention his name or his website as that merely adds fuel to the publicity fire he seeks, but let’s just call him Randy.

In truth, I thought I shouldn’t write about him at all. There are a few people who choose to live their lives (and make money) through provocative behaviour. Commenting on them justifies their actions.

But I justified writing this blog to myself by reasoning that as I write an obscure blog, read and seen by very few (and by the way, I do treasure those of you who do read and follow my work) I am not adding fuel to Randy’s publicity fire and I haven’t mentioned him by name.

(According to one news source I read, his website experienced 82,000 unique visits this week. Hmm.)

Negativity, trolling and deliberately provocative remarks and behaviour online are often thought of as something that is too easy. Being face to face with someone requires rather more courage to say to them, “you are S*** and so is everything you write and everything you say”. (And that is probably one of the milder comments you can get on YouTube or Twitter.)

But actually, what is really easy is being nice. It leaves you with this warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Don’t believe me? Spend the next hour or so going through other people’s blogs. Comment on them all – hey, nice pics, or wow, thought-provoking article, I like what you have described or isn’t your cat so cute?

Feel better now? Feel like a nice human being? Mmm, me too.

You can, if you want, seek out Randy and bombard him with nice comments. I don’t mean faux nice comments (Hi Randy, I can tell you’re unhappy. Never managed to get a girlfriend hmm?) but proper ones: Hi Randy, have a lovely day! Or Hi Randy, hope you are taking very good care of yourself – which neatly steer away from any endorsement of his actual views.

And in the meantime, here’s a little bit of cheeky Friday flash fiction.

Notice Me

With a snigger that smacked of Beavis and Butthead, Randy clicked ‘Send’ and sat back, launching his latest hate-filled 140-character rocket into the ether.

Sure enough, within seconds the rocket exploded and his phone pinged once, twice… and more. The responses were coming in thick and fast.

“Randy, you in there?”

“Mooooommmm,” he whined as his mother came in, bearing sandwiches.

“Whaddya doin’ son?” She was an understanding kind of mom.

“Tryin’ to get this woman’s attention, Ma. She’s an amazin’ feminist and I dunno what else to do to get her to notice me. Wish I could date her!”

 

©Emma Baird 2016

Writing About Teenagers – Can You Keep Up?

teenagersLast year, I finished a book about teenagers – specifically a teenager with mental health issues. I enjoyed writing the story and I felt reasonably proud of it once I had finished, but I knew work needed to be done on it. It needed re-writing in places and it needed some re-ordering of the plot half-way through.

[I find beginnings easy to write and endings fairly straightforward, but the middle of the novel – the rising arc seems to give me issues.]

I started the re-writing and then ground to a halt, beginning another novel instead and letting that take up my time. One of my issues with the book about teenagers is my feeling that I can’t possibly keep up. When I started book number two, I felt reasonably confident that I knew how teenagers lived and existed day-to-day, but as time went on I lost that confidence.

How do teenagers live these days? Do they talk to each other at all? Or are they too busy, heads bent, hands curled round a mobile phone awaiting updates on whatever social media platforms they belong to? And what social media platforms are they on? Is Twitter now passe? Have young people grown bored of Instagram yet? Have they moved onto Periscope? And how exactly does Snapchat work?

Modernity feels as if it’s difficult to accurately reflect these days because it moves so very, very quickly. I’m sure anyone writing about children and teenagers 40 or 50 years ago could confidently feel that their book would be as relevant at the end of a decade as it had been at the beginning of one, but I don’t feel that way about teenagers living in 2010, compared to teenagers living in 2016.

The answer to this dilemma? Who knows… Writing about teenage vampires or teenagers living in a futuristic world where they need to take part in games to stay alive? Maybe that’s the answer.

Oh. That’s been done already. Oh well.