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Publishing 101 #3 – Social Media Fundamentals

One of the hardest things for authors and pretty much anyone trying to build a brand and a name for themselves is trying to build a social media following that can let you spread your products or even just your name. For this blog post, I decided to give some fundamental information about the core social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) and how to use them effectively.

Twitter

If you are in the book industry, Twitter is an absolute must. Tons of bloggers and industry professionals are on Twitter and, believe it or not, a lot of announcements are made on Twitter. It’s where most people post about their cover reveals, book deals, film options, and their cast announcements. A lot of people don’t really seem to know how to use Twitter and I’ve heard of a lot of authors that just feel like they shouldn’t have to be on Twitter or feel like it won’t be beneficial. I highly recommend you give it a shot. Here are some tips and tricks to be spotted on Twitter:

  • Keep it personal – if you’re active in politics, activism, or just like sharing your opinion, that is generally what people are looking for when they go onto Twitter.
  • Be concise – it might be tempting to make a thread of 10+ tweets to get your thoughts across, but most people won’t read past the first thought.
  • Be visual – images draw in the eye of a reader, but emojis work just as well for this. Likewise, if you keep your tweet short, you might attract attention.
  • Cool it with the hashtags – I try to keep my Twitter posts with a max of 5 hashtags and they are always at the bottom of my post. DO NOT put hashtags in what you’re trying to say.  Not only is it cluttered, hashtags are in different colors and are distracting, which ultimately takes away from your message. Example: The #book I’m #currentlyreading is a #fantasy novel that talks about #LGBT values and #friendship.
  • Interact – Ask questions, retweet your friends, and be a part of the dialogue.

Instagram

  • Images can make or break – the whole point of Instagram is to give your followers amazing photos that they can quickly scroll through and like, so having a really good eye for pictures is the only sure fire way to make your mark on IG.
  • Don’t give your life story in your caption – as stated above, people want to scroll through quickly, so they might take the time to read a sentence or two in your caption, but don’t write paragraphs. To write a meaningful caption, you have to get their attention with your images first.
  • Be consistent – try to keep your IG to a theme. Maybe you have all your photos in black and white, maybe they have a blue tint or an orange tint, maybe you have one item that is in each photo. This helps people recognize your posts as something unique to you in particular. You don’t necessarily have to stick to this forever, but don’t change your theme every month.
  • Hashtags are a must – whenever I post, I have a long list of hashtags that I automatically have at the ready so that I can simply copy and paste them into my post. You can put your relevant hashtags at the bottom of your caption or simply leave them in a comment. 
  • Utilize IG stories – this isn’t 100% necessary, but every once in a while it’s good to put things in your story. Events you go to, books you read, adventures you go on. Add those to your story and make them accessible to your followers so they can feel connected to you.

Facebook

  • Long captions – this is your chance to write those paragraphs! Tell your long stories or do a Q&A! Facebook is pretty much the only social media platform you should be writing a lot. 
  • Older audience – Facebook is predominantly a platform for an older audience (30-40+). That doesn’t mean there aren’t younger people as well. 
  • Links and images – share all the images and links you want! People want things to click on, so don’t be afraid to share your stuff. But if you aren’t much of an image person, at least try to use some emojis.
  • Pages versus profiles – keep your friends list to your closest friends and family members and make yourself an author page or a brand page to keep all those that like your work separate from your personal stuff. 
  • Hashtags are a no – don’t bother with hashtags. No one really uses them on Facebook and, in the end, they just end up making you look more out of the loop.

Other Tips and Tricks

  • Scheduling apps and sites – these might be tempting to use, but make sure you’re still following the rules for each platform. Producing one post and spreading it to all your socials isn’t the best way to spread your content and makes you look like a lazy user.
  • Acknowledge that each platform matters – they each provide something different and while certain ones work better for different people, it’s important to at least know about the other ones.
  • There are many other platforms – these are just the main three, but there are several platforms I didn’t mention in this post. Some of them include: TikTok, Snapchat, Tumblr, and LinkedIn, but there are so many more!
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Explaining My Major – No, it isn’t Journalism

For those of you that don’t know, I’m currently going into my sophomore year of college as a publishing major at Belmont University. One of the hardest parts of being a publishing major is that people don’t really know what that means. This initially came as a shock to me, because it feels pretty self explanatory, but I have been proven wrong dozens of times. In the year that I’ve been at college and the accompanying months before I left for college, I have gotten some of the following statements:

  • “Oh good, we need good journalists to really get the truth out there!”
  • “Like music publishing?”
  • “You write books?”
  • “Editing is really technical, I’m impressed!”

And so many others. Part of the reason I’m writing this is so that I can send this blog post to those people so that they can read and understand. So if you’re reading this because I sent you a link, I’m not mad, I just need to show you how wrong you really are and didn’t know how to say it to your face. So, I’m going to say one major statement and then the following information will just be a build on that.

Publishing means the industry of publishing aka the process of bringing the book from the writer into the hands of the readers

What does that even mean? Essentially my major (which if you haven’t caught on yet is publishing) is broken up into two pathways. The first pathway is the Editorial Track. People that take this path usually become editors and like the nitty-gritty parts of writing. These people take editing courses that give them the skills to edit like professionals. This is taking the book from the first copy the author sends and edits them, pointing out mistakes, until it becomes a final edition to be printed.

The second pathway, which is my pathway, is the Marketing and Publicity Track. I take the finished book and I make calls to magazines, book stores, TV shows, and everything I can think of to help advertise and get people to notice the book. I interact with the authors, learn their strong points and what they can talk about and use that information to make press releases to make buzz about the book. This includes contacting bloggers and industry professionals to see if they want to do early reviews or interviews with the author. For this, I have to take marketing classes and media relations classes to understand the relationship between the goods I’m producing and the best way to make the readers hear about it.

Along with my publishing degree, I tagged on a Public Relations minor to help me interact with the media. 

If none of this made sense, just look at the big bold sentence and that’s all you really need to know. If you have any questions or you just want to chat about my classes or experience, I would love to talk to you about it! Being a publishing major has showed me just how little people really know about the industry and has opened my eyes to a whole new world stuck between the pages.

 

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Publishing 101 #2 – Visual Appeal

When it comes to publishing, visual appeal of graphics, book covers, and advertisements are what can make or break a book’s impact on readers. Here are some important things to consider when it comes to making your book a success.

Graphics are everywhere. They’re on advertisements, websites, labels, magazines, and all over social media. Creating them, making them intriguing, is a big step in making your graphics.

Color

Color is a very important thing to consider when making your graphics. Cooler colors are more likely to sooth the reader and your audience while bright, warm colors are more likely to set the viewer on edge. 
For example, blue is meant to be calming and purple is supposed to invoke the feeling of wisdom, while red and orange are exciting and drag attention.

Fonts

The most important thing, especially for such an image-focused industry, is to have content that the viewer can read and understand. That means using fonts like Ariel, Sans, and Times New Roman that are easy to make out and legible. Being conscious of the size of your text is important as well. If you are viewing from a distance, you want the text to be big enough to read, but not overwhelming and if the viewer is close up, you don’t want the text to be screaming into their face. Using curly, fancy fonts is less likely to appeal to a general audience, because they take a minute to read fully or, in some cases, they might not be legible at all.

Message

The message is the heart of your graphic or advertisement. When you know the message you’re trying to get across, you can expose it better to people that might be interested in your book. You wouldn’t be making adult ads for a book that is predominantly for children or YA and you wouldn’t be making big flowery posts for a book that is for a serious adult book. 
Know the genre you’re advertising for to make your graphics and posts more appropriate to the book you’re talking about.

Images

The main problem with images is knowing what is too much and what isn’t enough. You don’t want to yell at your audience but you don’t want them to be underwhelmed, so make them interesting but don’t scare them with your flamboyant color swirls and big images that overlap. This can end up obscuring your text. 
Contrasting colors catch the eye, so if you want to use color keep it to 2-4 that either go together very well or don’t go together at all. It drags attention to what you’re trying to say. 
Visuals can make or break your message, so make sure that everything you’re doing is coherent and easy to understand so that the viewer doesn’t get confused. This leads to happy viewers and a happy you!
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Publishing 101 #1 – What is Book Marketing?

**Disclaimer: I am not an industry professional. I do, however, major in publishing marketing and publicity and have taken some classes on the subject matter enough that I feel I can make generalized statements for better understanding**

So, what is book marketing?
The other day I was perusing the Twitterverse when a post caught my eye that said something along the lines of “Is it just me or are publishers doing a really bad job at publicity? I feel like I have no idea what’s coming out.” Followed by a poll to which I answer that I felt publishers were doing a fine job. Apparently, I am in the minority. I proceeded to read through the comments of people claiming that they only hear about one or two books over and over again.

Essentially, the moral of this blog post is going to be publishers have to make money.
How many different forms of social media are there? Let’s do a head count. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (which is more on the individual and less the company), Goodreads, Amazon (to a degree). Then you have booksellers themselves like Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, and a great deal many independent stores. Oh! Let’s not forget to mention the quite literally thousands of book newsletters. In one branch of a publishing company alone there might as well be 10 or more different kinds of newsletters that could be broken up by genre, imprint, and sometimes even a select author. Following this is places like Shelf Awareness and Bookriot. If it’s a book coming from an already known author, most have their own newsletter as well. And how could I forget the hard work of the bloggers out in the community? So let’s say the approx. total of places you could advertise a book is about 16 if I’m holding back.

Of course, this isn’t including the cost of promotional things like pre-order incentives and ARCs that are paid for by the publisher and given out for free specifically for publicity. That means the publisher makes ZERO MONEY on ARC distribution. Their only hope is that, by giving ARCs out, the bloggers and booksellers of the world will spread the word.

About 1 million books are published in the US every year. There is no exact number, so for the heck of it, let’s take away 200k. That’s 800k books in the US alone. Now, there’s also some no-name titles and genre differences and then independent titles that most won’t hear about, so let’s say about…200k books are published a year that you might be interested in. That’s 200,000 books. It isn’t an exact science, but I don’t want to hear about 200k books every year.

Publicity costs money. Weird right? Now, going back to one of those numbers above, there are approx. 16 social media outlets/bookstores/newsletters/websites that you can advertise from. But, really, unless people are actively searching the publisher or the author, there is a very small chance that a non-paid promotional ad will be seen. That would be like posting a picture on your Instagram with hashtags and hoping that 5 people will see and dig deeper. So, you go ahead and pay for Instagram to promote you and reach a bigger audience. And then you do that on the 15 other outlets. This is for one book. With our generous number of 200k books that people might care about in a year, it is literally impossible to give all books the same kind of recognition. Not to mention it clogs up feeds and could cause a bunch of angry readers wondering why they can’t find that one book they saw an ad for in the sea of book ads.

This is mainly me pointing a finger at the big 5 publishers that everyone hears from and I haven’t even touched the foundation of Amazon. Smaller publishers have no way to do this kind of publicity.

The point of this is that, if you want to find more books, you need to ask around, subscribe to everything about books that interest you, and read some ARC reviews. Heck, some publishers have catalogues for the books they will be publishing that season, so try flipping through one of those PDFs. You can’t wait for the books to come to you, because it is literally impossible to do so.

Feel free to argue with me down in the comments, shoot me a message, etc. If this interests some of you out in the void and you want to learn more about stuff like this or if you want me to do a “What is Book Marketing?” part 2, I have a bunch of content, this post is just getting long. Remember, respect industry professionals, look around (there is book stuff posted everywhere), and try not to complain about things you don’t have control over. It really isn’t worth your time.