Social Media 101: What’s New with Facebook?

What began as a social networking application for students at Harvard in 2003 has blossomed.  Today it’s the social media giant that billions of authors consult every day. You can find a timeline of Facebook’s evolution here. While the social network’s growth can be neatly mapped out, it is a bit more difficult for users to understand how to use all of its newer features. That’s why we’ve decided to lay out a revamped guide to Facebook as one of the handiest tools in an author’s belt.

Social Media Stories

The Facebook Story is a newer function that you might be overlooking. Inspired by Snapchat, then adopted by Instagram, Facebook also added this feature to its dashboard in 2017.

  • How to use it – By clicking the camera icon on the upper-left-hand-side of your mobile app, you can take pictures and videos of your choosing. After that step, you will be prompted by three options: “Effects,” “Save,” and “Your Story.” The Effects option allows for different filter/sticker/text/location edits to add that extra pizzazz to your content. Save allows you to store this content on your mobile device.  Your Story allows you to load content to the designated bar at the top of your audience’s feed. You can find stories below the search bar of your app, represented by a circle containing your profile picture. You can also simultaneously load content to your story and your feed by selecting the option before you post. Each of these posts can be up to 20 seconds long and will expire after 24 hours.

This changes the game for a once text-oriented platform. The Facebook Story is a great opportunity for authors to share quick snapshots of a new book jacket, merchandise, or even your breakfast -it is a simple, free way to both promote a product and interact with your following.

Live Streaming 

Facebook Live functions as a branch of the Facebook Story. Below the search bar in the Facebook application, you will find the status bar. There are three options located in the status text box: “Live,” “Photo,” and “Check In.”

  • How to use it – Live is represented with a video camera icon; upon clicking this icon, a camera view similar to that of the Story comes up. The difference with Live is that you are sending a video in real-time to your audience. You can add a text description to your video, for example, “ARC Unboxing!” Live also comes with its own set of filters and effects, you can even invite another user to conference in your broadcast (by selecting the “Bring a Friend” option). You can choose where your Live video appears by tapping the “To:” drop-down, where you can make your broadcast public, address only your audience, or share it to specific groups you are a part of on Facebook. Like Stories, you can simultaneously upload a live broadcast to your story and your feed. Facebook live also displays how many people of your group are online, which makes choosing the most high-volume time for your broadcast a breeze.

Live is useful for broadcasting an event, making announcements about your product, or generally interacting with your audience. Users can comment on your Live broadcast and fielding those questions/comments can build a rewarding repartee between you and your following.

You can find more information on the basic functions of social media like Facebook here. Make the best of your Facebook following with these new tools!

My Guide to Influencer Outreach

With the prevalence of social media continuing to grow, influencers are becoming incredibly powerful tools in content marketing. In fact, a Tomoson study found that influencer outreach is “the fastest-growing online customer acquisition channel, outpacing organic search and email marketing.” For one, influencer outreach is incredibly useful when it comes to relationship development. We’re currently working on a couple of campaigns whose central audiences are geared toward the education market. So, how did we expand our outreach? We found popular teacher Instagram influencers with over 12,000 followers who we can approach with the latest series additions for optimal publicity. A simple Instagram post or story can go a long way in terms of making a lasting impact on consumers.

With that said, it’s imperative to implement tactics that best reach both influencers and your ultimate target audience. The key in initially building durable relationships, in my experience, is to come across as genuine as possible. Considering the numerous amounts of DMs these influencers sift through every day, taking an unorthodox, new approach can help achieve the attention you desire. Avoiding the clichéd, copied-and-pasted pitch will certainly help you stand out from the rest. Here are 3 tips to help you do just that:

1. Design your pitch around how your product or service can be beneficial to the individual influencer and less about how they can be beneficial to you. Any salesperson will tell you that people are of course more interested in what they stand to gain, so always keep that in mind. For instance, when reaching out to the teacher influencers we emphasized why our book would be a great addition to their classroom libraries. What teacher doesn’t love free books!?

2. Show them you know who they are. Instagram/Twitter bios are convenient, go-to places to find that kind of personal information- so utilize it!

3. Be relatable. It’s basic human nature to be drawn to people who you can relate to. It further shows these influencers that you’ve taken the time to scroll through their feed to find out what they’re all about.

All in all, influencer outreach can be extremely advantageous if approached properly. Authenticity is essential when building any type of relationship, so treat influencers more like people and less like brands.

Questions from Indie Authors

I was asked to speak this past Saturday, at an Indie Author Day at my local library.  It’s interesting to me that even when I speak to people who have heard me several times, there are always new questions.  I love that, because it gives me insight into what the world is like out there for indie authors–even those who have been doing this for quite some time.

For our Thanksgiving Week post, I decided to share some of what was asked and answered.

  1. I hired someone to do my Facebook and Twitter who was an expert in my subject area, but after six months I didn’t see a bump in sales.  I also had some speaking events and didn’t get any new attendees from the social media outreach.   Why is social media important given what I’ve experienced?   First of all, social media does not increase sales on it’s own.  Social media helps you build an audience or community, but you still need to motivate your followers to do something in order to see a result.  Combining consistent social media with some marketing of your pages or books (boosting posts on Facebook is an example) is a more strategic plan for generating book sales.  Also, I asked her why she was using Twitter and why not Instagram?  As it happens her books are about animals–and animals (especially cats) are super popular on photo based platforms like Instagram.  I explained that social media isn’t a generic platform.  It is made up of various tools that you can use based on what you are trying to accomplish and who you are trying to reach.
  2. I’ve tried to get reviewed in the major newspaper in my area.  When I reached the book person she said because my book was published by a self-publishing platform it wasn’t eligible for review.  Is that true and how am I supposed to get book reviews?  Yes, it is true that the major newspapers–think of the top 25 by circulation–will not review self-published books and even those published by very small indie presses.  There are simply too many books and too little space.  Also, reviewers haven’t achieved the level of trust yet with indie authors or perhaps your publisher, to determine what is going to be worth their time to cover.  Book reviews on blogs and in publications that favor indie books as well as some local papers and online sites are obtainable.  Some examples are Foreword Magazine, San Francisco Book Review, and Publishers Weekly’s “Book Life” platform.
  3. I was in the newspaper business but the local papers are all gone.  Or they’ve been bought out by corporate syndicates and they have little to no staff on hand to cover books.   How can I get local coverage?  It’s true that there are many local papers that have been absorbed into corporations.  Usually there is one features person who covers several at one time.   But there are also local glossy magazines, which tend to have staff writers because they reap the benefits of local businesses advertising.  Indie authors can check out people who are freelancing, because they may be submitting pieces to the syndicates or some of the locally focused online outlets.  Finally, try the “free” papers in your area.  They are often looking for very locally based stories and will copy information from a press release.

If you have a question email me at claire@clairemckinneypr.com and put “Question for Blog” in the subject line.  I will answer in a forthcoming blog.  I would love to hear from you!

Book Publishing 101: 1 Million Self-Published Books Means Quality is Key

Guess what?  Last week Publishers Weekly reported that, according to Bowker, over 1 million books were self-published in 2017.  You may ask yourself what this means to authors and potential book buyers?

Ten years ago, when I stopped working in-house and became an independent publicist and business owner I was introduced to the indie-author market.  There had been a swelling of this part of the market to which I and others in NY traditional publishing were unaware.  It was alarming to find that a significant portion of the titles that were being self-published, were of substandard quality.  One of the reasons for this was the plethora of inexpensive online book services that made a lot of money on DIY projects by aspiring writers.   The quality of the printing, the interiors, the jackets were often terrible.  Clearly there was a lot the indie author population needed to learn, and a network of bloggers and newsletters began to spring up to teach them the ropes.  But even with the resources that are available today, I still see a lot of titles that have quality issues and these problems will make it difficult for a book to compete in today’s marketplace.  With over 1 million books out there every year, appearance is at least 50% of the marketing effort.

Since I really dislike seeing books that look “self-published”, I’m going to share the beginnings of a list of telltale signs that I run into all the time, and some ways authors can avoid them.

1. A glossy jacket when it should be matte and a cover image that looks like a cheap template.

Narrative fiction and non-fiction should have a matte cover in paperback.  It looks wrong to have a glossy cover, in my strong opinion, and it doesn’t help sell the book.  To research this, go to your local bookstore and look at what is on the new in paperback tables.  Also, have a designer do your jacket.  Don’t use the templates provided online because a) you are likely to produce a jacket just like a bunch of others already out there; b) it will look like what it is; and c) you get what you pay for especially when it is free.  Visit websites for indie authors, especially the Independent Book Publishers Association, which has resources you can check out for different publishing services.  You can even call them on the phone!

2. Print is too small for the page or is printed in courier font.

Whatever you choose, please understand that courier font is not acceptable for a book unless it’s a narrative device.  Almost anything is better than that including the old standard Times New Roman.  Also, if you print using an online service get a copy or proof first to see what the type looks like.  You don’t want to publish a book that half of your market (over 40) can’t read because the type is too small.  I’ve seen it happen.

3. Printing your book straight from a word doc is not a good idea.

It looks like the book is “word processed” and not designed properly.  I believe some of the online publishers have interior formatting help that can give you some design options if you can’t pay for a professional.  If you can spend a bit of money, I suggest finding someone who does interior design in InDesign.

4. Empty rear jacket.

The back of the jacket needs to have a bar code, a brief author bio, a quote from a credible source (if available), and a brief snappy piece of selling copy.  Again, the local bookstore is a great place to do research.  Just because you are self-publishing, doesn’t mean you don’t need to meet publishing standards.  Ebook sales are declining, so the presentation of your print book is going to make a difference.

5. No Library-of-Congress number

Do you want libraries to have access to your book?  You need a “PCN” number, which you can obtain here and it’s free.  All you need to do is send a copy to the Library of Congress when your book is ready.

I will continue to add to this list over the next several months.  I hope sharing my observations as we all continue to navigate the indie market will be helpful.

Book Review: Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Educated Tara Westover
Educated: A Memoir from Penguin Random House

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover is a book I initially didn’t want to pick up when it released earlier this year, as it didn’t sound like a book I’d be interested in.

I admit it: I was wrong! Although I regret not reading Educated earlier, I’m still glad that I had the opportunity to read it after purchasing it in an awesome independent bookstore perfectly titled “Books, Lines, and Thinkers” during my vacation in Rangeley, Maine.

Educated is the story of Tara Westover and her life growing up in the mountains of Idaho with a father who had her lugging metal for his junkyard, and a mother who was a self-taught herbalist and midwife. She was raised as a fundamentalist Mormon, and her family believed that even the Mormons they went to church with were sinful and weren’t going to be saved when the apocalypse came. As part of preparation for the apocalypse, they stocked up on food, water, and weapons and buried them on their property.

Her father was paranoid and against the federal government and public education, so Tara never went to school. She never had a birth certificate until she was older and asked her mother to help her get one, but she and her mother had conflicting dates on her DOB (although they both agreed that she was born toward the end of September). At one point when 16-year-old Tara got into an argument with her mother about school, her mother replied that she was 20 years old at this point. Her parents didn’t know the day she was born, let alone her age.

The hardest part about reading this book is that I had to keep reminding myself that this didn’t happen in the ’60s or ’70s—this all takes place in the ’90s through current times. But the way that Tara lived was so backwards you can’t help but keep thinking that her story took place much longer before the ’90s. While other kids were watching Nickelodeon and Disney movies or establishing grade-school friendships, Tara’s father was forcing her to jump into dumpsters full of sharp aluminum and tin (without a tetanus shot—because her father didn’t believe in doctors and medicine).

Throughout her crazy childhood, Tara slowly began dating and assimilating herself into modern society by taking part in school plays (until her father would eventually nix most of these plans), and she was eventually able to break away by getting accepted into Brigham Young University in Utah. She had a lot of trouble fitting in, whether it was because her roommates were disgusted by her lack of hygiene, or her own prejudices against other female college students and the way they dressed in class. At one point in a lecture, she raised her hand and asked for the professor to explain what the word “Holocaust” meant, and she is reprimanded for making a mean joke.

How someone can live in the world yet know so little about it is absolutely mind-boggling and unbelievable. Tara goes through so many problems that no child should go through—a physically abusive brother, parents that disown her for being “against the family,” not getting a proper education or medical treatment—but she is not asking for a pity party in Educated. She just wants to tell the story of her life, as far-fetched as we may think it is.

Educated is one of the best memoirs I’ve read, not only because it is a literal page turner and a book that you will not be able to put down from the moment you read the first page. It’s worth reading because there are other people who grew up like Tara who exist in the U.S. today, and don’t have proper access to education or medicine. It also puts a spotlight on mental illness (her father and brother) and depression (her own), along with how it can affect not just one’s self but their family and friends. My only issue with the book is that it feels that Tara wrote it too soon. Although the raw emotion is what makes it a great memoir, it does feel like she still has not come to terms with the abuse she suffered by the hands of her family members.