I’ve been playing around with new search engines, and after a few disappointing trials, I discovered that DuckDuckGo is the best possible search engine for authors, readers, and writers.
I am pretty much searching for books 24/7, whether I’m checking prices or summaries, or just looking for something new to read : ) This means tons of searches on all the book retailer pages. I feel like I’m searching for the same books over and over and over again, and with my decrepit laptop, that is both slow and frustrating going.
If I want to see Aileen’s books on Kindle, I Google “amazon aileen erin” to get a boring page of this:
A scrolling carousel of books at the top of the results?!
And it gets better. DuckDuckGo uses shortcut codes called bangs. The bang for Amazon is !a, so if I search “!a aileen erin” I bypass the search engine interface and go straight to the Amazon search results, which are exactly what I wanted to see:
This is SO SO SO convenient! And there are bangs for every book site you could possibly want.
The most important DuckDuckGo bangs for readers and writers are:
!a – Amazon
!bn – Barnes & Noble
!itunes – iBooks
!kobo – Kobo
!gb – Google Books
!gr – Goodreads
So instead of going to Goodreads to look up my books, I can use “!gr lola dodge” and go straight to this magic:
It is a wonderful thing.
I basically can’t recommend DuckDuckGo enough and I hope you’ll start using it as your default search engine because it makes browsing for books SO. MUCH. EASIER. #cometotheduckside
Also, not a sponsored post ; ) I just love to share things I love.
I didn’t think this was ever going to happen, but it’s happening. I am touching a marketing topic–not with a ten-foot pole, but with my grubby little fingers. INSTAGRAM!
There’s a ton of info out there on how to market on Instagram, but most of it isn’t for writers. How can a writer use Instagram??? We’re word people. We write in dimly lit cave dwellings that don’t photograph well. We lead boring lives shackled to our computers.
I have bad news. If you’re self-promoting, no one cares anyway. I love this Delilah Devlin post on the topic of self-promotion. No one cares about your book (or my book) and you can’t use social media to interact with your fans when your only fan is your mother (thanks for reading my blogs, Mom). Everyone has a book. Everyone is writing a book. Many of the writing/reading hashtags on Instagram are filled with people self-promoting. They might follow you, but odds are they’ll unfollow if you don’t follow back because they’re just trying to sell their own books or services. That’s not helpful to anyone.
How do you get Instagram famous? Already be famous. Or be pretty and post a lot of selfies. It can be a really superficial platform if you let it. At least fifty of my followers are ghosts, and most of my likes are from bots. If I wanted to boost my ego, I could go ahead and buy a few thousand followers. Or pay for a bot to follow and unfollow accounts and inflate my numbers that way. But that’s wicked fake.
(Obligatory post soundtrack. Jason Derulo CAN make you famous on Instagram.)
So why bother? You might not want to. I just really like Instagram. I like playing with the filters and sharing pics of my noodle bowls and where I’m traveling. Someday I’d love to use it to repost fan-generated collages and #bookstgram posts, but until then, I like it as it is. It’s fun to see what the bloggers I’ve made friends with are reading and up to. It’s fun to browse through the writing memes. It’s fun to follow Etsy shops and foodies in my city and look at things that have nothing to do with being an author.
Instagram as a beginning/mid-career writer is all about making connections. That’s it. That’s the secret.
When most people talk about marketing books on Instagram, they go straight to photography. Take better photos. Learn composition. Use editing software. That’s great if you’re a photographer and/or interested in photography, but I’m not. I don’t want you to like my pictures. I want you to like my books and the more time I spend learning to take photos, the less time I have to write and improve myself as a writer.
Here’s the best news in this post. If you’re an author, the quality of your photos makes close to zero difference. Look at John Green’s Instagram. He’s already a big name, but I don’t see him posting from a photo shoot. It’s selfies, movie stars, vacations–a slice of his life.
A photo posted by Colleen Hoover (@colleenhoover) on
For these big names (and all us writers) followers are readers–not photography fans.
If you want to play in #bookstagram, that’s a whole different ballgame. You’re gonna need some white bookshelves, twinkle lights, a crate of Funko vinyls, and a studio-quality lighting setup. The pictures on there are fun and beautiful, but incredibly staged. It’s mostly where the readers party. If staging photos plays to your strengths and you enjoy doing it, then go to town! It’s definitely one way to build a following and I will for sure like your pics.
Unfortunately, a following doesn’t sell books. Neither do double-taps. The equation is much more complicated than that.
When we talk about writers who are killing it on Instagram, the examples people give are always their favorite writers. Is Colleen Hoover killing it on Instagram? Absolutely, and she gets a ton of credit for putting so much of her personality into her photos. She’s also a break-away success and at this point in her career, she has a bajillion loyal fans who’d probably make her successful on most other platforms, too.
Which writers are specifically good at Instagram?
Adriana Locke is a perfect example. I have never met or interacted with her so there is zero bias when I say that she has got this Instagram thing Locked down (no pun intended?). I found her account through bloggers–in one of her book acknowledgments, she thanked her loyal Insta-followers by their handles and the bloggers were freaking out with appreciation and love. Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that perfect? Sure it was also a marketing move, but it felt totally authentic because Adriana’s account is REAL. It’s her life. It’s pictures of her kids, book quotes, memes, fan reposts. Nothing about it feels staged. She’s just interacting with fans and living her life, and that’s exactly what I want from an author on Instagram.
A photo posted by Adriana Locke (@authoradrianalocke) on
Another case study is Nicole Peeler. And this one is definitely biased because Nicole was my MFA mentor, but still, I love her posts. They’re all booze, humor, and her adventures (and foodventures) through Pittsburgh–and that matches perfectly with the content of her books. It’s marketing in one way and yet it feels totally natural. You like looking at this stuff? You’re going to love my stories. Boom.
A photo posted by Nicole Peeler (@nicolepeeler) on
Or Simone Pond. I have no connection to her, but I love her feed. It’s like, this is my dog, this is my desk, this my exasperated face when some dude is talking at the cafe. Plus reposts of other people’s pretty #bookstagram posts. It’s real. It’s doesn’t feel like anyone is forcing her to Instagram for marketing purposes, but it’s also not trying to image craft some glamorous picture of writing life that I don’t believe. It’s just the writer trying to do this whole writing thing, and I respect that. I will follow that.
Readers (especially book bloggers) are tired of having books shoved in their faces. If you use millions of hashtags you look like a spammer. If you’re all BUY MY BOOK, FOLLOW ME, GIVE ME ATTENTION, people will block you. Even being good at Instagram doesn’t sell books–but being a PERSON–showing that you’re not a marketing bot–makes you a lot more likable, approachable, and interesting as a writer among so many other aspiring and working writers. In this over-saturated ebook world, that’s the best you can do.
It’s a paradox. Social media can be a great tool for putting yourself out there… And yet it can also be a huge, useless time suck. So here are my tips for using Instagram as a writer:
Interact. Don’t be a snob who doesn’t follow anyone. Also don’t be obnoxiously posting follow for follow requests (I will block you so hard), but if you’re going to use the Instagram, use it as a platform to make connections. Until you already have a legion of fans, that means geeking out over books that aren’t yours and showing your other interests. Yes, share news if you have a book on sale or a special blog post you want to pimp, but that shouldn’t be the focus of your feed.
Be authentic (not Socality Barbie authentic). I don’t want to follow staged. I want your version of authentic whether that’s a blurry photo of your fourth cup of coffee on deadline or a perfect pastel shot of your workspace. Although fair warning, we’re all going to know if you don’t really have a perfect pastel workspace ; ) (See Jenny Han or R.S. Grey for examples of photo-savvy authors who are believably authentic). The reasons people will like you are probably the reasons they’ll like your books, so show yourself and your style, whether you’re perky or macabre or a sarcastic mess.
Have reasonable expectations. You will not get 10k followers overnight (unless you pay for them). You will get followers one at a time, and if you’re doing it right, you probably have to get to know them first. Have a little romance, y’know? Don’t elevator pitch on a first date. Even if you do get five million followers and ten million hearts, you’re not going to sell fifteen million books, so take a step back. Don’t obsess over followers and likes that mean nothing. Wouldn’t your time be better spent writing??
Be practical. If you don’t like Instagram, don’t use it. You don’t have to be on every social media platform and Instagram is no exception. If you take terrible photos and you think it’s a stupid platform, then stop wasting your time because anything you post is going to smack of I’m just doing this to market myself because everyone says I have to do this to market myself. Experiment with something else if you must. Try vlogging, Vine, Bubbly, Periscope, or the million other platforms that are so new and cool that I haven’t heard of them yet. Find what helps you showcase your talents, but doesn’t feel like a chore.
Be a writer. You are not a photographer. You are a writer. I repeat. You are a writer. You are not using Instagram to connect with photographers or food bloggers or to become a celebrity. You are using Instagram to connect with readers. Readers will follow you because they like you and/or because they like your books. Not because they like pictures of your books. Not because you have a slick brand.
Have fun. Post your dinner. Post selfies. Post your bookshelves. What is much less important than how. Tell me a story in the captions. Share excerpts in your handwriting. Share videos. If you’re a great photographer, then use those skills. If not, do something else that only you can do. Because if it’s not fun and it’s not selling books, then why are you bothering?
And now it’s your turn. Who are your favorite authors on Instagram? Who do you think we should all follow for Instagram knowledge? Please share in the comments!
Writing the synopsis is a dreaded part of the publishing process, and it can be super difficult to condense all the juicy bits of your story into one coherent nugget. As a former crit partner of mine used to say—if I could tell the story in one page, it would be one page.
No matter how far you go in your writing career, synopses stick around. These puppies become your blurbs, which play a key role in your sales, and at some point, you start selling books with a synopsis and chapters.
Getting it right is kind of a big deal.
First, keep it simple. When I start writing a synopsis, I jot down a few key points (usually 4-6) that I need to get across. This step might require some soul-searching, but it’s critical to condense here, or you’ll never get the length right. Introduce the main conflicts and characters, but go light on the subplots—when I’m reading I want to get the essence of the story—the synopsis shouldn’t be a substitute for the entire book.
Second (especially for you fantasy writers), minimize the number of made-up words and concepts you’re introducing—you might be able to get away with one if it’s critical, but don’t waste space defining your terms. And if they’re wacky, you’d better define them. I’ve seen a good few synopses where the neologisms are tossed in like sprinkles, and if I don’t know what it means, I can’t understand why I should read the story.
Third, have multiple readers look over your drafts. We’re all blind to certain problems, and you need a reliable reader or seven to point out the confusing bits.
Fourth, watch the rhetorical questions. They can be fun if they’re asked the right way, but 90% of the time, you just told the readers exactly what happens. Can Cindy fight her attraction to the handsome vampire? Will they ever be together? No she can’t, yes they will. Boom. Now I don’t have to read it to find out the ending.
Fourth, write early, read late. Get a synopsis done early on in the writing process so you can let it marinate before you edit. You’ll pick up on the problems you couldn’t see last time.
Last, (and worth repeating) keep it simple. Even if you have an awesome world, I don’t need to know every character/city/language’s name. This is the time to show off your character’s voice and suck us into the relevant conflicts, not drown us in details. We’ll care about these things later if you do your job now—distilling everything into a bite-sized morsel that makes us salivate for the full course.
A while back I wrote about Twitter etiquette and unfollowing, and I think it’s time to update this post. I recently did another unfollow purge and it’s great to have control of my feed again. Living overseas has given me a special perspective on Twitter. Thanks to a 13-hour time difference, I get a totally different experience than most of you in America. I can only interact when you all are going to sleep or just heading to work, and the rest of the day, I fall into the dreaded window of prescheduled tweets. Alternately, if you don’t preschedule, I might not have seen a tweet from you in months (and vice versa). Here are some recent reasons I’ve unfollowed accounts:
1. STOP TWEETING YOUR BOOK PITCH. Every so often is fine, if you’re into that sort of thing, but when I’m seeing it every day, multiple times a day? Nope. Buh-bye.
2. Our schedules don’t jive. If we can’t interact and never see each other online, why bother following? This is mostly a product of my crazy time zone, but it applies to everyone.
3. You have thousands of followers and we’ve never interacted. The number of followers isn’t so much the problem—my main issue is the lack of reciprocation and flood of RTs from those 10,000 other accounts that have nothing to do with my interests.
4. Content overload. Following too many accounts was drowning my feed. Obviously, I could make lists to deal with this, but I don’t like sift through multiple tweet streams or digging to find the content that I care about. Trimming out the chronic RTers did wonders.
5. Reverse content overload. This gets back to #3. If I’m drowning in info following 500 people, I know you’re a disaster at 5000. Maybe you make use of lists better than I do and have a way to filter your content, so I let interaction be my guide. If I’ve had you in my feed for ages and we’ve never chatted or RT’d each other, this relationship is not working for either of us.
Unfollowing shouldn’t feel like a faux pas–if you’re not getting content that you care about, then don’t be afraid to cut the cord. We’re all flooded with too much information to deal with excessive self-promotion and irrelevant links. Unfollow and regain control of your social media!
I’ve been having a Twitter spring-cleaning. Too much of my feed was choked with RT’s from people I’ve never heard of, and the same self-promotional links repeated over and over and over again.
First, remember that I followed you because I thought you’d be interesting. I thought we’d be able to chat about our shared interests…because isn’t that why we’re here? I’m not dumping you because you don’t follow back—just because I like what you do doesn’t mean you reciprocate, and that’s fine.
I unfollowed you because:
1. You follow too many people. I’m not on Twitter that often, so when I see 3k+ or 10k, or 60k followers, I know you’re NEVER going to see anything I post. Even if you did, why would you care? You’ve got so many followers, you have no idea who I am or what I do. Inevitably you’re marketing something I don’t want, and filling my feed with RT’s that don’t interest me.
2. You don’t use @ replies. Your communication only goes one way and you’re just broadcasting information without interacting. If your feed is all “NEWS STORY via @whoever” the same applies. Maybe you don’t respond to my @’s and maybe when I check your feed, there isn’t a single conversation. If we can’t chat and you’re not a celebrity, then it’s unfollow time.
3. You tweet ALL THE TIME. My feed is flooded with contests you’ve entered and a million books you reviewed and EVERYTHING YOU’RE DOING. I like following bloggers and book reviews because I’m interested in finding new books. When I’m logged in at 3am and I’m still getting buried in your avatar and prescheduled tweets then I’m going to have to unfollow. With the volume of tweets you’re churning out, you’re blocking the rest of my feed.
4. With a scary combination of issues 1-3, you are trying to sell me something. Probably your book. That’s not the problem—I’m trying to sell books, and so are all the authors I’m following. The difference is that you’re using Twitter as a megaphone, and eventually I start viewing your tweets the same as those annoying promoted links. You have become a business, and are more tweetbot than person.
Even though I don’t like these behaviors, it’s still hard to unfollow. I know you’re doing your best and working hard to promote something you love. I still like you, but you’re the friend who wants me to book a Pampered Chef party every time I talk to you. I might buy a utensil or two (because Pampered Chef is nice) but once I know I exist as a marketing contact instead of a friend, I will start to politely ignore you. In real life, I’m pretending I don’t see you at the grocery store. On Twitter, it’s an unfollow.