Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors – do you do it?

I am published, and one issue that comes up, time and again, concerns how people can go about supporting indie authors. In particular, friends and family far removed from the business of writing or social media or public relations or marketing or the like still want to help out.

And for the writers, who may feel strange suggesting or requesting such support, I hope this little guide can do just that. Instead of asking, perhaps they can simply point to this blog post.

The #1 Way You Can Support An Independent Author

This one’s easy. Buy their book! Which version? Any version!

However, authors might get better percentages of the take with a particular format. If that is the case, and you don’t mind which format you purchase, you can always ask your friend the writer. While we always want you to buy the book (and a sale beats out no sale), if we have our druthers and it really makes a difference, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.

The #2 Way To Support Independent Authors

Supporting Indie Authors
Untrustworthy by JR Gershen-Siegel

So once you’ve bought the book, a fantastic way to help out even more is to provide an honest review. Amazon, Smashwords, and many publisher sites provide a means of reviewing novels and other creative works. Be sure to review where you purchased the book. Why? Because then you can be listed with verified purchase next to your name. This adds considerably more credibility to your review (and some places require it now).

The Sum and Substance of Your Review

What should you say in your review? If you loved the book, say so. If it was a decent read but not your cup of tea, say that as well, as it’s honest, fair, and remains supportive. After all, not everyone loves the same thing. If you’re not in the demographic group the work is aimed at, then no problem. You gave it the old college try and that’s just fantastic. The longer the review then, generally, the better. Specific references to events in the book, without giving away spoilers, really help. E. g. something like: I loved the character of ___. She was believably vulnerable.

Negative Reviews

What if you hated the book? Should you lie? Absolutely not – and, I might add, don’t lie even if the author has specifically asked for positive reviews only (an unethical request, by the way). If the book stinks (I’ve read books that have made me want to burn people’s computers, they were so horrible, so I know exactly where you’re coming from), then you have the following options:

  1. Don’t post the review at all, and say nothing to the author.
  2. Don’t post the review at all, but mention it to the author. However be prepared for, potentially, some negative push-back, in particular if that person specifically requested just positive reviews. You can sweeten the pot by offering some other assistance (see below for other things you can do to help).
  3. Post a short review. Reviews don’t have to be novel-length! You can always write something like Interesting freshman effort from indie author ____ (the writer’s name goes in the blank). There ya go. Short, semi-sweet, and you’re off the hook. Unless the book utterly bored you, the term ‘interesting’ works. If the book was absolutely the most boring thing you have ever read, then you can go with valiant or unique (so long as the work isn’t plagiarized) instead of interesting. Yes, you have just damned with faint praise. But sometimes faint praise is the only kind you can give out.

Really going negative

  1. Post a negative review. However, be prepared for your friendship to, potentially, end. Is that the worst thing, ever? I’m not saying to be mean. Don’t be mean and don’t take potshots at a person’s character or personality. This is about the book and not about your relationship with the person (although it can sometimes turn into that. But keep the review about the creative work only). But if the friendship means more to you, then seriously consider options #1 or #2 instead.

Furthermore, many sites have star systems. Adding stars (even a single star) is helpful as this signals to readers that there is at least some interest in the piece.

The #3 Way to Support an Independent Author

Post and/or share the links to either the creative work or the author’s website, blog, Facebook Author page, or Amazon Author page, onto social media. This method is free and anyone can do it. This means tweets, Facebook shares, Pinterest repinnings, Tumblr rebloggings, clicking ‘like’ on Instagram, voting up a book trailer on YouTube or adding it to a playlist, mentioning the book in your status on LinkedIn, or sharing the details with your circles on Google+, and more. Every time you provide these sorts of social signals to social media sites, the content is delivered to more people. Without spending a dime, and barely lifting a finger, you can provide a great deal of help.

The #4 Way to Support Independent Authors

Be sure to follow your friends’ Amazon Author pages, and their blogs. Hit ‘like’ on their Facebook Author pages and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. There are agents who give more weight to indies who have larger social media followings. You can hate the book but still follow the author.

You can also work some magic in person. Show up to any signings or discussions, even if you just drink coffee and don’t participate. Ask for the book at your local library or bookstore. Read the paper version in public (train stations are really great for that sort of thing). You can also talk to your friends, or email them about the work. Consider your audience, and don’t just spam your friends, but if your writer pal has written, say, a Christian-themed love story, then how about sending the link to your friend who has a son studying to be a pastor?

If your friend is local, try contacting your local paper and asking if they’d do a profile on the writer. They can always say no, but sometimes reporters are hunting around for short feel-good locally-specific blurbs. It never hurts to ask.

The #5 Way to Support an Independent Author

Here’s where it gets to be a time investment. Help them. A lot of serious authors ask questions about all manner of things, in order to perform proper research. Can you help with that? Do you have personal experience, or are you good at Googling? You can also act as a beta reader. Beta readers read either the entire draft or a portion of it or sometimes just the first chapter or even character bios. Here’s where you can be a lot freer with criticism, as this is all private. Is the mystery too easy to solve? The character names are confusing? The protagonist isn’t described clearly? The scenario is improbable? Then tell the writer. This isn’t correcting their grammar or their spelling (although it sometimes can be). This is giving them valuable feedback which will help them become better.

As always, be kind. This is your friend’s baby, after all. But if you can’t tell the difference between Susan and Suzanne in the story, then other readers probably wouldn’t be able to, either. Better that that is fixed before the book is released, than afterwords.

Final Thoughts on How to Support Independent Authors

The life of a writer can be a rather topsy-turvy one. You’re high on good reviews, and then you get one bad one and it depresses you. You write like the wind for weeks, and then you edit it and it feels like it’s garbage. You get writer’s block, or life gets in the way.

Sometimes the best thing you can do, as a friend, is to just listen, and be there.

Demographics for Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest

Demographics for Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest

Demographics change over time and the specific numeric percentages could be off, but the gist of these measurements remains on target.

At Agile Impact, Hilary Heino compiled some impressive statistics about who really uses these image-based social media platforms.

Tumblr

First of all, Tumblr reportedly has loyal users highly dedicated to the site.

And two-thirds of all users are under the age of 35. In addition, nearly forty percent have not yet seen 25 summers.

Finally, there are about 300 million monthly unique users; the site grew by 74 percent in 2013.

Pinterest

Demographics
English: Red Pinterest logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First of all, as of July of 2013, there were 46.9 million unique monthly users. And women continue to dominate the platform; around a third of all women online have Pinterest accounts. In addition, two-thirds of all Pinterest users are over the age of 35, making it a near opposite to Tumblr.

Furthermore, three-quarters of its traffic comes through mobile apps. Hence if you post to Pinterest, make sure that your content is visible, clear, and comprehensible on smart phones. Finally, 80 percent of total Pinterest pins are repins. It’s probably the sign of a strong community. In addition, the site boasts 2.5 billion monthly pageviews.

Instagram

So with 150 million active users, Instagram reports 1.2 billion daily likes.

Demographics
Instagram-logo (Photo credit: JAMoutinho ( almost photographer ))

And 18% of cellphone users in the 30 – 49 demographic report using it. However, the majority of users are teens and young adults.

Furthermore, the site ties with Facebook as being the second-most popular site for teens. Yet Twitter is the first for that age demographic.

So know your image-based social platforms. Because they are not the same!

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Time-saving Tips from the Angels at HootSuite

Time-saving Tips from the Angels at HootSuite

Time-saving Tips? Sign me up!

Everybody’s busy.

Time-saving Tips
HootSuite Owl Van (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

Here are some time-saving tips from the angels at HootSuite. Everybody’s got a lot on their plate. Not to worry. HootSuite to the rescue, to help you manage all of those little social media bits and bobs that we all deal with, every day.

Make an Influencer List

Or just a list of important folks.  Or people who can help you succeed. Whatever you want to call it, use Twitter (or HootSuite itself), to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you’ve only got five minutes to look at your social media streams, populate this list with the people you absolutely, positively must read.

Curate Content and Auto-Schedule Using the Hootlet

It’s a little Chrome extension, and all you have to do is, click the owl, pull down on the drop-down to select the stream(s) you want to add the content to (just like in the full-blown version of HootSuite), modify the content if you wish, and either schedule manually or click schedule or Auto-Schedule.

Frankly, I’m having trouble envisioning how HootSuite could make it any easier.

Add Content at the Right Time for the Right Network

HootSuite says this so well that I’ll just quote it in its entirety –

Consider planning your posting to meet these times. For Google+ the highest engagement comes from 9-11 a.m., so maybe you can connect with a follower during breakfast. For Twitter it’s 1-3 p.m. and for Facebook it’s 1-4 p.m., perfect times to engage one or two users during your lunch break. For Pinterest it’s 8-11 p.m., and Instagram 5-6 p.m. —after work hours when you can likely spare a few minutes to interact with your following. When you don’t have time to use social media while you work, it helps to fit it in during quick breaks.”

I would add, make sure to keep these times in mind when auto-scheduling.

Share and Repurpose Great Content

This is what I’m doing right now!  In his great book, Optimize, Lee Odden advises, in Chapter 9, to adopt an “Oreo Cookie Tactic”.  That is, take content and add your own introduction and conclusion, with the content placed in between and properly attributed, of course (see page 118).

I love this tactic, not only because it is an easier way to add content (particularly when inspiration is harder to come by), but also because it promotes the Rule of Thirds, e. g. one-third of social media content should be about the content creator’s wisdom being imparted, one-third should be the content creator’s personality, and the final third should be the promotion of others’ content.

Evan Page has written an excellent article and I highly recommend that you read the original source material as well. His Time-saving Tips never seem to go out of style.

The Best Lengths for Social Media Posts and More

The Best Lengths for Social Media Posts and More

Best Lengths for social posts can seem elusive. What’s right?

The fine folks at Buffer and, in particular, Kevan Lee, have done it again and have everything you always wanted to know about social post lengths but were afraid to ask.

The Best Lengths for Social Media Posts and More
English: Red Pinterest logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my travels online, I have seen blog posts that were under 50 words long. I have seen blog posts that were a good 10,000 words long. Tweets, of course, are limited. But there have been plenty of Pinterest pins with just an image and nothing else. Or they’ve got enough verbiage behind them to seemingly rival War and Peace. So, what’s ideal? Is there any science behind it?

Blogs

How long should blog posts be? Buffer likes blog post titles to be six words long (oops, this blog post’s title is too long). Interestingly enough, the blog post where I got the inspiration for this blog post from also has a title that is too long.

Sometimes, six words is just not long enough.

Thanks to Buffer for this graphic.

The Best Lengths for Social Media Posts and More

Interestingly enough, Buffer says blog posts are best at 1,600 words in length. However, Yoast (the fine makers of an SEO plugin I use for my own blog posting) provides good SEO credit for blog posts that are at least 300 words in length. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but one thing is for sure – those fifty-word blog posts just plain are not long enough.

Facebook

How big should a Facebook post be? Buffer says forty characters. Keep it short, snappy, and to the point. According to Lee, Facebook posts that exceed forty characters degrade in engagement as they get longer. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that 700-word screed you wrote? Better make that a blog post instead and just link to it. But if you put the whole thing on Facebook, people will scroll right on by.

Here’s a trick to get around the forty-character wall – links show the title and some text, and you can always change these. Or add an image with some text. But don’t go nuts! It is very, very easy to hit and exceed critical mass.

Google+

How long should a Google+ post be? Buffer puts the figure at sixty characters. After that, you’re hitting a second line of text. How do you get around it? The idea is similar to Facebook – you have a little room to play with images and even a short subtitle.

LinkedIn

How long should a LinkedIn post be? Buffer clocks in at twenty-five words, based upon clickthrough data.

Pinterest

How large should a Pinterest image be? Buffer’s got you covered – 735px x 1102px. These taller pins seem to stand out more, and are therefore shared more often.

Twitter

How long should an effective Tweet be? Buffer says to limit it to 71 – 100 characters, in order to provide some space for people to comment before sending out a modified tweet (MT). So keep hashtags at six characters for maximal impact. Yes, we all know that people sometimes use hashtags as a bit of wry commentary. Tumblr in particular seems to inspire hashtags like #DudeLooksLikeALady (and not just for fans of Aerosmith). Excessive hashtagging is one of the characteristics of Instagram. However, the best length hashtag on Twitter has six characters.

Upshot

TL; DR – Check out the chart, and the cited article, for more information. The research on best lengths for posts is sound, and fascinating, and the article was a hell of a find.

Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, An Updated Book Review

Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

This is something of an updated review of Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff as, by the time I got to the ICM 522 Social Media Platforms class at Quinnipiac University, I had already read this seminal work.

Cover of "Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Cover via Amazon

But no matter. Because this is still a terrific work by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, and it remains more than a little relevant.

And in fact, I think I understand it better than I ever have.

Changing the Way You Think about Online Marketing for Good

For Li and Bernoff, the online world is a rich and diversified community. And in that large umbrella community, there are several smaller communities. But unlike in the case of the classic Matryoshka (Russian nesting dolls), there is an enormous amount of overlap.

Above all, they put forward the idea of a system called POST. And if you read nothing else, read this part of not just my review but of their book itself.

  • Personae – who are your potential buyers? Who are your readers? And who makes up your audience?
  • Objectives – what do you expect to get out of going online, and continuing online, or going in a different direction online?
  • Strategies – how will you implement your ideas? What comes first? In addition, what must wait?
  • Technologies – which platforms will you use? How will you use these differently as your strategy begins to click into place?

So the last time I read Groundswell, I suspect that I did not really understand POST.

And now I know never to start a social media campaign without it. So thanks to Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff! This work is a classic for a damned fine reason. It really is that good. Because you need this book in your social media library.

Rating

Review: 5/5 stars.

Quinnipiac Final Paper – ICM501 – Creative Obfuscation

Quinnipiac Final Paper – ICM501 – Creative Obfuscation

Internet identity, reputation, and deception in the online dating world. Truth and little white lies on the Internet.

Introduction

Several weeks ago, when participating in class, I used the term creative obfuscation. The idea behind it was (and still is) that people of course bend the truth or cover it up, or they lie by omission. Some of these lies are more egregious than others.

For my final paper, I decided to look at what it all means with reference to internet dating. And boy, was there a lot of fodder! Here are some excerpts.

Identity

For many people[1] these days, social media is wrapped with identity, as identity is, in turn, intimately wrapped up with social media. It is often a daily[2] presence in our lives. As Julia Knight and Alexis Weedon discovered, online life and self are increasingly just as important as offline life and self.[3] “In 2008, Vincent Miller’s article in Convergence recognized in our ubiquitous and pervasive media the essential role of phatic communication[4] which forms our connection to the here and now. Social media has become a native habitus for many and is a place to perform our various roles in our multimodal lives, as a professional, a parent, an acquaintance, and a colleague. The current generation has grown up with social media and like the 10-year-old Facebook, Twitter too has become part of some people’s everyday here and now.”[5]

[1] About 39% of the world is online, according to Internet World Statistics. This includes just fewer than 85% of North America and over 2/3 of Europe and Oceania.

[2] According to Pew Research, in 2013, 63% of Facebook users visit the site daily. Just under half (46%) of Twitter users visit that site on a daily basis.

[3] Knight, Julia and Weedon, Alexis, Convergence, ISSN 1354-8565, 08/2014, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp. 257 – 258, Identity and social media

[4] Phatic communications are generally language for the purposes of social interaction rather than the conveying of information or the making of inquiries, e. g. ‘small talk’.

[5] Knight and Weedon, Ibid., Page 257.

Reputation

Quinnipiac Assignment 12 – ICM501 – Creative Obfuscation
Jeff Bates (hemos from Slashdot) at linux.conf.au 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unlike offline reputation, online reputation can be categorized and quantified. For sites attempting to preserve and promote civility, but which cannot or will not adopt a real-names policy like Facebook’s, reputation scores can sometimes alert other users to an individual’s tendency to be either helpful or abusive. As AS Crane noted in Promoting Civility in Online Discussions: A Study of the Intelligent Conversation Forum[6], “Moderation in combination with reputation scores have been used successfully on the large technology site Slashdot, according to Lampe and Resnick (2004). Slashdot moderation duties are shared among a group of users, who can assign positive or negative reputation points to posts and to other members. Users who have earned a sufficient reputation rating are allowed to participate in moderation if they wish. Meta-moderators observe the moderators for abuse and can remove bad moderators, or reward good moderators by assigning a higher point value to their votes.” In Slashdot’s case, it would seem that good behavior not only is rewarding in and of itself, but it also provides a reward in the form of being granted the ability to police others’ behavior.

[6] AS Crane, 2012, Promoting Civility in Online Discussions: A Study of the Intelligent Conversation Forum, rave.ohiolink.edu, Page 17

Deception

For those who bend the truth on Facebook and other social media websites, some of the consequences are unexpected ones. For example, a ten-year-old child who claims to be thirteen will, in five years, be considered eighteen on the social networking site. This will alter her privacy settings automatically, allowing images to be seen by everyone, including pedophiles.[7]

[7] Olsen, Tyler, 22 April 2013, Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: An Explanation of Deception, Professor Combs English 1010-21

Conclusion

Although it is fairly easy to bend the truth when composing an online dating profile, an in-person meeting will expose the lie to all, and the liar will lose social capital and likely never make it to a second date. More problematic is when a person’s sincerely developed identity does not jibe with their appearance or their birth characteristics. Differences between online verbiage and offline appearance might not have an intentionally malicious origin, and it is entirely possible for online daters to, through ambiguity or poor word choice, appear deceptive and untrustworthy when they may be anything but.

But regardless of the reason for an untruth, online daters care about their reputations and their online and offline appearances. What others think matters to them. Much of that is directly related to the fact that the object behind the use of an online dating site is to meet; the mission is the date. Setting up the date for failure or the loss of face is not in online daters’ best interests and most of them act accordingly in order to assure success or at least prevent and minimize failure and the loss of social capital.

Personal identity matters in the online world, and it is a heady brew of inborn traits, learned and attained characteristics, and identification, desire, and preference. For the person presenting their identity and showing this admixture to all and sundry, what it means to be them, what they think of as the ‘self’, is what is cobbled together from potentially thousands of measurable and nonquantifiable data points in order to present a full picture of their personality. For the recipients of these messages, the potential dating partners and perhaps even more permanent mates, the choice is whether to read or listen to these many messages and accept all or some of them, even if they conflict with or downright contradict the evidence that the recipient can observe or otherwise gather independently.

You are who you were at birth, who you have become, and who you claim to be, and who you think you are. But that does not mean that anyone has to believe you, accept you, or love you.