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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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.

Quinnipiac Assignment #07 – A Crash Course in SEO

Quinnipiac Assignment #07 – A Crash Course in SEO

This week’s assignment was to either write an essay or record a video about a problem that a company was having with being found online.

Quinnipiac Assignment #07 – A Crash Course in SEO

The company chosen was the Miami Seaquarium, which I have never been to, but apparently they are located near Key Biscayne.

The specific task was to find a way to attract Internet searchers to their dolphin swim adventures.

Quinnipiac Assignment #07 – A Crash Course in SEO

With information about their competition, I found a way to showcase their keywords, and those of their competitors. The tool (and it is free, which is even better) is called MozBar. It allows you to look a little bit under the hood on websites. While I am also able to right-click any website and just select “view page source”, the MozBar laid things out a lot more comprehensively. The tool calculated the percentage of verbiage on that site, versus coding.

The thing that leaped out immediately was that the site did not have any keywords!

Quinnipiac Assignment #07 – A Crash Course in SEO

Without keywords, they were inadvertently making it more difficult for people searching on Google to find them. They also did not seem to realize that their site (which really is beautiful) is barely readable by search engines. Search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo! and others can really just read verbiage, numbers, and special characters. They do not yet have the ability to read images and truly comprehend them. You and I look at a picture of a dolphin and we know what it is. Even people wholly unfamiliar with dolphins can figure out that they are animals of some sort. But search engines are completely lost. Further, the site had a lot of great verbiage, but it was all a part of the images. It was, e. g. pictures that said things like dolphin swim. But there was no alternate text to cue in the search engines.

How do you fix these problems? My essay (which I will not reprint here, as the grade is still pending) goes more into depth but there are two easy, low-hanging fruit actions that the webmaster can take.

  1. Research keywords and add them, and
  2. Add alternate text to every single image on the site.

There are a lot more things that can be done, but those two are quick and fairly easy. And, psst, they work!


 

You can find me on

Quinnipiac Assignment #05 – Basic Web Analytics

Quinnipiac Assignment #05 – Basic Web Analytics

Instead of creating a video, this week we wrote essays about basic web analytics.  I covered Maps of India and NESN (again). Below is my essay about NESN.

Company Brand Overview

New England Sports Network (NESN) is a regional television channel with a wide and varied social mediapresence and an emphasis on New England sports, although national and international events are also covered. The industry is cable (Xfinity) media; their home page is: http://nesn.com/, which is a WordPress blog.

The company’s Twitter handle is @NESN (https://twitter.com/NESN). Their Facebook page is at: https://www.facebook.com/NESN. Their Google+ page is at: https://plus.google.com/+NESN/posts. Their Pinterest board is here: http://www.pinterest.com/nesn/. Their Tumblr blog is here: http://tumblr.nesn.com/.

This report will cover certain quantitative metrics for NESN, in an effort to understand whether their online campaigns and presences are providing fullest value. I will concentrate on the channel’s website and will only touch upon their social presence on various platforms.

Company Business Objectives

For NESN, their objectives appear to be to draw offline traffic to their television programming, and to increase clicks on advertisements found peppered throughout the website. The objectives for their social media presences appear to solely be to direct traffic back to the website, although a secondary objective is probably to increase offline viewership for the television channel.

Website Overview

NESN’s home page changes; advertisements and stories evolve from day to day and even hour to hour. The basic layout is of a top menu with drop downs, with a banner ad just beneath it. The live blog is in the upper left corner (it has the largest news image on the page), with top stories also available above the fold. A second ad is in the upper right corner, with a video just below it. These videos mainly seem to be interviews and short highlights; there are video ads interspersed in there. I believe these are similar to, if not the same as, the ads that a viewer would see on television.

Scrolling below the fold, just below the videos, there is a static list of website sponsor logos. There are more links to stories (all story links have an image) and then there are, on the right, links off the site which go to Zergnet, an entertainment website. Circling back, the center has News Max headlines (and links), and on the left are more video ads. Below these, there are more links to stories. There’s a long vertical skyscraper ad on the right, yet another video ad on the left and then, at the very bottom, there are links to various sports topics (e. g. horse racing), NESN’s sources, and even their social media pages. Interesting enough, their Pinterest page is not listed; perhaps it is new.

The entire website is overlaid over yet another ad as the background image. I counted nineteen advertisements: the overlay, the top banner, three videos, the upper right corner, the twelve sponsor logos, and the skyscraper. This does not include various smaller banners, such as one for Red Sox Nation which contains the Dunkin’ Donuts logo. This total also does not include the links to Zergnet and News Max.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 524 Basic Web Analytics
NESN Home Page

 

Twitter Overview

The Twitter page shows a rather plain background and a branded logo being used for an avatar. Recent tweets are listed chronologically and there does not seem to be a chosen highlighted tweet. There are no advertisements on the Twitter home page itself. Tweets are a mix of programming news, images, and links to videos and less timely content, such as an interview with Ted Williams’s daughter which could have conceivably been tweeted any day this month. NESN has 164,000 followers.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 524 Basic Web Analytics
NESN on Twitter

Facebook Overview

The Facebook page (this image is a little older, but the design has not changed in the past two weeks) has a branded background image and logo for an avatar. Wall posts vary, and can be photos, status updates, or sports opinion pieces.  NESN has 222,000 likes.

Quinnipiac Assignment #05 – Basic Web Analytics
NESN Facebook page June 3, 2014

Google+ Overview

The Google+ page had the same plain background as on Twitter. NESN has just under 31,000 followers.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 524 Basic Web Analytics
NESN on Google+

Pinterest Overview

There were twenty-one pin boards.  But NESN has fewer than 220 followers! This figure is comparable to my own following on Pinterest, and I don’t have an advertising budget. However, I suspect that’s more due to the demographic disconnect (Pinterest is overwhelmingly female; sports fans are predominantly male) than anything else.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 524 Basic Web Analytics
NESN on Pinterest

Tumblr Overview

The Tumblr blog appeared to be a feed from the website. I cannot tell how many followers they have.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 524 Basic Web Analytics
NESN on Tumblr

Audience

Compete.com’s most recent data for NESN was for April. The most interesting trend was to see the number of visitors spiking in October of 2013 and then April of 2014, probably due to the Boston Red Sox capturing a World Series trophy and then the Boston Bruins being in the NHL playoffs. There were nearly a million unique visitors in April.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 524 Basic Web Analytics
NESN analyzed by Compete.com

As would be expected, according to Chartbeat, the site’s visitors geographically cluster around New England. However, there are also somewhat substantial numbers of viewers in California and Illinois. After the United States, the audience countries drop off dramatically, with Canada having only a 3% share of the audience.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 524 Basic Web Analytics
Geographic placement of NESN online audience

According to Alexa, the average visitor views over two pages, however, the bounce rate is high, at nearly 80%. Time on site is less than two and a half minutes; presumably this is to quickly check scores and top stories and move on if the audience member fails to see anything new.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 524 Basic Web Analytics
Alexa analysis of NESN site visitors

 

Acquisition

Chartbeat’s data was current, and showed that visitors came from a variety of traffic sources. Internal traffic was highest – although visitors were still bouncing off. Direct acquisition was the next-most common source of visitors, with links trailing a bit behind that, and then search. Social was dead last.

The top landing pages were the World Cup live stream and then the home page. After that, was a page about trade rumors about Carmelo Anthony, and then a more in-depth story about the World Cup.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 524 Basic Web Analytics
Chartbeat analysis of NESN visitors

 

 

Chartbeat’s view of NESN’s traffic sources showed key words and phrases. From the below screen shot, the most frequently-searched terms clearly had to do with the World Cup or Boston plus either the Bruins or the Red Sox. The mix of new visitors to returning was about 40% to 60% of all visitors, respectively.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 524 Basic Web Analytics
Chartbeat analysis of NESN.com traffic

Behavior

Chartbeat lists top pages. Combining these with search, we can get an idea about landing pages. Searches for the World Cup are drawing the audience to the live stream. The second-most visited page is the home page, understandable for a site where the second-most common means of acquisition is direct clicking, and the third is linking.

Exit pages are more difficult to gauge but, since the top links are generally to home page ads, my assumption is that audience members are clicking on the ads and, therefore, are perhaps making a conversion, but they are also leaving the site.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 524 Basic Web Analytics
Chartbeat top pages for NESN

 

Results

Possible Ratings Boost

If NESN is using its online presence in order to bolster its offline television channel ratings, the cause and effect is unclear. According to Sports Video.org, April 2014 ratings were very high. However, those ratings seem to have been connected much more intimately to how the Boston Bruins were doing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, versus NESN’s campaigns on its blog and varied social media platforms. Per the article, “NESN earned a 12.7 average household rating in the Boston DMA [Designated Market Area] (20 share) for Tuesday’s [April 22] 3-0 Bruins win over Detroit, which marks the best Game 3 rating in NESN history and the second best rating for a game that was not in a series clinching scenario. The only game that was not a clinching scenario that garnered a higher rating was a double overtime Game 5 vs. Montreal in 2011, which averaged a 12.9 HH rating. The 12.7 HH rating on Tuesday now stands as the 10th best Bruins playoff rating in NESN history. NESN’s highest-rated Bruins game ever was Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals (4/25/12) which garnered a 19.6 HH rating (31 Share) in the Boston DMA.” (Emphasis mine)

Advertisement Monetization

Fully monetizing the website is clearly a major objective for NESN. How successful is it? Probably the ads found above the fold get the most clicks. Would ads for Dice (a jobs website for techies) and the plain text ad for SEO firms get a lot of clicks? The Ray-Bans ad might do better, as it’s less techie-centric. But these ads don’t seem to be targeted to the audience. As for the ads that show up with the videos, if these are sufficiently similar to the commercials seen on NESN’s televised broadcasts, then potential buyers might be too fatigued with these messages to bother clicking on them.

What are clicks worth to NESN?

A visit to NESN’s advertising sales site (there is a tiny link at the bottom of the website’s home page) shows the channel boasting a reach to an audience of 4.5 million, mainly throughout the New England region. But these sales are for either advertisements on television or sporting venue sponsorships at Fenway Park or the Boston Garden. However, the contact page does include a means of requesting information on advertising on NESN.com.

So I repeat – what are clicks worth to NESN?

The Chartbeat data shows hundreds of daily clicks on advertising links. If a click is worth one-tenth of a penny, then 200 clicks makes a measly twenty cents. Multiply that by 365 days and the campaign is a disaster, at $73/year. So that is not what NESN is dependent upon.

Far more likely, NESN is dependent upon advertisers renting space on their Home Page, on their banners (both large and small), and as filler in between short video clips. The most recent article I could find on NESN’s rights fees was from 2002, and that showed NESN bringing in a cool $60 million in rights fees. After three World Series championships and the purchase of the Red Sox by John Henry, et al (the Red Sox own a controlling share in NESN), that figure has undoubtedly skyrocketed.

Clicks are nothing to NESN. The rights to the rental of space on the blog are where it’s at. No wonder the presences on Pinterest, etc. are fairly small – none of the followings on social media come anywhere near the 4.5 million reach boasted by the advertising department.

Conclusion

NESN has not come anywhere near tapping the fullest potential of social media, when it comes to audience acquisition and conversions. But right now, given their enormous offline presence, they don’t really have to.

Yet.

Quinnipiac Assignment #1 – A Day in My Life in Social Media

A Day in My Life in Social Media

This was my first assignment for Quinnipiac University‘s Social Media Platforms course, with Professor Eleanor Hong. I had not made a video in years and was anxious to get it right. This was also the first time in several years that I had taken any sort of a class where I would be receiving a grade.

This class was the first of three for Social Media Certification.  Or it can count as an elective for Masters’ Degree in Communications  with a Social Media concentration. As of the original writing of this blog post, I was not sure whether I wished to continue all the way to a Masters’ Degree.

I need not have worried about this grade. And, it turned out, I need not have worried about nearly all of my grades in the Social Media Platforms class.

A Day in My Life in Social Media

A Day in My Life in Social Media

I ended up creating two separate videos, as the first one was too long, and I hadn’t mentioned podcasts, Tumblr, or Pinterest.

So you tell me – which one do you think is the better video? I handed in the shorter one.

I think this second video rambles too much, it jumps back and forth a lot, plus I missed a few things, as I mentioned above.

But these are, essentially, the social media hangouts that I go to the most. And of course neither video takes into consideration the non-social media work that I do on computers, such as reading homework, fiction writing and editing, and dealing with the ever-present onslaught of email.

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