Thursday, April 4, 2019

9 Tips to Help You Build Your Online Community

by Cat Michaels

The thought of starting an online presence kept me up at night when I began my indie writing career in 2013.  I knew social media was a brilliant platform for connecting people and discovering books.  But where to start?  And what if I embarrassed myself by saying something stupid in cyberspace?  Plus, who’d want to hear from newbie me anyway? 

I see you scratching your head just as I did.  You’re wondering how creatives can build professional relationships in cyberspace with someone you’d never bump into at the corner Starbuck’s.

You can do it!  (Yes, even you introverts looking skeptical and scared.) 

You start by being RARE as you demonstrate–
R         respect
A         authenticity
R         reciprocity
E          expertise

If you’re an indie author or trade-published, these 9 tips will help you build your RARE social media presence.


·         Be clear about your social media goals. 
Everybody wants to find followers and be discovered.  Do you also want support from other writers?  Advice on book launching?  Connections to niche groups, like marketing a book on iguanas to senior citizens?

·         Explore and research.
Start with keyword searches to identify groups in your writing niche, such as most successful romance writers, best websites for writers, or most popular children's books. Most will have social media links you can dig into. 

Look for stats and demographics for different social media platforms to discover where your readers spend their time.  For instance:

Pinterest: half of all US millennials use Pinterest at least once monthly, and the site’s most popular category in the US is art/art supplies/hobbies, followed by food and decorating (Sprout Social).  If you write non-fiction about a crafting hobby or a cozy novel featuring a 30-something female chef, Pinterest should be on your radar.

Goodreads: a brilliant site for book discoverability that hosts 80 million avid readers. You’ll want to set up an author account and join the conversation about books.

Twitter: touted as a micro-blog with breezy messages of 280 characters or less, Tweets are sent at a rate of about 350,000 per minute.  You’ll meet tweeps who blog about books, are wild about book giveaways, and more.  I find Twitter can be troll-heavy and divisive, but it’s the favorite platform of many writerly colleagues.

Instagram: another millennial hangout, visual content uploaded on mobile devices with multiple hashtags reigns on IG.  Searching for popular hashtags by niche, like #bookworm for readers or #writersofinstagram writing groups, helps you find communities to follow.

Facebook:  my author page here is my go-to platform because it’s where purchasers of my children’s books spend time.  Facebook has hundreds of genre and sub-genre interest communities. Some are open groups, and others are closed, so commenting stays safe within the group.  You must ask to join closed groups, but it shouldn’t be an issue if your interests match theirs.

·         Is your head exploding? Mine was when I started!  To keep from being overwhelmed, begin with a single – one – uno – ein-  platform where your readers hang out.

2.  Go Pro
Delineate your personal and professional life.
·         Yep.  Once you decide on that single platform your readers love, it’s time to set up a separate account to share information about your business (yes, writing IS a business!) to differentiate from family life.  Aunt Sue will appreciate her vacation pictures staying private, and you can still boast about your silly pet tricks to Cousin Ed without confusing your authorly personae.

·         Once you identify groups to observe, look for guidelines in the 'about' section that summarize the group’s purpose and rules.  Some sites are devoted to sharing interests and don’t take kindly to authors promoting books.  Other communities encourage marketing discussions.
·         Spend time on places that resonate with you and observe how people interact.  Is it a good fit for you?
·         Begin to follow people and pages that offer dynamic interaction and frequently post fresh content in your interest/book niche with a positive spirit. 

4. "ENGAGE!"– Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek
Clapping for you here!  You researched and zeroed in on people and places. Time to engage.
·         With your newly opened professional account, test the waters by liking, sharing or favoring posts.
·         Ask a thoughtful question or comment on a topic you’re comfortable with.  I was so nervous writing my first posts!  Spent 10 minutes just drafting them.  Promise: it gets easier.  Now I whip ‘em out, and even use native and free tools (like Buffer and Hootsuite) to schedule posts in advance.
·         You're building brand YOU, so your actions should reflect a genuine interest that shows who you are as a person and a professional.  I confine engagements as a children’s book author to family-friendly content.  

Rule of Thirds
Carla King, Author of Self-Publishing Books: A Guide for Authors, proposes a social media Rule of Thirds that’s good for indie or trade-published authors.  (Yep.  Publishers expect their creatives to have a social media presence.  No escape.)  King suggests dividing posts equally among promoting/selling, supporting like-minded authors or businesses, and revealing yourself as a person and author:
·         33% PROMOTE:
Okay, I promote more when I launch books or run special offers.  But otherwise, I keep marketing contained.
·         33% SUPPORT:
Actively seek and support others.  It’s pure delight to see their reaction!  (More about supporting others coming up on #6 ) 
·         33% INSIGHTS:
Who are you as an author/illustrator and citizen of this planet?  Readers want to know! 

I love sharing my interests but make them relatable to my readers and my writerly life as plain ole me.  When Stephen King (who has more than 4M Facebook followers!) posts a cute photo of his pooch
Molly, aka the Thing of Evil, and posits she can unleash a battalion of zombie Irish Wolfhounds on Vermont, he gets 54K likes.  So, he shares an amusing tidbit about his personal life and ties it to his genre.  Pure genius!

Don’t shake your head wondering, What can I offer?  Yes, there are a gazillion people in cyberspace, but no one is YOU. 
·         What’s your unique expertise and interest?  Whether it’s grammar, baking, photography or sports, use those talents to demonstrate how you'll add to the conversation.
·         Share ideas from wise people in your field and be sure to attribute their ideas.  That’s easy to do on Facebook and Twitter: adding @ in front of someone’s name automatically tags them.  I discovered early on that the more I share, the more others engage, and friendships start.  How cool is that!
·         When people interact with you in positive ways, they’re reaching out, trying to make a connection.  Show interest by responding as soon as possible. Personalize your reply by using the individual's name. 
·         As you gain followers (and you will!) routinely thank them.  People are always happy to hear they are appreciated!

Studies show that posts with visual images receive the most engagement. 
·         Create original content that supports your brand and interests readers by uploading free public domain photos through sources like Pixabay or Unsplash.
·         Take advantage of free online editing and design tools, like Canva and PicMonkey. They turn plain posts into dazzling visuals with text overlays with the click of a mouse.
·         Videos also boost engagement.  Many of my author friends have great on-camera presence and do live feeds.  I’m not there yet. However, a no-frills 30-second video of ice pelting my garden or ducks on my nature walk that’s captured with my Iphone get 2-3 times my usual organic reach. 

·         Repeat after me:
“I will never DM or reply to new followers with a buy-my-book or follow-me-on-Insert-Social-Media url.”
This is the cyber-equivalent of being badgered by a plaid-suited used-car salesperson. When I get one of those messages, I delete and unfollow in a heartbeat. 

·         Building your online presence is like building a wall.  The foundation must be firm, and the rest assembled from there with care and precision. Cutting corners could bring the whole structure crashing down. 
·         When I started, it felt like eons passed before I got traction, no matter how hard I tried. True confession: some days, I still want to tear my hair out because building and maintaining online connections takes effort.  

Now you’re ready to jump on social media.  People will follow you as they experience the RARE online voice that is Y*O*U because you demonstrate….
R         respect
A         authenticity
R         reciprocity
E          expertise

Good luck on your journey.  Let me know how you’re doing and what’s working for you.  Hey, if we’re not connected in cyberspace, let’s make it happen and be RARE together. 

Cat Michaels started writing stories in fourth grade and hasn’t stopped since. She has an M.S. degree in special education, two decades of teaching experience, and has managed communication and training programs. Cat and her family live in North Carolina where she designs pocket gardens, dabbles in photography and graphic design, works out nearly every day, and writes.



Cat’s award-winning book







Thursday, February 7, 2019

Five Ways to Build a Sustainable Author Platform

Whether you’re a seasoned author or someone just stepping into the publishing waters, you have undoubtedly heard about the importance of building an author platform. In case you haven’t heard this term, your author platform is essentially the way in which you engage with your target audience. For some authors, a certain social media channel is their main platform. For others, it’s their teaching or speaking careers. For others, it’s a blog or website. For most, it’s a combination of a few of these things.  

Authors often ask us which are the best platforms for them. The answer is this: the best platform for you is one that is A) reaching your target audience and B) sustainable for you. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and that is a good thing! The more unique and organic ways you can reach your audience, the better! 

That said, there are definitely some things that all great author platforms have in common. Here’s what we have seen work for authors to build a sustainable platform which sells books!

Engage, consistently.
We cannot stress this enough. Simply having an Instagram or LinkedIn account is not a platform! You absolutely must join groups, respond to comments, and communicate directly with people on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.
Build a platform where
your audience spends the most time. Facebook might be your favorite social media platform, but what’s the use being there if that’s not where your audience is? Any research you do into where to best find your readers will be well worth your time and energy.
Utilize a content calendar.
It can be really overwhelming to feel the need to post and interact with people on a consistent basis. That’s why you should keep a calendar. Can you commit to a once per month newsletter? Can you schedule posts to your social media 3x a week for the next month, so you don’t have to worry about it on a daily basis?
Collect email addresses.
One thing we can say with certainty is your email list is an important part of building your platform, regardless of genre. Use a service such as Mailchimp to store and send beautiful emails to your audience about the things you’re up to.

Have fun.
This might seem silly, but hear us out. We are naturally attracted to positive, inspirational people. When we see an author who is clearly loving what they do, it’s much easier to want to support them and give their book a try. Use your platform to show that you love this work, even when it’s hard! Your audience will grow organically because of it.

Roseanne Cheng is an author of two award-winning young adult books. She is the marketing director at Wise Ink Creative Publishing and co-author of Buzz: The Ultimate Guide to Book Marketing.

You can find her at

Thursday, January 17, 2019

What to do with that Terrific Book Review

So your book just got an excellent review . . . Congratulations! Good reviews are like gold. If you're fortunate enough to get one, you'll want to make sure you do everything possible to put that endorsement to work for you to help sell more books. So where do you start? Here are a few tips for ways to help spread the word about recommendations for your book . . .

Press Releases
Submit your book review as a press release to all your local media (newspapers, magazines, radio, television news, etc.) If your book appeals to a specific niche, make sure you submit your press release to any publications online, or otherwise, which cater to the demographic of your readership. Don't forget to use online free press release services to help spread the word.

Back Cover
If you've received a positive review from a reputable review agency, make sure you put it out there where potential buyers can see it. Use a quote, or an excerpt of a quote for any future print runs of your book. Don't forget to credit the source of the reviewer; if you've received a great review from the New York Times, then you want to make sure everyone knows about it!

Banners & Signage
If you're attending book-signings at festivals or other venues, you'll want to create professional looking signage. Banners and signs are a great place to promote positive reviews of your book. Take the time to do this well. Professional looking banners with sturdy banner-stands are eye-catching and can do wonders to create a professional image for you and your book. If a banner is impractical, or out of the budget, you can also print professional looking signs to place inside plexiglass frames.

Social Media
Do you have a blog? Great! Post your review there. Don't forget to share your review on your Facebook, Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn pages. Make sure to use #hashtags to increase your post's visibility. Go ahead, be shameless, and ask your friends and family to like and share your posts.

Amazon's Editorial Reviews
The Editorial Review Section on your Amazon Author Central profile was created to help you bring attention to your professional reviews and literary achievements. This is a great place for sharing your success as an author!

GoodReads Profile
Post your reviews in your GoodReads profile (go to your dashboard to do this). Also, don't forget to blog the review in GoodRead's blog section.

Your Barnes and Noble Profile
Post your review in the section entitled: More About This Book. Take the time to get this right the first time though, because Barnes and Noble does not make it easy to edit your posts here.

Your Website
Post all, or a portion of your all your positive reviews on your website. Don't forget to include images and logos (with permission) to help bring attention to those reviews which have been provided from reputable and well-recognized agencies. If you have a media page include a PDF of your review which can be downloaded directly from your site.

Your Sell-Sheet
Your sell-sheet is the perfect place to include reviews of your book. A sell-sheet should include pertinent information for bookstores, libraries and buyers to tell them why and how to purchase your book.