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Author Twitter Tactics: Introducing Tweetdeck

Hello, author! Allow me to introduce you to Tweetdeck. Of all the tools out there, the primary reason I chose Tweetdeck is because it is Twitter-native — it is supported directly under the Twitter company umbrella. Many times, this means the tool will be more reliable and may even get preferred treatment in terms of functionality and compatibility with Twitter tech.

How does Tweetdeck help authors?

  • Schedule tweets for future posting. Maintain a presence on Twitter throughout the day or week without being distracted from writing to constantly post things.
  • Manage multiple accounts in one place. For example, you might have a personal Twitter account and an author Twitter account. Or a separate account for each book series or genre you write in. For example, I have an account for Teddi Deppner (@teddideppner) and for the #SpecFicCollective (@specficcollect).
  • Quickly research (and keep an eye on) hashtags. Find ones related to your post, see how it’s being used, and check whether your target audience is a part of that conversation.
  • Turn on alerts to keep up with emerging information. If you’re trying to ride the wave of trending topics, you need to know what’s happening.
  • Mute users or terms to eliminate unwanted noise without unfollowing people
  • Tweetdeck streams in real-time, so you don’t have to refresh the page to see the latest updates.

There are more features, but this list is already long and impressive. If you want to try it out, sign up for a free Tweetdeck account using your Twitter account.

A peek at the interface

Tweetdeck Infographic

The strength of Tweetdeck’s interface is the columns. Each column is like a window on the Twitter world. Choose from a variety of views: a stream of tweets from everyone you’ve followed, tweets from just the people on a custom list, notifications for certain accounts, tweets containing a hashtag, or tweets from a single user.

Here’s the complete list of column options:

Tweetdeck Column Options

Since your monitor has limited horizontal space, you may only fit 4-6 columns before they go off the edge of the screen to the right. But no worries. You can navigate as far along the stack as you like with a single click on the master list — the strip of icons on the left.

Tweetdeck Column Navigation

When you hover your mouse over the icons, you see which column it represents. Click it and the entire view slides horizontally to highlight your selected column.

tweetdeck-watch-hashtags

Handling multiple accounts

One of my favorite parts is how easy it is to manage multiple Twitter accounts. When you have something to say, simply click on the icon of the account from which you want to tweet.

Choose account to tweet from

When you are favoriting (actually, it’s called “liking” now and has a heart instead of a star) something, you can do so from any of your accounts. When you retweet, you can select which account to retweet from — you can also select multiple accounts and retweet from all of them at once.

Choose account to retweet from

Easy peasy.

Why it matters

Tweetdeck can help you develop a presence on Twitter in the same places your readers are hanging out. Use it when you want to engage in real-time conversations with people, when you want to become part of the trending topics of conversation. It’s especially useful when targeting a younger demographic, though it’s also important that you’re available to keep talking if you engage them.

Tweetdeck is useful when you have articles and memes that you feel have the potential to go viral. Sharing is easy and quick on Twitter, and in the right hashtag at the right time, your post could reach hundreds (or thousands) overnight. Experimentation and consistency are key strategies, and the multi-column view of Tweetdeck saves you a ton of time if you decide to dive into the Twitterverse.

Finally, use Tweetdeck to research topics for online discussion. Wondering what to blog about? Find out what’s hot in your genre right now, what fans are talking about, and what people really think about certain books or movies. The insights gained into the minds of your target audience are priceless.

What about other tools?

There are plenty of social media management tools available to authors. This article is not an exhaustive review of what’s available, it’s an introduction to one of the tools that is free and feature-rich. If you want to check out the others, do a quick Google search for “twitter management tools” and you’ll find a solid handful of options. Some are free, some are not.

Share your experiences

If you’ve used a different tool and found good success, feel free to share about it in the comments. If you have questions about using Twitter or social media, tell us! The Collective is about sharing knowledge. Enrich the hive mind by leaving a comment below.

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The Blinding Power of the Green-Eyed Monster

It’s one thing to talk about celebrity authors or authors that we’ve been in love with since childhood. Madeleine L’Engle, Stephen King, Neal Stephenson, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Isaac Asimov. There are few quibbles about their right to be in the hallowed halls of fame.

But what happens when a “nobody” rises to fame? What happens when somebody much like yourself (or — horrors! — even less experienced than yourself) becomes popular or is touted as great by those around you?

Have you ever heard that little voice whispering, “Why are they getting all the attention? What about me?”

The Plight of Boromir

Boromir fell into this trap. From the beginning, he was envious of Frodo’s assignment as the Ring Bearer. He could not believe that this inferior little person was being given this enormous responsibility and the much-desired Ring of Power. Why was this fluffy-footed little halfling getting all the attention?

boromir-council-of-elrond

Eventually, his envy (which was really rooted in his pride — another dangerous thing that twists our view of the world) caused the breaking of the Fellowship and the departure of the Ring to Mordor in the hands of two unprotected hobbits. His blind desire for the Ring and contempt for the chosen Ring Bearer put the world into more danger than ever. Instead of protecting and supporting the one who was chosen to carry the burden, he drove him away and into the grasp of the treacherous Gollum.

Envy clouds your view

Envy has never ended well for fantasy characters. The Queen step-mother of Snow White was obsessed with being the most beautiful and it twisted her into the most wicked. Whatever you focus on and give attention to will loom larger in your mind. The step-sisters of Cinderella were terribly envious of her beauty and overall sweetness. They mutilated themselves, trying to fit her mold (the slipper). They could have had a wonderful life as the sisters of the new Queen, but instead their eyes were pecked out by vengeful birds or they were relegated to servanthood, depending on the story version.

When you are busy envying someone else’s success, you are wasting energy. Not only that, but envy leads to blindness and poor decision-making. Two common pitfalls: either you will try to copy the other person’s success (without considering whether it fits your own brand and personality and goals) or you will reject their entire approach (missing out on some excellent tactics because you simply Will… Not… Be… Like… Them).

The cure for green-eye disease

The next time you see someone promoted for something they’re doing well, and you get the greens, try this recipe for a cure. I have it on good authority that the success rate is over 95% if applied consistently whenever symptoms appear.

First of all, remind yourself of the truth. Put it on a post-it note: “Envy is ignorance” – Ralph Waldo Emerson. “There are enough readers for everyone.” Bookmark a few statistics or articles that remind you: today’s marketplace rewards cooperation, not competition. Return to them when you need a reminder.

Next, take positive action towards the other author. Congratulate them. Learn from their success. Share their story on social media. Celebrate with them. Don’t let the green-eyed monster climb onto your back and wrap his long, slimy fingers over your eyes.

Envy isn’t new and it isn’t just you. Here are some articles that may help:

We are stronger together

One of the core values of the #SpecFicCollective is that we are stronger together than we are apart. Today’s publishing landscape is not the same cutthroat situation that it was when a few publishers had only a few spots each year for a few books. There was a time when authors might have been rewarded for acting competitively instead of cooperatively.

But today is not that day.

Today, an individual author may have what it takes to succeed alone. But a Fellowship of authors will always do better — if we are working together with the shared understanding that success for one contributes to the success of all. Acts of generosity, mutual promotion, shared readership and collaborative marketing are exponentially more effective in today’s world of social media and book marketing.

Action Items

  • Search online for an author in your genre who received an award or recognition. Someone who is being interviewed on a big name website. Now promote their book. Say something nice about them. Celebrate their success.
  • Think back to the last time you were attacked by the green-eyed monster. Write a private journal entry stating what happened and why you envied the other person. End the entry by saying something nice about the person and with this statement: “Their success does not detract from mine. There is enough success for both of us.”
  • Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. Do you agree that we are stronger together than apart? Or do you see other authors as your competition? Why or why not?
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Author Branding Spotlight: Are you thinking like a fan?

Welcome to our second Author Branding Spotlight. These posts highlight authors who are doing something right. These are authors we’ve discovered and enjoy, not always the obvious ones on Google’s or Amazon’s list of “most successful”. In fact, today’s author hasn’t even published his first book — yet. Did you know you could begin your branding and developing your “author platform” before you’d even published anything? Yes — and you should! Of course, this is just one way to do things. We hope you are inspired to come up with your own approach as we spotlight your fellow travelers on the writing road. And without further ado…

Author Branding Spotlight: Zachary Totah

In our previous posts, we’ve talked about how being yourself can be a powerful part of your brand as an author. Remember, people want relationships with other people. That’s what social media is all about. And when it comes to reading fiction, they want a positive emotional experience. See the connection? When they enjoy you and interacting with you online, it is their first hint that they might enjoy your writing.

Sure. Sounds nice in theory, but what does that look like?

Let your fandom flag fly

gondor-flag01I met Zachary Totah at a conference for writers of speculative fiction. Nice guy. But it wasn’t until I started reading his blog posts that I felt connected with him. It all started with hobbits. It was September 21 and the specfic world was looking forward to celebrating “Hobbit Day” on September 22 (the mutual birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, of The Lord of the Rings fame). I’d seen a couple of cute memes about it and was quietly enthused about the day.

But I had no plans to really do anything about it. Until Zachary posted a list of ways that one could celebrate Hobbit Day. Here’s a sampling:

  • Eat the seven daily hobbit meals
  • Walk around barefoot all day
  • Listen to the soundtracks or watch one of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings movies
  • Set aside some time for reading your favorite book passages
  • Play Middle-earth trivia with some friends

How fun is that? The suggestions were easy, appropriate to the holiday, and totally fun. And just like that, Zac was on my list of people to watch for great ideas. Turns out he has plenty where that came from.

A taste of Totah-ly awesome fun

There’s the post, If the Spec-Fic Genres Got Together for Dinner, in which Space Opera asks Dystopia, “We know you’re still a teenager and have a right to suffer from dramatic emotional tidal waves, but could you wait until after dinner?”

When challenged regarding his shirtless appearance, Super Hero tells Steampunk, “I have to make the public ‘oohh’ and ‘aahhh’ over the biceps and abs. My bosses say it increases revenue. I like to think of it as visual proof of my capability to save people.”

Fantasy disagrees. “The most unlikely person can be a hero. Muscle isn’t what triumphs in the end. It’s the will to go on in the face of defeat, the strength to fight when you have nothing left.”

Around and around it goes, which is to be expected when family gathers round the table. Just like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Zachary Totah

Zachary Totah

But what if the apocalypse finally hits? Are you ready? Zac gives us A Geek’s Checklist for Surviving the Apocalypse. Here’s a partial glimpse (you gotta see the rest for more laughs, though):

  • Medicine and first aid supplies, including Lucy’s healing cordial.
  • Captain America’s shield. Good for protection in case your Iron Man suit fails.
  • Human Torch, member of the Fantastic Four, because starting fires is key to staying warm, cooking food, boiling unclean water, scaring off man-eating beasts.
  • If above option isn’t possible, a dragon will suffice but is decidedly more of a logistical headache.
  • Extra clothes and sturdy footwear. In case your Iron Man suit fails.

Okay, okay. The apocalypse is a bit of a stretch. We all know that’s not gonna happen. Not until 2017, at least. But here’s the inevitable: you get stuck outside your fandom and need to survive in unfamiliar territory. Like a Narnia nerd trapped in a room full of Trekkies, you need to be prepared. You need How to Speak Geek — Sci-fi Version (and if you’re a scifi geek trapped with Middle Earthers, you need the Fantasy Version). Do you begin to see this guy’s genius?

Yeah, but…

Yeah, but what? His website looks a bit home-grown? There aren’t enough pictures for your taste? He hasn’t even published anything yet?

Irrelevant.

What Zachary has going for him transcends all that. Websites can be redesigned. Books are eventually edited and published. Writing improves with practice.

But here’s something that is working right now and that I hope he never loses: Zachary gets it. What’s more, he has it. He has the joy of the true fan. And other true fans will recognize it, and flock to him. Gandalf saw in Bilbo Baggins what wasn’t obvious on the surface, and I hope you can catch a glimpse of what I see in Zachary Totah: the seeds of author branding greatness.

Conclusion

How can you influence and attract readers? Ponder what Zac has done and what I liked about it. Now think about what you could do and how it might thrill your potential fans.

  • Be a fellow fan with great ideas. Ideas that bring joy and enthusiasm to life. Don’t do it like Zachary does it. Do it your way. With your passions and fandoms.
  • Go where the readers are and be someone fun to talk to. Wherever you see a natural opportunity to add value to a conversation by linking to your great ideas, do so.
  • Keep at it until you find what works. Then keep doing that as long as it works. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Then you, too, can be Totah-ly Awesome ™.

More about Zachary Totah

Check out his books, The Skyriders Series, and his favorite music (Zac, you should totally make a YouTube or SoundCloud playlist with this stuff!). Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

P.S. Some of us are just not like Zachary. At all.

“Be a fellow fan? Who has time for that?” This may not come naturally to you. It’s possible that life and work and a busy schedule has sucked all the fan-like joy out of you. Maybe in your eyes, Zac’s posts are a total waste of time. Maybe it’s just not your style. If that’s the case, you still have options:

  • Resign yourself to your fate and work around the fact that you aren’t a fan of anything and cannot relate to those who are. Find something you can do that works to please and attract readers, even if it is in some other role than as a fan.
  • Decide that you’re going to nurture this dormant, crippled part of you until it blossoms into something attractive to others.
  • Make friends with people like Zachary and market collaboratively with them.

Whatever you do: “Never give up! Never surrender!”
— Commander Peter Quincy Taggert of the NSEA Protector
never-give-up-never-surrender

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Reaching Readers: What attracts the unicorn?

Legend-unicorn-scene

The unicorn from the 1985 movie “Legend”

Last week we compared readers to the great white stag — that elusive beast that you cannot help desiring, but which is ever out of reach. A similar legend is that of the unicorn. According to myth, unicorns are attracted to young virgin girls. The unicorn will approach the girl and lay its head upon her lap.

What does this have to do with reaching your readers? What’s an author supposed to do — hire a virgin girl to manage his social media accounts?

Hmmm… that just might work… ahem. Sorry, rabbit trail. Actually, what you need to do is think about what your reader NEEDS. Just as a unicorn needs to feel safe from harm and from corrupted human intentions, a reader wants certain things.

What does a reader want? What do they really, really want?

To find a good book to read? No! You’d think that. But you’d be wrong. Look deeper. Why do readers search for that “good book”? What IS a “good book”, when it’s all said (read) and done?

What a reader really, really wants is a satisfying emotional experience.

(Did you know? When reading this on our website, you can highlight any text in our articles and instantly tweet them or share the quote to Facebook. Try it with the sentence above!)

Jeff Gerke cracks the code on this in his writing how-to book The Irresistible Novel. Others have said it before, but I love hearing it from Jeff because of his backstory. He’s an editor. He used to be all about the rules of writing (according to his own testimony in the book — I haven’t been on the receiving end of his red pen myself). But over time he has discovered that there’s more to pleasing readers than following the rules.

How to attract the unicorn

If readers are looking for an emotional experience, then how can we use this desire to attract their attention? If a reader hasn’t read your book yet, how do you tell her that she might enjoy it? As any romance writer could tell you, it starts with the first meeting. The first eye contact. The first touch. When we’re talking social media and your online presence, it starts with a tweet, a Facebook post, a graphic meme, or a blog post.

It might start when they attend the Facebook release party of an author they already love and meet you there, co-hosting the party. Or maybe you’re just a fellow fan of an author you both enjoy. They post a comment about how the characters of this series make them laugh. You reply with a funny story about how you LOL’d one time in the middle of the first book and startled your cat awake. A shared moment of enjoyment, celebrating something they already associate with pleasure.

Your online presence needs to be full of opportunities for potential readers to enjoy being around you. You want them to associate your name with an emotional experience: laughter, wisdom, fascination, wonder… even appreciation of a sarcastic wit, admiration for a clever turn of phrase or keen insight. Think about your list of the three words people most often use to describe you. You can capitalize on those things to engage readers and provide them a moment of pleasure.

Action Item

  • Think like a fan. Analyze your own reactions to the social media efforts of the authors, movies, and TV shows that you like.
  • Find the watering holes. People who will enjoy your books are already out there, enjoying other authors. Who are those authors? They are likely the authors of books you like.
  • Leave a comment below with three guesses about which authors your readers may like. Try to think beyond the biggest names (Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Veronica Roth, etc) and find some of the newer authors who aren’t as “big” yet. Find authors who have a fanbase online but who also might be within reach for a blog interview, a shared Facebook release party, or some other collaborative marketing effort.

 

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Author Twitter Tactics: Catch and hook eyeballs

Hook eyeballs? Ewww. That sounds like a horror movie, doesn’t it? Well, we are a #specfic crowd, which includes horror. So why not?

I’ll tell you why not! ‘Cause I’m not a horror fan, and googling “horror fishhooks eyeballs” led me to a picture of a guy named Frank full of hooks and chains in the 1987 movie Hellraiser. No, thank you. When it comes to horror, I stick with either sci-fi horror (a la the Alien franchise, District 9, or Monsters) or dark/urban fantasy (a la the Underworld series, I Am Legend, or Dracula Untold).

In fact, I need to wash my eyeballs right now. I need a vision of beauty.

The elf queen Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings

Ahhh, that’s refreshing.

Now, where were we? Ah, yes — catching the reader’s eye

In SproutSocial.com’s article on Twitter engagement stats, they say tweets with images average a 35% increase in retweets. And I know why. When I’m scanning through my Twitter feed (actually, I use TweetDeck to manage my Twitter interaction), it’s the pictures that catch my eye almost every time. Take a look at this screenshot:

twitter-author-graphics-screenshot01

Where does your eye go? To the pictures. And which pictures in this shot actually communicate something to you? Yep. The ones in the right column. I’ve noticed these tweets have a similar look. In fact, I’m pretty sure that either the same person is generating all of them or a group of authors are following the same template.

This simple template is winning Twitter

twitter-author-graphics-samples

When you see a number of these graphics in one place (like those on the right), you can see the pattern.

  • Size: 525 x 250 pixels
  • A solid background color (a muted, dark tone)
  • An author headshot (remember, people want to connect with other people!) and name/handle
  • A quote or teaser/hook
  • Font large enough to read when the image is shrunk into a Twitter feed (for the teaser text)
  • A call to action (“Read the blog post”)
  • Many of them specify their genre (“Mystery author” or “Science fiction author”)

Be strategic

Honestly, not everyone needs to do this. And even if you do it, not every tweet needs to have a graphic like this.

This is a good strategy when you are ready to build your fanbase. Use it when you have something of interest to offer to potential readers. Some posts will lend themselves to this sort of fanfare. Others, not so much. Over time, you will figure it out.

Tip: If you already have an archive of blog posts (and if you have traffic stats you can examine), then find the posts that get the most hits or which have the most comments and create graphics like this for those posts. They have already proven themselves to be of interest, and this sort of promotion is likely to bring in more traffic.

Bonus tip: If you are making an effort to bring more traffic to your website, MAKE SURE YOU ARE PROMPTING VISITORS TO SIGN UP FOR YOUR EMAIL LIST. Oh, sorry. Caps lock got stuck there. But seriously, you need to capture those potential readers if you can. My favorite (free!) WordPress plugin for gathering email addresses: SumoMe. Fantastic plugin. Install now!

You can do this. Yes you can.

Feeling graphics-challenged? You don’t have to own Photoshop or learn any fancy graphics software. There are websites out there to help you do this sort of simple graphic directly through your browser. Check out PicMonkey and Canva for starters.

If necessary, hire a high school or college student on the cheap to put something like this together for you. Ask a relative or a friend whom you know has graphics-savvy.

Future posts may include step-by-step tutorials on creating graphics like these. Or I might do a quick video tutorial. Would any of you be interested in something like that? If so, leave a comment below!

 

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Reaching Readers: Is it the hunt for the white stag?

the-hobbit-white-stag

Bilbo and the dwarves briefly encountered a white stag. They are deep in the dark of Mirkwood when they hear the horns of a hunt and the stag runs by, knocking Bombur into the stream that must not be touched. It’s a little different in the movie, but I’m always up for a movie clip. At heart, I’m a fan who likes to re-live moments of beauty, victory, tenderness, awe.

White stags (or white harts) are in myth and legend around the world. There are different flavors to the legends, but always there is awe and desire, the fleeting opportunity and the chase. And today we’re talking about the Arthurian flavor — where the white stag was always something to be desired yet always out of reach.

A lot of authors feel that’s what readers are: something to be desired, yet always out of reach.

(Did you know? When reading this on our website, you can highlight any text in our articles and instantly tweet them or share the quote to Facebook. Try it with the sentence above!)

Where are all the readers?

They feel like rare and elusive beasts, don’t they? Your book sits there, waiting to be purchased and read. Or it sits there, waiting for reviews. Is the forest empty? Did someone else already kill the stag, leaving you with nothing, forever?

Come on, surely you’re smiling now, realizing how silly that is. Even though it feels that way.

The readers are out there!

Your readers are out there. And it’s time you start finding them. To begin, consider this: What if finding new fans really is more like pursuing the white stag than you thought? What if you have to venture into the forest, search them out, and follow them until you catch them?

Because if we’re honest, we were hoping that reaching readers would be more like that scene from Finding Nemo where the big net scoops up thousands of fish at a time. Throw out the net. Scoop up the readers. BAM. Make a living as a writer.

Well, yes. There are strategies and tactics that are more net-like. But if you are just starting out, and nobody knows you, and you don’t have a lot of money to throw into advertising, then one of the ways to get the ball rolling is to find readers one by one.

Action Item

  • Start thinking like a fan. Reverse engineer this whole thing. What draws you to a book? A TV show? What judgments do you make about how you spend your entertainment time?
  • Be strategic. Start thinking of readers to target who have influence over groups of other readers in your target market (teachers and principals influence students; reviewers and celebrity authors influence their subscribers, etc).
  • Start a list of people you want to introduce to your work. Don’t do anything with it yet. Just follow them through the forest, observing them, for now. Yes, you are fan stalking.
  • Leave a comment below with three guesses about who your readers are. You can include demographics (“My readers are women between 20-50 yrs old”), ideology (“My readers care about humanity and value scientific progress”), similar stories (“My readers watch Gotham and Supernatural and read George R.R. Martin”), or shared fandoms (“My readers are fans of Star Wars and Firefly”), or whatever else you may imagine about your readers!

Afterthoughts…

Interested in hearing more about the legends of the white stag? Check out Wikipedia’s entries on the white stag and the white hart, Mythical Beasts: The White Stag by zteve t evans, and Mythic Creatures: The White Stag by Sarah Sawyer (gotta love these fellow writers and their research!).

 

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