The Create Space Experience

Many people gaze at online publishing as settlers must have viewed the wild, wild, west – with fear and awe. However, life on this frontier is not as lawless as one might think. It can be a useful accelerator on your path of obtaining or supplementing traditional publishing efforts. Take Create Space, for instance. Well-organized and structured, this tool can provide the positioning and leverage you need to take your creative efforts to the next level. Where you go from there is entirely up to you, and there are a myriad of options for you to ornament your work with whatever bells and whistles you want.

Even before you receive what is called an advanced reader copy (ARC) or a gallery (similar to an ARC), you can print out books for your readers and reviewers. In turn, they can begin your marketing buzz by word of mouth. With Create Space’s step-by-step application, the author is guided through all the necessary steps to correctly setting up their book. Setting up the title, creating the interior, and selecting cover art are parts of the process. You can upload interior files as a PDF to ensure formatting will not change. You can either create a cover with the website’s cover creator wizard or upload your own. In this case, be sure to follow their directions to the letter to ensure you don’t frustrate yourself by having the wrong size spine or files with poor resolution that will look shabby.  If you aren’t the type that can sustain the trial and error it will take to get this right, then recruit a patient friend to help you with the details.

Even before your book is actually for sale, you can choose to have sample chapters viewable to your social media networks through Create Space / Amazon, even if you don’t have your own website. You will have a way for people all over the world to familiarize themselves with your book. Create Space also has very good deals and is a low cost vehicle for having copies on hand for your book signings and giveaways.

The flexibility for authors is also remarkable. There are no minimum print runs with Create Space. You can order as few as one at a time. For perfectionists who want to make sure everything is just right before committing to a large press run, this is an unprecedented luxury. I ask readers to write Amazon book reviews, which are better than gold, and send out those links via Twitter. Perhaps best of all, actual customer service people answer the phones and they do so 24 hours a day.

Thanks to Create Space and other emerging platforms, there are more options than ever for authors to distribute their work. Technology has opened up an ocean of opportunity, and the new world looks brighter than ever.

Have you ever utilized non-traditional publishing methods to support your traditional publishing dreams? If so, how? How might a tool like Create Space help your marketing platform?

How to Effectively Use Twitter for Authors

We all know that as successful authors we’re expected to market ourselves and this includes social media sites. Most find Facebook easy to use, but I’ve seen several authors confused or disheartened by Twitter.

I used to be one of them. For basic Twitter use, including #hashtags and follow back explanations, check out 8 Twitter Tips for Authors at the Blogging Bistro’s site. (She’s got great content, search through her archives & consider signing up for her daily tips.)

1. Who are you marketing to? Remember who your target audience is. Every tweet or link you share should provide value to this audience. You should tweet links to your blog posts and website, but here’s a good rule of thumb, for every 10 tweets, only 1 should be about your blog/book/website.

Retweet others, it’s a great way to build report, but remember, only retweet things that you think your audience will find useful in someway.

2. Finding followers. Here’s where #hashtags come in to play. Search for the key words that define your target audience. I often look up #quilting, #crocheting, #cooking, and #christianfiction. Start a conversation with these folks. After all, that’s what Twitter is about. Most times, they will follow you back.

Don’t start a conversation simply for a follow back. Talk with them because you have something in common. People know when you’re being phony. Even if it’s just two folks a day, it adds up over time.

3. Use Lists. I’ve heard the argument that it’s impossible to keep up with hundreds and thousands of friends/followers. Yes, that’s true, but Twitter has the glory of lists. You can make a list and categorize your followers there. I have several, you can make them private if you don’t want people to see how you have them listed, or public and others can follow your list.

For example, I have a list of readers where I put folks who chat about the books they’re reading. I have one for my fellow writer friends. The possibilities are endless and you can pull up your list and chat w/ folks about that subject when you’re in the mood or have time.

Lists are the key to making Twitter work in my opinion.

4. Engage with other users. If you never talk with people, you’ve missed the point of Twitter. It is called Social media for a reason. In fact, if someone follows me and I check out their profile (I always do) if I don’t see Tweets including other people’s @handle, then I don’t follow them. I want to talk w/ people, not have them just talk at me.

Are you a Twitter user? What’s some of your tips or cool people who you’ve found via Twitter?

Follow me on Twitter and let me know if you found me from this blog. 🙂

Social Media – When Less is More

When I first joined Facebook I thought, “This is ridiculous. Who would ever do this?”

But I was told if I ever wanted to be considered by a book publisher, I better have an author platform. One of the foundational ways to build a platform is by using social media venues such as Facebook and Twitter.

So I grudgingly used my Facebook account. I logged in once a week to see what others were up to.  But then a weird thing happened. I discovered I loved social media. I made real friendships online and looked forward to hearing from my “peeps.” I enjoyed getting ideas and opinions from people all over the world. I loved knowing what people were thinking and talking about. I looked forward to laughing, crying, and praying with my online friends.

As soon as I mastered Facebook, I noticed authors talking about something called Twitter. Twitter seemed overwhelming so I read a few books about it:

*Twitter Revolution by Warren Whitlock and Deborah Micek. I wrote about it here

*Twitter Means Business by Julio Ojeda-Zapata You can order it here.

I learned that Twitter is very different from Facebook. Twitter is a powerful tool for specific purposes such as checking how snowy the roads near Vail are, what Judge Belvin Perry is ordering Casey Anthony’s jurors for lunch, discovering what the police are doing near I-70, talking out loud to politicians and celebrities, and telling companies about their bad (or good) service.

As I settled into my social media routine, I saw my heroes adding tens of thousands of friends, so I did likewise. I added and “friend-ed” everyone who crossed my path.

It makes sense. We all want to be part of the group like this little guy:

My friends and followers list grew, but I dreaded getting on my computer. I didn’t know whom I was talking to, and I felt like I was being spammed when I wanted to relate. So one day I deleted all 800 of my Twitter friends and started over.

I carefully and deliberately chose which friends I would follow (now less than 100) and paid little attention to who was following me. Every few months I clean out my Facebook account. I unfriend lurkers, spammers, and people who spew their message but never interact. One thing I’m proud of is that people I interact with on social media are not strangers, they are my friends. I have found several benefits to cutting back:

  • I am more eager to login to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • I have built relationships with my online friends, so when my book gets published I won’t be a nameless face spamming everybody.
  • My friends and followers are more likely to pass my books, videos, and blog links to others.
  • I’m interacting with people who share my interests.
  • I’m filling a social need by relating instead of spamming. Research shows that people form communities on Facebook and Twitter in order to get social needs met.

More and more people, whose expertise I admire, are limiting the ways they interact on social media. As authors we are continually trying new marketing ideas, so we experiment, take risks, and try new things. I don’t know if the way I do social media is right for you…

Do you think more followers and friends are better? Why or Why Not?

What is “Take Away” Value?

In my post last month I referred to our need to have “take away” value. Sometimes that’s pretty obvious, but other times it’s as subtle as how you’re presenting your product or services. I find at times it’s a fine line that we can easily cross into the “me” zone.

I have a feeling, though, that you’ve seen and know what that looks like. How about Twitter? I get a fair amount of requests but have little time to follow people who are just throwing stuff out there for the sake of being visible. Plus, I want to follow people that I can relate to and connect with. I’m most likely not going to follow a furniture company located in a different state.

Except, this time I did. Why?

Take a look at the Twitter page for Mealey’s Furniture, (@FollowMealeys) located in Warminster, PA. They do a lot of things right.

  1. They don’t over-tweet. Mealey’s tweets about 2 to 3 times a day. When I see a Twitter page loaded with hourly tweets of stuff just thrown out there, I’m not going to pay attention. The delete button is my friend.
  2. Their tweets are helpful. They have take away value. Not only do they have it, they personalize it. They’re not just putting tweets out there about a sale, they’re giving you decorating ideas and hints for better living. They also support causes. Basically, they don’t want to just sell you a piece of furniture. They want to add quality to your life. Again, motivation is key.
  3. They’re not just about the product. Mealey’s presence is clearly not about them. They are about the customer and serving those needs. They’re focused on their audience and serving them, not on themselves.

This is brilliant marketing. Would I buy furniture from Mealey’s? If they had a store in San Jose, CA, you bet they’d be the first place I’d think of next time I needed something.

The key here is they make a lasting and positive impression. You walk away from this page with the understanding that to them, it’s not just about the sale. They want to do more for their customers. They want to connect with them.

Today’s market takes more than just what we have to offer, which in nonfiction is a lot. We have a clear message, an idea, or something to share. But there’s already so much out there. We have to be clear about the “why.” Think about why we write what we write and how we can translate that into connecting with our readers, which in turn translates into word of mouth marketing—the best kind. Just as I’m talking about Mealey’s furniture because they offered me take away value, we want our readers to talk about our books, our message, and what we stand for.

But even that comes back to our motivation. Are we doing it to just sell books? Or are we, like Mealey’s, genuinely trying to give quality to our readers? That’s our origination point in writing these books to help others. Let’s not leave that motivation in the pages of our books. Let’s figure out ways we can we bring that over into our marketing too.