[Podcast] How to Grow Your Social Media Following

“Why do I need a social media following?”

The simple answer: Because agents and publishers want you to have an established following. They want to know how you will reach your audience when it’s time to promote your book.

We recently spoke with Natalie Papier, owner of Home Ec.-Op and soon-to-be author, about how she grew her Instagram following from a few thousand to over 130,000 in a few short years.

Natalie shared four tips on how to grow your social media following that you can immediately start using to grow your own following today. 

Establish Your Content

To grow your social media following, find your tribe—and understand the content they’ll gobble up.

Snoop around Natalie’s IG account, and you’ll see that she serves up exactly what her audience wants: delicious images with plenty of behind-the-scenes details and tips on how to design from the heart.

Not to mention she seasons all her posts with a dash of authenticity—making her approachablesomeone with whom you’d want to have a coffee date with. (We all know that social media is called “social” for a reason.)

Your expertise may not be design, like it is for Natalie, but you can learn from her strategy.

First, determine what your audience wants and lean into your experiences and hard-earned wisdom. Provide some inspiration, along with some how-tos, and maybe even a thought-provoking question to engage your audience.

Natalie speaks about what she knows best and shares her triumphs while also not being afraid to share her failures. This is where the magic happens on social media: when you show your humanity. It gives followers something to connect with on an emotional level. And connection is the key to getting people to share your content and come back for more.

Post Regularly

Natalie built her following by posting regularly, posting to her IG Stories daily and her account a few times a week. Of course, “regular” is different for each person. The important thing to remember is that if you’re not posting regularly, your content is buried by those nasty algorithms.

Content is prioritized that is liked and shared. And the only way to get likes and shares is to post engaging content regularly. It’s a virtuous circle.

It can be scary committing to regular posting (we recommend three to five times a week at the least). You might wonder if you have enough to say. Some people tackle this problem by creating an editorial calendar. Plan ahead (even write the posts in advance) if you fear you won’t be able to come up with the content in the moment, like Natalie does.

There are plenty of online resources (such as Hootsuite) that provide calendars with prompts on what to share. That way you’re never stumped.
 

Get the Conversation Going 

Natalie’s great strength is her ability to connect with her audience. One of the primary ways she does this is by asking questions at the...

[Blog] Should You Query Through Twitter Pitch Events?

Querying an agent can be exhausting and terrifying. There are a multitude of ways to query an agent, ranging from writers’ conferences to emailing a submission. But there is another way to query that is not as well-known: Twitter pitch events.

Twitter pitch events are a virtual opportunity for unpublished authors to pitch their manuscripts to literary agents and/or editors. If an agent or editor likes your work, they will request more material from you. And, hopefully, this will lead to a deal.

In this blog post, we share the benefits and drawbacks to querying through Twitter pitch events, as well as include three of the most popular pitch events that take place annually.

The Benefits

Participation in a Twitter pitch event can help you test interest for your story. You can search through other Tweets, learn about books within your genre, and determine if there is a market for your story.

Pitch events are a great means to make connections in the writing world (and as we frequently reiterate, connections are the best way to land a book deal!) A pitch event allows you to get opinions on your work from other writers. And if you’re searching for a beta reader or critique partner, you might find someone within your genre.

A Twitter pitch event will also help you improve your pitching skills. Twitter allows only 280 characters per a Tweet. So, you will have to play around with a single sentence or two short sentences that accurately represent your story—and make you stand out from the crowd.

If you’re unable to share the premise of your story in a single sentence, or two sentences, then you might need to reconsider your work. A pitch should be short and to the point. And your story should be easily explained in a short amount of time. Agents are short on time, and are looking for strong opening hooks that will inform them of the most important information in your story.

The most obvious benefit to a Twitter pitch event is the potential to land an agent or editor. If an agent or editor is interested in your work, they will like or favorite your Tweet and then request more material.

The Drawbacks

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people participate in Twitter pitch events. Throughout these events, thousands of Tweets will be published. And if you’re not active on Twitter prior to the event, then the algorithm will work against you. It is difficult to get seen if you’re not active on Twitter.

A low success rate is another drawback to pitch events. Because thousands of Tweets are published, and because only a few agents and editors participate, it’s challenging to land a deal. You might have a wonderful manuscript that gets buried beneath other Tweets.

Even if you do land an agent or editor, they might not be the right fit for you. This can be frustrating since you spent time and energy constructing your query. But there is no guarantee that you will land a deal, much less land an agent or editor who are the best...

[Podcast] How to Land a Book Deal and Market Your Book

When you’re writing a book, two questions first-time writers most often ask are: How do I land a book deal? and How do I market it so it is read?

We sat down with Robin Zachary, author of Styling Beyond Instagram: Take Your Prop Styling Skills from the Square to the Street, who shared her roundabout path to landing a book deal and how she plans to promote her book to increase sales immediately following its release and also in the years to come. 

In this blog post, you will learn the best approaches to land a book deal, and how to market your book to increase book sales.

All You Need is a Connection

Publishing houses receive dozens, if not hundreds, of manuscript submissions a day. Their process of elimination is brutal and quick. And if you don’t make an immediate impression, your manuscript will be rejected. The rejection doesn’t mean your book is “bad,” it just might not be a good fit for a particular publisher, as Zachary found out.

At a conference for creatives, Zachary attended multiple workshops and seminars with published authors who shared their experience getting published. Most of them said, “The publisher found me.” Zachary wondered, “What about the rest of us?”

Later at the conference Zachary sat down with a publisher who expressed that her book idea wasn’t “publishable.” Tough words. So tough, Zachary decided she likely would self-publish the book and use it as a teaching tool. 

But things quickly shifted when she had a chance meeting with an acquaintance at that same conference. Zachary shared her idea, and her friend said, “That sounds like a book the publisher of my book would be interested in!” A few weeks later, Zachary’s friend reached out for a book proposal she could pass on to the publisher.

Often the best way to land a book deal is through a connection like this. It’s a warm introduction. The person acts as a proxy for trust.

That being said, you also should be looking to ways to nurture relationships and support people you know. Give without the expectation of gaining. You just never know when you might receive a gift in return.

Attend a Conference

Many people attend conferences and writer’s workshops with the expectation that they will find an agent or land a book deal with a publisher. But often these workshops are intermediate steps to landing a deal. View these gatherings as opportunities to learn from other people’s experiences, learn more about the industry, make connections, and share your unique ideas.  

 You might not land a book deal, but you’ll create valuable relationships—that might pay off like they did for Zachary. You never know who might have a connection!

Market Your Book to Your Ideal Audience

While you’re writing your book, you need to begin to think about how to market your book to increase sales. In fact, even as you write your book you should be...

[Podcast] How to Get an Editor's Attention

“I have a manuscript, but is it ready for submission?”

Maybe. Maybe not.

There’s no magical formula for what will catch an editor’s attention. Sometimes editors just follow their gut.

But with years of publishing experience under our belt, we know a few things about what manuscripts catch the attention of editors—and which ones are trashed.

Check out our 8 must-dos to get an editor’s attention.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road—Writer’s Guidelines

One of the most basic yet important steps is to follow the guidelines established by publishing houses. Guidelines are your guide in getting one step closer to being published. This is a step you can’t skip, but aspiring writers often bypass.

Publishing houses have varied and strict guidelines on how to submit material. Before you submit a manuscript, research the houses you want to reach out to. Determine whether there is a specific word count, a letter to be included, or other necessary guidelines to be completed before submission.

If you have a personal connection who can get your work in front of an editor, you may be able to bypass this step. If not,  your writer’s guidelines are your first step to making the connection!

Editorial Grid

Publishing houses have their own niches. And they have a definitive audience in mind whom they want to serve. This is true for magazines and book publishers. It’s important that you recognize what stories the publishing house is interested in. Figure out what they want. If you don’t have material that fits into the house’s niche, don’t waste your time on a submission.

If your material does relate, then think about the audience the house wants to serve. Ask yourself: “Who is their audience? Is my manuscript a good fit for this audience? Do I have an expertise that would benefit their ideal audience?” Make sure your material provides some sort of value to their audience. And in the pitch letter (if they ask for one), make sure to reference your understanding of their target audience.

Hook ‘Em to Win ‘Em

Editors are drowning in unsolicited manuscripts. If you want yours to be the one that pulls them up for air, you have to hook them.  Your  first sentence/paragraph of your manuscript must breathe some energy into the editor—at the very least, make them think “This is fresh! And they can write!”

Editors have limited time. They scan the first paragraph and might skip to the conclusion. But they typically will not read the middle. You don’t have time to build up to some dazzling insight or prove you have writing chops.

One caveat: when writing your opening, stay away from clichés—ideas and phrases. Clichés reflect unsophisticated thinking and writing. Find a unique angle on your subject.

Also, create some tension that demands the editor’s attention.

If you’re looking to pitch an article, do some...

[Podcast] What Is a Book Launch Team?

Writing a book is not a solo act. You need the support of editors and readers. Launching a book isn’t a solo act, either.

You need a team—a book launch team—to create buzz beyond your immediate circle in the weeks leading up to its release.

Recently, we spoke with book launch manager Kaitlyn Bouchillon, who explained what a book launch team is and how to optimize the reach of your team.

Book Launch Team? Never Heard of It

A book launch team is a group of people who volunteer to support your book’s release. They are your cheerleaders. They are your support team from behind the scenes.

You provide your members with early access to your book, either a digital copy or an ARC (advanced reader copy). This way, your team knows exactly what your book is about—the message, the characters, the storyline. They’re prepared to talk about your book. And share it with the public. Essentially, they market your book before its release date.

Book launch teams are not confined to self-publishers. If you’re working with a traditional publisher, you can request a launch team to work with your marketing team. It is possible to manage your own launch team. Many do to save money.

But, managing a launch team can also be stressful. You’re in charge of securing reviews for your book and encouraging your team members to promote your work—which can be awkward for some people who aren’t used to asking for help. You have to tell them what to post, and when to post. In the weeks leading up to your book launch, this may cause additional stress to your already busy life.

So, what should your launch team do?

Reviews! Reviews! Reviews!

A reader will be interested in your book based on the blurb or cover. They will then read reviews about your book to determine if they should buy it. Reviews are important for you book sales and should be an expected part of your launch team.

Amazon rank books depending on their reviews. If a book receives regularly posted reviews, it will receive a higher ranking. On Goodreads, members can catalog which books they want to read, are currently reading, or have read. If your launch team members catalog your book on Goodreads, your book will gain traction.

 Reviews are a staple to a book launch. And a necessity if you want to increase book sales.

Social Media Is Your Greatest Ally

One of the best ways to promote your book is through social media.

These postings range from serious, long posts reserved for personal blogs or Facebook. To fun videos on TikTok, shortened reviews on Instagram, and book cover postings on Twitter and Pinterest.

The buzz on social media will encourage potential readers to check out your book on Amazon or Goodreads. The more traffic for your book, the better!

I Want a Team—Now What?

Your first step is to outline your main goals. Do you want more social media shares? Do you want more book reviews? What do you care about the most? Determining your...

[Podcast] Literary Agent Adria Goetz on Querying an Agent

Where do you find an agent? How do you query them? What if they reject your work?

Querying an agent can be downright daunting. You first wonder, Where do I find an agent? And once you find a handful, your inside screams, “She’ll probably laugh at my writing!”

We sat down with literary agent Adria Goetz who shared her tips on querying an agent, what to include in your query letter, and why you should be querying agents, even if you’re rejected the first time.

How to Query an Agent

There are a couple different ways to query agents.

Dig into the guide books available at Barnes and Noble or on Amazon, which provide information about various agents. Check out Guide to Literary Agents 2020—the most popular guide book out there.

Conferences are another great place to connect with agents. Throughout the conference, you have opportunities to meet face-to-face and pitch them your project.

But don’t expect a contract. While some authors successfully connect with agents, the reality is agents rarely pick up authors from conferences. Adria, in fact, has only signed one or two agents from a conference.

Traditional Querying: Still the Best Route

The best way to connect with literary agents, come to find out, is the traditional way.

Adria says she connects with most of her clients through the email slush pile of manuscript submissions she receives. Traditional querying is a great means to reach out to individual agents you have researched. You are solely querying those you’re interested in—and who (if you’ve done your research) might be interested in your writing.

The downside to this method is the overwhelming volume of manuscript submissions agents receive on the daily. You’re not the only person querying an agent. You have 20 seconds to make an impression, or it will likely be rejected.

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet: Connecting with Agents via Twitter

Another option for querying is through Twitter, where agents lurk. Once you follow a couple of agents, you will follow the breadcrumbs to more agents. Follow them. Comment on their posts. Become a familiar name to a handful of agents who cover writers of your genre.

But Adria says, do not (do not!) DM these agents with your pitches. Instead, participate in Twitter pitch event days.

Throughout the year, Twitter designates a few days for pitch events. During these events, agents are actively looking for fresh projects. 

You can tweet a pitch of your project using a specific hashtag. For example, #PitMad is used to tweet a pitch for unpublished novels. This is the only hashtag for nonfiction projects. Another hashtag to check out is #PassOrPages. It’s used for agent feedback on queries.

Editors and agents scroll through these hashtags and request to see your project if your work piques their interest. If you’re nervous about querying, this is a great opportunity. Agents request to see your work rather than you submitting a manuscript and...

[Podcast] Prenup Book Author Emily Bouchard on Landing Media Interviews

By Dave Goetz and Melissa Parks

Tenacity. It's what you need most when landing media interviews after your book is published.

You simply can't be passive about book promotion. 

Emily Bouchard, author of Estate Planning for the Blended Family and Beginners Guide to Purposeful Prenups, has unlocked this not-so-secret code to landing spots on TV shows like the Today Show and getting published in publications like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.  

And guess what? You don't need a fancy-pants (and often expensive!) PR agency for landing media interviews.

Here is Emily's three-step approach to going after the PR you want:

1. Identify your niche. There's nothing revolutionary about this. But too many people believe being general will make their idea more appealing. The opposite is true. Reporters aren't looking for generalists. They are looking for specialists.

When Emily started her consulting practice as a family dynamics coach, she built her website content around specific categories in her space, specifically blended family estate planning. Emily recalls a story that shaped her thinking about niche marketing.

When a plumber named his business "Just Toilets," someone asked, "Why Just Toilets?"  

"When I was just one of the plumbers, I didn't get any calls," he said.  "Now I get tons. All of my equipment and supplies are equipped for just toilets. I'm an expert in just toilets. When people have just a toilet problem, guess who they call?"

What topic do you want to be known for that people will call just you for?

"Going niche" is the best way to reach the audience (and the reporters) who will benefit the most from your expertise. Lean into your expertise. Create content specific to that expertise. When publishing digital content, use key words that people researching the topic would use.

Emily's first big-time exposure came about this way. When Rudy Guliani was running for mayor and his stepson wouldn't support him, New York Times reporters were looking for insight into the complications of blended families. Emily's site popped up, and they contacted her for an interview.

That one interview put her on the map and led to more interviews.

2. Nurture relationships with reporters and writers. You have to have a long view of media relations, if you want to establish yourself as a thought leader.  This means you have to cultivate relationships long before you ask for anything--and even when your initial ideas are rejected.

Emily researched reporters and writers who specifically wrote on her areas of expertise: blended family and wealth; women and wealth; and, family success family. She created a master list and began connecting with each of them, introducing herself as an expert on the topics. Her goal was to make the job easier for reporters by providing insight they didn't have to dig for.

Often times, the connection was just an...

[Podcast] Tech Founder Dave Parker on the Whacky Economics of Book Publishing and Promotion

By Dave Goetz and Melissa Parks

Writing a book can never be about the money. No realistic model for book publishing exists, unless of course, you hit the lottery with your first book. 

According to Dave Parker, author of Trajectory Startup: Ideation to Product/Market Fit, the economics of book publishing and promotion are whacky--especially with a traditional publisher.

You sign a contract, but the publisher sets the price. And how much you'll receive for royalties? Once it's published, you won't know until you receive your royalty check.

Another drawback, Dave says, is you can't buy author copies that count toward your overall sales (the sales that determine whether your book is being purchased, and therefore ranked on Amazon). Dave has created a workaround for making his "author" copies count. He purchases books by the bulk from a distributor for a discounted rate. 

The Publisher Doesn't Care as Much as You Do

That's just a few of the complexities of working with a publisher when it comes to sales. But there are more complexities when it comes to marketing your book.

Dave learned you can only expect so much of your publisher when it comes to marketing your book. No-one cares as much about your book's success as you do.

He likens publishers to venture capitalists. Out of 100 venture capital investments, 10 are successful, 35 are mildly successful, and 65 are zombies or die quickly. 

You're one of many authors the publisher is working with. They're hoping for the "10" (or one) that that will hit the bestseller category. And the book with the greatest momentum most often gets the most attention from the publisher. The others are left to fend for themselves. Those who don't know how, might as well be called the walking dead.

When you take an interest and ask the publisher, "What should I be doing?" they state the not helpful ("Keep doing what you're doing.") or the obvious ("Promote the book through your platform."). You end up in the same place as someone who self-publishes: you have to figure out the marketing of your book. Nobody is going to do it for you.

You can't just hope your book will sell. According to Dave, "Hope is not a strategy." If you want to actively sell your book and build a market, you need to take ownership or promoting your book. This often starts while you're writing the book.

The Fanboy Strategy

When Dave landed a book deal with a traditional publisher, he had a robust platform. Over 3000 people view his blog monthly, even if he doesn't post anything new. He has thousands of connections of LinkedIn. And he speaks regularly. But Dave says his following didn't know him as a book author. He had to prep him for that in the months he was writing the book.

He even worked on getting endorsers for the book while he was writing the book through a method he calls "fanboying." He would comment regularly (and thoughtfully) on the blog posts of thought leaders in his space. And because...

[Podcast] Book Publicity Expert Andrea Martin on Arresting the Attention of the Media for Your Book

By Dave Goetz and Melissa Parks

Arresting the attention of the media for your book has to happen within three months of its launch.

After that, your book becomes old news. Your publisher moves on. So does the media. That is when the long slog to promote your book begins.

In this episode, we interview Tyndale Publishers author relations director Andrea Martin on how to host launch events and how to stay focused when then book doesn't take off as planned. 

Here are 5 helpful ideas:

1. Take advantage of our culture's newly-formed acceptance of live online events. The Covid 19 pandemic created a familiarity (maybe too much familiarity!) with Zoom and other digital forums. Andrea recalls how authors releasing books last March and April were forced to shift to online release events. Something rarely done before the pandemic.

While there's something special about an in-person book signing at a bookstore, it is limited by location. Online events (Facebook Live, Zoom Launch Party, IG Live) actually have a wider scope. Anyone from anywhere can join.

Andrea says even as the world starts opening up post-pandemic, she'll continue to urge authors to do online events (in addition to in person launches) to broaden their book's reach.

2. Research what type of live events engage you. If you've never done a live event before, you'll need to attend a few to see what works. What keeps you engaged. Is it content? Is it a giveaway? Is it a special guest?  Is it an activity? There are a variety of ways to structure a live event. Do your research to figure out what has worked for other authors.

3. Keep your launch events short--and fun! Your launch is a celebration. Celebrations are joyful. And they should be fun. Whatever the meat of your content is, make sure that fun is laced throughout. Confetti. Music. Anything that super-charges the environment. And then, keep the event short. You want people wanting more rather than wondering, "When will this event be over?"

4. Don't be discouraged if your book doesn't come out blazing. Not everyone gets the press hype hey hoped for within the first six weeks. Sometimes the timing simply isn't right. That doesn't mean your book is dead. Promotion should continue even after the six weeks of your book's launch.

Andrea says look for opportunities to tie you book idea to current events. That's a hook to engage podcasters, writers and magazines and digital publications, and even tv shows.

Andrea recalls an author writing a book on ambiguous loss. It didn't take off immediately. But a year later, they tapped into the ambiguous loss the pandemic created, and pitched the book as an interview angle.

Always look for hooks. They're there. Sometimes you just have to be creative.

5. Extend your reach. There are multiple ways to do this, but the idea is to partner with people who have unique audiences--different than, but similar to, yours.  You might consider partnering with other...

[Podcast] Growing Your Social Media Following through Hashtags

By Melissa Parks

I've been growing my social media following for over seven years. I have nearly 25k followers.  I'd like to say it has been easy. But it hasn't.

Growing a social media following is exciting as you connect with people from your tribe. But it's also exhausting, when days go by and nobody clicks "Follow." You might wonder, "Where is my tribe? How do I reach them? How do I get them to follow me?"

Ultimately, you have to provide valuable content for your tribe to stick around. But getting them to even see your content is the first step. Using hashtags  is one of the best ways to gain exposure among your tribe.

Let me be clear. I hate using hashtags. They are a hassle. It's hard enough to write a thoughtful post and create an arresting image.  Hashtags feel like taking out the trash. It has to be done. But nobody wants to do it.

But, did you know that posts with hashtags have 12.6% increased exposure? It's true. When I strategically include hashtags at the end of my posts, I inevitably increase my visibility. And often I increase my followers. Sometimes by one. Sometime by many.

Here are three insights to help you understand hashtags a bit better:

1. A tribe-specific hashtag makes a great hashtag. Building a following isn't about attracting the masses. You want to attract people who need what you've got, whether it's information or inspiration. Your hashtags should use language your tribe would use to search for content.

You might look at peer accounts to see what  hashtags they use; there likely will be some you can use on your posts as well. 

2. Use long-tail hashtags. Short-tail hashtags are comprised of no more than two words, often only one word. For instance, if I'm posting a vintage collection of McCoy pottery, short-tail hashtags would be #vintage, #collection, and #pottery. When you use hashtags like these, your posts are lost in the archive of the thousands of other posts who use similarly general hashtags. 

To reach your tribe, it's important to be more specific, without being obtuse. Better longtail hashtags would be #mccoypottery. Even better #mccoypotterycollection. Or even #vintagepotterycollector. 

3. Mix up your hashtags. One strategy for not having to generate new hashtags for every post is to create a notepad of hashtag lists that you can copy and paste at the end of posts. Of course, each post is unique, so you'll need to add specific hashtags to each post. But you'll at least have a baseline to work from.

Be cautious, however, of using the exact same group of hashtags post after post. When you do this, social media platforms identify it as spam, and will hide your posts from people whom don't follow you. This is called shadow banning. Create multiple groups of hashtags to choose from.

For more insights on how to successfully incorporate a hashtag strategy, tune into our latest podcast episode.

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