Summer School – Self Publishing Edition: Social Media

Summer School Graphic 2019

You get to hear from me today! I’ve been asked a variety of questions about using social media as an author. Again, I’m no expert, but I do use social media a lot as an author, so hopefully some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up on will help you in some way!

Using Social Media as an Author

First of all, if you are already on social media, that’s great! However, if you are only on there with personal accounts, my recommendation would be to create author versions of all of them. You want to keep your private life a bit separate from your personal life. This protects you in a couple of ways: it keeps you from being “on” or “at work” all the time, and it prevents you from losing all your friends who love YOU but don’t necessarily only want to hear about your books.

Now, do you have to use all the social medias?

No.

(I can just hear some of you breathing a deep sigh of relief)

I recommend either:

Picking the ones you like best

OR

Finding the ones with the highest concentration of YOUR target audience

OR

A combination of those

I’d also recommend starting out by just focusing on one or two different social medias and growing as you feel able. My personal favorites are my blog, facebook, and instagram. However, personalities differ! Some people find twitter to be extremely useful. Others focus mainly on their newsletters. I know several who utilize pinterest to great effect (which I think probably involves practicing some sort of dark magic… I jest, I jest!) Others love goodreads (which I like as a reader, but I don’t use it much as an author, which I probably should, but I’m also slightly terrified to do so because of horror stories I’ve heard and so far Goodreads has always been a pleasant experience for me and I don’t wish to do anything that might tip the balance in a way that would make that change). As a side-note: I actually use all of the social medias I just mentioned, but I do focus mostly on my favorites. I’ve worked my way up to using the ones I don’t enjoy as much because I know it helps me reach a wider audience.

So where should you post?

A lot of that depends on what you write and who your target audience is. The teenagers are currently mostly hanging out on instagram, so if you write for MG or YA then I recommend an instagram account. (Their parents, however, are all over on facebook, and they are the ones with the money to buy books for their children, so that’s a good place to go as well). I still haven’t figured out WHO is on Twitter, I think it’s mostly 20-30 year olds. Blogs seem to be read by a variety of ages, which works nicely for me as I write for a variety of ages – my target audience being “families who read together.” Pinterest… I truly, honestly have no idea how to make Pinterest work for me as an author. I enjoy finding and pinning cool things, and I do have boards for my various books… and people seem to enjoy them when I share them… but gauging feedback/actual marketing from it… *shrugs*

But honestly, while it does matter WHERE you post… what matters more is WHAT you post!

So what should you post?

Jenelle, I’m an author… I should post about my books! But I’m also human, and can only release books so fast. So… I should just shout about whatever book I’ve most recently released until the next one comes out, right?

The number one rule for what you should post is actually more of a number one rule for what you should NOT post. And take it from me, who learned the hard way back in 2012… this one is a biggie:

Don’t post about your book all the time.

I know, I know. This seems so counter-intuitive. You’ve just written a book and published it… and you want to get the word out… and of COURSE you want to shout about it! It’s exciting! You want to share that excitement!

But it’s the quickest way to get people to ignore you… and that’s the best-case response scenario.

Figuring out what to post is probably going to take you some time. But I can help out with five ideas that have worked for me and other authors I watch:

1. A daily hashtag of some kind. I don’t personally use this one because I just can’t keep up, though I’ll join in on a few that I like from time to time… but I know several authors who have a daily hashtag and their followers enjoy waiting for it and get excited about sharing it. This often includes sharing a picture of some kind with the hashtag label. (For example: HL Burke posts a #DailyDragon and shares images of dragons she’s found or pictures of her own Theodore the dragon out and about and having adventures).

2. Snippets from your WIP. The people following you want to know what you’re working on. They like to feel like they’re part of the process and readers get excited about snippets. They don’t have to be long (and should not include spoilers!) but they can help build some excitement for projects you’ve got in the works.

3. Bits of your real life. Let your readers know you are human. Let them celebrate the good things “Today is my fifteenth wedding anniversary!” (no, seriously… it is! Here’s a picture from our wedding day… we were so LITTLE!!!!)

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and commiserate with the tough things, “I have a headache and I should be writing but instead I’m going to sit on the couch watching (insert favorite show here) and eat way more than a single serving of ice cream.” Or if you get to meet YOUR favorite author, or you sat in a field of flowers and watched bunnies scamper by… let them know! If you’re excited about a movie coming out, or you read a great book… (Just make sure in these cases that you stay “on brand!” If you tend to write children’s picture books, I wouldn’t go telling your fans you’re excited about Scream 32 coming to theaters!) *grin*

4. Celebrate with your tribe. Let your readers know if an author you particularly like is having a sale (again, you’ll want to stay on-brand with this) but one of the great things about social media is the ability to find “your” people. With my clean fantasy brand, I love being a part of the Clean Indie Fantasy, Fellowship of Fantasy, Realm Makers Consortium, and Burning Embers groups on facebook. Not only does that mean I have a variety of other authors to reach out to for help when I’m needing advice or direction on something, but it also means that I’ve found some awesome new books to read that go nicely with my own, and I can shout about THEIR books without being obnoxious. I can’t tell you how many times I have sold a book to someone because I shouted my love for someone else’s book and a) they had already read it and loved it, or b) they tried it out and loved it and subsequently decided I had good taste in books and then decided to try one of mine!

5. Ask questions. Take a poll when you’re stuck on what to name a character or what to title your book. Ask your readers if they would notice certain anachronisms to determine if you should edit what you just wrote. Even if you don’t go with the results of the poll, it’s good to get feedback and readers like giving feedback!

6. (I know, I know, I said five… the reason will be clear in a moment) Post about your books. (But, Jenelle! You said NOT to post about my books! You’re confusing). Well, of course you want people to KNOW about your books. If you’re having a sale… let your readers know! If you’re releasing a new book… let your readers know! If you just got an awesome review… let ‘em know! I have been told a good rule-of-thumb ratio is 1:9. You want to write ONE “sales” post to every NINE “non-sales” posts like the five ideas I gave you above. Now, there may be days when your ratio is more than that because you’re having a free-day or a sale or something super exciting is happening, and that’s perfectly fine. But then maybe take that ratio down even lower on the following days so that your followers don’t get annoyed.

Now, different types of social media are going to be better for different types of posts, but before you go getting overwhelmed by the idea of doing this across multiple platforms, I’m going to let you in on a secret! Most of these platforms have a way for you to “push” posts from one social media to another! That means that when I post on this blog, I have it set to auto-post to facebook and twitter. When I post a picture on instagram, I can tell it to post to facebook and over to my little instagram widget on the sidebar of this blog, and so on and so forth. This means I can post across multiple platforms even though I’m only doing the work once!

If all else fails… follow a couple of your own favorite authors and watch what they post. What do they do well? How could you implement their ideas (without straight-up stealing their posts, stealing is wrong) into your own brand? What kinds of things do they post? What kinds of posts get the most comments? A lot of this is trial and error, so keep at it!

And now it’s your turn! What social media platforms do you like best? What are some things you’ve done that have worked well? Have you learned any lessons the hard way? Do you have any further questions on this subject? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments!

 

~ jenelle

Graphics for Beginners How-To: Guest Selina J. Eckert

Summer School Graphic 2019

Today I am excited to bring you a guest post from the author Selina J. Eckert. She is here to chat with you a little bit more about how to make your own graphics. We looked at where to find images a few posts ago, and Selina has come over to talk about some other options, as well as walk you through a very brief tutorial on how to use this Canva.com everyone keeps talking about! Without further ado… I shall turn the mic over to her!

Graphics for Beginners

How to generate your own graphics to promote your work

by

Selina J. Eckert

One of the easiest ways to generate traffic to your blog or increase visibility of work you want to promote is to provide appealing and easy-to-share graphics. However, authors starting out may have no idea where to start. Where can you get them? How do you make them?

Have no fear, intrepid author. I’m here to help. I was in your shoes not so long ago, saying things like, “I’m sorry, what did you call that site? Pixels?” And now I can pass on what I’ve learned to help you get started.

Where to Find Graphics

First, you should know that when it comes to graphics, you have options:

  1. Purchase graphics from a designer
  2. Create your own graphics

Obviously, purchasing graphics will cost you money out of pocket. However, hiring a professional will allow you to outsource if you don’t have the time or aren’t ready to create graphics on your own. This option may be most useful for events such as book launches.

Creating your own graphics will let you make new images on your schedule, as you need them. And, unlike hiring a designer, they can be free. That may be important if you need a lot of graphics or you need them regularly, such as for your blog or social media.

Purchasing Graphics

If you decide that purchasing graphics is the option you need, you may now be asking where to find a designer. There are plenty of places online where you can search out a designer, but here are my top recommendations:

Ask any authors you know who they recommend.

Look at who is advertising in the Facebook groups you participate in. Some pages have lists of people who provide services. (If you aren’t in any Facebook groups, look for some to make new connections. They can be wellsprings of support and knowledge!)

Ask on social media.

Last, try Google.

Some of my best experiences with designers, editors, or any other professionals I’ve hired have come down to recommendations from friends or fellow authors. These people already have a proven track record of good work and cooperation. But if you’re unable to find someone that way, there are plenty of other methods. Don’t be shy about asking around!

If you need graphics for a book launch, also try talking to your cover designer (who can be found via the same methods as an artist for graphics). Since they made the cover, chances are they are also experienced in making promotional graphics and may be willing to work with you.

However, before you go off purchasing the first (or cheapest) artist you find, a word to the wise: you get what you pay for. While there are some inexpensive quality artists out there, don’t be surprised if you need to spend more to find a quality or style that you love. And make sure you love what you buy. Also, when negotiating, remember that these people are artists and also need to make a living.

Creating Your Own Graphics

And now for the (potentially) free portion: how to generate your own graphics!

A quick note on “free”: You can create graphics by purchasing some stock images to work with, and I would definitely recommend this for images you will use commercially. While there are tons of free images available online, they may not have the same licenses and permissions. Make sure that the images you plan to use are licensed for their intended use. However, licensing is its own topic and won’t be covered today.

Now, let’s talk basics.

The easiest place to start for beginner authors, people with limited time, or people who don’t know graphic design is a program called Canva. Canva is a free online program that is packed full of templates for you to use as well as images and graphics. There is a paid version, and some of the images will also require purchase, but for someone just starting out, the free version works just fine!

All you have to do to get started is go to canva.com and create an account. From there, you will see a screen full of template types and example templates. You can select whichever one works for you. I often use the “Blog Banner” template for my blog posts, then social media or Instagram templates for extras like quotes or images that can be pinned to Pinterest or shared elsewhere online. They even have templates for ebook covers, though Canva may not be the best program for these.

After you select your template, you can change the name at the top to save it as a new graphic, then change whatever you’d like. By default, it gives you a blank image with the dimensions of the template, but you should see lists of premade templates to choose from along the side. Some will be paid, but you can select any of the free ones to create graphics at no cost.

Once you select your layout (premade template), you can move the objects, change colors, add images and photos, add filters, change opacity…the best way to learn it is just to play around with all the settings! You can even upload your own images (like your book cover) to use in your graphic.

After you’re happy with your graphic, you can download the image in a variety of different formats. It may recommend a format to you based on the template you choose, but I usually download them as .jpg or .png, depending where I want to post them. Once it’s downloaded, you’re free to upload it wherever it’s needed!

The other tool that is useful for those just starting out is a stock photo site. There are thousands of photos you can find for free on sites like Pexels (which is very easy to navigate), which allows you to use the images on graphics without attribution. Again, I wouldn’t use free images for things like book covers, but for blog or social media graphics, they’re incredibly helpful!

Closing Thoughts

When it comes to creating or finding graphics for your blog, social media sites, sales, or books, it may seem like an overwhelming task, but hopefully you now see you have options…and those options are easy to use. Having tools to create graphics at your disposal can improve traffic to your website or social media profiles and can even help you make sales.

Whenever you need graphics, be sure to consider what you need them for, whether they need to be licensed, and if you feel confident in your designs. If you aren’t ready to make certain graphics, don’t be afraid to hire a professional. However, when you need graphics quickly or in abundance, sites like Canva provide premade layouts that are visually appealing and easy to manipulate and are easy to combine with stock photos from sites like Pexels.

Whichever way you decide to go, I hope this post has given you a place to start and the confidence to try your hand at graphic design. It’s an incredibly handy tool to have at your disposal and one of the easiest ways to make your posts more appealing and easy to share.

Now go forth and create!


Author photo 400x400

About the Author

Selina is a biologist-by-day, writer-by-night native of Pennsylvania. She lives with her husband, dog, and two cats and spends her time writing, reading, creating art, and dreaming about fictional worlds. She loves to write strong women and fantasy worlds, and she believes that stories connect us all. Besides writing and sciencing, Selina also runs an author support business, Paper Cranes, LLC, that provides editing, consulting, and mapmaking services to authors, writers, and students.

Follow Selina around the interwebs:

Twitter

Facebook

Blog

This Cursed Flame_Cover

You can find her book This Cursed Flame on Amazon and at other retailers!

Sometimes we put ourselves in the bottle… 

Six years ago, Janan was transformed into a genie by an evil djinn, ripping her away from her home, her life, and her humanity. She has been on the run from him ever since. Worlds away, high school honors student Laurelin just wants to get into the chemistry program of her dreams. 

When Laurelin discovers a crystal bottle that sucks her into the djinn realm, the girls find themselves working together to escape Janan’s creator and get Laurelin back home. But war is brewing in the djinn realm-a rebellion led by the same evil djinn they’ve been trying to escape. And he is determined to rule both the djinn and the human realms. As his creation, Janan is the one person standing in his way. 

But to stop him, Janan must learn to overcome the fears he instilled in her and embrace her own dark magic while Laurelin must accept that some things are more important than an A+. Now, they will have to trust each other, and themselves, to stop the encroaching evil. Otherwise, both the human and djinn realms will fall to the tide of death and dark magic this war will unleash.

~ jenelle

Curse Bound Release Party: Interview with an Elf

Curse Bound Blog Tour Banner

Curse Bound by J.L. Mbewe is a book I have been waiting for for over TWO YEARS, ever since I finished reading Darkened Hope. So you’d better believe I’m super excited to be a part of the release party for this final book in the Hidden Dagger trilogy! I got my copy of the book in the mail a few days ago and have been reading it far too fast… I need to slow down… but that’s the ever-present conundrum of the avid book-dragon… wanting to read a book super fast, while at the same time NOT wanting to read a book super fast. This entire trilogy is definitely on my list of Recommended Reads!

The world-building in this series is just… absolutely epic, and the characters are fantastic, and… well, keep reading, you can get a taste for all of that and this author’s incredible writing style in the interview below.

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to MY favorite character in the series, Kael. 

I finally catch up to my quarry on Moruya Island, located in the far west in the Sea of Pavinai, which means healing in Pyamor, the language of the Pauden—the giants. Although, the old dragon master assures me they will not bother us. 

The majestic famoruya trees tower above me in the early dawn. Their red bark, deeply grooved and their trunks so large a person could build a home within one. Fog rolls in from the sea, wrapping its salty, chilly fingers around the tree and dampens my face. Smoke hangs heavy in the air, clinging to the trees and land and burning my nose. I cover my mouth with a cloth, the stench almost unbearable. The makeshift pyres had burned through the night and now only smoldering embers and bones remained. A shadowy figure strides toward me, the fog parting and swirling around his legs. Kael. It can only be Kael. I recognize him immediately.

His long dark hair is pulled back from his face, but clumps have worked their way free. Dirt and blood smudge his face and hands from a recent battle, at least that is what I had gathered from Tariq. His gaze meets mine and his frown deepens, causing his scar over his left eyebrow to bulge. 

He approaches me. “Oko will be ready to leave soon, so I don’t have a lot of time.”

I nod. “I understand, I’ll try to make this quick. Can you start by telling my readers something about yourself? You are an elf, what does that mean in your world?”

Kael raises an eyebrow. “An elf is an elf. There are three kinds of elves here in Nälu. I’m an Esusamor elf from Zurial. Some call us the sea elves. The Wofsamor elves are elusive and remain hidden within their forests. And then there are the Saryhemor elves, the desert elves. Saeed, the High Guardian was one. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? Although we have a number of differences that set us apart from each other, all elves have pointy ears, live longer than most other beings in Nälu, and we have the ability to sense others’ feelings, emotions, and disturbances in the air. And with those who we are close, we may project our own.”   

“That’s fascinating.” My pencil flies across the paper, trying to capture every word. “Can you also tell us something about your world? My own world is different from yours, not having dragons or magic of any kind (sadly), so my readers would like to know more about how your world differs from ours.”

Kael crosses his arms. “A world without dragons or magic? I doubt it. Perhaps your world has forgotten how to see them?” He shakes his head and glances over at the slumbering dragon, Oko. “Although, perhaps you’re better off not having dragons and such. You wouldn’t have to experience the awe and terror of facing down a dragon. They can be such a formidable foe. Thankfully, the Council of Nations have outlawed them on the mainland. Only the Kaleki—that is the merfolk—are allowed to raise and train dragons. They seem to have a special bond with them. Magic, on the other hand, is not what you think it is. Saeed would have called it a gifting, something special—and it varies per gifting—given to some to bless others. Although, the enemy has found a way to taint and corrupt them.” Kael grows quiet for a moment and stares out over the sea lapping at the shoreline. The sky lightens and the last stars begin to fade. “Dragons and magic—as you would say—give our world a sense of wild wonder yet in the wrong hands, it can cause some of the worst damage and hurt and chaos.”

I sober, my thoughts turning to where I last left these characters at the end of Darkened Hope. Perhaps that is where his thoughts have gone, as well. It seems likely, considering his answer to my previous question. I hate to ask, but… a good reporter knows when to ask a hard question. “Your quest recently suffered a rather nasty defeat, something involving a dragon. What are you and your remaining companions planning to do next?”

Kael rubs his face and groans. “Don’t remind me!” He lowers his hands and sighs. “Oko and the dragonmaster will take us to the edges of Arashel where Jathil believes will be able to obtain the horses and supplies we need for the remainder of our quest. We have one more item to retrieve before we can return to Kvazkhun, hand over the ingredients, and then head to Gwydion for a rescue mission.”

He looks so upset, I feel the need to change the subject slightly. “I hope this isn’t too presumptuous of me,” I say. “But if your world wasn’t in danger, what would you be doing right now?”

Deep sorrow flickers in the depths of his gray eyes. “I would have been preparing for my sister’s wedding in Zurial. She would have married my best friend, Teron. Ayianna’s brother, actually. And then, I don’t know. I might have accepted my position as lord in the Dzjorym Council like my father.” He shrugs. “Saeed had asked me to join the guardians, but I couldn’t leave . . . my . . . ” He clears his throat. “It doesn’t matter now, does it?” 

Oh! How I want to follow this line of questioning! But I sense that he will not speak of it, and I cannot waste what precious little time I have. “We’ve been watching your relationship with Ayianna progress over the past two books, and I’m dying to know, can you tell me how you feel about her now?”

Kael stiffens and averts his gaze, clenching his jaw. “Feel? I’m angry, trapped by these—these circumstances.” He flings his arm toward the slumbering dragon and smoldering pile of ashes and bones. He shakes his head and takes a deep breath. “My heart is bleeding out. I cannot think beyond the urgency of returning to Kvazkhun and saving her before she succumbs to the harpy curse.” He pauses and shakes his head. “I never thought I’d ever . . . but I do. I love her.”

I try to contain the ear-to-ear grin I feel. To any readers, this confession was obvious already, but it feels good to hear him say it. I can see him starting to get fidgety, and I know he wants to get going. Every moment he spends with me is a moment he isn’t heading out to rescue Ayianna. “One final question: if you could have one wish granted, what would it be and why?”

“I don’t believe in wishes.” Kael frowns and crosses his arms. “But if you insist . . . I . . . I wish . . . ” He shook his head and began pacing in front of me. “I wish none of this had happened. That I had stopped Imaran from stealing those scrolls. But then how can I? I would never have . . . ” He stops pacing and faces me. “I wish I could have stopped Desmond. We wouldn’t have had to bury a friend last night or build a pyre. Vian and Ayianna would not be on their way to Gwydion right now. The Sorceress would not have her sacrifice, nor would we have to worry about Ayianna turning into a harpy. Of course—that would mean the Sorceress would still be hunting us. But we would have had a dragon to complete the quest, and we would have had a good chance at defeating the Sorceress. Right now, our odds don’t look so good.”

I give him my most encouraging look. “Darkness must come before the dawn. I believe in you and your companions.” I clench my jaw tightly to prevent myself from telling him just how terrified I am for him and his companions, and for Ayianna and Viand. “I wish you well on the rest of your quest.”

He narrows his eyes at me for a second, almost as if he can sense the unspoken words. But then someone calls his name and his head jerks around. Jathil is beckoning.

“Go,” I urge him. “And thanks for taking a moment to speak with me!”


You can read my reviews of the first two books here:

Secrets Kept

Darkened Hope

Curse BoundKael’s worst fears have come true. Betrayal has shaken the Guardian Circle, the High Guardian is dead, and Ayianna and Prince Vian are in the hands of the Sorceress, but he and his companions must finish their quest, before they can attempt a rescue mission. Unfortunately, Desmond’s parting gift left them stranded on the western cliffs of Nälu.

Jathil, once heir to the throne of Arashel, believes her father will aid them, but first she must face the crimes of her past. When she does, she could never believe the outcome, nor the rippling effect it would have on the nations.

Meanwhile the Alliance braces for war, but division threatens to undermine their efforts. When Nerissa returns from Ganya with the dragon regiment, she discovers a bigger problem. The curse bound are waking.  

As the quest nears completion, Kael is forced to choose between his heart and duty, and neither choice bodes well with him. Either way, he will face the Sorceress and her armies sooner or later. The battle for Nälu has begun and there can be only one victor.

Purchase on Amazon

Add to Goodreads Shelf

About the Author

JL MbeweWriting as J. L. Mbewe, Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she now braves the heat of Texas, but pines for the Northern Lights and the lakes of home every autumn. She loves trying to capture the abstract and make it concrete. She is currently living her second childhood with her wonderful husband and two precious children who don’t seem to mind her eclectic collections of rocks, shells, and swords, among other things. Here, between reality and dreams, you will find her busily creating worlds inhabited by all sorts of fantasy creatures and characters, all questing about and discovering true love amid lots of peril.

Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award. Her second novel, Darkened Hope was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Alliance Award.

Follow Jennette around the interwebs!

Website — Facebook — Instagram— Twitter — Goodreads— Pinterest

~ jenelle

Party Tonight!

Curse Bound Book Launch Party

The Curse Bound Launch Party is TONIGHT! And you can attend from the comfort of your own home, as it is a FACEBOOK party!

You’re Invited!

RSVP HERE

My friend and fellow author, J.L. Mbewe is releasing CURSE BOUND, the third book in her Hidden Dagger trilogy, a series I have absolutely loved and have been waiting for the final chapter for nearly two years! I’m currently reading Curse Bound and had some thoughts about trying to have it finished and a review up for the party, but… I don’t want to blitz through this book, so I’m taking my time and enjoying the adventure!

I am super excited and extremely honored to have been invited to help with this book launch! Kyle Robert Shultz (author of The Beaumont and Beasley series as well as the Crockett and Crane series and fellow Silmarillion Award Host), and Lindsay A. Franklin (author of The Story Peddler and The Story Raider) and I have all been invited to the party as Special Guests. (I am in esteemed company and I feel a little like Cinderella waiting for her coach to turn back into a pumpkin…)

It’ll be a fun night. I’m looking forward to it! There will be games and prizes and giveaways and tons of fantasy-based conversation. I’ll tell that one joke I know…

Hope to see you all there!

In case you missed the link above… you can find more deets on the party HERE

~ jenelle