Promo and Business Tools for Writers

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraigBlog4

Recently, I mentioned that I’ve been working on a lot of different things…from foreign rights to promo.

My favorite type of promo is passive. I’ve learned that readers find me online and I don’t have to go through the unpleasant (and spammy) process of begging them to click over from Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else.  If they’re interested, they look me up.

But what I’ve recently realized is that I want them to be able to choose different ways of interacting with me and my books when they do look me up and go to my site.

Some readers like emailing me or contacting me through Facebook…and I link to my email and my Facebook in case they do.  Some would rather sign up for my newsletter and hear from me that way…with no actual interaction with me.  And then some…so far my youngest readers…want to interact with me less, but they want to interact with my books in different ways.

On Wattpad, I’ve been surprised by the readers who have asked me if my characters resemble various celebrities. These readers are younger and definitely seem more visual (since I’ve never been asked similar questions by older readers).  But…I still like readers to come up with their own visuals for my characters since I believe that’s more personal.  Besides—celebrities own their images and I’m leery about linking to them on Wattpad. Wattpad, however, encourages “casting” our books on the site with a widget in the sidebar expressly for that purpose (but only mentioning the celebrity names, not posting the celebrity’s image).

Instead, I decided to compromise and link to a short PowerPoint-type visual that would stand-in for a series trailer (these pictures don’t move, so to me they’re not a trailer). Microsoft has a new, free program called Sway.  I learned about it from Jenny Hansen’s post on the Writers in the Storm blog.  She called it a “digital scrapbook,” which I think is an excellent description. By using free CC (Creative Commons) license photos from different sites and arranging them into a digital scrapbook, I’m…well, I’m not coming remotely close to transmedia, but I’m taking a step that I hadn’t taken before.  The only visual representation of my books in the past have been the covers.  My modest effort is in the sidebar here and is also linked to on Wattpad.

Some of you have blogs where you interact with readers on topics that relate to your content (smart). I haven’t chosen to go in that direction with my blogging, but I still look for ways to build up my name and platform online to make me more visible and make it easier for readers to find me online.  When I bought a new phone last November, I saw it came with a new app—Flipboard. Silas Payton wrote a recent post that explains the benefits of using Flipboard, as a writer. With Flipboard, you can create a digital magazine on a specific topic (I chose writing, of course, since that’s what I’m curating, but you could choose something genre-specific if you’re trying to attract readers) and add links to your favorite posts related to the topic into the magazine.  Then your magazine (if it’s set to public) can be viewed and shared/favorited/followed by other users. Nice way to get extra exposure for your content, bring people to your blog, share resources, and network. And for people who do share links or curate online content, it’s a great way to find interesting articles to share, too.

One more tool. In my never-ending quest to get a handle on my sales tracking (by doing as little work as possible), I’ve downloaded TrackerBox to help me.  I found out about the program here in the comments of one of my posts. TrackerBox, created by writer Mark Fassett, is free for a 45-day trial (no credit card needed on signup) and then is a one-time cost of $60. I’m not affiliated with the site/author/developer in any way, I’m just a desperate author.   And, yes, I’m going to pay it once my trial runs out because I couldn’t pay anyone to track this stuff for me that inexpensively.

Basically, you upload your spreadsheet reports to TrackerBox and the program displays all sorts of interesting data for you in graphs and other formats.  You can see top sales, top vendors, sales trends over various periods of time (you actually get to choose lifetime sales if you want), net sales, top titles per retail platform….it’s just really useful when you’re trying to easily see how various books are selling and your income trends.

So that’s all I’ve got this week.  Oh, and “Click to Tweet,” which is also very useful, if I could ever remember to put it at the bottom of my posts. I think I’ll do it now.   More on “Click to Tweet” here in a post by Terry Odell for the Blood Red Pencil blog.  I downloaded the plugin for WordPress.   More detail on Click to Tweet in this post by Adrian Leighton for Ozone Marketing: “How and Why Sharing Click to Tweet Links Boosts Traffic from Blogging.”

Believe it or not, I finally even managed to finish writing that book this week.  Finally.

What have you been working on?  Found any helpful tools you can share?

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21 thoughts on “Promo and Business Tools for Writers

  1. Hi Elizabeth,

    I’m honoured that you mentioned my post. It’s quite timely as I just mentioned your blog in my latest post on great resources to help new writers…”Don’t get Scammed on Self-publishing: What are reasonable costs?”

    I’m still amazed at how much traffic Flipboard has brought to my site with VERY little extra work…likely over 3000 hits in the past month.

    I also like your click to Tweet button. Last week, ONE retweet from a new follower led to a cascade of retweets and Facebook activity that brought over 600 hits to an article on editing that I wrote a couple weeks before. There is tremendous driving power in Twitter.

    Thanks again,

    1. Silas–Thanks for the mention! I appreciate that.

      3,000 hits is a lot! I’ve been on Flipboard for 2-3 weeks now and I’m wondering if maybe it’s still working on building its content on the topic of writing. In other words, maybe we have strong content in a limited field?

      And, yes, Twitter is where the writers are. :) And journalists, teachers, teens, and politicians. Some industries/groups just seem to flock there.

  2. Thanks for the great promo tips. This is a very timely post for me, and I’ve bookmarked it so that I can go back and explore the various tools that you mentioned. For my market–teachers, parents, homeschoolers, and writers–Pinterest has outclassed any other source of visitors to my website. Pinterest visitors outnumber the others by a ratio of 2:1. Having links to my website circulating on Pinterest made a really big difference to the number of visitors to my site. My challenge, now, is to convert those visitors into sales! Thanks again for the great info.
    p.s. I used your “click to Tweet” button, too. :)

    1. Heather–Oh, Pinterest is huge with teachers and parents, for sure. I think all the moms I know are on it. I have a presence there, but I’m honestly a lot less of a visual person, so I struggled putting content there.

      It would be a piece of cake for you to flip your already-created content into Flipboard. I noticed that there were a *lot* of teachers there and I also ran into a lot of church-related groups (ministry staff, etc.) if that fits into your demographic.

      Converting into sales…yes, that’s always the challenge, isn’t it? Maybe a freebie of some sort (short content, etc.) as a lead-in to your other work? At any rate, the more activity you have on your site, the more readers who know who you are, you’re building up authority in your field and social proof. That can be converted into public speaking, if nothing else.

      I need to remember to always use ‘click to tweet!’ Habits are hard to form.

  3. Even found time to finish writing the book?

    Pie. Celebratory pie. Is there any other kind?

    Great tips. I’ll have to retread this essay and think about implementation.

    1. Alex–An app. I’d add that it’s easiest to set up our profile and magazines on the website (using our laptops/tablets) at . But there are other aspects (like flipping posts into various magazines) that are easiest through the app on our phone. I’ve connected it to my Twitter account so that I can easily flip the most popular posts of mine on Twitter into Flipboard. So really–it doesn’t have to take but a second of extra work once you’ve got it set up.

      This would be *perfect* for someone like you–have a magazine on SF/F, have a magazine on the music scene, have a magazine on favorite cult classic movies, have a magazine on new film releases…

  4. I think you’re absolutely right, Elizabeth, that readers like some choices in how they interact with you. I like Wattpad very much, and I’ve found it’s a great place to interact with young adult readers and writers. But I’d not heard of Sway before – thanks! Must check that out.

    1. Margot–It’s a nice community at Wattpad, isn’t it?

      There are murmurings that Sway is Microsoft’s new PowerPoint…in response to Prezi. But I don’t know if that’s true. It’s certainly more attractive and engaging than PowerPoint.

  5. I should specify, I blog about writing and on happiness. Therefore, I set up two “magazines” on Flipboard, Writing and Happy Living. The articles on happiness have been way more popular on Flipboard. It’s likely a more general topic that appeals to a broader audience therefore has been reFlipped more. I would suggest creating as many different “magazines” as you can. You can Flip your blog posts into more than one magazine. Perhaps, Inspiration for Writers, Helping Writers, how about…Happy Authors?

    I’m really not sure why some articles have taken off on there and some haven’t. Luck?


    1. Silas–Interesting. Happiness has been a good topic lately…The Happiness Project comes to mind. Good tips on the various magazines. I wasn’t sure how much I should cram into one. I’ll think about creating a couple. Thanks!

  6. So cool, Elizabeth! Congrats on finishing the book, AND providing us with fab tips, too! I’m not on Wattpad, and I’m frankly a bit reluctant to add yet another social media venue, but maybe later on…. I am very visual, and love Pinterest a lot. I’m not sure I’m actually getting traffic through them, but I do have boards for my books, the historical time period I write in, and my blog. So I’m set up if a prospective reader comes along! So said the spider to the fly….

    Definitely going to check out the “click to tweet” button, and Flipboard looks promising, especially with all of the historical stuff I post about. Thanks so much!

    1. Kathy–Thanks! I think you’re well-positioned for reader interaction on Pinterest. It’s all about awareness, getting our names out there and our covers. Flipboard would be so easy for you, especially since you’ve already got things set up on Pinterest. So you could have a “magazine” with every Pinterest board you’ve got and then just flip everything from Pinterest into those magazines. Good luck!

  7. Holy Cow! Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the social media/promo waters–

    Seriously, though, thanks for sharing this and providing all the links. I’m in the midst of revamping my author blog/platform, and I can see using some, if not all, of these tips.

    Heartfelt congrats on getting the stubborn book finished. You must be so relieved! Onwards and upwards to the next one.

    1. Meg–Oh, I’m so relieved, yes. That book just *wouldn’t* move. Now to finish reading through the edits (luckily for me that I wrote really clean text it seems. Slow text…but clean).

      The nice thing about these social media things is that they really aren’t time sucks. The Sway thing can be done in 45 minutes and then takes no more time…you just stick it online or link to it. The Flipboard thing is just clicking to share it on Flipboard (after the initial set-up, which probably takes 20 minutes. I might be exaggerating…might have only been a 15 minute set-up). Click to Tweet is sort of a no-brainer (as long as we remember to use it! I need to put a sticky note on my laptop). The TrackerBox would take no time for set-up if there hadn’t been years of reports to upload and it’s a nice tool.

      Yes, onwards and upwards! I’ve got to outline the next book in this series and then start writing another.

  8. Hi Elizabeth – what a great post .. so informative – thank you. I really must get my act together and start using many of these things – I’ll keep this open and save it too – so I can take some action.

    Congratulations on finishing your book, and more importantly to us for taking time to pass on your findings … cheers Hilary

  9. Flipboard and Sway sound really cool. Maybe when I’m done with this latest manuscript.

    I was in love with Pinterest up until last year and have a few boards for my books. I use celebrity images to give people a visual sense of what the characters are supposed to look like (coloring, build, etc.) but yeah, it does make me nervous. However, that’s probably my most successful passive marketing tool- there’s activity there every week, and I’m not doing *anything* there right now.

    This would probably not be helpful for all of us, but my sister just came out with a non-fiction book and is utilizing…wait for it…LinkedIn pretty impressively. Her work is directed at a specific audience, and she was able to find and connect with people in affinity groups related to her audience. Elizabeth, maybe you can find quilters? ;-)

    1. Deborah–I have a few things up on Pinterest, but I’m such a nerd that the whole copyright thing just freaks me out too much. And yet, if I tell the kids on Wattpad that one of my characters resembles Donald Rumsfeld (in appearance only), I’m not sure they’ll come up with a visual at all. :)

      You’re the second person this week that’s told me good things about LinkedIn! The other actually is in the (I hope I’m not misrepresenting this, but this is what I remember) Christian fiction realm and apparently there’s a strong faith community there? I’ve only used it as a business thing and never network there…which I should clearly reconsider! You’re right–maybe it would be best to connect with people who relate to the series hooks…like the quilting. :)

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