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Author: Iola

I provide professional freelance manuscript assessment, copyediting and proofreading services for writers of Christian fiction and non-fiction books, stories and articles. I also review Christian novels at www.christianreads.blogspot.com.

Using BookFunnel, Instafreebie, or MyBookCave to Build Your Email List

Using BookFunnel, Instafreebie, or MyBookCave to Build Your Email List

Over the last three weeks I’ve covered various ways to build your email list:

There are two main kinds of giveaway tools. Last week’s post looks at contest-type tools. These are used when running a giveaway that selects one (or more) winners from the eligible entrants.

The other kind of online giveaway is where everyone receives a free ebook in exchange for signing up for an email list.

I’ve found three tools which facilitate building your author email list:

  • BookFunnel
  • Instafreebie
  • MyBookCave

Let’s look at each in turn.

BookFunnel

A growing number of self-published authors using BookFunnel to build their email lists. It’s a great service: you upload your book files, create a download page, and BookFunnel gives people the option of how they want to download the book. They then provide detailed instructions (right down to the Kindle version), an email-my-book option, and online support so you’re not having to deal with readers who can’t work out how to sideload a mobi file onto their Kindle.

BookFunnel has a $20/year option which allows one pen name, and up to 500 downloads. This is useful if you’re using BookFunnel to deliver advance review copies (ARCs) to potential reviewers, but not useful if you’re trying to build your email list as it doesn’t collect email addresses.

If you’re wanting to collect email addresses, you’ll need at least the Mid-List plan ($10/month, or $100/year).

However, this doesn’t integrate with your mailing list provider—you’ll have to download the CSV file after the giveaway and upload that to your email list. Email list integration costs an additional $5/month, or $50/year. Or you can subscribe to the Professional plan, which also offers an additional pen name, priority support, and unlimited monthly downloads.

I haven’t used BookFunnel as an author, but I have used it as a reader and reviewer. A lot of the authors I review for use BookFunnel to deliver their ARCs. If you’re on the MidList plan or above, BookFunnel will watermark the file and only allow one download per code. These measures help prevent online privacy. It also means if the BookFunnel version of your book shows up on a pirate site, it’s obvious where the file came from.

One of the advantages of using a paid service is they help you keep on top of changes in national and international legislation.

For example, the implementation of the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR, which I’ll talk about in a future post).

For example, if an author was on the Mid-List plan or above, BookFunnel used to automatically collect and pass on the email address. Now the person downloading the book has to actively opt in to having their email address shared with the author, although authors have the option of not permitting readers to download the book until they have opted in to the mailing list. This helps authors ensure they are complying with GDPR and other anti-spam legislation.

Instafreebie

Instafreebie also offers a way to give books away. Their basic plan is free, and includes unlimited downloads and free delivery to readers in their choice of format. However, the basic plan doesn’t add entrants to an email list. The Plus plan is $20 per month, and includes integration with MailChimp or MailerLite (users of other email programs can download the CSV file).

Instafreebie offers a free 30-day trial, and allows authors to subscribe by the month. This means an author can upgrade from Basic to Plus in any month they are promoting their lead magnet, then downgrade again at the conclusion of the giveaway.

I participated in an Instafreebie group promotion in early 2017. This added around 400 people to my email list. I didn’t give away a published book, as I don’t have any books published. Instead, I offered Christian Publishers: A Guide to Publishers Specializing in Christian Fiction, which is the incentive I offer everyone who signs up to my email list.

The advantage of an Instafreebie giveaway is that entrants choose which email lists to sign up for.

This means the giveaway was compliant with the GDPR, and meant I didn’t have a huge number of entrants unsubscribing.

The disadvantage was that not all entrants knew how to get their downloaded book/s from their PC over to their ereader. Fortunately, the giveaway host had a Youtube video demonstrating how to sideload an ebook, so was able to forward that link to those who had trouble.

I participated in another group giveaway on Instafreebie later in 2017. This only netted me 40 subscribers, because the group was not nearly as active when it came to promoting the giveaway.

MyBookCave

MyBookCave is similar to BookBub and other online ebook promotion companies, in that it sends daily emails to subscribers, sharing a collated list of sale and free ebooks.

MyBookCave’s unique angle is that books are rated in the same way as movies or games are rated (well, it’s an almost-unique idea. Review website More Than a Review also rates books for language, violence, and sexual content). MyBookCave gives an overall rating which combines all these factors and more:

  • All Ages
  • Mild (and Mild+)
  • Moderate (and Moderate+)
  • Adult (and Adult+)

MyBookCave offers two kinds of promotional opportunities for authors:

  • Promoting your sale book
  • Gaining Newsletter subscribers

Gaining Newsletter Subscribers

This is currently a free service (although I’m sure that will change). All books are rated by content level, and classified according to genre. There is a Christian fiction genre, Authors upload their lead magnet, and MyBookCave includes this on their Book Cave Direct page. Readers can then download the book in exchange for providing their email address (necessary for MyBookCave to send them the download link!). Readers can opt out, as required by anti-spam laws.

MyBookCave supports readers to transfer their downloaded files onto their Kindles. They have an app for Kindle Fire and Android users. Other users are taken through a sequence of menus to get their book (similar to the BookFunnel menus). Users also have the option of having the mobi or epub file emailed directly to them, or downloading the file to their computer (which is what I ended up doing, as the download link didn’t work, and the email took a while to arrive).

MyBookCave also has a Facebook group where authors can join together for group promotions. Group promotions are then promoted by MyBookCave, which should help them get more visibility (and you more downloads). Authors can also use MyBookCave to provide readers with review copies (ARCs), to reward current newsletter subscribers with a subscriber-only link, or to pass their work in progress to beta readers.

The only disadvantage is that MyBookCave doesn’t automatically add people to your email list.

Users have to download the CSV file from MyBookCave, then upload it to their own email list provider. I suspect this will need to be done at least a couple of times a month so new subscribers are added to your list and welcomed in a timely manner (i.e. before they forget they signed up!).

Do you use any online tools to build your email list? Which tool do you use, and what success have you seen?

Introducing Three Online Giveaway Tools: Gleam, KingSumo, and Rafflecopter

Introducing Three Online Giveaway Tools: Gleam, KingSumo, & Rafflecopter

We’re still talking online giveaways. So far, I’ve covered:

I also briefly discussed online giveaway tools. There are many, including GiveawayTab, Giveaway Tools, PromoSimple, Punctab, RandomPicker, Wildfire, and Woobox.

Today I’m discussing the three online giveaway tools I see authors using most often:

  • Gleam
  • KingSumo
  • Rafflecopter

These tools are used when running a giveaway that selects one (or more) winners from the eligible entrants, and where entrants have do do more than simply comment on a blog post. The other kind of online giveaway is where everyone receives a free ebook in exchange for signing up for an email list. I’ll discuss that next week.

There are several advantages to using a good tool:

  • The winner is picked at random.
  • The tool probably complies with general giveaway laws (although laws are so different that no tool will comply with all state and international laws) e.g. disclosing the prize and the value of the prize.
  • A range of entry options to fit your individual strategy.
  • Integration into the organisers social media profiles and/or email list, which reduces administration time.
  • The email integration probably complies with the CAN-SPAM Act and the EU GDP Regulations.
  • The giveaway is more likely to look professional.

The main disadvantage of using a giveaway tool is cost: while there are free options, the premium features such as viral sharing and email list integration will come at a cost.

Gleam

Gleam integrates with a wide range of social media platforms, including Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and more. It provides options for entrants to undertake a variety of actions, but the entrant doesn’t have to prove they have completed that action (e.g. a Tweet or Facebook share). This means the organiser has to confirm the entrant did undertake the required action before declaring a winner.

Gleam is available via a website, or as a WordPress plugin.

There is a free plan with limited functionality (i.e. you only get the email addresses of the winners). Paid plans start at USD 10 per month, which includes a downloadable email list but not full email integration. Gleam offers email integration and viral sharing options on the Pro Plan and better (from USD 49 per month). That makes it an expensive option for most authors who are just starting out.

One of the advantages of Gleam is it offers incentives for viral sharing.

Viral sharing is when the entrant earns additional entries for sharing the contest, and having other people enter through their unique contest link. This means instead of having one chance to win, a contestant could have dozens or even hundreds.

KingSumo

The objective of a KingSumo giveaway is to increase the number of subscribers on your email list. KingSumo does this by encouraging viral sharing. As with Gleam, KingSumo adds each entrant to your email list, sends them a unique code, and encourages them to share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

As an entrant, the more people enter the giveaway using your unique code, the more entries you get and the more likely you are to win. KingSumo picks the winner using some secret random algorithm.

KingSumo have recently announced a new web-based version anyone can use.

The basic app is free, and there is a premium version available for USD 8 per month (billled annually). The free version integrates with MailChimp and Zapier. Future upgrades will include limiting the location of contestants, adding multiple prizes, and editing the giveaway rules (all of which you can do in the plugin version).

The older WordPress plugin is still available, for USD 195 for a single website and USD 595 for a multi-site developer licence (they may offer a Black Friday or Cyber Monday discount in November. Their 2017 offer was a 75% discount). You do need a self-hosted WordPress site to host the giveaway, but once you’ve created the giveaway it can be embedded in non-WordPress sites—just add the relevant html code.

The KingSumo plugin links with more email providers than the free web version, incuding:

  • Aweber
  • Campaign Monitor
  • GetResponse
  • MailChimp
  • ConvertKit
  • ActiveCampaign

If you use another email service provider (e.g. MailerLite), then I’d recommend adding the giveaway entrants to a MailChimp list with an autoresponder, then moving them to MailerLite once the automation sequence is complete and the winner has been announced.

Rafflecopter

Rafflecopter is a free giveaway tool that’s integrated with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and various email providers. Giveaway organisers can set a variety of tasks for entrants to complete, such as commenting on the blog post, following the author on Twitter, liking their page on Facebook, sharing the giveaway on social media, or signing up for an email list. I’ve never run a Rafflecopter giveaway, but I understand email addresses can be downloaded at the conclusion of the giveaway.

Basic Rafflecopter giveaways are free, but you’ll have to pay for premium features like Pinterest entries (USD 13 per month), email list integration (USD 43 per month) or viral giveaway links (USD 84 per month). Rafflecopter does offer a free 7-day trial, but it’s limited to 50 entries. Contests can also be run through Facebook.

I’m not a fan of Rafflecopter.

Although that’s not necessarily the fault of the tool.

Organisers often set up a huge list of ways to enter. This can seem overwhelming to a potential giveaway entrant. In addition, there are often a lot of hoops to jump through e.g. find the tweet URL and paste it into your entry to prove you’ve tweeted about the giveaway. As an entrant, it feels like more hassle than it’s worth—especially if the prize is a cheap ebook.

It’s also a question of whether these activities provide any ongoing return for the author. Given the recent changes in the Facebook algorithm, it’s possible your new followers might never even see posts from your author Page, let alone Like, Comment, or Share those posts.

From a reader-entrant point of view, the best Rafflecopter giveaways are those that only require one action to enter e.g. a blog comment. But as I discussed last week, this is the action that has the least ongoing benefit for the author.

Which Tool Is Best?

Which tool you use will depend on the reason you’re running a giveaway. If you’re trying to build brand awareness, then Facebook integration is probably more important than email integration. If you’re trying to build an email list, then email integration is going to be a major deciding factor.

Cost is also a factor—can you afford the one-off cost for a more expensive tool like King Sumo, or do you prefer the monthly subscription model? Paying up-front is probably cheaper in the long term, but it does depend on what you are looking for in a giveaway tool.

What giveaway tools have you used as an organiser, or as a participant? Which would you recommend for cost, ease of use, and functionality?

How To Conduct An Online Giveaway

How To Conduct An Online Giveaway

Two weeks ago, I introduced six ways to build your email list. One was offering giveaways. This week, I’m going into more detail on the “how” of giveaways, and touch on some of the legal issues.

There are several ways to conduct an online giveaway, but first you need to:

  • Consider Your Giveaway Objectives
  • Keep Your Giveaway Legal

You then need to consider what kind of giveaway you want to participate in:

  • Run Your Own Giveaway
  • Join a Group Giveaway
  • Join A Paid Giveaway

Consider Your Objectives

What are your objectives in conducting or participating in an online giveaway? Your objectives will determine which is the best approach for you. Do you want to:

  • Build overall awareness?
  • Increase blog engagement?
  • Build your social media following?
  • Build your emai list?
  • Do you want one winner, or will you give every entrant a book?

Your objectives will help determine your priorities in choosing how to organise your online giveaway.

Keep Your Giveaway Legal

There are laws governing how people run giveaways, contests, and raffles. If you are running any kind of giveaway, you need to ensure you comply with these laws … which is difficult, because the laws are different in every state and country. No giveaway can comply with all international laws (or even all the different state laws in the USA).

All online giveaways are illegal somewhere, which is why many giveaways restrict entrants to their own state or country.

Here are some principles for running an online giveaway:

Limit Participation by Geography

For example, limit entrants to USA only, or Australia only. At the very least, say “void where prohibited” (although this means you need to know where your giveaway is prohibited).

Be Fair

If you say one random commenter will win the prize, the prize has to go to a random commenter. Not the person you like most.

Don’t Require a Purchase

I’ve just received an email offering me the chance to win something if I buy the author’s new book. All I have to do is forward the Amazon email purchase receipt, and I’m in the draw to win. But this is an illegal giveaway, in that it’s not actually a giveaway. It’s a raffle, and that’s a whole different set of laws.  For example, many states and countries require you to provide a way for people to enter without purchasing.

(If you want to give readers an incentive to purchase, offer a limited-time sale, or offer bonus content to purchasers.)

Make Your Giveaway Easy to Enter

Don’t require entrants to jump through hoops or answer hard questions, especially not questions they could only answer by having already bought and read your book (because that again turns your giveaway into a raffle).

State the Prize

State the exact prize up front, and the value of that prize. I’d also suggest you keep the value of your prize relatively small. A $4.99 ebook or $50 Amazon gift card is unlikely to attract attention. A Tesla will.

Provide the Odds of Winning

This can be as simple as “the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants”.

Note: This is not legal advice. I am not lawyer and am not qualified or licenced to give legal advice in New Zealand or anywhere else. If you want legal advice, you pay a qualified lawyer who is licenced to practice law in your location. You don’t get legal advice from websites or from anyone who isn’t a qualified and licenced lawyer.

Following these guidelines means you’re unlikely to run into trouble.

Unlikely, because the people who care have more important things to do than prosecute authors giving away a book or even a dozen books on their website. But that doesn’t make your giveaway legal. It just means you’re not likely to be caught, just like you’re not likely to be caught going 53 kph in a 50 kph zone on your way to church on Sunday morning.

If you want to better understand the laws surrounding online giveaways, click here to read How to Run A Website Contest (without going to jail) by lawyer and author Courtney Milan.

Run Your Own Giveaway

There are two main ways to run your own giveaway. Giving a prize to a blog commenter is probably the easiest, most common, and most enduring.

The newer method—and the method that will better help build your online platform—is to use an online giveaway tool that encourages social sharing and/or email list signups. Lets look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Blog Comments

Comments on a blog post encourage interaction. But it’s not always positive interaction, especially if the comments are of the “I’d love to win this book!” variety, rather than true engagement with the post.

The problem is this: encouraging people to comment on your blog post doesn’t contribute to your larger goals.
  1. Blog comments don’t help more people find out about you because they don’t encourage entrants to share your giveaway.
  2. Blog comments don’t encourage entrants to sign up to your email list.

Think about it: if I find a giveaway or contest that has only one entrant and I also enter, I have a 50% chance of winning that giveaway.

If I share the giveaway and more people enter, I’ve reduced my own chances of winning. Who is going to share if sharing goes against their own self-interest?

If you’ve organised a giveaway and you’re the only person who is sharing it, that’s probably what will happen: you’ll only have a small handful of entrants, and the giveaway won’t be shared beyond your faithful readers. That might work for you if your objective in running the giveaway is to reward your faithful readers. But if your objective was to extend your platform, a simple blog comment giveaway is unlikely to work.

The answer to this dilemma is to incentivise participants to share the giveaway, which is where giveaway tools are useful.

Giveaway Tools

There are a variety of giveaway tools available online. Giveaway tools enable you to

Popular tools include:

  • Giveaway Tools
  • Giveaway Tab
  • Gleam
  • KingSumo
  • PromoSimple
  • Punctab
  • Rafflecopter
  • RandomPicker
  • Wildfire
  • Woobox

These tools are used for contest-type giveaways, where there are many entrants but only a few winners (maybe only one). Most group and paid giveaways use some kind of giveaway tool.

Join a Group Giveaway

Author networks often coordinate and promote group giveaways, usually based on genre or some specific theme (e.g. in January 2018, I coordinated an Australia Day Giveaway for members of Australasian Christian Writers. The winner received a $50 Amazon gift voucher, and twelve books set in Australia or by Australian authors).

Participants are expected to share the giveaway within their own networks via a blog post, email newsletter, and social media sharing. In my experience, the more authors in the group and the more committed they are to social sharing, the better the results.

Group giveaways can use an online giveaway tool such as those listed above. The Australia Day Giveaway was run using KingSumo, which I’ll discuss more next week. We offered one prize, but KingSumo does allow for multiple winners. The giveaway had over 450 confirmed entries (and many more who didn’t confirm, so weren’t added to our email lists).

Authors can also use tools like BookCave, BookFunnel, and Instafreebie for giveaway promotions where everyone who enters receives a free ebook. I’l discuss these in a future post.

Join A Paid Giveaway

There are many marketing organisations offering paid group giveaways. For example, RyanZee’s Booksweeps offers two genre-specific multi-author giveaways each week. All entrants are added to the RyanZee mailing list, and these people are contacted the next time that genre giveaway is offered.

Some paid giveaways (including RyanZee) allow entrants to choose which (if any) mailing lists they want to sign up for. In theory, this means participating authors should be collecting interested people who won’t unsubscribe.

Other giveaways sign all entrants up to the email lists of all participating authors. This can mean a large number unsubscribe once they start receiving emails (or, worse, report the emails as spam). There are ways authors can minimise this, as I discussed in 5 Lessons Learned from Signing Up to 20+ Author Newsletters.

I discussed strategy in more detail in Six Factors to Consider in Planning an Online Giveaway. And I’ll be back next week to discuss three online giveaway tools in more detail: Gleam, KingSumo, and Rafflecopter.

Have you ever entered or organised an online giveaway? What did you learn from the experience?

Book Review - Book Launch Gladiator by Jordan Ring

Book Review | Book Launch Gladiator by Jordan Ring

Book Launch Gladiator starts by emphasising the importance of building a platform well in advance of launching your first book, with an emphasis on the importance of launching your book with a good number of reviews. He recommends some good tools, and has some good tips particularly around book promotion sites, and the importance of getting reviews early. He also has a Udemy course available free for those who purchase this book (RRP $149).

Ring doesn’t talk about pre-orders at all, which I found odd, as I know a lot of authors use pre-orders to drive early sales and reviews. He also claims reviews help trigger amazon [sic] algorithms to help your book become more visible on Amazon. I’ve never seen any evidence of this: reliable sources such as David Gaughran say sales are what count, not review numbers (although reviews provide consumer proof and may encourage sales).

I also disagreed with this statement:

“it can be very hard to be the first person to review a book.”

As a long-time reviewer (and sad person that I am), I find it’s a small buzz to be the first person to review a book (as long as my review is positive. I loathe being the first reviewer of a book I didn’t like). I would also point out that authors who follow his advice and rely too heavily on reviews from friends and family are going to run into problems with disappearing reviews, as Amazon doesn’t permit reviews from people who have a close personal or financial relationship with the author.

The author provided me with a free copy for review, and the review copy opened at the free bonus (nice) and opening chapter (fine). But the book opened after the part where the author disclosed he is a marketing coach for Archangel Ink, a pay-to-publish press, and the publisher of this book. If the book is meant to be a low-key form of promotion for the publisher, the proofreading errors (e.g. capitalisation errors) are not great advertising.

Overall, this isn’t a bad book. The information and links were relevant and useful, but there were a few too many pseudo-promotional mentions of the publisher for my taste, along with borderline reviewing advice and indifferent proofreading.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

About Book Launch Gladiator

Welcome to the only guide written by someone on the front lines that will show you how to succeed in the Kindle world. By learning how to become a Book Launch Gladiator you will reign victorious in the Kindle Colosseum, where many others have failed.

In this book you will learn:

  • How to make decisions on KDP Select, pricing, and most importantly, launch timing
  • How to set up your book for marketing success through crafting the perfect book description, book title, and making sure you have a great book cover
  • How to get the bare minimum of reviews for your book (and more if you want them) complete with tools and recommendations
  • What to do during launch week instead of just incessantly checking sales numbers
  • A guide to continued marketing success in your writing career

Jordan wants you to succeed as a new author, and the process packed within these pages will lead you towards your goal. It isn’t an easy journey, and this book doesn’t pull its punches, but by the end you will have a much better grasp on the process as a whole.

Learn how to do book marketing the right way, without loads of money or time. Becoming a book launch gladiator requires careful planning, and this book will be your guide to meet that end.

You can find Book Launch Gladiator online at:

Amazon | Goodreads

About Jordan Ring

Jordan is the marketing and book launch guru at Archangel Ink. He has discovered the ins and outs of launching books by writing, publishing, and launching three of his own in a short time span. He currently enjoys working closely with authors to help them find success with their own books. During the day he is a freelancing authorpreneur and at night he runs a podcast with his wife called Freedom-Cast: Leaving Normal Behind.

What's Changing at Twitter (Hint: no more spam)

What’s Changing at Twitter? (An #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop Post)

Today’s post is part of the monthly Author Toolbox Blog Hop. The Hop is organised by Raimey Gallant, and has over 40 participating blogs. To find more posts, click here to check out the main page, click here to search #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop on Twitter, or click here to find us on Pinterest.

What’s Changing at Twitter?

I had planned to continue my series on email lists and giveaways this week. But I discovered Twitter have announced changes to their rules and policies around automation, and the changes come into effect on Friday (23 March 2018). These changes affect me directly, and indirectly affect all my fellow #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop participants. That’s why I’m covering it today.

These changes affect:

  • Anyone who manages multiple Twitter accounts.
  • Anyone who posts the same Tweet more than once (i.e. recycles Tweets).

If you don’t fit either of these categories, congratulations! You’re good to go. Otherwise, read on …

The Background

As we all know, social media has become a lot less social. In early 2018, Facebook announced they are changing their algorithm to reduce the number of posts from businesses, brands, and media so we’re better able to use Facebook for the original purpose: to stay connected with the people who matter to us. The subtext to this announcement is that Facebook are going to push businesses, brands, and media to pay to advertise or to boost posts, because that’s how Facebook makes money.

Now Twitter is taking a similar approach.

There are three ways to post a Tweet:

  1. Direct: A direct Tweet posts immediately from Twitter.
  2. Scheduled: A scheduled Tweet posts at a set date and time in the future, and may be scheduled in Twitter, or in an external app.
  3. Automated: An automated Tweet is when someone uses an external app such as Audiense ,Buffer, CrowdFire, Dlvr.it, Hootsuite, MeetEdgar, SocialJukebox, or TweetDeck to tweet on their behalf. Automated tweets are often duplicate Tweets.

Twitter have noticed (haven’t we all!) that a lot of Tweets are automated sales tweets, fake news, or spam. I often come across accounts where the Tweets all appear to be automated sales Tweets, sometimes coming from multiple accounts. I’m sure I’m not alone.

Authors are not innocent in this. I’ve read blog posts teaching me how to upload hundreds of Tweets to a programme like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, so the Twitter account can automatically Tweet sales messages. I’ve seen authors Tweeting these sales messages as often as every ten minutes. One author I know of has over 370,000 Tweets, but less than 5,000 followers … and just 16 Likes. If that’s not spam, what is?

What’s Happened?

I’m sure we all agree that Twitter would be a lot more social if there were fewer automated Tweets … especially automated sales tweets. So Twitter have updated their rules. Twitter now explicitly prohibits certain actions, and these changes come into affect this week, on 23 March 2018.

Twitter says:

  • Do not (and do not allow your users to) simultaneously post identical or substantially similar content to multiple accounts.
  • Do not (and do not allow your users to) simultaneously perform actions such as Likes, Retweets, or follows from multiple accounts.
  • The use of any form of automation (including scheduling) to post identical or substantially similar content, or to perform actions such as Likes or Retweets, across many accounts that have authorized your app (whether or not you created or directly control those accounts) is not permitted.

Twitter will police these changes, and suspend or terminate accounts which break the rules.

The first two points only apply to people who operate more than one Twitter account, so the easy solution is to stick to one account!

People who do operate more than one account now have to be sure they are not duplicating content across the accounts.

This is easy when the accounts have a different focus (e.g. an author who also sells homemade cards on Etsy may have two accounts, but they are unlikely to be posting the same content). It’s a little harder when the two accounts have a different but overlapping focus (e.g. an author account, and an account for a group blog).

I have access to three Twitter accounts: my personal account, and two accounts related to group blogs where I’m part of the administration team. I don’t simultaneously post identical or substantially similar content across all three accounts, but I’ll make sure my team members know not to do this as well. We will also be careful about retweeting between accounts, as that could attract Twitters attention in a negative way.

Posting Multiple Updates

The third point is the one that has many authors worried: posting identical content.

The use of any form of automation (including scheduling) to post identical or substantially similar content, or to perform actions such as Likes or Retweets, across many accounts that have authorized your app (whether or not you created or directly control those accounts) is not permitted.

This is a change of wording, but not a change of official policy. When I wrote my previous blog post on the Twitter rules, this was one of the rules:

[Do not] post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account

Twitter says they do not permit multiple duplicate updates (i.e. recycled content) on one account. But they have historically permitted recycled content as long as the posts were at least twelve hours apart (according to dlvr.it). Dlvr.it say:

Twitter is now poised to enforce this policy much more aggressively by restricting all duplicate content posting, even if it the posts are made even days or weeks apart.

Most Twitter apps and Twitter experts are saying this means the end of recycled content. For example, MeetEdgar says:

Moving forward, it means you should expect scheduling tools that have allowed for automated content recycling to no longer offer that service for Twitter accounts.

MeetEdgar is planning an upgrade that will enable users to upload multiple variations on the same Tweet at the same time. Tweets will be marked as sent, and won’t be resent. They are also considering a spinnable text option.

Twitter have also updated their rules to specifically prohibit users from creating additional accounts to get around the “no duplicate Tweets”rule. The updated rule is:

[Do not] post duplicative or substantially similar content, replies, or mentions over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account, or create duplicate or substantially similar accounts

Under this updated rule, “duplicate content” has become “duplicative or substantially similar content, replies, or mentions”. Users are also now expressly forbidden from “creating duplicate or substantially similar accounts.”

So recycling Tweets is against the Twitter rules, and has been for some time. The difference is Twitter will now be policing this more strongly. This will directly affect me, and may indirectly affect all my fellow #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop participants. Why?

Because I currently recycle Tweets.

I recycle Tweets using two different apps:

Buffer

I use Buffer’s Power Scheduler feature to Tweet all my new blog posts seven times over the next year. I currently alternate between two tweets for these, so each individual Tweet gets sent three or four times.

Buffer does allow me to create a unique Tweet for each share, so I will utilise that feature going forward—the only problem will be getting creative enough so each Tweet is not “substantially similar”. This is the approach recommended by Digital Decluttered. Problem solved.

SocialJukebox

I use SocialJukebox to share my blog posts, #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop posts, and posts from the two group blogs I administer (Australasian Christian Writers and International Christian Fiction Writers).

This is more of a problem, as SocialJukebox (like MeetEdgar) is a once-and-done solution for recycling Tweets, which means repeat Tweets are duplicate Tweets. However, I can control how often the posts repeat, and I have now set this to 90 days. At most, any individual post will be seen no more than three or four times a year.

I hope this will be enough to escape the attention of the Twitter suspension team. But my Twitter account was briefly suspended last year, so I need to be careful. If I get suspended, I’ll pause all my SocialJukebox streams and hope that solves the problem.

I’m not sure what this will mean for SocialJukebox. It’s a paid service, and my renewal is coming up soon. The only reason I use SocialJukebox is to recycle Tweets. SocialJukebox have not made an official announcement about changes to their service relating to this update.

Do you administer more than one account? Or post identical updates to one account? How will this change affect you?

Six Ways to Build Your Email List (and Two Ways Not To)

Six Ways to Build Your Email List (and Two Ways Not To)

I’ve been talking about author platform for the last few weeks. We’ve covered:

I hope I’ve convinced you that a solid author platform needs all three: a website, email list, and a social media presence. It’s not difficult to set these things up (and if you want help, sign up to my Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge).

The next challenge is how do we, as authors, build an email list. Today I’m going to cover some good ways—and a couple of bad ways to build your email list.

First, the bad ways. Don’t:

  • Adding people to your email list without permission.
  • Buying an email list.

Adding people to your email list without permission.

Don’t add people you know to a list on Word or Excel or Gmail or Hotmail, then email them. It’s against the law:

  • The CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act applies if you live in the USA, or if you have anyone from the USA on your email list.
  • The GDPR (General Data Protection Legislation) applies if you live in the European Union, or have anyone from the EU on your email list.

I’ve received these emails. I even saw it recommended in a marketing book a few years ago, that authors “add people you know to your opt-in list”. Yes, this author was ahead of the times in actually having a newsletter list, but did she not understand the meaning of the words “opt in”?

Adding people to your list without their explicit permission is against the law.

You can only email people who have given you permission to email them (which is where Seth Godin’s phrase ‘permission marketing’ comes from). And you must give people the option to unsubscribe.

As I’ve said before, the best way to ensure your email list complies with relevant laws is to use one of the major email list providers, such as Aweber, ConvertKit, MailChimp or MailerLite.

Buying an email list.

Buying an email list is a waste of money. No one on that email list has consented to be on your email list. No one.

Sure, they may have consented to having their details passed on to “selected marketing partners”, but that doesn’t mean they want to be on your list. One of the organisations I’m a member of has passed my mailing address onto “selected marketing partners”. All their selected marketing mailings go straight in the round metal filing cabinet. It’s a waste of their marketing budget, and I’m now keeping a mental list of the credit card providers I’ll never use … the ones who waste money on mailing lists that could be spent on serving customers.

You have no way of knowing whether the people on a bought email list are interested in what you write (or even if they’re interested in books), because they haven’t opted in to your list.

Instead, try one or all of these tactics to build your email list:

1. Email and Ask

Email friends you think would be interested in joining your newsletter list, and ask if they’ll sign up. You don’t have to rely on email. You could also send a text message or Facebook DM, Tweet them … even talk to them. The point is that you’re asking for permission.

And they can sign up though the link you provide (which you’ll get from your mailing list provider), or you can add them directly into your mailing list. But only with their permission.

2. Ask at Events

Ask for newsletter sign-ups if you’re speaking at an event, such as a writer’s conference or retreat, or a book launch. The less technical among us have a physical sign-up sheet, then add people to the list manually. A more technical person could have a QR code on a bookmark, or a PC/tablet so people can enter their own data.

3. Ask Online

Use a plugin such as Bloom or SumoMe to prompt website visitors to sign up for your email list. Or see if your mailing list provider has signup forms. Pin a post on Twitter. Add a sign up button to your Facebook page. Include a link to your signup form in the bio you use for guest posts.

Friends, family and colleagues may well agree to sign up for your newsletter just because you asked them. But strangers are unlikely to give you their email address unless there’s something in it for them.

That ‘something’ is a giveaway of some kind—my subscriptions did increase when I started offering new subscribers a gift (I offer a list of Christian publishers for my Christian Editing Services list, and a list of my favourite Christian authors for my Author list).

4. Host a Webinar

Natalie Lussier hosts a free 30-day listbuiding challenge, and this is one of her techniques. Plan a webinar on a topic of interest to your readers. When they sign up, give them a link to share the webinar with their online contacts. Everyone who signs up is then added to your email list.

Yes, this means getting over your fear of public speaking, and your fear of being on camera.

5. Host a Giveaway

A lot of blogs host giveaways, but most are of the ‘leave a comment to be in the draw to win’ variety. That isn’t helpful for collecting email addresses—no one wants to leave their real email address in a blog comment. But authors can use tools such as Rafflecopter or KingSumo to run giveaways where they collect email addresses in exchange for an entry.

But I’ve found having a giveaway isn’t enough. It has to be promoted. And that’s where my final suggestion comes in:

6. Join a Cross-Promotion

A cross-promotion is where you join forces with other authors to host a giveaway. There is generally some cost involved in this, as setting up and hosting the giveaway takes time, effort, and technical know-how. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. A cross-promotion means it’s not just you promoting your giveaway—all the other authors involved will be promoting it as well. This means you’ll get in front of a lot more people.

I’ve recently organised one cross-promotion and participated in a second. Both were very sucessful in terms of adding people to my author email list. In fact, they were almost too successful. I’m having to clean out my existing lists so I don’t have to switch to the paid version of MailChimp.

There are two main types of cross-promotion. The easiest to organise is when each entrant’s information is provided to each of the participating authors. The disadvantage of this approach is that entrants didn’t specifically request to join your mailing list, so you may have a large number unsubscribing.  However, they did consent for their information to be passed to each of the participating authors.

The other type is where entrants choose which author lists they want to opt in to. These are more difficult to organise. The advantage is they produce more engaged subscribers because they have proactively opted in to your list.

But how do you host a giveaway? I’ll be back next week to discuss the main options for organising or participating in online giveaways.

Do you have an email list? What listbuilding techniques have you found worked?

Book Review | How to Best Optimize Blog Posts for SEO

Book Review | How to Best Optimize Blog Posts for SEO

How to Best Optimize Blog Posts for SEO used to be a blog post, although the blog post had 20 tips and the book has 25. It is very short, and the actual content ends shortly after the halfway point (there is then a sample of the author’s 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge).

Thompson starts by explaining what SEO is and why it is important to bloggers and authors. I had read (and reread) the older blog post several times, but I still found several areas in which I can improve. What’s especially good is that the author provides links as well e.g. she says it’s important to have a great headline, then links to the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer.

Yes, SEO experts will know all this stuff. But I’ve read blog posts by some of these experts, and they are borderline unintelligible, or go into a lot of detail about things that aren’t relevant to book bloggers. I like Rachel Thompson’s simple, no-nonsense style, which is easy to understand and implement. It’s a short book but not expensive, and definitely worth the small investment.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

About How to Best Optimize Blog Posts for SEO

Are you unsure how generate more traffic to your blog? Do you feel overwhelmed by all the SEO articles out there (or not even sure what the term means)? Do you wish someone could break it down for you in simple steps?

Then this is the book for you!

Rachel provides you her top 25 tips laid out in easy to understand language gleaned from her own ten years of successful blogging as well as optimizing and managing countless client blogs. Containing a wealth of information, these tips will help you increase traffic to your site!

Topics include:
· SEO terms defined
· Specific ways to increase traffic to your blog right now
· How to optimize each post for maximum exposure on Google
· Ways to connect with readers
· How to integrate your blog posts on the various social media sites

If SEO confuses you, this is a great beginner breakdown for any new blogger, writer, veteran author, and even small businesses.

Find the book online at:

Amazon | Goodreads

About Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson is the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival and Los Angeles Book Festival and 5/5 Readers Favorite), and the multi award-winning and best-selling Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed.

Rachel founded BadRedhead Media in 2011, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader, FeminineCollective, BookMachine, BlueInk Review, and TransformationIsReal.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the blog-sharing hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs, the weekly live Twitter chat #SexAbuseChat, (Tuesdays, 6pm pst), and #BookMarketingChat (Wednesdays 6pm pst) to help writers learn how to market their work.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. A single mom, Rachel lives in California (with her two kids and two cats) where she daydreams about Thor. And sleep.

Five Myths Non-Writers Believe

Five Myths Non-Writers Believe

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a writer. But you weren’t always a writer. Once upon a time you were a reader and—perhaps—an aspiring writer.

Like me.

I’ve always been a reader. A bookworm, if you like. And like many readers, I also wanted to be a writer. Specifically, a novelist. I won two school writing competitions in high school and even went on a creative writing camp, but the endless essays of high school and university didn’t leave much time for personal reading or writing.

I didn’t know much about the publishing industry.

Okay. I didn’t know anything about the publishing industry.

I started reading for pleasure again when I got a job, but not writing: I already spent enough hours a day in front of a computer, writing client reports and our company newsletter. I had one colleague whose wife was writing a novel. I asked how it was progressing: he said she was still in the research phase, which was going to take her a year. I asked a few more times but stopped asking when I got a look that said she wasn’t making much progress (or not making as much as her husband thought she ought to be making).

I had another colleague who announced one day that he’d finished his novel. I asked when it was going to be published. Yes, I really thought it was that easy.

When I started researching the craft of writing and the business of publishing, I soon realised that many of my assumptions were incorrect. In particular, there were five myths I believed about writing:

  • Anyone can write a novel
  • Writing is a good way to earn some extra cash
  • Running spell check is enough editing
  • Getting a novel published is easy
  • Writers write. The publisher does the rest

Are you laughing yet? Or do some of my naïve ideas sound eerily familiar? I’ve since discovered my ideas were misguided. But I’ve also discovered there is an element of truth in some of them.

Anyone can write a novel

This is both wrong and right. Anyone can type 80,000 words and call it a novel. Slapping a cover on it and uploading to Amazon isn’t hard (it can’t be, given the quality of some of the novels on Amazon).

But writing a good novel is hard, and not just ‘anyone’ can do it. It takes patience, perseverance, and practice. And most people don’t make it.

Writing is an easy way to earn some extra cash

If you’re prepared to make money writing scam recipe books (using recipes copied from dodgy websites) or scam self-help books (using advice copied from wacko websites) or other scam books (using information copied from Wikipedia), then yes, writing can be an easy way to earn extra cash. Even better, hire someone on Fiverr to ghostwrite (or ghostcopy) the book for you.

But is that writing? It’s certainly not the writing dream so many people have. In reality, pursuing a career as a writer, especially a novelist, is going to cost you a lot of money before you earn anything from it. And most writers also have a day job to pay the bills.

Running spell check is enough editing

Once the manuscript is written, editing is just a matter of running spell check, followed by a quick read-through to make sure spell check hasn’t missed any your/you’re or their/there/they’re errors. That’s editing.

No, that’s running spell check. Editing goes into a lot more detail, and a good novel will have one gone through several stages of editing before it is published (not to mention being read and red-penned by critique partners and beta readers before it goes to the editor). And then it will be proofread—which is different again.

Getting a novel published is easy

Check out your local bookstore. Check out the publishers of those novels. Getting your novel published by one of those publishers isn’t easy. It’s a long way from easy.

But the advent of vanity publishers and self-publishing make it easy to find a publisher. Any vanity press will take your money, tell you you’ve written the next great American (or Australian or British or Canadian or New Zealand) novel, and for another $10,000 they’ll be able to put your novel in front of influential Hollywood producers (and take a first-class holiday in some swanky resort).

But self-publishing platforms such as Amazon, DrafttoDigital, iBooks, Kobo and Smashwords do provide newbie authors with a way of getting their novels published and printed and on sale. And it’s not difficult. But authors soon find that writing and publishing was the easy part . . .

Writers write. The publisher does the rest

This is the final myth, and is one that continues to drive new authors to traditional publishers. They don’t want to be involved in the publishing or the marketing. They want to write. Period. The problem with this myth is that all authors, no matter how they are published, all authors have to do more than write.

Even traditional publishers expect authors to contribute to their marketing efforts. At the very least, these will include a website (which the author pays for), social media profiles and regular updates (which the author undertakes herself, or pays someone else to manage), and attendance at certain industry events and conferences (which the author pays for). These efforts may or may not sell books.

Self-published authors have sole responsibility for marketing — there is no one else. They can just write, but then it’s likely no one will buy their books.

Myth or Truth?

Yes, there is an element of truth in each of these five myths. But more myth than truth. Oh, well. Back to the writing . . .

Writers, what myths have you heard that you now know aren’t true?

Readers, what do you believe about writers that might not be true?

Building Your Author Platform: Do I Need to be on Social Media?

Building Your Author Platform: Do I Need to be on Social Media?

Yes. And no.

In terms of building an author platform, you need methods of attracting potential new readers. Some people call this outreach. Social media is great for outreach. It’s not so great for selling.

The disadvantage of social media is that you don’t own the platform. If you infringe the rules of the social network, they can delete your account. This leaves you with no way of engaging with or converting potential readers. And that’s why a website and email list—things you own—are the two most important foundations of your author platform.

This happened to me last year: Twitter suspended my account. I got it back, but what if I hadn’t?

As I see it, there are two main functions of social networking for authors:

  1. To help us connect with readers
  2. To help us connect with other writers

This is why social networks are important. Writers often work in isolation, and online social networks provide us with valuable and necessary ways to connect with others. My favourite social network is Facebook, and I think of it as the water cooler in my virtual office, the place I head for a short break to recharge before starting the next item on my to-do list.

Connecting with Readers

I believe connecting with readers is more important to an author’s long-term success, because it is the readers who are going to buy your book (or books). For this reason, my suggestions around social networks are more focused on connecting with readers than with other writers–as this is the weak spot for most writers.

We need readers.

We need readers because they read our books. They talk about our books. They review our books. They buy our books. Sure, writers are also readers (or should be). But there are more readers than writers.

Connecting with Writers

Yes, connecting with writers is important, especially in the early stages of your writing. You need to learn to write, and other writers are going to be the people who help with that. Writers will be your first teachers, your first readers, your first fans. They will give you advice on what do, and what not to do. They will help you find a community, essential if your writing is ever going to be anything more than you and a computer.

But in the long term, connecting with readers is more important. Because while all writers are readers (or should be), not all readers are writers.

So what do you want or need from a social networking site:

  • The ability to connect with other users
  • A market demographic that matches your target reader

This means the social networks which are right for me might not be the same as those which are right for you. For example, I discovered as I was researching this post that there are specific social networks for specific groups (this probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did). For example:

  • MyMFB has 1.5+ billion followers, and is touted as the Muslim alternative to Facebook.
  • Twoo is a Belgian site geared to teenagers and twenty-somethings.
  • Renren (everyone’s website) is China’s largest social platform.
  • VK.com is the Russian version of Facebook.

None of these are appropriate social networks for me, as my target reader is a Christian with English as their first language.

But these social networks could be great options for writers targeting non-Christian readers in these countries and people groups.

So, no, you don’t need to be on every social network. But you probably do need to be active on a couple of social networks. And you do need your own author website (discussed in this post), and you almost certainly need an email list (click here if you’d like to join mine!).

Do you …
Know you need to start building your author platform but have no idea where to start?
Have a blog and a couple of social media accounts but don’t know what to do next?
Have a website, but aren’t sure if you’re on the right track?

Then join my March Marketing Challenge: Kick Start Your Author Platform. Click here for more information.

What’s your favourite social network, and why?

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop | Do I Need an Email List

Building Your Author Platform: Do I Need an Email List?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the author with the biggest email list wins.

Well, not quite.

It’s not exactly universally acknowledged. But successful indie authors use email lists and newsletters to build relationships with readers, then to sell. But the relationship comes first. Remember:

  • Attract
  • Engage
  • Convert

Potential readers may have been attracted to our website through a range of methods: social media (which I’ll talk about next week), word of mouth, advertising, a previous book. Email is a way of engaging with potential our target audience, and hopefully converting them into paying readers.

Yes, email newsletters sell books.

The BookBub List

Many indie authors are seeing huge sales success through accessing the giant of all mailing lists: BookBub. Their Christian Fiction list has over 800,000 subscribers. And that’s not even a big list—the biggest lists are Crime Fiction, Thrillers, Cozy Mystery and Historical Mystery, each of which has over 2.9 million subscribers.

This is why authors are prepared to pay big bucks to get a featured deal on BookBub: it’s getting your name in front of a lot of readers who have indicated they are interested in your genre. But BookBub also illustrates another truth of publishing:

Advertising sells books. But not many.

A Crime fiction paid listing will sell an average of 4,000 books—a little over 0.1%. So an advertising blast to 1,000 people (e.g. 1,000 Twitter followers) might sell one book.

Even a free BookBub Crime Fiction listing (the author paying to list a free book) will net an average of just 52,000 downloads—a little over 1% of those emailed. However, that’s still enough that most authors make back their advertising fee as people read the free book, then buy the next in the series.

But authors—indie, small press or traditional CBA—can’t afford to rely on BookBub or similar programs. For one, BookBub is inundated with authors willing to pay hundreds of dollars for an advertisement, so no one can guarantee a listing. The same goes for the other major ebook advertisers, such as EReaderNewsToday, and Inspired Reads. The answer: build your own list.

Build Your Own List

There are good reasons why authors should develop their own mailing lists, and the main one is control: you want to be able to control how and when you connect with readers, rather than being at the mercy of when BookBub will accept your book, or when your publisher will decide to promote you.

What do I Email?

Blog Post

Some authors email the full text version of each blog post. This is an easy feature to set up in MailChimp, and doesn’t even require you to write the email—MailChimp does all the work. I personally don’t like this approach as I’ve probably already read the blog post through Feedly. However, many readers report they check email more often than they check blogs, so this will work with some people.

Link to Blog Post

I’ve also found authors who send a link to their latest blog post, but with some extra information e.g. what motivated them to write the blog post. I rather like this approach – it’s not difficult (the hard part is writing the blog post), but it still gives newsletter subscribers something extra they wouldn’t get if they were only following the blog, something that makes them a little bit special. It also means you can alter your voice a little—I find newsletters often have a more chatty feel than blog posts.

Digest Email

Some authors send a digest of all the posts on their blog and guest posts they’ve written, in case you’ve missed any.

Exclusive Content

Some authors go to a lot of effort to produce an informative newsletter full of exclusive content (i.e. not something that’s previously appeared on a blog!). Randy Ingermanson’s Advanced Fiction Writing newsletter is a great example of this (and if you don’t subscribe to Randy’s newsletter, you should).

Special News

Some authors only send emails when they have special news to announce, like a new book release or a sale. While this is great, I’m not convinced it’s sharing often enough to build any form of relationship with readers, which might mean people unsubscribe when you do email simply because they can’t remember subscribing.

Automation Sequence

The email marketing experts recommend sending new subscribers an automated sequence of emails as soon as they opt in to your email list. This can be between one and five emails, and they are designed to engage with new subscribers.

Sales and Promotions

Some newsletters exist simply to share relevant sales and promotions, such as AppSumo and Goodriter. I don’t recommend this as an approach for fiction authors, and non-fiction authors should only use it with caution—you don’t want people unsubscribing because they think you sold them a dud.

Some newsletters are a mix: Randy includes information on sales and promotions, for example. My Christian Editing Services newsletter includes a digest, some exclusive content, and I feature books I’ve edited which are now on sale.

Do you have a newsletter? Which provider do you use? How often do you email? What content do you send? What do your readers seem to like?