31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 8: #WritersLift Shout-outs

<NUDGE NUDGE Have you followed 10 new people yet?>

**Don’t make a jpg like this! Use real, clickable #s**

How about a break from all that work we’ve been doing? Oh, we still have a task at hand, but it’s not at the level of the others. And it’s still imperative you complete it! This task is about uplifting others. It will feel so good!

If you haven’t been a part of the #writerslift movement on Twitter, now is your time to join the party.

Think about critique partners, for example. Find the right ones and they are worth their weight in gold, amiright? These gems of fellow writers, who you trust to read your work-in-progress, provide constructive feedback and help you improve your craft. They can act as a sounding board for ideas, catch typos and plot holes, and offer fresh perspectives on your writing. They are not only helpful, but supportive and committed. Aren’t they worthy of celebrating?

If you don’t have CPs at the moment, think about people who have helped you in any way this week or month. There are plenty of people that are helpful! Maybe their mentor texts or inspiring feeds. I mean, there are fellow authors you’ve never met that you can appreciate and connect with, by tagging them with a flattering shout-out, #writerslift post.

Today, Day 8, we are showing fellow authors some (virtual) love.

We’ll do that by giving them a shout-out across all your social media outlets using the hashtag #writerslift. This task is another example of how an automation tool is handy. You only have to post once if you use a scheduler, and it’ll go out to all your outlets at once. (Unless you did like I did and somehow managed to have three different posts go out at the same time, in the middle of the night, even though I was SURE I set them to go out over the course of 10 days. I refuse to believe user error, but I digress.)

Publicly acknowledging people not only shows gratitude, but boosts their profiles and helps to establish them as respected members of the writing community. You know they’d do it for you! In fact, they probably already have.

Make it pretty with a Canva-type app, or make it a simple text post. Your call. While of course it’s honestly the thought that counts, this is one time I suggest a regular post vs creating a graphic. Why? As you can see in the .png I created above, there is no way to tag my CPs in the image, so I have to tag them each all over again in the post–and I have to add the #writerslift tag to the post anyway. WHY DO I MAKE THINGS SO HARD FOR MYSELF lol. Just make a simple post for this.

BTW it’s here that I figured out you can post directly to social media from Canva! Sheesh, all this time on Buffer… But I’m keeping Buffer since it lets me schedule in the future, and Canva makes me upgrade in order to do that, and pay $$ monthly or annually. Even though I can stay at that one site and it makes it super easy, I’m too cheap to do it. I’ll go one at a time on this one.

Some tips for creating feel-good #writerslift shout-outs:

  1. Be specific: Details, baby! Mention your critique partners or friends by their full name and highlight what they’ve done to help you. Did they catch a major plot hole? Publish a PB that inspires you to be a better writer? Support you when no one else thought you could do it? Make sure to give credit where credit is due.
  2. Be generous: Don’t be shy. Offering praise to someone who has helped you means A LOT to them, esp if you’re not the touchy-feely type. It can help build the group’s morale and strengthen the CP relationship. Knowing it had an impact on you can help encourage them to be helpful to others again in the future. And it will warm your own heart at the same time!
  3. Be authentic: Don’t write a generic post just for the sake of giving a shout-out. A list of names is great, but it’s virtual lip service. Write with sincerity and share genuine appreciation. If you can’t be specific to any one piece of feedback for whatever reason, it’s okay to list each person’s handle in one post and thank them for their support over the years or months. The important thing is you are, well, lifting them up in the #writerslift.

You DON’T have to go big or go home

The kidlit industry is FULL of kind-hearted, helpful people like you. Shout-outs like this keeps that supportive feeling alive. Simply saying thanks to one person can make you both feel good!

One great example of an AMAZING week-long show of author love in May, created and run by fellow PB author @SylviaiChen. It’s a (free) weeklong co-celebratory event with prizes that is everything our Day 8 is about: uplifting and recognizing our fellow writers and illustrators! She created her own hashtags and amazingly fun Canva graphics that she posts on Twitter and Insta, and has creatively come up with Like and RT incentives. What an effective and thoughtful way to give mass shout-outs! This goes above and beyond any shout-out Tweet I would have thought up.

Don’t worry, I don’t expect level that from you! She probably worked on that for months. You can take 11 mins 🙂

Recap: Send (several) posts thanking your crit partners and anyone who has helped make you a better writer, and use the #writerslift hashtag. Be specific with the appreciation if you can, and don’t tag too many people in one post.

Share the love!

PS I am thankful for you, cheering me on and helping keep me accountable this month!

31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 9: Why a Newsletter?

[Before we start, have you followed 10 new people yet?]

Talk Directly to Those Who WANT to Hear From You

person holding a pencil and writing on an envelope
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Why are we talking about newsletters today?

One of the problems with social media is that it casts a wide net. Everyone from everywhere is scrolling and watching. You never know who is paying attention so you never know if what you’re saying is being heard.

Think about placing a billboard on a busy freeway.

Yes, a TON of people will see it.

But are they the right people?

I mean, what do you know about those people? They have cars, or know someone with a car well enough to be in one. Or they take public transportation which means they have someplace to go. You don’t know their age, their reading habits, their preference for Italian food. Nothing other than they are driving on that road. You don’t even know if they’ve looked up and read the sign. Is it worth spending time and money to get the attention of these strangers? Sure there are lots so even 5% of those numbers is probably a high number. But dang it’s a lot of work.

Now think of sending invites to a party at your house. Maybe you send 10, or 100, or 1,000. Of that, maybe you get 50% of invitees that end up attending. Or maybe it’s 25%. Yes, it’s a smaller pool of people. But the people who attend know you. They have read the invitation, they know what they are getting into. And they like you enough to set aside time to attend your soiree. While this pool of people is certainly smaller, they are already on your side. They are the right people.

Why am I telling you all this?

Social media is the billboard.

A mailing list is the invites to your house party.

If you’ve never thought about creating a newsletter, have a seat.

If you have a mailing list that you send a newsletter to, it’s to people that WANT to hear from you. They have willingly agreed to it. Why would you invite people you wouldn’t want at your party? That’s the equivalent of wasting time and money shouting in the void trying to talk to anyone that will listen rather (a billboard) than to the RIGHT people that you want to hear your message (your personal mailing list).

Today, DAY 9, we are not just thinking about creating a newsletter. I have made the executive decision that we will create one! We aren’t going zero to sixty right now, don’t panic. We aren’t writing it right now. Today we are going to spend time brainstorming what your newsletter should be about, and how often it makes sense to send it.

If you already have a newsletter, another GOLD STAR FOR YOU! You aren’t off the hook, though, as today you’ll analyze how you’ve been approaching your newsletter. Have you, or when was the last time you applied the below WHO WHY WHEN WHAT HOW questions to your newsletter readers? Read through the rest of this and make sure what you’ve been doing has been the best approach. You can also spend time looking into potential new templates or services, since technology and offerings have bound to have changed since you started. If you’ve done all of the above recently, get yourself a treat and accept this virtual high five! Alas, you still don’t get the day off, though, lol. I’d like you to come up with a short newsletter to send TODAY to touch base with your subscribers. Give them an update on your writing journey or fun and random “Today I Learned” or send them a video greeting to brighten their day. Tell them you just wanted to say hi and hope they are having a great day!

If you need stats on why I am insisting on a newsletter, here are some:

According to marketer Karen Ferriera, studies show a newsletter gets 50 to 100x more click-throughs than a FB or Twitter post. Gaining new followers on either of those two can be 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining the people you already have on your mailing list. I am 100% certain that is because your mailing list is full of “your people,” ones you don’t have to keep convincing to like you. They already do, or they wouldn’t (continue to) be on your list. Mailmunch.com says with 2,000 email subscribers and 2,000 Facebook fans and 2,000 followers on Twitter, a tweet will get you an average of 40 views, FB pages get you 120 views…and 435 people will open your email.

So…that’s why we are looking to create a newsletter.

We first need to take a few steps back. Let’s start with: WHY do you want an email list?

Grab your handy notebook and start a new NEWSLETTER heading. Write down the reason WHY you want a newsletter (not just because “Bitsy told me.” You need your own internal motivation.)

Spoiler alert: your “why” is ultimately to build your brand and ultimately sell your books. BUT—this is important—the very second it starts feeling like a blatant commercial to buy buy buy, they will abandon ship and you’ll be left with one person, your Aunt Mary, who would never unsubscribe because she loves you so much and also because she doesn’t know how.

As emphasized by Catia Shattuck’s article in Book Cave, “Remember that while you can use your newsletter to sell more books, the main part of your newsletter shouldn’t be selling your books. Your newsletters allow readers to get to know you, and then, just a small note about a new release will result in them buying your book. If you just use your newsletter to advertise your books, you will lose subscribers.”

Your “why” should really be engagement with your audience. Or interaction. Relationship building. All of those lead to sales. Eventually. A quick sale isn’t what we are after right now.

WHO we are talking to?

In that notebook, describe in detail WHO your newsletter audience is, or who you want your audience to be.

  • Who reads your books — and/or who is responsible for buying them? The clarification is important; I write picture books for 4-8 year olds, but it’s parents–mostly moms–that buy the books. I am not going to write a newsletter to 4-8 year-olds but to parents of them. YA might be tricky as they are minors, so maybe you want to consider a newsletter to librarians and book buyers?
  • How are these people signing up for your mailing list? That might affect or limit who your newsletter audience is. If you think your list of indy book sellers will max out at 10, it might not be a great place to spend your efforts, and you should think of a different audience. (Alternatively you can spend a lot of time and energy and maybe money trying to figure out how to reach that audience and get them to your social media outlets and signing up for newsletter.)

Once you figure out who you are talking to, you can starting thinking about WHAT you’re gonna talk about and WHY.

In your notebook, brainstorm 10 newsletter ideas and things you are comfortable writing about or researching, WHAT you think your audience would enjoy hearing about. Under each idea, make note of why you would write about that topic.

I have one writer friend that has a 4x/year newsletter that talks about where she’s held visits, what books she has coming up, awards or recognition she’s rec’d, etc. While it sounds self-serving, it works for her because of how many books she has out and how full her calendar is, not to mention it’s likable, engaging, and well written. If you are pre-published this broad appeal might not work well for you. Think about what you would say to your audience that is something they want to hear. What will it take to give them a newsletter worth reading?

  • What do you know or could you talk about that would be of interest to that audience?
  • What “felt/need” can you speak to? Tips for overwhelmed moms or moms of twins? Librarians looking for diversity and representation in picture books? Writers of a specific genre or age range looking to become better writers?

In the above example of my prolific friend, her audience appears to be anyone that has purchased her books and might purchase her books in the future, and in that one newsletter she effectively speaks to moms, fellow writers, librarians, PTAs, indy book sellers, and bulk book buyers all at the same time. She has been doing this for a while; it is not her first rodeo. You can work your way up there–pls do not attempt this with your first newsletter. I think at first you need to narrow down your WHO and WHAT in order to perfect your voice before broadening out.

If your brain froze on WHAT your newsletter might be about, here are a few tips on getting the o’ creative juices a-flowin’:

  • Try a mind map to visualize your ideas and see how they connect. Online mind-mapping tools include MindMeister and XMind.
  • Free associate: write down any words or phrases that come to mind, no matter how random they may seem. This can help you to come up with new and creative ideas.
  • Take a break. Sometimes the best way to come up with new ideas is to stop thinking about it. Walk away. Go for a walk, listen to music, or do something else to relax and clear your head. The reason so many good ideas happen in the shower is that we stopped stressing and allowed our minds to go back to their normal state of creative flow.

Now the WHEN.

You need to decide WHEN. How often will you send it? Monthly? Seasonally? Around major holidays? Think about often you are sent newsletters. You know the difference between too many too often (annoying!) and not often enough (forgetting they exist until you see it in your inbox).

Know that your timing can be fluid. I want to share a super short and simple newsletter from a cookie bakery that I just got, that floored me with its thoughtfulness and kindness. It came out of the blue, not on their usual schedule. Tell me this doesn’t show they care about their customers!

If you can get to this level of connection with your subscribers, you have won!

Back to your list. Take a look at the list of ten ideas you wrote down. How viable are they? Prioritize them. Given that list, what makes the most sense as to how often the newsletter should go out? Hint:

Weekly is too often, I don’t care how charming you are.

Once a year is not often enough.

Find your happy medium.

Now comes the elusive HOW.

…as in, how will you gather emails, and how will you mass mail/send out the newsletters you write? That will take a bit of looking into that you don’t need to decide now, but will def take time to nail down. How will you send the newsletter out? What service will you use? Tomorrow we’ll talk about email capture services, which is actually a slightly different beast than newsletter distribution. You might find a solution that does both. You’ll need to figure all that out before going to proverbial print.

Recap: You need a newsletter, stats say. What will be the Who, What, When, Why, Where/How for yours?

Now get to thinkin’! Write down all your thoughts. Plan on making changes to these thoughts and plans. nothing is in stone.

31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 10: Pop-up & Capture

[Before we start, have you followed 10 new people yet?]

How to add a pop-up to capture email addys for your newsletter

Now that we’ve (almost?) figured out what our next several newsletters are going to be, we need to find a way to build our email list. Creating the actual sign-up form isn’t a piece of cake, if we’re being honest. Not impossible, but it’s potentially tedious. Today we cover some tips on creating a form on your website that will automatically capture emails for you:

Creating a signup form on your website

You need to choose a service that will create a pop-up form for you to add to your website (I’m assuming you won’t create the code yourself). Check with your website host to see if they have one already built in; what a godsend if so! Otherwise check out the many available (always try free first!) services like Mailchimp, HubSpot, ConvertKit, AWeber, GetResponse, ConstantContact. They’ll have pop-up templates you can customize to match your brand.

Anyone who signs up via the pop-up will be set aside and placed in an email list for you. Many services also offer newsletter templates you can create and send directly from their site, without having to download and transfer the list, so look for that. I’m all about as few steps as possible. But I’m also about as cheap as possible, if I’m being honest. So do your homework. Right now I’m using a relatively seamless plugin, but TBH it took two days of research to figure out, and another to implement. I first went with Mailchimp but then added MailPoet plugin meaning ultimately upgrading ONCE AGAIN to do it all from WordPress. I guess simpler does have a cost that is worth it.

  1. Find out things like where do the emails go, if you are notified when people sign up, how many free addresses allowed, etc. (With free the MailPoet I now use I get the first 1,000 addys for free—but as mentioned I had to upgrade a few levels of WordPress to be able to add the free plug in…is anything worth it ever easy?)
  2. Pick and personalize the look of the pop-up form from a template they provide. Adjust colors and fonts to match your brand.
  3. Determine when and where your pop-up form will show up. You should be able to decide if it appears on every page of your site, if it fades in or sparkles, how long it stays up, does it appear when people arrive at your site or when they leave, etc.
  4. Use a strong or fun call to action. Tell people WHY they should sign up for your newsletter, what to expect, and what they’ll get in return. “Sign up for my monthly newsletter chock full of industry insights and news, and get a free xxx. Offer ends Aug 31st so sign up soon!”
  5. Add it your website asap. No excuses for waiting. If it’s not perfect, fix it later. JUST GET IT UP! Done is better than perfect! Most form builders will provide the code needed to add to your website so you just copy and paste. Some offer simpler drag-and-drop option. (My upgraded plug was a download so I didn’t have to open a new account.)
  6. Now go to the program where you created the form, and figure out a sequence of events that happens once people sign up. Do you want a confirmation or Thank You email to be automatically sent once they hit ENTER? Create it now. They’ll walk you through it.

Does this make sense? Take your time.

Do your best to make it happen today. Create the form. See it through, even if it’s a PITA (pain in the ***). You don’t have to go live today, just have ALL the groundwork done today.

Recap: create a pop-up sign-up form for your soon-to-be launched newsletter.

Tomorrow we start working on your “lead magnet” — the incentive to get people to use that sign up form.

31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 12: Let’s Make Freebies

[Before we start, have you followed 10 new people yet?]

Make it and they will come

Remember in Day 10 of our author platform challenge we talked about dangling a freebie to get people to sign up for your mailing list, and in Day 11 we brainstormed ten potential freebies? Today, Day 12, we are going to pick one of those freebie ideas, and create it.

If you love the idea of the coloring pages option but are pre-published so you don’t have a book let alone an illustrator who could work with you on it, by all means keep that idea on your list. But for today, pick a different freebie to work on.

Hmm, what to work on? Think…What are you known for? What are you comfortable talking about ? What you are an expert in?

I knew I wanted to create the “Secrets to Writing a Query” as my lead magnet because A) most of my followers right now are fellow authors and B) over the years, as I review my spreadsheet, it appears I have written over 200 of them. Does that mean I have 200 acceptances? Oh by no means no. But it DOES mean I know what DOESN’T work, lol. I also looked up what editors and agents have to say about it, and combined that with my own experience. That’s what makes me uniquely qualified to offer suggestions and advice on the topic, IMHO. And I know it’s a hot topic that everyone searches online for tutorials on.

I created it in Word. It’s not fancy. It’s in black and white with no graphics. The emphasis I chose is content, not outward creativity. I am a writer, not a graphic designer. I don’t have time to make it look like a business form, nor is that my goal. Sure, I could try running it through PowerPoint or whatever, but done is better than pending. I encourage you to not obsess over making it perfect.

Repeat after me….

Get to work on creating that freebie document or packet so when you install that pop-up and start collecting emails, you are instantly ready to roll. You’ll be able to set the sequence so all new subscribers are emailed the freebie the second they hit the enter button! (I personally set it to arrive two minutes after, so I don’t look too needy, lol.)

Recap: create that lead magnet freebie. Right now.

Feel free to share your pop-up link below so we can sign up to your mailing list and, and see your finished product! Include your link in the comments, or tag #31DayAuthorPlatformChallege and we’ll do our best to find it!

Don’t forget to subscribe (enter yer email in top right column) to be sent these daily tasks directly; you won’t have to remember to keep checking back every day. I don’t want anyone falling behind!

31 Day Author Platform Challenge Day 14: How to Boost Sign-ups

cheerful young woman screaming into megaphone
Photo by Andrea
Piacquadio on Pexels.com

[Oh, wait, before we start, have you followed 10 new people yet?]

On Day 14 of our platform challenge we are going to go back to getting people to sign up for our email list by dangling our freebie; we’ll create and kick off a giveaway campaign. Yes, today. No sense wasting time.

As we talked about in Day 11, the most effective way to entice people into giving up their email address is to offer them something exclusive (and free) such as a downloadable set of coloring pages/activity guide/curriculum tie-ins, discount code, or exclusive content. Those freebies are called a “lead magnet” (as you know from earlier posts on Day 10 & 11) and we have already worked on them (Day 12) so your should be shiny and ready to roll.

Online promos are another option, are easy, and can work magic. “RT and win” is a social media example that we’ll create today.

This post is kinda long but the campaign task is in the second half, and honestly isn’t too much work. But before we get there…

Ways to get email sign ups–with or without the pop-up

Here are some ideas besides giveaways on ways to get people to sign up for your newsletter (or, quite frankly, to follow you on social media). I wasn’t sure where to put this info, and it’s not an exact fit here, but here ya go…

  • Social media ads: I have never tried them TBH but at some point I will. It’s always an option and I like it because you can start at like $1/day and see where gets you before deciding to go further. Use with or without freebie.nThere’s a great breakdown on true cost of social media ads; bear in mind that article is for small businesses that are looking for much larger output than we are. But it’s a great frame of reference. If you’ve used them before, please share your experience!
  • Be prepared: When you attend industry events or signings, either have your laptop open to the SUBSCRIBE (or Follow/Like) page so all they have to do is enter their name, or have an old-school clipboard handy for them to write their email. Incentive optional (but more effective).
  • If in person such as at a conference or signing where you have a table, offering a “onetime day-of-the-event giveaway raffle” for those that sign up is a huge incentive! Giveaway could be as little as a $15 card to a local bookstore or credit to your personal bookstore, one of your signed books, a small trinket, or a free ZOOM author visit. Have a posterboard with the specifics announcing your giveaway and how/what they’ll win.
  • Post on social media: Share your newsletter signup (or social media handles) link across all social media channels and encourage your followers to sign up. Facebook author pages allow direct link; Shopify says you’ll need something like LinkTree for Instagram and others. You can also try social media ads to target people you think you might not otherwise reach. Again, freebie optional but bound to help.

Given all that info, today we are still going to focus on freebies and create a promo around it–one that you’ll post across social media.

What freebie did you decide on a few days ago, and is it ready like it’s supposed to be? Get on it because the promo plan should go live TODAY. It’s going to be a “RT& Win” campaign.

Let’s test out that freebie!

RT & Win Campaign

Going back to Day 10–is your pop-up installed and active yet? I hope yes. It needs to be, as we have a game to play! As soon as you are done creating your free lead magnet, hold a “RT, Follow & Win” contest across your social media platforms. The rules are that if people sign up for your newsletter (give them the direct link) and also RT the post, and they’ll be sent the FREE [insert freebie here]. Give a deadline so people have to “act now.” A few days or a week is probably good, as you never know when the RT will be seen by the people who RT the RT.

RT & Win

It will take some work for you to verify each new newsletter subscriber has RTed (they only get freebie if they do!), so FOR NOW un-check the pop-up option that has new subscribers automatically getting the welcome email and download.

But how exciting. You are building your list!

Isn’t this fun?

You should get a sense of whether or not your freebie has legs based on the excitement it generates. If people aren’t RTing it, that means not only do they not see value, but they don’t think their peers will either. This is good information to have! Now you know and you haven’t wasted your pop-up offer on something lame. Move on to the next item on your list and try that on for size.

A lack of RTs could also simply mean you haven’t promoted it well enough. Ask your critique partners and a few close friends to help you promote it. I don’t think it’s worth a $5 social media ad yet but you might, your call.

Recap: Time to start collecting emails from that pop-up you created! Create a quick “RT & Win” promo and set it live TODAY! [Your freebie has to be complete, and your email list collection has to be set up first.]

You can change it up and redo this “RT & Win” several times a year, basically any time you have new content or news to share, or need a boost. You can have them RT your book cover and win swag, for example; it doesn’t have to always be signing up for your newsletter. People LOVE free stuff!

Come back here in a few days and tell me how this promo shakes out for you! I’m excited to try it myself.