Self-Publishing Newsletters in Responsive Web Design (RWD)

Over the past several weeks I’ve been discussing the milestones involved in migrating the Outskirts Press web presence and email communication to RWD (responsive web design), which I defined here.

page-2_img01-1Those milestones were:

  1. Landings Pages
  2. Email Communication
  3. Newsletters
  4. Author Webpages
  5. Outskirts Press External
  6. Outskirts Press Internal

We’ve already discussed the new RWD landing pages and the on-going process of migrating our various forms of email communication with our client-authors.  October 15 marked the first newsletter to be formatted online and distributed via email in RWD, and it was a great success. Today was the second such distribution (seeing how today is the closest business day to the first of the month).

The distribution of the newsletter is a three step process.  An email version gets sent out via email to the client-authors who have subscribed to it.  In the past, this email would contain the entirety of the newsletter content, and in HTML tables that were pretty rigid (non “liquid”) irregardless of device.  The result on a desktop monitor was fine, and even on most tablets it looked pretty good.  But if you were receiving our emailed newsletter on your smartphone (as more and more people are doing), it was challenging to read because the HTML tables forced the whole design (and therefore the fonts) to be too small for easy viewing.

So step one was to design a new RWD version of the emailed newsletter.  And, in doing so, we also truncated the sections so they were shorter (no one likes scrolling forever and ever on their phone), which encourages more click-thrus to our online website version to “read the full story.”

The second step, therefore, was creating that online website version of the newsletter, also in RWD.  And you can see that version by clicking here.  If you take your mouse and “grab” the corner of your browser window and “slide” it larger or smaller or wider or narrower, you can see how the RWD reacts dynamically to the size of your browser.

The third step is distributing the newsletter content through our various social media channels, which begins with posting it on the Outskirts Press blog, where it is picked up via RSS syndication for distribution to our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Done and done.

And that brings us to the fourth milestone in our full migration to RWD — the author webpages.  And I’ll start that (larger) subject next time.

Start marketing your book as you are writing it

For the last month and a half, my posts have focused on my participation in National Novel Writing Month, which tasks writers to compose 50,000 words to a book within the 30 days of November.  During the month, as WriMo’s (as they are called) write their books, they also converse with “buddies” online, commiserate in forums,  and some even attend local “Write-Ins” in person, where they can write alongside other NaNoWriMo participants. And all of this helps them do something that ALL writers should do — market their book AS they are writing it.

This is good advice regardless of whether you are writing a book in a month, or in a year; and Outskirts Press has recently published a book by one of the best social media marketing authors, Mirtha Michelle Castro Marmol, who uses multiple social media platforms to engage her audience for both her acting career and her writing career.

Author and actress Mirtha Michelle Castro Marmol is perhaps best known for her roles in the “Fast & Furious” franchise and the upcoming film, “AWOL-72.” Her first book of poetry, Letters, To The Men I Have Loved, was released by Outskirts Press in June of 2014 and quickly climbed through the bestseller ranks. In a recent interview with us, Mirtha Michelle credits much of her success to a quality relationship with what she calls her “social media family.” In her own words, here are four simple tips she offers to the newly published author:

  1. Diversify your platform. Mirtha Michelle keeps readers up-to-date on her activities and poetry through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram-a rigorous and diverse digital platform that ensures her words reach as many people as possible. “Social media has helped me get to know my readers and my audience,” she says, and it is important that she reach her readers wherever they are to be found.
  2. Create original content, and regularly. “Two years ago,” Mirtha Michelle tells us, “I just posted about my life a little bit-my outfits, if I went out somewhere exciting, and so on. But after a while, I started posting quotes I liked, and I started to see that social media was an outlet to express myself and show what I was working on.” She began posting more intentionally about her ongoing projects, with the intent of bringing her followers alongside as her work continues to evolve: “I see it as a job, to be honest. I pay close attention to my social media.” She makes a point of posting new and original content several times a week, including artistically and professionally shot photographs of her poetry.
  3. Positivity helps. Mirtha Michelle’s initials make up a personalized hashtag, #MMCM. This hashtag helps her readers connect across social media platforms, and has become a bastion for positivity and healthy relationships. In their comments on her blog, fans often cite her work as instrumental in helping them through difficult times. “I wish I could reply to every single person who writes a comment,” she says, “and I wish I could thank every person.” It can be challenging to keep up with every follower, but Mirtha Michelle goes to great lengths to ensure they know she’s listening: “I try to respond to everyone on Tumblr, because I really, really care.” Readers return to Mirtha Michelle’s blog, and her poetry, again and again-in large part because of her optimism and her genuine interest in their lives.
  4. Be authentic. “Write your heart,” Mirtha Michelle advises. “Imagine you’re meditating with your computer, with words. Really listen to your soul, so you can express what it wants to say.” Even on social media, she tells us, “I don’t try to be anything I’m not.”

Mirtha Michelle’s book, Letters, To The Men I Have Loved, is available through iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the Outskirts Press Direct bookstore.

My NaNoWriMo stats for yesterday, November 5, 2014:

Average Per Day 1833
Words Written Today 2371
Target Word Count 50,000
Target ~ Words/Day 1,667
Total Words Written 9165
Words Remaining 40,835
Current Day 5
Days Remaining 26
At this rate, you’ll finish November 28
Words/Day to finish on time 1,571

Self Publishing Branding on Social Media Channels

On this blog I have often discussed the topic of marketing & branding, particularly as it applies to self publishing and social media (sites like Facebook and YouTube, etc.).  In fact, in some specific posts in the past, I displayed graphics presenting the way in which Outskirts Press brands itself on multiple social media channels in an effort to market our brand consistently.  Previously, these graphics featured the tagline: Write Anything, Publish Everything, Market Everywhere along with three individuals in the act of writing, publishing, and marketing, respectively.

As is so often the case, Facebook and YouTube then decided to change their “look” once again. And at roughly the same time, Outskirts Press added Pinterest to our list of active social media channels.  Plus, we wanted to concentrate more specifically on the monthly promotions and discounts we offer.  Self Publishing is becoming more competitive than ever before, and even though Top Consumer Reviews has rated Outskirts Press the #1 self-publishing company (more on that in the near future), we still have to compete aggressively for those authors who shop based solely on price (rather than high quality and service).

So our promotions became the focal point of our branding considerations. And we wanted to continue to carry that branding & marketing across our growing family of social media sites which now includes Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, YouTube, various blogs, Google Plus, and Pinterest.

Like everything, branding and promotion begins on our own website, where we hold the most control over look and functionality. So here is an example of how a monthly promotion appears on our home page:

Self publishing branding at Outskirts Press
Self Publishing Branding at Outskirts Press

Facebook was next.  We wanted to utilize the “Cover” graphic Facebook allocates for branding purposes to visually connect the same promotion, while still simultaneously mentioning other monthly events occurring on our Facebook page AND continuing to remind new visitors to “Like” us:

Self publishing branding on Facebook
Self Publishing branding on Facebook

Since Facebook superimposes a square Avatar graphic in the lower left-hand corner of the Cover Graphic, our Facebook graphic also attempts to incorporate that into the overall design aesthetic by using a “lifestyle” image of people engaged in the act of reading and/or writing (typically with large smiles on their faces).  Facebook Terms of Service prevent us from placing our actual URL in this cover graphic (although if you look around at other Facebook pages, there are plenty of companies doing it anyway), so we simply say “Visit our website for details” and then include a link to our site in the “About” box directly below the Avatar graphic.

This “Visit our Website” wording is also helpful on YouTube, which also superimposes a URL over whatever Cover Graphic you upload.  YouTube’s Channel lay-out changed recently by “borrowing” the same “Cover Graphic” concept from Facebook.  In their case, however, the cover graphic specifications are more demanding because YouTube accounts for various platforms, resolutions, and even high-retina displays like the iPad 2+.    All of this falls under the realm of “Responsive Website Design” which, if I find time, I will begin to blog about more in the future as Outskirts Press begins to make that design transition for all our online properties. But, in the meantime, just know that creating the cover graphic for YouTube requires an initially HUGE graphic that is then dynamically cropped to appear correctly on multiple devices.  Easier said than done, but we ultimately end up with this.

Self publishing branding on YouTube
Self Publishing Branding on YouTube

You can see that the actual “content” of the graphic is respectively small in this sample due to the requirements of the Responsive Website Design specifications for this graphic. In other words, this graphic has to look just as good on an iPhone being held vertically, which decreases the width of this graphic substantially.

Next comes Linked-In, which fortunately, doesn’t yet concern itself with Responsive Website Design specifications for its uploads (although I imagine that is simply a matter of time), so we’re safe uploading a fairly cut-n-dry image of a set height and width:

Self publishing branding on Linked-In
Self Publishing Branding on Linked-In

Pinterest is next, and given the constraints set out by their “Boards” we’re unable to use optimal graphics for the Board page, leaving us with this:

Self publishing branding on Pinterest
Self Publishing Branding on Pinterest

That leaves three other self publishing social media channels for Outskirts Press:  Twitter,  Self-Publishing News, and Google +.   They don’t fall so easily into the above branding category, so I’ll discuss them next time…

Brent Sampson updates: Facebook Achievements

In an effort to catch up on my blog postings from the nearly two week hiatus I took due to other priorities and responsibilities, I’m providing brief summaries of some of the recent events and “goings-on” at Outskirts Press. One of the major initiatives we are launching this summer to help self publishing authors gain more exposure for their own writing, publishing, and marketing accomplishments is our FACEBOOK ACHIEVEMENTS.

For those who haven’t heard of the term “gamification,” this is the concept of motivating “action” in a user-base by providing awards and public recognition for accomplishing certain tasks — in essence, making a “game” out of something that is typically seen as more “mundane.”   Of course, the most common examples of “gamification” are seen in video games themselves, when you “level up” or pass a certain stage or build a certain character to a certain level of “experience points.”  These are gamification elements because they provide an award for accomplishing a task or passing a milestone.

Relatively recently, businesses have started applying the same concept to motivate clients and customers to take certain actions. Four Square recognizes its users with Major badges, for instance, when said users visit certain local businesses with enough frequency.

Our own gamification functionality has been in development for a while now and is going to launch live within the coming months. Yesterday we posted an invitation on our Facebook page for Outskirts Press published authors to volunteer for an open Beta Test of the awards program.  We’re looking for 20-40 volunteers to receive their first Beta Award in recognition and thanks for helping us test this new feature.  They will be provided with instructions on how to notify us if something doesn’t work quite right.  Then, when it launches, Outskirts Press will be connected automatically with a user’s Facebook account and will broadcast the author’s major publishing & marketing accomplishments to all his or her friends.  Of course, an author can easily opt-out of the program at any time.  Based upon preliminary feedback, our authors are excited about the new feature and we are excited to be launching it for them soon.

Book publishing with Outskirts Press – Submitting your galley review edits

Submitting edits to your interior file takes place on this screen of your Publishing Center:

Rather than “front” or “back” or “spine” which were the only location choices for your cover, the location choices for any corrections you want made to your interior are a little more specific, and involve the PDF page # and the line #.  We ask for the PDF page number and not the document page number because most books have fore-matter and back-matter that rarely have page numbers.  But the PDF proof will always have a page number, and that is the numbering scheme to use when reporting errors and corrections.

The process is largely the same as indicating corrections to your cover, with one noticeable advantage. You can cut and paste directly from the PDF file and directly into the “Error” box, making this process quicker and less prone to errors.  You also get 25 corrections instead of 10 and in our experience, the majority of our authors use the majority of those free edits.   They often just see a word here, or a period there, or a question mark over there that they want to change.  This is not the time for massive re-writes, but it IS the time to catch spelling errors, punctuation errors, and the misuse of words.  And even if you require more than 25 free edits to correct everything, now is the most cost-effective time to make every necessary correction.   Additional blocks of 25 edits are available for a very nominal fee. Purchase all you need to make your book perfect.

Alternatively, we offer a flat reformatting fee for $99 which allows you to make all your corrections onto your own word processor file and then resubmit it to us for formatting again from scratch.  This is often a preferable course of action if you have a LOT of corrections or if you find the online cut-n-paste edit forms too cumbersome.  Different strokes for different folks and we try to accommodate all preferred styles of submitting corrections to us.

When you’re done entering all your edits (make sure you are truly done to avoid any unnecessary fees), click the “I’m all done with interior edits” button, and accept the following pop-up language about finalization of your proofs and the fees that could apply if you want to make more corrections later. If we do ever hear complaints about “hidden fees” from one author in a hundred, it’s here — but the reality is that these fees are not hidden. We tell you about them up-front and in advance, multiple times; and we give you ample opportunities to avoid them.  Please take advantage of that by making sure you catch all your errors during this galley review stage. That’s what it’s here for.

Self publishing with Outskirts Press – Free interior galley edits

Submitting your interior edits requires a quick check-out process through your shopping cart. If all you had were 25 edits or less, your revisions are completely free:

And then, just like when you first began the production process, your Publishing Center returns to the Production Phase screen, which means we have received your edits and are correcting your book according to what you provided to us:

This period of time depends upon the number of corrections you’ve submitted, obviously, and ends when you receive another email notifying you that your Proofs are again ready to review. At this point, the Review Process begins all over again. And hopefully you caught everything the first time so now you can just “Go to Print!” on your files.

Once you have approved both your cover file and interior file, we initiate our own internal QC and Pre-Media review. This is not a subjective review of your book to make sure you didn’t miss any spelling mistakes; that’s your responsibility and we trust you reviewed your proofs thoroughly before telling us to “Go to Print.” No, our review is a technical one to make sure your book is going to meet our high standards from a technical standpoint. Once it passes both our QC and Pre-Flight tests, we submit all your information for print-on-demand printing and distribution-on-demand wholesale & online distribution…. And what happens next? You receive an exciting email notifying you of publication…

Congratulations! Your book is published!

And then one of the most exciting moments happens, your book is published! Congratulations!

Now, your Publishing Center looks like this with YOUR book cover, just like we see our new Fandemonium Volume 2 on our dashboard.  You’ll notice that I can still manage my Volume 1 by choosing it from among my “Active Titles” along the left-hand side.

And that takes us full circle…. Now it’s time to start self-publishing ANOTHER book, isn’t it?

Facebook fan leader boards and “Fan of the Week” kudos

I know I should be discussing the proofing process at Outskirts Press, and I will get back to that next week, but in celebration of our passing 5,000 fans on our Outskirts Press Facebook Page, I wanted to mention some of the new apps we added to not only encourage more participation from our FB friends, but to give them recognition for that participation, as well.  Of course, anything that I discuss regarding Facebook is a little up in the air, since apparently, the Fan Pages on Facebook will be changing to a new design on March 30.   But if the “Preview” is to be believed, this new design will incorporate the oft-debated “Timeline” design that Facebook unveiled for the Personal pages a little while ago.  This re-design shouldn’t affect what we’re doing with our Fan Recognition Programs, which I’ll discuss now:

The first is a “Fan of the Week” award, which will publicly recognize a random fan of our Facebook page for participation on our wall — which gives public kudos to fans who have actively engaged in liking something, commenting on something, or posting something.  Each week, a new Fan will be chosen, recognized on our wall, and will be featured on a new Fan of the Week page on our Facebook Page, with his/her user profile “up in lights.”  The purpose, of course, is to encourage other fans/friends to participate, so they will become the next Fan of the Week. The more you participate, the greater your chances to be chosen as the Fan of the Week.

To that end, we also launched a Top Fans app, which goes one step further.  Every Sunday we will recognize the top weekly fans who are responsible for the most likes, the most comments, and the most posts.  The top 5 fans in each category will be listed on a new Top Fans leader-board page, along with a 4th category, recognizing the fans who have accumulated the most “points” overall (with certain engagements — likes, comments, posts — earning a certain number of points).

And in the coming months we will be launching our Facebook Publishing Awards, where certain milestones our authors reach in the publishing and marketing process are automatically broadcast to all their Facebook friends.   People closely watching my personal FB page may have noticed the first such Award come across my newsfeed a couple of weeks ago.  This will be a great way for us to help our authors better establish and earn the public recognition they deserve for their impressive accomplishment — successfully publishing and marketing a great looking, high-quality book!

And if there’s any doubt that all this “stuff” I’m talking about in regard to Facebook (including the tactics I covered yesterday) contribute to significant increases in social media “reach,” one need only look at this recent graphic generated by Facebook Insights for our Facebook Page:




How to Increase Facebook Fans (Likes)

Before I proceed with the production/proofing process series of posts, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate David Olson of Albuquerque, NM, who was the winner of a free Barnes & Noble NOOK in our random drawing on the Outskirts Press blog.   This was the way we celebrated reaching 5,000 fans on our self publishing Facebook page. And that gives me a reason to really quickly offer 3 steps on increasing YOUR Facebook fan base.

1. Create a Welcome Page that motivates visitors to your page to “Like” you by offering exclusive deals, promotions, events, information, etc. I’ve posted about how to do that here.

2. Engage your community with quotes, quizzes, polls, information, content, and rapid, helpful answers to their questions.  Yes, this is the time consuming part, and usually the step that either makes or breaks this 3-step plan.  In the case of Outskirts Press, we are fortunate to have a LOT of content to share on Facebook, so it’s more a matter of logistically and efficiently sharing it, rather than having to create it.  In our case we share writing and inspirational quotes twice a week (Monday and Friday), “Awesome Covers of the Week” on Wednesday and Saturday, “In Author’s Words” (inspiring and motivational comments and testimonials from our published authors) on Tuesday and Thursday.  This is in addition to the daily doses of information about publishing, “self publishing and book marketing” that is shared via RSS from our blog and the periodic polls and quizzes we hold to further engage our community.  Plus, with nearly every comment or question, we attempt to respond informatively, helpfully, positively, and with encouragement and professionalism.  I.e., this step isn’t “easy.”

3. Give things away.  This is actually a combination of #1 and #2 in addition to its own step.  You can promote what you’re giving away on your Welcome Page that you create; you can constantly mention it among the tactics you are taking in step #2 (particularly when you have a winner); and you can create a poll for what should be the next prize that is given away, which, in theory, should prevent those who joined solely for the award from “unliking” you once they realize they didn’t win.  And that takes us to our NOOK winner, which we announced this morning on our Outskirts Press blog.