Adding Social Media to Outskirts Press Self Publishing

As followers of this blog know, I’ve been detailing our migration to RWD (responsive web design) at Outskirts Press for the past several posts.  In my last post on the topic, I introduced our upcoming new Author Webpages, which are designed in full RWD and feature a slew of new features when compared with the “old” author webpages.

Among those new features are the author’s ability to connect his/her author webpage with various social media channels (like Facebook, etc.). See the top-right corner of the sample image below:

new-authorpage-desk

In order for each author’s webpage to be able to go to each author’s Facebook feed or Twitter account, or Pinterest board, etc., the author simply needs to add that information into their author account.  Since January 1, authors have been able to EDIT their Author Profile information and supply us with the URLs to their respective social media channels so that when the Author Webpages are made available soon, those social media buttons will work perfectly.

edit-profile

A new “Social Media Details” section has been added to the Edit Author Profile screen. The Author Profile screen is where every Outskirts Press author can manage their Author Information (like their email address, their password, the method of receiving their royalties, and now — their social media preferences!)

The first field for “Facebook Awards Member” controls the author’s opt-in/opt-out preferences for our Facebook Achievements, which I’ve blogged about before. Basically, it allows an author to keep his or her Facebook followers apprised of publishing and marketing accomplishments and milestones automatically.  It’s not a new field, but it is in a new place on the screen because it’s more appropriate under “Social Media Details.”

The other six fields are new, and this is where Outskirts Press clients can enter their personal URLs for six different social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Linked-In, and Pinterest.

If an author doesn’t have a specific “presence” on any of those specific sites, he or she simply leaves it blank and that specific social media channel is omitted from the author’s new RWD author webpage.  Of course, a preferable strategy from a marketing point of view would be to make sure you DID have a presence on each of them.

Speaking of having a social media presence, our January publishing promotion at Outskirts Press is giving away a FREE Author Platform Set-Up, which is a fast, convenient way to jump-start your social media marketing for when Outskirts Press has published your book. All the details of this amazing publishing giveaway can be found on our promotions page through January 2016.

Of course, for our already-published authors, the Author Platform Set-Up option is also a great marketing choice and is available from the Marketing Options screen in your Publishing Center.

 

 

 

 

New Author Webpages are coming in Responsive Web Design

Over the last couple of months I have been blogging about the steps Outskirts Press is taking to transition all our web properties and email communications to RWD (responsive web design), which allows for an aesthetic and functional user-experience that is seamlessly branded regardless of the type of device being used by our clients.

Those milestones were:

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

Previous postings have discussed milestones 1-3. That brings us to the new RWD author webpages, which are going to become available soon for our authors.

Our current author webpages have not been updated since I programmed them way back in 2002. That’s a millennium in Internet-time! To say they desperately needed an update is an understatement.

And boy, did they get one!

new-authorpage-desk

The new RWD author webpages look great regardless of the device being used.  It won’t matter if our authors’ customers are viewing them on a desktop (above), or a tablet…

new-authorpage-tab

… or a smartphone:

new-authorpage-phone

In addition to the “RWD-ness” of the new author webpages comes other commonplace conventions in this day and age, namely social media buttons, multiple format choices for paperbacks (hardbacks, when available) and Kindle, Nook, and iPad editions (when the author has published those versions).

As you can see from the examples above, I’ve linked my author webpage for Sell Your Book on Amazon to my Facebook account and my Twitter account, and as a result, those two links automatically appear on my author webpage in the upper right-hand corner on the desktop and tablet view, respectively. This social media functionality is reserved for our Ruby, Diamond, and Pearl authors (over 80% of our clients) and will also include availability for YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and Linked-In if authors have a presence on those social media sites.

Of course, linking each author’s webpage to his/her personal social media channels requires acquiring that information from each of our authors, and that’s the process we’ll talk about next time.

Email communication in RWD

Over the last few posts I have been talking about the migration steps Outskirts Press is currently involved in to transition our web presence to RWD (responsive web design). Last week I talked about the first milestone, landing pages.

Email communication is the second milestone, and this is such a large undertaking that it is on-going even as we proceed to the third milestone, newsletters, which I will discuss next time.

There are many ways we communicate with our clients via email, so transitioning our email communication to RWD is a big project.  The main way we communicate via email is also the most common — when one of our authors writes us an email and we respond (or vice versa).  Since this form of communication rarely includes graphics, and is almost universally in text-format, this type of email communication does not require a migration to RWD.  Simple emails already look fine across all forms of devices.

The next type of email communication we have with our clients are “front-end” communications. These are a combination of automatic and “human” emails that communicate with our non-published authors. While the majority of these emails do not contain graphics, either, a migration process is necessary because many of them were previously formatted in HTML to “make them look nicer.”  Well, they looked great on computer monitors and tablets, but were often too small to read on phones.  Hence the necessity to migrate them to RWD, so they look great regardless of the device our authors read them on.

Another type of email communication is our trademarked Marketing COACH, which consistently provides creative, online assistance, coaching, and help to our published authors for literally years after publication. No other publisher offers anything like it.  Most of these emails contain graphics and links (especially to our author community pages on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+) and therefore the migration to RWD was very important.   Needless to say, changing years and years of marketing emails is a daunting undertaking, and this is a process that is currently on-going, even as the next stages are also being worked on.  Here’s an example of a new Marketing COACH email in RWD as it appears on desktop monitors and tablets vs. smart phones.

blog-compare-coach

The final type of email communication is our newsletter, which is distributed via email and also available on our website.  We distribute two newsletters a month, at the beginning and middle of each month.  Tomorrow’s newsletter will be our first newsletter in RWD, and one more milestone we’ve completed.  More about the RWD newsletter next time…

Migrating to Responsive Web Design (RWD)

In my last post I mentioned the 6 milestones Outskirts Press has identified in the course of migrating our web presence to RWD (responsive web design, which I defined previously). Those milestones are:

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

Let’s talk about the first milestone, landing pages, which is a milestone we have already met.  Outskirts Press does a fair amount of search engine marketing, and when someone clicks on one of those SEM links, they arrive on a “landing page” which is designed to educate the author about our self-publishing services. We have different landing pages based upon the advertising we are doing. If someone is interested in publishing a children’s book with us, for example, they arrive upon a different landing page than if they’re interested in writing a thriller, or a self-help book. We’ve gone through a number of landing pages over the years, and up until the RWD-redesigns, the last landing pages had been with us for a long time.

So it was time for new landing pages anyway.  Like any RWD redesign, the trick is to make the page look great regardless of whether you are looking at it on a wide-screen monitor or a smartphone in portrait orientation. Add to that the multiple objectives of a landing page in general, which is to acknowledge the wording of the SEM advertisement, inform the client of our available services, and motivate them to either contact us or provide their contact information, usually through the use of a free whitepaper or e-book or some other giveaway.

Since updating our landing pages to RWD, our engagement rate on those pages has improved by 50%. I’d say it was a milestone worth reaching.  Next time we’ll talk about the Email Communication milestone. In the meantime, here are screen shots of the new landing page on two different devices, so you can see how they look the same, and yet different, based upon the device being used by our clients.

screensplp-desktopscreensplp-phone

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…

Getting the most out of your ABOUT BOX on Facebook Pages

With the Timeline theme on Facebook pages, the “About” box is more important than ever.  Yes, the “cover graphic” allows you to brand your page, but according to Facebook parameters, your cover graphic is not allowed to contain a URL.  Fortunately, the About Box allows them, so be sure to take advantage of that.  And, the good news is, FB automatically turns any URL that you include there into an active link that actually goes to your company website. It’s a valuable piece of real estate that you don’t want to waste, so word your “About” box in such a way to leave room for your URL to appear (rather than being truncated).  This means your About text needs to be approximately 20 words long, since you have a maximum of 3 lines to include both your About text and your URL.  In the case of Outskirts Press, our About language is the following, which fits exactly into the allocated space in the About box:

Outskirts Press offers full-service, high-quality, custom book publishing and marketing services. Keep 100% of your rights & royalties at www.OutskirtsPress.com.

What we offer, our benefits, and our URL. Short, sweet, effective.

To the right of the About box are the 4 app navigational boxes. I call them navigational boxes because if you manage them effectively, you can treat them like website navigation, taking your Facebook users to other pages of your Facebook presence, where each page can then be customized to accomplish tasks the main timeline page can’t do very well (ie, sell or market your stuff).  We’ll discuss that next time…

Facebook Timeline Cover Graphics

In yesterday’s post I mentioned the three things to consider when creating your “Cover” graphic for your company FB page now that the Timeline theme has removed the ability to have “Welcome Pages.” Those three considerations are

1) Identify your company’s core benefits 2) Incentive ”Likes” in a similar manner to the previous Welcome pages 3) Aesthetically design around the FB elements that are super-imposed over the cover graphic

As a result of these three goals, here is the cover graphic we created for Outskirt Press (it might be a little “squashed” since the optimal width for this graphic is 851, which exceeds the amount of space available on this blog. Nevertheless it gives you the idea, and you can see the “real” cover graphic on our Facebook page by clicking here.

In our case, our core benefits are that we help authors write anything, publish everything, and market everywhere. So those benefit statements are a part of the design.

We incentivize links by highlighting the current months “perk” or “topic” along with the next month’s upcoming topic, and then we graphically point in the general vicinity of the “like” button of FB, as well-designed “Welcome” pages did in the past.  By referring to both the current and up-coming months, we give incentive for friends to “stay with us” even if the current month’s event/promotion is nearing the end.  And finally, we designed this graphic to aesthetically accommodate the FB lay-overs.  The “white space” underneath the couple is where Facebook overlays the avatar graphic, so we matched the treatment of that graphic, even down the 3 pixel border separating the gray lines from the image.  So it actually looks like this on Facebook:

And that brings us to the rest of the header space: the “About box, the photos, and the other three “navigational” graphics FB allows. We’ll discuss more of that next time…

Creating a Cover image for Facebook pages

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that these were the 4 “requirements” when creating a new “Cover” image for the Facebook profile pages within the Timeline framework:

  • It should be at least 399 pixels wide, but 851 pixels wide is better and 315 pixels tall is recommended.
  • It cannot feature pricing or discount/promotional information.
  • It cannot contain contact information or website addresses.
  • It cannot contain call-to-action statements.

When creating your 815 x 315 pixel graphic, there are some other considerations.  For one,  your avatar is going to appear as an overlay in the lower left hand corner of the graphic, starting approximately 20 pixels from the left edge and 75 pixels from the bottom edge. The box that superimposes over your graphic is 135 pixels wide. So in other words, you shouldn’t put anything important (definitely not any words) in the lower left corner of your graphic, which is defined by a space of at least 160 pixels wide by 90 pixels high. In fact, if at all possible, you should try to “incorporate” this avatar graphic within the design aesthetics of your Cover, in order to give the impression that both elements are a part of the same graphic.

The other area to consider is the upper right hand corner.  For users who are not signed-in to their Facebook account (or don’t have one yet, if there are any of those people left), Facebook overlays a “Sign-up box” over your Cover graphic.  The simplest thing to do, of course, is to not worry about this (and given the spacing variables that arise, depending upon whether this pop-up box appears on a mobile phone, tablet, or monitor, that’s also perhaps the most realistic option). The second easiest thing to do is refrain from putting any content in this area of your cover graphic. But considering the size of Facebook’s Sign-up Box, that’s a lot of real estate to “give-up” just for those people who aren’t signed in.

A trickier, but ultimately, perhaps, more successful approach, is to design some content to fit within the designated space, so that your cover graphic looks complete both with and without Facebook’s overlay. Trickier still, Facebook’s overlay is somewhat transparent, so you cannot have anything BOLD and BRIGHT under it.

In our first attempt at a cover graphic, we added a testimonial in that space.  The graphic (let’s call it our “Survivor graphic” for the sake of identifying it among other graphics) stands on its own when Facebook’s overlay covers our testimonial, and when the overlay is gone, the testimonial supports and further enhances the graphic.

So, given those considerations, and our first opportunity to deal with this new branding opportunity, our first attempt at a cover graphic featured one of our authors holding his book alongside his friend (and subject matter), Benjamin “Coach” Wade from the CBS reality show “Survivor.”

If it helps, below is a graphic representation of the two “trouble spots” I described above, so you can keep them in mind as you design your own compelling cover graphic. The top-right black box is approximately where Facebook overlays their own “Sign-up/log-in graphic” and the bottom-right is where Facebook overlays the “Avatar graphic.”

As we began enhancing other elements of the new Timeline masthead, this Survivor graphic was replaced with something else, and we’ll discuss that next…

Customizing new Facebook pages

Since it could have easily been confused for an April Fool’s Day joke, Facebook decided to change all the Company Pages to the “Timeline” motif at the end of March, but certainly the close proximity to April 1st is not just a happy coincidence.  For entrepreneurs or companies that have spent a lot of time tweaking their Facebook profile and company pages to get them just right, having to start again from scratch is a little annoying. Note to Zuckerberg: Your hobby doesn’t have to become our hobby.  In all fairness, this change seemed inevitable because I’m sure the “old” way was overloading their servers.  The “Timeline” presentation of data is much more efficient in terms of server access for its approximately 500 million daily users.

Okay, so now that the change is upon us, in the coming days I’ll share some tips and tricks to help you change your page from looking like this (which is what ours at Outskirts Press looked like on April 1 – April Fools indeed)…

 

… to looking like this…