What makes the Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year Awards so special?

Today marks the beginning of the public poll to determine the 2014 Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year Award. This is the only book award contest I am aware of that rewards both an author’s writing ability and marketing ability.

The writing ability is recognized and rewarded by the requirement that every Best Book of the Year finalist must win an EVVY Award from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association.

The marketing ability is recognized and rewarded by putting all three finalists head-to-head-to-head to see which tenacious marketer can secure the most votes in a publicly held poll.  That poll is happening right now over on the Outskirts Press Self Publishing News blog at http://selfpublishingnews.com

As I write this, it’s a three-way race, with all three finalists currently receiving between 30% and 36% of the votes.  Not only does the ultimate winner gain acclaim as the author of the best book Outskirts Press published in 2014 (from over 1500 contenders), but he or she will also receive the $1,500 Grand Prize.  No wonder all three writers are so actively involved in this public poll!

Voting is open to everyone. The poll ends at midnight (Mountain Standard Time) on Sunday, September 6th.

Does September 2015 seem like an odd month to recognize our best book from 2014, nine months late?  It is, and that’s due to ensuring every finalists’ very important, award-winning status, courtesy of the Colorado Independent Publisher Association and its independent EVVY Awards.  Those EVVY Awards were just announced last week, and the picture of me above was taken during that ceremony in Denver, Colorado. I’ll cover more of that next time.

In the meantime, congratulations to our three Best Book of the Year finalists:

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

Free Social Media Webinar

Today Outskirts Press is holding a free webinar on Social Media. Based upon the number of sign-ups, this is a very popular topic. The webinar is live and will be conducted by Elise, the point person heading up our author support division. In the webinar, Elise covers opportunities for authors that are presented by Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, and YouTube. She uses two fictitious examples of writers (one, an author of a non-fiction book and the other, an author of a poetry book) and how they can use these social media channels to better promote their book and build their own author platforms.

This webinar is a complement to one of our services, the Author Platform Set-up Through Social Media, which is a convenient way for an author (published with us or not) to kick-start their social media marketing efforts…


Getting video testimonials for your business

While we were in the middle of the Outskirts Press Pre-Production series of blog postings in February, our Outskirts Press blog over at http://blog.outskirtspress.com introduced a video contest in association with Valentine’s Day, titled “Show Me the Love” where we asked our satisfied and successfully published authors to record a 1-3 minute video about either being a published author, their experience with Outskirts Press, or why they loved working with us.

The videos we received were great!  We posted them all on Facebook as we received them. Then our Facebook friends “liked” them or commented on them in accordance with normal social media behavior.  This allowed us to determine 6 “finalists” based upon the number of likes and/or comments each video received.

We then posted those 6 video finalists on our blog along with a poll, asking our blog readers and members of our social community to vote on the video they liked the best.  The winner would receive a free Apple iPad 2.  It was an interesting race, with two finalists battling back and forth in the polls up until the last hour, at which time, one was crowned the winner.

At the bell, Patricia A. Hawkenson, author of Magnetic Repulsion: 100 Poems From Desire to Disgust, was named our Video Valentine for 2012 for this creative video she submitted:

Video testimonials like these are valuable components to running successful online businesses nowadays, because people on the internet are now more likely to “watch” the Internet than they are to “read” it (and yes, I recognize the irony of making that claim in a manner that requires it to be read).

So how do you acquire video testimonials for your book or business? Well, our process worked pretty well, and it went something like this:

1. Use your social media community to solicit participation in a transparent, Web 2.0-friendly way
2. Encourage participation and comments
3. Yes, you may have to offer an incentive to participate.  As popular as Skype may be, it’s still a taxing procedure for most people to create a video, and the likelihood of it being spread across YouTube and the rest of the Internet is not for the faint of heart — particularly for writers, the majority of whom are often introverted. In our case, we dangled an Apple iPad 2, but your gift could be something as easy as a signed copy of your book, for example, or a product or service that you deliver. For instance, our runner-up, received a free iPad edition of her book  (which actually has approximately the same retail price as the iPad 2 itself, so they were both big winners).
4. Once you have video testimonials, use them. Nothing is quite as persuasive as seeing real people making really great comments about your product or service.

So, with that said, take a look at all six of our video finalists by clicking here. Pretty good arguments to use Outskirts Press, wouldn’t you say?

“Turning my book into a movie”

This week I’ve posted last year’s and this year’s About Us pages. So to continue the “past, present, and future” theme of the week, let’s look toward the suite of services Outskirts Press will be introducing in the near future.  Starting Feb 1, this was already “teased” on our Facebook Welcome page (on which we promote the upcoming events for the next two months), but the graphic below perhaps gives an even better indicator of the exciting new services coming your way in March… And that’s all I can really say until next month; but this graphic, along with the headline of this posting, probably sheds more than enough clues about what’s in store for our authors… stay tuned!

Facebook landing page

I know I promised to talk about how to create a Facebook landing page, and I will, although that topic will probably have to wait until January. Because tomorrow’s posting is going to be a follow-up to the recent posting regarding Hootsuite and Google + pages for business and then for the next two weeks I’m going to do a series about the funniest contractual clauses I’ve read in other self-publishing agreements. Seemed like a good Christmas series of postings…

But, speaking of Christmas and of the Facebook landing pages topic that I’m pushing to January, I thought I would at least share our current Facebook landing page for Outskirts Press. Hey, you too can be eligible to win an Amazon Kindle, and perhaps even a Barnes & Noble Nook or an iPad 2.  Here’s what our landing page looks like (well, without the actual “Like” button, which is where Facebook comes in when you visit our page.)


How to automate social media postings for Facebook, Google+ Pages, and more

Yesterday I finished the blog series about creating a Google+ page for business by suggesting that with this post, today, I would share a method to automate posts to Google+. And before I do that, let me dispel the notion that “automating” posts is any sort of “click it and forget it” type of thing.  The task (yes, it’s a task) of “automating” your social media presence still requires a fair amount of work. For instance, for the purposes of maintaining our growing social network communities for Outskirts Press, we use the following “automation” and tracking tools: TweetDeck, HooteSuite, Klout, Ping, Rooster, and FTTT.  And to give you a visual representation of what all that involves, here’s a screen shot of JUST our HootSuite dashboard:

Scary, yes? Helpful? You bet!  In this particular screen shot, if you squint closely, you may notice that we are able to monitor 5 social media “streams” simultaneously, plus we’re able to post directly to our Facebook page, keep track of retweets from Twitter, and even schedule posts in advance on a few of our networks all at once. Unfortunately, no single application that I’ve been able to find has access to ALL the social media networks that we use, which is why we have several (and of course, that sometimes causes scheduling conflicts where several of us at Outskirts Press may inadvertently schedule various posts too close to one another).   And up until very recently, NONE of them automated posts to Google+ Pages (simply because Google+ Pages are so new).  But within the last couple of weeks, the API was opened up to six applications, including Hootsuite.

Sounds too good to be true?  The ability to automate posts and content to our new Google+ Page using an application we were already familiar with and using heavily? Well, right now, it IS too good to be true.   Development of new functionality like this takes time and even though Hootsuite has the Google API available, they don’ t yet have anything operational on their dashboard. Instead, they direct you toward a “landing page” requiring you to “apply” for the benefit of having Google+ added to your dashboard.  Here’s a link to the application.

So until it is officially added to Hootsuite — or to the others, which are: Buddy Media, Context Optional, Hearsay Social, Involver, and Vitrue– this is the procedure for putting the steps into place to be able to automate your Google+ pages as easily as your other social channels.  Of course, you might get hit up by some marketing emails from Hootsuite or even sales calls, so… just sayin’.

I’ve applied and will keep you posted…

Speaking of landing pages, today also marks the beginning of our  new Facebook landing page to encourage more “Likes” to build our Facebook community, which surpassed 3,000 this week.  And I’ll discuss all the fun details involved in creating and implementing Facebook landing pages next…

Incorporating a small business on Legal Zoom – Pt 2

… Continuing from where we left off yesterday as we incorporate a small business on Legal Zoom step by step…

6. Select your state. I’m choosing Colorado. You have to choose the state either from the drop down box or by clicking on the graphic (if you know your geography), followed by clicking the orange Continue button.

7. Next you see a Progress Bar, some information about the process–including the claim that most people complete it within 15 minutes–and the first two questions.  Personally, I’m finding this interesting due to some similarities with our publishing site at Outskirts Press, which demonstrates in some ways that internet site best practices are not industry specific.

For instance, before our Version 4.0, we had a “progress bar” for the pre-production process.  For a variety of reasons, we removed it, but I’ve always wanted it back.   We also notify authors of how long the pre-production process will take, by saying “most authors complete it in X amount of minutes.”  In our case, we say it can be done within an hour.  That’s probably as realistic as Legal Zoom’s 15 minutes, but I digress.

8. The first question it asks is: Would you like to form a new corporation, or convert an existing business to a corporation, and the default answer is “Form a new corporation” which is the one I’m choosing.

9. You also get a chance to re-confirm your state again.  It may seem repetitive, but this is actually a trick of website design. What this site has done is introduced the process with the “fun” (and easy) exercise of clicking on a big map.  They could have just come straight to this text-intensive screen and not missed any steps, but their user-tests probably informed them that people seeing THIS screen first bailed on the entire thing.  People like clicking on graphics. They don’t really like reading websites.  This is why our Version 4.o website design at Outskirts Press has icons for every option/service we offer. But… I digress again.

10. Next question: What is the proposed name of the corporation? Please type it in EXACTLY as you want it to appear. (The name must end with “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” “Corp.” or “Inc.”)  – Here’s where you get one of the benefits of using an online service. They’re going to “test” the availability of your name.

11. It also asks for two different alternative names to the Proposed Name of the Corporation question it asked above.  Personally, I wasn’t prepared to have to have 3 total company names — I had a hard enough time coming up with one!   So I just attempt to hit the SAVE AND CONTINUE button without supplying any alternatives, and it works.  I guess if my name isn’t available, I’ll cross that bridge when it comes…

… to be continued…

Book Marketing Online

Yesterday when I posted the recent webinar I conducted about using Amazon to market your business or your book I mentioned that it would stream from MetaCafe because it exceeded YouTube’s length maximums.  That didn’t prevent me from uploading it to YouTube; I just didn’t expect it to work.  But, surprise, surprise.  It appears to have loaded just fine onto YouTube, even though it’s over an hour long.  Just goes to show: you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Sometimes, you have to experience things yourself. 

Here’s the stream of the webinar again, embedded into this blog, for your convenience:  Book Marketing Online Through Amazon. Enjoy…



How to market your book (or your business) on Amazon

I recently conducted a webinar for the Internet Marketing Club on the topic of using Amazon to market your book or your business. Rather than getting into the nitty-gritty or summarizing it, I’ll just provide the entire webinar here in its entirety. I hope you all find it helpful. It’s long — 60 minutes — but filled with content about how to establish your presence, your content, and your expertise on Amazon in order to promote your book or business.

Just click on the image below to watch. You’ll be taken from WordPress to MetaCafe’s website, since WordPress doesn’t support embedded MetaCafe videos and YouTube’s maximum video length is 15 minutes… 

Here’s also a convenient way to purchase the two products mentioned in the video.  You can save 10% on my book, Sell Your Book on Amazon, by clicking here.

And you can save 25% off a la carte pricing on three specific Amazon Marketing options (Kindle, Search Inside, Keyword Tagging) we offer with the Amazon Extreme package by clicking here (and in that case, we’ll include a free copy of Sell Your Book on Amazon).