Social Media 101: Instagram and Pinterest

These two are the visual social media platforms – you post photos instead of just text. Here are some tips and tricks for writers:


  • Send your book with traveling friends and have them post photos
  • Follow bloggers who review books and fellow authors
  • Snap photos of what you’re reading
  • Snap photos of what you’re writing
  • According to Socialbakers, “the top brands on Instagram have a post engagement rate 47% higher than on Twitter.”


  • Add the “pin it” button to your browser
  • Make an “If you like ___ you’ll like my book” board (covers of similar titles)
  • Make “People and Places” board for people who look like your characters and places your characters would have visited or lived in
  • Make a board for cover art and behind the scenes images
  • Make Lives of Your Characters boards – what they’d wear, eat, visit, etc.
  • Make a quotes board: reading, writing, books, authors, whatever you like
  • Make a visual writing prompt board with provocative photos
  • Pin images and add quotes from your books
  • Make a Best bookstores or libraries board
  • Data shows that since 2011, “the number of Pinterest users going from the platform to a website has multiplied seven times, far outstripping Twitter and others.”

Social Media 101: Twitter

Here’s some more information from the Western Fictioneers Conference:

  • Type into the search function words with hash tags #amreading or #GoodReads
  • Follow other authors and organizations
  • See who other Tweeps are following or who is following them
  • Show some personality
  • Followers want content that is credible, intelligent, and valuable.
  • Don’t use up your entire 140 characters – leave room for re-tweeters
  • #ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) on recycled posts
  • More than 70% of re-tweeted content is about news, and more than 50% of re-tweeted content is either instructional or entertainment-related.
  • Using the words “Please Re-Tweet” will generate 4 times more re-tweets.
  • You’re more likely to get re-tweets on the weekend
  • Use no more than two hash tags (#) to avoid clutter.
  • 5/5/5 Rule – 5 minutes responding, 5 minutes searching, 5 minutes tweeting
  • Pay with a Tweet – readers can download a freebie if they tweet about it. Costs minimal amount per tweet.
  • Schedule tweets at different times for followers in different time zones
  • Use Followerwonk to find optimal posting time tailored to your audience
  • Create a tweet that promotes one of your books, preferably with an image attached and then pin the tweet to the top of your feed. Doing this will help other authors find your book tweet to promote. Also, when people check out your profile, the first thing they see will be your book tweet, which again will help build awareness


More from the Hillerman Conference

Tips on Writing a Book that Sells – Anne Hillerman, Hampton Sides, Paul Rhetts, Katy Hershberger

What is a “promotable” author?

Hampton: Writers want people to buy their books – the reading part is secondary.

Anne: People are fascinated with authors. They love having contact with someone who has written a book. Part of being an author is making the time to go out and talk to people.

Katy: It’s about enthusiasm. Be up for doing those tours and signings.

What else can authors do to promote themselves?

Anne: I think you really have to have a good website. People love videos, too. Facebook has been a really good marketing tool, and I try to answer my emails – you can’t really tell if those things translate into sales, but it makes me feel good.

Hampton: I was told to interview myself. Try to anticipate the sorts of questions you’ll be asked during an interview. It’s a cheat sheet. Also, come up with some sort of individual book tour based on your audience. Take control and go where your readers are.

Paul: I think authors need to have a long-term view. It’s a long-term relationship with your readers and your publishers. It’s not a matter of money. One of the things authors can do for themselves is to build a list of potential readers as soon as they start writing. Keep adding to it as you go along. Facebook is a great way to keep your name and book in front of the audience.

Katy: publishers are looking for authors who think of this as a career.

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Katie Hershberger, Hampton Sides, Paul Rhetts, Anne Hillerman

Is success really 50% writing and 50% promotion?

Paul: speaking as a publisher, it’s more 5% writing and 95% promotion!

Hampton: Promotion is really important, but you have to do it smartly and in your own individual style. I think of myself as the biggest champion of my story.

Anne: After my first book tour, I thought I’d relax and get started on the next book. Then, there’s an email from a book club or a library … you’re always promoting. Promotion is kind of fun. And people give you ideas … not always the ones you want…

Hampton: Don’t promote your book before it’s written! Writing is like a pressure cooker – a lot of writers talk their book out. If you let out the steam gradually, it never builds up the pressure needed to write the book.

Paul. The “Field of Dreams” Theory of Writing does not work! Promotion is everything you do beyond the keyboard. You can write the best book ever, but if nobody sees it, does it really exist?

What do you wish you’d known about publishing before you got into it?

Hampton: When I was in my twenties, I had a lot of affectations … Southern writers drink a certain type of bourbon, smoke a certain type of pipe, etc. I went through a five year period of trying on clothes. You’ve got to be original and find your own voice. Don’t be over-impressed by any tradition you think you’re part of.

Anne: I was surprised by how many more people paid attention to me once I started writing fiction instead of nonfiction. I was amazed at the tsunami of build-up interest that Dad’s work had generated. I think it kind of freaked me out.

Paul: I wrote my first book in 1972. I thought my job was done the minute the manuscript was turned into a book. Boy, did I not understand anything – distribution, returns, bookstores, shelf life, turnover – the whole thing! I wish I’d known more about the trade side, the business side of writing.

What final piece of advice would you give?

Anne: I would say, basically, that people out there are your friends. Everyone wants you to succeed. I had never done much public speaking before, and that’s one thing you’re going to need if you’re going to promote your book. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Hampton: It’s communication coming full circle – it’s more like me getting feedback and completing the loop, incorporating that into the larger picture of my whole career. I get to know my audience … they’re seventy-plus-year-old women looking for masculine-sounding books to give their husbands for Christmas or birthdays!

Paul: There are three ways of having success in writing – you can buy success, you can get lucky, or (and this is really the only one that counts) you can create a compelling product. Be the best storyteller you can be. Hone your craft. And practice, practice, practice your pitch! Learn how to tell your story in a capsule – a fumbled pitch is one of the death knells.

Katy: Things you can do before you have an agent or publisher – connect with other writers, libraries, etc. Have a website and an online presence.

Paul: Being able to tell an agent or publisher “I’ve got a plan” … you’ve got me hooked!

Hillerman Convention: Day 2

Here are some of the highlights of today’s convention:

Claim It, Rename It, or Throw It Out – Steve Brewer

“Your manuscript is not ready – go look at it some more. You owe it to your agent, your editor and your future self.”

“We’re all in love with our books while we’re writing them.”

“Come in late and get out early – all we really want is the drama in the middle.”

“Everything you write teaches you something.”

“If you’ve written the best book you can write, roll the dice. Try to get an agent and sell it in New York.”

“It’s a typical newbie mistake to think of writing a trilogy or a series – just write one freaking book!”

“Write what you want to write, what you’d like to read.”

“Are you eager to start the next book? You’re probably a writer.”

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C.A.R.V.E. Your Platform to Snag Agents, Publishers and Readers – Bill O’Hanlon

You have three audiences: the agent, the publisher and the reader.

C = channels. How many places can you get the word out?

  • social media connections
  • blog views, readers and subscribers
  • podcast listeners and subscribers
  • email list open and click-through rates
  • media appearances and interviews
  • public speaking
  • partners
  • where your book’s audience hangs out or pays attention

A = accomplishments.

  • previous publications and sales
  • previous media experience
  • previous public speaking experience
  • academic degrees or positions
  • awards
  • life accomplishments
  • partners

R = relationships.

  • within the publishing industry
  • other authors, agents or editors
  • well-known people for blurbs
  • people with large followings for getting the word out
  • co-authors
  • media people and podcasters

V = visibility.

  • regular activities to get your book or yourself seen or heard about
  • website visitors
  • social media followers and connections
  • media appearances
  • reviews and bestseller lists

E = evidence. Keep everything to prove your claims.

  • take screenshots of Amazon ratings or email lists or followers
  • collect records of appearances
  • scans or photocopies of reviews
  • keep programs from your speaking engagements
  • keep previous publications, magazine covers, etc.
  • no lying or exaggerating!


Social Media 101: Instagram

Here’s some more information from my upcoming Social Media Panel at the Western Fictioneer’s Conference at the end of the month.

Instagram is currently the “youngster’s” hangout. with a peak age under 29. It has over 60 million users, with more women than men, and most of the users are either in school or have had some college education. The best time to post on Instagram is on Monday between 2-3pm, or after 9pm and before 8am. There really is no “worst time” to post on this site.

Here are a few tips just for writers:

  • Have followers take photos of themselves reading your book
  • Share photos of what you’re reading
  • Share photos of what you’re working on
  • Share photos of your favorite books
  • Send a book traveling and have friends or family members post photos of the book in far away locations
  • Follow bloggers who review books
  • Follow fellow authors and see what they’re posting

Social Media 101: Facebook

I’m giving you a behind-the-scenes look at part of my upcoming Western Fictioneers panel discussion on Social Media. Our objective is to corral a herd of grizzled Western authors and convince them that that modern contraption, social media, is a good thing. FacebookAvatar50% of marketing works -we just don’t know which 50%

Facebook “likes” and engagement (comments and shares) are two of the things agents look at when evaluating a new author. Facebook has 156.6 million users, with a peak age between 23 and 50, although the senior sector has been growing in the last few years. Most Facebook users are college-educated women.

Best times to post on Facebook: Thursday and Friday between 1-4 pm. Worst times to post: 8pm to 8am on any day.


Here are some specific tips:

  • Create an Author Fan Page instead of using your personal page as an author page. Personal pages have a limit on how many followers/friends you can have, whereas fan pages don’t. Also, you don’t really want your readers knowing every little personal detail about your life.
  • Create pages for your books – and maybe even your characters! You don’t necessarily have to post regularly on those pages, but you don’t want somebody else to grab the name and run with it.
  • Consider an ad. Desktop ads have an 8.1 times greater clickthrough rate than normal web ads – and mobile ads ramp that up to 9.1 times higher.
  • Create informative content, share relevant posts and photos, and generally entertain your readers on a regular basis.
  • Try something fun once in a while, like setting your language to English (pirate).
  • Use Fanpage Karma to monitor your Facebook stats and find optimal posting times for your individual audience.


What are some of your best Facebook tips?


Writing Workshop: Day 3

Editors for Hire (Chantelle Aimee Osman)

Once you’ve written “the end,” the journey is only half over. You must put out the best book you can – if it’s not, you might sell it, but they won’t come back for more.

A clean, polished manuscript can make all the difference – a copy editor is a must if you’re self-publishing and even if you’re going the traditional route, I recommend having your first 5-6 chapters gone over by a professional.

How much editing do you need? Most professional authors might get by with only one edit. Some people need 4-5 edits.

Do a read-only edit yourself before sending it to the editor – catch major errors and over-arching story problems before you send it off for a line edit or line and content edit.


The thing everyone is looking for is your passion on the page. Never write just for a trend. Write what you love to read, what you love to write.

Know your genre – don’t write a zombie vampire YA mystery with Western overtones.

The first two and last two chapters of your book are the most important – have a hook at beginning to make them need to turn the page – no backstory.


Style issues:

  • awkward phrasing, repeated phrasing
  • do not try to have a unique voice – just write your way and the voice will show through
  • the tighter, the better – cut unnecessary words
  • preaching is a no-no
  • watch for changes in tense or POV


“good dialogue is one of the most difficult and challenges a writer has”

Dialogue problems:

  • fake dialogue – not using contractions, very formal, awkward
  • dialogue to obviously advanced the plot “radio drama dialogue”
  • forced dialogue – do your research
  • too many trendy words date your work
  • show, don’t tell
  • make sure characters have distinct speech patterns
  • Read your dialogue (and everything else) aloud

Descriptive problems:

  • using the protagonist’s senses to relate information is a better way to show instead of description
  • avoid general descriptions (beautiful, nice, etc)
  • avoid laundry lists
  • watch out for repetition – favorite phrases and images, sentence structure – “crutch words”
  • combinations of words with the same meaning
  • a set of fresh eyes are valuable in catching these things
  • adjectives and adverbs – don’t use too many, never more than one together
  • cut 10-15% of your words
  • watch “to be” – try to avoid if possible (passive sentences)
  • no qualifiers like very or really
  • cliches (that also includes cliched descriptions and situations)
  • wrong word choices (towards instead of toward, affect/effect, etc)
  • watch for sentences with more than two commas – maybe two sentences instead
  • now it’s one space after a period
  • double check for possessives and plurals

“Punctuation is like a throw-pillow.” Doing the job without calling attention to itself

Errors in character:

  • characters must be unique, bring the readers back
  • know your characters well, give them clear motivation
  • must have goal and clear reason to work toward that goal
  • characters must grow
  • no stereotypes
  • outlandish names – names often paint a better picture than descriptives – you don’t want something that reader must stop reading to figure out how to pronounce it
  • misplaced or overly long backstory


  • if characters just go along without anything interesting happening, there’s no emotional attachment
  • every book should have basic essential question (who/what/where/how/why) – know what that question is and be able to resolve it in the end
  • don’t write about something you don’t know about
  • know your genre!

The End:

  • almost as important as the beginning – what’s going to sell the second book
  • resolution must make reader feel something
  • don’t keep readers wondering in a bad way (forgetting a plot point)

Now you’ve just started on your journey of queries, rejections, edits, cover designs, etc.


Social Media 101 for Creative People (Alison Sky Richards):

3 Points:

  1. Website (your store front)
  2. FaceBook (your billboards)
  3. Twitter (your conversation)

There are around 328 highly utilized social media sites – around 600 total



  1. Create an author (or book) page
  2. Create an author voice


  1. Be careful who you follow/allow to follow you – spambots and trolls
  2. Build dialogue and communication – look for your favorite authors and create communication
  3. Hashtags #amwriting, #amediting – scroll past photos to get to # feed at bottom of screen

Grab your author name on major social media sites – and URL


  1. Responsive design – allow for different devices
  2. Visual design – images get 10% more response than text
  3. Appearance – NO Comic Sans! Need an easy to read font like Verdana or Arial – nothing too trendy or crazy. Use tinted background instead of plain white – easier for most people to read. Red is also very visually attractive, but not fire-engine red
  4. Have your social media integrated
  5. Search Engine Optimization – takes a lot of work! Need to get a lot of people to look for a specific phrase and click on the website.
  6. Constantly re-evaluate your website. Check content for freshness and readability – average reading level is 8th grade – recommended website level 6th. Rebrand website to be most effective.

4 Tricks for Goodreads Authors

Goodreads is an author’s Number One social media – or it should be! If you’re still a bit confused by the site, here are some tricks to help you succeed as a Goodreads Author.



1. Focus on your reviews. Goodreads syndicates its reviews to a lot of big-name literary sites, so you want to increase your numbers. Here are some tips on that:

  • Post excerpts of your book on your Goodreads page
  • Link your blog to your Goodreads page – and don’t hesitate to make a blog post stating that your book is available for review!
  • Make sure your website has a Goodreads widget (available on the Goodreads site)
  • Join some Groups
  • Host a Giveaway

2. Maximize your profile. Make sure you’ve got everything filled in that can be filled in. Make sure you’ve got a link to your blog. Add a video if you have one – this is a great place for book trailers. Use your best professional photo.

3. Join an active Group and participate. Here are some tips for Groups:

  • Participation is key – join in on the polls and roundtable discussions. Nobody’s going to notice you if you just sit on the sidelines
  • Most groups have a bookshelf. Once you’ve established yourself as a contributing member, ask about adding your book to the shelf
  • If the group has freebie days (days when you can announce your giveaways), then participate – don’t make any sales announcements unless they do, though
  • Once you have an established readership, you can host your own Featured Author Group for your readers

4. Stay active. Don’t just set up your author page and vanish. Once a week, you should:

  • Add a book to your shelf – one you’ve read, are planning to read, or something that inspired you
  • Write a review for something you’ve read – and if you want to be a real darling, cross-post that review to Amazon!
  • Rate a book – you just give a book a “star” rating. Simple, right?
  • Update your blog or your Goodreads profile. If you don’t blog weekly, you can add a favorite quote or book passage to your profile. The key is to keep your profile active
  • Post something to your group – either a new topic, a comment or a response to something else
  • Add friends – find people in your group you want to follow, or reviewers, or other authors


What are your favorite tips for Goodreads?

The Art of Blogging

This was a panel at the Hillerman Conference, featuring Dawn Wink, Susan Tweit, and Joe Badal.


Advice from Dawn, whose blog is called Dewdrops:

  • Follow your passions
  • Figure out who your community is
  • Strive for character, personality and texture

from Joe, who writes a blog on Everyday Heroes:

  • Write interesting articles about subjects that complement your book
  • Do not share photos of your meals … unless you write cookbooks
  • Do not share stories about your adorable dog Fluffy … unless you write dog books
  • Do not share how romantic your significant other is … unless you write romances
  • Do not share your illnesses and disorders
  • Do not blast-market your books

And from Susan, who is also a plant biologist:

  • Add value with your blog
  • Convey your passions
  • Bring added dimension to your books

Are Writers’ Conferences For You?

I attended my first writing conference last year. Oh, I’ve been going to DragonCon’s writing track for years, so I figured I’d pretty much heard everything I needed about writing. I was going for the chance to pitch my book to an agent or editor. Maybe I’d pick up a couple of new ideas, but I was paying for that face-time.

Boy, was I wrong.

I did meet a lot of agents and editors – and other authors, who are not only great people to talk with, but can help you connect with even more agents, authors, and editors. I did pitch my ideas, and even got positive results from all of them.

But I also learned more than just a couple of new ideas. We had lectures like “Treating Your Story’s Setting as a Main Character” and “Crafting a Gripping Opening” and “World Building 101.” We wrote, and we critiqued each other’s work. We shared ideas and websites and contact information.

We had classes on social media, and on publicizing yourself and your books. I think I learned more in one day than I’d learned in two years of playing around on Facebook. My Facebook author page – and I learned to set up a separate page for that instead of using my personal page – went from a few friends to over 3,000 in around six months, and it’s still growing.

If you’ve never attended a writing conference, save up the funds and go! You’ll learn a lot more than you think you will, plus you’ll meet all those people who will play an important role in your career later on. The contacts you make now can only help you in the future.

Plus, it’s just a whole lot of fun.

What’s the best conference you’ve ever attended — or the one you’ve always dreamed of attending?