Learning more about the Apps your kids use

As I mentioned in a previous post about Parent-Teacher Conferences, I am in charge of Parent Education for the parent-teacher association (PTA) of my kids’ elementary school. And any time I share with the parents something of interest – whether it be a speaker, reading material or an Internet site – my goal is to share that information here.

Now last June, my predecessor brought in a school counselor to discuss Social Media. And while her lecture was informative, this Fall was a particularly busy time that I decide not to bring in a speaker but to do a flyer about Social Media instead.

social-media

The information for my flyer came from a website the counselor had recommended – SafeSmartSocial.com. I reviewed the site before opting to recommend it to the parents. On the site, they do offer a free Webinar about social media, but it turned out to be too much of a sales pitch for paid services and books they offered.

But the site’s Parent App Guide is quite helpful. Here you can look up an app to see if it is safe (green), questionable (grey) or dangerous (red).

On the site, you get a complete rundown of each app, including age requirements, how to install it, how it works, and how kids use it. There is a short video on each app to help parents better understand the app.

Green Zone Apps included things like Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. These Apps are considered safe for Teens and Tweens and are recommended for kids over 13. YouTube was included on this list but after talking to some parents, I am thinking that maybe it should be in the Gray Zone as there are some videos out there that are NOT appropriate for kids.

Gray Zone Apps included such things as Texting, Musical.ly, Pokemon Go and Vine. These apps could be fine for your Teen/Tween but the accompanying video spells out how these apps could also be bad.

Red Zone Apps include 18 apps that many high school (and some junior high/middle school) students are using. These apps – which include AfterSchool, Ask.fm, Ogle, Secret, Tumblr, Yik Yak and YouNow – are considered NOT safe as they are apps that allow users to remain anonymous. This can often lead to man comments or posting of things sexual in nature.

Now unlike my Parent-Teacher Conference flyer, this flyer was sent to the parents in an e-mail and also distributed via Social Media. I did worry a little that it wouldn’t be as widely read because of this. I think many parents read the information that comes home in their kids’ backpacks more than they read the school or PTA emails that go out.

But because a lot of the information applies mostly to parents of kids of a certain age (junior high/middle school on up) and in an effort to save on paper, I agreed to let it go out only in an electronic form. We did also post it at the school. I can only hope that the parents who need this information the most did, in fact, view it as the amount of bad apps and cyber bullying situations will continue to grow.

Posting your kids’ picture or achievements on social media

Many people from grandparents on down to kids too young to legally have an account are on social media these days. Some parents are even setting up pages for their newborns even though use restrictions of sites such of Facebook require users to be at least 13 years old.

And many of those using Facebook and other sites post with little regard everything about their life. Even as employers began scrutinizing social media as part of their hiring practice, people continue to post just about every incident or thought in their head.

And without a second thought, many of us post images of our kids at the zoo, celebrating their birthday, on their first day of school or even when they are having a tantrum. But few of us take the time to think about whether we SHOULD post about our child. It is after all their life and now that picture/post is out there for everyone to see/read. And remember the Internet if forever. Those pictures aren’t going away.

I know my own son has sometimes asked about whether I am going to post a picture I just took on Facebook. (Even at 11, he has his own Facebook account which only family members can access. He got it in order to play a game on his iPad. My daughter (age 8) often asks for an account, but we have not set one up for her.)

I recently read a blog post on the NY Times about a blogger who decided that she would stop writing about her children. She admitted to sharing intimate details of their lives on her blog, in chat rooms and on Facebook. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/why-i-decided-to-stop-writing-about-my-children/

And while I get her point and do think parents in general need to rethink what they share about their kids’ lives on social media, I won’t be stopping posting about my kids for several reasons.

The first is I have very strict privacy settings on my social media account. Only family and friends can see my posts.

The second reason is that I am very careful about what I post both on my blog and my personal Facebook account. I don’t post pictures of my kids naked or of them in their underwear. I don’t post when they are having a bad day or when they have gotten in trouble. In fact, I would say only a third of the posts currently on my page from the past month are about the kids. And they are not doing anything out of the ordinary – riding bikes, learning archery and attending the first day of school.

As for my posts on this blog, well, I post about my kids and topics that come up based on what is happening in their lives. However, I decided in the beginning that I would never post their actual names. I have given each of them a “new” name for this blog. No friends later in life or employers are going to find this site when they are looking for information on my kids. I have even done Google searches on their real names and nothing comes up. (But searching their alias do bring up images.)

Now I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. But I do caution all parents to take the time to think before they post. Think about your child’s feelings when you post about their latest exploits and embarrassing photos. It is just your life you are affecting after all, it is also your child’s. And let those thoughts be what guide you.

 

Buying ads to sell your book

Publishing a book and then hoping someone will stumble upon it and buy it will result in very few sales. To be successful you will need to market your book. This is an ongoing process that usually begins before you publish.

One option for marketing is to buy advertisements. There are a variety of places where you can advertise – Amazon, Goodreads, Facebooks, Book/Reader websites such as BookBub, Kindle News Daily and Ereader News Daily (and many more).

Some websites offer you a banner ad at the top of their website or perhaps a listing on their “special” or “deal section.” And some even will include your information in their e-mail newsletter. Other sites will offer advertising based on a Cost-per-Click program. This is where you have an advertisement (sometimes just copy and sometimes with an image) and you only pay for the people who click on the link in your ad.

In April, I chose to pay for adverting to promote my last KDP Select free promo for The Heir to Alexandra. I spent $15 ($5 a day) to appear on Digital Book Today’s website and $15 to appear in E-Reader News Today’s e-mail newsletter and on their website for one day. I feel that the E-Reader News ad, in particular, was especially beneficial and saw the most downloads on the day of my ad. (See all my results here.)

Of course in my instance, I was giving away a book. Advertising for a book in which someone has to part with their hard-earned dollars is quite different. Many people will download a free book if it only slightly interests them. They will not do the same when they must pay for the book. In that case, your ad must hook the reader into purchasing your book.

If you are going to purchase an ad on any of website, I would suggest you research whether this will help you reach your target market of readers. It doesn’t help to just advertise your books to readers. You need to get it in front of those that actually might read your book.

Some websites such as BookBub send out emails to those people who indicated they like a certain genre. So if you write fantasy, your ad will only go to Fantasy readers. (Click here for a review of advertising with BookBub.)

But let’s take a moment and talk about the other method of advertising – Cost-per-Click programs (CPC). Sites such as Goodreads, Facebook, Amazon, and Google all offer this type of program.

The good thing about most CPC programs is generally it is easy to target readers of your book genre. You can even narrow it by location, age, or gender. This means your ad reaches the people most likely to buy your book.

With CPC, you only pay for the ads where someone clicks on your link. Typically, you set a budget of how much you are willing to spend either per day or for the length of your campaign. Most of the places also let you decide how much you will pay per click but be warned in most cases the lower the amount you “bid” the less your ad will be displayed.

And in some cases like Goodreads, they determine how often your ad is shown based on the initial response to your ad. So if no one clicks on it, you get charged nothing but Goodreads won’t show your ad as much. The ads with more clicks in the first few hundred impressions are shown more frequently. Each ad gets a fresh start the next day.

One indie author reported her book was listed at $2.99. When she tried a bid of 10 cents per click, she didn’t get many responses and moved up to 50 cents a click which increased her click-through rate. But to break even on the cost of her advertisement, at least one person out of every four would have to buy her book. In other words, if she didn’t hook a fourth of the readers, she wouldn’t break even and certainly wouldn’t be making money from her advertising effort.

On Facebook, you can run campaigns to promote your page or to sell your book. Here is a link to a report about getting likes (and how it isn’t worth it).

You can, however, run ads to sell your book but many authors have tried this and even when trying to give a book away for free reported that advertising on Facebook didn’t do well.

Just as a note, on July 8, Facebook announced that they updated their cost per click to only include clicks to websites and apps and not include likes, shares or comments.

Amazon offers their Kindle Direct Publishing ads that will promote your book across Amazon and on Kindle E-readers. Campaigns start as low as $100 and are on the CPC plan. Your ads can appear on product pages as well as on the Kindle screen saver or as a banner on the Kindle home screen.

You can also do CPC ads on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. If you hadn’t noticed, whenever you perform a search, the top results are sometimes from paid advertisers. For tips to writing a Google Ad, click here.

google ads

Now I don’t know if any of these CPC ads help sell books or not. But if nothing else you may get some exposure. Remember that often people have to see something multiple times before they take the time to look into it and in the case of looking at books, hopefully make a purchase.

For another author’s opinion on whether pay per click ads work to sell books, click here.

 

 

Preparing for an e-book release

CIMG1036So you have written an awesome story, edited it until it shines and formatted it for publication as an e-book. The cover has been designed and the engaging book blurb has been written. You are ready to release your book to the world. So what do you do now? How do you let everyone know about your masterpiece?

This is where planning your e-book launch comes in to play. How much you plan can depend on your own style as well as your time constraints or even how large of a fan base you have.

Many publishing houses plan their book launches months in advance. I haven’t done that with my books. My first two books were released within months of each other because they were already written when I decided to self-publish. So besides my short story, the only book I have released with any sort of real planning was the third book in my trilogy. I published it a few weeks after it was completed with only a little planning.

Soon I will be releasing my next book – The Heir to Alexandria – which I am still editing. So now is the time to plan out my e-book launch. I am hoping to release it mid-January. I have yet to pick an actual date since I am still in the editing process and don’t know how that will go with the holidays upon us.

Here are some things you can do to prepare for an e-book launch. You don’t necessarily need to do all of them. But select those that interest you and plan for them. The more planning you do in advance, the better reception your book will have when released.

Promote on your blog – Announce your release date, reveal your cover or even just write about your upcoming release. All of these can help build anticipation of your new book.

Plan a cover reveal – Some authors go beyond revealing their cover on their own blog. They build anticipation by revealing the new cover on other blogs as well. Several book promoters offer cover reveal packages. For some thoughts on whether a cover reveal is worth it, check out this blog.

Set up a New Release Blog Tour As soon as you have your release date, start lining up appearances on other blogs. Again, you can hire a company to schedule these for you or do it yourself. The goal is to spread the word of your book release by appearing on as many blogs as possible on the week of your release.

Giveaways – This can be used in addition to a new release book tour. You can raffle off a copy or several copies of your book.

E-mail subscriber list/Press release – If you have developed a list of blog followers or fans, you can e-mail them about your new release, perhaps offering them a discounted price. Keep this exclusive to those people. In addition to your e-mail list, you can also write a press release to submit to various new organizations.

Reviews – If you can, try and get some early copies out to reviewers. These really should be done at least 6 weeks before your release – sooner if possible so reviewers have adequate time. Ask for a short review on Amazon or Goodreads and for them to post it on their own blog/website.

Promote on Twitter, Facebook & other websites – You can start building excitement by Tweeting about your upcoming book or perhaps post a few excerpts on your own site or Facebook. There are many other sites that list new releases. This website lists 16 sites though I have not checked them all out.

The main thing is that you need to do SOMETHING. You can’t hope to publish a book with no fanfare and expect it to hit the charts. (Well, you certainly can hope or plan to do that but I think you will be very disappointed.) There are hundreds of books published each day. You need to connect yours to the readers out there who will love your book. And the time to start doing that is BEFORE it is published.

 

Focusing on Writing: Cutting out time wasting activities

Surprised woman in front of clock uid 1271830I will be the first to admit it – I am not always the best at managing my time. I too easily get sucked into time wasters. You know what I am talking about – those tasks such as checking email and Facebook or surfing the web take up more time that you realize. Unfortunately, those time wasters are stealing my writing time.

Here are some tips to help avoid those time wasters.

1.) Set limits on time suckers

Facebook, Twitter, email and the Internet easily can take up a lot of your time. Now I am not saying you should not work on building relationships with other writers or fans, or you shouldn’t market your other books but you need to set aside a certain time to do it – preferably after you have met your writing goal for the day.

It may help not unplug your network connection if you can’t resist the temptation to surf the web. And while you are at it, turn off your phone.

2.) Write when others aren’t around

The best time to write is when you are alone. It may be during lunch at your empty office or early in the morning before everyone gets up. But people – especially children – can be a great distraction. If you can’t write when no one is around, work on finding a time to write where you can hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your door. If your children are old enough, they can be taught to give you some alone time to write.

3.) Focus on your goal

Know what you want to accomplish when you sit down to write. It could be writing a set number of pages or words, editing a chapter or two or developing a character. Refuse to become involved in anything that doesn’t move you closer to accomplishing your goal. If it helps, let others who will hold you accountable know of your goal. (Next week I will cover how to set realistic writing goals.)

4.) Be Prepared to Write

Authors often talk about finding time to write, but really it isn’t about finding time as much is it about making time to write. Finding time means you are squeezing writing between other activities. The problem with this is that depending on how busy your schedule is you may or may not actually get any writing done.  I am so guilty of this.

Making time to write is proactive. It means you build your schedule around your writing. Knowing that you are going to sit down and write needs to be a conscious choice. Knowing that you are putting writing first makes it easier to ignore things that pop up to interrupt your writing time.

Remember that your writing time should be just for that – writing. You only have a limited amount of time for writing so get to it!

Using Amazon Permalinks and setting up your Facebook page username

Every Friday I host different authors. I always ask them to provide me with links to their website, blog, Facebook and of course, the buy links to their books. Often the links they send are really long. Here is a way to shorten your Amazon links and make your Facebook link cleaner.

Amazon

If you are sending the link to your author site or your book on Amazon, you should be sending the permalink (Amazon’s shortcut to your page). When you go to your book page on Amazon, DO NOT copy what you see as the web address in the field at the top of your browser. In my case, when I go to the page for Summoned, I see – http://www.amazon.com/Summoned-The-Elemental-ebook/dp/B005HB1IMG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365473550&sr=8-1&keywords=susan+leigh+noble

Instead of using this, click the share button on the right side of the page under Try it Free section. This will bring up a screen for you to email someone about this product. Listed here is the permalink. For Summoned, it is http://amzn.com/B005HB1IMG0. This takes Amazon’s own shortcut (Amzn.com) and adds your books AISN number. Now technically you could just type that yourself, but I like the cut and paste method, so I don’t accidentally transpose any numbers or letters.

permalink

You can do the same thing on your Amazon author page.

Now I don’t see any easy way to shorten your link on Barnes and Noble, the Kobo Store or iTunes. Smashwords already brings up a pretty short link.

If you really want to shorten these links, you could make a custom link on bitly.com. Once you enter the link into the “Paste a link here…” section, it will bring up a shortened link. You can click on it and change the random letters that come up to whatever you want as long as no one else is using that combination.

Facebook

If you have a Facebook page, make sure you have given it a username rather than the web address listed in the browser. This will shorten your link to http://www.facebook.com/SusanLeighNoble versus http://www.facebook.com/emmameadewrites?ref=hl (2nd one is not mine of course, but I had to look up a former featured author who hadn’t already fixed theirs.) This doesn’t necessarily shorten the link but does look more professional.

There are going to be many times as an author that you need to provide this information to different people so take the time to make your links look more professional.

Choosing a Facebook Page to keep in touch with readers

Facebook is a great way to keep readers up to date with your author news. So if you don’t have a Facebook page to promote yourself and your books you should definitely set one up.

Now while you can allow your readers access through your personal profile (by offering them a subscription rather than accepting them as “friends”), I like having a Facebook page instead.

facebook-logoA Facebook page is a public page that anyone can see even if they don’t have a Facebook account. Those with a Facebook account can “like” the page, and then they will receive updates from your page in their News Feed.

The main reason I like the page over having them subscribe to my personal profile is that I like to keep my friends and family separate from fans. I don’t want fans to read all my personal posts about the kids or family life (though honestly, I post very rarely on Facebook in either account). Basically, I consider friends/families and fans as two different audiences which I don’t care to mix.

Creating a page really allows you maintain separate presences. It will allow you to avoid spamming your friends with all of your book stuff or your blog. It is helpful to have a place that’s just your book/writing/blog stuff and then you can save your personal posts for your personal profile.

Of course, the main benefit of having fans subscribe to your profile is that you have only one presence to maintain on Facebook rather than both a profile and a page.

Now, in my opinion, when you decide to set up a page, you should make it an author page rather than a page devoted to one of your books. You are building your brand, and that is what you should focus on. Maintaining Facebook pages for each book will become cumbersome with each additional book published (and we are assuming you plan to publish multiple books).

Fans and readers really need one place to go. Basically, if you have people who like your author page and others who like your book page, you are splitting your audience. If you post updates to the people following your author page, you might miss those following your book page. If you post on both, you could annoy anyone who follows both with duplicate or too many posts.

To set up a Facebook page, you must have a personal profile first. After you have a personal profile, go here to set up your page. Click on “Artist, Band, Public Figure,” choose author and follow the instructions.

Once you have your page up, you will need to let everyone else know about it. Go ahead and mention it on your blog, website and Twitter. Encourage readers to “like” the page. Then start sharing your author and book news. You can announce book releases, link to reviews of your books, let readers know about sales or updates on your current work in progress.

The key here is post on your page regularly. Keep your posts interesting and preferably one that can provoke responses. (I am bad at this last one.) And remember that every post should not be about trying to sell your books. Feel free to check out my Facebook page and “like” it.