Twitter Tips for Authors: Hashtags

The other day, a dear friend asked me what a hashtag is.

I wasn’t surprised and I was happy to educate her. In this new web 2.0 world authors are struggling to keep up with all the networking and promo options. If you’re one of them, read on.

hashtag button [2011-365-199]

A hashtag is typically used on twitter as way to categorize keywords. For instance, if you’re making a tweet about an author, you might use the hashtag #author. People who are interested in authors would do a search on #author to find recent tweets with that hashtag.

Things you should know:

There are no preset hashtags. There are no right or wrong hashtags. There are, of course, popular hashtags (and that’s a different post.)

Some people like to have a little fun with their hashtags. Rather than using a hashtag to classify information, they use it as a way to be ironic and save character space. So when you see something like #yeahIsoneedmymorningcoffee don’t expect to find dozens of other people carrying on a conversation about needing their morning coffee. On the other hand, some hashtags just stick.

Things to consider when using hashtags:

  • You can use more than one hashtag to offer extra classification. So on one tweet you might include: #author #writer #editing
  • The shorter your hashtag, the better. Everything on twitter is a numbers game. How much can you squeeze into 140 characters?
  • You can use hashtags anywhere in your tweet. So you might say something like: New #author Suzie Q really knows how to write a #thriller.
  • Watch for conference related hashtags to stay up to date with the latest conference and workshop info.
  • Don’t use hashtags too often. You want hashtags to classify the best of your tweets. Otherwise you risk diluting their usefulness and people will become annoyed.
  • If you post the same tweet throughout the day or over a series of days to capture a wider audience, vary your hashtags.
  • If you’re replying or RTing someone who used a hashtag, take out the hashtag. We don’t need to see the hashtag/message over and over again. We saw the message the first time.

Klout for Authors: Influential Topics

As a registered user of Klout you’ll find all sorts of metrics on your profile page. One that has people sitting up and taking notice is the Influential Topics section.

You’ll see three topics/categories listed on your profile page.

influencetopics

Klout’s super algorithms have decided that I’m influential about Facebook, Marketing and Branding. This could be because I a) talk about these topics frequently, b) I discuss these topics with other people, c) I post links about these topics, d) others RT/share the links I post about these topics or e) all or any of the above and any other secret voodoo that Klout has going on.

If you click on the "see all…" link below the three influential topics you’ll be taken to a page that lists all the topics that Klout thinks you’re influential about.

What does this mean to authors?

This is a good general idea of what you talk about most frequently. And this would be a good brand building tool.

If you want to be known for your writing advice, you’d want to discuss writing topics rather than food, sports, kids.

Klout friends can also +K you, meaning they deem you influential about certain topics. All they have to do is click the little +K icons next to topics on your Influential Topics page (aka, see all…)

Stay tuned for more Klout related posts for authors. If you’d like to be notified of new posts, please insert your email address into the form on the left of my blog. You may also want to sign up to my newsletter to receive my free ebooklet, 55 Tips for Authors.

KISS… Keep It Short, Sweetie

My father sent me a link to an online article the other day. Having a few minutes, I clicked on the link and started reading. The first few paragraphs were fairly intriguing. But my eyes roamed over to the scroll bar on the right.

Did you know you can tell how long (big) a page is by how small the scroll bar is?

Needless to say, the article was pretty long. And I was short on time. So I sent the article to my InstaPaper account (that in itself deserves a blog post) and went about my business.

Let this be a lesson to bloggers everywhere. Get to the meat of your post ASAP and please, I’m begging you, keep your blog posts short.

250 words is more than enough in my opinion. Anything longer than that and I’m out of there.

If you have a post that needs to be longer, has more to say, or whatever the case may be, break it into a series.

  • You’ll get more visitors that way.
  • You’ll keep readers like me happy.
  • And you’ll get the chance to include a newsletter sign up form at the end of your blog post requesting visitors sign up to your newsletter so you can let them know when the next part of the series is posted.

This post, by the way, is 228 words.

Are You Here To Promo?

Between a rock and a hard place. That’s where today’s authors find themselves. In the middle of a turbulant storm. An industry in the middle of a revolution. And everyone is telling them the same thing: build your platform.

What’s an author to do?

Stop Sign

During the decade or so that I ran the CataNetwork websites (and associated yahoogroups, messageboards, etc) it became painfully abvious that there are two types of authors in this world.

The type that get it and the type that don’t.

Seth Godin, marketing guru, said on his blog: If you only show up when you want something, we’ll catch on.

For the authors who don’t “get it” let this be a note to you. If the only time you ever come online is to promote your latest release, shame on you. We’re people too. And like you we have busy lives: families, sick kids, critters that need to go to the groomers, dinner to cook, parties to host, and occasionally, we sleep.

Building a platform is not about promotion. It’s about becoming known for something other than your blatant-self-promo. Do you like spam? How about endless advertisements in your mailbox? That’s what blatant-self-promo is. And no one cares.

That deserves repeating. No one cares.

How do you get them to care?

1. Build a solid platform based on an interesting, giving personality.

2. Listen to others. Ask them questions. Share information.

3. Do not send direct messages on twitter and messages on Facebook promoting yourself or your book the instant you become friends with someone. See above spam reference.

4. Engage people consistently. You don’t need to be on twitter twenty-four hours a day. But you do need to be present more often than you release books. Aim for half an hour per week.

5. Be polite. Thank people who share your work and words. This means RTing. Linking back. Promoting you. Letting you guest blog.

photo by: thecrazyfilmgirl

Klout for Authors

Twitter users will likely recognize the newest name in the social networking game: Klout.

logo-newKlout measures your influence based on your social network profiles. For instance, you’d register with Klout (free at klout.com) and link your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogger (and any other networks that Klout supports) accounts.

Klout then reads what you’re writing about, who you follow, who follows you, how many times people share what you have to say, and so on. There’s some crazy math going on behind the curtain, but all you need to worry about is your Klout score.

From 1 – 100, think of Klout as a social networking candy thermometer and your score as your temperature. In this case, similar to when you were a kid and wanted to skip school, the higher the number the better.

Why does Klout matter?

As an author trying to build my platform, I often wonder "am I doing enough?" or "am I visible enough?" Klout, in my opinion, is a handy tool just to check how you’re doing. It’ll give you an "instant read" on how much you’ve been interacting lately, how much you’ve been sharing, how focused you are when it comes to the topics you talk about, and how after other people are reading and reacting to what you have to say.

Rather than sit there and wonder if social networking is doing you any good, let Klout take your temp and tell you how much progress you’re making.

All that said, it’s easy, too easy, to get caught up in the numbers. I see some people who stress over the fact that their Klout score has dropped a point.

That’s not what’s important. Think of your Klout score as a guide. The highest Klout scores I’ve seen belong to celebrities. People with hundreds of thousands of followers are bound to have their words shared more and they’re bound to have more people talking to them. It’s a numbers game. You can’t compete with that.

Let me repeat: you cannot compete with a celebrity with 2 million followers. So cut yourself some slack if you’re at a 35 and Ashton Kutcher is a 72.

What to do next:

  1. Sign up for Klout. (www.klout.com)
  2. See where you currently stand once you’ve linked your current networks.
  3. Watch your score once per week over the next month.
  4. See what topics Klout says you’re influential about. (More on that in another post.)
  5. Use the search box at the top of the Klout website to see where your friends and peers are sitting on the Klout list.
  6. Carry on as usual and don’t worry about your Klout score too much.

Up next week, a deeper look at Klout and what are those influential keywords anyway.

The Easiest Way to Get Rid of Tabs in your Manuscript

Submitting a manuscript can be a little intimidating. And if you take the time to read the guidelines you’re probably the type of writer who wants to get your submission just right.

Problem is, each publisher wants something different.

Some publishers don’t want you to use tabs to indent paragraphs. So what do you do if you used tabs in your WIP? If you’re lucky enough to have Word 2007, it’s easy to get rid of tabs.

I was SO excited when I found this option. Note: I’m not sure if older versions or other software (like OpenOffice) has something similar, so if you know, please report back. Thanks.

How to do it:

  1. Highlight your WIP (ctrl + A will select/highlight all on a PC.)
  2. Go to Replace (it’s in the top right on my ribbon under the Home tab).
  3. Click on the empty field next to Find What: then go down to the Special button. Click the Tab Character option.
  4. Replace Tabs in Word 2007

  5. The Replace with: field should be empty.
  6. Click Replace All.
  7. It should pop up a prompt with how many times the tab character was replaced.
  8. With your WIP still highlighted click the little expando icon under the paragraph part of the ribbon and select the indent options for the first line of your manuscript to whatever the publisher wants. Usually .5 or half an inch.
  9. Indent first line in Word 2007

  10. Save document.
  11. Pat self on back.

For more tips for writers, sign up for my free newsletter and you’ll receive a free copy of my ebooklet, 55 Tips for Authors.

Farewell Dennis Ritchie (and that Steve Jobs guy too)

My husband popped into my office today for fresh batteries (why the recharger is in my office, who knows?) and lamented the fact that the creator of C and the Unix operating system had died. My hubby knows C and is heavily “invested” in Unix based systems.

He quickly reminded me that my cell phone, his cell phone, his operating system, and even Mac computers owe thanks to C and Unix. And, to Dennis Ritchie.

Dennis Ritchie. A name I’d never heard before, but according to DH, he had more to do with where we are as technological society than even Steve Jobs. More important than Steve Jobs? Really? Since Jobs’ death a week ago, that’s all the world can talk about.

But I understand my husband’s point. Without Ritchie’s advances in technology, your iPhone might be completely different (or not exist at all.)

So why is the world mourning Jobs and not Ritchie?

“Was he a millionaire?” I asked DH about Ritchie.

“No,” he said. “He was just a creator, not an entrepreneur.”

And that’s the difference. Steve Jobs built a company and created a brand. He created a community of die hard Mac lovers. He was a walking sound bite and enough of a character that people who don’t even use a Mac or like computers knew his name. He had a platform. And he used it very well.

Ritchie was a creator. He did not have a platform. He did not build a brand around himself and his creation. He did not step into the lime light. He was the quiet to Steve Jobs flamboyant. He created things…things that will affect billions of people.

And that my friends is the clearest example in recent memory of what a platform is. What a brand is. And what the difference is between branding yourself (and becoming well known because of that brand) and simply, quietly creating something great.

Meet RSS

I have someone new to introduce to you today. His name is RSS and you’re just going to love him.

Who is RSS?

Okay, so he’s not a handsome hunk. In fact, RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication. But here’s what you need to know about it.

Think of your favorite website. Got it? Yeah, you’re thinking about my blog, I knew it! How do you know when I post something new to my blog? You have to come and visit the site to see if something new has been posted, right? Or I might send out an email mentioning new posts. Right?

RSS makes it really easy for you to be notified each time something new is posted to one of your favorite sites or blogs.

How does RSS work?

RSS gives you a central place to look for new blog/website content. First, you have to subscribe to the site/blog’s RSS feed. It looks like a web address but with a few key things on the end. Once you’ve subscribed, you’ll go to your feed reader and any time a website/blog has posted a new post that post (or a summary from it) will appear in your RSS reader.

How do you subscribe?

You need a Feed Reader. I personally use Google Reader. It’s free and insanely easy to use. But there are LOTS of options. Even my email software allows me to get RSS feeds. If you use Outlook or Firefox, there should be addons that allow you to get RSS feeds there as well.

Once you have an RSS reader that you like, you add RSS feeds to it. The reader then “calls” the websites every so often and asks “hey, got any new content?” If the site says “sure do, here it is!” then the content will pop up in your RSS reader for you to read.

Here’s a screenshot of my Google Reader (just so you’ll see it’s not at all scary.)

reader.gif

So, who has an RSS feed for you to put in your reader?

LOTS OF FOLKS!

For starters:

  • GalleyCat
  • Murder She Writes
  • DearAuthor
  • Newbies Guide to Publishing
  • RomanticTimes blog
  • eHarlequin
  • SingleTitles.com and all the other CataNetwork sites
  • Virtually every blog (and many websites) on the internet

Yeah, I thought those looked familiar.

There’s one more thing I should mention. RSS has a cousin called Atom. Atom was developed by Google. But it does pretty much the same thing as RSS. So if you’re over on blogger and you see something that says Atom, you can grab that feed just like an RSS feed. But, make sure your Feed Reader will “play nice” with both RSS and Atom feeds (check the FAQ.)

Attract More RSS Users with Post Summaries

A question recently popped into my inbox praising how CataRomance.com offers a summary of each post via RSS. There’s a link at the end of each summary asking readers to visit the site to finish reading.

To be honest, I’ve never liked summaries in my RSS reader, but many people do. And many experts say this is an excellent way to get readers back to your site. This is extra important if you have advertisers or want to encourage comments.

To answer the question of how I do summaries on CataRomance.com:

I use Feedburner. There’s a feature called Summary Burner. Here’s a screenshot of it:

summary_feed

You’ll see that I have the maximum length of the summary set to 400 characters. And then the text that I want linked is {Finish reading on our website…} Both options are editable by you. And in case you didn’t know, Feedburner is a free service that lets you offer cool options like this, plus it tracks your RSS subscribers. If you’re not familiar with RSS, click here.

A Post Saved is a Post Earned

Okay, so I couldn’t think of a better title, but a recent visit to Jenny Cruise’s blog had me curious about blog posts I’ve written, saved, and never published. I think she had a crazy list. Like a hundred posts or something.

I headed back over to my trusty blog to see what sort of goodness I had lurking in the wings. Found half a dozen gems just waiting to be polished and published…so stay tuned for those.

One thing I like to do is start a blog post when the idea strikes. My software, WordPress, makes it easy to save rough drafts that I can come back to later. At any given time I can have several ideas in various stages of completion: from a link and a headline to a full article awaiting a proofread.

Being able to save/draft these ideas as I go makes it super easy to “find something to blog about” when my brain is having a rough time coming up with something.

Do you have any half finished blog posts waiting for you to share them with the world? Publish them and leave me a link in the comments section so I can come read them.