Things I Wish I Knew: Book Baristas Tips for Social Media

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 11.22.30 AMIf you don’t know about Book Baristas you’re probably not on Instagram. Book Baristas, at the time of writing, has approximately 80,000 Instagram followers and is certainly one of the most followed and respected “bookstagramers” around. If you’re on Instagram be sure to follow her! If you’re on the fence about the power of Instagram for books I think she’ll convince you it’s necessary.

She recently took a job working in publishing and has moved to NYC. She continues to blog and bookstagram while working for Penguin Books. Her name is Natasha Minoso and she’s our next “Things I Wish I Knew” series interviewee. I was thrilled to direct her some questions I know writers ask a lot: how do I grow my online platform and how do I work with book bloggers? Read on for the answers…

Book Baristas is a major book recommendation source on Instagram! Congratulations on building that platform. What do you wish you knew when you started it? 

Thank you! I wish I would have known that it would be both extremely time consuming and addictive. It’s a lot of work to keep up an Instagram, but its 100% worth it to be able to connect with readers/authors/publishers all over the world on one platform.

When you started Book Baristas did you strategically plan for it to grow on Instagram (as opposed to Twitter) or was that a natural place for the platform to develop? How fast did it grow?

I definitely didn’t plan for it to become as big as it is – creating an Instagram for the blog was just another outlet I could use to drive traffic to my blog’s website. It became apparent that Instagram was going to play a bigger role in this whole blogging world I was suddenly a part of. I’d say it started growing a lot faster after one of my first-ever Instagram giveaways (#BookBaristas5k) in February of 2015 that ended up being a crazy successful giveaway. Since then, it’s been kind of a whirlwind!

What advice can you give to writers about working with book bloggers or Instagram reviewers?

I’d say to remember that these bloggers/reviewers are going to be busy reading/reviewing a ton of other books and to be patient with the time that it can take for a review/Instagram feature to go up. Personally, I feel a sense of urgency when a writer will ask me when exactly I plan to put up a review. Blogging can feel insanely overwhelming so I’d just be more aware of that. Also, be prepared for whatever review/rating you get – sometimes a story doesn’t resonate with a reader and that’s okay.  

What advice do you have for writers or bloggers trying to grow their platforms? 

Be authentic – your personality and style will make your platforms sing. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be original with your words and ideas. Know your audience – every platform will attract different types of readers. Be honest with your content – if you are passionate about your work, it will show and people are more likely to appreciate your honesty! Lastly, remember that if reading and sharing your love of reading with others is something that you adore doing, then you are in the right place! Books are what bind us together in this community – don’t forget that we are all just readers finding our place in this online bookish world.

For more, follow Book Baristas on Twitter, Instagram and the blog, or follow Natasha’s personal account on Twitter.

Advertisements

How To Write For The Market While Still Writing For You

Let me quickly say: I don’t believe any writer should be following trends. That’s not what this post is about. However, I do believe that writers who want to get published traditionally need to have their eyes open to what the market is doing.

Why You Don’t Follow Trends

  • Trends are something that no one can predict–especially when they end and you don’t want to be on the tail end of something when the booksellers are no longer stocking that “thing.”
  • Trends are established years before anyone knows about them. With the year(s) of writing, contract negotiation, and production, by the time a book comes out it’s either starting a trend or with a trend that you have no idea about until it’s on the market. Therefore, trends are started 2 years prior.
  • Following a trend is a quick way to date yourself and risk unoriginality.
  • Agents aren’t looking for trend followers; we’re looking for writers who have something unique to say about the world, even if that type/genre of story has been done before (romance, historical etc).

Why You Follow The Market

  • To me, follow the market means reading industry news sites, going to the bookstore a lot, talking to librarians and booksellers, and/or joining a book club. Plus, reading a ton!
  • Write for the market means to have your eyes and ears open to what’s selling and what people want to read. Do your own market research as I mentioned above.
  • The market is the group of people that would potentially buy your book. Do you know who they are?
  • The marketplace is where your book is sold. Do you know which books are being chosen as “staff picks” and “recommended reads”?

Why You Still Write For You

  • If you write for trends, are you really writing for you? Is being a follower going to be the thing that gets you up in the morning? Is chasing something the right way to hone your craft?
  • Usually, most writers I know, get excited when they’re doing something special to them. Something that’s unique to them.

At the end of the day, the special books are the ones that stand out in the market and start trends. The books that are well-crafted and speak to people like few books do. So, the bottom line is that you have to write for you because you have to work on that craft. You can’t move readers until you’ve understood how to exercise your talent.

For more on this, read a great interview between editor Lee Boudreaux and LitHub.

Q: How do you conduct your “market research” as a writer?

Time, Fear and Talent: Why You Need All Three Tenets To Make It as a Writer

There are no magic formulas that agents are hiding from writers. Or secrets that published authors are hiding from unpublished authors. But there are a few things that can act like a key to unlock potential. I believe these three things are all it takes to make it in this business.

Time: Books don’t write themselves. Last week I asked people if they have a writing schedule. It was unanimous that while some people have strict schedules (up at 5am to write!) everyone believed you have to find a way to get the words on the page at a regular basis. While most people thought that a writer doesn’t have to write everyday to be a writer, they DO need to buckle down to get it done.

Fear: No matter how important it is to be fearless in your writing, you’re always chasing your fears away. For most writers, they never disappear. I encourage writers to write from a place of questions, not answers. What scares you about human nature? How can you persevere through those fears to write something meaningful? What makes you feel uncomfortable? Writers are also really good at wanting to improve with each book. Writing a thoughtful novel isn’t easy! If it was easy everyone would be doing it. Learning how to dig deep and think honestly about humanity and morality is the grit it takes to bring your writing to the next level.

Talent: It’s inherent, but it can also be taught to a certain extent. It’s also something unique that all published writers find their own way to discovering: their voice and their talent. Watch this video from Ira Glass on how you have to get through those early first ideas or first drafts to get to the raw talent on the other side…

Q: What do you think of these three tenets?  What would you add?

Guest Post: The 4 Platform Elements That Catch an Editor’s Attention

Headshot for Stonesong websiteEditor-turned-Agent Maria Ribas has a guest post for everyone today! It’s a small world in publishing and the story of how Maria and I know each other is a reflection of that. When Maria was an editor at Adams Media I sold her a cookbook called THE WELLNESS KITCHEN. She left Adams Media a couple years ago now and is currently at agent at Stonesong Literary in NYC. Maria represents non fiction and specializes in lifestyle and cookbooks. She has a great post about platform that I think you’ll all learn something from. You can also check out her site for more great information: www.cooksplusbooks.com or follow her on Twitter @maria_ribas.

I started out in publishing as an editor. And about once a week, I would get rejected. Our acquisitions meetings were on Thursday afternoon, and I’d spend much of that morning preparing a pitch for why everyone should get excited about that book I was so excited about.

The meetings would go something like this:

Me: !!!!

Everyone Else: …..

Me: !!!!!!!

Everyone Else: ????

Me: !!!!?

Everyone Else: No.

Having your excitement be met with disinterest is terrible. I know it’s something writers struggle with every day, and it’s a thing agents and editors have to battle through, too. But after some comically sad flops, I finally started figuring out what I needed to say so that people’s ears would immediately perk up.

And what got the most ear “perkage” (that’s not a word, is it?) from acquisitions teams? A platform-savvy author.

Any great agent or editor will tell you that you don’t need a platform to get a book deal as a fiction writer—a wonderful book is all you need. But any great agent or editor will also tell you that you can only avoid these platform-building initiatives for so long. A wonderful book may get you in the door, but only a strong publicity and marketing campaign will get your book back out the door and into readers’ hands.

That’s exactly why coming into the publishing process with those skills and networks in place can make you extremely appealing as an author. I’ve sat in many strategy meetings where an author’s editor, publicist, marketing manager, and agent put all their expertise together to formulate a strong marketing and publicity campaign. Yet the author’s lack of familiarity with the online landscape, and most often, their discomfort with putting themselves out there, crippled their ability to execute the campaign. The worst part is that this makes for a miserable, lie-awake-at-night book launch, because the author is forced to battle the fears and anxieties of platform-building at a time when they can’t afford to stumble.

Don’t let that happen to you! I know I sound like a scare-mongering PSA, but I’ve seen too many incredible books be completely ignored because the author struggled with the foundational skills of publicity and marketing.

If you’re overwhelmed about where to start, here are the 4 platform elements that most stand out to agents, editors, and acquisitions teams:

1. Connections

It’s true that you don’t need to be well-connected to break out in publishing, but it’s even truer that having connections will help you. Editors and agents know how hard it is to get even an ounce of attention for a debut book, so working with an author who has access to the megaphones of tastemakers is a huge advantage.

But remember that this doesn’t mean you need to live in New York City, attend all the right writing programs, or rub elbows with the literati every day. This isn’t necessarily about knowing celebrities, bestselling authors, and high-profile journalists. It’s about forming real connections with the people who are right there with you in the trenches. Get out and meet writers in your neighborhood; join online communities; reach out to that writer you admire just to say hello. Remember that it takes a tribe to launch a book, and it’s a whole lot easier to make real friends when you’re not plying them with information about your book.

2. Press

Similar to connections, press mentions are a way to get attention for a book, and they’re the foundation of a publicity campaign. So when a book comes in to an editor or agent and the author already has press experience ? That’s a big, big plus. Publishers think of it as a two pronged advantage: 1. The author already has a relationship with gatekeepers in other media (reporters, producers, bloggers, etc.) and can call on those connections to get coverage for the book, and 2. The author has already proven that he/she is comfortable with being a public figure and understands that pitching and public speaking skills are essential to the successful promotion of a book. This shows editors that you know how to position yourself and your work in a way that receives favorable attention, and that is always a good thing.

3. Analytics

Ten years ago cold, hard numbers had no place in the acquisitions conversation for a debut author. Today, they can be the #1 reason why an author and agent hears a “yes” rather than a “no” from an editor, particularly in the practical nonfiction world. Again, this is something that’s make-or-break for nonfiction, but still a big plus for fiction writers, too. These numbers are a concrete way of showing editors that you already have a readership—that you’ve spent years building relationships across different online channels, and that those people think what you have to say is worthwhile.

Analytics can be anything from traffic on a website or blog to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media followers.

4. Email List

Yes, you could put this under analytics. But I’m breaking it out for a reason—it’s a breakout number. That means that even if your social media numbers are middling, having a significant email list can get an agent’s or editor’s attention. This is because sending an email is the most direct way to reach potential readers, and it’s also the only way you can (nearly) guarantee that the recipient will see an important announcement. With so many changes to social media algorithms lately, it’s hard to guarantee that important updates (like a launch announcement!) will actually make it to the people who want to know about it. That’s why I preach the gospel of the email list to all my authors—it’s the best thing they can focus on building, because it’s the only channel they can themselves own.

I know platform-building can be overwhelming, fraught with emotional pitfalls, and overall more pleasant to ignore than to face head-on. But the business of publishing, in any genre, always hinges around sales, and the sooner authors can build marketing and publicity skills, the sooner they’ll find their readership. And the less often that their exclamation points will be met with a cold, hard “No.”

Maria Ribas began her career on the editorial side, first at Simon & Schuster and Harlequin Nonfiction, then at Adams Media, where she was an associate editor before moving to the agency side in 2014. At Stonesong, she specializes in practical and narrative nonfiction from authors who understand how a thoughtfully produced, proudly promoted book can grow their brands and their businesses.

She also writes about writing, platform-building, publishing, and cooking her way through books at www.cooksplusbooks.com