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.

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How To: 7 Steps to a Great Writer Blog

Screen Shot 2012-04-26 at 4.18.09 PMI love it when writers link to their blogs when they’re querying me. I know not all agents agree, but if I’m interested in a query or a project I’ll definitely be looking you up. So what do agents look for when we’re going through writers’ blogs (which are different than author websites)? Here’s a glimpse into my thought process.

How To: 7 Steps to a Great Writer Blog

1. FREQUENCY

My biggest pet peeve is writers who set up a blog but don’t keep it up. I know things get in the way (life, marriage, kids, day job, etc) but the most important thing is some sort of schedule. I’m not saying you have to blog everyday, because you certainly don’t! What I am saying is try to create a pattern: once a week, twice a month, twice a week–whatever you can manage.

2. CONTENT

What querying writers shouldn’t be blogging about is the process. I know this seems strange because it’s the biggest part of your writing life right now, but trust me on this. Agents and editors don’t want to know how long you’ve been writing/querying/submitting this novel for.

3. VOICE

When agents are signing writers from the slush the most important thing to us is usually voice. Plot we can revise, voice we can’t teach. So if we are intrigued by your writing and we want to know more we find our way to your blog and voila! We see if we like the voice more or less now that we’ve seen it in a different context.

4. FOLLOWING AND INTERACTION

You don’t need a big following on your blog for an agent to take notice. For fiction the writing always stands alone. However, it’s really great to see writers who blog interacting with the people who visit their site. Because if you have a following of 10 or 1,000 those are people that understand you, like you, and will support you when the time comes. That’s better than 500 empty hits.

5. CONTACT INFORMATION

Always have contact information on your blog. Link to your Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram (if you are open to sharing this with the public) so that people can engage on the platform they like best. Don’t forget an email address!

6. AUTHOR BIO

A succinct author bio lets me know this writer is serious and wants to be taken seriously.

7. COLLABORATION

If you don’t know what to write about, why not do it as a group! Pub Crawl Blog, All The Write Notes, and Writers in the Storm are all good examples.

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My top writer blogs:

  • Have you checked out Chuck Wendig? He does blog about writing, but also funny inspirational (with some NSFW language!) posts.
  • Sarah Dessen is also great. She mixes media and blogs about her Twitter posts too.

Further Reading: The Big Mistake of Author Blogs by Jane Friedman

Q: What Do Agents Like to See When They Google Writers?

20120130-093459.jpgYes, if we’re interested in your work we’ll Google you. And yes, there are things we like to see:

  • Some sort of Website. You need a landing page. (WordPress and About.me help you do this for free. You don’t have to break the bank.)
  • A certain level of Social Media proficiency. (It doesn’t have to be everything, just showing interaction.)
  • Blog posts that aren’t discussing the submission process in too much detail. Many writers lay it all out there to share the (often lonely) experience with others, but it’s really best if you can keep this to yourself.
  • Positive demeanour and Professional approach in your online interactions. It’s a small world! (And editors can Google you too.) Agents choose who they work with carefully, and we like to work with nice people.
  • A Personality. You don’t have to talk about books or writing online, if you’re passionate about dogs with paper hats then let your freak flag fly. Don’t be afraid to be memorable.

Continue reading Q: What Do Agents Like to See When They Google Writers?

Author websites and blogs: what are the must have’s?

So you’ve started an author blog or website. What should it look like? What material should you have on it? I’ve outlined some must have’s for author websites.

7 Things Your Author Website Needs:
1) List of your books & Where to buy your books

If visitors stumble upon or search for you, either way you want them to head to buy your books. A reverse chronological layout of your published books is best (depending on your website design). Clear links to Amazon.com and indie sellers is an easy way to display a call to action on your site. Don’t bury the links on subsequent pages, make sure they are easily accessible on the home page. And offer print as well as digital versions of the book.

2) Author bio

An author bio and picture must be available on your site. Many writers struggle with this. Too modest, too confident, too bland. Give it a punch with something fun about you, something that readers will remember, and something that makes you stand above the pack. You author image should be professional (but it doesn’t have to be professionally taken) and reflect the tone of your writing. Here is a great blog post from Rachelle Gardner about ‘How To Write A Terrific Author Bio.’

3) Clear links to social media accounts like Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook and more.

Part of being available to your readers online is creating a community around your writing and writerly persona. If you are in book promotion mode, and pre-sales buzz mode you need to be providing seamless links between these social media and online community websites. Encourage visitors to follow you on Twitter or like your author page on Facebook, give them a call to action and a reason for visiting. Continue reading Author websites and blogs: what are the must have’s?