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While I was writing my first novel, I never thought about what would come after I completed it. Madness, right?


I knew nothing of author branding, publishing, marketing, or growing with the industry. Now, these are the things I think about every day, from the time I open my eyes until the time my head hits the pillow. This tunnel vision has served me well.


So, I have decided to continue with the momentum from 2021 and make 2022 the year to focus on growing my author business. I will accomplish this through increasing exposure, releasing new material, and actively connecting with others.



If you have followed my journey, then you may be wondering why I’m marking this as having a new outlook, when I spent part of 2020 and all of 2021 working toward these very things! Here are a few reasons why, starting with the challenges I faced and how I solved them, and ending with my continuing goals.



EXPOSURE


Challenge: Before I was published, I didn’t have much of a social media presence.


Solution: I now have a solid year of operating a website and posting a monthly blog and newsletter. After some trial and error, I figured out what posting schedule worked best for me (blog posts go out at the end of each month while newsletters are sent at the beginning), made some design changes, and experimented with a host of different material.


Continuing goals: I plan to expand my social media footprint. So far, I’ve discovered Instagram’s wonderful bookish community and dived into the fascinating writing community of Twitter. Over the past several months, I have joined a multitude of Facebook groups for readers and authors and have interacted with some incredibly supportive members. As soon as I have cleared enough space on my phone (I’m up to 7K pictures on my camera roll—I know, I know!), I look forward to joining the booktok community on Tiktok.



NEW MATERIAL


Challenge: It took me close to a decade to write, edit, and publish my first book! How long until I could put out a second? This is especially tricky while writing a series, which is why many authors will either write the entire series beforehand (or at least the first couple) before publishing. Duly noted and moving on... During 2021, I was worried that with so many new demands on my time I would miss out on doing what I love most—writing!


Solution: I have since found that with a little careful finagling, I can make the time to do it all. That has meant everything from making meals for my family in larger batches to adjusting my sleep schedule to optimize my most alert moments (since switching to decaf coffee, this has become even more crucial.)


It has worked, since I am now the proud author of two novels and a novella!


Continuing goals: I plan to use the processes and tools that worked, but search for even more ways to streamline them. One thing I have realized is that the learning curve is often steep, and things are constantly evolving. So, staying flexible in this fluid environment is imperative.


ACTIVE CONNECTIONS


Challenge: In the middle of 2021, I looked at where I was with each platform and determined that I was still not where I wanted to be. For instance, erratic posting made it harder to stay abreast of what others were doing. To make up for the large gaps in between reading posts, I only had time to send a quick heart or one word answer.


Solution: Instead of merely liking a post, I realized sharing my thoughts on it helped both the original poster and me to find like-minded followers. It also helped with those elusive algorithms that determine who and how many people see your posts!


Continuing goals: Quite simply, by being consistent and more active. While my original passive approach was fine for the learning stages, a more active plan will help me propel my business to the next level. I’ve watched authors who joined Instagram at the same time I did build their following exponentially by posting consistently and actively seeking out other authors and readers in their genre. Makes sense, right? Not many people achieve their goals by sitting back and waiting for things to happen.


I look forward to applying these ideas and more across my platforms and will share the results with you along the way!


Here’s to a year filled with many more learning—and therefore, teachable—moments. I look forward to 2022 and hope you are, too!


Rose


My newsletter is the perfect place to get the inside scoop on any of my projects and receive exclusive material. In fact, I’ll be working on a story this year that will only be offered to newsletter subscribers—make sure you don’t miss it and subscribe on my bio page!





This month’s topic concerns a common challenge for writers. How do we find time to write? I think it’s fitting to address this during one of the busiest times of the year, the holiday season.


The short answer is that you find the time when you make the time.


OK, stop rolling your eyes. That was the short answer! Continue reading for something more helpful...


As much as we all want to write because it’s fun, we have to plan our writing time as if it were not. You know, like doing the dishes, or keeping the dust mites in your home to a manageable level. And before you scoff and say your day is already overflowing with tasks, you can’t perform miracles, and what does anyone know about your daily struggles...take a deep breath. And then take another one.


You aren’t failing. No one is expecting you to be something you’re not. And I am one hundred percent saying that these thoughts have run amok in my own mind (sometimes all at once.)


I overcome them (read: daily), and so can you. Here are three ways how:


Plan when you can.


You will not always have time to formulate a 20-step plan 3-6-12 months ahead of your next project. Give yourself a congratulatory pat when you do, but learn to appreciate shorter, more frequent brainstorming exercises.


One often-overlooked time ripe for the planning stages of writing is when you first wake up. If you find comfort staying under the covers for an extra five minutes, but can’t shut out the feeling that you could be “doing” something with those free moments, why not do both? Keep a notebook and pencil by your bed to jot down that exciting news you want to tell your newsletter subscribers about. Or, grab your phone and Google search name generators to help bring your characters closer to life.


If staying in bed for even a moment past your alarm clock (whether mechanical, biological, or ‘other’) isn’t an option, then use the passive times you have.


Everyone stops to use the bathroom, eat, or travel. It is entirely possible to shove tacos down your gullet while figuring out which plot twist your readers won’t see coming. I promise <shoving hard shell carnage aside>.


Call it work, because it is.


There are people who will not automatically take your ‘at-home job’ seriously. Whether you reinforce their misconceptions is up to you, and often, you won’t realize you’re even doing it. To combat this bad habit, practice saying the following while getting ready in the morning: “This is my job. I am a business owner and provide a product. Some even consider it a service. Just because it is performed at home does not make it any less of a job.” Believe it yet? If not, repeat it until you do. No one will take it seriously if you don’t take it seriously first.


Isn’t that kind of harsh, Rose? No! Invalidating your hard work is by far the greater offense. Moving on...


We are often judged by monetary success, and if you are a new author, the likelihood of your first novel providing financial freedom, much less rave-review success, is rare. The second one isn’t likely to bring it either, too, come to think of it. Perseverance through sweat, tears, and time (along with a little luck), will best lead you there. So,what happens in the meantime?


If you’re sacrificing for your art (i.e. living the starving artist lifestyle), then be bold. Tell people you are going all-in and that you appreciate their encouragement and support. Whether it’s your partner, your friends and family, or complete strangers, demand the same time that they receive for their work. Set up working hours—whatever is manageable for your situation—and then inform others of your schedule like you would for any job.


You’ll be amazed how much more time you can map out for writing just by implementing this in your day-to-day life.


Similarly, if you’re in a spot where writing must remain a back-alley-type endeavor when all other demands on your time have been met, plan carefully and fight like a beast to preserve it!


Write when you’re at your best.


It just makes sense to write when you are at your sharpest. If your mind doesn’t fully awaken until the afternoon and your third cup of coffee, then why attempt your 1,500-word count at 7:00 a.m., right? Unless you really like rewrites. But wait, Rose, I thought you said to write in the morning?


No, I suggested early morning as a time you can use for planning your writing. That’s an important distinction.


I’ll make another one, too.


The planning process needs to account for everything unique to you and your situation. Children’s sleep or school schedules, animals that wake you up to meet their needs, or an inability to sleep past 6:30 a.m. are all examples. If you have a partner that works away from home, then timing your work hours can be even trickier. It may require meal prepping for the week on Sundays, or an agreement that during certain days/times, specific blocks of time are set aside for you to write while they take care of the household responsibilities.


Again, refer to the aforementioned point. You have every bit the rights to time and space to work as someone who works outside the home. While their time is treated as a given, however, yours may require some strong-arming and creativity to achieve. It can be done!


If your home life doesn’t involve significant strains on your time, then your challenges may lie in learning to ignore distractions and your own inner doubts. Those are all valid concerns and will make perfect topics for another day to give them their proper due.


For now, everyone else that feels they must steal time from something (or someone) else and struggles with that guilt, please, take a breath (yes, I believe strongly in these for stress management.)


Your dreams and your time matter. Your loved ones do, too.


However, working toward financial freedom takes time and is a multi-step process.

Allow yourself the time to take those steps.


Have you subscribed to my newsletter yet? Every month, I dive into a different writing or publishing topic (sometimes in cohesion with the month’s blog post). Sign up on my Bio page!

Marketing is essential for anyone seeking to gain a social media following, build a reputation, or sell products and services. For some, it is the equivalent of a nightmare set on repeat.


Instagram (IG) is often the lesser evil of social media for creatives (particularly introverted creatives), to break through the cycle of horror. After all, snapping a picture of your book and posting it to IG isn’t so scary, right? Minimal time commitment, too, come to think of it...


I’m with you but hear me out.


If every IG post on your account is a picture of your book, you aren’t going to build anything with your followers other than annoyance. As William Cowper said, “Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor.” Followers of a ho-hum page may stick around if they are not part of the “follow to unfollow” crowd, but they will never be excited to do so. And someone who doesn’t engage and thinks your posts are an indication that you organize your safety pins by size (just an example­­—this is a judgement-free zone), won’t invest in you or your brand.


So, how do you keep your posts fresh and relevant to your followers? How do you attract like-minded folks to not only visit your IG account, but hit that “follow” button and actively engage with your content?


The short answer is by providing content that inspires positive feelings. That doesn’t mean every post must be upbeat, it just means that the more positive experience you can provide, the better. In marketing, the term “delighted” is the end-goal for the customer experience. You accomplish this by offering quality, utility, continuity, and follow-through in every facet of your business.


I’ve gathered the following information to help guide you in this endeavor. (Skip to the Relevant Hashtags heading if you know how hashtags work.) For everyone else: A hashtag is using a pound (#) sign along with a word or short phrase (with no spaces) to identify or categorize information. This makes it sortable and searchable on certain platforms. Simply typing #authors in the IG search bar, for instance, will sort through the billions of posts made by users who used this hashtag. You can then click to view them, or you can scroll through the drop-down list of other hashtags that contain the same search term. As of today, the second hashtag listed after #author is #authorsofinstagram. The number of posts associated with each is displayed beneath it. Currently, #author has 11.6 million posts!


Relevant Hashtags


With billions of posts on IG containing up to thirty hashtags, it can be daunting when figuring out which hashtags will get you the best results for your marketing efforts. The following lists show thirty common writer and reader hashtags, separated into top (10 million + posts) and mid-range (1-9.9 million posts) tables. Below those are ideas for finding more niche-specific hashtags to zero in on your target audience. Note: An effective strategy isn’t about using the most hashtags or only the most popular, but rather, using the most relevant to your message and brand.


Top Hashtags

(10 million + posts)

# of Posts

(As of 10/31/2021)

#bookstagram

67.7 million

#book

58 million

#books

56.2 million

#reading

34.1 million

#booklover

25.9 million

#bookworm

24 million

#romance

23.3 million

#read

17 million

#bookish

13.5 million

#instabook

13.2 million

#bibliophile

12.9 million

#booknerd

12.6 million

#bookstagrammer

11.8 million

#author

11.6 million

#bookaddict

11.4 million


Mid-range Hashtags

(1 million + 9.9 million)

# of Posts

(As of 10/31/2021)

#booksofinstagram

8.1 million

#bookphotography

7.8 million

#booklove

7.3 million

#bookshelf

7.2 million

#reader

6.8 million

#igreads

6.3 million

#readersofinstagram

6.2 million

#instabooks

6 million

#bookblogger

5.7 million

#authorsofinstagram

5.7 million

#booklovers

4.9 million

#fiction

4.2 million

#bookreview

4.1 million

#bookcommunity

3.9 million

#kindle

3.9 million

You made it this far (that was a lot of hashtags!) How about some bonus ones? #amreading #lovebooks #igbooks #bookobsessed #booknerdigans #bookgram #bookrecommendations #newbook #readers #readersofig #romancebooks #kindleunlimited #instaread #instareads #indieauthor #bookshelves #nonfiction


Niche Targeting


Now that you have some universal hashtags to get you started, let’s move onto the next part of your IG marketing plan: finding your segments and identifying opportunities for niche targeting. In any market, but particularly in heavily saturated ones, it is imperative that you stand out from the competition.


Finding your specialized market is as simple as starting with your broader segments, such as fiction or nonfiction, and narrowing it down further to which genre, like romance or self-help. Romance novels break down further by subgenres (i.e. romantic suspense) while self-help books can trim down to psychology. How far down you go is really up to you. Consider researching the following:


Demographics - this will require statistical research. Get to know your audience (or preferred audience.) Are they your age? From your region? What are their religious preferences? Disposable income level? It can seem invasive and labor-intensive but knowing your audience means you can avoid things that could unerringly damage your relationship with them.


Like what? If you’re writing or reviewing clean and wholesome novels for high school-aged girls, then posting racy memes is something to steer clear of. Or, if your brand’s focus is on diversifying the typical hero and heroine in fiction novels, you want to avoid promoting books with cookie cutter character’s as this will likely confuse and alienate your followers.


Individual experiences - Did you wander the globe? Grow up in unique circumstances? Prevail through impossible odds? These life events can set you apart from your peers and help establish you as an expert in a niche market. Who better to help lift someone from a cycle of poverty than someone who has done it themselves? Or show a budding traveler the common pitfalls you wish someone had shown you?


Interests, hobbies, and skills - Perhaps you are talented with photo editing or staging photographs. These skills can go a long way in helping you stand out in the appearance-driven world of Instagram. Your only limits are your imagination in creating unique, vibrant content that will help define your brand.


Speaking of limits of your imagination, it’s time to dive into the final topic of this month’s blog. Now that you know your target segment, have identified any niches, and researched your audience, what content should you post?


Content Ideas


You’ve introduced yourself to your audience, ensured your branding is consistent across your channels by staying true to your message and target market, and now you’ve run out of fresh ideas to propel your business forward. What do you do now?


1) Get used to the ongoing need for research. Trends change, new competitors enter the field, and even the freshest ideas eventually grow stale. Knowledge will always be your best weapon.


Along the same vein, performing research into new product developments can offer a dual potential benefit. Perhaps you find new software that claims it can cut one of your most time-consuming tasks in half. You decide to research it and then give it a trial run. You discover it does everything it claims and then some! You can now use your findings to offer the same benefits to your audience. To extend the value, you reach out to the software company and ask if you can get an affiliate link. They not only say yes, but they offer you a discount to pass along to your audience.


2) Know that even if you are not a planner, you can gain better control and present more consistency if you create content weeks or months ahead. It doesn’t do you any good to realize National Authors Day is on November 1st on the night of October 31st. Trust me on this. <Ahem> Moving on...


3) Make a master list of all relevant events, holidays, and national celebrations. Then, research the related causes that support them (along with their preferred hashtags), and use them to make informed, high-value content for your followers.


4) Don’t be afraid to normalize mental health breaks. Running a business is a lot of work. It often requires extraordinary (and draining) effort and it’s OK to take a step back when you need to. Sharing that human moment with your audience can be an uplifting, positive experience for them and for you.


Learning how to navigate Instagram as an author or reader can seem like a terrifying challenge. However, when approached in a way that respects your audience, clearly identifies and consistently represents your brand, and helps you play to your strengths, you will have a better chance of turning your target audience into the “delighted” customers all businesses strive for.