Do You Use Hashtags?

A friend of mine owns an art gallery. She often seeks my input on marketing ideas. Over the past year, I have encouraged her to use social media to connect with her customers and expose herself to potential new customers.

Being in the 50+ age category, my friend has been slow to embrace the use of social media. She often wonders whether it is just a waste of her time.

I recently taught my friend the importance of using hashtags on Twitter. For those of you that don’t yet know what a hashtag is, the official definition from Twitter states: “The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.”

Twitter users place hashtags in their tweets to maximize exposure for the tweet. The hashtag symbol (#) is placed before relevant keywords. This allows the tweet to be categorized to show more easily in a Twitter search. It also allows the tweet to be made available to those people who follow trending conversations on Twitter by watching the tweets with a specific hashtag.

Many Twitter users follow hashtag specific conversations. For example, as a publisher, you might want to watch what is being said on the #publishing trend. Two websites that allow Twitter users to track twitter conversations by hashtag in real-time are Monitter and Twitterfall. Twitter users can also find out which hashtags are getting the most attention at Hashtags.org. This website provides a handy hour-by-hour graph on any hashtag usage.

The other day my gallery-owner friend called me all excited. She reported that a gentleman had contacted her studio to purchase a painting. When she asked him where he had found out about the painting and her gallery, the man replied that he had seen it on the #fineart hashtag on Twitter. My friend now had proof positive that effectively using social media can actually bring her new clients.

If you have not yet incorporated hashtags into your Twitter strategy, I recommend that you start today.

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e-Reader Rejection

A recent survey by Verso Digital found that there is a huge chunk of readers who do not want to use e-readers. 49 percent of the respondents in the survey said that it was unlikely that they would buy an e-reader. I belong to that category.

A generous friend recently offered to buy me a Nook as a thank you gift. I graciously thanked her, but declined the offer. I did not decline the Nook because I already own an e-reader, I declined the Nook because I don’t think I would use it much.

I have a confession to make. I do most of my reading in the bathtub, while running errands, or when waiting around for the kids to finish an activity. In the former, I read books. With the latter, I read magazines and journals.

Here is my concern. A bathtub is full of water. If I take a Nook into the bathtub, sooner or later, I will get water on it. I may possibly drop it into the tub. Dropping a one book into the tub is unfortunate, but not a library killer. Dropping a Nook into the bathtub could potentially destroy a whole library full of books.

My other concern with using an e-reader has to do with sharing books. I love to share my books. If I read a great book, I tell my friends about it and offer to loan it to them to read. Books I read and don’t want to keep in my personal library, I donate to my church library so others can have the enjoyment of reading them. Sometimes I gift books I have read to people I feel God is telling me to give the book to.

An e-reader doesn’t allow me to share books. It doesn’t allow me to share the love of reading with others. It’s a self-serving tool.

You might respond that e-readers can now lend books to one another. True. However, what if my friend doesn’t have an e-reader? Then I either have to give up my reading device for a couple weeks, or tell my friend to buy the book.

Some publishers reading this post will be thinking, “e-Readers help me sell more copies of my books. Sharing books reduces sales, which means less revenue.”

I would counter that argument with this: There have been many times when I have read a book someone has shared with me and then turned around and purchased the book either for my library or as a gift for someone else. In these instances, sharing a book has resulted in creating a sale for the publisher.

I confess: I am not a techie. I don’t need the latest gadget. I usually wait until a device has well saturated the public before I buy in. I guess the same will be true for an e-reader.

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Waylaid Plans

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions. Rather, whenever I see I need to improve or change something, I try to make a resolution right then and there to do something about it.

Just like New Year’s resolutions, my moment-by-moment resolutions can begin great and then fall by the wayside. Last fall, I decided I needed to compost my kitchen scraps. I started a compost area in my garden and for a few days took scraps out to it. Then the weather turned sour and it began to rain. There went my resolution. My resolve was not strong enough to include walking outside in the rain to dump the kitchen scraps.

Recently, I decided to try again. This time, I implemented a better plan. I put a bucket under the kitchen sink to empty kitchen scraps into. Now, I only take the scraps outside on nice days.

Our marketing efforts can be like New Year’s resolutions. We set up a marketing plan at the launch of each new book. Then, even with the best intentions, we often get sidetracked with all the other important things a small publisher wearing many hats must do.

From time to time, we need to resolve again to get back to marketing.

My resolution to make Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace available as an ebook keeps getting waylaid. It seems that each time I decide to concentrate on that goal, I run into some small obstacle and the project gets waylaid.

Whenever I run across a statistic on the increase in ebook sales, I am reminded that I need to get back to that project. Here is one ebook statistic I came across recently:

  • In 2010, the global ebook market grew by more than 200 percent. More than 90 million ebooks were purchased during that year. The value of the sales equates to more than $900 million and has been largely attributed to growth in the United States, which represented more than 80 percent of global book revenues.

This statistic spurred me to get back to my waylaid plan and put my book up as a PDF ebook on the book’s website. So, if you have been waiting for Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace to become an ebook before you purchase it. You can now do so at www.marketingchristianbooks.com.

I am also making progress on placing it on other ebook sites for sale as in ePub and Kindle format. Hopefully, my resolution to make it happen won’t get waylaid again.

How about you? What piece of your marketing plan has been waylaid? Resolve today to get back to it. You won’t regret it.

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Due Diligence

Coming up with a name for a new publishing company or business is not easy. I have heard from a number of new publishers about the frustration they encountered when choosing a name for their publishing company.

Besides the challenging of coming up with a name that does not sound small, or one that pigeonholes a publishing company, new publishers often voice frustration over finding a name that is not already being used in some format by another publisher.

With so many publishing houses boasting imprints, the number of names assigned to publishing businesses is vast.

When choosing a name for your publishing company, or new imprint, be sure to do some due diligence to make sure you are not infringing on another publishing house’s name. If you don’t, you may regret it later.

All you have to do is start with a simple Google or Bing search to find out what other publishing house may have a similar name to the one you want. Any established publishing company will appear on an Internet search.

This is why I am surprised that, over the past couple years, three new establishments set up to serve the Christian publishing community have chosen to use the acronym CSPA.

CSPA – Christian Small Publishers Association – has been around since 2004. The name and abbreviation (CSPA) are trademarked. Anyone who plugs in “CSPA” on Google will find Christian Small Publishers Association on the first page. When it is plugged into Bing, Christian Small Publishers Association comes up on the second page.

What this tells me is that these new entities either did not do their homework, or they did not care that there already was an organization named CSPA serving the same industry.

Unfortunately for these organizations, they received a notice from Christian Small Publishers Association requesting that they cease and desist using the CSPA acronym in their name. As a result, these new organizations had to make some changes just as they were trying to launch their business.

Fortunately for everyone, each new entity complied with our request, as we would hope any Christian organization would.

Be prepared. Use due diligence.

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