#HashtagTrends

Hashtags. They are all over the Internet. You can find hashtags on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Periscope, to name a few social media sites touting these # signs.

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Hashtags are linguistic shortcuts used on social network and microblogging services which make it easier for users to find conversations and information based on a specific theme or content. They also allow users to create a conversation thread around a specific theme or topic.

Adding hashtags to social media posts is one way to broaden your audience. Avid social media users follow hashtags on topics that they are interested in to see more posts on that subject and be part of the conversation. Hence, users will stumble across your content via the hashtags you use.

A few authors are using the hashtag trend to gain even more exposure for their books. These authors are assigning their books a hashtag title.

The first book I saw containing a hashtag title was at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) this summer. The book was titled #struggles: Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World. It was written by Craig Groeschel and published by Zondervan. It is officially releasing next month.

Shortly after the convention, #CompletelySingle: Learning How to Become the Right One Before Meeting the Right One by Damien K.H. Nash crossed my desk. This book was published by a member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA).

I think using a hashtag for a book title is an interesting idea. It is one way to increase exposure for a book, especially if the author chooses a hashtag that is fairly popular and widely used. It will be interesting to watch to see if this #hashtag title becomes a trend.

In the meantime, make sure that you are using effective hashtags with your social media posts. If you are not sure which hashtags you should use, you can find popular and trending hashtags on Hastagify and #Hashtags.org.

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10 Reasons to Not Enter a Book Award

Did you know that there are over 1,200 books published every day in the United States. That is a lot of books! And, it means that your book has a lot of competition.

Sometimes I hear from authors who appear to think that book awards are a waste of time and money to pursue. If you are one of those people who like to just blend in with a crowd and not stand out, then entering book award contests may not be worth your investment. So, in honor of these type of individuals, I am providing a list of ten reasons to not enter your book in a book award contest.

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Ten Reasons to Not Enter a Book Award

10.  You are not a published author.
9.    You dislike stickers.
8.    You don’t want to have to redo your book’s cover to include an award emblem.
7.    You are selling enough books already.
6.    Your audience is big enough. Everyone you want to know about your book already does.
5.    You don’t want to spend any more money marketing your book, even though the nomination fee is affordable.
4.    You think your book doesn’t deserve recognition.
3.    You think you are not a good enough writer to call yourself an award-winning author.
2.    You prefer obscurity.
1.    If God wants you to have an award, He will give you one.

If you find that this list does not exemplify your feelings on the issue, then I encourage you to take action.

If you are an independently published author or small publisher with a Christian book published in 2014 or 2015, written in English, and available for sale in the United States, then head on over to www.bookoftheyear.net and nominate your book for the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award.

If you are looking for additional Christian book awards to enter, you can find a listing at www.christianbookaward.com. In addition, my book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, contains a lengthy section on general book awards for independently published books that include religious categories.

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Engage Your Fans With Polls

Which do you read more: fiction or nonfiction books?

Polling—asking readers opinions—is a powerful tool that you can incorporate into your social media marketing strategy. Social media is about engaging with your audience. Polls are a wonderful tool to use to connect with your followers and fans.

yes noPeople love to give their opinions, so polls are usually popular on social media. Using polls provides you with three great benefits.

1. Polls give you feedback.
Are you struggling with a title for your book? Ask your followers on social media. Give them a choice between two titles and ask them which title draws them in using a poll. Are you wondering which cover design is better? Ask your fans using a poll on social media. Not sure which name to give your main character? Again, use a poll to ask your social media circle which name they prefer. Polls can provide you all sorts of feedback and help you design your book to meet readers’ desires.

2. Polls help you engage your followers and fans.
When you use a poll to get feedback, you are engaging with your fans. You are asking them their opinion and letting them know that their thoughts and ideas matter to you. People are drawn to others that listen to them and take what they think into consideration. You can do this with your followers on social media by using polls.

3. Polls can help you build excitement for your upcoming book.
Using a poll to ask your social media circle which book cover, title, name, or setting they prefer builds interest in your project. When people have input into something, they take ownership of that thing. By asking your followers to help you choose a cover or title, you are encouraging your fans to become connected to your next book. This builds excitement and anticipation. Readers will say, “That’s the book cover I voted for,” or “That’s the title I thought she should use.”

If you want to use polls to engage with your followers more, there are a number of free services on the Internet that allow you to create polls and run them on your blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. Some even allow you to email a poll. Two free poll creating services to check out are PlayBuzz and QZZR.

Have you used a poll in your social media marketing? If so, did it engage your fans and give you the feedback you were looking for?

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Periscope: One More Marketing Tool

I recently spoke at a Christian writers’ conference. At this particular conference, I was introduced to an app that is a great tool for authors to promote themselves. If you have not attended a writers’ conference lately, I encourage you to do so. I always find that I learn so much from other attendees at writers’ conferences.

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An emerging author at this Christian writers’ conference where I spoke introduced me to the live-stream broadcasting app, Periscope. This lady has written her book and is in the process of working on publishing it. She is one smart marketer. She showed me how she is using Periscope to stream video broadcasts of herself talking about her upcoming book. In so doing, she is building an audience and building interest in her upcoming book.

If you are not familiar with Periscope, it is an app for Smart phones. It can be downloaded for free. Once the app is on your Smart phone, you can turn it on and begin filming anything. You can film your child’s first steps, your dog doing tricks, or yourself talking. Your video is broadcast live over the Periscope app. Users around the world can tune in and watch your broadcast. Once you are done filming, Periscope stores your broadcast for 24 hours for users to access. After that time your broadcast is no longer accessible.

As with any social media, you can follow people and get notifications on your phone when they are broadcasting. You can also just randomly peruse the world map on the app. This map shows you how many people are currently broadcasting by region. You can click on any live broadcast and watch it.

While you are streaming, Periscope users watching your broadcast can type questions or comments that show up on your phone. They can also like what you are filming by sending you hearts. They do this by tapping their Smart phone screen.

If you are not using Periscope, I would encourage you to check the app out and consider adding it to your kit of marketing tools. Here are three reasons why.

1. Using Periscope can save you time.
Within the Periscope app, there is a setting that allows a user to save any video they stream over the app to their phone. This allows you to bundle your efforts. In other words, if you are taking video of yourself talking about your book for Facebook or YouTube, you can use Periscope to take the video. When that video is saved to your phone, you can upload it to any of your social networking sites or blog. Using Periscope allows you to reach the Periscope audience at the same time you reach your YouTube, Blog, or Facebook audience.

2. Apps are the future.
Two-thirds of American adults own a Smart phone. Some research is showing that blogs are on a decline. Since 70-80% of people access social media via their mobile devices, video continues to grow. Consumers are spending more time on visual content such as videos on the Internet, and less on print content. With Smart phone usage increasing, some companies are beginning to abandon their websites in lieu of becoming app-based. To continue to reach readers, authors will have to adapt their marketing to hang-out where their target audience does.

3. Using Periscope can broaden your audience.
Every new venue you use to promote your books gives you access to more people. Your audience grows each time you expose yourself and your books to more people. Periscope can help you broaden your audience.

I plan to start using Periscope to stream my blog content each week. You can follow me on Periscope if you have the app. You will find me under my name: Sarah Bolme. Since Periscope is owned by Twitter, if you are following me on Twitter (@sarahbolme), you will automatically be given an option to follow me on Periscope when you use the app.

Do you use Periscope? If so, I would love to hear about your experience with it.

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