Hashtags: Use Them or Lose

The other day, I showed my teenage son a post on my Instagram feed. He took my phone and started looking at my Instagram account. Then he said, “Mom you have more followers on Instagram than I do.”

I am not a serious Instagram user. I have been messing around a little with Instagram since last fall. I am not seriously spending time on the platform. Mostly, I play with it to learn more about how to use it effectively.

Instagram hashtags

My son is social media savvy. He runs a YouTube channel. He has a Twitter and Instagram account. He is active on Reddit and Discord. He is no slouch when it comes to social media.

So, I asked him, “Are you using hashtags with your Instagram posts?”

His response was what I suspected. He told me that he was not using hashtags since he is mostly using Instagram to follow and communicate with his friends.

I explained to my son that this is why I have more followers on Instagram than he does. While I do not post much, when I do, I use hashtags. On Instagram (like Twitter) hashtags are how people discover you and your content.

Instagram makes using hashtags easy. When you type the # followed by a word in an Instagram post, Instagram brings up a list of popular hashtags containing that word. You can choose as many hashtags to use from this list as you like.

For example, if I post a picture of my new puppy, and I type #puppy, the following options come up:

Instagram Hashtags

  • #puppy
  • #puppylove
  • #puppytraining
  • #puppyforsale
  • #puppyfun
  • #puppypic
  • #puppyworld
  • #puppydog
  • #puppylover
  • #puppystagrams
  • #puppypaws
  • #puppylife

I then choose the most popular ones that fit best with my image.

Hashtags can also help you find useful information and resources. You can also use hashtags to find authors and other influencers to collaborate with. When I recently posted a picture of my puppy, I received the following comment on the post.

Influencers on Instagram

This company does not follow me on Instagram. Instead, they found me through the puppy hashtags I use on my posts. Clearly, they are using these hashtags to find people who might be willing to showcase their doggy products on Instagram so they can increase their exposure for these items.

You, too, can search on Instagram using hashtags. For example, if you are looking to find more reviewers for your book, you can find book reviewers by using some of the following hashtags:

  • #bookrecommendations
  • #bookreviewer
  • #bookreviewers
  • #bookreads
  • #booksreviewblogger
  • #bookreviewersofinstagram

Hashtags help you gain exposure and acquire more followers as well as finding other authors to collaborate with. So, use them. Use lots of them.

On Instagram, you can use hashtags generously. It’s acceptable to use multiple hashtags in your posts. In fact, you can use up to 30 hashtags per post, but experts say nine hashtags a post is ideal. The more hashtags you use, the more people will see your posts. The more people see your posts, the more your audience will increase and you can gain more exposure for you and your books.

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Photo courtesy of Energepic.com.

Why You Should Use Micro-Influencers

Last Sunday, the pastor at church mentioned a book in his sermon. He even went a step further and said that if the congregants had not read the book, that he recommended we do. I thought the book sounded interesting, so I acquired a copy.

That, my friends, is micro-influencing at work.

micro-influencers

Micro-Influencers

Marketing with micro-influencers has recently become a hot topic. Social media has given rise to a new brand of micro-influencers, but smart marketers have always worked with micro-influencers.

A micro-influencer is anyone with a smaller audience (it’s a relative number). These include:

  • Bloggers
  • Podcasters
  • YouTubers
  • Church leaders
  • Ministry leaders
  • Community leaders
  • Librarians
  • Retailers
  • Professors and Teachers

Why Micro-Influencing Works

Micro-influencers are more effective than any other category of influencer marketing. Why? Because people trust recommendations over advertising.

A study conducted by Nielsen in 2015 found that 80% of respondents said that they trust opinions or recommendations of family and friends. Often the audience of a micro-influencer considers these people as part of their trusted circle.

This is why another study found that nearly one in three Christians have purchased a Christian product after hearing about it in a sermon in a church, while only one in six having made a purchase after hearing about a product on the radio. This study demonstrates the difference between micro-influencers (pastor) and macro-influencers (radio).

The key with micro-influencers is not the size of the audience, but how much trust these individuals have with their audience. The micro-influencer may only have an audience of 200, but if that audience is highly engaged with him, then his recommendations carry clout.

audience size for influence marketing

Micro-Influencer Marketing

Targeting micro-influencers is a marketing strategy that authors can adopt. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Give review copies to micro-influencers to increase the likelihood that these individuals will read and recommend your book to their audience.
  2. Authors with an audience (think social media following or newsletter subscribers) can partner or collaborate with other author micro-influencers for cross-promotional purposes. For example, authors with books in the same genre can pool together to create a multi-book giveaway with each author promoting the giveaway to his or her own audience.
  3. Ask a micro-influencer to write a guest post for your blog. The influencer will then let her audience know that she is making a guest appearance on your website and her followers will visit, exposing you and your books to a new audience.
  4. Partner with a ministry that focuses on people who would benefit from your book’s message. Be a sponsor for one of the ministry’s fundraisers or events in exchange for some promotion for your book.

Remember, micro-influencers are not just online. They are also present in the physical world. Partnering with micro-influencers both online and in your community can bring increased awareness and sales for your books.

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Enlarge Your Audience with Micro-Influencers
Don’t Overlook Micro-Influencers
Marketing Your Christian Novel Like a Pro

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Photo Courtesy of Ben Konfrst.

13 Pricing Hacks to Increase Sales

For independent authors and small publishers selling books, there is a lot to learn—especially if you do not have a business or marketing background. Fortunately, there is a lot of information available for those who want to learn.

Smart retailers use pricing tricks, based on brain science, to appeal to shopper’s perception of quality, value, and cost to drive sales. You can employ one or two of the techniques that smart retailers use to improve your book sales. Check out these 13 psychological pricing strategies compiled by Wikibuy.

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You Are More Than an Author

I know a pastor who puts three titles on his email signature. He doesn’t just list “Pastor”, he lists:

Visioneer   *   Guide   *   Pastor

Just as this pastor believes that he is more than a pastor, you, too, are more than an author.

With close to two million books published every year in the world, you have to be more than an author to sell your books. You must add a couple more roles. To sell books, you should also be a marketer and a thought leader.

I know that sounds overwhelming. You’re probably thinking, “You have got to be kidding. Now, in addition to writing compelling prose, I have to also become a marketing ninja and a persuasion guru.

It’s not as complicated as that, but yes, you do need to be more than an author. To put it more simply, you also have to be able to convince people to buy your book and have your ideas taken seriously.

Let’s take a closer look at these two additional roles of marketer and thought leader.

Marketer

A marketer is simply someone that promotes or sells a product or service. In your case, you are promoting your book. You do this anytime you draw readers’ attention to your book. Whether this is through social media, speaking engagements, paid advertisements, book signings, or other marketing avenues, when you participate in activities that draw people’s attention to your book, you are fulfilling this role.

Most authors understand that they must sometimes put on the marketer hat to sell books. Many authors don’t like this role. They prefer to just write. Sadly, writing alone no longer sells books. The competition is too fierce.

Thought Leader

A thought leader is someone who has authoritative or influential views on a subject. All nonfiction authors should consider themselves a thought leader. After all, you wrote the book on the subject. This means you are an expert and have an influential view of the subject matter. Fiction authors are thought leaders in the genre they write in.

Thought leaders spread their influence through blogs, articles, books, and speaking engagements. Your readers view you, the author, as a thought leader and look to you for advice and guidance.

As an author, you are also a thought leader for good books. The interest in books is still high for those who like to read. Your followers and fans are hungry for good book recommendations. As a thought leader and author, you should be recommending books to your audience.

Many authors are reluctant to recommend books to their audience because they feel that they are pointing these people away from their books to someone else’s book. This simply is not true.

Fans of an author really love it when the author introduces them to good books by other authors in the same genre. Doing this keeps your name in front of these readers and helps their trust in you grow.

No longer think of yourself as just an author. Remember, if you are selling your books, you are more than an author, you are also a marketer and a thought leader. Now you have three titles you can add to your signature.

P.S. If you need more marketing ideas, you can preorder the Fourth Edition of my book, Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books!

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Photo courtesy of geralt.

Don’t Get Taken by a Salesman

“You’re a good salesman, if you make people buy product they don’t need.” —Toba Beta

I am not a sales person. I know how to market, but hand-selling through persuasion is not my strong point. A good salesperson knows how to play on your FOMO (fear of missing out). He or she will convince you that if you don’t buy what they are selling that you will miss out.

An independent author of a specialty book recently asked me for recommendations of who he should talk to in the publishing industry for furthering his distribution and sales. I gave him a list of a few companies and he set off to a trade show.

After the trade show, this author called and told me that the companies I told him to meet with did not impress him much. He then relayed that he had met a gentleman who had a publishing house that really impressed him. He stated that the man was interested in publishing his book and wondered if he should take him up on his offer.

With a little more questioning, I discovered that the “impressive” gentleman was the owner of a subsidy (sometimes called vanity or custom) publishing house. This gentleman was willing to take the author’s money to republish his book and place it into distribution.

I explained this to the author and told him that this publishing house would redesign and republish his book and place it in distribution, but they would not “sell” his book for him. This would still be his job.

It appears this author had been taken in by a salesman. The subsidy publisher knew his stuff and was able to “sell” his business well. The other companies I had suggested the author meet with were not about “sales”.  These companies don’t take money upfront like a vanity press. Rather, they make money on how they perform (when they actually move product).

The companies that make money on their performance don’t need to sell anything. Instead, they want to make sure you, the author or publisher, has a product they think they can sell and sell well. They were not “selling” anything to this author, so they had no need to be impressive.

Later in our conversation, the independent author reported that the salesman who he had been so impressed with had admitted that the best way to make money on selling books is for authors to sell them direct to consumers.

Bingo! Mixed into his great sales pitch was the hard truth.

Few publishers—whether traditional or vanity—have a robust program to sell books directly to consumers. Selling directly to consumers is usually left to the author.

I explained to this author that the best marketing plan is a well-rounded plan that includes a variety of sales channels including:

  1. Distribution for bookstore and library sales.
  2. Marketing to bookstores and libraries.
  3. Direct to consumer marketing through a website, blog, social media, email marketing, and print media, as well as speaking engagements.
  4. Pursuing bulk sales via catalogs and organizations.

Don’t be taken by a smooth-talking salesman. Selling books is hard work. Anyone who tells you that they will take a large chunk of your money to sell your books will do just that—take your money. Remember, the vast majority of authors and many publishers struggle to sell enough books to make a profit.

Christian Indie Publishing Association exists to educate small publishers and independent authors on cost-effective ways to market books. All our marketing programs are cooperative and low-cost because we understand that return on investment when promoting books is slow and difficult. If you are looking for information and resources to help you develop a robust marketing plan, join the association today!

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Photos courtesy of Mohamed Hassan.