7 Reasons for Self-Published Authors to Give Thanks This Year

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it. I don’t, but I saw this rather apt post by Outskirts Press and couldn’t not share it. Yep, it’s true! The internet, despite all its problems, is a gift to us indie authors….

Self-Publishing News for Self Publishing Authors

As Thanksgiving draws near, it’s time to take stock of everything there is to be grateful for. Family, friends, love, laughter … and the rich life of a self-published author! There’s never been a better time to be an independent author. Here are just a few reasons we’re thankful to be self-publishing in these exciting times:

  1. eBooks. Just having the ability to offer books in an easy-to-order format has opened up a massive sales channel for independent authors. As readers move from hardcopy to electronic books, the ability for anyone to get their book in front of these customers is priceless exposure — and offering an ebook is easy.
  2. Social media. When knocking on doors, making phone calls, buying ads and getting media coverage aren’t on your busy holiday calendar, reaching out to large audiences is still achievable, thanks to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram…

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Everything is (Buffer) Awesome

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Since Hootsuite decided to downgrade its free version options, I’d been seriously considering Buffer’s Awesome Plan, especially after my fortnight’s free trial of their Businesses Plan. However, at $102 per year (and that’s with their 15% yearly subscription discount) and me not having an income, it seemed rather a large fee. Then one day I was scrolling through Twitter, reading what people had been saying about the plan, when I saw something that immediately made me sit up…. The words student discount…. And there’s me being a student!

The tweet was old, so I had two questions to get the answer to. Did they still do a student discount, and was it available to Brits?

Armed with only my university email address, I shot Buffer a message, and soon got the answers back…. Yes & Yes!

Thanks to the 15% annual discount, and a student discount, The yearly fee dropped to $51 (a manageable £38!). I signed up on the spot, and ho-boy, has it changed my morning routine for the better.

Firstly, I can link up to 10 social media accounts to one buffer account. As it stands, I’ve now linked:

*I still post to the charity’s Facebook account via Facebook’s scheduler as it allows other admins to see the posts, and make changes if necessary.

And at 100 post slots available for each, the time, it is being saved.

Before, thanks to being constrained by post slots, I would have to fill up different applications. Buffer for my retweets, Facebook posts, and LinkedIn; Hootsuite for plain text posts; Tweetdeck for posts with images, and when I’d run out of room on Hootsuite and Buffer; Facebook scheduler when I’d run out of room on Buffer; Pinterest didn’t even factor in; and I had bookmark folders for tweets and posts that simply couldn’t be fitted in anywhere at the time (e.g. for the charity account and my LinkedIn). I would quite often have to generate multiple copies of the same post, switching between scheduling platforms as space and post type dictated. Not anymore! Now I can create one post, and instantly have it schedule across all my different social media accounts, with the barest tweak to any text before they go (like adding hashtags to tweets). Plus, I no longer have to worry about backlog posts because I have more than enough available slots for each account.

Another time saver has come from being able to cross post between different account types. My social media accounts can be divided into three profiles: Charity org, me as a marine biologist, and me as a sci-fi novelist. I had different buffer accounts for each hat I wear, and I would have to log in and out of them to schedule posts. So, say, I came across an a marine-related article when scheduling stuff for my marine platforms, that I fancied sharing on the charity’s profile. I would have to wait until I’d done all my scheduling for my marine accounts, log out of the accounts, log into the charity’s accounts, recreate the posts, and schedule them again. Not so now. Now, if I find a post that I want to share across several profiles, I can simultaneously schedule them across several profiles. Job done!

The biggest issue I have is getting into the new posting rhythm. It doesn’t feel right just creating one post for multiple accounts. Several times I’ve sat there, staring at the post, second-guessing myself whether everything’s ok with it, and that I’m good to press the ‘Schedule’ button. Also, I have to be wary to make sure I deselect all the unnecessary platforms before publishing (I don’ think MARINElife’s followers are too interested in my science fiction posts).

Despite that, my time spent scheduling posts has been cut from approximately 2.5 hours, to about 1.5 hours. It’s come to the point that I’m able to slot in some Open Learn studying in the morning.

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So, if you’re contemplating signing up for the Buffer Awesome Plan, I heartily recommend it, especially if you’re a student or a charity (the 50% discount applies to you too).

Game Over Hootsuite

It was a great relationship while it lasted. Sure, we had our ups and downs. Sometimes they couldn’t be relied upon to do what they were supposed to do, but on the whole, they were there when I needed them.

Not anymore!

Yep, my love affair with Hootsuite has come to a screeching halt. Last week, with no warning at all, they changed their free plan, subsequently screwing over a lot of people, me included.

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For the uninitiated, Hootsuite’s free plan allowed you to auto-schedule up to 10 posts per profile per day. More if you manually scheduled them. But now they’ve well and truly throttled their scheduling ability, again, without warning, to a maximum of 10 posts total, across all profiles. Meaning if I schedule 10 Twitter posts, I can’t then schedule anything for Facebook. Personally, I think this is an underhanded and somewhat dumb move.

Of course, the reasoning behind this will be money money money. By limiting the number of posts, they’ll be looking to force people’s hands into signing up for their paid accounts. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will go quite the way they plan. Sure, some less social media savvy people might cave because it’s the only platform they know, but for others, like me (small businesses, charities, low/unwaged) this will probably get us looking for better options/deals elsewhere, even perhaps a paid one. And guess what? we’ll find them!

I use Buffer for free as well. I am limited to 10 posts at any one time, but this is per profile (as Hootsuite used to be). I can schedule 10 post on Twitter and 10 posts on Facebook. Any surplus can then be added to Facebook’s inbuilt scheduler, or to Tweetdeck. Sidenote: Yes Tweetdeck is crap functionality wise, but it’s free (and likely to remain so), so hey! For some, this bit of extra faffing around with multiple schedulers may not even be an issue if they only post a couple of times a day.

And what if I suddenly decide, “Hmm, maybe I should get a paid account for some extra functionality,”? Well, even then Hootsuite won’t be (shouldn’t be) the go-to account. At pretty much half the price of Hootsuite’s basic ‘Professional’ plan, Buffer’s basic ‘Awesome’ plan would be the way to go (Buffer = $10 per month (with a 15% saving if you pay annually!), Hootsuite = $19 per month).

Okay, so Hootsuite’s paid plan gives you 500 posts per month, whereas Buffer only gives you 100, but as far as I can tell, with Buffer that’s 100 posts per profile, whereas Hootsuite’s 500 will be divided across profiles. So if you use just Twitter and Facebook, that’ll be 250 each per month. If you throw in Linkedin say. With Buffer, you’ll still get 100 posts for that too, but with Hootsuite, you’ll be reduced to 166 posts per profile. As you can see, the more profiles you have, the better deal Buffer becomes compared to Hootsuite. And let’s face it, chances are, both plans probably provide way more slots than actually needed with their basic plans, especially for small organisations, or independent users like me.

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Sorry Hootsuite, you’re now nothing more than a turkey!

Media-Rich Tweets = Engagement?

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So I’ve been doing a bit of an experiment on Twitter recently. People talk readily about how using media-rich tweets improves engagement, there are blog posts and infographics devoted to the topic, and as someone who dwells in social media, I’m all for upping engagement. However, I wouldn’t be a scientist if I didn’t test the theory myself before adopting the practice. After all, if it doesn’t work for me, what would be the point in devoting time to doing it? Therefore, in the middle of April, I decided to up my posting of media-rich tweets and see what, if anything, would happen.

To do this I used Hootsuite and my marine science-based Twitter account. I mentioned a while back that I’d only just realised you could attach images through Hootsuite, and it seemed the appropriate time to make use of the feature. Usually, I would use Buffer for media tweets, but as I’m limited to just 10 posts with the free account, I opted to use Hootsuite. I’m still limited to 10 tweets a day (if I just autoschedule posts), but not in total, so any extra tweets rolled simply over to the next day. That meant I had Buffer free to retweet other people’s media tweets. So, overall, my number of tweets per day didn’t increase much, the tweet types just switched platforms.

As for images, well, I’d usually included an image with a tweet if the article in question had a nice image of a marine mammal, but for my test, any news article I came across that had a nice looking image included, or was one that I could attach a CC00 image to, I made into a media tweet. So queue pictures of fish, coral reefs, and journal diagrams. I didn’t use any icky pictures, such as stranded dead dolphins. Those articles I just scheduled as is, and if a thumbnail popped up in my feed with the image, then so be it. Then I just tweeted away….

Come the end of April, I downloaded the analytics from Twitter, picking the date range so the 12th was in the middle, and had a butchers at the figures. And what did they tell me?

Well, first off, Twitter gives you a load of graphs on its Analytics page, but as someone who’s a bit knew to the whole analytics game, I have no idea if I’m reading them correctly. The first is the big impressions graph….

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Here, like the other graphs, I’ve marked the 12th in red. Now I’m assuming ‘impressions’ just means ‘people who’ve seen the tweet’. So the more something’s been retweeted, the more people who will have seen it. From a glance, it does seem that after the 12th my impression level went up, but this could also be due to the fact that I had a couple of tweets retweeted by people who had big followings themselves, thereby bumping up my figures. But then there’s the question: if they hadn’t been media tweets, would they have still been retweeted? Either way, as they were media tweets, I’ll take it.

Twitter also provides a number of smaller graphs….

For the most part, they don’t really help prove the hypothesis that media-rich equals more engagement, with the possible exception of the ‘Likes’ and ‘Retweets’ graphs, which do seem to show a slight increase in interactions with my posts. ‘Link clicks’ and ‘Replies’ don’t really show an increase in interactions. ‘Engagement rate’ is just all over the shop, and I can’t figure out if it shows an improvement or not.

However, Twitter analytics also allows you to download the data so you can export it into Excel (or your spreadsheet program of choice). The data was a bit tiresome to trawl through, but for the sake of science, I persevered. I did some averaging out, and this is what I got (see table below). Again, I’m making an assumption as to what ‘Impressions’ and ‘Engagements’ mean, and I have no idea how ‘Engagement Rate’ is calculated, but that being said, there does appear to be a noticeable increase across the board after I upped my media tweets. Now, whether that increase is statistically significant is something I can’t be bothered to work out.

Impressions How many people see tweet?
Mean 25th March-11th April 112.230320699708
Mean 12th April-30th April 146.84487534626
Engagements Likes, retweets, link clicks per tweet?
Mean 25th March-11th April 1.57725947521866
Mean 12th April-30th April 2.29362880886427
Engagement Rate ?
Mean 25th March-11th April 0.011296937684149
Mean 12th April-30th April 0.013246888306627
Overall average 0.012296841341414

I even did a graph for daily Engagement Rate….

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 Overall average engagement rate = blue line. Average engagement rate for 25th March – 11th April = purple line. Average engagement rate for 12 April – 30th April = green line

Now, I’m not sure why my engagement rate graph came out different to twitter’s, but it does help show that there was an increase after I upped my media tweets.

So, what can we surmise from all this? My little experiment may have lasted only 18 days, but even so, it does seem the general consensus was correct; more media-rich tweets leads to increased engagement.

Therefore, I shall continue doing what I’m doing. And if you were in two minds as to whether to do the same to improve your own Twitter account, hopefully my results have helped you make a decision.

Info Overload

First came power cuts, then came more power cuts, the came internet outages. How I managed to get anything done is beyond me, yet I did. Did two weeks worth of uni work in one week, got my first TMA back (mark much better than expected; phew!), did a couple of job applications, and finished my initial grammar and spell check of my 3rd novel’s manuscript. Living in rural Wales ain’t gonna slow this brain down!

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Mind you, my brain’s got a lot to attend to. Remember how I was so excited at rediscovering RSS feeds and Feedly? Well, I still like them, but jeeze, talk about info overload. The 20 per day slots (10 per day (when auto-scheduling) in Hootsuite, 10 max in Buffer) I usually struggle to fill have been filled and then some, thanks to the wealth of articles I’m collating. My posts now stretch several days ahead. Great if I have a day off, but it’s going to get to a point where I’m so ahead of myself, the posts will be scheduling when they’re old news. Either I need to pray for a slow news day, or failing that, at some point I’ll have to do a purge, and double up my Hootsuite schedule to clear the backlog. The internet giveth, and the internet bloweth away.

Thanks Doris!

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Boy, has it been a fun week weather-wise. Storm Doris hit North Wales, bringing with her rain, gale-force winds, and power cuts. The day of the actual storm wasn’t too bad, with the power going off for only a couple of hours during the day. Admittedly, it cocked my schedule up a bit, as it went off before I had accessed my online university material. As soon as the power came back on, I opened up EVERYTHING in new tabs, just to be on the safe side. Yeah, I get that as it is a section on the internet, it stands to reason to do some of the work online, but having ALL the reading material online ONLY is a bit short-sighted IMHO. Storm Doris a case in point.

The next day was another power cut, this time courtesy of the electricity company. I had literally just finished my OU material, when bam, no power. Time ticked on. I couldn’t do anything with the MARINElife newsletter, as the resources I needed were online. I couldn’t do my social media stuff, cause again, no wifi. Time dragged on. The temperature started to dip. I wrapped myself up in bed and read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on a thankfully recently charged Kindle. I couldn’t do all my fitness training, as the fly-wheel on my cross-trainer needs electricity. It eventually got too dark to read.

My housemate got home to find a distinctly pissed-off me. He was in the process of going and asking the engineers what the hell was going on, when he bumped into a neighbour. Turns out, storm Doris had wrapped a couple of trees round various power poles, and things were being in the process of being repaired. Anyway, long story short, I was without power for four and a half hours, and spent the last few of those hibernating under two duvets. Eventually the power came on, I did my training, late, had dinner, even later, and did my social media stuff, even later still. I was not impressed, specifically because the engineers hadn’t bothered to warn people they were going to cut the power. Extremely thoughtless, but that’s Scottish Power for you. My mate was on hold with them the other day, waiting to speak to them about a cock-up with his account transfer. He was on hold for them for two and a half hours. Eventually their machine just hung up on him. Good times.

A few days later came the annual, try and make flat fried dough things and fail, aka, Pancake Day. Making pancakes is hard enough. Making vegan pancakes is even more of a set up for failure. I chose to make them savoury, to prevent me from eating too much, so I cut out the sugar, and added some fresh and dried herbs to the mix. The mix itself was simple; 1/2 a cup of soya milk, 1/2 a cup of flour, a 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder, and a dash of water to thin it out. The mix made two, largish, pancakes, and they actually came out quite well, if a little bit anaemic.

I topped them off with sautéed mushrooms and onions, a dollop of Tesco’s roast caramelised hummus, and a sprinkling of good ol’ nooch. And you know what? They tasted pretty nice. It’s times like these I wonder why I don’t make pancakes more often, after all, they’re simple to throw together, an cheap to make. I guess I’ll have to bite the bullet and make some sweet ones later. Though knowing me, later = a year’s time.

Hootsuite Hiccup

When you’ve been using an app regularly, and for a long time, you don’t so much get complacent with using it, rather, you get used to its quirks, finding a way around these quirks to a point that it becomes part of your day-to-day routine. You get so used to doing this that you never question whether these quirks are, in fact, still quirks. This was me and Hootsuite.

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I’ve been using Hootsuite for donkey’s years to schedule social media posts, and overall, it’s a good app to use. Sure, it doesn’t work 100% of the time. Sometimes it doesn’t pick up the text and imagery from a link, meaning I have to add them by hand. Sometimes it tells me it failed to post a scheduled tweet, when in fact it has. But I can deal with these minor irritations.

The problem I had is that when I started using it way back when, it couldn’t do media tweets. You had the option of adding a picture to the tweet, but these images didn’t appear in Twitter’s news feed, rather, another url was added to your tweet, and for someone to see the image, they had to click through to another site. This was not ideal. However, a fellow twitter user suggested I use buffer for media tweets. It turned out that was a good option, and so whenever I needed to add pictures to a tweet, I used buffer instead. It was a bit more time consuming, but not by much, and so I spent the years separating out my post stream through the two apps.

That was until I had an epiphany the other day. I was creating a plain text tweet, then I second guessed myself, and wondered if I should add a picture to it. This meant having to create the tweet again in buffer. Then a dim bulb went off in my head. Do Hootsuite use media tweets in their feed? They certainly seemed the kind of brand that would. I headed over to their stream, and yes, every tweet I looked at had a picture attached to it. It seemed to me rather a daft notion that Hootsuite would be using a third-party app to add pictures to their tweets. Which begged the question: did images added to tweets in Hootsuite show in the twitter feed now? I did a test tweet, and the answer was a resounding yes. Media tweets now work in Hootsuite! How long ago that function was added is beyond me, but it goes to show there’s plenty still to learn when it comes to social media.

However, it’s still lacking a bit in functionality. If you put, say, a news article link in buffer, the different pictures within that article show up, allowing you to pick the image you want to add. Not so with Hootsuite. You have to save the picture to your computer first, then upload it. A bit more of a laborious process. Therefore, I don’t think Hootsuite will surpass buffer as my go to app for media tweets, but it’s good to know if I run out of slots on my free buffer account, I can turn to Hootsuite to create more.

Speaking of ICT, my Open University work is still heading on full steam. I handed in my first TMA assessment, and promptly had a nightmare about failing it. Great, education anxiety-filled dreams again! It’s bad enough I still get nightmares about having not done my end of year coursework for my MSc that I completed, ohhhh, nearly 14 years ago. Still, I had some good OU news this past week. My pencil case that I won has finally arrived. And about frigging time too!

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Malfoy is going to tell his father about this