Book Review – The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge by Rachel Thompson

I usually review fiction because that’s what I usually read, but I made a promise to myself to review everything I read and I aim to stick to that promise. Thus, Rachel Thompson’s book on book marketing is getting a gander today.

Now, I’ve been writing for almost five years now and I’m getting decent at it, but my marketing skills are, at best, lacking. Part of this is my natural trend toward laziness, but part of it’s linked directly to a lack of knowledge. Marketing is a Byzantine mass of indistinct corridors, dead ends, and people who would happily gut you for your last penny. Navigating it when you don’t know what you’re doing is almost like wandering aimlessly through big city alleys while yelling about the amount of cash you have in your wallet. It’s only a matter of time before someone offers to turn your lungs into hamburgers for the low, low price of your soul.

So, when I finished Henchmen back in ’13 and released it (far too hastily, as it turns out. It was riddled with errors), I was largely unsure of what to do next. I put up a single post on Facebook and watched my sales skyrocket to pretty much nada. I got various tidbits of advice from friends (set up a Goodreads page!, set up a Facebook Author page!), some of which worked, some of which tanked. In the end, it was Twitter and this blog that helped more than anything else.

The process of figuring that out took valuable time and far more effort than it should have. It was a perfect example of how you can wander around in the wilderness aimlessly until your Zen navigation allows you to stumble into what you need. Don’t get me wrong, my Zen navigation (you might not get where you want to go, but you’ll always wind up where you need to be) didn’t fail me, but a map that led straight to the cabin with all the Scooby Snacks would have been a hell of a lot more efficient.

Which means I picked up Rachel Thompson’s book about five years later than I should have.

And that’s what you’re getting with The BadRedhead Media 30-day Book Marketing Challenge: A map that not only defines the best routes to take, but the pitfalls to avoid. She manages to cover the nuances of Twitter, the importance of blogging, an introduction to SEO (A study unto itself), and all the little ins and outs of a world that is markedly different from writing fiction. And, to make it all better, she writes with a natural, easy-to-follow voice.

This is one of those books that’s best to read on a tablet. There’s a paperback version of it out, but the text is filled with links to cool websites, Twitter accounts, blog posts, and various other things. Reading it in paperback might make you look retro-cool, but reading it on a tablet will let you immediately explore the rich link ecosystem built into the book. And that’s something priceless in and of itself.

So, by the time I stumbled across this book, I was already somewhat aware of social media and how to manipulate it to suit my own twisted needs, but there were glaring holes in my knowledge. I wound up spending a bunch of time saying to myself, “Wait. We can do that?”

Just like martial artists practice the simple punch for decades (trust me, almost twenty years in and I’m still finding subtleties in punching), anyone who’s been marketing their own works for a while can always find something new when they look at it through different eyes. So, even if you’re experienced, drop a few bucks and grab a copy of The BadRedhead Media 30-day Book Marketing Challenge. It’s worth the money and the effort to go through the steps, even if it doesn’t take the full thirty days for you to get through it.

2017 Readers’ Favorite Silver Award Winner (Non-Fiction)!
5/5 STARS, Readers Favorite!
4/4 STARS, IndieReader!

THE SINGLE BEST TOOL every writer needs NOW to build, boost, and grow their author platform.

Unsure how to market your book or feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of author platform options out there (or not even sure what the term means)? Ever wish someone could break it down for you in simple steps? 

Then this is the book for you! 

Over the course of one month, Rachel provides you daily challenges containing a wealth of information, and easy to follow assignments to help energize your book sales. If you haven’t released your book yet, this book will help you set the stage necessary to build the strongest foundation possible for success. 

Topics include: 
* Twitter secrets 
* Facebook page must-do’s 
* Social media ideas you might not know or haven’t thought of 
* Promotion, giveaways, and other book marketing secrets 
* Website, blogging, and SEO tips designed just for authors 

All writers, bloggers, and small businesses can benefit can benefit from this guide.

“When it comes to social media marketing for authors, no one knows more than Rachel Thompson. She practices what she preaches and has helped dozens of our authors enjoy significant leaps in their social media standing.”

Steve Bennett, Founder & Creative Director, AuthorBytes 

“This book is an amazing compilation of data and resources that only someone with years of experience could pull together. As a book marketing specialist myself, I’m still blown away by the amazing content Rachel provides. If you’re writing or marketing a book, this is a MUST-HAVE. “

Alexa Bigwarfe, Author Coach & Owner of Kat Biggie Press Digital Media Co.

Buy this book right now and get started. Your only regret is that you waited so long!

I’m normally averse to saying I’m wrong about much of anything, but she’s right; I should have gotten this book earlier.

Get your copy on Amazon

Check out Rachel on Twitter and her associated BadRedHead Media Twitter

BadRedHead’s website

Rachel’s blog

BadRedhead Media’s Facebook page

The Social Media Minefield

Back when I first started exploring the Internet in early to mid 90s, the closest the world came to things like Facebook, Ello, Instagram, and G+ were newsgroups on Usenet. Actually, come to think of it, Facebook, Ello, Instagram, and G+ are really nothing more than gussied up newsgroups with some new whiz-bang features thrown in and better targeted advertising.

But back in my day…

back-in-my-day-funny-5

It’s especially funny since that iPod is obsolete, too.

In the early days of the Internet, if you wanted attention, you hammered out a crazy whack funky email and sent it to all your friends. They in turn would send it to all their friends and so on and so forth. Eventually it would wind up my inbox where I’d debate just how much I wanted to taunt the Internet gods by deleting it. These emails started out innocuously enough: forward this email to 10 people and you’ll get rich, Bill Gates wants to give you money, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic secretly run the world from the p-funk mother ship, forward this! Eventually, though, they started to get nasty.

The nastiness started out simply enough: Forward this or you’ll have bad luck. Of course, that didn’t go too far enough, so the web trolls kept upping the game until your inbox was a mass of “If you don’t forward this email to 10 people you’ll be forever lonely and a curse will be brought down on your head that will make all your hair fall out and your genitals shrink. Also, the electrical wiring in your house will crawl into your veins and shock you a lot.”

It was like getting email from North Korea.

When I got my first email account (lahtie@ziavms.enmu.edu), I got about a dozen of those a week. Usually they came from well-meaning, if slightly deluded, friends. Like a good friend, I kept that crap going and dutifully forward the emails. At first.

chain-letter

Hi, I’m Eric. I’m a recovering forwarder.

Then I got a really nasty one that promised butt cancer for everyone in my family and a whole host of other maladies like a plague of locusts o’er the land and decided I was done with chain emails. Rather than forward the email, I hit reply to all and ripped into the sender. Turns out she was a friend of mine and was just trying to cover her own butt from cancer and locusts. I had to apologize rather profusely, but we’re both locust free after all these years so I guess I broke the power of the email.

It seems to be human nature to do this kind of stuff. Nowadays there are less of the chain emails promising endless riches and eternal punishment. In their stead we get fake news stories pushed by friends because the stories sound good, endless streams of “like this and something cool will happen”, “share this and it’s worth, like, 20 prayers”, and the ever-popular “I want to see who’s paying attention to me. Like this or you’re off my friends list”. Of course one of the funner games to play is to put up a status message like “I’m getting a monkey!” or “I just slaughtered a whorehouse!” and see who responds. The respondents then get told they have to put their own silly status up and the cycle of violence continues.

cycleofviolence

Get it? Cycle of violence! Seriously, though, I could use throwing stars on my cyclocross bike.

Why is this bad? Well, I’m friends with a bunch of people who might actually get a monkey or slaughter a whorehouse. Granted, that last one is less likely, but I wouldn’t put it past some of them. Now I’m left wondering, do I say, “Congrats on the monkey!” or “That whorehouse was a wreck, anyway!” or do I quietly click Like and hope no one notices I just did the least interactive thing possible?

Usually, I go for clicking Like. But every now and then I’ll write something like “Don’t get caught spanking that monkey!” (I have a pretty immature sense of monkey humor) Then – BAM! – I get that direct message that says I have to pick from a list of boring statuses to put up.

Well, just like with the email that promised butt cancer and locusts, I think I’m done playing the little games. But I’m not going to ignore them; I’m just going to make my own rules. The next time someone tells me I need to pick from a list of embarrassing statuses that I “have” to use because congratulated someone on their monkey, I’m gonna get schwifty and make up my own status.

schwifty

SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT!

If it happens to you, feel free to pick from this handy-dandy list of witticisms and freakery.

  • Does anyone know how to get blood out of a clown suit?
  • I am the basset hound king!
  • Trump trump trump diddily ump.
  • My ass has just been voted best in Macedonia!
  • I like the pretty lies.
  • Sharted.
  • I just stole William Shatner’s pants!
  • Got schwifty!

Or you could just do what I did with that email that promised butt cancer and locusts: Ignore it. Smile, nod, and do whatever you were going to do anyway.

Got anything you’d like to add? Comments are always appreciated.

Twitterizimization, Twitterizing Adimification. Twitter Ads.

Back in the day I aspired to be a graphic designer. I’m not overly great at it, but I always wanted to do it. I suspect being a designer is much like everything else – better on paper than in the real world. So I became a programmer instead and now I spend my days parasailing with movie stars and lounging on beaches. It’s a rough life, let me tell you.

hackgibson

Programming is exactly as awesome as this, only I’m usually surrounded by supermodels.

But there’s always that itch, that strange desire to create something visual that claws at the back of my head. It’s a feeling that simply writing doesn’t quiet so I create random things like book covers and twitter ads. P.S., if you need a cover designed drop me a line; I work cheap.

The combination of programming and some design background has given me access to a bunch of tools and the understanding that images have certain sizes that are expected from the applications that display them. Facebook cover photos are supposed to be 851 x 315 px. Shared FB posts render out at 504 x a variable number and the recommended strategy is to upload a 1200×1200 px pic. Twitter banners should be 1500 x 500 px. WordPress header images are variant depending on the theme you’re using. Tumblr banners have some size recommendations, too.

So when I set up my Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and WordPress sites, I followed the instructions and used images that would fit where they were supposed to go. I’m a little less rigid with my Facebook posts because they’re usually just random things or text string and everything works like it should. When I started putting up Twitter posts about my books I followed the same philosophy and wound up with things like this.

It looks okay here, but it’s cut off in a feed so you only see a portion of the whole image.

shocked

The problem was I stopped thinking like a programmer or a designer and started thinking like a lunatic. A little thinking and a little research and I actually managed to make a few Tweeted images that didn’t look like ass. Things like this, which look much better and can easily be viewed directly from a feed.

The trick was to get the sizes right. Shared images in Twitter (think things like your book covers and ads and stuff) are rendered at 590×295. That’s a 2:1 ratio. Twitter has an algorithm that decides how to handle images that are above that scale. That algorithm examines portions of the image and attempts to determine the important parts and scales the total width based on the important parts it finds. While this is an impressive bit of coding it’s not always going to render things the way you want them rendered. The solution: understand the image size limitations and work within the confines. Rather than pushing up an image that 1563×2500 (Amazon’s recommended book cover size), I pushed up an image that was 181×290. Small, to be sure, but good enough for Jazz and government work.

Book covers are only a part of the equation, though. An ad for a book gives you a bit more flexibility than just a simple 140 characters and some hashtags. They allow you to spend more time on things like dialog or extra explanations. This comes in really handy on a book like … well, anything I’ve written. For instance, look at The Clock Man images above and they don’t tell you an awful lot about the stories. They give a basic indication of the primary story, but there’s a lot more going on in the back ground and the cover doesn’t really describe the text. That’s why I came up with this guy:

I like to think the dragon itself (himself) is eye-catching and the text (pulled straight from the story) gives a hint of what lies inside.

That ad was done in my best friend, Inkscape. The dragon image came from Dreamstime and the text came from The Clock Man. The image was resized in GIMP and the whole piece was all assembled in Inkscape, then fed back into GIMP for some cleanups like getting the sizing right. The sizing was the key. Twitter images are rendered out at 590×295, so I designed the image at 1024×512 and then let Twitter’s algorithm shrink it all down to size. The result worked.

WOOO!

WOOO!

But let’s say you don’t have all the time in the world, don’t want to learn GIMP and Inkscape, and generally just need to knock a few things out quickly. Well, that’s where a little place called Canva comes in. It’s a free site that has pre-built templates for most social media and enough flexibility that you can make something that looks pretty good without killing yourself figuring out GIMP and Inkscape. Canva isn’t quite as flexible as GIMP and Inkscape, but it cane make some pretty slick looking ads with a minimal amount of effort.

As an example: here’s an ad I was working on today for The Clock Man. Aside from the very obvious fact that sex sells, the image actually does have a purpose, but you’ll have to read Zona Peligrosa to figure out what it is. Just to experiment, I first created the ad in my usual combination of Inkscape and GIMP and then tried to recreate it in Canva. The results are below:

ClockManLingerieAd

Created in Inkscape. Main image from Dreamstime: ID 22789426 © Alenavlad

 

ClockManCanvaBlackLingerie

The Canva version

The two images look pretty similar which means you can get a lot of quality design out of Canva for not a lot of effort. I like that. There are a couple caveats, though: the smoke rings and Clock Man logo were done in Inkscape and uploaded to Canva, so some of the image elements were pre-created. Canva has a ton of prebuilt images you can use, but if you want something special you’re going to have to create it yourself. Personally, I prefer the text work I can do in Inkscape; Canva doesn’t seem to have the ability to modify leading, kerning, and tracking. This isn’t surprising and isn’t really a show stopper. You can can get leading effects easily in Canva by using multiple body text elements and scrunching them around.

So which one did I go with? The Inkscape one, but that’s just because I had a specific font I wanted to work with and I had already done the layout in Inkscape.

But you’ve got to admit, Canva’s a hell of an awesome chunk of code. It’s fast, friendly, and easy-to-use. It has pre-built template sizes that are a breeze to work with and a very minimal learning curve. The kicker, though, no matter which program you use is to get the sizes right. If the ad comes out at a non-standard resolution it’s going to look wonky in the feed.

So, here’s the ad posted to Twitter.

If you want to learn more about the various image sizes, you can’t go wrong with a little research. Fortunately, someone’s already done the heavy lifting for you. Social Media Design Cheat Sheet