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Guest Post from Trista Shaye about Reading Your Own Audiobook

Guest Post from Trista Shaye about Reading Your Own Audiobook

I know this is off topic, but I recently asked Trista Shaye to do a guest post on my blog about voice acting, specifically if she had any advice for Indie Authors who wanted to, or are in the process of self publishing their own audiobooks.  This is what she had to say.

Hello! I’m Trista Shaye – voiceover artist and YA and MG author.
Super thankful for the opportunity to share with you a little about
myself and hopefully answer the question: what makes an author a great
person to work with on the audio version of their book. I’m here to
say, this process isn’t hard and if you keep a few simple things in
mind as you go into the audiobook production world, things should go
fairly smoothly for you.

A little bit about me: I’ve always loved books. I used to have my
library card number memorized and would order heaps of Barbie and
fantasy books each week to read through. When we had sleepovers, my
best friend and I would discuss the current book we were reading
together and how we each pronounced the character’s names. I had lists
of book titles I’d made up written on random pieces of paper and also
wrote some songs for a few of them – none of these old writings have
ever made it further than that.

My childhood set me up to enjoy the written word and I always dreamed
of becoming an author. At sixteen I published my first full-length
novel and the year after I published my second. And quite honestly, I
believe that being an author myself helps me to better understand
where some of the authors I work with in the audio world are coming
from.

Growing up, my parents would read to us quite often. Both of them
would always read each character with their own specific voice – and
my mother often had a phrase she would say for specific accents, if
there got to be too many characters at once and she couldn’t remember
how the accent went off the top of her head.

As I grew older, and as I read more on my own, I would pick a
character at the beginning of a book or series as “my” character and –
either in my head, or aloud – I would read their lines like it was
actually me in the story. I also believe this, as well as my history
in theater and indie film, helped prepare me for the work of
voiceover.

People ask me all the time, “How do you even get started in narration
or voiceover?”. I usually direct them to Audible’s ACX, where it’s
free to set up a narrator profile and you can audition for any titles
you want, and you can usually land a project quite easily. However, I
didn’t begin there.

My first book, though in the end it was published through ACX, started
out on Facebook in a writers group. I believe it was God’s handiwork
that I saw the post asking for auditions for the book, that I already
had a nice microphone and knew how to use it, and that I was somehow
the exact voice they were looking for to bring the book to life. I
never once thought about being a narrator up until that point, but I
had always wanted to try voice acting, and the opportunity was dropped
into my lap.

My first audiobook was … a learning curve, we’ll say. I learned so
much from it. But once I had finished it, I was hooked on this thing
called voiceover and found I really enjoyed heading into “my office”
each day for work. I loved bringing each character to life with their
own unique voice, I enjoyed the challenge of changing from one accent
to another and learning how to put sound effects to kid’s books. But
my favorite thing as a voiceover artist and specifically as a narrator
– which can also be the most frustrating part, as well – is all the
people you get to meet, all the authors you form relationships with as
you work on a story that’s written from their heart.

I’ve had the opportunity to produce over eighty audiobooks on ACX, and
I’ve worked with about twenty-plus different authors. My experience
has been mixed, as I’ve had to learn how to ask the right questions
about aspects of each book, and even then, I’ve had authors lie to me.
But the majority of the projects I’ve produced and the people I’ve
worked with have been good, and even the bad experiences have taught
me valuable lessons.

So, you’re wondering, what makes an author the best person to work for
and with, or the worst? The one-word answer: communication.

That’s a pretty broad topic though, so I’ll narrow it down into
several bullet points.

*Always send a reply. If a narrator contacts you prior to the audition
with questions – even if they seem obvious to you – answer them with a
message, even if it’s days later and you forgot; do it! I hardly ever
audition for a title if I don’t get a message in response to my query,
and I always send a message prior to my auditions. Answer all their
questions before and during – it’s helpful to know you’re as invested
in this project as we are.

*Explain the best you can about what you’re looking for. You can only
explain so much about the type of voice you want and then it all comes
down to hearing each audition. Post YouTube video links, or audiobook
links, if you have certain voices in mind for a narrator or for
characters – being able to hear what you want is much easier for a
narrator to grasp than just saying, “You know, James Earl Johns, but
also a bit of Delia Owens”. Can I hear what you mean when you say
that?

*Post a range of characters for the audition and keep them short. Try
to post a large range of characters – if your book has a large range
of characters – for the audition. Also, keep the audition as short as
you can – usually up to five minutes is the max. We understand you
want to hear our voices but you’ll usually be able to tell if the
narrator is right for you or not within the first twenty to thirty
seconds and long auditions – anything above ten minutes – are
unnecessary. If you like a narrator, however, you can ask them to
audition again with another section of the manuscript that they either
didn’t get to or you haven’t posted but you want to see if it works
with their voice. Don’t ask for more than one of these extra
auditions, though, unless they offer.

*Understand everyone’s voice is different. Everyone’s voice is
different, and someone who might be good at voicing the little girl in
your story might not have the same range to voice the deep male who
comes in later on. And someone else might be able to voice both pretty
well. If a narrator’s voice is generally on the higher end, don’t
expect for them to strain their vocals to try and get that deep
rumbling voice you might have pictured for a character. Choose what’s
more important to you – which characters you absolutely want a certain
way, and which can come under the narrator’s vocal range.

*Give us space to do our thing. I love it when an author gives me free
rein to decided how to voice the characters – it’s (sometimes) easier
and a lot more enjoyable. That being said, if you have a certain voice
in mind for certain characters, please state that to begin with; but
if for other’s you don’t really care as much, just let us know and cut
us loose. A good narrator is an actor/actress as well and they know
how to bring out voices you might not have even thought of – and
sometimes, they might not have even known they were able to do. If,
generally speaking, the narrator doesn’t have enough emotion in their
voice – which you should have been able to tell by the audition – you
can mention this. But try to refrain from “This needs to sound more
sad”, “This isn’t happy enough”. Again, a good narrator is an
actor/actress and they should get those cues from the writing.

*Corrections. Hey, we all make mistakes. If you notice a correction
that needs to be made in the narration or a character’s line, tell us!
Don’t feel shy or like you might make us feel bad, just tell us. We
appreciate it, really. We’ll be more than happy to fix it, it’s
probably something that takes a few seconds to do and it makes your
book sound better in the end. As to full chapter revisions, that’s
something you need to be careful with. You chose this narrator based
on their audition and you can’t expect for them to do anything
different than like in the audition. I had an author ask for me to
revise several character’s voices in a chapter three different times –
all the lines. Once you get into that water, you need to understand
you’re likely going to have to start paying more to make up for the
time you’re asking them to put into it. Also, please don’t expect for
the character’s voice to always sound 100% the same through the whole
book, either. Day to day your voice will sound a little different
because of what you drink, how you slept, how early in the morning it
is, so on. Obviously glaringly different changes in a character’s
voice would need to be addressed, but something minor is best left
alone. Even when I’m talking normally to someone, my voice can rise
and fall in pitch depending on what’s being said. It’s honestly,
realistic.

*Let those who auditioned but didn’t make the cut know. It’s always so
nice to me, and rare, when I’ve auditioned for a title but not gotten
it, that then the author will send me a little message and say they’ve
chosen someone else but they appreciated my time. Do this, it sets you
above the norm.

*Don’t lie and be nice. These go without saying but it has to be said
because I’ve dealt with both. Please don’t lie about the content of
your book if a narrator asks, we will find out your lying if we’re
narrating it, after all, and then you have to deal with it. Not the
best way to go. Also, be as nice as possible. Narrators/voiceover
artists and actors/actresses in general deal with rejection constantly
and are in contact with many people, just be graceful with all
communication.

*Pay your narrator. You wouldn’t ask a plumber or a cover artist to do
what they do professionally for free – I mean, you may but you would
get some looks. Same goes for any narrator. This is their job, for me
it’s my full-time job right now, and royalty share split basically
means you’re asking the talent to produce your book for free trusting
they’ll get a return later down the road that they may never see – for
me, I record, edit and master your files; that’s a lot to do for
“free” and bills don’t get paid for free. Going into getting your
audiobook produced, prepare for the fact that you’re asking someone to
spend countless hours bringing your words to life and prepare by
saving up for it. It’s worth it to pay them.
-I do several royalty share books per year, but normally I just can’t
afford to. Most authors who want audio can’t afford to pay me and they
know they can find someone else who will do it for free. This is
hurting the voiceover, and specifically, the audiobook narrator
industry, as it forces those of us who should be getting paid – which
is everyone of us – into having to look further and wider for actual
work.

-Royalty share plus is amazing, it’s the best of both worlds. It means
a lower hourly rate is needed for you to pay the narrator, and you
also split the royalties, allowing you not to break the bank, and
allowing the producer to actually get paid some of what is promised up
front.

*Don’t expect your narrator to be your promotional agent. I do usually
post my latest projects when they’re completed to my social medias,
but that’s about it. We get paid to read your book, not to promote it.
Some authors think if they choose royalty share they can get their
narrator to promote the book all the more because it benefits them.
Truth is, I post once for all books, paid or royalty. This may sound
harsh, and you can always ask if we’re willing to post or share
promotional links, and usually, we’ll say yes, but don’t just expect
us to.

*Review your narrator and encourage them. Tell other people about your
narrator. At the end of a project, it’s always nice to know how you
did, no matter who you are and what you’re doing. Like I said, we deal
with a lot of rejection and knowing you appreciated our work means a
lot. A review – that you can just send via message to the narrator –
can be posted to our profiles and websites and can help us get future
work, as well. Tell your author friends who might be interested in
audio about your narrator – networking is such a great way to get us
more work and we’ll always appreciate a mention even if nothing comes
of it.

I hope these bullet points made sense, and more importantly, I hoped
they helped you think about a few things you might not have considered
before if you’re considering getting your book produced into an
audiobook. I could say a heap more about all of this, but I tried not
to be long-winded and just sum up some of the most important things.

I’m always open to answer any questions you might have about the
process of audiobooks and you’re more than welcome to email me:
tristashayeofficial(at)gmail.com

Visit me on ACX, my Website (the link for my website can also be found
on my ACX profile), Instagram, or Facebook.

All the best in your writing and audio endeavors!

Trista Shaye

Link to ACX profile: https://www.acx.com/narrator?p=A2B9XGW94CY924
Link to Website: http://tristashayeofficia.wixsite.com/voiceover

Editing: The Bane of Every Writer’s Existence?

Good morning, everyone! I’m Ariel Paiement from the Fantasy Nook, a blog dedicated to sharing good fantasy novels and teaching authors to write. Last time, I brought you all a guest post on using Pinterest for authors. Today, I’m here with a guest post on editing this time around. James, one of the team members behind running Burning Embers Publications, reached out to me a few months back about doing a guest post on this for Burning Embers Publications, so here we are! Thanks for the invite, James. Hopefully everyone reading today is as excited to be here as I am! Let’s get started.

An Introduction to Editing

Editing. Does that make you feel a little nervous? Maybe uncomfortable or more prone to procrastination? If it does, you’re in good company. Most writers love writing—generally, anyway—but editing? Not so much. I mean, if someone does it for you, it might be fine. You can just sit back, review the changes being made or recommended, and decide what to do from there. It’s not as difficult to do that. But if you have to edit it? Suddenly, things don’t look like so much fun!

I should start off with an apology here because I’m probably not going to make it any more fun. If you hate editing, nothing I say or do will change that. Personally, I love it. But I’m also an English teacher, a freelance editor, and a grammar Nazi. Of course I would love it! I love digging in and pulling a piece apart only to put it back together again in a way that really shines.

An Editor’s Admission

I’m going to admit something that maybe I shouldn’t as an editor. But the whole point of this post is to be realistic, genuine, and helpful, so I’ll admit this anyway. Sometimes, editing my own work makes me want to tear my hair out. Yup. I may do fine editing other people’s work, but my own? Not always so much fun! Granted, it’s usually pretty clean in the line edit and grammar department, but the content edits on some of them have been nightmares. And sometimes, when the book’s rough draft has gone through my critique group’s hands, I feel a little spike of pure panic at the idea of all the work necessary to fix all the problems the piece has.

Even editors feel this way. It’s why we pay other editors to edit for us. So, today’s post, while it might not make you like editing any more than you do right now, will give you some insight into why you need to edit it yourself, why you should also be paying someone to do it for you (or swapping services to have someone do it for you), and how to assess what you need done for editing. As such, this will be a longer post. I hope you’ll find it useful!

Why Edit Yourself?

Well, first and foremost, editing yourself makes the work cleaner. Editors usually charge based on a per word or per page amount, though some may charge a fixed rate per hour that they’ll then use to estimate the total cost of a project. However, most editors will charge you more if the work isn’t clean. For example, as an editor, I typically use an hourly rate and then use the sample to figure out how long it will take me to edit the number of pages they have. Using that, I’ll then determine a fixed price for the entire project and break it up into chunks or milestones however it makes sense for myself and the client.

When I review a sample from the client to decide if I’ll take them on or not, though, I determine where in my hourly range I’m going to charge based on the difficulty level of the edit. Someone who needs every level of editing is going to be charged the full hourly rate, but if someone only needs developmental editing, I’m probably going to charge them something in the middle. Line editing, which is the easiest edit for me, will cost them the lowest price on the hourly range.

A Word to Beginner Writers

Let me take a moment to talk to those of you with little to no experience. You guys can be some of the best and the worst people to work with for freelance editors. All depends on your attitude. If you approach your work with the attitude that you don’t need more than cursory proofread because you’re awesome?

You’re wrong, and you’re shooting yourself in the foot. I say this not to be mean, but because I care. I’ve seen authors with promise fail because they have this mentality. If you’re in this group and you want to have any chance of ever making it… You need to blow a big hole in your ego. It has no place in your writing or your attempts to improve as an author. Accept that your first draft probably sucks. Even experienced authors have to admit this.

Not admitting it means you don’t give it the self-edit it needs, and that’s going to cost you. Editing is expensive. Editors can also pick who they work with. Maybe they take you on, maybe they don’t. Whatever they decide, I can guarantee you one thing. Any experienced editor will charge you more for editing your work if it’s going to be more work for them. The only way that doesn’t happen is if you’re trading services with them, getting a friend to help you out, or got lucky and found a great editor who doesn’t have the confidence in themselves to charge what they’re worth. You get what you pay for. So, if you’re getting charged a low rate for a book that you wrote as a beginner, there’s a reason.

Having Reasonable Expectations as a Beginner

When you’re starting out, you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s normal, and you should expect to need to edit. A lot. I’ve been writing for almost eleven years, and I’ve been editing for about half that. During that time, I’ve been honing my skills, actively learning, and working to improve. But you know what? I still make mistakes. Yes, my unedited work looks relatively polished to a casual observer in many cases. Yet, it still doesn’t shine like one of my published pieces do. It has to go through editing to achieve that. Beginning writers have zero hope of that being the case for them. It’s not because they’re hopeless. And it’s certainly not because I have so much more talent or anything stupid like that.

What it comes down to is experience. I have years of experience that a beginning writer doesn’t have yet. If they keep working and improving, they can get there. They can gain that experience and do well. I’ve seen it happen, and so have many others. But you’re going to have to work for it, and learning to edit your own work is going to help you improve much faster.

How Does Editing Make You a Better Writer?

Now I know that someone out there is scratching their heads or smirking as they think to themselves: editing can make me a better writer faster? Yeah, right! Before you laugh, dismiss me entirely, or get really worried about this, let me remind you of what editors do for you. Editors—good ones, anyway—look at your entire piece as a whole. They check your grammar and spelling, but they do far more than that. However, they also handle your characterization, story flow, plot, sentence flow, and polishing. Your editors make the difference between having a piece like Tolkien’s, Brandon Sanderson’s, or Orson Scott Card’s and having a self-published novel that clearly hasn’t been edited by a professional.

But I’m Not an Editor?

You may now be thinking: but I’m not an editor, so I still don’t why this matters. I pay someone for that. What does that have to do with me and improving my writing? It’s applicable because an editor learns to look at all the areas of good writing. They learn to figure out what needs to be done to make bad or mediocre writing into exceptional writing. If you can learn to do that, you’re going to write far better to start with because you know what reads well. You know what readers like. And you know how to make your writing look like that. Writers grow more when they understand how fiction works than they do trying out random new techniques without understanding the building blocks.

Lay your foundation before you try to build your house. Writing a book or any other piece is just like building a house, only out of words. Your foundation will be made up of the cement or concrete of writing fundamentals and grammar. The house will be your story, which is built using the materials of characterization, plot, action, and pacing. Without the foundation, those other materials will never stand. Editing will teach you how to improve all of those areas in addition to strengthening your foundation. I promise people can tell the difference.

A Little Secret

I’ll let you in on a little secret before we move on to the next discussion point. Most of what I put up on Wattpad and Inkitt, the two writing platforms I use, as well as the flash fiction on my blog is all unedited. I didn’t read through it and rework it to polish it. But the average reader on those two writing platforms won’t know the difference. In fact, they’ll probably think it’s really good because the comparison is a lot of work from beginning writers who have zero foundation to work on at all. Even some of my author friends didn’t know it wasn’t edited until I told them.

That’s the power that having a strong foundation and knowing how to self-edit has. It seeps into your work until you begin to self-correct and self-edit as you write without even realizing it. It doesn’t mean your work doesn’t need editing by any means. Of course, it does. It just means that the starting point you’re at when you sit down to do a conscious edit or turn it in to an editor is going to be much further along in the process than it would be without that foundation.

Why Do You Need an Editor?

After the big deal I made out of how important self-editing is and what a difference it can make, you might be tempted to think you don’t need an editor if you can learn to do it yourself. And you would be wrong. No matter how naturally talented you are or how much you know about editing, self-editing will never be as strong as having another person look at it and edit it.

A professional editor would be best, but I understand that not everyone can afford an editor. It’ll be one of the best things you ever give your book, but some people really can’t afford it even if they can justify needing to spend money on it. If that’s you, I get it. Really, I do. But you still need an editor or someone who’s really good at developmental and line edits to look at it. If you can’t afford it, though, what are your options? Let’s move to that next.

Options if You Can’t Afford the Editor

This means that you could ask another author who’s really good at it to take a look as part of a beta-reading exchange or in exchange for you doing something else for them. Even if they do it for nothing, if you’re able to do something to express your appreciation, you should. Editing isn’t easy work even if you enjoy it. Don’t take it for granted!

If you have a critique group made up of fellow authors who also happen to be great editors and critiquers, utilize that. I’m part of a group like that, and I love it! I can’t participate full-time like I’d like to because of my chaotic schedule, but the group is really a community, not just a critique group. We ask questions, give answers, and help each other out all the time.

I have no doubt that, if I needed it, I could ask about swapping beta-reads or edits with anyone in that group and they’d at least see about doing so if they had the time. In fact, I’ve edited for one of the members as a paid gig because they understood that a fresh set of eyes on their manuscript prior to publication was really important. If you’re privileged to be part of a community like that, you should take advantage of it (so long as you’re giving as much as you’re taking).

Don’t Waste Resources

Don’t let the resources you have go to waste. You might not have money to pay them, but you have time that you can make for them to help them out when they’re also helping you out. At the end of the day, you need someone else to edit. I won’t say you can’t edit your own work because that’s not really true. But I will say that you can’t edit your own work as effectively as someone else with even half the experience you have could.

Why? Because they’re objective and you are not. They’re reading it with an outside perspective without all the extra stuff you know. If something doesn’t make sense, they’re far more likely to notice than you are because you know all the background info that would make that section fit or make sense. They don’t. So yes, self-edit. But never, ever assume that it can replace an edit from one or more outside sources. It can’t.

What Do You Need Done to Your Work?

If you’re asking this, that’s good! You should be figuring out what your book needs before you go hunting for an editor. What you decide you need vastly affects the price and who you go to. All editors are not equal in skill or talent. Some will be great for polishing the book up but not so great at fixing all your plot holes. Some will excel with characterization and development of the plot but not at the grammar. It’s your job as the author to know what your book’s struggle points are so you can talk to your potential editors to see what they’re strongest in.

For me, I’m actually strong in both developmental and line editing. It’s a bit unusual for people to be strong in both, to be honest. But I received a strong foundation in both because my parents strongly believed grammar and learning to write mattered. So, I was reading writers like Tolkien and Lewis by ten and was reading Sanderson and Card by twelve or thirteen. That has shaped both my writing and my ability to edit stories and writing I’m presented with.

But that’s important to know about your editor. If they’re good in more than one area, you want to know that. If they can only do one, you need to know that too. You owe it to your book to give it the best shot at doing well that you can. So, do not entrust the book’s edit to just anyone. That edit makes the difference between a book getting great reviews and a book that’s lucky to get three stars. We’re all aiming for four or five-star reviews, obviously, so why would you figure just any editor will do?

Figuring Out What Kind of Editing Your Book Needs

To figure out what your book needs, read through it. Don’t read it as a writer or an editor either. Read it as a reader. Forget about what you know and focus on only the content in the book. Read it like it’s entirely new to you as best you can. It’s easier said than done. This is why most writers who’ve been doing it for a long time recommend setting the book aside for at least a month or two before coming back to edit it. I’d advise that too.

This allows fresh perspective, and you’ll notice the problem areas a lot faster. Then you can communicate those problem areas to your prospective editors so they can determine if they’re able to help. Provide a sample to them as well. They can use the sample to decide if they’re a good fit based on what they see when they look at it.

Bottom line? You’re going to form a partnership with your editor. Yes, you’re paying them. But you’re going to end up talking a lot as they work through the book—assuming you’re asking questions and talking about how to handle changes they’ve suggested and, of course, depending on their style as they work with clients—and that means you’re going to have some sort of relationship for at least the duration of the book’s edit. If you like them, then the relationship may continue and grow further as they edit more of your work in the future. It pays to make sure that you and your editor fit well and that the editor is a good fit for your book.

Conclusion

Okay, I’m done now. I did warn you this would be a long article. I hope it’s been helpful and instructive, though! Editing and finding someone to edit for you can be one of the biggest headaches for writers, and it’s my hope that this article has helped clear up some of the confusions, concerns, and mysteries around editing. It’s difficult sometimes, but it’s not as terrifying as people sometimes make it out to be in their heads. So, what are you waiting for? Take what you learned here and start applying it! The sooner  you do, the sooner you’ll start to see a difference.

A Guide to Using Pinterest for Authors

Introduction

Hey, everyone! Ariel Paiement here with a guest post on Pinterest for you guys. James Meservy invited me to post about this topic, probably because he knows I’m always going on about it. At least, it feels like I am. But I do that because it really does work as a marketing tool! To start off, I want to say thanks for having me on the blog today, James! Today’s post, as you may have guessed, will be all about using Pinterest for business and, in particular, authors.

I’ve talked to quite a few of author friends who are sitting in front of their computers hemming and hawing about whether or not they need to be using Pinterest. If that’s you too, let me make this super easy! I mean no offense to anyone by saying this, but you should be using it! No two ways about it, you should. If you aren’t, especially as an author who has plenty of graphics and covers that would fit right in on the platform, you’re missing out. 

But, Ariel, you might think. I have no time to add another social media platform. And if that’s you, you’re in good company. You’re also in good company if any of the following excuses have crossed your mind in reference to Pinterest:

1) I don’t know what to post.

2) I don’t know how to use the platform.

3) It’s social media, and I really dislike using that any more than I have to.

4) It’s time consuming and maybe it costs something? 

5) Any other excuses to procrastinate. I’m sure someone else has also thought of them even if I haven’t.

Answers to the Questions and Reasons Why Not

Okay, the sarcasm and joking aside, I get that people have a million reasons not to start using Pinterest for their business. But let me answer some of those concerns right up front before we dive into how to get started, what you can do, and what you need to be doing.

1) I don’t know what to post. Well, by the end of this post, you’ll have some great ideas for things you can do, so this will no longer be a problem.

2) I don’t know how to use the platform. Also not going to be a problem when we’re finished here.

3) It’s social media, and I really hate using that more than I have to. False. It is actually a search engine, not social media, and you get to use it for free along with all the analytics tools that come with search engine optimization (SEO) on the site for free! Yup, you can stare at the pretty line graphs and see your traffic go up and down, see your viewer demographics, and track link clicks and so on. But I’m getting ahead of myself. My point is, this is not social media, and you should not be treating it as such. If you do, you’re shooting yourself in the foot from the start.

4) It’s time consuming, and maybe it costs something? No, it is not time-consuming. I mean, sure, it’s going to take you some time if you choose to go the entirely free route because you’ll have to manually upload the post, but it takes maybe five minutes tops once you know what you’re doing, so that’s less time than it takes to write the average blog post or even some Facebook posts. You could do it on your lunch break. As for costing something, it doesn’t if you’re not paying for ads and you post your own content. And, most importantly, it is not pay-to-play like so many other sites, so you can still build traffic and succeed without paid advertisements if you’re smart.

5) Any other excuses you can come up with? Since I don’t know them, I can’t guarantee I’ll give you a reason not to procrastinate, but by the end of this post, I’m hoping you’ll be fully convinced that you should be doing Pinterest even if you’re not doing much in the way of other social media.

Who Is Pinterest For?



Let’s start with this. Who’s on Pinterest? Well, hopefully your ideal reader. But let’s just break it down to something simpler. Lots of people are on Pinterest. Varying age groups are on at different times during the day, and they’re all looking for different things. But mainly, Pinterest attracts people who are doing a few things:

1) Shopping around to figure out what they want to buy for any given type of product (decor, books, electronics, you name it)

2) Looking for amusement because they’re bored (so maybe they’re looking at humor, book reviews, DIYs, or memes)

3) Looking for information (They want to know about something or how to do something, and they’re looking for free blog articles or graphics explaining how)

4) Needing inspiration for a project (painting a new room, decorating their house, planning a wedding, writing a book, and anything else under the sun)

Why is Pinterest great for these? Because it’s a search engine in a visual form. People see Pins, which is just another word for visual search results created by Pinterest’s content creators (aka me and, hopefully, you too soon). If they look under the Pin, they see the title and maybe some basic information. Let’s take a look:

Pinterest Search



I’m a fantasy writer, so I looked up fantasy writing prompts. The image above shows all of the results that fit into the screenshot when I took it. Notice that some have titles while others don’t, but all of them have some kind of visual that lets you know what it is. You shouldn’t need the title to figure out what you’re looking at in most cases. So if I’m looking for inspiration for a project, for example, maybe I choose the third result: Sunday Story Prompt. 

Now that you understand who is on Pinterest and why, let’s move on to understanding how people move through the site and how you can use it to gain traction for your blog!

Understanding the Site Layout

You’ve already seen how to search for things in that first screenshot, and we talked a little about why it’s such a useful way to search. Your viewers can figure out if your content is something interesting to them without even reading the header in many cases. Not that you don’t put a header in, since that helps to improve search results and pop your Pin to the top of the results page when certain keywords are hit. But they shouldn’t need it to have a general idea of what the Pin is and to be drawn to looking at the Pin further.

So once someone has clicked on your search result, what do they see? I clicked on the Sunday Story Prompt result I mentioned earlier, and here’s what I get.

Pinterest Result

Now, notice that this individual didn’t give the Pin a title. Generally, that’s not the best because as a search engine, Pinterest is going to use your title and description to show your Pin to Pinners searching for content using your keywords. So don’t skip the title. If the Pin has a title, you can see that here:

Titles on Pinterest

Notice that now you see both the website link and the title of the Pin above the description. The title is the first thing a Pinner sees, and if that isn’t what they were expecting, they might still Pin the content since the image appeals, but they’re probably not going to click the link to go to your blog (which is what you want them to do since Pinterest is meant to be a funnel, not just a fun toy to amuse yourself when you’re bored, right?).

And After the Title?

After they see the title, if that’s still interesting, they’re probably going to look at the description. If the Pin is for an actual blog post, then you should describe what the post will do for them and how it can help them. Include a brief explanation of that and then a call to action (if you’re sharing a product or asking them to do something specific). If you’re not selling a product (Which I recommend you don’t, typically, since Pinners aren’t interested–yet–in buying anything. They’re converted to buyers once they leave the platform, like what they see, and check out what else is available from the Pinner they are looking at.), then your call to action might just be, click the link to learn more on my blog. Super simple.

So, this is what one of my descriptions looks like. This one has no particular call to action since the Pin itself is really not intended to specifically do anything beyond what the graphic provides. If your Pin is like that (we’ll talk about why you might have Pins like this), you can do something like this.

Pinterest Graphics

Notice that this includes a few questions to add on to the content I provided in the original prompt. (Ignore the blue circle. My personal account just wants me to click on the link. Pinterest will encourage viewers to do that with outbound links sometimes if they’re newer accounts. My personal one is because I originally converted my personal account to business when I started this. I’ll explain that later on.)

Anyway, the questions I provide ask them if they’re in a predicament of sorts. Then I provide the solution by saying, hey, you’ve got a prompt here, so finish the story. This has in the past gotten me engagement on the Pin in the comments, but not always. Regardless, that’s my call to action. If readers like that, then they’re going to keep reading and, in another situation, may choose to go read the blog article. In some cases, even with Pins of this nature, you’ll get visitors to your blog anyway. I actually do quite often on these Pins in comparison to others.

Pinning It

Last point before we move to the next section of the article! Once they’ve decided they like the content, user can choose to Pin it. You can see below that clicking the save button will give them options to save it to Boards. This is kind of like saving things to different folders in your bookmarks but more visual since the Boards will display a certain number of the most recent Pin images saved to that Board. Quite handy if you want an idea of what was saved to it beyond just the title.

Here’s what some of my author’s Boards look like.

Pinterest Boards

I’m explaining all this in case you’ve never used the site because you’re going to end up doing some of the same things your potential readers and followers will do. You’ll have to start off from scratch, and that means pinning other people’s content more often than your own to begin gaining traction. Fortunately, it’s far easier to do that on Pinterest than any social media site because a Pin’s lifetime is up to two years instead of the two-or-three-hour lifetime of most social media postings. So, hey, there’s a reason right there to start using Pinterest. You don’t have to spend as much time posting and monitoring, and pinning other people’s content is even easier than creating your own.

Why Business Pinterest?

Now that you understand the site’s layout and have a general idea of how people move through the site, let’s talk about your author’s or blogger’s Pinterest account. First off, if you already have an account, you can’t just use your personal account. You need a business account to access the analytics, create your own pins, view stats on the pins, and to connect your website. As you can see, my personal Pinterest account is missing quite a few options that my business account has. I’ve got a red plus sign for creating pins on my business account in addition to an announcements section to see what fans are saying on my pins.

So, bottom line, your blog needs a business account. You can do that one of two ways. Either you can convert your personal account to a business account (free of charge regardless of which way you go) and then take down any boards you created on the personal account that don’t relate to your business or your blog (so go into the board’s settings and turn it to private. We’ll go over that in a bit.) or you can create a whole new account and simply choose business instead of personal.

Notice that in the image below, I’m on my personal account and am given the option to add a business account under settings and Account Settings. It’s near the bottom of the screen. That’s where you’d go to convert your own account to a business account.

Switching to Business Pinterest

Claiming Your Website and Socials on Pinterest

Once you have that set up, you need to claim your website and any social media links you may have. I’ll show you where to go for this, but note that if you’re not a techy sort of person, you’ll want to get your host site to help you get the two sites connected. I had to get help when I wasn’t self-hosted because Wordpress.com is difficult and I couldn’t find what I needed. Otherwise, Pinterest has an article on it as do other bloggers on the web, and it’s pretty simple to figure out if you follow the steps. If you have issues, you can always reach out to your website host or Pinterest to get someone to walk you through it if you can’t get it working. I’m always having to do that for new features on my blog and site, and I’m sure I drive the support teams nuts when they see my name and the newest problem, but hey… I’m nice about it, and that’s why they’re there.

To claim your site and social media links, you should go to edit settings and then to claim, which is just below the account settings tab where you switched your personal account over to a business account. Here, you’ll see slightly different options for business accounts. It should look like this:

Claim accounts on Pinterest

Notice that I already claimed my website and my Instagram. I don’t use Etsy at all or YouTube (often), so neither of those accounts are connected. But you can connect any of those platforms or social media accounts if you need to. I won’t go into detail on this because Pinterest’s help article on it explains far better than I can.

Secret Boards

Once you have your account moved over to business on Pinterest, you need to go through your boards and delete or hide any that don’t relate to your blog and business. To be an effective funnel for traffic, your account needs to be attracting only those who will actually find your blog, business, and product useful or desirable. Keeping only boards relevant to your business will ensure that Pinners do some self-selecting on which category they fall under.

To turn a board to secret or delete it, just go to the board settings and select one of the two then save or confirm. You can use the images below to help you find where to do that if you’re new to Pinterest and haven’t edited a board before. I chose to show the steps on my Writing Fantasy Tips board. You can either delete at the bottom or, under Visibility, check the box to keep the board secret if you still want to use it but don’t want others seeing it. I’ve used this for quite a few of my own personal boards. Just make sure you save if you decide to use visibility settings to hide it. I should also note that this is all done from your profile under the Boards tab that I showed earlier.

Boards

So, now that the account is set up, how do you use it? What do you Pin and how do you create your own content? Glad you asked! That’s what we’re going to discuss next!

What To Pin

To put it simply, both your content and that of others. But I’m going to talk about content creation a bit later, so let’s focus on what to Pin from others. As stated earlier, every Pin should reflect your brand and business. As an author, there are a few directions you can go.

Start With Your Approach

I’ll explain what I have chosen to do just to give an example, but you should do what fits your blog’s focus and your business’s brand. Every author has a slightly different approach and branding they’re trying to stick to. My way isn’t the only way!

The Fantasy Nook is focused on providing quality content for readers and authors. My goal has been to establish myself as an expert in the market for writing and editing, especially for fantasy in particular, by providing quality educational material for writers and authors but also by providing reliable book reviews for readers. I also share short flash fiction pieces to demonstrate that I know how to use what I preach.

All of this is aimed at establishing in my viewers’ minds that I am a credible source with a high level of skill and expertise in the field.

How Pinterest Ties In

With that explained, how does my Pinterest account show that? Well, it focuses on writers and readers both, and it has both repined and original content that centers around book reviews, book-related stuff, editing, blogging, and writing in one fashion or another. It’s a mix of fun stuff like writing prompts and reviews to more educational and resource-based materials.

This draws people in because it offers them something that helps them. In our most recent generations, people buy things advertised or placed in front of them for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. They’re convinced they need it.
  2. It’s not too expensive, and it’s an impulse buy.
  3. It makes them feel good because it supports a cause they like.
  4. It’s interesting, and they want it.
  5. It fulfills some area of their life that they already needed help with.

Focusing In

Younger generations in particular focus heavily on what they get out of it. They’re not terribly interested in reason 3, but if it’s one of the other reasons, then heck yeah! They’re all about that. Reason 2 is iffy depending on the person, obviously, but in general, your millennials (to some degree) and your Gen X (to a very high degree) are very concerned with what you’re giving them. Self-centered? Absolutely. But hey, it is what it is. And in a business world, unfortunately, you’re not going to go anywhere if you don’t pander to the way people think and advertise accordingly. Prove to them that they can use it and can’t live without it, and you’ve got a new customer, hopefully permanently.

For authors, it’s much more focused on proving to this group that your book or story is going to entertain them better than something else or another book. Daunting prospect, but really, it comes down to getting your product in front of them and grabbing their attention. This group will impulse buy, depending on the person, and ebooks—even ones in the 2-3 dollar range—aren’t terribly expensive. Less than a coffee at Starbucks, and it lasts a lot longer. So for you, your goal with Pinterest should be to get them to do the following:

  1. Click on the Pin and then the blog link
  2. Get interested in your content
  3. See your book
  4. Find it interesting
  5. Buy the book not the coffee

Obviously, your blog itself plays a direct role once they’re off Pinterest, but that’s not the focus for today’s article. At the end of the day, figure out your goals and the image you’re going for in your brand and marketing, then go Pin accordingly.

Creating Your Own Content

Elements of Creation – Examples

Pinterest is a visual platform, so your content needs to be some sort of graphic that lets others know what the Pin is about even without clicking. If they don’t know what it is, they’ll keep scrolling. That means engaging images, bold and clear fonts, colors that work well together and grab the eye, and a clear representation of the main idea. Let’s look at a few Pins to see how to do that well and what you should think about.

Pinterest Search

To start off, take a look at these search results. The image is small, but some results stand out better than others. For example, the font on the cover in the first search result is still fairly readable even though it’s small. This was actually one of my book reviews. I didn’t know it would pop up, but it’s the only good cover example here, so let’s use it. For reviews, I only post covers, typically without any sort of other title over the top. I’m trying to highlight the book, not necessarily just a post. Covers are more difficult to see sometimes on small screenshots, but they’re easy to see and admire on a phone or even on a computer, though most people will browse on a phone or other mobile device like tablets and ipads.

The next pin to stand out is the one with orange, blue, and white as its color scheme. You should quickly see the one I’m talking about. It has a big font and can be read even on this small screen. The Pin’s title on the graphic is How to Use Allusion in Writing. It’s a good example of using brighter colors to draw the eye, and it has pretty decent contrast. Maybe it’s not as pretty as it could be, but it does the job, and the colors don’t clash.

The last pin we’ll look at is actually one of mine as well! I didn’t know either of these would show up in my search (writing), but they did, so we’ll look at this one since it stands out from a lot of the other writing prompt pins that are on this results page. (That was intentional too when I created the template I use for these.) Notice how lots of the search results are bland colors with less than appealing graphics? They all kind of blend together after a while, and it’s easy to scroll past them because you don’t have to stop really to read them or think about it.

A Word On Creating Your Own Background Art

What I did with my pin, however, is different. In the closeup, you can see it has a nice background image (one I know I have a license for, which is really important when you create graphics for your Pins. Don’t use Unsplash, Pixabay, or Pexels. There have been issues with stolen art, and if the pirated content’s poster doesn’t have a license, they can’t give you one.

Even if they do, if they’re not the original owner, they still can’t give you permission to use it. But I digress.), and the font is in a color that’s made to stand out. It doesn’t have giant bold font like some of the more informational posts do, but that’s fairly standard for writing prompts that aren’t one liners or simple like dialogue starters. You can also see that I included my blog’s link, and it shows up over the image at first when people pull up the Pin. This was before I had a special page for writing prompts on my blog, so you’ll note that I have the link sending people to my homepage, something I generally wouldn’t do.

I could go back and edit, but I’ve chosen to just leave it be.

What Else to Include?

Besides the graphic, you need a title, a brief description, and a link to your site. Let’s talk about each individually.

  • Title

Besides the image, this is the most noticeable part of the Pin. Name it using keywords that reflect your content.

  • Description

A good description will, as we discussed earlier, explain the Pin’s purpose in more depth than your title. It should contain long-tail keywords—more on that in a minute—and hashtags if useful or relevant. Pinterest searches using both to give Pinners content most relevant to their search.

  • Link

If you can, try to avoid sending your viewers to your website homepage. Instead, show them the content that relates to the Pin. If you have a post on the topic, link to that and write your description accordingly. Readers and visitors tend to feel disappointment when they click on your link expecting read more of what they were viewing only to be sent to a homepage, or, worse still, a sales page. Unless the Pin they’re viewing is related to those pages, don’t send them there! They’ll go look if they’re interested. Otherwise, they’re probably not your target reader anyway, so let them go without too much consternation.

How To Create Pins

Pinterest makes it really easy to create Pins. Take a look below to see how step-by-step.

Fill in the page you’re given with the information we already discussed.

Research for Your Pin Description

Now, before you choose a board to publish this to in the top right corner, you need to take a few minutes to do some keyword research to find the long-tail keywords that will go into your description. Pinterest won’t do this for you, but it does make it easier to do than some search engines. You can find your long-tail keywords and examples of descriptions for content like yours in the search bar and results. Let’s look at how.

In my search bar, I typed writing. Now, all these other suggestions come up from Pinterest. These are your long-tail keywords. I’ve circled the one we’re going to go look at for the next part: finding examples of content like yours.

I get a ton of results, and I’m going to scroll through them to find things that look relevant and similar to what I’m trying to Pin. Let’s say I’m trying to write a Pin description for a Pin about writing your antagonist and making them terrifying. Okay, lots of stuff shows up in writing characters that isn’t relevant. So I just keep scrolling until I find the first one that looks relevant. How about the one below? Looks pretty relevant.

So, I’ll open it up and take a look at the description they used. Keep in mind that I already have my long-tail keyword, or one of them, anyway. We went with writing characters. But maybe this description will help us figure out a better long-tail keyword. If you’re not sure if your idea for the keyword is something people are searching, just start typing it in like I did with writing and see what Pinterest suggests. Assuming you’re specific enough, you can look at the top results to see what they’re doing and mimic that (without copy pasting, of course).

Pinterest Result

Maybe for some reason this one isn’t giving me what I want or I’d like more examples. In that case, I can scroll through the Pins below it in the More Like This section to find other relevant, similar content. That can be helpful for mining keywords that are common to Pins. If they’re near the top of the results, it means they’re doing better, so keep that in mind.

Now, notice that to start, I can’t see what their description is, but I can see a few keywords in their title, which is another important thing to notice. They use words like writing, antagonist, tips, and how to. I might want to use some of those words too. Now, let’s look at the description up close.

Okay, so we’ve got all the key words in here, a good strong description of what the question we’re asking should be, and the solution. This individual presents first the importance of the topic, then two questions about handling the creation of a strong antagonist (paralleling the topic presented in the title), and gives a solution by ending with the title to bring us back full circle to the blog post (I assume it’s a blog post) that will answer those questions we now have. This is a good pattern to follow, and while she isn’t talking about how to create a terrifying villain after all, and therefore might not be exactly what we need for keywords, she is a good pattern for the structure of our description.

Finishing Up and Publishing Your Pin

Hopefully you’re seeing now how to do the research. Once you’ve done it, write your description, upload your graphic, insert your link, and include the title. Finally, Pin it to a board by choosing a board from the drop down menu in the top right corner of your content creation/pin creation screen, and hitting publish.

Publishing the Pin
Pin Created

That’s it!

If you choose to publish content of the same type regularly like I do with writing prompts, you can create a background template graphic and change only the text for each new Pin graphic. This saves me a lot of time. In addition, you’ll get used to what keywords, hashtags, and long-tail keywords work best for similar Pins. Check them every so often with the keyword research process to make sure that they’re still trending and current, but in general, if you chose well, they’re going to last a while as long as you’re not buying into a fad.

Does Pinterest Really Work?

What’s the best part of this? You don’t have to touch the Pin again once it’s up. Aside from checking to see how it’s doing, you can sit back and let people continue to repin with no work on your part, ads or no ads. You’ll have to build traffic, but it happens. I started end of October of 2019 and had this by the same date in November a month later (Impressions are your number of views, engagements are the people who clicked on your post, audience is who’s looking at any of your boards, and engaged audience is made up, in general, of those who click on things frequently and visit links):

I thought that was pretty great. Here’s where I’m at to date with everything on the day I wrote this post. October through to January barely registers. It might as well be zero in comparison to what I’ve been getting.

This was January 29th to February 29th.

Big difference, right? My peak here is at 16.25k views in a day. I’m usually not around 1K views in a day now, even though I only post twice a week and Pin others’ content sporadically throughout the week when I think of it. This came from work at the beginning of the account’s lifespan to build my following by pinning content from other users.

At the start, I had hardly any of my own content, and I was lucky to make it to 50 views on any one of them. Now, I’ve got a few pins that are anywhere from 15K to 60K views. It snowballs. Maybe now you guys understand why Pinterest is such a powerful tool. I get more clicks to my website from this than any other platform I use and far more than I ever have seen from social media. This works if you put in a bit of time up front to learn it and play around.

Pin Topics

Now, some of you still have no idea what to Pin, so I’m going to leave you with a few ideas for content that has worked pretty well for me (some better than others).

  1. Book covers for books you reviewed or liked with a link to the review if you have it on your blog. (These do okay, but they aren’t my highest-viewed posts.)
  2. Writing Prompts (These get the most attention with my highest sitting right around 54K views when I last checked, I believe.)
  3. How-To Pins (Relevant graphic and link to a how-to article. I don’t do as many of these, but I know they work well for many people.)
  4. Informational Articles (Similar situation to the how-to pins.)
  5. Blog Tour Schedules with a link to the schedule on the blog (Mine was my second most viewed Pin to date for On Twilight’s Wings. It got roughly 12K views in a day when I posted it, which was a shock for sure!)
  6. Product-Service related pins (Much like the ones you see when Pinterest shows Pins they’re promoting or brand-sponsored pins.)
  7. Humor related to your blog or those who are in your target audience
  8. Boards with collected images that help readers visualize the world and characters in your books
  9. Inspirational material your audience would find useful
  10. Quotes related to your brand’s audience (similar to humor)

Conclusion

This was a really long article, and for that, I apologize! I know people usually prefer shorter blog posts. However, there’s a lot to cover with Pinterest, so things are bound to be a little longer. I hope that this has been useful to you in some way or another. For those who have never used Pinterest, I hope it’s provided a crash course that you’ll be able to use to get started. If you were already using it, I hope this has convinced you to use it more frequently or to start using it for Business. It’s a handy tool and it’s free, so why not start today? You’re the only one who misses out if you procrastinate on it!

If you want to read more (generally shorter) articles on all different areas of writing and publishing, check out my blog’s Thursday Technicalities section. The content provides authors with free, reliable resources to help them improve their craft. If that sounds like you, I’d love to have you join me on Thursdays for those discussions!

Guest Post from Sam’s Teen Reads Corner, presented by Thrice Read Books

Guest Post from Sam’s Teen Reads Corner, presented by Thrice Read Books

Guest Post from Sam’s Teen Reads Corner, presented by Thrice Read Books

  Mornin!

The monthly theme for March is Marketing Madness.  One of my favorite things about being an author, is connecting with other authors.  Reviews are important to some marketing strategies, so I asked Sam from Thrice Read Books to join me on my blog.   

FIRST, LET’S GET TO KNOW YOU A BIT. TELL US SOMETHING UNIQUE ABOUT YOURSELF:  

I love books so much that as a child, I used to eat them. Like, literally. I would eat little samples of the pages. Did you know that different kinds of paper have different flavors? My parents are quite happy that I’ve outgrown that habit. Plus, ebooks! When was the last time you tried taking a bite out of your Kindle or Nook? That’s what I thought.   

WHAT IS THE GENRE AND AUDIENCE FOR YOUR REVIEW VLOG? 

My review vlog focuses primarily on Young Adult and Teen fiction. Occasionally, I’ll read and review something middle grade or new adult. I particularly love fantasy, paranormal, and horror fiction.   

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO REVIEW BOOKS ON A VLOG? 

Sam’s Teen Reads Corner started out as a homeschool assignment when I was in junior high, as an alternative to writing book reports for all the books I read. The format has changed over the years, but I still love the variety of books I get asked to review, and I enjoy the interaction of the live stream format.   

TELL US ABOUT YOUR WRITING EXPERIENCES:  

I’ve drafted three books of my own, though I haven’t gotten around to publishing any of them. (Because editing. And computer crashes. And high school.) I’ve completed one National Novel Writing Month. And I’ve met so many awesome authors as the daughter of bookstore owners. Truly, it’s kind of a bookworm’s dream – living downstairs from our bookstore inventory (I never have to complain that I have nothing to read!). Plus, inventory shopping trips usually result in me getting at least a few books that I get to read before they get listed.  

WHERE CAN WE VIEW YOUR VLOG?  

You can check out our review blog at www.thricereadbooks.com and tune into my live stream vlog most Saturdays at 11 a.m. Pacific time: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKtxPt-TTPnO-IfJesKSq0g

Guest Post From Amanda Lindsey, PA

Guest Post From Amanda Lindsey, PA

This month’s theme is Marketing Madness, as you already know.

And Personal Assistants are great resources to help authors with marketing and promotions.

I have very limited experiences working with a PA myself, so I asked my friend, Amanda Lindsey, PA, to share with you what PAs do.

PA’s are personal assistants to authors. We are also known as VA’s which are virtual assistants. Each person has different qualities and qualifications to offer an author. Services may depend on training and knowledge. We are self taught or gain knowledge from the PA community.

Pricing also depends on what the PA can offer and what the author may need. Each client is always different as are PA’s. We strive to be the right hand person to the author.

Some of the things that may be offered are support, friendship, reading and reviewing on a variety of levels, form creation, blog contact, group activity and maintenance, arc team support, social media marketing, running author social media and pages, calendar management, takeover posting, takeover and party setup, graphics and teasers, transcription and so much more.

We try to take up things that will give the author more time to focus on what they do best….writing.