Members of Texas Authors, Inc., are welcome to post on our blog for other fellow members, or for the general public.
Each blog post will be approved by the website administrator and must not contain promotion of ones book. This is meant as an educational posting program.
Even though Instagram is fairly new, it’s still hard to remember a time when we didn’t have this social media site. Part of the reason for this is its staggering growth. In 2012 when Instagram was acquired by Facebook, it had 100 million active users, now that number is up to 400 million. More and more, indie authors are heading over to Instagram as part of their book marketing plan — to engage with readers, build their fan base, and sell books. Last week, I talked about some strategies for creative book marketing with Instagram, and this week, I’m focusing on how to create picture perfect images to maximize your Instagram Engagement.
When Instagram first started up, you could only upload square pictures which was annoying. You’d either have to crop the picture or just shoot it in square mode. Last year, however, Instagram changed this, lifting this restriction which opened up a lot of new possibilities. So if you’re uploading your picture to Instagram and want to return to the original size/ratio, just tap the bottom left corner of the photo. This lets you switch between square or landscape mode.
Finding Picture Perfect Images
You can always, ALWAYS, use your own photos. If you’ve taken it, you can use it. But sometimes the photos we take don’t fit into our theme or our goals, so we need to find photos that do work. As we all know by now, we can’t just take any image we find from Google. Instead, we need to make sure that we have rights to use the image or it’s royalty-free. You can purchase stock photos from a number of paid sites – some of the most popular are IstockPhoto.com, BigStockPhoto.com, and stock.Adobe.com. Stocksy.com is a newer site with exclusive images, making it a good option if you’re looking for something unique.
There are also a number of great sites where you can legally download images royalty-free, that is, without having to purchase rights. Most use the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license meaning they are completely free for personal or commercial use (although it’s frowned on to sell them). Here are a few great options:
• LibreStock.com is basically a search engine for free stock images from dozens of sites so users don’t have to search them out individually.
• Unsplash.com is another great site for images that are free to use. You can subscribe to have new photos sent to your email every 10 days, or browse the site. Customizing Images
Now that know how to find the perfect images to share on your Instagram account, let’s talk about getting them ready for posting. At minimum, you’ll want to watermark the images so that if they leave the confines of Instagram, people will know where to find you. So, include your logo and website URL.
Generally speaking, if you want to use a stock photo, you will want to customize the image in some way as well, whether adding a few words, creating a collage of a few images, or adding a quote. While a quote that’s meaningful in some way to you or related to your theme works great, many authors like to include a quote from one of their characters or even something memorable from their own book. Or, you can use an image as a teaser to announce something is coming soon. Again, keep in mind screen size limitations – don’t cram too much information into your image – instead you can add any additional messaging to the photo description.
If you prefer to do everything from the comfort of your phone, there are lots of apps out there that allow you to customize your images:
• Relaythat – This app is commonly used for event designs and events, and has a free and paid ($8/month) option. Both options allow for a one-click resize, so you don’t have to resize each photo by hand for every place you’re going to use it.
• Typorama – With Typorama, you can create images for a wide variety of social networks, and you can shadow text so it’s easy read against varying backgrounds. You can also easily watermark all of your images
• Adobe Spark Post – This is another great free app that, in their own words, allows you to “turn ideas into impactful social graphics.”
• Wordswag – With lots of great type styles, and the ability to easily swap between styles, and even variations within each style, this is a fun app to use. It also has the option to use a few basic backgrounds, instantly search royalty-free stock images from Pixabay, or use your own photos.
• PicsArt – This app allows you to create great collages in a huge variety of layouts. You can easily resize images within the collages and the drag-and-drop feature makes it easy to swap images and text around.
• Ezy Watermark – This app does exactly what it says – giving you an easy way to watermark your images. Limited to iOS at this time.
• Lumyer – Lumyer gives you the tools to create some really cool animated images.
• RIPL – With RIPL you can design animated images. The free version includes access to 5 free designs, as well as one free Ripl Pro design daily, while the paid version is $9.99/month or $59.99/year.
• DIPTIC – This app allows you to create collages and slideshows. The iOS version is more robust than the Android version at this time.
Indie Authors Can Create Amazing Images with these tips! https://wp.me/p6TMt8-6lF via @bookgal
Or, you might want to do the work on a computer, and then save your new perfect images to your phone (using email or file transfer) for later posting to Instagram. Although this adds a layer of complexity, some people prefer it – and Canva is one of our favorite options (plus they have an iPad app).
Hot new feature!
Here’s a bonus idea! In the last few weeks, Instagram came out with Instagram Stories, a feature that lets you share all of the moments of your day without them appearing on your profile grid or feed. Basically, it allows you to share as much as you want to without over posting. It’s a great way to test out some creative ideas and showcase your day without creating a permanent record! Give it a try and see how it works for you and your book marketing plan!
Ultimately, you have tons of great options for finding and customizing your images for Instagram. So many in fact, that the selection of apps and programs may seem daunting! But, each has their own pros and cons, and everyone has their own preferences. I’m confident that you’ll find one that is a great fit for you. Regardless of which app you use, take some time to play with it, and in no time you’ll be creating picture perfect images for your Instagram account, as well as any other social media accounts!
By Jaime Stein
12 January 2016
This post was originally published on LinkedIn.
The peach emoji grew to notoriety as a way to represent something vastly different than the fruit. That all changed Friday when a new social network boasting the enticing URL peach.cool emerged as the latest obsession among social-savvy circles.
We haven’t seen this much hype for a new social network since the rush (and eventual crush) of Ello. Peach has piqued the curiosity of social pros and digital marketers, leading to a subsequent land grab to secure usernames and establish a presence on the new social network. It could either become the next big thing or a massive flop and another waste of space on your iPhone. The reality is that no one knows what Peach’s future will be — and that’s the best part!
For social media managers, the dramatic rise of a new social network creates a headache of ANOTHER place to manage your brand. But for the casual tech star, it presents an opportunity — a chance to feel like a kid again and experience something new for the first time. Curiosity is king.
When I first started playing with Peach, I was bombarded with questions from colleagues about the app: What is it? What does it do? How do I get it? Is it like Snapchat? Will businesses use it? What’s the ROI? (That last question was likely a joke.)
I personally experience tremendous joy when a new social network comes out because the unknown is awesome. There are no use cases or prescribed norms — you get to blaze a trail and help define how a community will be shaped.
With that in mind, I have laid out a few suggestions on how to approach a new social network:
Play around. Break things. Forget about how you would use an established network like Twitter or Facebook. In the case of Peach, I was able to make some cool animated GIFs that seemed to get everyone excited. I also messed around with the draw function and caked a few people. It was an innocent activity that started out as waving, but quickly escalated to throwing cake. I was a little offended when someone quarantined me back, but then I discovered a whole set of activities you could do to your friends — it was like Facebook’s “Poke” function on steroids.
It’s a team sport
Discovering new social networks is a team sport. You can only figure out so much in isolation before you need a little help from your friends. As I was messing around with Peach on my iPhone, my colleague Adam Houghton found a user guide with short codes that opened up a host of new features. Imagine discovering UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A, START — it was that level of excitement.
All of a sudden, I was able to add my location, search for and share GIFs, and insert the weather from where I stood. This instantly made the app more sticky and had me further down the rabbit hole of discovery.
Pro Tip: Type “help” when you are posting to see the entire list of magic words.
See what your friends are up to on the app. Is someone doing something cooler that you? Most likely. My colleague Matt Diederichs was up to some interesting things on his Peach feed and that led me to discover some additional features like commenting and ratings. Matt also had a head start on following people, so I scoped out his friends list and added some new people to follow.
Another good way to find friends, which can be a challenge on Peach, is to search your address book by entering your phone number. I check daily to see if new friends have joined Peach—this helps me keep in touch with more people and keep my content fresh.
Is Peach right for brands?
The inevitable question that will arise is whether Peach will work for businesses.
Trends have been moving towards apps that offer more than just text and image combinations. Twitter and Facebook have added GIFs. Instagram added video. Snapchat has a combination of easy to create media and filters. All of these changes have been geared towards putting more excitement into social networks that may be at risk of becoming stale.
“I like that it’s bringing the fun aspect back to social media,” said Diederichs, who is a social campaigns specialist at Hootsuite. “It’s got all the little questions and secret words. It’s more fun than business or serious engagement.”
But with any new network, understanding the value can be a challenge. Laurie Dillon-Schalk, VP of strategy and insights at FUSE Marketing Group, wonders how Peach will benefit brands, “It feels like there is a land grab for brand names and for large followings. It seems without verification, or bios or some of the key elements from other social networks, that the credibility of accounts will be in question.”
“Furthermore,” she added, “I’m not seeing how this network gains earned media value.”
What I like about Peach
After spending the better part of the weekend exploring Peach, these are some of my favorite features.
I always struggle to keep up in the GIF game with my younger, more culturally connected colleagues. Peach solves that problem for me. Its GIF selector allows you to search by keyword and quickly populates your feed with a carousel of GIF options to choose from. Seamless!
Facebook asks “What’s on your mind?” and Twitter prompts you with “What’s happening?” to get you to post content. These are pretty open ended questions and it can sometimes be difficult to get started. Peach, on the other hand, has an array of prompts from “What’s something you can’t live without?” to “What would you love to win a lifetime supply of?” This is an interesting way to get users more active.
I enjoy the ability to do more than poke someone. There are some fun options to engage your friends, although, it would probably be a bit awkward to “put a ring on” one of your social media buddies. Or maybe not!
When you type “good morning” into your feed, Peach also includes the weather and the time. This is handy if you want to keep track of when you wake up or boast about the warm weather you are experiencing while on vacation and your friends are back home freezing.
Posts appear to disappear after 48 hours. As a long time Twitter user, sometimes it would be nice for older posts to not be searchable for the remainder of my life. A 48 hour lifespan seems long enough in social media for content to exist. It also helps drive adoption, because you will need to keep checking Peach to ensure you don’t miss content from friends. This also reinforces why Peach is calling itself a messaging app more than a social network.
Sometimes you want to emphasize what you are saying. The bold text option is cool and easy to use.
Pro Tip: Type “shout” when you are posting to activate this magic words feature.
As an iPhone user, I love that Peach is iPhone only (for now). There’s something nice about exclusivity. But already I’m hearing grumbles from Android users. We’ll see how patient they will have to be for their turn to quarantine a friend on Peach!
What I dislike about Peach
In the early hours, the app kept signing a bunch of us out. Unless this was some sort of social experiment to help people remember another new password, it was slightly annoying. It seems that Peach is working on fixing this bug, though.
There is no ability to search for friends by their username. You can input their username and your friend will get a notification, but if you mistype their name, you can’t connect. I also like the idea of deciding later whether to accept a friend request, however, I did that to a few people and I’m not sure when they will come back from the abyss—if ever!
On the topic of friends, it can be hard to discover what your friends are sharing. This was a common complaint shared by many of my friends on Peach.
With any new network, you want to discover new friends quickly. During the first 24 hours of the app’s existence, the friends of friends feed was helpful to discover other people you may know on Peach, but since more and more fake accounts have been created, this feature has quickly become useless.
On a related note, I’m not a fan of all the fake accounts that’ve popped up during the initial land grab for user names—it just adds to the noise. One of the reasons why I’m enjoying Peach so far is that it is less noisy than both my Facebook and Twitter feeds, which have grown out of control and beyond help.
I don’t like how the default privacy setting allows your content to be shown to friends of friends. I understand that this is a way to make the network more sticky as users gain access to more original content in the early days when the content flow is low, but unless you go digging to find this setting, most people will be unaware of who they are sharing their content with.
I like having the ability to share which song I’m listening to with my friends, however, the feature stopped my Spotify from playing my song meaning there was no music playing to identify. The first time I tried to get Peach to identify a song I was listening to on my laptop, it was misidentified. The second time, it nailed it: Warren G — Regulate.
Peach is a fun app which can make the mundane more exciting. It has elements of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Foursquare, Shazam, and plenty more. Some readers may recall the app Path—there are some similarities. However, Peach is user friendly for the most part. As for its business value? Only time will tell. For now, get curious, explore, and have some fun!
Based on a few articles over the years, it has become clear that authors who have a book in their local library tend to see an increase in book sales, based on the quality of their work. Recently, we did a survey with Texas Libraries to see how much money was being spent toward book purchases of Texas Authors. It was very low, as we sadly expected.
Of the libraries that responded, the average annual allowance to purchase new books was $15,000 (this did not include the large cities with populations over 500,000). Of those funds, 10% of it went to purchasing Texas Authors books. With an estimated 8,400 published authors that’s tough competition.
Many authors donate a copy of their book to libraries, and most are grateful for that copy. However, there are a lot of libraries that refuse them, not because of quality, but because of the cost of turning it into a hard copy so it will last longer. That process averages about $15 per book and higher, an expense that librarians prefer not to spend on unknown authors.
The alternative for the author is to use a service that gets their Ebook into the library at no cost to them, and very low cost to the library. One such program is the Self-E program by the nationally respected Library Journal. This is a free service for self-published or hybrid authors. TxAuthors charges $10 per title to cover our time and to keep it super easy for the author.
Through our efforts, over 330 books are in the Texas system, with an estimated 50 books receiving reviews and moving up to the national database. Texas is the second largest database in the country and we are proud to help increase the opportunity for authors to find more readers. The Library Journal will be honoring us, by creating a special web page in their system just for Texas Authors. No other state is scheduled to have this done. While this may not seem like a big deal, the fact that they want to work with us and promote Texas Authors is a huge compliment for what we are doing.
In addition, because of this success, the Library Journal has been working with the San Antonio mass transit system VIA to allow for passengers to have access to those books. It is a free service to riders, who can read the books on their smartphone, ipad, etc., while on the bus.
On our bookstore web site, we have over 1,500 titles. At least half of those should be in the Library Journal program. Therefore, we encourage you to sign up and take advantage of this opportunity now, so when they begin adding Dallas, Houston and other Texas cities to the list, your book will be available to those readers as well.
The fact that this bus program results in no royalties for authors is a drawback. It does, however, allow for authors to find new readers and that can be more valuable than being paid a few cents in royalties. As always, there is never a guarantee of readership of one’s book, but increasing your chances to find new readers is the goal. For those authors who have multiple books, don’t put them all out on the system, but at least put one or two in the system, so people can discover you and will want to buy your other books.
If you had signed up for the Library Journal program and do not want your book available for free to readers, please email me so we can have your book removed from the system.
If you would like to get your book added into the system, you can either do it yourself, or pay us the $10 processing fee to get it up quick and easy.
This is a great opportunity to expand your options, I hope you will take advantage of it. As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.