Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Blogging and Taxes

Tax Hunger Games Funny
Warning, this blog's purpose is to take a "professional" sounding advice and turn it into easy to understand stuff, and be entertaining enough to keep you awake through it. Consider this that boring seminar you HAVE to attend, but I'm the speaker wearing a light up tie.

If you blog, there's a chance you have some extra income you might need to claim for tax purposes. Let's talk about that. I put the important crap in the color of turd soaked dehydrated urine (it's a burnt orange). I also put in funny pictures for an eye break.

How do you know if you HAVE to file it or claim it? 

Did you make $400 before expenses (GROSS)? If the answer is yes, file and claim. If not, it's up to you.

The reason is self employment tax... The IRS wants you to pay for the social security and medicare employers usually take out of your check and match, that as a private contractor, you didn't have to pay. The IRS has a bigger amount for "Did you make this much last year" to tell you if you need to file, but that's for W-2 income. 1099-MISC income and other income earned without tax papers are usually claimed in the form of a small business requiring you to pay self employment tax. The IRS wants their money.

My personal advice is ALWAYS FILE regardless of what the IRS says. They are shady motherfuckers there at the IRS, and I don't trust their own manuals. They know their own loopholes to fuck us over better than we ever will to avoid being fucked. When the IRS thinks you owe them money, let's just say, the odds are more in your favor to negotiate with a Mexican Drug Cartel over unpaid debts. If you don't need to file, then file to prove to them you didn't need to file.

Plus, if you set your blogging up as a business, you want years and years of records of what you made, even if you didn't make that much. Businesses popping in and out of existence between years might trigger an audit faster than businesses who are steadily earning a little bit of income every year.

How to claim the Income?

You have two choices for freelance writing income and other blog income: Business or Hobby. 

Claim it as Business Income

You can set your blog up as a business and claim your income and expenses on a Schedule C like you would any small business. Most 1099 MISC goes here. In fact, if you receive a 1099 MISC for more than $400, you probably want to go this route because the IRS wants to tax you for that.

Claim it as a Hobby

There is a place in the dark corners of the 1040 where you can claim "Other Income." Hobby income goes here. It seems easier because all you do is put in the amount you received as income in that box. But it's more complicated, because in order to claim expenses, you must do so on a Schedule A, and you can't claim anymore in expense than you made. In other words, you may not get to claim expenses if you take a standard deduction (it would be implied in that standard deduction). If you itemize, you only get to claim expenses up to the amount you received. You can't have a negative income for hobby income like you can a small business.

BUT, you don't have to pay self employment taxes for hobby income. SE tax is based on how much you claim. If you are claiming a small amount with no expenses, like $400 from various companies, or even $50 you made on Etsy, this might be the way to go.

Which way to go?

The IRS usually defines hobby as income you make doing something you want to do, that you would do even if there wasn't an income, where the sole purpose of doing it is because you want to do it. A business is something you do to make money, where the sole purpose of doing it is to make money. Most blog income qualifies as both. It is something you do for fun, but you turned your fun into a profit-seeking venture.

While many tax preparers and accountants consider the short-term benefits of classifying income one way or the other, you have to think about the long term. If you see your blog as a business in 10 years, go the business income route. If you see your blog as a hobby or nonexistent in 10 years, then base it on where it best serves you for that year.

Another consideration is EIC. In order to qualify to receive the Earned Income Credit, one has to have earned income. Some tax preparers say for joint returns, only one spouse has to have earned income to qualify; however, the IRS PUB 17 flat out says BOTH spouses must have earned some income to qualify. I always wanted to be safe not sorry back in the days our income qualified us for the EIC, and I claimed my blogging money as a business so that it would be earned income.

While we are probably talking a few dollars between Sch C and Hobby income, the easiest way to find out which is best for your return that year is to do it one way, see the amount, and then do your taxes again the other way to see the other amount. If you have other income from W-2's, spouse income, and so forth, most likely going either direction won't change your tax situation any more than what you pay an HRBlock to prepare them for you.

Multiple Business Projects

I know many bloggers generally are all over the internet. Maybe you have multiple blogs, or multiple forms of blog income. In my case, my income one year had money from an SEO organization, graphic design payments, t-shirt sales from Cafepress and Zazzle, and font sales on My Fonts. I'm all over the place, and I wasn't about to do 5 schedule C's. I lumped it all under one business under the name of Gabbysol Neterprise (named after my kids Gabby and Solma). Just add all the income together under receipts. Multiple 1099's? You can do them separate if you wanted to, but I wanted to point out, you don't have to. Many companies do business under a different name and have many small companies consolidated under a big name.

Schedule C Expenses

The regular way to do taxes is just spit out the information. Honestly say how much you made, and honestly claim expenses. BUT, with blog income and expenses being so easily loss worthy, you kind of have to ask yourself at some point if it's in your best interest to claim a loss.

When I file my business, I always claim a profit. If my gross income is smaller than my expenses, I just don't claim my expenses. I do this because like I said earlier, years of a small business steadily producing a little bit of profit are less apt to get audited. If you claim a loss more than 3 years in a row, the IRS is going to start asking why are you in a profit seeking venture if you aren't making any money in it? I believe their computers automatically look for businesses that always claim a loss. It's about as big of a mistake to make as having two people claim the same social security number. It's not a matter of odds like some discrepancies where it depends on if the right person sees it at the right time.

Most tax professionals will tell you want to have a loss to maximize your refund that year, and they try to make the loss as big as possible claiming every expense you can possibly claim. They would be wrong to do so all the time. In some instances, you benefit by claiming more beyond avoiding audits. If you qualify for the EIC, the extra money might make a bigger return on a refundable credit despite paying income taxes on the amount than if you didn't claim that money at all or less than it.


Boring shit to explain the EIC thing... 

When you file taxes, you have income, subtract adjustments to income, and you get an AGI (Adjusted gross income). You then deduct your standard or itemized deductions and your exemptions, and then you pay taxes on that amount. Changing that amount a few hundred dollars doesn't really change your tax liability by much because it's a small percentage of a big number. After you find your tax liability, you then deduct two series of credits. One is the non-refundable credits like the Child Tax Credit. These only reduce your tax liability down to zero. They won't go any further than that. Then you can deduct Refundable credits, which are credits that can turn your tax liability into free money from the government. This can bring that zero into the negatives. The EIC is a refundable credit, and it is based on a bunch of variables. 

The EIC chart has a list of how much you have to make, how many kids you got, and then it tells you based on that how much you can claim as a credit. This is dollar for dollar. There is no percentage of a huge number. The chart is a curve when it comes to income. If you make a little bit of money, you can get a little bit of money. The more you make, the more you can get. Then it peaks at 18,000 to 22,000 and flips to where the more you make, the less you get until you make too much to qualify for the credit at all. 

If your other earned income is very little, the more profit you claim on blogging income could increase how much you get with the EIC. If you (or you and your spouse on Married Filing Jointly) make less than 20,000 a year, you would probably bank to claim more income in your business than less without going over the peak amount for your tax situation (single vs joint, and how many kids you got). 

If you decide it's in your best interest to claim expenses, here are some types of things you can deduct:

1. Tickets to conferences and seminars regarding blogging and writing.
2. Travel, some food and lodging, mileage or plane tickets, for conferences and seminars
3. Did you travel to promote a book you are in? That counts too.
4. Subscription fees you have for business purposes (i.e. if you subscribe to the Wall Street Journal just so you can submit your writing to them... If you subscribe to freelancer.com or a site like that where you pay to find jobs... If you subscribe to a site that gives tutorials... )
5. Website expenses (web hosting, domain registration, Wordpress themes and plug ins)
6. Contract labor (did you hire someone to do your graphic design? Or design your website?)
7. Advertising
8. Promotions... Did you purchase 5 copies of a book you are in for promotional reasons?
9. Postage for submissions (for those who don't email them)
10. Anything related to your craft that you have a record of paying.

What you probably don't want to claim in case you get audited?

1. Vodka, coffee, or any drink you require to write with.
2. Child care deductions so that you can get something done can be claimed elsewhere on the 1040.
3. Money spent bribing a spouse to take the kids somewhere does not qualify as child care expenses

Tax MOm
Check it out on Nick Mom

Home Offices

That's a tricky expense, but you can claim the portion of your home you use for business, especially if you store inventory, and the portion of the computer and internet you use for business; however, if you use these things for personal reasons at all, I suggest not worrying about it. I'm not going to do what other sites do, and sell you a possibility that isn't really worth pursuing just to get you to read my blog... BUT if you bought a computer and use internet strictly for blogging and all things related to your blog, and nothing more, then you could probably claim those things. This is a gray area the IRS has yet to define because just about everything we do online is related to our blog. As a writer, any social media presence is work. Any google search is work.

For me, everything I do on this computer is related to writing and design; however, I don't claim it because the year I purchased the computer was before I had a business, and the internet is shared by the family and some neighbors. The place this computer sits in my home is so small that I would lose money if I put a value on my time to claim it.

FILING A 1099 

Did you pay someone more than $600 to do some work for you?

You may need to file a 1099 if so. Check out When Do You Need to File Form 1099-MISC? for more info.

On the other side, any 1099 you receive, you want to claim that. 

Cash vs Accrual Accounting

I was in bookkeeping too
and found this hilarious.
I love reconciliation.
Cash based accounting means you claim the money the moment you get it. That means the moment you get paid, you claim it.

Accrual based accounting means you claim the money the moment you earn it, before you actually get paid. 

As a bookkeeper, I'm a huge fan of accrual accounting because it's accurate and more fun with debits and credits, but for my personal blog business (where I do earn income selling t-shirts on cafepress), I went cash base just because the records I get from the t-shirt sales makes it almost impossible to go accrual without personally entering every sale I make. Cash is just way easier for a small business like this. 

The important thing is whatever method you use, be consistent with it every year, so choose something you will easily remember next year. 

Now, when it comes to the t-shirt stores like Zazzle and Cafepress, and my fonts at MyFonts, as many of you have these stores, they do this thing where I sell something, they hold the money for 30 to 60 days to make sure the item is not returned, and then they give it to me in the form of store credit until they issue a check (or pay my paypal). So when is that money exactly earned?  After speaking with several IRS representatives years ago, I decided the way I was going to keep track is to... 

1. The payments I receive in pay pal go on the year the pay pal transaction occurs.
2. Anytime I spend my store credit, I claim that as money earned on the day I spent that money. 

In other words, I don't consider store credit actual cash in hand unless I spend it. 

Keeping Records

The IRS has a nasty habit of waiting like 3 years before they decide to audit you. It's because it usually takes them quite some time to discover you. And if that happens, you are most likely not going to remember where you got your information. So when you file your taxes, it's important to keep information on file somewhere.

How you do this is up to you, but I'm going to tell you what I do because it's easy and it would suffice for an audit.

The goal is to have a record for every number on my Schedule C. I usually do a spreadsheet for my income statement (a list of revenue and expenses). Then for each item on my spreadsheet, I make sure I have one or both of the following: Receipt or Bank statement showing transaction. 

For my business, most of my transactions I claim are online transactions. I don't keep track of them throughout the year. Instead, I go to my accounts for each place of business and print receipts there when I put my taxes together. I also try to keep all my business related transactions in a year on my Pay Pal account because I don't use it much for things like groceries. I'd go crazy trying to find all my transactions on my normal bank account. But, looking through my list of transactions with that account makes it easy for me to find my expenses (because I don't remember registering my domain last February). 

You don't have to have the 1099 in hand in order to file (and I have been lately filing before I receive those), but you want to keep those with your records as well. 

Then I keep all that paperwork with a copy of my taxes on file. Some businesses keep that kind of paperwork separate in a business file, but as small as my blogging business is, I like to keep all the crap the IRS needs together in one place. I usually put them in one of those huge yellow envelopes and label the corner of that year, "2014 Taxes." Then I stick it in my filing cabinet like it was a file. The envelopes keep the smaller things in better, like W-2 copies.

Tax Preparation vs Accountant vs DIY

Click to see more pictures like this
I managed tax offices for a couple years, and THEN I took Federal Income Tax Accounting at a university. I can vouch that the Jackson Hewitt's have a better grasp of tax laws and IRS requirements than someone who completed the college coursework. That textbook did everything wrong. It actually went against what the IRS says. I'm not sure why, but as a result, I don't trust accountants as much as these little tax preparation offices. The difference is the accountant gets his training from college. Tax preparation offices usually have a training of their own based on material directly from the IRS, and their training provides more realistic real-world scenarios based on the volume of taxes they prepare every year. And the people doing your taxes there only do that, so they know it well. Accountants do so many other things, way more complicated things, that they aren't always so up-to-date with specifics regarding personal tax preparation. 

Now if you incorporate your business, or have a partnership requiring the Schedule K, or a nonprofit requiring a 990, then you want to go with a professional accountant. That's what they specialize in better than personal taxes. 

But as a former tax office manager who trained the 12 week course for Jackson Hewitt, who also was trained with college coursework and VITA training, who also volunteered to provide VITA training, I do my own taxes. I wouldn't have it any other way. 

I know they seem very overwhelming if you don't know the lingo, and the IRS Pub 17 (the Bible of tax preparation) is the most boring thing you will ever read, but if you are willing to dig up a receipt from January to save yourself 20 bucks in your refund, then learning this skill would save you hundreds of dollars every year. So if you really want to maximize your tax refund and save on your taxes, the biggest deduction you could claim is to file them yourself. 

The easiest way to learn how to file taxes is to take the VITA course and be a VITA Volunteer. It's also the most accurate method to learn because VITA is ran and operated by the IRS. It's also usually free. If your personal situation requires things beyond the scope of VITA training (i.e. farm income), I'd still take this course first, and then you'll have the framework in your head to read the IRS material on how to do the more complicated things. 

Now if you are planning to attempt to cheat the government, go through a paid preparer, and sign up for their audit products. You aren't paying for tax preparation in that case but a scapegoat.

I hope you find this information helpful. Have a Happy Tax Season and may the audits be ever in your favor.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How to Prepare a Media Kit for your Book



Media kits are a marketing tool many people use for their business or project, including books. They are a large piece of work and not something you should throw together last second, and they are always a work in progress. I have compiled some information from the web on how to prepare a media kit. 

Joan Stewart, the Publicity Hound, has provided a free webinar on putting together a media kit for your book. I'll be touching on key aspects of the webinar for those who do not feel like watching a powerpoint presentation. Templates are also available for sale from the providers of this free webinar. 


Media kits are prepared for a wide variety of audiences. You will have to decide the type of people who will be viewing your media kit and pick and choose information relevant to that audience. For most businesses, their primary audience will be investors and clients; however, for books, Joan Stewart explains that all these people will be seeing your media kit:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Book Cover Design Tutorial




Q: Do you have a tutorial on how to design a book cover?

A: No, but I will write one. 

Start with a Template


CreateSpace and other places that print books will provide a template you create based on the amount of pages in the book. This is awesome because the spine changes size based on the amount of pages you have. In addition, some will provide a UPC code for your design with your ISB information.

In using those templates, what I did was I opened them in photoshop as they were, and I kept the layer with the template on it at 50% and built new layers under it. I boxed around the UPC code and copied it to a new layer (keep that one at 100%). Then when saving, I turned the template layer off. 

I have never designed an ebook cover. When I go to purchase an ebook, I usually only see a square like a cover design. I honestly, if I were going to publish an ebook that wasn't going to be in print, and no template is provided by the place I'm using to publish an e-book, I would just copy a design from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and create a new graphic in photoshop that matches the dimensions in the clipboard, and then use those dimensions (or open something large, paste the image, and crop to the right dimensions). Then I would delete the design and design from that. 

When I google Ebook Cover design tutorials, I see a lot of articles where people seem to want it to look like a printed book. They have templates for that, but this article lists "generators" and tells you how to do it in Photoshop using Actions. I don't understand the need for this, honestly.

I assume wherever you upload the information for your ebook, they will probably have instructions for ebook covers. If they do, you'll want to read those and follow them because they are designed for the process the company has. 

Color


When you see a graphic on your computer, that's an RGB graphic. The colors are designed for light to be behind the color. In print, we use CMYK and spot colors (premixed). Those colors are designed to put on paper in the matter of ink. Most printers prefer graphics saved in CMYK mode (as opposed to RGB mode). You can design something in RGB and then switch to CMYK mode before saving. I think that's what most people do, but you have to pay attention to colors... 

I've seen many self-publishers design a fabulous cover that looks different in print than it does on the computer screen. Take for instance a book I'm in (you should go buy it) Clash of the Couples. 

This is Clash of the Couples
Book Cover Design

This is Clash of the Couples
In Print.

Notice the slight change in color? The design was more red and the book came out more of a retro orange.

When working with color going into print, the safest route to go is to use colors defined by Pantone Color Systems. In print, many factors contribute to the color you get: the paper, whether or not a gloss is used... You can purchase or find Pantone Swatches on various types of paper, and in matte, printed on gloss, and coated with gloss. Then you can choose a color from there and find it in Photoshop (or tell the Printer what color to use). 

Or you can kind of see what you are going to get in Photoshop. If you click on the color picker, and choose Color Libraries, and choose the Pantone Libraries (different options of those too), then you'll see two blocks of color. One is the color on your screen that you chose. The other is the closest Pantone color match to it. As you can see here, Clash of the Couples red from the corner looks more orange already doesn't it?


The bottom color box is the color I chose from the image (the color we thought we were going to get). The top color box is the color closest on Pantone's colors (the color we got). It doesn't always work that way exactly, but it gives you a better idea of what you are dealing with.

The CMYK color process is also something one should probably understand when designing for print. "In additive color models such as RGB, white is the "additive" combination of all primary colored lights, while black is the absence of light. In the CMYK model, it is the opposite: white is the natural color of the paper or other background, while black results from a full combination of colored inks. To save money on ink, and to produce deeper black tones, unsaturated and dark colors are produced by using black ink instead of the combination of cyan, magenta and yellow." They usually print CMYK in layers matching them up using printers marks outside of the image or document. You can see the layers in effect the best on a newspaper where sometimes on a full color image, you see a shadow of pink, yellow or blue a millimeter off to the side. 

The main issue is because there are so many variables, it's almost impossible to see exactly what you are going to get in print by looking at a computer screen. As a result, anytime you have a print project, what you are going to want to do is order some mock prints. First, in design, print it up on your printer using the type of paper you plan to use. Then as you tweak it and design it the best way you can, order a print from the printer you will be hiring, and then see what changes you need to make to the color, especially if you are applying a gloss to it. 


When it comes to ebooks, all the places the cover is going to be will be on a screen. You can do that in RGB mode, and you really don't have to worry too much about the colors you use. You do want to pay attention to how much disk space you use because you want it to load quickly without taking away from the quality. 

DPI vs PPI


Many people interchange both of those terms, but they are different. DPI is dots per inch. It's a setting on a printer (not a computer). The printing device decides how many dots of color will be printed per inch of print. For graphic designers, you don't need to know anything about that outside of telling the printer to print it a certain way (like if you go through a local printer where you can decide these things). Choosing how much dpi depends on cost considerations, objectives, expected quality, and so forth. For instance, you'd probably use a smaller dpi for a newspaper than you would a magazine. 

PPI is pixels per inch, and that's what a graphic designer needs to worry about. Again, you want to consider if this is going to print or monitor? Why? In print, the higher the ppi, the better the quality (most are content with 300 ppi). In print, it also depends on the project. For instance, large dimensions do not require as high of a ppi as smaller dimensions, and the higher the ppi, the more space you use to store the graphic and the more time it takes to upload. 

On the computer, you don't need high ppi. Most monitors convert ppi to 72 ppi. If you upload a 300 ppi image to Facebook, and then click on the image, right click, save as... the new image you download will be at 72 ppi. The reason is the higher the ppi, the longer it takes to load. 72 ppi for the computer screen is pretty standard; however, if you are wanting to share the picture with other designers where it's useful to them in print, you'll have to find a means that preserves the higher ppi. 

Generally, when I grab a picture from google drive, if I right click and save as, I get 72 ppi. If I download the image using the down arrow in the upper right corner somewhere, then I get the original ppi of the image. 

This is important for print because for most book covers, you want the final design to be saved at 300 ppi. In photoshop, when I hit File, New, a box appears, and the field for Resolution is where I determine my PPI for that image before I create it (remember, pixels per inch). If I've already created it, I can change the resolution in image size. While the ppi for images you input your design is important to make sure you are using the best quality images you can, the most important part is the output ppi of your graphic (how you save it). If you use an image that's 72ppi, and you keep it small enough where it looks nice on your screen at 100%, you are probably fine to save that at 300 ppi for printing purposes. Again, the importance is size and dimensions of the image. If you have an incredibly large image you are scaling down for a book cover, and it's at 72 ppi, it will probably look no different than had it been saved as 300 ppi. 

The Design


FRONT Book Cover Elements:

1. The Title
2. The Author or Editor
3. A blurb telling you what the book is about (optional)
4. Image (optional)

BACK Book Cover Elements:

1. Description
2. Testimony (quoting someone's review)
3. Publisher
4. UPC with correct ISB
5. Whatever you want (i.e. picture of author, brief author bio, websites, logos...)

As I write this article, I'm still working on Elements of Design series, but those are a vital role to the design as a whole. 

The next factor to consider is emotional appeal. Your book cover is your number one piece of advertisement for your book. People are more apt to grab something that has emotional appeal. The cover should make them feel a feeling, preferably one that matches the content of the book. If you are writing a thriller, the cover should scare people, or give them one of those evil, creepy, unsettling vibes (the kind that gives you a little tummy ache). If you are writing humor, the cover should make people laugh. If you are writing a heart-felt story, the cover should make you cry, tears of joy or tears of sadness. If you are writing a controversial piece, the cover should make people pick a side, or make them angry, or make angry people who picked your side want your book. 

Some ways to appeal to emotions... 

I get into some of the psychological components behind going viral on the internet on this post about Going Viral. In it, I also discuss emotions. 
People are suckers for conflict. Juxtapose contrasting elements. For instance, here I have a mother trying to sleep, and children bringing chaos. Notice the glass of wine on the night stand? Everything to the right of center is peaceful, and everything to the left is the complete opposite. 


People love to laugh. The previous example is also funny. I always had the idea for a Mom for the Holidays book to have a conservative looking mom (preferably an older lady that resembles Julia Child or Ethel from Lucy's show) straddled over a Christmas Tree knocked on its side waving a spatula in the air. See, that's funny. 

People are psychotically addicted to fear. My 4 year old is afraid of zombies, so every time she sees a picture of a zombie I glance through on the computer, she screams at me to go back to it. She wants to stare at it only because she's afraid of it. Look at how fear is used in the media. People use fear all the time as a motivating factor behind their rhetoric, such as promoting vaccinations (fear the polio), promoting not to vaccinate (fear the autism), promoting gun control (fear school shootings), promoting anti-gun control (fear losing your rights)... We used fear of 9/11 to start a war, open a lot of security based programs like Department of Homeland Security and TSA, funding of military and security programs... Your book cover can induce fear whether you use a scary picture of a clown zombie with an axe covered in blood, or if you use fear inducing rhetoric, "The end is near!" A fiction about an apocalypse might show the world at it's worst according to the story like NYC in flames, or a military police state, or people in concentration camps. 

Shock Factor gets people's attention. I noticed I get a better response by invoking a little shock for everything I put out there online. For instance, if I say "Penis," ok, that's kind of shocking, but "pork sword" and "Bobbit Plunderage" really packed a punch that got more responses. Some of the most shared images I've seen include a naked, passed-out guy covered in lollipops stuck to him (including in his butt crack), wedding gowns with huge plush vaginas sewn on them, and of course, your run of the mill SHOCKING footage of... Blue Waffle and Two Girls One Cup both went viral for shocking reasons. A good book cover might have one shocking appeal to it, whether it's naked people dressed up as Adam and Eve in the earlier example I used (Clash of the Couples, buy it now), or if you throw in a good urban-dictionary-friendly word. Just beware, as I list later, you want something people won't be afraid to share. 

People want to belong to the Cool Kids Club. People's sense of belonging is pretty serious. It's the concept behind, "all exclusive," and "by invite only," statements. And if you notice, most of those exclusive clubs seem to represent themselves as better than everyone else, and that is what brings the feelings, "Those people are cool, and I want to be cool like them." While this is a very important marketing gimmick, it's also something to consider in cover design. You want to highlight the blurbs written by "cool" people who have a tribe to where people want to belong. Your "What this book is about statement" can also appeal to this sensation with a simple, "Join Us..." such as "Join us in discovering new ways to..." 

People don't know what they want until you tell them what they want. This is more of a component to sales, but it's true. Ever notice that most of your friends' opinions on a topic sounds like an internet meme or something you heard someone famous already say? If you read about website design and direct mail, you'll see a lot of people tell you one of the most important components is a Call to Action, like "Click here" or "Shop Now." In addition, they say you are more apt to get likes and shares on a Facebook picture by saying, "Please like or share this." It's because people like being told what to do on a weird subconscious level. Keep this in mind when putting together the cover. The back of the cover is a perfect opportunity to put a "You have to read this" statement. 

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a Face Expression is priceless. The best and easiest way to convey an emotion is with a good face expression on the right candidate. For instance, the idea I mentioned earlier, a mom straddling a Christmas tree tipped on its side... While it would be funny with a young woman dressed in a polka dot dress, it would be even funnier with an older woman in an apron making a psycho or fun-loving face expression. While you can get a face of yourself showing puppy dog eyes, they look much better on babies, kids and puppies. The face of a mom making a shame-on-you face isn't as effective as a kid doing it. Think of epic face expressions... John Candy's face walking through a crowd, Chevy Chase's happy face, Will Ferrell's serious face (and his yelling face), Lucille Ball's "ice-in-the-shirt" surprise face, Jackie Chan's constipated sour face....  

In addition, other things to consider... 

You want something Marketable and Shareable. Your book cover is the basis of your over-all marketing strategy. You want something you can tweak around for posters and shareable images. For instance, in the earlier example of Clash of the Couples, the posters and media kit focused on the Adam and Eve (sometimes on a white background) and the apple with a heart bitten out of it. The apple was also used in other marketing endeavors, including providing a recipe to Apple Pie. 

You want something that Stands Out from the Others. If red is a common color in your book's category, do something in green. If blue is a common color, do something orange. Really check out the books you are competing with on the shelf (virtual or real-life) and try to come up with something that will make yours stand out from the rest. 

You want something that Christians will share. For purposes of PR, you probably don't want the word Douche written on your book because some uptight pearl clutcher is not going to share a picture like that for sake of reputation, and more importantly, reputable media outlets might avoid saying anything about your book because you have the word ASS written in big letters on it and they try to keep their sites at least rated PG. The more mature your material is, the less you have that will promote it. If you go that route, you'll want to already have a great platform for marketing to that market with an idea well worth it (like if your book is about porn, well then you already are stuck with a mature audience). 

Keep it simple. People glance at book covers at first glance, meaning your design has exactly 1 millisecond to appeal to someone enough to make them look deeper. A design that is too busy isn't going to exactly appeal to that first glance. Imagine your book cover blurred, like someone is running so fast passed it that it looks like a blur (that's how fast most people look at it). That blurred image needs to grab their eyes and bring it back to it. Of those it grabbed, they will then see some detail in the design. The detail in the design has to make them want to keep looking deeper, like read the back cover or the description on an e-store. Then those things make them want to either buy the book, or keep looking at reviews and other things book related. Some of the things I've seen book covers do is focus on a simple image or a part of a bigger image. Instead of using a photograph that covers the entire book cover front, consider deleting unnecessary details around the main idea (erasing the background of the photograph), or choose a photograph that zooms in on the main concept. Some book covers have used something as simple as a circle as the only image on the cover. It doesn't really convey emotions outside of an abstract art appeal, but it has been effective in the past. If you have a busy cover, you'll want to at least organize the content in a way that it makes sense enough to the visual appeal (like use of symmetry). 


Inspiration:







Updated to add the following link for the back cover information:

http://www.nessgraphica.com/back-cover-blurb-let-your-reader-in-through-the-back-door-2/  


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Find Your Tribe



Look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own... If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business—you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.
~Barack Obama

I know Obama's "You didn't build that," speech inspired a lot of mockery when he said it, but it's true. Everything we accomplish as human beings, from building the pyramids to writing a novel, we do it as a team somewhere along the way, exchanging ideas, collaborating, and drawing on each other for reassurance and other emotional support. Even a writer who lives as a hermit with little outside interaction still draws from things they've learned from their teachers, things they've read, and people on which they base their characters. Most writers I know would have never considered a career as a writer without that one person who once said, "You should be a writer." 

The more successful projects utilizes more people. There is power in numbers. We bloggers are all internet wanderers, and our survival oftentimes depends on those who wander about with us. We usually have a tribe of bloggers who help inspire us to write better, who show us places to submit our writing, and who helps share our work. Then we usually also have a community of readers who follow our work and join in a conversation, oftentimes finding their way offline via the inspirations we find online. 

As a blogger, it's not always easy finding a tribe. Anyone will accept a message of, "You're awesome. I love your blog," with a thank you, but not very often will someone accept, "Will you review my book?" with a yes. You find the type of YES people by going to various online communities and connecting with a few who mesh well with you. 

These are places where I have found my current tribes.

Finish the Sentence Friday


Finish the Sentence Friday is a blog hop of some of the most caring, talented individuals. We used to operate every Friday, but because a blog hop is time consuming and many people don't simply have the time for a weekly one, we try to post something once every other week. You join the Facebook group, check in time to time, free to ask questions if need be, and then post when we post if you desire to join us. The writing prompt starts a sentence, and you, the writer, finish it. Then we usually go live Thursday nights at 10 where we link-up on a host's blog, and then Friday, you go through and check out everyone's blog, commenting when possible, sharing your favorites. 

Baking in a Tornado


Karen from Baking in a Tornado also started several blog hops. She has 3 every month. You sign up every month via email, and then post on the scheduled days at 10AM with a link to the others (you can copy and paste from the email). Secret Subject Swap is where you get a writing prompt, like a question or what if, from someone else in the hop, and you also provide one for someone in the hop.Use your Words is where we exchange 4 to 6 words that we somehow fit into a post. Many in this hop have been writing fiction for this one. Then there's Fly on the Wall where you just basically show snippets of your life in the past month as if the reader is a fly on your wall, spying on your life. Of course, like any blog hop, after you post, it's assumed you are going to go through and read everyone's post and comment. 

The Publishing Bloggers Network


The Publishing Bloggers Network is a Facebook group for those trying to self-publish books. While I am not currently writing a book, I like this group because people exchange a lot of ideas about marketing, blogging, and so forth, but also many people in the group are those who compile blog anthologies and they will advertise in the group when they are looking for submissions. I have met a wide range of personalities from this group, and honestly, the support from the people I've met in this group has really inspired a lot of my moving forward with things. 

The group has a continuous feed for you to link your social media and like social media on the list, an exchange of likes and shares. Frequently, they post something where you link to something current you are doing and go through and share some of the others in the list. 

Beyond Your Blog


I fell in love with the person handling this group by reading her blog. I suggest following her blog because the information she gives is just too good to pass up. Beyond your Blog focuses on getting published via submitting to places, whether it's NY Times or Scary Mom. She interviews a lot of the people who choose pieces to publish, giving inside information on what they are looking for in particular, and because many are podcasts, it provides you a taste of the personality deciding to take your work or not. Her Facebook group shares up to date submission opportunities while her blog shows a list of places who are always accepting work. 

The SITS Girls Facebook Group


The SITS Girls have a blog that really delve into the art and business of blogging, and they are always accepting submissions to recycled blog posts (they usually provide a summary and link). Their facebook group has been a great place for me to find tech support from other bloggers and help troubleshoot blogging situations. This is not a group to promote anything you are doing. They have zero tolerance for shameless self promotion. Their blog has many great articles I found useful. 

The Women of Midlife Boulevard


Women of Midlife Boulevard is a facebook group and blog. They usually take submissions to their sites from those in their group. They too provide a place to share content in group comments for likes and shares in exchange for you going through those on the list liking and sharing. 

BLUNTMom Syndication Group


I'm new to this one, but the BLUNTmom Syndication Group a group where you can submit recycled posts for Blunt Moms to consider publishing on their website. 

#Write Stuff


Every Tuesday night at 9PM, writers get together on Twitter to discuss writing. They #writestuff all their posts. This is more creative writers who write fiction. They have a Google Plus community of writers where they share their creative work and gather advice. 

Anthologies


The place where I met many of the bloggers I keep seeing shared by people, many who are Huffpost contributors and doing big things, are in the Facebook groups for anthologies I'm in. Motherhood May Cause Drowsiness and Clash of the Couples have introduced me to some of the best bloggers on the web (outside of the ones I already knew of course), and they have been more like teachers to me. These are people who are apt to accept a facebook friend request just because you are going to be in a book together, and they respond well to questions in private message about, "How should I handle...?" and "Which design do you like better?" and "How do you think I could improve...?" This has been the best contribution anthologies have supplied my writing career, more important to me than adding it to my bio and getting paid a hundred bucks. 


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Blog Make-Overs 2014 Trends

Blog design is starting to take a turn in mainstream trends. Simplicity is in. That is very Socratic of all you bloggers out there. If only I can apply the same concept to my house...

Google and Facebook are sites that paved the way to simplicity long before everyone started realizing it. When Yahoo's search page was full of information and photos, Google did a simple box with the word "Google" over it. The ease of use on Facebook can be attributed to the notion that Facebook doesn't have a bunch of their stuff clogging their pages. Their buttons are small icons on a very narrow blue bar, out of the way to see your newsfeed. The simplicity concept has become an evergreen concept to sites like these. I seriously doubt Google will be adding too much to their homepage anytime soon.

From my experience and what I've seen on the subject, Zazzle was one of the first to start this trend. They used to let their store-keepers design their own stores with ability to easily change background colors, sidebar colors, fonts, font sizes, font colors, and a custom header. It was much like Blogger blogs. Then they changed things. All stores look the same now. White background. Gray text. All stores are now consistently uniform. For a site like Zazzle who features a bunch of small stores in a large marketplace, that was brilliant.

OLD ZAZZLE STORES



NEW ZAZZLE STORES




Now the blogosphere is following that suit. I don't have old pictures of some of my favorite blog designs in the past for comparison, but they went from colorful backgrounds and coordinating sidebars to white. They went from chronological story layouts to something that shows snippets of featured posts. They went from elaborately ornamented headers to text headers. There's more white space between content.

Trending Blog Make-Overs


1. All white background (or basic colors... textures are subtle)
2. News or Magazine Lay-Out (offering more posts above the fold)
3. Incorporating Side Bar with Main Page (Snippets and photos of featured articles and recent articles that do not look like they are in a sidebar but part of the main page spilling into the sidebar).
4. Flash or Slides for Featured Articles
5. White Space (the more the merrier)
6. Category Menus (Instead of only displaying pages created, the menus are now showing more categories of content).
7. Any use of color is more splashed on than smothered in.

How to Simplify Your Design


You can simplify your design in Blogger. Change all the backgrounds to white. Change text to a dark gray. It was done on my site here: Doodlegraphs.com; however, the layout is not as easy to change. The only magazine layout blogger offers is a dynamic template that doesn't allow much for categories, pages, and other trinket gadgets. It has no sidebar for these things. In order to fully get what you need with this trend, you should go Wordpress.

Wordpress is the only place that really offers a plethora of news and magazine themes. The most popular trending theme is the Genesis Framework, including themes like NewsPro , MetroPro and Magazine Pro. Those themes average about a hundred dollars each (including the Genesis Framework required to operate the theme). For my main blog's site, BitOfCrumpet.com, I used a free theme that did not require Genesis Framework, Magazine Basic.


Pro's to the new trend


  • Easier to read
  • Less distraction with colors and pictures
  • Focus on the words, which as writers, that's the idea
  • Stand out from other bloggers with your writing, not your colors. 
  • Make your content graphics stand out more
  • Easier to navigate
  • Tantalizing links to previous articles keeping people on your blog longer


See some blogs using the art of simplicity!

(Hint: If you see a blog design you love, scroll to the bottom. If they used a free theme, it will probably tell you which one. Paid for themes usually don't logo mark their pages like that)

I'm pretty sure Nikki went with News Pro, but I'm positive she is using the Genesis Framework. One of the best blogs the internet has to offer... Moms Who Drink and Swear

Abandoning Pretense kept her savvy grunge look to her blog even though she incorporated the simple designs to it.

My Brown Baby had a design I loved with browns and oranges and it was perfect for the branding of her blog in such a classy way; however, she too upgraded to the simple design. Instead of coloring her content, she colored her navigation process. The My Brown Baby header is now more of a logo-quality graphic as opposed to an elaborate picture, and it will look good in print, even if gray-scaled, improving the ability to brand herself.

A simple blog design makes all your photographs and graphic art posters stand out more. Check out Jen Kehl. 

Moms Who Write and Blog did a new makeover using black, white and splashes of pink. She went simple yet managed to maintain her girlish figure.

This lady uses a lot of photographs giving rich imagery to her blog with her content as opposed to the blog design itself. Check out Horrible Housewife.

Before you start to freak out and change your theme!


Before thinking, "I need to switch to Wordpress and change the look of my blog," remember, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO. Think about what your blog is meant for.

For instance, I seriously doubt anyone is going to ever talk Insane in the Mom-Brain into removing her oh-so-coveted personalized Sebastion Millon header. Her blog content is also less categorical and more entertaining. You can read any one of her posts, at random, and love it. If she decided to put category headers on her blog, they would be more like, "Daily Constitutional (in regards to the daily poop), Zombies, Sporking, Norman Reedus..."

The Bloggess is also in the same boat in regards to categories. Most of the tags I see her use on most of her content is, "Random." Her blog design is the most ideal blog design for her blog. She uses her blog for reasons different than someone needing to go News Pro.

If you have a "Personality" blog where the bulk of the content isn't to inform but to entertain, you'll want a design that matches your personality and effectively allows you to express it in the design. This trend is more for blogs who write to inform or persuade, for bloggers who accidentally blog a magazine.

Always list your primary objectives and mission with your blog before making decisions. Remind yourself your focus and what you are really trying to achieve as you navigate through the business of blogging. Then ask yourself, "How is your design working to achieve your mission." Remember, your blog design works for you. Look at it like an employee. If it's doing a great job, then there is no need to make any serious changes or adjustments; however, if it's not working for you at all, then fire it and get a new one.

















Friday, October 24, 2014

Copy Cat Strut

As a blogger, I have found myself in other people's words. I have read blogs where people say exactly what's on my mind better than I could say it. I see my soul in between the words spilled out on a page like our spirits connected telepathically in an unspoken universe. But I have also seen my words, literally, my words someone else is claiming as their own reworded enough to make it legal. My ideas someone else borrowed without giving me credit. It would amaze you some of the bigger bloggers who do this. In fact, maybe it's the secret to their success, borrowing funny stuff from less famous people.

I'm not really talking about someone taking your graphic you made, and using it on their blog. I'm not talking about someone taking a paragraph of your blog post, and posting it on their blog. I'm talking legal copying. I'm talking someone taking 5 words from your tweet and putting it in a blog post like they came up with it instead of saying, "Like so and so said (with a link to so and so)..." I'm talking about when you make a graphic for someone, send it to them, and they don't say thank you. They don't use it. Instead, they design their own graphic just like yours.

While I hate being copied, I can understand why people do it. They researched copyright laws. That's why they do it.

Copyrights protect art. Your blog post is your copyright. How you expressed information and feelings is your copyright. However, facts and ideas are not copyrighted.

So for someone to take your words, word for word, and post it somewhere quoting you, giving attribution to you, and linking it to you, they can be infringing on your copyright if they didn't get your permission. You have a right to take them to court, and the judge will decide if what they did falls under fair use or not. It is subjected to a judge's opinion, and yours. It is not safe to quote someone and link to them. There is a risk to it.

However, it is perfectly safe to paraphrase someone else's words and pass it off as your own words because they are your words. What they are not is your idea, and that has no protection. In addition, people think you came up with it and it makes you look cool. It's the safest way to go. It's also the douchiest way to go. It's still plagiarism to paraphrase without revealing the source. Plagiarism is not illegal. It's just unethical.

So basically, ironically, copyright laws inspire people to steal your ideas.

If you are like me, and you don't want to be a douche, you want to give credit where credit is due because you have morals, manners, and dignity...

1. Understand Copyright Laws


First, you have Fair Use. The thing about fair use is it's subjective to opinion. The things fair use definitely covers are things like news reporting, parody, criticism, comment, nonprofit... Basically, if you quote someone's blog post, link to them, only quote a small portion of it (not the whole thing), and provide news or your opinion, or totally make fun of it.

There's also the implied license. Bloggers post blogs knowing you might print it up for personal reasons, or cite them in an education paper, or share them on social media. I mean technically speaking, sharing someone on social media can be a copyright infringement, especially if you quoted them. Think of it this way, if I quoted one of your blog posts in a blog post giving a link to your post without your permission, you might get annoyed. But if I do it on Facebook sharing from your blog, giving an excerpt I copied and pasted, you are less annoyed. It's essentially the same thing; however, because I'm quoting you, that's your copyright and it puts me at a risk, even to share it on social media (though it's not normally practiced to sue over that).

Another example is if you post something on Facebook, ANYTHING, a status or picture, it is implied that people are going to share it due to Facebook's share option being available and one of the most popular features on Facebook.

But this entire thing is a gray area. Sometimes courts rule one way, and other times they rule another way. News Aggregators are one that's been susceptible to lawsuits, and one site can wheel and deal using the content and another site doing the same thing can lose. It all depends on the judge, the defendant, and the circumstances surrounding the case.

To be safer...

2. Get Permission


When in doubt, get permission from the person you want to quote. I was really nervous about getting permission for this blog post after the fact because I was really unaware how gray this area is... I really thought I was doing the right thing here highlighting people, promoting their projects with their advice in a way that's informative to the reader, but by law, I was taking a risk. But when contacting all the people I highlighted, they were unusually awesome about it. They all got back to me within an hour of contacting them with praise and permission. Do not be afraid to pursue people. You might make a new friend.

If the person has a problem with you quoting them, then it's less unethical to plagiarize via paraphrase. That's what they get if they don't want free advertising and good SEO.

3. Put a Disclaimer on your Blog


Many professional sites have a legal page that includes the following: Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, Limited Liability, Warranty, and Copyright Permissions. Define how people can use your content in case they can't reach you, and provide a means to reach you with any questions. This is an especially good idea because we all want to be shared. That's what makes blogs bigger.


Some etiquette I try to do...


1. I cite all my inspiration. If I read your blog post, and in invokes a blog post from me, I link to you (which is good SEO and free advertising). This includes news stories that I heard about from you, even though I don't have to tell the world where I heard about the news. Sometimes it includes your writing style. I am inspired by the talent of writers such as Toni Morrison, T.S. Eliot, Nicole Knepper, Jenny Lawson, and Patti Ford. These are people who inspire me, and I frequently cite them as inspiration.

2. If I write a post and find out after the fact that you wrote one similar to it before I did, like great minds think alike, as that does happen a lot, I go and update my post to add your link with a little note explaining that I found something similar go check it out.

3. If I like something you said, like maybe your whole post, I will frequently paraphrase it, but I'll still link to you and claim it your idea. The ONLY reason I paraphrase is because if the link becomes a dead link in the future, I'll still provide my readers with the content I was referring to.

Graphic Design Note:


I've not had anyone submit to me any graphic arts to be used; however, as a graphic artist, I want my work out there. I want my work seen. I enjoy designing things, and sometimes I do them for other people like a free gift. There is no greater insult than after working 3 hours on a dumb project just to be funny for a specific blogger in mind, I give it to them, and they turn around and do a less-funny version of it to post on their blog and social media. I understand they are trying to "protect my copyright," but stealing my idea is not saint-like. After spending the time, I have more than earned a simple, "Do you care if I use it on my blog?"

We all know the people of the internet want to be entertained 24/7, and no comedian or writer is capable of producing gold that much, that often. Nobody expects that of you or anyone. Everyone borrows content from others to keep their audience entertained, but when you do, remember, they are scratching your back. They are helping you provide content. The least you can do is return the favor with a little SEO and blog pimpage.






Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How to Build a Strong Facebook Page: Bloggers Weigh In



The largest internet playground is full of selfies, every popular meme, every unpopular meme, blog posts, news, useless facts, pictures of food, youtube videos, stupid quizzes like "Which Disney Princess are you?" and how-to DIY crafts... And like the Energizer bunny, the content keeps going and going and going... Facebook, also known as Facesuck and Suckbook and Vaguebook, is big. It's so big, if you blog or have anything to sell, you almost can't ignore it. In fact, social media in general is the platform for new small businesses, and is the reason so many are so successful. The question is, how? How do people have a huge Facebook page? And how do they use it to help their non-Facebook interests grow?


Here's a collection of some of the best information on the internet to answer that question. This isn't black and white. It is not scientifically proven. Not all these methods will work for everyone, and it really is an art to figuring things out (with a huge hint of luck). But these gurus can guide you into understanding more about Facebook culture.

HOLLY HOMER


In this podcast, Michael Stelzner interviews Holly Homer of KidsActivitiesBlog.com "to find out how her Facebook page fan base grew from 7,000 fans to more than 530,000 fans in only 8 months without using Facebook advertising or crazy gimmicks." I'll summarize the podcast below, but you can listen to the entire podcast if you desire.

Holly and her co-blogger Rachel set out to reach 50,000 fans on their Facebook page. At that time, they discovered a huge Facebook page was stealing their content without any credit to them, and that content was getting things like 9,000 shares. That's when Holly realized her content can go viral. People like it.

They analyzed their blog and social media, finding the top posts, what was being shared the most on social media… Things that had a possibility of going viral, and they were mostly sharing that a couple times a day. As the page started to grow, they wanted to help other people, and found content from others to share (with credit). They watched the insights and analytics for their posts and let that determine what they did again (good posts) and what they didn’t do again (low engagement posts).

The main mission is to drive traffic to the blog. The primary goal on the page is to share things related to the blog, like in her case, things to do with your kids.

She started posting more than once an hour, 24 hours, around the clock. They were also posting 2 to 4 BLOG posts a day on their blog. They only put things on Facebook they think will do well on Facebook.

Top Two Most Important Numbers to Look At On Facebook

1. Talking about number.
The talking about number is “how Facebook evaluates the health of your page.” You want a high percentage of your talking about number to your number of likes on your page.

Talking About Number / Total Number of Page Likes = Percentage

It’s more exposure to have a lot of people talking about you than a bunch of likes not talking about you. As Holly says, “To get people talking about you, you have to have people talking about you… You need comments, likes, and shares [and comments on shares]."

2. Exposure Numbers per post
She looks at the exposure number to each post and finds several posts that have a similar exposure number and tries to see how it got its exposure. Example, a post she wrote got 10 shares. Sounds like a failure, but that post actually had an exposure to 200,000 people. The success was due to people clicking through. Every action you get on a post, including click on a link, is like Facebook karma.

Some basic tips:

Use bold and all caps to provide more visually appealing summaries in the About Section.

Use a square photo because mobile and desktop Facebook favors square or landscape images.

Increase your "talking about" percentage by posting topics that are controversial on Facebook, such as artificial food color or bottle feeding.

Do not delete all the negative comments. Facebook is a place to let it all out, so give your audience their voice. Delete comments that are name-calling beyond the limits, using racial slurs and language you don't want on your site; however, just because someone rudely disagrees with you and calls you a name, that's gold. That riles up people into engaging your post.

Do not use a third party scheduler. Facebook likes Facebook.

Only post things on Facebook that do well on Facebook. “If you come across a post, and you say, “Crap I wish I had written that,” that’s something that is going to do well on your Facebook page.” Holly

⅓ their content and ⅔ other people’s content

Your night time audience is a very different audience than your day time audience. Post accordingly.

Facebook’s graph of letting you know when people are online, that’s useless. When you post something, it doesn’t show immediately to anyone. It parcels it out slowly to people, so if you post something at 10PM (peek time for moms putting kids to bed on Facebook), but most of the growth with the post won’t happen for several hours. It doesn’t matter when you post it, the important thing is to get some interaction in the first few minutes.

If you boost posts, boost the ones that are already doing well.

Post frequently. Holly has been posting at least one item to Facebook every hour, sometimes 2. Because Facebook only shows a small percentage of the fan base, even though she’s posting 26 times a day, the average fan is seeing 3 to 4 of those. They do get messages daily from people saying, “You post too much.” They direct them to the unlike button. THey won’t let 1 to 2 fans a day derail the success.

Post high quality stuff in your niche

Remember, Facebook loves Facebook. Videos on Facebook will do better on Facebook than videos from Youtube.

Locate pages with better talking about percentages than you. Facebook gives you "good karma" when sharing their posts.

When tagging pages, only tag pages with better talking about percentages than you. Never tag a page with a lower percentage than yours. 

JEN MANN


Lisa Nolan had a Q&A with Jen Mann regarding Facebook growth. Jen Mann is a hilarious and award-winning writer. Her books are inspired by her immensely popular blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat. She lives in Kansas with the Hubs and her two children, Gomer and Adolpha - no, those aren't their real names, their real names are actually worse. She spends her free time crafting and volunteering with the PTO. Seriously.

Jen started her blog (People I Want to Punch in the Throat) in April 2011. Jen says that in a few months time she grew to 70 regular readers. In December 2011, she wrote a post called "Overachieving Elf on the Shelf Mommies." It sat dormant for a week and then suddenly out of nowhere it went viral. Overnight she gained 26,000 followers on Facebook. Since then she's worked really hard to grow her readership every day and to keep people coming back for more.

Q: Was there a long or brief description in the FB post? And was it followed by a link to the BLOG post?

A: I usually do brief description on FB to push out my posts. A teaser to hopefully make them click. I've seen people giving a whole paragraph lately and I wonder if that is working.

Q: After you got 20,000 likes/followers, what did you post on your FB page to make your followers happy, to keep them coming back for more? 

A: CONTENT. I wanted to ride the wave for a week or so, but my husband WISELY (I'll never say that to his face though) pointed out that I needed something new for the next day and the next day and the next day and so on. I tried to write something 5x a week for the next 6 months and then I dropped down to 3x a week.

Q: Was there social interaction on your page BEFORE the viral post (post likes, comments, shares)? What about AFTER the viral post? How do you get your followers to socially interact on your FB page? 

A: Nothing before, because it didn't exist. Ever since then, yes. Definitely. I try to post a lot and on a semi-schedule so they can know it's coming. I ask questions or share pictures that they might share. I also open up the page a few times a year for them to share their small businesses, blogs, books, charities, you name it.

Q: Tell us 5 dos and 5 don'ts for FB page growth--what should bloggers do on their FB page, what should they NOT do?

A: The Dos Are: Give them something to read. Even if it's a repost, you've got someone on there who has never read it. Share. Share other things you think they'll enjoy whether it's another blogger's work or a picture or something that goes with your brand. Answer questions, comment on their comments. You don't need to comment on everyone, but I answer questions and I like a bunch of stuff. Have fun. It's your page and you can do what you want. If you're not having fun, no one is. The Don'ts Are: Don't share stuff that isn't relevant to your reader or your brand. Don't be controversial unless that's your thing and you can handle the pushback. Don't be too cocky. They put you there and they can take it away. Make sure your readers know you appreciate them.

Q: Tell us the type of content you post and share on your FB page? What's popular? A particular favorite?

A: I share my blog, other blogs, e-cards, funny stuff. The most popular are pictures (wah wah - sad trombone) followed by my blog posts.

LIZA HAWKINS


Liza Hawkins writes for her blog (a)Musing Foodie and has a corresponding Facebook Food page. She answered in the The SITS Girls Facebook Group a question regarding Facebook posting. Reposted from Blogging As I Learn It, Liza gives you some of her best tips. 

1. Multiple posts per day (but only 10-20% of them should be about you/your blog) about things the people that like your page want to read. It takes a little time to figure that out, but one example is asking the right kind of questions:
I used to pose a question like: "What's your favorite ice cream?" No one would answer. Post reach would be low.

Then I tweaked my question: "Ice cream: CHOCOLATE {or} VANILLA?" And suddenly everyone wanted to comment with their opinion! Giving people a choice, versus asking an open ended question, makes a difference and get people interacting.

2. I also focus heavily on my "People Talking About This" number, and try to keep it above 10% at all times (although I have a goal of 50% I'd like to reach!). You can see your (or any other page's) Talking About This number by clicking on the "Likes" link.

3. Also, I've noticed that not only does it matter what kind of content you're sharing, it matters where the content comes from. Facebook's algorithm likes popular news sources, so when I share a link via HuffPo, BuzzFeed, Bon Apetit Magazine, etc., it reaches a lot larger group of people than if I share a less popular or unknown link source.

4. Similarly for tagging. If I tag another page in my comments, I get a lot more reach if that tagged page has a large "Talking About This" number. Facebook wants your posts to go viral as much as you do, so it gives weight to those posts that include potentially viral things.

5. If you schedule Facebook posts in advance (which is what I do since I work all day), make sure to only schedule them directly in Facebook. Don't use a 3rd party app for that.


MICHELLE GREWE


I am Michelle, but I had already done some research on virality of memes for personal curiosity and blogged about it on one of my blogs. "How to Get Viral and Spread like an STD." I really suggest reading the entire article because it goes into the psychology behind the herding instinct with many links related to all aspects of virality. 

Basic Virality Concepts

  1. Viral Memes are often adopted as awesome the more people see them. They may not like it the first time they see it, but after the 5th time, they start to accept it and embrace it. This is why your newsfeed and radio station overplays the same thing over and over again. 
  2. Viral Memes are cultural. They speak of the culture they pertain to. What is famous in America isn't often famous in China, and vice versa. 
  3. Memes are timed when things relative to it happens, like Batman memes being out there right after a Batman movie is released.
  4. They should be relatable. That gets more likes and shares. This is why there are a lot of memes that say things like, "That moment when..." The only reason people like those are because it relates to them. 
For something to be viral, it has to already be viral for most of your audience. This is why people are most apt to comment on a blog post if there are already comments on your blog post. According to Psyc Central"Researchers discovered that it takes a minority of just five per cent to influence a crowd’s direction – and that the other 95 per cent follow without realizing it."
Belonging is an emotional trigger that ties in with the herding instinct. "The neurochemical oxytocin triggers a “bliss response” in the brain whenever we are engaging in social behavior," according to ASTD. Everyone wants to belong to a Tribe, and they tend to choose tribes they most relate to, that feel right.

NICOLE KNEPPER


The infamous Queen of Cussin wrote a fabulous post about how to start a blog. Considering the popularity of her Facebook Page with over a million likes, Moms Who Drink and Swear, I could not leave her out of an article about Facebook pages. Some key paragraphs from her blog post... 

"People want to be read, heard, validated – right fucking NOW. If I reply and a conversation begins, the person inevitably confesses that they are struggling with the doing part of blogging, whether it's starting one or maintaining one. Blogging is all doing, you know.
...
More doing. Once you have a blog, you need to “do” blogging. This means you need to write, learn, listen, read, write, share and be a part of the collaborative community that you created. You must be patient and accepting of the process as it is. A collaboration is a partnership, a relationship, and a cooperative effort.

You write, and hopefully people read. If they read something that encourages and engages them, they reply to your words, and then… you have that conversation – you do your part to build the community that you are a part of. I repeat – you are a part of the community. You may have built it, but without people to be part of it, your blog is more like a column or an online journal. Successful bloggers are collaborators, and the essence of collaboration is a give and take.
...
If you already are a blogger, keep doing the work. Part of that work, is understanding that you have no control over what others do or don’t do, but you do have control over the effort you make to initiate, include, engage, and accept. A community is about people, not one person being done for by other people. Stop taking so much."



This post was originally posted on The Publishing Bloggers Network. Due to the owner of that blog closing the blog, the author reposted it on her blog.