5 Tools Every Indie Author Should Use

5 Tools Indie Authors Should UseWhen I first started using social media, confusion quickly set it.

I read a lot of blog posts and tried every application I learned about. I signed up for more than I needed and registered for apps before they were even available. Some that come to mind are Strawberry Jam and BrandBuilder and its precursor, none of which exist today. I tried out SocialBro, and it doesn’t exist today either.

In fact, sometimes I write about apps, and six months later, well, they’re kaput! It’s an embarrassing at times and can get frustrating.

There are some applications that I know aren’t going to abandon me, and so today I am taking the risk of suggesting that there are five tools that indie authors can’t be without.

Ready to see which ones they are?

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Blogging Got You Down? Follow These 6 Steps

Blogging Got You Down? Follow These 6 Steps by Frances CaballoI’ve heard so many questions about blogging that I decided to address them today. 

6 Steps to Better Blogging

Let’s raise the curtain on the issue of blogging, shall we?

You know you should write your blog posts weekly but for some reason you feel writing new posts can feel akin to writing essays about the importance flossing.

Am I right? Guess what? You’re not alone. Plenty of authors feel this way.

There are more of you than you might think. Sure, when you look at other author blogs you think to yourself, “Geez. Their blog is great. They  must love to write those posts.”

Here’s a little secret. There are a lot of you who detest it. I have a colleague, and she publishes her blog posts every Saturday. By Thursday, I hear her complain, “I have to go home and try to figure out what to blog about next. Sheesh!”

See? You’re not the only one.

Learn how to refreshen older content for today's readersClick To Tweet

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Social Media for Authors Podcast: Improve Your Marketing Results

Episode 14 - Social Media Sweet SpotTo read previous episode show notes, refer to my Friday blog posts.

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 Episode 14 Show Notes

This week’s segment includes summaries of four blog posts with awesome social media tips, and of course, I have your tip of the week.

Let’s start with your weekly tip.

You spend so much time learning about social media and keeping up with it that you’d like to see great results, right?

It’s only natural that we want to see our tweets retweeted, our Facebook updates shared and liked, and our images shared.

For me, it’s a sad day when after carefully planning my social media posts they trigger little engagement.

Today I’m going to suggest just three tips that have helped me and I think
will help you too.

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Friday Roundup: Add Visuals to Your Book Marketing

Episode 4 - Use Visuals


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Welcome to the Friday Roundup where you’ll find practical tips for marketing your books on the social web. This week’s segment includes summaries of four blog posts I found on the web,  and of course, your tip of the week on how to incorporate images in your marketing with Canva.

Let’s start with my weekly tip.

If you haven’t heard of Canva, go to Canva.com. This is an amazing application and now also a social media network.

I use it to create nearly all of my images for my blog and social media posts. Now, I say nearly all because I also use PicMonkey, another great app.

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Chasing the Elusive Shareable Content

6-23-14 Frances Caballo Social Media Just for WritersI was listening to a webinar featuring Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzgerald, who now work with Canva, and Guy offered his definition of what constitutes shareable content.

Creating shareable content is the holy Grail of social media. If our friends and fans do share what we post, then there is little hope that we will succeed in our social media marketing efforts.

Before posting content on Facebook or Google+, Guy recommends that you place your content through the “re-share test.” Ask yourself whether your content is valuable, bold, informative or entertaining. Does it provide a useful analysis or does it assist people in some manner? If it accomplishes any of these goals, your content should be shareable.

Guy also asserted that controversy will make your content more shareable. I’ve always shied away from stating my positions on gun control, presidential elections, or hot-button issues such as abortion. Instead, I keep to my niche, which is very safe ground.

Finally, Guy recommends that you follow this template for your posts:

 •    keep your headline to 50 characters

•    keep the body of your post to three sentence

•    use active verbs

•    brevity is vital

When I wrote my blog post about Canva recently, I shared some pretty amazing statistics on how much faster our brains can process images versus text. Our eyes gravitate to images and increasingly tend to shun large blocks of black letters. This fact explains why increasingly we need to include images and video if we want our content to be “shareable.”

Does Controversy Trigger More Engagement, Really?

This week I decided to run an experiment on my Facebook profile. I shared an image on Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency and another image about gun control. Guy told us during the webinar that when he takes a stand on gun control, hundreds of people jump in with their opinion. He loves that.

Let’s look at my post on Hillary Clinton. No one Liked it, commented on it or shared it. So, I thought it would experiment with another issue. I posted an image of Richard Martinez, whose son was murdered in the recent shooting in Isla Vista in Santa Barbara, with his arms around Peter Roger, the father of the killer. The image represented their stand on tougher gun-control laws. This content generated eight Likes.

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Compare those results with a quote I created using Canva. This content received two shares, one long comment, and seven Likes.

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In my experience, questions that elicit personal or fun responses trigger the most engagement on my profile. For example, this simple post about what I did on a Saturday morning followed by a question generated 14 Likes, and four comments.

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Finding Shareable Content for Facebook Page Posts

I haven’t and won’t steer into political stands on my Facebook page. It would be hard for anyone, including Guy, to talk me out of sticking to my main topics: social media, publishing and writing.

Even on this page it can be difficult to predict what will trigger engagement. This very simple quote by William Faulkner reached nearly 1400 people and generated 153 Likes, comments and shares.

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This quote by Maya Angelou, posted right after she died, reached 173 people and generated 26 Likes, comments and shares.

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I thought this image was amusing and had hoped it would generate some shares, but it didn’t. It reached 152 people and generated just six Likes.

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I also share what I consider to be valuable content. For example, I include links to my new blog posts, inspiring TED talks and other bloggers such as Joel Friedlander and Jane Friedman. These posts typically reach about 50 – 200 or fewer people and rarely generate a Like even though the information is informative, helpful and in some cases entertaining.

How Do We Really Know What’s Shareable?

Let’s return to Guy’s criteria for shareable content. He said the content needs to be valuable, informative, helpful, are entertaining. But isn’t it difficult to predict whether others will find information as valuable as I do or as entertaining as I do? The “re-share test” that Guy discussed can be elusive.

Are preemptory re-share tests necessary? On Facebook, I look to Insights, Facebook’s free analytics feature that shows me what works and what doesn’t. By returning to the metrics I can, over time, predict what content my audience prefers.

For example, even though my emphasis is on social media for writers, my audience prefers quotes from writers about writing. Even though Guy Kawasaki can trigger hundreds of comments by taking a stand on gun control, my friends are unwilling to do so.

Before you wade through all the potential sources for content and try to decide what to use, review your timelines, retweets, and Google+ shares. Even without using a metrics program, you can get a sense of what does and doesn’t work with your particular audience. In the end, that is the only re-share test that is infallible.

About the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers and author of  Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write, Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+. 

Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web

 Photo Credit: www.Pixabay.com

Writers: Use Visuals to Market Your Books

Create Your Own VisualsI never describe myself as a visual person. I can open the refrigerator door expecting one of our lunchtime salads to be gobbled up and not see a big, fresh salad that my husband made for me in the morning.

Really, I won’t see it.

Or I can walk into a friend’s home and not notice freshly painted walls or wallpaper newly added to the entry.

If there were an accident while I was standing on the street corner, I would not be able to give the police any details. I wouldn’t recall the color of the car or any details about the suspect.

Despite this quirk of mine, I am always drawn to visuals on social media. In fact, I more often gloss over (or not read) text posts on Facebook and instead jump ahead to the beautiful images and short, meaningful quotes.

I’m not the only one who prefers visual posts over text. Look at these statistics from Wishpond.com:

  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.
  • Videos on landing pages increase average page conversion rates by 86%.
  • Visual content is social-media-ready and social-media-friendly. It’s easily sharable and easily palatable.
  • Posts with visuals receive 94% more page visits and engagement than those without.
  • 67% of consumers consider clear, detailed images to carry more weight than product information or customer ratings

 Canva – A Free Application to Create Visuals in Your Messaging

I signed up for Canva about six months ago, and I’ve used it extensively to create Twitter and Facebook headers and images with text for Pinterest and other social media platforms. Canva is free to use (so far) and easy to learn.

Take a look at a few of the images I’ve created. The first image is my new Twitter header.

Frances Caballo - Social Media Just for Writers

This is one of the images I created  for Nina Amir’s Author of Change Program last December.

BEST Retweet Contest

Create Your Own Visuals

To start creating your own visuals, go to Canva. You can select a template or create your custom dimensions.

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Next, you will need to select your layout and image and your text. If you’re not using an image, you’ll need to select a background. If you don’t have any images of your own that you’d like to use, you can select from Canva’s one million images.

Canva provides some images for free and charges $1/image or $10 for eleven images for other pictures. In this example, I typed the word clouds and selected an image that will cost $1.

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My next step is to add a text overlay to the image.  Once I selected the text overlay, I changed the color from green to a pale blue. Then I added my text, added my branding at the bottom, paid for the image, and saved it.

 Canva will remove the watermark overlay once you purchase the image, and you can revise the image as often as you’d like over the following 24 hours.

Here is the visual I created. You’ll notice my branding at the bottom.

 Write Every Day

If you are artistic and you enjoy playing with visuals, you will enjoy this application. If you’re like me, you will be happy to discover how easy this application is to use. Canva has a series of short videos that will help you select complimentary colors and mix designs. 

Use Canva to create visuals to market your books by creating images for your blog, workshops, Goodreads giveaways, and book promotions. Once you create them, upload your visuals to any of your social media platforms, especially Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.

What’s exciting is that now you can use Canva to create a cover for your ebook. Check out their pinboard on Pinterest to see their different layouts. 

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About the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers and author of  Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write, Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+. 

Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web

10 Great Resources Writers [You] Need to Know About

XMAS presentMy gift to you this holiday season is this list of resources for writers that I love and that I believe will make your lives easier. Some will save you money and others will help you to polish your books. So let’s get’s started with my holiday list of ten great resources writers need to know about and in some cases start using today.

Applications to Create Professional-Looking Banners and Images for Pinterest


Have you ever experienced Facebook banner envy? You know, those beautiful Timeline banners that some people pay a great deal of money to graphic designers to create? Guess what? Canva, presently a free application (it’s still in Beta so request your invitation), is a tool you can use to create Facebook banners, Twitter headers, cards, biographics, business cards, photo cards, and other image-based messaging. It’s an easy, intuitive tool to use.

Here are a few samples of items I recently created with Canva. First, here are some two Facebook banner images. The blue one is for my Facebook profile, and the second one is a banner I used on my Facebook author page.

Happy Holidays


SMJ4W with URL

 I created this image when I ran a promotion on my blog recently.


  The next image is one I created when my Facebook likes reached a certain number.

 Thank you 744 Likes

Canva features some images that you can purchase for $1 or you can upload your own. The majority of images and features are free of charge.


I’ve used PicMonkey for months to resize and crop photos for free. But recently I wanted to create some images for Pinterest so I upgraded to the paid plan, about $30/year. Here are a couple of examples of my creations. I created the first one for Nina Amir’s Author of Change program and then uploaded it to Pinterest and Twitter.

Write a Book That Inspires You

And here’s a holiday collage for Pinterest I created just for fun.

Holiday Collage

Once you create and save the images, you can share them directly to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, or Tumblr as well as send them via email to a colleague. You can also use this tool to create Facebook covers or perhaps a collage of some of the books you’ve written.


Use this application to create a variety of images. For example, you can type quotes onto a sticky note, create a pin of your website or your Twitter bio, or create images to pin text, quotes, locations and dates. You can even create a pin of your favorite song and its album artwork. When I typed in Someone Like You by Adele, Pinstamatic provided several options, then created an image to pin based on my selection.

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 In this example, I typed a favorite quote, included the author’s name, and when I pressed “Pin,” the image uploaded seamlessly to my Pinterest account.

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You can also use Pinstamatic to upload your own images (book covers), quotes by your favorite authors, and great lines from books that you’ve written. Don’t forget to include your book title when quoting from your novel or memoir.

DIY Tools for Designing Your Next Book’s Interior and Cover

DIY Book Covers

DerekMurphyAfter writing your book you need a great cover. You can hire a designer (I use the best cover designer, Kit Foster) or you can try to create a cover yourself.

Self-published authors on a tight budget might want to try a new DIY tool. Cover designer Derek Murphy of CreativIndie Covers has put together a package of book cover design templates made in Microsoft Word.

Although it sounds like an unlikely pairing, the templates look clean and professional, not only for simple non-fiction covers, but also for all types of fiction. If you’re familiar with using MS Word, customizing the templates to make them unique shouldn’t be difficult.

Also included in the DIY Covers Package are templates and instructions to make full print covers, business cards, and blog headers, giving writers more control over the graphical elements of their author platform. If you’d like to see the samples and read more about the project, you can visit www.diybookcovers.com.

To use the tool, you’ll need to install the fonts and templates, and then find an image you like. Derek recommends these sources:

The website includes a QuickStart guide, a Cheat Sheet, training videos, 80 fiction cover templates and 70 non-fiction cover templates. Here’s an example of a DIY book cover.

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The developer will be adding more features including gradients and color washes and templates for business cards, blog banners, and Facebook covers.

Book Design Templates

Joel FriedlanderAre you tired of paying the high cost of a graphic designer for the layout of your book? Joel Friedlander’s Book Design Templates let Indie authors quickly and easily create the interior layout of their books. There are templates for fiction, memoir, narrative non-fiction, reference, and technical and non-fiction books. In addition, there are now templates for children’s books

Joel is a book designer so self-published authors can trust that the templates carefully balance typographic beauty with ease of reading. Although I haven’t yet used the template I purchased, a colleague has and she said the process was easy. If you need help, Joel’s team will upload your book into your purchased template. Finally, each template comes with five kinds of interior pages, section breaks, running heads, and page numbers.

These templates will save writers money and help them to produce books that appear professionally designed.

By the way, self-published authors should all become acquainted with Joel’s blog, The Book Designer. You will learn everything you need to know about self-publishing, book covers, and book marketing by reading his posts.

Resources to Help Writers Focus on Their Writing and Publishing Careers in 2014

There are numerous editors and bloggers who can help you to make your narratives shine and here I recommend some of the best in the field.

Nina Amir

Nina Amir 6-2012 (3)If you’re a nonfiction writer, you’ll want to check out Nina’s Become an Author of Change program.

How do you know whether you are a candidate for the Author of Change program? You are if you feel called to:

  • Change on a personal level or to become a successful and inspiring author.
  • Help others change because of things you have learned.
  • Write about how to create change personally, organizationally or globally.
  • Express a sense of purpose or mission to inspire others to take positive action.

Through the course work and homework, you’ll be asked to look at:

  • Who you are as a writer.
  • Who you are as a businessperson.
  • How you need to change to become a successful published author.
  • How you need to alter your message to make it effective.

The course has three study options that start at $147 (early bird special is $127 until December 31, 2013).

Presently, Nina is hosting a Twitter contest. The two people who send the most retweets about her Author of Change program will either win a free seat in her program or a free one-hour consultation. Here’s the tweet to get you into the contest: “Become an Author of Change with @NinaAmir #AuthorofChange Pls Retweet http://bit.ly/1gzRVMH

Martha Alderson

Martha AldersonWho wouldn’t want to consult with the author of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories, and the Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts? Easy Exercises to Get Your Writing? This is the woman who really understands plot (confession: this is my weakness in fiction writing).

In Martha’s four-week Plot Workshop, you will receive a competitive analysis of your plot from Literary Agent Jill Corcoran and plotting help and guidance from Martha.

She also offers Deep Plotting Writing Retreats where you can plan, polish and test your plot both at the overall story level and at the scene level. 

In addition, she offers a 27-step free tutorial designed to help you plot your novel, memoir or screenplay as well as fee-based one-on-one consultations. If you have difficulty with plot in your stories, Martha is the expert on this topic.

Susanne Lakin aka C.S. Lakin

C.S.-Lakin-150x150Are you concerned with how you are telling your story, and about elements such as pacing, character development, structuring chapters and scenes, building tension, epiphanies, and denouements? Could you use someone to delve deep into the heart of your story and come back out with encouraging, constructive feedback? If so, then Susanne Lakin and her team of editors can help you. Members of her editing team are professional copyeditors and published novelists in a variety of genres, and Susanne brings to her editing and critiquing nearly thirty years of experience in writing novels.

In addition to being a respected fiction copyeditor, Susanne is the author of fourteen novels and numerous nonfiction books. Her instructional blog Live Write Thrive was named one of the top ten blogs for writers in 2012. If you’re looking for support as a writer, you’ll find lots of it there.

If all you want is a critique, head on over to her www.critiquemymanuscript.com web page where writers can upload documents and pay for either a partial or complete manuscript critique. She does 200+ critiques a year in nearly every genre for clients all over the world.

If you’re attending the San Francisco Writers Conference in February, you’ll be able to meet Susanne and Martha in person.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld

JordanJordan says that she has a simple philosophy in her editing, coaching and teaching: “Practice. Polish. Persist.” She advises, “Make your writing life into an ongoing, deep writing practice that can survive the test of time, discouragement and change. Never stop trying to become better and polish your work, learn new things, take classes and feed both your muse and your craft. But what will set you apart is your persistence. Don’t give up. If you need help with any of these things, I’m here to help you.”

Jordan brings an editor’s attention to both the micro and macro aspects of your fiction project, but she also brings a writer’s ear—having been writing and publishing for two decades (author of the novel Forged in Grace, and the writing guides Make a Scene & Write Free). She likes to work with fiction writers at all stages—from the seed of an idea, to the final product—and at all levels, whether the writer needs coaching or a final copyedit. She is especially fond of developmental edits and critiques. 

Story in Literary Fiction

WHC 2-2013Story in Literary Fiction is a wonderful website filled with interviews of top editors and writing teachers, essays on how to improve one’s writing, a writing blog, and award-winning short stories that the creator of Story in Literary Fiction, William H. Coles, offers for free.

In addition, William offers an online, eight-week free literary fiction workshop and a fee-based tutorial.

William has written numerous short stories, three novels, and Story in Literary Fiction: A Manual for Writers. William holds the distinction of having placed in the William-Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition many times and was the 2006 Winner of the Sandhills Writers Competition for his tory “Reddog.”

I hope you enjoyed reviewing my list of resources for writers. I’d love to hear about your favorite resources too!


“wrapped gift” photo credit: CS_McMahon via photopin cc

socialmediaforwritersAbout the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers and author of Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapterthe San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+. 

Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web