Follow My Author Experience

Welcome to the author experience blog.  As an author, I have to wear many hats: writer, marketer, social media expert, etc. I also have to perform SEO optimization, website creation, and launch team preparation.  It has been a steep learning curve for me, but one that I have enjoyed, despite the occasional roadblock.  

As I learn, I share the knowledge and experience on this blog for other authors and aspiring authors.  I hope that the topics on this blog will be helpful to you as you follow my journey.  Connect with me in the Comments sections, follow me on Facebook or join my email list.  

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How To Add Images to Tweet Buttons

Key Idea: It Is possible to add images to Click-to-Tweets. It's so easy, even I can do it.

Tweets with image links get 2x the engagement rate of those without.

My latest book, City Farming, has an awesome and engaged street team.  These are people who are interested in the book and willing to help spread the word about it.  I am working on coming up with ways to make it extremely easy for them to share news, quotes, and information about the book.  

To make sharing simple, I often use Click-to-Share links or buttons.

These are prepared messages that make it easy for your audience to promote you on social media sites.  All they have to do is click on a link or button.   Sounds simple!  But there are always roadblocks, aren't there? One roadblock that I came up against was the inability to include a photo in Click-To-Tweet buttons.  

Tweets without images can easily blend into background without notice.  Most of the time, if you're tweeting out a link to a web page or blog post, you'll want to attach an image to help it stand out in the rapid Twitter stream.  But Twitter does not allow images to be automatically attached to share links.

So how do you attach an image in a Click-to-Tweet? These are the steps:

Tweet a message that contains the photo that you want to use in your Click-to-Tweet.

Here is a message that I Tweeted and that I wanted my audience to be able to Tweet from my website, KariSpencer.com.

Twitter_Tweet_Image.png

Click on the time stamp in the tweet.  

When you click on the time or date next to your profile name, a new window will open showing a close-up view of the tweet.  Here is a photo of the time stamp in my tweet.

Twitter_Tweet Time Stamp.png

If you are using Chrome, right click on the close-up and select 'Inspect.'  (See instructions for Explorer below.)

A window showing the source code will open.  Click  the Control and F keys on your keyboard simultaneously to open a search field.  

Enter pic.twitter in the search field to find the URL of the picture, which is embedded in the source code.  Any line containing the term pic.twitter will be highlighted in the code so you can easily find it.  The URL will start with pic.twitter.com/ and end with ten seemingly random letters and numbers.  In this case the picture URL is pic.twitter.com/6te7AaWtU9.  Double click on the URL and copy it.

Twitter_source_code.png

Using Explorer, find the menu in the top right-hand corner of the page.  

Select 'F12 Developer Tools' to view the source code.   At the top right of the window, you will see a search field.  Type pic.Twitter in the search field to find and copy the source URL of the photo.  Just as in chrome, the picture URL will start with pic.twitter.com/ and end with a combination of ten letters and numbers.

Twitter_source_code_Explore.png

Select a free Click-to-Tweet service.  

Now that you have the URL of the picture, you are ready to create your Click-to-Tweet message.  You can do this for free using a click-to-share link creator.  There are several of them online.  Below is a list of a few sites that I recommend in a clickable PDF file. Feel free to save, Pin and share it.

Create your Click-to-Tweet message

Using whatever click-to-share service you selected, craft your tweet.  Twitter limits messages to 140 characters. Create your message and then add the pic.Twitter.com/ URL (that you copied from the source code) to the end of the message.  The URL counts towards your character limits.

Below is a Click-to-Tweet that I created for a contest using GiveawayTools.com.  Notice the picture URL at the end of the tweet and that I still have 5 characters left (I could use them to create another hashtag.)

Click_to_tweet_giveaway_tool.png

When a follower clicks on the Tweet button or link that you created, the tweet text and photo will appear in their feed.

This is how the Tweet button looks in the Giveaway Tool that I created.  When a follower clicks on 'Tweet,' the tool automatically tweets my message and photo on their Twitter feed.

Click_to_tweet_buttons_in_giveaway_tool.png

Once you have created a click-to-Tweet URL, you can attach it to a Tweet button.

Some click-to-share services will create the button for you.  Others provide you with a URL that you can attach to a share button, if you choose to do so.  It is okay to simply share the link, but buttons tend to encourage more clicks.

The resource file below has a link to a free button creator, ShareThis.com,  where you can create share buttons to use on your site.

It's that easy!  Be sure to download and share the 'Click-to-Tweet' resource file below.

Questions, comments, or Click-to-Tweet tips?  Share them below.

Chasing Failure

Key Idea:  Failure is a friend; not a foe.

What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? You have probably come across this question.  It's a great prompt to help you pinpoint what you most want to do, but are afraid to pursue for fear of defeat.  The truth is that there is no perfect place in which failure is impossible.  There is no getting around it.  So, the question is thought-provoking, but incomplete.  

Lately I have been asking myself this follow-up question:

Knowing that failure is possible (perhaps even probable,) what's my next move?

Some choose to play it safe; some rationalize their aspirations away. Others make a conscious choice to put their ambitions aside for the sake of others.  Many prefer the path of least resistance.

A few will stir up their courage and chase failure in pursuit of their dreams.

Failure is common to everyone who dares to venture.  I have plenty of personal experience with mistakes and defeats.  I know that when I stick my neck out, failure is there, waiting to take me down.  And it has often succeeded in causing me to retreat.

A couple of years ago, I was offered the opportunity to write City Farming.  I had a decision to make.  I could turn down the contract and play it safe, or commit and run the risk of falling flat. 

Quaking in my boots, I signed the contract.

I was so fearful, that my first reaction was to enter a state of denial.  I procrastinated to avoid the pain of making mistakes while pretending that I had full confidence of success.  

Have you ever been there?  When we procrastinate or pretend, failure has us right where it wants us, directly in its path.  When we inevitably make a mistake or sabotage ourselves,  failure jumps out, points a finger at us, and says, See, I told you so.  The evidence is clear; you'll never succeed.  Might as well give up.

Does that make you as mad or as discouraged as it made me?  If you have ever been wrecked by failure, it should. 

I was angry.  Yes, I knew my history; my pattern of stepping out, making a mistake, listening to the accusing voice of failure, followed by retreat.  But I was not going to let it torpedo the biggest opportunity of my professional life.

I turned the tables on failure, no longer willing to let it blindside me.  

Choosing to be dauntless, I began to relentlessly chase failure.  I began to look for it, to seek out opportunities to fail, to catch hold of it and make it work for me instead of against me.  

Purposefully setting high goals, I dared failure to come and get me.  And when it came, I embraced it, choosing to learn, to build and to grow instead of retreating.

Chasing failure on purpose changed my mindset.  Here are a few of the reasons why (and how) it happened:

Building confidence.

Choosing to focus on progress rather than perfection, I began to set lofty goals and document my attempts to reach them. As an example, I set a target of writing 2,000 words per week day, or 10K per week.  Some days I missed the target by a long shot, only achieving 500 or 1,000 words.  Instead of becoming discouraged and kicking myself, I logged my word counts on a spreadsheet.  

After only a few days, the word counts began to add up to big numbers, and I was able to visualize the incredible progress that I was making. Even though I might have only logged 5K per week instead of the 10K for which I was shooting, this was many more words than I would have written without a high goal.  This gave me reason to celebrate!  Choosing to focus on what I accomplished, rather than what I didn't accomplish, began to build my confidence and joy.

Perfecting techniques.

Failures shine the spotlight on imperfections within systems.  I don't like it when I am excited about using a technique, or have become comfortable with a system, only to have it fall short.  And I don't like change.  But I choose to embrace the pain and hard work of figuring out why a technique did not work the way I thought it would and revising it (perhaps 2 or 3 times.)

For example, I set a goal to collect 100 emails per week and began to create lead magnets to encourage subscriptions.  But I was only seeing 24-30 sign-ups per week, far short of the target.  I was grateful for the growth, but also began to think carefully through the system to make it better.

What I realized was that my lead magnets were buried within blog posts.  I began to publicize the lead magnets by themselves, independent of the blog posts.  As suspected, I got exponentially more subscribers when I posted the lead magnets directly. Although it was a bit of work up front to refine the system, in the long run, it will be much more profitable.  And the little bit of extra work involved in promoting the blog and the lead magnet separately will certainly be worth the effort.

Gaining wisdom.

When I fail, I learn.  Failure wants me to conclude that I will never succeed; that I should not try.  But if I grab hold of failure and crack it open, there is wisdom inside. In 1993, I spoke at a church in Hawaii, and my message fell flat.  I was humiliated and made a private vow never to speak in public again.  But how could this be?  I was a trained teacher with a passion for sharing knowledge.  Clearly, failure was trying to derail my calling.  

Fifteen years later, opportunities arose through the Master Gardener program to teach adults about gardening, a topic that I love to talk about!  Speaking to small groups, I began to study audience reactions to discover what engaged them most.  I also paid attention to what appeared to bore or annoy them, which was painful to acknowledge.  

I asked for feedback.  Sometimes it felt personal, when a mannerism or a favorite turn of phrase was criticized.  But this time, passion for teaching others to grow food was important enough to override the discomfort of making mistakes.  Over the years, I have learned a tremendous amount about public speaking, and am quite comfortable in front of large crowds.  I will never stop making mistakes; but if I embrace the wisdom to be gained by them, they will continue to make me a better teacher.

Chasing failure is not fun, but the benefits are a blast!

In pursuit of failure, I have had to accept some embarrassment, some disappointment, and a lot of frustration.  But it is absolutely worth it!  Despite the struggle, I have gone places I never would have gone, met the most amazing people, and stumbled upon opportunities that I didn't expect and couldn't have foreseen.  Yes, I have days when I am frustrated and wish that I was closer to meeting some of my goals.  But when I glance behind, I realize that I have accomplished more than I ever thought I could.

Takeaway

Set one uncomfortable goal today.  Pick something that is just a little bit outside your comfort zone, neither too easy nor so daunting that it stops you in your tracks.  Record your efforts on a spreadsheet or in a journal, and celebrate progress, no matter how large or how small.  Do this over and over again.

I promise that if you chase failure, you will find it.  But instead of letting it trip you up, embrace it.  Learn, grow, and build successes on the foundation of mistakes. Put a reminder in your calendar one year from today to look back on your goals and the progress you have tracked.  Prepare to be amazed at what you will accomplish!

 What goal will you set today?  How have you personally learned something valuable from failure?  Share in the comments below.

How to Build an Email List

Key Idea: Book deals come and go. Fans are forever.

I was looking at my email stats today to see how many people joined my newsletter list last week. Why do I care so much about my email list?  Email is a way to communicate with people who are interested in what I have to share about urban farming with no middle-man in between.  It is not dependent upon where Facebook decides to make my post visible, or timing posts on Twitter for the most viewership. More importantly, it is not dependent upon the marketing team at 5m Publishing. It is direct messaging, straight from me to my fans and followers.  

Direct communication with fans and followers is critical to an author's success.

I am extremely excited about City Farming and the marketing that 5m Publishing will do for me.  But I am also aware that books tend to  have limited time spans in which they are popular.  It is during this popular phase that a decent income can be earned. 

But eventually, a new book will come along and bump City Farming down in search results. New buyers will be less likely to find the book or will prefer to buy the latest book available. Buyers who already purchased the book are not likely to purchase it again.

In order to make a living as an author, one cannot depend upon a single book deal.

Authors need to keep writing.  What if 5m Publishing does not offer me another book deal?  How will I make a living, considering that I have put a lot of other projects aside in order to write City Farming?  

The answer is that I will keep writing and creating educational products for urban farmers. Whether or not 5m wants to work with me again (and I hope it does,)  I am developing my own platform on which to sell future books and products.  The platform consists of an email list and social media followers who like what I do, and may purchase other items from me.

In order to make a living as an author, one must be trusted as an authority on their subject matter.

How am I establishing my authority on the topic of urban farming and building a following at the same time?  By giving away free content in exchange for an email address.  

This is how it works, in a nutshell:

1.  Start an email list (either a free one, like MailChimp, or a paid service.)

2.  Create something to give away.  This could be an informational PDF, and e-book, an email course or a video.  The giveaway item should teach the recipient something of interest to them, which also ties in specifically with the books or products that you are developing for sale.  In my case, I gave away a free e-book called Garden Now!  How to Start Growing Food Today.  This ties in with a course that I am developing on container gardening that will be for sale shortly.

3.  Ask for an email address in exchange for the giveaway.  Create an email signup form to collect email addresses.  In your email program, you should be able to create a redirect that sends subscribers to a page delivering the free product.  On KariSpencer.com, subscribers are redirected to a thank-you page that contains a link to the file.  Files are housed on Google Drive, and anyone who has the link can view and download the file.

4.  If you email service allows it, tag subscribers so that you know which file they downloaded.  For instance, I offer a free compost ebook, a list of online garden tools, a list of resources for plant problem diagnosis, and the Garden Now file that I mentioned previously.  Depending upon which file or files that a subscriber downloads, they receive a tag in my email program that indicates their interest in those topics.  In the future, I will be able to send more composting resources to those people who expressed interest in composting by virtual of downloading the compost e-book.

5.  Communicate regularly with subscribers. Don't wait until you have something to sell before you start sending emails to your list.  Send them tips, event notices, updates and anything else that you believe will be of interest to subscribers them, reserving sales emails for the rare occasion.

Takeaway

The only way for most authors to make a living is to build an audience of followers who like and trust them enough to buy books and products from them. So start building your audience today!

Are you building an email list? Share your ideas in the comments section.

Which Comes First, the Writing or the Marketing?

Key Idea:  Marketing starts the day you decide to write a book.

I started marketing my book late.  As of this writing, City Farming:  A How-To Guide to Growing Crops and Raising Livestock in Urban Spaces is complete and scheduled for release by 5m Publishing on November 30, 2017.  It has been a long time coming, more than a 2-year project, of which we are in the final phase: marketing.

From the perspective of a publisher, the time to market is after the project is completed.  

From an author's perspective, marketing starts much earlier. Ideally, it starts the day the idea for a book is born.  I am definitely coming late to the party.  My efforts to market started in June, when the publisher connected me with the 5m marketing team. I was sent a very long and detailed marketing form, for which I had to do some serious research and report back to the team.  

Research for 5m led me to self-publishing sites, and I became keenly aware that if I am to market the book effectively, I can't depend on 5m's team to do all of the work.  Otherwise, 5m builds its own audience on my efforts; and once the book has had its heyday, I gain nothing for the future.  While I am extremely grateful to 5m for the opportunity, I must be responsible to build my own platform for the long-term.

Here are 3 reason why I should have started marketing before I wrote my book proposal.

1.  Marketing would have helped me to discover what my audience wants and needs the most.  I could have started by creating some free content and collecting feedback to hone in on what people want to learn and how they want to learn it.  I am starting now to offer free content to gain feedback for future book projects.

2.  Offering free content early would have built a larger following of people who like what I do.  I am reaching out to them purposefully now.  These will be the people who are most likely to buy the book when it is available.  Had I started two years ago, I could have had a much wider audience than I do today.

3.  I would be a lot more knowledgeable and better equipped for the book launch. I regret that I did not start learning and practicing sooner.  Early marketing efforts would have made my current efforts more skillful and effective.

Since I can't go back in time, I am making the most of today.

5m is totally on board and encouraging when it comes to building my audience.  One of the reasons that I landed the book contract in the first place was because I already had a decent following and lots of content on my blog.  There are so many more people out there who want to grow food and be urban farmers, and I can serve them if I can find them (or help them to find me.)

It's time to connect with my audience.  Now that the writing/proofreading/market research are complete, I am focusing my energy on reaching more people.  The larger the audience, the more books will potentially sell; a win-win situation for me, for my followers and for 5m.  

Takeaway

If you are even considering writing a book or creating an online course, start developing an audience today.  Give away free content to draw followers and to refine ideas.  This will help you to better meet the needs of your audience and to gain greater financial reward when your project goes to market.  

Later in the blog, I will share specific techniques and resources that I am using to to reach my audience.  Stay tuned!

What do you think?  Share your thoughts or ideas in the comments section below.

Email Oops! And the value of Avoiding no-reply email addresses.

Key Idea:  Two-way communication with email subscribers is preferable to insulating yourself with a no-reply email address.

Why was I on my laptop last night at 10:17 PM on a Friday?  An email glitch!  Well, not exactly a problem with the email itself, but with a link in the email.  Let me 'splain (or scroll down to the Takeaways to simply sum up.)

My email service is Go Daddy Email Marketing Pro, and it is generally very easy to use.  But TODAY it was giving me headaches.  I swear, there is always something to slow me down!  This time, it was a problem sending out my weekly email to all of my subscribers.  I set the email up and sent it out, easy-peasy.  But when I went back to check my stats, only 24 subscribers had received it.  In the words of Charlie Brown, Aaaaagh!

I am definitely not tech savvy.  

It took me several tries and about 45 minutes of searching for the problem to figure out that I had checked a box labeled "Do not send to contacts who have already received it." I unchecked the box and voila!  The email went out to all 1609 subscribers (my apologies to the 24 who got it twice.)  

This being the first time I sent this email, I am not sure why checking that box stopped the bulk of my subscriber list from receiving the email originally.  Perhaps because I cloned a previous email in order to create the current email, the program thought that I was sending out the same email again.  Lesson learned.

Any-hoo...fast forward to 10:17 PM.  

I had returned home from a monthly potluck with our farm-type friends and checked my phone one last time before hitting the sack.  Houston, we have a problem!  57 messages were in my inbox requesting access to a free Quick & Easy Compost file that I had posted in the email.  

Apparently, the file sharing settings in Google Drive were directed to only show the file to 'Anyone on KariSpencer.com who has a link.'  Email subscribers were downloading from the email, not from my site.  

My heart rate soared from stress and embarrassment.  Quickly, I changed the file sharing settings to allow access to the file and manually gave access to all 57 people who has already attempted to download it.  I included a personal note of apology, as well.

Takeaway

The takeaway for this experience is two-fold.  

First, double-check everything before sending out an email.  Duh.

Second, I recommend against sending emails to a subscriber list from a 'no reply' address.  If I had done so, I would not have discovered the glitch so quickly.  Fortunately, my subscribers are friendly, and I received several notes from them giving me a 'heads-up' concerning the problem.  I was able to respond quickly and personally to each email, thus assuring my subscribers that I am responsive and care about their concerns.  

By contrast, I subscribed to a weekly live content marketing tutorial on an expert's site and was eagerly anticipating watching the videos.  However, the links never arrived in my inbox.  I attempted to reply to the welcome email to request the links, but received a message stating that they don't check that email address. I never received the links, have missed the tutorials, and the expert will never know about the problem because there was no way for me to connect directly with her.  Unfortunately for both of us, an opportunity was missed.

I don't want to miss those connections, and I definitely want to be made aware of problems that my subscribers experience.  Thanks to using a personally email that I check regularly, I was able to discover and fix the problem before hundreds of people had attempted to download the file.  Crisis averted, with gratitude to my great subscribers.

Share your thoughts on 'no-reply' emails in the comments below.

Business Ignition Boot Camp

Key Idea:  Accountability can be uncomfortable, but it makes me better.

I have been following Mirasee for a few months and recently signed up for a free Business Ignition Boot Camp offered by the company.  Today, I found out that I was accepted.  Woot!  

If you are not familiar with Mirasee, you might want to check them out.  The company's focus in on helping entrepreneurs build impactful businesses that are true to their values.  I found the company while searching for online course creation information.  Mirasee is a huge proponent of online education, but also serves entrepreneurs in all types of business.  

Mirasee's About Us page states that "We serve visionary businesses and entrepreneurs who have something of value to share with their audience."  And how do they serve businesses?  "We provide business education that equips you to impact your community and change the world."

I definitely want to change the world empowering people to grow and raise their own food.  

Urban agriculture education is my small contribution to the world, and I hope that it will improve people's lives and strengthen communities.  

I know how to grow food and how to teach people how to grow food.  That is the fun part of what I do for a living.  What I don't really like (and am not good at) is tracking results.  I also do not enjoy research.  But if I am to truly meet the needs of my audience, I need to get better at both.  

That's where the Business Ignition Boot Camp will be invaluable.

The boot camp will teach me how to research ideas and track results.  More importantly, it will provide structure, deadlines, support and accountability so that I will have to DO it!

The program hasn't started yet, but it is already stretching me.  I had to learn how to use SLACK, a cloud-based team collaboration tool, and introduce myself to my classmates on the platform.  I know that I will have to be accountable to these people, both to do the assignments and to provide peer reviews and assistance in a timely manner.

I am an introvert, and prefer to work alone.  

But I understand the value of collaboration (which is why I host events with Greg Peterson of The Urban Farm and Bill & Bell of Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance several times per year.)  The accountability that comes with collaboration helps us all to get more done and to serve our audience with greater value.

So it is with positive expectation, and slight trepidation, that I enter the Boot Camp.  I will be reporting in on the blog later to share insights as they come my way.

Takeaway

Do something today that makes you uncomfortable, but that you know will benefit you.  Tell a friend, a co-worker or a loved one about it and ask them to check your progress.  Or sign up to take a class.  

The Business Ignition Boot Camp is now closed, but it will be offered again in the future. In the meantime, check out the Mirasee website for free articles and courses that you can access today. (BTW, Mirasee did not pay me to say that.)

What tools/techniques do you use to create accountability into your life?  Share your ideas in the comments section below.