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Self-Printing: 3 Things I’ve Started Doing

21 Jun

Yesterday I told you about three self-publishing-related things I’m not doing anymore – Novel Rank, Goodreads and selling my books to other self-published authors – and to counter-balance the rantyness (hey, it was Monday), I promised you that today I’d share three things I’ve started doing.

Some of these are things I was using or doing before, but not as much as I have been lately. Others are plans that are still taking shape. But all of them are making me excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. They are:

1. Using Mail Chimp

Mail Chimp is just the bees’ knees. (Or perhaps the monkeys’ knees, considering.) It’s a free and extremely easy-to-use service that lets you build mailing lists, sign people up to them and then send those people very professional-looking newsletters or other messages.

A screenshot of a More Mousetrapped e-mail.

I first used Mail Chimp to deliver the More Mousetrapped stories (above), the “bonus” stories I send out free once a month. I simply registered for a free account, made a sign-up form, told everyone about the sign-up form and then, once a month, wrote one e-mail and clicked a “Send” button that delivered it to everyone on the list.

Amazon Mail Chimp template/Self-Printed announcement e-mail.

I’ve also set up a Self-Printed mailing list that was first used to let people know when the book came out, but will now be used to send out updates about once a quarter until I do a revised and updated edition next year. Mail Chimp has a vast collection of e-mail templates, including an Amazon-themed one (above) that enables you to announce that your book is now available to buy and recipients to click straight through to its listing.

Mail Chimp sign-up form for my general mailing list. Click image to sign up. 

As an author with an online platform, be you self- or traditionally-published, your ultimate objective should be collecting the e-mail addresses of your readers. I know this sounds weird, but it’s the truth. A few years ago, every teenager and young adult in Ireland was using Bebo (including me). Now we laugh about how crap it was. At the same time, every teenager and young adult in the US was using MySpace. Now if you look at one of its HTML-on-LSD pages, your eyes hurt. Yes, we’re all a-Twitter at the moment, but in a few years we might be saying to each other, “Remember when we used to post 140 character updates? What we were thinking?” and we might be saying it to each other on an entirely new social media platform. My point is, social media changes. What’s hot now might be tomorrow’s old news and if it is, what good is our 5,000 Twitter followers or 500 Facebook fans? No good at all. E-mail is the only thing that doesn’t change and it’s the best way to tell your readers about your new releases, etc. And Mail Chimp is the best way to do that.

With this in mind, I’ve started a new, general mailing list. I’m keeping the Self-Printed one just because I want to be able to tell Self-Printed readers if something significant has changed, but once More Mousetrapped is over in November, that’ll be it: I’ll only be using the general mailing list for contacting general readers from then on. It will take the form of a newsletter. I don’t see mailings going out to this more than once every two months or so (I promise!) and if you want to sign up, you can do so here.

(By the way, if you want an example of an author newsletter that serves its purpose, is guaranteed to be read by its recipients AND is laugh-out-loud hilarious, sign up for Karin Slaughter’s. It ROCKS.)

2. Using Jing

Ah, Jing: my new obsession and what I spent most of last weekend playing gleefully with.

Jing is a program that records up to five minutes of what you’re doing onscreen and saves it as a high quality MPEG-4 video file which you can then edit in programs like iMovie. I bought Jing so I could make demonstration videos to use in a Self-Printed Summer over on Writing.ie. Here’s one I made earlier, earlier being last Sunday afternoon:

You can download a free version to try it out (although you won’t be able to save videos as MPEG-4 files) or pay just €15 for an annual subscription.

I’ve also been doing something very cool with it – very cool indeed – but I can’t tell you what it is yet. All will be revealed in due course, but let’s just say for now that after I had this idea, I was so pleased with myself, I was downright smug.

Smug, I tell you!

3. (Thinking Up Ways to Use) QR Codes

What is a quick response (QR) code? Well, chances are you’ve already seen plenty of them, even if you didn’t know exactly what you were looking at. They pop up everywhere: in magazines, on food packaging, on advertisements – I’ve even seen them on TV. They look a little something like this:

If you have a barcode scanning application on your phone, you can point your phone’s camera at it and it will decipher for you the message hidden within the code. This might be a number to call to enter a prize draw, a coupon for 50% off or some added value that’s worth jumping through an extra hoop for.

How can self-publishers use QR codes? Here are some things I’ve been thinking about:

  • Putting a QR code on the back of a paperback cover, near the barcode, that contains a discount code for one of my other books
  • Putting a QR code in my blog’s sidebar that contains a link to a preview of an upcoming book
  • Putting a QR code on my Facebook page that contains a secret code; find it and you can enter a book giveaway
  • Putting a QR code inside my e-books that “unlocks” hidden/extra content
  • Putting a QR code on promotional materials, such as postcards, business cards, etc. just to look mysterious.

If you go to GoQR.Me, you can generate and download a QR code of your own for free.

So there you have it: 3 things I’ve started doing to balance out the 3 things I’ve stopped. I hope that balances out yesterday’s rantyness.

I always seem to find out about all these cool things on Jane Friedman’s blog, There Are No Rules. Great resource and highly recommended.

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