Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to Use Social Media: Tips from a Pro

By Guy Kawasaki

You want to write – not tweet or post. But it’s the rare writer these days who can shun social media and still sell books. The solution: learn from a master, and maximize the time you’ve allotted for social media exchanges. If you’re like me, you won’t ever have 1.2 million Twitter followers, check your RSS feed in the middle of the night, or have the scratch to contract out portions of your social media presence. But you’ll still find plenty of tips in this post to make the promotion part of your writing life easier and more efficient. This post is reprinted from Hubspot by permission of Guy Kawasaki.  

Many people ask me how I manage my social media accounts (and others make stuff up rather than figure out what I do). Here are the gory, inside-story details of what I do. ead MorePerhaps you may find some of my methods useful to help you get the most out of social media, too.


On Twitter, I'm @GuyKawasaki. My Twitter practices defy the recommendations of social media "schmexperts" (schmuck + experts) to manually post a limited number of tweets and not use automation, repetition, contributors, and ghostwriters.

I have never been on the Twitter Suggested User List, and I have more than 1.2 million followers. I attribute this success to providing a lot of interesting links that people retweet. These retweets expose me to many people who then follow me. There are five (yes, five -- count 'em) sources that feed my Twitter account:

1) HolyKaw

I co-founded a website called Alltop. Half of it is an aggregation of 30,000 RSS feeds organized into 1,500 topics ranging from adoption to zoology. The other half is a website called HolyKaw.

HolyKaw provides a continuous flow of interesting and diverse stories that should elicit the response, “Holy cow!” (Holycow.com was taken but since my name is pronounced “Cow-asaki,” I figured that HolyKaw would work.)

The posts on HolyKaw are short summations of stories, a picture or video to illustrate the story, and a link to the source. Approximately twenty people/organizations have contributor-level access to HolyKaw.

We pay several as editors -- they are not “interns” in the sense of unpaid students. Organizations such as Futurity and National Geographic also have contributor-level access because they consistently post great stories.

The headline of a HolyKaw post -- for example, “Compilation of stories about introverts, outsiders, and loners” -- automatically generates tweets that go out through a custom app called GRATE, for “Guy’s Repeating Automated Tweet Engine." These slightly modified tweets appear four times, eight hours apart.

The reason for repeated tweets is to maximize traffic and therefore advertising sales. I’ve found that each tweet gets approximately the same amount of clickthroughs. Why get 600 page views when you can get 2,400? Like CNN, ESPN, and NPR, we provide content repeatedly because people live in different time zones and have different social media habits.

2) Repurposed Google+ Posts
Three other people also post to HolyKaw via Google+: Peg FitzpatrickTrey Ratcliff, and me. (I explain this in the Google+ section below.)

3) Repurposed Facebook.com Posts
Peg Fitzpatrick manages the Facebook.com/guysco brand page. When she posts stories there, they automatically appear as tweets.

4) My Comments and Responses
I use Tweetdeck to respond to @-mentions of @Guykawasaki, as well as to direct messages. If you see a response tweet, it is always me--never anyone else.

5) Promotional Tweets
Finally, if you see a tweet that is promoting my books, appearances, or investments, it’s almost always one that I posted with Tweetdeck or that Peg Fitzpatrick has scheduled using HootSuite.


On Google+, I'm GuyKawasaki, and Google+ is the core of my social media existence. It is the Macintosh of social media: better, used by fewer people, and often condemned by the experts. Unlike other social media profiles I own, no one else ever posts, responds, or comments on Google+ as me.

My orientation toward Google+ (and social media in general) is what I call the NPR Model. My role is to curate good stories that entertain, enlighten, and inspire people 365 days a year. My goal is to earn the right to promote my books, companies, or causes to them just as NPR earns the right to run fundraising telethons from time to time.
My posts range from first-person accounts of being a black tourist in Chinawhat happened to Allen Iverson after his NBA career, and gifts from Air New Zealand. I use five primary resources to find stories to post:

This is a custom compilation of the RSS feeds of websites such as In Focus, The Big Picture, YouTube, and NPR that are mother lodes of great content. This is my one-stop shopping cart for content.

2) HolyKaw
Yes, I post what my contributors post as me (i.e. under my name) because the HolyKaw contributors are often better at being me than me. Wrap your mind around that.

3) What’s Hot Feed of Google+
Think of this as crowdsourced story leads. The beauty of this feed is that you know that people have already judged the stories as good, though it tends to be heavy on Android news and inspirational quotations.

4) Most Popular Stories
When I’m checking out stories from the first two sources, I look at the “Most Emailed” and “Most Popular” listings on the right side of most websites. These often yield great material. I’ve also compiled a collection of most emailed and most popular feeds at Most-Popular.alltop to make this even easier for you.

5) Pointers From Various Friends and Family

Many people know that I’m on the hunt for good content, so they send me leads. These are almost always good enough to post.

Some of my Google+ posts pass the “holy cow!” test, and there is a plug-in to publish Google+ posts to a WordPress blog. This means I can cherry pick my Google+ posts for HolyKaw. (Look for the hashtag “HolyKaw” to see which will appear in HolyKaw and later Twitter.)

Peg Fitzpatrick, Trey Ratcliff, and I use this method to select some of their Google+ posts for inclusion in HolyKaw. They do this to gain additional exposure since these posts are tweeted to my 1.2 million Twitter followers four times eight hours apart through the HolyKaw GRATE machine.

Three Google+ Power Tips

I adore Google+, so let me provide these power tips for using the service:

1) Find anytime, but post when you’re cogent.
I often get up in the middle of the night and check Alltop and the Google+ What’s Hot feed on my Nexus 7. When I find something good, I share it to a Google+ private community with only one member: me. When I wake up in the morning, I go to this community to see what stories I found in a less cogent condition and write up a post.

2) Schedule Google+ posts.
There are multiple ways to schedule Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest posts using various tools. However, Google+ makes it harder than those services. There are two ways to do this, however. First, there’s Do Share, a Chrome extension. Second, if you have a HootSuite enterprise account, you can schedule to a Google+ Business Page (as opposed to a personal profile). Since my Google+ focus is on my personal profile, I don't use the HootSuite method.

3) Get rid of trolls.
Be a hard-ass: Get rid of people who irritate you. Think of your Google+ posts as your swimming pool. If people pee in it, throw them out. There are some people you need to get out of your social media life. A Chrome extension called Nuke Comments is a lovely solution because it enables you to delete a comment, block the person, and report him/her with one click.


I have two personas on Facebook: Facebook.com/guy and Facebook.com/guysco. The first is a personal profile, and the second is a brand page. I operate them differently.

First, a virtual assistant monitors my Google+ account and manually adds most of my Google+ posts to Facebook.com/guy using Buffer. (Disclosure: I advise Buffer.)

There are plugins that can automatically publish Google+ posts to Facebook. However, every Google+ post is not appropriate for Facebook, and there’s no way for me to tag the ones that are appropriate. Thus, a human has to make the decision, download the photo or YouTube embed link, make minor edits such as removing the “+” in Google+ +mentions, and post to Facebook.

I monitor comments at Facebook.com/guy and respond to them as much as time permits. My virtual assistant never acts as me, so either I answer or there is no response at all.
Second, for Facebook.com/guysco, Peg Fitzpatrick, whom I mentioned earlier, makes all the posts to this page, and these stories automatically become tweets. This Facebook Page is a branding effort for “Guy’s companies,” which are primarily my books.


On LinkedIn, I am Guy Kawasaki. The virtual assistant who takes my Google+ posts and publishes them to Facebook uses the same process for LinkedIn using Buffer. One of the cool things about Buffer is that you can post to Facebook and LinkedIn at the same time, so this is easy.

There are seldom comments on my LinkedIn posts, so I seldom visit my posts to respond -- of course, this may be a self-fulfilling process. But I have to draw the line somewhere, or I’ll never play hockey during the day, which is a key component of my happiness.


On Pinterest, I'm Guy Kawasaki, but Peg Fitzpatrick manages my Pinterest presence. There are two reasons: First, I don’t have enough time to do a good job with more than three services (my priority, in order, is Google+, then Twitter, then Facebook).

Second, I don’t have Peg’s magic sauce to manage Pinterest as well as the Pinterest community deserves. Part of doing social media well is knowing what you don’t know and what you can’t do well, and then finding someone who does.


Don’t get the impression that there is a huge team of people doing what I described above. The total of all resources, excluding my own activities, is approximately one full-time equivalent. In addition, I spend three to four hours per day creating my own posts and commenting and responding.

To summarize, here’s quick wrap-up to review my social media methods:

Twitter: Mostly generated from the headlines of HolyKaw stories, four times, eight hours apart; contributions via Google+ and Facebook; and manual promotional tweets.

Google+: Me only. Think of me as the Mike Rowe of Google+ -- I'm willing to do the "dirty jobs."

Pinterest: Peg Fitzpatrick acting as me.

Facebook and LinkedIn: Virtual assistant reposting some of my Google+ posts.

Again, no one responds as me (for better or worse, as I've sometimes learned) on social media, though many different people may be behind a post.

This is how I manage my social media presence as of May 2013. I hope there are techniques here that you can use. Stay tuned, because my procedures are ever-changing.

This post first appeared in Hubspot on May 13, 2013. Guy Kawasaki is a special advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google. He is also the author of APE, What the Plus!, Enchantment, and nine other books. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

FREE June 21 & 22 on Kindle!

Happy Solstice! My acclaimed YA novel Out of the Wilderness (grownups like it, too!) is FREE today on Kindle. “Never mind those Alaska reality shows—this is the real Alaska. Deb Vanasse writes with the authority of one who’s been there, her prose as fresh and piercing as a winter sunrise. As one of her characters tells us, ‘once you’ve been in the wilderness, a part of it will always be with you.’ This coming of age story, like the Alaskan wilderness, will leave a lasting mark on those it touches.” Debby Dahl Edwardson, National Book Award Finalist, My Name Is Not Easy

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How to Be a Writer: Where Book Ideas Come from

Note: Out of the Wilderness is FREE in the Kindle edition on June 21 and 22. Happy Solstice!

Where do you get your ideas? Along with questions about how books get their covers, this is a question I’m frequently asked as a writer.

The question annoys some writers, probably because it’s asked so often, at some level suggesting that there’s some magical garden of ideas that grow like Jack’s beanstalk in our fertile backyards, and if only we’d reveal the secret of where that garden can be found, writing books would be easy. Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) got so tired of questions about where he got his ideas that he printed a card to hand out, with an explanation of exactly how he got his ideas: by venturing out at midnight, under the full moon on the summer solstice, into the desert, where he met with a wise old Native American who gave him his ideas. (Where the wise Native American got the ideas, Geisel couldn’t say.)

A book idea is a big thing to pin down. To truly know what your book is about, at its deepest level, you have to write it, and because of the way the subconscious works, it ends up with interwoven ideas that come from a number of places­—life, suggestion, dreams, landscape—that may or may not be identifiable. I don’t mind talking about ideas once the book is finished, as long as my readers understand that as the author, I may never be 100 percent sure of where my ideas came from.

Out of the Wilderness, my second young adult novel, began back in 1992, though I didn’t know at the time that a book idea was in the works. I was living in Fairbanks, Alaska, teaching high school. The school year had just started up when the newspaper reported that the body of 25-year-old Christopher McCandless, who called himself Alexander Supertramp, had been discovered in an abandoned bus on the Stampede Trail, less than 100 miles from where I was living. When found, McCandless had been dead for three weeks. His body weighed 67 pounds.

Strong-willed and idealistic, Chris McCandless had, upon graduation from college, given away the $24,000 that was intended for law school and begun traveling the country under his Supertramp alias. He went west from Virginia to South Dakota, Arizona, California, and into Baja, Mexico, before heading north to Alaska. Grossly underprepared for the wilderness, he hiked into an area north of Denali National Park and Preserve, where he survived for 112 days until he died.

It should be noted that stories like those of McCandless tend to raise the ire of Alaskans. You don’t go into the Bush unprepared. Period. If you don’t respect this country and its hazards, you shouldn’t be here.

Still, I found the story fascinating. So did Jon Krakauer, who wrote about McCandless for Outside Magazine in 1993. Expanding on the article, Krakauer released a nonfiction book, Into the Wild, in 1996; Sean Penn directed a film version of the story in 2007.

Yes, there’s a connection.

When I first came to Alaska, I lived in some pretty remote places, accessible only by bush plane, motorboat, and snowmachine. Then I had children and, partly for their benefit, I’d moved from the Bush to Fairbanks. As they grew, I sometimes thought of how nice it might be to return to a simpler lifestyle in a more remote place, where we wouldn’t have to concern ourselves with TV or after-school activities or getting along with the neighbors or buying the latest trend in shoes.

Then I thought of what that would be like if I were the kid, not the mom. If I were a fifteen-year-old boy who wanted his life to be normal for once. If the boy’s older brother were a guy like McCandless, idealistic and stubborn and reckless. If their father’s guilt kept him from thinking straight about the whole situation.

There you have it—the ideas that developed into a story, the seeds planted long before the harvest, the inspiration in part, as for many writers, by the work of another author. There’s a lot more to it, of course. Pieces of my own life found their way into the story—the missing mother, my affinity for place, the tension between responsibility for others and my own desires, guilt, not knowing my brother as well as I wanted to, and likely a bunch of stuff I’ve yet to identify.

I wrote four versions of the novel, cover to cover, before my editor and I were satisfied with the story. It came out three years after Kraukauer’s book, eight years before the movie. Before I re-released it this year in a digital edition (and soon, a softcover version), I considered whether I should rewrite it completely, a la Raymond Carver. I had the rights back. I could do whatever I liked. I’m a better writer now, and the idea of reworking the manuscript was tempting.

In the end, I decided that there’s something special about the way each book evolves. I left the story alone, to stand again as it had in the beginning. Besides, I’ve got other books to write. Other ideas. That guy in the desert, he’s full of them.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Out of the Wilderness by Deb Vanasse

Out of the Wilderness

by Deb Vanasse

Giveaway ends June 22, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Tale of Two Covers: Book Covers and Publishing

Don’t judge a book by its cover. We’ve all heard the advice.

But of course we all do judge books—and lots of other things—by how they’re packaged. If we didn’t, there would be a lot fewer jobs in marketing.

In preparing to publish the new e-book version of my young adult novel, Out of the Wilderness, I learned quite a lot about how to create a book cover—and how the process of book cover design has changed in the past several years, thanks to the digital publishing revolution.

When Out of the Wilderness first came out in print, a lot of book cover art was, well, art. I was thrilled that Clarion Books contracted with Wendell Minor, one of the premier illustrators of children’s book covers, to design the art for my book. (More recently, Minor has designed covers for books by Jodi Picoult and LaVryle Spencer, among others.)

Original cover: beautiful art, though pinks aren't so great for a book featuring two brothers

Protocol at the time was that the author only saw the cover after it was a done deal. There was no back and forth, no discussion of concept or correction of errors. (The cover of my first novel, A Distant Enemy, contained two large errors, but when I pointed them out, I was told nothing could be done to correct them—and they were rolled over to the paperback edition as well.) The practice of keeping authors and illustrators apart was designed to prevent conflicts in artistic vision, but it also made for some unhappy authors once the covers were presented.

Fast forward to the digital age. No more hand-done artwork. Errors could be corrected. Multiple versions could be created. Authors could release their own books, in digital editions.

Since full rights to Out of the Wilderness had reverted to me, I decided to release it as an e-book, for a new generation of readers (and soon, in a softcover edition). In the process of producing the e-book, I’ve learned a few things about covers:

  • Don’t skimp. For grins, I submitted a cover request to fiverr. For five bucks, I got a good laugh. Then I got serious and contacted David Marusek, an author with a background in graphic design who knew about e-book specs and how to create a cover that would look good as a thumbnail.
  • Do your homework. Study other covers in your genre. Think hard about what your book is about, and what you want the cover to convey, not just in terms of content, but in emotional tenor and mood. Search the web—sites like flickrr, corbis, and stock.xchng—for free and budget-friendly, royalty-free images. Save the links and share with your designer so you can talk specifically about what you like and why. A good designer will discuss with you which images will and won’t work.
  • Know your budget. A good cover matters, but it’s no guarantee of sales, so make sure what you spend jives with your sales projections—and make sure your sales projections are realistic. A recent survey found that half of indie authors earn less than $500 a year; 10% of indie authors are making 75% of the total sales. Especially if you’re early in your career, it’s wise to run conservative projections.
  • Get feedback. After posting two possible versions of the cover for Out of the Wilderness on Facebook and in three Google+ communities, I received comments from 38 different people. What I learned was invaluable: with both covers, readers commented that they expected the book to be “scary” or “a thriller.” I realized that while the covers got attention, they were setting up wrong expectations for the book, which is more literary than thriller. Proving how genuinely helpful people in these communities can be, Eric Hubbel contacted me privately with a redesign that was a great fit for the book. David perfected the layout, and a few days later, I had my cover.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gate: New Thinking on How to Publish

Until recently, I’d never heard the term hybrid author. Now I’m about to become one.

It all started last year, when I was on faculty at the North Words Writers Symposium and discovered that some of my colleagues – writers whose work I admire – were swearing off traditional publishing. No ifs, ands, or buts: they were done. These are people with agents and multiple books with big New York houses. Other writers I know and admire had already reached the same conclusion, including Ned Rozell and David Marusek, who’d shared what they’d learned about digital publishing at another blog I help run, 49 Writers.

Hmmm. I thought a little about the phenomenon, but not too hard. I was working on two big projects, one literary novel and one narrative nonfiction, and wasn’t concerned yet about how they’d reach readers.

Flash forward to this spring. Raves came in from respected beta readers on the literary novel, now finished. I made my first runs at the usual gates – the agents who get you to the editors who get you to the sales teams. Having traditionally published twelve books, I knew how to do this. Research. Query. Submit on request. Wait. Wait. Wait. Revise query. Wait. Wait. Wait.

 “I am rooting for you and this novel,” one agent responded. “I truly loved your writing, and devoured what you wrote,” wrote another. But despite the positive comments, I got no takers on round one. “This may be owing mainly to my own overload,” one agent said. “I have about a dozen novels that I need to plow through before I can get to yours,” said another.

I stopped right there, and took a good hard look at the gate.

As it happened, I’d recently learned a lot about digital publishing. Every since the digital revolution began, I’d been telling myself I needed to bring out my first two novels, now out of print, as e-books. But I’d never gotten around to it. This spring, inspired in part by a revision project on a collaborative novel I’d done with Gail Giles, I carved out some time to research the digital publishing process.

Here’s what I found that convinced me to become a hybrid author, with one foot in the traditional publishing world and with the other bypassing the gates:

  • As the digital revolution unfolds, angst and uncertainty among traditional gatekeepers is only increasing, making it harder for them to take on new projects. Understandably, there’s a lot of watching to see how things settle out.
  • The stigma on self-publishing that goes back to the days of vanity presses is dissipating as good authors with good books put them out in digital format. Is there still an ocean of crap out there? Absolutely. But readers are smart. The good stuff will float to the top, if authors do a little work to make sure they get noticed. Also, releasing your own work in digital format used to discourage traditional publishers from picking you up later. Not any more.
  • The work authors do to get noticed is virtually the same these days, no matter how you publish. Unless you’ve got huge name recognition, you’re going to do blog posts and blog tours. You’re going to maximize your presence on Author Central and Goodreads Author. You’re going to have a social media strategy.
  • As my friend David Marusek points out, a big advantage of the hybrid author is confidence, the kind you get from having passed through the gates. Reviews in the big-name publications (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist) on previous books, selection of those books for industry honors, and the response of readers all help to generate that confidence. The hybrid author also knows, to the extent that anyone can, how the publishing biz works.
  • By bypassing the gates, hybrid authors enjoy two huge advantages: control and profit. Of these two, artistic and marketing control matter most. Profit is nice, too (although real artists aren’t supposed to talk about it). The irony is that if you’re bringing your own work to readers, your marketing and promotion responsibilities are actually lessened, in that you can sell a lot fewer books and still put food on the table.
  • With these advantages come responsibilities – but in my case, these are responsibilities I’m well-trained for. For several years, I’ve done developmental and line-editing for hire. Don’t get me wrong – I still use multiple strategies to get editorial advice on my books, because I want them to be the best books they can possibly be, and because I know every author has blind spots when it comes to her own work. But I’ve learned a lot about editing my own work by editing for others.
  • Artists can and should use both sides of their brains. In getting to the place where I can write full-time, I’ve run businesses. I do spreadsheets. I can estimate profit and loss. I do marketing plans. That I do so in no way diminishes my creativity. They are separate functions.
  • The production part is easier than you think, and getting easier by the day.
  • The revolution is bigger than you think, and it’s getting bigger every day with the other big game changer, Print on Demand, which is revolutionizing the way booksellers order and stock books from all publishers, big and small.
  • I’ve been at this awhile. I know myself pretty well. At this point in my career, I don’t covet big awards. I don’t worry a lot about reviews. I don’t need to be a star. I love to write. I want to tell good stories. I want them to reach readers. That’s pretty much it.
  • I’m disturbed by the so-called experts who proclaim that digital writers must spend 80% of their time on marketing and 20% of their time on writing. I’ve set out to prove that writers can and must flip those numbers around: 80% of their time on writing, 20% of their time on marketing. (Stay tuned for how that plays out.)
  • As documented in research by Dr. Alison Baverstock, indie authors (a broader term that encompasses hybrid authors as well as those who bypass the gates entirely), this new breed is a remarkably collaborative and helpful bunch. That makes the whole process much more pleasant (and efficient) than I’d ever dreamed. (Stay tuned for my upcoming post, A Tale of Two Covers, for a detailed example.)
  • Good, smart people like Guy Kawasaki are also making the process easier. Reading his APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (and joining the Google+ APE community) empowered me to move forward with this paradigm shift. He also coined the term artisanal publishing, which is pretty cool.
  • The time is now. This is a sorting out period. When I was first contemplating whether to do anything other than my out-of-print books as digital releases, I did a lot of searching for other literary authors who’d taken the plunge. As I started to get distressed over how few I was finding, my left brain delivered a revelation: from an entrepreneurial perspective, that’s called opportunity.

Like my colleagues at North Words, am I done forever with traditional publishing? I doubt it. I like the idea of straddling the gate as a hybrid author. Next week, you’ll see the release of my first “artisanal” e-book, Out of the Wilderness, the digital version of the novel that came out several years ago. In the coming weeks, I’ll be talking more about Running Fox Books, a related venture that extends a goodwill platform to select hybrid authors.