7 Tips for the Camera Shy Author

7 Tips for the Camera Shy Author offers suggestions for taking selfies and headshots aimed at people who are particularly uncomfortable having their pictures taken.

Social media is filled with pictures of sexy young things staring confidently into their own cameras, smiling with their shiny white straight teeth and sparkling complexions of youth. All hail the selfie!

But what if you’re not a sweet young thing, not sexy or at least don’t see yourself that way and you are anything but confident about your appearance particularly when there’s a camera pointed in your direction? What about if your teeth aren’t straight and pearly white?

If you’re promoting your work online, be it a business, a blog or a book, chances are you are eventually going to be asked for a headshot or you might even want to do a selfie or two to use with your social media. Well, maybe feel like you should do a selfie, but maybe would really prefer NOT to do one?

Confession time here: I ABSOLUTELY hate having my picture taken. As a teenager I dealt with acne and thick glasses. Throughout my life, my weight has fluctuated, and I have one annoying crooked tooth right up front where everyone can see it if I smile widely. And since my twenties, I’ve been dealing with greying hair and now the wrinkles are creeping in. Laser eye surgery got rid of the glasses, and if I write a bestseller (or win a lottery!) and make millions I have grand plans to check out veneers or braces and deal with that tooth! But the honest truth is that I’ve never felt comfortable in front of a camera and cringe at the thought of having my picture taken. Can you identify with that?

I suppose we could all do something like Sia and wear a wig or grow really long bangs (fringe for my UK readers!) and hide our faces, or maybe we’d like to do something like Anonymous and wear a mask? Or, how about the Unknown Comic? Paper bags anyone?

While we might start a trend, it’s unlikely and all joking aside, I think we just have to face (no pun intended) facts that the world, or at least our online social network, wants to put a face to our name and this isn’t exactly unreasonable.

Photography Tips

So for those of us who feel we need all the help we can get with selfies and headshots, here’s a few tips!

  1. Keep your chin up.
  2. Bring your face forward to accentuate your jaw line and lessen the appearance of double chins.
  3. Use good lighting.
  4. Use your good side. (If you don’t think you have a good side necessarily, use your least bad side. :-))
  5. Keep the camera at eye level.
  6. Relax.
  7. Consider using a photo editing app like Photo Editor-Selfie Effects to help with blemishes and lighting, etc.

Videos

Peter Hurley is a headshot photographer. He’s quite entertaining and I think you’ll enjoy these videos if you have time to watch them. There’s a lot of great information here.

It’s all about the Jaw! (15:22 minutes)

Bridging the self-acceptance gap with “psyphotology” | Anna Rowley & Peter Hurley | TEDxCambridge (13:41 minutes)

(Would it make you feel better to know that in one of these videos he talks about a former Miss Universe who hates how her face looks?)

Final Thoughts

I hope this gives you some confidence and helps you, whichever side of the camera you happen to be on, to take better selfies and headshots.

If you learned something here, or would like to add a tip on the subject, please let me know in the comments.

Photo credit: Fuji X100T Selfie II via photopin (license)

Social Media Tip: WiFi Cameras

Social Media Tip: WiFi Cameras explains the benefits of using cameras with WiFi compatibility to make social media account updates.

Maintaining social media accounts takes time and I’m always on the lookout for methods and tools to expedite these tasks.

Updates on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media platforms often include uploading photographs. Sounds simple, right? Well, for me, this used to involve pulling out my Sony digital camera, snapping the photo, pulling the USB cable from my desk drawer, plugging it into my computer, then plugging it into my camera, turning the camera on, downloading the image onto my computer, opening the image in my image editing software to crop it or resize it, saving the changes and then FINALLY uploading it to Twitter or Facebook. Geez, I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

Needless to say I didn’t go crazy with uploading photos to my Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest accounts!

A lot of people take pictures using the smart phones and then use apps on their phones to update their accounts, and this can work but the cameras on phones aren’t always that great. But, did you know that you can buy cameras with WiFi capabilities that can wirelessly connect to your smart phone, tablet or computer to transfer pictures and video?

Most of the camera manufacturers now offer cameras with WiFi in models ranging from digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras to compact but powerful fixed lens cameras that fit easily in a pocket. I have a Canon PowerShot ELPH 340 HS.(It was a Christmas gift.) I can take a picture and transfer it wirelessly to my desktop then depending on whether I need to crop or resize it, I just upload it to my social media accounts. It doesn’t eliminate every step but it does make the process easier and faster. I can also use my tablet as a remote to take a picture using the camera. Kind of neat, right?

Another alternative for those who already have a digital camera that they are happy with but that doesn’t have WiFi is to buy an Eye-Fi memory card. The memory card provides a WiFi connection to your other electronic devices allowing you to transfer your images and videos.

So, if you’re looking for ways to make it faster to update your social media account, check these out and let me know what you think!

Photo credit: imagerymajestic | Freedigitalphotos

Twitter: Secrets to Successfully Maintaining an Account

Twitter: Secrets to Successfully Maintaining an Account offers instructions for setting up an account, following, unfollowing, and tweeting content.

The prospect of successfully maintaining a Twitter account can be overwhelming when you think of all it entails:

  • Setting up the account.
  • Following others on Twitter.
  • Reciprocating and following your new followers back.
  • Deciding what to tweet about.
  • Scheduling tweets and/or tweeting live.
  • Unfollowing people who aren’t following you back or who are no longer active on Twitter.

But, if you break this down task-by-task, it’s not that difficult and can be done with minimal effort.

Setting up the account

Following the instructions in these articles should help you set up your account.

Following others on Twitter

If you’re an author, you’ll probably be interested in following other authors, book reviewers, and readers of books in your genre. The absolute easiest way to do this is find someone who is active and successful on Twitter who parallels you and/or your book. By this I mean if they’ve written a crime mystery book, and you have too, see who they are following. Odds are good they are focusing on following authors, book reviewers, and readers of books in your genre. It won’t always be the case, but if you can find someone like this, your job is much easier.

If you can find someone like this, just go through the profile descriptions for the people they’re following and search for the keywords like author, writer, reviewer, reviews, reading, etc. It might take you a while to scan through the profiles at first but with time and practice you’ll soon be flying through the profiles and finding people to follow.

If you’re looking for an account to do this with, try mine if you’d like. Log in to your own account, then alter the URL in your browser (or click on this link) so that it reads: https://twitter.com/ShelleySturgeon/following. This is just redirecting you to my profile page the same way as you would if you searched for it through Twitter’s search option and selected my account. There’s no black magic, or blue or pink or any other colour of magic involved in just altering the URL if you know where you’re going and I’m just giving you my account for the sake of example.

The accounts that are being followed will be displayed in three columns. Speed read through the profile descriptions and click on the Follow button for the ones that appeal to you. The accounts you are already following will display a blue button labeled Following. If you request to follow a secured account (displaying the padlock) a message is sent to the account holder and they must grant you permission before you can follow the account. Easy peasy.

Reciprocating and following your new followers back

Frances Caballo introduced me to Nutshell Mail and it’s a great tool to use to help you keep track of your new followers.

Sign up for a free account and specify your preferences of when you’d like your email sent to you. It sends out an email at that time(s) with a list of your new Twitter followers.

When I get my emails from Nutshell Mail, I make sure I’m already logged into my Twitter account and then very quickly right mouse click on the new followers in the email to open their Twitter pages in a new browser tab and when they’re all opened, I go from tab to tab as follows:

  • If the blue Following button is displayed, I’ve already made the decision to follow this account and they’re just following me back. End of story. I close that browser tab.
  • If the white Follow button is displayed, this is a brand spanking new follower. I quickly read over the profile. If it’s someone I’d like to follow, I click on the Follow button. End of that story and I close that browser tab.
  • If the white Follow button is displayed, this too is a brand spanking new follower. But if after reading over the profile, I decide it is someone I don’t want to follow, I just close the browser tab.

You can also see who has mentioned you or direct messaged you on Twitter in your Nutshell email and can respond through their interface instead of through Twitter if you want to.

Deciding what to tweet about

Do share content of value and not just your own content. It’s believed that the ratio of quality content you share should be 80% other people’s content/20% your own content.

And, please, don’t drone on and on and on about “Buy my book!” “Buy my book!” or even “Come on! You KNOW you want to buy MY book!” Nobody wants to follow someone who does that. We record all the television we watch at our house and fast forward through the commercials. When you offer nothing more than repeated attempts to sell your book on Twitter, that’s not much better than a steady stream of commercials. There’s no fast forward on Twitter. They’ll just stop following you. (And, hate to break it to you, but it’s also highly unlikely they’re going to buy your book!)

Watch other authors to see what they tweet about. This article might help:

Scheduling tweets and/or tweeting live.

You do realize, don’t you, that people who tweet at 2 a.m. aren’t necessarily setting their alarms and running to their computers to send out a tweet? You can schedule tweets and most of us do. (If you didn’t realize this, I imagine you’re feeling extremely relieved right now!)

I tend to schedule a lot of my content and live tweet comments about my day or articles as I read them online if they’ve just been published or when I’m interacting with others.

I use a free account at Socialoomph, but there’s also Hootsuite and a couple of other sites which allow you to set up content to be tweeted.

I like to tweet blog posts from other bloggers mostly to do with writing or self-publishing so my standard wording for scheduled tweets is:

(Blog Post Title) + (shortened URL) + via @(Twitter account of the article’s author or hosting blog)

Opinions vary on how often you should tweet and what times you should tweet but to start with, do what you are comfortable with and have time to do. Adjust it as required when you’ve had a chance to analyse the response you’re getting, etc.

Unfollowing people who aren’t following you back or who are no longer active on Twitter.

Again I need to thank Frances Caballo for telling me about this site, Manage Flitter.

  1. Log into Manage Flitter with your Twitter account and let it get your account details.
  2. You can then select to view those accounts which are:
    • Not Following Back
    • No Profile Image
    • Non-English
    • Inactive
    • Fake (SPAM)
    • Talkative/Quiet
    • High Influence/Low Influence

    There are a few more options available and some of the options are only for paid Manage Flitter accounts.

  3. Select the Not Following Back in the list which will appear on your left. As you slide your cursor over the Unfollow button, on the right you’ll see a box of information about that Twitter account including their profile, their location, how many times a day that person tweets, how old the account is, the number of followers, the number they’re following, and more.
     
    You can then decide if you want to continue to follow this person which will allow you to view their tweets even though they won’t see yours because they aren’t following you.

    If you wish to unfollow the account, click on the Unfollow button. The next account in the list will then scroll up to the same position and you can do it all over again.

    If you really don’t care to know the details and all that really matters to you is that they aren’t following you back, it’s quite acceptable to just repeatedly click on the Unfollow button until you’ve purged all of the accounts that aren’t reciprocating by following you back.

So there you have it!

That pretty much covers the basics with a few tricks of the trade thrown in for good measure.

Good luck and let me know in the comments if you’ve got specific questions. I’ll be happy to help.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Padlet: A New Social Media Tool for Authors

Padlet: A New Social Media Tool for Authors suggests ways authors can use Padlet as part of their social media strategy to promote themselves and their books and interact with readers.

I stumbled upon an interesting website and app today. Padlet was designed with teachers and students in mind, to create walls where information could be shared and/or contributions could be made by all depending on the privacy settings. However, after playing with it for a while, I think this could be a great social media tool for writers.

About Padlet

Here’s a quick rundown on Padlet:

  • Cost: $0.00 / FREE!
  • Who can use Padlet: Although it was designed as a tool for teachers and students to use, anyone can use Padlet. You can create an account or just start creating a wall from the homepage. Creating an account offers you more options to keep track of your walls, however.
  • Browsers: Padlet works on any modern browser. Click here for a specific list.
  • What is it? Padlet users create walls which work like a virtual piece of paper allowing people to share pictures, videos, documents, or text, etc. anywhere on the page. (I’m guessing the name combines “pad” (as in pad of paper) and “tablet?”)
  • Posting content on a wall:
    • There is no limit to the number of people who can post content on a wall at the same time.
    • You can format the text that you enter on your wall using these commands. You can’t, yet, change the fonts that are available on Padlet but they’re working on it.
    • You can post an unlimited number of files and links, including multimedia, but each individual file cannot exceed 25 MB in size.
    • You can drag and drop, add files, add links or type directly on a wall.
    • You can download files from Padlet.
  • Notifications: You can set up email notifications to alert you when someone posts something on your wall.
  • Privacy settings: You can control who can see and contribute to your wall similar to how you can control comments on a blog. Your wall privacy setting options include private, password protected, hidden link, totally public or access by invitation. When adding people by emailed invitation, you can also determine if they can write to, moderate or administer the wall. Click here for more info on the privacy settings.
  • Sharing: You can email your friends with the URL to your wall, share the link on social media, or embed it in a website.
  • Size of a Wall: There’s no limit to the size of a wall. It’s as big (or as little) as your imagination will let it be!
  • Number of Walls: There’s no limit to the number of walls an account holder create and walls are only deleted if the user deletes them.

Examples of Padlet Walls

You can find examples of public walls here.

How Writers Can Use Padlet

  • Storyboards: Use a wall to create a storyboard for your novel. Keep it private if you want to use it to help you develop your story or make it public to share with your readers.
  • Tease your readers: Make a wall full of seemingly random links, videos, pictures, etc. and let your readers anticipate how they might all come together in your novel.
  • Author platform: What about using a wall to put everything in the same place? You could add links to your website/blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, Pinterest page, sites where your book is for sale, book reviews, book trailer video, and more.
  • Book launches: Same idea as using a wall for your author platform but where you might want to limit others from contributing to a wall for your author platform, you could make a wall for your book launch open to anyone to contribute to so that they could share in the fun and post their thoughts about the book, links to their reviews or other tidbits about the book that they’ve found on the web.
  • Involvement of readers: Struggling to name a new character? Put a basic description of the character on a wall and ask for ideas and input from your readers.
  • Book covers: Authors sometimes ask for their readers opinions on book covers. Why not create a wall and post the potential covers on it to get feedback?

For More Information

Padlet Blog
 
Photo: Pixabay

Amazon’s Top 100 Books for 2014: What can we learn?

Amazon’s Top 100 Books for 2014: What can we learn? compares Amazon’s top 5 books for 2014 to see which authors use of social media, have websites, etc.to try to determine the key to the success of these books.

Amazon has announced its top 100 books for 2014.

Why a book does well is sometimes a bit of a mystery. Is it well written? Yes, but many well written books don’t sell particularly well. Is it well promoted? Probably, but some books that are barely promoted take off like wild fire.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the top 5 of these books to see if we can learn anything from them. Where available, I’ve provided the social media site links for these authors. Take a look and see if there’s anything remarkable about their accounts.

1. Everything I Never Told You: A Novel

Everything cover Author: Celeste Ng
Amazon Author Page
Number of Reviews: 298 reviews / 4.5 out of 5 star average
Formats Available: e-book, hardcover, paperback, audio download, mp3 CD
Publication date: June 26, 2014
Website: http://www.celesteng.com/

Twitter

  • Number of followers on Twitter: 2,026
  • Number of tweets: 9,161

 
Goodreads

  • Number of friends on Goodreads: 51
  • Number of fans on Goodreads: 96

 
Facebook

  • Number of likes: 399

 


2. All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel

All the Light cover Author: Anthony Doerr
Amazon Author Page
Number of Reviews 3,697 reviews / 4.5 out of 5 star average
Formats Available: e-book, hardcover, paperback, audio download, mp3 CD
Publication date: May 6, 2014
Website: http://www.anthonydoerr.com/

Twitter: No

Goodreads

  • Number of friends on Goodreads: 162
  • Number of fans on Goodreads: 477

 
Facebook

  • Number of likes: 1,756

 


3. In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

In the Kingdom cover Author: Hampton Sides
Amazon Author Page
Number of Reviews 541 reviews / 4.5 out of 5 star average
Formats Available: e-book, hardcover, paperback, audio download, mp3 CD
Publication date: August 5, 2014
Website: http://www.hamptonsides.com/

Twitter: No

Goodreads

  • Number of friends on Goodreads: 0
  • Number of fans on Goodreads: 130

 
Facebook

  • Number of likes: 1,785

 


4. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League

    The Short and Tragic cover Author: Jeff Hobbs

    Amazon Author Page
    Number of Reviews 186 reviews / 4.5 out of 5 star average
    Formats Available: e-book, hardcover, paperback, audio download
    Publication date: September 23, 2014
    Website: No

    Twitter: No

    Goodreads

    • Number of friends on Goodreads: 27
    • Number of fans on Goodreads: 13

     
    Facebook

    • Number of friends: 522

     


    5. Redeployment

      Redeployment Author: Phil Klay

      Amazon Author Page: No
      Number of Reviews 270 reviews / 4.5 out of 5 star average
      Formats Available: e-book, hardcover, paperback, audio download
      Publication date: March 4, 2014
      Website: http://www.philklay.com/

       
      Twitter

      • Number of followers on Twitter: 1,529
      • Number of followers on tweets: 2,505

       
      Goodreads

      • Number of friends on Goodreads: 0
      • Number of fans on Goodreads: 13

       
      Facebook (private account)
       


      Conclusions?

      Amazon Author Page: 4 out of 5 of these authors have pages
      Number of Reviews: each book has at least 186 reviews / 4.5 out of 5 star average
      Formats Available: 5 of these books are available in e-book, hardcover, paperback, audio download formats, 3 of them are available in mp3 CDs as well
      Publication date: These books were released between March 4 and September 23, 2014
      Website: There doesn’t appear to be a website for one of these authors.
      Twitter: Only two of the authors appear to have Twitter accounts.
      Goodreads: They’re all represented on Goodreads, but it appears that only 3 of them are active (have friends.)
      Facebook: They are all on Facebook but to varying degrees – three fan pages, one public personal page and one private personal page.

      I don’t think there are any clear indications here of what the key to an author’s success is although it may indicate the importance of book reviews. There are many approaches to acquiring book reviews and I’ll address some of those in a future post.

      I don’t believe any of these authors have blogs, however, I don’t think any of these books are self-published and having an author platform is very important when self-publishing because it is your job to promote yourself and your book. This isn’t a bad thing as self-publishing offers many advantages, and in a lot of cases, successful self-published authors are offered contracts with publishers because of their existing author platforms as they’ve proven their appeal.

      Could comparisons be made between these books for fiction versus nonfiction? Maybe. You could question whether the success of the books has anything to do with whether or not the author has written other popular books which could mean their fans sought out their new books. There are many things we could explore, but this gives us some information, and there are another 95 books on this top 100 list that could be further explored.

      If you found this interesting, you might learn more by also reviewing books in Amazon’s category specific top 100 books lists.

      Let me know in the comments if you reach any conclusions!

      Photo credit: Serge Bertasius Photography | Free Digital Photos

Canva: Let’s Get Visual!

Canva: Let’s Get Visual! introduces Canva as an easy-to-use graphics design site and why authors should use it for visual content on social media.

As you may recall in my post last week, Twitter: Let’s Get Visual!, I discussed why you should use visual content for Twitter and other social media content and promised to review a few options for producing graphical content. Today, I’d like to tell you about Canva.

Canva is a great site for designing custom graphics that you can use not only on Twitter but on other social media sites, offline reports and presentations, blog posts, and much more.

Easy to Use

Canva is very easy to use. If you can drag, drop and click with your computer mouse, you can design great graphics using Canva.

To Start Using Canva

  1. Sign up for an account or log in with Facebook.
  2. While a confirmation email is sent to your email address, you’ll have the option of watching a 23 second long demo video. Watch it. After all, it’s only 23 seconds long and most of us have an attention span that long still, don’t we?
  3. After the video concludes, you’re given the opportunity to try it out yourself and they provide several exercises to get you started. If you need help, click on the Hint button.

Premium images are watermarked and cost $1. All other images are free to use and there is a great selection.

Canva Design Graphic Options

  • Album / podcast covers 1400 pixels by 1400 pixels
  • Social media 800 pixels x 800 pixels
  • Presentations 1024 pixels x 768 pixels
  • Posters 42 centimetres x 59.4 centimetres
  • Facebook covers 851 pixels by 315 pixels
  • Facebook posts 940 pixels by 780 pixels
  • Blog graphics 800 pixels x 1200 pixels
  • Custom sized graphics in dimensions of your choice in either pixels, millimetres or inches

Canva Design Menu Options

  • Various design elements from the Search menu including:
    • lines
    • banners
    • shapes
    • text holders
    • frames
    • stickers
    • arrows
    • grids
    • speech bubbles
    • and much more
  • Numerous layouts from the Layouts menu
  • A huge assortment of text designs from the Text menu
  • Colours and/or textures from the Background menu

 
You can also upload your own images to use or you can buy from the premium selection of design elements offered by Canva for only $1 each.

Ways to Customize Canva Designs

  • replace the sample text with your own
  • change fonts
  • change font colours
  • change backgrounds
  • change background colours
  • upload your own photos

 
Canva will autosave your design.
 
The mountains are yearningx500

Made with Canva

Sharing Your Canva Designs

  • Share it on Twitter using the button provided at the top of the page
  • Share it on Facebook using the button provided at the top of the page
  • Click on Download or Link and:
    • Link to your design using the link they provide
    • Publish your design as an image
    • Publish your design as a PDF

When you publish your design, it’s downloaded to your machine.

Canva is fun to work with and the results can look very impressive with little skill or effort.

For More Information about Canva

 
Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Photo credit: Apps Mill autumn 2010 | shelleysturgeon.com