Accidental Marketing: Learning To Love Instagram As An Author

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I’ve never really used my Instagram for anything other than making my photos look pretty.

I’m super active on there, sure. I take a lot of pictures. As of this post, I’ve got about 1,700 pictures on that thing. And I follow a few good friends on there, but I seldom comment on stuff. I never use hashtags on my photos, and when I see my photographer friends going crazy with them, I’ll usually troll them by leaving comments like #hashtag” on their pictures. Sorry, Conrad.

I am an adult.

However, towards the end of the spring, I started to notice a shocking bump in my followers and people were starting to tag me in pictures. Suddenly I had 1,300 followers. Why? Were people really that into pictures of my overweight chinchilla or lazy rabbit? Pictures of squirrels eating Doritos? What was happening?

Well, all of this started around the time the Portuguese version of The Geek’s Guide to Dating came out in Brazil. And when one reader tagged me in a photo with a series of hashtags, I did a little clicking.

And was pretty surprised.

Readers and bloggers in Brazil were using my name (#ericsmith), the title of the book (#geeklove), and the original title (#thegeeksguidetodating and #geeksguidetodating) while sharing the review copies they received. I spent a lot of time flicking through numerous photos and then, started commenting on them. Saying thanks, telling them how I couldn’t wait to see blog posts, etc.

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This blogger took a screen cap of me saying hi on her blog, and she also wrote one amazing entry featuring a playlist from inside the book, which I might have never caught otherwise.

A lot of these bloggers subsequently found me on Twitter, mentioned me while tweeting their reviews, emailed me for bookplates and/or posters, started following me on Goodreads, liked my Facebook page, etc. I responded to everything, loving every minute of it.

Was this… was I accidentally marketing on Instagram? Was this photo sharing toy suddenly something more?

The interesting thing here, is that thanks to Instagram, a social networking tool that’s almost entirely visual, I was able to connect with readers (and still am connecting with them, I check the hashtags once a week) in a way that isn’t effected by the language barrier. Not a lot of authors get to connect with their international readers, but with a tool like Instagram… I was suddenly able to.

So, here’s to taking it a bit more seriously. And author friends, I really encourage you to hop on there, search for your books (in all editions, foreign or not) and your name. I think you’ll end up being pleasantly surprised.

Just take a look. Here are a few authors I’m friends with / work with at Quirk, that are great examples, just off the top of my head:

Awesome, right? Get to searching.

Giveaway: The Asteroid Belt Almanac

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Back in May, The Head & The Hand Press’ Asteroid Belt Almanac came out. This was (and still is!) a pretty big deal for me. It was the first time one of my essays appeared in an actual book.

Not sure if I’ve ever said it here, but I’m a little obsessed with essay collections.

I own almost all of the Best American Essays… collections, pulling random essays from them for the courses I teach at Peirce College. I also own a bunch of the Travel Writing, Nonrequired Writing, and other Best… books. What can I say? Essays make me happy. So it was a real thrill to see one published in print for the first time.

The other day, Nic Esposito (founder and publisher at The Head & the Hand) and I grabbed a cup of coffee, and did some catching up. He also dropped off a couple author copies of the Almanac.

Since I already own two copies and sent one to my Mom, I figured I’d run a little giveaway. To introduce you guys to the book, some of the contributors (yes, even my faux nemesis Christopher Wink), and this fun local publisher.

You can enter to win a copy by entering the Rafflecopter below. You can follow / like the publisher, the contributors, etc. to enter. Good luck, and I’ll send out THREE copies at the end of the month. Read more

Fun News: Reading at the Chilltown Literary Festival, INKED on Goodreads, & Wedding Plans

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Truly, this has been one amazing summer.

I signed books at Book Expo America (a dream!) and Wizard World Philly, I saw one of my essays published in an actual anthology, and the translated editions of The Geek’s Guide to Dating have been popping up all over Instagram and Twitter.

Things are lovely. And hey, they’re only getting better. <3

A bit of news! First off, I’m going to be reading at the inaugural Chilltown Literary Festival in Jersey City in July. It’ll be at the WORD Bookstore in Jersey City on Saturday, July 12th. All of my friends from Jersey City (hi Darlene!) and in Brooklyn (hi Preeti!) know that when I visit those areas, the WORD Bookstores in those neighborhoods are MUST VISIT PLACES for me. And I’m just so thrilled that I get to read at one.

Here’s a bit about the festival from WORD’s website.

We’re throwing a day of literary programming all around downtown Jersey City, culminating with an evening drinks mixer into nighttime panel featuring New Jersey authors and New Jersey stories. Current authors throughout the day include Emma Straub (The Vacationers), Eric Smith (The Geek’s Guide to Dating), Emily Croy Barker (The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic), Murray Carpenter (Caffeinated), Ed Lazellari (Awakenings, The Lost Prince), and John Gomez (Legendary Locals of Jersey City).

Okay. So I LOVE Emma Straub’s books, I absolutely adored Emily Croy Baker’s magical novel, and I recently picked up Ed Lazellari’s Awakenings.

Is it weird to bring a giant stack of books to an event you’re part of, you know, for autographs? Asking for a friend.

Anyhow, I hope to see a few of you there! You can RSVP for the event here on Facebook.

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Second bit of news, my YA novel, INKED, finally popped up on Goodreads! And I just love the short description my awesome editor (hi Meredith!) managed to put together for it. Because seriously, I am TERRIBLE with the elevator pitch for the book.

You can add it to your shelves here. It’ll be out in November. Keep an eye out for a cover reveal and some pre-order buttons soon! It’s almost here!

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And in non-book news… the fiancee (check out her blog at Beauty and Britches) and I picked out our wedding venue for the Spring of next year. That’s her scoping out the view from the space.

Life is good, kids. <3

Book Expo America 2014: Ten Books That Got Me Psyched, And The Weird Ways I Found Some of Them

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So I had a pretty amazing time at Book Expo America last month. Wait a second. Was it seriously last month? Every book blogger I’ve met wrote their recaps the next day. Am I legally allowed to even write a BEA recap at this point? Will I go to book jail?

Well, I did write a recap for Quirk before writing this jam. So hopefully that keeps me out of book jail. You can check out my recap over on the Quirk Books blog. I shot a video, took a bunch of silly pictures. Good times, seriously.

In addition to working the Quirk booth, running around like crazy to events, hitting up multiple parties, and signing books (that part was crazy!) I did take some time to scope out books other publishers were putting out. Because hey, I like to write about them when I can. These were some of my favorite picks from BEA 2014. Some of them I was able to pick up and take home, and others I found in the bathroom.

You heard me. I’ll explain. Read more

The Asteroid Belt Almanac: Out Now!

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Earlier this month, a bunch of people gathered inside Philadelphia’s Indy Hall in Old City to celebrate the release of The Asteroid Belt Almanac from Head & the Hand Press. My essay, A Missed Connection (or Craigslist Time Machine) is included in this book, which is thrilling for a number of reasons.

I’ve had some essays published here and there, with Philly’s Apiary journal and The Bygone Bureau, but this is my first piece in a print anthology. I’m one of those people who collect ALL of those Best American Essays books, and never stopped thinking about how cool it would be to have an essay in print someplace. This is mostly your fault, Robin Black.

And the company I get to keep in the book? Lots of talented folks are in there, Christine Neulieb (Lanternfish Press), Alex Vuocolo (Generocity), Sarah Grey, and plenty of other great folks.

But the fact that my pal Christopher Wink is included in the book with me… well, that was really the icing on this already delicious cake.

I’ve rambled about Chris here on the blog before. The co-founder of Technically Philly, we’ve always had this silly faux rivalry going on between our blogs. But I’ve always felt like we’ve been on this journey as writers together. As an undergrad, he wrote for me when I was in graduate school and running Uwishunu. Just two eager dudes, psyched to be writing.

I’d leave that blog to pursue my career in publishing, and he’d go on to launch Technically Philly to great success. But I’ll always be thankful that we met each other back then, sending him off to write about museum exhibits and restaurants. These days, we’re always at each other’s events, swapping stories, rambling about our projects, busting chops. And it’s just such a thrill to see our names together on a table of contents.

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So thanks for that, Head & the Hand.

You can order a copy of the almanac over on Head & the Hand’s website. As for my essay, you can read it excerpted over on Forces of Geek. Thanks for promoting the book, Stefan!