Pinterest Best Practices – 3 Steps to Better Pinning

March was an interesting month.



If you’re a newsletter subscriber, you already know about the traffic explosion on my art blog, Carrie L. Lewis, Artist and how I traced the sudden influx of activity to two pins of the same meme from my lowly Pinterest account. The bulk of the traffic was for the same post, which you can see here.

I wrote about it in length at EmptyEasel and, since that’s exclusive content, the best I can do is suggest you read 7 Pinterest Tips that Grew My Traffic 500% Over One Weekend there.

However, I can tell you some of the things I’ve started doing since that article was published and which have already begun reaping benefits.

Pinterest Best Practices

Inspired by such sudden activity, I started looking at Pinterest more closely, looking for ways to improve performance. The best tool I found is a free download titled, The Creative Guide to Promoted Pins (the link is to the download itself.) I read all eight pages in about ten minutes and immediately began implementing some of their suggestions and pinning the memes. I started seeing results within 24 hours.

I’m still seeing results.

The guide is written with the idea that the reader—me and you—will be doing promoted pins. I probably will be in the future and will tell you how that goes when the time comes.

But it’s also helpful for those of us who just want to make better pins and promote our businesses—read, books—more productively.

So what do they suggest?

Vertical Versus Horizontal

This was a surprise. I’ve always thought horizontal designs were most pleasing and that square ones were next best. Just look at all my posts here for the last few months. Almost every single one is…you guessed it: Square.

But according to the Pinterest gurus, vertical pins are seen more easily and get more attention. Pinterest displays are set up in columns. Horizontal pins are reduced to fit the width of the display columns. Vertical pins aren’t as subject to that restriction.

Here is the same pin set up two different ways. Which one catches your eye first?

Pinterest Best Practices

Pinterest Best Practices - 3 Steps to Better Pinning

Words, Words, And More Words

We’re writers. We love words. If we can’t convey a message in words, the message can’t be conveyed. Right?

Not when it comes to Pinterest.

When you’re making images for Pinterest, think like a book cover designer, not a writer. The image you use should say something about the content linked to it. It shouldn’t need words at all.

Look at the two images above. If I removed the words, the image would still have a message, wouldn’t it? That message should echo the written message as closely as possible.


Did you know you can write a description for your memes?

If you did know about writing descriptions, how often do you take the time to do that?

You don’t need to write a page of description. Well, you can if you want, but it’s going to hurt you.

But it will also hurt you if you don’t write any description at all. At the very least, add a link to the post or page where that meme appears.

It’s better to write a description that validates the image, confirms the text on the image, and includes key words relevant to the post or page AND to the audience you want to target.

Target Audience

You knew that would be mentioned, didn’t you!

It turns out that knowing your target audience with Pinterest is just as important as knowing who you’re writing your book for. Hint: They should probably be the same people.

Your target audience will help you decide what images to use, what to add to the image, how to write your description, and what key words will work best.

But the target audience doesn’t have to be the same for every pin. For example, the target audience for any pins attached to this post will be people who want to learn how to use Pinterest more effectively.

The pin for my previous post will be for people who want to learn about free alternatives to Microsoft Word.

Those two groups are definitely different.


These are just three of the things I’ve started implementing for all the memes I make—for Indie Plot Twist as well as for my art blog. Yes, it takes a little more time and effort to create memes, but it is time well spent.

It’s too early to see how these best practices affect traffic at IPT, but I can already see the results at Carrie L. Lewis, Artist.

Go ahead. Give them a try and see what happens.

I dare you!

We’re on Facebook!

2016-01-06 Facebook Icon (made by me)Exciting news, folks. Indie Plot Twist is now on Facebook!

We know how much you’ve come to enjoy pulling up a chair and a mug at our writing table. (Those of you who participated in our recent survey, I have three words in response: Awwww, you’re sweet!) We get bombarded with your tweets, re-tweets, and likes on Twitter. Now we’re giving you even more chance to hang out at your favorite imaginary coffee shop!

Actually, we’re here to write.

Phbbbt. Nah, I don’t buy that, either. It’s all about the coffee.

We’ve been keeping our page a secret for a little while, but now the cat’s out of the bag (along with a bunch of coffee beans). We’d love to see you over on Facebook – so pack up your laptop and order a latte and come write with us! Just click the giant graphic below and – boom – smell the creative juices flowing.

And the coffee. Definitely the coffee.

2016-01-06 Indie Plot Twist Now on Facebook

Using Amazon Giveaway to Grow Your List and Thank Your Readers

The holiday season is upon us (in case you hadn’t noticed), and the spirit of gift-giving is in the air. How about giving a gift to your loyal readers? I recently learned about Amazon Giveaway. While not built specifically for authors, we’re in a great position to take advantage of it – and let our readers know how much we love them.

2015-12-09 How to Use Amazon Giveaway

What Is Amazon Giveaway?

2015-02-20 BenchAmazon Giveaway is a tool that lets you choose any physical item from the Amazon store – your book, somebody else’s book, a Kindle, whatever – and use it as a prize in a drawing. Any physical item works, so long as it’s eligible for Amazon Giveaway. How do you know if an item is eligible? Check the bottom of the item’s product page; scroll waaaaay down below the customer reviews. You’ll find a button that says, “Set up a giveaway.”

You can also choose how many prizes to give away, and how winners are selected. Amazon can select winners randomly, or via a lucky number (such as every third entrant), or first come, first served. (Great for those, “Be one of the first ten to reply!”)

Finally, you select what the entrants have to do to be eligible for the give-away. The options Amazon makes available are following you on Twitter, watching an Amazon Video Short, or watching a YouTube video. Also, you can make your giveaway no-strings-attached.

You pay. Your selected number of entrants win. Amazon ships.

It’s that simple.

“Grow Your Following”

2015-12-09 at symbol, twitter, follow, social media, green, growOn its home page, Amazon Giveaway advertises itself as a way to “create buzz” and “grow your followers and customers.” However, I’m not sure how exactly they expect that to work.

Amazon Giveaway doesn’t appear have any built-in  feature to help you grow your following. For example, there is no requirement for the participant to SHARE a social media message to be eligible. A feature like that, combined with, say, a Kindle tablet or a boxed set by a famous author, would be HUGE.

You might argue that people might share your tweets and Facebook posts that advertise the giveaway. Well, I wouldn’t count on that. When there’s a contest for a limited number of prizes, why would a participant reduce their own odds by inviting everyone in their circle to enter the competition, as well? The only way you could encourage sharing is if it were a requirement of participation, or if the participant could increase their own odds by sharing. (“Click share, and we’ll add your name twice.”)

As far as I can tell, the only way to get people engaged in your Amazon Giveaway is to tell them yourself (and through your network) that you have a giveaway going on. You’ll have to use your own means to get your giveaway to reach people beyond the following you already have.

Sure, you can require interested parties to follow you on Twitter. But chances are, you’re using Twitter to tell people about your giveaway. Hashtags will be your only salvation here to attract participants from outside your current following.

Okay, so this isn’t an Insta-Grow solution to your followship woes. What are some other ways to turn an Amazon Giveaway into a mode of growing your following? Maybe start a Thunderclap campaign. Maybe ask all your friends in your network to let their  followers know about your giveaway. Maybe go on a blog tour and tell everybody that you’re holding a drawing.

Grow Your Mailing List

2015-12-09 book plus love equals mail reading fans mailing list subscribersOne review I read about Amazon Giveaway lamented that there wasn’t much of a way to keep in touch or follow up with the participants after the giveaway is over.

Your most valuable asset as an author is your mailing list – your direct link to those people most interested in buying your books. If you have a small list, your top priority should be to grow it. (And write books.)

So here’s one idea for linking an Amazon Giveaway to growing your mailing list: Choose your product to give away – either your own book, or a book by a best-selling author whose work is much like your own, or even a Kindle. Then instead of directly advertising the Amazon Giveaway itself to your social media outlets and network, invite people to join your mailing list in exchange for a chance at winning the product you selected. Don’t share the Amazon Giveaway link on Twitter or Facebook; put it in an auto-responder and share it only to the people who sign up to your mailing list.

Can we make this even better? And can we curb the disappointment of your new subscribers who didn’t win? Sure! Try this: All subscribers to your mailing list will receive a free copy of one of your own books (that’s author mailing list 101, right?) PLUS they get a chance at winning a book (or boxed set) by a popular author whose writing is similar to yours. Pow! Everybody wins, because everybody gets your  book, but you’ve also got the power of a well-known title behind you, which should draw even more people in.

One way or the other, you’re going to have to advertise your Amazon Giveaway. Why not make all that work count, and get all your participants on your mailing list?

Combine with Facebook Ads

2015-12-09 Free book, leather, old bookI’ve just started experimenting with Facebook ads. (Promising results so far!) One way you can use Facebook ads is to (again) grow your mailing list. Advertise your free book in exchange for readers’ email addresses.

Oh, wait. What if you don’t have a free book?

Well … why not use Amazon Giveaway to give them somebody else’s book? Again, make it a book that’s both well-known and similar to your own writing. Amazon Giveaways only run for a limited time, though, so this would be a way to create a boost of new subscribers … such as just before you release your first book. (Clever, eh?)

Or Just Thank Your Followers

2015-02-20 Humor (1)The place where Amazon Giveaway promises to excel is in taking all the hassle out of running your own giveaway, packaging items, and dropping them off at the post office. You select the prize, Amazon handles the rest.

As you can see from my comments, I don’t see Amazon Giveaway as a simple way to magically grow your following. (Contrary to what they seem to imply on their homepage.) You have to get creative to advertise your Giveaway to people outside your current following.

So why did I get excited about Amazon Giveaway when I first saw it? Because I value the people who have already signed up to my email list. What a great way to let them know just how much they mean to me!

At some point in my career, I would absolutely love to make a Giveaway an annual, holiday thing, just to let my subscribers know how much I appreciate them. These are the devoted people who enjoy my writing so much, they want to be the first to know when my next book is coming out. They want to receive my blog posts and/or newsletter in their inbox every week and month. One of my subscribers even sent me a handwritten Thanksgiving card! My fans mean a lot to me, and Amazon Giveaway would make it really easy for me to show them just how much I appreciate them.

So, I’ve proposed several ways to make Amazon Giveaway work for you. Your turn! Have you ever run a giveaway? What did you like or dislike about it?

My Blog Sucks and I’m Kinda Clueless

Indie Plot Twisters, please welcome Dan Alatorre to the blog today. Do you have a blog? Is it not going as well as you’d hoped? I’m sure we’ve all been there! Dan’s got some great advice to get more traffic and interaction, and for an all-around more successful blogging experience. So sit back, enjoy, and please help Carrie and me make our guest feel welcome.

2015-12-07 My Blog Sucks and Im Kinda Clueless

– – –

Dear Dan,

My blog sucks and I’m kinda clueless about what to do with it…”

Okay, nobody said that… directly.

Indirectly, LOTS of you have.

Here’s some mistakes I see in unsuccessful blogs. They have no followers and they have no/few comments. That indicates that they don’t write interesting content OR they don’t know how to attract people to their blog.

Been there.

My blog had very few followers for about two years. Now, we add new followers to the blog every day.

I can guarantee these bloggers don’t track their stats. They don’t know what works and what doesn’t. (FYI, I achieved President’s Circle with two different Fortune 500 companies, so I tend to analyze stuff.)

I’m not saying I’ve mastered these things, I’m saying I may be a step or two higher on the ladder than you are, and it looks like a mountain from there but from here it looks easy-peasy.

Okay, okay! Enough preamble! What do we do? Sorry. I’m a writer. I get wordy.

Social Media, Kinda

2015-05-13 laptopWhen you looked at Twitter and asked how to get more followers, Twitterites said to find people with the same interests as you and follow them. That same theory applies to blogs. In fact, just about every rule of social media applies to blogs.

If somebody follows your blog, follow their blog – within reason. Puppies? Cool. Photography? Sure. Whips and chains? Um, I’ll probably have a peek but I’m not going to be a regular visitor or comment much because…

Comments = GOOD

Comment on their sites and click “like” when they post stuff you like! Duh, right? It’s the Golden Rule. What do you wish people did on your blog? Read it, like the post, make a comment. Then do that for them!

It takes about three minutes to read and like a typical blog post. That means you could read and like about 10 blogs in about 30 minutes. Now, whether you have that kind of time once a month or every day, that’s up to you. My advice? Do it every evening after dinner for two weeks and see the results. You’ll be happy.

How to comment

When you comment, make it a worthwhile  comment. Each lengthy comment I made on YOUR blog is in fact – ready? – an audition for MY blog to YOUR readers! If your readers saw my comment, maybe they liked it enough to click over to my site and read some more of my stuff there, and as a result, follow my blog.

No spamming!

Here are the rules for that. The comment should be an added value to the readers of that blog, not a spam for your own blog. Don’t say “I’m awesome and here’s my link.” Instead, if they are talking about something funny, ADD to the humor with a funny, relevant anecdote of your own that their readers will enjoy. That way, the blog owner gets a benefit from your comment. Golden Rule, right? You don’t want spammers; don’t be one. It’s not necessary because…


2015-10-14 Two Women Friends in Coffee Shop CafeAnd network through your network. For example, I mostly follow and comment on WordPress blogs. Anyone there can follow me with a single click when I make an interesting comment. It doesn’t get any easier than that, and while I have nothing against other blog platforms, if I have to jump through a bunch of hoops to subscribe to you, odds are I’m not gonna do it.

Occasionally check your stats and see how you’re doing. That means see what works and do more of it. Post on big days for blog traffic, largely Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, depending on what you’re posting about, and…

Talk about your blog – the right way

Write an amazing blog post, then tweet about it. Wait, I have NO blog readers AND I have NO Twitter followers. Like I said, follow people with similar interests and make interesting contributions to the conversation and soon enough you’ll have both. Amplify that by posting your blog onto Facebook and by sending out a popular Instagram link with a cute picture of your dog or something.

Since I scan my Twitter stats, I take the day’s popular tweet and send it to Instagram, using the same hashtags. That takes less than a minute. You have a minute, trust me.

Occasionally I’ll post a pic of my kid or an amazing sunset, cos I do interesting stuff – and so do you! Readers and followers want to get to know you. Have fun. Act like friends. Yes, on your blog. Why? Because…

Comments Matter! More = Better

A “Great post, thanks for sharing” comment on somebody’s blog is nice. It helps – a little. But some witty banter goes a long way. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Let the OTHER people have the spotlight on your stage. That’s positive encouragement, and people love it. You’ll want to…

Say Thank You!

Each commenter gets rewarded by you for playing “Reply”! Most readers don’t comment. They’re intimidated. When they do, reward them for it. Thank them. Add on to their line of thought. Once they do it a first time, they are much more likely to do it again, and that means…

MORE COMMENTS = more popular, more attention, more everything.

People want to do what other people do. If you have ten comments, they’re less intimidated. Walk before you run or you will get overwhelmed quickly. Take on one new thing every two weeks until you’re comfortable with it.

Be generous

2015-04-01 Laptop (640x427)So you FOR SURE want to post on your other author friend’s blog posts when they come out – Golden Rule. Don’t be afraid to ask them/remind them/beg them to post on yours.

Yeah, it’s a lot, but ya gotta start somewhere. One last tip: ASK a question that encourages readers to make a comment.

What do YOU do to increase your blog traffic and avoid the abyss?

About the Author

Dan AlatorreBest-Selling author and humorist Dan Alatorre turned his sights on fatherhood in Savvy Stories, and the results were hilarious. Since then, Dan has racked up a string of #1 Bestsellers in family humor, novels, illustrated children’s books and cookbooks, and has been published in 12 languages throughout 14 different countries. His romantic comedy Poggibonsi: an Italian misadventure, set in Tuscany, will be released in a few weeks.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

About His Book

Dan Alatorre, PoggibonsiMike hopes an assignment in Italy will get him promoted and bring passion back to his marriage. His wife is the only woman in Atlanta not flirting with him, and what better place to pursue romance than the land of naked art, Valentino, and yoga pants? His working vacation shatters when a heart attack hospitalizes his Italian partner and Mike’s family does nothing but fight. After seeing his wife and daughter off, a stunning Tuscan beauty captures the attention of everyone in the train terminal. Mike returns to work thinking the flirtatious goddess will remain a fantasy – until she introduces herself as his new assistant!

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