by Kat Cantwell
My mum – Lynne Cantwell, to you lot – mentioned that IU was looking for a post on Tumblr, since it’s such a black hole to so many Indie authors, but it’s becoming a ‘thing,’ of late. (At least, it is among people in their mid-teens to early 30s.) So I was asked if I could give a bit of a crash course.
Tumblr is this interesting and sometimes confusing cross between a blog and Pinterest (I suppose is the best way to describe it). While it can certainly be used as a blog, most people don’t go that route, because it’s not hard to lose text posts in what tends to be a very image-heavy medium. Tumblr is also mostly used to share things that other people post; I rarely post anything of my own, but I’m always reposting something that other people have (re)posted.
Tumblr’s user access is not unlike Twitter, in a way: Your ‘home page’ – called the dashboard – is a page of anything you or anyone you’re following has posted, the most recent at the top. There are, off to the side, counts of your followers, who is following you, how many posts you’ve made, how many posts you’ve liked, and a link to a list of what other people have been doing in regards to your posts. At the top is a link to their private messaging service.
Your actual blog – what people will see if they go searching your username – isn’t that different from what you would see if you went to someone’s WordPress or Blogger blog. It’s very much customizable: There are a number of free options – for those looking for a cheap, quick change in appearance – as well as some you have to pay for, or you can find members who are sharing themes they’ve made (though they often require some familiarity with HTML to use fully).
“Well,” I’m sure you’re saying right now, “this is all fine and dandy, but why would I want to use Tumblr? What good is it for selling my books?”
The answer is, sadly, it’s not much better than your average blog in terms of selling books. That said, it’s not a bad platform for catching the eyes of my generation. Given the state of the job market, most of us lack the money to pick up a new book on a whim, so we’re not going to go cycling through the book lists on Amazon unless something’s been recommended to us, or we got a gift card.
Incidentally, the sort of people who use Tumblr are, often, the sort of people who are always looking for new media to devour and fall madly in love with. So, while it might be hard to catch their attention – and especially their wallets – it’s not a bad audience, once you’ve got them.
“So how do I catch these eyes?” you’re probably wondering.
Having a starting base is always nice: If you know people who already use Tumblr, they’re a sure-bet to follow you, and will probably be more than happy to reblog your posts and get the word out. Following people might get them to follow you back, but do be careful; Tumblr is very NSFW (Not Safe for Work) friendly, and their built-in NSFW blocker doesn’t catch everything. Once you’ve followed someone, there’s no way to keep their posts from showing up on your dashboard beyond unfollowing them or installing a third-party browser app.
The best way to be found on Tumblr, is through tags on your posts. Unlike tagging on Facebook or Twitter, Tumblr’s tags can include spaces and special characters, which means more variations, but they’re also easier to understand at a glance. (Unlike, say, #omgimsoinlovewiththisthing!) Tagging a post as ‘New book’ is going to bring some eyes, and ‘Free books’ will catch even more. (Be careful about just ‘Free’, though; there’s a popular anime titled that.) Start typing something in in the search bar on your dashboard and see what tags come up; those are the ones people search most often!
Some words to the wise:
• Only the first five tags on your post are searchable; you can find the post on your own blog with any tags beyond that, but only the first five will bring it up on the general Tumblr search.
• Spamming the same post every hour will lose you followers; people on Tumblr tend to be a lot less forgiving than those on Twitter or Facebook.
• Images catch more attention than text posts, but use moderation.
Kat Cantwell is the eldest daughter and editor of author and IU Staff Contributor Lynne Cantwell. She graduated from Hollins University with a Bachelor’s Degree in English, concentrating on Creative Writing. Kat has followed in her mother’s footsteps by writing fiction, but has so far stuck to fanfiction for various mainstream media. Her only source of income is, sadly, an Etsy shop, Kat Hooks, where she sells crocheted roses and butterflies. She has been using Tumblr since May of 2012, and currently manages her personal blog, a writing blog, and the oft-referenced HiddlesFacts, a blog dedicated to posting facts about actor Tom Hiddleston.