How To Use Tumblr To Find An Audience For Your Book
Author Kelsey Clifton joins us on this episode of The Author Inside You podcast. Not only did she find an audience for her novel through her followers on Tumblr, but Kelsey also discovered a graphic artist to create her book cover on the same social media platform. Learn how Kelsey found and grew her followers, along with how she was able to score a review of her book from Publishers Weekly.
You're listening to the author insides you podcast, a weekly podcast designed to motivate you to finish writing a book, choose a publisher, and have your work build an audience. Keep listening if you're looking to get propelled into the next chapter of your life. And now it's the author inside you podcast with your host, Leah and Matt Rafferty.
Hello and welcome to the author inside your podcast. I'm Matt Rafferty and I'm Leah Rafferty. Joining us today is author Kelsey Clifton. Kelsey grew up in Texas and has been writing since she was a child. Her debut novel a day out of time was released in August of 2018. Welcome, Kelsey. Thanks for joining us today.
Hi guys. Thank you so much for having me on today. Congratulations, Kelsey, on your first book, but I heard you already released a second book. How did you accomplish that? I actually did, um, and the third book in the series is hopefully going to be coming out in the spring. Wow. So it sounds. Very impressive to say like, Oh, I released two books within like a seven month span.
But in reality, like I've been writing these books in the series for about five years now, about about five or six. So, um, data time was one of the series that I actually, I started pitching. The first book to agents, um, when I'd had like a few years under my belt, a few books, you manuscripts. I really believed in this book.
I loved it. I loved the story and I was really wanting to pitch it. So for a long time, that was my main focus and I didn't have. Much success for a long time. And I finally, I had one almost taker and the, this agent's assistant actually helped me work on the book and edit it. And so it ended up, you know, becoming most of the book that, that was released.
But in the meantime, like during this five or six year period, while I was pitching it, I was. Working on the second book, and I was working on the third book after that. So like, it's, it does sound very, very impressive to say I released all these books within, you know, a certain amount of time, but, eh, the reality is as a little bit more complicated than that.
Okay. Well, it sounds like someone really helped you out, but this, Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. By talking back and forth through emails, or how did you correspond with this. So it was during, it was during, um, a pitch and you know, this assistant was the first almost line of defense to the agent. And she really, really loved the book.
She absolutely went nuts over it. So I didn't speak very often directly with the agent until like the very end of the process when I ended up. Ultimately being turned down, but throughout the middle bits, I was just speaking with her assistant Sarah, and we went back and forth with the books. Like she sent me editorial notes, like we had a, we had phone conversations, like she was very, very excited about the project and it, it was very comforting to me to know that someone who saw all of these manuscripts day in and day out really like really believed in this book as much as I did.
So professional advice. Exactly, exactly. And like her, her advice and her insight was so incredibly helpful. You know, even even the bits that I disagreed with for different reasons, it was incredibly instrumental and it made the book what it was. And so when I ultimately like maybe like a year, maybe two years later after I was eventually like turned down.
By this agent herself. When I was ready to, when I decided ultimately to publish to self publish, the book was essentially ready. I just gave it one final like go through and Polish. And, and then, you know, six more because that's the nature of being an artist of any kind, is you just can't, you can't leave it alone.
But it was, it was essentially ready to go. Um, and I was able to release it within a month of making the decision. Wow, that's great. Well, what was the process like when you were searching for agents? Frustrating. Uh, heartbreaking. Do, do we have an hour for all the education that it is? Cause it's a lot. For one thing, when I first first started maybe seven or eight years ago, I, well.
Let's be honest. I first started sending stuff out for my first book when I was 19 or 20. Um, but I didn't know what I was doing. It was my first book. I was like, I was 20 years old. With the second book. I tried to query, got a little bit better, but still very unformed. But then with this one with, with a, with a day at a time, that was the first.
Semi. Okay. One, like I got a few, I got a few requests. Uh, for partials. I got a couple of requests for the full, and like I said, even almost made it to the end. Like that big goal, you know, of eventually being it. Yeah. Even though she did ultimately turn me down, it was a really important learning experience.
And then you eventually ended up going with self-publishing. I'd tried it on and off for about six years, uh, going the traditional route. And it just, it's something that a lot of others don't. Talk about very much is it's not, it's not just hard like it's, it's, it's taxing. It's physically taxing. Like, I, I, it's not fun.
Querying sucks. It's, it's awful. Like you, it even just like taking out the emotional aspect of it. Like you, everyone wants something different. Everyone has different advice. Like you'll, a lot of agents will have pages saying. You know, this is what I recommend in a good pitch and everyone wants something different.
So it's a lot of just grueling kind of thankless work and it's not, it's not fun. And I got there about six years of it, a while continuing to write and live my life and do other things. And I just, I was, I was over it for the time, like I was done. I was just focusing on writing. And a friend of mine. A named Matt who we've been friends for a few years.
He sent me this article about a woman who had, who decided to self publish. She was tired of being told no, and she decided to self publish, I think a graphic novel maybe, and within like eight hours it was fully funded. Oh my God. Yeah, that sounds incredible. Well, I did a little digging because we were on Kickstarter.
I did a little digging and it turns out that she was a comic book artist, so she had a fairly large audience already. This was like her fourth book. I'm like, okay, this story is not that. It's a little more complicated than that, but reading about her decision got me thinking and I sat there. I'm like, you know what?
Like I'd had, I'd had author friends that I'd met during during my, my life like. Mentioned the same thing, like why not self publish? I'm like, no, I want to, I want to do it the traditional way. I wanna like maybe I was, it's a bit about gatekeeping gatekeeping, like you want to know that you're worthy to do it.
And so that's, that's what I was really gung ho about. Like, I want to be worthy. You want to see yourself as worthy, you want others to see you as worthy. And I mean, let's be honest, in a lot of ways, in a lot of cases when we kind of look down on self-publishing like it does, it's not held up to the same no echelons as as like one of the big five or traditionally published book.
Even though I've read some garbage published books, like traditionally published ones, we all have, I've read some garbage, self published books. There's just, there's going to be garbage and gems. No matter what, but this, this moment represented a big shift for me because I just got tired of making myself wait and I said, you know what?
Like I would rather, I would rather just do it myself and take control and just have it out there. Yeah. And just have it out there. The big part of self publishing is getting the word out because you don't have the publisher behind you. Well, that's it. Exactly right. So, so I'm sure that took a lot of thinking in a lot of soul searching of how am I going to get people to hear about my book?
So what was your game plan? Oh, I went into this with so much, so much have the day, because my plan, my plan involved a lot of social media use because social media is in a lot of ways, like where our motion is going. And I had several . Social media channels. You know, I had a Twitter, I had an Instagram. Um, I had a Facebook so I could make a Facebook like author profile.
Uh, I could build a website. Like I had all these grand ideas involving social media. The problem with a lot of like the viral trends right now and like the creators, is that it's content creation and it has to be fairly consistent and fairly, fairly constant. And I am at heart. A very casual social media user so that I, I over estimated my ability to put content out all the time.
So yeah, it is. And I just, I have other things. In my life and I just don't, I don't think about it and I'm just like, Oh God, I haven't, I haven't posted to Instagram and forever, Oh, I haven't done Twitter in forever. The only one that I'm consistently active on, like every, every day, more or less is my tumbler.
And even that's not always. Original content. So Tumblr, honestly, it was not a platform that I expected to have that much of an impact on my writing career. Uh, it was, I already had one. It was just a casual, fun thing, but then I started turning it into what was called a right blur. It's something writers use to advance their platforms and to, you know, to.
To talk about their work and to connect with other, with other writers and with readers, and it's a really good platform for it. And I just did it because I was, it was part of my big social media push, but honestly, the reaction and the feedback that I got from Tumblr has been the biggest out of any of the social media platforms.
Honestly. Oh, we've done interviews with 108 or 110 authors, and I don't think anyone has mentioned tumbler as a resource that's more about it. Basically, it's like it's a blogging website, but in your in, it's almost almost like Facebook. In that, like you see feeds from people, like you see posts that they've either made or reblog and then you can, you can reblog it, you can make your own personal content.
And so it's like, at first, I had no idea what I was doing, you know, nobody ever does. And I just kinda jumped into it. And then, like I said, like eventually when I decided to use it to utilize it, uh, along with the rest of my social media, I turned it into a right blur. So I just. You know, I made 'em it required me to learn more about coding than I ever thought I would need to learn because you have a profile page.
And I mentioned I eventually made little side pages that had all the information on my books. So you can actually, like from the main page of my Tumblr, there are links that we'll send you to individual pages about each of my ongoing projects. Yeah, you can see excerpts. Sometimes you can see original artwork, for example, from day at a time.
You can see like little, little a, there's little character descriptions and so you can, you know, read descriptions of the characters and you can see the individual artwork. If it's a project I haven't had any art commission for yet, like I'll do what's called like a face claim, like, Oh, if I was casting this character from like Hollywood.
It would be so and so, like, this is what they're, this is what they would look like. Pretty cool. So that's, yeah. So that's, and it's really useful. It helps me visualize it, but it also helps to gain new readers. And I just started posting information about these characters and this story. I started posting small excerpts.
Um, a lot of it, a lot of it has been, um, unedited. So it's like, Hey, I wrote this kind of quick little scene. It's cute. And. You like, like people that you're either like, they're pulled mutuals, but it's like being friends with them. People who follow you or who are mutuals, like they can also reblog your work.
They can comment on it and it just, it gets it out there. And I have met people through there who have reviewed the book, who have made posts about themselves and spread the word, you know, who've obviously bought the books and who are really, really enjoy these worlds. And. The stories that I have to tell.
It's been amazing. Great. So was it all trial and error or did you take a course, like an online course or anything on tumbler? Oh, no, definitely trial and error. Definitely trial and error. I can't even imagine a course on Tumblr. It's actually, honestly, if you just have someone to go over the basics with you, it's, it's fairly intuitive, but I didn't have someone, I didn't ask anyone.
I just kind of made a profile and started messing around and eventually got a little bit better at it and a little bit better. And you just. It's, it's not, it's not hard. It's just I had no idea what I was doing when I first started it. Okay, great. And did you do anything special to get more people to follow you?
Like did you follow other people when they follow you back? Yeah, actually that that does help because you can, tumbler is actually really good about promoting similar blogs that split similar interests because some blogs are kind of other jumble. It's just, it's random content. Some blogs are very dedicated to.
One or two specific things. So like some blogs are all writing advice, for example, or it's all like fandom things for like for Marvel or for whatever, whatever fandom they're in. Some people are just like nature blogs. Like you can be very specific if you want to, um, or you can be kind of a garbage fire like me and mostly do writing stuff, but throw in some random content as well.
Um, but it all, but it tumbler will recommend different blogs to you. And I started. Following a lot of those blogs, if someone made a post like recommending someone else or they reblogged a post, I'm like, Oh, that looks cool. And I started following them. And in a lot of cases it does work. But also the people who are like, who are mutuals with me and who can see my posts, they, we blog them.
And then. Their followers can see it and maybe their followers re blog it and it just, it creates this like chain reaction because posts can have like a couple of what they called notes. Like if someone likes them or read or reblogs them, then they can have a couple of notes or they can have like a few hundred thousand notes.
That's very, that's for some posts. That's very common. Not one of mine currently. Well, we am looking at your Facebook page and I have to say, I like how you posted what you are up to. Like you mentioned that you were going to. Speak with us tonight. And I think that's a nice way because I'm like, Oh boy, look at Kelsey's really busy.
Yeah, this is, you can tell that there was a post on, uh, on Facebook about different, um, promotional stuff, and I was like, Oh, okay. I'm just going to con, I'm going to contact everybody. These, these guys look great. These guys look great. Like I went on, I went on a bit of a spree with that. Um, but yeah, it's like, like, I'm glad.
I'm glad you liked the look of that. If you don't look down the feed though, cause it's probably the first post I've made in like three weeks. Like I go through, I go through is what I mean by casual. I go through phases. I'm like, Oh my God, I should post and I go up on a peak and then it just sort of falls by the wayside for the next.
Well, a week and a half. Yes. It's not very, it's not very consistent. Well, Matt and I have that problem, but it's because I always like, I'm always telling Matt, Oh, people don't want to hear about us, you know, stop, stop. You know? And, um, we have a person, we interviewed an author, um, Daniel daily, and she says, you know, throw it out there.
Keep throwing it out there, because not everyone is going to see your feed. Just because someone's friends with you or doesn't mean they're going to see your feet. So Danielle says to propose three times a day. On Facebook or on Twitter, and then just keep going. And then chances are people aren't going to see all three of them because they're not going on Facebook that many times throughout the day.
So I know, but it is a lot of work. It is, you know, coming up with something to say, and I mean, but also making sure that it's relevant. I wish, I wish this video calls, you could see my eyes like widened when you said three times a day. Also making sure that it's relevant because honestly, I sometimes have a hard time.
Deciding what would be relevant. Instagram. Instagram is kind of one thing cause it is very photo based. So I already had like a decent Instagram before. Like I was already, I was, I used it, you know, relatively often. And so that's not that bad. It's photo based. But for, for this, for, for Facebook updates. So unless I'm having.
Like a specific event, like a sale or a book signing, or there's some kind of very important update like, Hey, I'm going to release the cover art for the next book coming soon. You know, I've decided on a, uh, on a release date. Unless it's something like that, I have a hard time, like you feeling that it's relevant because it's just, what am I going to post up still writing.
Or I don't know where this fight scene goes. Like, what am I going to post on my day to day? Right. Well, what about your cover art? How did you find an artist for your cover? You can thank coupler again. Oh, okay. When I was first getting into it, like I had vague ideas. I knew that I really wanted to be kind of a dynamic comer cover and I wanted to show these characters on it and I.
Part of part of my fee, like you get artists to be blogged all the time, and I honestly just went into Tumblr and I searched for blogs dedicated to, I'm like graphic artists. Those were open for commissions and I just dug through a lot of different art blogs and different styles until I found. A woman named Miranda Morehead, and I was looking through her Tumblr page and then looking through her website and I loved her art style.
I thought it was, it was beautiful. It was dynamic. It was exactly like what I was looking for for this, for this style of book, because the book is not, it's not serious. Aim for in like a very, very large part of it. Neither of the books are super serious, like they have moments of, you know, kind of heartbreak.
They have more serious quiet moments, but by and large, they're a little goofy. They're a little ridiculous. Like they're meant to be genuinely lighthearted. So, you know, I didn't need like a super hyper-realistic. Image, dark colors. I needed something brighter. I ate something eye catching and I contacted her through tumbler and asked her if she was open for commissions and we started emailing and the first couple of sketches she sent me I really love, and she.
Is so great to work with because she'll send me, I'll, I'll send her like a ginormous email full of like character descriptions, like their physical features, but also like, Hey, if I was casting a celebrity, here's who it would be. That's where the face claim comes in. Really, really helpful. Um, and like, this is about their personality.
Like, this is kind of what I'm thinking over the background. Uh, but I don't know. And she'll send back maybe four or five kind of light compositional sketches so I can see like body positions and some background options. And we, we go from there. Like we pick one that we're like, Oh God, yes. Oh no, I have, she gives me, she gives me.
Incredible control over the important things and I give her incredible control over the details. Great. I'm just like, I'm just like, I trust you to do this. Like, like, these are the important things everything else have have at it. Have fun relationship. It sounds like it is. It's fantastic. And you know, it's been so good that like.
I fully intend on using her for the third book, and she's actually right now working on the cover art for a standalone novel that I'm going to be releasing in early December. Hopefully we're on a roll. I've got guys, I've been, I've been writing since I was 19 and I, I'm about, I'm, I turned 30 tomorrow.
Happy birthday. Yeah. So. Thank you. Thank you. This is a great early birthday present. Can I ask you something else? It's related to your website. I see very cute character of you, I believe with next two books. I love that. That is so cute. How does wonderful, yes. So is that who did that? So that was actually a friend of mine, Nick, Jesse and Jaco.
He like we, we met because he worked at a coffee shop that I went to all the time. His brother was one of the managers and he, when they opened this new cough, this new like cane and the coffee shops, he wanted me to start a book club there. He said, he said, I think it'd be a really cool idea and. All of my, um, like my Instagram, my Twitter handles are all at Kelsey underscore rights.
Um, yeah. So like, I, I tried to keep it a little consistent. Um, so he thought it would be kind of cute to have it have the book hubby. Kelsey reads like, Oh, that's cute. And, um, just as a graphic artist, when his brother had this idea, he said, Hey, you can you draw something. As like a, like a graphic to advertise this and we paid him like 20 bucks to do it.
Oh wow. What a deal he was. He was unemployed at the time for graphic artists. So it was very, it was very easy, but he was like, yeah, no problem. And that's what he came up with. And I'm very like, I absolutely love it. Like I use, that's why I use it on the website. Like I have a Facebook group. For Kelsey reads, and that's the header for it.
Like I love that graphic. I'm going to use it forever. Yes. So just to the left of that, on your webpage, it says publisher's weekly calls a day at a time. A fun rump. How did you get it? How did you get publishers weekly too? Review your book. Oh, so it has actually, it was very simple and yet very, a very long process.
Um, cause they do take awhile to review books. So basically they have a companion website, I believe, called booklife.com and on it you can do all kinds of things. Useful things like you can find new books to read. If you're self published, you can search for editors or for book cover artists, like all kinds of stuff.
But you can also submit your book for review. Um, and they, yeah, you can set, you can, through this website, you can submit your self published book for review. Um, and according to. The emails that I got and from what I've heard from other authors through like social media, it's, it is a pretty exclusive process.
Like they, like they're, you're just submitting it. You're not guaranteed a review. Like it has to pass. I think two rounds of eliminations. Like I was like, I, I got an email I got, I remember reading two separate emails. I got one email. Saying that it was being considered like that right. There is just, that's the first getting past.
That in itself is already, it's being considered because a lot of books apparently, um, are not even considered for reviews. I'm like, all right, cool. And I remember it. Getting the actual email because it was like, it was like 1230 at night. And because I'm a night owl and I was still awake and I was on my phone because I'm human and I saw the email notification come in and it just said, congratulations, your book has been chosen for review, and I screamed.
And like I came running in, cause I, my mother and I lived together and I came a running into the living room and I was like, Oh my God. And I'm freaking out and telling her about it. I'm like, no one's awake. No one. It's the middle of the night. No one is awake this with me. Like everyone else in their right mind is asleep.
This is such a problem. No one is here to celebrate this with me. Um, but yeah, so I very specifically remember that. Yeah, great story. They would email you in the middle of the night. That's what's funny. I exactly, exactly. I mean, who knows, who knows, like where their office is. It may have been earlier for them, um, like if they're in California or wherever, they may have been a lot earlier for them, but for me it was about 12, 1230 at night for me to get that.
And I was just like, ah, I just lost my mind. It was ridiculous. Um, but all in all the process, I want to say. I want to say that I submitted the book, the ferry first submission was in like November of last year, and I want to say that I got the official go at like the official news that they were going to review it maybe in March, right around the time.
I think it was right around the time that I was going to release. The second book after effects, but I didn't see the review itself didn't come out until may, so it was a very long process from start to finish, but to me it was totally worth it because for one thing, there's that validation, like fellowship is weekly things.
The book is good enough to just to review. Which like, even though like I was, I was anxious that it would be a bad review because it's just this, that's just the, the anxiety that you have. Um, that's always a risk. But you know, my thought was like, if it was going to be bad, they wouldn't have bothered.
It's personal validation, but it also adds a level of credibility because I can plaster that review over every piece of advertising. That I have every poster, the website, and I added it to the Amazon page and it just, it adds credibility because people say, Oh, publisher's weekly. I know that place. So that, that was amazing.
This episode of the author inside your podcast. Is brought to you by scuba file. It's a great writing resource if you're looking for beta readers. So I'm part of a writer's group on Facebook, and one of the other members was asking about getting some beta readers for some of her work. So I naturally suggested scrub file, and she had this to say, I posted a story last night after gaining enough karma points by providing a critique and received my first critique on a creative nonfiction piece this morning.
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If you leave a critique for a community member, you will gain karma points. And then if other community members read your critique and think that you are doing a good job, they can react to it and you can earn even more karma points. If you're looking for beta readers and a critique of your work, check out scuba file at dot com well, Kelsey, what advice would you give to fellow authors?
The biggest advice I would have other than the general, like keep trucking on, you'll get there one day, other than very, very general advice like that. Honestly has to do with research. These two books were very, very research heavy. They deal with time travel, so you've got pseudoscience, but also in the Orleans to have like a basis in factual science as much as you can.
There was history to think of, but also like fiddly little details that like why would a, why would the internet know this? Like I had to send someone. Who lived in New York, which is where the books are set. I just like, I sent someone on an errand for me one day, like, can you tell me what material this fountain is made of?
Cause I can't, I can't find any information. It's like, it's fiddly little details like that. Like is there a metal detector if this one entrance of a random museum so. My advice is, is kinda to kind of twofold. Do, do your research to the best of your practical abilities. You know, pursue, pursue every angle.
Really like sit there and like think about, really do your research, but also let it go at some point because I, there's actually, I'm in both of the books. There is a forward, and it basically says like, look guys. I did my best. I, you know, I did research, I asked people, I did my best, but, but it'll, it goes, it goes, dammit.
Reader. I'm a writer, not a doctorate, zoologist and temporal expert, like all these things, like I had to let go at some point and I had to accept that, that I could, all I could do was the best that I could. And then I had to let it go. And it basically just says like, y'all, I tried. Just be nice to me. Like, well, it sounds, it sounds like your personality, people will be nice to seem to have a very, um, very personable and seemed like a fun person.
So that always helps out. So Kelsey, how can, how can our audience reach out and get in touch with you. So there's all kinds of ways. Um, like I said, I am all up in tumblers business. Um, my, my tumbler name is actually the weirdest thing and I should probably change it, but I've just grown so fond of it cause it was randomly generated by tumbler and I was like, okay, I like that.
It's a sassy Panda candy. Yeah. Tumbler like gave me that randomly generated and I said, you know what, that's gold. I like it. I, so I've just become so fond of it. Um, so you can find me on tumbler, uh, sassy Panda candy. Uh, you can also find me on Twitter at Kelsey underscore rights, underscore Instagram at Kelsey underscore, writes, without the underscore, ha ha tricked ya.
And, uh, Facebook at Kelsey Clifton, author. And then Kelsey clifton.com honestly, if you just, I should have started with Kelsey clifton.com cause if you go there, there's all kinds of links to my social media. All right, so we'll have all your contact information in the show notes and Kelsey, it's been great talking to you today.
Thank you very much for coming on our show. It's been so great talking to you guys. I really appreciate this. If you haven't already, please hit the subscribe or follow button in your podcast app. This way you'll never miss an episode. And until next time. Right on. Thank you for listening to the author inside you podcast with your host, Leah and Matt Rafferty.