7 IFTTT Applets for the Indie Writer

I am a big believer in making technology work for you automatically. In this blog post I am going to share a few ideas for indie writers to get some easy automation working via IFTTT. Their service allows you to connect the dots between online services, so an event in one service triggers an action in another. If you look on the web for examples of how to use IFTTT, you will run into a lot of examples that seem fun but are not particularly productive. I'm more results oriented, so the examples I show here are intended to help you with your indie publishing rather than merely amuse you. If you are a business-minded author, you know you have to be productive, and hopefully these suggestions will help you with that.

These examples are easy and simple (no tech experience needed) while still being useful. If you are technically inclined, you can do much, much more using IFTTT services such as openHAB, Maker Webhooks, and others intended for developers and "makers." To get started, though, take a look at these solutions as a way to get started. You can always add more later.

A connection between services on IFTTT is called an applet. They used to call them recipes, but it doesn't really matter what they're called. They all work essentially the same way, in that you authorize IFTTT to act on your behalf and then it will detect an event on one service and cause another action on a different service.

With that preamble out of the way, let's get started. These are applet descriptions, not links to actual applets, so that you can create your own with your own customizations.

  1. Did you get a new subscriber on your MailChimp list? Try for another one by using that one as social proof on Twitter. Create an applet that triggers when you get a new subscriber and sends a tweet that includes the URL to your newsletter subscription form, along with text such as "got a new subscriber on my mailing list, you can join them at..." (Warning: Verify that the new subscriber's email address is not included in the tweet! The last I checked, that data field was included by default, so you need to pay attention to what is included in the tweet contents.)
  2. Did you start a new chapter in your book? Let your fans on your Facebook Page know that you're making progress. This requires that you save each chapter in a separate file and that you have all of your chapters in a folder on Dropbox so that they are always backed up to the cloud. Create an applet that triggers when you create a new file in that folder, and have it post a status update to your Facebook Page telling your fans that you are done with one chapter and moving on to the next. If you are a prolific writer and write more than one chapter per day, you may want to add a date/time stamp at the end of the post to avoid posting duplicates.
  3. Did you finish a new first draft? You can announce it to your followers on Tumblr with one tap on your phone. There are certain IFTTT applets that are triggered from your mobile device rather than from an online service. Create an applet using the Button widget and have it create a text post on Tumblr with a "canned" message such as "finished another book!"
  4. Did you send a new MailChimp newsletter? Share it with your followers on Google+. This requires using Buffer as an intermediate service, which you can set up once and then mostly forget about it. (Buffer is useful in its own right, but this blog post is about IFTTT!) If you don't already have one, you should create your Buffer account and connect it to Google+ first. Then, create an applet that triggers when you send a new MailChimp campaign, and have it add the campaign URL to Buffer along with a short message inviting people to read the newsletter and subscribe to it. (If you connect Buffer to multiple accounts, you will find that IFTTT will only support one of those connections.)
  5. Do you sell books through Gumroad and did you make a sale there? Share the good news with your Slack team. Create an applet that triggers when you make a new sale on Gumroad, and have it post a message to an appropriate channel on Slack with the date and time of the sale. If you make a lot of sales, you might want to create a separate channel in Slack just for these automated messages.
  6. Did you publish a new post on your writing blog? Make it easy to keep track of the traffic that you sent to it. IFTTT supports multiple blogging platforms such as Blogger, WordPress, Medium, and more. Create a new applet that triggers when you publish a new post, and have it create a Bitly link to the new post. To make this even easier to use, you can create one or more additional applets that are triggered when you create a new Bitly link, such as to have that link sent to you by email, posted on Twitter, etc.
  7. Did you create a new survey for your street team? Send them the link to it and encourage them to answer promptly. IFTTT supports a number of different communication channels, so it depends on what you use with your street team. For this example we will assume that you use GroupMe to communicate with your team, and that you use SurveyMonkey for surveys. Create a new applet that is triggered when you create a new survey on SurveyMonkey, and have it post the URL to the survey to the appropriate group on GroupMe.

I have not used all of the applets listed above, this is mainly some brainstorming to demonstrate how you can automate actions using IFTTT. If you have other ideas to share, please leave a comment. Have fun, and stay productive!

Image based on photo by alexfoley on morgueFile.com. Used under license.