About Writers, blogging, book promotion

Facebook Street Cafe

My first two weeks:
The humanity cascading down my Facebook page needs filtering, of course. I want to learn from other authors. They get invites. **Purged are the space-wasters – haters, fanatics, scammers and whores may have their story but I am not here to write it. Everyone else is appreciated. Well, I occasionally knock off the loudly ignorant, the maudlin, the chanters of feel-good gibberish, a proselytizer or two, even the emotional yo-yos when they don’t know when to stop. Still, I have over 1400 “Friends.” Some are generous authors happy to share what they know while others would kill your mother for a Popsicle if they were hungry.
But what else should one expect from the crowds on Main Street, Earth?

I am not here to sell books. Happy as I am to see the hits jump on my book’s webpage, I came to see today’s authors and the books they are writing. Posting my book is just flashing my badge.
Most authors seem like myself. They like to write, they like being authors, they don’t sell many books but two out of three keeps them writing. Granted, I’m not friended with James Patterson, Steven King or JK Rowlings but I ‘could’ be chatting up a future Rowlings, King or Patterson. That thought keeps me respectful.

Social media, by its nature, skews the sample towards social people and social themes. There are more women authors on Facebook than men authors. Facebook authors are usually outgoing, happy to share books or thoughts on genres, plots, characters, publishing, marketing or any topic related to life as a writer.
I like them. I learn from them.

It’s a humbling experience. So many people who know more about any topic than do I are happy to set me straight. My reference to the War Powers Act was expanded in a reply from a judge who kindly explained why I was right but …not really on target. My comment in another discussion was labeled a “red herring” by someone who knew.

True, some here have unusual kinks in their DNA helix and always remember that you are talking with faceless strangers even when they put a face to the talk. I received a friend request from an active duty soldier. The photo showed a wholesome young woman in US Army uniform at her desk. Her account page said she was born in NYC, currently living in Damascus, Syria. Right.
Y’gotta love Humans.
**Addendum. Note: Do not use the word “purged” or the phrase “knock off.” My use of those elicited a happily rabid response from a fanatic agreeing on the necessity for “culling the rat fuck bastards” who can “be erased with the push of a button on a suicide vest.”
Apparently, word choice can be critical here.

Writing at my desk with Facebook but a click away is like writing while sitting in a sidewalk cafe where one only has to look up to engage people going by. Talking with people having similar interests is a refreshing break. So if you’re a lover of books, please send me a friend request. I’m in front of Ducky Smith’s SciFi Roundtable cafe. I’ll hold a chair for you.
+++– GD Deckard

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blogging, book promotion

Styles of Promotion.

In terms of promotion, what works?

In the marketing groups (there are many) on Facebook, there’s so much schmaltz: “Amid the burning chaos that has become his life, Saro finds a solace he never expected, eyes filled with understanding and a smile that steals his heart even though he’s only begun to trust.”

Your eyes start to glaze over.

Here’s a restrained pitch: “Discover a love so deep it defies a 40-year family feud.” One short sentence, and there’s a cover, with no tits and no muscles, amazing! I guess that works if you’re known. Another Gage! He’s great! I’ll read anything he writes. 40-year feud. Sounds fascinating!

One guy is offering – for five dollars – to post your book on his personal book promotion group:

I will promote your EBook by posting your ad on my HUGE Social Media Network. You get massive exposure! This Facebook group has 114,000+ members and adds almost 1,000 new members per day!!! All of these members WILL SEE YOUR ADVERTISEMENT.”

114,000 members? (Hard – damn hard – to buy.) Most of whatever number probably inactive, like on any site. No thanks.

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Most of the marketing groups are closed groups, you have to ask to join, but permission to join comes almost immediately. I doubt that they turn anyone away except (maybe) folks pushing extra nasty porn.

I’ve seen thoughtful entreats, but way more gush. I’ve come to the conclusion that it makes no real difference. Nobody pays much attention to any of it. (FYI: I’m my own guinea pig.)

I’ve asked a dozen promotional geniuses (Ladies! You’re not going to believe how hot this is!) how their various styles of tout are doing (I asked nice, I swear) and have had no replies.

Jim Meirose is one I followed up on. He sounds like he’s arrived, like he’s successful. (He is, with shorts. I don’t think he’s got his novels off the ground yet. His novels on Amazon are down in the million-plus with the rest of us.)

He has a long list of credits for stories published in some well-known magazines. I read one of his shorties and liked a whole lot about it. I will definitely read more of him. I found him by accident. He happens to be married to a cousin I’ve been out of contact with for decades. I recently joined FB. Long lost relatives are coming out of the woodwork.

Facebook is useful. I’ve gotten some good advice on there. (Nothing astonishing, that I didn’t know or couldn’t have figured out.)

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Tim Flanagan in the group Marketing for Authors says:

Hi Mimi – I’ve just had a look at the writercoop website. I like the idea – authors should always support other authors. Have all the authors got their own independent mailing lists and websites and social media pages? If not – that’s the first thing you should ALL have, separate to the coop website. If you have each got your own platforms you should have all that information on the coop website.

I notice a few of the authors have their own websites but they’re not particularly engaging or visually interesting from a reader’s POV. You should also be cross promoting each other on your own platforms. Use each other’s mailing lists. Add links to each other’s books in the back of each others books. Put a box set together -one book from each author.

Your greatest strength is in cross promoting between each other. Alternatively, improve your coop website so that it appeals to readers rather than just explaining who you are. Set up a mailing list for the coop as a whole. Give away a small starter library featuring a short story from each writer in exchange for a reader giving you their email – build a coop following that each writer can tap into.

Separately, have a short story on amazon for promotional purposes only – each other can use their 5 free days every couple of weeks so there is more exposure for that author, but also the others in the coop. There’s lots you can do but it depends how serious you all are as individual writers, as well as a cooperative. Message me if you want more information.”

Crap! That’s a job of work there. But we have to implement at least some of these suggestions if we want to flourish. I have my hands full with my own site, but as I learn, I’ll pass it on.

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Here’s a piece off Scribophile:

I’ve just discovered that there’s a thing called debut author classes (class as in class of 2017, not as in lesson). Basically, all the debut authors with books coming out in a certain year (and usually from the same genre/age group) form a group where they help promote each other. They also have a blog that showcases all of their members, their books, and blog posts. Members have to contribute blog posts, read and review a certain number of their peers’ ARCs, promote their peers, and do a bunch of other stuff. I’m following some of the members on Twitter, and seeing all the camaraderie and conversations and shoutouts and shameless promotion of other people’s books is really cool. Unfortunately, you have to be traditionally published to join. Is there anything like this for indies? Not a typical book blog, the focus not to promote a *book*, it should be book-themed entertainment to subtly hawk your wares.

(Isn’t that what we’re trying to do?)

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I like this, clear, lots going on, front and center links.

I think our best immediate move is to punch up the layout of our site, have a prominent list of previous features, the front page presenting a lead article and a roster of additional titles and links.

Here’s a screen shot of a site that caught my eye. This will be a lot of work to set up. But it may be easy to maintain.

We have great content, for a certain audience. (Not for the Ladies-this-book-is-hot-hot-hot crowd. Thank God.) But we must boost our visibility, and our vitality.

Can we get our articles accepted on other sites, with links to us? Everybody is hungry for striking content, and we certainly have it.

 

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book promotion, book reviews, book sales, Google Ads

Where now?

Which-Direction-Main-b

I’m not going to talk about my first published novel, let alone the first one I wrote. Not that it’s a matter of the less said the better, but I don’t want to keep you up all night. So we’ll just go as far back as One Green Bottle, released last September.

Sales have been minimal. I hesitate to say disappointing, because one positive point, at least, is that I had no expectations. So I’m not plunged into a slough of despair. Objectively, though, there’ll be little point in continuing if the second book doesn’t do better.

Is it down to the book itself? There’s always that doubt – did I write a dud? But I’ve had enough feedback now to be fairly confident I didn’t. The book’s OK, it’s readable. People – if they knew about it – might enjoy it. Obviously, though, what I have written is a book that nobody needs. But that’s not just the case of One Green Bottle – you could say it of practically any book that’s published.

So where now? How am I preparing for the release of Perfume Island, scheduled for September? What are the steps to follow?

Reviews. Here on this site, Atthys Gage suggests a first step is to get a minimum of 15 to 20 advance reviews that will appear on or near the date of the book launch. After a year of blogging, I’ve built up enough of a following to make that number realistic. It’s been pointed out to me that reviews are of little value, since they only get seen by people who are already on your Amazon page. Very true – in the process leading from awareness of product to purchase of product, reviews are close to the purchase end. Nonetheless, it’s better to have them than not. If someone goes to your page and finds zero reviews, it’s not a great incentive to buy (even if many people say they don’t read the reviews, there are still plenty who do).

But the question remains: how to build the awareness that will drive people to Amazon in the first place? I read again and again that the main tool here is the mailing list. Get enough people to sign up to your newsletter and you can send them emails to inform them of new releases, giveaways and any other snippets that might be of interest. Even if only half of your subscribers open the newsletter, and out of those that do, one in 10 buys your book, that’s 50 purchases for every 1000 subscribers.

I haven’t been good with newsletters. I started one, dropped it, left a long gap and started a second one recently. Furthermore, I’ve been in a dither about what to put in it. Giveaways? Contests? Updates on the WIP? Pictures of the cat? I’ve subscribed to several myself and you find all of that (including the cat). In the end I settled for giveaway contests and a couple of serialised stories. Which is probably overcomplicating things – advice I’ve read since is to keep it simple. Inform of an upcoming release, a special offer maybe, and that’s it.

Everyone agrees you have to offer an incentive – people only sign up if they get something from it. So far I have 19 subscribers. Hmm… Perhaps my giveaways don’t give enough. I did think of offering a Lamborghini but decided against it in the end. Because the problem with giving away anything other than your books is that you’re not gaining readers but freeloaders. And to give away a book, you need to have written at least two, because the point is to get people reading (and liking) the first so then they’ll buy the second. Which is why the release of Perfume Island will be not just a writing milestone for me but a marketing one as well.

It’s possible also that I focus too much on my blog. It’s good to have one, yes, but it’s time-consuming and the sort of organic growth it offers is slow. Unless you have a massive following, it’s not the best way to build your mailing list. If I rely solely on my blog, awareness of the existence of Perfume Island is going to be way too low for any substantial number of readers to find it. So what’s the alternative? Twitter? I could do more there, but I still have trouble getting my head round it, and in terms of raising awareness, it’s one of the least effective channels there is. Yes, it can be done, but it requires dedication, personal engagement and time – much the same effort, in fact, as I put into my blog.

So now, very cautiously, I’m investigating Facebook. Reluctantly too – I like Facebook about as much as I like stepping in dog poo. But at least now I’ve cleared the first hurdle, which was understanding the Facebook philosophy: why be user-friendly when you can be as maddening as a swarm of midges? Once you get that straight, it’s a matter of breathing deeply and staying calm. And now at last I have a Facebook page, as well as a profile. I only recently learned the difference: the page is where you tell people how great your book is, the profile is where you tell them what you had for breakfast. For the moment my page says I’m username@create.page. When I try to put my own name there, I’m told ‘You’re not eligible.’ Do they deign to explain why? Of course not. Courtesy isn’t part of their vocabulary. After much searching, though, I gather I need my page to be ‘liked’ before I can really call it my own. 25 times, if I’ve understood correctly. So now I’m in the ignominious position of begging people – that’s you, dear reader – to ‘like’ my Facebook page in order for me to truly virtually exist. When I get to 100 likes, I’ll start to levitate.

You might be wondering why I put myself through this ordeal. The answer is simple: ads. Now, I’m not saying I’m actually going to do them, but I’m setting out to explore them. Facebook ads, apparently, provide an effective way of raising awareness of your book among the sort of readers likely to like it. They also cost money, so you have to be very careful how you do it. GD has told us about, and warned us away from, Google ads. Facebook could well be the same, so I’m approaching this the way I walk through a forest full of zombies in the dead of night. But one thing is clear: if I don’t do something, Perfume Island will be released to barely more effect than One Green Bottle. A pebble dropped in the ocean. Because getting reviews is only a fraction of the task – now I have to get people to notice that the book actually exists.

I’m pretty sure, as Perry Palin says, that in the end it’s all personal, a matter of gaining readers one by one. But I’m ready to give the other approach a try. Maybe I’ll chicken out, or be driven so mad by Facebook I’ll have to be locked away. Whatever happens, I’ll keep you updated on progress. In the meantime, I humbly beg you to nip over to Facebook and adore my page.

 

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