Changes and Contingency Plans

Warning: I write long when exhausted or on cold meds (or both), and the dayquil/nyquil cycle may cut into the attention span needed to edit this down to reasonable column length. Let’s talk about two major changes hitting now, and contingency plans.

1. Facebook admits its reporting of ad effectiveness was wrong, by up to 55% too much.
Yes, this link is to zerohedge. Because, weirdly enough, they had the best collation of facts with the least hype or opinion. *shrugs* What can I say? The cubs won the world series, zerohedge has the least hype on a news item; it’s been a strange year.

Anyway, this is the second time recently Facebook has admitted to “misleading” its customers. (If you buy ad space from Facebook, you’re the customer. If you use it for social media, you’re the product. Never forget that.) The first time was for video ads, which hits the authors trying out book trailers pretty hard on how effective they thought their videos were for grabbing eyeballs. This time, it’s all ads, and interactions with business facebook pages – yeah, that’d include your “official author” page if you followed the TOS and made your indie publishing business a official author page / business page instead of a personal one.

Let me drive this point home: in selling books as an indie publisher, ONLY SALES MATTER. At the end of the day, the week, or the ad run, the only thing that truly measures your effectiveness is sales of the target book, and sell-through to others. Sure, there are a lot of terms, software packages, interfaces, metrics, and so on that you can learn (and many that you really should, because advertising is a completely different skillset than authouring, editing, or formatting.) But when it’s all said and done, the number of likes, shares, impressions, etc. are mere steps to the final outcome: have you sold more books?

No matter who you use in an ad campaign, keep a wary eye on your ad runs, measure everything you can with outside metrics, and remember the lesson of Myspace: any given platform is only useful until a viable alternative attracts a critical mass. Then the migration is swift, the decline sudden.

2.) Speaking of social media, Twitter’s exhibiting classic death throes, or in the immortal words of Spinal Tap, their audience and “appeal is becoming more selective.” Unlike friendster, livejournal, myspace, etc, they’re doing it to themselves by first “shadowbanning” and now outright mass banning accounts.

(There. One link from Breitbart, one from Slate. Y’all can snarl about one source or the other, but hey, when it’s on both ends of the bias spectrum, this indicates there’s a problem. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a single hype-free article.)

Hey, you over there grumbling that it was just “—ist” people! Pay attention. This sort of circular firing squad of guilt by association never stops, and the tumbril to feed Madame Guillotine is as likely to end up at your door as anyone else’s. Not to mention that well over a quarter to half of America (Your biggest book-buying audience) was labeled a “basket of deplorables” and now is being called “—ist!” “—ist!” “—phobic!” by the same sorts. How many of the people paying hard-earned cash, trading their beer money for your book instead, feel snubbed and silenced by this sort of tactics? Yes, your MARKET. You want to be where your MARKET is. And if your market is feeling harassed, they’re going to go elsewhere, leaving your efforts to reach them via the old channel in an increasingly empty room full of dead accounts and mindless spammers.

The closest look-alike alternative, Gab, is still in closed beta, with a waiting list over 135,000 long. It might be the replacement, it might not. Who knows where the audience will end up? Reddit? Pinterest? Snapchat? Something not even on the horizon yet? My magic 8 ball says “answer hazy, try again later.”

3.) Contingency plans:
Kris Rusch has an(other) excellent article this week, on contingency planning for your business BEFORE the ground shifts under your feet. And during. And after.
And yes, she’s using the election as an example. She’s also being very careful to talk about it from a business perspective, and objectively, because that’s what she does. It’s not about the election, it’s about contingency plans – go read it, and then ponder the kickers.

If you hit a place where you say, That’ll never happen, … , then you hit a scenario that scares the pants off you and it’s one you really, really have to look at.

You must plan for all the contingencies you can foresee.

How do businesses handle uncertainty? In general, businesses make sure they have enough capital to weather economic stagnation and bumps. The businesses also need three kinds of plans—a plan for growth, a plan for stagnation, and a plan for loss. Predicting what will happen for your business is not as simple as looking at what’s happening at other businesses.

Have a plan. If your target market and your fans start migrating platforms, what are you going to do? At what threshold will you do it?
Have alternatives. The more you don’t depend on intermediary sites to bring your readers’ eyeballs to you, the less affected you are by social media turnover.

The running joke (painfully funny because it’s true):
Q:”When’s the best time to start a blog? Or a mailing list?”
A: “Five years ago.”
Consider where you put your time in social media, and if you can allocate an hour a week to updating your blog, or an hour a month to building a mailing list instead of clicking “like” and making long comments on facebook, it’s much better to get your fans to come to a place where they’ll still find you, even after they abandon one social media platform for another.

And remember: the return on interest between five hours a week and fifty hours a week on social media is negligable. Don’t let yourself get sucked into sites at the expense of your writing, running your indie publishing, writing, your family, writing, your mental health, or the state of your household. Or getting the next book out.

And now, for two new releases this week, both pretty awesome but not alike!

Small Town Roads by LB Johnson

In which LB goes from her deeply lyrical, evocative, almost poetic meditations on life, love, sacrifice, and black labrador retrievers to much the same in fiction. Small Town Roads is kind, gentle, poetic, but grippingly bittersweet in the meeting and meshing of the times and values of two distinctly different — but so much the same — women in a small American town.

Brigid’s writing is very like her baking; I am torn between inhaling it as fast as I can because it’s amazing and lingering over its complexity and layered awesomeness.

And for something completely different,

Quest to the North by Tom Rogneby

Tom put out a book of life, love, plumbing, and family (and the mischief small boys can get into) retold in high epic style, in Tales of the Minivandians. But in the second half of the book, it smoothly segued from the trials and tribulations of passing the hut of poultry when you have a hungry kid in a carseat to pure high fantasy, including an epic battle.

Now, he’s releasing the novellas of the aftermath. Here’s the tale in which Ruarin, the Lady of Eyre and Daddybear the Minivandian make a harrowing journey to track down the ghoulish remnants of a friend, and the captive he took.

In the frozen north, they must brave not only killing weather and hidden monsters, but the secrets of Daddybear’s past, including his true name…


  1. This shadowbanning nonsense is absurd. Passive-aggressive censorship by a company who thinks the best way to serve their customers is to disrespect them.

  2. My experience of Facebook and Twitter as ad platforms is that they -SUCK-. One thousand dollars spent on a print ad in the local small-town paper got me a noticeable bump in sales at my retail store the week the ad was in. A similar spend at Facebook got -nada-, Twitter was similarly useless.

    The Facebook and Twitter feeds were useful for people trying to find the store. Google was very helpful in that regard as well. For advertising though? The little local paper beat them solidly.

    I see no reason why an author couldn’t advertise in the little paper in a number of towns. Quarter page ad is ~$200 usually, could get you a decent pop in sales.

  3. I’ve noticed the return on facebook ads has dropped off significantly. I think the only people making money off of them now, is Dawson selling his courses on how to use them.
    Too bad I can’t sue Facebook for lying to me about all of this, it would be fitting, that’s for sure! It will be nice when they go the way of myspace and the rest, which with all of the censorship they’re embracing, probably won’t be that long. Look at Twitter, it’s dying fast.

    1. Given the age of the management, that doesn’t surprise me at all. All they’ve seen is people throwing money at businesses (tech start-ups) as soon as they advertise, so of course that’s how all businesses work, forever, and it doesn’t matter if they tick-off possible customers or not.

  4. I am kind of wondering if some sort of organic Youtube advertising might be a viable platform. My beloved-and-slightly-obsessive Kid has a list of reactors, Let’s Play-ers and theorycrafters that she adores, and it seems to be endemic in her school. I keep wondering, if I send a sample of my wares (jewelry, not books) to one of our family favorites and see if he’d be willing to put in a good word, how that would go…

  5. Good post and lots to think about… Glad I’ve never twittered/tweeted/whatevered… And don’t advertize on facelessbook either…

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