Last week, Sarah wrote about status, achievement and diplomacy. I’ll admit, she was much nicer about it than I would have been. It is something she and I have talked about a great deal over the years of our acquaintance. The discussions usually begin with something along the lines of “Can you believe. . . .” and relate to some author’s antics on social media. Read more
Posts tagged ‘social media’
I’ll admit right off the bat, this post was inspired by the title of a post over on The Passive Voice. But it veers off the path immediately from the Publishers Weekly article that was the basis for the PV post. If I try to write about “cultural appropriation” this morning, the post would wind up being nothing but a string of curses. Not because I believe we should never write anything we don’t know or aren’t a member or part of but because of all the wonderful book that will never be written because authors are afraid of writing a book with characters that don’t look like them, don’t believe like they do, etc. Okay, stopping there before the cursing begins.
Instead, I want to focus on how you have to do your research if you are writing about people, places or things you aren’t very familiar with. For example, some years ago, I was in Philadelphia for a business conference and contacted family friends in New Jersey. We arranged to meet at their home on Sunday. Since I hadn’t been there since I was a child, Ruth gave me directions and told me to look for the simple cottage with hollies out front. Simple enough, right? I mean we all know what a cottage is and what hollies look like. Read more
(This is a redux, mash-up, and an update of a couple of posts I did several years ago. I’m reviving them because of a trend I’ve been noticing–again–among writers. To be honest, it is also fueled by some recent current events. So, if it seems familiar, that’s why–ASG)
So treat it as one. Several years ago, I came across a FB post by someone I respect a great deal. He has one of the most unverifiable jobs there is in publishing. No, not reading the slush pile, although that is part of his job. He has taken it upon himself to do what so many publishers don’t do. He responds to those who send something in, letting them know whether or not their work has met the minimum threshold to be passed up the line for further consideration. Believe me, that is definitely more than a number of publishers–or agents– do. Too many simply never get back to you unless they are interested or unless you keep prodding until they finally tell you something. Read more
Very first thing: if you haven’t read Amanda’s post from this morning, go read it. While this morality clause nonsense is dangerous to writers, and it’s certainly a CYA move on the part of the publishers including it in their contracts, I can’t help but wonder if it’s *also* being used as a means of further gatekeeping. “You’d better stay in the conservative closet, if you want to keep writing in your favorite world.” Read more
Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about how writing is a business and we need to treat it as such. In that post, I talked about some of the things we need to do after we hit the publish button. No, I didn’t discuss marketing, at least not in detail. Why? Because I’m still figuring that out myself. Instead, I talked about things we do, or should do, to make our product pages attractive. Today, let’s talk about the Amazon author page and one or two related topics.
First of all, if you have released anything on Amazon and haven’t set up your Amazon author page, do so now. Don’t finish reading this post. Hie thee off to Author Central. You will sign in with the same user name and password that you have set up for your KDP account. Once you have, the first page you encounter is a general information page. Review everything there because there is some interesting information, especially if you haven’t been publishing for long.
Now, go to the Author Page tab (or follow the link on the first page). This is your first, and most important, chance to increase the connection you build with your readers when they search for your name or your titles on Amazon. You can update your author bio, add information and links to your blog, talk about upcoming events you’ll be at and more. Take time to look it over and see how you can tweak the information there to make it Amazon author page more interesting to your readers.
The Books tab is probably as important as the Author Page tab. If you search your name on Amazon, I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that you will find not only your titles but the titles of other authors as well. That’s thanks to Amazon’s search function. It is also why you want to make sure all your books and short stories are listed on your author page. Yes, it is usually done automatically but mistakes happen. Using the Books tab, you can add titles yourself. Or remove them if a wrong title has been assigned to you.
The next tab, Sales, is a useful (if sometimes depressing) tool. It gives you not only your Bookscan numbers but also your author ranking and title rankings. I’ll admit, I don’t tend to pay much attention to these numbers except when a new title comes out. I want to see how that impacts the rest of my sales. It also helps track trends pertaining to the best time to release a new title, how many titles need to be released before the next sales jump takes place, etc.
The last tab is for Customer Reviews. The reviews are posted chronologically and aren’t for the faint at heart. After all, that one-star review will be right there with the five-star, not broken out by how many stars the reviewer gave you. There is no new information here. All the reviews are available on the individual product pages. This just gathers them all together in one place for you.
All of that is a long way of saying set the page up so your name will have that nifty little link on Amazon that your fans can click on to see all your titles in one place without having books by other authors added to the list. So spend a few minutes and set it up.
While you’re doing that, look at the website or blog you link to from your Amazon author page. I finally sat down and redid my blog a week or so ago. I really love the new look. It is cleaner and, imo, easier to read. But there are still problems with it. I hadn’t realized when I changed themes that there is no link from the home page to click through to comments. You have to open each individual blog entry to see — or make — a comment. Not good. Not good at all. So, I’m off on a hunt for another blog theme that looks pretty much the same but that has the comment function enabled for the home page.
I also need to redo my banner. I haven’t done so yet because of the need to find a new theme for the page. Each theme has its own requirements when it comes to the size of the banner. Since I’m lazy, I only want to do it once. Plus, I want to make sure I do it right or Sarah will yell at me. (She usually yells at me when I do graphics because I don’t do the lettering properly.)
Another issue I ran into when I redid the theme was discovering that Amazon no longer has an easy way to make a carousel widget to display your work with buy links active. So, when you go to my blog now, you see the books, well their covers, listed individually in the sidebar. That’s not too bad but I need to edit the CSS to fix the alignment. Again, I’m not going to do that until I find a new theme. Otherwise, I’ll have to repeat the work and, as I said earlier, I’m lazy.
But redoing the blog isn’t enough. I need to redo all my sites and combine them. The combining isn’t difficult. It’s simply a matter of redirecting URLs so I’m only maintaining one actual site. When the pen names were not “open”, it was necessary to have different sites for each one. Now that they are open, that’s not necessary. So, once the theme is found and the child pages set up, the other sites will be redirected and their information updated. What that means is I need to set aside a day or two in order to get it all done. That’s hard for me to do because there are always other things I need (or would rather) do.
Our blogs and websites, our Twitter and Facebook accounts are our faces to our fans. We might prefer to be sitting around the den in our underwear but is that really the image we want our fans to see?
Just as we have to take a hard look at our product pages, blurbs and covers, we need to look at what sort of “face” we present with our blogs and websites (and I haven’t even gotten to what we put out on social media).
I’ll leave you with this. Take a look at your blog and/or your website (whichever one gets the most traffic). Does the visitor see links to your work right away? Do you have a widget in place that allows them to donate money should they want to? If you live in a state where you can take part in the Amazon Associates Program, are you links set to your Associates account? In other words, how are you monetizing your page? That was something I learned long ago. I might not make a lot from my Associates account but it is nice to be able to buy an extra book or ten or more from time to time. (Hint: the more you use it, the more money you can make.)
Your website, blog and Amazon author page are ways you advertise your work. Don’t they deserve to look the best they can? Now go forth and put your best digital foot forward.
Yesterday, I blogged about writers and editors behaving badly in social media. No, I’m not talking about those writers who go after reviewers. I’m sure none of us will ever forget NB and his responses to anyone who might have ever posted a negative review to his masterpiece — and I use that therm loosely. This time it was a series of posts by different authors and editors complaining about how the authors who hired them to do work didn’t tip them after paying the agreed upon fee. Oh, that wasn’t the only complaint. There were cries of “foul!” when they weren’t greeted with profuse thanks for their work instead of question or — gasp — complaints. All that resulted in a blog about how you need to remember not to air your dirty laundry on social media because it will be seen by more folks than you think and it can — and probably will — run off business. The point of the post was that if you contract for editing or art or anything else, you need to price your services at a level where you don’t have to rely upon “tips”.
I’d expected that to be the end of the “but it’s a business, damn it!” reaction I’d had to the different Twitter and Facebook posts. Then I turned on the laptop this morning and checked the usual social media sites and, well, realized it wasn’t over. So repeat after me, “Writing is a business and needs to be treated as such.” Repeat it again and then, if it helps, print it out and put it on your desk somewhere.
Today’s post comes after seeing several folks take to social media asking how to sell more books. Usually, such a question wouldn’t bother me. After all, it’s a question we all ask ourselves on an almost daily — if not hourly — basis. Most of those asking were looking for honest answers and advice. And, again, it all comes down to treating the writing as a business. You have to know your market. You have to actually write. And you have to be able to make the hard decisions some times.
One of those decisions is when to end a series. It doesn’t matter how much you, as the author, love the series or the characters. It doesn’t even matter if the series hasn’t run the full story arc you have in mind. Sometimes, you have to step back and look at your sales numbers impartially and make the hard call to stop writing that series and move on to something else.
But, before you do that, you need to have something else already going. Again, you don’t stop making widgets without having the machinery up and running to replace them with cogs or whatchamacallits.
I’ve made the decision to end a series before I initially planned to. I liked the characters but I had to take a hard look at what was going on with sales. Oh, each new release made money, but not as much as my other books. Worse, sales did not continue. There would be an uptick after a new book was released but then sales would fall off. Sure, I got reads on KU but not enough to spend time writing more of the series. So, I back burner-ed it. One day, I may return to to it. But, for now, much as I like the series, it has taken a backseat to other books and series.
I even know what at least part of the problem with the series happens to be. It’s multi-fold and the problems are ones I see other authors having as well. The first is covers. The covers on this particular set of books don’t match the genre, especially now. The second are the tag words. These books came out before Amazon gave us the handy dandy list of words to use. I need to go back and redo those meta tags. The descriptions need work as well. Finally, the books are really a different sub-genre now than they were when they were written. That makes a lot of difference. Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t completely write that series off after all. Maybe I should put the time into updating the info and seeing what happens.
Now, before I put that particular series on the back burner, I made sure I had something else to take its place. Fortunately, I rolled the dice right and that series has far outsold the one it replaced. And no, I’m not going to tell you what series and you won’t find it because — bwahahahaha — it is under a closed pen name.Not even my fellow bloggers here know that name.
But back to the issue. If you are writing a series and it isn’t making the money you think it should and you have done every reasonable — and even some unreasonable — marketing ploy, then you have to ask yourself if it isn’t time to move on. To help make that decision, you need to look at your sales numbers, going all the way back to the beginning of the series. Look for trends. Do you get an uptick in sales when you release a new book and what is the drop off after the first few weeks and months? Is that drop off the same from book to book or does it lessen with each additional book you publish?
There are other things to look at as well, especially when it comes to what you are doing to market your work. Do you have active links in the back of your book, complete with descriptions, of your other titles? How about links to titles of books by other authors that you like and think your readers will as well? Are you blogging about your work and your writing process? Do you post on FB and other sites when you have a new book coming out?
Conversely, if you do utilize social media platforms, are you pissing folks off by spamming your notices everywhere, including on other authors’ pages? If you have an email list, do you only send out to those who asked to be included or have you captured email addresses for other people and send to them? If the latter, DON’T! That is another way to make people want to NOT buy your work.
You also need to remember that readers and fans will have a perception of you based upon your social media posts. This is why so many publishers for so long told their authors to be apolitical or, more recently, have required them to be anything but conservative in their posts. These publishers and editors thought readers wanted their authors to be liberal on all things. What they didn’t get is that, by doing so, they alienated even more readers than they were gaining — at least in a number of cases.
So, if you are busy posting on FB and elsewhere whines about how badly your sales are going, you have just shot yourself in the foot. How? By telling potential readers who might see the post that your book isn’t worth buying. Remember, it is all about perception and appearance.
But that’s not to say you can’t ask questions about how to increase sales or how to best market your book. Far from it. But what I’m suggesting is you consider who might see your post. There are any number of author-centric groups and pages on FB where you can ask such questions and get responses from people who have been there and done that. You can ask your crit group or find a mentor — waves as Sarah and Dave — all of whom can make suggestions.
Sometimes, however, you just have to admit that the series that is near and dear to your heart isn’t as special to the reading public. So, pull up your pants, tell your characters you love them but it is time you give some love to some others characters and plots and move on. You can always go back — in months, not days or weeks — and look at that series with a fresh and critical eye. Sometimes, stepping away gives you the space you need to breathe new life into it. But, if you don’t step away, you don’t give yourself that chance.
It all boils down to this: if you aren’t selling what you think you should, why? Have you looked at your work with a critical eye, compared it to the books in your genre or sub-genre to see what those other authors are doing that you aren’t? Have you looked at your social media presence with that same critical eye to see what sort of appearance you are presenting to the reading public? Remember, as a publicity tool, social media isn’t there for only your established fans but to help you read new ones as well. So what sort of impression are you giving them?
This is a quasi-follow up to last week’s post. In this case, I’m not necessarily saying to think like a “pro” writer but think like a business pro. This means sitting back and considering how what you just wrote as a blog post or FB status post or Tweet or whatever the social media platform of the day is called — and doing so before you hit the enter button. It means looking at the long term as well as the short term benefits of any action you are considering when it comes to your career. It also means doing what is best for you in this ever-changing career of ours.
So let’s start with the elephant in the room: social media. Almost every author and editor, publisher and agent, has a Facebook page. They Tweet and Reddit and whatever else is out there. Because is it an election year, our feeds are filled with a number of political posts. Some are thoughtful and well thought out. They look at the issues and the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. In short, they are the sort of posts where debate are encouraged and personal attacks aren’t tolerated. Then there are the ones where the pro in question starts out by condemning — or worse — anyone who doesn’t fall in line with their political beliefs. They ridicule those who don’t think the “right” way. They will instantly block or unfriend those who aren’t as liberal or conservative or whatever as they are.
I don’t know about you, but I enjoy discussing politics — or just about anything else — with people who are willing to discuss and debate the issues with me. I also remember those who dig their heels in the sand, put their fingers in their ears and try to shout me down. In other words, online behavior can and does impact my decision on what books I buy.
But it goes beyond political discussion or diatribe. It is behavior in general. As noted in last week’s post, if a writer takes to social media to do a hatchet job on an agent or editor and doesn’t back up what they are saying, well, that author comes across as a prima donna and only does himself harm. When an agent or editor take to social media and make fun of an author, especially someone trying to break into the business, they are no better than the prima donna author. They go on my little list (that is getting longer with each month that passes) of folks I don’t necessarily want to do business with.
Then there are the authors — or anyone else, for that matter — who look at social media as their own private promotion train. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those authors or agents who Tweet constantly about their books. Every other Facebook post is about this book they have written or that book they are about to publish. They fill your feed with what are nothing but ads and, all too often, poorly written ones. I get the need to promote your work. Everyone in this business does. But there is a reason why folks love using their DVRs. They can fast-forward through the commercials and when you social media feed is little more than one ongoing infomercial, folks are going to do the FB version of fast-forwarding. They will block your posts on their feed or unfriend you or both.
Even worse in some ways than the constant informercial postings are when authors (or others) create Facebook pages or groups and add folks to it without their permission. Guys, I can’t stress highly enough what a big no-no this is. I know it is easier and less time consuming to just add folks and let them then decide if they want to stay in the group or not but it isn’t cool. Instead of doing that, add a few folks you know want to take part. Ask them to help spread word about your page and then grow your fanbase that way. Most of all, when someone you have added without their permission calls you on the carpet for it, admit you screwed up and apologize. Don’t then be a dick about it and attack them. Man up — or woman up — and admit you made a mistake and ask them to hang around because you will do everything you can to make it worth their while.
There is more when it comes to social media but it all basically comes down to this: If you were talking to someone face-to-face, would you say to them what you are about to post on social media? A second question you need to ask is if you would say it to them in a crowded room where everyone can and will hear you say it? Finally, ask yourself if you would say it in front of your mother or grandmother, priest or pastor, or how about your child? If you answered “no” to any of this, you might want to seriously consider whether you want to put it out on social media where the world can see it.
Always remember, your social media presence is the only interaction most of your fans and potential fans will ever have with you. This is your chance to win them over to your side, not alienate them because you are being a douche.
Social media isn’t the only thing you need to keep in mind when it comes to acting like a pro. Some of us are more than happy to take the risk of indie publishing. We know we face an uphill battle getting our books into brick and mortar stores. We have to decide if we want to put all our e-book eggs into the Amazon basket or spread them far and wide with different online vendors as well. We have to deal with our own bookkeeping and making sure our work is edited, etc. However, we also know we can get our work out at our own schedule and not be limited by the number of slots a publisher has or working our way through slush piles. The indie route isn’t right for everyone just as the traditional route isn’t the only way.
However, there is a quote that caught my eye this morning that I’d like to share with you. It comes from an interview with agent Molly Friedrich. She has been in the game for some time now and represents such authors as Sue Grafton and Frank McCourt, among others.
When asked if ebooks and they way they have changed the industry has impacted her, Friedrich responded:
Ebooks have been very healthy for publishers. They have not been healthy for authors. Publishers are making a load of money — very little of which is going to the author’s statement.
I know that doesn’t surprise most of us, or it shouldn’t. We have seen publishers trying to claim they have to re-edit ebooks or redesign covers, etc. They have tried double-dipping on their so-called expenses to lower the monies they have to pay out to authors. Then we have the debacle of the price-fixing attempt some of them did with Apple in an attempt to hurt Amazon. The only ones hurt then were the authors and readers. It has become clear that publishers either don’t understand the economics of ebooks (or of customer demand and price points) or they don’t care.
At a time when most folks balk at paying cover prices for books, hard cover or soft, why do publishers think we will pay $12.99 for an ebook? When they should be realizing that more units could be sold if they would lower prices (even if it was simply to $9.99) why are they continuing to raise prices? New ebooks by J. D. Robb and David Baldacci are now listed at $14.99.
Nope, this reader is not going to pay that much for a book, no matter how much I like the author. The only exception might be for research books but not for fiction. Not now and probably not ever. That is especially true when I can and have found indie authors and small press authors who sell their books at half that price or less.
The lesson from this is to recognize that even a pro on the traditional side recognizes the fact that the publishers are not working in the best interest of authors when it comes to ebook pricing. That means you need to take this into consideration when you are contemplating whether to go indie or traditional.
I guess what I’m saying is that, no matter whether you are looking at promoting your work or trying to decide which route is best for you, approach it like you would anything else in business. Look at the strengths and weaknesses. Look at what will best serve your needs and help you reach your goals. Then go for it. Just remember that this is your profession and you need to always remember that.