Thursday, April 26, 2012

Are You Getting Lost in the Internet?

I have been busy, busy, busy; networking, connecting, sharing, and building my platform. One of the things I am running across are LOTS of authors, old and new, who are feeling like they don't know what to do to market their books. When engaging in these discussions, I always start with the traditional information "Have you built a platform?"

And I can relate to their pain. It doesn't matter how many people you friend on Facebook, follow on Twitter, or network with on LinkedIn, Google +, Yelp, Tumbler, Youtube, Stage 32, and all the other sites out there! That is not what gets you sales. (Ok, not completely true, especially as you become more established as a writer.) You can have a website, but unless somebody already knows who you are, they probably won't view it. (Unless, of course, you share a name with some pretty famous people, such as John Locke!)

The problem with trying to sell books on social networking sites is that people don't go to these places to buy books. They go to these places to meet people. If all you do is pitch your books (particularly in a straight out manner such as "Royal Prince Vince on sale, only $8.99) then people will not listen or pay any attention to you after awhile (especially if you get really spammy about it, posting 100 time a day! that is a good way to get un-followed.)

 I am going to link the crap out of you real quick. These are all articles and other resources that I have been abusing the crap out of to figure out how to market my books. Some of them, you have probably already looked at yourself, but some of them may be new. Some may share information you have already gotten from someone else, and a lot of them overlap one another (I know).

Ok, I have about 100 more links to other resources that I use, am working my way to using, and still trying determine how effective they will be. The point is, there are tons of people out there giving marketing advice (FOR FREE) Yes, I know, a lot of these guys are asking you to pay for additional services... you know why? Because you get what you pay for. They are giving you vague tips, common sense information, stuff that they would have asked you to do to get them started on the paid product anyway. (I say this because that is what I would expect them to do... I have never actually used any of them, so maybe I'm wrong. If I were doing what they do, I would do it that way!)

Does this mean their advice is useless? By itself, it is not as effective as it could be. But without somewhere to start, you will have nowhere to go. So, read over all of these blogs, and find ways to make it work for you!

For example, Duolit tells you how to put together a media kit for quick reference. Do this. Submit to every local paper, magazine, news station you can find. You know what happened when I did that. Nothing. A week's worth of work, for nothing. After all, why would the newspaper care that I had published a book? Even my college paper did not publish that their alumni had published a book. It was depressing. But don't throw out your media kit, find creative ways to get their attention. I did a reading for a neighborhood program in my town, I let the press know. I did readings for my local schools... and would have let the press know, but the schools would not let me. Find community events to participate in and let the press know (after you get permission from the event coordinators, of course). Sometimes they will show, most of the time they will not. But it is still worth the extra time.  Each time you let them know, send that announcement from your media kit!

Writing World gives you a list of people who do book reviews for different genres. Great place to hit up, and most of them will do the review for the cost of the book, but a lot are generous enough to accept PDF copies (sent through e-mail, it is FREE!!) Are you on Twitter? Start following book reviewers that review books in your genre, share their stuff when you find it insightful. You are building a relationship with them. When you approach them to ask if they would review your book, they'll be more likely to say yes, accept a PDF, AND give you a positive review. After all, they like you for sharing their work! (WARNING: If your book is poorly edited, poorly executed and crap, no amount of niceness will get you a good review. But your kindness might get you bumped up a star in the ratings.)

Get involved in your local community.  Talk to your local library, see if you can get the distributor to buy a couple of copies, but if you can't then offer to donate some. Then ask them if maybe you could also do a reading. It works. You just put your book into the hands of everyone in your community. I know that a lot of the books that I checked out from the library and really enjoyed, I hunted down to buy! A lot of people do. At the very least, they will probably tell someone else that they read it and that person might buy it!

Look at these blogs as if you were reading the back of a book. Their just a teaser. You can pay for the service, or get creative (we are creatives after all!) and find a new angle in which you can plug in their advice!

Here is one "vague tip" to keep in mind when finding creative ways to try and market your books for free. Reciprocity is the key. If it isn't costing you some time and maybe even a little money, then it isn't going to do you much good.

Another thing to keep in mind (a crappy statistic I learned in college) which might help you keep trudging forward. Marketing, at best, is only effective 1/4 of the time. That means that when you go to an event, if you are lucky 1/4 of the people there will actually buy your book. When you tweet to 200 followers, if you are SUPER lucky only 1/4 will be motivated to buy your book. (I'll explain this oddity in a later post that I will devote to twitter.)

So, yeah, marketing is tough. But we gotta do it. I think I will address marketing tips in the next couple of posts, because it seems to be such a difficult topic that really deserves more time than this. If there are any marketing tips you would like to share, or if you have any specific questions about marketing, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Until next time,

Keep Writing!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Paying it Forward, And Why You Shouldn't

I have been thinking about this one a lot. The idea of paying it forward is a good idea. So why would I suggest that you not do this? It is not that I don't think you should do random acts of kindness, I simply want us to look at the underlying issue of why we are doing the random acts of kindness. And of course, I will be relating this to writing ;)

The idea of paying it forward is the principle of doing something kind to someone in hopes that they will do something kind to someone else and so on and so forth and eventually it will come back to you. The danger with doing this is that you can get caught up in a numbers game of "I have done all these good things, so why is no one doing it for me?" Very psychologically damaging, I can assure you!

In my experience, the more you do for others, the less others do for you. I can only sit back and imagine the logic behind it, because I was raised to do for others. I don't have the experience to really understand why people operate this way, I only know that I have watched it happen. My guess is that people must think "Look at Joan always volunteering and helping out! She is amazing, like a super mom or something." And what superhero ever needs help, right? (As a super hero junkie, I scoff at this mentality. As a super mom, it makes me want to cry!)

My other guess is that people figure if you have all this time to be doing for others, then surely you have already taken care of you and yours right? Not in my house! Sadly, it is easier for me to do for others than for my own. Everyone needs help sometimes, even if they are taking time to help others.

My jaded guess is that most people are just selfish. Most people don't do for others unless they can see some kind of reward for them in the end. (My optimistic self is yelling at me that I am wrong! Most people are like me and enjoy helping others!!) That is why the paying forward principle doesn't work.

So how does this apply to writing? We are a community and as such, there are a lot of us out there trying to help one another. We offer free advice, we help read and improve each others' work, we share marketing tactics, have crying sessions about how tough our industry is, have follow backs on twitter, re-tweet each others' messages about books for sale, give our books away to a LOT of people. On the surface we look like an awesome community of paying it forward.

But then you get into threads and forums where authors are complaining about other authors not scratching each others' backs. Where authors sign up for a follow back, follow you and then sneakily un-follow you right after you followed them. These guys are in it for the numbers, they are takers, they ask for help, but never give it. They get angry when you give them critiques.

Then there are a lot who are not so brutal, but who don't do much more. They follow you, but don't re-tweet. They will ask for help, but rarely offer it. When they do "give tips" it is a sales pith for their book on marketing or whatever.

And if you are keeping track of all the good your giving and what little you are getting, then it becomes disheartening. You become resentful and angry, or you just give up doing good. What are you getting out of it, really?

I was raised to do good deeds just because it was the right thing to do. I was raised to make time to do a little good. Don't overwhelm yourself with good works to the point where you get burned out. Don't throw yourself into good deed hell where you are missing something, or someone, because you are always volunteering. But don't do it to get something out of it. That is self-promotion, not a good deed.

And when you are not expecting a return, then you can't get angry when you don't get it. But when you do get it, that return feels so much better because you weren't expecting it.

Here are some personal examples I have experienced in this when it comes to our fellow writers:

There is this guy on twitter. He asked me if I would read his story and give him a critique. I had just finished up with another person's project that took me WAY longer than I had expected and was feeling a little burnt out. I told him I would try and make time for it, but I would have to charge for editing or whatever other service. He said he'd be happy for a quick read. A MONTH LATER I finally got the story back to him (I had only been reading it while waiting in car line for my boys.) The story was a very rough draft and I gave him some general notes to get it to the next level. He didn't respond, so I figured I had really pissed him off.

Then all of a sudden someone is re-tweeting all of my book promos. Yup, he appreciated what I did for him. Two months later and he is still doing it! We've talked a bit back and forth about his book, and I am actually excited to see where this dude goes. He has the right mind set. He took my tips to heart and he showed gratitude for what I did for him. Did he have to? Nope, no skin off my nose. But it feels good I am much more likely to help the next guy or gal because the experience left me with a positive feeling. (A warm thank you would have achieved the same effect, but helping my promotions is awesome too!)

I love follow back threads on Linkedin and other writer sites. I don't follow people as a numbers game so much, as I like to connect with other authors and see what everyone is doing. The big name authors aren't fun to follow because they probably have bots posting for them, but us laymen working our way up are constantly talking about things we experience and I like to learn from others' experiences!

I frequently re-tweet books that I think look interesting, or that I add to my wish list. (I also participate in WLC's tweet teams on occasion, though I haven't found that it does me much good in sales.) Well, I hit this group of folks (can't really remember who all they are now) who I had re-tweeted because I actually found their stuff interesting and they re-tweeted me back! Now a couple of them obviously were doing it as a courtesy and didn't take a lot of time (since one re-tweeted a comment I made to someone else which would have made no sense to anyone not following that comment thread!) But a couple sent messages after telling me that they thought my book looked nice and couldn't wait to read it! I got a warm fuzzy feeling from that.

And if you know me, you know I'm not really a warm fuzzy feeling person! But if I had been expecting it all this time, then what little that I did get wouldn't have meant so much. I would have been thinking something like "I've re-tweeted for 270 other authors and only five have re-tweeted me back? Screw this!" (Actually, I probably would have stopped long before I hit those five if it was just a numbers game.)

So the point of this ramble is, rather than pay it forward, do good just because. Or if you need some cosmic motivation, look at Karma, and hope that somewhere somehow it will eventually catch up with you.

Don't do good to get something. Do it because it is the right, kind, and generous thing to do. But if you do get some good back, be grateful and share that gratitude with the one who did it!

Love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below!

Until next time,
Keep writing!