A New Crop of Writers

I’ve been helping a new crop of writers get a toehold in the social networking world, and many are already discouraged because they are not getting immediate results. Social networking is not like advertising. It’s like . . . hmmm, let me think . . . It’s like going to a movie theater and trying to sell your books to the people around you when all they want to do is watch the movie. Even worse, there are other writers in the theater trying to do the same thing you are, so the viewers are not just focused on the movie, they are purposely shutting out everything else. The challenge is to get their attention and make them more interested in you and your book than in the movie.

That’s what I never figured out — how to grab people’s attention online long enough for them to buy a book. Some people have bought my books, of course, and many of these people have become good friends, which has its own rewards. In fact, a couple of years ago when I realized that the vast majority of my almost 5000 Facebook connections had zero interest in me and only wanted to peddle their own books, I culled my list to a more manageable number. I still don’t know most of the people I’m “friends” with, but there is a growing number of people I do know, which makes Facebook seem so much friendlier. But my books are still slowly fading into obscurity.

The problem with using social media for book marketing is that the majority of the people I’m connected to are other authors. Authors do buy books, but mostly, they are trying to sell their own books. Readers buy books, of course, but generally they read the same authors they have always read (don’t get me started on James Patterson!) with a couple of new authors thrown in to season the pot.

Whenever a book goes major big time like 50 Shades of Gray, it goes big because non-readers buy it. Which means we can’t promote to other authors and we can’t promote readers, so we need to promote to non-readers, who, of course, will not pay attention because . . . they don’t read unless a book goes big.

That is the conundrum I have struggled with for seven years. The best thing, of course, would be if I were the first (or even second) to try something new. The first guy who promoted his books on FB sold a lot of books, but he made his fortune with his subsequent book on how to make a fortune selling books via Facebook.

It’s hard to explain all this to newly published authors. And I don’t really want to, anyway. One of the new crop might be able to figure out a fabulous new idea for promoting that I can steal!

Meantime, I’m doing interviews with these authors on my Pat Bertram Introduces . . . blog. Feel free to join the fun!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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Catfishing

Today I got a friend request from someone I knew online. I thought I’d friended her on Facebook years ago, but I couldn’t remember. I don’t see everyone I’m friends with since Facebook chooses what shows up in my newsfeed, and besides, I’d received a couple of other requests from people I was friends with, but who were separating out their personal connections from their author connections, so it seemed normal to me.

I accepted the friend request, and almost immediately got a message from her. “Hello.” Nothing else just the one word.

I responded, “Hi. I didn’t know you weren’t on facebook. Welcome!”

She: am sorry for me resending you a friend request it is just that i got a trojan virus on my old profile so this is my new account now

I got the gist at one glance — resending me a friend request, trojan virus — and didn’t pay particular attention to the construction of the message other than to wonder if she were using her phone to respond and didn’t bother to be grammatical. So I wrote back, “No problem – about sending me a request that is. A virus and having to start over are big problems. I’m sorry. How are you doing? No new physical ailments I hope.

I unfriended the original her since Facebook has a cap on the number of friends you can have, and there is no point in padding one’s friend numbers with defunct accounts. Then I got this message from the new account:

She: Am good and very much happy now. Do you know Agentofficer Adeniyi morgan?

I started to feel a bit uneasy. This friend would never have said she was happy now. Not that I ever knew her to be either happy or unhappy, but she would simply not have used the word in such a way. She would have offered me a bit of wisdom, would have made a philosophical remark, would have mentioned specifically how she was doing, or would have asked about how I was doing after the death of my father. A bit hesitantly, I typed, “No don’t know that person. I’m so glad you’re happy.

She: Agentofficer Adeniyi morgan? Who work for fedgov to help and support the young and old retired people, in the community department of compensation they are really helping do you got yours from him?

Now I knew something was wrong. This friend is an educated, literate woman, who writes spectacular historical novels, and she would never be so slipshod. Besides, the construction sounded similar to the spam messages I get on my blog as if the translation program the person used was faulty. So I wrote, “Email me, okay?” And then I googled Agentofficer Adeniyi morgan, found out the scoop, emailed my friend and told her what was going on. But she already knew.

I got one final fake message: “Really but i did tallk to him, because when the ups man came to deliver mine for me i did saw your name on the list of those that are going to get it too thats why am telling you if you have got yours from them?”

Apparently, this Agentofficer Adeniyi morgan or whoever is using that name, uses photos from someone’s profile (I thought he/she/it was cloning the account, but apparently it’s simpler than than that), sends friend requests to that person’s friends to try to scam money out of them. This person is offering $150,000 if you make a tax payment of $1000, and is targeting older people both online via Facebook and even by phone. So, beware of Agentofficer Adeniyi morgan or anyone offering you such an improbable deal.

This sort of scam my friend and I got caught up in is called catfishing after the 2010 documentary Catfish about an online romance that turned out to be something other than it was purported to be. Predators use catfishing as a way to trick the unsuspecting into romantic relationships, and as you can see, scammers use it as a means of trying to get money.

Actually, only the name catfish is new, the schemes and scams are old.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

I Am Darkness!

A friend did one of those ubiquitous quizzes that show up on Facebook on an almost daily basis, and not having anything better to do (except find a topic for today’s blog post since I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about my possible epic walk), I did the quiz to find out what element I am. Most of the questions had no meaning for me, so I did the best I could. For example, one question was about colors that speak to me, and I don’t have any favorite color — what fascinate me are the way colors complement and contrast with one another. And even if I did have a tendency toward a particular color right now, such as purple, it wasn’t listed. So I just went with the best answer for the moment. And of course, none of the deadly sins pertain, while all of the virtues do. (Or maybe it’s the other way around.)

So what is my element? Darkness! I wasn’t aware that darkness was an element, but what do I know. According to the quiz maker, I’m not reflective enough. (I guess that makes sense in a “pun” sort of way since black absorbs everything and reflects nothing, though I thought I had a tendency to think too much.) They said:

Your element is DARKNESS. You are often misunderstood and judged quickly. Yet if people only took just a bit of extra kind effort to you they would see something wonderful. Mysterious yet much more simple then others misperceive. You get many things that just don’t click for others. You see the truth for what it is and you embrace it while others sugar coat it. You have low tolerance for ignorance, though you may come off a bit arrogant yourself. You could stand to reflect a bit more and you will find a lot of your isolation issues are due to self-sabotage. Though you may enjoy your alone time, no one truly enjoys being alone. Don’t fool yourself. That aside you are a rare beautiful truth in this world of fake.

I’m making fun of the quiz and of myself for taking it, but there is much truth in their analysis. Or at least I hope there is. I like the idea of being mysterious. And I like the idea of being a truth. I guess that’s my arrogance coming out.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Just When You Thought Facebook Couldn’t Get Any Weirder

Facebook is so massive, it’s like a whole internet unto itself, with games, photos, chats, groups, and a ridiculous amount of promotion. Because of all that constant activity, it’s not surprising that shady folks have managed to find ways of scamming members of the site.

I have never liked liking things on Facebook except occasional posts from people I know. I especially don’t like liking candythings and sharing things if they are sentimental and sugary sweet. Such posts seem manipulative, as if I am being forced to have an opinion about something I have no opinion about. There are plenty of awww-some moments in real life — I don’t have to go looking for the awww factor on FB.

As it turns out, my instincts were correct. Although many such posts are real, others are scams. For example, I remember once seeing a photo of a young girl with a bald head, wearing a cheerleading uniform. The tagline on the photo said that the girl had chemo, and asked people to like or share to show her she was still beautiful.

The trouble is, that was a scam. The photo was real — the girl’s mother had posted it on Photobucket years before, and she had no idea that the photo was being used by scammers — but it was used simply to gain likes and shares. (This is called “like farming”.) Since Facebook’s algorithms are set to promote the most popular posts, likes and shares on such posts can increase exponentially. Sometimes, once the scammers have built up a page with likes, they switch content and promote a product. Or they sell page on the black market. Or they use it for phishing expeditions or even to spread malware. (Just liking a page can’t spread malware to your computer, but clicking links on the page could.)

Is this a good time to ask you to like my FB page? Probably not. And anyway, I don’t post much of anything except links to this blog, and you’re already here, so you don’t need to see the link there. But, if you insist, you can find my page at https://www.facebook.com/PatBertramAuthor. I promise I won’t scam you.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Being Nice

For many years, I was subject to depression and debilitating allergies that so enervated me, getting out of bed in the morning was about all I could handle. Then there were the years my life mate/soul mate was dying, where I hunkered down in my emotional foxhole, trying to protect myself from the pain with which life was bombarding us. During these times, whenever I’d go out among people, all I ever seemed to see were happy, healthy, and energetic folks, which made me feel as if I were alone in my misery.

It wasn’t until I signed up for Facebook and started making contact with all sorts of people that I discovered the truth rainbowin their status updates. Everyone is struggling with something — illness, disability, debility, depression, grief. Even if people aren’t struggling with such a difficulty themselves, they are taking care of someone with a problem. The strong, healthy people I saw were probably normally traumatized people on their good days.

I’m learning to be nice to everyone, even people with a bad attitude. Anger, rudeness, pettiness, are all signs of unhappiness and discontent, and chances are, the misery stems from actual problems, not just a desire to be mean. In a strange sort of way, how people treat me is not my problem. Their inconsideration is a reflection of them, not me. My only responsibility is in my own reaction, and — in an ideal world — I would always choose to be nice. Life of course, is not always ideal, and I sometimes I let my own problems dictate my behavior, especially when those problems entail a lack of sleep, such as the episodes with my afflicted brother.

One of my favorite scenes in a film is in the 1989 movie Roadhouse where Patrick Swayze is discussing his policy with the bouncers. “Be nice,” he says. He goes on to tell them that no matter what anyone does, be nice. And he ends, “I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice.” It’s a good policy for anyone, being nice.

Sure, we have problems, but everyone else does too. So let’s pretend this is an ideal world, and let us all be nice.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Today I Will Be . . .

I’ve gotten in the habit of posting a daily resolution on Facebook, which has been a good discipline for me. I spend a minute or so thinking about what challenges I will be facing that day, and then I post the appropriate resolution. For example, today I will need to have more generosity of spirit to get through a trying situation, so the resolution I just posted says: Today I will be . . . munificent. Yesterday I had to write a chapter for Rubicon Ranch, the online collaborative serial I’m writing with other Second Wind authors, so I posted the resolution: Today I will be . . . creative. Other days I have resolved to be bold or diligent or grateful or (just for fun) enigmatic.

In fact, I even use an all-purpose resolution, a bit of word art I created, for my Facebook profile:

Today I will be . . .

I don’t know if these public daily resolutions make a difference because obviously I don’t know what my day would have been like without them, but I like posting the resolutions. It makes me appreciative of the day despite any challenges or hardships that I am facing, Makes it seem as if with a bit of a boost, I can surmount all problems or at least accept them. So although I already posted a resolution for today on Facebook, I am posting a special one here:

Today I will be . . . appreciative.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Just When You Thought Facebook Couldn’t Get Any Scarier . . .

Just when you thought Facebook couldn’t get any scarier, they rolled out “graph search,” a more detailed way of searching for people, photos, and anything else posted on Facebook.

According to How to Avoid Digital Life Doom with Facebook Graph Search, an article by Tom Mason on a Trend Micro blog (Trend Micro is the virus protection I use), this new graph search is so powerful that anyone, even if they are not your FB friend or a friend of a friend, can find out enough information about you to steal your identity — name, date of birth, where you live, even if you’re at home at a particular moment. People can find out what apps you are using. They (or you) can search for people by city, age, gender, availability, and build a potential dating pool.

This doesn’t worry me because I want people to find me. Not me personally where I live, but me online. I want them to know I am an author, my books are published by Second Wind Publishing, and I have a blog. (Well, several blogs, to be honest.) I’ve been careful about what information I post online. I use a pseudonymous birthday, don’t post my address, leave my hometown ambiguous, remove tags from any photo I am tagged in, hide the pages I’ve “liked”, but other than that, my life is an open book. Or should I say an open blog? I mostly use this blog as a personal journal, posting my thoughts and feelings, the ups and downs of my life’s journey, even my hopes (or lack thereof) for the future.

I don’t really worry about “big brother” watching me. Anyone who did surveillance of any kind on me would be bored to tears after a few days. (That’s depressing, actually. Shouldn’t a woman sliding down the banister of middle age have at least some secrets she doesn’t want anyone to know? Maybe that should be a goal for my remaining decades — learn how to lead a mysterious life, full of intrigue with secrets that need to be protected at all costs.)

Be sure to check out Tom’s article if you want to know to protect yourself from “graph search” abuse.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Fodder For the Facebook Machine

I have a discussion group on Facebook, Suspense/Thriller Writers, that is constantly evolving because of the site’s ever-changing policies, and what was once fun, has now turned into a burden.

In the beginning, when I was new to Facebook, the groups were pretty much worthless. They were mostly discussion groups where no one discussed, but I found a way to make it work. At the time, FB had separate areas for links and promos and such. I was fine with whatever anyone wanted to post — I just wanted the discussion group. And it was a great discussion group. Each week I’d ask a different author to pose a topic, I’d email the group members, and we’d have an interesting discussion. I learned a lot from those people.

Well, Facebook couldn’t leave well enough alone. They changed the group format, and since our original groups didn’t fit in with their new format — we had too many members — they planned to get rid of all of us. Eventually enough people complained, and they let our groups remain, but they changed them completely — got rid of the discussion forum, took away the ability for Facebookgroup administrators to send messages to the group, and combined everything else into one huge mess on the wall.

Members of the group left in droves. They couldn’t stand the constant barrage of promotion. Finally, we decided to ban any sort of promotion from the wall and turn it into strictly a writing discussion group. (No publishing, formatting, or promotion questions are allowed — this is strictly a group to discuss the craft of writing.) It actually worked well. As a thank you to the members for adhering to our rules, I set up a separate event every Saturday. Well, FB decided there was something wrong with that, and took away my ability to set up events. So I set up a separate group for promotion.

All went fine for a while until FB decided to change things again. Instead of ignoring groups, they decided to promote them — and the groups with the most members got the most promotion. Sounds great, right? Wrong! Now every author on FB who has a book to promote is made aware of our group, and we’ve been inundated with new members. Members, I might add, who don’t pay attention to the group rules, which are pinned to the top of the wall for all to see. (It’s amazing to me how often someone will “like” the rules or comment about how great the no promo rule is, and then immediately post a promo. I guess people think rules apply to everyone else but them?)

I spend way too much time every day deleting promos and banning those who posted the promo link. I used to give people the benefit of the doubt, but if I didn’t ban them, they’d simply post something else. (Doesn’t anyone get the point of soocial networking? You don’t constantly beat people over the head with the links to your books. You get to know them and then let them find you.)

I realize that FB is not a public site — we are all fodder for the great FB machine, and are subject to whatever changes they deem necessary — but all these machinations are burdensome. Still, the group is worth saving. How often on the internet, and especially Facebook, do you find a group of people who help each other with the craft of writing? So I’ll just deal with the frustration and hope that eventually the gods of Facebook decide to turn their attention elsewhere.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Seven by Seven by Seven

7A fellow author tagged me in a game on Facebook the other day where authors were supposed to “Go to either page 7 or 77 of your manuscript. Count down 7 lines, then copy the next 7 lines to your status. Then tag 7 other writers.”

I don’t like tagging people because it seems rude to include them in a game they didn’t ask to play, but still, all those sevens caught my attention, so I thought I’d play out the game here. Feel free to tag along!

A SPARK OF HEAVENLY FIRE

He ushered her toward a battered red Honda Accord that looked as if it could have been one of the first models off the assembly line.

“It has close to two hundred thousand miles on it,” he said proudly, opening the door for her.

To her relief, the heater worked.

They headed down the long sweeping driveway.

MORE DEATHS THAN ONE

“Then he met you,” Kerry murmured, “and found contentment once again.”

Bob swallowed. “Yes. After he finished telling me the story of the figurines, he said a consortium of Japanese executives had approached him. They wanted The Lotus Room for a conference center, and he decided to sell it to them. He said his dreams of looking for the gold Buddha had faded, but he wanted to find the remains of his wife and child, and give them a proper burial.”

LIGHT BRINGER

“We were inept.” He clamped his mouth shut. The challenging assignments in exotic locales he’d expected when he transferred to Teodora Zaroff’s unit had not materialized, and now it looked as though they never would. He’d have been better off staying in Identification; the work was as elementary, but at least he’d be back in the real world where things made sense most of the time.

DAUGHTER AM I

Once inside, they could barely move around. A folded rollaway bed, a shallow wooden cabinet, a metal desk and chair took up most of the available space.

“A secret room,” Mary breathed. “It’s like something out of Nancy Drew or the Hardy boys.”

“It’s a storage area,” Bill said.

“Then where’s the door?”

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

Facing Off With Facebook

windYesterday’s accidental New Year’s resolution was to spend less time promoting books I don’t like and would never read by authors I don’t know. (For the past few years, I’ve been posting book excerpts from any author who sent me one, and then promoting it via Twitter and Facebook.) Today’s accidental resolution is to spend less time on Facebook. This resolution isn’t accidental — I’ve been giving a lot of thought to where I want to go with my online life. What’s accidental is the timing. What was supposed to be simply a resolution has accidentally become a New Year’s resolution.

Like many authors, I joined Facebook as a way of promoting my books, and I “friended” as many people as possible to get the word out. When I realized I wasn’t getting the results I’d hoped for, I started going for quality — trying to get to know the people I was connected with. That worked to a certain extent — I’ve met wonderful people and have had interesting discussions with them — but now the site has lost its luster. Or maybe I am growing beyond what the site has to offer. I never did like the games that keep so many people occupied, but I liked the feeling that something was always going on, that there was always a chance for an incredible encounter.

A growing problem is that for me there are two Facebooks running concurrently. There is the professional side, where I meet and connect with other authors, and there is the personal side. I’ve tried separating out the two — I have both a personal profile and an author page — but I’m still connected to more than a thousand people on my personal profile that I don’t know, and the constant flow of their personal tragedies and triumphs is beginning to weigh me down.

I don’t know which is worse — the brags about how many books people have sold, how many pages they have written, what awards they have won, their ratings on Amazon, or the announcements of anniversaries, illnesses, hospitalizations, accidents, and deaths of relatives and pets. (Actually, I do know what is worst — the happy announcements of wedding anniversaries. They remind me of what I have lost.)

I sound curmudgeonly, don’t I? In a cosmic sense, what happens to each person affects us all, but in a microcosmic way, knowledge of these events can add an immeasurable burden. Yes, I’m glad of people’s triumphs. (Or at least I want to be.) Yes, I’m sorry about their tragedies. But how do my feelings make a difference to their lives? I’m a stranger to them as they are to me. And if I turn off my computer, they no longer exist. (Ah, such power!)

I can’t completely get rid of Facebook, nor do I want — it’s a good way of connecting with people and getting to know them — but I can curtail my time on the site, and that I will do.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+