Promotional Absurdities

Promotion gets absurd at times. Every day, almost, I get an email from Twitter telling me I can promote my books on Twitter. All I have to do to optimize my presence on Twitter is to buy Twitter ads. Yep. That’s what they say. But here’s my question. If those ads are so effective, why isn’t Twitter using Twitter ads to promote their promotional services instead of spamming me? Apparently, as annoying as spam is, it works better than anything else. At least for Twitter. Me? I unsubscribed from their emails.

A couple of years ago I got an external drive for my computer. It’s a great way to back up files. The program automatically updates the drive, so I never have to think about it. Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. In reality, it uses so much memory and CPUs that my computer runs slower than . . . me. (I sat here for a moment trying to think of a clever simile, and that’s the best I could come up with. Sheesh. At least the simile has the merit of being true. I do run slowly when I run, which is as seldom as possible.) Still, I’ve managed to make the drive work for my needs. The strange thing is, every few days I get an email from the company trying to get me to buy another external drive. If the drive worked thsmileye way it’s supposed to, I’d never need another drive since files are simply updated, not rewritten. So why the constant barrage of promotion? Perhaps they know they sold me a crappy drive?

Today someone posted a link on one of my Facebook groups promoting their promotional services. The promotional article began with things you should not do to promote. All of my FB groups are promotion-free zones, so here’s a tip — before you promote in certain groups, be sure to check that such promotions are acceptable. And if promotion is not allowed, do not promote. I deleted not only the link but the person who posted the link. Problem solved . . . for me, anyway.

Every day I get dozens of requests to download someone’s ebook for free. These authors seem to think that because the book is free that their telling me about it isn’t promotion, that they are doing me a favor by allowing me the opportunity to read their less than immortal prose. To me, such promotion is every bit as bad as the authors who scream at every opportunity, “Buy my book.” I suppose commando tactics work, but not for me. A lot of these authors are on Facebook, and I have no qualms about unfriending such unfriendly folk. Who needs the aggravation?

Maybe I’m too picky. Maybe these are all reasonable ways of doing business. But I would never resort to such tactics.

Well, almost never.

Buy my books. Please.

***

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.

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Trying to Be Heard Above the Facebook Noise

I’m sure it seems as if I’m obsessed with Facebook, considering all the posts I’ve been writing about the site lately, but the truth is, it confuses me. What’s the point of having thousands of friends if only a few of those “friends” show up in our news feeds, and our posts show up in only a few of theirs? Why do we have to post silly sayings and quotes by other people to attract attention to our own writing? Why are we supposed to upload colorful images and share cute pet photos? What does any of that have to do with our books? Shouldn’t the books be enough to attract attention?

I do know the answer to that last question. If you are James Patterson, mention of a book is news, but if you are Pat Bertram, it’s blatant self-promo.

There is so much noise on Facebook, with everyone screaming “Looka me, looka me,” like kids on a playground, that it’s almost impossible to hear the quiet writers who just want people to check out their books.

I thought if I posted intelligent questions, I’d attract intelligent friends, and the ones I interact with are exceedingly intelligent. The trouble is, they are in the same position I am in — looking for quiet readers in a noisy world.

I’m a writer, right? I should be able to think of witty things to say that will make people want to get to know me and my books, but my wit deserts me when it’s most needed. When I do think of something witty, it’s at three o’clock in the morning. I’m not about to wake fully, turn on the light, write down my witticism, and then lie there for hours, waiting in vain for sleep to return. (My wit centers more on puns, anyway, such as: Waiting in vein. Is that what vampires do? Well, maybe “wit” is a bit of an exaggeration.) So what passes for wit, passes with the night, and in the morning I don’t remember. (Probably just as well if “waiting in vein” is the best I can do.)

One of my favorite people on Facebook, who manages to be intelligent and witty and post cute pet photos, is Malcolm R. Campbell. (He also happens to be a darn good writer.) Malcolm once said that he’s written more to promote his books than he did to write them. (See? I told you he was witty. Or at least truthful.)

It’s kind of pathetic when you think about it — you rip out your heart and throw it into your book, and then you have to take what’s left of you and spent it on sites like Facebook. Is it worth it? I’m not sure. For a long time, I thought it was. I was having fun, and there was always the hope of hitting some sort of friending jackpot. But now? It seems like . . . noise. Something to block out.

Still, wit aside, I do have a modicum of intelligence, a bit of computer savvy, a tinge of knowledge about the workings of the human psyche, so I should be able to make my voice heard above the noise, right? But in the back of my mind is the small question, what then? My books aren’t the next erotic vampire bondage serial killer novelty, so will my being heard make any difference?

Why Facebook is Not the Great Promotional Tool It Once Was

Are you one of those authors who joined Facebook, hoping to find fame and fortune, and have only found . . . Facebook?

After my books were accepted for publication, and while I waited for them to become available, I spent a lot of time researching how to promote online. The first unanimous suggestion was to get a website, the second was to maintain a blog, and the third, of course, was to create a presence on social networking sites. I’d already done the first two, so that left the third option. How hard could networking be? Add the maximum number of friends, post status updates and blog links, create discussion groups as a way to get to know other authors. Sounded like fun.

At first, it worked the way it was supposed to — I made a lot of friends, had some great discussions, promoted my online release party via Facebook and MySpace. I even sold some books.

And then . . . nothing. Sure, I still had friends, but sales dropped off, and when my next release party came around, almost no one stopped by. (By then, MySpace was practically defunct — everyone I met on MySpace had migrated to Facebook.)

Many authors have had the same experience as I did. So what happened? Why, after all those articles about how great Facebook was for promotion, didn’t we get the results we hoped for? Because of the ever-changing face of Facebook, that’s why.

When I joined Facebook, it was at the tag end of the free-for-all, where anyone could post anything and all of your “friends” would see it. Events and requests to “like” a page weren’t hidden in your notifications as they are now, but were almost impossible to miss. You pretty much had to respond one way or another. Groups were much more effective than they are now. Group administrators could send a message to everyone in the group, and there were group discussions boards (which is what I used the group messaging for — to announce the weekly discussion).

One by one, all the functional parts of Facebook (those that worked best for promotion, that is) have disappeared, to be replaced by . . . not much of anything, actually. If you post something on your fan page, it shows up in the news feed of only a small percentage of people. They say 10%, but it’s more like 2%. My current reach — the maximum number of people per week who could have seen my posts — is 285. Considering that I post something every day, that means FB shows each post to only about 40 people a day, which is a very small fraction of my 1487 “likes.” If I want more people to see my posts, I can pay to get more views. Bizarre, isn’t it?

I don’t know the statistics for profile views since they aren’t posted on the site, but going by my own feed, not many people at all see anything — just the same few people every day. And now that anyone has the ability to shut off the posts of anyone they want, you could be seeing their posts, and they won’t see anything of yours.

Apparently, Facebook read the same books and articles we did about how to promote on the site, and they are doing everything they can to prevent our promotion efforts from being very effective. (They want to be the only ones making money.)

The first self-published millionaire who subsequently wrote the book about how to make a million via FB, cheated by maxing out multiple accounts — you can only have 5000 friends, so he had more than one account going at the same time. But that should come as no surprise now that he has been outed as having purchased scads of reviews.

So, if you are not getting the results you hoped for by promoting your books on Facebook, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not your fault at all. It’s the fault of all those who came first and scammed the system before you had a chance.

Searching for a Blog Identity

The best blogs are those with a single focus, or so they say. At the beginning, I blogged about my efforts to get published. When my books were accepted for publishing and before they were released, I concentrated on having guest bloggers. After my books were published, I blogged about writing, promotion, and the progress of my current works (or rather the lack of progress). Then, about a year ago, my soul mate died, and this blog developed a dual personality — the almost dry articles about books and writing and the very wet and weepy articles about grief.

Now I need to decide where I want to go with this blog, to figure out what I want to say. Grief is still a part of my life and will be for some time to come, but I don’t want to be that woman — the one who hugs her sorrow and doesn’t seem to be able to move on. (To a great extent I have moved on. Only you and I know how much I still hurt.) Nor do I want to go back to focusing solely on writing and other literary matters. I’m not sure I have anything to say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before by people far more literate (and interesting) than I.

Even more than having a single focus, the best blogs are written by those who have a unique slant on a subject, who write what only they can write, who chronicle life’s journey in such a manner that the ordinary becomes extraordinary. But . . . it isn’t necessary to be a great blogger to get the benefits of keeping a web log.

In the past couple of years I’ve developed an interest in photography. I have a separate blog for photos — Wayword Wind — and I joined 365 Project, committing to taking a photo every day for a year. This project has helped to turn my focus outward. While walking, I tend to let my mind wander, and it generally wanders to what (or rather who) I have lost, so searching for that special image each day makes me more alert to my surroundings, to what is rather than what is not.

In the same way, blogging helps concentrate my thoughts, makes me more alert to my inner surroundings. Sometimes it seems as if I’m too full of myself, my posts a bit too pedantic, and yet it’s all part of my journey. Like this blog, I seem always to be in a state of flux, searching for some sort of identity . . .  or at least a focus.

If I ever find where I’m going, either with my life or with this blog, I’ll let you know.

Dear (Deleted) — Conversation With a Marketing Expert

One of my blogs is Book Marketing Floozy, a compendium of articles I collected to help authors learn how to market their books. Every time I see good information, I ask the writer for permission to post their article on the blog. (If you’ve written an article about some facet of book marketing, please let me know. I’ll be glad to post it on the site.) The articles all credit the writers and provide whatever links the writers wish. It’s one of my efforts to help promote other authors.

A month ago, a promoter contacted me asking for my help in promotion. This promoter owns a word of mouth marketing company that connects businesses with consumers and consumers with businesses. I thought you might appreciate the irony of our emailed conversation. I’ve deleted names to protect . . . me.

Dec. 27 — Pat, Your website & blog came across my search today — excellent recommendations on here for a niche marketing in the literary world!  How long have you been blogging?

I was curious to know if you might be interested in linking to an online degree program. I work in affiliation with (deleted) College and I wanted to make a recommendation to include the (deleted) College Marketing Management degree in your link list.

***

Dec. 30 — Dear (Deleted): thank you for your interest in Book Marketing Floozy. I’ve been blogging for three years, and Floozy is just one of the blogs I run (though it isn’t a blog so much as a resource — I post articles sporadically, and most are written by other authors.)

If you’d like to write an article for me to post on the site about some facet of marketing, I’ll be glad to include any links you want. The only condition is that the article has to be informative and helpful — a how-to — rather than simply self-promotion. –Pat

***

Jan 5 — Pat, We can certainly provide some content for a post.  If that’s the case, ideally would like to provide a link in the post content as well as have a sidebar text link on your homepage or blogroll.  Is this possible? Let me know your thoughts. When would this post?

***

Jan 5 –Dear (Deleted), I can give you whatever links you want in the content, but I don’t have a blogroll on that site, just a list of my blogs.

If the content is acceptable (helpful rather than self-promoting) I can post it whenever you want me to. –Pat

***

(Jan 20) Pat, Apologies for the delay in responding:

Attached is good solid information about the course program we discussed.  It’s factual, so hopefully this is acceptable for your blog.

(What she sent was a list of courses along with a list of possible careers.)

***

Jan 20 — Dear (Deleted), I’m sorry, I didn’t make myself clear. The article has to be a how-to of some facet of promoting. I will then include links for people to get further information about your program. What you sent me is nothing more than an advertisement. Free promotion for you. Book Marketing Floozy is (at least up front) a compendium of articles to help people learn about promotion. The back end, of course, is promotion for you, but you have to give them something to attract their interest. –Pat

***

Jan 21 — Pat, Below is an informational document about a career in Marketing.  Let me know your thoughts on this – hopefully this is something you can incorporate into your blog!

(This time she sent an expanded version of the course syllabus, explaining the career paths that will be open to students once they have their degree. A very expensive degree, I might add — tens of thousands of dollars in tuition.)

***

Jan 21 — Dear (Deleted), This article is still a promotion for your program. It doesn’t tell the blog readers how to market their books. That is the whole point of Book Marketing Floozy. To tell people how to do some facet of promotion. Once they see the wisdom in your how-to article, they might click on information about your program, but you have to give them something to get something. You of all people should know that.

Please read the articles at book marketing floozy to see what I mean. http://bookmarketingfloozy.wordpress.com. I really would like to help you, but Marketing Floozy is a compendium of how-to articles. –Pat

***

Jan 24 — Pat, Thanks for the opportunity of posting on your website.  However, the whole point of us placing a link is for some type of promotion.  The article was written with the intent of being informational about various marketing careers. We will pass on this opportunity then.  Best wishes to you in the new year!

***

That was the end of the conversation.

So, there you have it: a marketing company trying to promote a marketing program on Book Marketing Floozy, and the marketer hadn’t a clue what I was talking about. But then, maybe I’m the one who doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

Catapulting Me Into BetterSellerdom

In the past week, I received a couple of emails from people asking my advice on how to promote various online activities, I received an invitation to host a seminar on promotion, and I received an invitation to participate in a BlogTalkRadio discussion about creating a successful Facebook group. Apparently, I’m making a name for myself, (albeit slowly) but not as an author. Am I doing something right? Am I going about my self-promotion in the wrong way? I don’t know.

The interesting thing — to me, anyway — is that contrary to appearances, I still don’t know much about promotion. Sure, I am creating a presence on Facebook, I’m playing around with GoodReads, I blog and tweet. I’m even going to do a presentation at the local library about the brave new world of publishing. But those are the same things everyone else is doing, and I know that to be effective, promotion has to be creative, unique, and personal.

The odds of selling a truckload of books are miniscule to none, but I have never played the odds. I’m not giving up on my first books — A Spark of Heavenly Fire and More Deaths Than One — but in the next couple of weeks my third book — Daughter Am I — will be released, and I will need to figure out how to promote it. And who to promote it to.

When Mary Stuart, my twenty-five-year-old hero, discovers she inherited a farm from her murdered grandparents — grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born — she sets out on a journey to find out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. So is this a book that will appeal to readers in their twenties and thirties? Maybe. Along the way, Mary accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians — former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. So is this a book that will appeal older readers? Perhaps. Mary also meets and falls in love with Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. So is this a book that will appeal to romance readers? Probably not. There is no real romantic conflict in the book. The conflict belongs more in the mystery category, because Mary, Tim, and the octogenarians need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret. So is this a book that will appeal to mystery lovers? Could be.

If I had to do it over again, I would probably be more careful to write books that fit a particular genre to make them easier to promote. Oh, hell, who am I trying to kid. If I had to do it over, I’d write the exact same books. I like telling stories the way they should be told, without adhering to the boundaries of genre or niche marketing.

So, until I come up with a creative, unique, and personal idea of how to catapult me into bestsellerdom (or even bettersellerdom) it’s a matter of continuing to make a name for myself. Even if it is as a promoter.

If you want to know what I know about promotion, check out Book Marketing Floozy. Everything I know about marketing I got from there.

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Something Ew and Different

So, did you miss me? I bet you didn’t even know I was gone. I went to Las Vegas to a surprise birthday party for my brother, and I couldn’t talk about it beforehand since I didn’t want to be the one to un-surprise him. It was fun, though the town is wasted on me — I forgot to gamble. I guess I’ll have to find another way to get rich. I know! I’ll write a book, become a bestselling author, and make millions. Are you laughing, too? It would have been better for me to be a bettor.

I was hoping that by leaving the promotion conundrum behind perhaps my subconscious would work out the problem for me, and I would suddenly know how to sell tons of books, but no enlightenment came my way. I did discover that I’m not as addicted to the internet as I thought I was. I didn’t even miss it.

What I didn’t miss this time were the sex scene fountains — I finally got a chance to see them. It was like meeting a celebrity since I’d seen them many times . . . in movies. (What Planet Are You From is the only one that comes to mind at the moment.) During the sex scenes, the director showed the fountains at the Bellagio climaxing instead of the couple, so I call them the sex scene fountains, though I don’t imagine the Bellagio publicity department would appreciate the moniker.

What else happened? I met some online friends, which was a kick. After about thirty seconds to readjust the mental image, it was as if we’d known each other for years. Which we had.

I also got reacquainted with a nephew who is studying visual arts, and we decided to collaborate on a graphic novel. I’ll do the writing, he’ll do the art. He doesn’t want me to research how to write a graphic novel because he says that way I’ll write something totally new and redefine the genre. We’ll see. Should be interesting since I’ve never even seen a graphic novel. So now I have two writing projects that I’m not working on. One of these days I’ll get busy. I promise.

Meantime, as a lesson in how important copyediting is, I took a photo of a sign at a restaurant. One letter does matter!

014a

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Puzzling Out Promotion

Writing means many things to many people. It is like a mythic journey into self, other lands, other minds. It is like archeology, like exorcising demons, like channeling, like performance, like a faucet. It is like having an adventure. It is uniquely human, and it brings out the divine in us. It is breathing, a compulsion, a necessity, a reason for living, an obsession, a fun pastime. It is exhilarating and frustrating. It is liberating. And it is like comfort food, chocolate, and cherries. It is like magic.

Because of this mystic connection to their words, other writers don’t seem to understand why I can stop writing to promote my newly published books. For me, writing is like the world’s longest crossword puzzle, one that takes a year to complete. I like playing with words, finding their rhythm, and getting them to behave the way I want. I like being able to take those words and create ideas, characters, and emotions. Amazing when you think about it, how we can juggle twenty-six symbols in different ways to create words, sentences, paragraphs, worlds. And what one person writes, another can read.  (more . . . )

(This article was originally published and is published in full on Vince Gotera’s blog, The Man With the Blue Guitar.)

A Writer Writes. Always?

A writer writes. Always.

Or so they say. (Whoever “they” are.) Many professional authors write for six months a year and spend the other six months promoting. This does not make such writers less than those who doggedly sit down every day and churn out a quota of words. A writer writes, of course. But always? So much goes into writing — thinking, outlining, researching, learning the craft — that it’s hard to tell when a writer is not working. 

I’m one of those writers who carry on imaginary conversations with my characters. I always plan to jot  down these conversations , but I usually have them when I am out walking, and by the time I get home, most of them are out of my head. A lot comes back when I sit down to write, and some of those conversations end up in the story.  Are these conversations writing? Of course not. But they are part of the writing process.  It is the process, the focus– getting into the story and staying there, keeping it in the back of our minds when we are doing other things, filtering our lives through the mesh of the story — that makes us writers, not simply word counts. 

Does writing this article count as “a writer writes; always”? Probably not. But I am writing, and writing this blog helps me focus my thoughts. Is editing considered writing? I don’t know. Still, I’ve been going through my finished manuscripts once more, taking out all the bits that fail to support the focus of the story, and  now those novels are better focused on the theme. But that editing cuts into my writing time. Does researching book marketing techniques count as writing? I doubt it, but writers who intend to be published one day need to know how to promote their book. All these things that take me away from my work-in-progress help focus my life around writing. Help focus my attention on writing. 

Maybe a better way of describing a writer is” a writer writes, and when a writer isn’t writing, a writer is focused on writing.”