Monday, December 17, 2012

Book Marketing and Publishing: Best Web Sites and Blogs

Over the last year, I've subscribed to so many writing blogs that I'm overwhelmed, buried, and ignoring most them. Here are a bunch that I've found useful. These recommendations focus on the business of writing: book marketing, publishing industry news, or dealing with agents. Most of them are not daily, so they're easier to keep up on.

Book Marketing


- Copy Blogger: Great info on blogging and online marketing. My only gripe is that it arrives daily.
A favorite post: How to Increase Subscription Rate of Your Blog

- Publicity Hound: Lots of tips on P.R. that you won't find in most book marketing blogs. Fair amount of self-promotion by author, but, hey, she's giving away a lot of free stuff.
A favorite post: Authors: 9 things to do when you can’t afford a publicist

- SEOmoz: For geeks only, but some of the best info out there on search engine optimization and online marketing.
A recent favorite post: How Newsworthy Are Your Newsletters?

Writing and Publishing

- Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris: By writers for writers, not too frequent. I receive it as an RSS feed, which allows me to check recent posts at my leisure. Often she posts longer, detailed articles, which I prefer to other bloggers who post more frequent, short pieces that leave you with too many questions unanswered.
A favorite post: Beware the Seven Deadly Writing Scams, the title says it all.

- Business Rusch by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Also, written by a writer. She also will post longer pieces that fully explore a topic.  
A favorite post: Why Writers' Disappear

- Jane Friedman: Former publisher of Writer's Digest, she does a great job and often has guest bloggers with interesting stories.
A favorite post: Getting a Traditional Book Deal After Self-Publishing

Agent Advice


- Writer Beware: A blog by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Offers useful advice for all writers, regardless of genre.
A favorite post: Literary Agents -- though it's a little old, a must-read for anyone looking for an agent. Warning: This is a scary piece that may keep you up at night or drive you to self-publish.

- Bent on Books: Lots of agents write blogs, some are decent, some are great for beginners but tend to rehash the same stuff after while. Agent Jenny Bent's blog is monthly -- so you're not overwhelmed and often includes encouraging pieces for writers.
A favorite post: It's not WHO you know, it's WHAT you write in your query

A Successful Blogger with a Unique Voice

- Penelope Trunk: Topics often all over the place, generally related to careers, but a good lesson in the captive power of a writer's voice. She includes personal stuff about her marriage, her kids, her period leaking through her yoga pants. Always self-deprecating, very honest, hard not to root for her -- even if you're a guy.
A favorite post: How she got a big advance from a large publisher and self-published anyway.

Tip for Avoiding Inbox Overload

Sign up for the RSS feed instead of the e-mail version. With the RSS feed, you can check the blogs and topics at your leisure, instead of having your inbox deluged.

Can't Get Enough Book Marketing? 


- Book Marketing for Nitwits: Getting Started with SEO

- Easy, Sleazy Book Marketing Results 

-Tips for Reading Your Writing in Public

Had Enough Book Marketing?


 - Ski Trip to British Columbia: Local potheads, make mine a double and drink like Canadian, who said Canadians are nice?

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Image attribution: Hong Kong, Hong Kong (Overload!Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons Photo by Roger Price

Monday, December 10, 2012

Time for Old School Book Marketing? My 9-Month Progress Report

I just finished a book called "Social Media is Bullshit," which confirms what a lot of writers have been suspecting: The Web is stacked against little guys like us. So, I'm going to try old school marketing tactics that involve: the telephone, in-person readings, collecting e-mail addresses, and attempting to get coverage in mainstream broadcast and press.

Executive Summary: Nine Months of Book Marketing Hell

My monthly Web traffic remains stable (about 3,000 page views and 2,000 visits) and I'm adding blog subscribers slowly, but steadily (now have 142 subscribers). But I doubt I'll ever hit numbers big enough to impress an agent or publisher. (Interesting article on how big your platform should be to impress an agent.)

My Numbers

1) Web Traffic

- Page views in July: 2,428       (1,779 unique visits)
- Page views August: 2,977      (2,139)
- Page views Sept.: 2,774        (2,017)
- Page views in Oct.: 2,783      (1,996)
- Page Views in Nov.:  2,956    (2,037)

- Blog subscribers at end July: 48
- Blog subscribers at end of August: 71
- Blog subscribers at end of September: 95
- Blog subscribers at end of October: 114
- Blog subscribers at end of November: 142** 

What an agent wants to see: At least 20,000 page views/month. (For that many page views, I'd need about 14,000 visits.)

*includes this blog and about 150 page views for my resume and rarely-updated travel Web sites.
**includes 16 people who did not confirm their subscriptions. After subscribers sign up for my blog, they receive an e-mail asking them to confirm their subscription. For some reason, these folks never confirmed, so I put their e-mails into a Yahoo e-mail list and manually forward each blog post to them.

 2) Social Media and E-Mail Addresses

Twitter: 840, up 35 from 805 last month.
 - Posting links to my blog in Twitter generated 21 blog page views last month, an average month for me.
- What agents want to see: At least 5,000 Twitter followers.
- Note: This is easy to do by signing on to a Twitter follow group, where you agree to follow people who agree to follow you. The net result: you get a lot of people who have no interest in your work and will likely not buy your book.

Facebook: 2,043 Fans/Likes, up 7 from last month.
- I spent $20 to promote one of my Facebook posts to my Fans and 8,000 of their friends -- and added about 10 Likes, three of whom subsequently un-Liked me. My paid Facebook promotion was a waste of money.)
- Posting links on my Fan page generates very few visitors (33 last month). Posting links to appropriate Facebook groups is more productive and produced visitors (125).
- Worth noting: The "what agents want article" offered no stats for numbers of Facebook Fans and Link In connections. Hmmm.

Linked In: 1,167 connections, up 19 from last month
- Posting links to Linked In groups generated 457 visits, more than any other social media source.
- Note: In early fall, after I attempted to connect with a lot of people who declined my heartfelt requests, Linked In stopped allowing me to contact to people for whom I didn't have an e-mail address.
- As of this week, Linked In has restored my ability to contact people without having their e-mail addresses. However, Linked In wrote that it would revoke my account if I started spamming again.

E-mail Addresses: 439*
- Blog subscribers: (as note above) 142
- Newsletter subscribers: 7 (I just started this newsletter for Boston folks I meet at parties or readings. I added two more people last month!)
- Personal/professional e-mail addresses of people who might care about what I'm doing: 290
*What agents want to see: more than 5,000 addresses.

Banging Our Heads Against the Web-Marketing Wall?

For the next month, I'm going to focus my energy on old-school promotion and marketing.

Here's why:

- After reading "Social Media is Bullshit" I'm willing to believe that the days are gone when an average person can launch a blog and generate huge traffic. The book also says that most large blogs and Web sites are owned by large companies with large staffs and deep pockets that I don't have. Also, the odds of me producing a blog or other content that goes viral are non-existent.

- I worked as an SEO consultant for three years. The company I worked for spent $10,000 a month on a platoon of specialists (including me) who worked to drive traffic to the company's site.

- Social media is not designed to help the average small business person. Witness recent changes to Facebook Fan pages. Also, Linked In groups are increasingly filled with useless spam. Either people will stop participating in these groups or Linked In will come down on people like me who post links to multiple groups. Finally, have I mentioned enough times that I think Twitter is a torrent of crap?

- I am again considering some advice I got from a marketing consultant friend: "Find something you like doing and become good at it."

Old School Book Marketing

At it's most basic, marketing has two steps: Define your audience and reach them. Since I don't have a book to sell yet, I want to get people's e-mail addresses for the future. I can also sell them my chapbook of writing samples.

My Thought Process

1) Who is my audience?
Based on my Facebook Fan page stats, anecdotal evidence from folks who attend my readings, and the age and interests of the characters in my novel, my readers are mostly: aged 35 to 55, educated, urban professionals (modern yuppies.) Their interests include: travel, romantic relationships and sex, dining out, edgy humor, art and culture. (pretty broad, but enough to get me started.)

2) How to reach them
My favorite marketing technique is public readings and lectures. If I want to read to modern yuppies, where will I find them? Swank hotels, trendy restaurants, fund-raisers, corporate functions, adult education programs, retail stores that cater to them (furniture stores, erotic toy stores, wine stores, outdoor gear stores, sporting goods stores, and other stores with products related to themes in my novel.)

To reach a lot of potential readers, I need coverage in the mainstream media: radio, TV, and print. In the past my readings -- even at small venues -- have gotten some coverage in local papers. I've also gotten coverage on local cable TV stations.

3) What I plan to do this month:
- Send pitches for classes I could teach to local adult education centers. (I took a trip around the world and have lectured about that in the past. I could also lecture about the basics of book marketing.)
- Send pitches for my readings to colleges catering to older students. (I have organized my readings into what can be loosely describe as a one-man show.)
- Contact some event planners to see if they would consider me as "literary" entertainment at special events. (I would offer an alternative option to comedians, musicians, and Tarot card readers.)
- I posted audios clips of me reading to a site called, which sells content to public radio stations. (It costs $50/year. I have gotten a few nibbles but no takers. However, a friend has sold a number of pieces through this service.)
*Note: I am well aware that some of these are real long-shots, but the odds can't be any longer than Web marketing. I am also aware that some of this is a little haphazard. But another piece of business advice that I like: Sometimes it is better to just jump and make your mistakes than to spend all your time researching.

Note: Another book marketing book for old schoolers: "Talk Up Your Book," by Patricia Fry. If you've done some public speaking and readings, skip the first nine chapters -- they're repetitive and rudimentary.

Can't Get Enough Book Marketing? 


- Is online book marketing a waste of time? (readers weigh in)

- Do You Rate? Measuring Book Promotion Success

-Tips for Reading Your Writing in Public

Had Enough Book Marketing?


 - One Day at Big Sky Ski Area: Encounter with a Snowboarder
"You're a grown man, you should know better than that," said the 20-something snowboarder as I lay face-down in the snow.

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*Attribution for "old school" image at top of page: PbakerODU at en.wikibooks [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, November 26, 2012

How Many Agents Should You Query? 50? 150?

Agent Roulette

If you want a traditional publishing deal your odds are either 1 in 2,000 or 1 in 200, depending on whom you believe.*

But an article in the January issue of Writer's Digest called "Lessons from First-Time Novelists" offered some encouragement:
- Carter Wilson queried more than 60 agents before finding one. Then his first four books were rejected by publishers. Novel number five was published. He's had the same agent the entire time.
- Keira Peikoff received 30 to 40 rejections before finding an agent who submitted the book to about 10 publishers before getting a deal.
(As of press time, the Writer's Digest article was not available online.)

Personal Anecdotes

- In a recent writing class, the instructor told us about a friend who was rejected by about 70 agents before he found one.
- A friend of mine said he is going to contact 150 agents before moving on to Plan B.

My Plan B (If I Can't Find an Agent)

1) Contact Small and International Publishers Directly

- A list of small publishers by genre from Myperfectpitch
- A list of 250 small presses looking for manuscripts, according to Poets & Writers.

2) Contact Editors Directly


3) Enter Writing Contests

My friend Lee Doyle had her novel rejected by about 50 agents. Then she entered a writing contest that included publication as one of the prizes. Her novel The Love We All Wait For won “Best Novel” at the 2006 East of Eden Writers Conference. She says she's sold about 2,000 copies. She is finishing another novel that she plans to circulate to agents.

4) Self-Publish

I'll package excerpts of the novel into themed self-published e-books on humorous erotica, travel humor, and a bitter single's guide to dating. (After all this, I'm not sure I'll have the money or fortitude to self-publish an entire novel.)

*Some say the odds of getting a traditional publishing deal are better than you'd think. Others say that many of us are deluded and incompetent but don't know it.

My Personal Experience with Agents

I haven't finished my novel yet, but that didn't stop me from blowing about $2,000 on conferences and other shindigs where you can pitch your book to agents. (At one point two years ago, I had three agents -- out of about 20 I met at conferences -- who said they were interested in seeing my completed manuscript. Since then: One agent has left the business, another no longer handles fiction, and the third was still in business, as of press time. Yes, my manuscript is still not finished. But it will be done in March, I swear!)

- Query Letter Confusion: When One Agent Says A and Another 
Says B 

- Old Versions of Query Letters (Background for "Query Letter Confusion" article)


Had Enough with Agents for One Day?

- Vicodin, Klonopin, or Heineken: What Do Unemployed Writer's Have for Breakfast?

- Personality Test: Are You Marriage Material? (Yeah, I flunked this one with flying colors.)

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**Skull art by artist: Irwin J. Weill, Weird_Tales_volume_36_number_01.djvu: Weird Tales, Inc.derivative work: AdamBMorgan (Weird_Tales_volume_36_number_01.djvu) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Book Marketing: More on Facebook Ads and Promotions

Last week, I paid Facebook $20 for a promotion that turned out to be a waste of money. Many authors who read about my experience concurred that Facebook ads and promotions are useless for selling books or driving traffic to a Web site. Should you bail on Facebook? (Not yet.)

What I Got for $20

In my experiment, I wrote a post on my Fan Page that was designed to drive traffic to this blog. As I was finishing the post, I noticed Facebook's Promote option, which promised to reach 10,000 people. Certainly, reaching 10,000 people would result in more Likes for my Fan Page, as well as traffic and new subscribers to my blog. A link in the Promote dialog box led to a confusing section in the Facebook Help Center. Busy writer that I am, I ignored the Help Center page, and spent the money.

Click the Promote button to increase the reach of one of your posts.

Here's what I got for my $20:

4 comments on my Facebook post
8 new Fans
8 clicks to my blog and no new subscribers.
According to Facebook, the post did reach 10,000 people, but a third of them didn't speak English and lived in India, Turkey, and the Philippines.

In addition, my subsequent posts to my Facebook Fan page, reached 50 percent more people than normal. (I typically reach about 200 people, which increased to about 300 probably because so many people saw the promoted post.)

Worth the money? No.

How to Improve Your Performance, How I Goofed (and My Excuses)

I didn't target my promotion. Period. To target your posts to say, English speakers in the U.S., is a multi-step process that wasn't obvious to me. Here's how to fix the problem, so you (hopefully) don't waste as much of your money as I did.

I still don't understand why my post went to so many non-English speakers -- virtually all of my fans are English speakers, most of whom live in San Francisco, Boston, and New York. Most of the people who saw my post, however, were from Manila, Amman, and Istanbul. Upshot: A third of the people I paid to reach were non-English speakers.

More Confusion: Promoted Post (what I did) vs. Sponsored Story (an ad)

A promoted post lets you pay to have a post reach more of your Fans, and in some cases their friends. Typically, one of my posts only reaches about 10 percent of my Fans. I paid $20 to reach all 2,000 Fans, plus another 8,000 or so of their friends. Note: You have to have at least 400 Fans to promote a post. More on promoted posts.

A Sponsored story is an ad that lets you reach people who are not your Fans. A sponsored story appears in the right hand column of the page, along with all the other ads. This is more expensive than a promoted post. More on ads.

Which is Better: A Promotion or an Ad?

In an informal test by a geeky Web site, the Promoted post was cheaper and generated more clicks. But the ad reached a lot more people. Which will sell more books? At least one of my readers, said that the ads were selling some books. Is your head spinning, yet? No? Then read this for more details:

Why it’s Worth Having a Fan Page (and a Personal Profile Page)

- SEO: You can include links from Facebook back to your blog and Web site, which may make you more visible to people searching for topics related to you in Google. 
- Facebook Groups: A personal page allows you to post links in various Facebook groups, which for me have generated a lot more traffic than a promoted post.

Advice and Comments from Readers of Last Week's Blog


- One reader suggested promoting your Facebook page for free on sites other than Facebook. (I include a Facebook Fan Page link on all my Yahoo e-mails and on my blog page. Unclear if I'm adding any Fans this way, but the price is right -- free.)
- One author said that Facebook Ads had been useful for selling books.
- One reader paid for an ad on Goodreads that wasn't successful, but found that a free give-away of five books was worth the effort
- Two readers called me a racist.

More on Facebook Fan and Personal Pages

- You're reaching fewer of your hard-earned Fans and why you shouldn't care.
- Facebook is charging to promote posts on your Personal page.

Had Enough Book Marketing?

"The Online Date that Went a Little too Well"
(video of me reading original erotic humor at a local library.)
Content warnings for foul language, vibrating ovals, and cruelty to beagles.

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Special thanks to the following readers:

Attribution for Thumbs Down image: Circle-Thumb.png: user:acadac derived from user:Pratheepps, user:Erin Silversmithderivative work: Provoost (Circle-Thumb.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book Marketing: Is a Facebook Fan Page Useful?

After a year of developing my Facebook Fan Page, I have more than 2,000 fans, a shopping cart for a self-published book (haven't sold one, yet), and dozens of applications. Last week, I spent $20 to promote one of my posts to 10,000 people: Unfortunately, many of them turned out to be from outside the U.S. and many didn't list English as their default language. Has Facebook been worth the time? Probably. Am I reducing the time I spend on Facebook? Definitely. Will I spend another $20 with them? Ha! Will my account be shut down because of this post? Stay tuned.

Facebook Fan Page Basics



A Fan Page is supposed to offer several advantages over the standard personal Profile page, including:
- Size: A Personal Page is limited to 5,000 Friends, while a Fan Page doesn't have this limit. (Are any of us ever going to have more than 5,000 Fans? Doubtful.)
- Analytics: A Fan Page offers basic tools for analyzing your audience. (I know that most of my Fans are between 35 and 54 about evenly split between men and women. If an agent or publisher asks about my audience, I could quote these stats and appear knowledgeable.)
- Applications: I have found at least two that I liked. (see screen shot below.)

Two apps worth considering: TabSite for adding custom Pages and Payvment for adding a shopping cart (Note: I haven't sold a single ebook using this app yet.)

Limitations of Fan Pages

You can't reach all you Fans
Facebook only allows you to reach a small portion of your hard-earned Fans -- unless you pay. (A Facebook Groups page allows you to send messages to members that go to their e-mail inboxes.) Facebook was (or is) also supposed to be charging owners of Profile Pages to reach all their friends.

It is difficult to add Fans
With a Profile page, you can pretty much add Friends willy-nilly, whether you know them or not -- as long as you don't add too many at once. Adding Fans is considerably harder and more time consuming -- you can't simply contact Facebook users and invite them.

How I got more than 2,000 Fans
I started with a Profile Page and over the course of a year added 5 to 10 people a night. (If Facebook warns that you're adding too many people, too quickly -- heed the warning or you may lose your profile!) Once I reached about 1,800 Friends, I converted my Profile page to a Fan page, which converted all my Friends to Fans. It was relatively easy to do: Here's how to convert your Profile Page to a Fan Page

For more than you really want to know about the differences between Fan Pages, Profile Pages, and Groups pages.

Now the Ugly Stuff


Though I now have more than 2,000 Fans, Facebook will only allow me to reach about 200 of them with my posts -- unless I pay $20. So, last week I paid up.

1) The process and my experience


- When you create a post on your Fan Page, there is an option to promote the post.
For me, Facebook indicated that for $20, I could reach 2,800 to 5,300 people, including my Fans and their Friends.

- You can pay with either a credit card of PayPal.
I tried to pay with my Visa and went through all the steps. After entering my Visa info, Facebook's credit card processing program crashed. Or did it? I couldn't tell. So, I sent a note to Facebook Help. (It's been four days and I've yet to hear back. Naturally, there was no phone number to call.)

So, then I paid with PayPal and the payment appeared to go through. I still never received any confirmation from Facebook, and when I looked at the details of my account on Facebook, it appeared that the credit card charge went through. What about the Paypal charge? Was I double-billed? I haven't had time to check.

2) The Results: Facebook claims I reached more than 10,000 people, such a deal!


- According to Facebook's own statistics, many of those people were from the Philippines and India. Many of them didn't list English as their primary language. At press time, I didn't have statics beyond the first two days of the promotion, which extended for four days. (For information on how to target your promotions, see the follow-up to this article on Facebook promotions.)

At least 4,000 of the 10,000 people reached by my $20 Facebook promotion were from outside the U.S. Many didn't even list English as their primary language.

Another But...

- Very few of those 10,000 clicked the link included in my post. (Maybe 50 clicked. Regardless, there was no spike in my Web traffic)

And Another...

- I got about 10 new Fans, many of whom were from foreign countries, and at least one had a name that was not even in English. (Apologies if I sound like a racist, but non-English speakers will not help my book marketing cause.)

Some of my new Fans: Please welcome
राजे विशाल सातदिवे

- The post received 28 Likes (the most I've ever gotten) and 7 comments. At least one comment was from someone who was furious about receiving my unsolicited post -- he had an American-sounding name. (I guess he won't be buying any books from me.)

Good Uses for Facebook


- Posting links to appropriate Groups drives traffic
And it's much easier than posting to Linked In groups -- for Facebook groups, just copy and paste a headline, a deck, and the link. In my experience posting to Facebook Groups for writers, the members click on my links, just not as frequently as Linked In group members click on them.

- Having a Fan page may be good for SEO
It's another searchable page that includes links back to your blog, Web sites, and Youtube videos.

- Fans are Fans
Even though my posts regularly reach only 200 or so of my Fans, those are people who are exposed to my writing regularly and may consider buying a book at some point. (Though, as noted above, I have yet to sell a single ebook on Facebook. To be fair, I haven't done much to promote them to my Fans, but the shopping cart is on the site.)

 *Attribution for thumbs down image;
By Enoc vt (File:Botón Me gusta.svg) [Public domain or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Can't Get Enough Book Marketing?

- Three Ways to Boost Your Blog Traffic

- Eight Month Progress Report: Reality knocks at the door.

Had Enough Book Marketing?

- "Why I'm Over Forty and Still Single,"  includes the fish theory, the valency theory, and other medical excuses.  (A video of me reading a scene from novel-in-progress before a live audience.)

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Marketing: My Eight Month Progress Report

After several months of small, but steady increases, my stats for Web traffic, blog subscribers, and social media contacts have all leveled off. How to explain this lack of progress?
- Conservative viewpoint: This is the value the market places on my time and skills.
- Liberal viewpoint: I am not a big business with a staff nor am I celebrity with a drug problem (yet).

But the good news is that maybe we don't need millions of fans to make a living as writers. We only need 1,000 who really like our stuff. (Actually, 500 would do.)

Book Marketing Progress Report

I) Blog 



- Page views in July: 2,428      (1,779 visitors)
- Page views August: 2,977     (2,139)
- Page views Sept.: 2,774       (2,017)
- Page views in Oct.: 2,783     (1,996)

- Blog subscribers at end July: 48
- Blog subscribers at end of August: 71
- Blog subscribers at end of September: 95
- Blog subscribers at end of October: 114

*includes a small number of  visitors -- 100 to 180 each month -- that go to my resume and rarely-updated travel Web sites.


Latest Tactics


- Cut back to three blog posts per month instead of weekly
I'll use use the extra time to submit to contests, apply for grants, and pitch readings and performances to organizations, such as libraries, colleges, etc. As long as I'm getting 1,500 or so visitors a month, I'll be happy -- adding another 200 or even 500 is probably not going to make much difference.

- Added a table of contents to one of my most popular pages.
The page is called "Prostitution for Dummies," a tongue-in-cheek piece I wrote five years ago that continues to get steady traffic from guys traveling around Southeast Asia looking for naughtiness.The page now directs readers to some of my humorous erotica and to sites that offer what they're really looking for. Warning: the page has some racy, politically-incorrect content -- do not visit, if you find that kind of thing offensive.

- Created a list in Yahoo mail of people who subscribed to my blog but didn't confirm/verify their subscription. (When someone subscribes, my blog sends them a confirmation e-mail; for some reason about a dozen people didn't confirm. So, I manually forward each blog to them using a Yahoo mail group. These people are not listed in my Subscriber stats above.)

- Targeting different types of readers
In addition to book marketing, my blog covers four other topics -- erotic humor, weird travel, naughty travel for men, and life as a chronically single person. So, I am trying to target readers of these four other topics by offering monthly newsletters for each group. To get subscribers, I added sign-up boxes to blog posts frequented by these people. I created the sign up boxes using Mailchimp. If I get any subscribers for these four newsletters, I'll write them. Sign up so far: Zilch. (the new newsletters are the top four listed in the screen shot below. Two newsletters show one subscriber -- me.)

newsletter sign up boxes created with Mailchimp
With a little fiddling, you can create e-mail sign-up forms for newsletters targeting different audiences.

II) Social Media


I just picked up a book called "Social Media is Bullshit." I will write a short review later this month. So far, the book is pretty disturbing but somehow reassuring for all of us who feel like we've been banging our heads against the wall with online marketing.

1) Twitter

Results: 805 followers, increase of 59 over last month.

Tactics probably worth considering:
- An interesting suggestion from a Linked In connection, Erik Deckers: retweet more of influential people's stuff.
"... find some major influencers and occasionally ask them to retweet your posts to their own followers. Make sure you do that for the influencers as well, about 5 - 8 times more than they do yours. They'll be more inclined to just do it for you out of the blue." 

- Separate crap from cream in my Twitter feed. I'm considering making a list of the top 10 folks I want to follow, using Hootsuite to monitor their tweets, and focusing on commenting and retweeting their tsuff.

- I considered and then abandoned the idea of starting a new Twitter account or cutting useless folks from my existing account. I'm too insecure to cut my number of followers -- as small as it is -- because I want to be able to demonstrate to agents, publishers, and potential employers that I'm somewhat active on Twitter.

2) Linked In

Results: 1,148 connections, increase of 21 from last month.  

- This is still the major source for my blog traffic. I belong to a slew of groups and manually post links to my blog to each group.
- Disturbing trend: I have started receiving spam from people selling book-marketing services. I'm giving them one warning to knock it off, then I will report them as spammers. A cynical part of me thinks that Linked In may not care, particularly if these spammers are folks who are paying for the Linked In premium service -- Is spamming connections included in the price?

3) Facebook


- Fans: 2,036, down one from last month.
- Reach (the number of Fans who actually see my posts) 200 to 250, about the same as last month.

I am expending less effort posting to Facebook.

4) Klout Score

Now 47, down from 48 from last month. Does anyone care?

III) Networking


- Personal e-mail lists: I went through my contacts in my personal Yahoo e-mail account and sorted out those who might care about my progress as a writer and who might buy a book. Then I uploaded the list --about 290 people -- to Mailchimp. I will send them a quarterly progress report.

- I continue to meet smart, nice people online. Erik Deckers (referred to one of my blogs in one of his blogs and offers good advice in Linked In forums.), Jen Zeman who retweets some of my tweets, Tzigane and Martha Moravec, two writers who comment on my posts.

IV) Minor Successes


- Interviewed on cable access TV show.
I did a one-hour interview for a travel show. Since it's cable access, there may be all of three viewers, but it was good practice, fun, and required minimal preparation. (I discussed a four-month solo trip around the world I took in 2007. The trip cost a lot of money and basically sucked, and I spent most of the interview kvetching and moaning about unfriendly locals, wine I drank made from pickled cobras, and Melbourne's fly problem.) Note: It wasn't hard to get on the show. If you contact your local cable access station, there's probably a show about local artists, writers, or other topics for which you might qualify as an interview subject.

- My previously published story, "Domination for Dummies," was accepted for an e-book erotica anthology (a small, independent press.) Due out later this year.

- A humor piece called "Productivity Secrets of a Successful Novelist" accepted by Calliope magazine for print and online (A small print and Web journal.)

- "Domination for Dummies" was also accepted by Bizzarocast, a podcast that I'm guessing reaches a younger audience. (I should have asked about the audience. Regardless, I need all the publishing credits I can get). Supposed to appear Valentine's Day. I'll get paid $5.

Attribution for image at top of blog: By aTarom [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Can't Get Enough Book Marketing?


- Five Month Progress Report: SEO works!

- Six Month Progress Report: A newbie gets cocky.

- Seven Month Progress Report: Reality knocks at the door.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

The Day I Was Almost Gay (original humor)

This is an excerpt from my novel-in-progress that I performed for a story slam at night club in Cambridge, Mass.

I didn't win the slam, but it was fun, and I'd recommend this kind of event as a good way to promote your writing. For $35, I received a video that I uploaded to Youtube and inserted below.

Note: The piece carries content warnings for prescription drug abuse and men kissing on the lips. Also, animals may have been harmed making this video.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Oh, No! Experts Say Blogging Is a Waste of Time

Recently, an agent wrote that blogging could be a waste of time for fiction writers. What she said made sense. Then I found dissenting opinions. They made sense as well. What's a fiction writer to do?

The Arguments Against Blogging


1) The blogosphere is too crowded, so the average writer will never generate impressive traffic.
I seem to have plateaued at about 1,500 visitors a month, my number of subscribers increases by about 20 a month -- I now have 102. I won't be impressing anyone.

2) It's time consuming.
I spend four to eight hours on each blog -- time I could be spending finishing my novel.

3) If you blog about writing, your audience is writers, not readers.
Hmmm. Where have I heard that before? Oh, right, in my own blog. And yeah, most of my traffic is from writers. A former agent I spoke to said I should focus on blogging about topics covered in my novel, namely dating and single life. He said I should be forming alliances with dating sites. I've taken some of his advice, but I'm afraid my traffic numbers will drop! (I watch my traffic numbers the way a cardiologist watches an EKG.)

Things I could be doing instead of blogging


- Trying Twitter, Yet Again
I can't stand Twitter, it seems to be a real waste of time, a torrent of crap. But it also seems to offer the best option for connecting to potential readers and, more importantly, people who can influence a lot of potential readers. So, I'm going to focus on connecting with people with clout in subjects of interest to my potential readers: travel, singles and dating, humor.

- Applying for Fellowships at Writers Colonies and Grants.
I'm guessing a fellowship at Yaddo or the MacDowell Colony would be more impressive than having 2,000 Facebook Fans. Here's a short list of writers colonies and a longer searchable list of Writers Colonies.

- Posting and Commenting in Forums and on Blogs Frequented by Potential Readers.

- Blogging about Topics of Interest to Potential Readers.

- Finishing my novel
(Have I said this a dozen times already?)

The Arguments for Blogging (At Least in My Case)


1) It builds the resume
I've gotten freelance job offers that I've had to pass on to friends because I working on my novel. Eventually, I'm going to for another Web marketing/Web writing job, so I'll have a body of work to show.

2) I enjoy it.

3) According to this post by indie writer Yesenia Vargas, some readers of a blog about writing, may buy your novel. If people like you're non-fiction writing, they may try your fiction.

4) I may self-publish an e-book for writers about one writer's experiences in book marketing hell.

5) I'm still hoping for the serendipitous event: Some agent spots one of my blogs in a forum or Linked In group, comes to my blog, sees my other stuff and...

What I'm Going to Do Differently (at least for right now)


- My blog covers multiple topics -- writing and topics of interest to potential readers. To target the audiences separate, I plan to capture e-mail addresses for different mailing lists using newsletter sign-up boxes at the end of individual articles. Once I get enough names, I send out short, monthly newsletters that cater to readers' interests.

- Post short audios of me reading from my novel. In the past my videos and audios have generated a fair amount of traffic and these will cater to my specific audiences. For a sample, here's an excerpt called, "The Day I Almost Became Gay." (This piece carries content warnings for prescription drug abuse and men kissing on the lips.)

*Full disclosure: I have time to experiment because I'm not working. I quit a contract gig in April to finish my novel. I drive a 20-year-old car held together with Bondo and will likely need to find a part time job in April.

*Distorted face image at top of blog by Miguel Angel Pasalodos

Can't Get Enough Book Marketing?

- Book Marketing: Seven Month Progress Report 

- Book Marketing for Nitwits: SEO

- How Writers Can Earn a Living 
(Content warning: men eating lightbulbs, being run over by cars, hit with sledge hammers.)

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Marketing: E-mail Lists and Newsletters

Why Bother?

- You collect the names and e-mails addresses -- and you own them (not Facebook, Linked In, or Twitter).
- You can contact people directly via e-mail instead of waiting for them to view your posts.
- Historically, e-mail is supposed to elicit a higher response rate. (I.e. more people will buy your book or click your links.)
- You can collect names at parties, readings, and other face-to-face venues -- and add them manually. With a blog, you can add someone's e-mail address, but they have to verify that they want your blog or content, which, for many people, is an added hassle.
- Once your lists are set up, they're relatively easy to use.
- You don't have to post hourly, daily, or even monthly to stay in contact with people.
- Your hard-earned list is not subject to the vagaries and pricing schemes of social media sites.


Special Uses

- Create different e-mail lists for different types of subscribers. My blog covers a variety of topics ranging from humorous erotica to dating humor to travel to book marketing. Some experts say I should have a separate blog for each topic. Sorry. But by adding a sign-up box for different e-mail lists at the end of different types of articles, I can address different audiences. (For example, by posting a sign-up box, I can also see if anyone is interested in a particular topic. For example, if no one signs up for my "Humorous Erotica" newsletter, I won't write one.)
- On my blog, every month I have one or two people who sign up and for some reason don't verify their accounts, so they don't receive my blog. I've tried emailing, but some still have problems. I can just add them to an email list and forward by weekly blog feed to them.

How to Get Started 


1) Create a List for Each Group of Contacts

- For small lists (less than 50 names), such as those who signed up for my blog but haven't been able to verify their accounts, I added their names to a "Lonely Planet" list I created in my Web e-mail service, which is Yahoo. Yahoo and most other Web-based e-mail services limit the number of people you can e-mail at one time.

- For larger lists, such as my list of former co-workers and other acquaintances who may be interested in periodic (quarterly) updates on my book's progress, I use a free e-mail service, called MailChimp. The free version of the service, allows you contact up to 2,000 people six times a month. If I ever have more than 2,000 people, I will gladly pay a monthly fee.

- Cleaning up and uploading e-mails lists is a time-consuming process that can involve saving your e-mail contacts to another program and then uploading them to your e-mail service. I use Yahoo! Mail and went to my Contacts page and exported my contacts using the CSV option. (CSV is a format that you can edit in Excel and eliminate worthless contacts and stray information. I kept only First Name and Last Name (if I had them), and the E-mail address. Then I resaved the file as an CSV and upload it to Mail Chimp.)

I downloaded my contacts using the Yahoo! CSV option, which allowed me to edit the file in Excel.

2) Create Content for Each Group

- The shorter the e-mail the better (My note to former co-workers and acquaintances will include a few highlights with links to a blog, a youtube video, and some publications.)
- I started a real e-mail newsletter for people who attend my readings. (Even though my book isn't finished, I've reading scenes from it for years.) This newsletter includes three sections: Local reading events that may interest readers, some links to recent blog posts, and links to a few weird Web links.

3) How Often to Publish?

- I assemble and the newsletter mentioned above once a month. (I collect tidbits throughout the month and save them to a folder. Assembling the newsletter itself takes about two hours.)
- For the note to colleagues, I'll send a plain e-mail quarterly or when I have big news.
- For the other topics (Humorous Erotica, Travel, etc), I'll publish monthly -- provided I get some people to sign up.

 General Tips

- E-mail Services like Mail Chimp can track whether anyone actually opens your e-mail. If only a few people open it, you may want to resend it to people who didn't open it.
- Experts say the best time to send out an e-mail is Tuesday through Thursdays between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Experts say a lot of stuff. You might want to experiment with different times to determine your best response rate.
- Did I mention to keep the newsletter short, include lots of white space, and links? E-mail services have basic templates you can use for a semi-professional look without a lot of grief.
- Offer a freebie for people who sign up. (A free story, a free e-book of writing samples.)
- To collect e-mails on your Web site or blog, you'll use a service like Mail Chimp to create a sign in box that allows people to add their e-mails. If possible don't use the word subscribe in the sign-in box -- people will assume they have to pay for something.

e-mail newsletter sign up box
The  sign-up box on my travel site does not include the word "subscribe," a word that implies you have to pay.

For more information on e-mail and newsletters, here's a cheat sheet from E-Mail Marketing for Dummies.

*E-mail slingshot image at top of this blog by PCL-BO [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Can't Get Enough Book Marketing?

- Three Ways to Boost Your Blog Traffic

- Linked In Tips for Authors

- Feeling Depressed? Be Glad Your Not a Guy: The End for Men

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Is Web Marketing a Waste of Time?

I really wanted to title this piece, "Is Web Marketing a Load of Crap?" but I think the graphic would have turned too many people off.

 But I'm really steamed:

- In the last two weeks, my Web traffic has dropped by 50 percent. As far as I can tell, I haven't done anything differently. But part of the problem could be my over-dependence on Social Media to generate traffic. These services -- Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter -- can and do change policies and features as they see fit. They also seem to be over-saturated with users generating useless crap. (OK, I'm as guilty as anyone) I'm investing a lot of time in these services, what if they go belly up? What if they decide they don't like me and cancel my account? What there's a technical glitch I can't figure out -- where's the tech support? (Typically, we're reduced to Googling for help from other users.) Maybe it's just me, but I get the impression that their loyalty isn't to us customers who aren't paying them a nickel.

Here are my specific beefs as they relate to my online book marketing:

- My Facebook posts are being seen by half as many people. (A statistic called Reach, which used to average about 400 people, is now down to 200. I still have more than 2,000 fans, but only 1/10 of them are seeing my posts.) Here's a possible explanation that proves that I'm not insane. All I know is bad news about the company's stock price appears in the WSJ all too frequently. The company seems very concerned about its shareholders, but seems to have no compunction about screwing over Fan Page owners by limiting the number of our own Fans that we can reach.

- Linked In just introduced what appears to be another useless feature called "Endorsements," for enticing users to spend more time on the site. So, now there's a nuclear arms race to get as many of your connections to endorse you for all of your skills. Excellent! Now, you can go to Linked In and just start clicking away -- endorsements will be about as meaningful as Followers on Twitter.

- I've been spending more and more time trying to figure out Twitter. I post regularly, follow influential people and topic hashtags that supposedly are also followed by potential readers. Most of the stuff I see on Twitter is crap -- spam, inane comments, links to inane images. And all these folks that have thousands of followers but never tweet? Very suspicious.

- And I'm constantly getting e-mails from folks smarter than I am asking for help with their social media marketing. Something smells funny. (If you insist on an image...)

Sorry for the rant. Am I just in a bad mood or does anyone else think that the only people getting rich from social media are the folks who own the social media sites?

The last time I whined about online marketing:

Is online book marketing a waste of time:

Part II: Is Online Book Marketing a Waste of Time?

*Clock image at the top of this page is by Didofficiel (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

*Link about Facebook changes provided by the very knowledgeable Carla Thornton.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Marketing: Seven Month Progress Report


Executive Summary

1) As my Web traffic goes, so do my moods:

- For the first three weeks of September, I had steady traffic and averaged about 100 page views a day, a new record. Then one of my stories was accepted by a small literary journal. I was interviewed by a local cable access TV station. I felt like I had turned some corner, a tipping point, agents and offers would soon fall from the heavens.

- The last week of the month, traffic tanked and I had several days with 30 page views. Had I angered the gods at Google? I considered forgoing red meat, giving $20 to the next homeless person I saw, and calling my parents more often.

- Yesterday, my traffic jumped above 50 page views. I blew the $20 at a local bar and watched the New England Patriots finally win a game. All is well in my world. (for now.)

2) Best New Strategy: Networking

This included:
- Posting personal notes and comments on other people's blogs.
- Retweeting properly and Tweeting other people's links with their Twitter handles.
- Talking on the phone with a couple of people I met online. (Details below)

The Numbers

1) Blog and Web Sites: Traffic Down Slightly, Subscribers Up

What I'm doing: Same as last month.

My traffic numbers include:
- This blog (95 percent of my traffic).
- A Web site called RandyRossMedia, an online resume that includes videos of me reading/performing, plus a query letter, platform details, and writing samples for agents and potential employers.
- A travel tips Web site called RossTravels, which I created a few years ago.  The site contains mainly evergreen articles that are still useful for people planning a trip around the world. I've been posting links to the site in travel groups and related Twitter hashtags.

- Page views in June: 2,292
- Page views in July: 2,428
- Page views in August: 2,977
- Page views in September: 2,774 (most recent month)

- Blog subscribers at end of June: 24
- Blog subscribers at end July: 48
- Blog subscribers at end of August: 71
- Blog subscribers at end of September: 95

2) Social Media

What I'm doing: Like last month, I'm posting links to my weekly blogs to groups and hashtags, as well as using Hootsuite every Monday to pre-schedule a week's worth of Tweets. My results:

Facebook Fan Page
- Fans: 2,037, up 5 from last month.
- Reach (the number of Fans who actual see each post): about 250, down from 400 last month. 
- I'm posting the same types of items, just not posting as frequently, which could have caused the decline in Reach. Also, Facebook may have changed something. I can't worry about it, and I'm starting to question how useful it is to have a Fan Page. But posting links into appropriate Facebook Groups continues to generate traffic.

- Followers: 746 up 29 from last month.
- I'm trying to focus on quality instead of quantity, but seem to getting neither. So, I borrowed yet another book from the library on Twitter marketing. (Did I mention that I think Twitter is just a bunch of noise?)

Linked In
- Connections: 1,127, up 22 from last month.
- I'm no longer allowed to add connections unless I have their e-mail address. If there is someone I really want to add, I go to their Web site or company's Web site and get their e-mail

Klout Score
Now 48, up 1 point from last month. (Big whoop, but at least it didn't go down.)

3) SEO
I haven't done anything new, but I continue to get several hundred page views a month from Google. My blog posts appear on the first page for Google searches for the following terms for which I have optimized my site:
- Book marketing
- Travel humor
- erotic humor
- humorous erotica

For the first time, when I search on my name, I appear at the top of the page in Google. Previously, the top spots were held by another Randy Ross, who is associated with Ross bicycles. I read somewhere that prospective agents and publishers may Google your name to check on your online presence.

4) Submissions and Publications

I had another story accepted by a small literary journal.
To date I've sent out six stories to about 115 publications. I've heard back from about 70 of the publications and have had four pieces accepted. (5.7 percent success rate.)

- Fall is when a lot of publications reopen for submissions -- do it now!
- If a publication rejects one of my stories, I immediately send them another one. (I've yet to have a publication accept a second piece after rejecting the first, but you never know.)

(resources and details in last month's progress report.)

Best New Strategy: Networking

This should be commonsense, but for me it wasn't: We're supposed to be having conversations with people online instead of constantly hurling our links at them.

So, here's what I did (results below the screen shot):

- Signed up for other people's blogs and newsletters.
- E-mailed blogs and Web sites I like and asked if they wanted to post any of my blog pieces, published stories, or videos.
- Offered advice and suggested resources to people in forums and groups.
- Commented on other people's blog and Twitter posts. I now make a point to include their Twitter handle, so they know I've mentioned them. This should have been a no-brainer, but it was something I wasn't doing.
- I set up Twitter to alert me whenever some mentions me or my links. (Here's how to do it)

Go into your Twitter Settings, then click Email Notifications to receive alerts when you get mentioned or retweeted.

- Another phone call with someone smarter than me who visited one of my sites and then proposed a phone call. He has a site offering advice for finding an agent and other services for writers. I was skeptical and expecting a sales pitch. Instead, we discussed ways of cross-promoting and he offered some good online marketing advice.
- I called a woman who runs a Web site called The Erotic Salon. Last month, I found her site on Twitter and we exchanged several e-mails. As a result of the phone call, she posted several of my videos and plans to include one of my published erotica pieces in an anthology she is publishing.
- I added a couple more people to my Blog List (see right-hand column) and they've done the same.
- Full disclosure: I also sent lots of pitches and e-mails that went no where.

*Roller Coaster Image at top of blog: Blue Streak at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH, taken by Stratosphere.  

For More of My Book Marketing Tips, See:

- "Tips for Reading Your Writing in Public"

- "Easy, Sleazy Book Marketing Tips"

- "Is Online Book Marketing a Waste of Time?"  (My Two month progress report)

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