Monday, October 7, 2013

18 Months of Social Media: One Writer's Progress Report

For the last year and a half, I've been trying to develop an audience for my writing and a platform for a novel I've yet to finish. I followed the advice of book marketing bloggers and published authors. I drew on my experience with online marketing and Web publishing. I devoted one day a week and a couple of hours most other days to this project. Here's what I have to show for my efforts: It's not impressive.

Exhibit A: The Ugly Truth

My stats:
Monthly Blog traffic: about 3,000 page views
(I blog about 3 times a month)

Social Media connections: 8,400
(Linked In, Facebook Fan and personal page, Google+, Twitter)

E-mail addresses: 700
(includes blog sign ups, addresses I've collected over the years and recently contacted, addresses I've collected at readings and lectures I've given. I use to manage much of these names)

*What it would take to wow an agent:
Monthly Blog traffic: 50,000 views
Social media connections: 50,000
Email addresses: 100,000

*Source: a 2012 Writer's Digest article, but I can only imagine expectations getting larger not smaller.
Worth noting:
- One agent in the article said she would be impressed with 10,000 social media connections.
- Another agent blog said that for fiction, having a big platform is less important than it is for writers of non-fiction.

Of course, there  is an easier way to impress an agent with your social media numbers.

No time for social media, but lots of money? Buy followers who will ignore all your posts and never buy your book. But hey, you'll have an impressive platform.

Exhibit B: What Worked


1) Blogging regularly
But there also seems to be a point of diminishing return -- and I have other work to do.
- My blogs tend to be long: Better to be long and thorough, than short and useless, particularly if you want people to sign up for your blog.
- I've also noticed that some literary agents who used to blog daily are now blogging less frequently. I blog most Mondays.

2) Inserting a sign-up box at the end of each blog post
- Like many blogs, mine has a sign-up box in the right-hand column. When I started to manually add a sign-up box to the end of each blog, my sign-ups jumped ten-fold. (I used to get maybe one sign-up a month. Now I get 10 to 20 and have a total of 290 subscribers.)
- Getting people to sign up, to give you their e-mail address, means you can communicate directly with them. With social media, the sites own the e-mail addresses and  can hold them hostage from you. (more on this below)

3) Posting links to blogs in social media groups and on Web sites frequented by people interested in my topics.
- This is more effective than having thousands of Twitter followers and Facebook Fans who never look at your stuff.
- A recent blog post with tips on posting to groups

4) Public Readings
- You don't need a published book to read at bookstores, literary events, poetry slams, story slams, public libraries, writing centers, adult education centers, etc. Once an agent approached me after a reading and said she wanted to see my book when it was done. (That was two years ago. Will she remember me?)
- Be sure to ask folks to leave their e-mail addresses if they want to get on your e-mail list.
- Tips on reading your work in public
- My recent experience assembling my work into a one-hour reading and performing it at a fringe theater festival.

5) Lectures
- Again, I don't have a published book, but in writing my novel I've developed some areas of expertise, including world travel and social media.
- I've given travel lectures at local adult education centers and at a local store that sells camping gear. I sent a pitch to a local hostel.
- I've been on panels talking about my experiences using social media.

6) Serendipity
- If you're out there, you'll more likely to bump into people
- On Linked In and Twitter, I've met other writers and influential people in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Florida. (I live in Boston) If I ever did a book tour in those areas, these people might invite friends.

7) Guest blogging
- Some blogs have reposted my blogs, which has driven traffic.
- Those blogs include a Boston writer center and blog carnivals.

8) Monitoring blog traffic
I use a free tool called Statcounter, which is much easier to use than Google Analytics. Also, Statcounter actually has tech support. Google doesn't. I use the traffic monitoring tool to:
- See which blog posts and topics draw the most visitors. (I have a seven year-old post that generates almost 25% of my traffic.)
- See where people are coming from to determine which social media platforms are most worth my time. (Linked In has been best, Twitter has been the worst.)

Exhibit C: What Hasn't Worked

1) Having lots of followers on Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter
- Again, most of my traffic comes from posting links and communicating with people in groups and forums interested in the topics I write about.
- Twitter hashtags have produced little traffic.
- One caveat with Twitter: I have two Twitter pages. One is for book marketing and promotion. The other is for a chonically single people, a theme in my novel. The chonically single page does generate some traffic -- and it has a tenth the followers of my book marketing page. So, your Twitter results may depend on your audience.
- I continue to be active on Twitter because it boosts Klout score, a number is considered important by some agents, publishers, and employers. All about Klout scores in plain English.

2) Facebook Fan page
- Facebook continues to limit the number of friends and fans who see your posts. I have 2,000 fans, most of whom used to see my posts. In April 2012, Facebook began showing my posts to only about 500 of those people. In September 2012, that number was reduced to about 200. Now the number is about 100. To reach all 2,000 of my fans, I have to pay Facebook.
- Facebook experts claim that posts that receive a lot of "Likes" and comments will reach more people. Maybe, but I'm not convince.

3) Paid Facebook Promotions
- I once paid $20 to reach all 2,000 of my fans plus 8,000 of their friends. Most of the people who saw my post were non-native English speakers living in developing countries. More on my experience.

Other Things I'm Going to Try

1) Pinterest

2) Blog carnivals
I found a Web site that allows you submit blog posts for posting on other people's blogs. For book marketing, I've used The Book Designer's Carnival of the Indies. But there are other blog carnivals for other topics.

3) Finding more Web sites -- non-social media sites -- where I can post blog links and communicate with potential readers. This is time-consuming and involves Google searches on topics related to my novel (travel, single people, relationships) and this blog (self promotion for writers.)

Attribution for top image: By Employeeperformance (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Had Enough Book Marketing for One Day?

- Vicodin, Klonopin, or Heineken: What Do Unemployed Writers Have for Breakfast?



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