Monday, June 25, 2012

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

My initial online book marketing post generated a lot of comments from the real experts: authors who are marketing books as opposed to experts who are marketing themselves.

The comments were pretty evenly split on whether it's a waste of time. My favorite quote came from U.K. author Jim Murdock:

"Traditional marketing techniques don’t work very well online. Being a decent bloke who takes a genuine interest in other people and isn’t always selling at them does … but not quickly."

The upshot: If blogging and social media are going to sell books, it will take some time -- yours.

 Here's a quick summary of what other folks had to say and their recommendations:

1) Yes, online book marketing is a waste of time.

- Reaching a few influential people is more important than reaching thousands of nobodies. Similarly, it's better to focus on reaching potential reviewers at newspapers, mags, Amazon, etc.

- The more time you spend with online book marketing, the more books you'll sell. But it's a huge time suck. One author said he limits social media to an hour a day after work and blogs only once a week.

- Several people said they hated Twitter and found it useless. Others used an auto posting tool like Hootsuite to minimize their Twitter time. Another said you need about 2,000 followers to make an impact.

- Several people said they hated Facebook Fan Pages because Facebook only shows your posts to less than 15 percent of your fans. (You have to pay to reach them all.) Here's my take on Facebook and it's new policies.

- Another author asked: Realistically, how much time do you spend readings posts on Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter? Probably not much, and that probably goes for everyone else.

2) No, online book marketing is not a waste.

- A recent self-publishing success story relied on online book marketing. According to the author, the book, Evertaster, was an Amazon bestseller in one day. The author said he achieved that goal by enlisting friends who tweeted, blogged, Facebooked, and e-mailed. (His book is now ranked #4,774) Also, he says he "amassed upwards of 2,250 fans," which is not a huge number. (I have that many and I'm a nobody.) 

- Publishers will ask about your platform.

- One author ditched Twitter in favor of the new social media site Pinterest.

- Social media is great for staying in touch with your audience, but nearly useless for building an audience.

- For every person who says something doesn't work, there's someone else who disagrees. The big problem is that everything takes time: time to post and time before you see results. 

- One author got a traffic spike whenever he bought online ads, but traffic dropped soon after. Another author suggested this author post regularly to Facebook and Twitter to increase followers and deepen connection with them so they come back.

3)  My personal take:

I've only been pushing the online book marketing and platform building for two months. I need to give it more time, but use my time more wisely -- avoid the time suck. Two solutions for people like me with no self-control:
- For serious writing, go somewhere where there's no Internet.
- Try an inexpensive program, like Freedom, that prevents your computer from accessing the Internet for a period of time.

*Special thanks to folks in Linked In groups, such as Books and Writers, Fiction Writers Guild, Novelspot, and Goodreads' Author/Readers forum

**If you like my posts, feel free to subscribe by email or follow using the options in the right hand column. Thanks!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Is online book marketing a waste of time

Is online book marketing a waste of time? One writer's results.

Over the last two months, I've made a push to boost my online presence by blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, Linking In, GoodReading, Search Engine Optimizing and more. Each week, I spend one full day on this stuff, plus another eight hours here and there.

My results have been middling at best. I've increased my blog traffic, number of connections/friends/followers but not by a huge amount. Haven't gotten anything to go viral. 

Worse still, I just read some articles by a respected writer that claimed that blogging and social media can be useless for building a book marketing platform and selling books.

Though it's only been two months, the articles still depressed the hell out of me and led me to ask...

But other experts claim that this is a gradual process, so I'm going to keep at it for another few months.

My results since my online surge began May 1, 2012.

1) Linked In: 1,002 connections (increase of about 200)
- Currently adding about 5 a week.
- Relatively easy to increase: send out about 10 new requests per week.
- Adding mainly writers, agents, book editors and other publishing people -- not a potential audience for my novel.
- Re: the agents and book editors: When it comes time to query, will I have a leg up? will anyone care if I say: "Hey buddy, we're connected Linked In." Also, not sure if these folks will respond to a direct note on Linked in. (many have as many connections as I do, so they can't possibly be familiar with them all. Linked In maybe useful joining groups in which agents and editors hang out and post pithy comments to get my name under their noses.

2) Facebook Author Page: 2,010 (increase of 125)
- Currently, adding about 5 a week
- Disheartened by small number seeing my posts. (Facebook limits the number of fans you can reach to about 15 percent if you don't pay up. (So, my posts only reach 300 or so of my fans.)
- I've joined a few groups frequented by other writers. Will they buy my book? Not sure.

3) Twitter followers:  560 (increase of 300)
- Currently, adding about 10 a week
- Using Hootsuite, which makes it easy to pre-schedule and send a couple of tweets a day.
- Hootlet makes it easy to send new articles. (go to article, click hootlet icon and send.).
- I'm following some agents and publishing people. They are not following me.
- Still unclear how this will be useful for either finding a publisher or selling books.

4) Blog: 1,000 unique visitors a month, up from 625.
- Been blogging weekly: A good blog takes me four to eight hours to write.
- Getting more traffic than ever, but mostly I drive it myself by posting in various Web sites, forums, and Linked In groups.
- Few people signing up for blog-- what you really want because then you have direct connection.
- SEO seems to be helping, but still not getting big numbers (I need to get 100 times what I'm getting now to impress anyone.)
 - Added a donate button -- nothing. Signed up for Google adds in hopes of generating some income. Earned a dollar and my site was cluttered with ads. I canceled it.

For more online book marketing articles:

- Tools for measuring online book marketing progress.
- How writers can earn a living (Content warning: men eating lightbulbs, being run over by cars, hit with sledge hammers.)
- Greetings from Twitter Hell.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Facebook Fan Pages: Does it Matter When You Post?

If you're a writer with a Facebook Fan Page, you're basically running a business and trying to increase your pool of potential customers (Likes) and drive as many as possible to your blog, Web site, or Amazon page. A key to driving them to you sites is "engaging" them -- getting them to read and comment on your posts -- by posting the right content at the right time.  A recent article on Mashable Business discussed Facebook fan pages and offered engagement advice for large businesses. Does this advice work for authors?

Below is a sampling of their recommendations for best times to post followed by what my experience has been.

I) The Experts Findings (again, these are based on large companies)

- Days and times of week: 
Facebook fans typically were most active at three times of day: before work (7 a.m. EST), after work (5 p.m.) and late night (11 p.m.). Weekends were best for large media and entertainment companies. (My assumption: Writers and authors are a small media and entertainment companies.)

- Frequency:
Another article recommended you start out posting once or twice a week and posting more than once a day can be overkill.

 *Good tip from Mashable: When posting a link, use the entire url, instead of a cryptic, shortened url that way people can see that the link is legit and where it's taking them.

II) My Findings

As a writer, I generally post four types of content:

1) Personal progress reports, including:
- publication updates on the fate of my short stories, nonfiction pieces, and interactions with agents.
- public readings and performances.

2) Links to publishing industry news and tips for writers.

3) Original pieces:
- Publishing and book promotion tips, like this piece.
- New original stories and essays on my blog

4) Occasional weird stuff just for fun
- R. Crumb video (did poorly)

- Old person joke (did well)
- Song: "It's Great to Be a Dickhead" (did well)
- Song: "The Motorcyle/Pickle" song from Arlo Gutherie. (did poorly)

I also post at all hours of weekdays and weekends, including 2 a.m. on some Saturday nights.

To analyze which posts and times generated the most engagement, I examined the Reach of various posts listed in the Insight statistics for my page. (click image to enlarge)

My findings:
It didn't seem to matter what time or what day I posted. I posted to Facebook before, during, and after work hours. I posted at 1:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings (Yes, I have no life.). I posted stories from the various types of stories listed above: Sometimes they did well, sometimes they tanked. Typically, I only posted once a day, but a couple of days I posted twice -- and both stories did equally well.

My take-away: Regular posting seems to be working because my Likes and Reach keep going increasing. (I now have 2,006 Likes and typically add about 10 a week.)


- Explanations: Fans could be checking my posts whenever is convenient for them. I also have a large number of Fans on the West coast.

- My Facebook Author Page is not a huge source of traffic to my Blog and Website. Posting links to Facebook Groups and Linked In Groups drives a lot more traffic.

- I consider my Page to be another channel -- almost like a private radio station/TV channel to reach those people who prefer to spend time on Facebook. Will this lead to more sales? I don't know.

- Regarding Reach: My Reach numbers are always a subset of my Likes. Facebook purposely restricts the number of people you can reach with your posts. (I typically reach 10 to 20 percent of my Likes.) To reach them all, costs money. For more on this, including a possible fix that really isn't a fix, see "FB fans aren’t seeing your posts."

- To determine my best posts/days/and times, I sorted my Reach numbers in Facebook Insights from highest to lowest, exported them to Excel, and then resorted them by date and time posted.(I'm sure there's an easier way, but this worked for me.)

If you found this article useful, please share the link, post on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to this blog. Thanks!

For more recent Facebook tips for writers, see:
- Easy, Sleazy Book Marketing Tips 
- My Easy, Sleazy Book Marketing Results 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Do You Rate? Measure Book Promotion Success

How's your book promotion going? Here are four free, but not painless, tools that claim to help you quantify your results:

1)  Klout
A Web site that clams to measure your influence across social media. Ha!

2) Alexa
A Web site that tells you how your site traffic compares to other sites, including Google, Amazon, and Facebook.Very depressing.

3) Web Analytics
Web sites that measure traffic to your Web site or blog. Worthwhile if you pick the right tool. (Note: your Web site may already include a tool for this. I am mentioning two widely-recognized tools that have been around for a while: Google Analytics and Statcounter.)

Getting Started

Installing these tools can get geeky and test your reserves of patience and persistence. With that in mind, you need the right mindset, which means the right outfit.

 Previously, writers dressed like this:

 Now, we're supposed to dress like this:

The Tools
Full Disclosure: I was an executive editor at PC World magazine and for seven years. So, I know a little about computers, already own a propeller hat -- and still had problems I wouldn't wish on anyone. 

So, if you're in a hurry and don't want to deal with a lot of nonsense or a new wardrobe, skip down the #3 below, install Statcounter, and be done with it. Otherwise, if you have time to waste, want to familiarize yourself with other popular tools, or you just feel like hating yourself, continue at your own risk.

1) Klout

A literary agent once mentioned something about Klout scores, so I signed up for an account. This multi-step process is supposed to be straight forward: you fill out a profile, click options to connect your accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Youtube, Blogger and other social media. Then Klout calculates your online influence.

This all worked as advertised except for one little problem: When I tried to add my Facebook Author fan page, Klout refused and generated an inscrutable error message. Not being a patient person, I opened a second Klout account and tried again. Klout appeared to accept my fan page, but claimed Twitter, Linked in, Google etc. were connected to another account, so Kout wouldn't add them to the new account. I went into each of my social media sites and disconnected it from Klout. (Not as hard as it sounds.)

But this didn't appease Klout and the site generated an error that suggested I contact tech support. So, I did. The next day I got a message that made no sense. Basically, it was the equivalent of me telling my car mechanic that my brakes weren't working, him working on the car, and saying, "All set: we installed new windshield wipers."

This back and forth with Klout continued for several days: I said the equivalent of: "My car won't start." And received messages: "Yes, we understand, we installed a new floor mat."

Each note from Klout tech support included emoticons for "how was our answer" followed by a smile, a frown, or a grimace. I decided to wait a few more days before clicking the grimace.

Another day passed with no response from Klout tech support. And another. And another. I Tweeted about the problem and listed the number of days without a response from tech support. I figured maybe Klout, the experts on online influence, would notice. They didn't. I posted a note every day for four days. Apparently, my Klout score of 25 was too low to warrant a response.

I went back to all the emails from tech-support asking "how are we doing" and I clicked the grimaces. Still no response. After a week of no responses, I canceled my Klout accounts.

Then one night I got a note from the same tech support guy: "Please clear your cache. And by the way, we're not compatible with Facebook Fan pages."

In other words: He'd repaired the lock on my glove compartment. Klout still wasn't working.

Mysteriously, two weeks later, my account was working.

Then the problem came back. I contacted tech support again. (I kept my old e-mails, so I was able to contact the same person who fixed it the first time.) This time, he fixed it after a couple of days.

Verdict: Was this worth all the aggravation? For most people probably not.

For more dissenting opinions on Klout, including how it can ruin your life, see my piece on Online Book Marketing: Klout

2) Alexa
This site is for the big boys. If your site receives less than 1,000 visitors a month, it's probably not worth the aggravation. The site claims to show all the sites that are linking your site. When I checked it, it appeared to have omitted several sites I knew linked to me.

Also, set up involves adding code to the bowels of your Web site or blog. After several attempts, I got it to work.

Verdict: Is this worth the aggravation? For most smaller author sites or blogs, probably not.

For more details on Alexa, see my piece on Online Book Marketing: Alexa

2) Web Analytics: Google Analytics and Statcounter
For my money, these tools are the most useful for writers. The tools tell you:
- how much traffic you're getting. (you can track your progress and determine which types of content are best for your audience.)
- which pages are generating the most traffic. (For these pages, you may want to add links to other pages on your site to increase traffic.)
- where traffic is coming from/what links or keywords visitors are using to find your site.

 For best results, these tools want you to add a piece of code to each page on your site. For blogs, this is easy -- you add the code to the layout, footer, or some other component that appears on every page. For a regular Web site, you have to go in and manually add the code to each page -- or just the most important pages.

I've been using this tool for years. It is has a clean simple interface and excellent tech support. I'd highly recommend it.

Google Analytics:
This was a tech-support horror show. I installed the code as instructed in my Blogger blog, which is owned by Google, so it was a breeze

Later I compared my Google Analytics traffic to Statcounter. I had similar numbers of visitors, but twice the number of page views. Wow! No wonder, Google Analytics is so popular!

But I knew something was wrong and after a week of double scores, I couldn't look myself in the mirror in the morning. I searched all over Google Analytics to find tech support. This was a long and convoluted process and eventually I found an email address for tech support*

Then then the back and forth began. The tech support people sent me messages suggesting I go into the bowels of Blogger and make code changes. Unfortunately, Blogger wouldn't allow me to make those kinds of changes. More unfortunate still, the Google Adwords tech support folks were not familiar with Blogger, which is owned by Google. Over the course of another week, I received unhelpful messages like this instructing me to make code changes that Blogger wouldn't allow me to make.

After several weeks of this, I finally gave up. If I ever need to show Google Analytics numbers -- because this is considered the standard by some experts -- I'll use the visitor stats, but not page views.

*Tip: If you can't find a tech support email address, sign up for a Google Adwords account, then you should have access to a tech support email address.

For more online book marketing tips, see Bad Advice for Writers

Online Book Marketing: Klout

More than you want to know about Klout.

My Klout score: Not impressive. To rate as a muckety-muck, you want a score over 50.

(click on image to enlarge it.)

A few things to note:

- Most of my social media activity is on my Facebook Fan page. Klout does not measure this activity. Klout connects to my blog and Linked In pages. It's not clear how that activity is factored in on this page. (A lot of my activity occurs on both of those sites.)

- For articles on people who think Klout is worthless and hazardous to your health, see:

How Klout Can Ruin Your Life

and a piece by writer John Ochwat

Getting Klouted

Also, if you have a Twitter account, be sure to find your Klouchebag score, which measures how annoying you are online. Here's my score:

Online Book Marketing: Alexa

Alexa compares your site traffic to those of other Internet sites. Unless you get more than 1,000 visitors a month or rank in the top 100,000 sites by traffic, Alexa claims its statistics are not reliable.

But on a rainy day, Alexa offers a good option for depressing yourself. Here's my ranking (yes, it's raining today). Double-clilck to enlarge this image.

So, according the image, there are 5,271,639 Web sites that get more traffic than I do.

A listing of the top sites offers few surprises:

    1  Google  
    2  Facebook
    3  YouTube
    4  Yahoo!
    5 (A Chinese language search engine)   
    6  Wikipedia
    7 Windows Live (Search engine from Microsoft.)
    8 Twitter
    9 QQ.COM (China's largest and most used Internet service portal.)
    12  LinkedIn