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.)

If you find my book marketing blog useful, sign up to have it delivered to your inbox each week:

Enter your email address:

**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.

If you find my book marketing blog useful, sign up to have it delivered to your inbox each week:

Enter your email address:

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.)

If you find my book marketing blog useful, sign up to have it delivered to your inbox each week:

Enter your email address:

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.

If you find my book marketing blog useful, sign up to have it delivered to your inbox each week:

Enter your email address: