Friday, July 19, 2019

Stop Wasting Your Time Marketing on Social Media

This article is from way back in the digital stone age: 2014. I wish I had read it then, and taken it seriously, though I’m not sure I would have that year. My attitude has changed drastically since then, based on my own experience and the lessons learned from my clients.

My 7/8 post was about focusing on writing as opposed to marketing. This post is in the same vein. Social media: writers are supposed to develop their social media platform. The marketing gurus say if you self-publish you have to do this. Agents won’t talk to you until you have a social media platform all set up with thousands of likes. But is there any return on all the time you have to spend on it? This article argues that there is no return, in fact, if it reduces the time you spend on your writing (which it inevitably will), it will generate a negative return.

Once again, the same advice I’ve seen over and over appears here. This time it’s from Amazon Publishing! Write more books. Keep writing. If you love it, do it and stop wasting your time and money on gimmicks that claim to sell more books, but don’t.
“Conventional wisdom in the publishing industry suggests that a robust online presence, maintained by an author, will compensate for a non-existent marketing budget and that some uncoachable mix of wit and digital luck can propel an author from obscurity to fame. The reality is that successful online marketing, just like successful offline marketing, is driven by money. A social media presence with no cash behind it doesn’t do much for the average author when it comes to selling books, and squandering precious hours on building a platform that few people will ever see—hours that could otherwise be spent writing—is a mistake that can hurt your productivity and, therefore, your career.

According to research by Social@Ogilvy, which was recently published in Advertising Age, a mere 6.15 percent of fans (people who like a page) see each organic (unpaid) post from a brand.

The advice they gave to my author friend (who spoke on the condition of anonymity, per her contract with Amazon): write more. Don’t waste time on social media. The single biggest factor in whether or not you sell books is whether or not you write books.

When you have to make a choice about how to spend your writing time, choose your book first. Every. Single. Time. To approach your writing career any other way is a mistake.”
Read the entire article!

Also, Seth Rogen had something similar to say about social media in 2018:
“The narrative of social media grooming is a seductive one, but it’s as much of a dead end as spending an extra hour picking out which tie to wear before giving a speech.”

Monday, July 15, 2019

Is Indie-Publishing a Good Choice for Literary Fiction?

Is indie publishing viable for literary fiction authors? Here's a podcast with successful literary fiction author Jane Davis that suggests it is not the best choice, even though she appears to have made it work. The interview starts at 21:30, but some of the introductory stuff is interesting.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Do You Need a Publicist?

If you want to get the word out and are having a difficult time doing that, consider hiring a publicist. Jane Friedman wrote about this recently.

"Nowadays, many writers elect to hire their own publicists. That’s especially true for those who publish with small, independent, or nontraditional presses, since that may be the only way for them to secure media attention. It’s also true, however, for writers who take the traditional route. Unless you’re a major name, your publisher will have limited time and resources to devote to your book. If you want more exposure, you’ll have to make it happen yourself. 
Marketing refers to the things you pay for, in order to become known (like ad placements), while publicity refers to attention from the media (like interviews and reviews) that you do not pay for. You pay for them indirectly, of course, by paying for the time (that is, the connections and clout) of a professional publicist."

Read the entire article.

Additional reading:

If you want to do some press releases on your own, here's a good article about sites to submit that don't charge you for the privilege:

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Case For Being a Writer, Not a Marketer

A lot of things have been swirling around in my brain about writers and getting paid.

First, a little bit of background might help set the stage. In 2008 I left the world of software development. I volunteered to do websites, for free, to members of Batavia Mainstreet, an organization devoted to helping promote Batavia’s downtown, which consists of mostly small businesses. At the same time an artist’s cooperative, Water Street Studios, was forming in Batavia. I worked with artists from that organization. I realized that many artists were not good marketers. I became a bit obsessed with the idea that artists, and later mostly writers, should get paid for their work.

It’s now 12 years later and I don’t have much to show for my efforts. A couple of books have influenced my recent thoughts.

I read Journey of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters by John Steinbeck. He kept a journal, written in the form of letters to his agent, while writing East of Eden. I found it fascinating. First, Steinbeck was unsure of his writing. East of Eden was not his first novel. The man had an American classic, The Grapes of Wrath, already written and published, yet he still seemed unsure, insecure, about the quality of his work. More to the point of this post, he only mentioned issues related to potential sales of his new book a couple times, and only in the vaguest terms. He didn’t write anything about his “platform,” his book description, the book cover, garnering book reviews – none of the things today’s authors have to contend with. 90% of his concerns were about the story. The other 10% of his journal entries were about his pencils; the man was obsessed with his pencils.

This book, along with other things I read, made me start to question the wisdom of self-publishing. I expressed these thoughts in public and a friend recommended I read How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent by Noah Lukeman. I read the beginning of the book and then stopped, convinced this wasn’t the way to go either. First, Lukeman recommends authors adopt a 20 year timeline. 20 years to hone our craft, find an agent and get published! I’m 62. Many of my clients are older. Waiting 20 years is just not practical. He may, however, be right. That is depressing. Shortly after reading that, I came across the chapter on the author’s platform. An author is expected to have a website, a robust social media presence, a podcast or YouTube channel, a public speaking business, and ideally interviews on national media outlets like CNN. All this is before landing an agent or publisher! It made me wonder: what do agents and publishers do anymore? I know the answer; I’ve published posts on that question before. The answer is nothing for new or midlist authors.

Where does all this leave me? Despair? Not really. It has shifted my attitude, my expectations, and hence my advice to writers.

My new advice: obsess about the quality of your writing; stop obsessing about sales, especially online sales. I wish I knew the secret. I don’t. But, I’m now convinced no one else does either. Focus on the only thing you can control: the writing. A lousy book cover will deter sales, but a really expensive book cover guarantees nothing. Write a good book description. You’re a writer; at least spend the time to try and sell your book, do the best you can and then forget about it. You already know how I feel about formatting: keep it simple and cheap. Expensive formatting will not sell more books. If you enjoy them, do readings and signings. You’ll sell some books and have some fun. If you enjoy blogging and social media, do it. If you have the money and think you can write some ads, try it. But, if all this sounds like a drag, then stop trying to be a businessperson. Just stop.

Forget all the online marketing tricks, especially the ones that cost you money. Most of them are just another way to separate you from your money.  Consider this from JA Konrath, an author who has sold more than 3 million books, both self and traditionally:
“Bookmarks don't work on me, so I don't give them away. I don't click on Facebook ads, so I don't buy Facebook ads. I've never gone out of my way to go to a booksigning, so I no longer do booksignings. And so on. I'm not saying that these things don't ever work for other authors. But if it doesn't work on me, I don't do it.”
Consider how you buy books. I have never once gone to BookBub, or participated in a giveaway. I don’t browse for books, so the “magic” of the cover doesn’t really matter to me. I get suggestions from friends, on Goodreads, or in my writing group, or I read about the book in a mainstream newspaper or magazine. That’s how I develop my list of books to read. How do you come across books you end up reading? Use that to decide how to market your own books.

* * *
An aside: the entire article by JA Konrath is pretty interesting. It’s title, On Writing Shit, caught my eye and it’s worth reading. Basically, he says don’t try so hard to make your book perfect, it’s just not worth it. It’s destined to become a future blog post. Read the entire article.
* * *

Get working on the next book. Enjoy writing again! If you want to be an artist with words, be that and skip the rest. Life is way too short to do otherwise.

Friday, July 5, 2019


I’m very ambivalent about medium when it comes to books. While the vast majority of books I read are in print, I do also like my Kindle. The Kindle is wonderful for travel.

When it comes to magazines, however, I strongly prefer print. I only subscribe to two: Pen World and Conde Nast Traveler. I could have subscribed to the digital editions, but it wouldn’t have been the same, not even close. I like the feel of a magazine. The pictures look so much better in print. The print version fonts are usually larger and easier to read in the printed copies. I know people say this about books too, but I really am comfortable reading a book in either print or Kindle format – they are equally the same to me.

I like the length of magazine articles too. Generally, longer than newspapers, going into greater depth, the magazine article is still easily digested in a single flight.

I used to travel a lot for work. I’d bring a book on most trips, but usually packed with clothes in my luggage. My laptop case was stuffed full with the laptop and files, but there was usually room for 2 or 3 magazines. They became my go-to in-flight reading material and the love affair began.

Magazines are having a tough time lately, especially print versions. Ad revenue is way down. People continue to expect content for free (in reading material, music, photography…). I really do hope they survive, and I’ll continue to subscribe to some in an effort to help.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Writing Contest Scams

Writer Beware had a post recently about writing contest scams. Here are the red flags:

  • Solicitation
  • High entry fees
  • Dozens or scores of entry categories
  • Anonymous judging
  • Non-prize prizes
  • Opportunities to spend more money

There are so many opportunities for scammers to make money in the writing world. Please don’t fall for them. Don’t spend your hard earned money seeking prestige that isn’t really of any value whatsoever.

Read the entire article.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Book Isn't Selling? Here Are Some Ideas

"While there are countless sources of advice and marketing tricks on how to sell ebooks and books online on Amazon, the most important factors of all are to have a good product and to attract positive attention to your books. 
If you have published more than a couple of titles, perhaps it has been some time since you analysed what you are really doing to attract attention."
I do have to note that the advice to post on Google + is old - Google + is sadly no more. 

I did recover and change the description to my book (Deliveryman: Palm Springs), and though I think both of those areas are much improved, it hasn't resulted in any movement. I haven't advertised it though, so the experiment continues. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Ebook Pirates: Using Ebooks to Spread Malware and Get Personal Info!

“The reason is simple. Spammers and scammers have seized upon ebook piracy as means not to offer illegal downloads, but to gum up the search engines with spammy links that, at best, trick people in viewing a lot of pointless ads and, at worst, try to scam users out of their personal information.”
You may find your ebook for sale on some other, oddball, site. It's happened to at least one of my clients. However, that site may just be fishing (or phishing) for personal information, or to try and get someone to click so the site can then download malware. They don't really have your book - it's just used as bait. 

People sometimes suck. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

My Days as a Book Formatter are Numbered!

I received an email recently announcing that Kindle Create will soon be able to format paperbacks as well as Kindle books. The Kindle conversion process is incredibly easy as long as you have the Word document formatted correctly (and that is also very, very easy to accomplish by following some very simple rules). I haven't downloaded the new Kindle Create yet, but I suspect it will also be easy. Anything I do, formatting-wise, can and will be automated. It's only a matter of time.
“You can use Kindle Create to prepare an eBook and paperback with the same manuscript file. If you prepare your paperback with Kindle Create, you can publish it in any trim size. Kindle Create also takes care of complicated paperback formatting tasks for you. When you upload your file to KDP, margins are automatically calculated, and page numbers are added to your paperback's table of contents page and footers. Your first chapter will start on a right-facing page, with subsequent chapters starting on the next available page.”
Read about the new Kindle Create - coming soon!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Authors: You Need an Author Page on Amazon & Goodreads!

I recommend all authors, indie published or traditionally published, have a nice Amazon (and Goodreads) author page.
“Books published by traditional publishing houses always have enhanced Amazon Central book sales pages. The same tools are available for self-published authors, and they are very easy to use. 
It doesn’t take long to make your sales pages far more appealing. The publishing industry and selling books is tough, so every little lever you can pull will help you. 
There is one last bonus to having an Author Central account. 
You will have access to much better sales info data including NPD Bookscan, Sales rank by title and version and your overall Author ranking. 
So, what are you waiting for? Use Author Central and all of its tools to help you reach more readers and sell more books.”
Read the entire article.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Serialize Your Novel

I read Write. Publish. Repeat. over my vacation. The authors said, over and over, write more; sell more. How many times have we heard that? They said they had success serializing some of their novels. They broke them up into chunks. They released the chunks every two weeks at 99 cents each. Each chunk had a teaser at the end that referred to the next installment. Then, at the end, they sold the entire book at a slight discount to the sum of the chunks. All of this was done as ebooks of course. (They are among the indie publishers that say to release as an ebook first and only if there is interest, invest in the extra money to come out in print.)

So, if you have 5 chunks, you release those over 10 weeks at 99 cents each. Total: $4.95. Then, on week 12, you release the entire book for $4.25.

Will it work for you as it did for them? It depends on the book. It depends on whether the chunks have enough of a cliffhanger to inspire people to buy the next installment. It certainly seems worth trying.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Authors: Don't Pay Someone to Publish Your Book!

Here is yet another article imploring authors to never pay someone else to publish your book. Even though they call themselves “hybrid publishers” they are really just vanity publishers in disguise. Note: this isn’t the same as paying someone for a service: editing, formatting, or marketing assistance. If you choose to pay for specific deliverables, that is OK. Hold the service provider accountable! Get what you paid for.
“The first reality is to understand that vanity presses will never help you succeed. 
I hear from so many authors who had wild dreams, were told mistruths and paid an awful lot of money to publish their book. And all for nothing. 
Vanity publishing is definitely not self-publishing. Paying a vanity publishing company to sell books to you is not a recipe for success. Do not fall for the trap.”
Somewhat of a tangent on the vanity publishing angle:
“Combined Indie author ebook sales of imprint, not listed and collective amount to over 37% of the market. A full 12% higher than the Big Five publishers market share!”

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Waterline Writers: May 19, 2019

Wayne Johnson

Wayne Johnson

Wayne Johnson

Wayne Johnson

Cathy Borders

Liz & Lou Holly

Liz & Lou Holly

Liz & Lou Holly

Elizabeth Russell

Elizabeth Russell

David Berner

David Berner

David Berner

Chad Sullivan

Chad Sullivan

Eileen Kimbrough

Eileen Kimbrough

Eileen Kimbrough

Eileen Kimbrough

Justine Nies

Justine Nies

Justine Nies

Ray Ziemer

Ray Ziemer

Ray Ziemer

Leo Zarko

Leo Zarko

Monday, May 13, 2019

Publishing Odds & Ends: Writers Beware & Kindle Delivery Costs

Scam Alert

Once again, I came across a blog post about scam publishers. I can’t reiterate strongly enough: be careful before you hand over your money! Indie publishing means you have to get help: editing, formatting, perhaps some marketing help. You have to make sure you are going to get the help you need at a reasonable price. Read the fine print!
"There are a lot of ways an author can publish, but if you receive an unsolicited offer from a publishing company or publishing service, you should be very careful. 
It is extremely rare for reputable publishers or a literary agent representing a traditional publishing house to contact an author with a publishing offer unless the author has celebrity status. 
It is too late after parting with thousands of dollars to discover that your publisher has no responsibility under your contract to sell your book."
Read the entire article on the Just Publishing Advice website.

Kindle Delivery Costs

Go easy on images in Kindle ebooks. If you have lots of images in your ebook, your royalty will be diminished, sometimes considerably. Apparently, the same goes for covers, according to this article. The larger the cover file (in megabytes), the larger the delivery cost. I’ve written about the delivery cost issue before in a previous post, complete with an example.