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Friday, 22 February 2013

Social Media and the Author - guest post

A post from Stephen Hise, writer and blogger and keen supporter of indie writers.

Is social media marketing simply a distraction from other, more productive activities, or does it work to move books?
You may have wondered this from time-to-time. There seems to be little correlation between your number of Twitter followers and your sales figures.
Most authors are not good marketers. We seem to either over-enthuse about our books, to the point we drive people away, or we are so meek we barely mention ever having written a book. We think to ourselves, isn’t that the kind of thing my 2,500 fans ought to know?
Since we aren’t terribly well-versed in the dark arts of sales and marketing, it is easy for us to believe we are doing it wrong. That can also make us vulnerable to all sorts of bad advice and outright scams.
Brandon Mendelson is the author of a top-selling book critical of social media as a marketing tool. Brandon says, “I applied everything Gary Vaynerchuck, Chris Brogan, Scott Monty, Guy Kawasaki, and others were saying and found nothing worked.” You can find an excellent interview of Mendelson HERE.
He characterizes the social platforms as tools—neither inherently good nor bad, but confirms it is incredibly difficult to track ROI, despite representations to the contrary by any self-proclaimed expert.
Further complicating the issue is that two of the top selling authors of 2012 did not invest much time in social media at all. If authors can reach those kinds of sales figures without engaging on social media at all, how important could it possibly be? See HERE for an interesting interview of Gillian Flynn’s literary agent, Stephanie Rostan.
Because return on investment is so difficult to determine, it is quite impossible to say with any conviction whether Ms. Flynn’s book would have done even better with a concerted social media campaign, or whether those who attribute their success to specific SM efforts may have done as well regardless.
If all your marketing eggs are in the social media basket, that’s probably a mistake, but that doesn’t mean SM marketing is a total waste of time. I would wager dollars to navy beans that some of your sales to people in far-away places are the direct result of connecting with those people through the medium of an internet platform.
Unfortunately, the law of diminishing returns applies here. Doing a lot more on social media may not yield a return that justifies the extra cost in time and effort. Those numbers are different for each of us. There is no universally-applicable formula.
What authors are after is book buzz—that rare confluence of energies that can catapult a book from obscurity to success. To even have an opportunity, a book has to have exposure. Obviously, the use of social media provides some exposure, but SM is still only a single element of an overall marketing strategy.
We’re all out there looking for the one thing that works to generate that buzz. In doing so, we often make assumptions based on data that are partial at best, or inherently flawed at worst.
In a sense, marketing a book is like fishing. The results may vary wildly from day-to-day. A spot that yielded good results once produces nothing the next time. The sparkly vampire lure somebody used to catch that trophy fish doesn’t work for you at all. Some days you catch a few and some days you don’t even get a nibble. Every once in a while, somebody who doesn’t know a thing about fishing and who is doing absolutely everything wrong gets a big strike. It can be frustrating when people are having great luck upstream and downstream from you if you’re having no luck at all.
If the analogy holds for you, do what fishermen do. If the customers aren’t biting, change lures, change fishing holes, change the time of day you fish. If facebook seems fished out to you, drop your line in Lake Twitter, Pinterest Cove, or the Gulf of Goodreads. There will be days you’ll come home empty-handed. The way to succeed may not be clear, but it helps if you’re out there trying.

About Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and co-administrator of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Jenny Harrison says What's in a Name?

There has been a death in the family. Poor old Wren Harris has bitten the dust, expired, gone to live with the angels. More to the point, I have decided that having a nom de plume, however cute, is more trouble than it’s worth. At one time, Stephen King used the nom de plume Richard Bachmann, but must have felt much the way I did, for later he declared Bachmann had died of “cancer of the pseudonym, a rare form of schizomania”.
Authors use nom de plumes for a variety of reasons. Mary Jane Evans knew she would not be able to publish under her own name so instead she used the name George Eliot. Back in the day women writers were not published. For the same reason, the Bronte sisters wrote under various pseudonyms, the most famous being Currer, Ellis and Action Bell.
A moniker like Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto would trail off the edge of the page so the young poet chose to call himself Pablo Neruda which, later, he took as his legal name. His father, a railway worker, opposed the young man’s interest in writing, so maybe there was an element of “up yours” in the name change.
Eric Arthur Blair used the name George Orwell because he thought it was a “good, round English name”. I would have thought Eric Blair was pretty good too, but there you are!
John Banville writes thick intense literature but his alter ego, Benjamin Black, writes crime fiction. Banville says his work as Black is a craft whereas his work as Banville is an art. He says; “Sometimes, in the middle of the afternoon if I'm feeling a little bit sleepy, Black will sort of lean in over Banville's shoulder and start writing. Or Banville will lean over Black’s shoulder and say "Oh that's an interesting sentence, let's play with that." I can see sometimes, revising the work, the points at which one crept in or the two sides seeped into each other.” (Quoted from Sheila Langan’s article “Banville on Black”, Sept 2011)
David John Moore Cornwell worked for the British Intelligence Services MI5 and MI6 when he began writing. Under such circumstances it’s easy to understand why he used the pen name John le Carré. It was only after his third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, became a bestseller that Cornwell left MI6 to become a fulltime writer.
I published my novels under the name Wren Harris, firstly because I felt there had to be a different persona writing the somewhat odd-ball and humorous fiction that had started to emerge. Secondly, if you Google the name Jenny Harrison you’ll come up with thirteen and a half million entries. There are only seven people with the name Wren Harris in the USA. Sound reason for changing.
I still like the name, but the die is cast. Wren Harris is no more. All my books, fiction and non-fiction are now to be found under the common-or-garden name of Jenny Harrison.
(and very good they are too! Ed.)

Friday, 8 February 2013

Maureen Green says 'There's a story in all of us.'

It's never too late to fashion experiences and ideas into literary works.
     I had never considered writing as a pasttime, but boredom (and my family chivvying me to record the stories invented for our grandsons) got me hooked on writing.
     My first recorded piece was conceived while tracking over barren sand dunes with my five year old grandson, Brad. (We are recognized Moa Hunters.)
     As he crested a rise, (he was always ranging well ahead of me) he stopped, drew in a deep breath and, eyes popping, turned to me.
     “Look Grandma,” he called, pointing, “What are they?”
     Puffing from exertion, I gathered speed, crested the rise, craned my neck, looked, and said, “Bunny Tails.”
     For a moment Brad stood silent. His brow crinkled. He chuckled, “Oh Grandma. Bunny Tails? You’re telling.”
     “Never!” I responded, sat down and, legs acting like brakes to control my speed, slid down the dune to the clump of grasses. Brad, more adventurous than I, careered down the slope.
     “See,” I said, and plucked some heads. “These flowers are shaped like a rabbit's tail.” I tickled his nose with the bunch.
     He gingerly ran his hand through the heads. “Soft,” he murmured, wonderment sounding in his voice, “just… just like bunnies’ tails.”
     So began, not only an oral rendition of 'How Bunny Tails Got Their Name', but a written form, entitled ‘Magic in the Air’ which, when submitted to an American agency, was accepted.
     Since that day, writing has become a part of my life. Little snippets of everyday activities  fire my imagination. Each week my tutor and my critique partners challenge me to greater effort. This is my most important motivator as I seek self improvement in writing.
     Of course, like all writers, I’ve had rejections. Despite that, I have a growing list of mainstream and independently published works; short stories, picture books, children’s and young adult’s works as well as adult thrillers.
      It's never too late to begin or to enjoy writing. Join a group. Record your stories. Let your imagination run free and actively seek feedback.

Friday, 1 February 2013

"Eureka!" Moments in writing - Rodney Dearing

Dammit! I really can't put my finger on any Eureka! moment that led me to write a book. I find I sort of drift around picking up ideas as I go. I find I'm happy at the moment to continue to write sequels to the Cadet Willie McBride and Brilliant Mr Badger stories both of which give me sufficient scope to indulge in my fatherly military and political fantasies. I think violence should be avoided wherever possible, so the central  guiding philosophy for my stories is,  'Combat power wins battles, Diplomacy wins wars'.

I think I may be some sort of closet educationalist for boys and young men and this inclination probably started me off to stitch a few words together. Throughout my military, museum and civil defence careers I've had to train/teach a lot of people, young and old, and so had to knock up some suitable scenarios at the drop of a hat. I do a lot of research for each story and map it out chapter by chapter. I get a lot of inspiration from films. I loved the earlier Harry Potter films. The idea of being transported off to another magical world really appeals to me and so I built that idea into my Cadet Willie McBride stories.  I'm also an admirer of Roald Dahl and where possible  try to emulate his style. Dahl's' Fantastic Mr Fox' inspired me to write' Brilliant Mr Badger' with my trademark Army Cadets twist. I read the New Scientist magazine for new inventions and science discoveries for the Cadet Willie McBride books.
I'm happy to write fictional military adventure stories for military cadets. That's my genre and comfort zone. It's a small market (about 100,000 in UK, 20,000 each  in Australia and Canada , about 500,000 in the US and just 4000 in NZ). but that's my market I write for. My websites are and  (for very junior cadets!)

What about you? Have you had any 'Eureka' moments?'