internet marketing

The changing face of publishing – from a selfie’s point of view

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Unless you’ve spent your entire life on another planet, you can’t fail to be aware of the digital explosion that rocked the publishing world. Readers are now snowed under with choice, from free books to cheap books, and our ebooks have given readers the upper hand.

Everyone who wants to, can publish a book now, and with so many doing it, competition is fierce. In order to get sales, authors must think carefully when pricing their ebooks, and many resort to giving them away for free, or pricing them at 99 cents. If you price them too much higher, you won’t make sales unless you’re already very famous. There is much debate about pricing among authors, with some feeling that if you price them too low, readers will think your work is no good. The general consensus among authors is that the ‘magic price’ is between $1.99 and $3.00. This is of course, just the opinion of authors, based on sales.

I think that readers know full well that authors want to get noticed, and if they hold out long enough, you will eventually give your books away free, or set the price at the minimum 99 cents. They aren’t stupid, and they want things as cheap as possible (who doesn’t), so they just won’t buy if they’re higher than a dollar or so. I had one gal message me on facebook to tell me “let me know when you’re giving it away free and I’ll download it.”

This is soul destroying, for me anyway.  It seems that whichever way I go, I’m fucked.  If I give them away free, I make no money, but if I set them for actual money, I make no money either. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

This is one of the many downsides of the digital publishing revolution, and one that I can’t fathom how to change.  The only way out of this dark hole, is to have a lot of money to pay a PR company to market your work for you and get you quality visibility and make you into a celebrity.  I don’t have the money, hell I don’t have any money so that’s out of the question.

One of the other problems resulting from the digital publishing explosion, is the quality of work being put out. I personally choose to hope that within a few years, the bubble will burst and the majority of those self publishing what is quite frankly, crap, will decide to get a different hobby, allowing the rest of us to get some sunshine at last.  All we have to do is hold out until that happens, and then breathe a sigh of relief.

The traditional publishing houses are struggling. This has become clear by the number of big publishing houses making the jump into vanity publishing to try to attract more customers. The problem with traditional publishing houses, is that they haven’t changed the way they operate. They still make it almost impossible for authors to even get their manuscripts read, let alone accepted. Most are just thrown on the slush pile unread. They still refuse to accept sci fi/fantasy or horror, despite sci fi/fantasy being the most popular genre, and they’re still trying to maintain the charade that being traditionally published is the only way to be a ‘proper’ author.

I still see authors who openly believe this to be true, and those folks are the trad houses’ unpaid PR guys.  Readers don’t care who published the book they’re reading, and most probably don’t even know anyway.  All readers care about is getting the book preferably for free, or at the most, $1 or so.  The readers have the upper hand now, and they know it. They are  using their power to get what they want, for as little as possible, and killing us in the process.

I hope that they bring about the bubble burst that I still hope to see in a few year’s time.

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Bringing my internet presence into the 21st century

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I’ve been bullied and cajoled into doing something I should have done ages ago, but didn’t.  It’s a long  haul, but a necessary one and I will be glad when it’s finished.  Glad, and hopeful that it might pay dividends.

As a self published author, the internet is our shop front.  We are our own brand and unless you are fortunate enough to be as rich as Croesus, you must do the work of marketing yourself and your product on your own.  It’s a slog, but if you do it right, you will have a wider online presence that will be less work to maintain than it is to build.

I have always been honest about my lack of ability to market myself.  I suck at it and probably always will, but even I can do a few easy things that give me a better presence online, and create a greater opportunity for readers to stumble across me and my work as they surf.  These can be broken down into a few basics.

Spread your net wide, update regularly, and bait that hook well.

There are many places on the internet where you can have a permanent presence, for free, and showcase your work.  They may not lead directly to sales, but if you’re not there, the people that are there can’t see you or your work, can they?  Take advantage of these sites, make your profile and put your books up there so anyone surfing over there can stumble across you.  Places like Author’s Den for instance are free to join, you can have your own bio page and all of your books showing, and all for nothing.  People might say that such places aren’t worth the effort, but if just one person see’s your profile there and decides to take a chance on one of your books, it’s worth it.  And what if that one person happens to be a major Hollywood director?  Ask around, google for ‘free online promotion sites’ and see what comes up.  Take the time, it could bring you that chance you’ve dreamed of.

Once you’ve spread yourself around the internet, it’s important to keep the information updated regularly.  Bookmark all of the places where you have a presence, and visit them regularly to make sure all the information is up to date.  If you decide to update your bio for instance, or your book blurb, go around your sites and update it everywhere, it only takes a few minutes to copy and paste.

Of course, all this should be done after you’ve made sure your bio, blurbs, covers etc are the best they can be.  If you find blurbs troublesome, ask a friend to help, go to the pages of similar books on Amazon and read their blurbs to inspire your own.  Try to make them inviting, even a little mysterious.  They should make a reader want to find out more, not tell them everything right away.  Re do your personal bio, or get a friend to help.  I find my own bio difficult, but you can send a list of questions to some trusted friends and ask them to take a minute to answer them.  Ask them how they would sum you up in less than six words, what do they feel your strengths are, what is funny about you, what do they feel is unique about you?  Their answers will help you understand how others see you, and you should be able to update your bio from that without it sounding too cheesy.

I’m in the middle of all this stuff at the moment, and although it’s work each day, it won’t go on forever.  Once I finish putting all of my books onto these sites, it will be there forever.  It’s just because I have eight books to do that’s making it take a while.  Places like Author’s Den and Kindleboards have quite a process to go through to get your book up and looking proper, so I’m doing them one a day to spread the load.  Even if it doesn’t lead to sales immediately, I will have a bigger internet presence, and as a brand with a product to sell, all free exposure is good exposure.

Another thing I’m making the effort to change, is my approach with twitter.  I’ve been doing content tweeting for a while now, and I’m getting a lot of retweets and favouritings from it, although mostly the non promo posts.  What I didn’t realise until a friend pointed it out, was that my tweeting was too general, and maybe I should change it more towards my genre.  Why the hell did that not occur to me?  Duh!  So, I’m in the process of finding another couple of hundred interesting sci fi friendly content tweets, so I can update my tweeting and hopefully attract sci fi loving folks to my door.  By the way, if you happen to know of any sci fi type articles, videos and other interesting stuff, leave the link in the comments and if it fits what I want, I’ll add them to my content tweet list.

Blogging is something I’m working on, and I’ve made a vow to blog 3 times a week (at least).  Increasing traffic here to the website is a big goal, and one of my main ones behind selling millions of books and having movies made of my books.  Again, keep your website updated properly, with appropriate links to everywhere else you and your work can be found.  This means of course that I will have to spend more time sitting on my already substantial rear end at the computer.

Maybe I need to schedule in some exercise?

Internet marketing – I need a plan that works

I’m the first to admit that when it comes to internet promotion/marketing, I suck cock.  I’m a good writer but I’m terrible at selling my stuff.  I wish I was better at it, and I’ve tried but got almost nowhere.  This has to change, it’s the only aspect of being an author that I not only hate, but I’m very bad at.

I’ve been listening to other authors on facebook, talking about this very subject.  I’ve come to realise that using social media for promotion is a skill; one has to learn how to do it artistically and creatively, rather than being a bull in a china shop.  The authors I’ve connected with, all seem to agree that the best social media for promotion, are twitter, facebook and pinterest, with stumbleupon coming up at the rear.  Now I know this, I have a starting point.

I’ve been fine tuning my use of twitter for a while now and it’s running quite well, to a point.  I use Feed 140 to drip feed tweets throughout the day, and I’ve compiled a playlist of almost 300 ‘content’ tweets that drip through to my twitter at 3 per hour.  I sort this playlist into groups of 5, like this –

1 – a quote

2 – a link to an interesting article

3 – a promo for one of my books

4 – another quote

5 – a link to one of my blogs

By doing it this way, my followers don’t get snowed under by my promos, and they get to know that I offer stuff that interests them away from writing.  By interesting them in other ways, they might then take a moment to check out my books or my blog.  They might not, but there’s a better chance than just throwing “buy my books” tweets at them incessantly.  I add to this playlist from time to time, so there’s fresh content coming through and I have found that since I’ve been using twitter in this way, I get a lot of followers, and a lot of my tweets are favourited and retweeted, although those are never my book promo tweets.  I don’t know if this is ever going to help me sell books, but at least I’m trying.

I’ve decided to try to use pinterest in a similar way.  Up until now, I’ve kept pinterest to my books and blogs and I’ve never had any traffic to my blog from there and comments from other authors have convinced me to try something similar to my twitter use.  I am in the process of building ‘content boards’ that have nothing to do with my books or blog.  Recipes, gardening, decorating, craft ideas etc will form the bulk of this content, and hopefully I will get more traffic there which may migrate to my blog and books.

I already have a facebook author page, separate from my personal page and I use that for my blog posts and all book related stuff.  I also make posts that are not just book related, so people can see I’m a person with ideas and imagination, a sense of humour and not just someone trying to sell their shit.  I post funny photos and humorous quotes as well as book stuff, and I get a few ‘likes’ to such posts from time to time.  The problem with facebook fan pages, is that facebook don’t let your posts be seen by everyone who subscribes, unless you pay, so you know that your post isn’t going to be seen by everyone.  I’m trying to engage people more, with my fan page, but it’s a slow and thankless task.  There are so many author pages, all vying for everyone’s attention, and this oversaturation makes readers eyes glass over.

I have this blog linked automatically to my facebook fan page, my twitter feed, my linkedIn page, my google+ page and my goodreads blog, so I am trying to keep up a presence in as many places as possible.  Beyond paying for promotion space, which is out of the question because I’m broke, I don’t know what else I can do.  I take every opportunity to be interviewed, and I accept guest posts on this blog from others.

I’d be interested to hear about any other ideas or opportunities, especially those that cost nothing.