Archive for October, 2011

If you’re an independent author, and are focused solely on getting to traditional publishing houses someday, you may be missing a BIG BOAT.  (I tried to write that like John Candy says, “Big…big bear!” in “The Great Outdoors.”)  Here’s an article with some background on the shifting landscape of publishing industry:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/17/technology/amazon-rewrites-the-rules-of-book-publishing.html?_r=1

Background first.  I started the Twitter hashtag #AmazonLikes in late September when sitting in a hotel room brainstorming how authors could help other authors.  Little did I know it would result in almost more headaches than benefits.  The latest is an attack by a blogger with a post entitled “Are Reviews Useful?”

http://www.livinglearninglovinglife.com/2011/10/are-reviews-useful.html

Ostensibly, the post should have been about book reviews, right?  Sure, to a certain extent it is.  And, naturally, the blogger who is a book reviewer concludes that reviews are useful.  But, the blogger also slips in a dig at the #AmazonLikes hashtag and likens it to “cheating.”  Let’s take that apart for a moment.

First, an implied assumption of the blogger’s post is what “liking” a book’s Amazon page means.  She doesn’t address this in any fashion, even superficially.  She simply assumes that people see a “like” and they believe it means, “I like the content of the book and would give it a high rating.”  But, what are the customer reviews for then?  Going deeper, what exactly does “liking” mean?   Can’t you like a cover?  A book description?  The sample?  The price?  The genre?  Any other hundred of things?  If you like the content, won’t you potentially write a review, instead of just clicking the “like” button?  I would posit that the “like” button on the Amazon page actually ranks much lower in a reader’s decision to purchase the book or not because it is such an amorphous and vague little thing.

Second, what about asking people to like your book’s Facebook page, or your Facebook author page?  Is this “cheating” too?  Should your Facebook likes simply grow “organically”?

Third, organic growth?  Eh, come again?  I’m pretty sure that as an indie author, with little to no following, nothing comes organically.  It comes through poking, prodding, asking, giving away, and some reciprocation from other people in the same position.  And, with that in mind, should we stop all giveaways that ask for readers to like a Facebook page, or hopefully write a review after they read the book?

Fourth, the blogger concludes that “tagging” a book is okay, but liking it is not.  Yet, as far as I know, tagging has A LOT more to do with search results on Amazon than liking does.  In fact, your tags can qualify you for other subgenres in which you can be highly ranked.  And, the high ranking books REALLY sell.  So, why isn’t tagging cheating, Ms. Blogger?

Fifth, because I like round numbers and I’m feelin’ particularly ornery, what about the other mutual-help author programs that would constitute “cheating.”  #Melissa_Foster has done a tremendous job of helping other authors, including her #sharethelove4authors tag, where authors can post everything from webpages, to Amazon pages, to Facebook pages to Twitter links.  Is she cheating?  Nope.  There’s the #TagNLike hashtag–did all those people cheat?  Nope.

Then, regarding authors, let me say this.  This blogger is essentially taking the picked on and disadvantaged kid who sits in the back of the bus (us indie authors) and throwing him/her out the window.  Really–is there a need to preclude those of us that have what amounts to the most uphill climb imaginable from helping one another?  We have no marketing department, oftentimes no agent, no money, no traditional publisher, no editor…can’t you let us have one another?  And, regarding readers, the blogger goes on about “protecting” or “saving” readers.  I give my potential readers more credit.  I am fairly certain that they can discern what they want to purchase, and whether something they see is a quality product.  I don’t think they are so feeble minded that they are unnecessarily swayed by a “like” button.

In short, rubbish.  #AmazonLikes has helped the “like” total for my book, Enemy in Blue, and I hope it has helped the other authors involved.  I’ll go on helping other authors as much as I can, and maybe, just maybe, one of us indies will make it out of the pile.

You’ve got an account, you’ve chosen a background, and you’re ready to start telling the world your DAMN thoughts!  Eh, the world looks like that egg in your profile picture, right?  Zero followers.  I remember when I started my account, I was like, what the hay, who am I tweeting to?  Even at about 25-50 followers, I still felt sheepish about it.  The following tips are designed to help you build your following.  Or, if you’ve already got a decent start, to help you augment the foundation you already have!

A QUICK NOTE ON TWITTER ETIQUETTE

This has got to go first, because some people just dun get it.  Bullet point style, just in case you forget how to be a nice guy/gal in the future:

  1. Try to thank every person that retweets your tweets, or that mentions you in a positive way.  Seriously, people don’t have to click that retweet button for you.  And, when they do, they are amplifying the scope of your tweet by hundreds or thousands of people!  For free!  You can’t get exposure like that anywhere else, that I know of.   If I retweet for someone and they don’t take the time to say thanks, guess what?  No mas retweets. So, make sure you give a gra-cee-as to those people, and try to do it shortly after they retweet, because people forget what they’ve done.
  2. Be positive.  No one likes a downer.  Try to keep your conversations with people upbeat and try to engage in content that is helpful to others.  Now, I’m not suggesting that you become a lackey to happiness.  Sometimes this world can get a bit dark.  But, snap out of it and bring some exclamation points and smileys back to your tweets, aight?
  3. Do NOT DM (direct message) people with a link to your book, blog, website, personal bank account (I will accept the bank account info) right after you meet them.  I’ve never clicked on one of those links, find it highly annoying, and tend to put those people on quasi-ignore.
  4. Respond to your DMs in a timely fashion.  Again, people have taken the time to reach out to you, so take the time to engage in a little conversation with ‘em!
  5. FOLLOW BACK.  This is probably the quickest way to get unfollowed.  You aren’t Alyssa Milano, you aren’t “Ocho Cinco,” you aren’t Ashton Kutcher.  Remember then, people are following you to hear your tweets, but they also expect to get some reciprocation.  I follow almost everyone back that follows me…common sense and a little humility.

FOLLOW 25-50 PEOPLE/DAY

On to the meat of building those followers!  I’ve gained about 500 new followers in the last two weeks simply by performing this daily task.  Where to find ‘em, you ask.  Hashtag searches.  Assuming we’re all authors here, search things like #authors, #amwriting, #writing, #amreading, #thrillers (or your respective genre, or not), #books.  Then, you can search some of the more specific writing handles such as #IBCBookCollective or #IAN1.  Obviously, there are hundreds if not thousands of handles you can search, and I couldn’t possibly list them all.

Once you get into the search results for the respective hashtag, start clicking on people’s names to pull up their profiles.  If people have a lot of tweets but not many followers, may not want to follow them, as they are not taking the time to engage new people.  And, quite honestly, you want people with networks.  If people have the opposite, i.e. a lot of followers and not many tweets, again, that’s a reason not to follow them.  Finally, if the people have a lot of followers, but aren’t following as many people, then you may want to skip them.  There are some exceptions (i.e. high profile people in publishing, agents, etc.), but not too many.

Stick to this discipline as if you were training for a marathon, and I guarantee you’ll see results in times as short as 1-2 weeks.

POST THINGS THAT MATTER

Your book matters…to you.  Yeah, yeah, it will matter to some people, but NEVER as much as you.  So, if that’s all you tweet about, guess how much people are gonna care about your tweets?  Instead, take the time to read articles and post the helpful ones up.  Read blogs and direct your followers to them.  Start programs that help build other authors up.  For instance, I started the #AmazonLikes hashtag, where an author can tweet their book’s Amazon link and get free likes/tags on their Amazon page.  This has helped many authors build up their book’s stats, and has correspondingly helped me form many new relationships.

You can connect with someone like @RachelintheOC (an excellent author and very helpful one, at that) about your content to promotion ratio.  In a nutshell though, you want to be tweeting more about content than promo, because people get sick of nonstop promo.  More on @RachelintheOC below!

YOU CAN UNFOLLOW PEOPLE, TOO

When I first started using Twitter, I would try to compare my “following” and “followers” lists, manually, to see who was not following me back.  Apparently, I like using the abacus for math as well.  There’s a simple service at www.justunfollow.com which will analyze your account for you, and identify the people who have not followed you back.  Depends on your tolerance for jerks (kidding, kinda), but you may give people anywhere from 3-7 days to follow you back.  At that point, consider giving ‘em the boot!

TAKE SOME CLASSES ON FURTHER TWITTER DEVELOPMENT

The most helpful class I’ve taken on this topic yet is one led by @RachelintheOC of the Indie Book Collective.  It’s called the “Social Media for Writers” workshop, it’s free, and Rachel is cool as all heck.  Here’s the direct link: http://indiebookcollective.com/IndieBookCollective/Workshops.html.  She will literally walk you through, step-by-step, how to set up your account, pick a background, optimize your profile, start working with hashtags, and start setting up lists (something I intentionally did not address in this blog post, because lists are their own demon and may be addressed separately in the future).  In short, take an hour and a half of your time, and avail yourself of this great workshop.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or successes on Twitter, so comment or contact me if you are so inclined :)

We are facing a situation in Aurora, Colorado where there have been six fatal shootings by police officers in 2011 alone.  Here is an article describing all of the shootings, as well as the locations of the shootings: http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2011/09/six_fatal_shootings_aurora_police_google_maps.php

One of my recommendations, which I recently made to the Mayor of Denver and the incoming Manager of Safety for Denver, is regular and rigorous psychological testing of police officers.  Entry examinations are not enough.  We can possibly alleviate these escalated situations if officers are tested for their mental status at regular intervals.  This isn’t about anything else than re-establishing community/police department trust.  We can do it.

See an article quoting my comments here: http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_19034139