Archive for category Social Media Platform

Predators Abound—How Writers Can Be Savvy in Social Media, Marketing and Promotion

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of dfbphotos

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of dfbphotos

We’ve been talking a lot about the new publishing paradigm and all the options writers have. Being the WANA Mama, I feel it’s my duty to feed you guys the grow-up stuff. So, if you want a fluffy kitten hug? This is the wrong place. There are plenty of people who offer a magic algorithm or promotion package or SEO package “guaranteed” to launch a writer to fame and fortune. Yet, these can be misleading and take our focus away from activities that have a better chance of translating into long-term success.

Hoo-Doo Voo-Doo for Sale

What many of you might not know is I sometimes help small businesses. I recently started doing some work for my brother’s company. Why did I step in? Because he (like many others) paid thousands of dollars for a Mega-PR-Expert…who then did NOTHING.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Juha-Matti Herrala.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Juha-Matti Herrala.

My brother hired this well-known PR expert to create his social media and help with promotions, and *crickets chirping*. The few things she “created”? My brother could have done for free and far better. When she generated a LinkedIn account for his business, she didn’t even load the current logo and the information she did fill out was incorrect and outdated.

This is a person who’d been written up in major magazines here in Texas. My brother felt he was making a sound decision hiring her (and, from outside indications, it was a good decision).

So what went wrong? No idea.

All I can think of is this person was more focused on clients with deeper pockets, but it’s still enough to make me see red. You take money, you need to do what you promised…not ignore e-mails for seven months after doing a half@$$ job. All of us appreciate that timelines sometimes need to be moved, but communicate that and follow through.

***I’ve been guilty. When we had a sudden death in the fall, I had people expecting edits. But I knew in my mental state they’d either get, “Wow, this is perfect!” or I’d crush their will to ever write again. It was better to just say, “Forgive me. I need to delay this until my head’s screwed on straight.***

Anyway, the little advice this “expert” gave my brother was precisely what I preach against non-stop. Automation. Posting to Facebook from Twitter, etc. You should have seen my brother’s face when I said, “So you’re basically spamming people.” And, no he hadn’t read my book. He’s my little brother and probably wanted to do this without Big Sister’s help.

That was until he had a train wreck on his hands, which I am, in my limited free time, undoing gratis. *head desk* And now that he’s seen the WANA way, he’s enjoying social media a lot more and his small business platform is growing healthier by the day.

It’s SEO Not Magic

One thing many “consultants” have tried to sell my brother, many other small businesses and authors is a promise of SEO, that they can go into a web site and do all kinds of complicated technical things that will help dominate a search. I won’t say SEO isn’t important, but when we tool our SEO to the latest algorithm, we set ourselves up to have to do this over and over and over (which can become a money-eating black hole if we don’t happen to be SEO gurus).

Original image via NASA Blueshift courtesy of Flickr Commons

Original image via NASA Blueshift courtesy of Flickr Commons

Algorithms were initially thought to measure human behavior and preferences. But, the problem is that humans are super clever. They start juking the algorithm to gain advantage. Spammers do this all the time. But search engine companies and places like Amazon actively look for this behavior. They have teams of computer geeks who are on the hunt for those “gaming the system.” So does Facebook.

When enough people begin “gaming the system” and gain marked advantage? The computer people change the algorithm and *POOF*. Start over. To rely on SEO gaming is a formula to pull your hair out or go broke trying to keep up.

This was what drove me to create ways of building platforms that were not reliant on technology or algorithmic alchemy (that and I am lazy and not made of money). WANA methods work on any social media site. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, doesn’t matter. If these social sites go away (*cough* MySpace) and a new social site becomes hot? Your WANA platform will remain in tact and continue to grow.

You can dominate any search for your name, book, topic all on your own and with minimal effort. But, I am not in the business of doing your social media. I have zero interest in running other people’s social media. I don’t charge consulting fees to get “friends” for people or “maximize SEO” so I have a vested interest in making people self-sufficient.

Does this mean PR people and promotions are a waste of time? No. I believe they are PR people not magicians. We need to give them something to work with. Yet, writer beware. Know that much of what some companies sell for big bucks are things you can do yourself and for free (and do a lot better).

Knowledge is Power

If we are educated about what we can easily (and cheaply) do on our own, then we can 1) weed out people who just want to dazzle us with tech-speak and overwhelm us enough to shove cash in their faces 2) we can hold these companies accountable 3) we can gain a better idea of what we can’t do and can spend any promotion budget more wisely.

We can build a Twitter presence, but can we get an interview on NPR? Do we even need an interview on NPR?

Promotion Devoid of Connection is Pointless

One big complaint from authors is they feel their book isn’t doing well because of a lack of promotion. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Promotion (alone) never worked all that well.

Screen Shot 2012-05-04 at 11.05.40 AM

Back when I began as a newbie writer, I had a conversation with one of the head editors for one of The Big Six. She was very honest about the ROI (Return on Investment) regarding promotion and advertising. She said the major houses did it, but ads had no impact on sales. She relayed a story about how her house had taken out a full-page ad for one of their business authors in The Wall Street Journal on the day the paper was most widely read.

Though the ad cost a small fortune, it didn’t make a dent in sales.

Today, the situation is far graver. We are inundated with advertising and most people just tune it out and have learned to un-see. In the Digital Age, the architecture of the human brain has changed to keep up with all the influx. This is why my newest book teaches how to be seen. What does a modern human brain ignore? What does it notice?

Would I love for you to buy my book? Sure. But I give away a lot of information for free so peruse the blog archives. My motive is to help writers. Simple.

Effort Devoid of Action = Failure

We could have the greatest SEO, but people have to be compelled to search in the first place. Even if people stumble across our site, they have to be compelled to click, to pursue and then to BUY. We can create the world’s most elaborate and expensive advertising campaign, but if this campaign doesn’t translate into action/sales it’s a failure.

I love it when PR people tout the awesomeness of Facebook ads. Yet, you should see their faces when my first question is, “Okay, what was the last thing you purchased solely because of a random ad in your FB sidebar?”

Can SEO work? Can ads and promotion create sales? YES…just not alone. Which is a bummer because it would be lovely to pay for some ads and then let the money hit like a tsunami. My goal here isn’t to discourage you, but to empower you. I am taking a wild guess here, but I imagine most of you aren’t trust fund babies writing for fun in between trips to The Riviera.

And if you are, will you adopt me? :D

WANA—Empowering Authors of the Digital Age

Peacock_color.02

Francis, the WANA Mascot

I understand most writers have limited time and income and I actually DO care about your success. I want you to use your resources in the best possible ways that can yield the greatest returns. Hire PR people, but know the best way to harness their resources. Spot an ally from a shill. Have realistic expectations from your publisher. Yes, they can promote, but there are activities we must do on our end to make those promotions effective.

Predators abound in the new paradigm. It is vital to be educated, which is why we are having WANACon (a virtual conference as close to the real conference experience without a holo-deck). WANACon will have top industry professionals from all forms of publishing. I also recruited agents and editors who are savvy to the new paradigm and who put authors FIRST. WANACon is here to keep you at the cutting edge of the changes at a price that’s affordable and all recordings are included with conference fee. Right now we have Early Bird Pricing. SIGN UP HERE.

TSA pat-downs are extra.

What are your thoughts? Have you been overwhelmed with the idea of having to promote? Unclear about what to ask or expect? Have you run the hamster-wheel of promotion only to end up half-dead?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

Announcements: I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

Also, this Saturday, I have a new class, Many Roads to Rome—Which Publishing Path is Best? Use WANA15 for 15% off.

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Expectation & Desire—Cultivating Fans, Not Just “Readers”

Image via WANA Commons @ Flickr, courtesy of the talented and generous photographer Frank Selmo

Image via WANA Commons @ Flickr, courtesy of the talented and generous photographer Frank Selmo

We talked about this earlier in the week, but when I first approached agents with the idea of a social media book for authors, I was nearly stoned. All readers want is a good book, was their cry. Yes, that was true before our world inalterably shifted with The Digital Age.

In 1993, we didn’t expect an instant reply to a phone call. In 1996, we knew to just go make a cup of coffee while we waited for our dial-up Internet to load a page, because we didn’t expect for a page to appear in a fraction of a second.

In 1999, we didn’t expect our cell phones (the few who owned them) to take brilliant pictures, play music and offer us high-speed access to the Internet so we could make reservations for dinner, buy movie tickets, or do some Christmas shopping while stranded at the doctor’s office.

These days? How quickly would you change Internet providers if you could only open one screen and it took 3-5 minutes to load?

The Difference Between Expectation and Desire

Readers expect a good book. They expect proper grammar, punctuation and formatting that doesn’t look like it was performed by a sloth with a severe Valium addiction. These are basic, fundamental expectations…and they no longer impress people all that much.

Give you an example. I took my niece to a very expensive fine-dining establishment for her graduation. I saved the money to give her a treat. I’d chosen this restaurant because it was the one place Hubby and I would go to celebrate big events, like our wedding anniversaries.

Why?

Because, the first time we went there, we were greeted as if we were the most important people in the world. Instead of working middle class, we were A-Listers. A hostess guided us to a candle-lit table scattered with fresh rose petals and an artful bouquet of flowers. There was a card telling us Happy Anniversary and it was signed by all the staff who told us how grateful they were we’d chosen their establishment.

I am not a fan of seafood, but decided to give it a try. Everything they served had been swimming in an ocean 24 hours earlier and was fast-tracked to Central Texas. I never knew fish could actually taste soooo good, namely because all I’d ever been served was frozen mush that tasted like a freezer.

The waiter tended our every need. When I mentioned I had food allergies, the head chef came out to the table and worked out a special dish just for me. At the end of our meal? The staff arrived with free desserts for both of us. The chef had personally crafted one for me to accommodate all my allergies.

Now THAT is what I'm talkin' about....

Now THAT is what I’m talkin’ about….

*swoons*

Every time after, the staff of this restaurant treated us as if we were the most special people on the planet. I was a DIE-HARD FAN and we rarely eat out. When we did? This was the only choice, the ONLY place I wanted to eat. And we had to plan, not only because the place was pricey, but it was tough to get reservations if one didn’t do it far in advance.

Fast-Forward

It’s May of 2013 and I call for reservations at my all-time-favorite restaurant to celebrate my niece’s graduation (she’d won a scholarship to study abroad for the summer). I told the reservationist how important this event was. My niece has grown up in a family where Golden Corral was about as fancy as dining ever got. I wanted it to be perfect. I spent days telling my niece how amazing this place was.

We arrive and the first thing the hostess says is, “Where do you want to sit?” and points to an empty dining room. No table. Nothing prepared. Every time I asked anyone a question, the answer was, “I don’t know. I haven’t worked here that long.” The table is set with chipped bread dishes and dirty glasses. I call over one of the staff and hand her my bread plate and say, “You guys might want to throw this away.”

“Why?” *blank stare*

“Because there is a chip and I don’t want food poisoning.”

“Oh.”

When the waiter arrives, I explain in detail about my food allergies and order a dish that is simple. All they have to do is leave off the butter sauce. I tell my niece to order whatever she wants, it’s her special day. She orders the lobster, which was $90. Our food arrives and guess whose food is swimming in butter?

We had to sit and wait twenty minutes while the food was remade. No visit from the chef. No apologies from the manager.

In short, I was fuming by the end of the night (and mortified). $220 for a meal, and the service would have been better at Mexican Inn for $30.

See, when we first went to this restaurant, we expected clean glasses, plates that weren’t chipped, servers who could answer simple questions (or make an effort to find the answer), who could take basic instructions. We expected excellent food. That alone? We would have been happy. But the original restaurant gave us more than expectations, they gave us our DESIRES. 

Meet expectations? We create customers. Meet DESIRES? We create a cult following.

We desired to feel special. We desired above and beyond…and they gave us what we desired. THAT was what made me willing to save for two months to go to THAT dining establishment.

How Does This Apply to Books?

Readers expect good stories, just like we expected clean glasses. But what do our readers desire? The same thing we desired at the restaurant—to feel special, to connect, to have someone focus on us for a change.

This is why social media is such a game-changer. When we blog, we serve others. We have books to write. We don’t have to blog, but we’re going the extra mile to inform, connect, engage and entertain. Readers are expecting to be spammed by authors, yet they desire to know them and connect with them. 

All you need is love....

All you need is love….

The writer who automates pre-programmed tweets and never talks to anyone, is like that restaurant who thought they could keep business by simply having a fancy menu and doing the bare minimum (and not all that well). I would venture to say the empty dining room should have been my first warning to RUN! 

When we give others (readers or potential readers) what they desire, this is when we differentiate. There are scads of other social media experts who have books. Go to their Twitter and it takes a half a second to realize it is all pre-programmed, self-serving fluff. This is why if you see me on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else on social media? It is ME.

I don’t want to eat spam, so why would others? Yet, by looking inside, I know what I desire—meaning, connection, fun, engagement, recognition, and to feel someone cares. That is what I desire and I’m not any different than most of you or even the people who might buy my books (or even yours).

By serving people more than what they expect and, instead, seeking to give them what they desire, THAT is how die-hard, lifelong fans are made. A good book is what people expect, but search inside and ask, “What do readers desire? And what ways can I give that to them?”

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

I hope you will check out my newest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World on Amazon or even Barnes and Noble.

Also, here is a list of WANA International classes and Christmas specials.

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85 Comments

Killing Time is a Crime–Embracing Speed by Redefining Life, Play & Work

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yosi Lazarof

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yosi Lazarof

I do a ton of reading and research for all my books and blogs. Recently, I discovered a GEM of a book that I highly recommend; The Age of Speed—Learning to Thrive in a More-Faster-Now World by Vince Poscente.We all feel overwhelmed. It seems the more time-saving devices we have, the more that’s expected of us. We dash between e-mail, text, social media, housework, work, writing, family and feel like we’re drowning.

The WANA Way has always striven to be unique, unlike any other social media/business approach. Our focus is quality, not quantity, community, not “customers.” I recognized early that if writers (or businesses) weren’t having fun on social media or with work? They either wouldn’t do it or would do it poorly.

Time Redefined

In my newest book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I go to great lengths to explain how changes in civilization not only alter the biological structure of the brain, but they also shift our values. Any significant advance transforms how we order space and time and what we find important. As society evolves, we must also evolve or we’ll be left behind (or our heads will metaphorically explode).

For instance, if we could access a time machine and go back to the year 600 A.C.E., we wouldn’t be able to communicate the same way with fellow humans. The clock wouldn’t be invented for a few more hundred years and we “time travelers” would experience lives governed by seasons and the sun (not a wristwatch).

Time had not yet been sliced, diced and parceled out. Thus, if we said, “Meet you in an hour” or “See you at 1:30″ we’d likely get a blank stare…then be burned as witches.

I just said meet me for coffee at 9:00 a.m.

I just said, “Meet me for coffee at 9:00 a.m.”

Changes in the Life-Time Pie

Poscente brought up a remarkable point I hadn’t consciously seen. How we order time has been changed with technology. When we shifted from an agricultural society to an industrial society, humans began to define work in spacial terms. Work was a place we went. Home was the place we relaxed. The garage was the place for chores and the TV room was the place to chillax.

This was all well and good before the advent of the Internet, cell phones, texting, social media, and e-mail. Now we feel guilty when we text an I love you to a spouse or partner at work or when we answer a business e-mail or check Facebook at the park with family. It’s like life just got thrown in a Vita-Mix and whiiiiirrrrrrrrrr……

As Poscente says, “The framework that gave us discipline over our time and kept work in a neat little box has been rendered obsolete.”

This is one of the biggest reasons many author social media campaigns fail. Many well-meaning marketers advise writers to keep public life (authorly stuff) and personal life (fun/human stuff) in two separate spaces—a work space (fan page) and a personal space (profile page). They recommend multiple Twitter accounts—one all author and one as a human.

Then what happens is this…

The fan page grows at glacial speed and the author gets discouraged and, even if she pays to promote? The ROI (Return on Investment) is dismal. Then, discouraged, the writer grudgingly posts (rarely) because the fan page is no fun when only spam bots and digital crickets are there for company.

Depressed writer then defaults to spending more time on the profile page because it’s fun, active and dynamic…and subsequently feels guilty and levels the Christmas fudge like a biblical plague. Why?

Because she feels she is goofing off and not “working.”

Same with Twitter. The “Author Identity” gets ignored or reported for spam, while the “Personal Identity” is having a blast just chatting with others.

***This applies to most social media, btw.

Work and Fun Play Well Together

We can take a lesson from the corporate world. If we study the businesses that have thrived the most in recent years—Pixar, Google, Patagonia, The Boston Beer Company, Think Geek, NING, Best Buy (you can check some of these companies out HERE)—we see they are doing well because they’ve released the serfs employees and given them loads of freedoms.

There are businesses who haven’t caught up to the changes in our culture. Cell phones are turned in at the door, outside Internet use is prohibited and even punished. Computer keystrokes are measured and outgoing and incoming calls are monitored. Why? Because these businesses value metrics more than people. Employees are reprimanded for taking sick days or vacation (even when allotted), because any time away from “work” adversely impacts The Almighty Metric.

My husband used to work in the defense industry. When he took three days off because we were having a baby, he returned only to be written up (even though he had two weeks of sick time and had never used any of it).

O_o

Companies that are stingy with lunch breaks, benefits, and fun are missing out by not understanding the new way we parse time (and how it can benefit their business). Google encourages play, new ideas, engaging with family, and rewards innovative ideas. They appreciate that time has blurred and if we don’t blend work and fun and leisure?

We suffer.

When we try to keep work, play and home in neat, separate compartments? We waste time. Yet, when we merge these areas, we become more aerodynamic and can harness speed because we are zooming along like a kid riding a bike down a steep hill. Faster doesn’t have to mean harder if we embrace a new way of thinking.

Image via Google.com

Image via Google.com

WANA has been founded on the principle of being HUMAN above all else. Engage and connect authentically, and the sales will eventually follow. WANA never has to pay to promote our fan page because we talk about stuff other than writing. We aren’t the Try to Sell Stuff All the Time Channel.

Do we have stuff for sale? Sure! But we also post funny memes, start silly conversations, and share kitten pics :P.

If people wanted only to shop, they’d be on the Shopping Network not a social network.

The failure to appreciate how our ideas of work-leisure-home-time-ratio have changed is one of the main reasons why building an author platform feels like SO MUCH WORK to so many authors. If we are trying to part out work and fun? We just feel chopped in half, and last I checked? Being chopped in half was the definition of “un-fun.”

Learning to BLEND

I don’t multi-task. Multi-tasking is stupid and inefficient. I DO, however blend. I can talk to a writer friend on my cell phone about a plot problem while folding towels. One activity needs attention and the other I can do on auto-pilot. I talk to my mom while I dust. I listen to an audio book while on a Stair Climber. When I’m writing, I’m writing, but then I reward myself with a quick Facebook or Twitter break…then back to writing.

This keeps me passionate about work because it is filled with play and meaning. I’m streamlined. 

In short, never kill time. Time is the only non-renewable resource. Use it wisely and learn to blend. Carry a book and, when stranded at the bank or the doctor’s office? Relax. Read a good book or my blog ;). If we embrace the notion that strict spaces no longer work? We are free to have fun and pair work and play, making life far more rewarding and speed shifts from enemy to ally.

Do you feel guilty having fun? Are you struggling to stay focused on writing because all these beeping devices are driving you nutso? Did you know you were allowed to be human and have fun on your fan page (and actually, if you do that, you won’t have to pay to promote)? Are there activities you blend and it helps keep you supercharged and balanced?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And, if you get a chance, please check out my newest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World. 

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50 Comments

What Makes You So Special? The Magic to Selling Books

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

I’ve worked both sides of the business fence—the creative and the corporate (and continue to do so). The strange things is that all industries are facing the same challenges as our world gets smaller, more integrated, and increasingly populated with competition. All types of businesses, whether we are selling tacos, signs, t-shirts, cardboard, technology or books must answer the same questions or face extinction:

Why YOU?

Why not someone else?

What do you offer ME?

What makes you so special?

WHO ARE YOU and why do I (the consumer) care?

A Lesson from SEARS

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Keith Nerdin...

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Keith Nerdin…

For generations, Sears was a corporate juggernaut. Sears promised quality products at an affordable price. Then, Kmart came on the scene. So, Sears decided to get a bit fancier and more like a higher end department stores like Macy’s in reaction to increasing competition.

Yet, herein grew the confusion. Those who viewed Sears as a place for discount goods simply shopped at Kmart. Those who viewed Sears as a department store just went to Macy’s.

Sears had inadvertently muddled it’s brand. The company lacked focus, and, without focus, they lost domination over their market and have yet to reclaim it.

Why?

They couldn’t answer the above questions.

Why Sears and NOT Kmart or Macy’s? What did Sears offer the others didn’t? Why their products/stores? What makes me (the consumer) care?

There are only three core successful strategies whenever selling books (or even tacos or video games for that matter). Yes, THREE. Hey, I dig simple. Though, I will offer a caveat: There is overlap between corporate business and publishing (writing/selling books), but they’re hardly the same creatures. Yet, the smart writer understands that making a living doing what we love involves good business sense. Why not harness the great ideas both worlds can share?

Cost/Quality

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike V...

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike V…

Okay, some of you might think I am cheating a bit here and putting two in the same category. Yet, I will say that there are many successful authors (indie and self-published) who aren’t writing The Great American Novel, but they turn out a lot of books people enjoy reading. Brain candy.

Sometimes people just want a burger, and they consume Big Macs with a lot more regularity than foie gras. These (burger) authors will never win a Pulitzer, but they frequently do very well because they tell good stories and a lot of them. Thusoffering e-books for $1.99 or $2.99 or $3.99 (for the trilogy) is a sound business strategy. Because when one has fifteen, twenty or more titles to sell (I.e. John Locke)? Those numbers add up exponentially.

If we spend more time on quality, then cost is less of a factor (though don’t get crazy). No one would respect a fine-dining establishment run from a food coach selling escargot for .99 in a paper boat. In fact, we might call the Health Department O_o.

Truth is, quality can command a higher price (because it takes longer to produce) .

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 7.09.36 AM

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Herbie’s Vintage 72

My book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is the culmination of two years and over 20,000 pages of reading/research (some of it highly tedious). There’s a ton of information about neuroscience, marketing, advertising, the history of communication and how technology’s very literally changed the structure of the human brain (why ads have lost so much power). I teach how to form a viable, sustainable brand that connects to readers, and the book also include a simple step-by-step plan for branding and blogging that has proven to work time and time again and has helped sell (now) millions of books.

And I’m funny :D.

This is why I won’t be selling this book for $1.99 (aside from, perhaps, a short promotion for the e-book). Why? No one would respect the information I offer.

That and I read Gutenberg Galaxy Brilliant man but…. O_o.

Differentiation

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 10.03.48 AM

Image via Demotivationals.

Product (books) can contribute to this factor, but differentiation is why I’ve been pushing for writers to have a meaningful and effective social media platform for YEARS. In a world deluged in books? Why you? Why me, for that matter? Social media helps us stand out in a sea of choices. We (readers) gravitate to who/what we know and like.

Brick-and mortar businesses have the benefit of a storefront and location. Maybe Joe’s isn’t the best place for a burger, but it’s next to my work and cheap and I can eat in the 30 minutes I’m allotted for lunch. 

But even with the most premium real estate, if a business can’t differentiate and offer quality at a good price, it can still tank.

When I was in NYC in 2012, there was a juice bar across from the Hyatt. PREMIUM real estate, but they didn’t open until after 9:00 a.m. and closed at 4:00 p.m. They had the best (and likely most expensive) location, but they offered nothing different or special that would make regular commuters streaming the streets to and from work deviate from Starbucks. They were missing the people most likely to buy their product—those going to work and home from work.

Not surprisingly, they were out of business when I returned in 2013. Yes, I was bummed.

They had a great product, but, like Sears, they failed to answer the critical questions. WHY YOU? WHY are YOU so special? What do you offer that will make me deviate from a Kmart Jamba Juice?

As authors, we face the same problems. The modern consumer wants to know, Why should I READ instead of playing XBox or watching Duck Dynasty? Isn’t reading WORK? Why your book, when there are a quarter of a million others?

And there are a lot of writers out there paying for fancy marketing and ad campaigns thinking it’s the Golden Ticket. I’m certain that juice store thought the same when it rented premium space in Manhattan. But this is no longer enough. We have to be unique, special, offer value, connect to the consumer and be able to answer the critical questions…

WHY US? WHY OUR BOOKS?

Focus

Business used to be BIG. Big was BETTER. Big business, big papers, big publishing, but big is dead and the remaining few are barely able to sustain their bulk.

Small business makes up most of the commerce. The future is niche. Nintendo is a fabulous example. They didn’t try to take on XBox or PlayStation. They came out with the Wii. Nintendo spotted a huge audience being left out of the gaming experience—those who wanted to play and have fun, but weren’t hardcore gamers.

Unlike XBox, they didn’t seek to be an all-in-one technology device where one could play games on-line with ten buddies in five countries, watch YouTube, browse the web and check in on Facebook. Nintendo focused on simplicity, on the inexperienced gamer (who likely never would play First-Person-Shooter Games).

Grandma could bowl and Grandpa could swing a tennis racket. Toddlers could dance and Nana could dance with them. Whether bowling, wielding a virtual sword, or working out? Wii was SIMPLE….which meant Nintendo didn’t have to compete with the bigger gaming consoles. They could also beat the bigger boys on price and make a profit far sooner by filling an overlooked need with a far less expensive product.

Focus is one of my pet peeves about having multiple pen names, but that’s another blog :D. It’s also why we don’t need to be everywhere all the time on social media. It dilutes the power of focus.

For writers? Look around. Who is a forgotten or overlooked audience? Where can you find a niche audience just waiting for you to see them? To connect with them? I teach how to do this in my book, btw ;).

Beyond social media, what genre boundaries can you break as an artist? Sure, write urban fantasy, but there’s a ton of competition. Why not an urban fantasy with a thirty-something, forty-something or even Baby Boomer heroine? Hey, just because we get older doesn’t mean we’re dead and don’t want to believe we still got it :D.

FORTY's so bright, I gotta wear shaaaaadddes..... Yes, I am forty.

FORTY’s so bright, I gotta wear shaaaaadddes….. Yes, I am forty.

Trust me when I say I am not interested in a book with a twenty-something protagonist. I want older women to ROCK, and maybe writers can help our society stop looking at getting older like it’s a disease.

For the love of CHOCOLATE, they’re smile lines not psoriasis! What’s with all the CREAMS? I am NOT contagious and you will ALL be here eventually, so why can’t “being older” be HOT?

What are your thoughts? As readers, do you get tired of the same tropes? What is a favorite book or movie and what made it special? Why was it different than all the other choices? Why did it stand out? Do you struggle with focus? Shouldn’t being older be hot? It was for Sean Connery, why not us gals? Oh, and big thighs. Stop stuffing us in Spanx and just let a gal with a booty and curves/cushion be HOT…ok, that just went a weird direction *hangs head*

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

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106 Comments

5 Ways Authors Abuse Their Facebook Profile Privileges

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 10.52.17 AM

Today, the fantabulous WANA International Instructor, Lisa Hall-Wilson is here to share to sage advice about Facebook. She knows ALL things about Facebook, which is why she not only teaches for WANA, but she manages our WANA International fan page. We don’t need to pay to promote and Lisa gets MAD traction on our fan page, so she is THE GAL to listen to in these matters.

Also, I have been a victim of many of these “marketing strategies” and they make me see RED. We know you guys are trying hard to be responsible professionals and there is a LOT of bad advice floating around out there. We have all oopsed, so don’t worry. But Lisa is here to set you straight and tell you the WANA Way…which works, btw ;).

Take it away, Lisa!

Lisa Hall-Wilson

Lisa Hall-Wilson

I feel a bit like the soup nazi with this post – no Facebook for you! But some people seriously need a time out. It’s promote promote promote all the time in a one-channel informercial. Hands up – have you been a victim of these people?

I wrote this post for Jane Friedman on 5 reasons why you should use your Facebook Profile (not a Page) to build platform. What I need to make clear is that with freedom comes responsibility. There are key rules about Facebook etiquette that many are either unaware of or ignore.

Stop!

Using your Profile instead of a Page to build platform gives you the ability to spam people in a way Pages cannot. Pages cannot join groups or group conversations. Pages can’t comment on or post a Profile, they can’t send private messages to Profiles. Pages can’t force-add people to events. The list goes on. Just because you can, because Facebook doesn’t explicitly say it’s against the rules – doesn’t mean it’s not icky, annoying and spam

1. Do not post your own content on another’s Profile wall (timeline).

This is a pretty personal one cause this recently happened to me. First, if you goof on this one, apologize, remove the post and consider it a lesson learned. Don’t argue. This is considered personal space. Anything posted on my timeline is seen as endorsed by me. It’s akin to going to a friend’s jewelry party and bringing along samples to your own soap business and handing them out uninvited.

Great way to never get asked back.

If people are posting their content on your wall often, you can decide who can post on your timeline if necessary. I know some Indie authors who have been forced to do this because the spam is so bad.

2. Do Not Tag People in Unrelated Status Updates or Photos

What do I mean by unrelated? If I quote another blogger or author in a blog post, I might tag them. If they inspired that blog post, I might tag them. But I might not. And I’m not going to do it more than once or twice a year. If you’re just doing it to get noticed it’s considered spam.

For the love of cookie sprinkles….STOP.

I strongly recommend you turn on approvals for all tags. People can tag you in a photo or status update, this requires you to approve those before they show up on your timeline – because people use this to spam your friends but your friends might not realize you were spammed, which makes life seriously awk-ward.

3. Do not bomb conversations with blog links.

I see this all the time. Do not find a lively conversation thread and drop a link to your blog there. That hit and run tactic is super annoying and is spam. If you are an active participant in the conversation and you have a blog post that directly relates to the topic at hand, go ahead and share that link in the spirit of no-reciprocation-expected.

You’re sharing this because it adds value – no strings attached. Dropping a link into the conversation you’re not a part of is spam regardless of whether the post could remotely be relevant.

4. Do not create a group and force-add 2000 people.

Facebook will let you invite a ridiculous amount of people to an event or group. I get event invites all the time. Those can be annoying, but what’s worse is being force-added to a group that’s a 24/7 spam channel! You can go ahead and create a group where two or three people post links to their blogs and courses if you want to – but let people opt into that. I had to remove myself twice from the same group and finally clicked the box that says do not allow myself to be added again.

5.  Any story can be seen by friends and seen as an endorsement.

When you click like, comment or share something, you create a ‘story’ within the Facebook environment. When you share an update or link, it’s seen as an endorsement unless you add an editorial comment stating otherwise. However, what many people using their Profiles to build platform don’t realize is that your likes and comments can be shown to friends, and friends of friends depending. You can’t filter that.

You’re following an erotica author friend because you wanted to support her, even though you write children’s fiction. She posts an alluring pic of a near-naked man and you liked the pic – for whatever reason. You might not have liked the pic or the man, but wanted to support the author say.

Doesn’t matter.

At best Facebook could show that story (that you liked that content) to friends FB believes have similar interests. You have no control whether that shows up in someone’s news feed or their ticker or at all.

Something else to consider is that you can’t opt out of sponsored stories. Sometimes Facebook will recommend Pages to users and they will use your name and profile pic (all public content) by way of public endorsement to your friends. Someone can purchase a sponsored story ad and your face and name could be used to promote that Page.

We can complain all we want, that’s the price of admission. If you are using your Profile to build platform keep this in mind! I can’t stress this enough. Every action you take can spread a lot further than you intend. If you wouldn’t say it to your mother in her living room, don’t say it (or like it) on Facebook.

In the spirit of helping others share my Facebook happy, I started a group for writers who want to learn how to use Facebook the WANA way, not spam people, and build a healthy community or tribe. It’s a closed group so there’s a measure of privacy, but it means you’ll have to request to join. *psst – I’ll approve you.** I’ll post about updates and changes, and answer questions (within reason), but I really want this to be a safe place to ask questions and share experiences as well. Abusers will be removed!! :D

What annoying Facebook marketing tactics have you been the victim of? Share in the spirit of helping not shaming.

On Saturday, November 23, I’m teaching a webinar on Using A Facebook Profile To Build Platform. The cost is only $45, and we’ll look at how to set your privacy settings, friend lists, target posts, create a content strategy, how to brand yourself visually, best posting practices, and more. If you can’t make it sign up anyway. The webinar will be recorded and sent to all registrants.

I’m also offering this class as part of a very special WANA 2Fer. Marcy Kennedy is running her A Crash Course to Using Google+ to Build Your Author Platform the same day and we’re offering a discounted rate of $20 off for people who sign up for both. Click here to register for the 2Fer!

About Lisa Hall-Wilson

Lisa has been using Facebook since 2007, and has been a paid administrator, content creator, and consultant for more than three years. She manages Pages for non-profits and small businesses in Canada and the United States (including the MYWANA Facebook Page). She’s an award-winning freelance journalist, syndicated columnist, and fantasy author. You can find her hanging out on her Facebook profile.

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60 Comments

Four Ways Google+ Communities Help Authors Build Their Platforms

Image via Pink's Galaxy Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Pink’s Galaxy Flickr Creative Commons

Hey Guys! I promised I would post twice a week, but I am happy to add in some extra awesome when the opportunity arises. Social media is key to any author platform, but, to be blunt, there is NO WAY I can teach all of them with equal excellence. This is why I have amazing WANA instructors. Facebook or Twitter might not be your style. Or, maybe you are still trying to FIND your style. Here to help you is the FANTABULOUS WANA International Instructor, Marcy Kennedy….

And no, I couldn’t use the creepy panel van because I am SO NOT driving to Canada. She is here of her own accord. That and I told her I’d spread rumors that she hated unicorns. I am cold that way.

Hmmm, looks legit.

Hmmm, looks legit.

Take it away Marcy!

Marcy Kennedy, WANA Instructor Extraordinaire

Marcy Kennedy, WANA Instructor Extraordinaire

Did you know that Google+ has the second most active user base of all social media sites? (And yes, Facebook, no surprise, is number one.)

Yet one of the biggest complaints I hear about Google+ from authors is that they struggle to meet potential future readers and to get others to engage with what they’re posting.

The solution to both problems is Google+ communities.

Google+ rolled out communities in December 2012, and communities are rapidly growing around topics as diverse as Star Wars, Javascript, parenting, running, football, and photography. If you’re interested in it, you can probably find a Google+ community built around it.

Before you think that’s great for a non-fiction writer, but I write fiction, let me stop you. Every novel will touch on topics you can find a Google+ community about.

Someone like Elizabeth Spann Craig with her Southern Quilting mysteries could join communities organized around quilting. Erotic romance authors like Roni Loren could join the community that discusses what to read after Fifty Shades of Grey. Does your novel feature vampires or zombies? There’s a community for that. Does your main character have an autistic son? There’s a community for that too. You’re only limited by your imagination.

Here’s the official Google+ trailer.

But the real question is how can Google+ communities benefit writers? After all, I did say that Google+ communities can help us meet potential future readers and grow our platform.

(1)   Find new ideas for blog posts.

What are your potential future readers already talking about and interested in? Those are perfect topics to blog about. Instead of writing into the void and hoping someone will be interested, you’ll already know that what you’re posting on is something they’ll want to read.

Some communities prohibit direct sharing of blog posts so read the rules carefully. However, keep going down this list. The next point is key for developing relationships that will have people adding you to their circles. And once you’re in their circles, they’ll see your status updates—where you can freely share your posts.

(2)   Establish yourself as an expert (and as interesting) by starting valuable discussions.

Anyone can start a discussion in a Google+ community, and topics are organized by categories for easy access.

The best discussions result in active conversations, as well as people sharing it to their own circles. If people see your name attached to great conversations often enough, they’ll add you to one of their circles so they can see everything you post.

(3)   Get an inside look at what your potential future readers love or hate.

If you’re a quick writer and want to self-publish, you could fill a hole in the kind of books people want to read by listening to the likes and dislikes expressed in communities.

This is also a great way to understand the nuances of your genre. Fantasy fans are vocal about what tropes they’re tired of. Steampunk fans are also very vocal about what does and doesn’t belong in a book labeled “steampunk.” Each genre comes with built in expectations.

A large part of success is knowing readers’ expectations and exceeding them. If a reader buys your book expecting one thing and finds another, they’ll be disappointed no matter how great your book might be apart from those disappointed expectations. Once you’re educated on the expectations, you’ll be able to meet them…or choose to forge a new path, while making it clear to readers what they’ll be getting. Knowledge is power.

(4)   If you’re an established author, build a community for your readers.

Google+ communities definitely have a forum feel. Host chats with book clubs. Encourage fan art. Answer commonly asked questions. Provide deleted scenes or interview your characters. If you already have an established audience, Google+ communities provide a low maintenance option for you to encourage conversation among your fans and to be accessible to them.

Google+ is currently a very under-utilized (and poorly utilized) social media platform by writers, but I hope this helps you see the potential hidden inside it.

On Saturday, November 23, I’m teaching a 90-minute webinar called A Crash Course to Using Google+ to Build Your Author Platform. The cost is only $45, and we’ll look at how to effectively set up your profile, what to do about circles and communities, how to use hangouts, and more. This webinar is great not only for those who are already on Google+ but also for those who aren’t sure if it’s the right place for them! If you can’t make it at the time it’s scheduled but still want to attend, sign up anyway. The webinar will be recorded and sent to all registrants. Click here to register!

I’m also offering this class as part of a very special WANA 2Fer.Lisa Hall-Wilson is running her Building a Tribe Using a Facebook Profile webinar the same day, and we’re offering a discounted rate of $20 off for people who sign up for both. Click here to register for the 2Fer!

About Marcy Kennedy:

Marcyis a suspense and speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance editor and teaches classes on craft and social media through WANA International. She’s also the author of the Busy Writer’s Guides series of books, including Strong Female Characters and How to Write Faster. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at www.marcykennedy.com.

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27 Comments

When Spammers and Trolls Take Over – Authors Innovate – Facebook Groups (WANA Class Excerpt)

By Jay Donovan
Hi everyone,

Kristen is recovering from a couple of all-nighters spent caring for a loved one. I’m sure she’ll have plenty to say about it over the coming weeks. She should be back tomorrow. I take that back, she will be back tomorrow,even if I have to drive to TX and make her write a blog post Weekend-at-Bernie’s style.

Today’s post is an excerpt from a bonus lesson from Lisa Hall Wilson’s six week Facebook course. Lisa is a fantastic teacher and one of my favorite online people. She is currently teaching four classes at WANA Intl:

Building A Tribe Using A Facebook Profile
Using Your Facebook Profile to Build Platform
How To Write In Deep Point Of View (POV)
How To Get Them Talking – Interview Like A Journalist

Thanks Lisa for giving us a sneak preview at this new lesson!

WANA Facebook Maven Lisa-Hall Wilson

WANA Facebook Maven Lisa-Hall Wilson

Facebook Groups

Indie authors especially are very good at innovating and finding creative solutions to problems they face trying to connect with their readers/fans. Recently, former lit agent Nathan Bransford posted about the ongoing bully/gang-mentality that’s become prevalent over on Goodreads. People were leaving bad reviews of books they’d never read, or just didn’t like the title or subject matter of. (Read the post here.)

Authors had no way of policing their Goodreads pages, and real fans were turning away because of the bullies and bad reviews.

So they innovated.

How Authors Are Using FB Groups

I often get people inviting me (or force adding me) to closed groups which are really just book launch announcements. Not cool. That’s just spam. Don’t do that. However, some authors are using groups the proper way with amazing success.

Growing a tribe or community around your writing is usually a common goal for all writers regardless of their genre. Easier said than done. Building a community or tribe takes time, effort and intentionality.

To combat the lack of control over on Goodreads, authors have turned to closed FB groups instead.

 

Street Teams

When an author is about to launch a book, they may create (or fans create for them) a street team. I’ve seen these used as incentive to pre-order books. These are the most dedicated and enthusiastic fans you can have. They are your mavens, they generate word of mouth enthusiasm, share your work, post reviews, buy copies for family and friends. This is marketing gold you can’t buy.

Author Strategies

These closed groups are well organized and only genuine fans of the books are accepted as members. Some authors use these groups to send out information to join a street team, help get the message out about their books, events, coming soon and cover reveals, help name the book, etc. Some of these groups have tens of thousands of members. It’s a vibrant hidden community free of trolls because the author admin has the power to turf those who break the rules of the group. There’s no spamming, and readers find it a much safer environment than Goodreads right now.

Authors show up daily to talk to fans, to give that glimpse behind the curtain – they want to see Oz. Authors are growing these groups by placing links to them in the back of their books – as opposed to their websites. It’s an insider club.

Benefit of Closed Group

The big benefit for a closed group is that you have to be a member to see the content. It may show up in your news feed because you’re a member, but your friends won’t see it unless they’re also members. This way members can also share inspiration photos of guys (etc.) and it doesn’t show up on their walls or their friend’s news feeds. You can’t use a group with your Page though, only your Profile. Many Indie authors have what I call a place-holder Page but are only active on their Profile.

Book Promotion

Authors are inviting fellow Indies into these groups to help promote the upcoming book launch often. So XYZ author is invited to participate. The group members are alerted that “XYZ author will be here to spend time with you all. She’s giving away a copy of her… book.”

The author admin creates a thread linking to the free giveaway. The protocol is that XYZ author never mentions their own books. They talk about their favorite heroes/heroines in author admin’s books, etc. This helps promote author admin’s books and helps XYZ author get new readers – and nobody gets spammed!

Author Cooperatives

Authors are teaming up with others who write in their genres, etc. to offer book promos together, boxed sets, etc. This is all being done in closed FB groups.  Authors are sharing info and insights into marketing, promotions and ads. They’re working together to support each other. That’s the WANA way.

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Lisa has been using Facebook since 2007, and has been a paid administrator, content creator, and consultant for more than three years. She manages Pages for non-profits and small businesses in Canada and the United States. She’s a freelance journalist with nearly 100 articles published, and has counted non-profits such as World Vision Canada as clients. You can find her hanging out on the WANA Intl Facebook Page most days or at her website.

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17 Comments

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