Life After Twitter

This is a follow up to the blog post that put me on the map, thanks to a push from Dean Wesley Smith who directed his followers to my site for the post, many of whom ended up staying.

In less than 48 hours, my post The Great Social Media Flim-Flam received over 8000 views, 80 comments, and the blog, itself, gained 500 new followers.

Dang.

The vast majority of commenters—some from New Zealand, Germany, the UK and Venezuela—all said the same thing: “Thank God! Let’s quit this idiocy and get back to writing books.” It was like they were waiting to hear some kind of argument that would allow them to pack it in, close the Twitter account, sign off of Facebook for good.

I heard from one guy who I had noticed on Twitter several times spamming the crap out of everyone and who I’d always been annoyed to see because he was doing exactly what all the social media experts tell you not to do! He was obnoxiously repeating over and over again to “buy his book.” When he wrote me after the post he said, “I wouldn’t do it if it didn’t get results. Dramatic results.” My annoyance dissipated immediately when he told me that. I don’t blame someone for using a tool to get the result we’re all going after. If anything, he’s just more honest than the rest of them who tweet what they had for breakfast as some form of “relationship-building” but really they’re just waiting to slip you their books when you get all cozy and unsuspecting. He says he spams every hour. But he also retweets more than he spams because, let’s face it, he’s the guy the social gurus warned us about and it rankles being considered an untouchable by much of the Twittersphere, even if it does sell books. He said this internal conflict, spamming and then trying to make up for it with treble the re-tweets, has resulted in him spending so much time on Twitter that it’s taken him a year to finish a book he should’ve finished in three months. He says if he can stop the compulsion to watch his numbers rise, he’s going to quit social media and go back to putting his effort into writing again.

I also heard from one woman who was very testy and said that social media absolutely worked for her. She claimed to sell 10,000 books a month (at 99c). I can only imagine she’s a little friendlier in her other social media channels than she was defending herself to me!

I think the thing I’d want to stress is that, especially after talking to Jim (the spammer guy, who has decent books, I might add), I don’t feel judgmental about people who use social media to sell their stuff. If they can do it, power to them. Even if they do it by using a sledge hammer to the head—and it works—go for it. And if they can do it and sleep at night? Mazel tov. I think the thing that bothers me the most is all the people pretending to be friendly while keeping their not-so-hidden agenda in the background (“buy my book!”) Let’s face it, if that’s not the case and you really are trolling the internet to find friends, you have more problems than getting people to buy your book. I mean, come on. You do know you cannot really have ten thousand friends, right? Not in real life, not in cyberspace. (You can call the singles in your wallet twenties if it makes you feel better but they’re still singles.)   So where is the word of mouth coming from if these friends aren’t real?  Last year, I’d heard hundreds of people rave about “The Help” on Kindleboards and Twitter and never once thought it sounded like something I’d like to read, until one (real) friend of mine on Facebook mentioned she couldn’t put it down. And after I read it, I bought it and sent it to two other (real) friends. (Yeah, yeah, I wish it had been an indie book.)

And while it’s only been a couple of days, I can already make some things add up from this blog post experience. The biggest take-away has got to be so clearly viewing blogging as a mechanism to enlarge friendships with other writers. Their input, their way of looking at the same problems you’re wrestling with, their empathy, their experience—all of it is invaluable as shared Intel. (FYI: after 8000 views and a virtual outpouring of affection and “likes,” I sold not one book more than I have been averaging all along.) If you blog because you like to do it, or because you want to meet other writers, and you’ve got something to share, I think it’s a great way to spend your time. If you’re expecting a monetary ROI, probably not.

What an astounding experience these last two days have been for me. I sat at the dinner table last night listening to the steady stream of “dings” that heralded the email notifications that continued to come in (until my husband made our son get up and mute the volume on the computer) and I felt such a part of the larger writers’ community. Between that feeling and the fact that I wrote 3,000 words yesterday on my book, I’d say this whole Life-After-Twitter campaign is off to a great start.

I will get around to answering everyone who left a comment from the first post and I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to write me. Any and all sharing of experiences and information is much appreciated, so please let me know what you think. After all, we really are all in this together.

Why local book clubs are the single, best way to sell more books online

Drum roll, please.
What is the one thing that all members of our writing/publishing industry—writers, publishers, legacy and indie—agree sells by far more books than any other method?
Word of mouth.
Ahhhh. You knew it wasn’t going to be something you could click on and just get.
No, word of mouth, like all things worthwhile, is not easy to create or obtain.
Marcella Smith, of Marcella Smith Associates, and a former Barnes & Noble executive has been quoted as saying that when it comes to selling books: “Nothing beats word of mouth. Nothing. These days, there is so much more book news in all kinds of media. I think it comes down to, ‘Who do you trust?’”
And we all trust our friends, right? I don’t even bother “sampling” a book if someone I know has already gushed all over it.
The question is: How to you make word of mouth happen? For your book?
I’m going to go with “book clubs.”
Nothing builds a writer’s brand better and faster than talking about her book to a group of people who are interested in hearing about it. All you have to do to make it happen is contact some book clubs in your area and suggest to them that if they read one of your books as a group, you will be happy to speak to the members about the book.
The reasons why a book club might agree are:
1. They are readers and most readers are keen to ask questions of the authors of books they’ve read
2. Everyone likes to be entertained or presented to
3. Most people like feeling proprietary about the books they read and the authors they discover
The benefits to you as an author are:
1. Once an author meets his readers he increases his “buy in” with them and increases the chances that they will talk about the book to their friends
2. It’s been shown that not only does the book club read and buy the book from the author but they tend to read everything that author puts out in the future!
3. Speaking at book clubs keeps books alive. Many books have been resurrected with a new generation or demographic of reader as the result of a book club embracing it.
4. Meeting with your readers opens opportunities for other avenues, related to your book or future books. In the November issue of IBPA Independent, columnist Linda Carlson told about an author who spoke at a club, met an attendee who was a writer for a magazine and ended up doing several keynote speeches and selling many, many more books.
5. Asking your new group of enthusiastic fans to post reviews of your book on Amazon.com, Goodreads and so forth will help boost your sales online.
If you go down this road, here are some things to keep in mind as you add book club presentations to your promotions tasks:

1. Be friendly and focus on connecting with your readers
2. Hand out bookmarks with new-book information
3. Always bring paperback or hardback copies of your book; if members bought it as an e-book, they may want a signed “real” book now that they’ve met you.
4. Bring a signup sheet to capture emails so your new friends will be some of the first to get information on upcoming releases

There is a strong belief in publishing circles today that one of the main things that can save publishing is book clubs.
They can do a lot for the author too, especially if they’re willing to “put themselves out there.”
Nobody said it was easy.
At least now you know what you need to do.

The Scariest Thing You Will Ever Do As A Writer

There is a skill set that, when mastered, will not only help you reap significantly better results in book sales over the long haul, but will vastly increase your self concept and confidence and is something that fewer than .05% of the population can do.

Not only can they not do it, but the majority of them would rather die than try.

Wow.

It’s easy to see that you would have a serious leg up on everybody if you could join that .05% group.

I am talking of course about public speaking.

As a writer, it is possible that the percentages of comfortable, accomplished speakers in your group are even smaller than .05%. Writers tend to be shy types, happy to hole up in remote cabins and drafty guestrooms, turning down social invitations in favor of a laptop and a bottomless cup of coffee. Which makes the benefits that much greater if you can learn to conquer your issues with speaking publicly.

Six Ways that being a speaker can help your writing career:

1. You will sell more books at the back of the room after your talk. I have watched people read directly from notecards and then charge ridiculous amounts for self-published books I wouldn’t look at in a garage sale—and they sell out within minutes of leaving the podium.

2. The more you speak, the better you get, and the better your speaking resume gets and the more writers conferences you’ll be invited to speak at. Attending a writers conference as a speaker (read: expert) is much better than attending as a participant. You get instant credibility, even before your work is examined. Plus, you get to sit at the editors and agents’ table!

3. Speakers are looked upon as subject matter experts, even if they aren’t.

4. Speaking enhances your author’s brand and extends the efforts you make through social media because your audience is very likely tweeting or blogging about the conference.

5. Speaking helps to promote your reach online. If you have more than one book, you’ll have people looking online for the stuff you’ve written. Plus, people who have heard you speak are more inclined to like you because there’s a feeling of ownership or discovery for them.

6. When you speak, everything you touch is worth more. There is a kind of celebrity involved with speaking. When you speak, no one else is talking; it’s not a give and take. It’s YOU talking, and the audience listening. That dynamic illustrates a premise that you are someone important who can be learned from. Plus, you are performing and so the value of anything attached to you is increased. If you give out business cards or bookmarks with your information on it—blog site, amazon book  page, website—people will snap them up like they are valuable because you have been set apart as a VIP.

So, how do you achieve this desirable state of speaking without throwing up? I don’t absolutely promise there will be no vomit involved, but you could read articles online or buy any number of how-to’s. Personally, I think learning by doing is the best way. Because there’s such a psychological element to public speaking (“My God, they’re all looking at ME!!”) you really need to feel the experience over and over again. You very well may feel like you’re going to throw up the first few times you speak in front of group, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

I found Toastmaster’s to be a great way to learn this skill in a friendly, supportive way. Everyone at the meetings is working to be a better speaker so you’re in good company. After a few months of having a helpful, friendly group of people listening to and critiquing  your speeches, trust me, heading out to a public forum where people are simply listening to you for content not “ums” and “ers” will have you confident in no time.

It’s worth a try anyway, right?

What about you? Are you afraid to get up in front of a group or do you do it all the time? If so, got any tried and true tips for new speakers to help chase (or redirect) the butterflies? Would love to hear from you!