Why I Might Never Send Out Another Author Newsletter

They say having an email list is crucial for an author. It’s the one sure-fire way to reach your readers.

I am clearly the exception to that rule. 

Either I really suck at creating newsletters, or my subscribers signed up for the wrong list. 
It’s why I am very reluctant to  send out  newsletters now. 

When I send emails with other people’s books in them, my subscribers click through to those books. 
Do they click through to mine? Nope. 
And sadly, I get as many clicks to unsubscribe as I do on the links in my newsletter. 
It really is quite depressing. 

Yet I don’t do anything different than any of the dozens of authors whose newsletters I receive. Well, that part isn’t strictly true:

I don’t spam my books repeatedly.
I don’t email every week, let alone every day or two, like some do.
I don’t use high pressure sales pitches. 
I don’t beg, and I don’t whine. 
I don’t even include only my own content. I always share other books and bookish events that readers might be interested in. 

I have observed all those things happening in various different authors’ newsletters at different times, and have always tried to avoid doing anything I have found off-putting.

Honestly? I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I appear to be doing it consistently. 

I do suspect that maybe newsletter writing is not for me. I’ve given it a fair crack and it hasn’t been at all well received.

For now, I think I’ll stick to blogging. 

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What I Like… And What Frustrates Me… About Twitter

It seems to me that people either love Twitter or can’t stand it. I am definitely in the former category, for several reasons:

  • It’s direct. You follow someone? You see their tweets. You don’t follow someone? You live in blissful ignorance.  My feed is full of creative, positive people and exactly zero politicians. It’s a great way to filter reality. 

    Everyone who follows me can see my posts in real time, without any interference from the platform itself. Twitter sends every tweet into the world without trying to make a buck out of me to do it. That in itself is a refreshing change among social media platforms. 
  • Retweets are brilliant for extending your reach easily and painlessly.. With one click, someone else can share your post with all their followers, too. Not only does this take your content further, it can also result in new followers and interactions.
  • It’s brief.  Say what you want to say in 280 characters, preferably less. And that includes your hashtags. 
  • Hashtagging is easy.  Start typing a hashtag, and Twitter will actually suggest the most popular tags for you that start with those letters. It doesn’t get easier than that. 
  • Connecting with others who have the same interests is easy. Once again, hashtags ply a key role here. Searching for a tag you are interested in is a simple way to find people using that tag in their posts. I have found great people, interesting content, and some excellent books doing exactly that. 
  • I also like just scrolling through my feed and seeing what pops up. There is invariably something I want to respond to with a like or a bookish or bloggish post that I want to check out. I can spend as much or as little time as I have, put it down, and come back later. In that sense, it’s pretty cruisy. 
  • Lists. You can create lists of accounts you want to group together. I have lists for authors in different genres. I also have a list for my favourite accounts called “Don’t Miss a Tweet”.

    By going to a particular list in my profile, I can see only the tweets from the accounts in that list. It is a great way to cut through the voluminous white noise of the Twittersphere, and saves heaps of time when I am busy, because I see exactly what I want to and nothing else.

    Lists can be made public or kept private. While I keep my “Don’t Miss a Tweet” list to myself, I make my genre lists public so that if someone is looking for Fantasy Authors or Poets, they can find a ready-made collection in no time flat. I may not have every author of a particular genre in my list, but you may be sure that the ones on my lists are worth checking out.   

That all sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

However, no social media platform is without its pitfalls. 

My dislikes include, in no particular order:

  • Trolls and fake accounts.  It’s easy for people to hide behind a social media account with a fake name and create mayhem. Whether it’s bullying or bullshit they are into, there’s not really a lot to stop them. 

    I overcome this by being very choosy about who I follow, and by making extensive use of the “unfollow” and “block” functions the minute my spidey senses start tingling. 
  • Direct messages.  Some people appreciate direct messages, but I am not one of them. It seems to me they are all either spamming a product or creepers trying to seduce me into giving them money or naughty photographs. 

    I overcome this by never looking at my inbox. 
  • Tweeting can be hot-and-miss. The life cycle of a tweet is short, and I f followers aren’t online when you tweet, they can miss your content. 

    I overcome this by recycling my content, using different tweets on non-consecutive days so it doesn’t get repetitive or boring. 
  • Clickbait. This is the term for anything exaggerated or sensationalised to make you click on a link to read the story. Ugh. 

    Once again, the blocking function has proven to be really effective in getting rid of these accounts from my feed. 

Overall, I find Twitter much more user-friendly than Facebook, but I doubt that I would if I hadn’t taken the time to learn how to keep my Twitfeed positive and focused, and free of politics, gossip and drama. 

Why a Heart is Better than a Thumbs Up

In the ever-evolving state of affairs that is the Facebook algorithm, there is one recent change that is actually quite easy to work with. Facebook now places more value on the other reactions than it does on the standard  “thumbs up” or “like”. 

I can understand why.
It takes just a little more effort, so it is easy to see why it might be interpreted as a more thoughtful and deliberate response to a post than simply hitting the default. 

It’s all part of their reported change of focus from content to engagement. It may be that this is a way to still be able to increase the reach of our posts, and boost our audience engagement at the same time. 

So, I’m trying to respond accordingly: 

  • I’m using the heart and surprised “wow” face more. I don’t know how much difference it makes, but for something so simple, it’s worth a try. 
  • I’m responding to the posts I make via my pages and groups with those “power responses” using my personal account in the interests of pushing my posts to gain more reach and engagement. 
  • I’m trying to respond with more comments, even if it’s just an emoji or a gif, in addition to using one of the response buttons. Obviously, I can’t do this for every post because I don’t want to spend my entire life on Facebook. I may have to be choosy, but there are posts out there that deserve a little extra love, so I’ll try to give it to them. 
  • I will still use the “thumbs up” to acknowledge posts. I don’t want to stop using it altogether, because then the others will become the default, and everything will undergo another adjustment. 


It’s all positive interaction and engagement, so it can’t hurt. 

Hopefully, it will be contagious. If people see more hearts and wow faces, and additional comments, they might start using them too! 

The Importance of PreOrders: An Author’s Perspective

Picture this scene: a baby is due soon.
The mother has spent months anticipating the birth, making sure everything is okay, getting the nursery ready, and making sure she’s booked into the birthing suite at the hospital of her choice at the right time. 

Wouldn’t it be a little…well, weird if she didn’t tell anyone at all it was happening? 
Wouldn’t it be far more likely that she’d be sharing snapshots of the baby’s room and first teddy bear? And her friends would probably be liking those pictures, commenting on the anticipated arrival, and buying gifts for the baby shower. 

Setting up a preorder for a new book is, for an author, akin to getting the nursery ready and inviting one’s friends to the baby shower. Every preorder sale is like a baby shower gift that shows love for the author and excitement for the new arrival. 

To some, the analogy might seem far-fetched. As an author, I can assure you that it’s really not. 

***

Preorders really can make a huge difference to a new book’s start of life. 

Once you’ve got the writing, editing, formatting and publication organised, you can give your book a boost by making it available for preorder and getting some advance sales. 

Without going into a whole lot of technical details, there are some really good reasons to do so:

  • It’s convenient. When someone preorders a book, it is delivered straight to them upon release. They don’t have to think about saving links, bookmarking sites, or following up later. 
  • It allows you to tap into the “I want it now” mentality that is so strong these days. Enabling people to order your book right away and satisfy their impatience is a clever marketing strategy. 
  • Having your book available on preorder enables you to build excitement and anticipation for your release. It’s one thing to be able to say “this is being released on Friday”, but another entirely to be able to say “Reserve your copy now! Be the first to get it as soon as it’s released! You won’t have to wait!” Remembering that tone is everything, it can’t hurt to have some excitement injected into your pre-release social media chatter. 
  • Those advance sales push your book further up the rankings, so that vendors show it to more people, enabling it to get even more sales. If you can achieve a spot in the “top new bestsellers” list for a day or even a week, that’s going to mean a lot more potential customers seeing your book without you having to go out and find them. If you’re lucky enough to win a “Number 1 New Release” ribbon on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, that gives you more marketing momentum and appeal.
  • Strong sales in the first week help to get your book noticed by other readers. It will show up in the “customers also bought” or “based on your browsing/purchase history” lists for more readers, and again, get new eyes on your book that you don’t have to go and find on your own. 

In my experience, making my books available for preorder has definitely been a good strategy.

I’ve been lucky enough to gain the “#1 New Release” ribbon for poetry twice, and obviously I’d love to do that with ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ when it releases on Friday. Although it is in the much more competitive categories of Fantasy and Fairy Tales, which is a much greater challenge, but it’s not impossible. It’s also in the category of ‘Mashup Fiction’ so it has a good chance there. 

Whether my book makes a big splash or simply becomes a drop in the ocean, I will have given it my best shot. And that knowledge and confidence is something that you can’t put a price on. 

***

If you’d like to join in my “baby shower”, you can preorder ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ at
Amazon or your other preferred digital store.

Why You Need To Outsource Book Promotion

In yesterday’s post I discussed the importance of book promotion and the ways in which I can prepare for and present my upcoming new release in ways that will attract readers to my book.

Even though I provide book promotion for other authors, I would not ever suggest that what I do is everything they need. I certainly cannot achieve all the book promotion I need on my own, either. 

That’s why I believe it is necessary outsource some of my book promotion on a regular basis. 

There are some excellent reasons to do so:

  • Other people can do things I don’t know how to do
  • Other people reach different audiences and followers
  • Other people use different platforms than I do
  • As I pointed out yesterday, people are far more inclined to take my word about someone else’s book than about my own.  

In terms of what’s available, there are a number of options to consider:

Genre specific promotion: Some promoters focus on one or two genres and have invested significantly in reaching that specific audience. 
Using this kind of promotion ensures that your book is shown to people most likely to be interested in it.

Things to consider: It’s generally not inexpensive. While you’re getting established and building awareness of your book or profile as an author, you can’t expect to break even. 

Book blogs offer a variety of ways to promote your book.
Some offer a read and review service.
Some create posts from your book’s reviews and use that to generate publicity.
Others use their social media reach to promote with ads that may be created by them, or by you. 

Things to consider: this is usually either free or inexpensive, but usually not genre-specific. It will put your book in front of readers, though. 

Social media platforms all offer ways to use one of your posts to create an advertisement by paying to have it shown to people who don’t already follow you. This can help you get new followers, if not book sales. 

Things to consider: the costs can add up if you’re not paying attention, and you set the price up front so that you pay regardless of whether or not your boosted post is actually successful.

Amazon Ads promise to show your book to readers in various ways.
You set up your promotion using your author central account, and set a “price per click” amount.  
It is either genre or audience specific, and there are options for ways in which you might reach different readers.

Things to consider: your “price per click” amount is not a guarantee.
It is really more like a bid to compete with others wanting to advertise their book in the same genre or audience as yours. If you set your price per click too low, you’ll get very little response. 
Amazon ads are also inclined to work sometimes and not others depending on the current algorithm over at the Zon, which means that the exact same ad that worked for you last month won’t work again now. Have fun working that out. 

What I do: I tend do a bit of most of those things. 

  • I engage some genre specific promotion for my horror titles from time to time. I will also do this for my upcoming fantasy release. Some services are more effective than others, but there are two I have found to be really good. 
  • I also buy some promotional services through a multi-platform service that has a very good level of audience engagement for a variety of genres. This has proven to be very good promotion, and I will use that service again. 
  • I usually have Amazon ads running for two of my books at a time. I have mixed success with them and the results vary greatly, so this is not sufficient promotion to gain consistent sales. 

Doing those things allows me to use my own Facebook and Twitter profiles sparingly. The last thing I want to do is sound like I am hawking my own wares all the time, as that is the the quickest way to put people off. 

When I do post on my personal profiles, I try to maintain a fine balance.

  • I generally try to stick to about one tweet in 50 for my own books. That will change this week, as I have a new release coming up. My ratio will change then to one in ten, which equals once a day.
  • On Facebook, I avoid any more than one post a day about my own books, and always post via my page. From there, I share it onto my personal profile and into one or two groups that I own or administer, and where I engage regularly with other members. 

What I don’t do:

  • Boosted Facebook posts. In my experience, this is a total and utter waste of money. The actual audience reach of a boosted post has never been anywhere near what was estimated when I was setting up the promotion, and I don’t think it has ever won me a book sale. 
  • Use the same promotion or service every month. Variety is the spice of life, after all.  
  • Spend more than I can afford. This should be a no-brainer, and entirely self-explanatory. 

Sadly, nothing is guaranteed. All you can do is try different things and see what works for you.

Obligatory disclaimer statements: because it is the 21st century and people can be nasty, it’s necessary for me to state the following:

  • I don’t have all the answers. I’m simply stating what I do, why I do it, and what I have found to work or not. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa: our books are different, and our readers probably are, too.
  • This post is in no way designed to direct you to my book promotion services. If that is what you think of me, please do not seek to engage my services. It’s entirely possible that we may not be able to play together nicely.

Pondering Promotion

One of the things I do in all the spare time I don’t have is creating book promotion for other Indie authors. 

Over the past few years, I have learned a lot about creating promotional images, writing effective tweets, putting images and text together for different platforms and using it all to put books in front of people who hopefully want to read them. 

Ironically, it’s a process that works better when you are advertising someone else’s book and not your own. If I tell a person that Charlie’s book is good, they are likely to take my words at face value. When I tell them my book is good, they tend to assume I have no idea. 

I have been pondering these things afresh while organising the preorder promo for ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’. 

Despite my obvious bias, it’s up to me to get my book seen by readers.
How can I make people want to read my book? How can I pique their interest? How can I get their attention? 

Those are the million dollar questions every author or promoter mst ask. 

The key lies in making them attractive to the target audience. An interesting story, well written and thoroughly edited, proofread, checked, formatted and checked again. A great cover that catches the eye and suits both the story and the genre. Promo images that are varied in colour and style, relevant to the story and genre, using clear and appropriate fonts. Not too wordy, and not too plain. 

Hopefully, those things will combine to have a positive effect. 
The fact is, before you can sell the book, you have to be able to sell the idea of the book. That’s why blurbs and taglines matter.  That’s why a cleverly worded tweet will sometimes have more effect than a beautifully written excerpt. 

Don’t get me wrong. A great excerpt is an effective way to win a reader, but you’ve still got to make people want to read it in the first place. 
So, for the next ten days until the book’s release date on June 14, I have prepared a bunch of teeets, some short Facebook posts, three different 16×9 promotional images ideal for Facebook and Twitter, and three square promo images for Instagram. 

There are hints but no spoilers. There is a mixture of information, humour and invitation. The hashtags are varied so that I reach more users than if I just stick to four or five basic tags. The images are different colours and styles, but all consistent with the story and genre.

Every post must have:

  • A promotional image that includes the book cover
  • Some information about the story or character
  • Clear indication of the genre
  • The link for ordering/buying the book
  • A mixture of popular and useful hashtags 

My goal is to achieve preorders for my book so that it has some sales momentum as soon as it launches, and then to continue promoting it to generate sales after that. That means creating different images, different tweets, and so on, on a regular basis. There is, after all, no such thing as “set and forget” promotion. 

***

A Rose By Any Other Name’ is available for preorder here

Poem: ‘Going to School’ by C.J. Dennis

I learned this poem when I was in 5th grade. My teacher loved poetry sand set us all a poem to memorise and recite. ‘Going to School’ was mine. 

Published in ‘A Book for Kids’ in 1938 with a collection of similarly excellent poems, this is a fun poem with a very musical rhythm and rhyme pattern that are instantly engaging. It conjures images of a time when kids in Australian country schools might ride a horse to school if they loved too far away to walk and didn’t own a bicycle or three. 

Dennis was a man of many talents: in addition to working as a journalist and poet, he also illustrated his own books with delightful pictures that were almost as much fun as the poetry. 

Image: C.J. Dennis working at his desk c.1938 . Public Domain via The State Library of Victoria 

Going to School

Did you see them pass to-day, Billy, Kate and Robin,
All astride upon the back of old grey Dobbin?
Jigging, jogging off to school, down the dusty track-
What must Dobbin think of it – three upon his back?
Robin at the bridle-rein, in the middle Kate,
Billy holding on behind, his legs out straight.


Now they’re coming back from school, jig, jog, jig.
See them at the corner where the gums grow big;
Dobbin flicking off the flies and blinking at the sun-
Having three upon his back he thinks is splendid fun:
Robin at the bridle-rein, in the middle Kate,
Little Billy up behind, his legs out straight.

Dennis’ images for ‘Going to School’ from ‘A Book for Kids’
Public Domain via Project Gutenberg

If you’d like a copy of A Book for Kids, Project Gutenberg has it available in a variety of formats, including for Kindle and other eReaders, free of charge. This is a legal download as the copyright on both the work and the illustrations included has expired. 

Women in History: Fatima al-Fihri

In the year 850 CE there was no such thing as a university. By 859, there was— thanks to Fatima al-Fihri.

The cover of a children’s book about Fatima al-Fihri’s life by Maryam Yousaf, available on Amazon

Fatima al-Fihri was an Arab Muslim woman who, having received an education and understanding its value, established the first ever university in Fez, Morocco.

When her father died, he left his estate to his daughters, Fatima and Mariam, each of whom used the money to establish a mosque. Fatima’s mosque grew to hold thousands of worshippers while at the same time evolving into a place of learning that offered degrees for different levels of education in the subjects of Islamic studies, mathematics, natural sciences, music, medicine and grammar.  A library was also established,
providing the resources and documents
needed by students and teachers alike.

Image: Abdel Hassouni via Wikimedia Commons

The University was not exclusive to Muslim students, and attracted scholars from both Jewish and Christian traditions. One of those students went on to become Pope Sylvester II, who introduced both Arabic numerals and the idea of zero to Western mathematics.

By the time Fatima died at the age of eighty years old, The University of Al Quaraouiyine had been running for twenty-four years,
alongside the mosque from which it
had developed.

Image: Mike Prince on flickr via Wikimedia Commons

This makes the university more than two hundred years older than the oldest Western universities at Bologna (est. 1088) and Oxford (est. 1096).

Both the mosque and university are still running today. Both the University of Al Quaraouiyine and its library are the oldest of their kind in the world. The library contains many ancient documents, some of which  date right back to the 9th century origins of the library, and other texts and books written by renowned academics.

What an amazing and enduring legacy, and a testament to foresight and wisdom! 

WordyNerdBird’s note: 
Having grown up in Australia and enjoyed a very Western education, I had no idea until much later in life that the concept of the university was something that came from the Muslim tradition. 

Perhaps if we were taught more overtly and deliberately about the legacies that have come to us from traditions other than our own,  our places of learning and society in general would be far more respectful of those traditions and the people who still hold them. 

Women in History: Claudette Colvin

We’ve all heard of Rosa Parks, and rightly so. Her refusal to give up her seat to a white person on a segregated bus sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. 

The very bus on which she rode is in the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, commemorating her actions and their importance in the history of the nation. 

Have you, though, heard of Claudette Colvin? 
Probably not. But you should have. 

Nine months before Rosa Parks’ defiant actions, fifteen year old Claudette Colvin was riding a segregated bus home from school in Montgomery, Alabama, and refused to give her seat up for a white woman. 

Source: Claudette Colvin Biography, https://www.biography.com/people/claudette-colvin-11378 Accessed March 13, 2019

Colvin was arrested and tried in juvenile court for her defiance.  Her mother discouraged her from speaking publicly about her actions, preferring to let Rosa Parks take the spotlight. 

I have to wonder, though: just how much did Claudette Colvin inspire Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her seat? And why aren’t we taught with equal admiration about this brave young woman who made her stand by remaining seated?

I am sure of one thing, though: I will be including Claudette Colvin in my lessons on the Civil Rights Movement from now on. My fifteen year old students need to know that nobody is too young to change the world for the better. 

Indie Authors: Don’t Let The Scammers Win

There has been quite some consternation among Indie authors over past months in various ways that dishonourable people have found to scam the system and get quite rich selling books that are not what they should be, particularly on Amazon, or who steal others’ books and make them available on pirate websites, or plagiarise and “rebrand” them as their own work.. 

Understandably, those who put a lot of effort into writing and publishing excellent books find such situations discouraging. It’s hard to be upbeat about what we do when others seem to “win” with shortcuts that are plain wrong. 

As I commented in yesterday’s post on integrity and ethics, it seems as though the floodgates have opened to allow all sorts of deceitful behaviour.
It’s hard to know how to respond.

What honest writers must not do, however, is quit. 

It’s up to us to keep on creating fantastic stories and poetry for the readers out there who crave excellent books. 

It’s up to us to hold our heads high, proclaim “I write every word of my books!” and then show the world what we’ve got. 

In short, it’s up to us to show the cheaters and scammers how it should be done. 

Nobody but honest and hard-working authors can restore the faith of readers in Indoe and self publishing. The only way to do that is to maintain a premium of quality in the books on the shelves in stores, libraries and homes all over the world. 

We may have to work harder, smarter and cleaner than ever before. Still, we’ve had to do that in order to give traditional publishing a good shake, and we’ve certainly achieved that. 

We Indies have so much to offer. We have each other for support and an entire future that is yet to be shaped ahead of each of us.

I refuse to quit. I refuse to let the scammers win. Who’s with me?