Taking Control of My Social Media

Over the past few months I’ve been making changes to my social media usage in an effort to take better care of myself. 

I have for quite some time now had  a pattern of posting, responding to other people’s posts, and then looking for posts of value or interest to share. While those are all great things to do, I came to realise that I needed to put some limits on how much I did of each. 

It’s so easy to get sucked into the mentality of thinking that we have to be perpetually present, always available, and never really “switched off”. 
That way of thinking is a lie— and a dangerous one at that.  It’s a really unhealthy pattern that leads to a sense of social obligation that is really hard to break. 

Sure, we all want to interact with friends, respond to their posts and see what’s interesting out there in cyberspace. We all want to share our own posts and, for those of us who are authors or other types of Indie creative, we need to promote our work. 

That doesn’t mean that we have to do it constantly. 

Consequently, I’ve made some changes. I have chosen to take control of my social media, instead of it controlling me.

I’ve cut down the number of times a day I check my various social media. I have found that checking in a couple of times a day is actually just as effective as checking in far more frequently. 

I’ve made a deliberate effort to reduce the amount of time spent scrolling through my newsfeed. Scrolling through when things are new and there are people and posts I want to respond to is fine, but the mindless scrolling that often followed wasn’t helping me get things done. Once again, I have found that I’m interacting just as much, but wasting less time and energy in between. 

If I need to post something in between as I often do, I post it, check my notifications for anything important, ignore anything that can wait until later, and leave again. 

The verdict: 

I feel a lot less distracted and far less pressured to “perform” on social media. 

I’m using my time more constructively without losing out on contact or interaction with others. 

I’m resting better. Because there’s less “white noise” in my thoughts, I can get the peace I need to relax. 

Making my social media work for me is far better than me trying to fulfill its never ending demands. 

I’m not saying I have total control of the circus, but at least now I am a lot closer to directing the show. 


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Two More Reasons Why History is Not Boring

I’m always a bit lost for words when people remark that history is boring. Not because I have nothing to say— far from it— but because I know they are never going to be anywhere near ready for the conversations I want to have with them.

I accept that in the past, some teachers have been guilty of making history very, very dull, but it was not the history that was boring: it was the teacher. 

I’ve had some of my own students question, “Why do we need to learn about this? How am I ever going to use this in real life?”
My responses vary depending on the topic at hand, but they are consistently positive and enthusiastic about how interesting and inspiring history can be. 

I have recently discovered two new examples to offer to students or friends who complain about history. 

A week or so ago, I read a story of a 14th century nun named Joan who faked her own death to get out of the convent she was living in.
How’s that for dedication?

Apparently, she wasn’t the only one who wanted to escape either. Having studied medieval history and knowing the lifestyle adhered to by monks and nuns of the time, I can’t say I blame any of them.

Faking your own death is definitely taking it to the next level, though, so I feel that Joan deserves a bit of recognition and applause for her commitment to the performing arts. 

Original painting: Jan Van Helmont Portrait of the Sisters of the Black. Public Domain
The clever edits are my own. 

Then, today, one of my favourite History blogs on WordPress posted about “the mythical animal with a deadly rear end”. I followed the link to the full story about the Bonaccon, and did a little more research after that.

I now know more about this amazing creature than my friends will ever think beneficial. You can bet I’m going to tell them all about it, and I know my Year 9 boys are going to love it, too. I almost can’t wait until they complain again, so that I have a good reason to get the story out and share it. 

Seriously, take a look at this beast. This picture from a medieval bestiary, or book of animals, portrays this particular bonnacon as being rather pleased with himself and his toxic poop. He’s never going to be sorry. 

Go on. Tell me now that history is boring. I dare you. 

One In A Million.

Believe it or not, I’m one in a million. 

A million authors writing to entertain others.
A million poets bleeding their souls onto the page.
A million people trying to help others.
A million people who are actually loyal. 
A million teachers going the extra mile for their kids. 
A million people caring for someone they love. 

It might be easy to get lost in the crowd. 
It’s easy to feel insignificant.
One tree among a million in the forest, so to speak. 
But I know I am one in a million. 

We all write and grieve and serve and give of ourselves differently. 
Each of us is unique. 
Each of us is a distinct blend of personality, talent and substance. 

Not a single one of us is worthless. 

I may not stand out among the million. 
I may never strike it rich or become famous.
I may never be someone else’s ideal. 
I cannot be perfect.

The truth is, I don’t have to.None of us do.

What matters is the contrast with some of the other people on this planet: the hateful, the cruel, the greedy, the selfish, the power-hungry, the narcissists. 
What matters is that I stand against the things they accept. 
What matters is that I am true to who I am, to my priorities, my values, my faith. 

What matters is integrity. 
That’s what stands out in this world. 

That, more than anything else, makes me one in a million. 

What I Have Learned From Blogging 150 Days In A Row

Blogging consistently for 150 days in a row is no mean feat. It takes time, effort, and brain power, and a bit of self-discipline really helps, too. I’m thinking very clever things of myself today, but that’s not the only positive outcome. 

When I first started blogging, I was a bit here and there with it all, which is perfectly fine. Over time, though, I noticed that the more consistent I was, the more consistently my posts were being read. When I managed a three or four day streak, I felt like I had really accomplished something constructive in terms of getting myself “out there” as a blogger,

At the beginning of this year, one of my resolutions was to blog more consistently. I can certainly put a check in that box!  Now that we’ve reached the middle of the year, I have spent some time thinking about what I’ve learned from doing so. 

Goals are highly motivating. When you’re on a long streak, it’s very easy to dismiss thoughts like “I’m too tired” or “not today” and get it done. 

Planning is essential. Sometimes, deciding what to write about is the hardest part. Planning helps to overcome this.  I have developed a list of themes, post ideas and issues to explore. That way, I’ve always got something to write about if there is nothing pressing or timely bobbing around in my head.  Participating in special “months” like Women in History and “National Poetry Month” has helped me to focus my posts during those specific times. This has helped me to attract different kinds of readers to my blog, which is generally quite eclectic in the topics I cover. 

I still want to improve the way I coordinate my planning. I’ve started to time my Shakespeare-related posts to coincide with #ShakespeareSunday on Twitter so that I have an audience to reach that is automatically curated for me by someone else’s design. That’s proven to be very handy, so I want to find more opportunities like that to fit with my interests and content. 

Reblogging is a great way to share sand add value to someone else’s content. I often share other people’s posts via Twitter, and do so very gladly. When I discovered how to reblog someone’s work, that was a revolutionary moment for me. It enabled me to share their work in a more meaningful way than just tweeting it – which is meaningful and helpful, but it doesn’t add any value to the content. 

Reblogging makes it possible to add comments or a reflection of my own on the topic. This is helpful to both them and myself: their content reaches another blogger’s audience, and my content is enriched by theirs. It is also a very good thing to be inspired by what someone else produces, and to let that fuel my own thoughts and words. 

It’s also fair to say that there are times when the tank has been dangerously empty, and those bloggers whose work I have shared have literally saved my day – both by inspiring my post, but by encouraging my mind and spirit when life has been hard. 

Varying the topics attracts different readers. There are blogs dedicated to just one topic. Some of those bloggers do it extremely well. I am probably never going to be one of those people. 

I like to discuss different things that interest me. By mixing it up, I’ve been able to find new readers who like history, or poetry, or horror, or Shakespeare, or who are Indie authors and interested in the issues that relate to our awesome little corner of the publishing universe. These audiences often cross over, so if someone isn’t interested in what I write one day, they probably will be on the next. 

Over the past 150 days, I have seen my readership grow, measurable by the increase in followers on my blog. I find this very exciting, as when I started out, I thought having ten followers was incredible. Actually, given that I had very little clue what I was doing, it probably was incredible!

Consistency increases visibility. I’ve noticed that I’m getting more post likes and engagements from people who weren’t following me previously. I can only assume that this is because my posts are gaining visibility via the WordPress reader as well as on Twitter and via my very amateur attempt at SEO. My rather thorough use of categories and tags might be helping, too.  Whatever the source of the magic, I’ve enjoyed some great feedback and questions from readers that have been both helpful and stimulating. 

Accuracy and accountability matter. When you say something on your blog, you need to be able to back it up. Thankfully, as a History teacher, this is something I’ve always known. So when a reader asked me recently, “What’s your source?” I was able to answer promptly and easily.  I really don’t want to start providing a bibliography for every post I write, but it does matter that I can verify my content when I am called on to do so. 

People want to know who you are, Even though a blog post focuses on a particular topic or idea, readers respond well when you show them something of who you are or what makes you tick. I do not suggest making it all personal or discussing all your private issues in detail, but if readers can see that you are genuine, they will respond to you in positive and encouraging ways 

I am better at blogging than I used to be.  Part of that is in the development of my skills by learning as I go, and part of it is confidence that can only ever come from experience. This has, in fact, been the most motivating lesson of all. If I keep going, I’ll get even better. I don’t know if the world is ready for that, but I am. 

There are, however, still things that remain a mystery to me: 

How do you actually get people to click “like” before they leave? 
How can I get more people to leave a comment or question? 

Those are questions that fall into “next level engagement”. I’ll write that into my goal-setting now. 

Why You Should Stop Using The Angry Face Reaction on Facebook

In a recent post, I commented that someone suggested that the angry face reaction to one or more of my Facebook posts may have contributed to some of the problems I have been having with them flagging and suspending my posts for no obvious reason.

It turns out that this theory is correct. 

The Facebook algorithm assumes that an angry face reaction means that people don’t like the post itself, or object to it somehow.  This causes that post to undergo more scrutiny by the algorithm, which seems to result more often than not in the post being deleted by Facebook, and the user having certain types of access or posting permissions suspended for a time.  This is what is popularly referred to as ‘being in Facebook jail’.

This is very good to remember when responding to Facebook posts.

The problem with that is that people might not intend for that to happen at all when they use the angry face reaction. It may be that they are sharing the anger, frustration or dislike expressed by the author of the post about something entirely different. It’s not the post they object to, it’s whatever the writer is angry about that makes them angry, too. 
While they are trying to be supportive of the author of the post, that dratted algorithm misinterprets that completely and sets in place consequences that are both unintended by the responder and entirely inappropriate and unfair. 

In short. unless someone posts content that is completely objectionable, don’t use the angry face reaction.
Much more helpful alternatives would be to:

  • Use the “wow” or “sad face” reaction
  • Comment with your thoughts or reactions
  • Post a gif that expresses how you feel about the content of the post

That way, your friends and their posts will actually receive support rather than suppression. 

Save the angry face for those posts that express hatred, vilification, prejudice, discrimination or violence. They’re the ones that should be suppressed. 

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. 

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.