Challenges for Writers: Social Media

Social Media – It seems as if we are glued to it; both night and day.

Many authors, both legacy published and indie, immediately take to the social media scene and use it as a platform that consists of posts which amount to nothing more than: Buy Me, Buy Me, Buy Me.

Seriously - I’ve been on Twitter and Facebook now for well over a half dozen years and it has all blurred into the same thing. Now, I will be the first one to admit that I have previously used these platforms in the same way. Hey, we all make mistakes, but I can tell you, based on my experiences, these are really bad vehicles for promoting your book.

The problem is you are trying to read the tea-leaves and hype your book to a completely random audience. For example, even if you have an amazingly diverse number of followers, the reader who might be interested in your book has to be at their computer at the very same moment you post. What do you think those odds are?  There are over two hundred million Facebook users and nearly seventy million Twitter users in the United States alone. Something tells me you’re going to experience some type of scheduling conflict as you try to connect.

And it’s not just a matter of connecting; you also have to find them when they are in the mood and we all know how hard that can be……

The truth is, more likely than not, they are there looking for cute animal pics, inspirational quotes or to find out what they need to be offended by today. In fact, looking at sales trends on my books, I can’t recall any instance where anything appeared to be social media driven. Even when offering free or discounted deals, I didn’t observe any major uptick that coincided with social media posting.

That being said, do I think you should forego social media as a whole? No, not at all, you should make it part of your platform, but make it a well-rounded part. Don’t just use it for YOUR books, throw in the occasional cute animal photo and remember to promote your fellow authors as well. No one really likes that person who only pats themselves on the back and this is a bigger problem than you might think. If you have 5k posts on Twitter and 4.9k consist of ‘buy my book,’ you are going to want to re-think things. That strategy might work, if your James Patterson, but the average indie author is probably going to turn-off a lot more potential readers than they entice.

My social media platform consists of my website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. I also made sure to utilize the author pages available to me at Amazon, GoodReads and BookBub

Both Amazon and GoodReads are especially useful if you have a website / blog because you can also link those pages to show your most recent posts. Another nice feature of Twitter is that you can also ‘pin’ a post to the top of your page. I have a link to my books and this allows those who want to tweet me the opportunity to share it, without having to search through a ton of unrelated posts. I use this method when re-tweeting my fellow authors and let me tell you it is a blessing. If I have to scroll through dozens of tweets without finding one of your books, I simply give up. If you don’t care, I don’t care.

While I am on the topic of Twitter, let me provide some advice here. If you are an author, please, please, please: Reconsider whether you want to tweet that inflammatory political comment. Too often, many do not exercise caution or even good judgment when it comes to this topic. Mind you, I am not talking about re-tweeting things that are intellectually critical about a politician or a potential issue, but the ones that are downright mean-spirited. The reason for this is that there is a very strong possibility you will most likely alienate a potential reader.

I screen every new follower, to see what they post, when I am thinking about following them back. Often I see completely discredited commentary or inflammatory rhetoric. Not only am I not going to follow you, but I am certainly not going to buy your books. That’s not to say that I demand everyone to be like me, or to refrain completely from discussing issues, but I draw the line when it comes to crudely bashing someone simply because you disagree with them.  We need to return the word civil back to civil discourse. The literary world is tough enough that you don’t need to chase away any potential readers. 

Up next: Publicity - Fake it, Till You Make it.

This isn’t intended to be a complete list, but some suggestions as to what has and hasn’t worked for me.

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Where Was God ? - Amazon Bestseller

As an author, I cannot begin to tell you just how incredible the feeling is when your book reaches that best seller status. No, it isn’t the NY Times of the USA Today list, but it is a start and I want to share my pride with you.

This week, my non-fiction book: Where Was God?: An NYPD first responder’s search for answers following the terror attack of September 11th, 2001, hit the Amazon best seller list, reaching the #22 spot. It’s moved a few slots over the last few days, but I’m still proud that this book is reaching an audience that might find comfort in my findings.

This journey started with God and I owe any and all success to him.

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Challenges for Writers: Overcoming Literary Hurdles (Reviews)

Do you remember where you were when you first learned there were over seven million books in the Amazon Kindle Store? Hopefully it wasn’t just a moment ago.

It’s a staggering number, especially when you are about to release your first book. Hell, let’s be honest, it’s staggering even if you’re releasing your fiftieth book, but as difficult as it might seem, there are ways for you to reduce that number.

My writing career officially began in 2012, when I sat down and began work on my first mystery novel, Perfect Pawn, but its foundation dates back to a conversation I had with my wife in 2001. I’m glad I didn’t know back then the extent of the daunting road that lay ahead for me. As I mentioned last week, I have authored a total of ten books, along with two novellas, and I am currently writing my latest work-in-progress. During that time I have done a lot of things right, but an even greater amount of things wrong.

As an up and coming author, you need to accept that when you put the proverbially: The End, on your book, it is a lie. It would be nice if it was true, but that’s just not reality. Your job as an indie author is more like that of a general contractor.  Now that the foundation is complete, you have to focus on getting the rest of the job finished.

If you read last week’s post: Challenges For Writers, maybe you decided that cover design, editing and formatting just isn’t your thing. I can’t find fault with that thinking because not everyone has the time or the background to undertake those tasks. Most indie authors have full time jobs, so focusing on writing when you can, and outsourcing the other stuff, is probably the best option. But there are things beyond those critical issues that you will also need to address.

For the most part, when authors such as James Patterson, Lee Child, or J.D. Robb finish a book they do a lateral pass and their publishing houses take over. As an indie author, you are that publishing house. This means that if you want to effectively compete against those seven million other books on the market you are going to have to do some heavy lifting for yourself. This is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. I would love to be able to tell you what to do, but as I previously mentioned, I am still learning as well. I can only give you advice about what hasn’t worked for me.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, all that matters is what you are doing.

I’d originally wanted to address several topics in this post, but I realized it was getting a bit long. So I decided to address them individually. This week I am going to touch on the topic of Reviews. In the upcoming weeks I will talk such issues as: Social Media, Publicity, Stagnant Sales, Keywords and Ads.

Begging for Reviews – Go on Amazon and look at your nearest competitor and marvel at the astronomical review numbers they have. All of a sudden that concept of ‘redistribution’ begins to sound a lot more palatable.

Damn you, James Patterson………………

Damn you, James Patterson………………

Once you start to compare your numbers against theirs its hard not to get bummed out. Hell, you might even begin to wonder if your own mother hates you. I mean, she still hasn’t written a review for you and you gave her that free book years ago. Trust me, you’re not alone.  I can’t begin to tell you the number of free books I have given out to family and friends over the years, but I can tell you the number of reviews that it has generated; which coincidentally is the same number of Super Bowl appearances by the Detroit Lions: ZERO.

Let’s be honest, reviews are really important to authors for a variety of reasons, including:

1) Writing books is a really poor way to make a living, unless you enjoy a regular diet of ramen noodles and tap water, and reviews are your only source of literary validation

2) They factor into the algorithms that sellers like Amazon use when they recommend books to others

But are they worth the time and effort you put into trying to generate them? Sadly, the answer is no, at least not from your inner circle. If you are interested, I have written a more in-depth examination regarding the problem that authors face, in terms of reviews, here: The Labyrinthian World of (Fake) Book Reviews

Since that article, I have reached the conclusion that it is just not worth the effort, at least when it comes to your inner circle. Here is my advice to you: Stop asking and if you feel like giving a book away for free, do it without any thought that you will get a review. You’ll save yourself from a lot of disappointment.

Your focus should be generating enough sales of your book(s) from other sources that will lead to organic reviews. What you (and potential readers) want to see on your Amazon Review page are the ones listed as: Verified Purchase. This means that the review is an organic one from someone who purchased it through Amazon. You know who also likes it? Amazon and their algorithms.

Beyond that, are the reviews by folks listed as: #1 REVIEWER, TOP 10 REVIEWER, TOP 50 REVIEWER, TOP 100 REVIEWER, TOP 500 REVIEWER, TOP 1000 REVIEWER, HALL OF FAME REVIEWER. Next to the aforementioned James Patterson endorsing your book, nothing says ‘buy me’ more than a review from an established Amazon Reviewer.

That being said, you want those reviews to be 4 & 5 stars, so it behooves you to make sure your book is the best it can be when you publish it.   

Next up I will be discussing the topic of Social Media.

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My 2018 Christmas Gift To You

When you give the gift of reading, you give the gift of wonder.

Growing up, I always had a book nearby. Whether it was science fiction by Frank Herbert or a police procedural by Joe Wambaugh, I enjoyed the experience of being immersed in another world. It is one of the reasons I enjoy writing.

This Christmas, I am making my debut novel, Perfect Pawn, available on the Amazon Kindle e-Book platform for only $.99.

Starting December 24th, 2018 (8 a.m. PST) and running through December 31st, 2018 (12 a.m. PST) you can dive head first into the world of James Maguire, a former U.S. Navy SEAL and retired NYPD detective.

This page turning literary roller-coaster ride will take you from the concrete jungle of New York City to the idyllic mountains of upstate New York and beyond.

This Christmas, give yourself a gift that the only regret you’ll have is why you didn’t read it sooner.

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Andrew G. Nelson - Summer 2018 Update

Well, summer is in full swing and I thought that it would be a good idea to bring everyone up-to-date on what has been going on in my little literary world.

As those of you who receive my free newsletter are aware of, back in December 2017, I was diagnosed with cancer attributed to the 9/11 rescue & recovery effort after the terror attack at the World Trade Center. As a result, I had surgery this past June. Obviously, the lead-up and post-surgical recovery had a dramatic impact on my writing, but I am happy to say that I am back in the saddle again.

For fans of the James Maguire series I wanted to let you know that I have eight chapters already written for book five in the series. I had originally intended on a late summer / early fall release, but because of the above issue the timeline had to be adjusted. I’m now planning for a winter release and I thank you for your patience.

Another contributing factor was a book project that I had originally started in 2013.  This is something very close to my heart, since it deals with the 9/11 terror attack. I am proud to announce that I have completed this book and hope to release it within the next few weeks.

This book, titled: Where Was God? Is based upon my personal spiritual journey, as a 1st responder, to determine whether God was absent on September 11th. If you have ever wrestled with this feeling, or if you have even wondered if God is out there, then I think you will truly appreciate this book. Not only do I address the issue of where God was on 9/11, but I also use the investigative skills I honed, as an NYPD detective, to investigate the existence of God.

Back to School Special: Well, soon it will be that, ‘most wonderful time of the year.’ With the little urchins heading off to school, I can’t think of a better time to reward long-suffering parents, grandparents and even folks who just know someone with kids, with a great book deal. So from August 22nd through August 28th I will be running a Kindle Deal on my first book, Perfect Pawn. Beginning on the 22nd you can get it for only $0.99, but act early because the price will slowly increase over the course of the week. Perfect Pawn is a great book to have available in your e-reader for the Labor Day Weekend.

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