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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Has Your Elected Official Forgotten the Victims of 9/11?

I wish I could devote all of my time writing my latest novel or providing you with entertaining blog posts relating to my books and characters, but sadly I find myself having to turn to you and beg for your support in a much larger issue: The Heroes and Victims of the September 11th Terror Attacks.

Every September 11th, our elected representatives love to get out in front of the cameras and proclaim that we American’s should never forget the victims of the horrific terrorist attack and that we should always remember the heroes of that day. Yet that is exactly what they do beginning September 12th. Apparently, the only ones needing a reminder are those in government.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is on the brink of collapse strictly because Congress failed to adequately fund it.  Simply put, without proper funding, the program will close in 2020. This will leave many within the 9/11 community without treatment for the toxins they were exposed to, even though the government lied and said the air was safe. In addition, many rely on the promised compensation because they are dying from attributed illnesses and know their families will need this money after they are gone. Imagine for a moment a first responder on the brink of losing their homes, simply because they rushed to the aid of their fellow American’s.

Yet our vaunted politicians in Congress provided less than $5 billion dollars for a program that was not set to expire till 2090, yet they provide $45 - $50 billion ANNUALLY in foreign aid.

Since the attacks of September 11th, the United States has sent nearly $100 billion dollars in aid to Afghanistan, the country from which the attacks were planned and launched.  It is unconscionably that our representatives treat foreign countries better than their own American citizens.

Tell Congress to treat our 9/11 victims and heroes with at least the same dignity and respect that is given to foreign countries.

The link below provides a way for you to see whether or not your elected representatives have supported the funding of the Zadroga Bill. All you have to do is put in your address and it will tell you immediately.

CLICK HERE TO SEE IF YOUR REPRESENTATIVE SUPPORT THE ZADROGA BILL?

Let them know that even though they may have forgotten, you haven’t!! Never Forget should be more than a catchy hashtag.

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NY Post Article - Slashing of 9/11 Victim Benefits

I am so thankful that Melissa Klein of the NY Post cared enough to do an article regarding Congress’ failure to adequately fund the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

I have documented the problems that the 9/11 community is having to deal with recently on my blog, but it is nothing compared to the views generated by a major New York City newspaper publication. I grew up reading the post, but never thought I would one day be featured in an article. I hope that if there is a next time that it will be to highlight one of my new books, because that would mean we had resolved the gross deficiencies of the Victim’s Compensation Fund.

For more information about the battle that heroes and victims are having to wage with Congress, please read Melissa’s article below:

NY POST ARTICLE: 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS BENEFITS TO BE SLASHED - by Melissa Klein

And for more information, read up on my blog posts:

NEVER FORGET THE HEROES

SEPTEMBER 11TH - YES THEY HAVE FORGOTTEN

STABBED IN THE BACK (AGAIN) - 9/11’S FORGOTTEN HEROES

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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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