I committed to making myself visible on the internet a few weeks ago. I am documenting this process in these blogs (video and written) for both myself and the outside world. I received an encouraging word from my IT guy who commented that, while he is an expert in IT, he is not an expert in social media. He understands the programming and technical workings of applications better than I could hope for--and he is patient when I complain that my email doesn't work or doesn't sync, etc. For me, it was encouraging to know that even people with technical skills are not entirely comfortable with social media. So, I thought I'd summarize what I know thus far:
1. Understand why you are on social media. Are you selling something or keeping in touch with your friends? For me, I want to sell my books. (And, I don't have that many friends...)
2. Make yourself visible on multiple platforms. I have accounts with most of the major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc) so the next question was how to manage all of the demands of posting and monitoring postings. I achieved this via Hootsuite.com This is a site that will show all of your streams of twitter/facebook/youtube/instagram, etc posting and allow you to analyse and schedule your future postings. I don't fully understand this yet and I am waiting for my marketing expert at FriesenPress (who have published me) to let me know how to handle this better. So far, I have selected areas of interest to create postings that may be of interest to people who follow me. It is not the best, but it is what I am doing in the interim. Please be patient with me as I understand and tweak this to make it more reflective of me and relevant to people who are interested in my journey (or, who are undertaking a similar journey). I came across a number of authors who selflessly share their information with others (Nick Stephenson and Joanna Penn are two such authors) and who suggest how to automate and improve your interaction with the public. Unfortunately, the more you automate the more it begins to cost money. So far, I am trying to do everything on software that doesn't cost me anything. When I see results, I can upgrade to the more professional versions. Watch this space.
3. Generate traffic to your website(s). To achieve this in the best manner, I have discovered that it is best to give value for free to the person discovering your site. I am doing this with my free books. In exchange, I am asking for their email so that I can notify them of future books and interact in a meaningful way. Hopefully, this can be done without offending or causing people stress. People can unsubscribe at any time, so it seems to be a harmless process.
4. Convert traffic into interest and, hopefully, sales. This is the tricky part. I assume this will be up to people to determine whether they like my writing and/or if the writing is worth paying for. It is like setting up a stall for bananas in a market. People may feel like buying bananas or not, depending on the day, their mood or the alignment of the stars. All I can do is hope to get my product in front of their eyeballs. The rest is up to them. There are ways to trick people into viewing and I want to avoid doing anything like that. It is not sustainable nor is it the path I want to pursue. I want my writing to resonate with people. My aim is to write literature and my journey thus far has been to hone my writing skills in both non-fiction and fiction. After my Man on the Run series, I hope to tackle a standalone book that would be worthy of the designation 'literature'. I will not be able to compete with erotica or sci-fi fantasy as we are different genres (although I do try to spice things up from time to time in my series).
5. Getting traffic and the economics of emails. I have heard from some authors that a well targeted email list can generate upwards of $40 per reader (ie. per email). This means matching the genre with the right reader who also likes what the author writes. It means an audible title (or two), a few purchased e-books and a lot of free books/blogs. These are true fans and I aspire to find those readers. Note to true fans: the best thing you can do for an author is give a review (positive or negative) or to click on 'like' or 'dislike' on their postings. This provides valuable feedback and makes the author relevant. For me, I would be ecstatic to receive a million 'dislikes' because it meant I had at least a million readers! The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference. The worst fate for authors struggling in the ocean of indifference is irrelevance and anonymity. On a more mundane level, a successful author should be looking to invest approximately 10 cents for a potential reader who may net the author one dollar. Facebook ads are expensive and will likely cost an author 50 cents per reader. Unless s/he has a very efficient system to handle inquiries, those 50 cent readers turn into unconverted 50 cent leads. The economics look great but it is important to crawl before walking and definitely not to run before you can walk. I am still at the crawling stage so this is something I aspire to in the coming months. But, every journey starts with the first step (or crawl, which doesn't really have any steps and is more like a body drag).
There are a number of sites I will test and learn more about before listing here. Watch this space. The next thing I want to wrestle with is the idea of Metadata and how the search engines find you. I was intimidated when I first heard the term Metadata. It just means labels for data--not that dissimilar to the Dewey Decimal system in libraries. It is a way for search engines to find and latch onto your website or postings. I am a little concerned that I'll do something wrong and then be black listed by Google. Each engine announces how it prefers to search for its metadata, so there is a structure for firms to follow. This is not to be confused with the search engine's algorithm. The algorithm is the secret sauce that makes Google number 1 with everybody else an also-run. One thing I realized is that you shouldn't try to outsmart or configure you business plan according to your understanding of Google (or Amazon)'s algorithm. They change it frequently and your entire business model can implode. This has happened to indie (self-published) authors when Amazon changed its rules and algorithms. Many authors have seen an 80% reduction in their income with Amazon's introduction of Kindle Unlimited and other monthly payment packages. All of these problems are theoretical for me so I keep them in mind for the future. By the way, another acronym I came across that intimidated me at first was SEO. I saw it on buttons in my website and referred to in documents but no one defined it. It is simply Search Engine Optimization. It is so simple that most people don't bother to define it. This relates to the metadata referred to earlier in this paragraph. I'm assuming it also relates to something super-clever as well, but those are the dark arts of firms that advertise their SEO services.
For those who are keen on knowing more now (and are not able to wait the 3-6 months that it will take for me to learn and write about), check out the following sites:
https://www.yourfirst10kreaders.com/ (This is Nick Stephenson. He is focused like a laser.)
http://www.thecreativepenn.com/ (This is Joanna Penn. I think she is great.)
Another thing I've noticed is that authors are banding together to create co-authored books. This is to monetize their combined mailing lists / readership. You will notice the same authors popping up in this regard. In addition to co-authoring, they are selling box sets to provide more value to the customer.
We live in the golden age of writing/publishing where both the writer and reader are winners. My objective is to find readers who like what I have to write.
That's it for today!