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Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Building Platform: What Most Writers are Getting Wrong

by Anne R. Allen

Writers know we need a "platform" these days.

That means we need to be on Twitter and FaceBook and Google+ and LinkedIn and Pinterest and Tumblr and have a blog with a ton of followers and get 100s of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and drive ourselves batty keeping up with all of it, because…who needs to write books? It's all about racking up those numbers, 24/7, right?

That would be a no.

Last year I wrote a post about 7 Ways Authors Waste Time Building Platform and it's been one of our most popular posts.

But the majority of writers are still running on the old social media hamster-wheel, pursuing those elusive numbers. I even see writers begging for money on IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, so they can "buy Twitter followers and Facebook likes." I hope nobody's silly enough to give it to them.

Because those numbers mean almost nothingeven less now than they did a year ago.

If you write narrative (novel or memoir), all you need is a social media presence, not huge numbers. (Nonfiction is a little different. More on that below.)

You do need to be Googleable. You can get Google's attention by commenting on blogs, having a Google Plus, Twitter and/or Facebook account and maybe a blog.

But guess what is the #1 thing an agent, editor or reviewer wants to find out when they Google you?

Whether you're a pain in the butt.


They don't care much about your Alexa, Klout or PeerIndex rating. They aren't all that interested in how many Tweeps, blog followers, LinkedIn contacts, Google Plus circles, or Facebook friends and/or likes you have.

I know you've heard otherwise, but that info probably came from marketers, not actual agents, editors or influential reviewers. Not recently anyway.

What Publishing Professionals Look for When they Google an Author

1) Is this person making the effort to network on social media?

2) Is this person volatile, entitled, disrespectful, or a self-involved jerk?

Don't just take my word for it:

  • Super-agent Kristin Nelson (obviously trying hard to maintain her legendary niceness) put it this way in a roundtable discussion with Scratch magazine last week: "In terms of social media, a lot of times we’re just looking to see if this is somebody we want to work with or are they really … what’s the word I’m looking for … strange on social media circles, or lacking a level of professionalism in their online presence. Let’s just say there are some folks who have a Twitter/Facebook presence that’s a little … aggressive or antagonistic."
  • Agent Sarah Burnes said in the same discussion that she looks at the whole "social media footprint. The truth is you can tell a lot about a person online."
  • Rob Spillman, editor of the prestigious literary magazine Tin House, says he's looking for “literary citizenship" and people who are "supportive of other writers".
  • Canadian agent Carly Watters wrote on her blog earlier this week that she's looking for: a website or landing page, some social media "proficiency", a professional attitude, good personality, and no blogposts detailing your personal submission woes to the general public.

In other words, no matter how good your numbers are, if you flame out on writing forums or use your blog to badmouth the publishing industry, complain about rejections, or put down other authors, it doesn't matter how many likes, hits, clicks or followers you have.

So be nice. Practice the Golden Rule. Don't be a whiner or a bully. And stop listening to marketers and system-gamers who tell you it's all about building up numbers. 

This is because:

  • Most publishing professionals don't care 
  • Those numbers do not equal sales, and have become increasingly meaningless—as you'll see below

Why You Should Stop Worrying About Social Media Numbers

Social media numbers are being gamed—and the problem is getting worse. They're also bought and sold from "click farm" sweatshops that have sprung up all over Asia.

This week Forrester Research reported that marketers and publishers are coming to believe, "The paid ads Facebook encourages them to buy often lead to 'fake' fans generated by 'like farms'."

And an article in the HuffPo on how social media "likes" are bought and sold says:

"While the Federal Trade Commission and several state attorney generals have cracked down on fake endorsements or reviews, they have not weighed in on clicks. Meanwhile, hundreds of online businesses sell clicks and social media accounts from around the world. BuyPlusFollowers sells 250 Google+ shares for $12.95. InstagramEngine sells 1,000 followers for $12. AuthenticHits sells 1,000 SoundCloud plays for $9."

In other words, this isn't even illegal, so everybody's doing it.

But that doesn't mean it's smart.

Because large numbers of clicks/likes/followers, etc, now mean absolutely nothing.

Here are some other iffy and pointless ways to waste time and money on meaningless numbers:

Purchasing LinkedIn connections and email addresses

This week I got an email from an author I'd connected with on LinkedIn. She claimed to write reviews for the Wall Street Journal. She offered (in all capsalways a bad sign) to give me a book review in exchange for… a list of all my LinkedIn contacts.

How's that for creepy?

Are there really people who will sell out their accountants and doctors and everybody they do business with in exchange for an iffy book "review" from a complete stranger?

But it gets worse. She also promised the names and contact info for "2000+ Amazon book reviewers".

Oooooh! I'd be able to spam 2000 Amazon book reviewers and get them to all hate me at once? Hmmm. That sounds like a good marketing plan…

My agent Pam noted this was probably a sock puppet who was gathering LinkedIn contacts to sell on those click-selling sites.

But the underlying assumption has a basis in a sad fact: many authors will pay to rack up meaningless numbers, whether a quantity of nonsense reviews or "likes" or "contacts".

And even if you're not paying cash for reviews and clicks, if you're trading with other authors, offering prizes for "likes", or whatever, you're wasting time.

Fake Facebook "likes" 

Many writers are duped by Facebook into paying to "boost" pages to get hits on their author page.

They tell me they do it because it gets "results". By which they mean they get more people to click on a "like" button.

But when I ask if those "likes" translate to book sales, the authors go strangely silent.


A handful of real friendships and loyal readers mean more than thousands of nameless, faceless numbers.

Author Jonathan Evison advised writers at the annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writers Programs, “If you don’t like Facebook, then just don’t do it … It’s not about broadcasting. It’s about connections.”

Unwilling Newsletter Subscribers

I've been "subscribed" to dozens of newsletters by authors I don't know in genres I don't read. Maybe because they've queried me for a guest blogpost, or we've communicated on another subject. Or I've commented on their blogs. Or they just take my contact info off this blog. They've got my email address, and dammit, they're going to use it! Their marketing consultants told them to!!

But this is what a lot of marketing people don't understand: annoying people with email spam does not move them to buy books.

As the lawyer known as The Passive Guy said on The Passive Voice this week, "Email lists! What an powerful concept! For 1996."

And Tony Hursh responded to PG in the thread, "Just this morning I was reflecting that I don’t have nearly enough spam in my life."

How about you? Not enough spam?

That's what I thought.

And yet every marketer says you must have a newsletter and send it to as many addresses as possible, regardless of who they are or whether they read your genre. It's NUMBERS, they tell you. NUMBERS!!

I think it's wiser to listen to Mr. Evison. He advises writers that instead of blasting out group emails about their books and events, they should take the time to write a personal email to each friend.

A personal email to a friend. Not a bunch of advertising aimed at some undefined "them" you imagine to be out there.

Auto-Tweets to Fake Tweeps

I think Twitter is probably the medium authors abuse the most. Hundreds of thousands seem to autotweet book spam 24/7. Often to "followers" who have been purchased (and probably don't even read their language.) 

And they can't figure out why their books aren't flying off the shelves.

That's because they don't understand that Twitter is not for direct marketing. People are on Twitter to get news and information. What gets retweeted most is links to original content or news stories.

Social media guru Jon Morrow at Boost Blog Traffic says this about boosting Twitter traffic,

"Consistently tweet the content of the other influencers in your niche (even if they’re your competition), making sure to mention their handle and, of course, include a link to their article."

That's right: the number one way to boost your own traffic is to share other people's linksboth unknowns and big influencers. Unknowns will probably thank you and follow you, and the influencer's Tweeps will notice you and you can become part of their clan. They start noticing your other tweets, they might even see one for your blog and come on over and make friends. And eventually take a look at one of your books.

Bestselling mystery author Elizabeth S. Craig (@elizabethscraig) has 26K Twitter followers. I'm willing to bet those are real people who have followed her voluntarily. That's because she tweets the best links in the publishing business. And she has never once tweeted ads for her books. She tweets great content. 

Obsessing about Blog Hits

It's my personal opinion that a blog is an author's most important tool on social media. My blog re-started my career after my first publisher went out of business. It got me two more publishers, an agent, and a blog partner I'd admired since she was on the NYT  bestseller list and I was a wannabe actress reading Ruth Harris novels in the greenroom of a little theater in Southern California.

But none of those things happened because of huge numbers of hits on this blog.

Those things happened because I made connections with people on many blogs: mine and theirs and Nathan Bransford's and Kristen Lamb's and Elizabeth S. Craig's and many, many more.

1) Blogs for Nonfiction Authors

Nonfiction writers need to follow slightly different rules from fiction writers. (And although memoirs are nonfiction, they're narrative, so they're marketed like novels.)

A nonfiction writer definitely needs to work at driving traffic to his blog, because a widely read blog is one of the best ways to establish yourself as an expert in your field.

I advise nonfiction authors to work on a blog for some time before you launch a book, and to comment on the blogs of "rivals" for some time before that. 

But you need an engaged readership, not fake numbers. An attack by a Moldovian spambot is going to boost your numbers through the roof, but it won't sell one person on your idea.

That's why you need to network with other bloggers in your field, and share their content, not sit alone on your blog waiting for hits like a spider waiting for flies.

2) Blogs for Fiction Writers and Memoirists

If you write fiction, you don't need a writing blog like this one, unless you also have a "how to write" book like, ahem, How to be a Writer in the E-Age: A Self-Help Guide.

Novel readers read novels. Blogs, not so much. So if you write fiction, you don't need worry about your stats or your Alexa rating.

Sure, it was fantastic for our egos when we got 50,000 hits last month. It's like the thrill you get from winning a videogame. With about the same real-world significance.

Yes, there was a bit of an uptick in sales of my novels. But I also had attack by the the Amazon sock puppet-trollsmaybe in retaliation for signing an anti-sock puppet petitionwhich probably helped my sales as much as the blog surge. It's funny how my sales go up when they leave their brainless 1-stars. I think any review gets a book some attention from the algos, no matter the star rating.

But I also see an uptick in novel sales when I visit smaller blogs. Almost any time you reach out to a new audience there will be a flurry of sales.

But the blog surge did put my nonfic book onto several bestseller lists. Nonfiction writers: take note. 

A fiction writer's blog is simply a place for your fans to find you, or if you're not published yet, a way for you to build up friendships in the blogosphere.

Neither of those goals is dependent on a huge number of blog hits. It's the number of engaged readers that matter. You're not going for a million hits. You're going for 1000 true fans. Or even 100, or 50. Real people, not pointless numbers.

Catherine Ryan Hyde is one of the top selling novelists on Amazon. Last summer she bumped J.K. Rowling off her perch at #1.

But Catherine's blog has an Alexa rating down around #4 million. As of this writing, this one is at #132 thousand. (Google, at #1, being the best-rated)

But I probably don't sell as many novels in a month as Catherine sells in a day. She sells books because she has a fantastic reputation, she's been a star since she wrote Pay it Forward a decade and a half ago, and readers feel they know her. People who visit her blog already love her books. They're coming to the blog to get to know her better.

The thing most marketers don't understand is that selling books isn't the same as selling collapsible hoses, Sham-Wows or Perfect Bacon Bowls.

Readers are quiet people. You need to gain their trust. You can't influence them by shouting at them.

Or by being a pain in the butt.

So don't.

And you can stop obsessing about all those silly numbers.

As I said in last year's post: If you're dealing with marketers who are in love with numbers for their own sake, I hereby bestow a rank of 10 million ARA points!!! on each of you. When somebody puts you down for not having a Klout rating over 80, just roll your eyes and say "Klout is so over. I have 10 million ARA points."

Doesn't that feel better? 

What about you, Scriveners? Have you been obsessing about numbers without really knowing why? Have you ever paid for Twitter followers or "boosted" a Facebook page? What do you find is the most effective way to boost your book sales? Or if you're unpublished, how much time do you spend building platform online?

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Paying it forward is always the best option. For any of those sites. I've always done it with my blog. And I've never worried about hits or visits. I know those numbers don't mean much and aren't always accurate. (I don't even have a hit counter.) Comments and those I interact with mean more to me.
And yes, being a jerk online will come back to haunt you...

March 23, 2014 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger Colleen Story said...

Fantastic information Anne. Thank you so much! I suspected this to be true but you put it all so very clearly. Helps one take a deep breath and relax.

March 23, 2014 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger mshatch said...

Excellent post. I'm on FB and twitter but I rely on my blog for my on-line presence. It's what I like so it's easier to invest more time. I try to be very aware that whatever I post can be seen/read by anyone so I tend to think hard before hitting 'publish.'

March 23, 2014 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger Mitzi said...

Once again you make sense. I have a Facebook site in my writer name on which I share writing information and information on paranormal news (that's what I write). I just want to get information out there.
Thanks for the good advice.
And now I'm taking Colleen advice and deep breathing...
Mitzi Reinbold w/a Mitzi Flyte

March 23, 2014 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger The Happy Amateur said...

10 million ARA points! It does feel better, thank you.
I didn't know that likes can be bought..Goodness, what's going on?
Glad to hear that being nice to others still pays off.

March 23, 2014 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--It's so true, but people need reminding: the best rule is the Golden one. The accuracy problem is another factor I didn't even mention. And yes, being a jerk rarely pays off, unless you do jerkitude on the radio/TV for a living. :-)

March 23, 2014 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Colleen--Oh, good. If I can help a few writers take a deep breath and shut out the noise for a few hours, I've done my job. :-)

March 23, 2014 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

MS--I'm the same. I mostly use Twitter to drive traffic here. FB, I use mostly for silly jokes. They've blocked this blog from FB again, even though I haven't posted a link anywhere but my own pages for 5 months. I guess I'm in FB jail for life. And yes! Everything you do online is IN PUBLIC. Sometimes we forget that.

March 23, 2014 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Anne Schroeder said...

Thanks for a great post. I'm taking away an impression that finding what feels right and creates balance is critical. I don't twitter because it doesn't make sense to me. I blog because it does. I just read "How to Sell Your First 1,000 Books" and the author advocates email lists and newsletters as essential. This feels right to me, too. Most fiction writers I subscribe to limit theirs to one every 2 months because they're trying to connect, not offering a service to writers.

March 23, 2014 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mitzi--A FB author page is great. That's where your book news belongs. And yes, we all need to remember to breathe...

March 23, 2014 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Happy--I think it does pay off to be polite. The publishing industry is run on the art of the shmooze. People who don't get that can be left behind.

March 23, 2014 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anne--The newsletter has been overused, but if you have older fans who aren't on social media, it may be the best way to reach them. If you have a blog subscription service, your blog is going into people's inboxes, so usually a newsletter just duplicates that info. But if your email newsletter readers aren't your blog readers, then maybe it's worth it to do both. And yes, it's all about balance.

March 23, 2014 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Bill Peschel said...

All right. I'm gonna blow up my reputation by badmouthing certain authors.

Well, maybe state my position on writers who've adopted the "always be promoting" attitude on Twitter and other sites.

Recently, I went back to Twitter because I read a Nina Garcia article about how she uses it (basically, views her stream a couple times a day and engages with people only in the evening). It sounded cool.

I noticed there were a few ABP writers in my stream, so I decided to clear them out. Back in the day, I followed anyone who wanted to follow me.

And that was the problem. Unless I used lists, my stream was unreadable. Promo after promo after promo.

So far, I've deleted more than 200 authors whose streams were promos or otherwise useless (like tweets to another author with one or two words, or "thanks to" followed by a stream of names).

Funny thing, nearly all of these authors had a large number of followers -- like 35,000 followers -- and I had to wonder what benefit they got. These aren't Lady Gaga numbers. But would anyone be impressed by this to buy their books?

Maybe, but it felt sooooo good to say good-bye to them that I didn't care.

March 23, 2014 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 23, 2014 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I always look forward to your common sense approach to promoting books, and this was no exception. I will admit to having my obsessive moments about likes, retweets, followers, and commenters. I have a blog and am a fiction author flailing around out here seeking the Secret Sauce to Success. I am within a hairsbreadth of deleting my FB personal profile and just maintaining my author page since all the duplication of efforts there is maddeningly difficult. However, I do have a nice little "fan group" of about 300 people that I would also lose if I got rid of myself, in Facebook terms. I have found a nice balance on Twitter between promo and engagement since I also talk a lot about craft beer and sports. I just started a newsletter and am now ready to dump it in favor of using my Facebook profile…oh, I think you get me. It is hard to suss out whose advice to take in this crazed fight for best sellers and (you know) making a living writing books.
Writing? who has time for that? I'm too busy engaging my fans! thanks again Anne. I am enjoying your non fiction book (I was amongf the flurry of purchases from last week and where is a non-sock puppet petition? I want to sign it!) cheers

March 23, 2014 at 12:18 PM  
OpenID bridgetwhelan.com said...

Second time in two days that I've heard of the Linked in scam where you are offered a book purchase & a review in exchange for a list of contacts so it must be the flavour of the month. (Even if you did gain a five star review I'm a firm believer in what goes around comes around...)
Thank you for flagging up again the nonsense that surrounds numbers and that we can all be seduced by because it is such a tangible outcome...the only one I think has any real significance is the number of comments, as long as they are not along the lines of What! You cannot be serious...

March 23, 2014 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bill--That must have felt so good! I've been thinking of doing that. My Twitter stream is unreadable for the same reason, so I only look at my @messages. And I've finally realized that thanking for RTs is a waste of time. I just "favorite" unless they've made a comment or done a personal shout-out. And I wonder how many of those followers of the spam streams are just cyphers from click farms. Robots tweeting at robots.

March 23, 2014 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger Sarah Brentyn said...

Been on Twitter... Ah! Exactly one month today. Weird. I feel so new. I really am, I guess. And since I don't have big numbers on that or my abandoned (I KNOW!) Facebook page, this is so nice to hear. So very nice. You made my day.

Absolutely love the idea the publishers/editors look at how a person behaves and/or presents herself online rather than just numbers. Thank you.

March 23, 2014 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Stacy Green said...

Great post, Anne. Paying it forward is a great way to approach Twitter, because it is very much filled with spam links. I personally love Facebook for chatting, but it is getting hard to be seen because of their new algorithms. I need to start blogging more, but I am always unsure of what readers really want to hear about, because I don't want to be posting about my books all the time. I am seriously thinking of just blogging once a week about what's going on in my life, etc.

March 23, 2014 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Rosi said...

Thanks so much for this very useful post. This is one that should receive wide readership. Have you thought about writing an article on this for one of the writing magazines? I will definitely be posting the link to this on my blog. Thanks for the material!

March 23, 2014 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger Carmen Amato said...

Anne, you are so right about the numbers game. Tons of Twitter followers or Facebook fan does not equate to sales. But both platforms are a great and free start to engagement, if you work it right. Twitter lists help you stay connected with the folks who matter and Facebook fans who are interested will participate in Q&As and contests that bring bring them over to a more meaningful engagement. Both Twitter and Facebook drive most of the visitors to my website and I get alot more feedback on the site through Twitter than through comments. Numbers for the sake of numbers might impress the newbie visitor to a website, but "platform building" time is better spent on producing content and developing realtionships.

March 23, 2014 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger Maria Cisneros Toth Blog said...

Thank you for the insightful and excellent post, Anne! I am an indie children's author. Two years ago, I jumped on the social media band wagon. I sampled a little of this and that, built a website, blogged, twitter, FB (profile & author page), LinkedIn, and You Tube. Avoided Pinterest because I knew I'd get hooked. Two years later, this is what I am enjoying most---You Tube. I am an amateur videographer, but I have a blast creating videos. My channel if family friendly, so my subscribers are all ages from kids to teens, to parents and grandparents, and teachers. What I learned most from all of this. Do what you enjoy and love best. Thanks again, Anne! I appreciate your blogs. :-)

March 23, 2014 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger Stacy McKitrick said...

I'm thinking blog tours are also a waste of time. I've talked to enough readers to know the majority don't read blogs. I've guested on a couple of blogs, but I'm not about to do a tour. Even for the few blogs I've guested on, it was a lot of work! I'd rather be getting another book out there.

When I created my own blog, I tried to keep it personal in sharing what was going on in my life, because when I did want to find my favorite author, I wanted to know what they were like (or find out what other books they wrote). So I just do what someone like me would look for. Hopefully that works for me!

March 23, 2014 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Collette Cameron said...

Wonderful information, as usual, Anne. I really dislike constantly getting spammed on Twitter, when my purpose for being there is to make connections. I've also had people add me to their newsletter email lists without permission.

I'm not interested in huge numbers of followers or likes, because honestly, how can I really connect with 35,000 people on Twitter or 5000 people on FB? That's my personal take, anyway.

March 23, 2014 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Liz--I wouldn't delete the FB personal page, because you can't use your author page to comment on other pages or engage with people, And you don't want to lose those fans. FB is easy and quick and if they post your blogposts automatically--which they didn't do for me today--but it doesn't have to take more than a few minutes a day. Plus people can ignore you if they want.

I'm not a fan of newsletters, because they're old school and overdone. If like Anne S. you have an older readership who aren't on social media, they might be useful. But otherwise you're not just spinning your wheels--you could be turning people off. Get them to subscribe to your blog and put your news there.

Thanks for buying our book! The petition is at Change.org and Anne Rice has been promoting it, although she didn't start it. It was started by a Canadian publisher. But if you Google Anne Rice and petition you'll probably find it. But beware that there are extremist ranters who keep real reviewers in a state of paranoia with a lot of anti-author hate speech. They pretend any attack on a sock puppet troll is the same as an attack on a real reviewer. They are a nasty gang of thugs with nothing to do (since they don't actually read the books they "review") and they will retaliate.

March 23, 2014 at 12:48 PM  
OpenID amsterdamassassin said...

Hi Anne,

Great article, as usual!

And I agree wholeheartedly. My latest count in blog followers is 318, but all of them like and follow my blog because they like the content. Since I write a suspense fiction series set in Amsterdam, most of my articles are about suspense fiction and Amsterdam, with more information on the locations found in the books that I wouldn't be able to put in the narrative because it would drag down the pace. And on my blog I can post my own photographs of the locations, whereas my books don't have photos.

As to the FB likes observation, I tried promoting my author page, and all my likes were trying to selling me followers. Bleh, never again.

While I'm not looking for a publisher or agent, I still think a self-published author should exude a professional attitude on the internet, regardless of the platform. I recently 'unfriended' an author because all he could do was plug his books and badmouth GoodReads (where he claimed he was 'bullied') and I don't want to be associated with such 'authors'.

March 23, 2014 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Vera Soroka said...

I'm not into social media so don't use it any of it. I had thought of tumblr as a lot of YA authors hang out there. Other than that it's just my website for my own name and my pen name. That's enough to maintain for now.

March 23, 2014 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I don't do Twitter as I still value my day job (yup, most of my tweets would be about cutting my employer, a state located in New England, down to size and then some). I'm on Facebook, but FB has always been a double edged sword. I made a status update the other day comparing users of FB to devotees of hardcore BDSM, because what other entity in the cyberworld do you get tons of abuse/aggravation and yet still go back for more.

Anywho, my main platform will always be my blog. While I may be starting all over again from scratch, it's still the easiest way for me to express myself. I post the links to my personal page as well as my author's page that I reactivated. I also decided to covert my author's page to a mini blog of sorts, 'cause I figure that would be the easiest way to keep my name out there.

March 23, 2014 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Natalie Aguirre said...

Great post as always. I do like to see my posts get a fair amount of comments when I can (40 or more is good for me) because I know I'm sharing books that my followers hopefully are interested in. But I'm not obsessing that people are blogging less and commenting less. I just do the best I can and try to find blog friends who I can support and will support back. I wish I was more consistent on Twitter and Facebook, but with working full-time and being busy with my family, I just do what I can. I'm trying to worry about it less so I can carve out a bit of time for my writing. That's what's most important.

March 23, 2014 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger Judith Mercado said...

I hope you don't get tired of hearing that you are a breath of fresh air ... and reason. Thank you once again.

March 23, 2014 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Lexi said...

"In other words, no matter how good your numbers are, if you ... use your blog to badmouth the publishing industry ... it doesn't matter how many likes, hits, clicks or followers you have."

I have to disagree with you here, Anne. What drives Big Publishing and all its minions is money. If they think they can make millions from an author's books, they won't give a damn if that author has blogged disobligingly about the publishing industry. All will be forgiven.

Of course, I can see anyone hoping for a midlist-type deal would need to mind her Ps and Qs. But why would anyone want to join a publisher's midlist these days?

March 23, 2014 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger Greg Strandberg said...

I've been kicked-off Amazon's forum. I've been kicked-off Kboards. I'm not allowed to comment on Copyblogger anymore. I've infuriated several big name authors.

Why do I feel as though I'm winning?

Because of two things: Americans have short memories and they love underdogs. And even more than that, they love it when hypocrisy is pointed out to them.

Those in power? Eh, not so much. Find the chinks in the armor and go for them.

March 23, 2014 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger Melodie Campbell said...

Thank you Anne! You confirm what many of us have had suspicions about. As always, your blog is never a waste of time to read. Rock on.

March 23, 2014 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bridget--At first I started composing a note to the "reviewer" explaining how unethical she looked. (You're right that what goes around comes around.) Then I looked for her "reviews' on Amazon and found one--exactly 20 words of nonsense, so I realized "she" was a sock puppet. Just a new scam.

Actually, some very successful bloggers don't get many comments, so even comment numbers don't show much. Sales numbers. Now those mean something.

March 23, 2014 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger Southpaw said...

I had no idea that kind of stuff was going on. But I guess we all should have seen it coming.

I'm not in all the social media circles. I like blogging and visiting other blogs. I like the connection.

March 23, 2014 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger lynnmosher said...

Anne, such a well-balanced, thoughtful, and helpful article! I'm with Alex: those I interact with are dear to me. And ditto Happy: I didn't know likes could be bought. Holy moly! How is that is even helpful? I want to know people, know that what I have to say makes a difference in their lives. And kindness? My top rule! Thank you for this. Sharing it!

March 23, 2014 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sarah--And you are totally rocking Twitter! It's all about interacting and that's what you're doing--in a very nice way. Thanks for the great comments about our book. That's the kind of book tweets that ARE valuable. If I buy a book, I will hit the "share" button on Amazon that says "I just bought TITLE by Sarah Brentyn" or whatever. Not bragging about ourselves, but sharing what we like.

And yes, you can stop worrying about numbers. And if you want more interesting stuff to Tweet, follow @elizabethscraig. She's fantastic.

March 23, 2014 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 23, 2014 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Stacy--FB is becoming more and more unfriendly to users. I hate it that I can't see my college alum page because they don't post that much and that other friends get buried and suddenly all I can see is three people.

As you probably know, I'm a big fan of slow blogging--once a week or less. And yes, you can blog about your life and your pets or anything that will interest your fans. (As long as you're not whining.) :-)

March 23, 2014 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rosi--I have thought of submitting to Writers Digest, but they have such a long lead time, I think my stuff would be out of date before it got to press. But I might try sometime. Thanks!

March 23, 2014 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Carmen--I agree that social media used RIGHT is the key to building platform. That's how I do it. Twitter is the most powerful tool for me. I've never had good results with contests, but I know they work for a lot of people.

March 23, 2014 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Maria--Sounds as if you're thinking outside of the proverbial box. Building an audience on YouTube makes perfect sense for somebody with video skills trying to reach an young audience. Congrats! Sounds like a lot of fun.

March 23, 2014 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 23, 2014 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Stacy--Blog tours are iffy, but they can be very helpful for somebody who's brand new and doesn't have a platform. But if you're already in the blogosphere, it's much better to plan your own "tour" and guest blog for several authors or websites in your genre when you launch a new book.

I think a blog can be about almost anything. In the early days, people always said you should find a niche, but I think that's mostly for nonfiction writers. Fiction writers can do whatever their fans like.

March 23, 2014 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Collette--Exactly. You can not connect with that many people, so it all becomes meaningless. I think everybody is annoyed by spam, so why do you suppose they keep doing it?

March 23, 2014 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger J.R. Williams said...

I see so many writers caught up in attaining more and more social media "friends" and I've often wondered if this translated into book sales.

At the end of the day, it seems to be all about forming connections with others.

Interesting post!

March 23, 2014 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 23, 2014 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Amsterdam--318 "true fans" are more important than 30000 bloodless statistics bought from a click farm.

You're right that self-publishers have the same obligation to be professional as trad-pubbers. Probably more, since there are still lots of uninformed people out there who love to hate on indies.

It's too bad when people dwell on past injuries instead of going forward. There was indeed a bad problem with a handful of nasty bullies on GoodReads (I got death threats from them myself). But they have been mostly kicked out and Goodreads has cleaned up its act. Anybody who's getting personal attack or obscene "reviews" should report to admin and the offending posts will be removed.

March 23, 2014 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Vera--If you're making sales without using any social media outside of your website/blog, that's great. If you start wanting more traffic, I think Twitter is the most useful place to be. But your writing should come first--I totally agree.

March 23, 2014 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne—Sanity? On the internet? Wowza!

Thank you for coming through again! :-)

March 23, 2014 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

GB--You definitely don't want to mix your author persona with your work persona. You should only tweet what's going to be of interest to your readers. I fear you're right about FB. I feel kind of like a masochist there myself. Like they refused to post a link to this blog today because i posted a link to it on my college alum site last week, and they don't want any links to your own blog. Meanies.

If your FB author page works as a mini-blog, go for it. Depends on where your biggest audience is.

March 23, 2014 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Natalie--It's great to get comments, but comments don't always reflect hits. I've found that our highest stats are on some of the posts with the fewest comments. Not sure why that is. You're right that the thing is to write and let all the other stuff come second.

March 23, 2014 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Judith--Thanks! That makes me feel better when the sock puppets on Amazon have been calling me "a nine-year old teeny-bopper." :-) I do know that's no reflection on me or my books. It's not like they've read them.

March 23, 2014 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lexi--You'll see that paragraph is in the section on "publishing professionals". This is a blog for people who are pursuing all forms of publishing.

I know you've had fabulous success as an indie, but I know indies who hope for a trad career eventually. One I know had huge sales and got an agent, but publishers wouldn't offer any deals because of the author's "volatile, negative online presence."

March 23, 2014 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Greg--There will always be room for the gadfly. If' that persona is working for you, great! Controversy does draw attention.

March 23, 2014 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melodie--I think it's trad-pubbed authors who've been ordered by their marketing departments to go out and get those social media numbers who have been most negatively affected by all these myths. The marketing departments are usually working on 3-yr-old information.

March 23, 2014 at 2:32 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Southpaw--I fear gaming the numbers has been going on for some time, but now it's reached the point of being big business. I think it's going to continue to diminish Facebook's significance. I agree blogging is friendlier and you're also a lot more in control.

March 23, 2014 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lynn--It's all about interacting--and practicing the Golden Rule--not collecting numbers. Interact with 10 people who become friends and spread the word about your work, and it means more than buying 20,000 fake clicks, but somehow these marketers miss the point.

March 23, 2014 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

J. R. Yup. it's all about actual friendships and not purchased "friends". Amazing how hard that is for some businesses to grasp.

I apologize for all these deleted comments. Blogger kept sending the personal comments to the bottom of the thread. I seem to be having a "bad tech" day. :-)

March 23, 2014 at 2:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This comment comes via email from Beth Havey of @BoomerHighway:

"Writing is what I do. So I blog once a week and I write. As I make
friends online, I am satisfied. Your post today is not only totally true, but it's like
a soft blanket, a refreshing cup of java--it takes away some imaginary pressure
that can make people crazy. And there's enough out there to do that without social media adding to it. THANK YOU. Beth Havey"

March 23, 2014 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--:-) I hope your cold is better soon!

March 23, 2014 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Beth--Thanks so much! That's what I'm trying to do: teach people to resist the crazy-making pressure. Theres' so much crazy on the Interwebz that we need to step back and give ourselves reality checks. It can all get overwhelming. You have a fabulous blog!

March 23, 2014 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger Catherine Ryan Hyde said...

I pride myself on the fact that a really good percentage (though I have no idea what the percentage actually *is*) of people who follow my blog, and/or follow me on Twitter, and/or are Facebook friends, have come to be actual friends. I know their names, I know lots of things about them. Many of them I have gone on to meet in real life. We support each other. We are willing to appear human in each others' presence. When I need them, they are there, and vice versa. I'd rather have a hundred of them than tens of thousands of nameless, faceless numbers. I think the only real measure of social media success is the quality of the connections you make. And bear in mind this takes time. I've been doing social media since MySpace was king. (Seriously.) Don't think you're a failure if this doesn't happen overnight, or even in the first couple of years.

March 23, 2014 at 2:51 PM  
OpenID pruebatten said...

Anne, bless your cotton picking little heart! You must have read my mind. I was angsting over the weekend (practicing to be the quintessential author) about numbers and whether I should have an email list etc. Thank the stars you say not to angst and not to bother with a list!
I love my blog because its relaxing and I love FB both in the professional and personal sense, so they will stay with me right into that Home for the Bewildered in my dotage. If I never sell another book, I more than hope I take away the friends I have made in the blogosphere because they are such kindred spirits. It's truly given my life a dimension I never envisaged in my 60's!
On the point of being respected and admired, I met a fab author, SJA Turney (Roman and medieval fiction) some years ago. A supremely successful indie, he is humble, hilarious and handles the social media in exactly the way you advocate, to the point where his agent complimented him on the brilliant way he does it. 'How do you do it'? she asked. He answered: 'By being me...'
Thanks once again for settling me back to my quiet, ordinary self. Cheers and best!

March 23, 2014 at 2:52 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Anne, I had no idea this was happening. Well, in such a BIG way. When do these people ever have time to write? What fun can all this silliness be? I do FB and a JMS Books Author and Reader page where mostly I shout hurray when other writers reveal covers and post about a new release. Those are big events. Writers know that and if that's paying it forward, I'm doing it. Great post as usual.

March 23, 2014 at 2:56 PM  
Blogger Reid Kemper said...

I've read somewhere that publishers still buy email lists for about $75 for a thousand contacts in their target audience and receive about a two-percent response rate. Since many companies sell these contacts, maybe that's why I get so much spam. Anyway, I don't know why someone would act inappropriate online. It doesn't make sense. I think building a platform is more important for self-publishers, though. But you're right that the social media numbers don't matter as much for those wanting to go through a publisher.

March 23, 2014 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger Beth Adams said...

This is excellent information, thank you! I'm just about to start the querying process, and there's so much information about all of the social media things I "should" be doing. It's overwhelming. All of the advice about getting lots of numbers just feels wrong to me, and some people really do seem to try too hard. I've unfollowed several Twitter accounts for spamming constantly about their books.

March 23, 2014 at 3:03 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Catherine--There's a reason I used you as an example. I think you're doing social media exactly right, and you're certainly my role model for an online presence. That's because your Facebook "friends" are actually friends.

As other people keep saying, the real secret is "Pay it Forward" --and since you literally wrote the book on that, I suggest people look at your FB page and blog to see how to do it right.

March 23, 2014 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Prue--Do listen to your wise friend--"be you" and let all the rest go. I love your blog, because it's full of gorgeous photography of a part of the world I'll probably never see. And I get a window into your life and world that's fresh, friendly and always interesting. I dont' always comment, but I love dropping by for a look.

March 23, 2014 at 3:27 PM  
Blogger Patricia said...

I cannot tell you how much this post means to me. I let out a HUGE sigh of relief that I don't have to be daily freaking out about the fact I don't have high numbers and am not into Pinterest and Google+, etc. This was an extremely informative post. THANK YOU.

March 23, 2014 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

Anne, I'm going to sound completely clueless here, but I had no idea you could pay people to "friend" you or like a Facebook page. I'd heard about people paying for reviews, though. And now I no longer loo at reviews the same way.

Real connections are definitely what it's all about. Jamie Ford, best-selling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, had a huge impact on me and my son. I'll be blogging about it, since I was so impressed. In a nutshell, we connected with him about my son's love of his book. Mr. Ford wrote us back and continued a conversation. He's won two fans for life--me and my 17 year old son.

March 23, 2014 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 23, 2014 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--Yeah--lots of writers are wasting a whole lot of time.

Being with a small press that has a mutually supportive community is a great way to network. It's the strength of your friendships, not the number that matters most.

March 23, 2014 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Richard Pieters said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 23, 2014 at 3:32 PM  
OpenID zenandtheartoftightropewalking said...

I read your post with a growing sense of relief that so many of the things I'd been told I ought to do (but wasn't doing) were futile.
Thank you.

March 23, 2014 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 23, 2014 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Reid--I'm sure people are still buying email lists. And I guess a 2% response is pretty good. I'm surprised it's that much.

A lot of people drink/toke and post, unfortunately. Or post when they're tired and angry. Or Blogger keeps putting their "reply" posts at the bottom of the thread even though they look fine in the preview. :-) Grrr.

Self-publishers do need platforms. And most publishers require authors have some kind of platform before they sign them.

But both kinds of writers need to make real connections, not just collect bloodless numbers. You can buy 10 million clicks from Sri Lanka, but they're not going to sell any books for you, no matter how you publish.

March 23, 2014 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Beth--A few years ago agents made lots of noise about wanting a big platform, but I think the wise ones realize it's more important to have a few engaged readers than a ton of numbers. And that spamming Twitter does nothing for anybody.

March 23, 2014 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Your response is below. I cannot get Blogger to put the replies where they belong today. Grr.

March 23, 2014 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Patricia--Oh, good. Now go relax. Write a new story or something. :-)

March 23, 2014 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Catherine Ryan Hyde said...

And this thing about email lists... I loved Passive Guy's line about 1996. I still remember the virtual look we gave each other when someone asked us the size of our email list for How to be a Writer. I wanted to say, "I've got something much better than an email list. I have a bunch of readers who will email back and forth with me and trust me not to spam them against their will." Then again, having something better than an email list is not hard. Back in the 90s when the Pay It Forward Foundation had a newsletter (totally voluntary sign-up) the bounce rate was easily 15% or higher. Now it's a new millennium. And the people who are still stuck in the old ways are so unfortunately conspicuous.

March 23, 2014 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--What a great example of REAL connection! Two fans for life vs. 200000 momentary clicks bought from a "like" farm, which is better? Hmmmm.

March 23, 2014 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Julianne Snow said...

I've often wondered why authors feel the spamming of their purchase links works in the grand scheme of things... I find myself somewhat blind to them now. Great post with great advice: Thank you :)

March 23, 2014 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Zen--Exercises in futility don't appeal to me, either. Relax. :-)

March 23, 2014 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julianne--I think we're all learning to tune those out. And yet I keep hearing from authors begging me to tweet their books for them. No. I'm not going to tweet book spam, whether it's mine or somebody else's. Thanks!

March 23, 2014 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Thank you, Anne. Like others have said...a sigh of relief. I don't do all of the online things. I just don't want to. Following and commenting on your blog is my favorite online activity!

March 23, 2014 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger Lexa Cain said...

I loved reading your post! As always it was fun, well-written and chock full of great info. I'm especially happy to read that newsletters aren't necessary -- they've always seemed overly businesslike to me -- and personal emails work better. Thanks! :)

March 23, 2014 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

What superb news. I'm far more interested in my WIP (or even my WIPs from years past) than in FB & Twitter. Anne, you are a research goddess!

March 23, 2014 at 4:33 PM  
Blogger Phyllis Humphrey said...

Anne: I remember your post about platform last year, which is why I don't waste a lot of time on social media. I might give it five minutes twice a week. Otherwise I'm writing.

March 23, 2014 at 4:33 PM  
Blogger Aurelia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 23, 2014 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Thanks for another amazing post, Anne. I have an endearing love for the blog of it all and want to spend more time visiting and commenting on blogs with substance and/or fun. they are not mutually exclusive.

I have yet to attempt to build a platform on Twitter and my blog is more introspective than educational.

The old cliche is coming on. "Build it and they shall come."

And when the time is right, we build :)

March 23, 2014 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Here's a post from Richard Pieters that got deleted by mistake. Blogger is being very squirrely today:

Thank you, Anne, for this post. You've sorted out many things I've been frustrated by and shown me where I should concentrate. I find Facebook a terrific place for interaction with other writers. In fact, I just found your blog because of a writer friend's link to this post. I've been on Twitter for a couple of years and have only tweeted maybe twice. I realize I need to get on there and engage, and I value your takes on what we should and should NOT do there and on our blogs. I have yet to stay dedicated to my blog, because I'd felt it needed to be about writing, and so so many blogs about writing seem to be other writers all covering the same territory. I've felt that my personal takes on writing as I relate it to other things in my life were more what I want to write. I have yet to rework the blog to have an actual landing page. As of now, it's only a blog, and I've let months go by without posting. I will say that the blogs I read are either those of people in the writing world with whom I've engaged on FB in a more personal way. Why? because I care about them because of mutual engagement. On the other hand, when an author has refused a friend request and referred me to their author page only, where all I see is self-promotion, I'm turned off. I know I need to create an author page and create pages on the blog, since I do have a novel that will be published around the end of the year. But I'm glad to hear I shouldn't worry about those numbers. For me, what makes me want to read an "unknown" or self-pubbed author's work is that they've engaged with me and I feel a person connection. This post affirms that, and seeing you reply to nearly every comment shows, big time, how powerful personal engagement is. I found nearly as much helpful guidance from your replies as in the post itself. Thank you for helping me define my goals.

Richard F Pieters

March 23, 2014 at 5:25 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--We don't always get to do what we want :-) But we don't have to do it frantically. A blogpost once a month and commenting on other blogs, plus your FB presence is probably fine for now.

March 23, 2014 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lexa--Thanks for that! Especially the "well written" part. Yes, read Catherine Ryan Hyde's comment on newsletters above. They're simply overdone.

March 23, 2014 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--You have a cool, unique blog and you comment on other blogs and have FB presence. That should be enough for most agents these days.

March 23, 2014 at 5:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Phyllis--You seem to be doing great! I see you around blogs a lot, and you have your own, plus a FB presence. Looks good to me.

March 23, 2014 at 5:31 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Fois--I think you have the best kind of author blog. You have no reason to "educate" unless you're a nonfiction writer. You have a wonderful, engaged readership. Keep on keeping on. You're doing just fine.

March 23, 2014 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Yet another commenter who was thwarted by Blogger today: Sorry about that everybody. I'm having problems myself.

"I'm currently unpublished (working on a first draft - got a way to go yet!) and I shamefully did put too much stock in numbers for a while. I never purchased clicks or likes, or anything of that sort. In fact, my numbers are pretty low lol and that's what did freak me out for quite some time, worrying that no one was interested in what I was posting.

And then it dawned on me - if no one's interested in what I'm posting, then that's the problem right there! So I use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and my blog to keep in touch with other writer friends, share articles I think are interesting, and to chat about what's going on with me and my writing life. Just me being me, really :) Taking the focus off worrying about "being popular" and just being yourself instead. Who knew the advice you get in first school is just what a lot of writer's (myself included) need now.

I never understood why so many sites recommend writers spam newsfeeds and twitter feeds, etc. I never did that because if anyone did it to me I would click "unfollow" post haste! "


March 23, 2014 at 5:34 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Richard--Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It's hard to know what to do when we hear so much conflicting information and see other writers doing so much promotional spam.

What we need to do is follow our instincts and not do anything that we wouldn't want done to us.

FB is a great place to connect with other writers. I agree. That's the main thing I do when I'm there.

After you launch your book, you will probably want to create an "author page" on FB, and probably one on Google Plus, because that gets you on Google's radar, but those are more like an entry in the yellow pages. People can find you there, but you don't have to use it to promote. Good luck with the launch!

March 23, 2014 at 5:40 PM  
Blogger AD Starrling said...

Insightful post as always. Confirms what I've been thinking over the last twelve months re:social media. Also loved Kristine Rusch's recent Discoverability post on the topic.

What I would tell anyone who ask me for advice on this in future:
1. Social media should be a fun place for you to engage with other authors and readers. It's a place to share and receive information.
2. It's not about accumulating the largest number of followers.
3. It's not about spamming buy links.
4. A blog is a very useful way to get your "voice" out there. (Yes, I really DO need to start one, dammit!).

March 23, 2014 at 5:40 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Aurelia--For somebody working on a first draft you are doing it right! Make friends, and network with other writers. Later you can help each other get to the next stage of your careers.

Yes, I think maybe everything we need to know about social media we learned in kindergarten!

March 23, 2014 at 5:42 PM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

I don't "obsess" about much, but I certainly do wonder what it takes. That is, over and above writing what people I trust (not family, not friends) tell me are solidly written mystery-thrillers. There they are, the fruits of my labors, but how to get the word out remains a mystery. Provided it doesn't involve the sort of loony gerbil exercise-wheel routines you rightly reject here, I'm ready to go to work. But after having paid more than one putative media guru, and gotten nothing in return, I still haven't a clue.

March 23, 2014 at 5:52 PM  
OpenID rightinkonthewall said...

Quality over quantity is the key - both in the content you generate and the 'followers' & 'likers' you gather. There's no point having hundreds of followers on Twitter or likes on your Facebook without any value behind them. I love social media, I've found so many wonderful, talented people. The best are found through genuine interaction, not the numbers game. Thanks for another wonderful post. Sara

March 23, 2014 at 6:11 PM  
Blogger Liz Blocker said...

SO COMFORTING. Thank you, as always, for another incredibly helpful post. This is how I've been approaching social media...but I was terrified I was getting it wrong. PHEW.

March 23, 2014 at 6:11 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Thanks for the kind mention, Anne!

And thanks so much for this important message to writers. Social media should be a place to connect and provide resources, support, and encouragement. When we start worrying over metrics and popularity and numbers, we're not just losing sight of what we need to be focused on (our writing and helpful support of others), we're also stressing ourselves out!

March 23, 2014 at 6:16 PM  
Blogger Terri Rochenski said...


I wish I had read this post 2 years ago when as an unpublished author I scrambled to build that platform!!! Now that I have a few pubs under my belt - and having worked with 3 different indie co's - I've realized it's more important to keep writing, be consistent with my blog, but lighten up on the hops, twitter numbers, and fb page likes.
A great post - a great reminder of what's important. Building relationships. Making friends, and hopefully gaining faithful followers while doing so.

Terri @ Scribbler's Sojourn

March 23, 2014 at 6:50 PM  
OpenID fornow said...

Anne - another great post, chock full of tips.

I realized the numbers game was false early on when I got some social media recommends - big spikes in numbers, followed by nada. No new subscribers, very few clicked links to read more, etc.

I've also gotten a LinkedIn invite to share my contacts for a review after they requested a follow. Had not occurred to me it may not have been a real person. Clearly not a professional choice to make.

On the newsletter/email list subject, about half of my subscribers are on email. When I moved to a hosted blog I migrated my feedburner and WP subscribers into a newsletter service. Now new blog posts are fed out by the newsletter service rather than WP. This is so I can manage the look and presentation of the posts, get a better sense of readership, and manage the subscriber list. The service is free up to about 2,000 subscribers. Email may be old but a lot of people prefer it. If the point is connecting, you want to offer readers that option.

I also recently took up Twitter for a similar reason. Some people prefer to get updates there, so the new posts get fed to Twitter. I then began interacting a bit and retweeting some. But you do have to be careful who you follow. The promotion, retweets and other noise...

March 23, 2014 at 7:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

KKR has some great advice in her Discoverability series. And you've got it right: if it's not fun, you're not doing it right, so try something else.

And excellent point about blogging and "voice". A blog helps you find it. Seriously. Try it. You'll like it. :-)

March 23, 2014 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barry--I think the most important thing is to network with other writers in your genre and find where their readers are. Then get to know them. As people, not "target markets". I'm sorry you paid a marketer and got little in return. You're not alone The trouble is, they're trying to sell books as if they were Sham Wow's or Perfect Bacon Bowls, and it doesn't work. Readers are smart. And they want connection.

March 23, 2014 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sara--You're right. It's all about connections, not broadcasting. Hang around with people you like and you'll find readers. Treat them like prey and you'll end up like that Trudeau guy who's going to jail for 10 years for lying in his diet book. Late night TV infomercials should not be our role models.

March 23, 2014 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Liz--I think if we follow our instincts instead of people who are trying to prey on people (including us), we'll do fine.

March 23, 2014 at 7:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Elizabeth--So great to see you here! I learned most of what I know about Twitter from following you. You do it right. I'll repeat it: anybody who wants to know how to do social media right, FOLLOW @ELIZABETHSCRAIG!

March 23, 2014 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

ForNow--So you got hit up by those scammers, too? They probably hit everybody who identified as a writer on LinkedIn.

I use MailChimp for my blog subscription, too. I think sending out your blog via email is fabulous. I just don't think you should pile a newsletter on top of that. It's overkill and annoying.

I use Twitter to post updates to the blog and lots and lots of great links. Whenever I read an article that I think will be of interest to my Tweeps, I tweet it. But I don't Tweet my books unless I have news about them.

March 23, 2014 at 7:55 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Terri--I wish I'd had something like this 2 years ago too. I got all paranoid because I wasn't sending out daily newsletters and going on endless blog tours and spamming people 24/7. But I just couldn't do it and felt like a slacker. Turns out I was doing it right. Thank goodness for people like Elizabeth and Catherine, who told me how to do it right.

March 23, 2014 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Richard Pieters said...

Thank you, and thanks for catching this, reposting, and replying. So helpful.

March 23, 2014 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Thanks so much :)

March 23, 2014 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger Dean K Miller said...

I've always worked from the view point of community and support first. I know my work won't reach thousands (at least not right away,) but as you state, one true followers (friend) is worth countless fakes/numbers. I'm still too new to really predict much else with my first book, but I've done most of my ground work with helping others, supporting new and more accomplished authors. It seems to be helping a bit, but I'm in it for the long term. Slowly moving forward is fine with me. Thanks for this great post.

March 23, 2014 at 10:36 PM  
Blogger Roland D. Yeomans said...

I sometimes watch my Twitter feed when I am exhausted and am astonished at how many BUY ME!'s I see tumble like an avalanche one after another. Not one interaction between 2 human beings.

My blog is my cyber-home, and I try to have my guests feel welcome and leave entertained or informed or both.

I've found Google+ not to be user friendly or at least friendly to this user!

It is tempting to think that there is some magic alchemy or formula that if you just follow exactly, high sales will follow. There may be. I doubt it.

I think the journey is more important than our destination. We should just appreciate the lovely souls we meet in our shared writing journey, pick up a fellow comrade when they stumble, and sow as many smiles and laughs as we can.

If the sales never come, at least we will have made good friends and shared laughter. How cool is that?

March 23, 2014 at 10:47 PM  
Blogger Anna Soliveres said...

Anne, for a fiction writer who is pursuing self-publishing and doing everything I can to do it right, your thoughts have been invaluable. I feel pushed and pulled in many ways by all the information and "advice" I read--most of which has come from marketers and various marketing books. I'm a big fan of Social Media. I know how powerful the platforms are as tools to connecting us with our readers. But there is undoubtedly this fascination to "collect" likes and followers, that at the end of the day only dishearten us when we realize they don't engage beyond that initial like or follow. I like the focus on organic and genuine connections that have true meaning beyond another tally on a counter. Thanks for the reassuring post.

March 23, 2014 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger Veronica Sicoe said...

What an awesome post.
I knew all this, of course, but man it feels good to have someone TELL ME SO once again, and so eloquently.
Thanks, Anne!

March 24, 2014 at 1:15 AM  
Blogger P.M. Steffen said...

Another great Anne R. Allen blog post that I will be sending to my writing group members. Before I published in 2012, I started a fan page and put up a web page (with a newsletter). I'm glad I did because my fans DO leave wonderful notes to me. I love being able to interact with them, although I post infrequently and am pretty sure my posts are going out to a small fraction. I'm bad about updating my webpage and I've only written one blog posting. Mostly I'm writing so I can get that second book published. Which is what my fans are most interested in, anyway. Thank you for articulating what I've been suspecting for a long time.
P.M. Steffen

March 24, 2014 at 3:24 AM  
Blogger Pip Connor said...

Hey Anne

Thank you for this weeks post, as ever it was invaluable and just at the right time too.

Stay cool and thank you.

Pip x

March 24, 2014 at 3:34 AM  
OpenID janesfolly said...

Thank you! I'm still getting a handle on what a platform is, and this is reassuring.

March 24, 2014 at 4:53 AM  
OpenID traylantha said...

Echoing the great post comments already made.

One tidbit I'd like to add is yet another reason why not to purchase likes or followers: the accounts they add to you are just as likely to be hacked as they are fake. My Twitter account got hacked a few months ago and all they did was add people in my "followed" page. One keylogger scrub and password change later, I was back to normal.

So be nice to your fellows on the social tracks, don't buy. Generate with content!

March 24, 2014 at 5:38 AM  
Blogger Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Your post made me feel really good. I feel like I have a circle of friends and am getting more comfortable with using my blog in a way I enjoy and not worrying whether or not it helps my sales. Thanks for sharing all this.

March 24, 2014 at 6:25 AM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

Wonderful post and a godsend. My web designer keeps pushing the mailing list, but I just cannot bring myself to do campaigns as well as blog, social media, read and comment on other's blogs and actually WRITE! Hurrah! You've lifted a big weight off my shoulders.

I have a theory I am trying out. I am pre-published, but trying to connect with potential readers by offering articles and blogs about the novel's subject. Not sure if it will generate sales, but it makes sense to me and it's fun! I write about stuff that interests me and I figure if they like the blog, they will like the novels and vice versa.

March 24, 2014 at 6:43 AM  
OpenID daytonward said...

"But guess what is the #1 thing an agent, editor or reviewer wants to find out when they Google you?

Whether you're a pain in the butt.


I love this post for this bit alone.

March 24, 2014 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dean--You've got it right. "Community" is the key word. That's what social media is supposed to be about. It's social! Who knew? LOL Getting to know people in social media as you work on getting several solid books together that you can launch in quick succession is the best way to launch a career.

March 24, 2014 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger The Accidental Novelist said...

Fantastic post! I am going to point writers in this direction for sure.

March 24, 2014 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Roland--In a thread of comments about his post on a writing forum, somebody's take-away was that I'm "too stupid" to use hashtags and Tweetdeck to filter out spam. As if it's okay to spam because it's up to other people to delete you. That's the attitude of entitlement, mindlessness and lack of empathy that's causing the problems.

Google Plus is clunky and so slow to load I want to scream. I use it mostly to post my profile and use the ID because it's the one Blogger blogs like best. Interacting happens in groups, not on your page, and it takes time to find the right ones.

I love your attitude "we should appreciate the lovely souls me meet in our shared writing journey, pick up a fellow comrade when they stumble and sow as many smiles and laughs as we can."

And no, there is NO formula for creating a bestseller. Great books languish in remainder bins and 50 Shades is the bestselling book ever. Snooki's book got 7 figures and all the promos in the world, and didn't sell. Hugh Howey used his blog and FB and self published his way to fame and fortune. Nobody can predict anything. So enjoy the ride!

March 24, 2014 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

PM--You're right that what your fans want most is another book! If your blog is inside a webpage, you don't have to be as consistent with posting, but still it's good if you can post regularly. Make an appointment with yourself to post once a month and it will be easier than that constant "I should update my blog" hanging over your head. A blog is better than a newsletter IMO because--just as you say--it's interactive.

March 24, 2014 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anna--The problem with those marketing books is many of them are aimed at nonfiction writers, not novelists or memoirists. As you say, you should be working on making connections, not racking up numbers.

March 24, 2014 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Veronica--Yeah, what I'm saying is really just common sense, but when we hear so much contrary talk it's hard to trust our own instincts.

March 24, 2014 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Pip--I'm glad it's timely. So much of what people tell you is just noise. :-)

March 24, 2014 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jane--For some good solid info on platform, Google "Jane Friedman" and "Platform". She's the former editor of Writers Digest books and has a great series on the subject.

March 24, 2014 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tray--GREAT TIP!! Fake Tweeps can be hacked! I didn't know that. I'm not sure what a keylogger scrub is. I guess I'd better find out. Thanks!!

March 24, 2014 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Susan--Build networks and the sales will come. At least they're more likely to come than if you bought fake numbers. Nobody can guarantee sales. Except maybe BookBub.

March 24, 2014 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--Newsletters are like a religion for marketers and web designers, (They take a lot of time, so it's a good source of income if you hire them to do them for you.) But throwing money at something people don't read doesn't sell books.

I love your plan: that's where the market is--in those niches. Jane Friedman said today there's no "mainstream" any more. You don't want to stand out in a crowd, you want to get out of the crowd. That sounds like just what you're doing.

March 24, 2014 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dayton--Thanks! I had fun with that. :-)

March 24, 2014 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Accidental--Thanks! Do spread the word.

March 24, 2014 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

Thanks for your reply. I regularly leave comments on three "Top 100 Blogs" (similar to yours), and I've had three guest postings published on these sites. I'm told my content and graphics are solid, etc., but so far no luck. Perhaps it's just a question of doing more of the same. Someone has written (probably a behavioral psychologist) that potential readers need to see a writer's name a minimum of seven times before they are likely to be curious enough to seek out more info.
In any case, thank you for writing clearly and usefully on this topic.

March 24, 2014 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Ray Stone said...

A great article. Yes, I went the way of thousands of others but the one thing I have done correctly has been to create a true FB author page. I have just 120 odd followers, Google + 108, Twitter 240 odd and 500+ on LinkedIn. I did keep banging my books on Twitter etc but you are absolutely right. I have stopped doing that and just put the books up a couple of times a week. Most of my posts on each media are personal with slants towards writing and I always retweet at least 20 a day. It doesn't take long. I also have my own web site which I am going to spend a lot more time on instead of crunching numbers. I am on my third novel now and am keeping fingers crossed. Thanks for the article.

March 24, 2014 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ray--Sounds like you've been listening to the marketers. I'm not sure of the value of a FB author page, since you can't interact from it the way you can with a personal page. I think we probably need both to use FB effectively. LinkedIn is scary for me, because they try to trick you into letting them into your email box. They got in once and now they're constantly trying to get me to "connect" with ex-boyfriends and dead people because they have my contacts list from about 5 years ago cached. Very creepy. I think most of those places: LinkedIn, Google Plus, FB "like" page are like Yellow Pages ads. Good to have it there if people are looking for you, but very hard to network from. So yeah, write novel #3, interact on blogs and be nice to the friends you have. And finger crossing is probably just as helpful as anything else. :-)

March 24, 2014 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Marcia said...

Conflicting information dominates blog posts and social media. I know you do your homework by researching and testing your ideas. You inspire trust. I don't put stock in the numbers of Facebook friends or Twitter followers or Google+ circles, etc. I do spend a bit of time retweeting for fellow authors and others who are trying to engage with people. Like you, when I buy a book on Amazon, i use their feature to post that purchase on Facebook and Twitter. I do comment on a few blogs and need to increase the number. Promoting others is far more enjoyable for me than trying to come up with something interesting to talk about on social media.
I do wish I had more than 38 blog followers after several years of blogging. However, I've only begun blogging for the audience I wish to cull in the past year. It took time to realize what I was meant to write and what audience to attract. So, the blog subscriber number is the only one that concerns me.
I have a newsletter but haven't been consistent with it as it just never felt like the right way to connect with readers. I belong to a large writer's group and the authors who are selling the most books are all in favor of newsletters to create a mailing list. Most have been successful at it and have created a group of fans who help promote their books. Even so, I'm planning to give up my newsletter. I need to redesign my blog again with the intent of making it even more reader friendly in advance of publishing my debut novel this summer. The social media where I can engage with readers best is Goodreads and Pinterest. The numbers in those places mean real people/readers are watching what you do. My Pinterest pins usually relate to what I'm writing about on my blog and in my book. On Goodreads, I post reviews of books I've read and have people following them to see what I like. In my groups, I can talk with other readers about books we've both read. Those numbers turn into real connections, for me.
After reading this post, I feel much better about giving up my newsletter and the fact I am not alone in hating all the self-promotion on Twitter.Thank you, Anne.

March 24, 2014 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Marcia--It sounds like you are doing it right with Pinterest and Goodreads. Because you've got to know people on Goodreads as a READER and not an author with a book to sell, you'll have much more credibility there, and you may find GR is your best sales tool. A lot of women are on Pinterest, so if you write romance/women's fic/chick lit, that's probably a fabulous place to make connections. It would probably be tougher to sell gritty thrillers there. But I'm not on Pinterest, so I may be wrong on that. The thing is to find your niche--whatever it is, and make friends there.

March 24, 2014 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger CG said...

I'm a self-published author, but I still think most of this applies to me as well. I know plenty of self-published authors who've spent a lot of time and effort building up social media followings of thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of people, without ever having significant sales. I do have a FaceBook page, but it's filled with genuine fans--and that's delightful because it makes "marketing" tons of fun. I post links to "competitors" and links related to science and mythology that appears in my books--and my fans do the same. One of my highest liked posts was on radioactive decay! It makes it easy to be genuine if you're posting to people who like what you like.

The only thing I'd disagree with is the newsletter advice. Some people don't like Facebook--and when you get over 50 people you have to notify of a new release, a newsletter list is very helpful. Also, my fans liked that I embedded the cover of the book in the release announcement because it let them know they were "in the right place" and because "it was pretty".

March 24, 2014 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger D.T. Krippene said...

Excellent post, Anne, thanks. I try to tell fellow writers who gnash teeth on the subject to keep it simple. If it isn't fun, what they're posting out there isn't either. I'll add this post to my "what you need to know" collection of social media tips I give to newbies when requested.

March 24, 2014 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CG--This post applies equally to self-publishers. Note I put "reviewer" in my list of publishing professionals. A reviewer is going to Google you too, and may choose not to review an obvious pain in the butt. :-)

I agree counting on Facebook isn't wise. Not enough people can see your feed anymore and they're constantly shrinking your audience so they can get you to pay.

But if you're in a lot of FB communities--and it sounds as if you are--then FB can be great for networking.

If you have a blog with a subscription service, you can make your book announcements on your blog, and then subscribers will get the post in their inbox--usually with the graphics, unless they subscribe to a plain-text delivery. PLUS everybody who comes by the blog sees the announcement too.

That's why a blog with a subscription service like MailChimp is more up to date than a newsletter. But if you don't have a subscription service for your blog, then a newsletter is good for launch announcements.

March 24, 2014 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

DT--I like your thinking: Keep it simple and if it isn't fun, don't do it. Thanks for spreading the word!

March 24, 2014 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Roni Loren said...

I agree that numbers and "fake" bloating of those numbers definitely don't matter. I will disagree on the newsletter thing though. Newsletters are coming back into vogue in a lot of ways because those email addresses are people who have OPTED IN to get your information. FB is moving to only showing your updates to 1% of your followers unless you pay. So a FB following is becoming useless. I use Twitter for connecting and chatting but many, many readers are not on Twitter. And blogs, though I love them, are struggling in many ways since Feedburner and such have gone by the wayside. Not nearly as many people are going through blog rolls and feeds anymore. Newsletters are the only direct connection that is yours and that no social media platform can change the rules on (like FB does all the time.)

The key is that you don't overstay your welcome and you only send to people who have voluntarily signed up to receive these updates from you. Don't add people without permission. I send 4-6 newsletters a year, and I think max should be 1/month. And you always offer something of value in your newsletter--contests, exclusive content, freebies. Make it worth it to be a subscriber. I just did a boxed set that hit the NYT and USA Today lists (yay!) and a huge part of our strategy was newsletters and sending them in a planned, thoughtful way. And I can see the open rate and click throughs on my newsletters and it's very high because it's an audience who wanted this information.

And time and again when I go to conferences, the big time authors focus on how important having a e-mailing list is because it goes with you no matter how tech changes. And I love the idea of sending personalized emails to your friends but that's unrealistic when you hit a certain point in your career. I'd love to send a personal note to all of my readers, but I'd never get any books written, lol.

So if people want to connect with me in real time, they can find me on Twitter and FB. If they're blog savvy, they can sign up for my feed. But if they just like my books and want to know when new ones are out, then the newsletter is a low commitment way to stay in the know and get some fun stuff as well.

That's my two--or twenty-- cents. ;)

March 24, 2014 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger Lexi said...

Though we're all only human, I find it hard to believe publishers would be unprofessional enough to turn down the certainty of huge profits because they'd been annoyed by online criticism - particularly now, when they have lost ground to self-publishers and face an uncertain future. Trad pub needs all the bestsellers it can muster.

March 24, 2014 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

That's very odd. I posts links to my blog at least three times a week with no CAPTCHAS to battle through.

March 24, 2014 at 3:03 PM  
Blogger Sarah Allen said...

Roni has some interesting comments. I've been going back and forth for over a year on the whole newsletter thing. I still haven't made up my mind. But these are some great ideas, and I think it comes down to making genuine connections regardless of the platform and the numbers.

March 24, 2014 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Roni--Congrats on all your success! I think when you write in a genre that people may want to keep a little private, like erotica, a newsletter is probably still a great idea.

And things change and evolve as your career grows, as you've written about yourself very eloquently. I think I need to do a post on it myself on how your social media needs change as your career evolves. This blog is mainly for newer writers, not bestselling trad pubbed authors like you.

But if you haven't tried Mail Chimp to replace Feedburner, you may find it saves a lot of work. It sends your blog into subscribers inboxes every time you post, so your blog is LIKE a newsletter, but it's more, because people who stop by see the content too. Plus it's interactive and a newsletter is not. I love MailChimp. Only problem is you have to pay after you get 2000 subscribers to your blog. We're not quite there yet, but it's building.

But I'm honored you stopped by. Congrats on all your success!

March 24, 2014 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sarah--If you're a bestselling erotica author like Roni, the newsletter rather than the subscription blog may work better, but I don't think a new author should waste time and money on a newsletter. You take a chance of alienating your potential readers before you have any. Let people get to know you though your blog. They can subscribe to it just like a newsletter, but they can comment, so it's interactive, which a newsletter is not. As you say, it's about connections, not broadcasting.

March 24, 2014 at 4:18 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lexi--Huge profits are never certain, and volatile bestsellers do get rejected. Now more than 3 years ago. Publishing changes fast these days. I'm not going to name names, but I know of specific instances. Plus Ruth Harris, a former Big 5 editor says personality issues are one of the number one reasons authors get rejected http://annerallen.blogspot.com/2012/06/11-reasons-writers-get-rejectedand-why.html

March 24, 2014 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Awesome reminders! I've always approached social media as one way to start a conversation or engage with potential readers...ONLY one way among many. ;) For me, it's about the substance more than the numbers. Plus, it's fun!

March 24, 2014 at 5:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Nicole--Fun! So true. If social media isn't fun, it's not going to work.

March 24, 2014 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G.B. I'm on FB's bad-person list. Some troll reported me for "abuse" just to be evil. So now I have to fight to post all the time.

March 24, 2014 at 8:01 PM  
Blogger John Wiswell said...

Wow! That reviewer asking to trade a review for contact information is even skeevier than one asking for money. I'd never spend the time replying to them if I were in my right mind.

March 24, 2014 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

John--"Skeevy" What a great word. I had to look it up. It comes from Italian "schifo", meaning "disgusting". I actually thought of replying when I thought she was some moronic newbie--just to tell her she was destroying her reputation forever--but I emailed Pam and she clued me in Then I saw "she" had only written one "review": 20 words of illiterate nonsense.

March 24, 2014 at 9:16 PM  
OpenID daytonward said...

I've always said something similar, but you phrase it more delicately and professionally than I do. :D

March 25, 2014 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger S B James said...

I've only started out my blog two weeks ago. I'd say three out of the ten followers I have are people whose blogs were about "How to use your blog to make money" and the rest were genuine fellow writers who were interested in what I had to say.
I don't have that many followers on Twitter either, but the more often I post real tweets with content that is worthwhile, or retweets with the same caliber of content, I get another follower or two. It's a slow build, if you want true success.
However, you, Anne, can be sure that I'm a REAL fan, who always looks forward to your blog posts and appreciates all of your hard work! :-)

March 25, 2014 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

SB--When I started this blog, I had to bribe my critique group members to follow, otherwise I would have had an empty widget. And in the first year I probably averaged about 10 hits per post. Some weeks I didn't get any. It takes a long, long time. This blog didn't take off until I got a guest gig on Nathan Bransford's blog. So I repeat that the best way to promote your own blog is to comment on other people's blogs.

Thanks so much for being a fan!! That's a lovely morning-brightener.

March 25, 2014 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Catie Rhodes said...

Thanks for this post, Anne. I've known for a while the Facebook "likes" and soliciting newsletter signups was not the way to go. But it's good to hear an expert like yourself say it.

As it was explained to me, Facebook "likes" for your author page are useless unless the people who "like" your page genuinely want to see your content and will respond to sales, etc. Otherwise, the "likes" are empty--not unlike empty calories. ;-)

I am still not sure if a newsletter is worth the time and energy or not. Soliciting or "buying" newsletter subscriptions is definitely a lost cause.

My experience is I've participated in a promos featuring giveaways that sold entries. By selling entries, I mean a reader might "earn" an giveaway entry by signing up for my newsletter. Most of the people who signed up during those times have since unsubscribed because they were uninterested in me and/or what I write. Or maybe they were uninterested in anything that wasn't free. The more I see, the less I'm willing to discount that possibility.

Currently, I offer new newsletter subscribers a free 14-page short story starring my series heroine as a sign-up reward. I hope people who subscribe to get the free short are at least willing to give my storytelling a day in court.

Despite all that hopeful sounding stuff, I will share that my open rate for the newsletter averages around 30%-40%. My critique partner pointed out that Gmail's new folders setup puts my newsletter in her promo folder. She speculated a lot of my subscribers aren't even seeing my newsletters. That's very possible...and disappointing.

Of the newsletters opened, there is a less than 10% click rate. IMHO, that's still not great and suggests a definite lack of interest in the content. My critique partner has offered her newsletter subscribers exclusive discounts but has been disappointed with the response. My newsletters contain behind-the-scenes stuff about my fiction--how it came to be, the real places I used as inspiration for settings, stuff like that. For the time being, I intend to keep sending out newsletters with each new release.

Anyway, just sharing my experiences.

(I need to get back to the blogging. I did quit writing nonfiction articles for my blog, which has saved me a ton of time. But I'm still undecided what I should blog about in the absence of those.)

March 25, 2014 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Catie--Thanks so much for detailing your experience! I think most authors have similar results. Bribing people to subscribe doesn't keep them subscribed.

What does work is a blog subscription. Put the stuff you're putting in the newsletter on your blog, get people to subscribe to your blog through a program like Mail Chimp and you'll have a much higher open rate. Ours is about 70% and our click through is great too, because people click through when they want to comment. A blog is interactive, but a newsletter is broadcasting.

You can still announce launches with the newsletter, but put the other stuff on your blog--and announce new books on your blog, too. Countdowns are good, as well as cover reveals. Plus you get the drop-ins to your blog. This isn't my own idea. I've read it on many marketing expert's blogs.

Newsletters are old news because they're not interactive and many spamblockers block them entirely.

March 25, 2014 at 7:12 PM  
Blogger Catie Rhodes said...

Thanks for the ideas, Anne! I had not thought of offering the content I'm sending out with the newsletters on my blog. Duh! That is a really good idea. And here's the reason: the content would be up there for anybody to come along and see anytime. The newsletter, on the other hand, is "dead" once it's sent out. Those who don't open it never see the content, no matter how good it is. Plus, there's no way for someone else to come along and see the content later.

I do have my blog set up with Mail Chimp and agree with you that it's very nice. I will give you and anybody else one warning: if you ever go in and tweak your settings in your Mail Chimp blog campaign, be sure you don't pause the campaign. Yes, I did this. And it took me a week or two to realize what happened.

Thanks again.

March 26, 2014 at 6:01 AM  
Blogger Yael Shahar said...

Ah! Now *this* is refreshing! I had been dreading the whole idea of "promote, promote, promote!" Had I wanted to be a PR person I wouldn't have taken up a career as a professional introvert! And yet, so many writer's blogs were telling me that I was going to have to join the great global hamster wheel of promotion, and, being fairly new to all this, who was I to gainsay them?

Andy yet, that advice simply didn't ring true... My book sales have so far been almost entirely due to word of mouth from people who read it and liked it, in other words, true human interaction. And the same seemed to be true of my other writer friends. We enjoyed each other's work and our interactions built a synergy that was not only effective but enjoyable.

Your image of a world full of fake tweeters spamming a web full of fake tweeps got a smile. It's like the story of the physics professor who, finding that an important meeting clashed with his class, left a tape recording of his lecture instead of appearing in person. He came back from the meeting early and found that his tape recorder was happily nattering away to a room full of... student's tape recorders! But yes, that would seem to sum up the numbers game--a world of virtual likers, corporeally-challenged clickers, and ghostly tweeters all yapping away at each other while the real people are busy actually living. And hopefully putting their time to better use: writing more books!

Great advice on the uses of a blog as well. I've seen some fiction writers putting up short stories on their blogs to showcase their work, and I very much like that idea. It's a great way to interact with readers and other writers, and get very helpful feedback. Now that's using the internet's real potential to good effect!

March 26, 2014 at 8:31 AM  
Blogger ryan field said...

Very wise words...especially the part about negativity on blogs. In full disclosure, I think I have over 200 blog posts that I've never published that remain in draft form because I wrote them while in a bad mood. And I'm glad I never did publish them :)

I also think it's important to have fun with ALL of it. In other words, don't push blogging or any form of promotion because it's doesn't work out well in the end. I started blogging after I worked on staff for a web site called "Bestgayblogs.com" back in 2002. When they sold to another company I started my own blog, but by that time I'd already reviewed and interviewed so many bloggers I knew what I wanted to do with my own blog. It also takes time to build a platform...or following...and you just can't rush it. I get anywhere between 6,000 to ,9,000 hits a week now, and almost all come from random google searches. I'm happy with that and I plan to keep it like this. When I have days where I see 4,000 or more hits at one time for that day I actually worry about who I managed to piss off that day. But sometimes there's no logical reason.

March 26, 2014 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Catie--Exactly!! Thanks for the tip about Mail Chimp. I worried about pausing the "campaign" (silly word for a blog) so I haven't done it. Thanks for the heads-up! Good luck with the blog!

March 26, 2014 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Yael--You're so right: in a world of tape recorders blaring at tape recorders (great story), only real honest human interaction matters. So be real and ignore the noise.

As far as putting your fiction on your blog, I do advise caution. 1) Make sure you DO have some fans of your fiction coming by, because most people are looking for skimmable content on the Web, so they may not read it. 2) Don't post anything you'd like to publish later, because you're giving away first rights.

But the dictum "never put your fiction on a blog" has exceptions. Especially if you're self-published and already have fans. Then it might be the best draw you have to your blog: a perk of those "in the know.'

March 26, 2014 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ryan--Oh, those negative posts! I have some too. Like the "letters never sent" file, they're great for getting out your frustrations and figuring out what's really bothering you. As long as you never hit "publish".

People who drink and blog can run into some nasty repercussions.

And you're so right: blogging only works if you like to blog. Pinterest only works if you like to Pin. Do what's fun.

Great point that it takes a loooooong time to move up the search engine hierarchy to the point where you're getting all those hits. Over 50% of our hits come from Google now, and another 20% from Yahoo. But three years ago, I'd be lucky if I got one or two hits from search engine per week.

And yes, a whole lot of hits from one source usually aren't good news. Either you're on somebody's hate list or the Moldovian spambots have targeted you. :-(

March 26, 2014 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Janel Comeau said...

Glad I read this. I'm not published yet, but I'm having fun maintaining my blog. I'm just taking it one week at a time, putting up content I think is funny and getting to know other bloggers. This post has definitely given me some much-needed hope that slow and steady may, in fact, win the race someday.

March 26, 2014 at 7:33 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Janel--It sounds as if you're doing it just right. Start a blog and get to know people. When you do publish--however you choose to do that--people will know you. And so will Google :-) I think turtles win over bunnies when it comes to publishing.

March 26, 2014 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger Jamie Robertson said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

March 27, 2014 at 2:10 AM  
Blogger Rishabh said...

Thanks, I needed this. As an unpublished fictional writer, I did spend a lot of time obsessing over social statistics simply because a lot of people told me so. I now know that I must focus on my passion and worry lesser about social presence.

March 27, 2014 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rishabn--People love to tell you that stuff because it makes them seem knowledgable. But the same thing is true now that always has been--learning to write well has to come first. And it takes a long time.

March 27, 2014 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Laure Reminick said...

Your thoughts on all those numbers are sooooo appreciated. I've found I actually enjoy Twitter, but not many of the other types of S/M (oops, did I really define it that way?) And, I simply need to keep my nose to the computer screen and get more good words after another!

I checked out Sherwood Ltd, read through the second chapter, and broke out in moans of laughing horror! It's on my Kindle, waiting for me…. Thank you

March 27, 2014 at 5:26 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Laure--Bless your heart! It's so great to hear when somebody gets my humor! Yeah, people are told to be way, way too obsessed with numbers. Let number people play with numbers. We get to create worlds. :-)

March 27, 2014 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger D. Emery Bunn said...

Thank you for writing this post. I've been stressing over the fact that my blog traffic has been garbage for several months...but I have made some clear and awesome friends in that time. Why worry about stats when I can nurture relationships and spend time writing?

March 27, 2014 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

D. Emery--I'm so glad you're making blogfriends. That's what matters. Although there are some ways to boost blog traffic with knowledge of how search engines look through your blogposts. I'll be talking about tricks for better blogging in April.

March 27, 2014 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger sue mcginty said...

I knew there was a reason I got out of LinkedIn. The whole thing felt spammy to me. Slightly belated but heartfelt thanks Anne for another common sense post.

March 28, 2014 at 6:48 AM  
Blogger sue mcginty said...

Oh yeah, I think I have this blogspot comment thing figured out.

March 28, 2014 at 6:49 AM  
Blogger Tony Piazza said...

So right, Anne. I had a lady on LinkedIn promise to buy and review my book in exchange for my contacts. I turned her down, of course. Ethically I didn't feel right about that. I've built a trust with those friends and I wasn't about to sell them out!

March 28, 2014 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sue--I don't know why people don't talk more about the insidious nature of LinkedIn. They are constantly trying to trick you into letting them into your mailbox. I don't know why that's even legal. I'm so glad you've got the blog ID thing fixed so the Blogger elves will let you comment. I wish it weren't so complicated!

March 28, 2014 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tony--From what I've heard, this operation has hit 1000s of writers with the same "offer" from made-up sock puppet "reviewers." Probably communicating even to say a polite "no" gets you on their radar, so it's probably best not to communicate with them at all. It might even be just one guy with lots of sock puppet accounts. That "lady" doesn't exist. I checked out her profile and none of her stuff checked out. Just a sock puppet.

March 28, 2014 at 8:31 AM  
OpenID randomramsey said...

This is excellent. Passing it on.

March 28, 2014 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ramsey--Oh, good. Do. Spread the word. Tell your friends to go back to writing. :-)

March 28, 2014 at 9:54 PM  
Blogger Dr Wendy Kyman said...

This is my first visit to your site. I appreciate your wisdom.I will keep reading.
I blogged for a couple of years (related to my n/f book's topic), and surprisingly, attracted an international audience.
As much as I enjoyed the process, I have taken a break from blogging. It took away time and energy from my writing.

March 29, 2014 at 12:10 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dr. Wendy--Welcome! Glad you stopped by. I know it's hard to balance blogging with your book writing, which is why I'm a big advocate of "slow blogging". If you only blog once a week, or even once or twice a month, you can keep your audience without losing too much writing time. I hope you didn't take down your blog. You can revive it with even just one post a month (announce when you'll post, which will keep readers coming back.) Then write a bunch of posts all at once and keep them in a queue ready to go. I think blog is essential for a nonfiction writer--the center of your platform.

March 29, 2014 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger JB Trotter said...

I'm laughing at myself...I wish I'd read this post before I spent the day in that newbie writers self inflicted fifth circle of ****. Trying to get all the social media aspects of promotion right whilst all the while berating yourself that "the book's not writing itself"! I'm off to create, well right after I fix a potentially unprofessional entry on my google+ page! Thanks for all the great content.
JB Trotter (@JBTrotter1 )

March 29, 2014 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

JB--Glad you're getting back to the old WIP. I should do the same. :-)

March 29, 2014 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger gary peeling said...

I think this may be why I have no followers?

That and the fact my only followers are other authors?

Yours is a good informative blog, thank you for writing it. I will take note.


P.S I'm thanking you Anne, not myself.

March 29, 2014 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gary--You need some tech help! Your blog has no header and no visuals and no "about me" and your name is nowhere to be found.

Start with my "How to Blog post here http://annerallen.blogspot.com/2011/12/how-to-blog-beginners-guide-for-authors.html and then search for "how to blog" posts. I have a whole series of 6 or 7.

Or it's all in one place in my book with Catherine Ryan Hyde "HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE" (We've made it really cheap, so anybody can afford it.) Right now your blog is called "My Blogger Page" which Google will never find.

This blog is made from a simple Blogger template and a photo taken by a friend. You don't have to be a tech whiz, but you do need some basic directions, which aren't always easy to find.

Good luck!

March 29, 2014 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger gary peeling said...

I'm just a dad Anne, it was a book to give to my daughter when she grows up. And somehow I have ended up here, sucked in to self promotion. Being followed by authors who use me as a number on their following, harsh but true.

It's made me travel down their road of 'buy my book' tweets. And their is not enough time in my days to set up all these things properly. I think I need to just stop going on twitter for a while, until I sort out the blogger page like you said.

I just don't understand how authors following authors can work? They don't want eachothers books, and that's all they must see on their feeds? I swear to god I retweet so many of them, but of my several hundred followers only 4 retweet me. None of them talk, they will just send a link to their book or fb in dm, which is something I have never done. So what's the point? Is it to look popular to a prospective reader?

It's all very hard, when you know absolutely nothing about the way to use social media for a purpose other than being social. My feed is anything but social, if I tweet anything other than my book, it never gets seen. Even my famous opening tweet of " predictive text is my worst enema" was overlooked?

I work full time and have a 15 month old daughter, the night is over very quickly. I think I am stuck in a rut of going on twitter and retweeting everyone, then tweeting myself, then going to bed. And if the laptop is free I will write a ridiculous blog before going on twitter.

I just don't know how to help people who may like my stuff, become aware that I exist?

I will have a look at the things you have advised.

Thanks Anne.

March 29, 2014 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger gary peeling said...

There* not their!!

Like I said predictive text is my worst enema!

I'll be here all week.


March 29, 2014 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gary--You're exactly the kind of person we wrote our book for (not that seasoned writers can't learn from it too: CRH is a NYT bestseller.) But we hear so much stuff that's old news, not true, or just time-wasting.

Following and communicating with other authors helps a lot when you're a beginner, because we have a lot to teach each other. And authors can band together for promos and boxed sets (I'll be talking about this next month.) But once you're well known, then your blog is a place for your fans to find you and you can offer freebies and deals.

But you're absolutely right: social media is social. It's about making friends, not direct sales. Once you're part of a group, then your friends will start talking about your book and maybe buy one.

Unfortunately, it's very very tough to sell a singleton title. So keep making friends on Twitter, but put the energy into writing another book. You can find lots of info here free in the archives, and I'd also recommend David Gaughran's blog, "Let's Get Visible". He has lots of info on what works as far as promotion.

March 29, 2014 at 5:28 PM  
OpenID Sky said...

If you can't express yourself openly and honestly, what's the point in trying to be another kiss ass for an overworked publishing industry. I find it hard to believe that every agent and publisher out there is just scouring the internet and looking for the *perfect* client and weighing their options based on how much of an asshole he really is to the general pubic.

For Christ sake's people! It's freedom of speech! If the industry doesn't like to be criticized by their critics, what the fuck are they in business for???

March 30, 2014 at 3:55 AM  
Blogger Terry Tyler said...

This is a terrific article, thanks; someone passed it on to me. I've had a bit of interest from agents in the past and have just written an article for the UK Arts Directory on which I write about self-publishing, about why I have decided against submitting my work after all. Maybe this is exactly the sort of article I shouldn't have written if I do decide to do so in the future, I don't know! It's not slagging off agents, or the publishing industry, or detailing woes about not getting read (I've been fortunate in that I've had a few full books read, though I've had my share of rejections, like everyone). However, maybe it's not quite 'vanilla' enough! Also, I've never done the 'asking for Facebook likes' thing, or buying followers (heaven forbid!) but I'm very active on Twitter so I get followed a lot - so it might look as if I do! I do talk to alot of people on Twitter, authors and readers alike, and I am not always super-aware of my online presence; if I think something is crap I'll sometimes express that opinion, which is perhaps not advisable! Anyway - thanks again for writing such a good article, it's certainly food for thought; and has made me even more glad that I decided to stick with the self-publishing instead of chasing the trad pub dream, ha ha!

A comment for Gary, above - what I did when I first started out was to go to writers I liked and follow all their followers, so that some would follow me back. Also, you should follow book bloggers and submit your books for review, then those reviews will get seen by their blog followers. Seek out followers on Twitter who are interested in whatever is the subject of your book. Hope that helps!

March 30, 2014 at 6:57 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Terry--If your article was professional presentation of a point of view, you haven't burned any bridges. It's the snarky, unprofessional, profanity-laced stuff I'm warning against. I see it all the time: people ganging up on a writer who is querying agents or making cruel remarks about an author who has decided to self-publish. That stuff is forever and you don't want it hanging there in cyberspace.

It sounds as if you're using Twitter exactly right. Your suggestions to Gary are good ones--all stuff we suggest in our book. Funny how people would rather flail around, wasting years of their lives rather than spring for a $3 book that explains it all. Thanks!

March 30, 2014 at 9:24 AM  
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