Misadventures in social network PR



There’s a misconception among non-writers, that we writers simply make a book, put it up there on Amazon and watch the millions roll in. Now with the AuthorEarnings site up, there’s even more speculation over numbers. I’ve posted before about how there is no one path and that even if you write a great book, nobody may ever read it. That’s where social network marketing comes in, and there’s a lot of it.

So I decided after flailing a little on this one novel I am in the middle of, that I would bite, and check out some of these social media services, since I myself, am not nearly as gifted at gaining a following on Twitter as most people, and that seems to be the one thing all authors need to do these days. And don’t get me wrong, even if you are a traditionally published author, they still expect you to do this, promote yourself on the Twitters and Facebooks.

Now granted, I understand, and believe in the capitalist law that you have to spend money to make money. That being said, I tried two small experiments (now, keep in mind that with my lack of experience, I could have possibly done these better).

The first was a Twitter shotgunning site. These are where a twitter user has thousands of followers, who you can reach by paying them to tweet your book. In this case, it was a bargain for my shoestring budget. 500 tweats for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10, which for a starving, obscure author, seems like a deal and a half. So I signed up. It was pretty much as easy as a paypal signature and linking my book. They aggregated everything else from the link and my author profile alone. Easy!

Within a day I had an author page up on the site, linking to BLOOM, and I decided to try a second approach as well. I posted a link to the author page on Facebook, then decided to boost it using Facebook’s ad engine. Again, I went cheap, and maybe that’s part of my naivete here. I paid for a boost of about 10,000 views, which, to me seems like a lot. Again, this was all very tentative on my part. For the next 24 hours I watched my page views go from the tens to the tens of thousands. Yay me!

Meanwhile the twitter shotgun was firing every day, perhaps several times an hour, “Magnificent Fantasy Dystopia!” with my tag, and the link to the book. People retweeted, people tagged me, people posted this over and over… until I realized that they were all pretty much tweeting the same thing, all of them “Magnificent Fantasy Dystopia!” Every one of them. Word for word. It was, in essence, an echo chamber, all of the twitter accounts following one another, all of them giving the impression that they had thousands of followers, when in fact, they were the followers.

End result? One sale.

That’s it.


I gained maybe 5 twitter followers, but there’s no direct correlation there. Now, this isn’t really a cautionary tale, or a warning or any of that. Maybe with a wider net, it’s possible I could have sold as many as TWO copies of BLOOM. That’s almost a latte at Starbucks worth of profit!

All this being said, and all joking aside, the thing that sells books is word of mouth. If you love a book, you tell people about it. I buy books because people reference them on Reddit, or they tell me about them, or they buy me that book. For indie authors it’s the same thing. And this all goes back to the same old saying again and again: word of mouth is king. Because books are a commitment, and nobody wants to waste their time.

It also makes a good case for traditional publishing houses. Why? Because like it or not, they vet their books. You can argue till you’re blue in the face about “But TWilight!!  BuT FIFttY SHADES OF GREAYYY!!!” all you want. Fact is, trad-publishing houses know how to market. Most of us don’t. It’s still by and far the one reason I will never stop sending queries to agents and publishers as my first choice.

I’m proud of my books. I treat them with all the professionalism I can. I invest in them, but nobody is going to read your book if they don’t know it exists.

Oh, and the shotgunning site is still tweeting me, by the way.


Paperback giveaway is done. And other updates.

Time for my bi-monthly blog update. I think that if you are one of the fifteen people who have stumbled on this page, you’ve figured out by now that I am not a huge blogger. I do, however, like to keep people updated on what’s going on, and touch on a few thinsg now and then.

Item #1:  Thanks to everyone who signed up for the Goodreads giveaway.  As first attempts go, I think it went well. If you are a numbers person, a little over 400 people signed up for it. Will it generate interest? We’ll have to see.

Item #2: BLOOM has been on a mini-blog tour. You can get an idea of that here. The exposure has been good, and I’m glad to see the book getting attention. A little sad that it isn’t reaching more people…

which brings us to…

Item #3: So here you’ve written a book, and you think it’s great. It’s a fantastic book. Everyone who reads it loves it and you’ve gotten nothing but five-star reviews on every possible review site. But…

The numbers suck. You sell maybe one copy a month and most of the reviews you’ve garnered are from free giveaways. So you spam about it on Twitter and Facebook and you try to get more reviewers. Then you start to see that your usual reviewers are sick of doing reviews because of the HUGE influx of indie-published novels floating around on the internet. So now, even the people you thought you could count on for a review don’t want to review anymore. So you tweet again, post on Facebook again (which is really sort of preaching to the choir in this age of social media. If they are following you, they’ve read your stuff. Unless you can count on them to buy a fresh copy every week… which would be weird…) And you wait.

And wait…

And wait, refreshing that Amazon page, watching your book barely hit that top #100 in its category but still scramble around the depths of the #450.778 on the Amazon rankings.

This, my friends, is why authors drink. Because writing is a science, storytelling is an art, but publishing is a business. It’s a small business, your business. It’s one of a million small business calling themselves indie-published authors out there in this huge ecosystem of indie literature. The rules change like the tide and you find that some of those guys are WAY better at it than you are. Like, way, way better.

So there you sit, gin in hand, staring at the numbers that don’t move. You then fall asleep in the crook of your numb arm, drowning in drool and tears. Sweet, sweet tears.

So, you write something new. You get back up and you start a new project to take your mind off the old one, the magical one that you loved more than anything, but nobody knows about. You work on this new project and suddenly it all doesn’t seem as bad. A year later, you’ve almost forgotten about the last book (it still sells a few here and there but it never caught fire like you hoped). You publish, get reviews, put it out there, and lo and behold people love it! They leave 5-star reviews, can’t put it down! You race to the Amazon page…

And you are #387,900…

You move up to whiskey. You drink and stare at the numbers and you can’t believe it. Another flop, another disappointment. You pour another whiskey and start talking to the monitor until your wife pulls you away from the desk.

But the next morning you look at the stats, the actual stats, the numbers that show what’s really going on. Turns out the people that read book #2 also bought book #1. And now that book #3 is out, people are buying that one AND book #2 and #1.

Do you see where this is going. Fast-forward five years and four books later. People are buying #5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. Maybe your rankings aren’t Neil-Gaiman-good, not Chuck-Wendig-good, but they aren’t bad either. You have what we in the industry call “fans,” people who dig your work and want to see you make more of it. They are the folks where once you hook one, they want to see more of your work–and you’d better have that work ready for them to see.

The harder you work, the luckier you are in this industry. The more books you put out there, the wider a net you have to capture more fans, capture them and store their frozen bodies under your shed–I mean capture them and give them plenty of material to read, plenty of ideas and memories to discover, plenty of feels to feel. And those fans tell other fans and on and on and on… We are sharks in this ocean and we simply don’t have time to rest at the bottom and hope that seal comes to us. We have to keep moving and keep producing or we simply don’t eat at all.

So thank you, fans, all fifteen of you. Every review I read of Bloom is humbling, ever five-star rating feels like a big sloppy kiss on my forehead. Thank you for buying my books for you, for your friends, thank you for telling me you like the stuff I put on a page, because if it wasn’t for that, I’d be working in fast food.

*raises whiskey glass*



Holy crap! You mean writers are people?






Steph Swainston, critically acclaimed fantasy author is giving up her day job to teach chemistry. Why you ask? Well, it seems the publishing world is changing and trying to keep up with a lot of faster media. The end result is publishers expecting one book a year, expecting the author to become a celebrity via Facebook, Twitter etc. The end result according to Stainston and I would have to agree somewhat, is poorer books and a somewhat unrealistic expectation of authors.

Writers write. We do stuff with words that go (hopefully) into our final project. Sometimes that takes time. Sometimes the book is not great and needs to be greater. Authors love our books and we want to see them go out into the world as perfect as possible. Yes, deadlines are a part of reality, yes we all have to make a living, yes publishers have deadlines and bills to pay as well. But is it really helping the literary world when we force authors to conform to our own subjective timelines rather than allowing them to work in a buffer that is more conducive to their own creative process?

Writing is a long process. It is also largely an organic one. Sometimes you find yourself lost in a forest with no escape route. Sometimes you have other shit that needs to get done. Sometimes you have a day job. You want the book to be done this year? So would I. I would fucking love it if I could pump out a novel every nine months and have it be worthy of publishing.

John Scalzi also wrote a good article on 10 things you should know about authors, the most important thing being that they are people with fucking lives and sometimes life doesn’t adhere to deadlines. Forcing the author to squeeze out work when they aren’t ready just makes for poorer novels.

Bleh. I have been drinking so here is a good place to stop. I have shit to write.