Category Archives: scams

Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 3

Wouldn’t you think two lengthy posts about Twitter would be more than enough to evaluate a form of communication that limits discussions to 140 characters? Well it’s not. So here’s my third installment on the subject.

My first two posts were little more than an introduction to Twitter. There were many things I didn’t mention. For example, I didn’t discuss hash tags, RTs, or tinyurls. While Twitter isn’t difficult to use, there is a learning curve especially if you want to use it effectively. So you need to have the time and the desire to learn it.

Every day I realize there are more things I should learn about Twitter. SEO is one of those areas. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Social media professionals use SEO to find words which have been demonstrated to be effective in grabbing the social media audience’s attention.
Twitterland is full of tweets from SM professionals who offer to teach others through free Webinars, etc. how to maximize their Twitter success. There also a shadowy subculture that operating in Twitterland. These Twitter shadows aren’t necessarily bad guys. They do, however, operate behind the scenes so most people aren’t aware of their efforts. These Twitter professionals know how to direct traffic and architecturally enhance the power of Twitter.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting one (a very nice guy with eight sisters. Now, he knows 😉 I’m talking about him). This guy gave me a peek into the shadows, and I hope he will continue to try and help me.

I am certain there are other things going on in Twitterland of which I am not aware.

The purpose of this series, however, was not to offer a thorough evaluation of Twitter. Instead, my goal was to answer the question: Which is more helpful to a writer: social media or old-fashioned networking?

Yesterday, @patrickcurl engaged me in a conversation on Twitter. I was interested enough to check his Web site. Here’s what I learned from patrickcurl.com.

According to Barracuda Networks, an Internet research company, Twitter may have an image problem. The company says that the majority of first-time or short-term users try Twitter out, don’t understand Twitter’s value, and decide not to use it.

I have personally heard people say they didn’t find Twitter useful. These people tend to be business owners who operate locally. They do better advertising by word of mouth than through Twitter. They don’t have the time or patience for reading scam, spam and other low-value tweets.
Patrick loves Twitter. He values it as a way to reach out to people in his niche. He works with social media consultants and experts. Patrick admits these people have a better grasp on how to use and develop Twitter’s power than the average Twitter user.

Here’s what I find revealing about Patrick’s discussion of Twitter. He cites a report from Hubspot that states 55.5 percent of Twitter users don’t follow anyone, and 54.9 percent have never tweeted.

Here are some more startling numbers Patrick provided on Twitter usage:
•    79.79% of users provided no homepage URL.
•    75.86% of users have not entered a bio.
•    68.68% have not specified their location.
•    55.50% are not following anyone.
•    54.88% have never tweeted.
•    52.71% have no followers.

What these numbers show are  that as little as a quarter of Twitter’s members use the service on a regular basis.

So here’s my question: If more than half the people who try Twitter don’t hang around long, and those that do stay aren’t really involved, is marketing on Twitter really effective for a writer?

The answer depends on a number of things. Anyone who is lobbing tweets out in Twitter space and hoping to reel in lots of new readers isn’t realistic about their success rate. That strategy isn’t any more effective than putting a book up on Amazon and figuring it will automatically be read by millions. Knowing how to target potential followers and developing a relationship with people so they become followers can be a worthwhile pursuit if you aren’t going to find these people otherwise.

Twitter is a high maintenance beast. Content although limited to 140 characters must be provided regularly or followers lose interest.  How much time do want to spend working Twitter?

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 2

Just before I started writing this post I looked at my Twitter account. I had 1,621 followers, and was on 131 lists.

I began my adventure with social media by seeking the advice of a social media coach. One of the first assignments was to” follow” 50-100 new people every day.  There were many ways to accomplish this. The easiest and cheapest it seemed was to find someone on Twitter who had lots of followers. I could scroll down their list and click FOLLOW.  It was a fast way to accomplish what I had been instructed to do. Later I discovered it wasn’t an effective method.

Why do I say it’s effective? Some of the Twitter accounts turned out to be inactive. Some of the accounts were rarely used, others were OVERused. I had other issues with a stream of tweets that were scams, spams or garbage.

So, until I knew better, I would scan down a page and click FOLLOW, FOLLOW, FOLLOW wherever I saw a person’s face.  I was sure that in a month I’d accumulate a follow list equivalent to the population of Rhode Island. I got giddy watching my follow list grow. However, when I took the time to think about what I was doing I asked myself: “How is this was going to help me?” I realized I could click “FOLLOW” buttons until my fingers were sore, but it wasn’t going to help me achieve my goal. It wasn’t going to make people aware of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. What I really needed was to have people follow me. That was the only best way to be sure they’d see the messages I tweeted.

Getting followers was a more complicated proposition. Not everyone automatically followed me. My mentor suggested I use Friend or Follow, a free program that identifies who among the people you are following is not following you back.  I considered dumping everyone who wasn’t following.  I realized this wasn’t a great plan. I wasn’t sure how long it had been since  I had starting following some of these people. Unless they had an auto follow program I needed to give people time to follow me. I certainly didn’t want to unfollow someone I had just started to follow. There were also people on the list I thought would be good people to follow even if they didn’t follow me.  I decided to poke these people to see if they simply needed a poke from me before they added me to their follow list.

Of course there are programs for purchase that are designed to increase followers. Some programs target specific demographics. These programs  search for Tweet peeps who are more likely to be interested in what you are  selling. As I was in a hurry to be successful I decided that such a program would be a terrific way to build my Twitter empire. I thought I had nothing to loose by taking advantage of  free trial offers. What I discovered was that some of the programs weren’t user friendly. At least not for this newbie. I didn’t understand the social techie language, and I didn’t need help managing multiple Twitter accounts.

I dumped each program long before the trial period expired. I gave up on Tweet Spinner in less than 24 hours. I emailed the company right away to tell them I was canceling long before their five-day free trial expired. Tweet Spinner still charged my Pay Pal account for a one-year subscription. The company has refused to refund my money! I’m out $14.95. Pay Pal says I have to get a refund from Tweet Spinner, but after my first email exchange with Tweet Spinner they have stopped responding. My suggestion is don’t try any free trial offers if they ask for payment information before the trial expires! Some companies aren’t user friendly!

Adding 50-100 people a day and watching the numbers grow might be the cheapest, least time consuming way to grow a list, especially as most of those tweeps are going to follow you back. It can be addictive watching the numbers grow. BEWARE! There’s a Twitter posse. They patrol for speeders. You can commit a violation by adding too many people TOO FAST. I’ve heard it said that there is also a rule about the ratio between follows and followers. A person can’t be following too many more people than are following them. Otherwise, you could be considered a stalker. I don’t know what these numbers are, because I quickly decided that I didn’t want to play the numbers game.  Adding people for the sake of increasing numbers is in direct conflict with the NUMBER 1 rule social media gurus place on their social media “do” lists. The NUMBER ONE rule is BE REAL.

A person can’t be real if they are only interested in numbers. The number that  is important to me is my tweet count. It’s 2,217!  Those aren’t auto-generated tweets. Some guy a while back called me a conversationalist!

Here’s how I operate. When I get a notice someone is following me, I check them out. I go to their Web site. If they aren’t a bot or aren’t simply selling something I send them a personal tweet. If they tweet back we may continue our conversation.

During my introductory phase in Twitterland I spent more than an hour or more in one session working on building and pruning my list – clicking follow buttons, weeding out non-followers or people with inactive accounts, or viewing mindless tweets. Now I may spend an hour each day, but I don’t do it all at once. Much of what I do now is have conversations. I enjoy most of my time on Twitter. I’ve got special tweeps I look forward to “seeing” every day. I’ve got a tweep who talks to me in French. “Bon jour Martien. Comment ca va?” My French is tres mal, but I still look forward to talking to him. Yesterday, someone I only recently met tweeted me with a possible lead about being on public television.

There are good people out there. But in order for me to find them I had to stop playing the numbers game. I had to think about the people.  Now, I don’t even look for followers, they find me.

So what’s with Twitter? Some say Twitter is IT. Others say Twitter is already OVER. What I say is: Don’t use or abuse Twitter, it’s the people who matter. My Twitter peeps may not be contributing in any direct way to book sales, at least not yet, but I enjoy my peeps.

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Filed under blog, book, cost, distribution, dreams, frustration, good read, hopeful, media, Pamela Ferris-Olson, perseverance, practice, scams, social media, statistics, success, Twitter

Writing with Professionals – A New Publishing Scam?

Yesterday, a well-meaning friend sent me a link to a blog where the author was offering the chance to be published alongside “well-known” authors. The authors were never named. The blogger said she is involved with a series of books; the last is going to be published soon.  She’s looking for a few authors to be involved. Here is an excerpt from her blog:

“Getting published with well-known authors, looks great for your portfolio, saves you on publishing and editing costs. Just for one book it can cost well over $1500 to hire an editor. Why not take that money instead and invest it in yourself?

“You buy a set number of books for a small fee, and turn around and sell them by doubling your profit. Not only will you get back your initial investment, but you will make a tidy profit for yourself. You are guaranteed to sell your books because you are the one that will promote and sell them. You can easily set up an account on Amazon, or on your Web site.

“Talk to the experts, they will tell you just how easy it is to be published along with some very well known authors who have written best-selling books and sold millions. It’s not every day you get a chance to be connected in such a fabulous way!

“All you have to do is write a chapter about something inspiring as a speaker, author or writer. You can submit from 750 to 1500 words. The only fee is you promise to buy a certain amount of books and in turn you will sell those books and double your profit.

“How’s that for a publishing deal?”

Before I say anything else I need to tell you I’ve corrected some of the typos I found in the original message.  What I’ve pasted above is a mouthful!! Bottom line is that this is a thinly veiled pay-to-publish scam. The only one likely to benefit is the blogger or whoever gets your money for purchasing the books.

Being published with well-known authors would look good if you worked directly with the authors. Just having your essay in a book with established people isn’t likely to give your career anymore of a boost than having your essay in a book that also has works by criminals is likely to result in guilt by association.

One truthful claim is that good editors cost money. They are worth it.  They provide the author with a trained, objective eye. Editors can point out inconsistencies, mistakes, and other errors that might take away from the content of the work. This blogger’s offer implies editorial assistance but there is no direct assurance.  This project IS COSTING you money. You make a commitment to BUY books. If you are going to invest your money shouldn’t you have input on who edits your work? What kind of credential does the editor have?

Who guarantees that your book will sell? I have been working EXTREMELY HARD to promote my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women since it was first listed on Amazon.com in Jan. I am all too aware that book promotion is not easy. It is extremely uncommon to get buyers just because I tweet about my book. Maybe you’ll be able to sell enough books out of the back of your car. Of course, the blogger didn’t say how many books must be purchased. What if you can’t sell the books to your friends and family? Most likely you’ll have to do the work publishers usually do: contact newspapers, radio, TV, bookstores, etc.  This means more than distributing press releases. There’s lots of follow-up work to do. Only a small percentage of the contacts will respond, even fewer will be interested. I’ve also encountered a number of unexpected obstacles. For example, it’s harder than simply calling a bookstore to arrange a book signing. Stores want you to have an affiliation with their wholesalers.

Selling books is a big investment in time and money. I know. I’m actively involved in this every day.

This offer appears to me to be a clever scheme to make writers feel ownership in a book, because their essays are included. The purpose is ultimately to obtain the writers’ money.  I have no idea if the blogger cares if writers sell more than their allotted share of books. If the book is a success it will be because of the sales work put in by the writers not the publisher.

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My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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Paid-to-Write Sites: To Write or Not to Write

Last night I did something I rarely do, I noticed an advertisement on the right hand side of my Facebook page. Suite101.com advertised that they needed writers. Intrigued I went to their site. Writers are asked to fill out an application that requires two writing samples. The Web site said that my credentials and samples would be reviewed, and if Suite101 felt my writing and credentials met their needs an editor would contact me. My writing samples were two previously published articles. I wasn’t surprised to find out I’d been accepted. I was, however, surprised to receive the congratulations email in less than 12 hours. The terms of the employment which they outlined in the email included a set number of articles I’d be expected to write within a given period of time. I was instructed to read and sign their contract. That’s when I decided to do a little investigative work. Below is one of the articles I found. This review by IBrutus on hubpages.com

“Suite101.com is another revenue sharing, paid-to-write site (PTW), similar to Gather and Helium. However, the terms of agreement at Suite101 so favor the company and deprive writers of revenue, I’m giving it a big thumbs down.

These PTW sites work by placing ads on the pages and sharing whatever revenue is generated with the authors. The exact percentage is often hard to determine, but it definitely favors the website owners. The real advantage to a blogger is that by posting material on multiple sites you can drive traffic to your own site.

And that is where the fault in Suite101 lies. Other sites allow duplicate posting. You can post a article about Tom Cruise’s latest movie on your website, Gather, Helium, Xomba, Hub Pages and Thisisby. Suite101 demands exclusive writes to all your content and does not except previously published material.

For exclusive rights to original material, they pay $1.50 per thousand page views. One writer posting on the sites forum said he had 100 articles that received 34,000 page views in a month. Fifty-dollars a month for all that work. Ridiculous! Had he sold those articles to Associated Content, he would have received anywhere from $4 to $50 a piece. AC also pays a performance bonus of $1.50 per thousand page views in addition to the upfront pay.

I recommended selling non-exclusive rights to AC, then posting the same article to to Hub Pages and Xomba. Both those sites alternate showing Google Adsense ads with their account code and yours. The fairest revenue sharing model for making money writing online. I wrote this article on Associated Content for Hub Pages. It has received 193 page views with my Adsense account code, making $2.50. That’s about $10 a thousand views for comparison.”

I cannot substantiate the information posted on HubPages, After my cursory research and given my own experiences with publishing I decided that Suite101.com was not an opportunity I wanted to pursue at this time. (Later on I’ll discuss the problems I’m currently having validating the royality payments I am receiving through Amazon.)

If you need money to validate your work then a PTW may be the answer. If you never receive any money or you get some obscenely small payment for your work, the only thing you’ve lost is the investment of your time. That’s why I’ve continually suggested people write because they love to write. The reward is in the writing. If you decide to try a PTW I offer several cautionaries. Don’t expect writing for a PTW to be a good resume builder. I don’t know how stringent PTWs are about selecting writers, and I don’t know how other employers view the content on these sites. Finally, you’ll have to provide the PTW with personal data and specifics on how you are to be paid. My advice is to use a PayPal account and not  a checking or savings account. If they want information for direct deposit, I’d advise you to look elsewhere. Providing direct deposit information could open you to financial problems rather than rewards.

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Click video preview to see preview of my new book. Click Amazon.com to order.

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Writers BEWARE

My original plan for this site was first to focus on the art of writing, then to add a discussion on the editing process, and with time to look at publishing options.  I’m happy to divert from this plan if readers leave comments or questions. Yesterday, I came across a blog post that demanded attention. I thought it important enough that I include it here. Writer Beware Blogs! (http://tinyurl.com/yecp7ll), is produced by a publishing industry watchdog group sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America with additional support from the Mystery Writers of America. The group wants to help protect writers from literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. I am familiar with similar “scams”. They are scams because you pay to be published in an anthology. If your only aspiration is to be published, and you are willing to pay for the opportunity, then this is not technically a scam; however, if you expect to receive any recognition for your work beyond your family and friends then these anthology publications are not worth the cost to you. Below is an excerpt from the Wed. Feb. 17  Writer Beware Blogs!

Here’s an email solicitation currently doing the rounds, from Linda Joy, President and Founder of Aspire Media Inc., and Publisher and Editor of Aspire Magazine:

Will 2010 be YOUR year to embrace your wisdom, step forward and claim your dream of being a published author?

If you answered YES then YOU may be one of the over 40 co-authors that I, along with my team of experts, will be working with this spring to bring your collective wisdom to the world!…

Now, in a personal project of mine I will bring the same passion and commitment that I’ve brought to Aspire, to bring YOUR story, wisdom and insights as a co-author in my upcoming anthology: A Juicy, Joyful Life: Inspiration from Women who have Found the Sweetness in Every Day


The email includes a link…

“Imagine the words…Published Author

*…printed underneath YOUR name on YOUR business card.
*…being spoken as YOU are introduced as the key-note speaker in front of a full audience
*…as you introduce yourself to a potential client.

You’ve thought about it, envisioned it and NOW it’s time to ACT on it…

It’s no coincidence that you’ve attracted this opportunity! You have been waiting for the divine opportunity to become a published author – one that is in alignment with your vision and that is with a well-respected brand in women’s inspirational publishing.


Let’s leave aside for the moment the question of whether Ms. Joy’s Aspire Media–which consists of an online magazine with a claimed circulation of 42,000, and a series of conference events in the New England area–is indeed a “well-respected brand in women’s inspirational publishing,” and concentrate on the “divine opportunity.” There isn’t actually much writing involved–all you need to produce is a 1,200-word story. Ms. Joy and her “team of experts” will then create the book, and provide “a variety of information products” to help you promote and sell it. It’s a tried and true business model, Ms. Joy claims, that has been used before with great success–in fact, it’s “the same business model that Mark Victor Hansen used to create the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.”

Well. Actually, not so much. Chicken Soup contributors receive $200 and 10 free books. For Inspired Living contributors, the money flows in the opposite direction. They can pay $5,497 for an “Ultimate Platform Building Package” (450 books, their name on the cover and a bio in the back, ebooks and CDs, plus a press release and assorted promotional items of dubious effectiveness) or $3,697 for a “Launch Your Brand Package” (300 books, a bio only, ebooks and CDs, and fewer promotional items than the more expensive package), or even $2,197 for an “Aspiring Author Package” (150 books, a bio, and nothing else).

Writers who want to get in on this not-so-amazing deal must sign up for a 30-minute phone conference with Ms. Joy. Ostensibly, this is to narrow down the field of aspiring writers (writers must first fill out a fairly detailed questionnaire, including such questions as “What would it mean to you, both personally and professionally to be part of a best selling anthology?”), but mostly, I’m guessing, it’s to sell potential contributors on the idea of paying several thousand dollars for a slot in a vanity anthology…

the bottom line is the same: The real “opportunity” in such schemes is not for the contributors, who must hustle their own books and who receive little meaningful support in doing so, but for the publisher, whose profit is assured before the anthology is ever printed.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see preview of my new book. Click Amazon.com to order.

View my other blog Living in the Heartland

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Filed under dreams, on publishing, on writing, publishing, scams, writing