Category Archives: technology

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 1

I decided not to do any promotional work until my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories appeared on Amazon.com. As I’ve said in previous posts, I chose to independently publish my book after I’d received about two dozen ‘no thank you’ letters from agents and publishers. I thought: “How can I go wrong selling my book on America’s largest online behemoth, a retailer with nearly three times the Internet sales revenue of its nearest competitor?”

Since my book was cataloged among Amazon’s thousands upon thousands of other offerings, it seemed obvious that I needed to focus my marketing energies online. So began my social media (SM) education.

The first step was to build a SM platform. SM coaches tout the importance of starting with a foundation based upon Twitter, Facebook, and a blog. So that is what I did. Twitter was easy. Facebook required more time to set up, because  more information was requested. My blog, even though WordPress makes set up pretty simple, was even more time consuming. I admit I had plenty of frustration. For example, I had to evaluate nearly 100 layouts to choose the best layout for my Living in the Heartland blog. Then I had to figure out how to customize the banner and learn how to install and operate the widgets.

Initially, I hated Twitter. The few people who I started following seemed to have established their own clique. They tweeted predominantly among themselves. Much of what they said wasn’t interesting to me. I began to realize I was stuck in an infinitesimally small Twitter puddle. It was a small droplet in a Twitterscape where oceans of Twitter folk were chattering away. I had no idea how to swim into the deeper water. As I became more confident and competent, I was able to find new people. To my dismay many of the Tweets I received were either “words to live by”, quotes attributable to famous or anonymous people, or outright marketing.

Numerous people told me to persevere. They also told me that the number one rule on the Internet is to be genuine and build trust before trying to market anything on the Internet. My cynicism grew as I wondered about the disconnect between what I was being told were “and what people were doing. The response to my questioning the rules was always the same: give it time. In time I would see the benefits.

Being trained as a scientist I wanted evidence on which to base my hopes that Twitter was going to help me make people aware of my book. What I heard on Webinars and through Twitter were merely testimonials. Needless to say this was not a good introduction to the Internet for me. I was overwhelmed by all the SM tasks I needed to do, and wanted concrete evidence that all my hours of work building a Twitter following was going to pay off . In otherwords, show me some book sales.

The sales figures I saw that first month were UNBELIEVABLE. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There HAD to be a mistake! I could have sold more books door to door on my block!

Doubt began to flood in: Had I made the wrong decision? Should I have waited longer for a publisher; after all, I had received some handwritten letters. Maybe I shouldn’t have chosen to publish independently. Should I have sent out more manuscripts?

As you can see I’m still working with SM. I am more positive than I’ve ever been. Come back soon for the next installment. As I discuss my experience you will understand how I arrived at my answer to the question: Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers?

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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Hope for Indie Writers: Pulitzer Prize Awarded to Freelance NonConformist

“Since third grade, I have dreamed of becoming a professional novelist. During 6th grade, I began to realize that accomplishing my ultimate goal would be more difficult than I thought. It has been said that chances of publishing are one in a thousand. I know to get a book published; I have to work hard to practice writing as much as possible. I need to get other people’s feedback on my writing, from adults and not just peers. I need to get a job that involves writing on a regular basis to get practice after I graduate from college. Then, I have to try to get published and never give up, for I know chances are slim.”

This is worldly wisdom from a seventh grader. The above is an excerpt from one essay I recently judged. The young lady who wrote it has clearly done her homework. Good writing definitely requires practice, but in this competitive, fast changing digital world there are no guarantees that a living wage can be made from writing.

Fifty years ago hard work and perseverance was a pretty safe bet for landing a writing job. These days I wonder if there is consensus among professionals what it takes to make a career of writing. One thing is certain this new era is full of surprises.

For example, there was an unexpected recipient for this year’s Pulitzer Prizes. One of the most coveted prizes in journalism was awarded to animator Mark Fiore.  Fiore nominated himself because he had no colleague to nominate him. Fiore is not employed by any newspaper or Web site. He syndicates his own cartoons.

Fiore’s editorial cartoons used to appear in newspapers until he started experimenting with animation in the late ’90s. In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered Scott Shafer Fiore said: “I hope I’m a pioneer and not an anomaly. And I just think the significance of it is that it shows that people are actually starting to realize that all news doesn’t have to come across on paper.”

Such news suggests that there is hope for writers like myself and illustrators like Fiore who embark on their own experiment with the Internet. May there be many more successes for independent artists so that when the seventh grader essayist graduates college she’ll have a well-worn path to success to follow.

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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Down the Rabbit Hole continued – The Effect of the Internet on Writers

…As a freelance writer for a traditionally published newspaper I have never been assured a paycheck or a given pay rate. I have always served at the whim of my editors, and I DO mean whim. Some editors are more generous than others. I have never been clear on how they determine the value of an article. There are, of course, less material returns. My work IS published. Some of my stories are a form of community service. Many of the human interest stories I write are likely to go unnoticed. I enjoy meeting a diverse range of people, especially the kids, and giving them a few inches of fame in the paper. I get no rewards from the Internet sites that use my stories without my permission or royalty payment. The Internet has caused me to lose control of my material. I’m not sure if there’s much recourse for writers.

I know people who write for online sites. These writers are getting fractions of cents on the dollar for their content.  One writer said: “I CAN tell you that hard word, talent, and an insane number of submissions to mags equals publication –and some small amount of recognition. I don’t even know if I register on the radar screen, but I am making a teesny-weensy blip somewhere. After something like 900 submissions last year (sixty acceptances.)… I know the world is stacked against us, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just ALMOST impossible! You keep trying!”

You do the math. 900 submissions in 365 days. 60 acceptances out of 900 submissions. If Phoebe isn’t prone to hyperbole then she is writing her heart out every day with little reward. Her time spent writing is matched, I am sure, with cruising the Internet to find places to submit content.

Content has also been changed by the Internet. In this digital age people want quick reads. Articles are shortened. Language is morphing. There is more jargon, abbreviated words, less grammatical rules. It might be argued that this laissez fair world makes it easier on writers.

As the craft of writing is morphing into shortened forms, I wonder if there won’t come a point when our written language returns to symbology, becomes the modern equivalent of hieroglyphics. I also see video images replacing the written word. For example, I have noticed an increase in the number of video tweets on Twitter.

I think writers are in the midst of a free fall. Like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, we don’t know what lies at the bottom. I’m using this time to learn how to maneuver in the social media world.

I want to discuss the notion that in the not too distant future that all books will be digital, but in my next post I want to return to looking at the trials of self-publishing.

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

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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Down the Rabbit Hole – Where Do Writers Go From Here

Last weekend I went to see the new 3D movie Alice in Wonderland.  Those special glasses the theater hands out so the audience can experience 3D images also transported me back in time. I recalled my youth when television images were displayed in black and white. Color TV existed in my childhood, but its popularity and affordability weren’t realized for a decade or so. Even after my family owned a color television I liked to watch some of the classic old black and white movies. Movies with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, the Marx Brothers, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, and all the other stars of that era.

I’ve seen the comings and goings of analog TV, BETA and VHS tapes, VCRs, and most recently DVDs. For Christmas my kids gave me a digital HD, LED television with a BluRay player. The latter is already outdated with the demise of the local video store and the expanding availability of on demand video sites through our cable.

When the lights came on in the theater I wondered if the kids under 10 in the audience would, as adults, remember a time when they saw anything other than 3D movies. That’s when I started to think what these changes meant for me as a writer. The art of writing and publishing at first glance seems to have changed much more slowly than other visual arts. Yes, I believe writing is a visual art. Don’t the majority of readers use their eyes to see the written word? There’s no question that in medieval days illuminated written word was art.

Writing and publishing are now subject to the lightning fast changes taking place on the Internet. Witness the falling prominence of hard copy newspapers and magazines to their own dot com sites. Kindle, blogs, podcasts, and all the rest are the new formats. They deliver written content faster and farther than the older forms, but at what cost for the writer?

…to be continued…

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

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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