Reusing Old Posts By Subject

One of the thoughts that flutters through my head from time to time is re-posting, or cross-posting content from the blog to other platforms. I’m always running into plugins that promise to do that for me. I use one, actually, to tweet each post, and maybe add it to Google Plus. (Because the integration was pretty easy.)

Now, the theme here–correct me if I’m wrong–is more or less whatever pops into my mind, sometimes with a writing bent. And let’s be honest… I post a lot. It’s a good warm up for the day, and why the hell wouldn’t someone care about what I ate for lunch yesterday? (It was a tomato caprese sandwich.)

The way a lot of these autoposters works is that you tell it which tags you would like posted to which networks. So, potentially, I could post one set of things to Medium, and a different set to Tumbler, and so on. Even if I keep posting exactly the way I have been here, the others would wind up taking on their own flavor, by virtue of all the sandwiches that are cut out, and the fact that the tags could be tailored to have–for instance–a fiction-only slant, or a “here are my views on education” slant.

I could use tags to turn Tumbler into a reader-oriented platform, and Medium into something more political-y activist-y. (Or, you know, off the wall views to piss everybody off-y)

So, the questions that I have, right now… are

  1. What flavor or slant do you think that various platforms have? What tags should I assign to which platform?
  2. Which platforms are the best for selling things on? Down the road, I’d probably like people to buy things, and it won’t help much, if my “reader” platform doesn’t allow sales. (I’m not just talking about books, of course. I could sell custom nose rings or something.)
  3. How do I (eventually) start to move people off of platforms that don’t belong to me and onto Reprobate Typewriter? Does this even matter?

Writer’s Business Cards

A while back, I had business cards made up. They’re not too bad. The Vista Print special for the day. Nothing that took a designer to build, but not exactly shabby, either.

They focused more on my website than on me as a writer, which is okay, I guess. I haven’t settled on a pen name (for real) yet, and at the time, I was still up in the air, even as far as genre goes. There are a lot of experiments rotting on my hard drive. I’m happy with some of them, and less happy with others. And maybe that’s just a part of sussing out what your themes–what your real, core stories are, and what the best way of telling those stories might be.

So, I have business cards.

Delightfully pretentious, n’est pas?

They don’t have my name on them, and they aren’t all that specific about genre, but they exist. They do highlight the website nicely, albeit as something I hope it will one day become. They do not, for instance, have my Twitter account on them.

I thought about taking business cards to the writers’ conference just a little too late to order new ones, and realized how… well, strangely not right the ones I have are. (Don’t worry, I ordered the smallest package of them.)

So, at some point , I actually saw a few writers’ business cards, and it turns out, they’re not nearly as difficult as I thought. Name, pen name, email, website, and some social media information. Maybe a genre, and maybe not. Maybe a tagline.

Obviously, my tagline would be Writing… Ask me what, when I make up my mind.

I’ll probably order replacements before I go out again.

So, do you have writer’s business cards? If so, what’s on them?

 

Where to List Random Bits of Opinion, and Disastrous Art Projects

I don’t usually write for children, so I don’t usually blog about children, and I don’t usually blog about education. But, every now and then, an opinion slips out. I don’t even know why I should get to have an opinion. I did my turn teaching, substituting, and wearing the dog costume in the children’s section of the bookstore, but it’s not a calling.

Let’s be honest. Most of the things I do are not lifetime passions.

I don’t expect to be doing model rocketry at eighty. I won’t be making a career out of folding two-headed origami cranes. I’m not expected to do a Ted-Talk about painting or sculpture anytime soon.

But I do these things, and sometimes I blog about them.

And as I was applying tags to yesterday’s post–the kind of tags I never use, that have their own, separate, over-there audience–I started thinking about the kinds of cross-promotion that could be done with the little fringe interests I barely dip my toes in.

The thought of a list of subject-specific places to post that kind of post came to mind, and honestly, I’m not sure where to start.

It does sound like a great way of pulling in new audience members, though.

A good way to get past this is a writing blog, and move out in front of other interest groups.

Religion as A Marketing Technique

Yesterday, I was reading an author’s biography.  Her biography was a list of attributes. You know the kind. Dinosaur wrangler, Rockstar, and Mail-order Accountant Ethel Hergenmeier lives in Florida with her husband, her potted plants, and three small children whose parents refuse to take them back. (This was the blog-based, and probably unofficial biography, by the way.)

Except, in her case, the first attribute was her religion. So, Zen Buddhist, Dinosaur Wrangler and etc… And, in all fairness, she was writing a book about the Four Noble Truths for writers, or artists, or something. (Disclaimer. I never got past the Third Noble Truth, and can’t remember what the Fourth Noble Truth is, so if you have questions about Zen Buddhism, go ask one.)

For all intents and purposes, the book seems to be marketed toward a general writing audience, and not exclusively to the Zen Buddhist crowd. The biography on Amazon is different, and focuses on her previous books, her career, and where she lives.

There’s no separate Zen Buddhist section in the bookstore (or at least, not in mine) and this book would wither and die, if people had to hunt it down in “Eastern Philosophy.”

The general audience thing has me stumped. On the one hand, the fact that the writer is a Zen Buddhist could matter. Of course, if it does, the fact that the reader is not could also matter.

With some religions, I have a very clear idea of what to expect, if the author or the book is described (front and center) with their religion. Christian comes to mind, and generally means no sex, no swearing, and geared toward a (fairly conservative) Christian audience. (No, that is NOT idiomatic.) It’s not just a fact, it’s a niche market.

I don’t have that same clarity with Zen Buddhism. Maybe I would, if I knew more about it, but I’m not picking up on the “How does that sell books?” end of it.

There’s a range in all of the biography information. Retired FBI agent or NASA astronaut is more relevant; Owns a dog named Buster is… arguably less relevant. And you work from more to less relevant.

So, how important is knowing an author’s religion to you? And what information do you get from knowing? Are there any circumstances under which you would mention your religion in your bio information?

 

 

Trigger Warnings for the Modern Reader

The first time I ran into the idea of trigger warnings, I was working on revising my first (and eternally unpublished) novel, and writing a second (or third, or fourth, or fifteenth). I was on the NaNoWriMo forums, talking to people I didn’t know particularly well, whose names I no longer remember, and who were probably not writing in the same genres as I did.

And somewhere in the conversation, someone “suggested”–with more than a hint of self-righteousness–that I should put a warning sticker on my book.

I took it as a joke. Something like those parental advisory stickers that used to come on music, back before music came off the internet. And why wouldn’t I? I mean, the title of my book was something like “Slicey-Dicey Serial Killers of Death,” the cover–if it had gotten that far–would likely have shown a dead woman (or some portion thereof), and it would certainly have been shelved under murder and mayhem in the bookstore or library.

What more warning could you possibly need?

That was before e-readers. Back then, the question was pretty simple. Trigger warnings, yes or no? And since publishers mostly only publish one version of a book at a time, a little debate, and then everybody gets stuck with the same answer.

Now, to be quite honest, I don’t just not want to be trigger warned, I very much want to not be trigger warned.

But…

We’re not talking about some over-arching trigger-police running amok in the libraries, stamping things with stickers, anymore.

When I read a book, more often than not, I read it in my preferred font, at my preferred size, and that impacts… exactly no one other than myself. When I buy a book, I frequently do it in an internet store that remembers my previous purchases, and makes individual suggestions. When I search for a book–on Google or in the store, itself–the ads I see aren’t the same ones you see. And there are parental controls on my devices, even though my only child uses a litter box.

Everyone sees their own internet.

Trigger warnings don’t have to be a sticker on the front cover, anymore. They don’t have to be front and center, spoiling the book for everyone. It is not a zero sum game.

They could be–like my preferred font– a personal setting either on a sales website or on your e-reader, itself. People who need them see them, and I don’t. You could even use it as a marketing tool. (that little red exclamation point means they’re there, if you want them.)

And they could be incredibly detailed.  Wanna be warned about abuse, but not be told in advance that Beth dies? Fine. Set your reader settings that way.  Want your warnings up front, or chapter by chapter? There could be a setting for that.

It’s time to move on. We’re at a point where we could easily move from static, one-size fits all trigger warnings to customize-able trigger controls. And put the reader in control.

 

Safety, Common Sense, and Selling Books

So, you already know I was on a mini-vacay last week. I needed that. The stress of stress would have eaten me alive, if I hadn’t gotten out. Nothing quite like grabbing a friend, ditching real life, and hitting a neighboring state.

And, as it turns out, there was another writer in the motel.

It wasn’t me that ran into her.

“There’s one of your people in the elevator.”

My people, by the way, can mean anything from my close friends to whole groups of people I happen to belong to. And, let’s be honest, my mind shot straight to dancers, because they’re easier to pick out of a crowd, and because I actually do know dancers in KC.

My friend was a little wigged out, though, so my mind skipped from dancers to band members, and maybe a few specific individuals she might be able to recognize as “my” people. Mutual acquaintance type “my” people.

I asked.

“One of your book people.”

Okay. So, I’m lost. How could she possibly know that someone she met on an elevator was a book person? I mean, we’re pretty mellow, compared to some of my acquaintances.

Turns out the woman had gone all Bookseller of Prey on her.

She was pretty shaken, after an elevator pitch that had gone from small talk, to buy my book, to let’s-trade-room-numbers-you’re-my-new-bestie all in the course of three floors. I don’t blame her. My head was spinning, just thinking about it.

But, I was also thinking about the other woman. Was she someone I do know? Someone I will know in the future?

I’m not sure freaking out strangers on an elevator (in a motel!) is the best way of selling books. The thing about an elevator pitch is… well, at the other end of the elevator, your target winds up in an office, full of his or her trusted co-workers. You aren’t necessarily alone in the elevator, either.

And I’m pretty sure that inviting strangers back to your hotel room to get the books that you don’t have with you isn’t the safest idea, either. Remember that old joke your granny used to tell? The one where she slapped a guy because he invited her up to his room to see his etchings? (And it turned out there really were etchings?)

I don’t really care what risks you choose to take in bookselling… but make sure they are a choice. Make sure they’re a sensible choice, and make sure they’re an effective choice.

This one happens to be an unnecessary and ineffective risk. You’re taking all the risks your mother warned you about in luring strangers back to your motel room–I won’t get into those–and you’re also scaring off your risk conscious customers.

Most women–and probably most men, too– are NOT going to go knocking on motel room doors to buy a book.

Get a tote bag and carry a couple of books with you. That way, you aren’t taking a risk, and you’re not asking your customers to take that risk, either.

Lagniappes, Giveaways, and Finding YOUR Fans

I love it when people give me free books.

Aside from the obvious–someone is giving you a free book–it’s a great way to get past all those unconscious biases and read something completely out of your comfort zone and find something you wouldn’t pick up on your own.

The first strangers I remember handing out free books were the Gideons. Motel room Bibles, first–seems like I was always on a road trip of some kind as a kid–and later, the suit-and-tie men who stood outside schools and passed out teeny-tiny New Testaments in bright colors. One of my great-uncles was a Gideon, and you could always go over to his house and read the Bible. And since he was also kind of an ersatz missionary, you could “read” the Bible in more languages than I can count, some of which used a completely different alphabet.

Laugh, if you want, but it was one of my first introductions to foreign language.

Later on, when I was a Bookseller, we had a communal shelf for the Advance Copies publishers sent us, and the books rotated in and out fairly quickly. You’d read it, and then bring it back (most of the time) and add a post-it with a few notes on your thoughts. Obviously, the ones  with the most post-its were the most desirable.

Yes, there was a range. There were tech manuals in back that had probably been untouched since the dawn of the Epoch, and which were probably… just fine as that goes… and occasionally, you’d wind up with a note or two that shredded something.

But you still got that exposure to things you might not ordinarily buy or even read. Would I put out money for a History of the San Francisco Sewer system? Probably not, but if my friend liked it, and it was free…

And then, comes the world of e-books. When I got my first e-reader, it seemed like everything was free, and if it wasn’t… well, wait a week. People were fiddling around, trying to figure out the business model for e-books, and the first digital-only imprints were being born. And somehow, people still made money.

Just not the company that made that first reader. In time, their store wound up being swamped by “Free.” You could search, but you couldn’t find anything under the piles and piles of “Free.” The algorithm seemed to make no distinction between “real” books and the “books” some high school kid kicked out over the weekend. Probably because it didn’t make a distinction between giving away copies and selling them. It wound up closing.

Moral of That Story? There is a difference between attracting your own fans, and attracting the fans of Free.

So, moving right along…

The solution at least a couple of traditional publishers have come up with is offering “free” ebooks, but only through their newsletters, and off their own websites. That way, they’re focusing on people who care enough to know, instead of on the whole internet.

I get a couple of newsletters that have a regular Book of the Month type giveaway (and an associated discussion group, if you’re into that). I think they’re probably doing fairly well in terms of attracting “their” fans instead of a bunch of bargain hunters. One of them is Tor, and the other is a much smaller, University press that trades in non-fiction.

On the far end of things, I’ve heard the idea that you shouldn’t be afraid to give away all of your work (eventually) because your true fans won’t be able to wait and will wind up sending money, anyway. I’m not sure I totally believe that, but it does seem to work for some people.

So, what do you think? If you give away books, how do you make that work for you? If you don’t, what led to that decision? And if you’re in some other industry, how do you handle the giveaways?

Glitches, Progress Reports, and The Dreaded Day Job

For some reason, the blog hasn’t been automatically approving comments. All the right check boxes are checked, and some of the “please moderate” comments are definitely from people I know, and who comment all the time, but… they’re still getting flagged. I’m working on that.

I’m adding two new pages, today. The first one is an accountability/progress report for my 52 week 52 short story challenge. It has a space for every week in the year. So far, I’ve filled in two titles, and the first one probably doesn’t really count. I don’t know if it’s going to be of interest to anyone but me, but you’re welcome to  take a look and either cheer me on or give me that kick in the ass, depending on where I am.

The second page is My Writer Scout Sash. I despise that cluttered, everything and the kitchen sink look that some blogs get. And yet, I’m gradually increasing my collection of snazzy web-badges from the various events and groups I play with on line. So, my not quite regulation solution? Writer Scout Sash. A page where I can put them all, to remind myself of my accomplishments, and all the fun I’m having, but where no one else has to trip over them.

Also, some of my feeds have been picking up the wrong picture to go with the posts–or whatever picture’s available, when I don’t have a featured image–and that’s probably not a good thing. I’m contaminating brands! Worse than that, ones that don’t even belong to me. Well, this will fix that.

The Day Job is still going. The Good News is that we have a new person… and it’s not even a new hire. It’s a reliable, been-there-forever transfer.  The Bad News is that there’s already an office pool on how long it will take New Person and Supervisor Person to tear each others’ throats out.

There is no wagering on who will win said confrontation. No one will take that bet. The answer is New Person.

Momentum on the Internet; or, I Choose To Celebrate

I’m about ten views away from hitting my 5,000 view milestone with this blog. That’s taken me two years–give or take–but the first year was pretty much practice.  For the first year, or so, I only posted very sporadically. I was trying to post the Lepterians  novel, and the total number of posts was probably in the neighborhood of three or four a month.

I mention this because I really don’t know whether that’s a good record, or a bad record, or if there are people laughing at me from behind the internet while I celebrate something miserably pathetic. I know, of course, that it’s still microscopic in the grand scheme of things.

What I don’t know is how it compares to other writers’ experiences. Objectively, there’s a big question mark there.

I feel behind. I feel as though two years should amount to more than that, or that maybe, I just haven’t hit that magic formula of personality and content, yet. I feel like I need a podcast, a YouTube channel, and maybe some guy in a big chicken costume, handing out brochures on the street.

And, at the same time, I feel overwhelmed and grateful that that many people are paying attention. I’m celebrating. Of course, I am. It’s taken me a long time, and most of that time was outside my comfort zone.

So, tell me about your experiences. Are there certain milestones you celebrate? Achievements you weren’t expecting–that a-ha! moment–that I should be looking forward to? Are there things you’d do differently, if you were back where I am now, looking to do it over again?

Unexpected Milestones in Blogging

When you start doing something, there are milestones you expect. Evidence of progress that is predictable: A particular number of views, or followers, or posts. For instance, I’m approaching my 200th post. There’s nothing particularly surprising about that. You just write the first post, and then, keep going.

In addition to that kind of milestone, you have the kind of milestone you weren’t looking for until you run into it along the way. Things like the callous on my big toe. I didn’t think about it before I started dancing, but there it is. Proof I was there. A nice souvenir.

I’m talking about the milestones that come with their own aha moment and announce themselves when you get there.

Today’s milestone?

My readers started talking to each other.

Yeah. In the comments on my blog. There are people… and they’re talking to each other.

Oh!

Didn’t know I was looking for that.

In hindsight, it seems obvious that it would happen eventually. I mean, I have a blog. It has a theme (Specifically: Pretending this blog has a theme.) It makes sense that the people who read it would have enough in common that they’d start talking eventually.

Surprise!

It’s like the first time you run into someone who looks just exactly like your character running around on the street.

So… what are the milestones that took you by surprise? What accomplishments did you reach without knowing they were there?