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.

How I Use Scheduled Posts

So, this post from Lois Elsden has me thinking about how and why I schedule blog posts.

I do schedule posts, especially if I know I won’t be available on a particular day. For instance, I can tell you right now that I’ll be gone on my mother’s birthday. I don’t know what I’ll be doing to celebrate, but whatever it is, it’s a priority for me. So, I’ll put in a post ahead of time.

I also schedule posts in advance for blog-hops and events where there’s a topic, or a short story to be covered. I have A-to-Z coming up in April, and I’m already looking at filling in some of that time. (Last year, I did a lot of ad-libbing to cover the space.)

The other way I use scheduling–and I’m not completely predictable about this–is that I schedule posts to go live about an hour before I get off work. That way, the post is out there, and I can respond to the first round of comments as soon as I get home. (Hypothetically, not an actual skill I have. Not always, anyway.)

Well, it beats the crap out of getting home, writing like crazy, and letting the post hit right before supper or bed, or whatever other thing’s going to keep me away from the wi-fi.

Ideally, I’d like the blog post to be a part of the writing day, and far enough ahead that I have some wiggle room, if the fiction writing runs over, or if something unexpected shows up.

I’d like a stockpile of “schedule-able” posts for those last minute surprises, and I’d like to be a day or two ahead, in general. No “oh, shit, what am I writing about now” posts. I’m getting there.

I’m still feeling out the kind of posts that work well as scheduled, vs. the kind of posts that need to be absolutely fresh. For instance, nobody really cares if that short-story is from last week or last year. And that reupholstery project? I’m sure it’ll be in fashion for years to come. But, if I’m writing about a current event, it kinda helps if the event is still current.

It’s not hard to tell the scheduled posts. They’re on the hour. The rest of them are on Karen time. (two thirty seven, anyone?)

So, what about you? How do you use post scheduling on your blog? Any tips? Horrible warnings? Let me know.

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?

Writers, Audiences, and Publicists

Today, I got a letter from a publicist who would like me to host his client for a blog tour at the end of January.

This is not one of my regulars. In fact, until I got the letter, I’d never heard of either one of them. And while I don’t mind being asked, I have to wonder if my blog is really the best fit for this particular blog tour.

In the first place, I’ve never had a blog-tour type post on Reprobate Typewriter. Blog hops, sure. But a promotional, buy this other guy’s book thing? Never. In fact, I’ve never even had a guest post on Reprobate Typewriter. Not that I wouldn’t, under the right circumstances, but as of right now… The count stands at zero.

And in the second place… the book in question is a Christian futuristic…uhm, something or other. Oh, yeah. Fiction. (that’s the way it’s described, and no, I really couldn’t remember that last word.) I have thoughts on the subject of Christian (or any other demographic) as a separate genre. And, uhm…. well, let’s be honest. Religion is somewhat outside the scope of this blog.

Unless, of course, you happen to be a polytheistic alien with an intergalactic empire at hand.

And I don’t know how many of my readers fit the “Christian Fiction” demographic. Three? Well, however many there are, my swearing hasn’t scared them off, and neither have the twenty-seven gods in my novel. They read widely.

The publicist wouldn’t have to dig too far before he ran into something that says “Not my Target Audience.”

So, it’s fairly clear this particular publicist is running a scatter gun campaign. Ask everybody you can find an email for, and make a list. Ask people you don’t know. Ask people whose blogs you don’t read.

Take the author’s money for that.

That’s the part that makes me angry. Someone sets themselves up as a publicist, and then doesn’t do the work to make sure they’re at least plausibly talking to the right people. They haven’t built relationships, but they’re not willing to turn down a job, and every blog tour? A bunch of cold calls.

Just from being in the writing community, I can think of half a dozen people–off the top of my head–who would be a better fit. And I’m not a publicist.

If you’re looking for blogs for one thing, and you happen to run into something else, make a note of it, and move on! Don’t try to hammer that square peg in!

Goals and Blogs and Measuring

I’m having a bad week on the blog. My numbers… my numbers are down. Not horribly, not catastrophically, but just a dismal little dip from what I’ve had the past couple of months. And, there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.

In general, my numbers tend to be a little erratic. They jump when someone reads the Science Fiction Experiment, and then… well, they fall. Last month was a really good month. And then, the numbers fell.

I’m looking at graphs, and reminding myself that I have an upward trend, over all. I’m on track to be well ahead of where I was in… June, for instance. Long term, not to bad.

I’m not sure numbers–particularly the kind of numbers I’m thinking of–constitute goals. Sure, they’re measurable, but they aren’t exactly in my control, even if they’re the result of things that are.

SMART Goals are supposed to be: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Right now, my primary goal with blogging is to post something every day, except for Sunday. (or at least average 6 out of 7 days.) I can do that. It is within my control.

I could see “Contact at least (number) of similar blogs per day” as a goal, or “leave comments on (number) of blogs per day” as viable goals. I could also see variety based goals–add a podcast on Tuesday, or a read-along video on Friday as working well.

Does anybody else have ideas for SMART blogging goals?

 

Promoting an Online Event

I just finished hosting the most recent installment of the Storytime Blog Hop, and I think everyone who wrote stories this time is starting to look toward the next one. October. Halloween. That should be fun.

So, every now and then, I think about how to promote the blog hop…or my own blog… or an especially profound tweet…

I think about putting up posters in real life. Something catchy that would be easy to adapt to individual writers. Support your local independent authors, and a blank for the person’s name and website.

Or maybe posters that are less individual, that can be scattered across three or four continents and maybe pull in some readers. They’d have to be designed well to pull in different readers. And probably culturally brilliant, since there are so many different countries participating in the blog hop.

I’ve seen people promote things by handing out information with their Halloween candy, but of course, we don’t have that many kids left, right now. I think there were three last year, and two of them were siblings. It could work. Download codes for kids books aren’t quite the same as handing out toothbrushes, are they?

Fliers in Little Free Libraries might work, especially if there were download codes involved.

And then, the other thought that occurred to me… and I had the nerve to mention this one to another human being… is that maybe what we need is a scavenger hunt. Track down people in various categories, and invite them to the blog hop. Teacher from grade school? Old love interest? Person from Greenland? Person with a fish on their shirt?

Yes! They all want to read about my dragons. Yes, they do.

And maybe we could get readers involved somehow.

So, right now… I’m still trying to think of ideas. Because deep down inside, I’m probably a lot better at promotion in real life, when I can talk to someone face to face, than I am on the internet.