Tag Archives: Social media

HOW TO GET A BAZILLION FOLLOWERS ON TWITTER WITHOUT REALLY TRYING!!!

Writers, we need to talk. I know you’ve been told that social media is the holy grail of indie marketing, but I think some of you may have gotten the wrong idea.

Here’s what happens. You’re on Twitter right? And you look around you and say, “I need more followers to hawk my wares at. How else am I ever going to make it as a writer?”

Well I am here to tell you exactly how you get bunches and bunches of people following you. Are you ready? Here goes:

Find a bunch of people who’s “follower” to “following” ratio indicates that they follow back, and then follow them. And if they don’t follow you back within a week or so, unfollow those ungrateful jerks and look for more accounts that are ripe for the picking. And when you hit Twitter’s limit on the number of people you’re allowed to follow, gripe and whine about it like the shameless leech that you are.

Don’t worry about silly things like “connecting” with people or “making friends.” Don’t try to learn anything except how to expand your Twitter empire. And definitely don’t make an effort to be interesting in any way.

Okay, since it was theoretically possible that some of you didn’t get it, THAT WAS SARCASM!

Over the months that I’ve been on Twitter I have come to hate this practice with a purple burning rage. It’s part of the reason I’ve stopped automatically following people back. It’s not that I’m not grateful for the people who really are interested in me and what I have to say, but there are just so many people out there engaging in this practice that now I only follow back people who engage me in actual conversation.

But the thing that really tipped me over the edge enough to post about this, was that recently I read a blog post recommending in all seriousness exactly the kind of follow trolling I just described as a legitimate way of building your platform.

[Head Explodes Here]

Here’s the thing. I get it. I know you want to be the one with thousands of followers and a massive Klout score. But instead of follow trolling, I have a better idea.

Try having something to say.

Be funny. Be interesting. Be informative. Be just plain weird if you want to.

And I’m not saying you can’t give up your humanity, and only tweet something that’s interesting or witty. Talking about your normal boring life is fine too from time to time.

But whatever you do stop playing the numbers game. Because I can promise you the thousands of people who are following you back just because you followed them, aren’t going to have nearly the same level of involvement with you as the people who are following you because they want to hear what you have to say.

I’m not saying quantity doesn’t matter. I’m just saying quality matters more.

So stop looking at Twitter like a marketing platform, and start looking at it as a digital world filled with amazing people, with insights to share, jokes to tell, and advice to give. Because that’s what it is.

Twitter is made out of people.

And that is it’s power.

[No, you’re not getting a Soylent Green reference. Seriously, have you people even seen that movie?]

Advertisements

Lady Gaga and the Zen of Weird

Lady Gaga is ugly.

Which is an okay thing. Really, it is. Not everyone was born beautiful. In fact, in a way, it’s inspiring. Because if you think about the rest of the women in the music industry you’re going to come up with a whole pile of gals whose talent is riding on the coattails of their sex appeal.

That isn’t to say that Lady Gaga doesn’t have sex appeal. But it’s a different kind of sex appeal. She draws people in by being completely and inscrutably weird.

And the thing is, I’m not even sure its real. Every time I hear about this woman making some bizzare fashion statement, wearing a dress made out of the bodies of still-living iguanas (give it time; it’ll happen) I think to myself, “That woman is a genius,” not because I think that she’s making a brilliant fashion move, but because I understand she’s making a brilliant career move.

Weird sells.

And since I’ve got a certain vested interest in what sells, I sit up, pay attention, and start taking notes.

Which brings me to the topic at hand. A few days back Chuck Wendig made a post about how writers should try to be more like rock stars. And then, less than a week later, he issued a disclaimer which basically said, “Ha, ha, just kidding guys, maybe don’t take things so seriously, yeah?”

And while I understand what he was doing with the disclaimer, I have to say, I’m a little disappointed. I think he was right the first time. Writers should be more like rock stars.

Why?

Because there are eleventy-six billion of us on Twitter alone. We’re drowning in a sea of #amwriting hashtags and “Got my wordcount goal today. Hooray for me!” Tweets. There’s nothing wrong with that, per say, but if we’re going to make an impact we have to do something to stand out.

And yes, before you say it, I know that writing a good book is the most important thing. But it isn’t the only thing.

Because writing a book is about telling a story. But turning yourself into a rock star is about becoming a story.

People want to know an author’s story. They want to know that J. K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter in some coffee shop. They want to know that Stephen King threw out his first draft of Carrie and only kept working on it because his wife liked it. They want to know that Stephanie Meyers is really an alien from Raxacoricofallapatorius cloaked in human flesh.

So get out there and be at least a little weird. Make some crop circles. Do some graffiti. Make a drunken death threat against your mayor.

Get noticed. Give people a reason to care. Become your own rock star.

People will say, “Oh yeah, that’s that book by Joe Schmoe. He’s the guy who lit himself on fire and swan dived off Niagra falls last year.”

People will also say, “You mean there’s actually some dude named Joe Schmoe? Far out, man. Far out.”

And no, I’m not kidding.

(Except maybe about the death threat thing. Don’t do that.)

Of Battling Bloggers and the Zen of “Duh”

I don’t usually like to respond directly to other blogs, but I thought today merited some exception to that rule. See, on Wednesday Kristen Lamb tried once again to whack us in the noggin with the idea that as writers trying to grow an  online audience, blogging about writing is not a good idea.

This is not new. Kristen has been talking about this at least since I started reading after her at the beginning of the year.

Then Austin Wulf, another blogger I like and respect, answered back with a post arguing against Kristen Lamb’s main points. I recommended you read both blogs for yourself if for no other reason than the fact that they represent two very well argued and opposing viewpoints.

But here’s the deal: I’ve been thinking a lot about this blogging thing lately. More importantly I’ve been thinking about audience numbers and how to expand them. Of course I’ve always wanted more readers, but for a long time it was something almost academic, simply a way to fuel my pride about my blogging ability.

But about a month ago something changed. I released an ebook called A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw. Many of you who are loyal readers of this blog bought the book, and I thank you. But about two weeks after releasing the book my numbers basically hit a brick wall. I’d sell one every couple of days, but the numbers just weren’t there. I’d tapped out my audience, and now I was swinging in the wind. And I don’t know about you, but the prospect of making money really makes me perk up and pay attention.

So I started thinking about what I could do about it, and what I came up with was this: maybe I shouldn’t be blogging exclusively about writing.

Because I believe it does limit my readership to a certain extent. Looking back over posts of the past, some of the most popular by SEO numbers have absolutely nothing to do with writing. And now that I’m further along in my blogging career SEO is a big part of bringing in traffic.

Now there are clearly writers that can pull off writing about writing and garner an audience by the boatload, but as far as I can tell all of those writers are named Chuck Wendig. I am not named Chuck Wendig, nor do I have even an iota of the man’s skill in crafting pithy punchy posts.

Which is why you may have noticed in the past few weeks, that I haven’t been writing as much about writing. Instead I’ve been dabbling in other topics that interest me to see what kind of reaction I can get from the audience at large. This is not to say that I’ll never blog about writing again, but after all this time, I’m finally starting to think maybe Kristen was right all along. And even though it did take me a while to realize it, I’m not ashamed.

Sometimes you have to understand something for yourself. You hear it over and over, and one day it finally clicks and you’ll say, “You know that thing everyone tried to tell me I should do for all those years. Maybe I should give that a shot.”

And the people who tried to tell you for all those years are smacking their heads with their palms and saying, “Yes, what a brilliant idea. Maybe you should try that.”

And that’s okay. Because sometimes you just have to learn it on your own.

Addendum: don’t worry. The economics post was a bomb, so you won’t have to worry about seeing Money Mondays anytime soon.

Addendum 2: I have a new/old short story out for the Kindle. It’s a terrifying little tale that mixes science fiction and horror into a delightfully spine-tingling concoction that I call Derelict. Maybe you should check it out.

On Waiting

 

When I was a kid I swore I’d never have a garden. My dad had a garden and I hated it. There were weeds and bugs, and the sun was hot, and I got dirt under my fingernails and just…ugg. I hated it.

As it turns out, I was a moron. Or maybe I was a genius, and I’m a moron now. Whichever one it is, I’ve got a garden. It’s not very big, but I’ve got a little of everything in there. A few tomatoes, some onions, some corn, all the wonderful things I love to eat magically sprouting up out of the ground from nothing more than a tiny seed. It’s kind of exciting.

But.

It.

Takes.

For.

Ev.

Errrrrrr.

Seriously. I’m looking out at my front lawn and weeds sprout up literally overnight, but it takes ninety days to get a decent ear of corn? Let’s maybe speed up the program yes?

Only I can’t. I can go out there and water that little patch of dirt till my yard floods. I can fertilize and mulch and pull up weeds all day long, but you know what? That corn is still going to take three months before it’s ready to eat.

Social media is a lot the same way. A while back I took Kristen Lamb’s advice and jumped into this blogging thing with both feet. I got on Twitter, I got on Facebook, I was ready. Now to wait for the tidal wave of followers to come and be amazed by my awesome.

Only it wasn’t a tidal wave. It was a trickle. One or two here, three or four there, nothing really to write home about. But after a few weeks that trickle grew into a dribble, and after a few months that dribble was a small but respectable stream. And what of the Freshly Pressed Fiasco of 2011? Well it was nice while it lasted, and it did boost my numbers, but not by an unbelievable amount.

Why am I telling you this? Because some of you are in the same boat with me. We look up at the big shots and we just know they’ve got all this clout and we think, “What am I doing wrong?”

And it’s a fine question to ask. We should never be through looking for ways we can improve ourselves. But we should be willing to accept the answer, “Mostly nothing.”

Yes, maybe we can improve our writing and delivery a little, but real honest growth still takes time. Those weeds in my front yard sure sprung up fast, but they’re not good for anything. And the thousands of views I got on my Lima Beans post don’t mean anything in the long run, because most of those people have moved on to the next distraction.

That doesn’t mean that social media is fruitless. It just means we have to wait for the stuff that matters.

We aren’t going to get a million Twitter followers in twenty-four hours like Charlie Sheen did and that’s okay. But a little at a time, if we work at it, our following will grow. And it will be worth it.

Just like it will be worth it three months from now when I sit down at the dinner table and eat the corn and tomatoes out of my very own garden. My mouth is watering already.

How to Ignore Perfectly Good Advice in Three Easy Steps

You are not alone.

You ever notice how often that phrase pops up in commercials? Do you ever feel a little creeped out by it? Maybe you look around the house to make sure that there’s no one there with you. Well if you do, then you are not alone.

But all silliness aside, as a writer you really aren’t alone. There are hundreds and thousands of other writers out there, from all different levels of the skill spectrum, and many of them are eager and willing to help you out on your journey toward the fun and lucrative world of being a published author.

This is a good thing. Sometimes.

But sometimes it can be overwhelming. There are lots of great people out there with tons of knowledge, and lots of great advice to give out. They’ve been there, they’ve done that, and they know all the mistakes you’re going to make if you’re not careful. You’d be a fool to ignore them.

Except.

Except sometimes their advice doesn’t work for you. And sometimes it might actually contradict other advice you’re getting from equally credible sources.

This is something I’ve thought about quite a bit recently because it happened to me in a big way. Let me explain.

I started blogging seriously solely because of the influence of one Kristen Lamb, media expert and all around awesome person. Her blog is an invaluable resource on how to leverage social media as an author, as well as having great tips on plotting and structure.

(Also she has a book entitled We Are Not Alone. How’s that for your freaky coincidence?)

She encourages writers to do things like start a regular blog, get on Twitter and Facebook, and for the love of Bob use your writing name wherever you can.

As you may be able to tell, I’ve taken most of her advice to heart. But one of her bits of social media wisdom is this: Blog about what you write about.

You may be noticing that I am in fact blogging about writing. I do not write about writing. Except now. Which doesn’t count.

But I didn’t make the choice to pass on that particular piece of advice at a whim. I went through a process of thought and introspection which I’ve boiled down into three steps.

If someone’s giving you advice you’re not sure about maybe this will help.

1. Listen

This is very important. Sometimes a piece of advice might not be for you, but if you dismiss it out-of-hand then you’re doing yourself a disservice. At least give the person the benefit of the doubt that they’re not just blowing smoke. They want to help you. Don’t ever ignore that.

When I first read Kristen Lamb’s advice, I didn’t just snort and say, “Well that’s stupid. I’m not doing that.” I listened. I gave the idea room to take root in my mind.

2. Think

Now that you’ve got the bit of advice in your head, mull it over, do your best to understand it. If you can, try to incorporate it into your process. Even if it doesn’t feel natural at first, give it a try. If it doesn’t work for you try to understand why it doesn’t work. There may be some deeper kernel of truth within the advice that may be able to benefit you.

“Blog about what you write about” is really a great piece of advice. Kristen’s deeper point is this: we need to connect with our potential readers not just other writers. And that’s something I’ve tried to keep in mind as I’ve slowly expanded my writer’s platform.

3. Decide

Because hey, you can really do whatever you want to do. Ignoring advice isn’t wrong. If it doesn’t work for you then fine. If it does work for you and improves your craft, even better.

Obviously, I decided not to follow Kristen’s advice. I made my decision mostly because it’s hard to blog on topic when your work-in-progress is a horror story about a monster mulch pile.

I’m gonna talk about what? Organic gardening?

But for someone writing a more conventional genre, say legal thrillers, blogging on topic could be a fantastic opportunity to connect with readers.

The bottom line is that one size does not fit all. You need balance. You shouldn’t reject advice simply because you don’t feel like doing it. But neither should you feel obligated to go on following advice that just isn’t working out for you. You have to use wisdom and discernment, and consider which path is best for you.

And that’s my advice. You know what to do with it.

How to Win

I kinda like to argue. I don’t know why. Maybe I’ve got some kind of confrontational personality disorder.

I used to argue stuff I didn’t even believe just to enjoy the verbal sparring involved in trying to prove my point. I was addicted to the idea of the win, The moment when I had back my opponent into  a logical corner and they’d have to throw up their hands and say, “Clearly Albert, your’s is the superior intellect. I concede your point and reject my previous position.”

Except that never happened. No matter how well I argued, people would leave the conversation believing the same thing they had always believed, thinking the same way they had always thought.

I came to the conclusion that most people’s minds were fixed like concrete, that once an idea had taken root there no amount of logic could serve to pull it out. The idea of the win was a myth.

But recently I’ve been giving the win some more thought. Winning arguments doesn’t work. No matter how many facts you have at your disposal most people will go on believing what they’ve always believed. But you can change minds. How?

You have to win people.

“Win people?” you may ask. “What does that mean?”

Winning people is all about connection. It’s about creating friendships. It’s about being a nice person.

The best way to make someone see your point of view is to first make them like you. It sounds simple enough, but it’s a fact that most of our society chooses to ignore. Take for instance, the most recent presidential elections. Political pundits took great joy in dissecting the minutia of the different candidates campaign platforms, their political plans and economic strategies.

And in the end the man who won was the candidate who was the most likable.

This is coming from a guy who’s pretty staunchly conservative, by the way. I watched the campaign and I didn’t agree with most of Barak Obama’s policies, but even I had to admit that the man was charismatic and engaging. I enjoyed listening to him say things I disagreed with more than I enjoyed listening to McCain say (some) things that I agreed with.

We can moan and whine all we want about how unfair it is that people make decisions based on personal feelings, but in the end it doesn’t matter. The world we live in is not based on logic; it is based on likability.

Winning people isn’t just for politicians. It’s a good idea for everyone who wants to make an impact on the world, including us writers.

We want to get our work out into the world some day, and we want people to buy it. That’s why it’s so important that we nurture friendships and make connections that will leave a positive impression on the people around us.

The internet has expanded our capacity to make those connections in an amazing way, but it’s up to us to use that capability wisely. Time spent on Twitter and Facebook doesn’t have to be wasted. If we do it right we can forge friendships that may prove invaluable for us later on. At the very least we’re getting our name out there into the world, so that one day when we’re finally newly minted authors with books on the shelves of a real bookstore those friends we’ve made over the years will be there to buy them up.

Bottom line: we should never ever reject the power of relationships or forget the importance likability. Winning people may take longer than winning an argument, but time spent winning people is never wasted.

Cleaning for Company

A few days ago my wife and I had a couple of friends from our church over for dinner. It just so happened that the day they were coming over was also the day I was off work, so I was stuck cleaning the house.

I vacuumed and straightened and did all the dishes that had been piling up in the sink.  I worked for a solid hour and a half so that our house would look better than it usually does for our guests.  In fact it looked so good I’m thinking we should have guests over more often, so the house might actually stay somewhere close to clean (Let’s not talk about all those rooms the guests will never see that got piled up with junk.

While I was cleaning it made me think about how we present ourselves to others.  I didn’t just clean.  I gave a lot of thought to what exactly I was comfortable with my guests seeing.

Should I leave the skull salt and pepper shaker holder on the table?  Should I hide the Stephen King short story anthologies? Would they be more impressed with my intellect if I left Jaques Derida’s Writing and Difference closer to the top of the bookshelf?

And while I was thinking on such things I was reminded of a recent post by Chuck Wendig in which he talked about the writer’s platform. Specifically he said,

[N]ow is a good time to slap a new coat of paint on who you want the world to see. Want to know a secret? This should be the best and most interesting face of who you already are. No ruse, no illusion.

In other words, don’t go out and buy a new house just because company is coming. Clean up the house you already have. Think about the things you want them to see, and the things you’d rather throw into that unused bedroom down the hall.  Maybe you’ll decide to leave some of the weirder stuff in plain view and let the chips fall where they may.  Maybe you’ll keep anything that might put people off well out of sight. The choice is up to you.

But remember, if you’re a writer you’re going to want your company to come back as often as possible.

Addendum: My friends totally dug the skull salt and pepper shaker holder. Goes to show you, it pays not to put too fine a polish on your “image.”