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Social Media Marketing for Indie Authors (and Dummies)

One thing I hear quite often from readers is that “writing a book must be hard.”

Well, it’s definitely not easy, but truth be told, writing the book is the easy part. It’s the “getting it out to the world” that’s the hard part.

Ask 10 Independent Authors about their marketing strategy and you’ll get 20 different answers.

The good news is, there is a ton of ways to promote your work. The bad news…you have to figure out which one(s) will give you the most bang for your buck.

I hang out with two other indie authors on a regular basis (Armand Rosamilia and Becky M. Pourchot) and we have devoted a lot of conversation time to the “best” marketing ideas. We’ve discussed ideas from newspaper ads to radio broadcasts, we go to art-related events regularly and we routinely harass local businesses into selling our books and hosting signings. We also discuss the value, or lack thereof, of giving bookmarks to potential readers (see Armand’s blog post about it here) and even the advantages, or disadvantages of giving books away.

After we’ve beaten the above ideas to death, and beyond, we move on to social media – which, although mostly free, is not without issues. There is no doubt about its value as a marketing tool, but be careful how you use it or it can do more harm than good. It’s taken me about 5 years to get a handle on it and I’m still no expert, but here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned so far…

 

Lesson #1 – The internet is free publicity…unless you count the old adage “time is money.”

time is moneySure – you can sign up for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads and a slew of other social media sites and plug yourself until the cows come home – but how much time are you willing to spend every day keeping up with all of it. If you want to establish an on-line presence you have to be active. Keeping a facebook page dynamic enough to draw interest requires constant attention. Not letting your Twitter feed become stagnant takes time, and your Goodreads page isn’t going to remain up to date by itself. I think you see the way I’m steering the boat…

 

Lesson #2 – Using the internet is so easy a 12-year-old can do it…problem is, I’m not 12.

baby on facebook

I have enough trouble remembering 47 different user-IDs and passwords, never mind figuring out how to link my Facebook feed to my Goodreads page. Every time I try to update my website, it’s a two-hour ordeal, and before it’s over I have usually invented a handful of new cuss-words. And why can’t things look and act the same on my phone and Kindle as they do on my PC? I swear, the first thing I’m going to do after Steven Spielberg makes a movie from one of my books is hire an IT Department.

 

Lesson #3 – Be careful with your content…you won’t sell a book to someone who thinks you’re an a$$hole.

political postsWhether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn or Pinterest it is wise to avoid controversy. I used to enjoy engaging people in “spirited debates” on Facebook, but Armand finally convinced me that it was not the best business decision, since I ran the risk of alienating people who had opposing viewpoints. Yes, I am entitled to my opinion, as is everybody, but by voicing those opinions I was running the risk of pissing people off, so I backed off and now I only engage in non-controversial (for the most part) discussions. I suppose if I were Stephen King, I wouldn’t care about it, but…

 

Lesson #4 – Sure, the idea of being on the internet is to sell books…but don’t actually ask people to buy them.

salesman

Talk about contradictions, right? You want to use the internet to reach the world and sell your book (or song, or painting, or whatever), but if you do nothing but bombard the feeds with “buy my stuff” posts your sales numbers will be less than staggering. You might as well put on a cheap suit and shout “…but wait! There’s more!!” Nobody likes a high-pressure salesman. Social media is meant to be, as the title implies, social…so socialize (bearing in mind Lesson #3). Share content that is interesting, funny, philosophical or thought provoking…then every now and then slip in a casual reminder that you happen to have something for sale.

 

Lesson #5 – Social media is a two-way street…make sure you go both ways.

two way

Imagine you meet somebody at a party, begin a discussion and within minutes you realize that this person talks about nothing but themselves. Pretty soon you’d be wishing for somebody to interrupt so you can casually slip off to the bathroom. Social media is no different. Don’t be “that guy” (or girl). Contribute to conversations you didn’t start, acknowledge pictures of peoples children or pets with a “like”, “favorite” or “+1” (whatever the case may be). Show people that you’re interested in them and they will respond in kind. Pretty simple, actually.

 

Lesson #6 – If you can’t be original…at least add some creativity when you plagiarize.

duplicate original

There’s really nothing new under the sun, and social media drives that point home like a sledge hammer. There are going to be times when you share a picture, retweet an article or repin an item. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just try to do it in such a way that doesn’t leave you looking like a parrot. Mix it up, add some original content and try to make it (at least partially) your own. If you’re creative enough to write a book, you should be creative enough to come up with a caption more original than “LOL” under the picture you stole form your high school buddy. And try to avoid reposting content that has been around the block a thousand times…

I think that’s about enough for now. One other lesson I’ve learned about the internet…don’t overshoot the attention span of your audience!

And speaking of the internet – here are links to connect with me out there on the interweb – stop by and say hello.

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon

Pinterest

LinkedIn

Website

And if you want to find me quickly, do a search for #Ike

 

As always – thank you for reading.

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I Know Why You Cry by Shai Adair

You may vote by “liking” my facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggBooks and putting a “like” under the link to this story OR by placing a comment below. Please vote only once, duplicate votes will not be counted. Thank you! ©Shai Adair 2013 – Used with permission

The cold goaded me forward, half reluctantly, as I strolled down the familiar cemetery row to her grave. I pulled the collar of my jacket up as the morning air chilled my bare neck on the bright September morning. I do this ritual on holidays as well as on her birthday – today she would have been seventy-eight. As I walked, passing row after row of grave markers I imagined what it would be like if these lying here could shed their posthumous state and have a final speech. What would they say? One stone was of a baby no more than a month old. The speech would have been nothing more than babble and the thought saddened me greatly. The next, a young man in his early twenties. Each marker I passed represented someone. Someone loved by someone else. Their graves, most of them, were certainly well watered with fresh tears at some point.

Nicole J. Gleeson born September 13, 1930 – died May 25, 1988

I squatted down and brushed the leaves from the aging stone as if pushing hair from her face.

“Happy birthday, mom,” I said. A gust of wind came from nowhere sending a chill down my spine and cleared the last of the leaves. For a moment I wished I had worn the wool sweater I taken out the night before. I lay a single, black rose across the stone just under her name as if underlining it. It was her favorite kind of flower. As I stood, I realized I was not alone on this early morning in fall. A woman standing next to me wore a long black coat and hung her head with her hands in her pockets looking down at the stones. I glanced around the cemetery for a moment, thinking how engrossed I must have been to not have heard her walk up. Looking at the parking lot I spied my old, overused minivan. Man, I need to retire that old machine, I thought to myself as my eyes then returned to the lonely rose as it lay on the cold cemetery floor. The stranger and I stood in silence; our hearts aching in similar fashion for what could no longer be reached.

My heart ached as I saw the grass growing around the cement marker. In the end, we are all fertilizer, returning to the earth. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. It is like this every time I come to mom’s grave. Though I usually have the place to myself, I always dread coming, and yet once here I always find it difficult to tare myself away. I began to think about the last time I had seen her alive. Silently, I began to cry, wiping my tears as they emerged.

“It never goes away, does it?” said the stranger softly.

Somewhat startled, it took me a moment to reply. I looked at her as she stared at the ground. Her long, gray hair fell around her shoulders in a glorious flow. The wrinkles on her face were evidence of a full life lived with all it’s pain and joy. I imagined that at her age she had lost many more loved ones than I.

“No, it never does,” I said and returned my gaze to mom’s grave marker. “It’s been just over twenty years and I still come here and cry.” Silence fell between us once again as we stood as if suspended in time. I felt another tear make a trail down my cheek in an unstoppable journey to the grass beneath me. “I don’t know why I come here,” I said, feeling overwhelmed by the emotion of it. I really spoke more to myself then to anyone else, but the stranger standing there provided me a pleasant confessional and so I allowed myself to ramble. “We barely spoke to one another. I wasn’t even there when she died and I knew she was sick. She… uh… she really wasn’t much of a mom. I basically raised myself.” I stopped my rambling for a moment and saw she was looking at me. Her wrinkled face was drenched in compassion so rich it was almost painful for me to look at. I turned back to the marker with the unspeakable impression that I had just made a friend.

“She really left quite a hole, didn’t she?” said the stranger in the sweetest voice.

I nodded and the tears rolled as if from a broken dam. She put her hand on one of my shoulders and my words gushed forth in an inexorable current.

“It’s okay,” she said compassionately, giving me the reins to pour out my secrets.

“I can still hear the sound of dishes smashing as she threw them against the wall in one of her manic rages.” My own voice surprised me as I began to allow my heart to drain the pain I’d held in for so many years. “I remember trembling, cowering in my room like a frightened mouse as I heard her slam my step father into a wall, causing a plaster piece of art work to smash onto his head… then the subsequent cries in panic as she called for help. Even years after I left, I would cry as I sat on my bed in my foster home as my foster mom would hug me and say, ‘I wish I could be your mommy for you.’ She abandoned me and yet, somehow, I can’t abandoned her.” The stranger gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Oh man, listen to me, confessing to a total stranger.”  I felt sheepish; foolish.  “Sorry to puke my guts on you. I’m sure you came here to see someone.”

“Yes, I did,” said the woman with a gentle melancholy smile as she dropped her hand from my shoulder. “I came to see my daughter.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said, feeling very badly that I’d rambled on about my mom. “It has to be really tough losing one of your kids. They’re supposed to out last you.”

The woman took a deep breath and let it out slowly; the steam drifting away from her in the cool air. “It hurts more than anyone could possibly know.” There was silence for a moment before the woman continued. “I think I know why you cry at your mother’s grave. There is an invisible bond between a child and mom. Its unexplainable really. Its unbreakable and therefore either heavenly or cruel depending on who you’re born to. I believe you feel the tug of the bond that should have been. What a mother and child relationship should be is haunting when it is denied. I think you stand here and cry, not just over her loss, but over the loss of what you will never have.”

I burst into tears all over again and she put her arms around me as she began to cry, too.

She continued her comforting speech.  “I think if your mother was here, she’d say how sorry she is. She’d tell you how strong and how amazing you are – how she watches you from Heaven every day, proud as any parent can be. She’d hug you and tell you it’s all okay – we both made mistakes; mine were more costly. Then she’d beg your forgiveness.”

“I’d forgive her,” I sobbed. “I miss her so much. I’d give almost anything to hear her call me by the silly pet name she had for me. She never even got to see my kids.”

“I think she sees them.”

We both cried for a moment longer before releasing one another. My phone chirped and I pulled it out to see a text message from my oldest daughter.

“My daughter can’t find her swimsuit and she’s going to be late for her lesson,” I said with a smile, the text message breaking the tension of the moment. I put my phone back in my pocket. “I better go.”

“Always another crisis to solve as a mom, isn’t there?” said the woman with smile as she wiped the last of the tears from her cheeks.

“You know it,” I said with a slight laugh. “Look, I don’t know how to thank you. I feel like I’ve just been through therapy.” I smiled a little self consciously, even though I had a feeling of genuine peace from our meeting that I had not felt in years.

“It was therapy for me, too,” she said, pulling a small business card and a pen from her pocket. She scribbled something on the back of it and handed it to me. “Maybe we’ll see each other again someday.”

“Sure. Maybe.” I felt a closeness to this stranger who understood my pain like no one else ever had.

“Beautiful flower, by the way. I love black roses.” The stranger motioned to the flower I had placed on the grave.

“Yeah, they were her favorite.”

“Okay, well… have a good day.” With her parting wave she turned and began to walk away.

“You, too,” I said as I looked down at the card. The card was blank except for a short note in familiar handwriting: “Mandy’s swimsuit is under her bed. Love you, Munchkin.” I raised my head to try to find her and began to run aimlessly; searching. But she was nowhere. She had simply disappeared. Only then did it dawn on me that there was no other car in the parking lot that morning but mine. My mother had never gotten her drivers license her whole life. Apparently, she still walks in Heaven.

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