Social Media, Part Four: It’s not all about the numbers. A personal perspective

Part Four: Tweets

Twitter has a potential reach of millions. It’s a broadcasting platform beyond imagination and everything you put out should have meaning. After all, the whole world can see it and the government will keep it forever J So, send your tweets wisely. I use 80% of my time on twitter sharing other people’s work and news. Being, in my mind, a more business environment, I plug my own work once or twice a day, all my blog posts automatically tweet and now and then I’ll throw something out there about how it’s noon, I’m still in my robe, writing, eating Cheetos. I know someone out there can relate. Frankly, I live the boring writer’s life and while I wouldn’t trade it for the world, I don’t have spectacular, glamorous things to tweet about. Unless you want to see pictures of my cats all day long. Ravishing creatures.
Re-tweeting on twitter is like holding the door open for someone. It’s polite and you can make contact without really saying a word. Hopefully words and relationships follow, but not always. Even if they don’t, it’s the majority of what I do on twitter. I don’t use it to broadcast the hard sell of my work. I hold the door open for others and hope that they do the same for me. It’s also a great way to find helpful articles, links groups and blogs and pass those on to your followers.
I don’t mass post. At first glance, a person who posts (or schedules posts) every ten minutes looks like a twitter god or goddess. A master of the twitterverse. Not to me. I see those profiles as having a bit of ADD. And usually, the posting reflects that. They post about everything all day every day and I have to wonder if they check the content of what they are posting, or posting just to be listed as one of the most active tweeters out there. An example? I once looked into the profile of someone I was considering following. Lots of followers, very active on twitter, retweeted a lot, so far so good. Then I looked at their tweets and found back to back promotions that raised an eyebrow. One for a Christian novel. The next, a triple X erotica new release. Now, I’m all about giving your audience choices and I don’t judge what people read. But I want to follow people who know what they stand for and their tweets reflect that. This person was all over the place, tweeting about everything and everyone, constantly. I wanted to send them some digital Ritalin. I understand that it was an attempt to gain as much visibility as possible. And maybe that works for some. I chose not to do it and prefer not to follow people who do. Even though this person would probably retweet me for simply following them, I don’t know that I want that tweet showing up next to a glowing review of “Her Heaving Bosom.” My goal is to achieve variety without being spastic. It’s an art.

It takes time—not a lot, but enough to matter—when choosing what to retweet. But I feel it’s worth your time. Time is money. How are you spending yours?
Tomorrow, Part Five: Reviews

Social Media Part Three, Liking on fb

Part Three: Liking on Facebook

I’m a little stingy with my likes. It goes along with my principle of always being real and if I don’t genuinely like something, I won’t hit the button. I know people who spend enough money to keep me in mocha’s for a week to promote their page, trying to attain a bazillion likes. Sitting back and observing, I’ve come to this conclusion. I think people use these ‘likes’ to validate themselves and their work. If it can get a thousand likes or two thousand even, they are a ‘real’ writer. They are successful. They have arrived. I don’t see it that way. And for the average Independent writer, I rarely see a connection between likes and sales.

At one time I ‘liked’ freely and generously. When I cleaned up my facebook profile, striving for quality, I went through my list of likes. There were hundreds of them and I didn’t remember liking 99% of these pages. Hitting ‘like’ didn’t make me buy the product, interact on the fanpage, learn anything about the creator of the page or meet others through similar interest. Any marketing gurus reading this are probably freaking out at this point. I’m not saying fanpages are useless. I have just spent a good amount of time looking beyond the number of likes and I don’t see enough to impress me. Something might have a thousand likes but no real interaction on the page. That was the exact picture of my fanpage and so, I deleted it. One less thing to worry about on my digital checklist.

A writer friend asked if I get rid of my like page, how will I know if people like my books?

I honestly did a double take. Seriously? I’ll know from emails and friend requests. Twitter follows and messages. Sales are generally a good indicator as well.

I went through my list of likes and unliked anything that I didn’t truly like. (I’m really getting sick of the work Like at this point. Are you?) Doing this keeps me true to my principle of being real, quality over quantity and living honestly. When you go to my facebook page and look at my likes, you can be assured that everything on my like list I genuinely have an opinion about.

When I got caught up in my own fanpage and chasing ‘likes’ I realized I was missing out on real interactions with people who genuinely might like what I have to offer. And those relationships have the potential to last longer than the time it takes to click a button.

Tomorrow, Part Four: Tweets

Social Media Part Two. It’s not all about the numbers. A personal perspective.

Part Two: Facebook
About the time I started looking seriously at my digital presence and started honing my twitter, I realized I dreaded logging into Facebook. I did so only once a week at best, approved friend requests, answered emails, scanned the newsfeed and got off as quick as I could. Facebook can be an amazing platform for writers. For me, it was a nightmare. I had to sit back and wonder why. I called up the best friend and vented all my frustrations about Facebook. Her advice? Make a list of all the things about Facebook I don’t like and work on them. Oh, more lists.
I started with looking at my friends list. Nearly a thousand people and I personally knew only about forty of them. Then I spotted a reoccurring theme with Facebook that I noticed with Twitter. Quantity over quality. I started unfriending. Unlike twitter, the majority of people I unfriended on Facebook were authors. Not all, mind you, but alot. In my mind, Twitter is more for business. Facebook is more personal. As a general rule, anyway. Right? Wrong? Who knows. It’s how I think of it.

When I really got down to the nitty-gritty, I realized that the reason I didn’t like to get on Facebook was because of all the writers hard selling their books. That is a big no-no in the world of Independents and so many are breaking it. Here’s where I get a bit preachy. Passive selling, updating readers on progress, casual mentions, that’s all fine with me. After all, we’re trying to build an audience and keep the lights on. But anyone daily blasting BUY MY BOOK and posting reviews from Amazon, I find to be most tacky and got the unfriend.
Also, those that tend to share emails from readers. I’m sorry, those are personal. If the reader wanted to share his/her email with the world they would have posted it on your wall. Have some respect.
And those cheeky real-estate style author photos are so off-putting. All my favorite authors have very natural looking photos. It feels fake. Oh, I so dislike fake people.
And finally, those who put on airs to emulate the illusion of success.
I tell ya, my clicking finger hurt by the end of the day. It took three days, actually. I didn’t unfriend irresponsibly. I looked for a 50/50 ratio of tasteful self promotion with colleagues and real life interaction. If a writer had that, I kept them. It was brave and bold and a little scary. To be honest, it went against all the traditional advice of gathering thousands of friends to build an online presence. But in the end, going from nearly 1000 friends to just over 400, a wonderful thing happened. My newsfeed was filled with real people talking about real things. Topics I could relate to and jump in on, not only as a writer but as a mother, sister, friend and woman. I found nurses and teachers and aspiring musicians. Great people that had taken the time to friend me but had been buried beneath the screeching self endorsements. I found fundraisers I could contribute to, meaningful petitions to sign, great start up projects on Kickstarter, interesting blogs new and old. I really felt like I had been invited into the living room of all these wonderful people talking about their struggles with marriage and children, money and diseases. While I didn’t have much to say to the boasting author of the new release, “Her Heaving Bosom” (I have no idea if that’s a real book, by the way) I could relate to the mom battling Fibromyalgia as I do. The teenager thinking about writing but drowning in self doubt as I did once. The pics of a newborn from a brand new dad. (Take lots of pictures. They grow fast.) Not to mention, so many adorable cats! Facebook is so much more meaningful now. I don’t regret for one moment cutting six hundred people from my digital living room. And the good news, I’m attracting real people who send me friend requests. Over two hundred in the past six weeks alone. Everyone wants to be heard but a lot of people forget it’s a two-way street. And I’m happy to log on each morning and continue to get to know real people.

Tomorrow, Part Three: Liking on Facebook

Social Media. It’s not all about the numbers. A personal perspective.

Part one: Twitter

I have read numerous articles on what authors trying to promote their work should and shouldn’t do with social media. It’s good advice for the most part, but it lacks a lot of detail in exactly how to interact and behave in the digital universe. I’m a sucker for details. So here are the personal guidelines I follow. I know that a lot of struggling authors are lost in digital space like I was (and sometimes still am) This is not meant as a narrative for you to follow, though you might glean something useful out of it. This is just what I have found to be something that works for me personally and professionally. Take from it what you will.
Twitter- I’ve had more than one person tell me to follow as many people as I can every day (doesn’t matter who) and that will gain followers. True. But are they the followers I want? Not by half. I initially did this and opened my twitter to find hundreds of tweets from insurance agents, eBay listings for sports memorabilia, twitter pics of gold teeth and brass knuckles, lots of pics of cats and marketing people messaging me that they could get me thousands of followers overnight. Yikes. Needless to say, my tweets went unnoticed. No one mentioned me, no one followed my links , no one cared about my friends books and promotions and only half followed back (and those used a roboservice) and that big chattering room that twitter is, became very lonely. Sure, I had over 5K followers, but it was quantity over quality. I began to unfollow like a mad woman. I went through my list and looked at every single person I followed and went by this list of rules on who to keep.
Authors and writers, SAHM’s, homeschoolers, bloggers **(some exceptions), sellers on Etsy, (Love Etsy) anyone in the book world: reviewers, editors, book clubs, tweeters of my favorite movies and shows, anyone who followed me for being me, inspirational folks, people that tweeted at least once a week and other personal interests. Like cats. I love cats. Anyone else went. I went from over 5K to 1500. Ouch.
This took the better part of two weeks to glean through my list. I didn’t want to unfollow anyone who followed me because they’d read my books or were just genuinely interested in me, so sometimes a bit of digging into their profile was involved. It also took awhile to clean house with Bloggers. I don’t watch sports, I’m not into tech stuff, and can’t get into politics for professional reasons. I debated heavily on food and travel blogs and in the end decided to keep them. After all, one day I might make enough money to eat and travel! Kidding! I eat.
Then I began following people carefully. I would do a search for keywords and when the list came up I would go to each profile, check out their blog or webpage, scan their tweets for activity, look at their books on Amazon. Then follow. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Some days I would only follow twenty people because of the time it takes to look into everyone. Quality is important. Patience is key.
I don’t automatically follow back. While that might be perceived as rude, I don’t mean to be. I take the time to look at each person who follows me. When it comes down to it, I am formulating what I want to see on my twitter feed. I want to see new releases from a terrified new author so I can tweet encouragement. I want to see awesome earrings made by a SAHM who is trying to earn extra money so I can retweet. I want to see great articles by editors who link things I wouldn’t have time to search. I want to see trends in the industry that are important to my business. And, I want to see cute cat pics because they make me smile. It’s not about being rude, it’s about the quality of my twitter world.
The down side is a lot of people use tweet services that will unfollow you if you don’t follow them back. That’s fine. Those folks usually have the tweet services tweeting preprogrammed stuff all day and they aren’t really there in the twitter-verse anyway.
While I don’t like preprogramming tweets. I do suggest Hootsuite. It’s a program that allows you to pull all your social media accounts together and jump around from facebook to twitter to your blog, all from one dashboard. You can’t follow or unfollow but you can stay on top of DM’s, tweet and retweet from the live twitter stream and see people who follow you. It’s organized, saves you tons of time logging into different accounts and yet you are in real time with other people.
For deeper housecleaning I use ManageFlitter. I have the free account. I use this mainly to weed out Twitters that looked good at first inspection but turned out to be mainly spam and accounts that aren’t being used anymore. I do not suggest it for following people if you want to build an audience of quality.
I do housecleaning on my twitter account monthly just to be sure I’m getting the most bang for my buck. And by buck I mean time. Because time is money, right? Are you spending it wisely?
Tommorow, Part Two: Facebook

Swing State Voter

Silent films are a lost art.  Hollywood really has gone overboard on special effects and underwhelming plot lines (that is, when they do something other than just remaking an 80’s film or re-vamping Superman for the zillionth time).

I took a trip back to my alma mater Ohio Wesleyan University last weekend.  As I meandered down memory lane, I was saddened to see my favorite professor, Helmut Kremling, was no longer teaching.  Not only was he a great mentor for me while proffing the courses of my major (German Studies), he also taught an Introduction to Film class that completely opened up a whole new world to me.  I had always been a lover of movies, but never before had I experienced so much fascination with a dying art form.  Much like the old celluloid films of the late 19th Century, the structural integrity of true trend-setting and cutting-edge films is in…

View original post 1,062 more words

America is not the greatest country anymore. But we used to be.

http://We used to be. The era in which I write was the hardest any generation had faced or has yet to face. They survived because they were part of the greatest generation that ever lived. They were one of the last generations to help make this nation great. I wonder what they would think, if they could see us now. Please watch the entire three minutes. The truth hurts.

What’s holding you back?

Truth time.
Since I started publishing on Kindle I have been writing under two pen names. Authors have all kinds of reasons for doing this and mine at the time was to have one name dedicated to the 1929 series and have the other free to play around with all sorts of genres without tainting the seriousness of 1929. That worked fine for a while as I would actually get into a different mindset and developed a slightly different writing style with each personality. Come to find out, I’m not a good schizophrenic. Both names, websites, blogs and emails quickly became too much. I have decided to merge the names, eventually dropping Jane Carrington for good. In the process of purging everything Jane related, I realized that this wasn’t solely based on separating genres. It was based on fear. Deep down I figured that if the books from one pen name flopped, that one could fade into the sunset and I’d have another to fall back on. I don’t need to be a self-help guru to tell you that fear based decisions fail, as this one did. It created more work, hindered productivity and helped me stay safe in my shell. I’m a Cancer sign and I really really like my shell. I also like parenthesis and commas, but, that’s another story.
When I realized this was holding me back I had to do something about it. That meant stepping out of my comfort zone and beginning the process of merging. It’s something I wish I hadn’t done now because not only is it a digital nightmare, but it’s delayed the process of growing that I have needed. While I’m at it, I will tell you the meaning behind the M.L. Gardner pen name. M is for my first name, Molly. L is for the Muse’s first name who is a vital piece of the plotting and planning of the series. I wanted to give her some recognition for that. Gardner is my grandmother’s maiden name.
We all need to step out of our comfort zone in order to grow and expand the awesome experience of living. Whether an author, a stay at home mom, or a waitress at Bee’s cafe (located in Roy, Utah right off the freeway and makes frigging fantastic food–sorry had to plug for a dear friend that works there) Everyone should challenge themselves to do something that takes them out of their proverbial shell and break free from whatever is holding them back. I’ve spilled my secret, now tell me yours. What’s holding you back? And more importantly, what are you going to do about it?

Taking a deep breath.

This last week has been a doozy. Just when I was getting into a good groove writing, my son was hospitalized with a staph infection in his leg that was very resistant to antibiotics. After switching up different medicines they found something that worked and he started rapidly improving the third day. Many folks on facebook offered prayers and positive thoughts and I really believe that made a difference. Thank you to all of them.
I did get some writing done but not nearly what I’m used to lately. I did other things that didn’t demand the hyper focus that writing does. I found a great open source editing software program, downloaded it and created a few new covers. (links below for all my writer friends) I completed the timeline for the remaining portion of 1930 and the beginning of 1931, I spent three hours scouring my email for a scene in 1930 I wrote a year ago and was now ready to insert. I set a date for the Muse to visit and made a list of things we need to do while she is here. Coming up with a complete skeleton for Drifter and 1931 is at the top of the list, as well as a weird scary one we thought of together while drinking coffee, driving the back roads of Montana. I’d really like to see if that could go somewhere. Totally outside my genre experience. No clue what I’m doing. Lost in the dark with this one. I can’t wait!
I am looking forward to getting back to a “schedule” of sorts this coming week. I hope to get a lot done and am really looking forward to the blog post telling everyone that 1930 is off to the editor!

Open Source Photo Software: