Saturday, February 4, 2012

Guest Blog: Write Hook Packs a Punch


I'm excited to be exchanging blogs this week with a great writer and friend, Scott Morgan - who doesn't hold back. Scott was the first person I met on LinkedIn last year and we instantly started online communication discussing all things writing. I got to meet him face-to-face at a book expo in NYC (where I think I got more out of talking to him than the break-out sessions, but I digress). Check out Scott on his website. Writer, editor, and very interesting blogger! And grab a copy of one of his books from his bookstore. (Character Development... is a MUST for writers and his Short Stack is a great collection of stories.)

And now Scott has something to share that few are afraid to say. Take it away, Scott!

Every family has one person who makes everyone walk on eggshells. We all feel the tension in the room whenever he enters. And we all wish this person would pack up and move to Burma, where he could get a good shave in a nice tiger trap. 

And to this person, this entity making all of our lives less rewarding, what do we say?

Nothing. We just pretend everything's OK because it's easier than dealing with the butt-ugly truth that everyone knows but no one talks about.

So, I hear you ask, how does this relate at all to being an author? Simple: We all know something about marketing our work that no one actually wants to say out loud––Twitter doesn't work.

There. Don't you feel better? Or do you also need to hear this: Facebook doesn't work either.

OK, now you feel better. Or, wait. Do you need to hear this: Blogging doesn't work either.

Whoa! Wow, that took a lot out of you. You look dazed. OK, well, I promise I'm done with the here's-one-more-thing things. But now that someone has said it out loud, doesn't that feel better? To know that you're not alone in how you feel? I know I do.

The thing is, all these strategies that we as indie writers employ––the tweeting and friending and Goodreading (I don't know what else to call it) and blogging and giveaways––are already done. And by done, I mean, it's over. The very benefit of the Internet (that it's free and that anyone with access can put himself out there for the world to see) also is its biggest drawback. There are simply too many people doing the same things––mainly because those things work just often enough to keep the rest of us holding on.

This isn't just me talking. Studies (real ones) have shown that the absolute least effective methods people use to sell books are print ads, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs––in that order, from the bottom.

The reason, at least as far as I can see it, is simple: Indie authors are trying to convince other indie authors to buy their stuff. Now, if we all wrote bibles and took them to the same church, what would be the motivation for anyone but me to pray from mine?

If you've read my blog regularly (and a few have) you've noticed that I'm the type to give steps on how to do something. But here, I can't. Because I don't know what the answer is. The only useful thing I'm doing here is saying "There's an elephant in the room." Because there is. 

A lot of indie writers are frustrated and tired and exasperated with all the shiny promises and bottomless hype, and I'm one of them. And, contrary to popular belief, a lot of us do want to make money as writers. We do want to sell our books. We're not in it for the pure love of writing, because if we were, we wouldn't be trying to convince people that we have awesome things for them to read. We'd just write some things for ourselves and never tell a soul.

My approach from here on is to continue talking to people on Twitter, where I've met some fine peeps (including Greg, who so graciously is hosting this blog). I will continue my blog too. And I will continue writing, because it's what I do. But I won't expect these things to move product for me. I'll do them to stay in touch with a community of good, motivated people who want to be part of the world and share their creative voices.

And maybe for now, that's good enough.

14 comments:

  1. It is a relief. I do feel better. I've been hearing this kind of thing for a while and changing my strategy. This clear statement reinforces that. I'm a writer, and so I need to write books, not spend all day blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking and - er - Goodreading. Like Scott, I like to keep in touch with the community and I'll continue to do that. But I won't expect to become a bestselling author as a result, so I won't be driven to do it and waste a lot of valuable writing time in the process.
    Thanks to both Scott and Greg for this excellent insight.

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    1. Thanks for weighing in on the topic! Social media is a great place to find a great support system!

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  2. Great post! Like you, I haven't seen twitter turn into anything tangible, and -- while I do it -- the relentless self-promotion has never felt entirely comfortable to me. In fact, I patterned my tweets based on a very prominent Twit, because my thought is that, while I find the promotional aspects to be a bit crass, they must be doing something right, or they'd stop!

    If you haven't seen it, great article in the Atlantic about effective tweeting: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/01/be-better-at-twitter-the-definitive-data-driven-guide/252273/#.TyhmSOqgOPM.twitter

    I think we need to keep a presence on social media, just for visibility, if nothing else.

    I think our cross posts on each others blogs might be helpful, as are any other means of reaching beyond our usual circles.

    I'm open to just about any ideas, and hope others will chime in with suggestions!

    Great post, Scott, and thanks Greg for sharing!

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    1. You are great at tweeting the one to get an important message across, Kergan. I like that! Thanks for the comments.

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  3. Thanks Scott for your candour. I agree but would add one caveat. My engagement with social media is not going to sell massive numbers of books. Thanks clear. But through Twitter I have connected with people around the world who I would never have been able to reach otherwise. Some of them have read my books and, most importantly for me, have responded sharing their own experiences and reactions. These deeply personal conversations have enriched my life (this is particularly the case in response to my memoir "August Farewell"). Further, my blogging which is largely of quite a personal nature has elicited very moving responses from people via Twitter (and to some degree Facebook). So the bottom line for me is that engagement with social media is proving very beneficial to me as a writer in ways other than the financial. Best wishes, David http://DavidGHallman.com

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    1. Great points, David. I've met wonderful people through social media and have created an amazing support system (of virtual strangers). I think seeing the benefits beyond financial (best selling author) is also a great thing to point out. Thanks.

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    2. I agree completely, David. I'm only talking about the pure capitalism angle in this blog. My point is that we've lopped the word "Social" off the front of "social media" and have come to expect it to make us rich. In the human sense, I am social media's biggest fan. I've made friends through Twitter and LinkedIn (like Greg) whom I would have otherwise never known existed. And my life would be poorer because of that. Thanks for the comment.

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  4. I am very new at writing and just now trying to figure out how to get my stories into print and out of my head. This will come in handy when that finally happens. But, I am very happy to say I have connected with a great group of writers I now consider friends. Perhaps this cross promotion is just one avenue for all of us to get our and others' works out there. I will continue to blog, jeffballam.blogspot.com, which is more of a personal journey, and tweet to stay in touch with my friends and other followers. But, I will keep my eyes and ears out for the holy grail of what we can do to market our words. And if I find it, I will share it.

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    1. If you find it, Jeff....PLEASE share! :-) (And I'm very thankful for social media for allowing connections too. Scott and I both admit it's how we found each other.) I think there are a few indies out there that get followed by every single indie author and we all look at them selling thousands of books a day and say "What?" But each person must find what it is they are looking to do - set their expectations and go for it! (And I personally can't wait to see your book out there for us all to read.)

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  5. Hi Greg and Scott, Thanks for sharing! I'm a writer and photographer covering pretty much everything that's off-mainstream (alinaoswald.blogspot.com). It took me a long time to become 'social' on Social Media. It is a learning curve, and it can be tricky... I'm still trying to figure it out. On the other hand I can also say that I've been fortunate enough to make quite a few fantastic friends via Social Media (Greg is one of them :-)) and appreciate all of them and their support... a support possible only because of Social Media. There can be a tricky balancing act between work and promoting one's work, and it can vary from one individual to another. Over time we've experimented with various ways of promoting our work. In that sense, maybe now it's the time for Social Media. Is it a bubble? Is it something timely yet temporary?... Guess we'll have to wait and see... Thanks for writing and thanks for posting!
    PS: I look forward to reading Jeff's updates, too :-)

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    1. I just read an article about the 'social media' bubble...so glad you brought that up. I definitely think 'social' media has a great place for making new connections with people I'd otherwise never get to meet. And if I get to sell a few books in the process, that's awesome too. (To be totally honest: all I've read the past 6 months are indie authors. I can't recall the last mainstream book I read.) Most of those I was introduced to via social media. Thanks for commenting on the blog! I love the dialogue it has created.

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  6. EXCELLENT post, Scott. Thanks, Gregory, for hosting it. Wow. Where to begin? I'm new to all this. I'm not a published writer and I don't pretend I will be anytime soon (hopefully by year's end). But I love to write. And I'm addicted to Twitter! Do I see it as a means to winning readership and selling future work? Inwardly, it's a secret wish, but in all practicality I do not (darn you, Scott, for point out that elephant I was so happy to ignore!!). Do I hope to win a FAITHFUL readership? Sure. Even if it's 5, 10, 20 people, at least they're out there. I'm with you, Scott, that I'll keep using Twitter (even Facebook) as a means to connect with other writers, also with others who share my personal interests, because it's good PR no matter what. Who knows, one of us could get that tweet from a Knopf or Penguin head honcho who INSISTS on having us send more of our writing RIGHT AWAY, but of course I'm not holding my breath. I'm glad you pointed out the obvious, though. Great post.

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    1. Love your response, Sean! Made me smile how you damn Scott for pointing it out! ;-) Welcome to the discussion (and I look forward to following you on twitter and learning more about you...and yes...reading something of yours one day!)

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