Here’s this week’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question:
What leisure time activities are you involved with?
Most Promo Companies Only Promote Themselves
This is not aimed at all promotional companies…just most of them. It is also not aimed at any particular company or companies…just general observations and comments.
What is it that most of the promotional companies do? In a nutshell, they send out notices about your book…most of them just shotgun a message about your book to the many Yahoo (and Google) groups on a periodic basis. A few will post to the several social media systems like FaceBook and Twitter. The exact details vary, but not by much. This is basically all the services do, and they only do that for one particular book at a time from a client. Some offer package deals that cover several books.
There are a number of problems with this…
First of all, they do nothing that you, the author, can’t do. And you, the author, can do it better. We’ll be coming back to this.
Second, they focus only on one book. See Rule Number Seven. There is a ton of money just sitting there on your backlist.
And thirdly, all of the promo companies work on a fee-based system.
Now that we have the three main problems identified, let’s talk about them. Because the problems are all interrelated, I’m going to just move forward. As we go, you will see the problems crop up and how we can better deal with them.
I know you’ve seen the messages on Yahoo groups from the promo services. They are always from something like, “Billy Bob Promotions”. Yeah, everyone else sees that, too. The subject may be something like, “Read Mary’s New Book!” A brief survey of the members of two of the largest Romance/Erotica Romance Yahoo groups found that just over 85% of the readers have either email filters set up to move messages from the promo companies directly to the trash bin or they just delete these messages without reading them. In other words, of the people you want to see these messages, only about 15% of them even bother. The same thing applies on the social media networks…most readers don’t even bother to read the posts, let alone follow any links in them.
The real problem here is that the readers see the posts from the promo company as spam. I can understand that, because it is indeed spam. So, how do we get the readers to actually read the posts? Simple…the posts should come from the author of the book.
There are two ways to make this happen…
First, the author can send out the posts. Most all email programs will allow you to send an email at a later date and time you select, either built in or as an add-on helper application. The same thing applies for the social media networks…TweetDeck, HootSuite, and others allow you to schedule posts. The author picks a day and sets aside time on that day to write and schedule posts as appropriate. When the posts are sent, they are coming from the author, and readers tend to actually read those kinds of posts.
The other option is—in my opinion—better…the promo services should be posting as the author. This of course means that the promo company needs access to the author’s email and social media accounts. This entails a good deal of trust and some sort of assurance from the promotional service that the access will not be abused. This way of doing things lets the author focus on writing while the promo company does the promotion, just as things should be.
Next, the promo services should promote the author, not just one book. This is very similar to the idea of agents versus representatives as discussed in Rule Number Five. Just as you need a representative who will represent you as a whole, you need a promotional service who will promote you as a whole. Single title representation or promotion is a waste of time and money. By promoting the author, you make sales on the current title as well as on the backlist.
And now we come to the money shot…all of the promo companies work on a fee-based system. That is to say, you pay $x and they promote your book for a certain amount of time. The promo company has no skin in the game under this program and fee schedule. They get paid no matter what happens.
In the real world, advertising agencies are paid a combination of a flat fee plus a commission on sales. Why not in the world of publishing? Well, to be fair, that is the way it works in the print world, but the author is more or less out of that loop…the publishers will hire an advertising firm to do a campaign, and that deal will include a cut of sales to the ad agency. It doesn’t work that way in the E-Book arena, though. Why not?
Without a performance-based pay scale, the promotional company has no vested interest in making the ad campaign work. They are simply accountable to do the number of posts to the places they say they will make them to, and nothing more. There is no method in place to make sure that the campaign will actually work. This leads to cookie-cutter campaigns where they all look alike with only the names changed. There is no innovation or encouragement to make the campaign better.
What would fix this is a commission schedule. The promo company gets a flat fee for the up-front work of preparing the campaign, and then they get a percentage of the sales made during the campaign. This puts some of their skin in the game, and their income is now based on their performance.
Next, we need to talk about the difference between e-publishers and print publishers. Very few epubs do any promotion at all beyond generic advertising featuring all of their releases in a given time frame. A few go beyond that and will post group or social media messages for specific books, but not too many do that. On the other hand, print publishers often take out full-page ads in magazines and major newspapers to promote single titles. In general, epubs do almost no promotion while the print houses might spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. (There are some exceptions…a few of the larger epubs are starting to take out some ads.)
Lastly, let’s tie this all back to Rule Number Five…
The real representatives out there provide not only the normal services of traditional agents, and the editing services to get a manuscript ready to pitch to a publisher, but they also provide promotional services. Some of these representatives offer this as part of their standard package and others offer it as an add-on at additional percentage points, but almost all do offer it.
Most of these representatives do this promotion acting as the author…that is they post from the author’s email and from the author’s social media accounts. They know that readers pay far more attention to the author “talking” than to some promotional company spamming. Also, since most of the representatives are working on a percentage of royalty commission, the better the ad campaign is, the more money they make. In other words, they have skin in the game.
With all of the above said, there is no doubt that most authors need someone to help them with promotion. An author’s time is better spent writing their books rather than running amok posting messages and updates to promote their books.
The thing is, where do you get the most bang for the buck?
Look at the promotional companies carefully and assess what they can do for you and if their services are actually going to help you.
Here’s today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question:
Are there any teachers you particularly disliked in school?
Generally Speaking, Writing Experts Aren’t
I want you to think about something totally unrelated to writing for a minute…
How many people are there professing they are “experts” in social media or search engine optimization (SEO) or various other subjects related to online marketing? Millions? More?
Why are there so many? Because there is a created market for them with the explosive growth in social media and search engine use.
Now, back to writing…
How many people are there out on the Internet claiming to be “experts” at teaching you how to write? Hundreds of thousands? More? And many of these so-called experts are colleges and universities (some very well known) trying to cash in on the wave.
Why are there so many? Because there is a created market for them due to the explosive growth of self-publication from Amazon and other places.
Yeah…everyone thinks they are an author. Many (but by no means all) are just bad writers who self-publish because a real publisher won’t touch them with a ten-foot pole.
Most of the so-called writing experts are failed writers. Not only were they unable to get published, they couldn’t make a living being self-published. They are hacks at best and con-artists at worst.
Think about it…
If they know so much about writing and are so good at it and they can make so much money writing, why aren’t they writing?
You know the answer.
Today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question is:
Do you have a day job as well?
Final Drafts Are Still Pretty Rough
OK, maybe they’re REALLY rough.
No matter how carefully you read your manuscript, there will be errors. Grammar, spelling, syntax, and all of the rest will creep in and entrench the errors so deep that you, as the writer, can’t even see them. Logic and flow errors are even worse.
The reason for this is very simple, and my great grandma summed it up nicely when she said, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”
In other words, you are too close.
Get people to read your manuscript. For grammar, spelling, and other mechanical issues, anyone with a reasonable grasp of high school level English will do. Even family will work.
For logic and flow, for God’s sake do NOT use a family member or close friend! They will ignore problems because they don’t want to hurt your feelings, even if the problem is glaring. Find someone who will be totally honest with you, even if it hurts.
If you have a representative, they will have editors who will help you, and they will be brutally honest with you. Trust me, that’s gonna hurt. And it will leave a mark…a mark that you will remember and help you grow and become a better writer.
Here’s this week’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question:
What leisure time activities are you involved with?
The last Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for April is:
All authors have had at least one story “get away” from them and grow too large or have way too many characters or other writing nightmares. What was your worst runaway story? Did you fix it or just throw it away?
What follows is a repost of a blog I did a number of years ago (around 2014 as I recall) about the fact that I am totally deaf and how that impacts my life.
Be sure to read to the end for a COVID19 update.
>> Original Post <<
Depending on the methodology used, it’s estimated that someplace between 0.15% and 2.0% of the American population are “functionally deaf”. Of those numbers, about 65% lost their hearing after age 65. These numbers are problematic, though, because no studies clearly define “deaf” and the numbers are very small. The CDC estimates, and WHO statistics support, that less than 0.03% of children are born deaf.
This means that the vast majority of deafness is related to injury, disease, or age. It’s well known that exposure to loud sounds can damage hearing. Infections can damage the mechanics of hearing. As mentioned above, aging causes a “normal” decrease in hearing as well.
No matter how you slice it, despite the lack of hard and fast data, the fact is that people who are completely deaf—as opposed to “hard of hearing”—from a young age are very, very rare.
That makes me a member of small and exclusive club—I’m totally deaf and I have been since birth.
Ever wonder what that’s like?
I’ve never heard a bird sing. I’ve never heard my children laugh or cry. I’ve never heard Jack tell me that he loves me. I’ve never heard Mozart or the Beatles. I’ve never heard the sound of the wind in the trees or the surf on the rocks. I can’t hear my cats when they purr or meow. I have no clue what my dog’s bark sounds like. If, by some miracle, I could suddenly hear, I wouldn’t recognize these things. They are all foreign to me, outside of my experience.
I can feel vibrations, sometimes through objects like tables or the floor, and sometimes through the air. Using that technique, I can “hear” music. I feel the beat and the rhythm, and I can even make out notes if I can touch the speaker or instrument. When Jack tells me that he loves me, I can put my fingers on his lips and feel his breath. I can make out the motion and the flow of air, and that lets me understand what he says. In a similar way, I can touch his larynx and feel the vibrations, but that’s no substitute for really hearing those things.
Imagine not being able to hear your baby crying. If you can’t see your child, you don’t know they need you. You can’t tell when they are in trouble or when they just want a hug. Imagine never hearing your baby say “Mama” for the first time. Consider never hearing your child and the love of their life exchanging their wedding vows.
As an aside, when I was pregnant with JJ (our youngest), I was terrified that he would be born deaf like I was. While JJ learned to sign before he could talk and he’s the only human family member able to keep up with my signing, he has perfectly normal hearing.
Think about everyday life for a moment. Have you ever come close to being hit by a car, only to jump out of the way at the last minute because you heard the driver honk the horn? How many times has a friend called out to you at the mall and you’ve sat down together for coffee and had a wonderful, chance meeting?
Perhaps it’s because of America’s fascination with litigation, but we tend to put a value of the loss of certain functions. For example, if a worker loses a finger in an industrial accident, that’s worth a certain amount of money in either a settlement or disability payment. A thumb is “worth” more than a finger. Senses are a problem because it’s hard for the lawyers and accountants to put monetary value on them. In general, sight is worth more than hearing, hearing more than smell, smell more than taste, and taste is worth more than touch.
So the question is if I, as a deaf person, am entitled to some kind of government support.
In my opinion, speaking for myself, no.
Over the years, I have learned to deal with my so-called disability. I can support myself. I was lucky enough to have parents who struggled to get the money to get me into classes and therapy to learn how to cope. I don’t need—or want—any help from government.
As for others, who can say? It is an individual issue that must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Some people will need more help than others. The trick is to figure that out and do the right things.
I’m proof that with the right support and encouragement a person with a disability can be successful and productive.
By the way, my official diagnosis is that I am “Profoundly Deaf”. In other words, I have less than 0.05% of normal hearing. The best ever hearing test I have ever had done came out with 0.003% of normal hearing. That number is far below the limits of testing accuracy and was, in my opinion, a made-up value provided by the audiologist.
There are some advantages to being deaf, though.
It makes it very easy for me to ignore distractions. When I write, for example, I don’t care if the TV is blaring away in the other room. I can’t hear when Amanda and Debbie are having one of the knock-down drag-out fights sisters are famous for. If the dog is busy raising hell to run a mountain lion off from the yard, I miss it. It doesn’t bother me at all.
It’s also easy for me to ignore irritating people. You know the ones…they find some subject—usually the most boring topic in the universe—and go on and on about it. I just stop looking at their lips.
And let’s jump back to not being able to hear your lover…
In my experience, any person who actually cares about me has learned sign language, at least enough to communicate with me. As you walk together, holding hands, you can make signs in the other person’s palm. OK, the information being exchanged is probably not always appropriate for public display, but no one else knows what you’re saying to each other. Yes, it’s fun!
And there is nothing like lying together and feeling his breath against your neck as he whispers that he loves you. The feel of his fingers on your body as he spells out words of love on your skin is far more sensual than actual words.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that there are times when words only get in the way.
I know you’re all wondering, so…
One of my favorite things is when I’m working. I’ll be sitting at the computer in my office, trying to get some scene in a book just perfect and having little luck at it when Jack sneaks into the room. OK, he doesn’t have to “sneak” since I can’t hear him come in and my back is to the door. Anyway, he’ll come up behind me and touch my neck and shoulders, signing to me. He’ll spell out how much he loves me and how much he wants me. He tells me how beautiful I am and how he can’t keep his hands off of me.
All right…I’d better stop now or I’ll never finish this!
So, am I “disabled”? That depends on your definition. Most people would say that I am, but I disagree with them. I see myself as having opportunities to do things that people with normal hearing can’t do. After all, aren’t challenges simply ways that we can learn to deal with new opportunities?
Maybe I’ve had more opportunities than some people, but I’ve had less than others. No matter. I wouldn’t change a thing. I am who I am, and my deafness has been a huge part of that evolution.
Did I mention the funny things that happen because I’m deaf? There are a lot of them…
I have what most people would call a “speech impediment”, a thing not at all uncommon to people with serious hearing loss. That’s because I don’t know what the word “elephant” sounds like, so I do my best based on the rules of language and sometimes it comes out sounding strange to other people. If you’ve ever seen and heard Marlee Matlin on TV or in a movie, you know what I’m talking about. Other than that, most people don’t even know I can’t hear…at least as long as I can see their lips.
It usually happens at either a restaurant with the servers or in a shop with the sales people, but they will figure out that I’m deaf. They will react the same way as most other people and start using what I like to call “Deaf Idiot Speak”. You’ve heard it, I know. They talk very loud, almost yelling, speak very slowly, and stop using certain parts of speech. Instead of asking if I’d like fries with my burger, it comes out more like, “YOU WANT FRIES?”
I usually just ignore it and go on, laughing inside.
Sometimes I get mad about it, though. I’m deaf, not stupid. One thing that really irritates Jack is when I get sarcastic with these people. I’ll stop talking and start signing at them. Things like, “You’re a dumb-ass.” Or worse.
Other times, I mess with them. “UHG! ME WANT FRIES!”
Luckily, most of the places I shop and many of the restaurants we go to know me. This doesn’t happen at those places. Even the local WalMart is good about it. I mean, you’d expect the sales people at Tiffany’s to adapt since I’m going to drop some serious coin on bling, but WalMart sales floor staff? But they deal with it very well when they see me in the store.
The one thing that I guess will always amaze me is the number of people who think that they can somehow catch deafness from me. It’s not infectious and you can’t suddenly go deaf by being around me. But some people seem to think they can. You can see it in their eyes…they are uncomfortable and want to get as far away from me as they can as fast as they can. You’d think that today people would know better.
There really is nothing I can’t do because of my deafness. True, there are some things, like driving, that I shouldn’t do, but there’s nothing I can’t do.
Yeah, driving…I like to drive. I also like to ride my motorcycle. I don’t see it as dangerous, but the state of California disagrees with that, and their position is the only one that counts. Their cutoff is 2.5% of normal hearing. I made a promise a few years ago to Jack that I wouldn’t drive or ride anymore, at least not on the public roads, and I’ve stuck to that promise. It hasn’t been easy, though.
I like to skydive, too. It wasn’t easy to learn since I can’t hear the instructor’s commands, but I learned. I do sometimes wonder what the rushing air sounds like as you’re in free-fall. I’ve made some pretty crazy jumps over the years, too, things that you should never try unless you’ve got a lot of jumps under your belt. Like jumping from a WWII bomber. Or an airliner. These planes aren’t made for jumping out of, and the turbulence and protrusions on the plane make it dangerous. On the other hand, I can’t hear people telling me how dumb it all is.
The roughest thing about being deaf is using the telephone. In short, I can’t. Sure, there are the TDD systems and similar devices, but it isn’t the same. At least I think it’s not the same. How would I know? I’ve never used a real telephone. The Internet has made communications easier with text chat, e-mail, and the like. With those systems, I can talk to anyone. Maybe that’s why I’m such an Internet junkie.
You’re probably wondering what it’s like being deaf. Not just the brief things I’ve listed above, but what is it really like. It’s not bad, but it’s not good, either. I have no regrets nor do I mope about it.
It’s just me.
>> End Of Original Post <<
>> COVID19 Update <<
Here we are in the first half 2020, and COVID19 is running amok. While it’s far too early to say with certainty, we may be nearing the top of the curve.
Here in San Diego County in Southern California, pretty much everywhere, face masks or other coverings are required for public safety. Even though a plain vanilla mask will do little if anything to prevent YOU from getting the virus, the mask WILL prevent you from infecting others. There are a lot of good reasons to wear a mask including: It will protect others, it is common courtesy, and it’s the law.
And please don’t start waving the flag and misquoting the Constitution to me. First of all, I can assure you that I know the Constitution far better than 95% of the morons protesting and breaking the law. Secondly, your right to the pursuit of happiness ends when it interferes with my right to life. So just shut the fuck up.
This is a difficult and stressful time for all of us. Some of us can stay home and isolate to a large degree by virtue of either the industry you work in effectively closing down for a time or, as in my case, you’re able to work from home with a good level of productivity. But we have to go out from time to time for food and other needed things. So we (the ones with any amount of common sense at all) put on our masks and head out to the grocery store to do our shopping.
Now, I want you to think about something…in other words, I want you to put yourself in my place for a moment.
Unless you are using sign language, even just generic ASL, I have no way to understand what you are saying because the mask you are wearing to protect me prevents me from being able to read your lips.
Yes, sometimes I can get at least a feel for what’s going on from your eyes and body language, but I have no way to know for certain what you are saying. Luckily, I’m never alone because, as I mentioned above, I don’t drive. Usually I’ll be with Jack or our oldest daughter Amanda, so they can translate for me.
But while we are all practicing social distancing and we all no doubt have some feelings of isolation, I (and other deaf people) end up being effectively in an isolation booth and sensory deprived.
Since this all started a month or so ago, I’ve been trying to put my finger on why it all has me a bit edgy. It wasn’t until a short conversation I had with another writer on Twitter the other night made me realize it is that sensory deprivation that is bugging me. For the first time in my life, I actually feel like I may be, possibly, disabled.
This is something I need to address in my own mind, and that will be easy for me now that I know what’s happening in my head. But I worry about the rest of the deaf and hard of hearing people out there.
Almost everyone who has hearing loss reads lips, and I would bet that 90% or more don’t even know they do it. It’s just something they learned to do that helps them understand what’s being said.
Guess what? They are in the same boat I am. They can’t understand what’s going on and they may not even know why.
I can only guess, for obvious reasons, how frustrating it is for hearing people to be asked over and over to say something again. That has to wear on your nerves. I know it would mine.
But I ask you to stop and think…maybe the person asking you to repeat yourself can’t hear you. Are they an older adult? If so, they likely have some hearing loss. Glance at their ears. Are they wearing a hearing aid? Another tell-tail is to watch their body language…do they lean towards you or turn their head as you speak?
In other words, be situationally aware.
If you think they can’t hear you well, think of what you can do to help. Speak louder. If it’s just the two of you, move back to maybe 10 feet and take off your mask so they can see your lips. Type your words on your phone and hold that up for them to read. Grab a pen and paper!
And lastly, I’d like to ask you to think about the older folks in your neighborhood and how you can help them. Many of you are already checking on those people, but remember they may be hard of hearing and, due to that, they are even more isolated than you.
Sensory deprivation is a bitch.
Hang in there, do the right things, and we’ll all get through this as long as we help each other.
The latest Two Hundred Word Tuesday question is:
When reading another writer’s work, what is the one pet peeve you catch yourself grumping about most?
The Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for today is:
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
The first Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for this month is:
When–if ever–do you hope to retire?