C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Twitter Etiquette, Book Promotion & the Narcissist Inversion

How much should authors tweet to promote our books? Buckle up, because I’m about to get a little contrarian on your brain. We are told that Twitter is a conversation and if all we do is promote our books, we deserve to be unfollowed. Agreed! Let’s be clear about that. I agree. Okay? We get it!

But…there’s always a but… it’s tough to find the balance. If all you get from an author is “BUY MY BOOK!” then, yes, absolutely, the complainers are right. That’s too much. I’m not sure how they feel about all the promotion I do of other people’s books. Maybe that’s offensive to somebody, too. Anyway, work out your own cost/benefit analysis and do that UNFOLLOW math.

Now comes the contrarian counter programming: You want me to find the balance? I’m trying.

But is your view balanced?

I’m going to turn the narcissism charge around on the accusers and usual suspects for a change.

1. One person’s sensibility isn’t everyone’s sensibility. We’re taught in school to never start a rant, argument or sentence with the words, “I think.” This programs our brains to think they aren’t subjective machines. We mistake our words for universal law. I call this “King (or Queen) of the Universe Syndrome.” K(orQ)US is a common affliction which makes the afflicted think everyone should share their opinion. For example, I’m infected right now. (The only antidote I know is to go for a walk at night and look at stars.)

2. You’re telling me what to do. I don’t like to be told what to do. I’m interested in what other people think, but I like to decide things for myself. I don’t wear a collar well — everybody gets the devil’s advocate thing — but there’s a larger point: There are no rules. It’s the Internet. The only rules are in service contracts. Etiquette changes. Etiquette is not universal. Aside from the blogs of hyper-marketing gurus and scolds, we can do what we want. It’s the Old West and that’s what we love about the Internet. You and your tin badge don’t have no jurisdiction outside of town, Sheriff.

3. Twitter is a microblogging platform. People use it in all sorts of ways: to search out new customers, to find new friends, to discover grisly pictures of weird roadkill and cute baby animals. Some use it like it’s Instant Messenger. To some, a blog; to others, a flog. There’s a lot more diversity to our choices than simply insisting that people “engage” you all the time.

4. If I’m filling up your feed, you’re the narcissist for not following enough people. My incoming tweet stream is a roaring river of information, diversity and neural input. I love that. Even the most verbose can’t dominate my stream for long because I’ve got so much input coming at me from so many cool people.

5. What’s your problem? It’s free. Twitter is free and opting into someone’s stream is free. Complaining about something you got for free is beyond the “First World Problem” category. It seems rude to me.

6. The agony I’m putting you through is voluntary and your safe word is UNFOLLOW. If you are following anyone against your will, please call the police and take jujitsu so no one can snatch your autonomy from you again.

7. Just because you’re not interested, it’s not necessarily spam. It might just mean that you’re not interested. That doesn’t make all authors spammers. That makes you a Lookie-Lou. You’re a browser who has no intent to buy. What good am I doing you? What good are you doing me? What is this “Some pigs are more equal than others” con you’re trying to pull on me?

8. You’re a delicate doily. With Netflix, PVR and DVDs, the populace is trained not to sit through commercials to get to the good stuff. We used to have to sit through ads and now we don’t. (Tangent: Have ad rates come down significantly to reflect this fact?) But Twitter is not Netflix, PVR, or DVDs. It’s live people and a bunch of them are offering you the opportunity to sample their wares and delight you for hours for less than the cost of a Starbucks coffee. And it’s not killing you. Ignoring stuff is easy. The people who are delicate doilies stopped reading after the first paragraph of this post, for instance. They only read stuff they agree with. Hm. I should try that. It sounds peaceful.

9. You’re limiting my creativity. One morning I watched Kevin Smith’s Twitter feed fill up as he wrote a long treatise on art and aspiration. I loved it and couldn’t wait for the next tweet of argumentation and inspiration. However, some people complained he was filling up their feed. His answer was, “I’m expressing myself here! If you don’t want to read it, don’t.” That unfollow button is so darn handy.

Some people take a dim view of following too many people, but I think that means your interested in your world. However, if you’re really not interested in what someone has to say on Twitter and it offends you in some way, maybe you’re meant to follow only those for whom you’re a true fan. And if you’re a true narcissist (or weak-minded or insecure in your convictions) I suspect you follow no one on Twitter because this is Sparta and following is for sheep! Or some such macho BS.

10. To write, narcissism is necessary. It takes a truckload of delusion to write and allow the words outside of your house for others to read. Why should anyone care? Most won’t. Writing is a quixotic affliction. If we had a choice before birth, the smart babies would choose to be better at math so they could get a paying gig. Writers don’t choose writing. It chooses us. The crazy narcissism of expecting a readership to discover us? That’s what keeps us writing (and from stepping off that high ledge.)

11. We are all narcissists. All social media taps into the secret we keep from ourselves. We are all the stars of our own movies and the little people are waiting for our grand pronouncements. Let the extras eat after me. Deliver the pheasant under glass to my trailer.

12. I won’t miss you. I’m not into making rules for others, just the odd argument that is hopeless in the face of cultural entrenchment. However, if pressed for a rule it would be: When clicking unfollow, don’t tell anyone. “I don’t like what you’re saying, so I’m announcing to everyone that I’m leaving! I’m taking my marbles and going home!” How petty. That’s the ultimate douchey, narcissist move.

There once was a guy who was very rude to me on Twitter. I unfollowed. I never listened to his podcast again, either, but I will never name him. I’m sure he didn’t notice my absence or care. We’re both better off.

13. You’re not engaging me in conversation, either. That’s what Facebook is for. Seriously, I have noticed that the people who insist the loudest that they be “engaged” in conversation, are waiting for me to come to them. They’ve never tried to “engage” me with anything. They don’t retweet anyone. They wouldn’t pee on me if I were on fire. They are princesses, sitting on pillows, waiting to be asked so they can experience the delight of pointing their noses at the ceiling and saying no.

14. There are too many people on Twitter to have a conversation with everyone. That’s a silly, unrealistic requirement. That’s math. If you insist I engage you constantly and personally you, who’s the narcissist?

That’s the equivalent of requiring authors to go door-to-door…and…and…hey! Waitaminute! That’s the answer! I could sell my crime novels door to door! Excuse me. Gotta run.

No, before I go pound on strangers’ doors, one more:

15. Somebody I kind of like said that the only way to sell is by not selling. To me? That seems like a slap in Art’s face. Maybe that’s shame and fear masquerading as etiquette and high-mindedness. Whenever we tweet about our books, yes, we risk turning someone off. That’s focusing on the wrong end of the equation. What about all the people turned on to our books? Don’t focus on the I Hate Everything Cult. (There’s a clue. They hate everything! They only download books for free so they can crap on the dreams we are fulfilling!)

What about readers who actually enjoy reading a good book? What about your fan base, out there somewhere, searching for you? You’ve got a Twitter beacon but they can’t find you because you’re being so darn polite, you won’t risk a shout into the darkness. You don’t want to risk annoying people who don’t care about you, anyway! Grow a spine and tweet. Yes, for the love of all that’s chocolate, balance it out as best you can, but go ahead and tweet about your book without all the worry. You won’t kill anyone. And if you do, call me. I know a guy who’s good about making bodies disappear.

Does beating Twitter followers over the head with sales offers work? No. But keeping our magnificence a secret shame sure won’t do the job, either. Authors: toughen up and find your balance. Twitter etiquette fascists: for the sake of Art and your own enjoyment, ease up and toughen up. Or get out.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute, the award-winning writer and author of the world’s first bathroom/marijuana/suspense/humor book Self-help for Stoners and the twistiest, funniest crime novel Bigger Than Jesus (among other things.) 

Follow me on Twitter @rchazzchute.

Or unfollow me on Twitter @rchazzchute.

 

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

AB Challenge 24: More on Free Books. Moron Free Books.

Yesterday, we talked about free ebooks and me. Now let’s talk about you, too. Recently we said, “Free is the new 99 cents!” Now free is fraught with diminished opportunity and all that lousy freeness. Let’s delve into pricing ebooks for promotions and try to figure out for ourselves if this is a time to rest and recover or should we double down on ebook marketing?

History: Last year, selling at 99 cents still moved some books and gained new readers. The royalty wasn’t great but it was a loss leader. Now 99 cents just seems to be a loss. I had my novella, The Dangerous Kind, up for 99 cents. It’s a great story that slides the steel home at around 10,000 words. After analysing the sales (took two seconds) I’ve taken it down. Later this week it will be back on Amazon for $2.99, bundled in with some Poeticule Bay short stories. My short story collections sell, but offering a deal on a shorter work didn’t attract readers and my short stories on Smashwords (each priced at 99 cents) aren’t moving as is so they’ll all be in one collection: The Dangerous Kind and Other Stories.

Part of the problem was the old cover for my novella. I’ve blogged about this issue before so I won’t rehash it. I’ll only say: Be indie if you want, but make sure your covers don’t look indie. (My graphic designer, Kit Foster can help you with that at a very reasonable price for a very professional look.)

GET BIGGER THAN JESUS

The Loss Leader Pricing Paradox: You’re pricing your work inexpensively to attract new readers. You’re hoping new people will find you, take a chance on you, dig your flavour, buy all your books and spread your holy word. However, going cheap actually repels some browsers because they associate a cheap price with a bad book. So many times I’ve read in comment threads, “If the author values their work so little, why should I?” There’s someone who doesn’t appreciate the indie author’s bind. I’ll save your life for free. Does that make your life worth less? (Ooh, he’s cranky today!)

Which brings us to the Opportunity/Problem Paradox: The same browsers who think 99 cents cheapens the inherent value of the book often think no less of an author who offers their work for free. All ebooks have free samples, of course, but I don’t think very many potential buyers look at them. They go by genre, the author’s rep, the cover and the description (not necessarily in the that order.) Free is easy and no risk and I haven’t seen many people casting aspersions on authors offering free entertainment. Free is so ubiquitous, it’s considered the norm. It’s an opportunity for the reader and the writer. Free is so ubiquitous, it’s a problem because of the glut of free ebooks on e-readers. We’re drowning in free.

The Perceived Value Corollary: There are so many free books filling up e-readers that readers have no commitment to what they download. (Amazon says, “Click to buy”, but if it’s free, it really means “Click to download”, doesn’t it?) Many of those free books will go unread. When you can click and get, click and get, click and get, there’s no investment on the reader’s part in individual books. Instead, the hoarder mentality rises. What this means for writers is, the minute you’ve dared to slow down your narrative, the quicker the reader is to dump you for another free ebook. We’ve already seen evidence of this trend: there’s less of a market for literary fiction that demands more of the reader.

PV Corollary Case study: A buddy of mine was a sales rep for Margaret Atwood and loved her to bits. I told him I couldn’t get into The Handmaid’s Tale. I bailed out after too many slow pages examining the scratchings of previous handmaids in the rear of the bedroom closet. “Chazz,” he said,”What you’ve got to learn to do when a story slows down too much is grab a few pages and flip forward.” I’m a bit OCD about reading every word so I was a bit shocked. Skipping a page  had never occurred to me. “So…” I said, “You haven’t read it, either!”

The Hidden Unintended Consequence: On an e-reader, no one knows what you’re reading on the bus to work. Sales of erotica have risen because we don’t have to hide our actual taste or pay at a bookstore register manned by a silver-haired woman who looks exactly like Baptist Grammy. Only Homeland Security and the computers that record everything know all you really want is Fifty Shades of Grey. However, it’s not just about erotica. The market has ruled and so-called “downmarket” fiction is what people buy. The readers disagree with the historic arbiters of taste about what’s important. (Did you hear that pop? Somebody’s head exploded again. Clean up, aisle three!)

The Value Addition: When you buy a book — not just download it for free — you show commitment. You’re trusting the author to show you a good time and if you throw it aside, you aren’t just tossing the book. You’re throwing away the bucks you put into it, too.

The Cost-benefit Analysis: For readers, free books are great because choice is awesome. For the writer, providing free books is a way to gain the trust of the reader at no risk (to the reader.) It’s about exposure so you get ranked on lists. Many readers don’t trust reviews (often unfairly) so free is one  avenue into their hearts and minds. We’re making a short-term sacrifice to get our work read, to get on “also viewed and also bought lists” and to get our share of that sweet lending pot of gold from Amazon. Giving our precious away for free is an advertising cost that doesn’t show up as a debit in our bank accounts, but it’s still a cost.

The Cost-benefit Caveat: Since Amazon changed their algorithm, it’s not as happy a story as it was last December. Unless you wrote Fifty Shades of Grey, sales have slumped across the board since March and we’re now into the summer doldrums of the book buying year. The market is as cyclical as the sea. The wind will come back in our sails. The readers will return as free diminishes. Some authors are opting out of KDP Select, or opting in for one three-month cycle for the promotion and then opting out to stop the exclusivity clause and give other sales outlets a chance.

The Irrational Variable Conundrum: Does free devalue literature? Will our prices be chronically depressed because of free? As an indie writer, this isn’t a question that affects me. The higher prices traditional publishers charge for ebooks doesn’t mean that their authors are getting more dough. It’s going to the publishers for their high overheads. I only have to pay me so the 70% royalty rate on my books still looks pretty sweet to me. Like they used to say in cheesy, local car commercials on cable, “How do we do it? Volume!” I’m glad traditional publishers keep their ebook prices high. It gives a guy like me a chance at being discovered.

Will these short-term sacrifices mean long-term financial pain? No, yes and maybe. Who knows? I’m suspicious of too much certainty. Your answer may vary because the fulcrum for this heavy conundrum rests of an irrational variable: How high were your expectations to begin with? Is this side money, the size, say, of the little Swiss Chalet side salad? Did you want the comfort of the double leg dinner as an income? Or did you want the richness of the full Swiss Chalet Family pack with the coconut cream pie for desert? Input your variable and solve for X.

Conclusions: Given the free ebook glut, do you market even harder now that we’re into summer’s slow days? I think I’ll just stay the course. It feels like trying to run up the down escalator and I already flog hard enough as it is. Instead, I’m focusing my energies on putting up more of the work I’ve prepared and I’m writing new stuff. I’m giving the market more time to recover so I’ll be ready with more books to sell.

Putting up more books is the only sure way I know of selling more books.

Predictions:  New strategies will emerge, but no one seems sure what The Answer is. It might not be one answer and it might not be as dramatic and sweeping as the free ebook boom that hit the market when Amazon’s KDP Select algorithms benefited us so much back in December. I suspect we’ll be actively spending more money on advertising and promotion for our books in the near future. I’m aware of a few new and clever-sounding strategies, but they are as yet untested by the market’s searing flame. I’ll revisit said strategies in a future post, but today’s post is already too long and don’t we have some serious writing to do?

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Traditional vs. self publishing. Which would you choose?

See on Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

You know what I love about this post? Mr. Ing doesn’t have an agenda. He’s asking an honest question and I love the cost-benefit analysis he’s offering us here. Given the variables, which would you choose? More at the Scoopit! link. ~ Chazz

See on www.graemeing.com

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,876 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

%d bloggers like this: