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After much prevarication, I have deleted my presence on LinkedIn and Facebook. Their facility has proven very limited because the people who inhabit those platforms do not share the same interests as myself. Patreon has proven too vulnerable to political meddling, so all my links from my few Internet presences will disappear to that platform. Once I get my payment out of their clutches, that account too will disappear into the great nothingness of the Internet’s archives.
Which leaves me with the old model of publishing eBooks and hardbacks via various publishing platforms. Where possible doing readings for YouTube and Vimeo. This will continue. Next offering will be a shortened version of ‘Blink’.
There is a rather cold-blooded axiom my parents would repeat from time to time when I was in my teens and early twenties. One that rings ever more true with the passing years. It is this; “There’s no business in sentiment and no sentiment in business.” Trying to make major financial and life decisions with the heart and not the head will, in most circumstances, fail. The current furore over Patreon and Subscribestar is a case in point. Emotionally driven activists are pressuring companies to make ill-considered decisions because the activists want to tell everyone else what to think and do. Their standards are the only standards and anyone who disagrees must be shut down. No matter the collateral damage. Everyone else must suffer because someone makes the ludicrous claim that their ‘feelings were hurt’.
Now I come from the school of thought which bluntly states; “I do not care what you say – only what you do.” People define themselves by their actions, not their words. So it is with Patreon. Who have already cost me money. All of my Patreon donations. Fortunately these losses have been slight. God alone knows what they are for the higher profile creators.
Which interferes with the creative process. It detracts from the focus.
Now Paypal has been pressured to withdraw from Subscribestar. Again after activist pressure. Payments processor Stripe has followed. This leaves me as a creator without reliable means of online payment processing. On the bright side there is a blockchain solution which can process any online donation from any source. All I have to do is get my head around it. Which again interferes with the creative process.
Thanks a lot, activists. You do not speak for me. Nor for all the other artists and writers you have hurt with your politics.
Back to the drawing board.
About Patreon. I’m seriously concerned that my tiny account will be terminated if they find some of the very non-PC stuff I’ve written under various pseudonyms over the years. My first ever article is a case in point. It was meant to be an amusing tale written for a motorcycle magazine, nothing more. Bends, Sun and Hedges was written in the late 1970’s and shared some of that era’s social mores, which were far more loose and easy going than nowadays. Writers now are under ever more pressure not only to debase the language we use as part of our communications toolkit, but some commentators are being actively muzzled for having the ‘wrong’ opinions by some very sinister people. Yes. By all those so-called ‘Trust and Safety teams’ who no-one should trust and whose scrutiny is to be avoided. Stalin would have loved them.
Now this is something that might ultimately hurt me, as I am not very happy with the censorious nature of a number of silicon valley platforms. Ergo I am creating a Subscribestar account and will not be posting any further links or content to Patreon because they demonstrably can’t be trusted. Besides, I like the look of Subscribestar’s interface. It’s a lot less user-fiendish and transparent, surprise Windows 10 updates (Don’t ask) notwithstanding.
So if anyone wants to show this mendicant scribbler some financial love, that is where my online begging bowl will be.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve recently opened a Patreon account so that those who
feel sorry for me like my work can throw the odd dollar my way. Part of this process has been creating a one minute introductory video for my new Creators Patreon account, explaining who I am and what I have to offer to prospective patrons. As it’s been the long Canadian thanksgiving weekend, I took time out from the day job and set to work.
Thirty plus ‘takes’ and two hours later… I have about five one minute video segments that I’m actually half way happy with. Not that I’m in love with the sound of my own voice or the way I look, my voice is too light and nasal for my liking and I’m not a handsome sight, but I am what I am and that’s all that can be said for it. I didn’t actually think that speaking under a hundred words to camera would be difficult. Oh how wrong I was. Fortunately the world will never know because all the fluffs, corpsing, swearing, face-pulling and mispronunciations have been consigned to digital Hell. There will be no gag or blooper reel. At least at this stage of the game. There’s simply not enough space on my hard drive.
Snow always gives pause for gentle reflection. This morning’s two centimetre whitewashing isn’t deep enough for a snow day and will be gone by mid afternoon. Overhead the clouds are already breaking with the promise of winter sun to grace a Victorian Saturday morning.
Today is not a writing day. Instead the snow has made it a gentle day of reflection to review what I’ve been doing this week regarding marketing and visibility. Yesterday was a day out checking bus routes for Sunday’s little trip over to Vancouver. Making sure the timing is viable, booking ahead on ferries etc. After travelling up and down the Saanich peninsula, Angie and I ended up downtown in the Bard and Banker, which has one of the best selections of single malts locally. Two pints of Innis and Gunn to lubricate the synapses and talk over what we thought we’d learned. Or at least what I thought I’d learned. Which are:
Things I’m trying to do: Raise my profile as a writer of science fiction. How am I trying to do it? Registering on as many of the book promotion sites as I feel able to regularly update. Putting out sample pieces. Linking my profile carefully back to this website and blog and other points of sale; ensuring people can find what they want in three clicks or less. Give them the opportunity to read samples and decide for themselves what they like, or not as the case may be. I’m also toying with the idea of doing my own sample readings. I went to drama school and did specialist voice training all those years ago, so maybe I should put what I learned about intonation and performance to good use.
Things I’m trying not to do: Making ‘friends’ with just about everyone who is visible online, then spamming their Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook feeds with interminable promotional links saying “Read my book!” and little else. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find that a huge turn off. Even for mainstream productions, my feeling is that the bigger the hype, the less likely the advertised content is worth seeing.
Like many writers in real life, I’m not a hugely social person and have very few real friends. Which is something I’m very comfortable with. Why? I simply can’t keep track of everyone else while trying to juggle a universe or two in my head. It’s too easy to slip into cognitive overload. Which is why I don’t list my contact details and never respond to blind “Add me to your contacts” demands via Skype. Whenever I see those pop up my paranoia asserts itself: Who are you? Why do you want to talk to me? I’ve had too many low quality experiences with the slightly unhinged to be comfortable with random online socialising. Ask a pertinent question in the comments or on FaceBook; even if it’s a bit geeky I’ll do my best to respond promptly. Providing I’m within reach of my keyboard.
Bearing that in mind I’d like to make a small request regarding invitations on Facebook; I’m a man of limited funds and have not the resources to flit hither and thither. Victoria is fine. I’ll happily wander downtown if the conversation is worth my while (A cup of coffee will suffice, I’ll pay my own bus fare). Unfortunately I can’t afford a two thousand dollar round trip air fare and hotel bill for Europe. Not for a small meeting. Not on my sales. But it’s very flattering to be asked.
Amazon used to do a little ap you could paste the HTML from into a blog sidebar or widget. Having updated my profile on five marketing web sites today, I went looking for the HTML on Amazon without much success. In the end I was forced to create my own profile link to Amazon using WordPress’ handy ‘Image’ widget, which allows a site owner to add a small image weblink from their site to just about anywhere on the web. I was originally tempted to use an adaptation of Amazon’s logo, but then had visions of copyright lawyer emails, closed accounts etc and chose discretion.
It’s the little icon on the right hand sidebar with the moon and a meteor shower. Which I think looks rather cute.
There’s one below it for my Lulu.com Author spotlight, which I think gives a more noirish feel.
The biggest source of headaches is trying to untangle the web of HTML and ensure anyone who is interested finds what they’re looking for. Preferably in three clicks or less. I’ve also tried to tidy up the site a little as far as sidebars are concerned. Simply for the convenience of any visitor.
On the distribution front there’s been one minor glitch with ‘A Falling of Angels’. All fixed now, but there was a little bit of hidden code in the manuscript file that iBookstore didn’t like. One line. This means revision and a further two week delay until the eBook gets listed on the main online outlets, but that doesn’t matter so much. I think I’m getting the hang of everything now, and will have proper links to and from all the major players by the end of this week.
After that Angie and I are off to Vancouver for swearing in, so will be incommunicado. Forty eight hours after we get back from the fleshpots we have family coming to visit for three days, so I’ll be busy ministering to their needs and trying to stay sober. Somewhere between now and the festive season I may even do a little proper writing.
Over a lunchtime coffee yesterday I was explaining to my long suffering wife about what it means to be an independent author. All the hoops that have to be jumped without assistance and the sense of never actually having caught up with yourself. It’s not just the writing, it’s the marketing and self promotion. How even with a mainstream publisher you’re still going to have to do a lot of this. Especially if you’re like me, a modest man with much to be modest about. The whole practice of self aggrandisement goes against nature. Sometimes I can feel my body cringing at the very thought. Friends, family and employers may congratulate you on your turn of phase and ability to communicate in prose, but from the depths of childhood there’s always this awful insidious doubt. Like fluffing your lines at five years old and having the whole class laugh at you. It’s a little like dying.
Nonetheless, accepted wisdom is if you want to sell, you are your own brand and this can get in the way of actually producing anything for a possible reading public. I hear this a lot on the forums I lurk around and get automated emails from. There’s just so much to do, if like me you’re an Independent with limited resources to pay for visibility. With another million (and then some) voices out there, clamouring for attention the task of getting noticed can seem impossible. Even if you do manage to get your work listed in all the right marketplaces. Then you’re faced with the last hurdle that most bookstores won’t stock independently published work. Everywhere there are mountains to climb with a great deal of sometimes contradictory sounding advice on how to scale those vertiginous heights.
So here’s my ten cents worth; there are ways of attacking this issue. Send it out to get reviewed, if the reviewers aren’t swamped or simply aren’t interested in your genre. Wait for a third party to check it out and see if they like your work enough to pen a couple of lines about it. Quite frankly I find the whole business of reviews a little scary. I try not to read them anyway, as I’m more likely than not to disagree with the reviewers. To quote the Latin; De gustibus non est disputandum. For example, in the past I’ve tried to read past Man Booker prize winners and found myself going to sleep after the first three pages. Same for many ‘critically acclaimed’ works. I’ve heard friends say exactly the same. It seems to me that critics and the public rarely concur.
Bearing this in mind, what I’m going to do over the next week is to work down the list of online distribution outlets and marketplaces checking my listings. Post a couple of short stories on genre web sites. This is time consuming but critical. Check my author profile is correct, confirm as much of the work as the distributor has listed, ensure they’re the right editions. Check the ISBN’s, iBookstore ID’s, Amazon references and other reference numbers. Confirm on at least three of the Amazon sites; .com, .co.uk, .ca and more because they’re all separate entities. Apple Author ID (Which I knew nothing about until today) Then there are all the promotion links; all forty six of them. Even logging on using my standard Facebook profile is a lot of duplication of effort and that’s only the beginning. Did I mention iAuthor? Then there’s the site admin updates by the providers coming up with the next big thing. You almost need another person full time to keep track of it all, never mind doing any writing.
My solution to keeping track of everything is to create a spreadsheet and make a list of tasks or I’ll never keep up with all the necessary site updates. It’s like eating an Elephant. You have to do it one sandwich at a time. Not to mention that after a while you can get heartily sick of Elephant Sandwiches.
Still, it’ll keep me gainfully occupied on the run up to next Monday and our Canadian Citizenship swearing in ceremony.