Tag Archives: self-publishing

Closing the Facebook

5 Jul

This summer I’m working on revising and updating my self-publishing ‘how to': Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing. Edition #3 is scheduled for release September 5th. When I did the second edition back in 2012, only one year had passed since the first but still, so much had changed. This time around, the entire landscape has changed, and there’s so many new and exciting opportunities for self-publishers to take advantage of. I’ve completely changed my mind about some of my advice, and believe more than ever in the rest of it. One thing hasn’t changed at all though: I still think self-publishing is something every author should be involved in, whether it’s their main career or a sideline, and I still think that with great power comes great responsibility, so you should do it professionally. Over the coming weeks I’ll be writing posts about some issues that need a whole new section in Self-Printed: The 3rd Edition, starting today with the tumbleweeds-blowing-across-a-broken-road-cutting-through-barren-desert ex-social network we call Facebook…

[The Self-Printed 3.0 Splash needs YOU!]

I think I’m done with Facebook.

Once upon a time, I thought Facebook was a really good way to reach readers. If you had a book about a specific topic – say, Disney World – you could reach groups of Disney Word enthusiasts who were already assembled for you. By setting up an author page, you could get real life friends and family to help you build a fan base, as they could share content from your page on their own pages and news of their ‘liking’ you would show in their news feeds. With the help of things like Facebook offers and Rafflecopter, you could hold giveaways and draw attention to events, real world and virtual, like the release of your new book.

Then, it all went to pot.

Facebook has become its own worst enemy. I think in the future social media archeologists will study it for lessons in what not to do with your success. I think it was Steve Jobs who said, ‘People don’t know what they want until you give it to them.’ Mark Zuckerberg seems to be operating on some kind of ‘Take away everything people want’ principle, and it’s failing miserably. By constantly trying to second guess what users would like to see when they log into Facebook, Zuckerberg and friends have consistently moved further and further away from what users want. Privacy settings constantly change. The terms and conditions hide a multitude. In attempt to turn a profit,they’ve made many page owners, effectively, invisible. The kids are all signing up to Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and other websites this grandma (32 as of today!) probably hasn’t heard of yet, and Facebook is a wasteland of neglected profiles, dusty photo albums and unrequited pokes.

Take, just as a simplistic example, the debacle that is your News Feed. Once upon a time you accepted a friend request, and then whatever that friend posted on Facebook, you saw in your News Feed whenever you logged in. If you didn’t want to see it you could unfriend them or hide them. Simples, right? Worked for everyone. You could see what your friends were up to and keep in contact with them – the point of Facebook – and you could also lurk and, ahem, stalk as well. Then Facebook decided that that was an inefficient method of operating and started hiding things from you. So if there was a “friend”, say, as opposed to a friend, and you never commented on any of her photos or clicked the ‘Like’ button or in fact interacted with her in any way (but you still wanted to see what she was up to, natch) well, forget it. Zuckerberg said no, and hid her from you entirely. He only wanted you to see the activity of people you regularly interacted with which, honestly, shows such a blatant misunderstanding of what people were using Facebook for (let’s be honest) that he doesn’t deserve his paper billions.

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But the fact that you missed your old frenemy getting a horrendous fake tan job isn’t important. (Let’s hope!) But take Dead Good Books. Run by a team from Penguin Random House, this Facebook page is one of my faves and a must for any crime fiction fan. Even though they’re a corporate page their content is fun, interesting and worthwhile, and I loved checking in to see what giveaways, news, etc. they had on offer. They’ve worked hard to get to nearly 15,000 likes. But a few days ago I realized that I hadn’t seen anything about them in my News Feed for a while. Were they still operating? I wondered. Well, DUH. Of course they were. Facebook had just decided to hide them from me because even though I had clicked the ‘Like’ button and interacted with them in the past, I hadn’t for a while. FACEBOOK FAIL.

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Take my own Facebook page for Mousetrapped, which – hands up – I have been neglecting. So my neglect might well play a part in what I’m about to share with you, but it’s definitely not the only underlying cause. When you are the admin of a Facebook page, you get to see the ‘reach’ stats for every post. Reach is pretty self-explanatory: it’s the number of people who saw your post, i.e. the number of people it reached.

My Mousetrapped Facebook page has 1,126 likes as of writing this post. Let’s take a look at the reach of some the posts I’ve published there lately…

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The post on the left is a link to the last blog post on here, which only reached 34 people. Yes, thirty-four. There were no shares or likes, which makes this a really good indicator of how many eyeballs land on content that’s just posted to your Facebook page without any subsequent interaction. 34 out of 1,126.

But, in fairness, that content is me-related, not Disney-related, and that’s the main attraction – I presume – to fans of this Mousetrapped-specific page. The post on the right is indeed Disney-related: it’s a shot of balloons for sale on Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom. It had 33 likes and reached 485 people – great, but still a long way off 1,126. Less than half, as a matter of fact.

You’ll notice the handy ‘Boost post’ button, which is an invitation to spend money – because that’s what this is all about. Not reaching enough people? Pay Facebook to lift the invisibility cloak. (Remembering that if enough people organically saw your posts, they wouldn’t be an opportunity to make money this way.) A little over a year ago, I tried this just to see whether or not it was worth it.

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I think we can agree the answer is no, right?

I ran a giveaway and I wanted people to see the actual giveaway post, so I set a budget of €4 and let Facebook go and do this boosting it was always on about. You can see that the paid reach was 1,083 people – fewer people than ‘like’ my page. (Although, in fairness, back then, it was probably slightly more or the same.) Out of them, a whopping 8 – EIGHT! – actually took action on the post, i.e. clicked ‘like’. (We don’t know if they entered the giveaway.) So essentially Facebook charged me €4 to reach the same number of people who had ‘liked’ my page. Stay classy, Facebook.

There was a time, back in the old days, when you could just post something on Facebook and most of the people who had ‘liked’ your page saw it. (Or an amount of people equal to them, anyway.) No money changed hands. Can you imagine such a thing?! This is the last example I could find of it on my page, a post published back in March 2013.

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As you can see, this post won activity: 12 likes, 8 comments and 2 shares. Not exactly viral, but yet it organically reached 713 people. Woo-hoo! In March 2013, this was probably less than 100 people off how many liked the page, so I’d consider it a win. A win, but a win back in March 2013.

Now, let’s slap ourselves across the face with a cold, dead fish called reality. Something that ANNOYS ME NO END when people start harping on about how terrible traditional publishing is because so many books don’t earn back their advance and why self-publishing is a waste of time because so many books don’t sell more than a copy is that no one ever says, ‘Maybe the book failed because no one wanted to read it.’ So maybe I’m crap on Facebook. (I’ve definitely been crap on it recently.) Maybe my contributions to the Facebooksphere are so boring that if you cared any less, you’d pass out. That is entirely possible – it’s entirely possible approaching almost likely.

But let’s go back to Dead Good Books. Nearly 15,000 likes and I’m one of them, yet Facebook has decided not to organically show me their posts anymore. (FYI: I’ve corrected this by going onto their page and randomly liking a few things they posted recently, but should that be necessary? I love to lurk, just like 95% or something of internet users. Let me lurk, Facebook. LET ME LURK!) They are definitely not crap on Facebook. They’re exceptionally good, and nearly 15,000 other people think so. But if it hadn’t occurred to me that I hadn’t seen them in a while, I’d be lost to them forever. Me and who knows how many others. So was all that work – the work that it took them to get to nearly 15,000 likes – worth it? I think the answer is no, and the reason is Facebook.

(There’s also this creepy business, which I won’t go into here. But, ewwww. Creepy McCreepyson.)

However nothing sums up the crapness that is Facebook like the image above. ‘Organic reach is dead’ the accompanying tweet declares and unlike those ‘No, really, THIS time, the novel really is dead. No, really’ articles that come out every six months or so, this could well be true. The image is comparing the response Snickers got when they posted the exact same picture to their Facebook and Twitter pages the night Luis Suarez got hungry for human flesh.

On Facebook, they have approximately 11,000,000 fans. The post got 895 shares and was ‘liked’ by 3,250 users.

On Twitter, they have approximately 50,000 followers. The exact same post was favourited 14,754 times and retweeted 34,994 times.

In the first and second editions of Self-Printed, I encouraged self-published authors to get on Facebook. But do I now? Well…

If you have an active page with a high, consistent level of engagement:

Get YOU! And well done. Somehow, some page-owners have managed to keep up a very high level of engagement (posts getting ‘liked’, commented on, shared, etc.) naturally, which means that you likely have great organic reach. If it’s working for you, hooray! Keep it up. But also keep in mind that as a social network, Facebook’s star is fading. Encourage your Facebook fans to double-up on their liking of you by subscribing to your mailing list, following you on Twitter or adding your blog feed to their Feedly list. Then you won’t have to worry about what shenanigans Facebook might get up to in the future.

If you have a page with lots of ‘likes’ but inconsistent and/or low engagement:

This is me, right now. I’m thinking that just like not eating that cupcake now and ‘saving’ it for later, it’s just not worth it. I think what I might do is apply some jump-leads: really make the effort with FB for a month or so and seeing if stats improve. If they don’t though, I know my time is better spent on other things, like this blog, Twitter and writing more books. It’s time to relegate Facebook to the waste-of-my-time leagues, me thinks.

If you haven’t got around to doing Facebook yet:

Don’t even bother. The ship has sailed. In the current ‘pay to be seen’ climate I’m not even sure how you’d win likes or expose users to content in the first place. Put your time and energy into something else instead.

UPDATE: The very helpful Amy Keely shared this YouTube video in the comments. If you are considering paying Facebook to do anything, you NEED to watch this video first. Shocking stuff.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVfHeWTKjag

In other news, yesterday was America’s birthday and today is mine! (Yes, 21 again, thanks for asking…) To mark the occasion, Backpacked is free to download for Kindle from all Amazon stores today (Saturday 5th July) for 5 days. If you’ve read it already, you might be interested in the Backpacked photo or video galleries. Have a good weekend!

Some Pics From Belfast

25 Jun

Busy writing, packing and – come this weekend – moving (ugh!), so I’m just popping in to share some pics from my afternoon at the LitNetNI event ‘Way With Words’ at Belfast Book Fest on June 14th…

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L-R: Alison Baverstock (@alisonbav) sharing the findings of her research into self-publishing and those that indulge in it, and moi and Andrew Moore (@agrmoore) listening intently.

Photo credit: Averill Buchanan (@averillb)

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Should we have a caption competition? Note how my top matches my blog. I mean, really….

Photo credit: Averill Buchanan (@averillb)

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Andrew shared a moving story about how connecting with his young readers is infinitely more fulfilling than sales.

Photo credit: Averill Buchanan (@averillb)

And the lovely Karen, who was in the audience, shared these pics on Twitter…

Were you there? Do say hi!

In other news, I am still enthusiastically tweeting my #bookadayUK pics on Twitter. Activity-wise, that’ll have to do until this book is finished…

B is for…

31 May

While I (a) struggle to believe that today is the last day of May, (b) try to drum up the motivation to clean my apartment and (c) prepare for binge-watching 24 with my brother tonight (I’m STILL waiting for someone to say, ‘Send it to my screen!’), I have a few things to tell you…

B is for #BookADay

Starting tomorrow, June 1st, Harper Collins are inviting book-lovers everywhere to participate in #bookaday. The idea is that every day for the month of June, you share a book a day on Twitter.

I’m doing this, and I can tell you: I’m doing this seriously. I’ve already made my picks, photographed them unnecessarily and queued them all up in Buffer. In four short weeks I’ve to leave my beloved apartment and embark on a move to Dublin, and who knows what kind of grim bedsit I could end up in there, so this is kind of like a just-in-case goodbye to my bookshelves, as they may have been banished back to a storage unit by the end of the summer. (Nooooooo!)

Here are a sneak peek at some of my choices (although, if you’ve been around these parts for a while, none of them will come as a surprise to you):

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I think this is going to be so fun, and we all might discover some new books to add to the TBR pile. And bonus: it gives you something to tweet about too.

B is for Belfast

Two weeks from today (Saturday 14th June), I’ll be in Belfast with Alison Baverstock and Andrew Moore, at LitNetNI’s Way with Words: Literature Development Day.

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The afternoon will focus on self-publishing with an inspiring and revealing session fromAlison Baverstock, a hugely experienced publisher, trainer and writer on all aspects of publishing, marketing and reading. She is the author of The Naked Author – a Guide to Self-Publishing. The session will explore the publishing process in an informative, practical way and there will be lots of opportunities for questions. This event will feature Catherine Ryan Howard, writer and blogger from Cork whose self-publishing adventures began with the release of her travel memoir, Mousetrapped, in 2010 and Belfast writer AGR Moore who self-published The Unseen Chronicles of Amelia Black in 2011 and a picturesque fable A Boy Named Hogg in 2012. Find out how they published without the backing of a mainstream publishing house and pick up tips on how to raise your profile, promote, market and sell your book.

Find out more about the event and the Belfast Book Festival here.

B is for… Um… Well…

So okay, there’s no ‘B’ for this, but UK TV fans, I’ve a public service announcement for you: Amber starts on BBC Four this week.

You have been warned.

Sunday Coffee Reads | Apr 6

6 Apr

Welcome to Sunday Coffee Reads which, if you’re not familiar, is my occasional sharing of the most interesting thoughts and links to things I’ve come across on Twitter and marked as favourites to read later, later being Sunday morning when I’ve the first of many cups of coffee in hand…suncoffeepic

I’ve actually been out of the office (read: away from the desk in my living room) for the past week, as Andrea Summers was here and I took her on a very rainy trip around Ireland. Well, a few bits of it anyway. Highlights were breakfast with a view at the Lake Hotel in Killarney, the absolutely wonderful library at Trinity College, pulling pints (and bonus: drinking them) at the very impressive Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, and introducing Andrea to Downtown Abbey with the help of the newest love of my life: my Google Chromecast. As my cousin Aisling said, you’ll never know how you got nothing done without it. We also ran into a couple of very nice vintage typewriters…

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Anyway, onto this week’s tweets.

I experienced a moment of writing-related disappointment this week, but thanks to (a) a good sleep, (b) good coffee at the end of that sleep and (c) the level-headed advice of writerly friends, it was only a moment. Still, I’m so glad I came upon this blog post by Mark Edwards this week. If you need a pick-me-up, read it. (And gasp at the line about the non-deleted e-mail!)

Until next time…!

Sunday Coffee Reads | Mar 23

23 Mar

Welcome to Sunday Coffee Reads which, if you’re not familiar, is my occasional sharing of the most interesting thoughts and links to things I’ve come across on Twitter and marked as favourites to read later, later being Sunday morning when I’ve the first of many cups of coffee in hand…suncoffeepic

So, behold! This week’s tweets:

Also this week, while catching up on Hannibal, Crisis and Resurrection on Hulu, I came across a trailer for a movie called Authors Anonymous. Now of course there’s a risk that they’ve put all the good bits in the trailer, but the scenes they have stuck in there cut real close to the bone.

A writers’ group is all for supporting each other until one of them – the young, beautiful blonde one with breasts – someone manages to get a 6-figure deal for her first attempt, even though she struggles to name a published writer she likes. Meanwhile the eldest of the bunch proudly announces that he’s “inked a deal” with U R The Publisher, but he quickly goes from waving around their pamphlets to complaining that they’ve stuck a picture of a dog on the cover of his novel The Roaring Lion.

It’s out in the US now, apparently, but who knows when it’ll reach European shores. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer:

Until the next Sunday that doesn’t have a F1 grand prix…

(The Return of) Sunday Coffee Reads | March 2

2 Mar

*knock knock*

Hello? Real World? Are you still there? I want to come back now…

Lovely blog readers, you may have noticed I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet on the old blogging front since the start of the New Year. That’s because the one thing I swore I would do in 2014 is get into the habit of writing every day, and I’m glad to say that my dastardly plan has worked.

The problem is it worked a little too well and the thought of doing the things that used to be my go-to procrastination fodder (i.e. blogging, tweeting, ignoring BuzzFeed ‘Which [INSERT NAME OF MOVIE/TV SHOW/NOVEL] Character Are You? quizzes on Facebook) started making me want to indulge in some old-timey procrastination (i.e. staring out the window) instead of doing them.

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I know: it was a confusing time. But now that I’ve set a limit on the words I’m ‘allowed’ to write down a day, it’s time to get back to wasting my time* in the most enjoyable way: blogging!

I’m starting with the return of Sunday Coffee Reads which, if you’re not familiar, is my once-weekly sharing of the most interesting thoughts and links to things I’ve come across on Twitter and marked as favourites to read later, later being Sunday morning when I’ve the first of many cups of coffee in my hands. (I mean, in one hand. Because my phone is in the other. You know what I mean.) Look, I’ve even made a fancy new graphic and everything.

And there may even be a new blog post from me this week.

(Maybe. Baby steps and all that jazz. Plus I still haven’t finished House of Cards. TELL ME NOTHING.)

So, behold! This week’s tweets:

This week’s Give Me A Break corner is reserved for that last link, to an article from the Guardian (above). It whinges and moans about how some writers are making less money than they ever did since the digital publishing revolution dawned. My thoughts:  (i) no writer is entitled to be financially compensated for the hours they spend writing—writers are only entitled to be compensated if/when a reader chooses to consume what’s been produced, (ii) I love how no one ever says, ‘Shame I didn’t write a book that the majority of readers wanted to read…’ and (iii) I look around at my writing buddies, both self and traditionally published or a mixture of the two, and we’re ALL generating income from our writing in ways that wouldn’t have been possible for us five years ago. I personally think this is a good thing. I have sympathy for people who wish the game could revert to when it was played by rules they were familiar with, but I also think that to survive in any situation, you need to be prepared to change and adapt. What are yours? Let me know in the comments below…

And a bonus tweet, for the day that’s in it:

Obviously I had to make a prototype.

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It went well.

*SLURP*

*Not really. Doing something fun is never a waste of time, especially when you can do it make-up-free and in your PJs. Yay for blogging!

Self-Publishing: The Professionals Effect

12 Feb

Over the last couple of weeks some of my fellow self-publishers have been keeping you entertained and inspiring with their self-publishing stories while I sand down my fingerprints finishing my novel. (Or this draft of it, at least.) Today in the penultimate ‘guest post’ installment, The Tour author Jean Grainger shares her self-publishing journey with us. You can read the previous guest posts in this series, 3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Self-Publishing My Novel and Self-Publishing: Do It Your Way by clicking on the links. Welcome, Jean!

Firstly I’d like to thank Catherine for inviting me to guest blog on Catherine, Caffeinated. This blog has been a constant source of advice, information and smiles for me since I started writing so I’m delighted to be here.

My journey into self publishing began when I spotted an advertisement for a one day course in Dublin. The expert speaker was Catherine. Hoping I had written a book that someone other than my mother might regard as a worthwhile way to spend their hard earned cash and time, I took myself off to hear what she had to say.

Of course, like most newcomers to this world I was seduced by the ads online promising that I’d be published in ten minutes, with nothing more than a curled up dusty manuscript needed from myself, or at least the digital equivalent. I had, unfortunately in hindsight, expressed interest in a company in the U.S. through their website who promised to make the whole simple process even simpler for a small fee who were now treating me to daily phone calls explaining how they were going to make me the next big thing.

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It all seemed simple. No need to wait for the elusive nod from the big publishing house, no more torturing myself visualising my hard work on the dreaded ‘slush pile’ going straight from the post bag to the shredder. It seemed like my dream of becoming an author could come true with self-publishing. Still, in the back of my mind I knew there had to be a catch, I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

The day of the course came and as we sat in a lovely hotel overlooking the bay I chatted enthusiastically with my fellow writing hopefuls, some of whom were already published traditionally and who were seeking new ways to breathe life into their careers, or simply monetising their work, others, like myself were total newcomers. It was all very exciting.

With Catherine’s combination of sound advice and humour , she outlined clearly what you needed to do. Ok, you needed a bit of computer savvy, tick. You had to have actually written a half decent book, again, (hopefully) tick. Everything was going great, I was right on track when Catherine dropped the bombshell. You must, and there was no grey area here, you must have your work professionally edited. Obviously, I thought, she doesn’t mean me. You see, I’m an English teacher. My life is spent correcting mistakes, restructuring plot, ensuring  the writing is purposeful ,  coherent, using appropriate and varied language and adhering to the laws of English mechanics. I’ve taught at university, I correct state exams, I don’t need an editor, I am an editor.

Wrong.

I need an editor. Everyone does, I don’t care who you are, what your day job is, you simply cannot edit yourself.

I’d love to say that there and then in that hotel in Dublin I saw the light, but if I’m to be honest I wasn’t convinced. Catherine however, was the expert and I decided just to trust her on it. I parted with the cash, a considerable amount of it, and I got myself an editor. For my first book, I found two editors in fact, one who read the story and looked at structure, plot development, characters and so on, and another, a copy editor to look at the actual prose. If I have learned anything from this process it is this – If I was to look at that manuscript until I was old and grey I would never have seen the glaring inconsistencies the editing process brought to light. I can’t actually believe I thought it was OK, it really, really wasn’t.

My structural editor, the wonderful  Helen Falconer, over lots of tea and biscuits showed me how to make my characters consistent and believable, how to add and subtract from the plot and the result was a much better story. My copy editor seemed to be able to polish my prose so that it still sounded like me, just a better, more articulate me. Words cannot adequately describe the positive impact these professionals had on my work.

This knowledge was liberating when writing my second book. I knew I’d be chopping and dissecting it once it was done so it gave me the confidence just to write, I didn’t worry too much about the finer points. As with the first book, Helen once again worked her magic, and now I have two books of which I’m proud, the alternative is something that makes me shudder. The moral of the tale? Listen to Catherine, she knows her stuff.   [Thanks, Jean! Your fiver's in the post...!]

Find about more about Jean on her website (Jean: is that header image really where you write? I’m jealous! It looks so cosy…). Her books The Tour and So Much Owed are available on Amazon.

I think what’s interesting about Jean’s story is that she held a very common misconception about self-publishing: that she didn’t need an editor. And why wouldn’t she think that? Jean is an English teacher! But after she ‘saw the light’ as she puts it, she met Helen, and I know that Helen has become a big part of her process and not only a box that has to be ticked. So tell us: what is the biggest misconception you had before you self-published? What long-held belief about the process went flying out the window as soon as you started? What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned? Let us know in the comments below…

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