Interview by Gudrun Frerichs

I had the privilege of being interviewed on the subject of writing in general and Second Death in specific by Gudrun Frerichs. Here’s the audio:

Listen_Now

Adventures with TweetAdder

I love Twitter. I’m just gonna come right out and say that up front. Criticizing Twitter has become a cliché: “Who wants to read what people had for lunch?” Anyone making that criticism is outing themselves that they don’t really use Twitter. Every day I read an amazing array of cool tidbits, vignettes of life and links I’d never have found on my own from people all over the planet.

I primarily tweet from the viewpoint of an author. Every author who’s the least bit interested in promotion of her or his book needs a Twitter presence. But I’ll confess, acquiring followers isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Following is a voluntary process, and you can’t go around forcing people to join, even though you suspect they’d be very interested in what you have to say or write. That’s where TweetAdder comes in.

TweetAdder is a program that automates the process of acquiring Twitter followers. I read about it in Jon F. Merz‘s book How to Really Sell Ebooks, in which he devotes at least a chapter to implementing the program. (I really appreciate that about Jon’s book, the step by step detailed instructions rather than vague platitudes about how great the product is.)

I was a little skeptical at first. What TweetAdder does for you is grab lists of people who follow people you specify and automate the process of following them. For example, since I’ve written a steampunk book, I wanted to engage the followers of Gail Carriger and Cherie Priest. The theory, obviously, is that if you follow someone, they will very often follow you back. TweetAdder manages the grunt work, unfollowing people who don’t follow you back within three days (or whatever time period you specify), and maintaining that vital ratio of followers to people you’re following.

At first the idea struck me as somewhat sleazy. But when I thought about it, I realized that I’m just tapping into people who share common interests. I’m selecting people to market to based on their reading preferences (presumably that’s why they follow the people they do). I’ve gone from a couple of hundred followers to 1,085 in about six weeks’ time.

Here’s the challenge, though. Nobody wants to read a constant barrage of spam, requesting they buy my book. As Jon F. Merz stresses, Twitter is about relationships. You have to interact with your followers as if they’re people (since, y’know, they are). Engaging in 140 characters on a regular basis is difficult for me, particularly when I’m at work. I’ve tried posting interesting historical trivia related to the research I did for The Source of Lightning, and links to fascinating items found on the American Memory site. I’m still experimenting. Occasionally I get retweets. Sometimes I even get into conversations. Which is really what Twitter is all about.

Do you have experience with TweetAdder? Thoughts about Twitter marketing? Share in the comments below.

An Aural Experiment

Listen NowIn the course of my indie publishing journey, I’ve met authors from all over the world. That got me thinking about how I’d love to hear their voices. Thus, Indie Book Bytes was born.

Indie Book Bytes is a website dedicated to the voices of independent authors. Not just their written voices, but their speaking voices. I researched the easiest way for people unfamiliar with recording technology to record and post themselves reading an excerpt from their book. It’s set up in a podcast format, so readers (listeners!) may subscribe to the RSS feed and be notified when a new podcast is available. The links on the site provide a quick way to download the rest of the story.

I’ll admit there are challenges in this experiment. So many people say they don’t like the sound of their own voice. But in the aural format, busy readers who don’t have time to look for new works can have a listen.

We’ll see how it goes!

Check out Indie Book Bytes and contribute your own excerpt!

How to Survive the Slough of Despond

I’m not sure how many people these days understand the allusion in the title. It refers to a location in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. I’ve never read it, honestly, although I’ve heard the phrase for years. Here’s a quotation from it, via from the Wikipedia entry for “Slough of Despond,” which literally means swamp of despair: “This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended…There ariseth in [the sinner’s] soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place, and this is the reason for the badness of this ground.” I left out the parts about sin; that belongs in a religious commentary, which this isn’t.  Substitute “writer’s” for “sinner’s,” and doesn’t this sound like the state of mind in which we often find ourselves? Fears? Check. Doubts? Check. Discouraging apprehensions? Oh yeah, in spades.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m in a personal Slough of Despond at the moment. John Bunyan wouldn’t understand the actual phrase “burned out,” but he’d probably include the essence of that phrase in his nasty swamp. I’m not burned out on writing, surprisingly, but on marketing. No, the writing of the WIP (which stands for “work in progress,” for those of you who were afraid to ask) is going along swimmingly, thanks. Y’know, when I actually find time to write. At the moment, writing is easy. Marketing is hard.

Marketing is hard anyway to most writers. If you’re fearful of ridicule in reviews that say your heartfelt work is crap, how are you able to tell everybody in the world they should read it because it’s great? If you doubt your ability to write because no one has bought it or even downloaded it for free, how can you summon the catchy and intriguing prose that will compel readers to catapult you to the Amazon top 100? As has been pointed out elsewhere (I’m not finding the actual quote, but trust me on this), writers of fiction are not generally used to writing marketing copy, especially for themselves.

It’s especially discouraging when you aren’t seeing great sales. That’s where I am these days. My sales are pretty pitiful (like a couple of sales a week or less), despite a regimen of marketing and participating and trying to get my name out there. I’ve put out a collection of stories, but I’ve been too burned out to really promote it much. The next book, The Source of Lightning, is in editing, and I’m hoping it will find more readers. But in the indie marketing game, “hoping” just doesn’t cut it.

So what do you do? You’re not going to like the answer. Everybody tells you there’s no magic bullet. Everybody’s right. If you read the authors of “how to” e-books I reviewed in my last post, they’ll tell you it’s hard work. And luck, as J.A. Konrath always reminds us. You keep at it, that’s what you do. Hire it done, if you have the money to spare. Check out people like Duolit. Read blogs like Indie Author Community for inspiration. Join groups like Indie Author Group to learn and rejuvenate. Above all, keep at it.

Really, that slough can’t stretch on forever. You’ll get to the end of it eventually. Or you’ll decide it’s too hard and give up. Take courage in the fact that you’re an indie author, and YOU are in charge of your destiny. Reach out for help. Keep on keepin’ on. If you don’t illuminate the path, luck won’t find you.

Comment and let me know how you survive the Slough of Despond.