Poetry, Google+ and Pinterest

A Poem to a a Favourite…

I’ve added a short poem to the relevant section.  Hopefully you will read and, even more hopefully, enjoy it!  You may notice that the character of my poetry is as wildly varied as most things I do.

Those “Other” Social Networks…

I am on Google+ and Pinterest.  No big deal and I’m not begging you to rush off and connect with me on them.  In fact, there are times when I find them intensely annoying.  For example, Google+ defeats me more often than not, by behaving in ways that I just don’t expect.  And I seem to end up sending more messages as ’private’ than as ‘public’. and I have no idea why!

But Pinterest…!  There are two huge annoyances!  First, and the lesser of the two, is the lack of any direct messaging system!  If you need to tell somebody something, you have to do so publicly as a comment on a Pin,and hope they see it.  And then comes the huge annoyance!  The constant stream of identical Pins from the same people – I could name names but won’t.  They’ve got a book out- marvellous!  I’d be happy to be the first to congratulate them.  But, they send Pin after Pin after Pin after… all either identical or as near as it gets.  Fine, post in whatever Groups you belong to and who permit it.  Publicise when/if you have a special at some time and tell people when a new review appears (not some one-liner or just a rating!), but please, I implore you, stop Spamming the Group boards!  For now, I have decided to cease all “Liking” of unjustifiably repeated Pins.  I know that Pins gradually get buried by new Pins, but has it not occurred to you guilty ones that your behaviour is crushing new works, often by people who have only just published their first book?  To me, that’s not just unfair – it’s tantamount to cyberbullying!  It’s immoral!  And know this: as long as you maintain such behaviour, I will not invite you to enjoy the promotional opportunities this blog offers!

 ~ Steve

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Have You Got It Covered?

MysteryBookCover_thumb.pngIf I upset you with what follows, I regret doing so, but I am honestly speaking out in an attempt to help!

I’m on Pinterest.  I’m a member of several book groups on Pinterest.  And in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed something about book covers.  There are more and more being shown on Pinterest that I wouldn’t, in all honesty, look twice at!  It’s not the actual imagery in all cases, either, though there are some…  No, the problem lies in the titles.  I simply can’t read them!  They are in colours so close to what they overlay that they aren’t visible, lost in the background.  One thing I work hard on is a cover, and getting titles visible isn’t, as far as I’m concerned, that difficult.  In fact, it couldn’t be easier!  Yes, I might agonise over whether to use, say, plain white or a strong but bright yellow, but the principle of contrast isn’t difficult to understand.  If you’re determined to reflect the background colours in the titles, you really do have to to use a font that allows outlining, which has to make the letters visible by using a contrasting colour.  There are also certain colours that really don’t work well.  Reds can be very difficult to see, for example.  You also need to think how a cover will look to different people: the colour blind and the visually impaired, especially.  Look at your proposed  cover in negative as well as what the majority would see.  If you use red titles, how do they appear to a colour blind person?  Is the font so fancy that a visually impaired person would only see the stronger parts of letters but lose the detail, making the titles unreadable.

Of course, I can’t target just titles!  Cover images are important.  It’s better to have a plain cover, than one which will repel potential readers!  There’s an increasing number of pretty standard romance novels which have what can only be described as distinctly erotic covers, presumably to enjoy the benefits of the current fashion for erotic tales.  Fine.  Romance can lead to the erotic.  Fine, that is, if the story in the book reflects the cover!  But there are many romance readers who aren’t interested in erotic novels!  They are happy with the gentler, genuinely romantic covers that their favoured genre have traditionally used, and they’ll ignore those erotic covers.  lost sales.  I’d also question, again, the increase in the number of photographic covers in general.  If photography is used, it’s better to have the images heavily manipulated to create a more artistic effect, with facial features less clear, and a ‘softer’ focus.  For horror and paranormal, some of the covers look either amateurish (like stills from movies that don’t even achieve a ‘B’ grade!) while others are so graphic, they should be placed where only devotees of gore can reach them.  Finally, there are some where the cover illustration is so bizarre, or muddled, or dark that it’s almost impossible to figure out what you’re actually seeing!  I can’t see what benefit can be gained from such covers.

Covers need to be: descriptive/illustrative of the content; clear and intelligible; bold, bright and colourful for the youngest readers; they must have clear, readable titles that stand out from the background.  I know that many authors can’t afford to buy covers, especially custom covers, but they aren’t always the guilty ones.  I’ve seen covers which were ‘professionally’ designed, and which look truly dreadful!  The authors using such covers have wasted their money.  I have to wonder how many are actually happy with those covers, and how many use them just because they’ve paid so much to get them.

I beg authors to be more discerning in what they choose for their covers, and accept the principle of contrast for titles.

~ Steve

 

Counting Up To Networking

Summer?  It’s here?  Where?

It seems that summer is upon us.  At least, it is in some places!  Personally, I’m not convinced.  The weather here certainly doesn’t suggest it.  Anyway, judging by the stats, a fair number of people are now able to get out and about in good weather, and maybe even have vacations.  There’s definitely been fewer people looking around the blog over the last week or two.  Hopefully they’ll wander back when they aren’t off enjoying themselves LOL!  In the meantime, while the summer months may not get the same volume of traffic, I’ll maintain posting daily, if possible.

Numbers

Anyway, I was delighted to discover, this morning, that the blog has still managed to reach a total of over 7.000 views since I started it!  The vast majority of those views, more than 6,300 of them, have come since the beginning of 2013.  The blog also has just over 370 direct followers – kind folk who have either clicked on the ‘Follow’ link if they use WordPress.com too, or subscribed by email.  I would like to thank all of you who have done so!  When the Social Networks are added in, that’s a lot of followers or people who at least receive notifications of what’s happening on the blog.  In fact, there are 1280 Twitter and 370+ Facebook followers.  I also have way over 500 LinkedIn connections, 200+ fans and friends on Goodreads, and links with folk on Google+, Pinterest, tumblr, etcetera.  Of course, there’s duplication, but it’s still an awful lot of very good people!

The Same Old Advice?

I have seen a few posts recently extolling the virtues of Social Networks.  It still intrigues me that the message is still being pounded out that Social Networks are not only nice to be a part of, but fundamentally essential to success, despite my own recent findings to the contrary.  Don’t mistake me!  I have no intention of abandoning the Social Network scene!  What concerns me is the forceful claims.  Surely these must impact on those newest to writing and self-publishing?  If that’s true, just how useful, or damaging, is the advice?  Active participation in, for example, Facebook soon leads folk away from the matter in hand into strange lands, where peculiar graphically enhanced (GE rather than GM) quotations – many of dubious authenticity in regard to the alleged sources, humorous photographs of animals and other matter, status messages where folk have hit the panic button having read a piece of ‘news’ proven entirely false some years previously, invitations to participate in (fake) competitions for products that are too good to miss out on owning, invitations to join groups/like pages/play games… well, you get the idea!  So, the one absolute certainty of devoting significant time to Social Networks like Facebook and Twitter is that there’ll be no hope of ‘distraction free’ writing!  Other networks can be approached with a little more confidence, but even they have their dangers, circling like sharks, ready to strike.  For example, Goodreads.  There is, in my honest opinion, nothing to compare with Goodreads!  It is a superb system for readers, authors and reader/authors.  But, there are perils, mostly in the form of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of ‘special interest groups’ and more generalised forums.  Join more than a handful, and you will be pulled and pushed, poked and prodded, to be active in them.  And that’s when the trouble starts – just like Facebook and Twitter: overload!  So the potential damage to the actual writing process is obvious.  What about benefits?  Well, I guess there are some.  When an author’s website or blog is very new, then the Social Networks may bring a few visits from the curious, and I do mean a few!  The evidence simply can’t be disputed.  A more significant benefit is in finding other authors!  But even there, it’s good to be wary.

Mistakes in Social Networking

Believe it or not, many authors who have been using the Social Networks for a significant amount of years are actually abusing the system, deliberately or otherwise.  It may be that they simply haven’t got the message, or they may have ignored or discarded it.  There is, however, a very simple truth that must be given heed to!  It is very bad practice to issue post after endless post advertising your book(s)”!  Don’t believe it?  Then you evidently enjoy being continuously Spammed via email, social network sites, and so forth.  More, you enjoy Spamming others!  Because that’s what it is.  If all you ever post is advertising your work or you, then people will flock to the doors – the exit doors!  Apart from the Spam aspect, it’s just bad manners to do it.  If you blog, then let your blog system post updates about your blog.  Don’t repeat the effort.  Social Networks exist to keep people in touch with each other, in a sense that sees constant advertising as an evil.  If you do the same to people you know in real life, then I pity them, and the chances of you having many real life connections are very low indeed.  No, you have to work at it properly!  You have to provide interesting, humorous, sometimes informative information, with only the occasional advertisement for your work, almost as an aside.  This is true at all levels – from blog to network.  Anything else, and the only visitors you’ll have in any numbers will be Spambots and worse – and many of those won’t bother with you, either, because your statistics are so shockingly low.  Everything is open to abuse, intended or misguided.  If you’re determined to use the available facilities, learn to look beyond yourself, beyond your work.  If you’re not inclined to provide ‘informative’ posts, at least try to amuse your readers!  It’s like any social situation.  You have to ‘court’ your audience, even if you don’t appear to have one.  If you get it right, people will find you!  More, if you truly engage in a friendly manner with both readers and fellow authors, others will support your efforts – not just in direct responses but by Tweeting, posting to Facebook, and numerous other ways.  But I’ll sound another note of caution here: if you set out to use others, they will find you out!  In other words, just be a real, ordinary, sociable person – willing to help others not because you want something in return, but simply because

The best advice I have to give?  Be ‘good people’.

~ Steve

Stats And What They Might Reveal

There’s always much made of social networking.  Some of it is useful, and that’s undeniable.  Whether it gets sales or not is another matter entirely.  I’ve done a quick analysis of the social networks and made some discoveries which may interest you.  I’ve also looked at the search engines and other ‘referrers’ to Imagineer-ing.

Since I started this blog:

1

WordPress Reader
(used by followers)
274 (5.5%)
2 Google Search 219 (4.4%)
3 Facebook 218 (4.4%)
4 Yahoo mail
(mostly from Yahoo Groups)
102 (2.0%)
5 Twitter 95 (1.9%)
6 Goodreads 83 (1.7%)
7 Bing 33 (0.7%)
8 Yahoo Search 30 (0.6%)
9 LinkedIn 18 (0.3%)
10 Windows Live Mail 16 (0.3%)
11 Tumblr 14 (0.3%)
12 StumbleUpon 6 (0.1%)
13 Pinterest 4 ( – )
14 Networked Blogs 2 ( – )
15 Ask Search 1 ( – )
Total of all above 1115 (22.4%)
All other referrers 3864 (77.6%)
The itemised referrers are the common ones most of us regard as being essential to our statistics.  “Surely,” we think, “these grand bodies are what drive traffic our way?”  The figures above suggest a different reality.  Less than a quarter of views are generated by people using these major sites!  More than three-quarters come from other sites, like the blogs of fellow authors and book lovers in general.  Personally I’m staggered by this revelation!  Considering the investment in time and effort involved in these sites, especially the social networks, I think the results are rather disappointing.
The fact that Facebook comes 3rd, Twitter 5th, Goodreads 6th, LinkedIn 9th, Tumblr 11th and Pinterest 13th would suggest that Facebook is the best social network to use, with Twitter and Goodreads as additional networks.  That said, it’s clear that we shouldn’t expect miracles in our blog growth by our use of these.  I find it most intriguing that Google Search just edges Facebook.
Of course, we need to be wary of these statistics, which is true of all statistics!  We don’t know how many of the WordPress Reader users originally came to the blog through one of the social networks.
Still, it’s all food for thought.
~ Steve

A Look At Web Sites For Authors

These are just some observations I have on the various web sites that I’ve used for self-publishing and/or marketing since becoming a self-publishing author.  What I’ve learnt is that something might seem like a good idea, but that doesn’t mean they are.

Facebook

The “big daddy”, as it were.  These days, it’s almost impossible to do anything without having a Facebook presence.  It certainly has benefits, if it’s used properly. I can’t tell you that I’ve cracked it yet, myself, but there’s no doubting that, if nothing else, it’s a good way to drive traffic to your web site and/or blog.  From what I’ve seen, I think it has also helped push some folk to the right place to download an ebook.  Personally, I don’t have a page for every ebook – I just have an author page.  I believe that’s sufficient, at least until I get a blockbuster bestseller!  All of that said, Facebook is often frustrating, annoying and downright risky!  Facebook changes things often, and not always helpfully.  It’s very easy to become totally swamped with posts from others on your Newsfeed.  It’s also easy to become a Facebook junkie – spending far more time on it rather than on more important activities.  Then, too, Facebook is the target of hackers and other malicious folk, rendering your security virtually nonexistent!

I would suggest that you give the absolute bare minimum of information on your profile page.  The same applies to your author page and/or book page(s).  I would recommend that you try to avoid using the Add Friend button!  Try to limit yourself, as much as possible, to using any Follow option or just Like pages.  Keep the Add Friend option for family and trusted friends.  I have been rather bad at that and now have a totally insane number of “friends”.  I would suggest that if you wish to network with somebody who only has a personal profile, you suggest to them that they create a page, so that you can Like that instead of adding them as a “friend”.

Twitter

The other highly fashionable social network.  Twitter is something of an oddity.  You have a strict limit on how many characters you can have in a tweet, which can be immensely frustrating at times.  I find it much harder to establish how much Twitter helps to increase interest.  I can only assume that there is some benefit to using it.  Personally, I rarely actually write tweets directly – I let other things do that for me automatically, like WordPress (host of this blog).  Like Facebook, it takes very little effort to find yourself overwhelmed by the tweets of those you choose to Follow.  There’s no doubting that you will find thousands of folk who seem  to fit the profile of those you would like to network with.  And therein lies the problem!  There are thousands, or tens of thousands!  You will, eventually find yourself in the situation where, with your Twitter timeline open, tweets will appear too rapidly for you to keep up with them.

I have only one piece of advice on controlling how many Followers you Follow back, and that’s be selective.  You will receive notifications of people or organisations who have Followed you.  Some of these will be very undesirable folk indeed and should be avoided at all costs, while others will simply not fit into the type of activity that you want, or need, to embrace for your network.  Do not feel embarrassed at refusing to Follow anybody!  It isn’t rude to refuse, it’s simply good sense.

Goodreads

For both readers and authors, Goodreads is probably the best there is, to a point.  It’s easy to add both books by yourself and by others, building up a library listing.  Gaining friends takes much longer than on Facebook or Twitter, and I have been disappointed in one particular respect.  Members are supposed to write reviews of what they read, and rate them.  In reality, there’s far less activity on that than there should be, and getting your own books reviewed is extremely difficult.  And gaining fans is even harder!  You can link your Goodreads account to Facebook, so that some of your activity appears there as status messages.  If you have an author page on Facebook, then there’s an app that allows you to link to your Goodreads profile page, or Group.  Alternatively, if you have Facebook pages for specific books, then you can use the same app to link to your books (individually) on Goodreads.

As far as I know, so far I’ve had very little benefit from using Goodreads beyond its library facility.  It’s a pity as the potential is there for much more.  Admittedly, there are many very active Groups on Goodreads, but, as with Facebook and Twitter, it can soon become too difficult to keep up with them.

Smashwords

This is, without a doubt, the most important, and most useful, site of all those I have used!  It provides an excellent way to publish your own ebooks, in several formats, and lots of advice on doing so.  It is also a very good source for ebooks by many other Indie authors.  Smashwords will submit your ebook(s) to most of the major online retailers, as well as numerous web sites that are subsidiaries of their own, usually with specific genres as their focus.  The system is easy to use, which is paramount as far as I’m concerned.  To date, I have had no reason to be unhappy with Smashwords.  If i have a criticism, it’s that perhaps more effort could be made to encourage members to submit reviews of the ebooks they download and read.  But, it’s principally a site to self-publish your ebooks.  It doesn’t stress its networking potential.

WordPress

This is on a par with Smashwords but for entirely different reasons.  First of all, I should point out that there are two forms of WordPress: the WordPress.com hosted version, like this blog, which has a few limitations, most particularly in regard of just what you’re allowed to include, and the self-hosted WordPress.org version,where you have total control over what you include.  If you want to maximise your chances of making money, using affiliate links, then you need the second option.  Both versions allow you the flexibility to not just create a blog, but to create a complete, professional looking, web site!  Both also allow you to use a wide variety of free or paid themes, but you have to pay on WordPress.com if you wish to customise the CSS underlying your chosen theme, while that’s free if you’ve opted for self-hosted.  Best of all, perhaps, is that you can get both for free!  The biggest difference is that WordPress.org has to be downloaded and then installed to your own web host, and you will need to add several plug-ins to bring it up to the same level as WordPress.com’s package.  It’s a painless but lengthy process.

If you can afford it, I would recommend buying your own domain name and a good hosting package and then installing WordPress.org.  You really won’t need anything else!  You will have the framework for a full web site, and you’ll know that you can change the look easily whenever you want to.  It really doesn’t get any better than that!

Others

Gaining ground in the realm of social networks are Google+ and Pinterest, both of which I use to some extent.  The thing that I notice most with these sites is that, before very long, you start simply duplicating everything, with the same people on every network.  I’m not convinced that anybody gains anything from that kind of setup.  I’ve also tried Free-eBooks.net, but that seems to have had peculiar results, with huge numbers of my ebooks downloaded/viewed but little or no feedback, and nothing more than Like/Dislike being selected by the respondents.  LinkedIn is very good for networking, but it’s primarily aimed at those who are looking for employment of some kind.

I have tried numerous other web sites but, in all honesty, I can’t say that I’ve received any benefits from any of them.  Several have seen my ebooks downloaded from them, but without a single instance of feedback from any of them!  I can’t honestly recommend any of them.

I’m still trying new web sites.  If I find any that are worth you taking a look at, I’ll let you know in future posts.

~ Steve