Writing’s more fun than being a writer

800px-Skrifmaskin,_Smith_Premier-maskin,_Nordisk_familjebokWriting’s great – it’s being a writer which can be a bit of a nuisance. The part where you look at a blank page and make up stories is essentially a positive experience. It can be frustrating of course, if the stories do not come when bidden, but it is what writers choose to do, what they feel they need to do.

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Which is better – a Facebook page or a Facebook profile?

Writers these days need to care about more than just words on the page, they have to let the world know that their work exists if they don’t want it to disappear into the ether having been read only by their auntie Marge and their best mate Dave. And that means developing a presence on social media, which inevitably includes Facebook.

When my first book Song of the Sea God was published by Skylight Press I had the same level of presence on social media as a member of a remote, undiscovered tribe in the Amazon jungle – so at least I had he luxury of starting from scratch. I also had a reasonable knowledge of social media since part of my day job is creating and managing accounts for the organisation I work for.

facebookOne of the things I had to decide when I came to open my own accounts was whether my home on Facebook should be based on a profile, the standard Facebook presence everyone starts with, or whether I should set up a page – (what used to be called a ‘fan page.’)

Now, of course, you can have both – nothing stopping you, but I decided that posting to one or the other was the best use of my limited time and in the end I decided to stick with the profile which you can see if you click here and not bother at this stage with a Facebook page. It’s not a decision I’ve regretted in the couple of years since then.

Why did I choose this route? On the face of it, it seems a contrary decision, the pages after all are set up precisely so people can promote goods and services – big corporations have pages, major charities, brands, large and small. And I have a book – soon two books – to promote.

Well – here are seven reasons why I use my profile rather than set up a page:

1. Pages are Facebook’s way of trying to make you pay.

Facebook is a company and, in the end, it will have to make money in order to keep going. One of the main ways it is seeking to do this is through establishing business users, who have pages, and separating them from individual users with profiles. Once you have a page you are targeted for advertising – Facebook offers to ‘boost’ your posts and allow you to reach more people the more you pay. This is great if you are a big company with an advertising budget – I’m sure Facebook advertising can be very effective, I’ve used it in my day job in communications. But I don’t have a budget as an author – I make very little from writing literary fiction, certainly not enough to make it worth advertising.

2. You only ever reach a tiny proportion of your page ‘fans’ for free.

Surprise! Facebook limits the number of people who see each post on your Facebook page – it wants you to pay to reach the people who signed up to get your posts anyway. My experience is that the ‘edge ranking’ for a page post, the number at the bottom which shows how many people it has reached, can be as low as 10 per cent of your fans. So you make all that effort building your ‘fans’ but most don’t see your posts on their newsfeed – unless you pay of course.

3. Pages are a one way street – not mutual sharing.

If you have a profile you become friends with people and effectively share content – they see yours, you see theirs – it’s a mutual experience. With a page you are asking someone to take your content in a one-way stream – fine if you are a big brand and people are interested in you. But if you are just starting out and don’t really have genuine ‘fans’ then what is people’s motivation for liking your page?

twitter4. Set up a page and you will spend your time begging for fans on Twitter.

There’s sometimes a feeling of desperation over Facebook pages on Twitter. I have 20,000 followers on there @ChilledCH and so I get inundated with requests from people to follow their Facebook author pages. Every day there are new appeals in my Direct Message box “Like my page, please like my page – I will like yours if you like mine …”

5. A profile is more personal.

The reason I like the Facebook profile is that it feels more personal – less corporate. I want one presence on Facebook which covers all my needs and I don’t constantly bang on about my book – I ask questions, join in with jokes, communicate with people in a two-way conversation. That, for me, is what social media is all about. I’ve made some great friends on there, not to mention contacts who have been kind enough to help me in all sorts of ways. I’m not sure I could have achieved that through a page.

6. A profile allows up to 4000 friends.

Which is more than enough at my stage. I have less than 1,500 friends on Facebook. Why would I need an uncapped page when I am nowhere near having enough people to reach the limit on my profile? I’m not a famous author, I’m one with a single book out and another on the way (The Pick Up Artist, due out with Magic Oxygen Publishing on February 14!) My writing is important to me, but so is building up friendships and connections.

7. You can set your profile to accept followers as well as friends.

I have my profile set so that people who do not wish to ‘friend’ me, and so share their own posts, can simply ‘like’ my profile, in the same way they would like a page – so they see mine but I don’t see theirs. If they are interested in my writing but don’t want to do the full ‘friends’ thing then they have that option. It’s the best of both worlds surely?

Perhaps in the future – if my reputation as an author grows and I have people flocking to get to know me on Facebook I might start an author page. Until then, in all modesty, I believe the profile option suits where I am as an author.

What do you think? Page, profile or both?

Song of the Sea GodIf you get a moment to take a look at the (ahem) award-winning Song of the Sea God.

You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

Q and A – Marketing strategy for authors

Here’s the first in an occasional series where I answer questions on my blog about anything from my book, to writing, to book promotion – anything people want to ask me.

This first question comes from lovely Carol Hedges a very experienced author with a great blog you can see here. Her new book Diamonds and Dust is just out. Thank you for your question Carol!

I’d be interested in your marketing strategies?

Carol Hedges

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that these days when two or more authors get together they will talk not of plot devices or great works of fiction but of marketing strategies.

My simple answer to Carol’s question ‘what’s your marketing strategy?’ is ‘not as good as yours!’ but I suppose I have picked up a few notions since my book came out which, while they may be well-known to Carol, might help first time authors.

BookspileBefore I was published I assumed my publisher would do all the marketing for my book and I suppose in an ideal world those who knew about writing would write and those who knew about marketing would market. Sadly, publishers have a zillion books to plug and no time to do it so it’s up to the author to get stuck in, if they don’t want their baby do disappear without trace.

My strategy, such as it is, has been simple – become visible.

When you start out you are invisible – you have no identity or brand, you probably have no social media presence to speak of, you have no blog. So a basic ‘author platform’ consisting of a blog like this one supported by Twitter and Facebook feeds is a good way to start letting people know you exist.

My strategy has been to build up my social media following as much as I am able as this provides a way of talking to the outside world. I now have more than 15,000 followers on Twitter @ChilledCH for example. I have also made a point of blogging regularly (once a week) on issues concerned with writing, reading and books, in the hope of attracting and engaging potential readers.

I would say I am good at interacting with people, but not so good at selling. There are some authors, particularly among the massed ranks of the self-published, who are brilliant at marketing. If it’s not too mean to say this I suspect that some (not all!) are better at selling than they are at writing.

I’m no salesman unfortunately. I don’t like, for example, to say to an individual person ‘buy my book’. I wouldn’t do it in person and I don’t do it online. Instead I try to engage people and include mentions of my book as a footnote to allow anyone who is interested to sample the book and buy it if they wish. This approach may seem unduly reticent but it also makes sense – nobody likes a hard sell.

It’s not good practice to constantly spam on Twitter every hour with the Amazon link to your book as some authors do. What I try to do instead is engage people. This can be through discussions on my blog, simply by retweeting any of my followers on Twitter who want me to do that for them or by asking light-hearted questions on Facebook and Twitter and having fun with the answers.

Does this sell me any books? I don’t know. It’s fun and it draws people in so I think the answer is yes – maybe not directly or straight away, but eventually yes.

Another part of being visible is appearing on other people’s websites and blogs. I have done quite a lot of that and I am always happy to do more. I’m also happy to promote other writers on my blog. Sometimes you find people have reviewed your book on their blog too – and I pick those up and let people know about them through social media.

644586_10151128774778167_2119918862_nOffline I’ve appeared in various newspapers, magazines and on radio talking about my book and about writing. These are mostly local to where I live or where I grew up. I do them whenever they are offered though I don’t necessarily think they put you in touch with potential readers as well as a targeted approach through social media does. I also do readings, when I am invited to, at literature festivals and the like.

But for me the big thing has been the world of social media – which has suddenly made it possible for an unknown first-time author like me, with a literary novel published by a small press, to reach people all over the world. That’s an amazing thing, and something which simply would not have been possible just a few short years ago.

Thanks very much to Carol for that question. If you would like to comment on the issues raised in this post of have a question for me please let me know in the comments below!

Song of the Sea God visualDon’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.

You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.