Am I Doing this Right? Musings on Writing and Marketing for Indie Writers

The two great challenges for an Indie Writer are writing a great novel and getting it into people’s hands.
There is really little I can say about the former – writing is a tough gig and in many cases mediocre works are getting a lot of play in the INDIE world.  Maybe the writer has done a lot of really great marketing, has a wide net of friends and family that will buy up anything he or she writes, who knows?
One thing that is a sure fire winner is writing within a top selling genre.
Just take a look at this graphic.

Take the first three top genres – Romance, Paranormal or Thriller.  Assuming that this graphic is accurate (I do not … I believe the top three sell much more) then it is safe to say that people writing within those genres are making sales purely by default.  If I sold 11 books last month within a genre which doesn’t even register, how much more would I be selling if I wrote Romance or another top selling genre?

But that is neither here nor there.  I write what I write with the hope of writing the best possible story.  So how does one guage their effectiveness and success on a purley artistic or literary critera, leaving monetary reward out of the equation?
The answer is that one cannot.  This is not science.  What will touch one person may not affect another.  I remember editing my first novel LOBO and my short story collection Mexican Mutts, Tequila Pups & Chili Dogs.  When I returned to some scenes or stories that I hadn’t read worked on in a while, there were times when I got caught up in the stories and the action or the emotion took ahold of me.  A few scenes brought a tear to my eye.  To me that is success.  There is nothing better. But a pure objective and scientific measurement of the quality of the writing doesn’t exist.  We all hope to write a better story next time.

So then there is the marketing.  This we can measure and qualify with some degree of scientific, black and white factors.  There is still a lot of guesswork but if we have a strong objective in mind, we can tell how we are doing on our quest to build an audience and writer’s platform.

First, the platform.  There are a ton of web pages that go into what and how to build a platform.  Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Amazon Author page etc.  It’s a ton of work to get all these pages set up, get them linking together so that your blog posts feed directly to your twitter, your facebook etc.  I’m not going to go into that today.

What I’m mostly interested in is your twitter following.
I cruise a lot of different writer’s twitter accounts.  Mostly, I am using Tweepi to harvest their followers.  So what is a twitter success story compared to a loser account?  What elements decide whether a person has a vibrant twitter following compared to just a big number of suppossed followers?

We all know that you can pay $19.99 for 10 thousand followers and this may have some value.  It gives people the appearance that there is a significant number of people following you compared to the number of people you follow, thus creating the illusion that you are an ‘INFLUENCER.’  Not a bad title to have on Social Media.  But in order for that big following to have some effect on your bottom line, you need some real followers too.  So where do you get them?

Again, I harvest followers from Niche specific accounts – followers who are interested in the same things as I am who may one day see an ad for one of my books and decide that this is the kind of thing they might want to read.  Simple as that.
So my books are about dogs.  I follow people who read a lot, who have dogs and read a lot, who review books, have dogs and read a lot, who think Cesar Milan is god, who read, review, have dogs etc.  See where this is going?

But ….. AND HERE IS THE MAIN POINT … I don’t just go into Cesar Milan’s account and randomly follow everyone.  Because we all know that there are a ton of people (let’s call them leaches for lack of a better word) that follow Cesar Milan not because they are interested in him or dogs, but because they have land for sale in the Florida Everglades, or Cheap Ray Bans or Twitter followers or whatever else they are flogging.  So I am selective.

Then there are the millions of accounts that are inactive.  If a person hasn’t tweeted since a Bush was in the White House, then they are unlikely to be checking their twitter feed too often.  They are not going to see one of my cool and comic book ads, they are not going to read one of these OH SO HELPFUL blog posts nor are they going to see the team of retweeters I have nurtured.  They aren’t using Twitter because they thought it was going to be …… wait for it ….. FACEBOOK.

Twitter isn’t Facebook.  I don’t even think it is fair to call Twitter ‘Social Media.’  It is a business networking platform.  Of course there are some cool pics of Lindsay Lohan in rehab thrown in there too but hey, to each his own.

So how do you know if you are getting it right?  Again, we can see all we need to see about our Twitter account while using Tweepi.

For the sake of arguement, I will assume you have discovered the wonders of tweepi before reading this post.  If not, learn it.  It is great for carving out a following in your niche.

images (1)

This is the view of the interface.  There is the ‘People not following back’ tab and the ‘People I am following tab.’  Take a look at your own following.  Assuming that your followers are niche specific (that’s a big assumption but we’ll go with it for now) the next thing that will determine how effective your twitter following is falls under the ‘Last Time Tweeted’  tab (or something like that …. you get the idea)  This tells us when was the last time your follower sent a tweet.

I recently purged my complete following – 745 pages of followers.  I got rid of all the UNKOWN/HAS NEVER TWEETED followers.  There were only about 20 of them out of my 16,000 followers.  I call that a good sign.  Also, the vast majority has tweeted within the last day, usually within hours.  Another good sign.

If I find a writer who specializes in book about dogs and who has a twitter following, I am on them like white on rice.  What I often find is a half-baked following of people who haven’t tweeted in months, sometimes years.  What would be the point of trying to get those people following me?  They are inactives.  They aren’t about to see one of book ad tweets.  The life span of a tweet is about 15 minutes.

So while you cannot objectively know how well you wrote that last scene, you can, with the help of the tools that are available to you (tweepi, twitter analytics  … see previous post etc) get an idea of how your platform is growing, how effective your tweets have been, how your users are responding to your tweets and most importantly, how active your followers are.  My advice in closing is to be selective with who you follow.  Follow active people.  Find active accounts and follow their followers regularly.

Good luck with that and keep on writing and tweeting.
David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.
PS.  There is a Kindle Countdown Deal running for a week on my novel LOBO.


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