Friday, 13 July 2012

Reviews, Triberr and Feed140 make life bearable

Since release of The New Author at the end of March 2012 I've been beavering away on new projects. I've set about rewriting a series of two action adventure novels called The Crucible and Allen's Mosquito, whilst also pressing ahead with the sequel to Peril (working title Yellow Ribbon). Who says men can't multi-task?
My release schedule looks like this: The Crucible Part 1 will be released this month, part 2 in autumn 2012 and hopefully Yellow Ribbon in winter 2012.

All this writing, rewriting, editing and proofing is good stuff but what about the marketing? Don't indie authors need to market the bejaysus out of their books, to raise themselves above the noise of obscurity? That can be a very time consuming activity.

Networking via social media is a great way to spread the word about books but it can drain time and energy like a dementor trying to suck Harry Potter's soul. Throw in a day job, family, a tendency to compulsive behaviour and you have the recipe for meltdown. Nevertheless, I'm determined to do it all. And when Ruby is determined then he does it (or he falls over in a faint).

Several months ago a brief chat on Twitter with someone drew my attention to a crucial point: producing good content is the key. Not just novels but also for blog posts and tweets. If a blog post is interesting and helpful to your target audience then its utility doesn't evaporate just because it's disappeared off your front page. With a few exceptions (e.g. seasonal or event themed posts) you can re-use that blog post. In fact, unless your social media network size is static, any new people in your network are unlikely to have seen those great posts you put so much work into.

A few months back I gave some figures about development of my social media network. Here's the latest:
  • 96 blog posts, 30,500 views since March 2011 (yeah, some people visit multiple times, some stay for seconds, some for an hour)
  • Twitter followers - 3,400
  • Facebook friends - 822
  • Goodreads friends - 1,374 and numerous groups
  • LinkedIn connections - 184 (networked to 3,333,823)
  • Triberr - 3 tribes, 52 tribemates, 160,596 reach
and some other stuff. Fairly standard fare for a self-published author after a year and a bit.

Oh, and I've sold some books. Not a huge number and I don't count them religiously any more, but earnings are heading in the direction of funding a voluntary one-day-a-week drop in the day job (which started two weeks ago). Having three titles available out there on all channels as ebook and paperback has definitely helped.

 This social media platform is self-sustaining and it grows organically at this stage, as long as I feed it with content. And there's the rub; back to how to feed the network with good content and also keep up all those writerly project tasks, while holding down a day job (now four days a week) and playing families? Without have some kind of a breakdown. The answer lies in squirrel tendencies.

I'm a squirrel. The house is full of useful bits and pieces that will come in useful some day and I intuitively know where most of that useful stuff is. Not quite the house doctor hoarding standard, but definitely squirreling my nuts away. And I do the same thing electronically with every word I write. Every tweet of consequence, every blog post, all product reviews, every mention of my books that comes up on my daily automated Google search. I have a document of around 100 tweets that have proved popular for RT, favorites and comment with followers and strangers. Those tweets refer mostly to my blog posts, my reviews of other books, others' reviews of my books and the occasional witticism.
What has been missing in my Twitter activity is reference to interesting content from other people's blogs and sites. I'm quite bad at retweeting other people's stuff. For some reason I just can't focus on it. But now I've found a way and it's called Triberr (thanks to Wodke Hawkinson and Louise Wise). This is my second attempt to understand and use Triberr and it's working. When I post to my blog it automatically gets presented to my 52 tribemates as something they can approve for distribution to their social media platform. I make sure to look at Triberr at least once a day, check out any new blog posts by the tribemates and approve the ones I think fit with my social media platform, which means reading, writing, social media and funny, clever or cute stuff. One click and their blog post is queued for tweeting, which also puts it on my LinkedIn feed. Sometimes I comment on those blog posts and I learn something new from them every day. I get to read and share great content from fellow bloggers and authors with almost no effort - something that could take hours every day by normal methods.

The other little time-saving discovery I've made is Feed 140 (thanks to Karl Jones). Some paid-for Twitter tools have a similar facility to set up a tweet schedule, but I really like Feed 140. It's free and has some very cool features. I have my 100 best tweets in a txt file and uploaded to Feed 140. I choose the frequency of feed to my Twitter and set the mix to random. A lot of my followers haven't seen many of these tweets before and I get as good or better a response as the first time I sent them.

So, what's the result? The upshot of all this is my 96 blog posts, numerous book reviews by me, around 60 reviews of my books and lots of new content from other blogs are semi-automatically pulsed through my social media platform, 24/7 to catch all time zones or however I set it up. This gives me freedom to work more on my writing projects and spend a bit more time than before hobnobbing with readers and authors on Goodreads, facebook, kindleboards and so on. Also, and more importantly, it gives me a better chance of getting my messages over to the entire network, many of whom won't have seen all my stuff. As Harvey Thomas CBE said, If they haven't heard it, you haven't said it!

Sales, as I've said, are modest but steady. Writing is a long-term activity, no point banking on being one of the few to strike astronomical overnight success. That would be like planning your finances on the basis of a lottery win. More content, more novels, further releases, build a catalogue of titles. As Anne Lamott said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."

What I have luxuriated in are some great reviews for my books over the past months. Insightful reviews that understand my themes better than I do, from which I learn the things I'm doing right and wrong in my writing. When people 'get' what I've done with Peril, The Baptist and The New Author then it's celebration time and there have been a few bottles of wine consumed from time to time.


If you've enjoyed reading Ruby's blog then please sign up to Ruby's News for freebies, advance review copies of upcoming novels and occasional updates. Thanks!


  1. Thanks for the info, Ruby. Making a note to check out Feed 140.

  2. Thanks, Chazz. Take a look at my Twitter feed and see if you like the result. It is recycling tweets about every 5 days or so but no complaints so far. I think it's a good way to share interesting reading, writing & review info and boost blog traffic in the process.