Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Stepping away from the watched pot
I thought I had it beaten. 18 months after the launch of Peril as an ebook and with three further titles subsequently released, my social media platform had become increasingly demanding. A couple of neat tools (Triberr and Feed140) had helped me semi-automate promotion via twitter and blog. It gave me a lot more time to concentrate on writing. But I couldn't help continuously watching the pot, looking for incremental changes, following sales figures, interacting on Twitter and facebook, and surveying the virtual world for new reviews of my books. It's a common problem, this compulsion to keep your finger on the pulse of a complex system. You can read about it on any number of author blogs. But recognising and acknowledging the problem doesn't fix it.
34,000 blog page views, 3,600 Twitter followers, 5,200 tweets, 867 facebook friends, 1,429 Goodreads friends and lots more. A modest social media platform that grows organically, so I tell myself.
I was achieving my writing goals, adding between 500 and 2000 words a day to Yellow Ribbon (sequel to Peril) and rewriting Allen's Mosquito (The Crucible Part 2). So what was the problem? Why not just turn off the internet connection? I didn't have the will power.
A new kind of syndrome was developing - Indie Author Anxiety. Indie authors all over the planet are beavering away at marketing their work, clamouring for a piece of the e-revolution. What if I stopped interacting with my platform? Would Ruby Barnes's steadily building sales momentum disappear? A few weeks ago I took the plunge and dropped the day job down to four days a week, dedicating Fridays to writing, and those sales are essential to support that commitment. It all added to the Indie Author Anxiety.
If a man ploughs his own furrow in life does it eventually become a rut? Summer brought a chance to break the grind and we had a week long visit by friends from Switzerland. I balanced hosting with sneaking off to check the laptop or the iPhone several times a day. Twitter, blog, facebook, Triberr, Goodreads, around and around. That watched pot never boils. Then came the family break to Tenerife.
My backpack weighed a ton. Chargers, leads, adaptors and gadgets. Phones and laptop. Kindle and Kobo fully loaded. At Dublin airport I could see on my iPhone a couple of new Amazon sales for The Crucible and I had ordered the CreateSpace paperback proof of The Crucible online before leaving home. The plane took off for the Canary Islands.
Then nothing. Two glorious weeks of nothing.
When we returned to Ireland last weekend I put off looking at the computer for half a day. Had the simmering pot boiled dry or the flame gone out? The results: 500 new emails, of which maybe a dozen required my action, the rest just information; blog views down to double digits per day; 50 new followers on Twitter, gazillions of new notifications on Goodreads and Facebook. One look at my Twitter stream showed I had turned off my automated tweets on Feed140 before leaving and hadn't sent a tweet for two weeks. Neither had I shared any blog posts via Triberr. Those two things accounted for the low blog views. I turned them back on and the system began to ramp up immediately.
How about sales? While I'd been attaining the 12,198 ft summit of Mount Teide had Ruby's books slipped off the radar? No. The best month so far. Go figure.
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