Are You Posting Your Politics?

Why writing political posts on social media is a bad idea for novel writers.

Photo by Gayle Martin

It’s that time again. A presidential election is coming up, and people are expressing their political views all over social media. I understand freedom of speech. However, our mothers also taught us to never discuss politics or religion in polite company, (at least mine did), and our mothers were right.

Social media is an invaluable marketing tool for authors. It’s the best platform out there for driving traffic to our websites and blogs and building our brands. However, it takes a huge amount of time and effort to build a following, and by huge I mean months, or even years. That said, after all that hard work, do you really want to risk alienating your fans and followers?

If you’re a nonfiction political writer then it’s a given that you should write about politics, but not all of us are political writers. If you write novels, short stories or other creative fiction, and your sole purpose is to entertain you reader, then my advice to you is this: DO NOT write political posts on social media.

While I make no claims of being mathematician, or a statistician, I think it’s a safe bet to say that roughly half of your fans and followers do not share your political views. It doesn’t matter if you’re conservative, liberal or libertarian, they do not share your views, and trust me, you won’t get them to change their minds. So if you’re all over social media bashing conservatives or liberals, or bashing their candidate, then rest assured you’re going to piss off roughly half you fans and followers. They in turn will unfriend or unfollow you on social media. They’ll unsubscribe to your blogs and newsletters. Most importantly, they’ll stop buying your books, and if you’re made them angry enough they’ll leave scathing reviews. So, before writing that political post, ask yourself this question. “Do I really want to lose half my fans?”

I’m sure there are some of you out there who are so passionate about your beliefs that you don’t want people who disagree with you buying your book in the first place. If so, that’s certainly your prerogative. However, I think most of us really don’t want to lose any of our fan base. I know I don’t.

Over the past few weeks I’ve unfriended a number of people on Facebook for overloading my newsfeed with their constant flow of negative political posts, and no doubt I’ll be unfriending more before the election is over. Some have been people I’ve known for some time, and unfriending them made me feel sad. However, I’m honestly burned out on all the negativity, and it’s put me in a place where I’m seriously reevaluating some of my friendships.

I guess I must be old school. I subscribe to the notion that who I decide to vote for is for me to know, and the rest of you to wonder about.

Gayle Martin

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Business Cards

an Overlooked Book Marketing Tool

© Can Stock Photo / iqoncept

The lowly business card. It has to be one of the most overlooked, and underused, tools in an author’s promotional arsenal.

Back in college, where I studied graphic design, one of my instructors taught us to think of a business card as a billboard in miniature. It’s an advertisement for the product or service you represent. Sadly, too many people don’t see it that way. Many of the business cards people hand me are so poorly done that I want to dump them in the recycling bin. It’s really not that hard to design a business card that helps promote your book. (Or your product or service.) So, here are a few tips for creating a more effective business card.

Use Easy to Read Serif Fonts

If you want your message to be understood then it needs to be easily read. As a graphic designer, I suggest using serif fonts, as they are easier to read than sans serif fonts. Common serif fonts include Times New Roman, Baskerville, Century Schoolbook and Garamond. All are attractive fonts which work well, and I highly recommend using them for your most important information, such as your name, phone number and email address. If a fancy, decorative font makes this information too hard to read your card may end up in the trash.

Use a Light Text on Dark Backgrounds

Someone once handed me a business card with tiny red text on a dark brown background. Both colors had the same value, meaning there was no contrast between them. This resulted in her phone number and email address being impossible for me to read. Her card went straight into the recycling bin.

Keep the Font Size to at Least 9 Points

I have been frustrated to no end trying to decipher phone numbers and email addresses printed with a 6 point, or smaller, font size. Even with my prescription glasses, the type is too small for me to see clearly. My graphic design instructors taught me that any font size smaller than 9 points is very difficult for people to read. If I can’t read it, the card goes into the recycling bin. No exceptions.

Don’t Look Cheap

I understand money is an issue for many of us, but you want to avoid cutting costs on your business card. A cheap looking card is like a cheap suit. It makes you look, well, cheap, and no one wants to do business with someone who looks like they don’t have any money.

One of the biggest no-nos is printing out your business cards at home. I once attended a business association meeting where someone asked the woman sitting next to me for her card, so she handed that person one of her home printed cards. The person she gave it to immediately called her out on it, and what could have been a good business lead instantly went sour. Don’t be that woman. A homemade business card makes you look like an amatuer.

Online business card templates have also become popular with those on a budget. However, the problem with using them is that other people are using them too. I have, on occasion, ended up with identical business cards from different people in different occupations who used the same background template, making it all too easy for me to pull the wrong person’s card from the Rolodex.

For you authors out there, I recommend a designing simple card, with your book cover or logo, along with your name, website and contact info. You really don’t need to use those artsy-fartsy Vista Print background templates that everyone else is using. A plain white, ivory, or pastel background should work just fine. If your budget is small there are plenty of online printing companies, such as PrintingForLess.com, who can print 500 4-color cards for around $50, including shipping. They can also help you design your cards if you need it.

Remember, your business card represents you. It’s often the first thing people will see about you, and you want to give them the best impression you possibly can.

Gayle Martin

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Book Signing Etiquette

Whether it’s a bookstore, a book fair, or other special event, book signings can be a lot of fun. They’re a great way to engage one-on-one with potential readers. However, we authors sometimes let our enthusiasm get the best of us. So please, consider this a reminder to treat fellow authors respectfully.

The worst experience I ever had at a book signing was during a big event weekend in Tombstone, Arizona. The local bookstore had so many authors that they ran out of space inside the store. So, they seated me, along with another author, on the boardwalk in front of the store. This should have been a strategic advantage, as there was more foot traffic outside the store. Unfortunately, the other author was a non-stop talker

He talked and talked and talked about anything and everything. Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak. He wouldn’t shut up. Not even while I was trying to talk to potential readers, or trying to close a sale. And yes, his incessant talking actually killed some of my sales.

As if this weren’t bad enough, he started babbling about a controversial book he planned to write about his religious beliefs. So while I’m trying to talk to my customers, he’s now quoting Biblical scripture, chapter and verse, in a very loud voice. Not only were people no longer stopping at my table, they were literally running away.

I strongly believe in religious freedom. However, this was not the venue for a religious debate. I normally do well at Tombstone events. This time, however I had a disaster. I hardly sold any books, all because one very self-centered author couldn’t keep his stupid mouth shut.

A book signing is not a place to socialize

A book signing is where authors come to connect one on one with their readers. If there are other authors at the same venue, please show some respect and a little common courtesy. Keep your conversations with other authors brief. Try to limit those conversations to those times when there are no customers around. Most importantly, keep your mouth shut while other authors are talking to potential buyers. Nothing is more unprofessional than interfering with another author’s sale.

Gayle Martin

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Print Books or Ebooks?

The Amazon Kindle and other ereaders have certainly changed the way people read books. For a time ebooks were all the rage, and my sales reflected it. The vast majority of my books were sold as Kindle editions. However, it now appears that I’m selling more print books again.

Ebooks certainly have their advantages. They can be instantly downloaded. You can store hundreds of books on your smartphone or tablet. Ebooks were also more affordable. At least they used to be, once upon a time. When ebooks first hit the scene, they typically cost a few dollars. However, I’m now seeing skyrocketing ebook prices, but here’s the thing. I’m not going to pay ten dollars, or more, for an ebook. Period. If I have to spend that much money then I may as well get the print edition. That way I’ll have something tangible to show for it.

Along with rising prices, there are other disadvantages to ebooks. Those with vision issues may find ebooks too difficult to read. And who among us hasn’t been disappointed upon finding their device has a dead battery. Ugh! I’ve so been there and done that.

I now publish a newsletter for my Marina Martindale fans, and in my latest issue I included a poll. Did my readers prefer ebooks, print books, or no preference? The results were surprising. While not a scientific poll, most of my newsletter subscribers preferred print books. No preference came in a close second, but only a few preferred ebooks.

Is the ebook fad finally coming to an end? Who knows. I’ll continue publishing both Kindle ebook and print versions of my books. In case you’re wondering, I personally prefer print books. They’re low tech, so you never have to worry about a dead battery.

Gayle Martin

P.S. If you would like more information about my newsletter please click on the link below.

 Marina Martindale’s Musings Newsletter

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It’s Time to Go Without a Net

© Can Stock Photo / airn

Once upon a time I used to advise other writers that if the .com name they wanted wasn’t available to get the .net extension instead. Dot net websites were fairly common at the time. And whenever I registered a new domain, I would get both .com and .net. This was to prevent someone else with the same, or similar, name as mine from getting the .net and creating confusion.


The Internet, however, is an ever changing landscape. What may have worked five years ago, or even last year, may not apply today, Such is the case with the .net extension. Over time we’ve learned that people will automatically go to .com out of habit, even when .net was clearly posted. It’s sort of like my name, Gayle. Not a bad name, I suppose, but it has the less common spelling. And no matter how many times I spelled it out for people, they still give me the more common, Gail.


So please disregard my earlier advice. From what I’m seeing now, the .net extension is becoming extinct. And you certainly don’t make yourself look dated. If the .com isn’t available, you’ll have to come up with other variations. If you’re an author, try adding, author, writer, or books to your name. And even if the .com version of your name is available, I still recommend getting authoryourname.com or yournamebooks.com with it. Domain names usually aren’t that expensive. However, they’re crucial for building your brand and promoting your book. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to grab as much Internet real estate as you possibly can. 


GM

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Is Entering Your Book in a Competition a Good Idea?

From time to time my email box fills up with calls to enter various book awards, and I’ll admit to having mixed feelings about entering. So, here’s my list of pros and cons about book awards.

PROs

I’ve entered competitions in the past and my books have won awards. And I’m not going to lie to you. There’s nothing quite like the euphoria of knowing that your book beat out dozens, if not hundreds, of other entries. Awards are also a nice marking tool. There’s nothing quite like having that award sticker proudly displayed on your book cover. In fact, I’ve included one of mine. Not to brag, but to point out that there is a downside to winning a book award.

CONS


I won the award in 2007. But by 2010 it had made my book look dated. I’ve since dropped it from my cover.


The other big con is the cost. The last time I tried to enter a book competition the early bird entry fee was $90. They also wanted four printed copies of the book. So, by the time I added in the cost of the books, and my best guestimate for the postage, I realized I’d be spending at least $120, if not more. Just to enter one title, in one category. Competitions aren’t without risk. So, as I thought it over again I realized I’d be better off spending that $120 dollars on advertising my book. 


So, is entering a book award competition a good idea? It’s up to you to decide. If you have the inclination, and the budget, then go for it. Who knows? Your book could be a winner. But if you’re not sure, or if you don’t have the money, then don’t. While it’s nice to win an award, it’s no guarantee that you’ll sell more books. 


GM

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So Who’s Responsible for Marketing Your Book?

© Can Stock Photo/araraadt

From time to time I get into some rather interesting discussions with authors lamenting that their book isn’t selling they way they expected. So, I’ll ask them what they’ve done to market their book. Oftentimes they haven’t done anything. Many authors, especially newbies, honestly think all they have to do is list their book on Amazon, and people will come along and buy it.


“Build it and they will come,” may have worked in the movie Field of Dreams. However, it doesn’t apply when selling books. Nor is your publisher responsible for selling your book for you. They’ll distribute your book to booksellers, but they’re not in the marketing business. You, the author, are the one who’s responsible for marketing your book, and not taking the initiative means your book won’t sell. Fortunately, there are many things that you can, and should, be doing to help promote your book. 

How authors can promote their books

  • Have a website or blog, or both, about your book.
  • Promote your book on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • List your book on other websites such as Goodreads.
  • Have book signings.
  • Send out newsletters
  • Have contests and giveaways.
  • Have book trailers.
  • Advertise your books

If you can only do one item on this list, make it a having website. If you’re on a tight budget, you can create blog on Blogger for free. Blogger has an array of nice-looking templates and it’s very easy to use. Or, if you have the means, you can hire a webmaster and have them create a state of the art website will all the bells and whistles. Either way, it’s up to you to promote your blog or website. This is where social media comes in.

Of you’re an author, social media is an absolute must. It costs nothing to open account on most social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Keep in mind, however, that it takes time to build a following on social media, so don’t expect instant results. I’ve also found contests and giveaways to be a nice marketing tool. You can do giveaways through social media, or with newsletters.

If your budget allows it you can hire a publicist, but make sure he or she has experience in book promotion. Book promotion is quite different from other kinds of public relations. Also be sure to talk to him or her about the cost. Some firms may charge as much as $3000 a month for their services. Others may charge much less, and may do just as good of a job as the higher-priced publicists.

No one ever said marketing a book would be easy, especially in a time when anyone with a computer and access to the Internet can upload a Word file to Amazon and call themselves an author. However, unless your name is Stephen King, James Patterson or J.K. Rowling, don’t expect people bust down the doors to buy your book just because it’s listed on Amazon. You really do have to get there and do some work.

Gayle Martin

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Blogs vs Social Media

© Can Stock Photo / gunnar3000

As authors we’ve all been told, dozens upon dozens of times, to use social media to promote our books. Good advice. Social media is an essential marketing tool. However, just like anything else, it can also be overrated, if not overused.

Some authors go on social media and post nothing but, “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book!” To which I say, “Enough already!” We all want people to buy our books. However, social media was never intended to be a vehicle for free book advertising.

Why I think the blog is still king

  • You Can Engage One on One with Your Readers. Like social media, a blog allows you to connect with your readers on a more personal level. You can share ideas, have contests and promotions, and build your following. In fact, a blog is a form of social media, as long as you allow comments. Blogger, WordPress and other blog platforms also allow multiple pages, which means you can also use a blogging platform to build your website. That’s a whole lot more than I can do with my Facebook business page.
  • No Trolls Allowed. Trolls are people who apparently have nothing better to do with their time than to harass others or even destroy an author’s career. They’ve done some serious damage to Goodreads, and they can be a problem on other social media sites as well. However, with a blog, you can eliminate trolls completely. All you have to do is set up your comments so they cannot be posted without your prior approval, and bye-bye trolls. You’ve just created a place where people can feel safe engaging with you, and with each other.
  • Not Everyone Uses Social Media. Many people have either shut down their social media accounts, or they no longer use them due to privacy concerns and other issues. Others never signed up for social media in the first place. However, anyone with an Internet connection can read your blog. This makes you more accessible to your readers, especially if you include your blog address in your books. 

A word of caution regarding social media

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites are great platforms for sharing your blog posts. However, they can also be extremely distracting, and they can easily take up too much of your valuable time. Try not to spend more than ten to fifteen minutes per day on any one platform, and don’t feel that you have to post something on social media everyday. Better yet, use Hootsuite or other social sharing services.

With Hootsuite you can post on multiple social media accounts at once. This saves time and prevents distractions. Hootsuite also offers you the option of changing your blog post URLs. This can be very helpful if you want to reshare your blog posts at a later time.

So there you have it. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media, when used properly, can certainly help you promote your books. However, in my opinion, there simply is no substitute for a blog.

Gayle Martin

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