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Monday, July 21, 2014

Maria's Evil Plan

My social networking vacation opened my eyes. I learned some stuff about myself and what's important to me.

Some of the things I discovered:

• Pimping books is not the answer. I know. It goes against everything we were told, but I think it's true. My prolonged absence allowed me to observe how I chose books when I'm not surrounded by authors (like most normal people). 

The majority of sales and browsing occurred when a book blogger, BookBub, The Fussy Librarian, or Amazon recommended a book, but only if the cover was interesting enough to make me stop to read the post.

• Since time was limited, I had to slash blog and FB reading to less than 10%. Which blog posts made the cut? The majority of read posts were about the blogger's personal life, or an interesting piece of information that could help me in my life. I commented more often on sad news as opposed to happy news.

• Getting blitzed with mass cover reveals is boring. There are only so many times you can congratulate an author before it starts to sound like corned beef hash. 

• Blog hops are usually boring. You know it and I know it. It's kind of like awkward sex positions. We pretend it didn't happen but you and I both know that's ten minutes we'll never get back.

And the most important thing I learned:

In the end I discovered it really was all about me (the reader). I visited and commented primarily on blogs that gave me brain food in return for my time. They got extra points if they replied to my comment.

What's your evil plot, Maria?

• I'm pulling Back to Basics from public viewing and will start posting frugal posts here once a month. I'll also post short frugal tips on my Facebook Page (The Frugal Way). 

If you're not already following me there, go ahead and sign up. Stupid Facebook isn't going to show my page on your timeline anyway so you've got nothing to lose. Ha!

• I'll keep my once-a-week posting here at least until Greg retires (Note 1) and moves back in with me. After that I'll probably go to twice a week. 

• I might be a tad more irreverent than you've seen me before. Just close your eyes and think of England.

• Blog posts will run the gamut from homesteading, marketing, cover design, and general observations about life and industry.

• I always talk back, so chime in if the spirit moves you.

• What's been your favorite topic on this blog? (Note 2) 
• Do you share any of my conclusions, or am I off my rocker?
• By the way, when do I get my rocker?

Note 1: You won't believe this, but Greg modified his retirement date again. (In)Human Resources offered him a bonus to stay a little longer. Oy vey!

Note 2: If you mention my Tank as a favorite topic, you get a big hug. :o)  The gentle giant is still with us. Despite tumors, arthritis, and the tiredness of old age, he turned 12 last week. A milestone! Very frail, but he still gives me kisses and loves to go for walks.


Melissa McClone said...

Interesting Maria! I've been so backed up with deadlines (finally well but was sick for months), blogging and blog hopping have been really hard. I have never understood cover reveals, myself, other than a nice income stream for book bloggers, but maybe I don't get it. I did just book a blast, because I will be away and offline when my publisher scheduled a Kindle Countdown Deal. It was nice to hear you mention some of the lists because that's something else I've looked into to get my name out there that week. For me, the best thing I think you can do is build a community. Doing that, however, is easier said then done. Wish there was a checklist to follow for that. LOL! Are you surprised they offered a bonus and the date was extending for Greg?

Anne Gallagher said...

First of all, Happy Birthday Tank. (Please give my hug to him.) Second of all -- "it's like awkward sex positions". My laptop is now covered in coffee. Third, What is Greg thinking????

Whatever you decide to do with this blog is fine with me. I love hanging out here.

And I agree 10000%. If I see another cover reveal I will scream.

Maria Zannini said...

Melissa: You've had a ROUGH year. Not just illness, but then with the kids' injuries. You guys have been keeping your guardian angels busy! :)

re: bonus
I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was. It doesn't matter too much until the house sells. After that, all bets are off. I want my husband back.

Maria Zannini said...

Anne: Thanks, Anne. Hug delivered. Tank replied with a big sloppy kiss.

PS Sorry about your laptop. :D

L.G. Smith said...

It's always too much fanfare for a cover reveal to appear on more than one or two sites. If you have people regularly coming to your blog, a picture on your homepage should be all you need to keep people informed that you've got a new cover. Though I don't mind seeing well thought out guest posts from authors with new books out.

Maria Zannini said...

LG: You hit the nail on the head. The post has to be well thought out and interesting.

I know it's hard--especially if you have to write a lot of them. But that's what it takes to keep a reader.

Stacy McKitrick said...

As a reader (as in, before I started writing), I found my books from other people (namely my daughter). When I wanted more, I searched B&N and Amazon (on-line). I did not do blogs. I didn't know what they were. This was only 5-6 years ago!

So yeah, I have a blog, but I don't just blog about my book (I don't, do I???). I don't do blog hops. They just seem so time consuming (and pretty useless). And the blogs I enjoy reading are the ones that are more personal (they can educate me a little, too, as long as they aren't boring!).

Give Tank a big hug from me, too.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: I think we (as authors) insulate ourselves too much. We stick to what's familiar and safe--a little group of like minds. But that's not where the readers are.

If you're going to blog, mix it up and appeal to a broader audience.

Mike Keyton said...

• I might be a tad more irreverent than you've seen me before. Just close your eyes and think of England. The mind boggles.

Ref topics to blog upon, I think people drop by for your 'voice' more than anything else, Maria.

Ref mass cover reveals - how does that work? Emailing everyone with our cover? Remember I'm technically backward...hmm. Maybe I could have phrased that better.

Mike Keyton said...

Bugger. That should have been 'your cover'

Rebekah Loper said...

Favorite topic: I really love your homesteading posts, because even though we're working with a much smaller plot of land (hah, can .21 acres really be a plot?), I learn a lot from your experiences. Especially since we will hopefully upgrade to more land someday.

Conclusions: YES. Not too long ago, I decided to get rid of all social media except Facebook and Twitter. I use Goodreads and Pinterest for personal stuff (keeping track of books, duh, and I can't tell you how many of my favorite recipes I've found on Pinterest...), but Google+ went bye-bye, and I definitely said 'heck no' to even the thought of LinkedIn. However, the past couple weeks have shown me that... I really don't like Twitter. And I've also been doing some serious soul-searching about whether I want to pursue traditional publishing anymore, and the main reason I kept Twitter was for things like #PitMad, if I ever decided to participate again.

So I think Twitter is about to go away... but I'm going to sleep on it at least one more night.

Re: Rocker - you might have to buy them yourself these days. :P


Diane Carlisle said...

I'm with you! Cover reveals and book promotions can get to be a bit much. I enjoy visiting blogs and hearing about the personal goings on of the authors, those same folks who love to write, just like me!

But I want to know about the unique things about each one, not the same things...our passions, ambitions, our rejections. We all know these things. Let's share our uniqueness, celebrate our cultures and backgrounds. Then every now and then, when we share something about our writing or what we've learned about it, it's not so boring and overwhelming at the same time.

Great take on this elephant in the room. lol

Marian Perera said...

Aww! I liked Back to Basics.

Thank you so much for "Pimping books is not the answer". I get so tired of seeing that on Twitter. To the point where I'm actively turned off from books the author is pushing too vigorously.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: I admit, I've held back. Now you're on your own. :)

Re: cover reveals
Most people ask and beg other authors and bloggers to show their covers. That's all well and good, but the problem is most of us already know many of the others. Hence you see the same cover over and over again.

A better tactic would be to approach people outside the author island. What makes that hard is that many of us exist only in that author network so our reach is limited.

This is one reason I'm appearing more often on non-writer blogs.

Maria Zannini said...

Rebekah: Someday, I need to tell the story about how we got the homesteading bug and what we did about it. Believe it or not we started very much like you.

We had a nice back yard, but the soil was gummy clay the locals called 'gumbo'. After trial and error, we ended up with the most amazing garden. And this from two city kids who started from scratch.

It's all baby steps, believe me.

Maria Zannini said...

Diane: You get me! You really, really get me! LOL.

This has always been my point. It's one thing to have a sense of community, but we already know the struggles of writing/publishing. Unless you're bringing something new to the party, I want to hear about other things. How you fixed a cover problem, or what you did about a troll. Tell me about where you live or how you live. Share some family history or show off that antique platter your great, great, great grandmother left you.

It's not the writing struggles that makes a person interesting. It's the interesting things in their lives that made them great storytellers.

Maria Zannini said...

Marian: I set Back to Basics to private. I might resurrect it down the line, but I didn't want to lose the blog name, which is why I didn't delete it.

Ellie Garratt said...

"Blog hops are usually boring. You know it and I know it. It's kind of like awkward sex positions."

Snort. You do make me laugh!

I totally agree on the cover reveals, but it's a great way to get your book out there. Hmm. What's the answer? I guess once you've got a few books published and a loyal readership, you don't really need them?

Jackie Burris said...

Maria having "free time" like we used to before the Internet sucked us in all the social sites has become more important to me in the last several years. I am moving slower and the time spent online is better put to use keeping up with chores that I used to whiz through but now have to stop and rest every few minutes to accomplish.

Cannot believe you "let" Greg extend his date of retiring, money is great but enough is enough already the man needs to be at home with you and all the animals who need him more than his job does!

Anyway no doubt in my mind my favorite topics are anything you post about Tank, Iko, Nana and Mama dog whose antics are always worth a smile and a laugh, give them all a big hug from me!

Maria Zannini said...

Ellie: The answer? Cover reveals work if you reveal them on blogs with large audiences of readers who aren't other authors.

We (authors) tend to stay in our own pond when we should be looking for oceans.

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: You are so right. I was shocked how much time was spent on social media. Time is precious, especially when you have less of it left. :)

But it really opened my eyes on what was important to me as a reader.

Re: retirement
We probably would've had some words if the house was already sold, but since it just came on the market, I won't complain. He has to stay there anyway until it sells.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

As someone who once had a Rottie, I do love hearing about Tank and your homesteading as it recalls fond memories of growing up on a farm.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...


Photos are always good.

My Molly and Gracie are working on year 13. Lucy, 11. Ah. I don't get my power walks any more with them.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: I'm living the dream. I've got my dogs, my farm. All I need now is the husband. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: I hear ya. We go at a much slower pace with Tank. But we make up for it with Nana, the bullet train.

We take it day by day with the old boy. It's rare to see a dog his size go past 12, so every extra day is a gift.

Sandra Almazan said...

Happy Belated Birthday to Tank!

Sometimes less is more when it comes to social media.

Angela Brown said...

YAY! Tank is 12 years old. Oh give him a big hug from me and a sloppy kiss on the cheek. Tank had my heart long before getting to meet him but he's had me hook, line and sinker since he stood beside me to make a gal feel all special :-)

You're not off your rocker and, honestly, I'm not sure if rockers are being given any more lol!!!
Much of what you mention has crossed my mind. I've been hungry for sales and tried plenty of things but I'm learning to limit things as an author and go with the things that work for me as a reader.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

My favorite posts of yours would have to be:

1. Pets. I love 'em. You love 'em. Can't get enough of 'em.

2. Book business. I'm always intrigued, especially by your cover making abilities.

3. Homesteading. I love hearing about it. (Especially with animal pics included). Sometimes I feel lazy when reading it. ;)

I'll always read your blog because your style is engaging, and your topics are interesting, but those are my fav topics. I'm glad Tank is doing okay. Our blind Daisy is also holding on and seems to have the house pretty much memorized. If she's left alone, she'll bark for US to come to HER. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Sandra: I've come to the same conclusion too. Better to do one thing well than a lot of social networking haphazardly.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: There'll never be another one like Tank. It's like God was rewarding us with one good dog to make up for sending us Nana. LOL.

Re: sales
We have to try everything because that's the only way you'll find out what works for you. Strategies have to be unique to the individual.

One of the virtues of putting my publishing career on hiatus is that it's giving me a unique perspective on trends. I hope it'll help me when it comes time for me to publish again.

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: Poor Daisy! I know what it's like to be blind and it's no fun. I'm glad she barks for you when she needs you. Smart baby!

Re: dogs
I almost always comment on pet posts. It makes me glad to see that I'm not the only crazy one.

I'll be sure to do a cover post real soon.

Darke Conteur said...

Honestly, I love all your posts. I love the homestead ones because I don't know many people online who garden, so it's nice to talk about that.

No, you're not off your rocker. I rarely promo my paranormal series, and yet my first book (the free one) hasn't dropped below #65 on Amazon's free occult and I always make sales on the other three because of it. I've been doing Twitter promo's for the anthology, but that's because I'm not the only person in it, and it's for an Indie press so you kind of have too.

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: You're so sweet! (Your check is in the mail. :grin:)

Re: promo
That's very interesting. Regardless of how people feel about Amazon, it's so important to appear on their lists. It can make or break an author.

Thanks for sharing that info.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Hugs to Tank. He is an old gent. Time for cuddles and spoiling.

It was really interesting to read your comments of life when you stepped back from the blogging/promo treadmill. I've been thinking about that too, and the delusions I may be operating under (ie that my social media is more than socialising - post on G+ )

Maria I think you're spot on re the power of covers, although not cover reveals. And metadata. I'd love to know how Amazon throws books up on readers' screens.

I love reading your posts on homesteading, so much so that I think you've been giving away for free something that would make a great book.

Dru said...

I love reading about your homesteading and you always have interesting things to say.

re: cover reveals. I have had the pleasure of presenting cover reveals on my blog. I try to make them different - I let the authors write the copy, but I do have final edit on how it is presented.


Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: I wish I knew how Amazon picks them too. They've been awfully accurate with what they think I'd like. I'm sure they're just pulling from my buying and browsing record. That in itself is kind of creepy.

Re: that I think you've been giving away for free something that would make a great book.

I'm sure you're right, but I can't see it. It's just a dull, normal life for me.

Maria Zannini said...

Dru: It's not the cover reveal that bugs me. It's that authors blast it out on numerous sites all in a short period of time. When that happens, it looks like spam.

Good for you for editing too. Sometimes authors are a little too near to the subject to be objective about what's interesting.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Happy Birthday Tankers!!! All the smooches!

And you know i've always loved the homesteading posts, but i like the cover design posts too and pretty much everything you talk about

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: :grin: I can't lose with you, Sarah. Thanks.

Tanky thanks you too. :)

Anonymous said...

You have uninteresting posts...? Where?!


I pretty much love everything you talk about. Gotta say I like the idea of you having all the posts on the one blog...makes it a whole lot easier to catch 'em all.

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: Much as I wanted to keep my interests separated, it was just too much work to switch gears on such and such a day and then switch back. I think this will be easier for me.

LD Masterson said...

The problem with cover reveals and other book promotions is we tend to follow blogs in circles. Many of the blogs I follow are the same ones the bloggers I follow follow. (Read that slowly, it really does make sense.) So if one of us is promoting a cover or release, usually a bunch of us are. Going from blog to blog admiring the same cover just isn't a good use of my blogging time.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: Exactamundo!

It works only if your network is immense. Not 1000 followers. But tens of thousands followers in many different interest groups (who like to read).

If you're only showing off your cover to other authors, you're dipping into a very small pool of potential readers.