Anti-Social Media

I’m a Luddite, a technophobe or just plain old. I don’t get social media. Clearly that is not strictly true. This is social media or part of it, as are Twitter and Facebook. I have accounts at both I just don’t use them. I mean when this blog is published it gets linked to Twitter, Facebook and my Linked-In profile and of course back to my author pages on Goodreads and Amazon. But that is it. If I don’t post I barely use the other means. I do post some limited comments on Goodreads and occasionally re-tweet a like. I have used a small Twitter advert alongside my other woeful attempts at marketing. Other than that the accounts are dormant – I struggle to recall my Facebook log-in

I just don’t fell the need to tell the world what I am doing every minute of every day. I watch the Millennial generation permanently connected and typing text, Facebook, Whatsapp, etc. I have no idea why they do it or feel the need to share their now non-private lives with anyone who cares.  They exchange their data with all these companies with barely a thought for what is done with it or where it is or why anyone wants to know.  My wife and daughter constantly update and like others’ streams, timelines and whatever the profile details are called.

As the usual technical support for these and other IT issues, I have no idea how to post a photo onto the timeline. Actually, I do but I cannot be bothered. I don’t want to be tagged in a photo. Actually as a so-called IT professional I feel I should know all about these systems and how they work, but frankly I do not care. I am far more concerned with infrastructure, databases, networks, system up time and performance than I am with how to add a comment to a Facebook post..

At work I have email, Intranet, IM and Yammer. Again I struggle to understand why everyone wants to know what I am doing, where I am and what I am working on or even at work, in a meeting or away. Of course my boss wants to know and he does. Normally we meet or I telephone.

Some people think this is reclusive behaviour, guilty as charged. I just like to think that I like my privacy especially away from formal work. This means that I am doing the role of author all wrong. These days I should be posting and twittering continuously in the vague hope that all this activity might lead to someone reading my book or even better buying one.

PC Pro published an article this month (I’m a subscriber to a physical magazine – as I said a Luddite) stating that ‘eBook sales were stagnant and the technology underpinning them was dull.’ It then listed some stats on UK sales from the top five publishers, forgetting about the rest of the world and independent writers in the process. Certainly the biggest e-book retailer seems to be having few problems. Perhaps the premise was wrong

I bring this up not just to comment on the article, I might write to them in a handwritten stamped addressed envelope delivered by Royal Mail. They appear not to have a web site not one the magazine lists anyway – they do. They have email, Twitter and of course Facebook. I have dispensed with a dedicated web site. I still have a name and page but my web site is now this blog. A sign of the times or just the sheer effort needed to keep all these systems going. I’m blogging today when I should be writing. I’m reading Goodreads’ forums rather than reading a book or better yet trying to write one.

We go to restaurants for company and the food to find our companions still telling the world that they are in a restaurant and interacting with people that are not there. Still one thing I would have loved when I was a single dating person (neolithic age I think) is Tinder. I used to hate asking a girl to dance or to buy her a drink, because I was scared of the big No rejection. Now I would just have to swipe. Not that I have. I have just watched how it works. Mrs H need have no concerns. This is not an Ashley Madison confessional.

You see I do know about these things I just don’t use them. They are like a drug and a I saw a news article this week about IT Detox. Yes it was on-line and had hundreds of comments, likes rather missing the point I thought.

Please of course like this, re-tweet it – I’m not that anti.

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A Tinfoil Hat – Data Protection and Security

For those of you that know me in my regular life, you will recall I can get a bee in my bonnet about data protection. Partly this is due to my previous professional roles and responsibilities. A frequent comment is that tin foil hats are needed as if my concerns and others are exaggerated. Using the Internet and any part of modern society means that your personal data is not personal or private it belongs to big corporations and government agencies. I do not believe that governments will deliberately misuse the data. That is the way of conspiracies and tin-foil hats. The scope though for data loss, data selling to third parties (who will misuse it) and data errors will grow. Then there are the criminal risks. If the security services need a backdoor through encryption then that back door exists for anyone that can find it. Ashley Madison anyone, to name one hacking case.

This also goes to some of my more reclusive tendencies. Reclusive? I hear you exclaim, a sometimes writer with a twitter feed, email, Facebook page as well as this blog. However, when it comes to data, this tendency can become overactive. I do not have a personal Facebook page and my on-line activities are covered by occasional blogs and comments on Goodreads. I have author profiles on Amazon and other sites, I have a Linked-In profile but my other personal details do not appear. I do not share my birthday or medical details on-line and I would prefer it if the companies I interact with did not either. Nor my financial details, spending patterns or other marketing led data. But we are in the era of big data. Having worked for one of the big credit reference agencies, I am aware of just how much data is known about me. More interesting is the analysis applied to that data to be sold to other companies which then results in marketing.

I recently received a mail shot from a marketing company offering me contact details on 5 million company directors. My details are probably in that list. How did they get that data (It might not be accurate of course, but how? I did not give anyone permission to give my data to this company. But of course I probably did when I forgot to tick or un-tick a box on another web site opting in or out. Of course I could have just wanted to run something and hidden in the EULA was an explicit clause along the lines of “We may use your data with selected third parties, if you do not wish this to happen etc….” To use the product you have to agree. Next thing you are offered US Car loan deals in Wisconsin – I kid you not. Not helpful in rural Englan not New England – the original.

Why is this relevant? Well last week saw the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rule that one of the data safeguards used by many companies, including Facebook and many cloud providers, the so called Safe Harbor (US Spelling) rules, were not worth the paper they are written on. Under that scheme the European rules on data protection are upheld in the USA where most cloud providers and social media companies reside.  This comes not just on the back of the Eric Snowden revelations about security service activities but also due to the USA’s Patriot Act. Under the act a; American companies are effectively obliged to hand over all data.Then there is the ongoing dispute involving Microsoft being asked to hand over data by the FBI held in an Irish data centre via a court order in a US Court without going through the existing legal agreements with the Irish authorities.

For cloud providers including WordPress what does this mean. In legal terms it means that no European citizen or company can handover data to a US company and know that the data is legally protected from misuse i.e. selling on or using for a purpose other than which it was provided. Something that US companies do not seem to understand. The UK’s Information Commissioner Office (ICO) provides a very simple set of principles for managing data which meets European requirements but they too have been relying on Safe Harbor and other contractual protections called Model Clauses when data is processed outside the EU.

The EU and the USA are negotiating new data protection rules but the bottom line for all of us is that if you use any cloud based provider that has any connection to a US company for any corporate or personal activity you cannot expect any privacy. You cannot expect that any of your data will not end up in the hands of the US authorities or sold on at the whim of a company. Expect more spam and more targeted marketing built on analysis of everything from your inside leg measurement to who you discussed fashion with on a social media outlet.  The terms of service issues by the providers with all their associated privacy policies are worthless and overriden by the activities of the US agencies and corporations.

A tin foil hat won’t help.

Using Scheduled Post

Aside

I’m supposed to be something of a techie so I have just surprised myself by using a feature here on WordPress for the first time. I’m referring to scheduled Post – why I had not used this before is beyond me. I should have used this before to link a post which is automatically tweeted, repeated and posted around other social media.

In this case I have used it to coincide with a book promotion starting – all done whilst I was safely tucked up in bed snoring away. I then awoke this morning to find re-tweets, new followers and so on. – Now what else can I do on WordPress that I’ve not used until now?

Keeping Up Appearances

All the marketing advice in the self-published space states, that building a following and regular posting is essential. This creates an audience that might, just might read a book. To achieve such a following the marketeer (the author role has disappeared for now) has to use the various social media outlets and/or advertising paths to raise awareness.

Now alongside being a writer, the skills of social commentary have to be added. In addition, the writer has to become technically familiar with all the different outlets. These vary from a simple blog like this on WordPress to Twitter, PinIntrest, YouTube, Facebook, Google+Instagram, etc,etc. Then there are the sites like Amazon’s forums, Linkedin or Goodreads. I’m sure there are lots of how to books and site FAQs that can explain the best way of using a particular platform but who has time to read them!

If you are like me you will stumble through and try to figure out the best way to make use of the different functionality. You may link sites to each other as I do so that this blog appears on Linkedin and Goodreads whilst a link appears on Twitter.

Now that I have created a wonderful commentary even if limited to Twitters’ few words, which will enthral the world, people will flock to my site. As my latest offering goes viral the sales will naturally follow and soon I will have to hire a publicist, web-master etc. just to keep up. One tiny, tiny problem with this plan. The cat or dog or baby video, celebrity trending tweet, scandal or my own problem.

I simply do not have enough time in the day to read or watch all this stuff. At work I now have email, Intranet, extra-net, Instant Messaging, conferencing and a Facebook replacement called Yammer, occasionally I get some work done but normally only after responding to the email, and IM message asking why I haven’t responded to the Yammer comment.

At home when I should be writing the next chapter of my book I am reading Goodreads, occasional other blogs and trying to follow some Twitter and of course updating linked in writing and professional forums all in an attempt to get me noticed. To keep up the appearance of activity and interest in the hope that this will be reflected back. Then comes the killer blow. Nearly everyone I am in contact with is another author trying to do the same thing. Yes we are all readers too so we try and read and review and offer helpful comments.

Somewhere out there is a true reader that might write a glowing review. What? They write a review, but now they are a writer too. There are hundreds if not thousands of review blogs, all this writing and communicating all this social commentary and interaction is overwhelming. Yet this week I had one of the most pleasing and odd experiences a personal appearance at a book club. I talked to my readers! Whatever next direct social interaction the next thing you know people may use there electronic devices to phone someone. Now I need to get this published and word spread, it will go viral if I add sex or a picture of a kitten won’t it!

Kitten-prays

From http://catsinflats.com.au/adopting-kitten-cat/

 

My Daughter’s Acknowledgement

I’m in trouble. It’s not an unusual state of affairs when it comes to family matters. This one concerns acknowledgements in my second book – To The Survivors.

It seems I gave an acknowledgement in the closing pages to my family except my daughter. At the time she had not read the book, but she has now. Good news is that she liked it, bad news, she noticed her omission. Sorry! You of course helped and supported me and now you have a dedicated blog to acknowledge the fact. She is of course busy with her studies so she has not had time to read the books in the publishing timeframe. Quite right study first, Dad’s requests later.

More generally how many readers actually read the preface/front matter or the closing pages after the end of the story. Kindle defaults settings seem to start at the first formal chapter unless the publisher is careful to change the settings to start at the start. The start of a normal book is of course the Cover. Many writers like me add in quotes, extracts or other starting material. For my first book I added a cast list but I now realise many readers will not have seen it. No wonder they found it complex.  Until I changed the settings to start at the start. Of course many writers have shown family trees or lists. For one of my new books I even have a web site to give the back story and hopefully generate some initial interest.

For acknowledgements it’s harder, I normally skip the long lists found in many books of all those that have helped with producing the book. I keep it down to under a page. Then there are the links to other books, and frequently a sample chapter. I have not produced a sample chapter, but I have added a brief description of other books by me.

Some writers have added reviews from newspapers or web sites to their introductions alongside links to web sites, Facebook, Twitter etc. all hoping that one sale will lead to another.

So acknowledgements are important alongside all the other bits either side of the story.  I must remember to read them myself and not forget anyone. Thank you for your help, Tasha. Now, can you read the others!

Advertising for the Self-Published Author

Accoring to some sources there are 9,000 new books being published each month.  Most of these are new books from self-publish authors like me.  Sometimes we get called indi’ authors as in independent, but whatever the tag line we all face a huge challenge in getting out masterpiece noticed.  Lots of other companies vie for our trade to take our promotions further.  From blog sites like WordPress offering named domains to Publishing companies offering to promote the new tome for a fee.

For this blog I wanted to review my own experiences of several of these services in relation to my different books.  Like all reviews it’s my own opinion.

An Agent’s Demise

My first book received no publicity at all on launch as frankly I didn’t know how.  I did create a Facebook page and set up my website, but there were no Ads.  It was enrolled in KDP Select and had over 3,000 downloads on its free days.  It even got to number one in its genre in the USA for a couple of days.  After it was no longer free it disappeared from the rankings, currently number 272,000 in the rankings on Amazon.com.  More recently it did share advertising space via Project Wonderful.

Result – No publicity worked, no change in sales with Project Wonderful – I put this down to beginners luck and a popular genre. I am now looking to re-edit professionally, if I can justify the fee.

To The Survivors

When my second book launched I was on Goodreads and I joined Bookdaily.  The book has sold steadily.  It has featured on the Project Wonderful Ads and I even did a You Tube Trailer.  Sales have been steady, currently ranked #12,935 the UK Kindle Store and #43 in it’s genre.  It has never been in KDP Select although it did launch at the 99c price point.  The only formal push through advertising was Bookdaily, although it was featured with accompanying articles on two blog sites, which prompted the creation of this site.

Result – Despite a more realistic price and no further advertising, the book continues to sell.  I am now looking to re-edit professionally, if I can justify the fee.

The Persuasive Man

For my third book I have tried, Project Wonderful, Ask David (Twitter), and it has even featured on Goodreads.  It is in KDP Select but sales have been exceptionally disappointing, even with free days on KDP.  Given the amount of publicity I hoped to at least get several hundred free downloads, but no less than 100 worldwide.  It’s now at 99c on KDP.  I have joined Twitter, blogged and talked about it. If I had done nothing there would be no change.  It has one 4-star review, not from anyone I know, and that’s it.

Result – Unclear, it may be the genre that makes it a difficult pick up, perhaps the cover, who knows.

The Methods

KDP and KDP Select –

The jury is out, yes I had a lot of downloads with An Agent’s Demise but virtually nothing with The Persuasive Man despite the publicity.  In the end what is the point of free downloads if it doesn’t generate future non-free sales or lead to reviews.

Project Wonderful

Budget set and controlled by me – 232,000 views of my ads, 81,000 unique, 51 clicks – no attributable sales

BookDaily

Fixed price per month – Featured book in emails, two months of cover to 23,000 emails.  1,500 allegedly read my exert – no attributable sales

Ask David

Cheapest method – 10 tweets to 19,000 followers each Tweet, – no attributable sales

Goodreads

Most expensive per day – 56,000 views of ads, 20 clicks, no increase on to-read lists, no more reviews – no attributable sales

Others

I have looked at vanity publishing houses, paid reviews, author exchanges and most look like scams with no solid results.  Lot’s of blog review sites all fighting for the same audience.

For one of my new books, I am trying a different approach with a story background blog already in place.  Just got to get some people to look at it let alone buy the book when it comes out.

Conclusion

It appears that advertising is a waste of money with these services.  Your advert cannot compete with the expensive adverts from the publishing houses on Goodreads let alone Amazon.  The list of services for Self Pub authors is expanding but getting a reader of a web site to actually purchase is not something any of the advertisers want to talk about.  For the Author it’s very much buyer beware.  The services mesmerise you with statistics on followers, viewers, page impressions, but don’t tell you the results.  The only information needed is how many people buy the book as a result of the advert.  On my evidence it’s virtually none.  Save your money.