Sunday, December 17, 2006

MySpace Redux

Let's talk about MySpace.

I joined a while back, did a quickie profile (www.myspace.com/jakonrath), made some Friend Requests, and then basically treated it like email; something to periodically check.

Then, gradually, I spent more time there. I beefed up my page. I began searching for mystery readers to invite as Friends. And I came to realize that it had serious potential as a marketing tool.

My main marketing belief is: The more pieces of paper your name is on, the better.

Your name is on your books, naturally. But it can also be on ads, on short stories and articles, on blurbs, on business cards and coasters and bookmarks, on mailers, on reviews, etc.

Virtual paper (the Internet) works in a similar way. Like Rome, all roads can lead to your website through links and searches. A "hit" is the same as being on a piece of paper.

In the short time my MySpace page has been up, I've gotten over 4000 profile views, and have made about 700 Friends. A few of them probably read my books as a result of seeing the page.

But is it worth the time invested?

Blogs and websites draw visitors with content. Either a surfer is looking for you specifically, or looking for a topic that your site covers, and then they find you.

MySpace is different. The search criteria are more specific. So specific, in fact, that an author can seek out a demographic pretty easily. They can still find you. But you can also find them.

I put a lot of info on my website and blog and hope someone reads it, and likes it so much they buy my books. But with MySpace, I can look for the people who I think would like my books.

In other words, a website has roads leading in to it, but MySpace has roads leading out.

So how does a MySpacer find roads to travel?

The Dumb Way

MySpace is ridiculously easy to surf. You read one profile, and it links to 500 others. So you read one of those, then another, then another, and so on. While surfing, you can request to be Friends with anyone who looks interesting. This takes a long time, and you're not really narrowing down a specific demographic.

It's possible to use the Browse feature, but that only lets you list criteria such as location, appearance, and religion. If you're looking for 40 year old native American women who smoke and live within 50 miles of you and are bi-curious, this feature is for you. If you're looking for fans of Janet Evanovich, browsing won't help much.

A Smarter Way

Fortunately, MySpace also has a search feature. You can search for fans of Evanovich, and then ask these folks to be your Friends (this is only helpful if, like me, you share fans with Evanovich.)

This makes a lot of sense. The MySpacers who list Evanovich (or Grisham, or Patterson, or Child) care enough about those type of books to mention them in their profile. Without too much effort, you can find the names of thousands of readers who love authors similar to you. Many of these could become your MySpace Friends, and a fraction of them will read your books. This seems like a much better way to use MySpace.

The Even Smarter Way

Of course, why should you compile a cadre of readers when others have already done this for you? You can find authors similar to you on MySpace, and then directly contact all of their Friends from their MySpace pages.

A dozen authors can lead you to thousands of fans.

Unfortunately, it's still a pain in the ass to contact each individual MySpacer and send them Friend Requests.

Right?

The Smartest Way

As luck would have it, there's an even easier way to do this. MySpace began as a way for bands to recruit listeners and inform them of upcoming gigs. Bands quickly learned that the key to selling CDs and tickets on MySpace was to find people who like their kind of music and then invite them as Friends.

But most bands do drugs and drink too much, and they aren't up for spending countless hours adding potential fans one at a time. So some savvy programmers invented ways to invite a bunch of Friends at once.

Google "Myspace friend adder" and you'll get dozens of programs used to add Friends in bulk. They can do this randomly, or specifically.

In other words, I can go to www.myspace.com/jeffstrand and send each of his Friends a Friend Request by simply pushing a few buttons. I can also send them each a Message at the same time, perhaps saying "I was surfing MySpace and I saw you're friends with Jeff Strand. I always like to meet Jeff Strand fans."

Mr. Strand has been building his friends list for months, and I vacuumed it up in two days (MySpace administration won't let you make more than 400 friend requests per day.) Thanks, Jeff!

Pretty cool, huh?

But it gets better. When you have a big list of Friends, MySpace lets you send Bulletins to them. Your Friend Adder (I use Badder Adder) also lets you send bulk Messages and bulk Comments to your entire Friend List (or anyone else's Friend List.) You can pimp out the look of your page and add music, pictures, and video. You can add a blog. And even if you ignore your page for weeks at a time, people will still find and and request to be your Friend, which leads to more links, and more links, and more links.

Is MySpace a guaranteed path to success? Hardly. But it's one more weapon in your marketing arsenal, and it has the potential to reach a lot of people--even more than your website, your blog, and your newsletter combined.

Give it a shot. Spend a few days playing around. And be sure to build up your Friend List... I'll be by to steal it next month.

65 comments:

MJ said...

Just a warning about all this - yes go for it - but its not a magic sales bullet. I know a lot of bands - (my husband is a musician) and they've been at the myspace.com thing a long time and while its cool for some visiblilty - don't expect sales to follow.

For instance one really popular band has 30,000 friends and over 70,000 plays and they just released a new CD bout a month ago and used all the bells and whistles and sold 15 cds.

SO, like everything else - talke it easy with this too.

Anonymous said...

Great. Another instance of door-to-door bookselling.

JA Konrath said...

But I bet that band had 1000s of people who stole their album on bit torrent... :)

I believe MySpace is perfect for building brand awareness. That might lead to sales, directly or indirectly. It certainly can't hurt.

Human beings recognize hundreds of brands, but only buy a few, and are "loyal" to even fewer.

I love the Fanta Girls. Love the commercials. Love that stupid song. I've never bought a Fanta in my life, and never will. But being aware of a product is the first step.

Book advertising works when it's an announcement to fans who are already brand loyal--I don't think it works to recruit new fans.

But MySpace offers a unique opportunity to directly target people who like specific kinds of books. People who care enough about mysteries to list them in their profiles. This is similar to approaching someone browsing the mystery isle at a local bookstore and introducing yourself--something I've done quite a bit of, with much success.

While MySpace may not directly sell many books for me, when these MySpacers are on Amazon, or at their local bookstore, browsing thousands of titles, they might pause an extra few seconds looking at the spine out copies of Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary (or, if they're at one of the 612 stores I signed at this year, they might see the face out books on an endcap) and the name recognition will be enough to get them to pick up a copy and take a look.

Is that worth a few hours of my time? Sure. I just spent five hours in a bookstore yesterday. It's much easier to spend that time online in a chair than on my feet shaking hands.

Will this be the way to huge success? No. The only way to become a huge success is through big publisher support and big word of mouth.

But if my publisher sees I have 20,000 MySpace friends, it certainly can't hurt my cause...

JA Konrath said...

Great. Another instance of door-to-door bookselling.

So it's much better to sit at home, fingers crossed, quietly hoping?

Or perhaps, if you write a book that's really good, readers will know it telepathically and automatically seek it out even though they've never heard of you before...

Roddy Reta said...

Self-promotion is important, but if you write a truly exceptional book, the publisher will promote it more heavily, and the critics/public will take it more seriously.

All of the best debuts I read this year had strong publisher support.

Only exception is if you're writing in a dead genre -- like horror. When Jeff Strand writes a great book, he has to go to the small press. Richard Laymon couldn't find a publisher for many years. Still, some cutting-edge writers like JF Gonzalez are breaking through.

So the best move is writing a strong book in a popular genre.

Anonymous said...

Another informative post. Actually, the timing is perfect for me, as I just signed up for MySpace about a week ago. My wife is a musician and has found MySpace immensely helpful for promoting her band's upcoming shows, as well as developing her studio (she teaches cello).

It's good to know about this mass-adder application, too. That will really help me track down others who have the same literary interests as I do.

Thanks!

M. G. Tarquini said...

You send bulk invites? Bulk messages?

But...but I felt so special being one of your 725 some-odd closest friends.

*ducks*

syabie said...

thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

The cover of today’s TIME names all of us as Person Of The Year. The reasoning is that in today’s nanosecond means of communication, we are all news makers. We all interconnect through a thousand arteries of information that never existed before: email, blogs, MySpace, online forums, websites, e-news, and on and on and on.

Aside from direct intervention with the divine or a pack with Satan, no one of these tools will be the ultimate magical elixir that sweeps us onto the NY TIMES 10 bestseller’s list. Only writing a book that sells more than #11 through # whatever will do that. But if we combine all the new electronic, virtual tools with the traditional ones such as signings, conferences, author panels, book club visits, tours, blah, blah, blah, we will have a well-rounded, modern marketing plan. Joe, you sold me on the idea. I’m off to set up MySpace. Once I do, will you be my friend? :-)

Joe Moore

Tom Schreck said...

Konrath you're amazing...

I started with Myspace a week ago and just this morning I started asking everyone at Backspace about how to maximize it. I check for your new blog posts all the time.

Someone responded on BS and said check Joe's blog and I thought "Ha--I check Joe's blog constantly!"

Sure enough--alot of my questions are answered right away.

It's appreciated.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

So THAT'S how it works!

You are as always invaluable, baby.

I definitely owe you a few drinks for this one.

XX

JA Konrath said...

Roddy--Thanks for chiming in. I disagree with you entirely and completely on many of your points. Which is good: disagreement leads to intelligent debate.

...if you write a truly exceptional book, the publisher will promote it more heavily, and the critics/public will take it more seriously.

Not necessarily. Promotional dollars at a publishing house have more to do with the size of the advance, preorders, and the fame of the author. A shitty tell-all biography of a pop star will get more marketing dollars than a potential Pulitzer winner every time.

Critics don't review every book, and they miss plenty of great ones. If a book doesn't get reveiwed much, and it doesn't have a big promo budget, how is Joe Reader supposed to even know it exists?

The cream doesn't always rise to the top. And since "cream" is subjective, it makes everything even harder.

All of the best debuts I read this year had strong publisher support.

I understand what you're saying, but this is a holey arguement for several reasons. First, because personal taste isn't objective. Second, because you didn't read every debut of the year, so you can't compare those that received publisher support with those that didn't. Third, unless you're privvy to the P & L statements of each book, you can't truly know its marketing budget. And fourth, publishers support every book, to some extent. The size of the budget doesn't equal how much the acquiring editor loves it.

Only exception is if you're writing in a dead genre -- like horror. When Jeff Strand writes a great book, he has to go to the small press. Richard Laymon couldn't find a publisher for many years. Still, some cutting-edge writers like JF Gonzalez are breaking through.

Two of the biggest books this year (The Ruins and Lisley's Story) were horror. Strand is small press because he writes horror comedies--a sub-sub-genre--and his books are very short. Laymon has been published by many big publishers all over the world. And last I checked, Gonzalez writes for Leisure, which released dozens of horror titles this year.

So the best move is writing a strong book in a popular genre.

And then promote the hell out of it.

MJ said...

Joe - you misunderstood the purpose of my post. Look at the first graph. I said its cool for visibilty but not to expect sales. I think its critical when we promote promtional ideas to authors to make sure we let them know what to expect.

I just said to take it easy. And while I'm at it - beware of those software programs to add friends.

If you've used one that works - you should say which one - becuase most of them are bots that don't work at all and cost money to boot.

JA Konrath said...

I agree with you MJ. I said in my original post that MySpace is hardly the path to success. My response was to clarify some of my thoughts.

On another note, I spent a bit of time thinking about this post before I wrote it.

On one hand, I hate spam, and I hate getting MySpace Friend Requests from sex workers who think I'm lonely and invite me to call to chat with their hot girlfriends.

I don't want to be thought of as a spammer. Nor do I want to spread the word on how to spam. Nor do I want to besmirch the intimate, personal appeal of MySpace by turning valuable Friends into trading cards to be bought and sold.

No one likes to be thought of as a demographic.

But one of the reasons I began this blog was to tell other writers what I'm doing, why, and how.

That means sharing info. Even if the info can be used for evil purposes.

Like it or not, MySpace is huge, and it seems to me that no authors have exploited it properly. Yet.

Once a Friend base is established, this seems like a good return on investment.

Instant messages, bulletins, and comments can be sent to thousands of people who signed up to hear them.

Your MySpace page becomes a 24 hour beacon, attracting visitors.

It reinforces brand awareness, and fosters name recognition.

There is the potential to sell a few books.

Plus, this is kind of fun. I mean, what else am I going to do with my time? Write?

Anonymous said...

OK, I've been reading your website for a long time and I like a lot of your ideas, but I think you're completely overlooking one obvious component.

If your book isn't very good, no one will buy it. You know the saying, 'you can't polish a turd'.

If you write an original novel that really touches on something people want, then you follow it up with the kind of marketing you've done for your books, I don't see how you can lose. But if you're just putting out a rehash of all the best sellers you studied before writing your own copy-cat version, then trying to pass them off to people who've been there, done that, I think you're at a disadvantage.

It seems like your sales would support this theory, too. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Whiskey Sour your best seller to date and haven't the numbers dropped to average mid-list numbers since, despite the marketing crunch?

Don't get me wrong, I really do wish you the best of luck, and I hope you do hit the best sellers, but the quality issue has always bothered me when I read your blog. I got sick of saying, "man, what a great idea. Too bad he's trying to pass off such a generic product."

I know, judging by some of your short stories I've read, you have the talent to realy write sonmething great. Have you considered taking two or three months to write a novel instead of one month? It's my guess that if you spend a little more time on the product you're trying so hard to sell, you might get the results you're looking for.

JA Konrath said...

Ahhh, the security that anonimity brings...

If your book isn't very good, no one will buy it. You know the saying, 'you can't polish a turd'.

So every bestseller is brilliant? Great logic!

If you write an original novel that really touches on something people want, then you follow it up with the kind of marketing you've done for your books, I don't see how you can lose.

I've got a personal library of 5000 books. At least 1/3 of those books are no longer in print. Authors can lose, and they do lose all the time, regardless of how decent the book is.

One of the best thriller writers of the 1990s was David Wiltse. He's out of print.

Blackburn by Bradley Denton got incredible reviews, and is one of the most profound books I ever read. Never made a bestseller list.

And there are hundreds of other examples. Your logic is seriously flawed.

But if you're just putting out a rehash of all the best sellers you studied before writing your own copy-cat version, then trying to pass them off to people who've been there, done that, I think you're at a disadvantage.

Really? Considering all of the historical bestsellers in the wake of DaVinci (The Rule of Four, The Last Templar, Templar Legacy, Historian, et al), I'm sure that many of them would disagree with you.

And didn't you just say that if the book isn't very good, no one will buy it?

It seems like your sales would support this theory, too. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Whiskey Sour your best seller to date and haven't the numbers dropped to average mid-list numbers since, despite the marketing crunch?

Happy to correct you. You're wrong. My print runs have gone up, and each new book has sold better than the previous on its release date. Whiskey Sour has sold the most books because it's been around longer and is the first in the series. People have had three years to buy it, vs. six months for Rusty Nail, and mass market paperbacks are cheaper and sell better than hardcovers. It's the same way for A is for Alibi and One for the Money.

I got sick of saying, "man, what a great idea. Too bad he's trying to pass off such a generic product."

You're right! The shelves are littered with thrillers that combine scares with laughs! I'm writing exactly like everyone else! Why, there's Jeff Lindsay, who came out after me, and then there's... uh... um... hmmm...

It's my guess that if you spend a little more time on the product you're trying so hard to sell, you might get the results you're looking for.

Thanks for the advice, Anon. I'm sure your opinions are based on having read all of my books, and I thank you for your time.

In fact, since you're so generous with your time, you're more than welcome to stop over at my house and help me answer my fan mail. I'm constantly being bombarded with emails, lauding how generic and copy-cat my books are, begging me to spend more than a month on a book so I can write something original.

If you stop by, bring beer.

I remember turning off anonymous comments a while back, because I got bored with morons thinking they suddenly grew a pair of testicles because they could hurl insults without being culpable. But I've let them stay because conflict and controversy are good things.

I've had friends tell me that announcing I can write a book in a month is just giving jokers ammo to belittle my work.

Let them. I'm about honesty, not about playing games so people like me better.

Especially the anonymous people.

Marguerite Arotin said...

JA, Hey from a raomance author who just got a friend request from you and figured I'd drop by.
I've thought about doing those auto-ad my space frienders but I'm afraid the'll put in a friend request for someone I don't want to be friends with. Like someone looking to send me to scuzzy x rated webcam site (got a few requets to join groups like that when I do not a own a webcam) or someone that will send me annoying spam.
Authors are always an autoad for mme so don't worry, your in
:-). I think i first realized how powerful mypsace can be when I posted an excerpt in my my myspace blog and got a great comment from a guy who doesn't usually read romance. He loved my excerpt! So I knew I would have to jazz up my profile and start promoting away in my blog. I get more hits in my myspace blog now then I do in my blogger blog :-).
But I still will remain slightly choosy about who I network with on myspace. I doubt someone who wants to ask me to join some adult porno site or send me spam will be interested in purchasing my book.]
Yeah, I do have limits :-D.
P.S; I love your retort about the door to door bookselling. People just don't get how difficult it is to sell a good story these days, do they. I'm worried becuase mine's coming out with an e-book publisher. They've been really nice and helpful, but I know it will be an uphill battle when it comes to promoting my tale.

Marguerite Arotin said...

PPS. Sorry about the spelling issues. I'm sure you know I don't write raomance :-). Hard to type when I have a five year old whining about how he scraped the inside of his mouth. Blogger needs a spellchecker for comments, LOL.
Anyway, I am off to add you now. Feel free to steal my friend's list, I don't care. Mostly romance authors, and readers but my friend Camevil loves good hard core mysteries. Elmore Leonard is one of her fave authors.
I will look for Whiskey Sour too because I love a great mystery as well and I need something to read on the plane when we head to the west coast on Friday. I almost always bring a book along to read
:-).

Anonymous said...

Wow, I thought it was a legit subject to discuss. I had no odea I'd strike such a nerve or that you'd be such a girl about it.

Apparently the only people who can post here are people who will tell you your bokos are great. Sorry, but I've read a couple of them and I know better... (I bet you do too).

But, thanks for correcting me. I had no idea you were writing such cutting edge original fiction or that I had such bad taste. For a while there I thought I knew what good writing was. Good to know I was seriously mistaken.

As far as the anon post, I just didn't have the time or the desire to create an account. If you really want a name, you can just think of me as the guy who will never buy another one of your books and will tell other people not to bother if asked, or if I see them looking at one in a bookstore.

Good marketing plan, asshole.

JA Konrath said...

Wow, I thought it was a legit subject to discuss. I had no odea I'd strike such a nerve or that you'd be such a girl about it.

And that's an insult to girls everywhere.

Apparently the only people who can post here are people who will tell you your bokos are great.

Actually, people post here to learn and comment about the publishing biz. Hence the name "Newbie's Guide to Publishing" instead of "We Love JA Konrath."

Sorry, but I've read a couple of them and I know better... (I bet you do too).

Yeah, I suck. Thanks for reminding me!

As far as the anon post, I just didn't have the time or the desire to create an account.

Create an account? What does that have to do with signing your post? It's easy--at the end of your diatribe, you write, "from, Your Name." Except you substitute "Your Name" for your actual name.

Good marketing plan, asshole.

I admire your maturity.

This is a legit topic to discuss. The topic is building brand awareness, in this case through MySpace.

Brand awareness doesn't just happen. Even if you write an amazing book. Even if your publisher is behind you. Even if you get a lot of publicity.

Unfortunately, you didn't add to the topic. Instead you basically said my books were hastily written garbage, and if I spent more time trying to write something better then my sales figures would go up.

Using sweet language and adding a bit of praise doesn't take away the fact that your post was insulting.

If you truly want to evoke an open exchange of ideas, you'd explain what it is about my books that you dislike, use facts instead of assumptions, and own up to your words by signing your name.

But thanks for stopping by!

Patry Francis said...

Just got started on Myspace, and was definitely doing it the dumb way. Thanks for the great advice.

I never understand why people would come around a writer's blog to post insults--anonymous or otherwise. If you don't like a writer or a blog, pack up your negative energy in a suitcase and go elsewhere! Life is way too short...

JA Konrath said...

Paul--If you wouldn't mind offering a bit more detail about how your wife effectively uses MySpace, I'd love to hear it, and so would everyone else.

Mindy--Don't you mean my 830 MySpace friends?

Joe--Good points. And yes, I'll be your Friend. :)

Tom--Thanks for the kind words.

Alexandra--You can deduct the drinks from Sandburg's $100...

Marguerite--Thanks for the input. And much success on your new ebook!

Patry--Usually people around here play nice and there isn't any name calling. Because the Internet isn't face-to-face interaction, it encourages a disconnect. It's easy to sling thinkly veiled insults under the guise of being helpful. In fact, it's easy to be flat out rude. There's no accountability.

That said, I've never had to delete any posts, which happens often on other blogs.

I don't mind people disagreeing with me--I think that makes things interesting. I don't mind insults either, but if you insult me please back it up with some sort of arguement, and expect a response.

Much success with MySpace. As MJ said, there are no easy answers or quick fixes. But writers should try everything they can.

zdaddyo said...

I'm not going to support the anonymouses rudeness, but he does have a valid point somewhere in there. Don't you think that if you spent two or three months on creating and refining your books that they would end up being better products? They might not be twice or three times as good, but I wonder if they would be better to the point that more people would rave about your books.

Troy Cook said...

I think it's too easy to throw stones. Writing is incredibly difficult, and great fun, and something that needs to be done at an individual pace. Joe certainly doesn't need me to defend him, but why don't we all let Joe write his books the best way he knows how, and we'll all do the same.

Troy Cook said...

Sorry. I think that last post might have come off a bit grouchy. My bad.

Happy Holidays!

JA Konrath said...

Don't you think that if you spent two or three months on creating and refining your books that they would end up being better products? They might not be twice or three times as good, but I wonder if they would be better to the point that more people would rave about your books.

That's a fair question.

Whiskey Sour took a year to write (this was before I wrote full time) and I rewrote it 13 times before it became published.

Bloody Mary, Rusty Nail, and Dirty Martini each took a month.

I've spoken with many fans, and the majority of them think the series is getting better.

The time it takes to write a book has little to do with the quality. (It took Thomas Harris 7 years to write his latest, for example, and both Nora Roberts and Stephen King write a lot faster than I do. Max Allan Collins writes eight books a year.)

It's easy to think that writing a book in a month is a rush job. It isn't. I do the outline prior to the book, and the outline is about 40 pages long and covers every scene and every plot twist. It takes a week to write an outline, and it's a hard week involving more thinking than writing.

Writers who don't use outlines have to think up the plot as they write. That takes time.

Having an outline makes it much easier--you simply have to add action and dialog to the framework.

When I write a novel, I'm working 8-10 hour days. I could easily work three hour days, like many of my peers, and it would take me three months to write a book.

Anyone could write a book in a month if that was all they were doing.

A page equals 250 words. That's fifteen sentences.

If you write two pages an hour for ten hours, you can do 5000 words a day, or 150,000 words a month.

My Jack Daniels books are between 70,000 and 85,000 words.

So I only need to write 2500 words a day, or ten pages, to write a book in a month. Even slow authors can do that.

As for refining, after I finish my book in a month, I give it to several of my peers. They offer advice, and I rewrite. Then I rewrite according to agent suggestions, do a rewrite or two for my editor, and a polish for the copy editor. (My agent and editor also chimed in and offered suggestions at the outline stage.)

Since I rewrite as I write (I go over the previous fifteen pages before starting that day), none of my books see print without at least 6 rewrites.

I'm happy writing fast-paced, fun thrillers, and my fans enjoy them. Judging by the success Evanovich and Patterson have had, there's a market for them.

Could my books be better if I spent more time on them? Of course. All books can be better. As Hemingway said, writing is never finished, it's simply due.

Do I believe that spending more time on my books would make them bigger hits? No, I don't. If they weren't up to par, my publisher would reject them (which they've done with other authors.)

Anonymous said...

I have recently discovered your web and blog sites, Joe, and have learnt so much about the publishing industry from them. I am a writer form New Zealand,and will be using many of your techniques when my first book comes out next year.

I discovered you two weeks ago - I've now bought Whiskey Sour. You must be doing something right!

Lisa Hunter said...

Hmm. I was just about to delete my My Space account. Every time I check my messages, I have a dozen or so wanna-be Friends who are clearly trying to promote a book, band, or home business. I'll add them -- why not? -- but I've never bought one of their products and doubt they've bought my book.

Here's a serious question for you: Do you even look at the home pages of all the people you add to your Friends list? If not, what makes you think they're actually looking at yours? And as for name recognition, do you remember all your Friends' names? I sure don't. (Sorry, Friends!)

I much prefer blogs because they seem to create a real connection and dialog. You exchange ideas, not just cyber business cards. Through blogs, I've met some actual, real-life friends.

P.S. I just bought two complete sets of your Jack Daniels novels as holiday gifts -- sales directly attributable to your blog.

Anonymous said...

Good info here, Joe. I might try MySpace when I have something to sell.

I was going to say something to rude-onymous, but it's usually better to just ignore moronic trolls. Then they dry up and blow away like the weeds they are.

Anonymous said...

This seems to be a version of "whoever can shout the loudest wins." I don't see the bestselling authors devoting their efforts to "shouting." I seem them concentrating on their writing and turinging out high quality products, which is the best advertisement of all.

Anonymous said...

I think the personal approach works a lot better on Myspace, no matter how long it takes you. When I first joined I did seek out fans of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Tom Holt and so on, but these days I don't send many invites. I find it's better to participate in the relevant groups - if you sound half intelligent people will send YOU the invites.
When I receive an invite I check out the sender's profile, and if they have more than 1000 entries in their friends list and are STILL sending invites then I'm likely to deny them. I mean, they obviously don't need anyone else to talk to.
(I write in the SF/Humour genre, by the way. Like yourself I find myself in a niche of a niche where there's little else on the market. Getting the word out is vital, although my books are only available in Australia and NZ so I guess I can take a more laid-back approach to the US and UK. If they were sitting in US bookstores now and the returns clock was ticking I'd be pulling every magic lever I could get my hands on.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe, I read faithfully but rarely post. When I do, I am anonymous but always sign my name. The anonymous posts here are not mine, but they have moved me to choose an identity. I choose to be me~ Terrie Moran

Roddy Reta said...

Joe writes his books fast, but so what? Here's what Michael Connelly want said about speed and writing in a recent interview:

MC: "I learned not to equate speed with quality. I wrote The Poet in five months and The Lincoln Lawyer in three. There was a time when I wouldn’t admit that because so many people would think that a book written that fast can’t be good or worth a look. I know that velocity of writing doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with quality. I now know that when you have a story that is burning to get out like The Poet was for me back then, then you are in for a good ride."

Anonymous said...

I've been on both sides of this issue. For a long time I was all about promoting my novels. I can't tell you how much time and money I spent promoting my books. I hired publicists; I sent out over 200 ARCs: I visited very bookstore within a 500 mile radius and sent out personal letters to all the indies.

I came up with a new and creative way to promote each one of my books. My publisher praised my ingenuity.

The sad part was no one really gave a hoot.

Yes, I sold more books than my contemporaries. How could I not? But I got smart pretty quick and realized that writing a better book reaped far more rewards than promoting the crap out of a mediocre effort.

Let me put it this way. Most authors, once published, don't venture very far out of their comfort zones. They don't bother to make every sentence sing; they don't push their characters and plots to the limit and they don't take several months to ensure they're putting out a kick-butt product. (Because that's what it takes, my friend. Not one month to write quality stuff but many, many months.)

So here's the thing. In an industry that is plagued by mediocrity (and yes, your friends Evanovich and Patterson are PRIME examples of the scourge of mediocrity in publishing) you have an opportunity to shine.

You're putting all your energy in the promotion basket. Anyone with more money and marketing smarts than you can whip you butt on that front. (Patterson is where he is cuz he spent millions on TV ads. You got a couple of mill to spare, Konrath?)

Lots of people can be savvy marketers

But not many can turn a phrase, construct a great plot, or be genuinely funny. You've got a gift and you aren't cultivating it. You're just skimming the surface with your hasty book efforts. I suspect this is all about impatience (To be a famous author) and power. You feel like you're in control when you're doing weird things like spamming MYspace users.

So back to my story I sat down and took my time to write a kick-butt book and finally got an out-of-this-world advance as well as a huge marketing budget.

And yes, I'll be out there promoting my little tail off. It's in my nature, but it's going to be a lot easier this time 'round.

My message? Don't take shortcuts. Write a great book. Then promote it within an inch of your life but first write a fabulous book. That's how to get where you obviously want to be. So few authors push themselves creatively. If you're one of them, you're way ahead of the game. You're energies are misplaced.

Jude Hardin said...

Wow, Anon. That's a heavy post, and actually quite eloquent.

But since you refuse to sign your name, how are we supposed to take you seriously? How many drunk wannabes are out there pretending to know more than anyone else?

If you're sincere, then what you did worked for you. That doesn't mean that it's a cure-all for everyone involved in publishing.

If you know anything at all about the business, then you know there are innumerable paths to success...or failure.

Anonymous said...

My wife (www.taraklein.com) is a relatively new member of MySpace, but she's a voracious user. She plays cello in an indie band here in Cleveland called Unsparing Sea, and by making other music contacts in the area, she's been able to promote her shows using MySpace. She posts upcoming gigs, links to her other band members' websites and MySpace profiles, and seeks out other musicians and indie-music lovers. These contacts lead to more people showing up at shows (local support is where it all starts, especially with indie-groups), and that leads to more fans.

I'm sure Tara is still learning new ways to make contacts and increase her network, but she has already found MySpace to be a great resource for spreading the word. I think writers can do the same, if, like you've suggested, we're smart about HOW we use MySpace.

Anonymous said...

My wife (www.taraklein.com) is a relatively new member of MySpace, but she's a voracious user. She plays cello in an indie band here in Cleveland called Unsparing Sea, and by making other music contacts in the area, she's been able to promote her shows using MySpace. She posts upcoming gigs, links to her other band members' websites and MySpace profiles, and seeks out other musicians and indie-music lovers. These contacts lead to more people showing up at shows (local support is where it all starts, especially with indie-groups), and that leads to more fans.

I'm sure Tara is still learning new ways to make contacts and increase her network, but she has already found MySpace to be a great resource for spreading the word. I think writers can do the same, if, like you've suggested, we're smart about HOW we use MySpace.

John R. said...

But it gets better. When you have a big list of Friends, MySpace lets you send Bulletins to them. Your Friend Adder (I use Badder Adder) also lets you send bulk Messages and bulk Comments to your entire Friend List (or anyone else's Friend List.)

Promo is promo, Joe, but spam is spam. And that's not much different to either farming email addresses from writers websites (or insert similar example here), or to the MySpace "Join My Live Webcam Group!" spam that bounces around on a regular basis.

It's also asking for your account to be frozen if your bulk friends invites or messages generate enough "flag as spam" responses.

Roddy Reta said...

I think anon is kidding himself if he believes that James Patterson is successful because he bought a lot of TV ads. Janet Evanovich's books sell because they are much more fun and entertaining than the average book.

My advice to aspiring writers is to ignore the naysayers who continually tell you that bestseller lists are filled with crap, which they are not. Readers are smarter than you think.

JA Konrath said...

There's a reason people believe that quality=sales. If it didn't, then success comes down to luck, rather than something the author can control (their book.)

Well, success does come down to luck. Quailty is subjective. There's no scale that everyone agrees with that measures how good a book is.

Except for sales. Sales shows how many people bought a book.

It's easy to think that sales=quality, even though polling any average group of people could read the top ten bestsellers at any given time and many of them would dislike many of the books.

Quality does not equate to huge sales. Look at the recent NYT Bestseller List (or any NYT list.) How many are on the list for the first time vs. have been there before? How many are already known?

I've never said that quality isn't important. My website, and this blog, has a lot of info about the craft of writing.

But this blog isn't called A Newbie's Guide to Writing. It's about publishing. The business end.

Even if you have the greatest product in the world, it won't sell if no one knows about it.

But I got smart pretty quick and realized that writing a better book reaped far more rewards than promoting the crap out of a mediocre effort.

People tend to look for reasons that things happen, and apply them after the fact as a way of justifying and understanding.

Your first book or two didn't do as well as your later books, and you attribute your later success to having written a better book.

That's called the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy--attributing significance to events after they've occured (drawing a bullseye around a bullet hole that already exists.)

There are many reasons books become bestsellers. Quality can be one of them. But a quick look at the NYT List goes a long way to proving that branding seems to be a better explanation. Especially when known authors debut on the List---it obviously isn't the quality of THAT particular book, because no one has read it yet.

In fact, people buy books they haven't read yet, so how could quality even be a factor when a reader buys a new author? They have no clue as to the quality, until they read it.

Reviews? Not all books get reviewed. In fact, only a fraction do.

But perhaps if they heard about the book through some sort of promotional effort... :)

In my experience, authors who believe they deserve success, or authors who say that writing good books is the key to success, haven't really looked at the big picture and how big a part luck plays.

You can't sustain a theory that states the highest quality books always sell the most. There are far too many exceptions.

Authors have control over two things: the quality of their books, and how much they promote them.

Neither is a direct path to success. Ever.

But if you write a decent book, your next job is to introduce it to as many people as possible.

JA Konrath said...

It's also asking for your account to be frozen if your bulk friends invites or messages generate enough "flag as spam" responses.

I agree.

That's why bulk messages shouldn't be used to sell. In fact, MySpace, websites, and blogs should NOT be used to sell.

They should be used to entertain and inform.

JA Konrath said...

Thanks Lisa and Miss Ted!

And yes Simon, the personal approach in all forms of promotion works best. Sales isn't about pushing your products on people. It's about being there when someone is looking for you.

This seems to be a version of "whoever can shout the loudest wins." I don't see the bestselling authors devoting their efforts to "shouting." I seem them concentrating on their writing and turning out high quality products, which is the best advertisement of all.

I think I know who you are now, Anon. We've had this discussion before, no? :)

Bestselling authors don't have to shout---name recognition and huge promotional budgets are enough.

I believe in word of mouth. But for word of mouth to begin, someone has to read the book. How can you get people to read the book?

That's what I devote a large part of this blog to.

JA Konrath said...

I agree Roddy--there are a lot of great books on the bestseller lists. There are also some that aren't so great.

But even if we stated that "Every book on the NYT List is wonderfully written" and everyone agreed, that doesn't mean that "Every wonderfully written book will get on the NYT List."

JA Konrath said...

Thanks for the info, Dark Scribe!

Jude Hardin said...

Joe's right.

All we can do is write the best book that's in us, and then do what we can to promote it.

And hope for a little luck along the way.

It's a gamble, really, every time, because there's no way to predict which author will tank and which will skyrocket. We invest huge amounts of time in writing and promotion, with no guarantees of a payoff. It's just the nature of the business.

But if you're a writer, you keep going anyway. The only true failure is the one who gives up.

JA Konrath said...

Nicely said, Jude.

Amy said...

I'm so glad Joe wrote about MySpace here. Many libraries are developing their own MySpace sites now for teens and/or readers advisory and authors should hook up with your local library site at least.

Anyone who writes for teens needs a MySpace site fast. There is a YA Lit group on there too for great networking. If you need design help - ask a teen!

I did 9 trainings on how to make a great MySpace site while highlighting Internet Safety for parents, library staff and teens this year, with lots of calls for more. This is only getting bigger.

As a sidenote, and as someone who reads about 200 teen books and at least that many adult mysteries a year - I'd love to know which 'bestselling' books anonymous thought were well written.

Stacey Cochran said...

It's not exactly the same thing, but I have started using YouTube a lot. This, to me, seems to have better marketing potential. Primarily because people get to see you in video, and that leads to reader familiarity and comfortability. One single video that I uploaded two months ago has had over 1700 views, 9 comments, 13 ratings.

With editing software, I'm able to list my website URL staceycochran.com in the bottom left hand corner of every video. I've noticed a bump in website traffic the past two months.

There's also potential for viral marketing by doing interviews with authors. I've done three so far in the past month. One author sent his interview to an email list with over 500 people. Nearly half of those 500 people watched the interview.

Another author that I did an interview with, now has the interview posted prominently on his home page of his website.

Anonymous said...

I think I know who you are now, Anon. We've had this discussion before, no? :)

ActuallY, no. I'm someone who likes you and respects you a great deal. Personally, I'd like to see you spend less time shouting and more time writing kick-ass books. Why not write 6 in three years instead of 3? Lots of books on the shelves of stores are the best advertisement of all. Write lots of quality books and readers will find them, even if you do no shouting at all. Phrased differently, don't underestimate the savy of readers and don't overestimate the effect of shouting.

ec said...

I decided to take JAK's advice and get involved with MySpace, but I haven't quite decided what use to make of it. At present, I'm inviting only those people who've included my books in their list of favorites. This might be preaching to the converted, but it's also a way to pass along news about upcoming books and new projects to people who are likely to purchase those books.

As time goes on, I might try to expand in an effort to introduce new books to potential readers--a necessary step, as some of the projects in the pipeline had a different target audience.

It's going to take a while for me to figure this thing out. Broadcasting invitations to other authors' Friends lists might indeed be a good strategy, but it's not one I'm comfortable with.

Anonymous said...

My wife (www.taraklein.com) is a relatively new member of MySpace, but she's a voracious user. She plays cello in an indie band here in Cleveland called Unsparing Sea, and by making other music contacts in the area, she's been able to promote her shows using MySpace. She posts upcoming gigs, links to her other band members' websites and MySpace profiles, and seeks out other musicians and indie-music lovers. These contacts lead to more people showing up at shows (local support is where it all starts, especially with indie-groups), and that leads to more fans.

I'm sure Tara is still learning new ways to make contacts and increase her network, but she has already found MySpace to be a great resource for spreading the word. I think writers can do the same, if, like you've suggested, we're smart about HOW we use MySpace.

Anonymous said...

Oh good Lord...sorry for all the reposts--Blogger wasn't posting my comment, and the page wouldn't load, but it must have gone through anyway. Again, my apologies for the multiple posts!

Anonymous said...

Joe, I just found your MySpace post and read it with great interest, since I just posted a similar view of MySpace as book promotion on my Scary Parent blog. Your post wins. Especially the tips of powerloading friend requests, which I didn't even know existed. The awesomely salty comment gallery is just the icing on the cake. I didn't know this blog existed yesterday but rest assured I'll be checking in from now on. Oh yeah, and writing a book in a month rocks. If I could write one in a day, I'd do it.

Your new best friend in the virtual world,

Joe

S. W. Vaughn said...

Coming late to the party as usual, I see.

Love the info about MySpace. I have eleven friends! Whee! But one of them is Barry Eisler... (huge woot!)

Now that I have finally figured out how to add friends, perhaps I can be your 831st MySpace friend. And I call dibs on the We Love JA Konrath blog.

Also, thank you for the comment that breaks down how "fast" you have to write to finish a novel in a month. I feel far more motivated now. Seriously... I think maybe I won't give up trying after all (different than giving up writing, which I can't). So thanks.

John R. said...

I agree.

That's why bulk messages shouldn't be used to sell. In fact, MySpace, websites, and blogs should NOT be used to sell.

They should be used to entertain and inform.


They - and the auto friend-adder you suggest people use - also break MySpace's terms of service, which specifically prohibit "any automated use of the system, such as using scripts to add friends or send comments or messages". The TOS also allows - though I've never heard it being applied - MySpace to fine you quite heavily for sending bulk unsolicited communications of any kind through its service.

Tom Schreck said...

The Myspace stuff is a little baffling.

Is there any marketing advantage to having a zillion friends when you can join groups with a zillion members?

Both will allow you to get the word out to many members at once...

Help me if I'm missing something

Christine said...

Sigh. I succumbed to the MySpace today. Not even reading your blog entry, just decided that it was time. I caved.

I saw your MySpace, took a peek to get an idea of what I want to do with it.

It's not much yet, I'm still working on it, but thanks for the tips. Figuring that much of my target audience is probably already on MySpace, it'd be stupid for me NOT to have one.

Now I need some friends. I have to spend more time there and make it up nice. I need to figure out how to change the background color, add pics to the profile, etc...

Oh, and if any of out there you want, I'll take any friends I can get :)

www.myspace.com/christinenorris

Anonymous said...

I went on MySpace as a strategic move as an author, not to meet friends with similar interests and reconnecting with old classmates...

...and what I find I like most about MySpace is meeting friends with similar interests and reconnecting with old classmates.

Why:

*There is so much 'junk' sent to me as MySpace bulletins I don't read them at all anymore. I imagine this is true of most MySpacers.

*Most of the "messages" that arrive in my box are "Deleted because this profile no longer exists"(because the user is a spammer, and got his/her account deleted)before I even read them. Again-I am sure that most MySpace users are the same.

*There are 4 MySpace blogs that I read. One is my sister's, one is an old friend's, and two are blogs about two different special interests not related to writing. Time is so precious, and I just can't pay attention to all my "friends" profiles, or even most of them. Half of them might be spammers for all I know.

I'm still glad to be on MySpace, and I still blog there once in awhile and conduct author interviews there and send out bulletins about them... but I stay on MySpace for the reasons I listed above-not because it is doing anything for me as an author. Your mileage may vary...

Christine said...

Yeah, and I'm thinking of getting out just as quick again.

I was only there a couple of hours before some bozo hacked the site and infected everyone who clicks on certain forum threads (looking for help!) and changes their account to a filmaker one, with NO WAY of changing it back.

The hacker has been there at least three times in the times I've looked today, spreading the worm. The only cure so far is to delete your account and start over.

And I'm finding it's not very user-friendly, like Livejournal.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to use Myspace I recommend the following:

Firefox (NOT Internet Explorer)
The NoScript extension (Prevents all javascript unless you permit it.)
The Greasemonkey extension with the Myspace media remover script.

Only then does Myspace become useable. And safe(r). The only other useful tool would be something to suppress eye-watering colour schemes and background images.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Okay, so I downloaded Badder Adder and started it up. As of yesterday, I had 127,000 friends and the thing won't stop. It's out of control.

I keep trying to shut it off, but it keeps inviting and inviting and I'm worried that my house just isn't big enough to accommodate all these people -- I mean, I only have SO much coffee and pie -- and, Joe, it's all your fault.

Help me.

Anonymous said...

MySpace would be a more effective tool for writers if writers would learn to code their pages properly.

I have a MySpace page, and instead of fancying it up with graphics, I left it basic, because I want it to be readable. I want people to notice at a glance what I'm about.

If the idea is to be read, I have to ask the writer with the blinding layout - why layer your page over an image that all but drowns out the words. I can think of several writers who have pages that are either completely unreadable or so obnoxious, bothering to see what they write about is a compeltely hassle.

If marketing is all about content, then that has to include personal pages like MySpace.

Lynda Hilburn said...

Wow. I'm so glad I found your blog! I resisted My Space for a long time because I thought it was a kid thing. I couldn't see how it would benefit me (in any of my businesses). I actually signed up a while back, and -- as usually happens with computer stuff -- my brain froze as I tried to figure out how to do ANYTHING with it. Plus, I started getting weird "friend" requests from men from foreign countries wanting to expand the definition of "friend." Anyway, I do think most marketing is good marketing, so I'll go back and give it another shot. I just signed with a medium-sized pub for my first urban fantasy (vampire) novel (I've sold shorts to epubs) and am so glad you write about the very things I need to learn! Thanks so much!

Caryn said...

BE CAREFUL! As far as I know, it is against MySpace policy to use ANY kind of friend adder products. Any of them.

I would not recommend that you be advertising here that you are doing that or someone with a grudge (like a disgruntled commenter) could report you to Myspace. They could ban you and close your account, and boom, you've lost all of your hard work.

I only found this out when I went looking for such a product and googling "myspace add friends" or "myspace post multiple comments" and in my results was one of the myspace help forums where people were asking how they could get such software, and were pointed to the ToS.

I would also urge people to take a look at Facebook. They've opened it up to everyone right now. The look is leaner and cleaner, the demographics more likely to skew to people who might actually read a book, and you can create a Facebook group to discuss your books.

At least that's what I'd do. But I'd also take it door-to-door if that's what it would take, too. (Or on the subway, like the guy I saw on the A train this morning.)

Jeanne said...

Hi.

Just wanted to say thanks for all the great marketing info. I had been totally baffled about how an author could use MySpace for marketing, and a lot of the other topics you've covered. Great stuff--and I may even buy one of your books even though I don't usually read mysteries. *grins*

J. R. Tomlin