Wednesday, November 15, 2017

When You're An Author, The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease

There is a complaint I've fielded many times, and it comes in a pretty wide variety. Sometimes it's, "Why are you always posting your stuff in this group? Why don't you go start your own page?!" Other times it's, "Dude, stop spamming your Patreon. If you've gotta beg for money, maybe you should go get a real job!" Every now and again it's, "Hey, just so you know, I blocked all your ads to be sure you don't get paid when I look at your content."

Boiled down, the most basic form of the complaint is, "Shut up!"

Generally speaking, I agree with all the folks who complain about how often I have to get up on a soap box to talk about what I do. Believe me, I would absolutely adore having a career successful enough that there was a legion of fans waiting with bated breath for my latest release so they could run off to social media and tell all their friends about how amazing my work was. Because if I had a following so big that everything I put out got tens of thousands of views, and I had a few thousand bucks rolling in every month from Patreon, believe me, I would just quietly work while the audience did the hard work of marketing for me.

And you know, every now and again that happens. Sometimes I'll write a post, and before I can pop over to a Facebook group to share it, someone else has already started a discussion. One time I woke up, ready to tell folks about a new book release, and I found someone had already tagged me, and there were half a dozen congratulations. But that isn't normal. Most of the time I have to go over to my social media pages, get up on my box, and shout as loud as I can in a digital medium to persuade someone in the crowd to come over and see all this work I'm doing.

Why do I have to do that? Well...

Algorithms Suck, And You Have To Repeat Yourself

Real talk, here. I've got about 665 followers on my Facebook page at time of writing. Not a lot, but not bad for an Internet nobody. Now, this is a group of people who have chosen to follow my page of their own free will. By clicking the follow button, they have told Facebook they are interested in what I have to say. So you'd think that, when I make a post there, my followers would see it.

Ah my sweet Summer child. You know not what lurks in the wastes of social media.
It's possible that's how Facebook worked, in the long ago and far away. But today, if I make a post on my author page, my reach is severely limited. An average post will reach between 74 and 150 people. A popular post, one where my followers actually see, like, comment, and share what I put up, might reach as many as 400 people. Once I even reached 500, but that was an occasion so rare that I can still specifically recall it.

So, despite having a couple hundred followers, an average post from me might show up on 100 of their news feeds. Using the rule of 10 percent, only about ten of those followers will interact with that post. That is a very small drop in a very big bucket. So I have to post to my personal page, to group pages, to Reddit, to Google +, to Tumblr, to Twitter, and to anywhere else I can find.

Unfortunately, if you want to get noticed, you've got to put your message in as many places as you can reach, because only a fraction of the people are going to see it. And of those who see it, only a fraction of them are going to interact with it.

The Squeaky Wheel Really Does Get The Grease, Though

For some people, a post is only spam when the person repeats the same thing every day. For others it's when someone posts more than once a week. And for a rather vocal minority, any time a person posts about their own work at all, it should be labeled as spam.

You can't please everyone, though, and you shouldn't bother trying to. Instead, make sure that you set your speaking platform up in such a way that you're in compliance with a group's promotion rules, and do your best to get noticed. Give a good speech, provide a good product, and if someone wants to start taking shots at you, be professional. If you do that, I promise that you will start to find an audience. Not only that, but if you ask the people interacting with your content to do something, there's a better than average chance they'll do it.

Which, really, is pretty good odds.
Try it. Ask people to share this post if they liked it. Ask them to follow you on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter if they like what you're doing. And ask them to become patrons by going to your Patreon page to donate at least $1 a month.

Most importantly, though, you have to keep asking. Because, as I mentioned before, you're going to miss a lot of people on any given sweep. But people who didn't see your first request might see the second, or the third, or the fourth. If you keep squeaking, sooner or later folks are going to grease you up. Especially when it's clear they can't shut you up.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing. Just remember, when people start trying to shout you down, keep your voice raised. Someone's hearing you.

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