Blast from the Past: Building Relationships with Fans

icon-calendarA text-only version of this article appeared in my GoodReads blog on March 25, 2011.  The lessons still apply today — despite changes to Facebook’s algorithms and Operation eBook Drop coming to an end.

If I had a subtitle, it would be: Or, Some Things I Learned Along the Way

The other day, I dropped someone from my personal Facebook page. She’s a professional author whom I knew casually from another website, and she sent me a friend request — which I accepted.

Given the way that authors tend to network, I’m sure you’re wondering why I dropped her.

One hundred percent of her posts were billboarding about where to buy her books, sent via Tweetdeck. I started to feel as though the only reason she’d invited me to be her Facebook friend was so that she would make a sale!

There are lots of ways to rock on Facebook (in fact, I took a class by that name from Molly Burke, Queen of Confidence). The main thing comes down to building relationships. So, I’m going to share some things I learned from Molly — and some I learned from trial and error — when it comes to developing relationships with your fans/readers.

1. Keep your personal Facebook and your fan page separate — and don’t post identical material in both places. Invite all of your personal friends to join your fan page, sure … but make certain you aren’t spamming folks with duplicate information. The same thing goes for your personal blog and your professional blog.

2. The audience for Twitter is different from the audience for Facebook — or your blog. The good thing about Twitter is that each tweet has its own searchable URL. I admit that I was a reluctant adopter, but I have found Twitter to be a useful plank in my platform.

3. Keep things engaging. Readers already know that you’d like them to buy your book; they don’t need constant commercials. The theory goes that the ratio of content: billboarding should be approximately 9:1. So, what can you do?

I developed regular features for my fan page. In 2010, I had Facts From My Fiction (information about historical people, places or events that were discussed in my novel), Food From My Fiction (documented period recipes) and Saturday Night Musicale (a video or recording, usually a classical piece, pertinent to a writing project).

This year, I switched it up. I have Location, Location, Location, where I share information about a place discussed in one of my books. Every Friday, I ask what people are reading over the weekend. Saturday Night Musicale occasionally turns into Saturday Night Sing-Along when I provide music and lyrics.

In between, I provide quotes of the day, links to blog posts like this one — and sometimes I let people know where to get my books.

4. Give things away. Yep — give it away. I have two free eBooks and I give the others away periodically. I participate in a couple of annual promotions, like “Read an eBook Week,” and I also give eBooks to deployed service members via Operation eBook Drop. When it comes to the promotions, I’ve learned by trial and error that it’s best to give books for free. It drives your work up the bestseller list, which gets it more attention from new readers.

I’ve also given away paperbacks in contests, donated them to charity auctions and more. It’s definitely worth the goodwill to have freebies out there.

One of Molly’s excellent suggestions is to have a freebie that people get in exchange for joining your mailing list. Well worth considering.

I say all of that to say this: you need to develop a relationship with your readers that is about more than their pocketbooks. Keep them engaged and interested, and they’ll keep coming back.


Blast from the Past: Transgender Day of Remembrance

I have a personal blog in which I write about a wide variety of things.  The President’s announcement today upset me greatly, both as an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and someone who worked for the Dept. of the Army during the days of “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.”  Good service members are harmed by discrimination like this.  I have said many times that I try hard not to be political on my author blog, but today I cannot sit quietly.  This post, from my personal blog of November 23, 2009, explains part of the reason why.

I have transgender friends.

In addition, there are some 7,000 transgender people currently serving in the US military who are now going to be discriminated against.

It is a hideous irony that the President made his discriminatory announcement on the anniversary of Executive Order 9981, which integrated the US Armed Forces in 1948.

Last night was the Transgender Remembrance Service at MCC San Jose. The names of all 147 transgendered persons murdered since the last remembrance were read aloud, and a candle lit for each one.

Reverend Mike gave an impassioned talk at the beginning of the service, talking about how many people were unnamed in the list shown here: They were unnamed because no one came forward to claim them after they died. Reverend Mike said that the reason we do this event is that we claim every one of these people as part of our family … and I concur with him. Deacon Woody also did a beautiful talk on what it was like to be transgendered, and how grateful he was to be part of our church. Reverend Sky placed the book of names on the communion table, to symbolize welcoming those who have passed to our table.

It horrifies me that such violence exists at all. This is very personal to me now, even though I have had trans friends for some time … but Misha really brought it home in a way that was visceral.

I will be speaking out about against this violence even more than I already have done, you may rest assured of that. One hundred and forty-seven people violently killed because of trying to be who they really were … triple the number from last year’s remembrance. This has to stop.


Blast from the Past: “In The Eye of The Beholder” Book Trailer

When In The Eye of The Beholder was first published in the United States, the team behind Treasureline Books made this trailer for the novel.  While the rights have since reverted to me, which means the link at the end of the video is no longer functional, the plot line and particulars remain the same.  The music is “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” performed by Ally Bain.


Branding Statements for Authors

Hi, everyone.  Back in 2011, I wrote this article on creating a branding statement.  At the time, I was very much pleased with the statement I developed:

“Books by internationally published author Sharon E. Cathcart provide discerning readers of essays, fiction and non-fiction with a powerful, truthful literary experience.”

I used a formula that amounted to product + audience + claim to develop the statement, and I think that still holds true in terms of figuring out what to say.

Over time, I realized that statement wasn’t what I wanted to use anymore.  Why?  Because your branding statement is also your elevator speech.  I had to do too much explaining after that brand statement to talk about what I wrote.  If you only have 30 seconds to tell someone what you do, that statement is far too long.  So, I looked a little deeper into what I do and, using the same formula, came up with this:

“Sharon E. Cathcart is an award-winning author of fiction featuring atypical characters.”

Crisp, succinct … and gets it all out there in less than 30 seconds.

How about you?  Do you have a brand statement as an author?  What is it?  How did you develop it?  Can you use the formula above to create one today?

Blast from the Past: Improving a Story to Death

atw80p-v2Hi, everyone.  A text-only version of this article appeared in my GoodReads blog on June 29, 2009.  The lesson on writing with care remains the same today.

The story I referenced is now entitled “Betrayed by a Kiss,” and may be found in my always-free short fiction collection, Around the World in 80 Pages.  Enjoy!

I learned a harsh lesson this month.

I entered one of my favorite short-short stories, “The Judas Kiss,” in two different competitions. It was a strong, intelligent story with a twist, and I was very proud of it. One of the decisions I made when I wrote the story was to deliberately never identify the gender of the protagonist. I thought it was a real strength of the story.

Except I wimped out before I sent it to the two contests.

woman-41201_1280I made the protagonist female, and wrote some additional information about her. In hindsight, this was detrimental to the story’s strength … and “The Judas Kiss” failed to place in either contest.

I think that constructive criticism is invaluable, but as an author I should have just left well enough alone. There is a fine line between art and a mess; a painter needs to know when to lay down the brush. The same things applies to writing, whether short-short, short story, novella or novel. Wield your pen with care.