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.

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Myths About Writing You Need to Stop Believing

Myths About Writing You Need to Stop Believing

A great list of things that one need not take on board at all.

Novelty Revisions

1. You need years of experience to become a freelance writer.

2. A blog can’t help you get a real writing job.

3. It’s possible to write a good book on the first try.

4. It’s possible to write a perfect book, ever.

5. You have to have an agent to succeed and make money as a writer.

6. Self-publishing doesn’t count as a real publishing credit.

7. Writers struggle financially throughout the entire span of their careers.

8. If you write, your audience will discover you instantly.

9. Your ideas aren’t unique or special enough.

10. You can’t write that book/article/script because someone else has already written something similar.

11. Your family and friends will always be your biggest supporters.

12. Self-promotion is frowned upon online.

13. As long as you’re good at marketing, you can sell anything you write and it will be well-received.

14. You have to…

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World Mental Health Day: A First-Person Perspective

Hi, everyone.  It’s been a little crazy at our house; one of the feral cats we care for is indoors for medical treatment and he’s not best pleased.  Still, he’s being well-behaved and letting us put medicine in his eyes … so that’s something.  He’s already been neutered; this may be the beginning of him staying inside for the rest of his life.  We’re hopeful.

That’s not why I’m writing today, though.  I want to talk about something we are hearing about a lot in the news lately:  mental health.  Mental health issues are remarkably prevalent in our society; they may well affect you and/or a loved one.  People with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, so I’m not here to opine on the mental status of mass shooters, etc.

lpd-v-3I am here to tell you that physical illnesses like Hashimoto’s disease, with which I live, can cause depression and anxiety.  In fact, I spent 10 years being told I had clinical depression.  When it didn’t respond to any of the various medications I was given, I was told that I was “chemically resistant” and cut loose to make it on my own.  It was another 10 years or so later before I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s.  It is now standard of care to test for thyroid disorders when people present with depression-like symptoms; it wasn’t at the time.

In fairness, though, I must confess that what got me to see the doctor back in 1996 was a full-on nervous breakdown.  I was entirely non-functional; my mother came to live with me.  It was brought on by situational matters over which I had no control, and it was very real.  I wound up becoming agoraphobic, and was lucky to find a doctor at the time to help me understand how that was happening.  In short, I was having panic attacks … and because I was embarrassed and frightened by them, I would not go back to the place(s) where they happened.  I didn’t recognize or understand the connection between the anxiety and the agoraphobia until it was explained to me.

So, anyway.

I have experienced every negative side effect in the PDR whilst taking Prozac — such that I was afraid I really was losing my sanity and asked to be committed.  When the doctor asked how long I’d been having symptoms, they matched with when I started the Prozac and he had me stop.  I have been on anything from old school tricyclics to the most modern SSRIs.  I have been through group and individual therapy.  I have done cognitive behavioral therapy.  I have inside experience with the mental health system in our country, in other words.  Sadly, I have not been impressed.  I was lucky, after a long time, to get a doctor who believed in doing more than just 15-minute medication check-ins.  Because those check-ins, my friends, are the standard of care nowadays; a doctor can see four patients an hour instead of just one.  Statistically, meds only help about 13 percent of patients.

If you are one of those patients, God bless you.  I’m so glad.  Sadly, I have permanent side effects from the variety of meds that never helped me … because I needed treatment for something going wrong in my immune system, not my brain.

That’s not to say, as I mentioned above, that I never get depressed; I do, and sometimes it is just that kind of nonfunctional, hypersomniac, cyclical thoughts thing that constitutes clinical depression.  It is a known concurrent condition in people with autoimmune disease — and we know that meds don’t help in my particular case.

I don’t talk about it often, and maybe I should.  That’s how we get past stigma:  we don’t hide.  I wrote a number of essays about it several years ago, many of which appear in Les Pensées Dangereuses.  Here is a brief sample:


Some things that I learned when I had a complete nervous breakdown. (For those of you new to my blog or my life, it happened in 1996 and I still have some residual issues from it, including some agoraphobia).

Things I hadn’t thought about in a while … like “even if it’s small, do something.” By this, I mean take a small action. If the whole picture of a task is overwhelming, break it into individual steps and do the first one. Most of the time, taking the first step creates enough inertia to do some more. But at least take the first step. If that’s enough for today, that’s enough for today.

Celebrate small victories. You left the house when you felt scared to do so. You went somewhere alone: someplace you wanted to go. Rather than stay at home when you couldn’t find a companion, you went. Hurray for you!

Admit that you need some help. See a counselor (doing that). Take meds if you need ’em (primarily sleep issues; meds are periodic at this point).

Be grateful for the wonderful people who love you. Be grateful for the abundance you have; believe it or not, Mom was right when she told you there were people out there worse off than yourself. Every time I’m frustrated by the state of my house, I consider that there are people with no house over which to be frustrated … and I tackle one more little chore.

If you have too much stuff, give some of it away. Jeff and I are planning another enormous donation to the library where our friend works: a little municipal library without much in the way of fancy collections but with a great deal of gratitude for every book given to them. For us, this serves the multipurpose distinction of helping the library and its constituents, but also opening up shelf space for my horse collection … which then opens up floor space in the office/computer room.

Most of all, damn it, celebrate the things you did accomplish rather than looking around and crying about all of the stuff you didn’t get done. I’m not saying you should be like Pollyanna and play the “glad game,” but sometimes looking at everything you didn’t do makes it harder to get up and do some more.

Music Monday: Viva Las Vegas Edition

Hi, everyone.  I just made reservations yesterday for Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend 2018.  I’ve never attended the event, but it looks like a lot of fun.  The main reason I’m going is two musical acts:  Duane Eddy and Jerry Lee Lewis.  A friend told me she thought I’d also enjoy Narvel Felts, so I looked him up … and she’s right.  Here’s a little something from each of those three artists.

4 Reasons to Visit your Novel’s Location

4 Reasons to Visit your Novel’s Location

I wholeheartedly concur. There is something about being able to put boots on the ground (when means are available to do so) that enriches a story.

Uninspired Writers

Good morning writers and a happy Sunday to you. I am a bit behind with this weeks post and have usually written and posted it a few hours earlier. However, I am sleepy and a little poorly, so I am only just getting around to it.

Today, I’d like to focus on reasons you should visit the location in which your novel is set. Yesterday, I went to London with the sole purpose of researching the areas my character’s live, work and meet their fate…I visited two years ago, when I was in the early stages of planning my novel. I had decided little more than it was to begin with a murder set in Battersea Park. Since that first visit I have finished my first draft and am set to begin editing. I decided not only to revisit Battersea Park, but also some new areas that had cropped up…

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