Indie Authoring: Art or Business?

I’ve heard a few indie authors over the years claim they are artists. Be careful, because when an author makes a statement like that, the word “artist” may denote a few veiled meanings. For example:

I am an artist and therefore

 …I may break conventional rules.

Sometimes indie authors think poor editing and grammar make them an artist working outside of the box, thumbing their noses at the bleakness of conformity. Wrong! A lack of editing and grammar means that as a communicator, you’re only contributing to the dreaded “Indie Author Stigma” and nothing else.

books

Photo by Megan used under CC License

The craftsmanship of the product that bears your name must be as good (if not better) than what the traditional publishing industry can produce. It’s a fine standard and it should be adhered to and strived for at all times.

I love it when authors excuse their lack of standards by comparing themselves to Picasso. Well, I hate to break the news, but Picasso paid attention to many standards. He used paint and applied it to a canvas. If he wanted green paint, he had to mix yellow and blue. He followed formulas concerning composition and color schemes. If I’m not mistaken, Da Vinci did all of that as well.

…I am unsullied by the pursuit of profit.

Now that’s a big fat lie! Like any other artist, we all seek an audience. And the only way to reach an audience is to sell your material. Many blogs discuss Author Branding and similar marketing concepts. Let’s face it, we’re all business competitors in this new vibrant field.

This leads to another potential problem: free downloads. An absolutely foolish thing to do that gets right under my skin. The only thing achieved by a free download is that the author has just told the whole world that the value of his creation is zero. Now there are legitimate reasons for putting free material out there – fan fiction for one, since you can’t legally profit from it. Or perhaps you want to do a promotion for a period, or put out a short story to get your name known.  But for the most part, making your work free is not the best idea.

…my work is an honest reflection of my world view and wasn’t generated by a marketing computer.

Ding! Ding! Ding! This is where the world of indie publishing and traditional publishing (thankfully) split apart. An indie author can explore themes and characterizations that traditional publishers shy away from.

The world of traditional publishing is a business. They will only invest the cogs of their machine into something based on a proven formula. They’re only hedging their bets for a payoff, and why shouldn’t they operate from that standpoint? They’re a business, making business decisions for the sole purpose of generating sales and profit.

This is the reason why most mass produced entertainment is nothing but a huge steaming pile of banal nonsense churned out for maximum appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Therefore, if you’ve got a great story about a teenage prostitute who gets addicted to drugs, and is then saved by a store front group of revivalist Christians, and from that group of Christians she finds a boyfriend, and they don’t have sex until after they’re married, you won’t be published traditionally.

However, if you make your Main Character a vampire, give her a zombie boyfriend love interest, who she met at an illegal vampire / zombie orgy, and of course set the story in a future post-apocalyptic dystopian society, you’ll have a better shot at a publishing contract.

So yes, indie writing can offer a freedom of expression and creativity that is unmatched anywhere.  However, to be successful, one must also follow the established rules of the trade.  So in my view, it’s really a mix of art and science.  What are your thoughts?

Synchronicity in Surreal Advertising

I just read a blog post by Kristen Lamb that calls for an end of spam advertising by Indie authors. I’m sure you’ve experienced this phenomenon on #Facebook and #Twitter. She says that we should start partaking in a new form of marketing and promotion called “Padvertising.” Since most readers are women, it should come as no surprise that Padvertising means to promote your book on panty liners.

Despite the humorous and Monty Python-esque nature of the idea, reading it brought back a memory.

You can’t see me typing away on my keyboard, but I have placed a hand on the Bible and promise to tell the whole truth.

Urinal1

Photo by Andre Chinn Used under CC License

One day in January 2001 I was waiting for my girlfriend to arrive at Penn Station in NYC. She was a total nympho and I was eagerly anticipating a week of debauchery with her (see, I promised to tell the truth). While waiting for her train to arrive, and after two or three cups of coffee, I needed to relieve the old bladder.

I went into the men’s room and approached the urinal, and boy was I surprised at what I saw. On the plastic screen inside the urinal was an advertisement. I do not remember the name of the investment firm or the phone number, but I do remember the rest of the ad.

“Stop pissing your money away! Call Johnson Investments (212) 555-1234”

There I was, chuckling and snorting while standing at a urinal in a public men’s room. Luckily nobody punched me. Thanks, Kristen, for helping me to dredge up this memory.

So what’s the most oddball / comical form of advertising that you’ve ever seen?

WordPress Stats: Seeing is Believing

In a previous post called “The Blog, the Tweet, and the Facebook Page,” I mentioned that creating a relationship with other bloggers is a must. I came to that conclusion based upon the behavior of those who followed me on various social media outlets. I also mentioned that I really didn’t push or spend a lot of time on #Facebook. Also, when it comes to blog stats, I usually only checked the “out-clicks” to see how many people were exiting my #blog by going to my Amazon, Nook, or Smashwords.

FB

My Social Network by Luc Legay used under CC License

But I had a jaw-dropping revelation when I looked into my WordPress stats the other day. Facebook was the source for the most referrers, i.e. where someone was when they decided to click into my blog. The second was Search Engines, then Google+ and Twitter. Why are these stats surprising? Because I usually spend the most time promoting my blog on Google+ and Twitter. When I thought about it, it didn’t take long to figure out why this happened. I use Facebook in the same way that I blog, taking the time to visit other pages and leave commentary rather than promoting my own stuff.

Let me be clear for a second, I am not a spammer (and never have been), on Google+ and Twitter. However, when I look back at all of my tweets and Google+ posts, most of them were promotional. I think it’s time to switch gears and use the rest of social media in the same way as I’ve been using Facebook and blogging.

You may experience the same if you go into your WordPress bar graph (site stats for last 48 hours), then look at the referrer’s box and click summaries. You can view your referrers for different time periods as well.

O.K. now that you’ve looked, what did you find out about your stats?

Caution: Automated Tweets Can Make You Look Like a Twit

On January 28, 2014, President Obama delivered his State of the Union speech. The Twitterverse exploded with commentary from people representing every possible moniker in the political spectrum, tweeting after every major point. The pros, the cons, the accusers, and the supporters all put in their $2.22 (hey, inflation).  And the scrolling screen looked something like this (The following conversation is fictitious.  Any similarities to actual names or tweets is purely coincidental)….

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Republicant1 @rino
I noticed that the #POTUS hasn’t mentioned Obamacare #SOTU

Dumbocrat1 @moron
@rino  Why should the #POTUS mention it. The ACA website is fine now #SOTU

Republicant2 @conserve
@moron @rino Because #POTUS won’t remind anyone during  #SOTU how he bypassed the Constitution

Author1 @wannabe
Buy my book now! – The Three Little Violent Pigs – #Nook  #Kindle #ebook wp.linklink1

TeaParty1 @angryvoter
Will the usurper in chief #POTUS ever end? This is a long #SOTU

Republicant1 @rino
@angryvoter  #POTUS Usurper and liar!

Dumbocrat2 @libtard
@angryvoter @rino Can’t call #POTUS an usurper. He was legally elected twice.

Author2 @lovewrite
Another 5* #Amazon review for my romance novel – How I’d Love to Fall in Love.  Buy it now! wp.link2linky  #author #write

TeaParty1 @angryvote
@libtard You call that farce an election!?

Author3 @Hackysack
New spellbinding #thriller – Get Out of the Bathroom and Give Someone Else a Chance.  Available Now!  wp.4linklink3

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Are you getting the picture? When tweeters are conversing and debating a major live event, the book promotions are incredibly non-sequitur. The authors were either using a bot or just not paying attention, and it showed in a bad way. Do you honestly think anyone bought their books based on those tweets?

I know at least one person who’s bought one of my stories because I don’t tweet book promotions every few minutes.  For all the new authors out there, yes, Twitter can be a powerful tool, but only if you use it right.  Take part in discussions, and have something interesting to say about things other than your work.  It’ll pay off.

The Blog, the Tweet, and the Facebook Page

Building an author platform can be a difficult and painstaking undertaking. Chances are your writing time will be greatly sacrificed. However, blogging, tweeting, and updating your Facebook page does constitute writing, and does generate readers. Therefore, it is time well spent. I’ve noticed certain patterns emerging as I’ve began building my own platform.

Blog reciprocation has the highest ranking. When I hit the Like and Subscribe buttons or drop a comment on someone else’s blog, they generally reciprocate by doing the same on mine. Of course that only happens when the initial contact is done through blogging. If the initial contact happens through Twitter, full reciprocation doesn’t usually occur.

When someone follows me on Twitter, I make it my business to follow back, drop a tweet, visit their Facebook page and their blog. But the Twitter reciprocation rate is pretty low. I’d say about 1 out of every 35 who I make contact with visit my blog or Facebook page.

Twitter returns don’t seem that bad when compared to Facebook. I must say that my Facebook page is pretty much dead space most of the time. Although I really haven’t been “pushing” over there either.

In the same order up to now, The Blog, The Tweet, and The Facebook Page have become my own version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

How are you doing with your platform experience?  Any tips you’d like to share?