Wednesday, May 22, 2013
I am all for the usage of silly nonsensical hashtags on Twitter. Heck, I make them up all the time just based on whatever conversation I'm involved in.
But those fun and quirky ones aren't the ones I'm referring to. When using hashtags as a marketing tool, to create a trend or generate buzz, it's best to make sure that hashtag isn't used for something else first. Something less than pleasant. Something you don't want your marketing campaign to be associated with.
While you can't control what other people do with the hashtags, you can get a sense of what types of items are tagged by running a search. And if that search pulls up shocking tweets and images, ones you don't want associated with your campaign, it's best to find an alternative tag.
Because you don't want followers of that hashtag to be met with something that will make them want to rip out their own eyes. Yes, that happened to me this morning.
While I don't want to draw attention to the horrifying tag, as it does result in images that may be offensive, I will just say that the particular hashtag did not pull up a stream of tweets about bookish things. Even though there may have been bookish items further down the list - I didn't see any, but didn't want to keep reading/following that timeline - that particular tag pulled up porn. Graphic. Shocking. And not at all what I was expecting.
And it would for anyone who wanted to follow that particular tag. The bookish items are/were clearly the minority. They would never become the trend when the alternative is pornography.
I can only imagine the surprise by readers young, not so young, not young at all, who wanted to check out tweets based on that hashtag. Though maybe I'm the only clueless tweeter who would never have anticipated a deluge of images that were particularly disturbing to me before I enjoyed my first cup of coffee this morning.
And even if, for some reason, one found them pleasant rather than disturbing - who am I to judge? - these images certainly shouldn't be associated with a twitter campaign to promote young adult literature.
And if one were to accidentally click the hashtag in their timeline instead of a link taking them to the post being promoted, they'd be met with the same images.
Which, I have no doubt, was not the intent.
So, before adding in a hashtag to a marketing campaign, it's best to be on the safe side and check out what might result if that tag were used. Twitter is still a fairly unregulated environment and there is no filter that I'm aware of that will prevent the X-rated items from mixing together with those that are G-rated.
And no, I'm not trying to be the morality police with this ramble. I'm not trying to say what someone should or shouldn't do. But in marketing and promotions I can imagine you'd want to be effective with your efforts and avoid unintended consequences. So this is just a heads up for those who add hashtags to Tweet a Message option.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
There seems to be this recent trend in the book blogosphere to become a tour service provider. Some do it for pay, others do it for free. But it seems that as of late more and more people are doing it. Heck, Jaime and I are doing it.
But most of us aren't claiming to be experts. We're taking the knowledge we've learned from being around for awhile, we're adding in a touch of common sense, and using our already-developed followers to help promote books and authors. Something we've done on our blogs for months or years.
Lately, however, I've noticed more and more people offering publicity services. Services that extend beyond mere promotional tours. These services include marketing and branding strategy in addition to promotional services.
And it begs the question, what are their credentials? As a few of these freelance publicists don't list their experience on their websites and they don't list their affiliations with the AMA (American Marketing Association) or other professional organizations like the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America).
And maybe you don't have to be an "expert." But, to me, if one is offering branding and marketing strategy, versus simply offering help with promotions, they should.
The strategy one adopts to get themselves out there in the world is something not to be taken lightly. One's "brand" is something that can't easily be changed if it doesn't work. The taint of a poorly marketed, poorly branded "product" can live forever in people's minds. The minds of people who are potential "customers" for that "product."
Offering, for pay, the ability to guide an author into this already crowded landscape by helping them build their brand, seems like something best left to the experts. A wrong first step can set an author back for years, if not forever.
I'm no expert, but it seems to me that offering more than mere promotions implies a level of expertise in those areas. And while a degree may not be required, work experience - something more than being an experienced blogger - seems like it would be a must.
Professional organizations like the PRSA talk about codes of responsibility and ethics. So it would seem to me that being in publicity has certain standards that must be met. And without properly knowing the field, hanging out one's shingle and offering public relations services is risky.
Further, continuing to blog and offering public relations services can lead to conflicts of interest that would violate ethical codes in that industry.
There are also disclosure requirements when being paid as a public relations professional. And using blogger social media networks to promote paid publicity efforts without disclosing that connection, could lead to all sorts of conflicts, I can imagine.
Branding experts are paid a lot of money to develop brands. When a brand fails, they can be costly at best and detrimental to the brand at worst. So putting one's brand in someone's hands who doesn't have either a background or education in it, sounds scary.
You only get one shot to make a good first impression. And adopting a strategy that turns out to be an "epic fail" will leave a lasting impression.
But what recourse does one have if they put their trust in someone without proper credentials? How does one make a new first impression?
And, as a blogger, how can one separate one's publicity activities from their blogging activities so completely so as not to violate any ethical rules and regulations or disclosure requirements or avoid conflicts of interest?
I have no idea. But, to me, it seems to great a risk for either party.
But maybe you know? Do you have to be an expert to offer marketing and branding strategy advice?
Aside from book tour promotions - paid or unpaid - does one need some kind of a degree or professional affiliation to call oneself a pr?
Does a person opening up their publicity business need to separate themselves so completely from their blogging that any hint of impropriety is avoided? Can they continue to use the tools and resources and connections at their disposal from their blogs for use in their publicity business?
If someone offers to help with strategy versus promotion, does that automatically imply a level of expertise that would elevate them to a higher standard? Or can anyone offer those services?
Should a freelance publicist follow the guidelines for that industry?
Do you need to display your credentials, affiliations, potential conflicts on your pr website?
And just out of curiosity, if you are simply offering paid promotional services, are there any requirements there? What about unpaid promotions?
I'd love your thoughts!
Some sites/articles of interest:
Public Relations Society of America (http://www.prsa.org)
An explanation of Public Relations on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_relations)
Some major branding fails on Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/marketshare/2012/06/15/jc-penneys-epic-rebranding-fail/)
Just search marketing and branding strategies on Google to learn more about how challenging it can be to successfully develop and build a brand.
Can just anyone be successful?
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Long before Fiktshun was even a concept I posted opinion/discussion posts online. I've always had opinions about everything. And I loved to share those opinions and thoughts with anyone who would listen.
So when Fiktshun version one started up in May 2010 and even after it rebooted in November 2010 I always planned on including my op-ed-style articles on the blog. I think that first calendar year I had a ton, but as time has passed they've grown fewer and farther between.
In part it's that I've discussed many of the topics already and revisiting them isn't wholly appealing. And in part it's that there are so many blogs out there with discussion posts these days that the topics are already being discussed by those more articulate than I.
Aside from my own take - which is not necessarily any different from those others - I really don't feel like I have much to add to the discussion. And so my Random Thoughts posts have decreased in number almost to the point where I'm debating stopping them altogether.
I've espoused my views about positive and negative reviews, ratings, drama, authors and bloggers, bookstores, eReaders, print books, fictional characters, and on. I'm not sure what there is left to talk about.
While I have had one idea brewing for the past couple of weeks I'm sure it's one that's a "been there done that" topic and I'm loathe to even put it out there.
It's not as if I've had many "empty" days on the blog where I would need a discussion post to fill the gap. And it's not as if I can force an idea. The post is about the thoughts being RANDOM after all.
It's bad enough that I ramble about things here on The Annex. Having two forums to share ideas that rattle around in my brain seems a bit OTT excessive.
And the fact that half the time I feel this incredible sense of deja vu makes me feel like I should definitely be laying off the discussion posts for a bit.
Well... about books anyway.
I could always talk about having too many domains, too many blogs, too many computers, too many chairs.... Yeah. Don't ask....
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
I come from a family of creatives. Ask either of my parents to add a column of numbers up and it's very likely they would come up with two different answers.
And both of them would be wrong.
Growing up I used to think of myself as a creative, too. But as an adult I'm not entirely sure I was. I liked to draw/paint. Though I wasn't particularly good at it. I loved to design. While I could spot good design, I couldn't always make it happen for myself. And I liked to write.
Scratch that. I loved to write.
I used to create stories about anything and everything. None of them were very good. Most of them were dreadful. But having two creative parents in my corner they were encouraging. For awhile.
The road for a creative isn't an easy one. I learned that early on. My father worked in theatre and in film. And achieving success wasn't something that happened often. If at all. The number of rejections were staggering. But what was worse was the hope.
The promise that something might just be good enough. And after months or years of negotiations that possible success became just another failure in a long line of failures.
Not that I ever saw my father as a failure. He was always my hero.
But that kind of punishment year after year can leave its mark. Even if not on the person on the receiving end of that punishment.
It can affect those that witness it equally as much. If not more. Especially when they're young and impressionable.
And while I don't remember my father ever sounding discouraged - he's quite the optimist that one - I do remember the pain of rejection when it came to my mother.
She was an artist. Is an artist. She also dreamed of authoring children's books. She actually did author one. But I can remember the toll the "no" or "not interested" responses took on her.
Every time her manuscript was returned unopened or unread. Every time there was no response. Or worse yet when it was read and a generic note was included to remind her that what she submitted just wasn't good enough.
I remember how she cried.
And I remembered thinking I never wanted that to be me.
As I'm not someone who likes to admit defeat, and I'm definitely someone who hates to lose, I don't like to start things that I can't finish or won't be successful at.
And taking the difficult road with the feeblest chance at success by pursuing a creative field - writing - was not one I wanted to take.
Not after seeing the dejection. Not after seeing just how easy it was for success to slip through one's fingers. And not after seeing how hard the pursuit of dreams can be on a family.
After my parents decided their futures were best spent apart only one of my parents continued to pursue their creative dreams. The other begged, pleaded and scared me into not taking that road. They reminded me how hard it was. How tough you had to be. How lucky.
And they reminded me that I would likely be not good enough.
I gave up my dreams of becoming a writer at the ripe old age of sixteen. I decided that business was the way to be successful and happy in life. It helped that I was good with numbers... though maybe it actually hurt.
I took business courses in college and pursued a professional degree thereafter.
I took the easy road...
...or so I thought.
Because, I've never been a success in the business world. I'm sure I could have been. But it isn't where my passion lies. It never has been. It never will be. Only in blogging have I found an outlet for what little creativity I do have. It's not much, but aside from the drama, it makes me happy.
I've always found wonder in a book. I've discovered worlds and friends and joy and comfort. And yes, I've even found sorrow. And while my dream may not have been to one day become a book blogger, it gives me a sense of purpose, of accomplishment, that I haven't achieved anywhere else.
So what the heck am I saying here?
I'm saying that while the easy road may seem the most appealing - no rejection (and even if there were you don't care) and financial security - if the easy road means letting your dreams pass you by, in the long run that road isn't so easy as it may have once seemed.
Being rejected is still a better feeling than never having given it - whatever it is - a try.
A life without dreams, without hope, without passion, without happiness isn't a life worth living. Because it's not living.
Being Tom Hanks in Joe Versus the Volcano, waking up, punching the clock, living in a colorless, emotionless world, is not being a part of the world.
And while pursuing your dreams might not always be possible, having dreams is.
Do. Not. Let. Anyone. Take. Your. Dreams.
Do not let anyone scare you from going after what you want.
Do not let anyone make you feel that you aren't good enough. Because - excuse my French here - who the f**k are they?
This isn't living!
Monday, May 6, 2013
I've come to the realization that trying to blog, be social and write don't always go hand-in-hand. There just aren't enough hours in a day to work, sleep, spend time with family, read, review, write blog posts and socialize.
Even if I had just the one blog I still would find myself over my head.
So I've decided to take a week-long break from the social. Because I have a writing project that needs my attention... one that I am supposed to pass along to be edited and that I haven't yet finished.
I got myself an extension until next Monday, so that I can write the ending that I'm still warring with in my head and go back over the entire WIP and ruthlessly proofread/edit for continuity... and just plain ridiculousness.
This project will never amount to anything. That much I know. I don't consider it a gem or something worthy of being put "out there." But finishing it, getting it into the best shape it can possibly be in, is something I need to do. Because it's holding me back from being able to write anything else.
I know I've been pretty quiet already in the social sphere, and I haven't been rambling nearly as much as I used to, but I haven't felt very social or connected. Drama tends to make me run for the hills. I've been trying to reconnect with all things book-related, but it's been just way too easy to be quiet, hide in my shell and focus on reading and blogging and little else.
Hopefully after I've finished this project, which began on November 1, 2011, I will finally be able to close that chapter in my life and be able to re-focus on talking books with all the lovely people I've met through blogging.
But for now, aside from tour-related stuff for Rockstars, as I don't have any blog tours or other commitments on Fiktshun until the 14th, or random triberr or post-related tweets, I will be a bit quiet on Twitter and Facebook and may not respond to email until Monday the 13th.
Thanks so much for being patient with me and for those who choose to stick around until I'm back, thank you for sticking around. Blogging is my first priority, and being a part of the community is something I treasure, but if I don't at least give this story its conclusion, I'll feel like a complete and total failure.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
And they're off....
Okay, they're not really off. This isn't a race. Or a competition. But oh my gosh sometimes it feels like it when I head over to Amazon to post my review.
As a visual thinker, I imagine a group of reviewers watching the clock, refreshing the page, mouse pointer at the ready so that when the "Write a Customer Review" link goes live they can click that link, submit their review and achieve the coveted top spot for their review. Even if it lasts but a moment.
Then, once the reviews post, and their review begins to sink further and further down as other reviewers submit their own reviews, I imagine them fighting, clamoring, brawling to claw their way back to the top to once again hold that revered position.
Now I know that isn't the case for everyone. Probably not for most. Some bloggers who schedule their reviews so far in advance forget to post theirs on the store sites altogether. Some are happy to just post them and walk away never to think twice about review placement.
But it's those others that always manage to bring a smile to my face, cause me to roll my eyes and shake my head in wonder.
Am I missing something? Is the benefit for being on top so great that I should try to to achieve that placement? Should I ask friends and family to "helpful" my reviews every time they post? And should I "unhelpful" vote others just to boost mine?
While I don't necessarily agree with it, I do understand why authors will push the positive reviews to the top and try to bury the scathing ones.
But reviewers? Is being on top that awesome?
Perhaps those that spend the time to "unhelpful" mass-click others' reviews are those that are paid to write "fake" ones? Maybe their reviews need to be on top so that they'll get a better payday for writing them?
Who knows? Not me.
But I'm amazed that someone would take the time to down-vote reviews in the hopes that theirs will be on top. Without the lure of prize money, or accolades, I just can't imagine what holding that position offers other than the likelihood of being harassed in the comments.
And no, this ramble didn't come out of nowhere. My reminder came up last night to post my THE ETERNITY CURE review and my SWEET PERIL review. As I didn't see them actually post last night I just had to check to see that they were in fact there first thing this morning. With Amazon's random "review" processing policy, sometimes my reviews disappear into the aether.
Well they posted. And I saw that I already received an "unhelpful" vote on my TEC review. Which made me curious. (Yeah, I'm a sucker like that.)
Then I saw that five other reviewers got that same "unhelpful" vote. All for positive reviews and only one review did not receive that same attention. It, too, was positive. So I'm guessing (and it's only a guess) that it wasn't someone who despised the book and wanted to down vote all those positive reviews.
I'm guessing that it was this reviewer, the only reviewer, who didn't receive an unhelpful vote and whose review shined brightly at the top.
I still question their motivation to do such a thing. Because unless they plan on continuously down voting every review that posts, as time passes their review will sink into obscurity like every other review. In fact, as of now, it already has.
I suppose we all, at one point in time or another, seek those fifteen minutes of fame, but I just don't see Amazon as the place that will provide that.
I dunno. That's just me. I don't take Amazon reviews too seriously. I almost never read them unless I'm looking to buy tech. And my "ranking" only causes me to be spammed with unrelated book and product offers.
I don't put much stock in any helpful or unhelpful votes my reviews receive. Though I will admit that I have been reduced to tears by some of the hurtful comments.
I think I had hoped at one point of being invited to Vine but as I hadn't heard of any new invitations going out since spring 2011, I only post there because I still haven't decided whether to abandon that venue altogether.
I know this isn't my first Amazon ramble-y rant. And if I continue to post, visit, shop there, I know it won't be my last. But what about you?
Do you post your reviews on Amazon? Do you find it's more of a Wild West than Goodreads?
Do you see other reviewers jockeying for position, snarling, biting and snapping at each other to achieve the top review spot or hadn't you noticed?
Do you Amazon it or do you stay far, far away?
Monday, April 22, 2013
I am so excited that the official release day is here for DARKNESS, KINDLED, the fourth and final book in author Samantha Young's Fire Spirits series. While I'm not fully caught up with this series, now that it has come to its end I will definitely be reading all remaining books.
I hate having to wait to continue my favorite series, and after having met Ari, Charlie and most especially Jai in SMOKELESS FIRE, it killed me to have to wait for the sequel's release. Well, now that the entire series has been released I won't have to wait any longer.
And as I own all the books in this series I have zero excuses not to devour them all.
But for those of you who haven't yet discovered this awesome series by this amazing author, each of the descriptions are below. For those who have, the description for DARKNESS, KINDLED follows immediately below, along with places where you can find it online.
And if for some reason you haven't met this incredibly talented author, her pic, bio and places to find her online are also below. So be sure to check them out.
The hosts of this blast have also included a giveaway. It is shared across all the participants' stops in a common Rafflecopter. If you haven't already entered, be sure to check that out, too.
I am such a huge fan of the author and there hasn't been a single book she's written that I haven't loved. And I am thrilled to be able to share the release date news for DARKNESS, KINDLED here on the blog.
About DARKNESS, KINDLED
Author: Samantha Young
Pub. Date: April 23, 2013
Ari Johnson wishes adjusting to living with her boyfriend was her only source of excitement and anxiety. She wishes a lot of things. But then wishing was what got her here in the first place.
Ari chose to be a Guild Hunter. She wanted to hunt dangerous Jinn and destroy them before they could harm innocent people. But now that Ari is a member of The Guild, she finds herself in the impossible position of hunting her ex-best friend – human-turned-dangerous sorcerer, Charlie Creagh. As Ari struggles to come to terms with her duty, an ancient Jinn and his companion want revenge on her for using the command of the Seal against them; the White King refuses to give up on his quest to resurrect Lilif, and Asmodeus isn’t done toying with her.
When Ari can take no more, rushing to the Sultan Azazil’s side to demand of him the favor he owes her, the events she sets in motion will not only alter everyone’s lives, it will kindle a darkness that will shake the realms to their very core.
The DARKNESS, KINDLED Book Trailer
About Samantha Young
Samantha Young is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author from Stirlingshire, Scotland. She's been nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Author and Best Romance for her international bestseller ON DUBLIN STREET.
She is a 27 year old Scottish book addict that graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2009. She studied ancient and medieval history at uni, and it was in her first year there, in the middle of a classical literature lecture, that she first came up with the idea for The Tale of Lunarmorte. She’s been writing since as long as she can remember, and she writes in a number of genres including romance, paranormal, urban fantasy, fantasy, and contemporary.
She loves pulling pieces of historical fact (or mythology) and twisting it to fit my stories, and she is more than thankful her degree is being put to good use in her writing. She began self-publishing in 2011 and now writes full time.
The Other Books in the Fire Spirits Series
For the last two years Ari Johnson's life has been anything but normal, and on her 18th birthday, when her friends surprise her with a gimmick genie claiming to grant wishes, Ari discovers the truth. The tragic and strange occurrences surrounding her 16th birthday were not coincidental and her life is never going to be the same again. Ari's real parents are not normal. They are not loving. They are not human.
They are myth. They are Smokeless Fire. They are Jinn.
The White King has crossed the line, sounded the horn, sent out the wolves.
When blood is shed and life is lost the reality of Ari’s position as both hunter and prey finally sets in. It seems her father will stop at nothing to force her will to his own and distracted by Charlie’s latest mistake and her seemingly misguided attraction to Jai, Ari never thought to fear anyone else but the Jinn King.
Blindsided and attacked, Ari learns a new wolf has joined the hunt. A dark sorcerer believes he knows a way to bleed the power of the Seal and wield it as his own, and he is even less patient than The White King. The War for the Seal has only just begun… and it’s time for Ari to turn it on its head. It’s time for Ari to stop acting like the hunted.
It’s time for Ari to become the hunter.
Everything in Ari’s life until this point has been borrowed.
Her human life with a man who wasn't her real father.
A love for a boy who needed more than her to be strong.
Kisses with a Jinn who refused to do anything but lend them out in moments of weakness. And even her resolve, which seemed to fail her whenever she needed it most.
But Ari is done borrowing. She finally feels strong enough to make hunting Jinn not just a hobby to get her through her dismal situation, but to make hunting a permanent and necessary career. Her friendship with Charlie might finally make it onto real and steady ground if only she can save him from the trial on Mount Qaf. And her love for Jai could be eternal, if only she could gain control over the darkness of the Seal within her.
Ari believes all of this is doable. That finally she will truly own the relationships in her life and to a certain extent have ownership over her future. But none of that matters when it isn't up to her…
…For high in the emerald mountains of Mount Qaf, the Sultan Azazil has been keeping secrets. Even from the Jinn Kings. Secrets that will change everything… and bring Ari to the crashing realization that once again…
… she’s borrowed something that will never truly belong to her. Something that is desperate to be unleashed. Something that could destroy them all.
There are some awesome giveaways included as part of the DARKNESS, KINDLED Release Day Blast courtesy of the Hosts.
Grand Prize - An eBook set of all four books in the Fire Spirits series.
AND... Four (4) winners for an eBook copy of DARKNESS KINDLED.
Enter in the Rafflecopter below...
a Rafflecopter giveaway