Thursday, January 30, 2014

Social Media Marketing Part 1

This past November (2013), I completed an online social media marketing course offered by my local community college through Education to Go (Ed2Go). I’ve made reference to this learning source over the years on both my website and in these blog posts. For you struggling self-publishers out there with empty pockets, shallow pockets, or no darn pockets, I highly recommend learning to do many of the otherwise cost-prohibitive tasks yourself. Those would include typesetting, website design, cover design, and ebook formatting for starters. Unless you’re publishing only one book, purchasing good typesetting and graphic design software such as Quark or Adobe Indesign will pay for itself in just a couple of books. Granted, you don’t need a typography program if you intend to publish only digitally, but you still need to format a good-looking ebook. At the very minimum learn “.html” formatting (hypertext markup language) and download a free copy of the word editor program Notepad++

I learned the bare minimums of .html years ago by taking a “Create Your Own Website” course through Ed2Go. Later I took a course on cascading style sheets (CSS) from the same source. I intended to upgrade my website using CSS, but I still haven’t gotten around to it. I did, however, grasp enough CSS to incorporate it into the format of my Kindle books. All other formats for my digital books are produced by Smashwords. Smashwords also distributes them. But creating the physical book (or the digital book) is only half the equation, and with that I return to where I started this post—book marketing.

Last fall, I carved out time and eighty-nine bucks and enrolled in “Using Social Media in Business.” I’d been looking at the course syllabus for over a year, and with the craft-fair season winding down, I decided to go for it.
Note: From the start, my primary sales outlet has been the “craft fair.” This was the case before there was an Ingram-owned Lightning Source (LSI) print-on-demand printer and its accompanying promise of distribution. Craft fairs are ubiquitous, most relatively cheap, and they take me to the nooks and crannies of my beloved Mississippi, where I reaffirm that, yes, the South is alive and well. But despite the fact I meet with a generally favorable audience, that audience is limited in number, and depending on the distance from home, nightly accommodations, gas, and dining out sometimes nullify my sales. Coming out in the black or not, each fair’s expenses take a bite out of profits. On top of that, I have to load and unload a tent and tables and books and deal with the fickleness of the weather. Those factors produce wear and tear on a woman passing (all too quickly) into her golden years. Selling via craft shows is a tough row to hoe.
I realized some time ago that to reach a national audience, maybe even an international one, I needed to take advantage of the online marketplace. Reaching out to/or diving into this potential market is applicable to both my physical book as well as the digital version, but I do believe the digital format holds the greatest potential for sales over the internet. It’s just so easy to find and download a book to a reader. The effort can be accomplished in seconds, and ebooks, in most cases, are significantly cheaper than their paper counterparts.

So, from a basic website highlighting Loblolly Writer’s House, Charlsie Russell, and my first book, The Devil’s Bastard, seven plus years ago and a link to my Amazon Advantage Page where readers could purchase my paperback book, I ventured into digital editions with the appropriate links to online stores where readers could, if they desired, purchase my digital books.

Not sure what to do next, I went back to writing my next book. You can guess that not much happened—except for a new book to sell at craft fairs and subsequently put in digital format for upload and..., well, you know the drill. Now, enter the blog rage. I paid only cursory heed, unconvinced my time would be well spent putting forth opinions on anything folks would find remotely of interest. Okay, I had learned some stuff about self-publishing, and I’d listened for the past forty years to an increasing montage of liberals and the ignorant bash the South, their outrages becoming less and less congruous with historical fact, primarily because they neither know nor are they interested in history. [If you're looking for some sort of mutual compatibility between those two, stop. They're two different subjects, but both dear to my heart.] Maybe I could contribute something others would like to read. Not all folks mind you, but some, and that same “some” might like the kind of books I write.

With few sales garnered via Amazon and my website, I found an Ed2Go blog course that led me through the building of a blog on Google’s Blogger (that’s what you’re reading here). Then I got wind of a new ploy—tying Twitter to my blog and driving like-minded followers to first the blog and from there to my books. Proselytes professed to have made millions! I never believed I’d make millions, but I did believe I might find a readership.

More on my social media marketing strategy next week.

Thanks for reading,