I used to know a guy who defined the word expert this way: an ex is a has-been and a spurt is a drip under pressure. These days, it seems you can’t swing a cat without hitting an expert upside the head. And it doesn’t matter what field you’re talking about, either. Just go to the self-help shelf of your local bookstore and you’ll find “experts” on everything from positive thinking to how to lose weight, and writing is no exception (though those books will likely be on a different shelf; apparently we writers don’t rank with other people; or maybe we’re just special).
Problem is, all these folks have differing opinions on what works, so who’s right?
Sometimes I think maybe none of them is.
Take, for instance, the idea of a platform. We’re told by all and sundry that we need a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, a Pinterest page, a Google+ account, blah and et cetera. Personally, I’m on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and I have a WordPress blog.
In fact, I have a personal Facebook page as well as an author page. I’m not sure how many friends I have on my personal page, but I have 357 likes on my author page. Not too shabby, I guess, but here’s the thing: I’m not sure if those likes have translated into any sold books or not. And if they haven’t, what good does it do (from a sales viewpoint) to have all those likes? How many books have I sold as a result of my blog? Or my network on LinkedIn?
I have no idea. And short of contacting everyone on all these lists personally, and getting answers from them, I don’t know how I could find out.
This knowledge can be important, though. Companies call it metrics, if I remember right. It’s a measure of how well their advertising and online presence is doing. Basically, what are they getting back on their investment?
It’s a good question, and for me there’s no easy answer, except to say, “I don’t know.” Or, to be more accurate, “Don’t have a clue.”
I blog once a week, and those posts are published on LinkedIn, Twitter, and my FB page (I don’t do Pinterest; that seems to be slanted toward women from what I’ve heard). That gives me four outlets for what I’m doing. I’ll admit I don’t have a lot of followers on Twitter, since I’m not one of the Kardashians (and don’t wanna be; how useless to society are you when you’re famous…for being famous?). I’m not sure how many connections I have on LinkedIn, though most of them are authors like me.
But with all this, I’ve sold less than a hundred books, and most of those I’ve sold in person. To people I already know. Or met at a book signing. I think I’ve sold maybe twenty books on Amazon, and I’m not sure how many through my publisher’s website. Probably not that many, judging by my royalty statements.
Who’s to blame?
Nobody, really. Fact is, everybody and his brother wants to be a writer these days. It’s a huge problem on Amazon (in my opinion) because anybody can self-publish on Kindle. And CreateSpace. And probably a hundred thousand other outlets. How does a reader sort the chaff from the wheat when there are so many indie authors out there and there’s no quality control? Independent presses are putting out some good stuff, I won’t argue that. But when you look at a book on Amazon, it can be hard to tell if it’s self-pub or small press…and if it’s any good in either case. Editors are people too. They can let some crap get through. God knows it happens enough at the major presses.
Mostly, on my blog posts, I try to posit a question and then give my answer. In this case, I’m simply throwing the question out there, because I don’t really have an answer. I’ve been tempted to abandon blogging and following and sharing and all that rot. Fellow author M.G. Miller did, and it doesn’t seem to have affected his sales.
So is any of this doing us any good? Can somebody show me where it is doing them some good?
I’d be interested in seeing some real numbers. Otherwise, I’ll just write blog posts for the fun of it when the mood hits me and spend time writing words that’ll pay. And the “experts” can go on being “experts.”