Experts and Platforms

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 einstein experthitting 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?

one does not simmply publish on amazon2I 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 Become-a-writerKindle. 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.”

Later,
Gil

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2 thoughts on “Experts and Platforms

  1. Madison Woods

    Gill, I had a long response typed in here to share how I’ve been using my blog, but a glitch ate it.

    Anyway, my blog website has shown proven worthiness in marketing my non-fiction books.Thing is, there’s more to it than just writing blog posts. I’m doing a tutorial to help fiction authors use the same process (and building my own fiction site at the same time). It’s over at http://listen.wildozark.com, if you want to see what it’s about. Mainly, it’s about creating content that answers questions (what are your books about? Write articles to address questions that have to do with your topics in your fiction). Make sure there are links to your books in those articles, with a clear connection to the topic of discussion.

    Then you have to make your articles, and your website, accessible to the search engines – mainly Google. When you’re able to see what brings people to your site by finding out what search phrases bring them there, you can tailor your articles to be more specific. It’s a long process and may take up to a year to begin seeing real influence. But your site is a tool and you just have to learn which things work best to get the results from it you want. Hardly anyone comments on my blog. But in the last year I’ve watched it grow in ranking on my niche topic from almost nothing to more than 500 actual readers per day (and I know they’re actual readers because I can see where they land and where they go and how long they stay on site through monitoring those metrics you mentioned.

    Most importantly, I can see when they leave my site for my Amazon page or the pages in my online shop where I have articles and books for sale and giveaway. I can also see that more than 60% of those visitors are coming directly from Google because of questions they’d asked that my blog answered, but the only reason they found it was because I used the tools that Google supplies to us to make that more easily done (Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools).

    Anyway, I hope that helps restore a little of your motivation to keep your website/blog alive and to try thinking of it as a tool that you just need to learn to master.

    I’m not certain these techniques will translate for fiction they way they do for non, but I’m betting they will. It’s going to take me about a year to prove it, though and it would help if I actually had a novel ready to sell, lol. I have non-fiction books that I published, one in January and one in April and sales on those have picked up quite a bit since I learned these methods.

    Reply
    1. gilmiller Post author

      Thanks. I’ll look into these things. For more, it’s like I’m standing on a mountain, and I can see the other mountain I need to get to. Problem is, there’s this huge valley in between, and it’s shrouded in fog worn a few bare trees reading up through it like they’re trying to get me lol.

      Reply

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