books, indie author, indie books, indie writer, Instagram, journaling, writing

Lost in the Land of Instagram

1027191702So, a year and a half ago, I finally decided to check out this social media I had heard about so much. I was loathed to take on another account or a program and build a new following all over again. But I was told it was the land of gold if I wanted to sell books.

Wanting to boost my following, I learned quickly NOT what to do. For instance, don’t “heart” every post. Especially the ones with the pretty pictures that say, “sponsored.” You will get instantly spammed by every salesman on Instagram.

The algorithms on Instagram are quick to pick out what you “heart” or do not like, so choose wisely. Before I knew it, my feed was running a plethora of puppies, kittens, flowers, and Vikings, which was fine, but where were the readers and authors hanging out?

I learned not to instantly follow someone that followed me without checking out their profiles. Especially men. The universal pick up line is “Hello beautiful.” Really? You got to be kidding. I also learned that if the account was private and showed a smiling, older male, head for the hills.

Then I found my first “loop.” The program was challenging, but ten apps later, I learned how to design a reasonably normal-looking post. Suddenly I had an outpouring of followers. I decided I needed to create a formula for who I would and would not follow.
First, go to the profile. Second, read that profile. If it said they were an author, but all the posts were of them posing, there was a good chance they weren’t doing much writing. I’m a nice person, and I hate to be rude. But when scantily clad people started showing up on my feed, I soon learned how to block, hide, and un-follow.

Still, don’t understand the follow and un-follow thing. By my math, I should be close to the same number of who I follow and who follows me. Interesting enough, there is always about a 500 difference, usually on my side. I’m thinking, why am I following more than is following me? I have decided it doesn’t matter because in all the profiles I have visited, it seems to be an everyday thing on Instagram. The only time you will get un-followed from me is if you use crude or hateful speech or choose not to wear clothes.

The other thing puzzling to me is the push for huge followings. I understand to a site like Bookbub or a publisher; it seems you have a lot of fans. But really? How can I possibly know 10,000 followers? I can’t even begin to get to know the 1,700 followers I have now. I was raised to be polite to my acquaintances, family, and friends, but giving attention to 1,700 followers is going to be a challenge. Even if I could connect with 100 a day, it would take three weeks before I would be starting all over again and spending 3 hours a day “hearting” posts.

I have learned that while perusing a new invitation to follow if I go down through their posts and read through a few, “heart” a few, and comment on a few; they will now cycle through my feed. Because I want to be a support to that new follower, this is what I do. When they pop up in the feed and are fully clothed, I find I usually want to “heart” it.
I did try a few ads but found it to be a waste of time and money. That is where I probably picked of that odd 500 missing in action followers. They were all people who figured out, like me, to not “heart” sponsored ads.

Instagram is based on pictures, and I have found that my best images involve (can you believe this?) cute dogs, cats, flowers, and landscape. The loops I follow do a lot better if I use my pictures from the vast store I have, with a caption.

I still do not profess to be an expert with Instagram, but I have found it to be a more friendly place to visit than Facebook. Reminds me of the good old days on Facebook when you posted pictures of dogs and cats, and everyone enjoyed seeing pics of the family, but there was not the word spats that now create a hostile environment there.
So, a shout out to all 1,700 of my followers. I hope to “heart” more of you in the future. Meanwhile, I need to get back to my Instagram feed. I got a great pic of my dog I need to post. 😊

Advertisements
Amazon, book industry, books, historical romance, indie author, indie books, indie writer, Reviews, self publishing, stories, writing

An Honest Review Versus a Bad Review

Let me get straight to the point. I don’t like it when we term a book review “bad.” I think of it as someone speaking their honest opinion. I know we don’t like it when someone says the book is horrible. It doesn’t feel nice, that’s for sure. But we discount the person who was at least willing to leave a review.

I am more apt to leave a negative review than I am a positive review of something I like. It seems to be human nature to be critical. You have probably encountered a boss like that. Never compliments what you do well; only points out your faults.

Well, this isn’t Unicorn land. We wrote a book. Not everyone is going to like it period.

Now granted, there are those who seem to enjoy being mean, but that is their problem. We all can spot those reviews on products. They are pissed off at the world, and you just made them madder. But then we have an honest review. I love honest reviews.

Just as there are good writers and poor ones, so you have reviewers. Some know the right words to use, and others don’t. But that doesn’t necessarily make them bad. If you eat dessert all the time, and nothing else, you won’t be healthy for long. If you eat dirt all the time, the same thing goes. A balanced diet is healthy and allows you to grow.

An honest review states what a reader did and did not like. Remember, in this day and age of consumerism; the reviewer looks at your story as a product. It must meet their view of what that product should be. And it is a chance for you the author, just one chance, to make a change. It shows where you might be able to do better. Granted, you can’t please all the people all the time as I said before. And you still must consider the percentages on your reviews. For instance, if you have five good ones (and they are all family) and ten negative ones (who aren’t family and friends), there is a problem. But an honest review gives you direction.

You, as an author, know when it’s an honest review because it reveals a spot where you were unsure of like in plot or advertising. I recently had a review that showed me what I feared; I am promoting my story in the wrong genre. It gave clarity to where I need to list it and how to advertise it. I did this by overlooking the general dislikes the reviewer stated, to understanding this person was saying they had bought a product that didn’t fulfill their needs as a reader. It was not as the advertising lead them to believe. It was only one little review, but they nailed it. I want more reviewers like that. They aren’t good or bad; they are honest.

I am not afraid of hearing you don’t like my story; it grows me as a writer. That is why I send my book to copious amounts of beta readers. Then drag it through edit after edit. I want the best I can produce for those readers who are looking for this particular genre. I’m the same way about my cooking. Why waste my time and food if it’s not going to be palatable?

And yet, hell yes I’m into praise. We all are! I love the “likes” and the “wonderful job” comments. Who doesn’t like a tasty dessert? But I can’t be healthy on that diet. I need honest reviews: honest beta readers, honest editors, and honest customers.

If for you, it’s only about the dessert, the kudos, the Atta girl, find something else to do. It is tough to compete in the book field. Writing is personal, but to become a great author, you need the criticism, just as an athlete needs a good coach. Always try to take the bad and find something useful. None of us are perfect. I’m a fair writer, but I want to be the best writer I can be. I have read other people’s writings and wonder why I even try. There is real talent out there. I recognized that in my teens when I dreamed of becoming a concert piano player, it never was going to happen because I didn’t have the talent. I also feared I’d never make a living as an author, so I worked jobs that honed the skill everyone told me I had for writing. And while I may never have a best seller, that doesn’t mean I’m going to quit trying. And without honest reviews, I will never succeed.

So please readers, friends, family, editors, and customers don’t be afraid. Tell me the worst. I appreciate it. Thank you!

Feel free to leave a comment. Have you ever learned anything from an honest review? I would enjoy hearing your opinion. 🙂

book industry, books, hope, indie author, indie books, indie writer, journaling, Reviews, self publishing, stories, writing

The Holy Grail of Authors

1512303_805590249521973_5607612739990836441_nAs a child, I wrote on walls to learn the art of creating a word.  Later I wrote because words were fun. In the teenage years, I wrote in secret to express the mountain of emotions roiling inside of me. Then, as an adult, I wrote because a job demanded it. But there was always the reason I loved to write, and that was for the pure joy of it. When I retired, I finally could chase my dream of writing a book.

I discovered the new frontier of self-publishing and all those who blogged about making money selling their books. So, I learned to blog.  I followed all the lemmings into the sea of self-publishing, and then something changed.  It wasn’t about writing anymore. I perfected my writing style. Learned to kill off my darlings that were ineffectual to a story, doubled down on the grammar, began to figure out what made a good story, hired an editor and cover artist, then published. Before I just gleefully pounded out words to create scenes, imaginary characters, and involved plot structure. But along the way, I lost the joy of writing and became driven to seek the Holy Grail of Authors, book reviews.

I wanted the reader to enjoy the story, and I craved feedback for my effort. My family was great at this. Friends as well, but something was lacking.  I wanted the accreditation of the Reader, a stranger who didn’t know me or want to feed my struggling ego. I needed the Reader to give me an honest opinion to prove I wasn’t wasting my time. When creating books, this had been the carrot at the end of the stick for all those nights of tapping away at the computer, researching infinite details, getting every sentence right.

I gave away a zillion copies in hopes of a review. I bought high-powered write-ups through accredited sources like Clarion and Kirkus, but to no avail.  I spent hours learning about how to promote, advertise, and edit again. Tried keeping up with Amazon as they changed program after program on me, trying to grasp the secret language of the algorithm. I became obsessed with needing to check sales reports, seek out new contacts, to create mailing lists, and have a million ‘friends’ on places like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

No matter how good the book was, no matter how hard I tried to advertise, no matter all the elusive leads that I chased to find the Holy Grail, I failed — leaving me to ponder where the joy had gone.

But there is a happy ending.

What did I do? I went back to my first love, writing. I started blogging again and created more books. Most importantly, I reviewed other people’s books. Yup, I found the Holy Grail of Authors. Not for my books, but for others who are creating even better stories than me. I found peace in giving reviews, striving to help others find that validation I sought. I wrote words of encouragement, honesty, and gave back to people who provided me many hours of enjoyment in reading. I don’t do this on Amazon because I’m an author and can’t review other author’s books. But, on sites like Authors Den, Smashwords, Bookrix, Goodreads, and a myriad of other places where I find books for my enjoyment, I respond to people who ask for advice, input or a review.

How can we expect something from a self-consuming, greedy world, unless we, ourselves, are willing to give it? I have not seen reviews of my books magically appear because it is not about that. It’s the satisfaction in creating art from words. I find comfort in the words of support, direction and validation I give to others.

Of course, I still want the Holy Grail, but it’s not the focus of this journey anymore. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway, being here for each other?

 

 

Amazon, book industry, books, indie author, indie books, indie writer, journaling, self publishing, stories, viking, vikings, Vikings, writing

Promoting Yourself

1488030_10152137004427389_2121835401_n

So, imagine you are in a bustling city, and you are asked to walk down the street naked. Just cringed, didn’t you?

That’s what I feel like every time I finish a book and start advertising it. In this age of information saturation, to sell a book, I have been instructed to make a brand, not of my storytelling, but of myself.

I enjoy taking everyday happenings and like clay, forming it into a story. My imagination knows no bounds. There isn’t just one genre that calls to me, but many. In my head are about ten stories all the time, and writer’s block is only prevalent when I work to make that story into a readable manuscript.

But the curiosity a reader may have about me, well that makes me want to hide behind a pen name, and a made-up story about my life. I don’t understand why I like to create with the written word. It’s just images and moments are stored, then my brain gets full, and I move some of the stuff out onto paper. While doing this I have a little fun rearranging it into even better moments. I feel a little self-conscious when I share it. Like, who in their right mind thinks up things like this? But then, there is this strange happiness that fills me when someone actually enjoys my creations of imagination. It’s the same feeling I get when someone likes the slop I call cooking!

Some of the things people want to know confuse me. I’m boring. I don’t live anywhere glamorous. I scrape by like everyone else. My habits, good or bad, are average. My inspirations are relatively low key

When I find a story that captivates me (for I like to consume stories as much as I love to create them) I must admit I only want to know if the author has written other stories I can scarf down. Call me narrow-minded or self-centered, but I have never had a desire to know anything further. As a private person, their lives are their own. It is, after all, just a story.

I suppose there is a curiosity about how a story comes about. What made someone think of vampires, murder motives, science fiction, etc? But the answer is right there. Curiosity. A thing we all have in common as a species. Maybe we love stories because we can escape from our own humdrum existence of paying bills, going to work, and trying to survive. For a moment we can step into fantasy and leave behind the real world filled with its problems.

For the author, it could be the same thing. I create a world that I have control in, and I dictate the outcome. Having a whole lot of pride and control issues might help with the creation of imaginary people, worlds and events. Or maybe I just wish I could control the chaos around me, so I create my own little happy world. Who knows, I don’t always understand my own compunctions.

But does knowing where I live, what I wear, what I do or what I had for breakfast really matter? As some wise person once said, “it’s about the story, silly.”

I have been told it is healthy to voice frustrations in journals or diaries and from what I have read in memoirs and blogs, it has been going on for a long time. I guess blogging is another form of that. And for me personally, writing a story does help me to learn to work things out, and sometimes gives me insight into a problem I have at hand.

Every writer has reasons for the story they develop. It is a personal journey that some are more willing to share than others. I can only hope that if you are a writer and reading this, you realize that you are normal. If you are a reader who has no desire to write, but happily consumes stories, I hope I have given insight into why I’m a writer, but not a very good promoter.

Otherwise, I hope you enjoy my quirky little foray into self-pity for not having any privacy. But then again, why would I whine about that? I should be used to it. After raising five kids, enjoying seventeen grandkids, plastering myself all over the internet, and writing about bloodthirsty Vikings, you’d think I wouldn’t mind walking naked down any street!

And feel free to comment. Wouldn’t mind hearing about you, the reader. 🙂

 

 

 

Amazon, book industry, indie writer, stories, writing

Frankenstein Consumerism

The Frankenstein Monster of Consumerism

I realize I am deviating from my normal blogging about writing books but bear with me….

Consumerism created the Customer. Fed by the ever-changing world of advertising we are courted, pleaded with, prodded and bombarded with endless promises.  Each product touted to be the best-ever cure-all, big fix to any problem we have, all in the name of the great god of Money.

In return, Money created a monster that has a ravenous appetite with the mindset of a spoiled brat.

Now I must admit I am one of those brats.

Note that forty years seems like a long time, though compared to geological time, it is but a Nanosecond. But a long time ago, I could buy a product, bring it home, plug it in, turn it on, and it would work. In fact, there was no instruction manual. Then, I would have the luxury of not having to buy another one for a long time.  Of course, the better the product, the longer it lasted, making the company that made it have to find something else to do in the meantime to make money, like service it when and if it broke down.

Times change just like seasons.

Now, it’s about the number of sales versus quality.

Take, for instance, a wireless printer. I have a perfectly good printer, by the same company, that works well when I plug it into my computer. But I’m getting lazy in my old age because I’m constantly being shown new ways of saving time to be able to go bask in the sun on the beach.  So, I brought home my shiny new toy and spent the next two hours trying to make it work, as promised. I tried installing apps on phone and computer. Downloaded instructions until I was blue in the face. The printer itself printed well, but all it would print was instructions on how to connect to the internet and supposedly anything else that had a Wifi brain. Nothing worked. Like the brat I’ve become, I took it back to the store in a huff.

So first, I would like to point out as a writer, I have learned through many grammar checking programs that the average reading level in our country is 7th grade. Last time I checked you had to have a degree to work on computer programming in order to create programs. I highly suspect these technicians read, or think, above a 7th-grade level.  So, they are basically trying to get mice to run a maze to get the cheese. We are overfed, obese rats. We give up when it gets hard. Please come down to our level.

Second, at my age, you recognize after scurrying through the world these many years, the most valuable commodity you have is TIME.  Yup, it is more precious than money. I get upset when I waste my time on the next new and shiny gadget after receiving promises of it making my life easy. Yup, Frankenstein temper tantrum.

Third, I sadly realize we did it to ourselves.  In our greed and laziness, the first thing we sacrificed to the god of Money, was SERVICE. When the smarter rats discovered how easy it was to legally rob us of our hard-earned cash, they, being the smarter rats, learned how to cut corners.  The first thing to go was service. Self Service was invented and the cheese that tempted us? Cheaper product.

Now we build our own furniture, fill our own cars with gas, check ourselves out at stores, guide ourselves with voices from little boxes, and must have several degrees to run anything electronic. We have been trained by faster and faster internet services to expect instantaneous answers as well as the immediate delivery of any product we want.  Heaven forbid we have a natural disaster because we have lost the knowledge of basic survival.

Advertising has lost its charm and magic. With the sensory overload of constant advertising, we have become numb to it, where now the only thing that sparks our interest is a good drama, whether it be YouTube or Facebook, or politics, or accidents on the road, or even disaster, we are jaded to consumerism and advertising. Until we get something that doesn’t hold up to its advertised promise, then we become little dictators demanding our money be returned.

We stomped through the village and wrecked the environment, greedily grabbed all we could, and scared away customer service so it hides behind little chatbots on every product site and conceals any method of human contact that could answer your questions. The Wizard behind the curtain continues to tell us not to look and to just take our rotten forbidden fruit and be happy with it.

Sigh. I want to go back to simpler days where I had to make my own weapons, chase down my food which in turn kept me fit and I could cook it the way I liked it.

 

 

books, Hacking, indie books, indie writer, stories, writing

Having Fun with Hackers

1795770_715269895170983_1926783671_n

So, I opened my email and there was a notification from Facebook. It said that someone had opened my ten-year-old Facebook page. At the beginning of Facebook if you forgot your password, you couldn’t get back into your account. I had created another account. A few years later Facebook asked me if I wanted two accounts and gave me the ability to close one. I was smart, I had used two different emails to open them, so I knew which one it was.

I thought maybe this happened after I had tried getting on Facebook during a period when they were down. Either way, it said click here if I was not the one who had done this. Of course, I clicked, and it took me to a page that said it couldn’t pull up that account. Then it asked me to check in to Facebook with my regular account.

Thinking that doing this would bring me to the original notification, I did. Except it only took me to my current account. In fact, nowhere could I find this notification. Nor could I find anywhere that I could contact Facebook. I did spend an hour chasing my question and reading a lot of self-help for navigating Facebook. Finally, I found an obscure area where you can inform Facebook of a problem. Which I did. And got a polite canned ‘thank you’ for my input.

I’m very suspicious of anything like this because I have encountered many a ‘phishing’ scam. At this point I was worried it was a trap to get my real Facebook information. I waited two days to hear anything back. Then I decided if Facebook wasn’t going to do anything, I would. So, I began to think like a hacker.

I knew where they got my old email. It had been hacked some years back when my phone apps had been open when I crossed into Mexico. A few password changes fixed things, but someone had gotten some old information. Experian had informed me last year that some of my personal information was on the dark web.

While thinking like a hacker, I knew that if they truly had re-opened my account on Facebook, all I really needed to know was what email they used. I went to Facebook and simply told it I had forgotten my password. A few minutes later my new password was verified. Sure enough, there was a new page under my old name. I had re-married since then and it wasn’t my new married name.

So, I had some fun.  392530_463065353734398_408935834_n

I noticed first off there was no picture of me in the banner. They had filched an old picture of my granddaughter on a show horse, and it was in the timeline. It had been put up the day the Facebook had notified me. Also, interestingly enough, only five of my friends were listed there. The ones I had had ten years ago when supposedly Facebook deleted the account. To protect them, I went and unfriended them.  Then I noticed I had thirty-one new friends who had suspiciously sounding Russian names. No joke. So, I unfriended all of them!

Next, I checked for personal information. Again, nothing current. It was a bare-bones account. Like they were still building it and adding to it. I wiped it all clean. And I changed the name of the account to my deceased husband. He had never been a computer person and never had an account on Facebook. He would have found it extremely funny. Just for fun, I also changed the password!  To something like “Satan Be Gone”. If they were ever able to crack it, they would get the hint. But I highly suspect if they are serious about trying to use it again, they would just do what I had done and request a new password.

Then I went and deleted the account all over again. Not sure if that will help, since Facebook gives you thirty days before they supposedly permanently delete it. This is so you can get pictures and information off it. And remember, they said they had deleted it once before!

166070_578733068837720_1553312875_nIn all my research I couldn’t find anything the hacker had put out there yet on this account. But hopefully, I messed things up well enough they know I’m on to them.

This taught me several things. You can’t contact Facebook directly, period. It is all canned response and content. And all it takes is someone knowing what email you use to be able to get into your Facebook account. Since Facebook makes it so easy to get in when you forget a password, a hacker can easily make a dummy account. Also, nothing, and I mean nothing, is safe on the Internet. You may have security and firewalls, but note how easy it was for me to think like a hacker and find a way in. Last but not least, it proves that nothing is ever non-retrievable on the web. Even old, outdated or deleted material can be resurrected.

My biggest mistake in all of this was assuming that the notification was really from Facebook. Even though it was my email, it was not addressed directly to me. When Facebook sends me notifications about my changing my password, they always include my name. That wasn’t in the message I received and so I’m still not sure if Facebook sent it or what the hackers were after exactly. I did change my passwords for all my email and Internet accounts just for added protection.

I just hope sharing my experience can be of help to someone.  Be careful out there in cyber space.

 

books, indie books, indie writer, journaling, stories, writing

Changes and Face Lifts

0917181151b_HDR

It was time. Almost ten years ago I ventured timidly onto WordPress to do the thing all authors were raving about, building and writing a blog. I am technically challenged. Took me forever to figure out WordPress. I am an introvert. Write about myself? I would rather go through labor again.

So I got on the chat line, which is a perk of having a business account, (which I love) and got a very nice tech who was polite and patient. With their help, I was able to change my site name from Common Sense Experiences to A Journey Thru Words.

When I first started I figured I would blog about a wide variety of things. But it soon became obvious I was writing more about my experiences as an author. So this site needed a more modern name, and a new facelift.

I was in luck. WordPress has updated and created new, easy to use templates that transfer immediately. I won’t talk about how you used to have to do it in the past. I love the new perks. Also, now that I have managed to author five books, I decided it was time to look more like an author. A dear friend and life coach, Cherie, (http://totalwellnesscenter.net/ ) found a beautiful background pic and create a new banner for me.

I welcome you to my new, improved blog and website. I am looking forward to guest blogs, impromptu writing, keeping you up to date on my next book in the historical Vikings series I am doing, and an occasional re-blog on industry news.

Meanwhile, I invite you to visit another blog that I follow and have learned a lot from. Chris recently had me on his site as a guest and did an awesome job with all the bits and pieces I sent to him.  The interview link is below. I hope you will continue to follow and enjoy my writings.

https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/author/thestoryreadingape/