Person First, Author Second – Why I don’t Autofollow on Twitter

I have a love-hate relationship with social media, and none more so than with the Twitter (I exclude Facebook as I’ve never particularly loved it, it’s more of a necessarily evil, used solely for catching up with relatives and distant friends). I’ve left it on at least two occasions that I recall both times for the same reason.

In the words of Willow Rosenberg, a vague disclaimer is nobody’s friend, so please don’t take this personally – it’s not directed at you, not personally. The problem I have with it is this obsession people have with following back. This “I followed you, you must follow me” attitude has left me wanting to smack my head against a wall on more than one occasion.

Now I understand that everyone likes to see they are followed. It’s flattering – like someone asking you out on a date even if you’re not interested in them. However you don’t then throw a tantrum if someone politely declines. Over the years I’ve had quite a few (other authors in the main… hides behind pillow) who have hurled abuse at me for not following them back, or unfollowing them if I’m not that interested in the content that they’re currently sharing. I’ve often found myself saying “hey, I still keep an eye on you via a list” but that doesn’t suffice for some. One particularly virulent tweeter prompted me to leave altogether!

There’s a few reasons why I find that sort of behaviour objectionable. First, it’s just plain rude. Second, auto following doesn’t mean you will achieve your objective. Following you doesn’t mean they will engage with you. If they are auto following everyone who follows them, how the heck do you imagine they will notice your tweets amongst their already over populated timeline? As a PR and comms professional in my “day job” this has me alternating between face palming and sadness. In a drive to just get followers they are missing out on the true joy of Twitter – engagement, cat videos and chatting to people who aren’t your friends but share your interests and even values.

Then there’s the primary reason. Yes, I’ve written a few books and yes I’m currently working on another, but there is so much more to me than that. I am lucky to be blessed with an amazing family, lots of interests and a deeply fulfilling day job. I want to share that with people and share information that will help those interested in those things too. I want to see what’s going on in my local community. I want to get angry about the same political and social issues. I am more than one aspect of my life and Twitter as my primary social media platform is when I live it online.

That’s why I won’t auto follow you. I might follow you. I might list you. I might do neither. It’s not that I don’t think you are a nice person, or deserving of social media attention – it’s just that there’s so much going on out there that I can’t notice it all. If I did, my head might implode.

Of course, the majority of authors and general folks I’ve virtually met on Twitter are perfectly lovely and I’ve made some wonderful friendships and supporters along the way. That’s why I set up a specific Twitter account dedicated to books and supporting authors. If that’s what you want then follow me there – otherwise you might find yourself just finding out what I had for dinner, a rant about parking on pavements or pictures of my cat

So if you want ME as person, follow me at www.twitter.com/Tea_Talks , but if it’s promo support you’re after you should probably follow me at my author support account at www.twitter.com/BookBaggers

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Authors – Know Your Social Media Audience

If you are an author you are probably on at least one social media platform, trying to build your “author platform” and encourage people to buy your book.

In an increasingly crowded book market, how can you ensure that your book promo activity is heard above the noise?

People want to follow, engage with and listen to people – real people. You don’t walk up to someone on the street and say “hi, buy my book” on first meeting them. For one thing it would be plain weird but also rude. Yet, it’s an easy trap to fall into from the safety and distance of your keyboard. If you throw enough cr@p at something, surely some of it may stick?

There is some truth in this. In order for your marketing message to be effective your audience needs to hear it frequently and via a range of channels.

Take movie promoters for example. You will see a billboard, a cinema trailor, an advert on TV, Facebook posts and adverts, plus the stars being interviewed in magazines, radio and on TV, and more. They saturate your senses.

But it’s not just about throwing enough promo material out into the universe. Film promoters will have carefully selected the radio stations, TV channels and magazines they advertise in based on which they target audience is likely to tune into or buy. The billboard posters will have designed to be attractive to the target audience and present the film in a way that seems appealing and relatable.

As indie authors we need to be better at this. We need to be selecting our social media and advertising platforms based on our target audience and measure our success by sales conversions over time. We can’t measure success by number of followers who may not even be likely to buy our book. Book covers need to show that the book would appeal to them –it needs to be relatable. Endorsements and reviews should be in forums which are occupied or followed by your target demographic.

Some authors do this very well. Their covers reflect the genre, they pick one or two digital platforms and do them well, and share much of themselves. You may be intrigued by their book covers and content but you can relate to them and want to read more of their work. Their social media pages share a variety of content but it’s in keeping with their audience and style of books. When they support or RT other authors it is evident that they are on good terms and that their work is also relevant to their audience – even if only as the authors seem like minded. Sharing and retweeting streams of kid kit if you write adult romance or horror is only going to confuse your audience. If you are going to retweet content that’s not yours, ensure that it sits well with your own brand.

Make a start on getting your audience right by mapping out who they are.

  • What types of people are likely to read your books?
  • What other authors do they read?
  • What TV shows and films do they like?
  • What other interests do they have?
  • What social media platforms do they use?

The list of questions could go on and on. Drill down into the detail of age, gender and social groups. You might need to build up one or two (or more) personas – you can even give them names. Once you know your audience you can then start participating in the social media groups or hashtags that they are likely to use. You will use the right platform for them. You can hang out and they might check your profile and click on that link to your book. It’s a marathon not a sprint.

My “Sophie Morgan Vampire Series” audience, for example, is women between 18 – 35, college educated, slightly nerdy, who like Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Being Human. They might read paranormal romance but their bookshelves are likely to include thrillers and horror too.

But this is a learning curve for all of us and I must admit that as my public relations and communications “day job” has developed in recent years, I am lucky to develop skills which I can use in book promotion – both mine and others.

If you have some book promo tips you’d like to share or have a question follow me at www.twitter.com/BookBaggers and tag me in you tip, or comment below.

Applied Psychology and Book Marketing – A New Approach

Good marketers and PR professionals understand what makes people tick. In many ways they are applied psychologists, combining audience insight with a steely focus on outcomes to influence decisions. This was just one of messages I took away from a public relations workshop I attended recently.

“Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and how it dictates and influences our behavior, from communication and memory to thought and emotion.” British Psychological Society

 “Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour” Chartered Institute of Public Relations

What does this mean for book marketing? A good deal perhaps. The ultimate aim of book publicists is to sell books. Even when we want to broadly build a brand or author platform, we still have that ultimate outcome in mind. We want to take potential readers on a journey from not noticing our product to thinking “Hey, looks interesting, I’m going to buy that.”

It’s easy to assume that if we have a well-crafted message or brand, or just an amazing book, that behaviour will be impacted. Readers will think “WOW that looks great” and hit the download button or sift through their wallet and hand over that hard earned cash at their local bookstore.(Equally, just because you have a fantastic PR campaign doesn’t mean that you will sell books or gain long term customers if you have a substandard product! You might sell book to a reader but they may not buy another.)

This isn’t the Field of Dreams – just because we build it, it doesn’t mean they will come! A good book, pithy synopsis or a memorable “lift pitch” will not on its own secure the marketing result you want.

An effective marketing campaign relies on determining your target audiences’ beliefs, values and barriers to taking action. People only pay attention to what they perceive as relevant and in a digital world where readers are trying to navigate their way through a barrage of marketing campaigns we need to help them.

In short why should they buy your book? Why would it appeal to them/ can they access it in their territory/ what are their peers saying about it/ what does the cover “say” to them? All these questions need to be answered to some degree. It’s only then that we can truly get our book marketing right and build an author platform that resonates.

Our potential readers also need to hear that message frequently, at the right time and through the right channel for them to act on it. It’s only then that the reason for our call to action can resonate and we stand a change of getting our targets to do the thing of buying our book and remaining loyal readers.

Much of this seems like common sense, but while we may have the best of intentions, things can sometimes get in the way of doing a thorough job of planning promotional activity. Lack of time, money and sometimes just old fashioned enthusiasm can mean it’s easy to rush into a campaign so we can just do something.

In the digital age this is even easier than ever. Within minutes you can clog up readers’ timelines with endless “buy my book” social media posts that will at best resonate with a few and at worst get people hitting the unfollow button. Either that, or you’re signing up for book parties that your likely audience won’t even be attending – no point staying up in the early hours at a party with a dozen participants interested I erotica when you write cozy mysteries! Trust me, that’s a mistake I made in the early days and one I won’t be repeating.

Now could I do a better job at planning my marketing? Absolutely I could. The question to ask is, could you? What strategies are you deploying for planning your promotional activities? Feel free to comment and share your tips, and please post your contact details if you would be happy to network with other authors and publicists and share best practice.

 

Helen Treharne is an author and PR Practitioner – as you’re on her website your probably know this. Is it weird I just described myself in the third person? Yep, bit weird.

Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Tea_Talks and www.twitter.com/BookBaggers

Books, Boxing and Ian Probert’s latest offering

It’s not often that I take to my blog to tell you to read someone else’s books. Time is precious and there are so many good writers out there, picking which books to push on you, or which authors I think you should follow, is one of those “nice to have” things on my to-do list that is constantly being pushed to the bottom. Now and again though, there is always a favourite who I can’t help but shout about. Ian Probert is one of those. I have been in love with his writing since I read ‘Johnny Nothing’. I know I’ve compared him to the wonderfully talented Roald Dahl but that is doing him a disserve – he is a wonderful character creator and wordsmith in his own rights. So, when he tells me he has a new book coming out, I take note. I pay particular attention as rather than his previous fiction offerings, this latest project is something altogether different….

dangerous-cover

A quarter of a century ago journalist and author Ian Probert decided never to write about boxing again. His decision was prompted by the injuries sustained by boxer Michael Watson during his world title fight with Chris Eubank. Now, in common with so many fighters, Probert is making an inevitable comeback. Dangerous sees Probert return to the scene of an obsession that has gripped him from childhood. Clinical depression caused by death of his abusive father prompts Probert to retrace his steps in boxing. During an emotional eight-month journey Probert reconnects with boxing figures from his past and in doing so draws unexpected solace from a series of remarkable encounters. In the course of numerous meetings with a number of leading figures in the fight game, including Herol Graham, Steve Collins, Michael Watson, Ambrose Mendy, Frank Buglioni and Glenn McCrory among others, Probert takes a look at how lives have changed, developed and even unravelled during the time he has been away from the sport. From an illuminating and honest encounter with transgender fight manager Kellie Maloney to an emotional reunion with Watson himself, Probert discovers just how much the sport has changed during his absence. The end result is one of the most fascinating and unusual books ever to have been written about boxing. Go check it out. It’s currently available as a paperback but if the publishing gods are listening, then it should be out as an ebook today!

Buy it here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dangerous-Intimate-Journey-Heart-Boxing/dp/1785311999

Biography

Ian Probert has been scribbling down words ever since he learned to spell the phrase: ‘Once upon a time…’. He is the author of Internet Spy, Rope Burns and a bunch of other titles. Internet Spy was a bestseller in the US and made into a TV film. Rope Burns is a book about why books shouldn’t be written about boxing. Ian has also written things for a shed load of newspapers and magazines. When Ian was a student he used to write lots of letters to the bank manager. Visit https://ianprobertbooks.wordpress.com for random thoughts about the universe and the price of tea. Go to http://ianprobert.com to increase traffic to his website, which is apparently very important. Follow him on Twitter on www.twitter.com/truth42 if you’ve got far too much time on your hands. Follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/716683635030173/. Lord knows why you’d want to do that.
Guardian pic

 

PREVIEW : Chapter 01 – Scars

It was 23 years ago when I last saw him. His eyes were closed and an oxygen mask was strapped to his mouth. His magnificent muscular torso was a tangle of tubes and sensors. He lay on the bed like a sleeping baby. The slightest of frowns pinched his forehead as if he were dreaming the longest dream: a dream that would last for a biblical 40 days and 40 nights before he would awaken to discover that his life had been ripped apart. That he could never again be the person that he used to be.

In a windswept hotel on the outskirts of Essex I sit at the rear of a vast banqueting hall and wait to see his face once more. I’m wearing the suit that I wore at my wedding and for the last three funerals that I attended. You could say that I’m not a suit person. It hangs loose on my body on account of the large amount of weight I’ve lost in the past couple of years.

‘You’ve put some pounds on,’ says a cor blimey voice, ‘You used to be a skinny fella.’

The voice takes a seat across from me at the table and I recognise its source. It’s also been more than two decades since I last saw him and his hair has waved goodbye – although I’m not one to talk – and he’s something like twice the size that he used to be.

‘You look like you’ve lost weight,’ I lie.

The other man caresses his beer gut and stares at the floor. ‘Yeah… I’ve been working out,’ he says without a trace of irony.

The stranger from my past withdraws to the bar leaving me alone at the dinner table to scrutinise other faces. In the far distance an ex-boxer named Nigel Benn1 is charging £20 a shot to be photographed with time-ravaged fans. The former world champion looks trim and wears a stylish striped jacket that would probably look ridiculous on anybody else. He grins earnestly and waves a weary fist at the camera. The middle- aged car salesman standing next to him follows his lead for posterity.

On the table closest to me I spot Alan Minter2 in a dickie bow. A lifetime ago I’d been a 17-year-old waiter serving wine at an event not unlike this one to a bashed-up Minter, who had just lost his undisputed world middleweight title. Back then he was one of the most famous people I’d ever met and I’d been in awe of him. Total awe. But now it’s only sorrow. His position at the outskirts of the hall – almost as remote and desolate as my own location – serves as a barometer for just how many people have forgotten his achievements. He’s at the back of the queue now and others have moved forward to take his place.

The speeches begin. On a long table at the front of the hall a smiling Nigel Benn is surrounded by other refugees from days gone by. A retired boxer named Rod Douglas3 sits close to another ex-fighter named Herol Graham4, the man whose punches put an end to Douglas’ career. The two seem unaware of one another’s presence and I wonder if this is no accident. To Graham’s right is former world featherweight champion Colin McMillan5 and an assortment of other former prizefighters’ whose blurred features remain hidden in the shadows.

But I’m not here to see these people. Although they all in one way or another belong to my past I’m here to see only one person. I know he’s coming because the organiser of this tribute to Nigel Benn tipped me off before generously inviting me along. Everybody else seems to know he’s coming, too. It has to be the worst kept secret since someone let it slip that smoking is bad for you.

A whisper from the table, ‘Michael’s6 here.’ And suddenly I can stand it no longer. I climb to my feet and quietly exit the hall. Standing listlessly at the foot of a smartly decorated staircase are two disinterested looking bouncers. I ask them if they’ve seen Michael and they gesture towards a small corridor to the left of the staircase.

I find myself standing outside a disabled toilet. I try the handle. It’s locked. But just as I’m leaving, the door swings open and a large middle-aged black man with glasses and greying temples appears. We look at each other for a long time and disjointed words tumble from my lips, ‘Michael… It’s so nice to see you.’ It’s all I can think of saying. My voice is trembling and already I’m weak with emotion.

The man in front of me is slightly taller than I and wearing a freshly-pressed grey suit. He stretches out a huge hand in my direction and gives me the thumbs-up.

‘It’s so nice to see you,’ I repeat. I take hold of that giant hand and gently stroke it like a fragile flower.

‘It’s good to see you, too,’ says Michael. ‘Listen, I gotta go now… We’ll talk later.’

He shuffles past me with obvious difficulty into the darkness of the banqueting hall. Heads begin to turn as Michael rests his hand on somebody’s shoulder and is slowly guided towards the top table. The man with the microphone stops talking. It takes several seconds before people begin to understand what is happening.

Back in my seat I watch as Nigel Benn leaves his chair and wraps his arms around Michael. Vanquished and victor reunited. A quarter of a century ago Michael had bludgeoned Benn’s exhausted body to the canvas on a memorable evening in Finsbury Park with Benn’s Commonwealth middleweight title at stake. But now the pair are locked in a lovers’ embrace. The sight is surreal and invigorating and life affirming. I’m breathless and dizzy. Our brief reunion was so simple. So straightforward. So nondescript. In the days leading up to that moment I had been nervous, restless, full of questions. Would Michael remember me? Would he want to see me again after all this time? But it had all seemed so natural. It was more than I could ever have hoped for.

Still more speeches. Food is served: simple but edible and I make decorative chit-chat with the strangers at my table. But I’m yearning to tell somebody about the miracle that has just occurred. About how Michael and I were once friends. About how he was a young boxer and I was a young writer and somehow we formed a partnership that meant something. About how I went to visit Michael on the night of the injury he sustained during a world title clash with Chris Eubank7 and was received less than warmly by his overprotective friends: even though they should have known better they saw me as nothing more than just another journo, come to get his pound of flesh from the stricken figure in intensive care. About how I decided that the best thing I could do was keep away from him, let the ones who loved him do what they could. About how I stopped writing about boxing from that day and tried – really tried – never to return.

At last a break in the proceedings and I find myself walking up to where Michael sits alone for a moment or two. We look into each other’s eyes and once again he extends his fist and once more all I can say is, ‘Michael… It’s so nice to see you.’

Michael looks at me. His face is fatter than it used to be. Ancient scars run like dried up riverbeds above his left eye and across his chin. His hair is dusted at the edges with white, like fake snow.

And I’m choking up again, ‘Michael,’ I say. ‘I just want to thank you. You’ve made such a difference to my life.’

And it’s true. When I first met Michael I was penniless and struggling. Because he believed I was able to make a small mark in sports journalism and later as a writer. I owe him a debt that I can never repay.

Michael looks at me curiously. As if he feels a little sorry for me. ‘You’re too emotional,’ he says, his speech slightly blurred. ‘You shouldn’t worry about things so much.’

‘I know,’ I agree. ‘The older I get, the more emotional I become.’

Then Michael moves his head a little closer to mine. He says, ‘I can see that you have the spirit in you.’

Alarm bells ring. I remember that Michael and his family were always very religious. I interrupt him. ‘I’m sorry,’ I awkwardly stutter, ‘but I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God.’

‘Neither do I,’ says Michael, either lying or de-converted by his near death experience. ‘But I can see you have the spirit in you.’

‘I’m not so sure about that,’ I say. ‘I love you,’ says Michael. Did he just say that? Did he just say he loved me? My shoulders droop and I think about all the wasted years. I think about the contribution I could have made to Michael’s rehabilitation. I think about what I could have done to assist his slow, painful progress towards a kind of recovery, to repay just a little of what he had given to me all those years ago. The regret overpowers me. The sense of betrayal sickens me.

‘I love you, too,’ I say. And suddenly everything is all right. We’ve taken two wildly different routes to arrive here at this hotel in Chigwell on a sticky October night but here we are. I’ve watched him live out his life in the media. Seen him on the news collecting his MBE. Listened to the crowds cheer as he completed a marathon that took him six tortuous days of walking. But we’re here now. I’m 53 and he’s 50. There’s still time to rekindle our friendship. There’s still time.

Michael frowns at me as I gently hold that once violent fist of his in my hand. ‘What’s your name?’ he asks.

michael-watson