April Fools . . . But Not Really


WordpressreblogFor my online April Fools Day joke, I thought I’d announce that after ten years of blogging, I’ve decided to hang it up. But I thought the joke might backfire. What if everyone agreed, that yes, it was time I moved on to some other endeavor. After all, I’ve been repeating myself with some frequency and actually have not said anything new in years.

That would be a problem, because, you see, I actually like to blog. I know some writers struggle to know what to say or where to find the time to write. Some agonize over every post and all their creative energy seeps from them as they write.

I’m a different breed. I really like spouting off voicing my thoughts. 😀

In reality, writing helps me think. Sometimes I know what I want to write about, but I don’t always know what I think about what I want to write about. I realize this might be confusing to others, but writing forces me to say something, to formulate a position, and to express it so others will know what I mean. When I’ve written, then I know what I think.

Honestly, there are times when I’m writing that I think I’m wandering around a topic, that I feel as if I’ve lost direction. I’m the most surprised when I re-read what I wrote and it says something I actually believe. Then I kind of sit back and say, Ah, that’s what I think—I just didn’t know it until now.

So, yes, I love to blog. I learn. Sometimes I have to do research. Sometimes I read other articles to which I respond. Sometimes I write about things I’m learning in Scripture or ways Scripture speaks to the problems in our culture. Sometimes I write about a topic that’s right in front of me . . . like blogging!

No matter the prompt, I come away from blogging with a better understanding, a deeper conviction, a greater appreciation. Blogging, you might say, nourishes my writing soul. And maybe my soul soul, too.

So, no April Fools joke from me today. I wouldn’t want you to think I’m serious about no longer blogging. Because if I stopped blogging, I’d be impoverished in a way I hadn’t realized until I started writing about blogging. 😉

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Published in: on April 1, 2016 at 4:56 pm  Comments (4)  
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Blog Tours In The Age Of Social Media


csffbannerWhen a group of us speculative writers started the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, Tumblr and the like did not exist. Blogging itself was fairly new. The concept of a blog tour seemed like the perfect way to create a community of like-minded people willing to talk about the books we wanted to see in bookstores.

When we first approached Donita Paul, *our first author, about touring one of her books, she asked, What is a blog tour? For some time we answered that question fairly regularly, but before long, the concept caught on. Now there are sites dedicated to setting up and running blog tours.

As late as three years ago, however, I had an industry insider note the lack of immediate book sales from a particular tour, then say, “It seems that the main body of people reading the blog tour reviews consisted of other reviewers on the tour.”

At the time I thought that comment was short-sighted. No one other than the blogger knows the traffic his or her site receives unless there’s a visible stats counter. No one else knows how many subscribers are receiving the blog in their email in-box or in a reader. The fact that people who had read the book in question were carrying on an intelligent discussion about it should have been appealing to other visitors. And why would those who had not read the book jump into the conversation? That they were silent doesn’t mean they weren’t listening.

Add to that the marketing idea that a buyer needs to hear about a product X number of times (I think it’s 7) before buying. Here CSFF voluntarily puts the name of these various books out over the Internet for any number of people to get their first nudge, or third, or sixth.

Clearly, I believe blog tours, from the beginning, have helped books sell though their impact may not be immediately felt.

But today we have another whole layer to our blog tours–social media. In the past, if someone wrote a particularly good review, the author might link to it or excerpt it for his blog or website. That may or may not have attracted more readers.

With the growth of social media, however, authors can link to posts on their author Facebook page or Tweet to their followers. In turn, those fans can read and share posts to their social media contacts. So, not only are visitors to my site finding out about the tour reviews and the books we’re featuring, but in essence, the author’s loyal followers are now sharing the reviews with their friends and followers as well. People I don’t know and can’t reach are getting the word.

But the author could do that without the tour, some say. Not really. The author can’t say, Go look at this post, if there is no post to go look at. The tour, operating independently of the author, gives him something to point to.

Interestingly, the tour works best when there is either controversy or positive accord. The books that garner tepid posts won’t stir up a great deal of conversation or receive outside notice. Those that create some passion in the tour participants, however, end up having memorable posts, discussions, and reviews to which the author can point.

In short, blog tours seem to me to be more effective than ever, as long as they do more than regurgitate the back cover copy of the book they are featuring and as long as the book is well written. Somehow, it still comes down to that point, doesn’t it.

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* For the record, CSFF opened in May 2006 by featuring a Christian fiction reviewer’s website, specifically a page he called “Focus on Christian Fantasy.” We highlighted Donita Paul the next month as our first author. If you check out that inaugural post, you’ll see a few names you may recognize as current active tour participants.

Published in: on April 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm  Comments Off on Blog Tours In The Age Of Social Media  
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Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind?


How does one book take off like wildfire and another die like a match in the wind?

On one agent blog today I read about how she and a fellow agent had gone out to celebrate because their client’s book had stayed on the NYT best-seller list for twelve weeks. In fact, sales were rising, and the title had climbed to #2, with a shot at #1 if things continued to progress. The thing that I noticed in particular was how surprised she was that sales were growing, not shrinking.

Another agent today mentioned an article about how short the life of a link is these days. Apparently, if people don’t respond to your Facebook link or Twitter link within the first couple hours, they aren’t going to respond.

Out of sight, out of mind?

On one hand, this doesn’t surprise me because I know my own Twitter and Facebook habits. As a general rule, I’m not visiting my friends’ walls and reading their updates for the last few days or weeks. Instead, I’m reading the most recent updates whenever I pop over to my home page. Same with Twitter.

On the other hand, though, I’ve thought of book sales as a growing thing — the PyroMarketing approach. Mind you, I haven’t read Greg Stielstra’s book.

I do know that a good portion of new releases only stay on bookstore shelves for three months, that another portion of them are routinely returned to the publisher, never having been in the hands of a potential buyer. So I’m not saying naively that a book is bound to grow in sales simply because a writer tells people about it on Facebook or Twitter. And yet, I’ve believed the publishing marketers who say that word of mouth is the best marketing there is. Consequently, it seems sales should start to rise as word begins to spread.

One more thing to consider. A small press publisher tweeted today that book blog tours are largely worthless. Of course it’s a tweet, so no added information as to why this particular person reached this conclusion. You might guess that I have a different opinion, but here’s a professional who doesn’t see the return for the time spent organizing others to post about her books.

Not so long ago, author and friend Mike Duran hosted a discussion about social media and book marketing. It was interesting to see that some thought the online chatter was overrated.

So I come back to that first agent I mentioned, the one who was so excited their client’s book was increasing in sales. Could it be that the Facebook/Twitter model, something equivalent to a person’s fifteen minutes of fame, is the norm for most books — a quick blaze that fires hot for that three-month window, then burns itself out?

Does this happen because our culture is so ready to move on to the Next Big Thing? But if that were the case, then how is it that Harry Potter could remain such a huge commodity for over a decade?

Is the answer in the lack of persistence on the part of the author and publisher? After all, a book that’s been out for three months is about to be eclipsed by the author’s next release. So the efforts and emphasis now are going toward the book that will be, not the one that was.

In this environment, how, then, can a book/author grow an audience?

I’ve thought some about the phenomenon of The Shack because that book seemed to burn brighter and brighter. In relating its success to the factors I wrote about over at Spec Faith on Monday, I’d say it succeeded because it had three of the five elements I identified.

But The Shack had something I’d never seen before — in the back, the author listed action points for a satisfied reader to take to spread the word about the book. Rather than letting the book fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” category, or hoping that the reader would seek out the author online, this plea to spread the word almost became a part of the book.

It was unique and perhaps unrepeatable. And perhaps that’s the thing that will spread the word about books — something that isn’t an imitation of what others are already doing.

– – – – –

There are still three days left to vote in the “It’s All In The Opening” poll.

Published in: on September 13, 2011 at 6:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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Speculative Fiction And Social Media


You may or may not be on Facebook and/or Twitter, but I’ve been hanging out at Facebook for a while now and getting the hang of Twitter slowly but surely.

I see some real advantages to these new forms of communication, the main one being the opportunity to reconnect with people I thought I’d lost track of for good. It’s a kick for me to see pictures of my former students, all grown up now, and to find out where they’re living, who they married, how many kids they have … daily stuff. After all, that’s how we knew each other when I taught them.

Some, I know, do stop by A Christian Worldview of Fiction from time to time, but Facebook allows us to “meet in the hall” and say hi as we used to do. It’s brief and incomplete, to be sure, but still far better than nothing, from my perspective.

And then there are readers who like what I like, or something close to it—fans of fantasy and, more generally, speculative fiction. Some months ago, a handful of us who were writing for the team blog Speculative Faith revived our efforts. We invited new writers to join us and saved Friday for guest bloggers. It’s been a great success.

In addition, our new webmaster set up a Facebook account. For a time, all we did there was link to the blog and invite people to “like” the site.

Then a couple weeks ago, I got the idea to add a daily “Book News” feature. I invited speculative writers to include their book news as they wished if there wasn’t already a news feature posted that day. Or they could send me their news and I’d post it. We’ve had a good response—more people following, more people “liking”—though I think some might be shy about posting their notices.

I have to say, I really like this. Some of you might remember that I’d started a newsletter, Latest In Spec, to pass along news about Christian speculative literature. While it was a good idea, I never made it work the way I envisioned. Too often the “news” was already old by the time it got into the hands of interested people, and to be honest, few people really like to read the personals. That’s what LIS was like.

Now at Spec Faith Facebook, we can include news tidbits in a timely manner. And far more people can become informed since friends of friends may also see the notices.

Today we have another development. CSFF Blog Tour is now on Facebook too. I’m excited about this opportunity to be more visible.

I want to see as many people learn about the tour as possible. I’m constantly finding a pocket of Christian speculative literature fans here and there, many who are still ignorant of the books that are out there for them to enjoy. Any new way of getting the word out is a plus as far as I’m concerned.

Published in: on December 10, 2010 at 6:19 pm  Comments (2)  
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