Saturday, March 28, 2015

After the Thunder: Three Mistakes in Retrospect

OK, so my first Thunderclap barely made it to the minimum number of supporters in time, but it did make it, giving me a chance to see what kind of impact it would have (if any). I'm... underwhelmed. I know there's a lot of "noise" on social networks and the point of a Thunderclap is to be "heard" above that noise. Maybe it's just creating more noise.

I'll let some numbers do the talking:

  • Supporters: 101
  • Claimed reach: 542,427 (over half a million people! or not….)
  • Clicks via the Thunderclap in the first 24 hours: 21 (~0.0039% CTR)
  • Sales: 0

A click-through ratio of less than four thousandths of a percent? And zero sales (I know this is accurate because not one copy of the book has sold since the Thunderclap went out). As I said elsewhere...

Maybe a different author, different book, different reading audience... but not for me.

Could it work out better than it did? I sure hope so, for all of the writers out there trying to make it work. These are some of the things I see wrong with my Thunderclap. Some of this may apply to what others are doing:

  1. My header image design was bad. I thought it was just for recruiting people to the Thunderclap, but it goes out with the Thunderclap too. That means the message of the header image needs to be generic enough to match both uses.
  2. I tried to give away a copy of my book in exchange for participating in the Thunderclap. This was ignoring Lesson #1 in finding readers: Sell them on the story! Free doesn't matter if the story is not compelling, and for a compelling story, the price may not matter. I ignored this rule to my detriment (and worked it into mistake #1 above). Nobody cared that they could get my book for free, they weren't interested in the story the book tells. I can't blame them, I didn't sell them on the story.
  3. Noise is noise is noise. If you produce noise, people will tune you out. I fear that too many of my Thunderclap supporters have been tuned out by the people they're connected to online, because they're pumping out a lot of Thunderclaps. (Rampant hashtag overuse makes this even worse; hashtags reduce legibility and when used in bulk are treated as noise.)

    More to the point, too few of my supporters were the type of people who almost never post about a book (or post anything promotional). Those supporters are golden, because the people they're connected to are paying attention and seeing something new and different.

I may try another book-promo Thunderclap in the future, but it will be after I have a large enough reading audience that I won't need to lean (at least not too heavily) on "share for share" groups.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Understanding Hashtags

I wrote the following for a private group that discusses and helps people with Thunderclap campaigns. It is not too specific to Thunderclap or that group, so I decided to share a slightly-edited version of it here.

After supporting a number of Thunderclap campaigns for members in the group, I noticed a pattern. People were #putting #too #many #hashtags in their messages! That's not how hashtags work.

  • You should only include one hashtag. Research has shown that more than one hashtag reduces exposure. You want more exposure, not less.
  • If you're hoping to "trend" on a unique tag, you will undermine that effort by using more than one hashtag, because all of them will have the same tweet/post count, and that makes all of them look less special.
  • You want hashtags that will match other people's tweets. They are a search mechanism to bundle together multiple tweets. Unless your name is a household name that people will be mentioning a lot, there is no value in making your name a hashtag. It will not increase your exposure at all. The same goes for your book's title.
  • Multiple hashtags in a message are a spam indicator. People who support your Thunderclap campaign are doing you a favor. Don't make them look bad!
  • To get the maximum visibility from your (one!) hashtag, you should use a term that is common but not too common. If it's uncommon, as already stated, it won't bring you any views -- the only tweets/posts it matches will be those posting your message, which defeats the purpose. However, if the hashtag is too common, your message may not be visible very long before other tweets/posts push it down. (And that's assuming it's ever visible.) It's tricky to know where the right balance is, but it's worth trying for.

In general, hashtags should be carefully considered and employed, not thrown in with abandon.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Is Thunderclap Worth It?

The good thing about Thunderclap is that their service is free. Well, it's free as long as you don't pay for upgrades. For example, if you want a list of your supporters, you'll have to pay.

The down side of it, apart from the potential difficulty in getting enough supporters, is that it might be a waste of time. That means opportunity cost, so potentially a net loss. In an online discussion about using Thunderclap for book promotions, one person indicated that she reached her minimum number of supporters and with a combined reach of nearly half a million people... and saw almost no change in sales. In her words, it was a "golf clap" rather than a thunderclap.

I'm still trying, but I've downgraded my expectations substantially. As of this writing, you have about five days if you want to donate a Tweet, or a post on Facebook or Tumblr, to help me announce my new novel. But I don't really think I'll reach the 100 supporter minimum, and even if I do, it may not be worth the effort I've put into promoting it.

Have you had better luck with Thunderclap? Can you restore my faith in the concept? Leave a comment!

Use Their Money To Sell Your Books

Whatever you may think about NOOK Press and how they deal with authors, when someone gives you a useful tool to sell more of your work, it's worth taking a look. Yesterday, I got email from NOOK Press about a limited-time promotion they are running to encourage people to download and install the NOOK mobile app. They will give new users of the app a $5 credit which, naturally, could be used to buy your book. If you want to learn more about leveraging this promo to help you promote your books, read the details they provide. If you're a reader who got lost and is somehow on my blog for writers, go get your $5 credit and then find a good book to read. Say, for example, Lesson One: Revolution!

Let's Get Started!

Rather than waste time and space on an introductory post, I put all of the background details on the Vital Info page. Let's get started right away with some free advertising options:

  • Project Wonderful will allow you to run banner ads and often this can be done for free. Even when it's not free, it can be very cheap, like one cent for a whole day of exposure. (They use time-based bids rather than click or impression bids.)
  • Buck Books provides a mailing list for people who want to find free and cheap books. Everything is under $1. Why do you care? Because they (currently) aren't charging authors to have their books featured. They are selective, though, so you're not guaranteed any exposure. However, it is easy enough to join their affiliate program, so that might be worth a look.
  • Betty Book FREAK also offers a mailing list to help people find free and discount books, and again there is no charge (currently) to have your book mentioned.

OK, that's enough to get started. I'll post more as soon as I have time! :)