Hints for making your blog title catchy #MondayBlogs #AmWriting

In today’s world where we have an overwhelming amount of information to sift through every day and little time in which to do such sifting – let alone the reading itself – producing interesting and well-written blogs is not enough. Unless you already have a HUGE following (if so, let me know how you did it), you need to also find people who want to actually read your blogs. I’ve written a lot about the so-called author platform. Today’s blog is not about that. Today, I’m simply going to talk about blog titles.

Why does your blog article need a catchy title?

captureCapture interest. Unless your title catches my interest, I won’t be reading your blog. I follow a ton of blogs for various reasons. I want to be informed about the writing industry, I want to find new books to read, and I just plain want to be informed. I use the WordPress App to scroll through the blogs I follow. I often do this on my phone while standing in line at the supermarket or waiting for my turn at the physical therapist’s office. Being totally honest here, I won’t read your blog if the title doesn’t catch my interest. Who has time to read mediocre blogs?

 

 

How to have a catchy title?

I’m not going to tell you how to write a catchy title. There are plenty of experts out there who are way better at that sort of thing. I will give you have few helpful hints.

Keep it short stupid (KISS). It’s not easy to make a short blog title. As Benjamin Franklin said,

I have already made this paper too long, for which I must crave pardon, not having now time to make it shorter.

There are few issues with longer titles. The entire title will be cut-off on the WordPress App. And the entire title will not show in a tweet. Instead the dreaded … will appear. Then, there’s also the fact that we humans appear to have shorter and shorter attention spans. I think my attention span is that of a gnat.

hashtags-signs-ss-1920Limit Hashtags. I will admit I’ve changed my mind about hashtags. I was adamantly opposed when I first started tweeting. Now, I’ve learned that hashtags are an essential part of tweeting. HOWEVER – there needs to be a balance between text and hashtags. All hashtags in a blog title will make me roll my eyes and keep scrolling. It’s difficult to ascertain what the blog is actually about if the title is just a bunch of hashtags. Scrolling on …

twitterTweeting. I try – try being the operative word here – to provide my twitter followers with interesting reading material. I like to tweet fun or thought-provoking blogs I read. I’m also lazy busy. I don’t want to come up with a catchy tweet. Nope. I want to steal yours. Just a reminder to configure your blog so that the blog title appears like you want it. I’d also advise adding @{your name} to the end of that configuration. That way you’ll see it in your twitter notifications each time someone tweets your article. Stalking opportunity!

Any other helpful hints for blog titles. Share in the comments.

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How my Amazon ad campaign went ~ Part II ~ Product Display #WriterWednesday #AuthorMarketing #Marketing

Uh oh. It’s that time again. Time to talk about our least favorite thing as authors – marketing. *Cringes* Sorry, but it has to happen sometime. If you want to be successful as a self-published author, you need to do the marketing as well as the writing. A while back, I discussed how my sponsored product ad went on Amazon (you can read the article here)

I decided to do a product display ad for my romantic comedy, Fat Girl Begone! I’ve wanted to try a product display ad because I think they look pretty spiffy. (The sponsored product ad looks basically the same as when your book comes up in a search.) You can write your own copy with the product display ad. The number of characters is limited, so you’ll have to get inventive. Here’s what I came up with:

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I was embarassingly excited about doing this ad. I thought the copy looked good. And the reviews were looking good as well. What could go wrong? Well, the first issue is cost. You have to have a minimum budget of $100 for the ad. That’s a big budget for one ad in my limited experience. BUT you only pay when someone clicks on the ad. So, I swallowed my fear and continued.

The next issue I had was the start and end date. I don’t know if it has anything to do with me, but I was unable to chose my start date. Very frustrating! What I finally did was get the entire ad ready to go and hit save ‘save as draft’ instead of ‘submit campaign for review’. I waited until the day before my book went on sale to hit submit. Mistake. Big mistake. I’m used to Amazon accepting any changes in my books within a few hours. It took two days for Amazon to accept my ad. My sale was nearly done by then!

Finally, my ad was accepted. It took a while for the campaign to gain momentum. But how’d it do in the end? See for yourself:

amazon ads 1

 

As you can see, there was a decent number of impressions (the number of times the ad is shown): 17,563. The problem is that only a small percentage of those actually click on the ad. In my case, a mere 1.5%. Egad! That’s depressing. And I’m not sure why that is. Is my book unattractive? Is the synopsis unappealing? Or are customers just immune to ads as our lives are overfilled with them?

The next step takes a bit of detective work, because you pay for the clicks whether the customer buys the book or not. This is indicated in the spend column. A click does not automatically translate to a sale, however. At $2.49 per copy, I receive a royalty of $0.87 per book (although my book was on sale at the start of the campaign, I’m ignoring that for simplistic sake. Also, it was only one day of the 90-day campaign.) According to Amazon, I earned an estimate $58.07 in royalties, which translates to 67 book purchases.

Breaking it down, I come up with the following. Of the 17,563 persons who saw my book, only 67 actually went ahead with a purchase. That’s less than half a percent. If that’s not depressing enough, Amazon includes the advertising cost of sales (ACoS), which indicates that I’ve spent 29% more on the ad than I earned.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what to think about this. I often spend more on advertising than I actually earn in book sales. I keep at it because exposure, exposure, exposure. And, every once in a blue moon, I get another verified book review. So, will I do another Amazon product display ad? Probably. I may wait until I have more reviews and see how that compares.

Anyone else out there do a product display ad? How did it go? What are your thoughts?

 

 

Check out my fave Instagram pics for a chance to win! #Giveaway #AwesomeAmazonAuthors

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Are you ready for a fun giveaway? Well, duh. Of course, you are! Together with my writer peeps, aka #AwesomeAmazonAuthors, we’re taking Instagram by storm. Just follow us on Instagram for your chance to win. Talk about super-duper easy. In the meantime, we’re blogging our favorite Instagram pictures.

Confession time: I still have no idea what I’m doing on Instagram. When I joined, I only had slightly more knowledge of the app than Vince Vaughn in “The Internship”.

It was my brilliant idea to share some favorite Instagram pictures. *Cringes* Like many of my ‘brilliant’ ideas, I didn’t think this through, because I frankly have no idea what pictures to highlight. Not having a clue what I’m doing has never stopped me before so here we go …

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I’m including this picture because, although I may call myself a writer, I’m first and foremost a reader. By the way, the mug (Shut Up I’m reading) is no joke. I get seriously irritated when I’m disturbed when reading. You’ve been warned.

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Here my books are on display at a gala hosted here in The Hague by the American Women’s Club of The Hague. I’m always giving my books away to use as raffle items or door prizes for some charity. I grew up with this idea that I was going to ‘save the world’ – whatever that means. I went in the Army and studied law because I thought I could help people as a soldier or as a lawyer. That didn’t turn out like I expected. I struggle with the knowledge that I’m not making the world a better place with my profession. I appease this by donating to charity, whether it be my books, my time, or monetary donations.

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Ooooh – this is an exciting moment. The arrival of the paperback copies of my latest release, Fat Girl Begone! Although I don’t sell many paperback copies of my books (I’m sure that 99% of the sales are to family and friends), there’s nothing like the feeling of your own book in your hands. It makes all the struggle worth it!

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This is a fun picture of the moment I hit 40,000 words in my current manuscript. I always mark the moment I hit 40,000 words as that’s considered ‘novel-length’. I happened to be sitting on a plane on my way to visit the hubby in Istanbul when I hit the magic mark. That didn’t stop me from ordering a beer and celebrating!

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This is what my life looks like at the moment. Lots of study books and note taking! My current project is an historical romance, which means that the history geek in me is having a ball researching all there is to know about Istanbul during the Second World War. The writer in me is annoyed the first draft is still not finished.

Those are my five Instagram pictures! Follow me and my fellow #AwesomeAmazonAuthors for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift certificate. Just think of the books you can buy with that!

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Enter the giveaway → HERE

Diving into history ~ Visit to Jewish Cemetery in The Hague #MondayBlogs #History

As many of you know, I’m slightly obsessed with Judaism and Jewish history. My history studies focused on modern history with a special emphasis on Nazi Germany, and it’s impossible to study that time period without diving into the history of anti-Semitism and the Jewish diaspora. My obsession has absolutely nothing to do with working down the block from the synagogue in The Hague for seven years and noticing they were always partying. (It was only years later that I discovered the parties weren’t always for Jewish festivities, but the building itself was rented out to third parties. My disappointment was profound.) I’m also currently working on an historical novel, which takes place in Istanbul during the war and deals with the escape of Jews from Nazi occupied lands through Turkey en route to Palestine.

Jewish cemeterty 1So, yeah, I’m totally buried in Jewish history at the moment. You can imagine my excitement then, when I discovered the Jewish cemetery here in The Hague was open yesterday as part of the annual Open Monument Days. Once a year, monuments in the country open their doors to visitors for free. Many of these monuments – like the Jewish cemetery – are not usually open to the public. They often offer free guided tours as well! It’s a great opportunity to dive into history.

 

I jumped on my bike and made sure I was at the cemetery in time for the first tour. The first thing I noticed about the cemetery is that most of the grave markers are flat stones. In other Jewish cemeteries, the stones are upright. It turns out that this cemetery was started by the Portuguese Jewish community and their tradition is to lay stones flat. The Germanic Jewish community in The Hague followed this tradition, except for a few upright stones.

Our guide told us an interesting tidbit about the cemetery during the war. The cemetery is currently surrounded by a brick wall, but during the Second World War, the wall had a gate in it. One night during the war, a group broke into the cemetery to bury some Jewish persons who had died while in hiding. No one is sure who the persons are who are buried, but there are some slight mounds near the former gate where everyone assumes the men were buried. (The surrounding wall has been renovated and closed off in recent years.)

jewish cemetery 2

FYI: The grave in the middle is that of Jozef Israels, a famous Dutch painter

 

I also learned about several traditions regarding Jewish burials. For example, each grave only has one person. Children are buried separately and have smaller stones.

 

jewish cemetery 4

The burial stones also hold symbols containing clues about the person buried. For example, having the surname of Kohen usually indicates that one’s patrilineal ancestors were priests in the Temple of Jerusalem. In that case, the burial stone will hold two hands, with four fingers each divided into two sets of fingers. This is the symbol of a priestly blessing.

jewish cemetery 10

Another symbol is a pitcher, which signifies a Levite. A Levite is a member of the tribe of Levi who were responsible for cleaning the hands of the Temple priest (a Kohen).

jewish cemetery 6

It was an interesting tour despite my confusion about the Dutch word for Zionism (it’s the same word but pronounced very strangely). For once, I wasn’t the know-it-all. Really, I wasn’t.

You’ve got an awesome review of your book. Now what? #AuthorMarketing #Marketing

review blurbs 2There’s absolutely nothing better than reading an awesome review of your book. The very best are reviews that compare your writing/book to a favorite author. Whenever anyone compares one of my cozy murder mysteries to Janet Evanovich, I nearly pee my pants in glee. Naturally, you want to share that happiness with the entire freaking world! And then you think: “This is great opportunity to sell some books!” Yes, book sales! That’s what we like! That’s what we want!

Wait! Hold up! Before you start to spread quotes from that review all over social media, let’s talk a minute. First and foremost, do you have permission to share the review? Sorry, recovering lawyer here. Most bloggers and reviewers are happy for you to spread the word but a few aren’t. Professional review services such as Kirkus most definitely have strict rules about using their reviews. Just quickly check before you start shouting from the rooftops.

Now’s a good time to brag to all your friends and family. Get that out. Share the excitement. All done? Good. Let’s talk strategy now that you’re not too excited to sit down. Because you should have a strategy. Full disclosure: I’m as guilty as the next writer of screaming down the rooftops (aka Twitter and Facebook) when I’ve received a good review. I like to think I’ve since grown as a writer and marketer. (Shhhh… let me just revel in my disillusion a little longer.)

Where can you share a review blurb?

  • On a book cover,
  • In the book blurb (on a retailer site such as Amazon),
  • On the first pages of the novel,
  • On social media,
  • In editorial reviews.

I’m sure there are tons more places to share a review blurb, but let’s stick to the above for now. I discussed sharing a review blurb on a book cover last week (see here). To sum it up – I’m not a believer. Moving on.

On book retailer websites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc., you can write your own book blurbs. Too often (in my humble but honest opinion), authors include review excerpts at the start of the book blurb. When I’m searching Amazon on my phone, I often can’t even see the book blurb as the review excerpts take up all the space! I’m sure there are readers out there who are more likely to read a book because JK Rowling recommended it. But the vast majority of these review blurbs are written by writers or reviewers that no one knows! Do you want potential readers to have to scroll past review blurbs before they even know what your book is about? *Moves on to next book*

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There are also writers who add pages and pages of reviews to the first pages of the novel. This really irritates me. First of all, I downloaded your book so obviously I want to read it or at least give it a try. Stop pushing me already! Secondly, if this book is part of the kindle unlimited, then the author just got paid for me ‘reading’ those pages. At this point, there’s a good chance I won’t enjoy your novel no matter how good it is.

There is a perfectly acceptable way to add reviews to Amazon without angering readers – an editorial review. These reviews are placed under the book blurb and above customer reviews – a prominent position, in other words. This is a great way to share reviews from reviewers who don’t put their review on Amazon. It’s also a means to add extra emphasis to those exemplary reviews.

review blurbs 1

Now, let’s get to the nitty gritty. If you’ve been doing your homework as an author, you’ve read a gazillion articles with advice on how to use social media to promote your ‘author brand’. Undoubtedly, one piece of advice you’ve read is to not overwhelm your followers with sales pitches. But is the sharing of a review a sales pitch? Well (warning: lawyerly response), sometimes.

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Yes, I’m annoying. I know it, and I won’t apologize. The problem in deducing whether sharing a review blurb is a sales pitch too far is in how it’s done. I follow some authors (or I used to!) who are continuously talking about their books. When they share a review, my response is ‘oh great, another post about their books!’. *Clicks Unfollow Button* But when I follow a writer who mostly uses their twitter feed (or whatever social media platform) to share interesting content as well as information about their books, I’m totally okay with a review blurb here or there. How much? Well, that’s the tight rope we’ve got to walk as writers, isn’t it? Because everyone’s different and that includes social media followers. Use your discretion. Try to look at your social media feed as an uninterested third party – would you follow yourself?

Total honesty – I probably would have unfollowed myself two years ago. *Ouch*

 

Algorithms are taking over my life and I don’t like it #MondayBlogs

algorithm 1I know it’s early on Monday morning and I should stick to light topics until everyone’s hangovers subside, but – sorry, not sorry – I’ve got something to get off my chest. I really, really don’t like anyone telling me what to do. Yes, I’m still a teenager in my head. But now it seems that we are stuck with all kinds of websites telling us what we want to read or know. Um, excuse me, what in the world makes you think you know what I want to read when I can’t decide what I want to read until I’m actually reading it?

Before we get started on this rant discussion, let’s look at how Wikipedia defines an algorithm because I pretty much slept through math class in high school.

In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is self-contained sequence of actions to be performed. Algorithms can perform calculation, data processing and automated reasoning tasks.

It’s those words ‘automated reasoning’ with which I have a beef. For some strange reason, some dude sitting in a cubicle somewhere halfway across the world is deciding what Tweets, Instagram pictures, or Facebook posts I want to see. And let me tell you – he’s freaking wrong!

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Twitter decides which tweets I see first. The home page now starts with ‘in case you missed it’ instead of a chronological view of tweets. Oh sure, you can still see the chronological tweets, but you have to scroll like a crazy person on your smart phone to get there.
  • I have no idea how Instagram does it, but – despite following several hundred accounts – I keep seeing the same 20 accounts. (Instagram dudette, if you’re out there, I don’t want to see all those accounts that only promote their own crap.)
  • Facebook. I don’t even know what to say about Facebook anymore. I used to be one of the biggest fans but no longer. On the current Facebook app, you can’t even choose to see the most recent posts. Yes, please, I want to see the same post 20,000 times because people keep on commenting on it. That stuff floats my boat. <sarcasm very much intended>

algorithm 2It’s bad enough that these algorithms are making my personal enjoyment of social media … well… less enjoyable. But algorithms also effect my profession as a writer. For example, I’ve spent a lot of time and effort gathering Facebook followers. But does an update I post actually get seen by all my followers? Not even close. Unless I pay to boost a post, less than 25% of my followers will see any given update. I totally understand that Facebook is a money-making business. Duh! But why do I have to pay to reach my followers?

algorithm 3And then there’s Amazon. Do a search for Amazon algorithm. Hundreds, if not thousands, of websites and articles – and even books! – will pop up. Everyone is trying to figure out how the Amazon search engine works. In case you’re wondering why I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about this, go ahead and search your own author name in Amazon and see what you get. When I search my author name in Amazon, books from other authors will pop up and further not all my books come up! That’s right. Someone could have met me, found me interesting, and want to read my books, but not be able to find my books when they search Amazon! I’m serious, folks. That’s just wrong.

Amazon also uses an algorithm to decide on a star rating for books. That’s right. The star rating is not merely an average calculation (which even I know how to do!). In Amazon’s defense, they feel that verified purchase reviews should carry greater weight than other reviews. I understand where they’re coming from, but I don’t agree. I’ve worked really hard to find bloggers and reviewers to review my books. They didn’t promise me a rose garden… er… a good review. And trust me, they aren’t always good. In fact, sometimes they’re downright cringe worthy.

Now do you understand why algorithms are ruling my life and I’m not happy about it?

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Blog ideas for writers or just about anyone #AmBlogging #Amwriting

A few years ago, I decided that as part of my ‘writer platform’ (and yes, I still freaking hate that term!), I’d blog three times a week on my My Musings blog. I fail most weeks. Some weeks, I fail spectacularly. In a valiant attempt to prevent failure, I started using one my journals as a ‘blogging ideas’ journal. I’d do just about anything to have an excuse to use a journal and therefore need to buy a new one!

blog ideas

I do wish I’d saved this journal for my cupcake series

 

Usually, I don’t manage to meet my weekly blog goal because I’m too busy writing or living life (yes, it happens. I’m not a complete hermit – yet). Sometimes, I’m stuck for an idea and then I pull out my trusty journal and pick a topic. Usually, the topic that requires the least work because I’m lazy like that. Unfortunately, when I flipped through the pages of my journal this morning, I couldn’t find a topic I wanted to write about. Most of the topics were scratched out as I’d used them. A few topics I can’t use yet as I’m waiting for results (e.g. I want to write a blog on my experiences with getting reviews via Reading Alley but my session is still running).

For reasons unknown to me, I actually have a bit of energy to do some research not book related this morning. I decided to do some research and come up with some generic blog ideas for the future. I’ve listed them here. Hope they help!

  1. Vacation blog post.
  2. Mentor mention. Is there a mentor who has been important in your writing career?
  3. Things that inspire you.
  4. A day in the life.
  5. How do you keep your writing ideas organized?
  6. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
  7. Advice for aspiring authors. Get specific and you can write several blog posts!
  8. Plans and goals for the future. (I’m working on a writing bucket list myself.)
  9. Favorite writing advice. What one piece of advice really works for you and why.
  10. Article about a current event in the writing industry.
  11. Article about a newsworthy event that piques your interest or is somehow related to your writing.
  12. Weekend wrap-up with pictures. This is a good idea for a #MondayBlogs.
  13. How do you stay inspired?
  14. Love letter to a product – something that revolutionized your life. (I really like this idea.)
  15. Favorite books for writers.
  16. What are you currently researching? I’m knee deep in WWII research. I should be able to find something here. Hmmm….
  17. Wrap-up of the best blog posts you’ve read in the past week. I know a lot of bloggers who do this, and I love those posts.
  18. A list of your favorite blogs. Share the love!
  19. A list of who to follow on Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest, etc. More love sharing!
  20. A critical life event that has shaped who you are – maybe why it made you want to write?
  21. What you learned from or how you got over a big disappointment. Maybe a book that didn’t sell as well as expected. What did you learn from that?
  22. A free short story. This is definitely NOT on the easy list!
  23. Upcoming writing projects. What? When? Why?
  24. A song playlist for your current work in progress.
  25. Marketing results. Marketing efforts you’ve made and the results.
  26. How to kill a fictional character. You can either get into the psychological aspects of having to kill off a character you’ve invested time and effort into or how to physically kill the character.
  27. Top ten things you’ve tried but will never do again.

Hopefully, one of these ideas will inspire me next week. In the meantime, TGIF!