I don’t sign up for many email lists. Once I do, it takes a lot to get me to unsubscribe. But I wanted to share a recent experience of how one fellow author succeeded in upsetting me enough to make me unsubscribe:
I won’t name her here, but she’s awesome. I love her posts and she has a lot of great courses for authors. So I signed up. For several weeks, I got quality authorly tips.
Today, I opened my inbox to discover an email from someone else, not the person I subscribed to. Turns out she needed to take a medical ‘leave of absence’ from authoring/blogging/emailing. So she had someone else come in to take over emailing her list while she is out.
When I hit the Unsubscribe button, I was asked for a reason why. Here’s my response:
Don’t like getting emails from someone other than the person I subscribed to. If you need to go on leave, then go on leave. Or batch a bunch of posts and drip them out while you’re gone. Or rebrand as “Writers Tips” instead of [Author’s Name Removed] But handing the keys to my email inbox over to someone else is a violation of trust.
I understand the author wants to keep reinforcing her brand. She is using repeated contact to stay on “top of mind” with her audience and not let that connection atrophy. But there are two problems with the way this was handled.
She’s not just running a writing advice website. She’s running a site where She give writing advice. She’s branded herself as an authority to give writing advice. Her name is in large, capital letters on her website, email list, and all things surrounding her brand. In her training videos, she looks right at you and tells you how she is going to help you succeed.
I signed up to her email list. To get writing tips, sure, but to get writing tips From Her. There are about 50,000 writers tip lists out there. I chose her list because I trusted her, and she violated that trust.
Keep this in mind when you start any kind of online business. It’s called branding. And it needs to be consistent, or you’re going to lose people.
Consistency is more important than being top of mind.
You might be thinking, “Why you mad bro? That’s just like ‘guest posting’ on a blog, right?”
No, it’s not.
Your blog is your own playground. Fill it with the toys you want. Change the colors. Change the graphics. Let people post and comment away. It’s your house. When I come to visit, I’ll see whatever content you’ve chosen to decorate with, even if it’s not your own.
But my inbox is mine. And I’ll decide what goes there and what does not. And if I trust you enough to let you add content there, that doesn’t mean you can just let other people add things to that space. That would be like me inviting you over to play cards on Friday but instead, you send someone else in your place. Very not cool. Especially from someone who gives marketing advice to authors.
Respect the inbox of your email subscribers.
I don’t email my list unless I have real news to share, and there is definitely plenty of exciting news and free stuff coming soon. Sign up here for free ebooks and updates! I promise I won’t hand your email over to anyone else.
While wandering the AWP Conference, I met Amy Quale from Wise Ink, a Minneapolis-based business offering creative and publishing services to independent authors.
One of the tools Wise Ink is using to promote their business is a beginners-level book titled “Social Media Secrets for Authors ” written by Wise Ink founders/editors Dara Beevas and Amy Quale. The book covers “The Big Four” of author social media: Blogging, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. If you’re an author who is just starting out, and don’t have these four social mediums locked down, then I highly recommend this book. It has action plan checklists, ideas for blog posts, and is essential ‘Social Media 101’ for new authors. [Read more…]
Most people are familiar with the domain name extension “.com” (dot com) that ends the majority of websites. “Com” was meant to be short for commerce, but it really gets used as a catch-all for things that don’t belong in other web extensions like .gov, .edu or .org.
Bar Chart of Domain Extensions as of 13 Apr 2014 http://www.domaintools.com/statistics/tld-counts/
As you can see from the report I pulled from domaintools, the extension “.com” is currently the undisputed king of website name endings. But that may change soon.
Since November 2013, new extensions are being released each month: .today, .tips, .photo, .sexy, .vip, .lgbt, .cool, .ninja, .social, .love, and many more are already available, and there are more coming out each month.
Of interest to authors – .blog, .guru, .diy, .bio, .events, .how, .reviews, .expert and more are already available. These are coming soon: .fans, .new, .buy, and .free. In Jan of 2015, the extension .you becomes available. That should be interesting. And I’m sure we could make all kinds of interesting sites out of the ending “.ing”. And there are many more soon to come…
Fellow Minnesota Author Michael Merriam asked if I’d participate in a virtual blog tour about writing process. Actually, he told me if I didn’t do it, “terrible misfortune was certain to come my way! Very soon!”
Fortunately, I know Michael is a liar. The man makes up stuff all the time. Good stuff. Check out Michael Merriam on Goodreads if you don’t believe me.
But it sounds like fun to participate. (And why take a chance, right? I mean “terrible misfortune”? Yikes!) So here is some info about my current work and writing process:[Read more…]
2013 was an altogether odd year. Keep in mind that we weren’t even supposed to HAVE a 2013. The world was supposed to end on 21 Dec 2012, and… well, it didn’t. Kinda like that old roommate of yours from college who dropped by to stay “for a couple days” and now he’s been living with you for several months…. Yeah, it’s kinda like that. No one really knew what to do with this bonus year, and I can safely say that few people made the most of it.
For a few years, I recorded and edited the podcast for the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group. I would record our monthly writers’ discussions on a Zoom H4n, then dump the sound file into Sonar, add a voiceover intro/outro (some intros were provided by fellow MNSpec authoress, Abra Staffin-Wiebe) then export to wav, import to Adobe Audition, trim the ends, convert to mp3, tag and upload.
Now even someone who sucks at math could tell you this process was high-maintenance. It took two to three hours of post-production for each hour of finished audio. For all of the TENS of fans who listened to the podcast.
Then I discovered Google’s “Hangouts On Air” (or #HOA ) HOA is a feature that allows you to stream a Google Hangout video chat LIVE on google plus, and auto-post to youtube.com when the chat is completed. So instead of hours of audio post-production, I figured I could switch to HOA, stream the meetup in a video hangout, which not only added the freakin’ video, but also gave our group the ability to remote-in to the writers’ group meetup, plus the presto-uploaded youtube video with all it’s sharing/commenting/analytic-tracking glory, and all with NO post-production.
A new invention for social-media-ville is called a “social paywall.” You may have already seen its older brother (called a financial paywall) in posts and articles. A financial paywall looks like this:
Makes sense. You get some content for free, but if you wanna get past the wall, you have to pay to continue.
A Social Paywall is different. It looks like this:
With a social paywall, you “pay” to access content with your social media approval.
In the world of websites, social approvals (likes, +1s, shares, etc.) have a value. They are like votes. They add up to something called Social Proof, also known as clout, moxie, or influence. They also might help jack up a website’s SEO. (Search Engine Optimization) These results are so valuable to website owners that it’s easy to understand how they could mistake social approval for currency.
So now websites with social paywalls will expect you to share/tweet/+1/like before you can access the content. Because your +1 is just like money, right? And it doesn’t cost you, so you won’t care, right?
The Problem With The Social Paywall
In the physical world, we are used to paying for things in the form of an exchange. You can stop in at the local bar and watch the big-screen tv for free. Popcorn and water is free too. But if you want a shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, you’re going to have to pay for it.
That same business model works fine online as a financial paywall. Some content/info is free, but if you want something more, then you have to pay for it.
But that’s NOT how social media likes, +1s, shares and other social approvals work.
Social paywalls twist the function of likes, +1s shares, etc. corrupting ‘social proof’ as we know it. – [Click to Tweet This!]
Back in the physical realm, when you have a good experience at the bar – when the bathrooms are clean and the bartender is friendly, and makes your drinks so strong that they start to dissolve the glass they’re served in – then you leave a tip on the counter as you go. And you tell your friends, “Hey you should check out this great place.” That is your real-world social approval.
Online social approval is no different. Your facebook “likes”, shares, +1s, positive ratings, thumbs-ups, retweets, happy comments and blog posts are the equivalent of telling your friends “check this out! I like it!’ Social approvals are just that: Social + Approval.
But with a social paywall, you have to socially approve something before you see it. So how do you know if you “like” or “approve” of the information before you view it?
You don’t. You can’t. And that’s the problem with a Social Paywall. Those who use it are restricting content until AFTER you share it or AFTER you say that you like it. The social approval is given before the product/service has “proven” itself, which does not compute. Would you tell all your friends that you loved a book before you’ve read it, or tell them that a bar is a ‘thumbs up’ before you’ve even been to the place?
Social paywalls are an attempt to game the system. They fundamentally twist the function of social approvals, and will inevitably corrode the credibility of “social proof” as we know it. This has already happened to the book reviews on Amazon. Greedy folks gamed that system too, and it lost it’s usefulness.
There are other problems with a social paywall, (ie: not everyone has a facebook account, and social sites are sometimes blocked by corporate firewalls…) but these are pretty minor in comparison and mostly affect the website owners. But the damage social paywalls could cause to the existing system would unfairly impact all internet users.
The Executive Summary Version
Social approvals (facebook likes, google +1s, tweets, shares, etc) are the online equivalent of telling others about something ubercool that you experienced. Optional. Not necessary. They are intended to let your friends know what you believe are above-average products/services. But social paywalls demand your approval before you see the content, which makes about as much sense as raving about a product or service you’ve never experienced.
It doesn’t surprise me that someone would come up with the social paywall. And it won’t surprise me to see websites actually use it. But it’s beyond rude, and it ruins the simple and effective method of social proof by trying to twist it into an entry fee.
Web Designers: Quality content begets social proof, not vice-versa. Use a financial paywall if you think your content is worth it. Ask for email or account registration if you think your content is worth it. But leave the social media links at the bottom or side of the content. People will gladly like/+1/tweet/share/forward your content… after they read it, and after they decide that it’s worth approving/sharing.
Since 2003 I’ve been writing blog-reviews here about dark and beautiful things. I’ve used the category Ubercool to reference arts, artists, events and things that I think are glorious. And I never once worried that anyone would read them.
But now, my site traffic and ranking have increased to astonishing levels. My inbox is filled with requests for reviews and offers for paid advertising. You read that right. Paid. Advertising.
“You should have an award. You know, like a seal of approval!”
Ten years ago, I felt like the weird kid sitting by himself and reading Lovecraft while listening to Marilyn Manson. Now I feel like some kind of Dark Fiction Authority. The Goth Guru? The Hipster of Darkness? [Read more…]
I’ve been tagged by the lovely and talented Dana Baird as well as by fictioneer Tyler Tork as part of The Next Big Thing Blog Hop! So in accordance with The Next Big Thing rules and regulations, I’m supposed to answer the following questions about my upcoming work, then pass this along to five other Next Big Thing authors.
What is the working title of your next book?
Only The Invisible Flying Pony Vs The Alien Robot Zombie Dinosaurs
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea for an invisible flying pony superhero is a story in itself. But after writing the previous Only story in this series, I received so much positive feedback and I had so much fun writing it, that I couldn’t help coming up with other ideas for preposterously-adjectived antagonists. The previous story, Only the Invisible Flying Pony Vs. The Giant, Carnivorous, Poisonous, Exploding Spider-Leeches sets the enemy bar pretty high, but Alien Robot Zombie Dinosaurs should give them a run for their money.
What genre does your book fall under?
Gothic, Sci-Fi, Horror-Comedy.
Think Calvin and Hobbes meets Stephen King, then add in some Terminator 3 technology…
What is the synopsis or blurb for this book?
I don’t have a blurb for this story, because the title is long enough already, but here’s a quick synopsis:
Payton and her best friend, the invisible flying pony Only, take a field trip to the Minnesota Science Museum. Unfortunately, the dinosaur skeletons come to life and begin abducting people in puffs of black smoke! Can Payton and Only evade agents of the Shadow Government, find out what’s behind the Zombie Dinosaur Menace, save the Earth from certain destruction, and still get home in time for Payton to finish her report on Egypt? Probably not, but watching them try will be a laugh for all fans of preposterously dark fiction.
What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Any actor or actress could play Only, as long as they were invisible.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
If you read my answer to “What genre does your book fall under?” you should be able to figure this one out yourself. This story is probably too adult for kids, and too kiddish for adults. I’m not sure an agency would touch it. Besides, the publishing industry is still busy running research groups to analyze the business potential of this “internet” fad. I’m probably best off releasing this story myself.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Way too long for a short story. Nine months, I think. But several of those months were interrupted by other projects like Jagged Spiral’s second album.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The positive feedback I received from the previous Only story, and sheer fun I had of writing it. One person told me she read the first Only story to her kids as a bedtime story, and they loved it!
Many people asked me if there would be more adventures with Only and Payton and writing these short stories is so much easier than the serious novel I’m laboring over, called Evil Looks Good. Diving back into Only and Payton’s world is a welcome break that is fun and easy to write, with a high payoff for both me and my readers.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
One reader pointed out to me that the interaction between Only and Payton reminds them of Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, and I would have to agree, but add a sinister, world-ending antagonist. Like HP Lovecraft, I try to ratchet up the evil to impossible levels, but I do so with a very wry and dry sense of humor in the style of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith, and the Emily the Strange stories come to mind because of the gothic/horror/comedy crossover. Someone told me my writing reminds them of Terry Pratchett. Not sure if that was meant as a good or bad thing.
What else about your book might pique the readers interest?
The fact that it’s a true story…that really happened. At least the invisible flying pony swears it really happened, and who am I to argue with that?
Or perhaps the fact that it will be really inexpensive. Plus, each copy comes with an invisible, intangible, unscented and completely silent flying pony!
The Next (Five) Big Thing(s)
As part of the Next Big Thing Perpetual Motion Machine, I’m also expected to pick five other authors who I’m into right now. So here’s a list of authors who should be part of the Next Big Thing hoopla:
Abra Staffin-Wiebe – Fellow Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writer Abra Staffin-Wiebe is not only a really good writer, but also has a great voice. Check out both her writing and her voice in her podcast of circusofbrassandbone.com
Joseph Garraty – When I was very young, I asked my mother where I came from. She informed me that I was “left on the doorstep by Gypsies.” I always thought she just wanted to avoid the “birds and the bees” talk. Last year I read Joseph Garraty’s The Voice (NO connection to the TV show of the same name, btw…) and I had to contact him to say how much I liked it. We got to chatting, and the more I learned about Joseph, the more frightening similarities between us were revealed. I’ve decided that either Joseph is my long, lost, Gypsy brother, or he is actually me, and there is a time machine involved. Either way, you should check out his work.
Carole Lanham – Author of The Whisper Jar, Carole writes deliciously dark fiction from her home in St. Louis, Missouri. She is also the purveyor of horrorhomemaker.com.
Jonathan Winn – Author from Seattle, WA. I’m halfway through his first novel Martuk… The Holy. Mixing dark fiction with comparative religion, Jonathan Winn does description like no other author I’ve read.
Joseph Nassise – With over twenty novels under his belt, and former Horror Writers Association President creds, Joseph Nassise is already a Big Thing. However, I was able to preread some scenes of Eyes to See before it was released last June, and it’s in my reading queue right now. I know fans of dark fiction are going to eat this up.
I suppose I should be flattered by the massive increase in requests for critiques and reviews of films, books and other dark fiction artwork. Looks like ten years of blogging is starting to pay off.
But, with great SEO comes a great bunch of whack jobs wanting your attention.
Case in point: I was recently contacted by a PR firm representing a Hollywood film company promoting their new horror flick. I should have known better from the trailer and the press release, but I watched the film, and it turned out to be Torture Porn. Putting it nicely, this person isn’t making movies. What he has made is so astonishingly violent and awful that I wouldn’t even recommend it to Rob Zombie.
The way I put it to the PR company was, “I don’t think I’d be able to give you the charitable review you would like.” But that’s PR speak. What I really meant was, “I think the filmmaker should be dragged out into the street and strangled to death with his own intestines. While being burned alive. While being run over. With his own car. Probably want to kill off any offspring too, just to make sure that particular movie-making gene isn’t passed on. And to be really sure, you probably want to make a note of his DNA code and put it on some kind of government black list.”
Film THAT, and I’d review it.
You see, it isn’t the graphic violence that I’m opposed to, its the fact that there was NO PLOT. Because without a plot, there’s no reason for the violence to exist in your film in the first place. What am I supposed to critique? The soundtrack? The special effects? Your clever selection of ways in which to hurt people?
Another film company approached me with a heartwarming, coming of age film. Seriously, do you know who I am? Have you even seen my site?
To prevent time-wasters like these, I came up with a checklist for authors, filmmakers, production companies, PR houses, and other potential reviewees to consider before submitting books, movies and other art for review here at conradzero.com.
The Official Review Policy for conradzero.com
I love reviewing Dark Fiction, Dark Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror and Speculative Fiction in any formats: books, e-books, movies, music, websites, services, products, stories, novels, erotic pix, interpretive dance, etc…
However, I ask that all potential reviewees please consider the three simple items below:
1 – I Love Dark Fiction
Rule One: Know Thy Reviewer. This doesn’t just apply to me, but to anyplace you approach for a review. Oh, but it doesn’t hurt to blast the world with requests, right? Wrong. A little research will go a long way. Send people stuff they already like, and the chances of not only getting a review but getting a good review go up considerably. With that in mind, here’s lists of things I like / don’t like.
Conrad Zero Likes
Dark Fiction, Dark Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, Speculative Fiction
Monsters, Demons, Cthulhu, Aliens… you know, scary stuff
Action, Humor, Caffeine, Guns, and Things That Explode
Trechery, Deceit, and World-Ending-Evil that simply must be stopped
Puzzles, Moral and Ethical Dilemmas, Comparative Religion, Philosophical Ideas
Religious or Political Agendas disguised as Fiction (Whether I agree with them or not)
Torture Porn, Rob Zombie Films, and other “Violence sans plot”. Think dark, not depraved.
Notice that I have no bias for or against works of art because of who made them, how they were made, or how much money they were made with. I thought Clerks was awesome, and the Blair Witch Project sucked. I won’t automatically like/hate your book just because you got a publishing deal with Simon and Schuster, and I won’t automatically like/hate your movie because the budget was less than the blue book value of my 1996 Saturn SC2. And just because you’re a dark fiction author from Minneapolis like me doesn’t guarantee I’ll review your story, or like it for that matter, which leads me to my next point.
2 – I Guarantee An Honest Review, But I Don’t Guarantee A Positive Review
I do private critiques all the time for the MNSpec Writers’ Group and other Dark Fiction Author friends. While these are not the same as public reviews of finished works, there is one thing I do for both in the interest of giving critiques that are actually USEFUL to those reading them.
I try to find good and bad aspects of everything I review.
In other words, I guarantee an honest review, but I don’t guarantee a positive review. This isn’t “The Feel-Good Home Of Instant 5-Star Reviews!” There are plenty of other places that do this, and I don’t trust their endorsement of anything. If what you really want is ADVERTISING, then you can pay me to post a link to your “product” but if you want a REVIEW, then mine come with the good and the bad in one package.
So if your story has a horrible cover, typos galore and poor formatting, I’ll point it out. This works the other-way-round too, even if your story has a horrible cover, typos galore and poor formatting, I’ll still look for good qualities that make your book worth buying. Even the worst work has some redeeming quality, and even the best work could be improved. Midi-chlorians. I rest my case.
3 – No Unsolicited Works – Ask For Reviews Before Submitting
Aside from being rude and assuming, there are legal reasons you don’t send unsolicited work to anyone. Always get permission first. Pitch me your project and I’ll let you know if I’m interested/available to review it. Press Kits, website links, and e-mail requests are fine, but DO NOT send unsolicited stories, scripts, writings or other works.
The Short Version
The more you act like a professional, the more I will treat you like a professional. The more you act like an overcaffinated spazz, spewing review requests into every inbox when you’ve clearly spent more time marketing your work than actually working on it… the more you really do not want me to review your work.
How to Submit Dark Fiction Books, Movies, Etc For Review
If we’re on the same page, then for the fastest response – press-kit or pitch me by email: zero at conradzero.com