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I’m coming down off of my weekend at Balticon 42 and now that I have a moment to catch my breath, I want to thank the organizers and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society for hosting a marvelous event.
I had the opportunity to sit on several panels. On Friday, I moderated a discussion on E-publishing. I was nervous as all get-out since I’d never been a panelist before and I didn’t have a chance to warm up before moderating one. My fellow panelists and I had an animated discussion on the subject. Later, I participated on the “Promoting Yourself” panel with six podcasters. With that many gregarious personalities on one panel, it was definitely one of the most lively dsicussions at the con. Were it not for the timely deliverance of the key to the room, we would have conducted the discussion in the bar. In fact, were had gone as far as leaving a note on the door and traipsing down the hall when the key showed up. Drat.
Saturday started out with me moderating “Building a Website for Fun and Profit.” I had a great time again and my fellow panelists and I enjoyed answering the many questions people came in with. “Real Women Warriors” was my next appearance and that panel covered both how to write a believable woman leader as well as historical instances of women as fighters. Haley Elizabeth Garwood had a lot to say about historical women warriors, as that’s her passion when it comes to writing. As a historian by degree, I often felt a bit at a loss for words with her on the panel. I think my contributions from the perspective of a trained combat martial artist were both constructive and appreciated, though.
By my last panel of the day, I was really drained. “How Long Will It Still Be Called the Internet?” was not my best effort ever, but I think everyone enjoyed the discussion. No one left the room in favor of dinner at any rate. Both these last two were set to the martial music of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which was showing in the next room.
I want to thank David Louis Edelman for fielding the majority of the discussion on the Internet’s longevity, even though he was sick. I was very tired and neither of us had prepared questions when the assigned moderator announced that he was double-booked and would be on his other panel instead. Luckily, the gathering had a lot to say on the topic, some of which I understood well enough to follow, but not well enough to comment on. I’m a web developer, I design and program websites. I only understand IP, DNS, routing and other infrastructure things as they relate to what I do. Luckily, as a historian, I am familiar with the history of the internet and that helped a great deal. I came within a hair’s breadth of hauling my uncomplaining internet hardware expert husband, David Lyle, from the back of the room and making him sit there with the music blaring in his ear (that was unbelievably distracting). What I know about internet infrastructure he taught me anyway.
David Louis Edelman sat with me on three of the other panels and he’s a great guy. Check out what he had to say about the weekend (and me) as well as his books: Infoquake and Multireal.
Sunday was lighter. My only panel was with my good friend Ally Peltier and we discussed “Getting Published.” It was a nicely diverse panel that covered the topic very well.
My book signing later was another fun event with a great discussion, live weaponry and chocolate. If you missed it, I’m terribly sorry. Don’t miss the next one.
After that, we all relaxed at home in our hot tub and Ally and I got plastered on Long Beach Iced Teas.
I think the person who had the most fun, though, was my five-year-old daughter who learned Irish Dancing, made a land rover out of marshmallows and candy, got to color in outlines of 200 year-old pottery, make a clay bowl, listen to Urban Tapestry, and hang out with her aunt all weekend while wearing a frilly dress and fairy wings.
The con was a great opportunity for me to build my own platform for my next books as well as get feedback on the cover and title of my new workbook. There was definite interest in the workbook. If you’d like to vote on the cover, please comment with your preference for cover 1, 2 or 3 (imagine these for an 8 ½ x 11 perfect bound book.) Thanks to everyone who voted!
Many of my students keep asking about website template software. I need some help. I’m a programmer. I know what websites can and should look like. My criteria for “good” templates is different from someone who would actually use one.
One of my clients was having problems customizing her Network Solutions template and hired me to do it for her. I couldn’t do it and found the interface very convoluted and frustrating. I’m pretty sure the color customization she wanted was simply not possible. I can’t imagine that those templates were designed with average people in mind. We decided that her intent for the web presence was more conducive to a blog and set her up with a custom look on WordPress…easily.
Another potential client was having issues customizing a template on Mambo. After looking into it, only some some of her requested changes are possible. This too is incredibly frustrating for me, someone who programs custom sites all the time.
A student in my recent Websites for Beginners class said that she liked the templates she found on her ISP, Comcast, though we didn’t have time to go into what she liked about them.
So I’m asking for your help. For any of you using a template site or service, which ones would you recommend and why do you like them? Or, conversely, which ones do you not like and why?
Thanks for your help.
Your Marketing Success Depends on You
Have you ever received a rejection letter with the kind printed words at the top, “I just wasn’t in love with it?” Ever wonder what the agent or editor meant? Experienced and successful agents and editors know that they are going to have to defend your work to a whole serious of people. They are looking at months and even years of infusing other people with equal enthusiasm for your project: senior editor, vice president, president, accounting department. Then, when the book was finally in print, they have to go to bat for you again with the sales department and infect them with enough zeal for your book that they make the purchasing agents for libraries and bookstores want to carry your book.
In the world of publishing, successful books come from publishing houses that are passionate about them. That passion doesn’t come from an agent discovering a reclusive and sedate unknown author or an editor nurturing them to stardom. That excitement and drive came from the author first.
Being in love with your product isn’t exclusive to the publishing industry. According to multichannel marketing expert, Monica C. Smith of Marketsmith, Inc., “…loving your brand makes you want to get up in the morning and face the day, whether it is a good time or not. It means that you care deeply about those who touch your brand—employees, customers, vendors and suppliers….You know a Brand that is working when you hear someone say, ‘I love my Iphone,’ or, ‘I love the Mac customer service,’ or, ‘Nothing beats the GeekSquad…'” (“Loving Your Brand” The Difference, April 2, 2008 )
The process of creating a book or even a poem or short story can often be painful and frustrating. There may be times when you fall out of love with your work. When that happens don’t push to get the manuscript into print. Let it sit in a drawer for a month or two and gain some perspective. Then re-read it and fall in love all over again. Only when your passion is back should try and market it.
What tricks do you use to keep your spirits up?
Proper Care and Maintenance of a Writer’s Platform
You’ve built your web presence. You’ve established your expertise. You’ve offered your e-newsletter or your tips. Your fans (prospects) have accepted and given you their email address and permission to contact them. So what do you do now?
I won’t state the obvious and tell you to send them the promised tips or newsletter. The nagging hang-up question is how to you insert your marketing message without making your prospects feel so abused that they unsubscribe? There are two schools of thought on managing an email contact list.
The traditional marketing wisdom says to contact them often and hit them up for a sale at every opportunity. Marketing studies have shown that a customer won’t respond an advertisement until the third time they’ve seen your message. There is also compelling data to support the fact that a customer will forget about you if they don’t see your message at least once a week. For this reason, the hard-core marketers believe that you should contact your prospects at least once a week with some sort of offer.
In the email world, that can lead to list fatigue and a huge rate of unsubscribes. I attended a conference on marketing for writers. The speakers advocated frequent contacts — as often as every three days. I asked the speaker about his take on list fatigue and his response was that if the prospect unsubscribed, then they weren’t interested in the message anyway and were, therefore, not worth marketing to. In his words, “I’ve learned not to lose sleep over it.”
This makes a certain amount of sense. Who wants to waste time and energy marketing to people who are only on for a free lunch? The thing is, that it assumes that those who unsubscribed did so due to lack of interest. This same marketing person had not done an exit survey to find out why those who had unsubscribed had done so (I asked). Could it possibly have been because those prospects were simply annoyed at the constant sales pitches?
I watched a Vice President of Marketing at another big-name company treat his prospects the same way. As long as every mailing was generating sales, he didn’t care if there was a huge rate of unsubscribes.
This marketing approach also assumes that there are an unlimited number of prospects out there from which to replenish your list and that the sales you make to the ones who stay will more than pay the cost of acquiring new prospects.
If it sounds like I don’t approve of this method, then you’re dead on. I hate it. I’ve unsubscribed from a number of lists due to annoyance – not from lack of interest. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to figure out that there are dozens of other companies out there offering the same or similar products or services. Those companies might just care enough about me as a customer to treat me with a little more respect and not clutter up my email box with constant offers.
The Gentle Approach
Not all marketing companies are so callous in their outlook. One good example is Marketsmith, Inc., who handles their list with velvet gloves. I’ve watched it grow over the years. They mail to the list an absolutely brilliant quarterly newsletter, and hand manage the recipients to make sure there are no bounces and that those who have unsubscribed remain unsubscribed.
There’s no surprise here. First, off, I’ve known the company four years now and they are lovely people who remember that their prospects are actually human beings. They also know that they are in a very small industry. Everyone knows everyone else, so a lost prospect could cost the company a huge amount of money and isn’t easily replaced.
You, more than anyone, know how much effort it took to get the prospects you have on your list. You wrote the content. You got it up on the web. You gave the lectures and collected the email addresses. You wrote the tips or the newsletter. You set up the autoresponse system or the email management service. You have a great deal invested in every address on that list either in time or in dollars.
How Often Should I send?
That depends completely on the expectations of your prospects. If you promised a daily tip or phrase, then daily is it. It’ll be up to you to include your marketing message unobtrusively in each contact. If they’re getting a weekly, then weakly is it. Monthly and quarterly contacts do allow for you to contact them with special, supplemental offers or announcements — monthly (safely) at a rate of 1-3 and quarterly at a rate of 1-5 times. Each list is going to vary at to how much contact it can handle.
Regardless of how often you send, make certain that you offer your prospects something of value to THEM every time and you’ll keep them. Of value to them does NOT mean a weekly tip with 6 special sales discount offers in between. Before you send, ask yourself if you would want to receive that email from someone else.
Should I Include a Marketing Promotion in Every Mailing?
Maybe. If it is a genuine, special, limited time offer and you’re only doing it once a year or so, yes. In most other cases, you need to be a bit more subtle. Your signature and including your url will keep your name in front of their eyes. The content will keep them thinking fondly of you and will convince them that you have something to offer. Your email contact should be a gentle way to prod them to visit your web site and that is where you close the sale. Structure your contacts so that they are encouraged to click through to more content on the web. Offer part of an article and a link. Offer a tip and a link to a list of online resources that are on your site. If you’ve built your web presence correctly, your products or services will be plainly and professionally visible and purchasing them will be but a few clicks away.
Happy prospects become life-long customers and, unless you plan on being a one book author, the long term is what you should be thinking about when you mail to your list.