Voice

Writer’s voice – “the individual writing style of an author, a combination of idiotypical usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text.” Wikipedia

One of the nicest compliments I received about 5 Acres & A Dream The Book was that I had found my voice. This was from a retired librarian and literary connoisseur. I confess I hadn’t actually thought about it while writing, so it was a delight to know that my style was appealing and made sense.

I’m thinking about this as I begin to work on my second book, Critter Tales. It too, will be based on blog posts, but this time, I will use stories not only from 5 Acres & A Dream The Blog, but also from my two former cat blogs, Welcome To Rascal’s World and Little Cat Zee. I wrote these before we bought our homestead and I had more time for writing.

The cat blogs were an interesting self-challenge to me as a writer. My goal was to anthropomorphize our cats based on the way I perceived their personalities. Rascal was cool as a cucumber, aloof, intelligent, superior. CatZee was a reckless bundle of energy who leapt before she looked and was not the least bit intimidated by Rascal. Each cat blog had its own voice.

As I begin to read through the various posts of these two blogs, I contemplate each one’s voice. Should I keep them when I assemble this new book, or change them for literary conformity’s sake? It was with Rascal’s blog that I first had folks tell me that my writing was good enough to be published. Would the stories lose something if I rewrote them in my own style? Something to think about.

 

Facebook as a Marketing Tool

I’m going to be upfront here and let my readers know that I am not a fan of Facebook. I set up a FB account a couple of years ago to keep up with photos of my new baby granddaughter. I wasn’t looking to “connect” with anyone or network with anybody. I wasn’t looking to update my status or comment on everyone else’s lives. I wasn’t interested in collecting “friends” and “liking” anything. I just wanted to see those pictures. FB finally drove me away.

Why? Because it (actually they, the creators and maintainers of Facebook) have no real interest in protecting privacy regardless of what is implied. In fact, the less private things are, the better of a marketing target I can be for “customized” advertising. I was forever having to reset my privacy settings, which were reset with each FB update and hidden some place different than before. I would log out, but commercial websites were allowed to log me back in so that I could “like” their product, share their website, or tell the world what I was thinking. Even deleting FB cookies in my web browser didn’t help because these would magically reappear even though I didn’t visit FB in the meantime.

Yet, I have a FB page for my book. Why? The gist of it is that as a self-publisher who wants to sell books, I need all the help I can get.

After my book came out several folks suggested I set up a FB page for it. I baulked, but agreed to look into it. A page is a bit different than a personal account. Pages are what businesses use to promote their services and products. The problem starts with having to have a personal account (which means a personal profile). Supposedly these can be kept separate, but the most common complaint in the FB community forums is that in truth, they can’t. Merging the two is considered highly unprofessional by many with business or professional pages. For example, my comments and likes about my granddaughter’s photos have nothing to do with my book. All these show up on my personal “wall” or “timeline” (or whatever they’re calling it these days) and have nothing to do with promoting my book. In truth, they clutter and obscure the marketing of my book.

Unless I am extremely vigilant, FB will merge everything into my personal profile and promote it first. For example, I’ve learned (the frustrating way) that I must switch to my book page profile when I visit my page. FB keeps switching me to my personal profile so that if I don’t take care, my comments and likes on other pages are as my personal profile. My personal profile is about as faceless and bare bones as I can possibly make it, because I’m not interested in using FB that way. This doesn’t help me promote my book.

With a professional page I am targeted as a marketing demographic for FB paid services, such as promoting posts or having FB ads, so that I can become an advertising annoyance to Facebookians who just want to use FB to keep up with their own social circle.

On the plus side? Well, with 500 million FB users, the multiplying effect of a like or a comment can be staggering. When someone comments on your page, that comment shows up on their news feed to their followers (theoretically, that is). This makes it a very easy way to get the word out. By networking with those who have interests on the same subject matter as my book, I can easily promote it by simply letting folks know its there.

But is it worth it? Do all the negatives of having a FB page for my book justify it? Well, I think so. I’ve recently topped 100 likes (a milestone according to FB). I’ve learned from a couple of comments that folks bought my book based specifically on reviews. On the other hand, I have to make sure my page stays fresh to stay in others’ news feeds.

Admittedly, I would find it more useful if FB were set up to be a tool for the user, rather than the user being simply a source for data mining. However, any time I use a “free” resource, I must play by their rules. To use Facebook as a marketing tool must be done with care. Yes, it’s free, but there are pitfalls that come with all “free” services. FB, like everybody else, is in it to make money and has set it up in their best interests, not ours. We, as users, must realize that and not expect it to be something that it is not.

I’m sure the same could be said of almost all social networking sites (which I think are really social marketing sites). We pay the price of our time for free advertising. So if you’d like to take a gander, here’s my FB page for 5 Acres & A Dream The Book. And don’t forget to like me while you’re there. 🙂

Thoughts on Book Reviews

I have mixed feelings about book reviews. They are considered the life blood for books by indie authors, because often they are the only way of getting the word out about one’s book. I recently received a comment on Facebook from a reader who purchased my book after reading the reviews. On the other hand, a bad review can be devastating.

As authors, we adore those 5 star ratings and dread anything below. Even so, as an author I’m looking for constructive feedback because I want to become a better writer. If the book receives 5 stars, why? If it receives less, why? Not all reviews address that. In fact, not all reviews and their ratings are good ones. Not all of them make sense. I was recently advised by someone that they never gave 5 star ratings because they mistrusted them.

The star system is, of course, subjective. If I’ve read ten books on a given subject, the number of stars will be based on comparing it to those ten books. If I already have a working knowledge of a subject, then an introductory level book is of less use to me (and hence worth less stars) than something with information and details I need. For a product, high praise after using the product for only a week or two is of little value compared to someone who has been using the product for a year or more. It’s all relative to the reviewer.

Anyone who has read a lot of reviews has probably noticed, as I have, that one or two star ratings are not necessarily helpful either. Reading the actual review will often reveal a dissatisfaction with something other than the product, such as a late delivery, no delivery, packaging problems, didn’t read the instructions, misused the product, bought the wrong thing for the intended purpose, or it didn’t meet personal expectations. And sometimes it seems as though folks just want to ding an otherwise good record. I pretty much disregard these. Sometimes the problem is with the company’s customer service. Whether or not that should be reflected in the number of stars given depends on whether the item was purchased from the manufacturer or a middle man.

In spite of all that, I still try to prod readers into writing reviews. If a review of my book is honestly written with a good rationale for the rating, I cannot complain and am extremely grateful for each one. I am extremely fortunate and encouraged that the reviews so far have been good ones. From what they say, I know that the book is achieving the goal for which I wrote it, to encourage homesteaders. I’m sure at some point the book will not meet a reader’s expectations and their review will reflect that.

Reviews for 5 Acres & A Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead (the ones I’ve been able to find, that is) can be read at the following:

If you’d be willing to add yours to the mix, I’d be ever so grateful.