Sunday, October 30, 2011

Social Networking: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I’ve been involved with social networking on a daily basis for over three years now and, while I’m still no networking expert by any means, I have learned a few things. I used to think social networking was all about book promotion, but I’ve come to understand that this is only one part of the experience. What’s become most important to me is to simply let people know I exist, that I have something to say, and that I’m happy to share it either through my fiction, my blogs, reviews, or tweets, or comments to others’ ideas. It’s not about telling people about my books as much as it is about interacting . . . developing online acquaintances and even friendships, which has been incredibly rewarding.

You know that old adage, less is more? Well, I’ve come to learn that this applies to social networking. I’ve written before about virtual burnout that many writers have experienced over recent months and that burnout is still going strong for many.

I’ve cut back on a number of networking sites this year, and now only take part in Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Kindleboards. But I also post blogs on AuthorsDen and MySpace. I’m a reluctant member of LinkedIn, having joined only because a relative—a non-writer—requested a link, but then 60 or 70 writers invited me to link with them. I only knew five of them previously. LinkedIn seems like just another promotional tool for authors to chat and promote their books, which is fine, but at this point in my life it’s simply one site too many for me.

I’ve also come to realize that of the 1,400+ followers I have on Twitter, maybe twenty of them I interact with regularly, which is not to say that others aren’t interested in what I say, or my work, but all 1,400 of them? Too many writers only post links to their books and nothing else, so I think it’s time to prune the Twitter tree. I don’t have nearly as many Facebook friends, but I’ve noticed that some of these people I haven’t really chatted with in over a year, so again, maybe it’s time to cut back there as well.

I love social networking, I really do, but after three years, I’ve decided to go for more quality and less quantity, especially since the spamming on Twitter and LinkedIn is increasing. If you have your first book out and are wondering which social networking venues to join, I still recommend Facebook and Twitter, but be cautious about who you friend and follow.

If you have published an ebook, is a great venue to promote your work, interact with others, and build friendships and support. They have a lot of different categories and places for readers, writers, and for those who want to talk about things that have nothing to do with books. Like many social networking sites, though, they can be real time wasters if you let them, so put a cap on the amount of time you spend there. Also, learn the rules. Each category is closely moderated and if you stray off topic and promote where you shouldn’t there are repercussions.

Some of the best supporters and virtual friends I’ve met came through forums, but sadly, some of those forums have now developed into some of the most hostile places you’ll ever see. So many indie authors have used these forums to promote their books on threads without bothering to learn what the threads are about, that members have grown increasingly hostile to any and all promotion whatsoever. The complaints against promotion became so strong that amazon decided to separate promotion threads and place them under a category called Meet Our Authors. If an author mistakenly promotes on threads outside of this umbrella, well things can get truly ugly with name-calling and a barrage of one-star reviews. If you want to promote on amazon forums, do your research first! Also, if you’re over-posting, or posting inappropriately, amazon moderators will delete your comments, and I’ve known at least one author who’s been blacklisted from promoting any of her books period. Her books are still listed on amazon, she’s just now allowed to promote them. Sheesh!!

So, I’m curious, how do you all handle the volume of opportunities and friends or followers? Do you keep it small and simple? Do you unfriend or unfollow people regularly? Let me know how your handle your social networking adventures.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A New Transparency in Sales Reporting

If you’re a writer who sells books through any of Amazon’s.sites, I’m guessing that you take a look at your sales stats from time to time. Okay, who am I kidding? Most writers take a daily look, and I know some who track their sales hourly, especially if they’re selling ebooks. While hourly checks are far too much for me, I do appreciate the option. Traditional publishers haven’t done this for writers in the past. In fact, authors really have no idea how their sales are going until they receive their bi-annual royalty check and statement.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, however, three large publishers are moving into the twenty-first century, by creating portals which allow their authors to view sales stats more often. The portal just created by Simon & Schuster, for example, lets authors and illustrators view not only the number of sales but where they came from and in which platform. This new transparency is a great thing not only because authors are better informed, but because it could help the author identify which marketing effort works best. For example, do radio interviews generate a spike in sales? Ads? Book tours? Blog tours? Of course, as Amazon junkies know, this new transparency will likely make some authors obsessive about tracking sales.

Random House and the Hatchette Book Group will also be creating portrals and expect to have them up and running in 2012. Interestingly, the president and chief executive at Simon & Schuster stated that this plan was not in response to anything Amazon’s doing, but rather to better serve their writers who are always requesting this information. Whatever the reason, it sounds like a good idea to me. You can read more at

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, now out on paperback at

Friday, October 21, 2011

Telemarketers For Fun And Profit

I love telemarketers. Yes, I do.

Some of them are psychopaths who believe you have their money in your pockets, true, but most of them are people who like talking to people and who honestly believe they have a good cause to support or a good product to offer. Those kind and friendly ones are the ones I love.

Why do I love them? Here's an imaginary but typical conversation:

HER: Good evening, Mrs. Allen. My name is Telly. I'm calling from the American Marketing Association. How are you this evening?

ME:  Good evening, Telly! I'm just fine, thank you. How are you?

HER: ...Why, I'm fine, thanks. Nobody ever asked me that before.

ME: It's a hard job, isn't it? People can be so rude.

HER: They can be. Sometimes they just hang up on me.

ME: I did some political calling once. A couple of people cussed me out.

HER: I've had that happen, too.

ME: Well, that's a shame. I'm sorry that happened to you.

HER: Aw, thank you so much! ... Anyway, I'm calling this evening to tell you about a new service in your area. The American Marketing Association would like to blah blah blah. Would you be interested in that?

ME: Does it cost anything? Because if it costs anything, probably not. Times are hard, you know?

HER: I sure do! But there are several levels of involvement. For $, you can have blah. For $$, you get blah and blah blah. For $$$--

ME: I'm sorry to interrupt you, but you're already out of my price range. Might as well save both of us some time.

HER: ~laughs~ I appreciate that.

ME: Do you have material you can mail me, so I can look it over?

HER: No, but we have a web site. Would you like to take this down?

ME: I'm ready.

HER: http://blahblah.blh

ME: Thanks! Do you have pencil and paper? I'll give you my web site.

HER: Oh! You have a web site? A business?

ME: I'm a writer.

HER: Really? I never spoke to a real writer before! What do you write?

ME: ~pitching my site, my books, my short stories, my recipes~

HER: Wow!

ME: Here's my site: Click on the Free Reads tab for some free stories.

HER: Sweet!

ME: Thanks for calling, Telly. It's been a pleasure talking to you.

HER: Been a pleasure here, too!

Take-home message: Telemarketers are people. And they read. ;)

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Final Thoughts on Word on the Street, Vancouver

As mentioned last month, I and several others were taking part in the annual Word on the Street event in Vancouver. I wanted to give my feedback to the organizers before I followed up here. Now that this is done, I can say that, all in all, it was a great day.

I was very grateful to have a large number of volunteers help out at our Crime Writers of Canada table. They did a great job of telling people about our organization and talking about the display of books. As you’ll see from the photo, we know how to draw people in! Don Hauka thought it’d be fun to have a chalk outline in front of our table, so he volunteered to be the body, while Robin Spano drew the outline. Of course, the rain washed most of it away later.

Four of us also participated on a well-attended mystery panel called De-Mystifying the mystery. Attendees gave us great feedback, and one of them blogged about it, which you can see in the link below:

The only downside to the day was a couple of organization glitches. While it was great to be on a panel located inside the library where it was warm and dry, we had to be out of the room at a specific time to make way for the next group. To continue answering questions the attendees had, however, meant following us up the stairs and outside to the booksellers’ tent, which wasn’t a tent, but a canopy above four tables, three of which were wet from the rain. There were only two chairs for several people, and most of the attendees understandably didn’t hang around.

I would have preferred to see a table outside the room, where there was plenty of space, and discussions could easily have continued, and suggested as such on the feedback form organizers provided. I’m not sure why the fair wasn’t better prepared for bad weather, but for awhile there, some of the booths looked like there were going to be completely rained out! Still, once the sun came out again at three, so did the people, and displays survived. It can’t be easy to organize something this big, so kudos anyway to all of the volunteers who helped make it happen.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, now out on paperback at

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Inviting You to Enter a Short Story Contest

Second Wind Publishing invites you to submit an entry to their short story contest.

Stories are to be about spring or renewal.

Contest entries must be your own original work. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Self-published stories are acceptable, but the story must not exist in print form or in any other anthology. The story must be no longer than 5,000 words.

The contest is open to anyone in the world, 18 or older, though the entry must be written in English. All entries will be posted on the Second Wind Contest Blog for everyone to read and comment. The authors and management of Second Wind Publishing will choose the three finalists, but reader comments will be taken into consideration. Entries will be judged on originality, readability, writing skills, characterization, and plot. Spelling and grammar count. The decision of the judges is final.

Everyone is welcome to vote for the winner, which is to be chosen from the three finalists.

The winning entry will be published in the upcoming Second Wind anthology, Change is in the Wind. (Title subject to change.) The winner will also receive a coupon from for an unlimited number of free downloads of the anthology for one month. The coupon can be sent to as many people as you wish during that month. The winner will also be able to purchase an unlimited number of print copies of the anthology at half price plus shipping costs.

All entries will be deleted once the contest is over.

The contest begins today, October 3, 2011 and ends December 31, 2011.

December 31, 2011 at 11:59 pm: Contest ends.
January 1 — January 15, 2012: Judging of entries by 2W (and 2W authors) to pick top three entries
January 15 — January 31, 2012: Judging of the three finalists by blog readers to pick the winner
February 1, 2012: Winner announced
April 1, 2012 Book on Amazon for sale (In an ideal world …)

Please send your entries as a Word .doc or .docx to

Best of luck to all of you!!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Thinking about Thanksgiving

It sounds kind of cheesy, I know, to stop and take note of all that I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. But the thing is that being thankful means being grateful, and gratitude is a healthy thing, especially in an increasingly turbulent and uncertain world. It’s a time when I’m not thinking about what I want or desire to accomplish, but what I have, and when it comes right down to it I have much to be thankful for, personally and professionally.

Of course I’m grateful for my family and my home and my health, and the food on our table. As a person who has sponsored children through the Christian Children’s Fund and reads every Union Gospel Mission newsletter (one of my favorite charities), I’m well aware how many people are going without the essentials on this planet. This fact is constantly with me.

After over thirty years of writing and having my first traditionally published book arrive just six months ago, my gratitude has soared on the writing front. I’m thankful for all of the people in my critique group who’ve come and gone over the years. Everyone one of them has contributed to my life and helped me become a better writer. I’m thankful for my publisher and for the terrific editors I’ve worked with.

I’m thankful for social networking and for the opportunity to let people around the world know that I exist; that I have something to say and want to hear what they have to say. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to write full time and to experience the challenges of life as a working, professional writer. I’m thankful to Cheryl Tardif for encouraging me to try blogging about three years ago. 394 blogs later, I’m still enjoying it. And I’m thankful to readers who use their limited and precious time to read and support myself and others. For me, writing has never been about competing, but about supporting one another. And for that I truly am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, now out on paperback at

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Introducing Sheila Deeth, Author of Flower Child

Sheila Deeth grew up in the UK and has a Bachelors and Masters in mathematics from Cambridge University, England. Now living in the States with her husband and son, she enjoys reading,writing, drawing, telling stories, running a local writers' group, and meeting her neighbors’ dogs on the green.

I first encountered Sheila Deeth during a writing contest on four years ago. I was impressed by the wonderfully encouraging and insightful remarks she made on the various entries, and during these ensuing years, we've continued our connection via our blogs, facebook, twitter, gather, and now google+. She is a staunch supporter of small press writers -- her reviews are as encouraging and insightful as the comments she leaves on our blogs. I treasure the reviews she did of my books (reviews I did not ask for but were so generously given), and she's introduced me to many wonderful new novels and novelists.

Today, it's my turn to introduce a wonderful new novelist: Sheila Deeth. Sheila has mastered various story forms (including the shortest of forms, the 100-word and 50-word drabble), and today she is celebrating the release of her short novel, Flower Child with a blog tour, of which I am pleased to have a small part.

Her stories, book reviews and articles can be found in VoiceCatcher 4, Murder in the Wind (a mystery anthology published by Second Wind Publishing, which includes Sheila's prize-winning story "Jack."), Poetic Monthly, Nights and Weekends, the Shine Journal and Joyful Online. Besides her Gypsy Shadow ebooks, Sheila has several self-published works available from Amazon and Lulu, and a full-length novel under contract to come out next year.

Today I am interviewing Sheila on my "Pat Bertram Introduces . . ." blog. Please stop by to say hi. If you have not yet met Sheila, please introduce yourself. You'll be glad you did.

Wishing Sheila all the best -- she deserves it.

Click here to find the interview of: Sheila Deeth, Author of “Flower Child”

Click here to read an excerpt of: Flower Child

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Banned Book Week

This week was the thirtieth annual Banned Book Week, sponsored by the American Library Association, numerous publishers, and others. As you probably know, this event honors freedom of choice and encourages people to read a banned book, and there are many choices. The list of banned books always dismays me. People still take offense to sex and profanity, among other things, in literature. What truly irritated me, though, was the college professor who requested that Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut be banned. Really? Aren’t college students old enough to make their own choices? And don’t get me started on freedom of choice. Sheesh!

According to the Banned Book Week website, more than 11,000 books have been challenged since 1982. Here’s the list of the books most frequently challenged in 2010:

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Crank by Eileen Hopkins
The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins
Lush by Natasha Friend
What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie
Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers (Really? Oh, come on.)

Banned Book Week officially ended yesterday, but I’m writing this blog now because every week should be about reading a banned book. Banned Book Week’s website is at

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, now out on paperback at