Saturday, June 14, 2014

Does Facebook Advertising have an impact?

Well the simple answer appears to be 'yes' BUT then again maybe the question should be 'Does Facebook advertising offer good value?' - that's a whole different perspective.

Facebook has changed the way it uses it's advertising algorithm, supposedly improving it for the advertiser but I am not at all convinced this is the case.

In the interests of research I decided to try out this new look algorithm, here's the story and the results so you can make up your own mind.

Firstly, the process of actually creating the adverts was very simple which is a real plus. I even created six different picture representations to identify which worked best. As the advert was designed for both my books I selected a mixed audience; Fated Encounters targeting the Mills & Boon group whilst Russian Redemption was sent to the followers of Dan Brown, Steig Larrson and the likes. I was looking for website clicks so I figured that $15 a day for a seven day trial would cover most bases - press submit.

Seven days later I am left with more questions than answers.

Facebook tells me that 

'Website Clicks' being interpreted as people that actually clicked on the link to take them to my website homepage.

I noted the website counter before I submitted the advert (1460) and again right now (1521). Remembering that I have probably added two website clicks a day just checking on progress, this represents a fairly big mathematical anomaly - 1460 plus 152 should equal 1712?! Puzzled by this inconsistency I went to my Googleanalytics for clarity. Unsurprisingly Googleanalytics confirmed the number of homepage visitors over the life of the adverts 

So, there has been a definite increase in people seemingly visiting my website but no where near the numbers that Facebook were declaring - and charging for.

But then I noticed something else; the 'bounce rate'. This is the percentage of visitors that visit the home page only. My website is designed, built and maintained by me so it's nothing particularly special but, in my opinion, it's ok (have a look, see what you think There is enough on the homepage to hold a visitors attention for a minute or two, and probably enough to encourage people to visit another page or two. Yet Googleanalytics reports thus:

In this snap shot of US Visitors you'll note that all clicked through to the homepage BUT didn't visit any other pages and spent long enough on the homepage to see and read NOTHING! Not even long enough to register a single second of 'session time' - this is in stark contrast to the historical data.

You can make up your own mind of course but for me I can report the following findings;

1. Facebook are charging me for a large number of 'website clicks' that have never happened.
2. Those actual 'website clicks' that made it through to the homepage were so quick they didn't even register a session time - this (to me) smarts of computerised cheating.
3. Any money paid to Facebook for an advertising campaign is in fact a waste of much needed dollars.

As for actual sales - nope, not a one.

I'm half inclined to kick up a fuss with Facebook but my instincts tell me that it will be a complete waste of time - much like their advertising!

At the end of the day it was an experiment for information gathering purposes, and in that it has been a success - but that's the only way it can be construed as successful so be warned.

Keep writing - if you're good enough, one day people will notice you.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Patience required, please send to.........

Is it just me or does everything in the world of writing take forever and a day to get sorted?

A bold statement, which I am sure will upset or annoy a lot of people, but based on experience it's going to take a few months for those people to tell me :-)

First let me explain that I do understand that there are a lot of people trying to do a lot of good for Indie Authors, to propel the 'poor relative' of 'Authordom' up the food chain. But (and I've already admitted to not being over blessed with patience) why does everything seem to take so long?

Examples - IndieBRAG, LLC - It clearly states that it can take up to four months from point of submission for a response (and they really mean four months!) - but why? They charge a fee ($20.00) to 'process' your book submission with the following notice on the response email

"Please note that due to the large number of nominations we receive each week, and our commitment to give every book the consideration it deserves, our review process may take up to four months, possibly longer."

Where else in the world would a person give away money, hard earned currency, to a Company and not expect any return whatsoever for FOUR months? From a philosophical perspective, here is a company, a business, charging for a 'service'; I work in the 'service' industry and I can count the number of my clients that would wait four months (and pay for the privilege) for that service on one hand, with thumb and four digits missing! And finally it arrives - "sorry, you were unsuccessful" Again, to be fair, their website does say that they do not provide feedback or reasons as to why the submission was unsuccessful.

Cynically I have a vision of a rather overweight bespectacled man in his mid thirties sitting at his desk, feet up, with coffee and doughnuts. On one screen is his bank account balance merrily clicking up in $20 increments, on the other a list of books submitted with date of submission beside them; they're diarized to flag when the four months is nearly up. Just as he is dunking his doughnut in his cup of flat white with two sugars, one of the book titles flashes red. Lifting the soggy doughnut to his mouth he leans across the desk and pushes the 'reject' key on the stained keyboard prompting the automated "sorry, you were unsuccessful" email, whilst focusing on the bank balance. (Remembering, of course, to click 'accept' every now and again)

I have a lot more forgiveness for Billy Buttons at the Wishing Shelf Book Awards, although even there my patience is wearing very thin. Billy (real name Edward Trayer) has created this great competition where those Indie Authors that make it through the prelims get good quality feedback - the one thing (in my opinion) every single Author should be looking for. Edward asks for a reasonably small submission fee but, again in my opinion, the promised feedback alone is worth every penny. Closing dates are the 31st December of the preceding year, finals held in April. In all fairness to Edward he does state that feedback will be sent out from March after the finalists are announced and can take up to five months. He managed to get the finalists announced in February and we're now in June and guess what - still no feedback for me. Remembering that he works full time, has a family and travels a lot it is understandable - but that doesn't make it acceptable. In this ever changing world of technology it seems the industry still operates on 'old' time. 

These things take so long because they've always taken so long and people just accept that. As a fairly new author this is a huge frustration, and for anybody that wants to make a name for themselves in the industry, get organised, and get with the times please. It is no longer a case of writing books on old typewriters, printing the pages on wafer thin sheets, binding and sending off to various publishers via the postal system, and waiting six months - things have evolved, modern technologies have made the process a whole lot slicker - so why does it still take so flippin' long?! It seems this is one 'Industry Standard' that hasn't changed.

Ed seems a great bloke and I am not being disrespectful but since I submitted 'Russian Redemption' in December 2013 I have written 2 short stories (Fated Encounters and one yet to be published) plus started a further three novels including the follow on of Russian Redemption) - so what impact is this promised 'feedback' actually going to have? The lengthy time delay between selection and feedback unfortunately severely devalues the feedback, or at least the effectiveness of it, which is a shame.

There are many people, agents, organisations, competitions etc that rely on a regular supply of good quality literature for their survival. I believe there is a great deal of arrogance being displayed from these people and organisations (absolutely NOT Ed!) - In the greater scheme of things this is the 'tail wagging the dog'. What's the point in owning a bookshop if there are no books to sell? In any service industry the model is very simple

Stage 1: The 'people' need the service so charge what you like

Stage 2: Competition grows so charges (and profit) are reduced to retain the customer
Stage 3: Figure out a diversification, or 'added value', to retain the customer
Stage 4: Pay the customer to stay with you just so you still have the market share, until such time as you come up with the added value.

You can play with the words and the stages but ultimately 'service' is value and perception is changing.

"Beware the Ides of March" 

I'm gonna get off my soap box now, but I feel so much better for getting that off my chest :-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My apologies for being absent but.......

It's been five or six weeks since I last posted here and there is a good reason for the self imposed absence...... I had to admit to myself that I was an addict. 

There were a number of 'clues'

1. EVERYTHING that went on in my world was converted (in my mind) to a potential story line.

2. Everybody I met, spoke with or observed became a potential character for my next book.

3. If I wasn't physically writing I was thinking about writing, dreaming about writing or wishing I was writing.

4. From the moment I got up in the morning until long after I'd close my eyes at night my brain was churning out scenario's, story lines and 'twists'.

5. The website, blog site and Facebook page were constantly 'open' on the laptop, being updated, amended,  tweaked and improved (especially when sitting with dinner on my lap!)

it really was a case of 'writing' taking over my entire existence.

Now, some people may see this as utopia but with a normal 9-5 job and a family life vying for my attention this addiction to writing was out of control and starting to cause a few issues. (On the upside I did manage to write one new novel and start three completely new ones so it was a very productive time)

People who know me will confirm that I am the sort of person that acts decisively in the face of obsession so I switched pretty much everything off.

I know that some say 'writers' must write every day, and I suppose that if you are one of the fortunate few that are able to make a living from the industry then writing everyday is important, and practical. But, as I was not too keen on joining the unemployed masses, I had to remove myself from all things related to my books in order to focus on the mundane (but important) day to day elements of life. On reflection it wasn't so much of a time thing it was more of a head space thing - when ones brain is constantly in the pages of a developing story line it is impossible to focus on other things; all I wanted to do was get home and start capturing the thoughts in writing. I think I even started resenting these distractions, I felt a bit like 'Gollum' - my writing being 'My Precious' - it was a great place to be for me, myself and I but not so good for wife, kids and work.

And so I edge myself back into the world of writing, toes first, to test my resolve - have I learned to control this addiction? - time, a divorce or state benefits will tell. 

Russian Redemption

Fated Encounters