Archive | February, 2012

Must a Novelist Promote on Those Pesky Social Media?

Tami posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:

I’m not on Facebook, I don’t tweet, and other than email, I don’t follow any of the other social media available. (I do follow your blog and two other authors) Do you think a first-time author can successfully promote a novel in today’s market without using these formats?

If not, what do you think is the most effective use of my time using social media and/or a website? There are so many available and each one seems to require a large time commitment.

Randy sez: You’re asking the right questions, Tami. One should never jump into some marketing scheme without having some reason to believe that it actually works. An author is in business, and business people ask hard questions about anything they do. There needs to be a reasonable Return on Investment (ROI) for any marketing action you take.

First let me say that there are two kinds of marketing:

  • Active Marketing
  • Passive Marketing

By “Active Marketing” I mean anything that you do that needs to pay off right away because it has a limited time that it has an influence. This is like working a day job, where you do some work and then you get paid, and that’s the end of it.

By “Passive Marketing” I mean anything that you can do once that will continue to pay off for weeks, months, or years. This is like investing in real estate or stocks (in a rising market), where you do your homework once to decide on the investment and then it earns you money for the rest of your life.

It should be obvious that Passive Marketing is inherently more efficient than Active Marketing. When you are doing Active Marketing, you’d better make sure it has a decent immediate Return on Investment, because it won’t be earning you money very long. When you’re doing Passive Marketing, your immediate ROI doesn’t need to be as high, because you expect it to earn money for a long time. What you care about with Passive Marketing is your long-term ROI.

A recent study showed that the average length of time that a Tweet or a Facebook post hangs around is a few hours. After that, they no longer do any work for you. This means that a marketing plan based on you Twittering or posting on Facebook needs to have a high ROI, because it’s Active Marketing. It also means that you need to keep at it continuously. If you go on vacation, your marketing campaign swiftly dies and you stop earning.

Blog posts and articles on the web, however, are indexed by Google and can bring you visitors forever. A marketing campaign built around writing interesting blog posts or articles on your web site (or anything that is indexed by Google) is by definition Passive Marketing. If you go on vacation, your web site continues working for you around the clock, while you lie on the beach or relax.

Note that you can effectively use Twitter and Facebook as part of your blog or web site. Just include a Tweet button or a Facebook Like button on your blog or web site. You do this job once (or your webmaster does it) and then anyone who visits your site or blog can Tweet about you or Like you and this can bring more traffic to your site without you doing the work. The people doing the work of marketing you are the people who like what you have. These are the best people to be marketing on your behalf. Far better for others to toot your horn than for you to toot it yourself.

I have much more to say about marketing, but I’ll save it for another day. Please note that there’s a monthly column in my Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine on marketing that deals with issues like this in more detail.

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.

How Many Scenes Does Your Novel Need?

Nathan posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:

I’m following your Snowflake method for my novel, and while describing step 8, you mention that your spreadsheets usually have over 100 scenes. My spreadsheet, which is complete (with room for changes) has 62 scenes. Do you think that is too few for a novel to be complete? Is there an “average” number of scenes that a novel should include? Thank you!

Randy sez: I would guess the average number of scenes in a full-length novel is 80 to 100, but I’ve never tried to measure this average, so it’s just a guess.

62 scenes in a novel is fine. It’s far more important that each scene is GOOD than that it meet some arbitrary standard for length. Write a novel that works and don’t worry too much about numbers like these.

Now if your novel only had 12 scenes, I’d be worried, because then every scene would be 30 to 40 pages, and that’s just too long for the modern reader.

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.