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A must read for writers looking for publication
Posted 15 December 2013 / By Caleb J. Ross / Marketing/ Study (the world/the craft)

Crawling

Inspired by Max Booth III’s post dissecting a small press author agreement, which he calls a “bullshit contract,” I’ve put together some information culled during my 10 years as a writer trying to become an author in the small press world. Warning: the following contains hard truths.

Who is this article for:

  • Writers/authors looking to get a short story published with a small press either online or in print (small press = a publisher that most people haven’t heard of)
  • Writers/authors who think having stories published with small presses will generate a sustainable living

Who is this article NOT for:

  • Writers/authors who have an agent (the agent should be doing the job of filtering out a publisher’s potential, not you)
  • Writers/authors who are not interested in small press publishing. If you are 100% committed to publishing (novels or story collections) with the traditional publishers (HarperCollins, Penguin, Random House, etc) then you can skip most of this article. Though, the hard truths may help inform how you go about engaging with traditional publishers.

What is your goal as a writer?

HandGun

As a writer looking to become an author with small presses, you MUST set your expectations accordingly. The chances of you sustaining yourself financially from small press publishing are almost non-existent. If you’re looking to make money as an author, small press publishing is not where you should look. Small presses deal almost exclusively in the currency of passion.

  1. Are you wanting to earn a living (novels specifically; short stories alone are NOT viable to earn a living)? Avoid small press publishing. Yes, there are exceptions to this statement, but those exceptions are very, very few. Also, those exceptions often rely on a wealth of unseen support (think of an iceberg, with 90% of the bulk not seen). This unseen support may include extreme prolificacy (Carlton Mellick III releases about 4 books per year and has cultivated a devout following), medium-profile court cases bringing attention to the book (Patrick Wensink adapted a copyrighted Jack Daniels image for his book Broken Piano for President. The resulting Jack Daniels kindness made headlines and, one can assume, book sales), or having an established name before making a jump to small presses (Brian Evenson may be an example of this–Altmann’s Tongue, his first story collection, was published by Knopf. Subsequent books were published by small-medium sized publishers).
  2. Are you wanting to see your name in print? The poachers of the small press world thrive on this goal. As a new(ish) writer, you’re probably thinking “I don’t care if I get paid as long as my name gets out there. I’ll make money later.” Here’s the secret. ANYONE with $0 and a Create Space account can get his/her name in print. Having your name in print is no longer an accomplishment. If this is your only goal, then you can stop reading now.
  3. Are you wanting to get your work read? That’s a noble goal and one that should be a part of every writer’s set of goals. What’s difficult about this goal is that simply having a story or novel published does not guarantee readers. In fact, without adequate promotion (or a ‘hidden iceberg’ support system, as mentioned above) your work will probably not be read by more than a handful of friends and family members. The audience for a small press runs the gamut from non-existent to large. Because of this, new small presses often try to make themselves seem larger and more reputable than they really are. I’ve devoted an entire section of this article to discovering the true audience size of small presses (see “If you want to get your work read, look out for…” below).
  4. Are you wanting all three of the above? Get in line. We all are. And considering the amount of competition involved, you’re likely looking for any advantage (which is why you may have found this article). Dubious publishers know this this and they don’t hesitate to dupe unsuspecting writers into terrible contracts. If you’re wanting money, a byline, and an audience, you’d better be willing to work. And by “work” I mean more than just write your stories and novels. You need to be an entrepreneur.1

Red Flags that writers should know when working with small publishers

RedFace

If you are trying to earn a living, look out for…

  • …pretty much all small presses. By nature (and by definition) small presses are small, meaning they don’t have the resources to grow careers. If you’re looking to earn a living, you must be an entrepreneurial author* with an interest in not only writing, but in growing an audience, fighting for your slice of the promotional pie, and expanding your platform (which Jane Friedman knows much, much more about than I do)
  • …small presses promising money. It’s standard practice to give writers contributor copies of journals in which their work appears and for small press to give contributor copies AND royalties to novelists, but if a small press is promising excessive compensation that ‘feels’ too good to be true, it is. Keep in mind that most small press publications sell very, very few copies. So, taking the example of an issue of a literary journal, priced at $5 per copy that splits 20% of royalties among 14 contributors, you’re looking at $0.07 per copy to you. Let’s estimate that the issue sells 100 copies (which would be extraordinary, by the way) you net $7 for your work. Pretty shitty. The takeaway: you’re not really making any money with a small press short story credit.

If you want to see your name in print, look out for…

  • Nothing. You have a terrible goal. You deserve to be taken advantage of.

If you want to get your work read, look out for…

  • …aesthetics that don’t match your own. As a responsible writer you should submit your work only to publications that serve the same audience you’re writing for. Don’t bombard small presses with story submissions obviously don’t fit with what they publish.
  • …promises of exposure. Small presses that have to advertise exposure as a selling point generally do not have much exposure to begin with. It’s up to you to determine the true exposure of a small press. Here are some ways:
    • Social reach – consider the online footprint of the press. Take a look at their latest tweets and Facebook & Google+ statuses. How often are they shared. What does the audience demographic look like (click through to a few of the sharers’ profiles to see how much influence they have). If the online footprint of the press isn’t as strong as your own footprint, then you may have to walk away.
    • Sales – Check the Amazon.com sales rank for the latest issues/novels released by the press. Compare this number to similar titles.
    • Site stats – How many visits does the small press’ website receive? This site can provide insights into traffic, and many other, metrics.
    • Multiple revenue streams – Is the press only a literary journal press? Or, do they also produce and sell novels, chapbooks, and merchandise? Do they organize events (live readings)? Do they participate in conferences (AWP, APSS)? You want to work with a press that integrates itself into many related endeavors.
    • Contributor history – What other authors have been published by this small press? Are they “big names”? Would associating with this author help you meet your goals?

My history with small presses

FaceLeaf

What would an article like this be without some transparency? I’ve listed a few of my small press experiences, both positive and negative, along with hindsight commentary.

What is my goal as a short story writer? #3. I want to get my work read

What is my goal as a novelist? #3. I want to get my work read and, if possible, #1. I want to earn a living. I understand that #1 is difficult, so I’ve treated it mostly as a “fingers crossed” act rather than something I cultivate like a responsible entrepreneur.

Example 1: Vestal Review, “5×6” in a Sturdy Frame” (story)

  • Red flags: The site is ugly
  • Green flags: Contributor copy included. Professional payment (between $0.03 – $0.10 per word), impressive author history including Steve Almond and Aimee Bender
  • Final impressions: I am still very happy with my experience with Vestal Review

Example 2: The Literary House Review, “The Camp” (story)

  • Red flags: no contributor copy (implying that the publisher makes money by selling copies to the authors), no discounted contributor copies, aesthetic doesn’t fit with my own work
  • Green flags: physical print production (at the time, I was hungry for print publications)
  • Final impressions: I don’t regret my engagement with The Literary House Review, but only because I wasn’t expecting much out of it to begin with. Today, I definitely wouldn’t agree to a contract without at least contributor copies included.

Example 3: Pear Noir #1, “The Camel of Morocco” (story)

  • Red flags: brand new publication (at the time; they are well-established now)
  • Green flags: professional payment ($10), contributor copy, and lifetime subscription
  • Final impressions: I am still very happy with my engagement with Pear Noir!. Nothing but positive things to say about them.

Example #4: The Living Dead Press’s Eternal Night: a Vampire Anthology, “Born Again Michael” (story)

  • Red flags: at the time, there weren’t any. Since then, a lot of things have come to light. Check out this entire site dedicated to the the hated publisher and editor, Anthony Giagregorio. Had I known about this site during my initial engagement with the publisher I would have passed.
  • Green flags: I was excited about working with a lot of authors whom I respect. The contributors to this anthology are some of the best writers (and best friends) around.
  • Final impressions: I definitely should have avoided this press. I feel bad about validating this press’s existence by contributing to its bottom line.

Final thoughts

Face

Being a successful author is not about 1) writing, 2) sending to publisher, 3) repeat. Being a successful author is about 1) writing, 2) investigating publishing options, 3) sending to publisher, 4) staying involved with the publisher to ensure promises are met, 5) repeat.

Only when writers are willing to raise their expectations of small presses will the truly awful small presses die away.

Your work is worth more than sub-par publishing, right?

1. Which I am not. Which is why this article doesn’t talk at all about being an entrepreneur. For that, solicit the help of someone much more knowledgeable such as Dan Blank with WeGrowMedia.

(the images used in this article are by Zdzislaw Beksinski. They don’t really fit with the theme of the article, I know. They are interesting to look at. That is all)

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Author Seeks Publisher for Romantic Relationship. Handcuffs optional.
Posted 7 August 2013 / By Caleb J. Ross / I Didn't Mean to be Kevin/ Marketing

Caleb J. Ross TIME MagazineMe: Author of 5 books of fiction, creator of funny video content, Twitter following cultivator, YouTube personality, crowd pleaser, book seller, and proponent of the Oxford comma.

You: Publisher looking for an author who knows all about platform building, book selling, and people pleasing. Dollar signs turn you on. Command of the English language turns you on more.

Lovely to meet you, publisher. Up front, I must admit to a bit of a situation. My publisher and I recently separated. Please, don’t assume this split is indicative of our relationship. We had a lovely relationship, actually. Unfortunately, due to matters beyond our control, the publisher has closed its doors completely. As of September 12, 2013 I am officially single.

This leaves my novel, I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin, unattached as well. Thus, this literary courtship.

I know, you’re wondering, “why should I take a chance with you?” It’s a fair question. Allow me a few lines of ego with which to highlight the value I bring to this burgeoning relationship.

[divider3 text="How important is your career?"]

Very:

  • 2,300+ copies (eBook and print combined) of I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin moved since original publication
  • Authored 4 additional books of fiction, including the novel Stranger Will and the short story chapbook Charactered Pieces: stories (full list)
  • 40+ stories and non-fiction articles published online and in print (full list)
  • 20+ interviews with and articles about me published online and in print (full list)
  • Bachelor of Arts, English Literature with a focus on Contemporary American literature and the American short story from Emporia State University. Minor in Creative Writing with a focus on Fiction, postmodernism, and metafiction.

I don’t want to bore you on this first date, so please have a look at my Wikipedia page for a full list of publication credits.

[divider3 text="What about family?"]

I’ve got quite an extensive family. I hope you have a big Christmas budget.

I manage, and have cultivated the audiences, for each of the following social profile accounts:

Again, where are my manners? I’m going on and on. See my platform building page for a nauseatingly detailed list of my platform building initiatives.

[divider3 text="Do you have friends?"]

I’m embarrassed by all the kind people in my life. Please, meet some of these kind individuals:

IDMtbKAngled_BC-283x300-2

This could be yours. No prenup required.

“Brilliant…one of the most amazing fiction concepts I’ve ever read.”

Rayo Casablanca, author of 6 Sick Hipsters and Very Mercenary re: I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin

“In I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin, Caleb J. Ross writes fearlessly, never shying away from the wild, insane places where his fertile imagination leads him.”

Joey Goebel, author of Commonwealth and Torture the Artist re: I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin

“A stirring novel, this extraordinary work plays upon the reader’s willingness to suspend disbelief and turns it on its ear… Covering ground similar to the works of Sherman Alexie and Chuck Palahniuk, this is an author worth keeping an eye on.”

Publisher’s Weekly re: I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin

“Here’s hoping some of that mainstream audience can pull their heads out of their asses long enough to read Ross, and then be gloriously horrified.”

Paul Tremblay, author of The Little Sleep and No Sleep Til Wonderland re: I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin

“With As a Machine and Parts Caleb J. Ross continues to stake his claim as his generation’s Watcher.”

Ben Tanzer, author of You Can Make Him Like You and My Father’s House re: As a Machine and Parts

“This is an original—unlike anything you’ve ever read before.”

Rob Roberge, author of More than They Could Chew and The Cost of Living re: Stranger Will

“Just like a Palahniuk novel, Stranger Will reads volatile: it could go any way. Caleb J. Ross leads you with a wry smile into dark places, but by the time you realize it’s too late. You will follow him anywhere.”

Alan Emmins, author of Mop Men: Inside the World of Crime Scene Cleaners re: Stranger Will

“Evoking a novel by Chuck Palahniuk or a film by Darren Aronofsky, Charactered Pieces is a multifarious patchwork of despair. From the misshapen protagonist of the title story to the gruesome climax of “The Camel of Morocco,” this collection is among the most profound and disturbing artifacts of our time.”

Daniel Casebeer, editor of Pear Noir! re: Charactered Pieces

“These stories change you, and not just a little bit. Try to forget them, tell yourself they’re not true, but it’s no use. Whether you want them to or not, they’re going with you.”

Stephen Graham Jones, author of Demon Theory and Ledfeather re: Charactered Pieces

All I ask, publisher, is for just one date to prove myself. If anything, at least it’s a guaranteed free meal, right? Contact me via the Contact Page.

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YouTube for Authors discussed at ePublish Unum. Books and beer are both involved.
Posted 21 December 2012 / By Caleb J. Ross / Marketing/ Media/ Video

Yesterday I had the delightful pleasure of talking with Evo Terra and Jeff Moriary of ePublish Unum‘s Books and Beer series about my efforts as a “YouTube author” (quotes unnecessary; nobody actually used the term YouTube author during the entire chat).

We talked about how I (and other authors should probably) use YouTube not as a vehicle for pushing my books onto unwilling buyers, but as a way to showcase my personality. You know, lube the audience into acceptance. I had a ton of fun talking with these guys. After watching my video (below) be sure to check the ePublish Unum site for a ton more great author videos.

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Micro-Syndication Magic: How to Annoy Many People At Once Using Social Network Syndication
Posted 18 April 2012 / By Caleb J. Ross / Charactered Pieces: stories/ Marketing/ SEO for Authors/ Stranger Will

The people in my head often ask me, “Caleb, how are you seemingly in so many places online at once?” The simple truth is: magic. But not everyone is born with this gift (or curse, depending on which side of the superhero spectrum I’m internally agonizing over at the time). Over the years I’ve built up a failsafe system, though, so should Cash-4-Kryptonite stores suddenly saturate my suburb, I’ve got measures in place.

Here’s my method.

1. Establish a “content spring”

I’m an organization nut. I need structure to survive. Online, when new social media networks materialize daily, organization can be tough. It is important to establish a “content spring,” a source from which most of your content will originate. The goal being to focus content creation efforts in a single place to avoid feeling overwhelmed by so many points of entry. In a perfect world, with perfect organization, you would be able to syndicate your content throughout your social networks with a single push of the “publish post” button.

The most logical content spring is the good ol’ fashion blog. Blogging platforms have evolved considerably over the past few years, with most blog sites having enormous inbuilt configurability. For The World’s First Author Blog I use the WordPress platform, which is perhaps the most configurable of all blogging software. Expect most of this post to skew appropriately.

2. Map your content routes (or, “build some tributaries,” if you want to maintain the spring motif)

Step three will detail a few of the tools I use to get my content from the spring to..I don’t know, the ocean maybe, but before that, in keeping with my penchant for organizational nerdery, it’s important to map out exactly where you would like your different types of content to ultimately appear. Emphasis intentional: the idea of micro-syndication relies of focusing your content for specific audiences, even niche audiences within your own readership.

“But Caleb, I want ALL of the content to go EVERYWHERE.” Well, hypothetical dissenter, while total media saturation may seem like a good goal, resources, time, and an ethical aversion to spamming friends and strangers should keep you from acting on this impulse.

The goal of micro-syndication is to ensure that the right content gets to the right people. When you write a fantastic blog post about micro-syndication, your family and bar buddies on Facebook might not care. And all those Twitter bots that you think hang onto your every tweet, they don’t care either. But your readers and your marketing and social media friends might care a lot.

I’ll use myself as an example. I have a personal Facebook page, a professional author Facebook page, various Twitter accounts (primarily my @calebjross account), a LinkedIn profile, and a few other profiles and websites. When I write a blog post, I don’t necessarily want to bombard every contact. What to do?

UPDATE: I now use AlphaLinks for all of my text and image-based content syndication. AlphaLinks allows distribution to many platforms at once, including full blogging platforms like WordPress.com, Blogger, Typepad, and Tumblr. For video distribution I use OneLoad, which allows distribution to many video platforms at once, including Youtube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, MySpace, and Metacafe.

3. Establish the filters (or, setting up strategic dams, or whatever fits with the spring thing. I’m beginning to regret this stupid running metaphor.)

Know which tools are available and how they can help. Here are a few I use daily.

  

Twitterfeed

For highly customizable distribution to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (and fingers crossed more platforms in the future), nothing beats Twitterfeed. By using RSS feeds (which come built-in with most blogging platforms) Twitterfeed allows the user to direct specific feeds to specific social sites. What makes this system great is that by using category and/or tag data from your blogging platform, you can fine-tune the distribution path of your content.

For example, I have my main homepage feed:

www.calebjross.com/feed (“feed” may be a variety of RSS extensions. The WordPress default is “feed”)

Which I send to my author Facebook page as well as my Twitter account (both accounts I use almost exclusively for reader/writer information).

However, sometimes I create content on my homepage blog that isn’t very writerly, content that perhaps is better meant for those friends, family, and bots. In that case, I simply categorize the post as “un-writerly,” which creates this feed:

www.calebjross.com/category/un-writerly/feed

Twitterfeed has been set up to publish only posts from this feed to my personal Facebook page. Neat.

YouTube Playlists combined with Shortstack and the YouTube SEO Playlist plugin

With videos, my content spring is YouTube (I could host videos on my own site, but why the hell would I do that?) Now, take the concept of categories and tags described above and apply to video playlists. As I upload videos to the Caleb J. Ross YouTube channel, I assign them to playlists organized primarily for the purpose of syndication.

The next step is simply finding tools to aggregate the videos. This is where the Shortstack app and the YouTube SEO Playlist Wordpress plugin come into play. Using the YouTube SEO Playlist plugin I am able to have videos from specific playlists automatically populate on my website. Head over to any of my book pages (Charactered Pieces: stories, for example) or my Author Video Blog page. Notice that only Charactered Pieces: stories related videos appear on the book page and only episodes in my author video blog series appear on the Author Video Blog page? That syndication is entirely automatic.

This very same concept has been applied to my author Facebook page, using the Shortstack app. Notice the dropdown menu used for selecting playlists. Awesome.

Another syndication solution to consider is Ping.fm. This service allows a single social network message to populate to 30+ different networks. It sounds pretty great until you realize that most of the networks are small, lesser-known properties (myYearbook, StreetMavens, Yammer, and others). I haven’t used Ping.fm yet (this post will be the first I attempt to distribute using the service). If anyone out there has used the service, I’d love to know your thoughts. And in keeping with the ease of syndication theme here, the WPing.FM plugin is available to further streamline distribution by connecting WordPress with Ping.fm.

Tumblr and the Tumblrize WordPress plugin

Tumblr is an enormously popular blogging platform, thanks in part to its effective merging of twitter-like following capabilities, Facebook-like social group curation, and traditional long form blogging capabilities. Because the network is so huge, it’s important for an author to be there. Luckily, the Tumblrize plugin is here to auto-populate posts from a primary blog to a Tumblr blog. And I know, all you SEOs out there, that I run the risk of duplicate content. For now, I’m testing that risk.

 

On-Site Syndication/On-Site Curation

Micro-syndication is important, but what about ensuring that the content you create is easily accessible to the right visitors on your site itself? I call this…wait for it…on-site syndication (I provide naming things consulting services at a fair rate). Traditionally, on-site organization has simply been part of a greater conversation called site navigation. But I think it deserves specific attention.

One of the most effective examples of on-site syndication/curation is my use of category pages to organize particularly important blog post categories, effectively creating a type of micro-site with each category. Check out my SEO for Authors category (screenshot below), Book Marketing Tests & Studies category, or the World’s First Author Podcast category for examples.

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The Second Conducting: What is the Value of a Goodreads.com book giveaway? 84% had never heard of me. 34% plan on reading my books.

Does giving away your books lead to more readers, and in turn, more fans?

A few weeks ago I conducted a pretty in-depth study regarding the effectiveness of a Goodreads.com book giveaway in which I found that 93% of entrants had never heard of me and 88% planned on reading my books. Couple that with 51% of entrants signing up for my email newsletter, and the giveaway was well worth the two books I sacrificed.

Science must be repeatable, right? A couple of weeks ago I ended yet another giveaway.

The Setup

I listed a 2 copy giveaway for I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin to take place between 3/14/2012 and 3/31/2012. During this time the giveaway received a total of 378 entries. After the giveaway was closed for entries, I sent a 9 yes/no question questionnaire to 222 entrants. 156 entrants could not be sent the questionnaire, either because I know them personally or because they entered the previous giveaway. I figured sending to these 156 entrants might spoil the results. The questionnaire contained the following questions:

  • Had you heard of author Caleb J. Ross before this Goodreads.com giveaway?
  • Had you entered a Goodreads Giveaway for a Caleb J. Ross book before?
  • Had you heard of the book I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin before this Goodreads.com giveaway?
  • Do you intend to purchase I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin in the future?
  • Do you intend to read I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin in the future?
  • Do you intend to read any other books by author Caleb J. Ross?
  • Do you plan to connect with author Caleb J. Ross on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+?
  • If Caleb J. Ross were to visit your city/town for a reading, would you consider attending?
  • Did you answer these questions honestly?

The Results of my Goodreads.com Giveaway

  • 84% of non-winning entrants had never heard of me before this contest. Translation: I’m speaking to an audience who might not otherwise have heard me. This is down from 93% from my initial giveaway. Am I becoming more popular among readers?
  • 86% of non-winning entrants had never heard of I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin before the contest.
  • 24% of non-winning entrants said they planned on purchasing the book, even though they didn’t win. This is a strange percentage when compared to the 8% of people who intend to read the book. This number is down significantly from the previous giveaway, I assume because of the addition of the “Not Sure” option into this recent questionnaire, which accounted for 67% of the entries.
  • 34% of non-winning entrants intend to read other books by me. This is a strong number, especially when compared to the 86% of entrants who had never even heard of me. Also, keep in mind the “Not Sure” option which made up 65% of responses.
  • 19% of non-winning respondents plan to connect with me on social networks. Not sure: 57%
  • 78% of non-winning respondents would come to a reading event if I were to visit their town. Not Sure: 19%

 Additional Results Not Included in the Chart Above

  • 62% of non-winning respondents signed up for my Email is Dead email newsletter (not included in the chart above). This is up from 51% from the previous giveaway. I credit a couple of things to this increase: 1) the newsletter purpose was spelled out more explicitly this time around. 2) I gave the questionnaire takers the choice of receiving newsletters for readers, one for authors, or one for both (as opposed to offering just a single non-descript newsletter option). Transparency about the content of these emails I feel made people more comfortable with signing up.
  • 26% of non-winning respondents left additional comments. New to this most recently giveaway, I included the option for the takers to provide feedback in a comments section. Generally speaking they were great comments, most of which I responded back to directly.
  • 31% of entrants for I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin also entered the As a Machine and Parts giveaway. This could mean they really liked my book idea and was inspired for another try, or it could mean they are serial giveaway-enterers.
  • The incentive to complete the questionnaire was free ebook copies of my story collections Charactered Pieces: stories and Murmurs: Gathered Stories Vol. One. 31% of entrants downloaded at least one copy of the books. Either people love filling out surveys or they’ve simply forgotten to download the books.

Why so effective?

The response-rate for the survey was an amazing 41% (compared to 29% for the previous giveaway. I wonder why). The industry open-rate for Art/Artist newsletters is 17.54% [1]. This isn’t exactly a parallel comparison, as open-rate is not the same as response-rate, but it’s a close enough comparison to provide some valuable insight. The response rate is also likely inflated because of the following factors (these are the same factors as the previous giveaway, so if you’ve read those, you’ve read these):

  • The entrants were already “in the sales funnel” in that they had already reached out with an interest in my book. In other words, I’m not blindly sending the survey to readers. I’m instead sending the survey to interested readers.
  • It’s possible that users may have only considered certain actions because the survey included them (connecting on social networks, for example). Would the respondents have connected with me on social networks had they not been introduced to the idea by way of the survey itself? Possibly not.
  • I promised free ebook downloads to all respondents. Obviously, free books must have a lot to do with the high response rate.
  • My communication was very sales averse. I approached giveaway entrants with respect. Truthfully, I am a naturally respectful guy, so I just spoke the way I would normally speak.
  • The survey was incredibly simple. 11 questions with 9 of them being yes/no questions.

What are your thoughts? Have you conducted a similar survey? What did your results indicate?

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Does posting purchase links in social network comments lead to book sales?
Posted 20 March 2012 / By Caleb J. Ross / Marketing/ Study (the world/the craft)/ Tests and Studies

It’s been only two days since I started my Annoying Links test, and though I originally intended to stretch the test for a full week, I am going to cut it short. Why? A couple of reasons. One, I simply feel dirty posting links everywhere (even though I stated very explicitly up-front that the links were for study purposes only). Two, though only two days have gone by, the test isn’t looking too positive.

The abbreviated results

Will posting self-promotional links in social network comments lead to book sales? Maybe. But is feeling like a dirty sales person worth it? No.

The process

Over the course of 2 days, I posted a total of 42 comment replies on Facebook and Google+, each containing two links at the end of the post. The posts themselves were genuine responses to comments, things I would have posted even if I weren’t conducting a test.

The two links at the end of the post were 1) a self-promotional link for my book I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin and 2) a link to the original annoying link blog post which explained why I posted annoying links in the first place. Examples below:

The results

44 visits to explanation blog post. During the two day test I received 44 social referral visits to the You may notice some really annoying links out there during the next week post. The most important ones to look at are those from Facebook and Google+ (which are the two networks on which I posted links).

  • 19 visits from Facebook
  • 1 visit from Google+

10 visits to the I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin purchase page. The I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin campaign page was established strictly for the purpose of this test, so it was restricted from being indexed by search engines which would potentially disturb the test. In other words, the most likely way someone could get to this page is through one of my comment posts.

  • 6 visits from Facebook
  • 1 visit from Google+
  • 2 direct visits (meaning the URL was likely copy/pasted)

1 click on a link to purchase a book. I tagged each one of the bookseller links on the buy page with a Google Analytics event tracking code so I would know exactly how many times each was clicked.

  • 1 click

Was it worth it?

Out of 44 annoying links I received 1 potential book sale. In short, no, it wasn’t worth it.

Sure, expanding the networks in which I posted links may have helped. I could have also posted more than 20 (x2) links per day. I might even have had some success by being more strategic with my posts. Or perhaps by rejecting the desire to qualify the links with a comment about their annoyingness could have helped. But, even with those assumptions, I’m just not comfortable with the shotgun link approach.

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You may notice some really annoying links out there during the next week
Posted 17 March 2012 / By Caleb J. Ross / I Didn't Mean to be Kevin/ Marketing/ Tests and Studies

UPDATE: The results of this annoying link test can be found by clicking here

(If you got to this page via an annoying social media or blog comment link, keep reading. This is all for the sake of science.)

I’m a data nerd. I’ve gone record stating such, and I’ll go on record again. Something about seeing charts and graphs and trending lines and mapping the effect of X to Y and…let me pause to catch my breath a bit. I am fresh off a really successful Goodreads.com user study thing, so I’m itching to get back to the spreadsheets.

So why tell you this? I am going to conduct a week-long test of sorts that will probably be a bit more intrusive than most of my other studies. I’ve noticed a lot of incessant product whoring on forums, blog post comments, and social status updates. You know the kind: “BUY MY BOOK HERE,” and “IF YOU LOVE VAMPIRES CLICK HERE.” Annoying right? But people keep doing it. Why? It must work, right?

Right?

Well, that’s what I’m going to find out. Over the next week or so I am going to end as many post comments and social status updates as possible with a link to the purchase page of my book. I’ll track the clicks to my website. I’ll also include a link to this blog post so that people are perhaps not entirely put off by the annoying sales pitches. I understand that having two links may dilute the test, but I’d rather play it safe and hopefully alleviate any hate.

Once I have the results, I’ll post them here. Check back in about a week. The test may last longer, depending on how things work.

I know this is risky—If I was smart I’d create fake profiles, rather than use my real ones, but I’m not smart.

An example of the links you may see:

Check out I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin, my newest novel: http://bit.ly/ReadKevin

I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin, an “American road novel from hell”: http://bit.ly/ReadKevin

“Covering ground similar to the works of Sherman Alexie and Chuck Palahniuk, this is an author worth keeping an eye on.” -Publishers Weekly. Read I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin http://bit.ly/ReadKevin

Why am I posting this annoying link? See here: http://bit.ly/AnnoyingLinks

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