Monthly Archives: July 2015

How do I love thee, Twitter Analytics?

Let me count the ways. I love thee, for you measure improvement. For without you, I wouldn’t have a clue whether my particular Twitter joke wasn’t funny or just got lost in the noise of a million voices. But most importantly, because you fill my heart with stupid, unwarranted hope that one day Shizzle, Inc will be discovered.

I’m crashing on Twitter Analytics like a stalking teenage girl. I can’t go for more than a couple of hours without checking stats, but there’s more to it than the OCD (I hope). It’s actually useful. If you’re using Twitter for anything other than reading random stuff, you have to get it. Right now. Stop reading this, there’s nothing else useful in the rest of this babble.

The most amazing thing is that all the data and analysis in TA is free. There isn’t a catch, like you have to spam your followers, or drag in your friends, or give up the cash you have not yet earned. And it’s broad, covering analysis I did not previously consider, like engagement rate.

If you Google the net, you’ll find a number of informative, in-depth articles on various virtues of TA and how to use the information to build your brand and reach your customers. I don’t have either the depth of knowledge or the patience to write a similarly informative article, so here goes my dumbed down easy to understand and superficial summarised list:

1. TA reminds me to tweet every day. Oh, how it hurts to forget about Twitter for a day, only to see that it completely forgot about me. Have a look at this graph and note the correlation between the number of tweets (in grey) and the corresponding number of “impressions” (in light blue):
IMPRESSIONS 7 days

2. TA tells me which tweets were effective and which got a “pfft” response. Yes, you can sorta figure that out based on a number of retweets or likes, but the “engagement rate” reveals if that was due to a sheer number of impressions, or a particularly effective tweet. It confirms time and again that photo-tweets are the most effective. The top two of my tweets over the last three months are both photos:
TOP TWEETS

3. TA holds a promise of the day when it all goes completely viral, like this spike of over 30,000 hits (yes, I double-checked the number of zeroes). All it takes, apparently, is for a famous musician with a million followers to retweet one of your tweets. Which makes me ever so grateful, even if he refuses to follow me back.
TWEET SPIKE

4. It feeds my sick need to see continuous improvement. Every. Single. Day. I can’t change much in my day-to-day job, but I sure can enjoy the growing follower count:
FOLLOWERS

That sums it up for me. There’s also WordPress stats, but I’m sure you know all about them. You don’t? Omg, go check them right now! You can thank me later.

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The never ending cover story

Ok, I know you’re sick of this by now, but…Just. One. More. Time.

At least I’ve managed to pick one of the two concepts. I went with the more literal one, which also happens to use a face. The research shows that people respond to faces, and it also shows that I respond to research findings. So there you go, one decision made.

I’ve also spent hours searching Shutterstock for better images. Here are the previous version (on the left) and the new one (on the right):
Version 3 vs version 4
I’m practically in love with this new model. Not only her facial expression is spot-on, she’s also not stick-thin, like most of the pretty blond girls on Shuttersock. At one point, desperate, I was going to hire a model and a photographer, but I don’t think I could wish for a better girl.

I’m also happy with the background, which (when I pay and download a proper photo) shows a view of a downtown city. The colour is also fitting.

The man’s arms read better, but some people were confused and thought Isa just has “man hands”. May have to look more.

Not at all happy with lettering, but being an optimist, I’m sure a solution will come to me, maybe in a dream or in the middle of a meeting.

So there you go. One baby step closer to the finish. Brilliant ideas and suggestions would be much appreciated!

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Writing Lessons You Need to Unlearn. Or do you?

An award-winning author, whose first language is not English… there’s hope for me yet! I second his motion of hiring editors, regardless of where you were born.

Nicholas C. Rossis

Grammar allergies Comic by Cyanide and Happiness

Happy Memorial Day, to my American readers!

You see, I may live in Greece, but I know it’s Memorial Day today.  Likewise, English is not my first language.  I was taught English at the tender age of two and a half, alongside Greek.  I had English-speaking au pairs to improve my English, I went to a school with plenty of English courses and I read English books, but I grew up in Greece, had Greek friends and spoke and read Greek on an everyday basis.  Therefore, you can understand why I was concerned when I decided to write in English: I was worried of making the odd silly mistake, having people laugh at my writing skills.  I have studied more grammar and vocabulary websites and books than I care to remember, just to make sure my English was correct. And then I realized that perhaps…

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Shizzle-style book marketing

I know, I’m still weeks away from actually seeing my novel on Amazon, but being a planner I just had to think of a few marketing ideas. For if a book hits an overcrowded marketplace and no one is around to read it, does it make a sound? I mean, of course it doesn’t unless it’s an audiobook, but you know what I mean.

I looked around to see what others are doing. It’s not pretty. On Twitter, you get spammed by messaged from authors begging you to read whatever it is they wrote. Some of them send out a message once EVERY MINUTE. What can it possibly get you, other than getting blocked, and fast? I can’t even understand some of those messages, #because #they #are #so #full #of #hashtags. Most authors are following other authors, and thus the circle of spam is complete.

I was thinking of doing a blog tour, but the problem is, I’m really shy for an extrovert. Sure, I can chat up a stranger at a party, but I can’t bring myself to ask for help. How do you even contact another writer with “Hey, can I blog on your site about my awesome new book?” without being blocked and reported? I might have to figure this one out eventually, but not now.

Instead, I’ve decided to try some unconventional ideas, the kind of idiotic and rebellious crap my characters would try. I can’t use home-made bombs and kidnapping for obvious legal reasons, but here are a few possibilities:

1. Shock and awe tactics. Like paying a million dollars for a gorgeous blonde to run naked through a footy game, with “Shizzle, Inc” painted across her bum. It worked for Virgin. The problem is that I don’t have a million dollars. I could of course do it myself, but then I could lose my job and possibly my fiancé. For now I’m going with a relatively lame idea of hanging a massive poster off the pedestrian pass over King’s Way. Saying something like #ShizzleInc and maybe a pic of a blonde. It needs work.

2. Begging my readers like they’ve never been begged before. Forget spam, I say. Do it in person. I’m going to print the novel cover and as much of the beginning as I can fit on a folded A4 sheet, so it looks like a mini-book with details on how to download the real thing at the end. Then I will stand at one of the CBD train station in the evening peak hour and hand them out to women in their 20-40s with lame come-ons like “Something to read on your way home?”. That’s legal, right?

3. Reinventing the already invented. Thinking of posting a few chapters on Twitter, 140 characters at a time. I don’t know if it’s even possible or wise, but I will try. Cause that’s how I roll.

4. Creating a Shizzle, Inc virus that delivers copies of the book to every desktop in the world. Yeah, you can scratch that one. I’m still not sure how computers work.

That’s about all for now. I wish it was a nice fat list of ten. If you have any suggestions, I’d really appreciate them, the crazier the better!

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Selective Cropping

It’s not often that you come across something so educational and hilarious at the same time.

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Do you prefer the apple or the orange?

Well, now that I’ve decided not to use the pro to design my book cover, its time to put my Photoshop skills to where my mouth is…You may recall my frustration at the designer’s attempts to create a cover for Shizzle, Inc. Some of you have actually really liked his first concept. Choosing one is so hard!

I finally got a chance to spend a few solid hours on the concept development today and would love your input on my top two so far. These are just concepts, so please ignore the sloppiness of execution, resolution, and watermarks (I just need to sign up and pay for the images). Once I get my head around which way to go, I will further develop that one. Or start from scratch…
Cover mock up bubble girl and man arms2 Cover mock up 6

I know, they couldn’t be more different…so which one do you like? The apple or the orange?

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Ten things I’ve learned from my copyeditor

Despite being the single highest cost of self-publishing so far, the copyedit will be the one expense I will never regret.

That would have been the list if this article was entitled “A single most important thing I’ve learned”. But it’s not, so there are ten more below. Which I guess makes it eleven…never mind! Anyway, after getting eight quotes and four samples from Australian and American editors, I chose Lu Sexton of A Story to Tell to copyedit Shizzle, Inc and I’m blown away with the results. To be honest, I had a lot of reservations about paying for editing. After all I’ve already had a structural edit; I’ve revised the draft no less than a hundred times myself; I speaka English real good. Handing over cash for a promise of making your draft better is scary, even if that promise comes with a professional reputation and an exceptional sample edit.

In the end it was probably that sample that did it. Lu didn’t just pick up grammatical errors and turns of phrase, she made a few clever suggestions for heightening the drama and comedy without losing my protagonist’s voice. I had the balls to ask if the rest of the manuscript would get a similar treatment and got a polite answer that yes, it would. And it did. I got back not just an improved manuscript, but a lesson in writing, customised just for me. Here’s the list of lessons I promised, in no particular order:

1. Confusing turns of phrase, such as “my destiny was to be discovered”. Isa thinks she is meant to be discovered, but Lu thought it reads as if Isa is about to find out what her destiny is meant to be. I couldn’t agree more.
2. People jump off bridges, not from them. Snakes are venomous, not poisonous.
3. How often my characters “waived” their hands and got their feelings “crushed”.
4. Continuity and circumstances not matching what characters are doing. It’s lunchtime, but Isa is not hungry. Dress is matte in one sentence and shimmery in the next.
5. Explaining things too much. Once the character is in a lobby, you can call it “it” and not have to remind the reader that we are still talking about the lobby. They will get it.
6. Character’s voices not matching their choice of words. The posh evil antagonist slipping into slang, or dim Isa using formal speech.
7. Impossible combinations of actions, such as “I managed to close my mouth and said”.
8. Rhythm. Amazing how cutting a few words or moving sentences around improved the flow. For example, when describing a person, its awkward to move from face to shoes and back to face. Unless of course it suits your character, which in my case it didn’t.
9. Using more contemporary references. It’s hard to pretend to be a girl half your age. Twenty-year olds would compare massive speakers to those that can be found at a Skrillex concert, not Rolling Stones.
10. I have writing tics. Several of them. Everything was “something-looking”. Metaphors are great, but there are more interesting ways to describe them.

Most of the suggestions were not just track changes, they were accompanied by comments explaining the reason for change. Not only that, I got a separate style sheet, to help my proof reader. I didn’t know those existed!

I could go on, but this is starting to get embarrassing. Plus, as we know, numbered lists attract more attention, and what is better than a nice fat top ten? So keep on writing, and start a savings account for the copyedit. You won’t regret it.

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When does it pay to pay a pro?

I got some good news and some bad ones. The bad news is that the cover designer completely ignored my specific directions and came up with this revised version:
ShizzleInc_cover3

I hated it on first sight, but just had to check on Twitter. Overwhelmingly, everyone else hated it too. Someone even said the lips and bubble gum look pornographic. Great. I’ve pulled the plug and asked for my money back under the designer’s 100% satisfaction guarantee. Not looking forward to their reply. Not sure yet if I’m gonna get anyone else or do it myself. One thing for sure, if I hire another designer, he or she will need to be local and willing to meet with me to discuss ideas before photoshopping bejeezuz out of stock images.

On other hand, I could not be happier with the copyeditor! I will post a more comprehensive review after I’m done going through literally thousands of her tweaks. Truly a value for the money and a must do exercise.

Next week is all about revisions and setting up a Kindle account. Should be a piece of cake, compared to the cover saga…

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