Category: Blog

the usual and the not so usual

Facebook is King of Social Media Marketing

Facebook is King of Social Media Marketing

I just read the Social Media Examiner’s 2017 Social Media Report and from their research, hands down, Facebook is the marketer’s #1 social media outlet. Usage has gone up considerably in the last few years, but here’s the thing. While usage has gone up, belief in it’s effectiveness has gone down. Way down.

So why the discrepancy?

I think there are two reasons:

One, you can’t correlate sales and ad buys. Unless you have a “Shop Now” button on your page, you simply won’t know why people decide to buy your books. I do know authors who see a considerable jump in sales after a large ad buy. But even with the “Shop Now” button, what you’ll really know is when and how many. Over time, a correlation may be found between ad buys and sales, but the current state of Facebook doesn’t help us truly figure it out.

Two, no one understands Facebook. Truly. Why does one post get likes and shares and not another of the same vein. Why do some political posts grab a reaction and some don’t? Why do Sally’s puppies make a splash but John’s don’t? This is about human nature, which is inherently unreliable and unpredictable.

What does this mean for book marketers? Because there is a difference between “ad agency” guy and publicist. I know some book marketers who have stopped buying Facebook ads altogether and rely on the author’s followers and their followers, like a pyramid scheme, to spread the word. And they use other online marketing methods in conjunction.

My take is that Facebook ads help spread the word about your page and what you’re selling. They also help you grow a followership. But your community is what keeps them around. What are you posting to Facebook? People go to the social media network to find entertainment and news. It is not a built in shopping environment the way Amazon is.

For any author, the idea is that readers get to know you and feel exclusive in their interactions with you. People, in this case readers, want to feel a part of something cool. If you create that in a Facebook Group or on your Author Page, I believe you’ll find good results. I am not discounting ads, but unless you have McDonald’s $52B ad budget, I’d probably stick to buying them at opportune times:

  • New Book Out
  • Author Event
  • Free Give-Aways
  • Important Dates
    • Birthdays
      • Yours or Your characters
      • An important member of the team
    • Anniversaries
      • Your first day of writing or attending your first conference
      • Your books
    • St Paddy’s Day
      • Because who doesn’t love Lephrecauns
      • Pick your favorite holiday and do a give away then

Stick Around! We’ll talk about setting up Facebook Group Experiences and Amazon ads in later posts.



Travel! Stay, Eat & Meet Local

Travel! Stay, Eat & Meet Local

I live in South Korea — a fiction writer’s dream! Seoul has direct flights to almost every major travel spot in Asia, which is good for me because I absolutely love to travel. The cultures are fascinating. The history is interesting. The architecture is amazing. The people are wonderful. I travel to learn and experience, and that knowledge generates tons of new story ideas.

I recently visited Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Da Nang, Vietnam. It’s nicknamed The Lantern Town because lanterns hang from every building and entranceway. The Old Town looks remarkably like it did in the 16th century with its Japanese covered bridge and the 19th century with its yellow French architecture. It’s a busy town, like a lot of Vietnamese cities with motorcycles representing most of the road traffic and tourists the rest of it. But Hoi An really comes alive at night. All the lanterns are lit and people flock to the streets. Music wafts from the bars and most places open directly onto the street. It’s warm most of the year there, so unless it’s monsoon season, shops and restaurants are partially open air.

To get the most out of any new location, I have a three-step plan: Stay local, Eat Local, Meet Local. The idea is to delve into the culture of a place and experience it, rather than just watch it, and Hoi An was no different.

Stay Local

I met a man from Florida who travels to Hoi An four times a year and stays at the same place every time, which happened to be the place I stayed this time – The Vinh Hung River Resort on the Thu Bon riverway. He told me this river was a major passageway for the spice trade back in the day, and still represents one of the busiest small commercial waterways in Asia. The front desk folks confirmed it. Now “resort” makes it sound like a large, commercial place but this little gem has only 89 rooms.

In the early evening, we’d sit on the porch and watch small boats with no mufflers cruise along the water, but no boats cruised at night because of a lack of electricity. Instead, guests heard music from across the river or just birds singing. My bed faced a wall of windows that opened directly to a back porch with loungers overlooking the river. Lilies fragranced the air, and coconut trees provided ample shade. The cool morning air was perfect for a cup of coffee and a book.

Eat Local

We did eat at the resort for breakfast since it was included but two things stand out for me in Vietnam during breakfast. Dragon fruit and pho soup. Dragon fruit is in everything – salad, casseroles, wraps – you name it, and pho soup is for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have found pho soup for breakfast is one of the most satisfying meals. It’s warm and a little salty, and it fills me up.

Every other meal was on the locals. For $24, three of us ate a dinner of spring rolls, pho soup, pancakes (banh xeo) and noodle soup. For a deeper culinary experience, we paid a little more and spent two hours at lunch learning how to make a plethora of Vietnamese dishes in a little place called Vy’s Cooking School. Thin rice noodles, thick rice noodles, rice dumplings, rice pancakes, spring rolls on rice paper. Believe it or not, they had several dishes with tofu. The hubs tried pig brain and cow tongue. As a vegan, I did not, but now I know these are some every day foods for the Hoi An locals.

Dinner was spent at a local farmer’s market, which looks more like a potluck than a farmer’s market. You start at one end of the long row of tables and each person hands you one of whatever they offer that night: mi quang (pork or shrimp & rice noodles), banh bao (rice dumplings), banh dap (rice pancake) and of course rice wine. Snag some chopsticks and you’re ready to go.

Meet Local

The resort usually gets a kickback or two from any place they recommend, so before I go anywhere, I look around online for any place I know an American might be. They’ve generally been in the location for a while and know all the best spots.

Randy’s Books was my first stop. A Vietnam War veteran owns this charming little bookstore with a pretty deep bench in the Vietnam culture and biography section. He’s a writer and when I visited was currently editing two of his friends’ books. I’m pretty sure this bookstore is in the front part of his house. The staircase has book titles on the panels, and the smell of the 18th century wood mixed with old books would intoxicate any reader.

Randy told me where Anthony Bourdain likes to eat when he’s in town and swore the best foodie experience in Hoi An is actually in a Greek restaurant run by an ex-pat. He also ticked off on his fingers temples, museums, shops and craft tours. It’s clear he does this a lot. By the front door was a rack of business cards and he handed me several. Armed with this, I set out.


Buddhist temple to pray, check. Japanese covered bridge, saw it. Lantern-filled streets at night to dance, yep. Boat ride down the Thu Bon, done. Local tailor for new suits, had to. Chatting with locals about their history, a must. Meeting Americans in sports t-shirts, of course.

But more importantly for me, I met and talked to real people, and that helps me develop real characters for my novels. And I drove a motorbike (actually crashed a motorbike!) and made rice pancakes and toured the alleyways not just the main drags. That’s how I can build authentic worlds for my readers. So the next time you travel, think bed & breakfast instead of hotel and hit up the local bookstore or coffee shop for ideas on where to go. Trust me, you’ll love your trip all the more for doing it!


Quick travel tip:

A lot of people ask me about the language barrier, and frankly, I’ve traveled to 35 countries, and that’s never been a problem for me. If you smile and nod and point, you can communicate with anyone. But I do find it useful to learn a few local phrases: hello, thank you, where’s the restroom/taxi/train. Most locals like it when you make the effort, and frankly, it’s respectful to the culture to at least try. But definitely download the language to your Google Translate app. It may not have the most exact translation, but it will be close enough to help.

The Hotsheet

The Hotsheet

If you haven’t signed up for The Hotsheet yet, or if you’ve never even heard of it, let me be the first to tell you to sign up. It’s terribly difficult to sift through the epic mountains of marketing data on the internet and this does it for you. I almost never recommend products on my page, but this one is a must.

It’s a combined effort between Porter Anderson and Jane Friedman. Anderson is a former CNN journalist and is now editor in chief of Publishing Perspectives. Friedman is a consultant for Publishers Weekly. Both have extensive knowledge of the book industry and marketing trends within that industry.

The Hotsheet is basically a book publishing news roundup. So instead of scouring the Internet for what you’re looking for, these two pretty much know what you’re looking for and are trying to make it easier for you to find.

It’s free for a month, so if it’s not your thing, you can opt out. Or if it is, then after the free one, it’s $59/year. Since you’re a writer, it’s also a tax write-off (but I’m no tax attorney, so double check!). Click here to read more about it.


Tell the truth

Tell the truth

When it comes to effective communication, it is absolutely important to tell the truth. If a reader or potential customer views you as untrustworthy, you’ll fail. Does that mean you need to answer every single question they ask? No it doesn’t. You may have very wise reasons for not divulging everything, so tell them what you can and why you can’t elaborate.

This is Communications 101.

There are some writers who don’t like to talk about their children or broadcast exactly where they live. You have boundaries, and only you can enforce those boundaries. What you can’t do is lie about it.

Do you remember Ryan Lochte at the Rio Olympics last summer? Whether he embellished his harrowing escape from gun-wielding police officers or simply couldn’t remember exactly what happened, his multiple stories damaged his credibility, almost irreversibly. When you’re answering questions about where you got your idea for a spy who barreled through Berlin on a motorbike, make sure you tell them the truth. Did you try to ride a motorbike through Berlin or did you just watch a YouTube video?

How about the Whole Pantry Author Belle Gibson? She lied for nearly a decade about having terminal cancer. She launched her business on it. Think she still has a company or readership? Probably not.

I’m not suggesting that writers lie, but what I do want to point out is that we work in the world of fiction. When writers talk with readers, they become publicists and marketers. There is a misperception that those professions are rampant with liars, spinners, charlatans. Protect yourself by answering truthfully, without hesitation.

But if there is a scenario where you don’t want to discuss your personal information, then don’t. And tell only what you want. Resist the urge to embellish details. You may get away with it for a while, but over time, you’ll lose. In the day and age of instant information, you can’t keep secrets for long.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events


Since I’ve moved to South Korea, most of my writing events are online. However, there are two wonderful writing groups here for ex-pats:

The Seoul Writers Collectives and Fiction Writers in Seoul.

Both groups have provided ample opportunity to meet established and aspiring writers.

I’m still a member of Washington Romance Writers and produce their weekly newsletter, make sure to check out their news here. I also still hang on to my writer peeps at Pikes Peak Writers in Colorado and plan to attend their conference in April – it’s one of my favorites!

The events I post are ones I’ll be attending and are open to anyone, so feel free to join me!

April 2018

April 27-29, Pikes Peak Writers Conference

April 20-22, Washington Romance Writers Retreat

November 2017

National Novel Writing Month

November 11, WRW Military Panel

October 2017

October 20-21, HallowRead



September 2017

September 9, WRW General Meeting and Facebook Ads with Jamie Farrell

September 16, Music City Romance Writers workshop on Goal, Motivation, Conflict with Deb Dixon

August 2017

August 24-27, Killer Nashville Writers Conference

August 19, Music City Romance Writers workshop on editing and revising


July 2017

July 2017, TBD

Plotting by the Pool

Washington DC



May 2017

May 23-25

Seoul International Forum for Literature

Seoul, Republic of Korea



April 2017

April 27-May 30

Pikes Peak Writers Conference

Colorado Springs Marriott in Colorado Springs, Colorado



March 2017

March 26, 2017

Seoul Writers Collective Workshop
Dan & Chungs in Itaewon, South Korea

3 to 5:30pm



February 2017

February 17-20, 2017

Writers Retreat
Hoi An, Vietnam



February 19, 2017

Seoul Writers Collective Workshop
Dan & Chungs in Itaewon, South Korea

3 to 5:30pm

January 2017

January 8, 2017

Seoul Writers Collective Workshop
Dan & Chungs in Itaewon, South Korea

3 to 5:30pm


January 13-16

Writers Retreat

Mt Soraksan, South Korea