Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Those Pesky Pen-Names.


by Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff

I’m in the mood for a rant but I’ll leave that for another time.

Those pesky pen-names. It doesn’t take very long to realize that with four or five pen names, something is going to suffer. One pen name has been publishing stuff every two months or so.

Well, he’s got nothing on the go right now, because all of his time is spent developing the social networks for all those other names. None of them can possibly be as active as he (I) used to be on Twitter, where I used to tweet out relevant links, the sort of thing my audience might be interested in. But now I have five different personalities, who might tweet out to five different audiences. Those audiences require unique content to fit with their needs or expectations. Just finding and reading that stuff before it got tweeted out would be a big enough challenge.

The bigger any one audience gets, the more attention it merits and the more time it takes to serve it well.

I can’t really write one generic blog post and put it up on five blogs. For one thing, the opportunity presented by five different audiences is a stupid thing to waste, and secondly, it might not make much sense in terms of that particular pen-name. My erotica writer would have no reason to blog about the state of the economy, and her audience can find far better stuff elsewhere anyways.

What happens is that I tend to devote so much time to getting each and every one up and running. But then results begin to skew. My erotica writer has almost a thousand friends on Facebook. Yet another pen name has struggled to get a hundred, another has maybe two hundred, and the latest one has yet to get his first half-dozen. All this doesn’t even really ask or answer the question of whether being on a social network actually helps to sell books or any other product.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that it does, and some of the biggest names in the business are on social networks, blog regularly, et cetera.

The erotica writer gets dozens of friend requests a day. She confirms them unreservedly. She gets that chat box opening up as soon as she does something that registers and pops out on the wall. She can’t talk to three or more people at once, every time she goes on there. That one is a source of frustration, and yet she gave away eighty-seven copies of one title from Smashwords this month and we haven’t seen that with any of our other names, at least not for a while.

The analysis is fairly simple. She clicked on someone that was presented to her, and they are from another culture. And they told two friends…

A white woman, a pretty one, is more than they can resist. In their culture, there is restricted access to women, who would never be tagged, ‘available.’ Or worse, ‘single.’ That’s an untouchable person for a respectable young man over there. They have arranged marriages, or strong restrictions of a faith-based nature on the relations between unmarried young people.

You want to be careful who you talk to and how you talk to them in that culture.

Why did she click on that person or type and group of person/people? For one thing, setting up a new pen name needs a new e-mail address to set up on your publishing and social platforms. There has been no traffic through that e-mail address. The pen-name has no friends and family, no contacts, no list. When you skip through that part on Facebook, when opening up a new account, it presents some hurdles. There will be a list of ‘do you know?’ sort of people presented on Facebook. Being young and eager for success, I think she just basically started off by clicking unthinkingly on a few names and now we have to live with the results.

Now, trying to produce new products for five pen-names, with new titles coming at regular intervals, is another challenge. In addition to five blog posts a week, there is the need to create new material.

Inevitably something (or someone) is going to suffer. On the plus side, a couple of the pen-names are selling small numbers of books. One author gave away eighteen books and has not sold a copy on any platform, and as for the newest one, so far nothing. He’s had eleven samples on Smashwords and is linked in one library, which may or may not translate into a sale sooner or later.

Now, Smashwords founder Mark Coker regularly states that Smashwords authors will sell ninety percent of their books through the Premium Distribution Catalogue. My guys have been making it in with no problems although some minor fixes, which I found myself without waiting for the human vetters.

Once all those new titles, ten or eleven of them, dribble down through all the distribution channels, the next challenge is when, or how often, or especially how, to promote each individual author on each individual platform, whether it’s Kobo, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes, whatever.

One of the things I can safely say is that I have never sold a book in Japan, or in Brazil. The challenges of exploiting the distribution system as it exists right now are many, and all we can do is to continue experimenting and of course making new books, new stories and new products.

If a person had a professional or traditional publishing deal, they might be asked to go on social networks, or to blog regularly, or just feel it is a necessity. So I don't think the challenges are unique to any particular approach.

Other than that, the stuff you just read is a hell of a lot better than some stupid old rant.



Running pen names.

Setting up pen names.

How to set up a pen name.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to comment on the blog posts, art or editing.