Monday, March 4, 2019

How and Why to Develop Your Writer's Voice

What Is Voice?

Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall provide the best definition of voice in Finding Your Writer's Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction.  Frank and Wall say, "Your voice is actually a very ordinary thing: It is just who you are, projected artistically" (5).  They add, "It's the way you draw on yourself as you write--your sense of humor, irony, the way you see people and events, use language, and entertain. And it's the way you use these parts of yourself to tell a story--just the way a singer draws on vocal chords, diaphragm, stomach muscles, and emotion to sing" (xv). 

Why Bother Developing Your Voice?

When you think of your writer's voice, what comes to mind?  It's something mysterious.  Ineffable.  Hard  to say: it's . . . there, inside me.  Somewhere.

The most profoundly powerful skill we possess as writers is voice, yet we pay it the least attention.

Why focus on finding and developing your raw natural voice?  Simple: a perfected voice puts you at the top level of your profession.  Conversely, a voice left to languish in lethargy makes you stand out as a novice.  There's another major and even more important reason.  The long-term successes, in terms of reputation and sales, are the authors who've cultivated a distinctive voice.  Think of a phrase for Stephen King's voice: humorously disturbing.  For George R. R. Martin's: grimly fantastic.

Now, think of a phrase for your voice.  

How Do I Develop My Natural Voice?

According to Frank and Wall, "[Be] yourself, [speak naturally] . . . [learn] ways to guide and sharpen this natural voice so it tells a story that enthralls a reader" (xv). 

It's easier said than done.  It's challenging to pinpoint our own voice and to practice deepening it.  One reason is that it's difficult to let go of our internal editor, but doing so--and then doing the hard work of voice strengthening--does pay off because, frankly, time is money.  It takes time to differentiate ourselves in a crowded marketplace, so why not write stories that reflect a mature and well-developed voice?

I've written several novels, but they live only on bookshelves and thumb drives.  Something was missing--my voice.  Too crafted.  Too stylized.  Too vanilla.  Too . . . not my voice.  And all that wasted time happened because as a newbie writer I felt insecure with everything I wrote.  Was that metaphor the right one?  Was there a better one I could use?  Was my style off?  Was it wrong?  Did I need to rewrite several chapters?  Yes, I did.  Everything always needed more attention, more editing, more time.  Thus, my insecurity, teaming up with my relentless internal editor, stifled my natural voice.  I ran out of time and energy and confidence, and as my writing stalled, so did my reputation.  Sadly, some of the stories I've written were good--before I edited the voice right out of them . . . and they became something I didn't recognize.  Something I didn't like.  Something that wasn't me at all.

How Do I Turn Off My Internal Editor?

Don't turn her off.  Ask your internal editor to "listen with you" as you write.  As Frank and Wall teach, "Voice deals with sound, quite apart from meaning."  Thus, we need to learn to listen for a voice that is ours and to spot and identify imposters, i.e., voices that emanate from us that do not enliven the page.

Thaisa Frank's and Wall's book is packed with fun useful activities that help develop voice.  It's one of the most useful I've ever bought.

A few of the how-to find your voice activities provided in Frank's and Wall's book include:

  • Inner listening
  • Distilling voice
  • Our many differing voices (public and private, raw and natural)
  • Pulling voice and character together
  • Craft and story voice
  • Discovering

Find me on Pinterest:

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Good Troll, Bad Troll: Can Creating Conflict Increase Your Social Media Reach?

Are You a Troll?
Have you ever walked away from a post on Facebook or some other social media site feeling like you were a hashtag away from meltdown? You probably met a troll. One famous troll is Grendel in Beowulf. My favorite is the troll in Grimm's Three Billy Goats Gruff. But let's talk of Internet trolls. Some notables include Trisha Patyas, Lee Dawson, and Lovingkiara.

ave You Purposefully Pissed Anyone Off Lately?
If you are a troll, and you pissed everyone off, then kudos. You're a potty-mouthed prankster with time on your hands, but you did more overnight than most of us could all year. With your anti-social behavior, you sky-rocketed your SEO ratings and built a to-die-for social media platform. You sucked us in, pranked us, and you benefitted from creating conflict.

What Do Trolls Do for a Living?

Trolls piss off everyone on purpose.  (Imagine, we only do it when someone provokes us!).  They do it all the time, with a fusty eye to getting paid.  And eventually, they do (media exposure, social media following, appearances, donations, job offers, etc.).
Trolls do the following:

  • Use derogatory and/or inflamatory language
  • Launch personal attacks
  • Use non-factual or false "disinformation"
  • Ignore everyone else's point(s)
  • Leave no evidence trail, no pics, nothing to help "find the troll" on social media sites
  • Respond quickly: trolls live solely to piss off everyone
  • Perform unsavory acts, like doxxing and swatting

Can Being a Troll Benefit You?

If you're a Putin troll and you want to disrupt the American election, by allegedly provoking voters into not voting for Hillary Clinton, into voting for Donald Trump, or into not voting at all, then yes, you win. If you're trolling Amazon and give Megyn Kelly too many negative reviews--hold on! Amazon might be the only troll-free space on the Internet. So, no, even trolls can't benefit from their behavior on the big 'Zon.

The 3 Billy Goats Gruff - KidsOut Charity Animation by Neil Whitman - YouTube
Did Putin "throw" the 2016 election? Did Amazon quash Kelly's negative Amazon reviews? The better question is, can being a troll benefit "me," even if I'm not the POTUS or Megyn Kelly?

How Are Prankster Trolls Winning?

As it does in novels, conflict creates readers, and Internet trolls use conflict and discord to win their audience. In "How Trolls Are Ruining the Internet," Joel Stein cites Internet troll, Jeffrey Marty. Marty "has become addicted to the attention." This attention includes "[ . . . ] 1.5 million views of [Marty's] tweets every 28 days."

I looked @jeffrey_marty up on Twitter. 1500 (approx.) followers. Okay, not many. So how has he benefitted from being a troll? He did so by using his other troll ID, @RepStevenSmith, to create conflict, rapidly gain a wide audience of followers, including haters, and gain wide social media attention. Thus, Marty, aka @RepStevenSmith, bypassed starting from scratch and instead quickly built himself an Internet social media platform. Once his platform was established, he switched to using @jeffrey_marty.

In her BuzzFeed article, "The Internet's Favorite Congressman Is a Joke," Molly Taft says, "Rep. Steven Smith of Georgia's 15th District was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump [ . . .]. Two things, though: Georgia doesn't have a 15th District and there's no such congressman named Steven Smith. [ . . .]."

That's right. Marty's a troll, aka Rep. Steven Smith. Taft goes on to say, "Now that he's being serious, [Marty's audience is] listening more than ever."

So You Think You Want to Be a Troll?

You can win as a troll, but you're going to take some heat. Like Rep. Smith, you'll be outed by someone, somewhere on the Net. You'll earn a reputation that'll outlive you (to its credit, social media has a memory the size of, well, forever). So if you think being a troll's the straightest path to Internet stardom, be careful. All social media sites have policies in place to take down trolls, metaphorically speaking, for stalking, mocking, and obscene attacks. In Indonesia, trolls are even jailed and/or executed.

Hi, all, Mary McFarland here. Thanks for taking time to read this. If you have a troll story, and a story about how you turned into a Billy Goat Gruff, shoot me a message on my Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

5 Steps to Audit Your Author Platform in 30 MINS.

Welcome to Slayerverse.  We're talking about Amazon, our beloved "Value Val," and what we can do to engage readers by doing an author platform audit prior to book launch.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Foundation and Empire: Are Indies Being Dragged Into Cloud Computing?

. . . where you and I take on "Value Val,"or in Slayer-speak, "Amazon," with its massively scary value vampire business model poised in the cloud and ready to slay us all.

But if you want to play cloud ball, heads up, authors.  If your Amazon sales haven't kicked butt, congratulations.  You've lost your indie-author virginity, and it's time to suck it up and get busy learning Amazon's value vampire business model, including its Web Services (AWS) cloud computing model; that is, if you want to increase your Share of Voice (SoV) on the Web.

I can hear you saying, "Whoa, Buff, what do you want from me?  Blood?  I mean, holy Van Helsing, I write 24/7, I host Goodreads giveaways.  I'm EVEN on Facebook.  And now you want me to spend my non-existent spare time learning how to be a marketeer?"

I get it.  You're an author.  You hate marketing.  But Buffy warns, if you've no drive to become a Slayer, go back to your cold coffins and sleep.  Don't blame Amazon, though, when you wake up with monkey hair on your palms--and no sales.

Wake up, wipe off the monkey hair.  Use Nair, whatever.  It doesn't matter how, but you gotta get inside Val's head.  You gotta learn Val's value vampire business model, and where and how Val hangs in the cloud.  Then you gotta copy his behavior and use it to sell.  No sweat, though, I'm here to help, so stop that groaning.
Jeff Bezos as "Value Val"
Yes, the learning curve is steep, so there's no silver bullet.  You have to get on Amazon and learn--OH FREAK NO!!--SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytic, and Cloud) marketing from Val himself.  You don't have to become a cloud-weenie, but you must gain some savvy about cloud-computing and what its future holds for you as author.  So what's step one?

It's telling yourself: I'm ready to whoop some value vampire butt.  It's realizing that your marketing journey--as well as the sales journey--begins and ends on Amazon.  Sure, there's a gazillion places you could go to learn Social, Mobile, Analytic and Cloud (SMAC-based marketing), but for now why waste time when all you need to get started is right in front of your eyes on Amazon?  How's that? you ask.  Remember: Val's not only a perfect learning machine, but also a perfect teaching machine with tons of support for Slayers.  For years, you've moaned that Val's bloated himself on your blood, but honestly, if you'd just walk up to him and say, "Hi, Val . . . "

The portal to Val's cloud lair is Amazon Web Services.  AWS is a "subsidiary of," and it "provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals, companies and governments, on a paid subscription basis."

A mouthful, yes?  And, of course, you're wondering what in heck it means?  Easy answer: Amazon isn't just gobbling up publishers and bookstores and authors anymore: it's devouring the world's data storage and computing capacity.  Hullo, if I owned every gallon of water on Earth, and could make you pay to get a drink, wouldn't you be paying attention to me right now?  Wouldn't you want to study me and learn my habits so you could ensure a future water supply?

It hurts to wrap our brains around AWS, but that's okay for now.  It's gonna hurt.  Bad.  But you need to walk right into Val's lair and see him as he is, so he'll be less scary when you have to really start getting scrappy with him.  Re-imagine Val behind the big Amazon user interface that you see every day, and then know this: he's not the user-centric screens your readers use to order books, and he's not the screens you use to upload files to CreateSpace and KDP (those are merely his mouth, with which he is devouring you at this very moment).

Val's an artificially intelligent entity selling to and learning from billions, but the closest you'll get to seeing him is looking at Amazon Web Service's user interface.  Now, with his AWS cloud computing platform (better Google that because cloud computing is going to rock your world), he's poised to dominate the universe from his ever-learning, ever-growing cloud platform.  So it's time for you to decide: do I want to sleep--and wake up with monkey hair on my body--or do I want to work in Val's cloud and make money as an indie author?

Smashword's founder, Mark Coker, wrote an article for Huff Post.  In "2018 Book Publishing Predictions - Are Indie Authors Losing their Independence," Coker said, in summary, that it's Val's insatiable hunger for . . . well, money . . . that's leading indie authors to a dark dystopian future in which, "Authors who now derive 100% of their sales from Amazon are no longer indie authors.  They're dependent authors.  I suppose we have indie authors and de-authors now."

Coker cites the beginning of the end of indie authors' independence as December 8, 2011, "[ . . . ] the day Amazon launched KDP Select and began stripping indies of their independence." Further, says Coker, "[ . . . ] [I]ndies were coaxed, prodded, browbeaten, extorted and tricked to gradually surrender to it."

Go, Coker!  You a SLAYER!

Coker's main point is that, "[T]here's no collective organization . . . [n]o representative body [that] looks out for our interests . . . . [w]e're all free agents . . . [w]ere divided and conquered."

We are divided, yes, but not conquered.  Let's take back control through individual actions as value vampire slayers, by getting to know what Val requires of us to make money.  That means we have to develop our own value business model for Amazon readers, and then use our model in collaboration with Amazon's to sell books.  You know: If you can't beat 'em . . .

Taking on Val is terrifying, but if you want to be a Slayer, you've got to step up and learn how Val's brain works, sort of like doing a Vulcan mind meld.  Thus, your first stop will be on Amazon's Web Service platform (link provided below).  Stay strong because he's gonna hit you with all he's got.  You're gonna see him touting "Cloud Solutions."  He's gonna sock you with "Big Data" and "Data Lakes" and "Analytics."  But you gotta keep rollin' 'til you nail who, and what, Val truly is.  Meantime, jump on AWS and live with Val, breath him in, TEAR IT UP!

Here's the link to AWS:  Next stop, Amazon's blog, a sniffle-drizzler, but hey, Val's gotta put on a sweet face for the world, so c'mon and take a quick look:  And wouldn't you love to be Amazon's featured author?  Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't point you toward Amazon's link on cloud computing:

What will be your take-away, the "value" you gain from this painful visit to the digital door of Val's lair?  Just knowing, brave Slayer, that you looked Val straight in his algorithmic eye, that's what.  Go on, don't be afraid.  As Buffy says, "Seize the moment 'cause tomorrow you might be dead."  But then . . . it's okay to be dead if sales are great.

Keep visiting Slayerverse for more on Val.

Later, Slayers.  Spread the word and share!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Let's Talk SMAC-Based Digital Marketing for Amazon Authors

Inside Count Val's Lair: CreateSpace and KDP
The innovator in the Value as a Service business model, Amazon's relationship with readers is value dominated and reader-centric.  Thus, Count Val, as I like to call Amazon, the world's most efficient Disruptive Value Vampire, is laser focused on providing value to readers, while making money selling books by the coffin-load. 

Count Val, ironically, doesn't give a bat's butt whether you or I sell books.  Why should he, when inevitably we all return like suicidal book-launch lemmings to CreateSpace and KDP, the value vampire's lair?  Worse, we do so knowing that Amazon's value platform, while a smorgasbord for readers, is for authors a potential coffin in a digital black hole called "the Cloud."

Why Learn to Use SMAC-Based Digital Marketing?
Whatever view we hold of our affair with Amazon (and I admit I'm in love/lust), our goal is to monetize.  Thus, it's critical we know what SMAC is and, in addition, that we know why SMAC-based digital marketing is necessary to slay the disruptive value vampire.  I use "slay" in the positive and cooperative "we're gonna kick some butt and sell like crazy on Amazon" sense because,  metaphorically speaking, we're all brides of Count Val, and we all love him, yes?

What is SMAC?
SMAC means: social, mobile, analytic, and cloud.  With a business model and value drivers that seduce readers, you can use SMAC-based digital marketing to: 
  • Improve the cost and value of your products and services
  • Enhance readers' experience
  • Increase your Amazon sales
Note: SMAC's no panacea.  You still have to deliver a sexy product mix with a clear message and great value, so readers can compare your books and pricing with competitors' and then pick those they wish to buy.  

SMAC is much more than checking in with readers each day on Facebook.  SMAC includes the following:
  1. Web-based technologies. i.e., social media
  2. Mobile platform technologies, such as mobile apps
  3. Analytics, such as Facebook's analytics dashboard
  4. Cloud computing, such as networking
To visualize SMAC, imagine you're holding a sheet.  Pick up the above four items, then toss them into the sheet's middle and fold and tie all four corners.  You did it!  You folded all four SMAC-based technologies in one big sheet, and now they can work together to help you achieve your digital marketing goals.

How Can I Use SMAC-Based Digital Marketing to Slay Count Val?
Now that you're holding your big sheet of SMAC, what do you do with it?

SMAC-based technologies let you engage socially to improve your "value as a service" business model and thus to enhance readers' experience, cost, and value.  Sounds great, you say, but what do I get?

Using SMAC technologies, including for example Facebook's ad for email signup, you can couple your ad campaign with Facebook's analytics dashboard to:
  • Collect actionable data about readers
  • See touch points and the path of interaction readers took to convert or buy
  • Display which audiences engage with your content and convert
  • View readers who hopped from your Facebook app to your Website and back before converting
  • Build custom audiences based on specific insights
  • Segment and re-target readers who followed a specific path to your page

What's So Great about SMAC-Based Digital Marketing?
The main benefit of SMAC-based digital marketing is that it increases a thousand-fold your ability to engage with readers across all marketing channels, without having to piece ad campaigns together and track and measure results on an ad hoc basis.  For authors, the overwhelming task of conducting an ad campaign just leaped forward light years.  In addition, as a result of what you learn through social listening and analytics, you can continuously improve your business model and marketing strategies to increase your share of voice on Amazon.

I use Facebook's analytic dashboard in this post as an example, but you can find an infinite array of SMAC-based technologies to manage your digital marketing.  In addition, the marketing processes (for example, audience targeting and measuring your share of voice against your competitors'), all of which used to suck up huge blocks of time, are now automated and in the cloud.  As a result, you save hundreds of hours of marketing time, and if you use SMAC-based digital marketing correctly, you can slay Count Val in his own lair.

More Resources
For more on business models and value drivers:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

2 Disruptor Rules for Indie Authors on Amazon

22 May 2018: 2 Disruptor Rules for Indie Authors on Amazon

Your Goal: Monetize on Amazon
Indie author?  On Amazon's CreateSpace or KDP?  Then you have a goal.  Or two.  Or three.  But one takes precedence over most others: monetize.  Make money selling your books on Amazon.

Your Problem: No One's Buying
Isn't happening, is it?  I know, I know.  It's frustrating.  You're a pro. You've devoted your life, well a chunk of it, to writing your fantastic novels and . . . no one but your mom or your BFF is buying.  

What's Stopping You from Selling?
Question: What's your Share of Voice?  If you can't answer, you're like many indie authors and, as a result, you're making zip from your books or barely enough to buy your Starbucks.  I didn't know what share of voice (SoV) meant either, but I've spent the last year learning.  As a technical writer with a Master's in Comp Rhet and years of experience examining software systems, I realized that the frustration my indie friends like you--and I--were experiencing, as the result of low or no SoV, was the result of ignorance.  We don't know what Amazon is doing, how it works, or how we should interact with it.  And that's stopping us all from selling.

What's Amazon's Business Model?
Here's another question (I'm so full of 'em): What's Amazon's business model?  

Note: A business model is a design for the successful operation of a business.  It identifies revenue sources, customer base, products, and details of financing.

As stated, I'm full of 'em, so question: what's YOUR business model?  Okay, so you don't have one, and as a result you've set yourself up to become Amazon's perfect value vampire victim.  Because Amazon's business model is a value dominated relationship with readers, it means that you give away freebies, or you sell for .99, or your books sit on Amazon, while you languish as they say "in obscurity."  

Amazon is the innovator in the Value as a Service Model.  It is reader centric and focused on providing value to readers.  Value is realized through readers' Amazon experience, which is a huge value driver, and through Amazon's seamless integration into readers' lives, a key plank in Amazon's value platform. 

My point: Amazon's relationship with readers is value dominated, so any way the disruptive value vampire can suck your blood and give it back to readers as value keeps Amazon fat and happy, while you . . . 

2 Disruptor Rules You Can Follow Starting Now
Rule 1: Hammer out your business model.  Few know how to develop one, but you can and should start defining yours now because unless you have a business model, you have no clear strategy for marketing and selling on Amazon.  And no clear strategy means few or no sales.  I'd like to tell you it's easy and that you can formulate a loose business model overnight, but it's an impassioned endeavor with a steep learning curve.  It requires that you identify and put in place things like your platform, products and services matrices, sales channels, your marketing strategy, and much more.  

Rule 2: Identify your value drivers for readers or clients of your business.   A value driver is anything added to a product (your books) that will increase its value to readers.  These differentiate your product or books from those of your competitor and make them more appealing to readers.

Don't know?  Don't understand?  Better get busy Googling and figuring out what your value drivers are.  It's a new "free" economy, and every reader's shopping options are infinite.  Identify what differentiates your books from your competitors' and then figure out how to turn that into value for your readers.

Where You Can Learn More
I can't tell you how to follow these two rules in a blog post, but I'm happy to tell you about how I've implemented them in my platform.  I can share your pain and help ease it by telling you the steps I took, and those I plan to take, to become a value vampire slayer.  Find me on my Facebook channel, My Facebook Page, Mary McFarland Writer.

Thanks, and please share if you liked this post. 

All definitions were taken from the Web.