Sunday, September 23, 2012

Exploring QR codes

You've seen them everywhere--those little squares consisting of black and white marks that appear in newspapers, magazines, on coffee cups, even on t-shirts. They are quick response codes, or QR codes that are meant for consumers to grab information and perhaps buy immediately. We are living in a world of iPhones and Androids now, meaning that we carry the equivalent of electronic Swiss Army knives. Not only can we phone or text friends, we can check calendars, take notes, play games, read news and books, and take photographs. (To be sure, that list is incomplete.)

It's that last capability, taking photos, that makes QR codes so important. If you download one of the many free QR reader such as this one from Kaywa and see a QR code, just open the reader, take a quick snapshot of the code, tap on the photo, and your phone's browser is redirected to the encoded location. Here, for example, is the first QR code I ever created. Scan it with your phone, and you'll be taken to my Amazon page where all my books are for sale.

How many consumers scan these codes? I don't know yet, but the technology is free and easy, so it's going to be fun to find out. I suspect that over time, QR codes will be a real boon to us self-publishers and do-it-yourself marketers.

Have you tried using them, either as a seller or as a consumer?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Talking to yourself

If you stand on a street corner or walk down the grocery aisle and talk to yourself, people might think you're a little touched. That's certainly what I thought about a woman a few years ago when I saw her apparently chatting with a display of sirloin steaks--that hands-free Bluetooth device of hers sure had me fooled.

Chances are, most of us talk to ourselves now and then, and we just sorta keep it low-key and not too public. But if you're a writer, you should talk to yourself now and then. Read with your lips and your larynx to hear and feel the flow of your words. No, no, don't read newspapers or books that way, just the drafts of your own work. You'll find those double words and repeated sentences, the phrasing that doesn't sound quite right. Maybe you'll spot a passive voice or an incomplete sentence.

The point is to use more than just your sense of sight. Use your sense of hearing as well, and you will pick up on those errors that might otherwise slide right past you.

Right now I'm typing with the office door closed, so my wife doesn't hear me talking to myself.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Make the most of Twitter

The other day I reached 6,000 followers on Twitter. Why is that worth mentioning? Because of the  power of retweeting, Twitter is a highly effective means of reaching readers. That feature allows you the potential of reaching many times more than the number of followers you have. A lot of these followers are going to be ebook  owners, and a lot of them are willing to spend a small amount of money to try out an unknown author. For me, $2.99 seems an effective price point.

On Twitter you can find them by searching for hashtags (#) that categorize topics. Some that I've found useful are: #kindle, #writing, #amwriting, #amreading, #mysteries, #humor, #crime, #books, and #ebooks. A search will display recent tweets that have included those hashtags. Then I suggest you follow a number of those people, and retweet some of their messages. Many of those people will follow you back.

Twitter sets follower limits but doesn't publicize them. You just know you've reached a limit when they tell you, but that is not a problem. Send out some tweets and retweets, and soon you'll find you can follow more people. Be patient with trying to grow your follower list. It seems Twitter just doesn't want people to abuse the system or weigh it down.

I'd suggest you use some other tools to complement Twitter. There are many, but I'll tell you what I'm familiar with. Twellow allows you to search for people by subject matter. What I like about it is that it lists people with your interests in descending order by number of followers. So if you search for mysteries and someone saying she likes mysteries has a million followers, that person is listed first, or close to it. You want to follow people who have a lot of followers, within reason. But if Oprah or Eminem say they like mysteries and has ten million followers, it may not serve your marketing purposes to follow them. Chances are about zero that they'll follow you back. When a celebrity has a million followers but only follows 15 people, that's a sign to move on. There are plenty of people who follow and are followed by thousands, and you should focus on them--any number down to just a few hundred.

You might also try a scheduling tool such as Timely. I use mine to list a weekend's worth of tweets and have them go out on a predetermined schedule so it doesn't look like you're spamming Twitter.

So far, what I've mentioned is all free. If you get serious about using Twitter and can spare the cash, you might consider TweetAdder to automate your follows. First I suggest you try collecting followers without it and see how well you fare in selling your ebooks. When you get to the point where you're making some sales, then I'd spring for TweetAdder at $55.

What's been your experience? Have you used other tools we should know about?