Author: Michael Dalton

About Michael Dalton

I write a lot of smut. Some of it is sort of okay.

Thoughts on Using Twitter Effectively as an Indie Author

After a couple of months of using Twitter to promote my indie author career, I can say with confidence that I’ve learned two things:

  • Twitter is effective for driving traffic.
  • Twitter absolutely sucks for selling books.

This may come as a surprise to the many authors I see pushing links to their Amazon book pages non-stop on Twitter, but it’s one based on some fairly solid analytics. And if you’re using Twitter without using any analytics, you’re not really using Twitter, you’re just playing with it.

The first thing you should be doing is tracking your engagement using Twitter’s own tools. Just point your browser to[your username]. What you’ll see is a list of your tweets, along with charts showing the engagements you got: link clicks, retweets, favorites, and so on. Further, you can click any tweet and it will pop up a summary of everything that happened since it went out. Another good tool I’ve started using is Author Rise, a new initiative that lets you track your book’s sales rank against your Twitter reach.

So why do I think tweeting book links is largely a waste of effort? It’s from following this data, specifically tracking link clicks. During Wednesday’s 24-hour Twitter period, which just ended as I type this, I got 14,132 engagements—an all time high (largely because of this). That’s great!

But from that I got a whopping 25 link clicks. If you’re doing the math, that’s a 0.17% click rate. That’s not so good.

Yet if you dig a little further, it gets even worse from a sales standpoint. Pulling up my WordPress site stats, I see that I got 23 referrals from Twitter during the same period.

Read that again. 14,132 engagements, 25 link clicks, and all but two of them went to my blog.

This leads me to believe that very few people actually click Amazon book links. It’s possible that I’m an outlier, but having spent a lot of time tracking how effective certain book teasers are and changing them often, I’m convinced this is a valid observation. I’ve been watching things like this happen for weeks.

More—admittedly anecdotal—evidence came to me this past weekend, when I had the best three-day sales period for The Wizard’s Daughters so far. Yet this period coincided with a brief blacklist from Round Team, during which my engagements plummeted. I got a mere 5,130 on Sunday—which was so far the best sales day ever for that book, during which it hit #47 on the Amazon Historical Fantasy bestseller list.

There’s probably not much harm in tweeting Amazon book links. I’m just not convinced it does much of anything.

Nat Russo, whose blog I’ve recently begun following, has more in the same vein.



Mea Culpa, or, How Not to Do Twitter

Yesterday, in a poorly thought-out attempt to renew interest in this blog, I decided to tweet links to all the posts in my “Erotica That Sucks” series. What I didn’t stop to think was how a steady stream of “Erotica that Sucks” tweets would come across to people unfamiliar with the posts.

Not surprisingly, more than one person thought it was some sort of diatribe against erotica. Worse, not content with reaching my own following, I appended all the tweets with several retweet group hashtags, most notably the Erotic Author Retweet Group. Anthony Quill, who runs the EARTG (which you really should be following) finally called me out on it early this morning.

So, after apologizing to Anthony (and I apologize to anyone else who was annoyed or offended by it), I set about considering what might need to be changed. “Erotica that Sucks” was one of those things that you do simply because you’ve been doing it a while and have just stopped thinking about it. I realize now it sends a message I didn’t really intend. Those of you who have been reading the series know (I hope) that my intent was just to offer writing advice.

I’ve decided to rename the series to something more positive, and have retitled/edited all the posts accordingly. I can’t, unfortunately, change the URLs without breaking all sorts of links across the blog; I may fix that at a later date when I have more time.

I intend to continue the series, but we will be concentrating on things that suck in a good way going forward.

Writing Good Erotica, Part 11: Getting the Sex Right

We now turn to address the elephant that’s been waiting patiently in the drawing room since I began this series.

If you’ve done any reading at all in the genre (and I’m going to make the reasonable assumption that you have or you wouldn’t be reading this post), you know that certain pieces turn you on while others turn you off. What’s the difference?

Part of it, of course, is the type of sex being depicted, and since preferences there are inescapably personal, some care needs to be taken in laying down guidelines. There’s no question that a piece that arouses one reader may leave a dozen others cold, and no amount of writing advice is going to change that. But there are guidelines no matter the fetish involved, and since there tends to be plenty of self-selection here—that is, you likely won’t turn off readers who don’t enjoy your fetish because they won’t read your story in the first place—we don’t need to spend a lot of time on this.

There’s an old piece of advice when it comes to writing, Write What You Know. Like all writing guidelines, this one can be used for good or ill. Many novice writers make the mistake of thinking, “I know nothing about this subject even though I’m interested in it, does that mean I can’t write about it?” The answer is both yes and no.

Obviously, if you strike out on a subject or genre knowing little or nothing about it, your chances of producing a quality piece are slim. You’re likely to confuse readers who also know nothing and annoy readers who do know the subject. So do you give up? No.

This where an essential element of quality writing—research—comes in. Back when I first began writing fiction in the early 1990s, this was a serious challenge. There was no internet to speak of, which meant having to visit the library and find people who did know things and ask them. Not only was this hard work, you were not necessarily guaranteed to find what you needed.

Things have, of course, changed. When I write these days, I am constantly flipping out of Word and into Chrome to run searches on things in my books. Well into The Witches’ Covenant at the moment, I have 16 different tabs open in the book’s dedicated Chrome window, everything from Google Maps of Germany to Wikipedia entries to a wonderful anthology of hundreds of European folk tales. Every time I come to something I want more detail for or understanding of, I head to Google. I’ll be frank in saying I would never have been able to write the Twin Magic series without Google.

So back to the sex. If you’re going to write a piece that is intended to appeal to or explore a certain fetish, you need to understand it first. This might seem obvious, but I’ve read too many BDSM stories that were written by authors who had little or no understanding of the genre and had clearly made no attempt to gain one.

Ditto for erotic romance, Bigfoot erotica, paranormal/vampire/urban fantasy, and so on. It’s not that you should imitate what others have written—we’ve been over that one—but you need to understand the tropes and conventions before you make them your own. As Picasso said, you need to learn the rules before you start breaking them.

So: Read, research, understand, write. But your job is not yet done.

It’s a common misperception that erotica is nothing more than words arranged into clinical descriptions of sex acts. Such a thing may well be arousing, but it is not erotic. Not only that, the clinical descriptions are not strictly necessary. I have read some very erotic pieces in my life that were not particularly clinical. D. H. Lawrence, for example, wrote some awfully erotic books that were very thin on clinical descriptions.

The difference is the ability to reach into your readers’ heads and make them both visualize and care about what’s going on. Part of the reason I waited to discuss the sex in this series is because making your readers to think and care about your characters when they’re having sex requires getting the other stuff right first. Believable settings, interesting characters, and realistic dialogue.

Another element is giving your readers not all the details but just the right details. The key point to understand here is that readers who want photorealistic descriptions of sex acts can get them from, well, photos. Instead, your readers are after a participatory experience that they don’t get from photos or videos. Your job as an author of erotica is to not just draw them into the process but make them want to be a part of it. Give them enough details to make them want to finish the job in their heads.

This is a good rule for all fiction writing, but it’s especially important in erotica because you want to leave your readers room to tailor what they’re reading into what’s most arousing to them. You, for example, may be visualizing a female character as resembling a girl you knew in college, but your readers are likely envisioning their favorite actress or their next-door-neighbor or just some girl they saw at the grocery store. Be careful not to shut that down.

Is there a lot more to this? Absolutely. There is an art to writing effective, arousing erotica that only comes with time and practice. And, some writers simply have more of a talent for conveying eroticism in print than others. Just as you’re never going to be able to throw a football like Peyton Manning, you’re likely never going to reach the level of the most famous and successful erotic authors.

But you can get to a level of competence at it that makes the best use of your own talents and makes people want to read your books and stories. All it takes is a commitment to learning and growing as a writer.

On Amazon’s Small Ponds

As I pen this post, The Wizard’s Daughters is currently #50 on both Amazon’s Historical Fantasy and Medieval Romance ebooks bestseller lists, and #58 on its Medieval Romance books list. This past weekend it was as high as #47. As impressive as that may seem, I am compelled to point out that so far I’ve sold no more than a couple of hundred copies in the month or so since it was released. So I hesitate to think of sales like that as constituting a “bestseller.”

The interesting thing has been watching how it’s been moving up and down, and in particular how those rankings correlate with its overall sales rank, which has peaked at around 7,200 so far. Yet, in browsing around, I’ve seen books with far higher sales rankings show up with no bestseller list rank. That suggests to me that Medieval Romance and Historical Fantasy are rather small genres, certainly much smaller than Urban Fantasy and Swords & Sorcery. (This observation is supported by the number of “long tail” books like The Mists of Avalon and the Outlander series on the two lists.)

I don’t mean to discount the value of getting listed, of course. I’ve noticed a definite sales bump since it happened. The book was flirting with the list for the past two weeks, but never got past about #70 or so before quickly falling off. Since getting into the higher tiers this past weekend, it seems to be “floating” in place, perhaps as the list generates sales.

The lesson here is probably one I’ve touched on in the past. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. It’s easier to stand out if you make an effort to be different. Here, reaching for the less popular genre lists seems to have paid off.

What’s Been Up

So, it’s been a bit quiet here lately, in part because I’ve finally finished revising and uploading my older stuff. From here on out, most likely, it will be only new books. And that means I need to write them.

I’ve started Book 2 in the Twin Magic series, The Witches’ Covenant, and it’s going well if not as quickly as the first one did. I’ve got just over 9,000 words down, which means it’s about 1/5 of the way there, more or less (I’m shooting for 50,000 words, though you never know how these things will go). I’m on track to release it in early 2015 as promised.

There may be one or two more revised older pieces coming, but what’s left in the archives is dated enough to require quite a lot of revision if I were to release it again. (And, if you’re holding out for CGC and OCB, sorry, those are not coming. Google may be of use there.)

And Now, the Newsletter

At the suggestion of a reader, I’m starting a newsletter for anyone who wants advance notice of new books and coming attractions. You’ll find the sign-up link by following the Newsletter tab at the top. This won’t include blog posts since you can already sign up to follow those with the WP link at the top.

Another Week, Another New Book

I’ve been teasing this one for a while, and it’s finally ready to go. The Wisdom of Dogs is a collection of seven short stories I wrote during my first foray into fiction writing in the late 1990s. I’ve revised and updated some of them as needed, though I left a couple alone because they were too tied to the period when they were written.

These stories range from tender-to-bittersweet romances all the way to erotic horror, spanning a thriller and BDSM piece in between. There should be something for everyone.

I’m uploading the ebook to Amazon later today, and will load it in Smashwords tonight.

The eGirl is Online and Waiting for Your Commands

I’ve been on something of a writing binge of late, and I just published another novella, The eGirl, to Smashwords and Amazon this afternoon (Amazon, as usual, will go live in a few hours). As the title and cover should suggest, this is a fembot story, but an unusual one. I tried to imagine what would happen if you dropped a robot like this into an existing family—what kind of emotions would it generate? While this is as erotic as my other stuff, it’s an unusual piece of erotica in that respect. I hope you enjoy it.

We’re Moving on Up

When I started doing book reviews a little more than a week ago, my only goal was to support the indie author community and hopefully get some review-backs for my own books. What I got was something a bit more than that.

After I reviewed her wonderfully deranged naughty-Catholic-schoolgirl story Under the Gargoyle, Christina Harding reached out to me asking if I might be interested in reviewing with her. She’s been doing this quite a bit longer (well, since March anyway), and indie author reviewing being what it is, she’s been inundated with review requests such that she’s booked a full two years in advance. So she needed some help.

Starting next week, I’m going to be posting my reviews on her blog, probably one to two a week. I’m leaving the reviews I posted already where they are, but that will be it.