November 10, 2011

Book Review: We Are Not Alone

We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media (Writing)We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media

by Kristen Lamb

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Kristen Lamb’s wonderful social media how-to book, We are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media (Who Dares Wins Publishing 2010), delivers on her promise. She provides a great nuts-and-bolts introduction to the basics of marketing your book online. She shares her knowledgeable insights in branding yourself, putting your name out there (something we innately fear), and joining the online conversation in an enthusiastic voice that can motivate you even though it’s… just words. She then explains how to get your new ‘brand’ out there on the many facets of social media, including Facebook, Twitter My Space (think: Google Plus instead), and a WordPress blog. She also has a lively blog where she interacts with readers, answers questions and explains where times have changed and she no longer pushes the My Space sign-up (I suggested Google Plus as a replacement because I’ve found lots of useful info in my G+ stream).

I’ve spent considerable time learning how to market online. I don’t have a lot of discretionary money to spend on hiring agents or specialists. Spreading the word must be through me and be pretty cheap. Since I have yet to publish a fiction book, most of my effort is directed at my non-fiction technology training textbooks for K-8. So, I sat down at my computer, Kristen’s book in my lap, and compared her instructions to my current marketing plan. Here’s what I found:

  • She convinced me of the importance of branding–putting my name or pen name on all of my writing so readers understood my voice. As a result, I added my name to this blog. I didn’t add it to my tech blog because I think Ask a Tech Teacher (my blog name) is a brand of itself.
  • I purchased my name as a URL and set up a website (with the help of the guys at WriteClick who do a great job focusing on the unique needs of writers in blogging)
  • I pay attention now to my Twitter streams. I found out a lot of people were retweeting my material and mentioning me. I can’t believe I never responded.
  • She explained that online marketing for writers isn’t about pushing a book, but sharing expertise. That validates my inherent layback style. I’d much prefer to chat than sell.
  • She told me to create a collection of strategic content material–my best posts that showcase my writing, thought process and voice for potential readers. I’ve now done that. When I do guest posts, I can cull from this collection–update it, add/delete as necessary, knowing the basic content is strong
  • I reworked my bio to describe me in the context of my brand. Since I have multiple personae, this was more challenging than it sounded on the pages of her book, but I’ve done that. Now, I attach that quick bio to each post as a summary of my creds (you can see my writing bio at the end of this post).
  • I’m supposed to create a detailed profile of my reader demographics, but I have only a general one. Eventually, this suggestion will percolate through my brain enough to come up with a way to accomplish it, but right now, I’ll settle for less.

The true test of a how-to book like We are Not Alone is whether it worked. Truth–I’m not sure. Don’t get me wrong. I know she made the right suggestions. Every year, my sales increase. I’m doing as she suggested so I have no doubt that these types of actions are responsible for that increase, but I have difficulty knowing where to attribute the success. Here’s what I mean:

  • Thanks to WordPress statistics, I can see where I’m getting my readers. In WordDreams, 80% come from Google or people who stumble on my blog. Only 20% are pull-throughs–from posts I’ve made, comments I’ve added to other people’s articles, or my social media feeds. On the contrary, 80% of my Ask a Tech Teacher readers come directly from my effort–posts, comments, web presence, etc. Only 20% stumble only my content.
  • Again, thanks to my WordPress statistics, I can see who interacts with my blogs. 90% of my WordDreams readers don’t interact, though they hang out and read a lot. On the contrary, 90% of my Ask a Tech Teacher readers click through on my links. Sometimes, I’ll have 800 readers click through in a day compared to well under 100 on WordDreams . That’s a big difference, considering both WordDreams and Ask a Tech Teacher have a similar readership

Overall, this book should be in every new and midlist writer’s library. It’ll either teach you what to do or reinforce what you’re already doing right.

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s looking for an agent for a thriller she’s finally finished. It’s like a long walk in tight shoes and she already has blisters. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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