Social Media Experiments Check-In

Mobile phone with facebook log in page on wooden table with scrabble tiles spelling "social media" next to it.
image courtesy of Firmbee via pixabay.com

It’s already June! And that means it’s time for another check-in around social media channels. I can’t believe we are halfway through the year!

My social media needs and uses are still changing, and I’m realizing that one of the elements of social media is about change. I’m still not taking on handling social media accounts for clients, although I will create content that they can then use. But I’m not handling the posting/answering for anyone except myself right now. I’m also on social media far less than I was at the beginning of the year. I think social media fatigue is a very real phenomenon, both for posters and for viewers.

I’m still not happy with any of the scheduling tools I’ve played with. They don’t handle enough social media channels, and if they handle several of them, it’s not at a price point that makes sense for me right now.

Again, the caveat for this post is that this is based on my experiences with what’s worked for me/what I’ve enjoyed over the past six months. I’d love to hear, in the comments, about how your social media habits and needs are changing.

Bluesky: This is where I spend a lot of my social media time. I spend time on this platform in ways most similar to what I did on Twitter, although I do not have the follower count I had there, and it doesn’t drive conversion traffic the same way Twitter did. I keep reminding myself I was on Twitter for 13 years building both follower count and conversions, and I need to be patient. Since it’s moved on from being invitation-only, there’s a wider net of people on it. Fortunately, the controls are solid enough so one can curate out the trolls. They just rolled out DMs. For the moment, I have mine shut off.

Bookbub: Same song, different month. I’m still not utilizing it to its potential. Since I have some books releasing toward the end of this year, I hope to change that.

Cohost: Not on it anymore.

CounterSocial: Every few months, I check in, but don’t spend much time there. It doesn’t drive traffic to any of my other sites, and I can’t afford the time for the platform, either financially or emotionally.

Creative Ground: I keep my profile updated over there, and regularly tour around to check out what other creatives are doing, especially with an eye to future collaborations. Their ArtsHub of Western MA regularly has good information on submission calls, job opportunities, and other creative opportunities. Even though it’s New England-centric, it’s worth it, and I certainly get far more out of it than I do on LinkedIn. I wish it had a social media component, which would make connections easier, but that would need a lot of funding on both staff and technical elements, and I understand why it’s not a possibility at this time.

Ello: Shut down, which is a shame, since it was so useful for several years.

Facebook: Since I’m winding down my work on the Vella platform and no longer have to participate in the author groups, FB is mostly to check in with friends who aren’t on any other social media platforms. The other purpose is ads for my work. FB ads continue to drive traffic and convert into sales. In other words, sometimes I hang out; other times I’m purely mercenary.

Hive: I no longer use it, and don’t miss it.

Instagram: At this point, I’m probably on Instagram more than any other platform (including Bluesky). It’s good for promoting my work; it’s good for cheering on fellow artists and small businesses whose work and mission I love. It’s a mix of fun and work. I do lean more toward the fun, both in posting and in use, but there’s a worthwhile business component in there, too.

Ko-fi: I’m working on a business plan to make it fun for the audience while still feasible both in terms of dollars and long-term audience connection benefits. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

LinkedIn: Basically useless for what I do. I keep an updated profile there because it’s expected. I’m tired of “recruiters” wasting my time and the scammers.

Mastodon: I’m on there less than on Bluesky, but still fairly regularly, especially for various writer hashtagged groups. It’s slow growth, but getting stronger conversion rates than it did several months ago.

Pinterest: Behind on where I should be, as far as using it as additional material around my work. Since most of what I do is text-based rather than visual, it’s not as useful for me as for some other artists.

Post: They shut down on May 31. I did promo posts and read some news, but that’s it. There wasn’t much interaction.

Ravelry: Haven’t used it in ages. Never did make it back on over the winter.

Spoutible: Hardly ever on it anymore. While I enjoyed some of the interactions, it didn’t drive traffic to my sites or have a conversion rate, so it’s another case of not being able to afford to spend the time there, on any level.

Substack: I could not justify staying on the platform when their management is so far out of alignment with my values on multiple levels. I see so many people just ignoring it and joining or staying on the platform anyway, but I could not. I left the platform at the end of last year, and miss it far less than I thought I would. I do not subscribe to any of the Substack newsletters, nor do I boost posts about material on Substack.

T2/Pebble: Out of business.

Threads: I’m still not on Threads, although I probably should be. Just the thought of it makes me tired.

TikTok: has been very useful for promoting the serials, books, and the shorts. The metrics don’t always add up to the same as the numbers on the videos themselves, which is sometimes confusing. This summer, I also want to add some more “fun” content, not just writing-related content, about places I visit, etc. A video up at the lake, or at the sunken garden at the Mount, or out at the Spruces. Things like that. Mix it up a bit. Maybe do some videos on inspirations behind the writing. But staying off camera, because I do not go on camera.

Tribel: I don’t use it anymore. Too much screaming, too little connection.

Tumblr: Using it less and less, as the audience is skewing differently to my audience more and more. Blog posts automatically upload, and I do promos, but that’s about it. Lower conversion rate than FB and TikTok.

Twitter does not exist anymore, and I am not interested in the entity known as X. My account is locked, and I haven’t been on the platform since August of 2023.

There are plenty of platforms I don’t use. If it’s only app-based for phone and I can’t use it on the laptop, it’s not for me.

That’s where I currently am in regard to the social media landscape. What have you discovered in the past few months?

Advertorials Tilting Perspective

White question mark on bright blue surface
image courtesy of  Stephan via pixabay.com

Every few weeks, a spate of articles appears, insisting that remote work is “dead” and everyone “has” to come back into the office.

As a remote worker who was remote far before the pandemic, I can attest that this is simply not true. Although many a corporation wishes to make it so, and is putting far too much money into that wish, rather than putting it into something healthy that will actually benefit the corporation and its employees.

First of all, look at the publications running the articles. Go on, take a look.  I’ll wait. Back? What do you see? Corporate-focused publications who are paid to toe the corporate line. Several of those publications, which used to be good outlets for freelancers, now slant more toward advertorials than actual articles.

Oxford Languages defines “advertorial” as “a newspaper or magazine advertisement giving information about a product in the style of an editorial or objective journalistic article.”

I used to write a good number of advertorials. Many of them paid better than typical freelance articles, because they were backed by corporate dollars. However, they were also clearly marked, at the top of the page, as an “advertorial.” The company paid the advertiser’s rate and bought the page on which the advertorial lived. While it was written in the style of articles in the publication (or slanted to the corporate style), it was clearly marked so that there was no question that it was paid advertising, rather than an article assigned by the publication’s editor.

The point of the advertorial was to invite, entice, convince, and expand the audience to the product or service touted in the advertorial, with an eye to profit. It was marked as advertising, but written in the voice of an editorial or feature article. If the reader couldn’t tell, that was on them, since it was clearly marked; but the purpose was to promote the advertiser’s product or service. It challenged the reader to pay attention, especially as the font marking it as “advertorial” got smaller and less significant over the years.

On the internet, many pieces of what used to be labeled as “advertorial” are now simply called “content.” Especially when paired with a click-bait headline. Much of what comes up in “feeds” are advertorials or content on a company site pushing their products and opinions, not actual news or feature articles in an independent publication. There are fewer and fewer “independent” publications as more and more have been gobbled up by corporate interests and not allowed editorial independence.

When I first started my writing career, and did more journalism than I do now, I was trained in the NEW YORK TIMES style of reporting (back when they were actually a publication many of us dreamed about working for someday). There was a whole course on it, that I attended either between high school and college or early in college.  It was a long time ago, whenever it happened, but I use what I learned to this day. In addition to the “who, what, where, how, why” necessities, we were also taught that, for something to be a fact, it had to be corroborated through three separate, reliable sources.

This gets muckier when dealing with whistleblowers and scoops, obviously, but the basic foundation was that, in writing an article, even (especially) on tight deadline, you also had to investigate your sources to make sure they weren’t making it up either for their own ego, or because they were paid to plant information.

On many publications, when I submitted an article, I also had to turn in a sheet for the fact checker, who would check the sources and quotes, thereby making sure I got it right and to protect the publication. This was true in both newspaper and magazine writing.

Most publications have dismissed their fact checking departments.

I remember one of the journalists who spoke to the class telling us, “Assume anyone you interview is lying and work back from there.” Which is cynical, but also often necessary.

That is not a plug for “both side-ism” – especially since that has become the catch phrase for only giving conservative points of view credence. But it means thoroughly investigating information to find out what the spin is on it. Once you know the purpose of the article in enticing you to its point of view and who is behind that enticement, you can make a decision on whether or not it is credible.

And if you “don’t have time” to dig?

Then don’t take a position on what’s being spoon-fed to you until you can gather information from credible sources.

Of course, all this spin makes it harder to know what a “credible” source is. It’s not a source that only reinforces your opinion. Credible sources are getting harder and harder to find, much less define, since so much is about smoke and mirrors and carny barking rather than verifiable information.

So when I see an article that’s clickbait and obviously corporate-funded rather than objective journalism, I remember my old training and do a little digging before I accept what’s in the piece. Especially when my lived experience is so different from what the article insists is “the way it is.”

Are you running into advertorials posing as journalism more than usual, to tilt the public’s views one way or another? How are you dealing with it? Drop your experiences into the comments.

Digital Tidiness Helps With Focus

Laptop, cell phone, notebook and pen on a wooden plank table
image courtesy of stokpic via pixabay.com

Apologies for the break in posting on this blog for the past few weeks. My mom (who is 99) had a small stroke at the end of February. She’s doing very well – speech and motor capacity restored. But there’s still extra elder care and monitoring that needs to happen. I had to pare back on certain obligations, and this blog was one of them.

But it’s a lovely spring now, and we are getting ready to move into summer.

It’s been time to do a big spring cleaning, both physically and digitally. My old laptop died; I had to buy a new one, although I also got the old one sort of fixed, and will probably get it refurbished later this year.

I cut way back on social media, which made me happier, more productive, and the social media on which I remain has a decent conversion rate. I will do another social media centric post in early June, for a mid-year check in.

I’m part of a regional capacity building program for artists from February through July, which has been great. Workshops are helping me focus on specific areas, and make a business plan in alignment with the direction I want for both my artistic work and my more business-oriented work, and make it more holistic.

Don’t ever forget that, as an artist, one must also function as a savvy small business. Unless you can afford to hire someone to manage the business aspects!

I was lucky enough to be part of a marketing cohort of small local businesses led by Francesca Olsen through the North Adams Chamber of Commerce. If you ever have the chance to take one of Francesca’s workshops or hire her as a consultant, JUMP ON IT. She’s smart, creative, fun, energetic, and knows how to pull different possibilities out of various boxes to create something unique to the person/business for whom she’s consulting. What I learned in a few two-hour sessions with her will carry me through this next phase.

I’d already begun going through each of my websites to clean them up, refocus where needed, update information, and keep each site’s unique voice while giving it a more overall voice that ties them all together. People can choose to spend time on one site, or they can follow trails to other sites that have other topics of interest. It’s like having a series of islands in the digital ocean and being able to go from one to another as one chooses.

The main sites remain this one for the more business-oriented freelancing. Pages on Stages focuses on the theatre and radio work. The Devon Ellington Work site is the flagship for work published under that name and some of the other pseudonyms including Ava Dunne, Christy Miller, and Christiane van de Velde. It also leads to the different series that I write, and leads to the main site for Legerdemain, which started life as a serial, and will be many things by the time I am done. I’m putting a lot of work into re-envisioning the Cerridwen’s Cottage site, for the work I’ve done for years under the Cerridwen Iris Shea name that deals with tarot, home and hearth magic, and the like. I’ve never fully tapped into the Llewellyn audience, and it’s about time to do so!

This post should have been posted last week and did not (but then I wouldn’t have much of the information for it). There will be another post next Wednesday, since it is the third Wednesday of the month. The plan is to get back to posting on the first and third Wednesdays of the month.

Have a lovely spring, and drop a comment to tell me what’s new in your life and work!

LOIs That Get Attention

Blue Fox manual typewriter with white page in its carriage
image courtesy of Dean Moriarty via pixabay.com

One of my favorite ways to expand my client base is through the LOI (Letter of Introduction). An LOI is different than the cover letter used with a resume; it covers some of the same points, but has more breadth and depth, and is far more individualized.

When do I send LOIs?

When I see a company that I suspect I’d enjoy working with, and adding something of value to their business. Even if I have a fairly busy client roster, I send out LOIs regularly, because freelance is ebb and flow. If I’m at an ebb, maybe they’ll be at overflow and need someone extra on a project. Keeping a steady stream of LOIs going out is a good idea. I admit, I’ve been lax about it the past few months, but I’m ramping up again.

Once the company catches my interest, I research them. My research on companies has gotten more thorough over the years. I dig into their website, looking for tone, content, values. I read as much as I can ABOUT them – do they take the values they claim to hold out into the world? If they don’t, or if they fund politicians who work to strip away rights and overturn democracy, I move on. People who say working for a company “has nothing to do with politics” have the privilege of ignoring a company’s stance on something. I do not.

Once I’ve decided that yes, I really do like this company, I sit down and write the LOI.

One of the best tools I’ve integrated into the LOI is the hook. When I write a cover letter for a submission for fiction or drama, I open with a hook, which is a statement tied to the theme of the piece to get their attention and keep reading.

Using that same technique in the LOI has served me well, but rather than it being about my piece, it has to do with their company, and is usually tied to what caught my attention about them in the first place (without using that phrasing). It’s tied to what caught my attention and what I offer that supports it. Which means it’s individual to each letter and company.

I then highlight skills of mine and previous work that is relevant; or, if something isn’t relevant but supports the company’s mission, how that feeds into it. I add links to my portfolios, or attach a relevant PDF. I have recently added a clause stating that I do not use AI in my work. A few years ago, I added a clause about having a separate contract for tests or project-specific content created as part of the interview process. Refusing to do free labor as part of the interview process is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. That includes one-way video interviews. A good video interview, even one minute, is about $3K of unpaid labor on the job seeker’s part, not to mention that interviews need to be CONVERSATIONS, not PERFOMANCES. You are interviewing the potential client as much as they are interviewing you.

The one-way interview is akin to an actor sending in an audition reel. Not the way I, as a writer, do business.

After all the business clauses and boundaries, I thank them for their time, sign off, and put the appropriate website of mine under the signature line.

Attachments are usually a resume and/or a PDF portfolio where appropriate, if I haven’t sent them a link within the letter.

Some LOIs get quick responses. Others get a response of, “We don’t have anything right now, but please keep in touch.” When the latter is the case, I let them know that I will, and then add them to the quarterly post card mailing (if there’s an office address) or do a quarterly check-in email. It can take a year or more to get an assignment, but it happens, and they’ve been some of the most satisfying for both of us.

How do you craft a Letter of Introduction? How has it boosted your business?

Reinvention Time

Balloons, dirigibles, and cogs on parchment above a book flanked by a candle on each side.
image courtesy of Dorothe via pixabay.com

The break on this blog was certainly longer than just August. The aim is to post on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, moving forward. The first Wednesday did not work, since there was some kerflamma with WordPress. So, here we are.

The WGA Strike hit me hard, at least as far as income is concerned. It’s worth it, since the studios want to destroy this particular art form both as an art form that communicates to hearts and souls, and as a viable profession. The strikes that have happened across the country this year are necessary.

But that doesn’t make the day to day and month to month demands on bills any easier.

And it doesn’t make roll my eyes any less and forward to the Guild all the predatory scabbing attempts that try to workaround the strike that regularly land in my inboxes. And delete all those crap emails about “full-time freelance” (for a single employer) or “20 hours, but you must be available to work 37.5 hours” emails that also land in my inboxes. That’s called an unbenefited employee, and nope, not doing it.

In spite of that, the bulk of my work has not been in the typical nonfiction independent contractor field over the past few months, and that’s okay.

I was fortunate to be a part of the Dramatists Guild’s End of Play program in April, in which I wrote the first draft of FALL FOREVER, a full-length play that was born in June of 2022 in a playwrights’ workshop hosted by the Williamstown Theatre Festival. I was even more fortunate to have it chosen for a virtual reading in early May with some wonderful, dedicated actors. The play has gone through a few rounds of thorough revisions in the interim, and is now out on submission. Fingers crossed.

At the end of May, I attended a local small business expo. I had a wonderful time, exchanged a lot of cards, and have had a lot of fun following up, chatting, and planning future projects with fellow entrepreneurs.

In July, once again, I was part of Word X Word Festival’s Very Large Poem, where 51 poets created a collaborative poem that flowed around the audience seated in the center. It was an amazing experience. In August, I was part of their Poets in Conversation series, creating a piece around the topic of book banning and gun violence. In October, I create another poem for that series on the topic of work.

In late July, I was able to begin a year-long project at the Clark Art Institute creating ekphrastic poetry, flash fiction, and plays inspired by various art pieces, both in traveling exhibitions (such as their PROMENDADES ON PAPER and  EDVARD MUNCH: THE TREMBLING EARTH) along with work from their permanent collection. I go about once a week and spend time with various pieces. Later this autumn, I will do some research in their library.

In August, I was finally able to go down to research in the Westchester Archives about my Playland Painters (the five women who painted the props at Playland Amusement Park from 1928-1940). I found names for the original painters, and I am in the process of tracking them through libraries, archives, and census records around the country, to see if I can prove if any of them are the women in my photo. I also learned some fascinating information that fed into a project mentioned later on.

From August through early October, I’ve been honored to be a part of Nightwood Theatre’s Creatryx 3.0 unit. Nightwood is a feminist theatre company in Toronto, and they put together an amazing group of theatre artists to create and support each other’s work. I’ve worked on a full-length stage drama with the working title of FROZEN AT THE PALACE THEATRE, again born in the 2022 Williamstown workshop. I also shared the opening of THE WOMEN ON THE BRIDGE, another full-length stage play, inspired by Munch’s 1904 painting of the same name (also sometimes referred to as THREE GIRLS ON A JETTY). The feedback on both has been enormously helpful. The plan is to finish the first drafts of each of them by the end of the year.

Through all of this, I’ve continued with the serials. Legerdemain, the fantasy/mystery, continues to drop episodes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s structured to be ongoing (not a book released in chapters) for as long as it’s viable. It even has its own website. Welcome to Legerdemain, a city of magic, misfits, and murder.

Angel Hunt, the urban fantasy about a witch, an angel, and an impossible task, releases new episodes on Wednesdays and Fridays. It is finite and completely written; I’m still uploading it and expect it will end in Spring 2024 after around 140 episodes. If it continues to be viable, I have several more seasons planned, and have started writing season 2, called The Lighthouse Lady.

Deadly Dramatics, the retro mystery about love, lust, theatre, rock and roll and murder, set in 1996 New York, launched this past July. It is completely written and uploaded, with new episodes going live on Wednesdays and Saturdays until October 5, 2024 (it runs 128 episodes). If it continues to be viable, there will be more seasons. I have some outlines, and I’ve started writing season 2, The Vicious Critic.

You can watch intro videos on all the serials on my serials page, and there are new episode videos on TikTok for each episode drop.

I’ve written some short stories, two of which will appear later this year. “Lavender” will be in New Zealand’s FLASH FRONTIER in October, and “The Forest Library” will be in DOES IT HAVE POCKETS? In December.

One of my ekphrastic poems was chosen to pair with a woodblock print out in Easthampton, and I was able to attend the show’s opening and read, with my fellow poets.

I’ve had conversations with several radio producers and have more radio plays out on submission.

I still release a new column of The Process Muse every Wednesday over on Substack.

I’ll be part of Llewellyn’s 2025 Spell-A-Day Almanac; since we write two years ahead, those 25 short pieces went out the door a few days ago.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend art openings and open studios and see some excellent theatre over the past few months. I enjoyed meeting fellow artists, got inspired by their work. One of them even taught me how to work with Gelli plates, and now I am obsessed. I’m also experimenting more with clay, textiles, and mixed media.

Where does that leave the freelance contractor work?

The demise of Twitter meant I took a hit in sales for the Topic Workbooks, the other books, and negatively affected the serials. As I mentioned in previous posts, I’m experimenting with different social media channels. I posted in January and June about my experience, and will do another post in December of this year.

I need to spend more time in the Kindle Vella promotion groups on Facebook, but I can only do so when I can commit the time to read others’ work.

I’ve loved the work I’ve done these past months, and it makes me rethink the kind of work I want to do as a freelance contractor. Opportunities that I would have jumped at even a year ago no longer have an appeal. And that’s okay.

It’s about redefining how I want to work in partnership with other businesses and communities moving forward. Between weather and rising COVID numbers, it will be a pretty isolated winter of remote work again, and I need to seek out partnerships that will carry through the winter into spring and be fulfilling on both creative and financial levels.

I have some irons in the fire for next spring going into next summer, and we’ll see what does and does not pan out, and make further decisions from there.

I’m maintaining my decision not to take on social media work for clients at this point. With the fractured social media landscape, I do not believe I am the right person for that job. And my refusal to use AI in any of my work informs a lot of my decisions with whom to work.

I’m not counting on the strike to be settled before the end of the year, and am therefore looking at other work. If the strike ends earlier, and the script analysis and/or scriptwriting work picks up again, I can make decisions on a project-by-project basis.

I hold the boundaries of no unpaid labor as part of the interview process. That includes project specific samples, tests, or introductory/interview videos. All of that should be paid labor, and any “business” who expects it for free is not someone with whom I’m interested in working.

I’ve noticed a lot of businesses are trying to revert to pre-COVID policies and marketing strategies and then they act surprised when no one (neither customer nor potential employee) is interested in buying what they’re selling. I’ve had several “why aren’t you interested in working with us?” and “why won’t you do this for free?” questions over the months, and I have been straightforward in my answers.

We don’t live in the same world as we did at the end of 2019, and the same old strategies are not going to work.

That is as true for me personally and professionally.

I have no idea, at the moment, where this will all lead. I’ve reworked my resume and my LOI template. I’m preparing to go into residence in The Studios at MASSMoCA next week with the Boiler House Poets Collective; soon after that, I have jury duty.

In the meantime, I’m compiling a list of potential clients to whom I plan to send either project proposals or LOIS.

What are your plans for fall and winter? How are you changing your focus in your work?

Social Media Experiments, Part II

image from Pixabay.com

My first post of the year was about exploring some of the multitude of social media platforms to see what works best for my work and my interests.

I’ve kept expanding on those experiments, and here are results from January to the end of May. In general, I’m irritated by the way platforms attack anything that is not their platform, yet continue to share/copy posts from the disparaged sites. I don’t want to hear about what’s wrong with Twitter when I’m on a different platform; that’s why I’m not on Twitter in that moment. I don’t want to see Twitter posts screenshot on another platform. If I want to see a Twitter post, I will go on Twitter. Cultivate your own garden and stop gossiping about the neighbors.

Again, this has to do with MY work and interests, not those of clients. I’m not doing social media work for clients at this time. There are also platforms I choose not to be on or haven’t heard about.

Here’s the update:

Bluesky:  is now live. Even though I signed up as a beta the first week it was announced, I have not received an invite, which is not surprising. I’m not a big enough name to garner early usage. That, however, is a red flag for me. If they’re curating invitations by name recognition, it is probably not the right place for me, on any level. I want something with a more level and more interesting playing field. Unfortunately, if that’s where my audience migrates, I will have to, eventually, get on there. So far, most of what I hear about it is negative. Yet many migrate there anyway. Then, there’s the report that Dorsey’s endorsed RFK Jr. for President. (head desk).

Bookbub: I have not put in the time I need to put in on this platform yet. I hope to do better this summer. I’m missing opportunities.

Cohost: In January, I took one day per week to spend more time on the platform. It confirmed that the members have different interests than I do, or that I explore in my work. The lack of interaction got more and more frustrating. Posting just to post doesn’t do it for me. The ratio of time:payoff wasn’t there to create unique content for the platform, and I don’t post WIPs (why post subpar work AND blow first rights)? By mid-January, I stopped posting regularly for the last two weeks for the month. In February, I only posted the #28Prompts on the site, just to see if a single type of content performed better. There was zero interaction. I haven’t deleted my account, but I haven’t been on the platform since early March.

CounterSocial: It continues to be a good place for in-depth conversation, although there are ebbs and flows of screamers and trolls. As I said in January’s post, they usually weed themselves out when they are attention-starved, or do something to get bounced. There’s a lot of focus on music, and sometimes conversations feel a little cliquish, but there are also some good conversations I don’t have elsewhere. It tends to drive traffic more to the blogs than the serials. I get the highest response to pieces on the garden and on food. The last month or so, interaction has tapered off, and I’m wondering if people are migrating elsewhere.

Creative Ground: I updated my profile, but I’m not utilizing it to its full potential.

Ello: This was a favorite platform, with the highest rates of views and click throughs. The other creators I found on it are pretty wonderful, too. However, I started having log-in issues back in March, and have not been able to get into the platform.

Facebook: This site is a necessity I don’t particularly enjoy. I originally went on it because it’s the only social media certain people with whom I want to stay in touch use. As I expanded into Kindle Vella serials, FB is vital, with their various reader and author groups, to getting eyes on the serials and expanding their reach. Also ads that run on Facebook and Instagram result in sales. Therefore, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Hive: I’m really frustrated by Hive’s limitations. It demands high visual content, which I can’t do unless I can work on the laptop. But the app only works on a phone (which I don’t want) or sort of works on the tablet, where I don’t have access to my graphics. It’s working for those who bring with them a large following from another platform, and who have high tech phones that can do the graphics work, from what I see. I’d like to be more involved there, but forcing me to place it on devices I don’t want to work on means I can’t. It’s like being stuck in traffic, and you can see the really fun party down the road, but you can’t actually join it. I tried to post #28Prompts on there, but couldn’t get into it half the time, and gave up.

Instagram: I’m having more fun with this platform, although I’m annoyed I can no longer cross post with Twitter, only FB. It makes me think in terms of visual shares, rather than just verbal. It’s still what I consider my “fun” account, mostly cats, garden, cooking, books. But I do post ads for the serials and for The Process Muse on it, and drives traffic to both.

Ko-fi: I cut back on this, because the time:money ratio wasn’t working for me. I am going back to put some content behind a paywall (so it won’t be scraped for AI) and will consider how I want to use the platform moving forward.

LinkedIn: Continues to be useless for what I do.

Mastodon: At first, there was a huge influx from Twitter. But people got frustrated with the learning curve and different codes of conduct on different instances, and a bunch of them left. The ones who stayed are interesting, though, and I’m having fun with conversations. I’ve had a lot of fun playing #WritingWonders, and I’ve had good conversation with writers, screenwriters, various industry professionals, fiber artists, photographers, visual artists, etc. It’s harder to find people, but once you do, there’s the capacity for conversation. Again, some of the interaction has tapered off, and it doesn’t drive traffic to the serials (many people are highly anti-Amazon on the platform).

Pinterest: I’m in the process of putting up Legerdemain’s episode graphics up. They changed the way the boards are accessed, and I’m having trouble re-learning it. Again, I’m not utilizing the platform’s full potential.

Post: The more time I spend on the site, the more I like it. It’s difficult to get interaction, but not so difficult to get eyes on content. It drives traffic well back to the sites, the serials, The Process Muse, and individual articles. I think it’s one of those where things build slowly. It’s a very calm site, and some people think it’s bland, but there’s the chance to read a wide variety of material there, and take one’s time so doing.

Ravelry:  I have not been on the site in months. I made the mistake of downloading a pattern and was put on a mailing list that sends me 20-30 emails a day; when I “unsubscribe” they just change the name on the sender. It’s caused a lot of problems in that inbox and will take weeks to unravel (no pun intended).

Spoutible: Early on, I was rather skeptical of the platform, but the more I use it, the more I like it. There’s a wide range of users across a wide range of interests. It’s easy to find people, follow, and interact. There’s decent and building interaction on the platform. I’m leery of a specific core group who attacks anyone who disagrees with management’s decisions. To me, that is behaving like what they claim to protect against. And yet, the site overall is developing its own personality and settling into a mellower and more conversational vibe, which I enjoy.  I’m steadily building a community there, and having some good conversations. There seems to be more room for an artist community there than on some of the other sites that skew toward politics and only politics. It had a steady build in engagement over the past few months, and drives traffic to the other sites.

Substack:  The newsletter is growing more slowly than I would like, but it’s steady. I have good conversations, and there’s such a wealth of fantastic material that it’s difficult to keep up. I’ve started reading the other newsletters to which I subscribe as palate-cleansers when I shift tasks, which helps. I absolutely love the “Notes” feature, and have had some lively and interesting conversations there. This has the largest community of writers and artists of the platforms I’m exploring, which is why I enjoy it so much.

T2: This is supposedly a new platform created by ex-Twitter engineers. I signed up on the waiting list to beta test and have heard nothing. Perhaps they changed their minds, once Bluesky launched.

TikTok: I bit the bullet and started a TikTok account in May. The challenge I’m enjoying is creating short, engaging videos without putting myself on camera. I’m frustrated that I have to do edits for sound credits on my phone rather than on the desktop, and even more frustrated that one can only edit a sound credit once, and what posts still isn’t correct or what I put in the edit line. I’ve created introductory videos about my work, and, right now, use it primarily for the serials. I have introductory videos up for the serials, and then I have templates into which I pop the information for each new episode. It’s definitely driving traffic to the serials at the moment. As I work on other creative projects this summer (and once I get my new camera), I will play with more types of videos and see what I can come up with (still remaining off camera).

Tribel: I find that waaaay too many members follow to get someone to follow back, then unfollow. And too many people have no profile information and/or no original posts. Again, similar to Twitter, it’s about algorithms. Since I started on the platform, it’s more about politics and less about art (and the impact the arts can and do have on politics and all aspects of life). I got increasingly frustrated with the platform, even after trying to spend more time on the platform to find more colleagues. In February, I only posted the #28Prompts. By early March, I rarely went on it anymore. Too much screaming, not enough conversation.

Tumblr: In January’s roundup, I forgot to mention Tumblr, even though I’ve had an account there for years. It automatically cross posts from some of the blogs, and then I visit it to drop the newest links to the serials. When Twitter started flailing, there was an influx, and it looked like it was going to get wider engagement, but that’s scaled back. I still post steadily and visit a few times a week, trying to engage more.

Twitter: Twitter just makes me sad, most of the time, now, so I spend less time on it. I’m sick of people demanding free administrative labor by others on their accounts, claiming they “can’t tell” if anyone “sees” their tweets. No, I am not doing your hoop jumping because you are too lazy to go through your follower list. Fuck off. And the amount of “faux engagement questions” that people have no intention of engaging, but just ask something to get a high rate of responses irritates me. I’m blocking a lot faster than I used to, and that helps a lot. I locked my account in May, because there were too many trolls, which has hurt engagement and traffic. Also, a good portion of my audience is no longer on Twitter. The fact that I can no longer directly post from WordPress or from Insta is a big minus. However, with the WGA Strike going on, it’s the primary source of discussion with other writers affected by the strike. It’s frustrating. Also, they want me to “choose” which kinds of ads I want, and interrupt postings to try to force it. I don’t want any of the dumbass ads on there now, so I just close out and then go back in. I’m constantly trying to decide if it’s worth spending time there, or if it’s such a dumpster fire, I need to leave at the end of the strike. I block probably 50-60 right wing trolls per day right now.

I’m trying to streamline the way I create and post on the various sites, since none of the schedulers (Buffer, Hootsuite, etc.) give me access to all the platforms I need, and I’m not paying for a service that doesn’t let me do what I need to do. I would rather carve out a 4-hour block once a month and schedule all the serial posts, and then be able to connect the blogs to every platform on which I want to share them, but everyone wants exclusivity without giving enough in return.

I suspect I will cut back on more platforms between now and the end of the year. In the summer, I’m going to buy some paid advertising for the serials, and we’ll see what kind of effect that has on sales. If it works and I’ve picked the right platform, that will be my focus. To be rude and blunt, as much as I enjoy hanging out and having conversations, if it’s not also driving traffic and boosting sales, I can’t put my time there. I have to place my time on sites that give me both the social aspect and drive traffic to my sites, leading to increased sales.

I’ll do another post either near the end of the year, or early next year, updating the changes from now through the end of the year.

All of this underlines that your own website as basecamp is more important than ever.

What conclusions have you come to from your social media experimenting?

Landing Pages

image courtesy of Regina Basaran via pixabay.com

The last post talked about the importance of having a website. Today, we’ll talk about your landing page.

Your landing page is vitally important, because it’s the first impression new visitors have when they visit.

You know the term “curb appeal”? Think of your landing page as the internet version of curb appeal.

Landing pages are as varied and unique as those using them.

The template and overall design of the website influences the landing page, and the overall look of your site. Even as the different pages serve different needs, the overall design ties the site together, so every page doesn’t feel like a separate web site.

What does the landing page need to do?

–Welcome new visitors

–Give them a succinct overview of the purpose of your website

–Guide them to other pages or sites connected to your work

–Have pleasing visuals and a good balance of visuals and text

What should a landing page avoid?

–Too much unwieldly text that’s better served on other pages

–Too much information crowded so that there’s no flow or resting space for the eyes

What about pop-ups?

There’s a lot of debate about pop-ups. Many marketing “gurus” swear by them, and far too many landing pages have them.

As a visitor/potential customer, if a pop-up appears before I have time to read the page, demanding my email EVEN IF IT’S FOR A DISCOUNT COUPON, I’m outta there. Not only am I gone, I am unlikely to return.

I hate being slapped in the face by a pop-up as soon as I get onto the site.

I want to read the landing page and DECIDE where I want to go next.

Choosing to join a mailing list is my LAST step on a site, not my first.

All of this “immediate Call-to-Action” when I don’t know anything about your site just turns me off.

Invite, Rather than Attack

To me, a successful landing page is an invitation, not an attack or a demand.

I want the look to resonate with the site’s purpose.

I want succinct information.

I want options for my next steps, not demands.

As an exercise, check out the websites of your favorite authors, restaurants, and stores. What draws you in? What, if they weren’t already a favorite, pushes you away? How can you translate this into the environment you want to create?

I call my own landing pages the “Welcome” page, because that’s the purpose – to welcome visitors to my site and invite them in. I use more text than is usually advisable, and fewer images. But then, I am a writer. I also tend to choose simple templates.

The Pages on Stages landing page is probably the simplest of my sites. That particular template scrolls through several pages on the landing site for mobile users, but the actual landing/welcome is fairly short.

The landing page on this site again, has more text than is advised. The Fearless Ink logo is the graphic at the top of the page, and the Creative Ground logo is at the bottom.

The website for the serial Legerdemain starts with a slide show of the episode-specific graphics, and then has information about the serial.

The flagship Devon Ellington Work website also starts with a slide show of book covers, and, again, text about the work. The sites for the individual series are similar.

All of these sites have more text than is generally advisable, but it works for the purpose of these sites. I like the site menu on the top, and there is information on navigating the site on the landing page.

Ellen Byron has a fun, beautiful site that has her book covers and “Learn More” links that allow the visitor to navigate her site.

Matt Stebbins has a clean, easy to navigate site with an inviting graphic on his landing page, and an invitation to contact him to work together.

Dancer Emma Garrett’s landing page is a photo of her in motion, with an invitation to enter.

Product designer Olivia Truong has a fun, easy to navigate landing page with bright colors and eye-catching graphics.

Painter Sophia Hacquart lets her paintings speak for themselves on the landing page.

Actor and artist Lizzie Markson’s landing page communicates the joy and energy she brings to her work.

(All of these landing pages are much better than mine, by the way, and I celebrate them for it).

Landing pages are introductions and invitations. Take time with yours, and don’t be afraid to change it as you and your work evolve.

How do you create your landing pages? When you visit a site, what do you want to find? What irks you?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Direct Mail Steadily Works

image courtesy of Edoardo Tommasini vix pexels.com

I’ve always loved direct mail, both as a freelancer and as a potential customer.

According to this article on The Mail Shark, direct mail response rates run at a half a percent to 2%. And according to this piece on Amsive.com, direct mail gets a 10-30% higher response rate than digital mail, with 60% of those asked saying they remember the content of a physical piece better than an email. Now, remember, both of the above companies are trying to sell their direct mail services. The small business newsletter Chron (a Hearst newspaper affiliate) talks about a half a percent to 2% return as well.

As a consumer/potential customer, I find that rings true. If I get an email about a product or service, I put it aside to “look at later.” I usually forget about it, and when I go in, weekly, to do my bulk email deletes, it’s gone.

When I receive a direct mail piece in my physical mailbox, I look at it immediately.You can thank all those organizing gurus who’ve touted “handle the piece of mail once immediately when you get it” for that. If I’m interested in it, I put it next to my desk so I can respond within the next few days. If it’s something I know I will want down the line, I put it in the appropriate file folder, and then I have it when I need it.

As a freelancer, when I’ve done direct mail campaigns for Fearless Ink, I generally get a 25% positive response, which is much higher than the above-mentioned 2%. And imagine, if 2% is 10-30% HIGHER than a digital campaign, imagine how small the return is on most digital campaigns!

Having worked both digital and physical direct mail for various clients, it depends on what’s offered and the target audience. I find clothing, books, and jewelry tend to get high rates on digital campaigns, while larger goods and services tend to do better with physical direct mail. That’s just my personal sampling over a variety of years, and, especially in digital campaigns, doing a lot of A/B marketing tests and constantly changing course to compare and grow results.

What Kind of DM Piece?

For my freelance business, physical direct mail is one of my best tools for growing or shifting my client base. My best tool is a quarterly postcard. It’s very simple, with my business name, the tag line of the Fearless Ink Website, and a short list of information, with a link back to the website and email contact. Since I only do phone calls by appointment and charge in 15-minute increments, I do not put my phone number on the card. Sometimes I print the card on seasonal cardstock; other times I use the standard card with the logo.

I used to have a brochure as well as the postcard, and would hand out brochures with the card and my business card at networking events, pre-plague. I sometimes sent the brochure out with a physical LOI (letter of introduction/interest), or attached a digital version with a digital LOI. My last brochure was very specific to the region in which I lived, and needs a complete overhaul (which is on the schedule for this spring).

I have portfolio links on my Clients and Publications page, along with the link to my online portfolio over on Clippings.me. A new media kit for Fearless Ink is in the works.

I have not sent out a postcard since I moved to the Berkshires, but intend to correct that by February.

Although I have a quarterly newsletter for the fiction under the various names (you can subscribe to Devon’s Random Newsletter here),  and my Substack account, The Process Muse, is technically, a weekly newsletter (you can subscribe here), I do not have a newsletter for the business/marketing side of my business, Fearless Ink.

Most freelancers, especially those in business and marketing, have a weekly or monthly newsletter, and it’s an important tool. Because the focus of my business writing is changing, I do not believe that I have business content of regular value for a newsletter (I use this blog instead). No one wants to get a weekly email screaming “Hire me!” I’d rather talk about specific topics here twice a month and include interesting pieces in the quarterly newsletter.

If you have enough to say, and you don’t want to blog (or have enough to say in addition to a blog) a regular newsletter is a good tool. I find newsletters, at this point in the game, work better digitally, while business outreach works better on a physical direct mail piece. That’s just my experience. Talk to the freelancers in your circle to get a sense of what will work for you.

These direct mail pieces are separate from any holiday greetings I send. Holiday greetings are sent purely to wish someone the joy of the season. They do not mention work.

How do I put together the list?

My list is a mix-and-match, and ever-growing.

–Former clients (provided I still want to work with them). I keep in touch with former clients on a fairly regular basis. A lot of my work is one-and-done, rather than the advised weekly, monthly, or retainer work. So there are clients I might only work with once a year, or once every few years. However, when their work comes up, I want them to think of me first.

–Businesses to whom I sent LOIs, and either got a “we like your materials, but don’t have anything right now” or whose work intrigues/excites me enough that I want to keep my name in front of them. A physical postcard allows them to stick it in a folder or on their board and see it when the right assignment comes up, and by reminding them of my existence every few months, I’m more convenient than having to search for someone. Making the client’s life easier is a big part of getting and keeping work.

–Local business with whom I want to partner. It’s always good to have a solid local client base, providing they are professional, meet your rate, and respect the work relationship. In my previous location, there was a lot of talk about supporting local businesses, but they felt that local freelancers/copywriters/marketing people should be willing to work for free or a low rate “for exposure.” They only respected large firms out of town, who didn’t need to work with them. Also, even when there were decent local clients, most of them refused to make referrals or provide testimonials, because they didn’t want their freelancers to work for anyone else in the area, even though they didn’t have enough work to keep the freelancer employed. Where I am now seems to have a more reasonable and respectful view of the partnership between freelancer and client. I’m sure, this year, I will find out if that is true or an illusion.

–Regional businesses with whom I want to partner. Similar to the above, but with a wider reach. I’m in the Northwestern corner of Massachusetts now, so “regional” includes not just the Berkshires, but southern Vermont and the region from Albany/Saratoga/Troy.

–National and international businesses that interest me. Because I work asynchronously and choose which hours to work on which client project, I can work across time zones. I rarely accept an assignment that demands I work for that client within specific hours, because, to me, that’s not “freelance.” That’s a part-time employer.

I make the list by reading about companies doing interesting things, looking at Chamber of Commerce member listings, and checking which companies are hiring for what. I used to attend lots of chamber events in person. If we ever get enough of a handle on COVID, or a place institutes safety protocols (ha!), I will start going to a limited number of in-person events again. I might not want to send a resume to a job I see on a job board, but I might be intrigued enough to research the company and then send them an LOI, detailing how working together will solve a particular issue of theirs (without insulting them).

The list is constantly growing and changing. It’s a living document, not a static one, and that’s part of what makes work as a freelancer so interesting. Successful businesses grow and change. Growing and changing along with a business is always exciting, as is finding new businesses, and helping them get their passion and message out.

Do you use direct mail? Do you have a newsletter? How do you build your lists? What do you find does and does not work?

Social Media Experiments, Part I

image courtesy of Thomas Ulrich via pixabay.com

Happy New Year! I hope you had a peaceful and joyful holiday season, and feel optimistic for the New Year.

With all the chaos going on over at Twitter, I spent the past few weeks experimenting on different social media platforms. I’m trying to figure out which does what well, and where my likely audience(s) have migrated, so that I can start targeting my audience with information about my work, and share others’ work that excites me.

A monkey wrench went into that work when my computer crashed in mid-December. I don’t want to have all these platforms on my phone; my phone’s not fancy enough to carry it, and I resent being forced to tie things to my phone anyway. So there was a (much-needed) two week break from most social media. I was pretty active on Instagram, posting photos of holiday baking and decorating, and that cross-posts automatically to FB and Twitter. I also had scheduled posts dropping regularly on several platforms, so it wasn’t like I was totally absent.

Anyway, I don’t have all the information for which I’d hoped, and I’ll do another update probably in early June, and then again in late autumn, to share my experiences and how things have changed over the months.

I am annoyed at those who sell subscriptions to “scheduling tools” for still only supporting FB, Instagram, Twitter, and, sometimes, Pinterest. That doesn’t help. I need a scheduling tool where I can connect to any and all platforms on which I have a presence. I was already less than pleased with Hootsuite and Buffer; while I continued to use them for relevant clients, they’d already become next to useless for my own business. Now, that’s even more the case. I want ONE tool that allows me to connect across ALL relevant platforms, so that I can block off four or six hours once a month, upload and schedule unlimited content across multiple platforms and not have to think about it until the following month, when I gather data and make adjustments. So far, I have not found a tool that connects to everything I need (and I’m not willing to pay for a subscription that does not serve my needs).

Why am I on social media?

On a personal level, I love crossing paths with people with varied interests from all over the world, with whom I might have never interacted otherwise. I have built some real, wonderful friendships online that then transferred to real life. And, during the ongoing pandemic, it is a way to feel less isolated.

On a professional level, it’s to grow my network of contacts in a variety of fields (writing, publishing, film, television, theatre, textiles, freelancing, gardening, cooking, architecture, history, et al). It’s to share information about upcoming, ongoing, and backlisted work. It’s to grow my audience for the books, the serials, and the blogs. Long-term readers of the blogs tend to get interested in reading about a book as it’s written, and then buy the finished book, because they’re already invested time in reading about its creation. I also love to share others’ creative work, and help build their audience.

I want to make clear:

–these are MY experiences, not based on large data studies or corporate numbers. It’s not THE ultimate article on social media and the be-all and end-all. It is simply MY experience to date.

–they are in relation to my own work, not client work. I had already stepped back from doing social media for clients before the whole Twitter kerflamma began.

–I did not experiment with right-wing extremist platforms; those users are not my audience. So there will be certain platforms missing here. There also may be other platforms I haven’t heard about or tried. There are several other platforms that I looked at, and knew they weren’t the right place for me (such as Reddit and PillowFort).

–I have not yet experimented with Tik Tok because I am strictly an off-camera person. If I can figure out how to do short pieces that are about the work and do not require to be shot on the phone or have me onscreen, I’ll expand and play with that platform, too. YouTube is not on this list, either, as again, it’s about on-camera. As a former filmmaker, I’m happy to put others on camera, or play with animation (if I had the technical capacity), but I am not going on camera.

For the first quarter of the year, instead of trying to be everywhere all at once, I want to spend more focused time on the different sites. I’m blocking off bigger time blocks for specific sites on different days, so while I’ll check in regularly on most weekdays, making the rounds, I will spend more time for quality interaction on different sites on different days. Trying to do that on every site every day is too overwhelming. Eventually, I will pare back, focusing on the sites best suited to my work, my interests, and my audience.

As far as people complaining about “not having time” to learn various platforms, how nice to have that luxury. I do not. I need to figure out what works best where, and focus portions of time for each different thing I do to the site that best supports it.

I am also not positioning myself as a “Social Media Platform Transition Guru.” (Yes, I’ve seen people advertise themselves as such, and, in my opinion, blech). I don’t believe any of us know how this will shake out yet. I’m not taking on social media work for clients right now, because I don’t believe I can give them the information necessary to plan the year’s marketing campaigns. I’m learning and sharing what I learn in the hopes of helping someone, not taking their money in exchange for something that doesn’t work.

I’ve listed the sites in alphabetical order:

Bluesky: As of this posting, it has not gone live yet. I’m on the beta testing list. I’m wary – Jack Dorsey is part of the reason Twitter is in such a mess, in my opinion, and I don’t trust him. But I’m also curious as to whether he’ll try to recreate the best of Twitter, or turn it into something more along the lines of Reddit or something else.

Cohost: I haven’t been able to poke around enough on that platform. What I’ve found so far indicates that it skews to a younger audience that’s more interested in gaming and fanfiction than to the type of work I do. Interactions have been pleasant, but my initial sense is that the interests of many of its members are different from mine and what I explore in my work. For the moment, I’m posting steadily, and we’ll reassess mid-year.

CounterSocial: This has become my favorite place for in-depth conversation. It does not work on algorithm. It’s easy to block or mute annoying people, and trolls tend to get ignored until they do something nasty enough to get banned. Most of the trolls weed themselves out, because they don’t get the attention they seek. I’ve run into a few miserable accounts over there, but I simply unfollowed and/or blocked, and that was that. I’ve reconnected with some Twitter pals with whom I’d had sporadic interactions on Twitter due to all the noise and the adjusted algorithms. Now, we can actually settle in and have conversations. I’ve met a lot of interesting new people. And people there tend to click on the links back to the blogs and the books and the other work (especially over to Ko-fi and Substack and the garden journal, Gratitude and Growth). So far, it’s been an excellent experience, overall. There was a bit of a learning curve when I first signed on, and the dashboard is very much like Tweetdeck’s. But when I asked questions, people were very nice about either answering them directly, or sending me to the right spot in the user manual. I tend to block rather than mute. I’m either all in with someone’s varied facets, or all out.

Creative Ground: This is a site for New England-based creatives. It’s not a typical social networking site; it’s more along the premise of LinkedIn, where you put up a profile/portfolio, and people can connect for work or collaboration. I found 48 hours on Creative Ground worth more than 3 years on LinkedIn. I wish there was more of a social media aspect to it, although it’s definitely driven traffic to the serial, the Topic Workbooks, and Pages on Stages, the website for plays and radio plays.

Ello: Ello has been one of my favorite sites for several years. It used to be UK-based, but I think it’s now out of Belgium or the Netherlands. It has a great mix of artists from all disciplines. I get far higher views there than I get anywhere else. Sadly, it can’t drive Kindle Vella traffic, because Kindle Vella is only available in the US. But it’s been a factor in book and Topic Workbook sales, and gotten me quite a few regular blog readers. They also have a section on “creative briefs” where companies are looking for creative pitches, and I’ve got my profile set so people know I’m interested in collaborations and hirings.

Facebook: I’ve had multiple pages on FB for years. I’m not a big fan of the site AT ALL. However, I have some friends and family whose only internet presence is on FB, and if we want to stay in touch, that’s the best place for us to do so. Additionally, for the serials running on Kindle Vella, it’s a necessity, since there are multiple author and reader groups targeted for Kindle Vella. I hate to admit it, but paid FB ads result in higher sales (and the ads can cross-post to Instagram). Right now, FB is necessary to my bottom line.

Hive: I’ve only gotten as far as signing on. It took 45 minutes to upload my profile image. Then Hive went down for a few weeks, due to security issues. They do not have a desktop application, only a mobile one. Since I refuse to have it on my phone, I have to use my clunky old tablet. I hope the upgrades they’ve done will make everything easier; so many writers I know have migrated there, so it sounds like a good place for a writer hang. But I don’t have enough direct experience with it yet to know.

Instagram: Yes, I know it’s owned by Meta and pairs with FB. Makes the cross-posting easier. The purpose for my Instagram has always been to be my “fun” account. Very little promotion; mostly cats, garden, cooking, decorating. I expanded the promotions for LEGERDEMAIN to Instagram (even though I have to rescale all the graphics) and will do so with ANGEL HUNT. It builds audience. I don’t want to tip too far out of the “fun” aspects, but posts there lead people to the site with the buy links. I choose not to use LinkTree in the Instagram bio, because then the metrics go to LinkTree and not the creator. I’d rather drive them to my flagship website, and go from there. I also don’t like all the scammer accounts, and the inappropriate requests for direct messages. I waste way too much time reporting scams and blocking accounts.

LinkedIn: I have always hated LinkedIn. It is next to useless for me. I only keep a profile up because it’s necessary for my freelance writing. I have never gotten a decent lead from it. All I’ve gotten is people wanting me to either work for free or to sell me a course. The worst was when there was some sort of breach, and I started getting emails on my personal email (which is not posted on my profile) from creepy Midwestern white middle-aged men with inappropriate content. Dude, if I was looking for a date or illicit sex, it wouldn’t be here. LinkedIn shrugged it off when I complained.  I have a presence there, but they are not a site I enjoy or use often. I know a lot of people who swear by it and are rabidly loyal. I’m glad it works for them, but it’s too traditionally corporate for the way I work.

Mastodon: People are strident about whether they love or hate it. It’s another site that has a learning curve, and when one is tired and overwhelmed, it’s difficult to get settled. However, again, I’m finding some interesting people there, especially other creatives across a wide range of fields. I was lucky enough to be invited onto an “instance” (server) by a screenwriter, so my “home” is within my field.

For navigation, I find that “home” is where I’m building community, and I always check that second (after “notifications”). There are people from all different servers/instances with similar interests who I follow and/or follow me. Then, I check the “Local” feed, which is the feed of my home instance/server. Since it was started by a screenwriter and is primarily screenwriters and other film pros, I can get a lot of my industry information there, and also talk about projects, and celebrate or commiserate with others on their projects. The “Federated” feed is the general feed, from all over, and I go over there last, when I’m trying to find more people or reach a wider audience. I then find people to follow, and they turn up in my “home” feed.

Finding individuals can be complicated, if you don’t already know their Mastodon handle. But if you go up in the search box and search by hashtag (like #writer or #screenwriter or #Knitting or whatever), you have a good chance of finding whom you seek, plus a whole lot of other interesting people. When I first signed on, there were too many Content Warning police – to the point where any talk about one’s work or just about ANYTHING was demanded to be put behind a content warning. I’m sorry, but if you call yourself a “writer” and it depresses you to the point you need a content warning if someone else lands a deal or has a release, curate your feed for that; don’t expect everyone to do your administrative labor for you for free. I checked the Code of Conduct on my instance, and there’s nothing that says discussions about my work need to be behind a CW. So, instead, I block anyone who whines about it, and my life and feed are better for it. As I said up in the CounterSocial paragraph, I tend to block rather than mute. BIPOC have mentioned concerns that Mastodon’s demands for CW flash too much white privilege and suppression. In many cases, I agree; my experience is it has a lot to do with one’s instance and how one sets up the feeds. Mastodon had a surge, and then a lot of people left; those who are still there tend to give each other more room to share experiences and have discussions without calling everything a trigger. Overall, my experience has been more positive than negative to this point. Again, I don’t have the metrics for sales, but users definitely follow links back to the material and then talk about it, and/or boost it.

Pinterest: I’m redefining my relationship with Pinterest, to see how I can make it a tertiary support to the work. I’ve used it for my own inspirations, but I also want to do more with visual inspiration boards that I can share as part of my creative process. That is on the agenda for 2023. When I was deeply active on Pinterest, waaaaay back when, I had a lot of fun with it.

Post: I was on the waiting list for about three weeks, before I could sign on. At first, I was worried it was Very Serious, but as more people sign on, with a wide variety of interests, it’s fun to read, in-depth posts, about those interests. I have not explored monetizing posts there yet, and I’m not sure I will. So far, I like the interactions and the calm but lively discussions. I need to spend more quality time there, and dig deeper. It’s a good place to read about a wide range of topics, and then use it as a jumping off point for further research. I anticipate using it as a place to find people to fact check information I use in my books when I research, or to point me toward reference materials. As far as how it translates to growing my own audience, it’s too early to tell. I signed on only a few days before the computer crash.

Ravelry: This is a social media site for knitters, crocheters, spinners, and other fiber artists. It’s one of the few where I use a different handle, to keep it a little separate from the rest of my social media interactions. I’ve just started dipping my toe into it. I got some interesting patterns, but I also wound up being spammed via email mercilessly by a company who ignores my requests to unsubscribe. I hope to spend some quality time on there this winter, as I work on knitted and crocheted projects. I’m not on it to drive audience to my work (unless I start up The Tactile Muse blog again).

Spoutible: At the time of this posting, it has not yet launched. It’s supposed to go live in early February, I believe. I’m looking forward to it. I like the people who are behind it.

Tribel: This one has been kind of a wild ride, so far. When I first signed up, there were a lot of familiar handles from Twitter. Tribel encourages people to “follow” each other, but only “friend” people you actually know in real life. However, early on, I was getting a lot of friend requests from weird white dudes who wanted to send inappropriate messages. I’m more careful about follows, too. There are too many accounts over there with no bio or any other information, so I’m leery of just doing follow-for-follow. Also, you have to choose a topic under which to position your post (most of mine are under “fiction” but I have some under “gardening” or “foodie” or “tarot”). The categories are frustrating, because they’re limiting, and one can’t post without choosing a category. It tries to force too much niche, in my opinion. But then, I am the Anti-Niche.  It works on algorithms, likes, boosts, etc. I haven’t seen evidence of it translating into website hits or sales, but the year-end data on some of my sites won’t be ready for another week or two.  I post regularly, but I need to spend some more time digging deeper, looking for people with similar interests, and cleaning out the weird, botlike, or skeezy accounts out of my feed. There’s a lot of screaming and many posts that remind me of Twitter at its worst, and I want to navigate away from those. I’m going to put some more time into it before I make a decision.

Twitter: I’ve been on Twitter for going on 14 years now. That’s a looooong time in terms of tech. Twitter used to be the best source for high-paid freelance jobs, and I landed some of my best clients there. It’s been a huge source of audience reach for the fiction, the classes, the serials, and the Topic Workbooks. When I was fighting cancer the first year of the pandemic, and going through the Move From Hell in 2021, the support on Twitter made a huge, positive difference. When I go on now, too often, it just makes me sad.

I have no idea how it will play out on that site. I’m tempted to lock my account, but then I can’t get the audience spread from retweets that’s a big source of incoming traffic to my sites. Basically with Twitter, I’m in a holding pattern as far as social interaction. As of the end of 2022, it was still driving a lot of traffic to the Topic Workbooks, the serials, and my blogs. I’m doing a lot of blocking, and a lot faster than I used to. At the same time, I’m also finding some cool accounts, especially several focused on textile history and fashion that got lost in the previous feeds. I’m hoping Twitter can course-correct (change of ownership, perhaps). But, even so, it won’t be what it was, because the world changes. Twitter has changed over the years, and not always for the better. We’ll see. I hate to lose it, but it might have run its course and it may be time for different virtual “town squares” to build that learn from this platform, and build something even more powerful and useful.

WT Social: I deactivated my account within 48 hours, due to the misogyny and nastiness on the platform. Not for me, at all.

I’m on some other platforms, too, which aren’t really social media. Substack walks the line between social media, subscription service, and newsletter. Their metrics are clear and strong, and it’s easy to see where growth is happening, and where interest lags. I love having The Process Muse over there, and love the growing community, although there’s so much excellent content, it’s often difficult to keep up. The readers there tend to follow embedded links into my other work. I vastly prefer it to Medium, which did not work for me at all, creatively or financially. Ko-fi has been a fun place to put weird little pieces that don’t really fit anywhere, along with tarot and oracle spreads. At this point, I haven’t figured out how to monetize it properly. It’s more of a playground. I’m on BookBub, but haven’t yet utilized it to its full potential. I may join Litsy, although that’s more about taking about my reading rather than my writing. Which isn’t a bad thing, especially considering how much I read; it’s just a case of figuring out if I can afford the time, or if that time needs to be spent promoting my own work elsewhere.

As always, I find that my websites are the best basecamp, so I try to link back as much as possible to the websites.

Again, this is my experience, based on a few months’ worth of experimentation and interaction during a busy time, and then a break when the computer was in computer hospital. I’d hoped for more dynamic metrics, but, because so many of the sites aren’t ad-and-metric driven, it takes longer to see where the results of creative calls-to-action shake out.  I’m sure the experiences will grow and change on each platform as the population changes. People are going to try things and not like it. They will move to different platforms and try different things until they find something that meets their needs. Platforms have risen and fallen in that way since they began. I do still miss those original CompuServe bulletin boards. Those were fun, and quite the learning experience.

What new platforms are you experimenting with? What’s your experience on them?

Ink-Dipped Advice: Content Calendar Tips

image courtesy of Myraims-Fotos via Pixabay.com

Welcome back! I hope you had a lovely summer. Taking regular breaks from content creation (not just creating extra content ahead of time and scheduling to post) is something I find alleviates burnout.

I’ve created and uploaded content for client content calendars for all kinds of projects in my freelance career. But creating and doing them for my own projects this past summer was a revelation.

I had two large projects (each with multiple moving parts) that went live this summer, and I learned a lot about what I, as an individual artist who is also a small business, needs from a content calendar. I’m sharing what I learned, in the hopes that it will help you.

The two big projects I had were the re-released of updated editions of The Topic Workbooks and the launch of my mystery/fantasy/comedy serial LEGERDEMAIN. Both intersected at the end of July into August, and need steady promotion for as long as I can imagine.

The Topic Workbooks consist of seven workbooks, built around writing classes I’ve taught/continue to teach, both in person and online. Six of the workbooks were updated editions, integrating new technology, information, and changes in the industry.  Those were: THE SERIES BIBLE, SETTING UP YOUR SUBMISSION SYSTEM, THE GRAVEYARD OF ABANDONED PROJECTS, THE COMPLEX ANTAGONIST, ORGANIZE YOUR WRITING LIFE, and CREATIVE STIMULUS. The seventh workbook was for the class I taught at the beginning of August for the Cape Cod Writers Center Conference, and that was DEVELOPING THE SERIES (for novels, not screen). The workbooks initially re-released over three weeks, and then the promotion continued.

The serial, LEGERDEMAIN, started on Kindle Vella as of July 28, with episodes dropping every Tuesday and Thursday for as long as it’s viable. The initial vision contains three large story arcs. The first story arc is uploaded and scheduled, and runs 41 episodes. The next two will run between 30-40 episodes each. I know it takes several months to gain traction on Vella, unless one comes in with an already huge audience, so those ads had to be geared toward both short and long-term visions. The first three episodes are (and remain) free. The other episodes are read via the purchase of tokens.

The Topic Workbooks are non-fiction, geared toward writers and artists. They’re geared toward writers, but artists in other disciplines have also found them useful. The serial is fiction, geared to a genre audience who loves serials (most important), mystery, fantasy, and likes some odd humor sprinkled in.

Both campaigns had to launch, and then run, simultaneously.

I spent some time in the summer, while off from writing this blog, playing with online scheduling tools. I mixed, matched, and did comparisons of several. None of them fulfilled my needs, integrated the way I need them to, or could handle the fact that, as a freelance juggling multiple projects, things change ALL THE TIME.

So I went back to trusty old paper.

Content Vision

The first thing I had to do was to have a vision for the way I wanted to promote each project. The Topic Workbooks are pretty straightforward. They are consistent. These editions are updated and published, with fresh covers. I keep them priced low, so that they’re budget-friendly, and they’ve always made up in volume what they lack in high prices for individual workbooks. Distinctive ads in a similar style with blurbs and buy links would do the trick. Consistent promotion, albeit changing up the type of promotion, makes the most sense. The Topic Workbooks have their own page on the flagship DevonEllingtonWork site, so links can take interested viewers back to that page on the site, and then the individual buy links for the buyer’s device is readily available, including library sites.

The serial is a little more complicated. Two episodes drop per week. That means each episode needs an individual ad that’s a hook for that specific episode. It also needs more general ads as a draw to the series in general. Also, the hooks can’t give too much away, or someone could just follow the episode ads and feel like they don’t need to read the series. While there’s mention of the serial on the main DevonEllingtonWork site, there’s enough material, and enough tertiary material to build its own subdomain site for Legerdemain. (Note: this site has some content up, but is still under construction at the time of this posting, and has not been widely promoted).

Because of Amazon’s strict rule that content can’t be anywhere other than on their site (and they won’t even let me link the website to the serial), I had to figure out a  workaround of additional fun content that didn’t break the Kindle Vella laws, gave readers who follow the serial some fun additional content, and gave potential readers a taste of tone to drive them to start reading.

The Topic Workbook content is fairly static, and will be changed as individual workbooks are updated every few years, and as new workbooks are added (because you didn’t think I was done, did you? I mean, this is me we’re talking about). There’s also a Media Kit in progress, which will go up on both the Workbook page, and in the site’s Media Room.

LEGERDEMAIN’s content will grow as long as the serial grows.

Someday, LEGERDEMAIN will stop being a serial, have to take a breath when it comes off Kindle Vella (I’m thinking at least 3-5 years down the road), and then become something else. The website will be able to support whatever it turns into. Again, that content is created with a vision toward both short and long term.

Frequency

How often to post?

At the launch of each Topic Workbook, I decided to do an intense 13-day campaign of one to two ads per day across social media. After the initial 13-days, I would run one ad per workbook per week. That took me through the end of September. Now that it is September, I am looking at the workbooks and deciding what the vision is for promotion October – December.

Series Bible Ad
Setting Up Your Submissions System Ad

With LEGERDEMAIN, each pair of episodes gets an intense campaign during their week, until the next week’s episodes drop. For August and September, I then run day-long weekend campaigns with all episodes to date. On top of that, I pop some general ads in there. Again, in October, I’m changing it up a little, for the overall series, while keeping the intense focus on the ads for episodes as they go live.

Example of an episode-specific ad for LEGERDEMAIN
Ecample of a general ad for LEGERDEMAIN
Example of a general ad for LEGERDEMAIN

I vary the hours for both the workbooks and the serial ads, because I want to take a look at the metrics and then see what works well where.

When I created content for a clothing designer, I scheduled the daily content to post at noon each day, because people were looking at social media during their lunch hour or just before/after, and that got the highest response.

The Content Itself

I create batches of content. I created each workbook ad as soon as the workbook was ready to publish. As soon as the buy links went live, I added them to the ads and to the various websites on which they can be found.

Same with LEGERDEMAIN. I uploaded/scheduled the polished episodes in batches of 10 (although I had most of the first arc written and revised before I uploaded anything, in case I needed to plan something early on for the end). As soon as I uploaded the episode and noted the release date, I create the episode log lines, and then I can create the individual episode ads. Then, I go back through that batch of episodes to see what general ads I can create from the content about other businesses, themes, or jokes that are in those episodes, and where I can expand on information for the website that would drag down the pace and the narrative drive of the serial itself.

Uploading the Content

I block off several hours, and I upload and schedule at least a month of content, preferably two or three, in that time period. If you use a scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite, you can schedule across multiple platforms (provided your subscription allows it). It’s worth it, because then you don’t have to think about it for two or three months.

For the Topic Workbooks, as soon as I got the buy link, I started uploading and scheduling the content I planned through the end of September. When I decide on October – December’s content and frequency, I will block off a few hours and upload/schedule all of that in one go, too.

Because I have the content ready to go (it’s created before I upload), the upload/scheduling time goes relatively quickly. It takes about 2 hours to upload 2-3 months’ worth of daily content.

I also use the weekly calendar sheets broken down into hours by General Blue and write in what ads run where. I can see how the content flows, and where I have room to plug in other projects (because releasing ads for different projects at the same time is often counterproductive). They can run close together, even just a few minutes apart, but not releasing at the same moment.

For the serial, as soon as the episodes are scheduled and I’ve created the episode loglines and episode-specific ads, I block off time and upload that next block of episodes. This is where having the hourly paper calendar comes in handy, because I can see what episodes have promotions scheduled when, and build on themes and images. When the general ads are created, I slot those in around the episode ads. Again, it usually takes a couple of hours to schedule a month or more of content. It’s worth it, because then I don’t have to think about it; I just have to look at metrics later on.

The social media promotions I do are on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Ello, Counter Social, and Tumblr. Then, there are other ads or direct mail pieces, depending on the project and budget. Don’t forget the budget! The content calendar integrates all of it.

Metrics

I look at the traffic that’s driven to the various sites by the ads, and then, of course, the sales that result. It’s harder to do with the serial, because Amazon holds their information close to the vest, and doesn’t allow links to individual episodes, or metrics on individual episodes, just to the general page. And I couldn’t build momentum ahead of the launch, because the page on the Vella site for the serial didn’t go live until the serial went live. On top of that, one cannot gift tokens or use Amazon gift cards for tokens for the serial, which affects things like promotional giveaways.

I expect it will be 4-6 months before I get a real sense of how the ads are doing in the bigger picture.

In the smaller picture, I see regular sales reports, and I can also see who and how often colleagues on social media are liking or boosting my work. That figures into my personal metrics. I boost the heck out of the work of friends and colleagues. If I don’t get that in return, or if I suspect they’ve muted the ads or the project, it’s not become a non-reciprocal relationship.

 Yes, I know, all that “you have the right to curate your timeline” and “you do you” and all the other palliatives. You DO have the right to curate your timeline for your own purposes and pleasures.

So do I.

Writing is my business, not my hobby. It is how I keep a roof over my head, and the bills paid. I mix and match a wide variety of writing in my profession. But it is my profession, and that means I have to promote my work.

That doesn’t mean I DM people asking them to buy. That’s tacky and unprofessional.  And someone who DMs me immediately after a mutual follow to sell me something, anything, is guaranteed to be blocked, and put on the list of “never buy anything from this person ever.”

If I’m promoting the heck of someone’s work and they never promote mine, then they’ve become a drain on my resources and my energy, and I want them off my timeline. I clear out my timeline once or twice a year. It gets out the deadweight, and then I can go back to having actual conversations and interactions. How someone supports or does not support my work affects the place they have (or don’t have) in my life. While I may mute some threads that get overly tangled, I tend not to mute people. I’m either in or out. Either I accept all of someone’s facets, or I’d rather steer clear. And if someone is “muting” me because I promote that which keeps a roof over my head or for any other reason, that means they aren’t accepting all of my different facets, and the further I get away right quick, the better for my life and work.

But hey, “you do you.”

Conclusion

Planning content ahead of time makes a huge difference. A content calendar helps you track what happens where, where there are holes you can turn into opportunities, where content gets crowded and needs a little breathing room.

By making the time to plot out your content, by making the time to create the content, and then batch uploading/scheduling, you take the immediate pressure off the day to day, and that allows you to create more (which you will then have to promote).

The content calendar supports both the plan and the execution. It will help you when you analyze your metrics, and find the best times/days to schedule your content. It will help you see where you need more, and where you can cut back.

It has also taught me how to adjust my rates, should I go back to offering this type of service for clients again in the future. As a solopreneur, I am the creator and the content manager. However, when I take on clients, I am the content WRITER, NOT the graphic designer OR the social media manager. Too often companies are hiring one person to do all three jobs when they are three separate jobs and require different skills, time frames, and headspaces. Not only that, most companies want to pay a single person to do three jobs only a portion of what one job is worth. Don’t sell yourself short. If you CHOOSE to accept a position where you are creating, doing graphics, and managing the content calendar/uploading/metrics, make sure you charge enough to encompass all three sets of skills.

But the calendar is THE tool that eases pressure AND promotes positive engagement, which is good all around! And batch creating and batch uploading/scheduling makes the next few months much calmer.