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Don’t get cloned on Facebook


We’ve all been seeing a rash of Facebook account cloning. You see it when you get a friend request from someone that you’ve already friended. If you have a lot of Facebook friends, you may just think, “Oh, I thought we were already friends,” and accept the invitation. Shortly thereafter, you’ll get a private message from your new friend. It starts out innocuous. “How are you doing?” Then the scam starts. It may take you a while to realize that your friend wouldn’t really be trying to borrow a pile of money or get you to invest in something. By then, it may be too late.

If your account gets cloned, you may think you’ve been hacked. Don’t worry. You haven’t. Nobody’s figured out your password and broken into your account. They just followed these simple steps:

  1. First, they copy your profile picture and cover photo onto their computer.
  2. Then they create a new Facebook account using your name and a throwaway email address.
  3. They set the profile pic and cover photo to the ones they saved from your real account.
  4. Finally, they click on the “Friends” tab on your real account and start sending friend requests to everyone.

There’s a quick ‘n easy way to prevent that fourth step.

This will bring up a window that includes “Who can see your friends list?” If the button to the right of it says, “Public,” click on it.

I like mine being on “Friends” or “Friends except acquaintances.” That way, when one of my friends is looking for another of my friends on Facebook, they can just go to my friend list and find them. If you prefer nobody being able to see who you’ve friended on Facebook, use the “only me” setting.

 

When you get a friend request from someone that sets your Spidey-senses a-tingling, don’t just hit that “confirm” button. Search your friends list to see if you’re already friends. Click on their name to see their page. Warning signs of a cloned account are:

  1. They have hardly any friends, and the ones they have are all people you know as credulous or careless.
  2. There are no timeline posts and no pictures (other than profile and cover).
  3. The name and username don’t match (see picture below). This can also happen when you have friends without much computer and/or Facebook experience that don’t know to set their username.

Whenever I get a friend request from someone I think is a scammer with a cloned account, I always report it to Facebook and tell my real friend about it so they can notify their friends to be careful. You might want to do the same!

A professional social media business manager, obviously


This blog, like every other blog, gets a lot of spam comments. Most of them are nonsensical, posted by bots in the hope that there’s no spam filter and the comments will remain as links back to the spammer’s site. Many are in other languages and even other alphabets. I regularly get comments in Chinese that are a full screen long.

Facebook likes

Like me! Love me! Make me legitimate, relevant, and authentic!

Sometimes I get one that makes me chuckle, and then makes me think. One such message began with, “Hello, I am a professional social media business manager, obviously.”

At first chuckle, I mentally edited it to read, “Hello, I am a spammer, so I’m a non-professional social media business manager, obviously.” Then I thought about the implications of this message, and what bloggers — especially authors — might think when reading it. After the opening paragraph, the spam comment goes on to say:

“By building more than 10,000 real people profile endorsements using Facebook LIKES to your business page. This tell Google that your website is relative and authentic to what you do. IT WILL BE POSTED RIGHT ON YOUR PAGE FOR ALL VISITORS TO SEE HOW MANY -(people) Facebook LIKES !you have, via Facebook, by real FB counter button. Click on to see how you can do this in you free time or no time.”

(Just to get this out of the way, please assume a great big red [sic] plastered across everything I copy from spam comments.)

We all need metrics in our lives. We need a way to measure how we’re doing. Authors often use book sales, but that information isn’t updated that often for print books. Most traditional print publishers issue royalty statements semiannually, so it’s hard to tell how effective that email you sent last week was. Alternatively, we might use placement on Amazon category bestseller lists, but that only measures Amazon sales, which are a tiny fraction of overall sales for some of us. The last time I ran the numbers, Amazon was responsible for less than 1% of the sales of my Who Pooped books. But there are a few metrics that are up-to-the-minute, and Facebook provides one of them: likes.

It’s tempting (and easy) to measure our self-worth by the number of Facebook likes on a page. Was my last comment witty enough? Let me see how many people shared it. Are people excited about the book signing I announced yesterday? Let me see how many people “liked” the announcement.

Likes do more than that, though. When somebody clicks that like button on your page, they’re going to see the next thing you post, too. That helps to build what publishers call a “platform,” and a good platform can help you land the next book contract. I’m not saying Facebook is irrelevant to writers. As I’ve said before, Facebook can be a great tool for us in ways you might not expect.

This spammer is striking right at the heart of our self-worth as writers. She (apparently, her name is Karen) is offering to sell us likes. Thousands of people hanging on our every word. Our blogs flying to the top of Google search results. Our sites become “relative and authentic!” We get bragging rights! Legitimacy! A real platform! And it doesn’t stop there!

“We can help you also with build 10,000 Twitter Followers in 7 days, or 100,000 YouTube visits, to your YouTube video or channel, build 20,000 Google +1, from your peers about your business. Best offer G+1 building in 7 days. You can get help building 100,000 Facebook LIKES in 7 days. Likes Mean visitors endorse your Fan Page or website.”

Let’s back up a minute here. Why did we start using social media professionally in the first place? To help us sell our books, of course. Even if Karen the Spammer followed through on her promise, you wouldn’t get 10,000 people following your tweets because they want to buy your books. You’d get 10,000 bots, shills, and hacked accounts. You’d get people duped by a spammer into clicking a “like” or “follow” or “+1” button.

“How do you think Justin Bieber(singer) get his first 1,000,000 followers before his first album? His producers bought the followers for him?”

Metrics like Twitter followers are, indeed, important to celebrities. I doubt, however, that Justin Bieber became the 2nd most followed person on Twitter (at the moment) because Karen the Spammer delivered a million paid followers.

“Ah, this is all just sour grapes,” you may be thinking. “This Robson dude doesn’t have a million followers on Twitter. Heck, he doesn’t even have a thousand.” True, I don’t. Given the right “social media business manager” and an appropriate budget, you could have ten times the likes and followers I have in a matter of days. Maybe even a hundred times.

But does it sell your books?

I confess. I’ve gotten caught up in the drive for followers on some of my business pages. The first time one of my posts on this blog got over 100 views, I was ready to throw a party! But 1,000 views or 10,000 likes or 100,000 followers won’t pay the bills. It’s dangerously easy to spend your days fighting for social media metrics instead of writing books, putting on book signings, doing interviews, and sending out queries and proposals. It’s important to use social media for marketing, but we have to remember we’re writers, and writing pays the bills.

Caution: Haiku May Lead to Drinking Beer With Friends


Gary Robson with beer

This is the author picture that used to run with my “Beer Snob” columns. That’s a Scottish Ale I’m tasting.

Oh, my goodness gracious! Yesterday, I posted 26 of my beer haiku on this blog. As usual, I posted a link on Facebook and Twitter. The Facebook link said:

Haiku: Celebrating Beer in Verse, in which I offer up 26 original poems to beer. Anyone care to add their own?

The response was marvelous, as a couple of my friends jumped in to respond, and we all ended up at Sam’s Taproom (the pub/tasting room attached to our local brewery, Red Lodge Ales).

Be careful, people! Writing beer haiku can lead to laughing, drinking, witty repartee, and hugs.

I’ve edited this only slightly to remove last names, fix the order of things, and take out a few extraneous comments. Other than that, this is what appeared on my Facebook timeline immediately after last night’s blog post:

Doug:
I really like beer
No, seriously, I do.

Gary:
Doug writes a haiku
But he stops after two lines

Doug:
BAH! In the comments section, you have to hit all kinds of Shift+Enter mumbo jumbo to make it format correctly!

Doug:
Beer, mead, beer, mead, beer
One is sweet, one is bitter
I like both just fine.

Doug:
Hoppy beer is fine
Malty beer is more my style
Scottish Ale, Porter

Doug:
Beer is good alone
Beer is better with great friends
Beer is always good

Doug:
Beer beer beer beer beer
Beer beer beer beer beer beer beer
I love this here beer

Dan:
Care for a pint sir? Indubitably, I would So, Ale or Lager?

Doug:
Dan has the same formatting problems I have.

Dan:
Stupid Facebooking
Writing a poem about beer
Can’t find the shift key

Doug:
Laughing at my pals
Dan, want to go get a beer?
Come pick my ass up.

Gary:
My Thanksgiving beer
Is all Montana-made beer
I love living here

Doug:
Gary, you in town?
Dan wants to go get a beer
Sam’s Taproom sounds good.

Gary:
Sam’s Taproom sounds great
I’d love to join you bozos
But I have some work

Dan:
Went to the TR
Eating some yummy chicken
pick you up real soon

Doug:
I think from now on
I will comment in Haiku
On everyone’s wall

Dan:
Excuse sacrilege
But oh my freaking christmas
Haiku can be fun

Gary:
It is easier
to make comments in Haiku
than to write Limericks

Gary:
Oh, who needs to work?
I will join you for a pint
Shall I pick you up?

Doug:
The first to arrive
With him shall I ride to Sam’s
and hoist a beer, CHEERS!

Gary:
I’m on my way now
If Dan gets there before me
Call and let me know.

Simon:
To craft an odd sort of verse,
One couldn’t think anything worse
Than fives, fives, and sevens,
about beer (good heavens!),
To me, seems downright perverse.

Adam:
I don’t understand.
What the hell is a haiku?
You people are nuts.

Jim:
God is good. Beer is great.
He gave us beer forsooth partake.
With his sun on hops doth shine.
Please back off, THIS beer is mine!

Jim:
I know…it’s a rhyme, not haiku. Gesundheit!

Customizing presentations at book signings


Seven years ago, when my first Who Pooped in the Park? book was hot off the presses, I cut one up, scanned it, and turned it into a PowerPoint presentation.  I have used that slide show many times, and I learn something new every time I give a talk. That, actually, is one of the things I like most about public speaking: if I do it right, I learn as much as my audience does.

Among the things I have learned are:

  • Carry props. It keeps the talk more interesting if you can show people something tangible, not just pictures.
  • Move.  Don’t just park yourself safely behind a lectern. This may be controversial advice, because a lot of speaking coaches will tell you not to wander all over the stage when giving a talk, but my primary audience is children and they bore easily. I move around, point at the slides, hold up props, walk over to audience members and hand them things to pass around. I’ve even been known to demonstrate different gaits.
  • Engage the audience.  Ask them questions. I like to ask where people are from at the beginning and make references to their home states or countries later during the talk. Address people directly.
  • If you expect to sell books after the talk, mention the book. Say something about how and why you wrote it. Put a picture of the cover on one (or more) of your slides. And mention that you’ll be selling and signing books after the talk.
  • Make sure you have contact information on one of your slides in addition to having bookmarks or business cards available. That makes it easier for people to send you pictures they took, or invitations to other events. Instead of an email address, consider using your website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and other social media contact methods. You’ll get less spam that way, and you may pick up followers on those sites.

And, to bring this back to the main subject for the day, customize your slide show. I just gave a talk at the National Bighorn Sheep Center in Dubois, Wyoming a few days ago, and we did a book signing afterward. Here’s what I did to customize the PowerPoint presentation:

First, the opening slide. The top half of the slide has the book banner on it. I went to the Sheep Center’s website and grabbed a picture with their logo, added that to the bottom of the slide, and overlaid the date. I set up the projector in advance and left that slide up on the screen as an introduction until the talk started. That way, attendees wouldn’t just think, “oh, this is some generic presentation,” they’d know it was in some way connected to here.

Next, since the Center is all about bighorns, I figured I should insert a picture of a bighorn sheep. When I am doing slide shows, my first preference is always to use a picture I took myself. If I don’t have an appropriate shot, my next stop is either a stock photo house or Wikipedia, so I know I am using the picture legally.

I have an account with a stock photo company from when I published a newspaper. Generally, I am not going to pay $10 or $20 for a picture I am using one time in a slide show, unless it’s absolutely perfect. This stock photo shop, however (Dreamstime) has a free photo section which sometimes has what I need.

Wikipedia (or, more accurately, Wikimedia Commons) has a wealth of photographs that you can use in slide shows without royalties — just check the license.

Since I didn’t have a good bighorn sheep picture of my own, and there weren’t any cheap (or free) at the stock photo house, I picked one up from Wikipedia, overlaid some scat and track photos, and it made a perfect slide.

The local bookstore in Dubois set up and promoted the talk, so I added a “thank you” slide at the end. It’s typically easy to get logos from a store’s website or Facebook page. After they put a bunch of time and effort promoting the talk, it means a lot when you go to the effort of making a slide to thank them.

I am not a “read from my notes” kind of guy. I think it sounds awkward and stilted, and when you are reading from notes you aren’t looking at your audience. If I know my subject matter — and I had better! — then all I need is an outline, to make sure I don’t forget anything important.

That makes it easy to tailor the talk to the audience, since I am speaking extemporaneously anyway. Spending an hour or so customizing the slides makes it look like you have really put forth an effort, and that’s the kind of little thing that gets you invited back.

Book signing notes from a bookseller to authors


Mark Liebenow

Author Mark Liebenow talks about his book, “Mountains of Light: Seasons of Reflection in Yosemite” at my store a few weeks ago.

I’ve written a fair amount about book signings here on this blog, starting with my 14 book signing tips for authors, proceeding through 10 book signing tips for booksellers, and covering subjects like credit cards, ethics, funny questions, and my own stupid book signing mistakes. Today, though, after hosting a series of signings earlier in the month, I’d like to write an open letter to other authors from the perspective of a bookseller.

Sales sometimes stink

First of all, I wish I could predict how many people will be at your signing or talk, but I can’t. I’ve had some amazing authors in the store that only drew one or two people, and some unknown self-published authors that drew big crowds. Sometimes, the weather affects attendance. Sometimes, the promotion just didn’t get that viral “click” where everyone is telling everyone else about it. Sometimes, another business sets up an event at the same time. Some friends of one local author called everyone they knew when her first book came out and showed up with a big cake to celebrate. We sold 50 books at that event, for a self-published first-time author.

Low sales doesn’t mean your book sucks. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. And it doesn’t necessarily mean the store didn’t promote the event. Sometimes, you just don’t catch a break.

Promotion on social media

I want to thank those of you who do your own promotion. It always makes me happy to see your blog or newsletter prominently featuring your visit to my bookstore. That helps both of us. A request, though: If I go to the trouble to set up a Facebook event for your signing and invite you to it, please click “Yes, I’m attending” and share the event on your own Facebook page.

Social media is additive. If my store has a few hundred fans/followers and you have a few hundred more, linking to each other’s updates doubles the exposure for both of us. I may have three times as many fans on Facebook as I do followers on Twitter, but it could be the other way around for you. Even if you are going to unfriend, unfollow, and disconnect after the event, let’s work together as much as we can before the event.

Also, keep in mind that in many cases you are more likely to get a prominent article in the paper than the bookstore is. Editors get tired of interviewing the same booksellers over and over, but when they get a call (or email or press release) from an author saying, “I am going to be in your town doing a signing at XYZ Books and I’m available for interviews,” that’s something different.

Be flexible on talks

Sometimes, an event is all about the talk. When a store books me into an amphitheater, I know I need to be prepared for a formal talk with a slide presentation. When signing in a store, however, realize that sometimes the talk simply won’t happen. If you get a “crowd” of three people, don’t just give up and declare there won’t be a talk. Instead, walk away from the slides and sit down with your fans. They’ll remember that one-on-one (or one-on-several) time with you and it will mean a lot more to them than the slide presentation would have meant anyway.

Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson: He’s a nice guy!

Yes, fans want good books. But you’d be amazed how often I hear, things like “Does Craig Johnson have any new books? He’s such a nice guy!” It matters.

I’ll swap you six books for a cigar and a stuffed bear

Finally, thank you for understanding why I don’t barter. If you spot some books or tea in my store that you like, it makes lots of sense for both of us to just swap some of your stuff for some of my stuff. But that throws off my accounting and recordkeeping. I really do need to write you a check for your books and then run your purchase through my point-of-sale system.

In fact, I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but it bears repeating: If you need to be paid that day for any books that you’ve brought to the signing, tell the store personnel up front. Otherwise you may end up at the end of the event looking for money when the only person who can sign a check has already left for the day.

 

Book signings are a collaborative effort between booksellers and authors. I’ve often said that indie bookstores have a symbiotic relationship with new and local authors. As an author, I know it’s the indie stores that got my books going; Barnes & Noble and Costco had no interest in an unknown. As the owner of an indie bookstore, I know that if the authors don’t support us, nobody will.

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