Thursday, November 20, 2014

Marketing True Magics 15: 10,000 Twitter Followers! Now What?

I now have 10,000 twitter followers!  Joy! Excitement! Thrills!

Sort of…

Why 10,000?

Because it’s big shiny number and it looks impressive!

No, seriously.

I wrote here why I used follow-backs to gain followers. In short, it allows me to find people with similar interests and market to them. Cold blooded? Yes. Effective? Time will tell.

What Does Having 10,000 Followers Get Me?

1. ReTweeters!

If you talk about interesting things, people re-tweet you. Last week, I got 21.9K views of what I tweeted, and 177 link visits. Not bad at all. Because more views lead to…

2. More Followers!

 10,000 followers sufficiently large enough that anyone who sees one of my tweets or re-tweets and clicks on my profile might say, “Hey, this guy has a lot of followers. Maybe he’s interesting…” and read through some of my posts, which should (if I’m doing my job right) make them decide that yes, I am worth following, which then turns them into…

3. Potential Customers

I need people to buy my books so I can eat.  And every person who follows me on Twitter is a person who may buy my book. And in the end, that’s what this is all about.

What Having 10,000 Followers Doesn’t Get Me

1. Fans

Followers are not fans. Fans buy your books, read your stories, come see you when you are in town, and promote your work to other people. Followers follow you on Twitter.

The good news is you can convert followers into fans with work. Not all of them, but enough to make a difference which is why I don’t have…

2. Time to Relax

Must keep the information flowing.  Must keep the fun and exciting tweets going out. Must start the Christmas “Buy my Books” Campaign.  Must begin developing contests and twitter talks and other exciting things so people will keep paying attention.  But doing all that on Twitter does not give me…

3. An Excuse Not to Use Other Marketing 

Twitter is nice, and I started with it because it’s the easiest. But email lists work far, far better and that’s an area I haven’t even started figuring out yet. I still need to develop my Google+ presence, and my Facebook page for those who are already fans. Then there’s planning next year’s convention and promotion circuit to go with my new book (True Magics, out in April).  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

And speaking of that…

Next week: Marketing Plans 2: Why do I need all this background stuff?

Monday, November 17, 2014

This Writer’s Life 16: There’s no such thing as writer’s block (and how I deal with it)

I was hoping to make a joke about how I was trying to write about writer’s block and got writer’s block from attempting to write, and be all meta or something. (Is that meta? What is meta anyway? Is it meta to reference meta, or is it only meta when I reference myself referencing meta?)


The Myth of Writer’s Block

One day, you sit down (or stand at your standing desk) take out your pen and paper or open your laptop or take out your clay tablet and spike (I’m looking at you, writer of Gilgamesh) and you prepare to start writing but, horror of horror, nothing comes!  I can’t write! I have writer’s block! I’ll never write again!

Yeah. Right. Suck it up, Buttercup.

There is no such thing as writer’s block. It is a myth writers invented to give themselves an excuse not to work on their projects. (And won’t that statement make me popular, eh?)

The Brain Never Stops Working

Seriously, never. You are designed to have continuous brain function and to be continually observing, thinking and reacting.  Doesn’t matter how good you are at meditation, doesn’t matter how tired you are, doesn’t matter how much TV you’re watching. The brain is always going.

Which means you are always able to write.

If it’s not Writer’s Block, What is It?

It’s called being stuck and it happens. And the nice thing about being stuck is, whether is a car in the snow, a boot in the mud, or your story on a page, you can unstick yourself (and for those who want to argue about drowning in quicksand, that is not being stuck, that is being caught and yes, I am being overly pedantic).

Here are some of the tricks I use:

1. Start Writing Anyway

Seriously. WRITE. Write what your character is wearing. Write what room they are in. Write the weather for that day in the story. Write “ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY” a few dozen times (unless you and your family are alone in an isolated creepy hotel in the middle of winter in which case, better not). The very act of writing something can be enough to get your brain going and get you back on task.

2. Questions and Answers

Ask yourself questions about the project and write down the answers. How does the character feel about his/her mother?  Why is he in that room?  Why did you make her wear the red shoes with the green pants? What will the rain do to the fields? Doing this forces you to think about the characters, their world, their lives and relationships and helps you get into your project.

3. Do an Outline

I used to hate outlines. These days I rarely write without one because they act as signposts on the way to “the end” and get me there faster. Outline your story. If that’s too big, outline the chapter. If that’s too big, outline the scene.  Break it down into smaller and smaller pieces until you have something you can write. Then write it.

4. Edit

If I’m in mid-project and stuck, I go back 5 or ten pages and edit. I clean up the language; tighten up the character’s lines; improve the descriptions.  This forces me back into the world of the story, which can give me the boost I need so that when I get to that blank part of the page, I can keep on going.

5. Go Back and Read

When I get really badly stuck it’s usually because somewhere I’ve done something that makes it impossible to move the story forward. Maybe the demon was supposed to come to terms with its raccoon mother but I killed the kid already.  Maybe the matching pants and shoes will save the world but I made her wear red and green.  Maybe the rain was supposed to put out the small fire they were building but I wrote the driest summer ever and now there’s a grass fire.   Whatever it is, I’ve messed up the story. So I start reading from the beginning until I find the place where the story stops making sense. Then I fix it and get it moving forward again.

Need other Suggestions?

Hayden Trenholm (author, publisher, and all-round smart man) wrote a great post on Writer’s Block  that is well worth reading. There are also (according to Google) 13,570,000 other articles on the Internet about writer’s block.  Search through and you’ll find something that suits your process.

But no matter what, write.

Next Time: When is a project dead?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Marketing True Magics 14: What is a Marketing Plan?

(Also called "Building a Marketing Plan, part 1." I thought I should change the title to reflect what we’re talking about. I hear that helps people to know what they’re reading and, you know, find stuff on the internet.)


It’s Planning Time!

This is the fun part of the whole thing. Planning!  Figuring out every action you’re going to take for the next six months and justifying your reasons for every single one. Fun!

No, seriously. It’s fun.

I love planning. Planning is the thing that makes everything else work, and when each step of the plan works you get to do a little happy dance.

Of course, you need to be flexible in your planning because, no plan ever survives contact with reality intact. So you plan in flexibilities and contingencies and hope you’ve thought of everything.

Before I start waxing eloquent on all that (which will be over the next several posts), I thought I’d use this post to define what a marketing plan is and does:

Marketing Plan – Short Definition

A marketing plan is a detailed document that explains exactly what you will do to convince people to buy your products, and why you are doing it that way.

What a Marketing Plan Does

Forbes puts it like this:

“The right marketing plan identifies everything from 1) who your target customers are to 2) how you will reach them, to 3) how you will retain your customers so they repeatedly buy from you.”

Sounds simple enough, right?


Elements of a Marketing Plan

Unfortunately, the devil (and a lot of annoying perspiration) is in the details. And while Forbes definition is correct, there are a lot of things you need to do to get there.

Background: This section examines all elements of the environment in which a product is being sold, including:

  • Date of product release
  • Venues of sale
  • State of the market for product
  • Competition
  • Previous products
  • Success/failure of previous marketing efforts
  • Financial state of the organization
  • Resources available for marketing
  • Benefits of marketing the product for the organization

Marketing Objective: How much of what are you trying to sell by when? And yes, you need to have an end date. Otherwise it isn’t a plan, it’s a long, slow march towards obscurity.

Communications Objectives: What things do you want people to think, feel and do so they will buy your product?

Target Audiences: To whom are you selling your products? And which people do those people listen to who could help you sell your product?

Key Messages: What will you say to convince your target audiences to buy the product? What other messages can you use to support that message and who will you say them to?

Channels: What channels will you use to market your products? Note this is not where you are selling them, but where you are convincing people to buy them.

Communications Strategies, Tactics and Evaluations: This is the brass tacks stuff.

  • Strategy: What you will do to achieve your communication objectives
  • Tactics: How you will do it.
  • Evaluation: How will you measure success for each tactic and strategy.

Critical Success Factors: Without these nothing else will come together. Example: you are selling a book, but you don’t actually write it. Marketing campaign fail.

Tactical Map: This is where you get to play with spreadsheets! Look at all your tactics for all your strategies and figure out:

  • How are you going to do it?
  • When does it start, when does it end? (timeline)
  • Who is going to do it and who is going to support them?
  • How much you’re going to spend on it? (budget)

Next Steps: Assuming all this works out, then what do you do?

So just a little bit of work to do, right?

I’ll be continuing on about marketing plans in 2 weeks. But first...

Next week: 10,000 Twitter followers. Now What?

Thursday, November 06, 2014

This Writing Life 15: Getting Through The Bad Days


This article does not deal with mental health issues. Mental health issues are a whole other kettle of fish.  If you think you suffer from a mental health issue, the Health Information Page on the CAMH website has good information. Read it and visit your doctor.

If you are in crisis, if feel you want to kill or hurt yourself or someone else, please call 911, or your local emergency number.

I like you and want you to stick around. Get help.

That Being Said…

Everyone has days where things don’t get done and goals don’t get met. Where they stare at their computer/tool bench/blank canvas/empty notebook/whatever, and bemoan their art, their job, their family and their existence. I’ve had several of them recently, and they’re what inspired this post.

Fortunately, here at Erik Buchanan Writing and Communications, we have come up with an effective solution:

Suck It Up, Buttercup

Yeah. Seriously. Suck it up.

As soon as you finished reading this post and have out of sheer gratitude purchased my books, Small Magics and Cold Magics, get off your couch/chair/self-made cross and do something productive.

Anything productive.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing; it just has to be something. Because even the tiniest accomplishment makes the difference.

That last sentence is so important it’s worth repeating, rephrasing, expanding and putting in bold and italics:

When you are having a bad day, do something productive because even the smallest accomplishment makes a difference, and can motivate you to accomplish other things.

So suck it up, Buttercup, and go do something. And if you need help getting started, here’s a process:

Step 1: Make a list

Get something to write with and something to write on, and make a list of things that need doing.  Not things that you want to do, or things that you like to do, things that need doing.

Don’t number the list, because numbers give a false sense of priorities. Put little checkboxes beside each one.

Step 2: Do the simplest thing on your list

It may be taking out the trash. It may be deleting the spam in your email account. It may be putting on pants (no, seriously, it may well be that on a bad day).  Whatever the simplest, easiest thing to do is on your list do that.

Congratulations! You have accomplished something! Celebrate it! Pat yourself on the back and….

Step 3: Do the next simplest thing on your list

You can see where this is going, right?

Each task that you accomplish reinforces your perception of yourself as a person who gets things done.  Even if you only get one little thing done today, that means you know you’re capable of getting at least one thing done in a day.  Tomorrow, shoot for two.

But What if There’s Nothing Simple on My List?

Then you are thinking too big. Take the big tasks and break them down into small tasks. Example: Do the dishes.

Doing the dishes is not one action, it’s several actions:

  • Finish your coffee
  • Take the dirty dishes from the dining room (if you have one)
  • Take the dirty dishes from the bedroom (hey, don’t judge)
  • Pile the dishes on the counter
  • Take the dirty dishes out of the sink
  • Rinse out the sink.
  • Put in the plug
  • Fill the sink with water
  • Wash a glass
  • Repeat until all glasses are done
  • Wash a plate
  • Etc., etc., etc.

You may not manage to get all the dishes done, but each step brings you closer.

So suck it up, Buttercup, and get stuff done. Because you and I both know that you can. You just need to get started.

Next Week: Writer’s Block Doesn’t Exist And How I Overcome It

Monday, November 03, 2014

Marketing True Magics 13: How’s that Marketing Plan Going?

Uhhh… good. Really good. Yeah. Things are going great right now.  I have 8,972 Twitter followers.  No problem. Excellent. Amazing in fact…

Did I mention the 8,972 Twitter followers?

All right, I’m not where I want to be, which brings us to the real point of this post:

Staying on Track

The biggest danger of a marketing plan is that we think of it as set-it and forget-it, like a land mine. And like a land mine such thinking can blow up in our faces.

What have I done with my marketing plan?

  • Built my twitter following
  • Made desultory attempts to build my facebook page
  • Blogged a lot
  • Thought about how to re-jig the marketing plan to improve it

And that’s it. Because I have a plan, and once you’ve got the plan, that’s half the game, right?

Right. A half-won game is called a loss. What I want is a win.

The first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one.  So having done that in as public a manner as possible, it’s time to start fixing it.

So, how do we do that?


A marketing plan isn’t like online dating. It’s a long-term relationship that needs to be nurtured, checked in on, and developed. Sometimes it needs to be chucked and started over, but that’s a different conversation.

I have not been checking in on the marketing plan. I’ve been faithful about building my twitter followers and keeping my feed fun and alive. I’ve been fairly faithful about blogging, but that’s about it. It’s the equivalent of doing the dishes once a week and saying you’ve done your share of the housework.

Avoid the “Tyranny of the Urgent”

(Not my phrase, and if you know whose it is, let me know so I can credit them properly.)

Remember that post on scheduling? Urgent/not urgent/important/not important? I’ve allowed my attention to get swallowed up by the urgent. Now some of that urgent is important:
  • Taking care of my child
  • Keeping my relationship with my girlfriend healthy
  • Earning money to pay the bills

But a lot of it is not:
  • Must finish that computer game
  • Must check twitter every 5 minutes
  • Must read the news compulsively
  • Must track friends on Facebook
  • Must find out what happens next on Protect the Boss (Korea does good drama, by the way).

None of that gets me any closer to the big goal of this marketing plan (selling more copies of True Magics) nor does it help me build a viable marketing platform to use for future book sales.  And looking closely at that first list of important and urgent things I’m doing, what do you not see?


My writing. Client writing is under “earning money to pay the bills” but just paying the bills isn’t the goal, is it?

The goal is to write my books/stories/screenplays/we series for a living, and if I am not writing, and if I’m not marketing, I’m not getting near my goal.

Well, that’s enough of that, folks.

Getting Back on Track

The first step is to get back on schedule overall, with the necessary changes to make it happen.  I revamped mine over the weekend. It includes:

  • Daily writing time
  • Daily marketing time
  • Daily client time
  • Family time
  • Internet/TV time (very limited)

Second step is to turn my anti-distraction software back on.  I use Antisocial, which I highly recommend if you have a Mac.

Third step is the hardest one: get to work. Because planning is one thing, but if you’re not doing, you’re not going anywhere. For my marketing plan, that means:

  • Get the marketing plan up on the calendar!
  • Set goals for each week based on the plan
  • Meet that week’s goals
  • Measuring the success of those goals
  • Set next week’s goals based on the plan and success of previous week’s goals

So back on track and let's get this plan going! And speaking of planning...

Next week: Building a Marketing Plan Part 1 (and yes, I should have talked about this earlier)

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