Experiments with Advertising

Most writers want to have their work read. After all, that’s why we write, no? Ok, some folks write purely for their own catharsis and don’t care if another soul ever sees it, or perhaps don’t even want anyone else to read it, and some write with the (elusive and probably misguided) goal of making money, but most of us write simply because we enjoy seeing others enjoy our work.

And for that to happen, we have to be noticed. People have to be aware that the work exists and know how to find it, or it won’t matter how amazing the writing is, how engaging the story. It will languish in the darkness of obscurity.

There are many ways to be noticed, some more effective than others. We’re all trying to find those magic keywords that will maximize our search engine optimization, or SEO, and somehow draw readers in out of the ether, and yes, we find some readers that way. We promote our work on social media, engage with others in hopes they’ll engage with us, and yes, we find a few more that way.

But unless we’re already famous, that rarely turns into more than a trickle of readers. In fact, being too aggressive with self-promotion on social media is likely to have a negative effect, turning off potential readers who just want to engage in friendly chat and not see what amounts to endless advertising all day.

So it may seem almost counter-intuitive, at first glance, that advertising may be a way to get over the hurdle of not overly aggressively bombarding our friends and followers with, well, advertising.

What do I mean by that? Well, at the time I write this, I have just barely over a thousand followers on Twitter, and just barely under a hundred on Facebook. It took me four years to get to that point, though some people seem to manage it overnight, but I refused to play the various “follow-for-follow” games, mainly because they turned me off when I saw them, so I presumed they would turn off other “real” engagements as well. If all I do on Twitter is constantly push my writing to my existing followers, I’ll probably start losing more than I gain. And in any case, most of them will never click that link through to my website, even if they like the post in which I share my latest scene.

Still, at first glance Twitter seems to have a ten to one advantage over Facebook in terms of my reach toward potential audiences. That is probably offset, however, by the nature of those who follow an independent, unpublished, non-famous author on one platform vs the other. The majority of those who follow me on Twitter are other writers, some published, some not yet, some represented, and others not. They are there for the same reasons I am, yes, to promote their work, but also to engage with likeminded people going through the same struggles they are. In other words… not the general reading audience, but more like a professional association.

Facebook has far fewer people following me, and while many of those are also other writers, there is (I think, it’s hard to be sure) a higher percentage of them who are “ordinary readers” who are interested in science fiction. Still, the organic engagement I get with a tweet vs a Facebook post reflects that ten-to-one split, and so I’ve tended to focus more of my time where the greater number of people reside.

A recent experiment might imply that I’ve been focusing on the wrong platform.

I ran an ad on each of the platforms to see what would happen. No, I don’t have anything to sell yet, so there’s no financial incentive for me in this. It was just to see what kind of engagement I could drive with my story as it develops here on these pages. I ran them separately, with about a week in between. I posted precisely the same link on each (this one, here: The Silence of Ancient Light), using the same language and same tags (#ScienceFiction and #WIP). I targeted the same countries (United States, United Kingdom, and Canada), and targeted audiences interested in Science Fiction and in Reading, but otherwise left the demographics wide open. I gave each an identical budget of $50. The Twitter ad ran for 5 days, and the Facebook one for 7 days (the defaults on each), but the majority of the results from the Facebook ad still happened within those first 5 days, so this was roughly equivalent.

Twitter Advertising

On Twitter, the ad received a total of 3,288 impressions, of which 2,670 were “promoted” and the remainder were “organic” (happened naturally, and would likely have occurred without paying for the ad). An impression is just the ad appeared before someone’s eyes, in their feed, whether or not they interact with it at all. Those impressions resulted in 90 total engagements, of which 83 were promoted and again, the rest were organic. That’s a 3.1% engagement rate, which by all accounts is about as much as you can expect. An engagement is someone taking any action on the ad: 32 people expanded the detail to see the full text, 24 people clicked the like button, 15 people clicked on my profile to learn more about me, and 10 people clicked on the link to follow through to this website. 7 people retweeted the ad, and I gained 2 new followers because of the ad.

Since “link clicks” was the real purpose of the ad, that means 0.4% of people who saw the ad clicked through to the website. Less impressive, perhaps.

Meanwhile, over here on the website, during the time period the ad was running, I saw those 10 views on the page that was the ad’s link, though only 9 of them were registered as being referred from Twitter. Overall, the entire site had 35 views from 18 unique visitors, and I received 1 post like. This implies I had almost as many organic site visits as I did promoted visits, which may partly be explained by me having posted a new scene to the site a few days before the ad began running.

The ad reached 2,670 people, and 0.4% of those clicked through to read the “title” page of the story. A small handful of those 10 people then clicked on to read one or more actual scenes of the story. So, that cost me $10 per reader, and they weren’t very engaged by the story. Perhaps the story is just bad?

Facebook Advertising

A week after the Twitter ad expired, I ran the same ad on Facebook, as I described above. With few exceptions, everything about the ad was identical.

The Facebook ad reached 12,812 people, of whom 12,807 were paid and just 22 organic. Right away, we see that Facebook seemed to have much greater reach, nearly 5 times as much. But what about engagement?

991 people engaged with the ad. I don’t have the split for paid vs organic on this number, but as I have very few followers here, and only a single-digit number who ever seem to engage with my regular posts, I feel safe in saying that the vast majority of this number was due to the paid ad. That’s a 7.7% engagement rate! More than double the engagement of the identical Twitter ad. Of those 991, 48 “reacted” (clicked like, mostly, though one hit the laughing out loud button, and I’m not sure what to make of that), 6 shared the post (1 of those was a share of a share, so while not exactly viral, that is how those things get started), 1 commented on the post (and it was a strange comment, so not necessarily a positive), and 934 clicked on it. Of those clicks, 367 were clicks on the link to this website, and 567 were “other” clicks (on my profile, perhaps? it’s not clear).

Back here on the website, I tracked 384 Facebook referrals during the time the ad ran, and 901 views from 333 unique visitors. There were 391 views on the promoted page, and 1 page like.

The ad reached nearly 5 times as many people as the Twitter ad, and 2.9% of them clicked through to look at the website, compared to 0.4% of those who saw the Twitter ad. Instead of $10 per reader, this campaign cost me 15¢ per reader. That’s much more effective!

There’s an even more compelling stat here, however. From the Twitter campaign, only a handful of people read anything other than the initially linked page. From the Facebook campaign, about two dozen people went on to read at least the first few scenes, almost a dozen read quite a bit more than that, at least through the first few chapters, and at least 3 people read the entire story so far published, all the way to the end.

That tells me that it’s not just the advertising, but my writing is engaging at least some people. Not all, perhaps not even a majority of those who look at it, but at least some are finding it worthwhile to spend several hours reading 80,000+ words.

It is curious, however, that no one from the Facebook campaign chose to become a new follower of either my Facebook page nor this website. They read through all the work, which is as yet unfinished, but did not click the link to sign up to be notified when the next scene is available. I’m going to presume they bookmarked the site in their browser and will just periodically check back — maybe? — but perhaps I need to investigate why people are reluctant to hit that “follow” button. I have some thoughts on this, but no real data.

Next Steps

Needless to say, this is encouraging. I’ll continue writing as long as anyone continues reading. For the sake of being thorough, I should also do an identically configured Google AdWords campaign to see how that stacks up. I haven’t yet decided if I’m ready to spend another $50 to find out, but maybe.

Otherwise, is there much point to advertising when I don’t yet have a finished book to sell? Obviously I have no way to turn that investment into any kind of revenue, not yet. However, it never hurts to generate some buzz around the unfinished work, so that people are eager for the final publication. I can’t say if I really achieved that, but I did get my work in front of quite a few more people than I ever had before. And, I have some thoughts about where to focus my investment when I do have a book to sell. Indeed, this experiment turned my expectations upside down, as I had been led to believe that Twitter would be the more effective platform, yet the reverse was true, and by an entire order of magnitude.

Other than more advertising, this experiment has encouraged me to post more often on Facebook and become more engaging there, whereas previously I mostly only posted there when new scenes were available. Twitter had been my “engagement” platform of choice. I will definitely still engage there, but I will broaden my horizon a bit.

What do you think? Did you see the ad? If so, on which platform? Did it cause you to click through, and is that why you’re here now reading this post about how I manipulated you into doing so? How many scenes of the story did you read, and did the story engage you? Will you come back to read more?

Or, if you’re another writer, have you advertised, and if so, what has been your experience?

I look forward to hearing from you.


header image credit: Photo Mix / pixabay.com via Pixabay License

Chapter 8 and Escape (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Silently they slipped between the rocky headlands forming the lagoon, seeing them as no more than dark patches blotting the multitudinous stars from the sky above and their reflection from the still waters below. With but a whisper of wind to pull the lateen sail, the small trimaran all but ghosted beyond reach of the solid shore and into the vast deep of the ocean beyond.

A subtle glow emanated from beyond one shoulder of the island, limning the cliff edges along the lower slopes. That way lay the main lagoon and the docks on the beach, Anna knew. That way lay the Orta craft, and the glow no doubt was its landing lights. Anna took comfort that the high-tech craft remained in the lagoon and not out searching the waters for she and her companions, even as she realized it bode poorly for the Kwakitl of the island.

She turned away from the island, allowing her eyes to adjust to the night sky and the sea. Though moonless, the stars lit the nighttime waters to the far horizon, and there, just west of due north, though she needed no compass to tell her the direction, fell the straight, thin line of the space elevator, its impossibly high reaches still lit by the long-set sun, until it descended into darkness. For many weeks this beacon had called out to her, and finally she could point her tiny ship, her craft of avian manufacture, straight toward it. No more detours, all her crew were aboard, and as they pulled away from the lee of the island in their wake, the southeast trades steadily grew and pushed them toward their goal.

Read more at

Escape

(1,874 words; 7 min 29 sec reading time)

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Thus begins Chapter 8 of our continuing story, and also a new phase of Anna’s, Laxmi’s, and Jaci’s adventure. Our intrepid heroes have slipped the bonds of Ar-Danel, the island of the Kwakitl, with the aid of none other than Ca-Seti, or Gamma as Anna first knew the grizzled old fisherman-soldier. Those they thought their captors have become their accomplices, and those they think friends… well, none can say at this point who is friend, and who is foe. Escaping the Orta invasion, Anna and her friends hope to sail the small Kwakitl boat to the base of the space elevator, a shining goal always visible, and so far always just out of reach. They don’t know what they will find when they get there; they don’t know if it will help them return to orbit or, like so much else on this poor planet, it will be yet another piece of ancient technology long fallen into disrepair.

They don’t even know if they will get that far, as the newly-arrived Orta with their high-tech machines are clearly looking for them.

What will happen next? Read on, and stay tuned!

Have a thought about the story so far, or a question, or a suggestion? Drop me a line in the comments below!


header image credit: user:enriquelopezgarre / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Breaking the Silence

My friends, I have some good news!

It’s no secret that 2020 has been a less than productive year for me as a writer. Indeed, it has been more than three months since I last wrote a sentence of creative fiction.

Until today.

That’s right, as of today, the muse has returned! And while the next scene is not quite ready for publication, I can tell you that it is well underway and you should definitely look for it to be available before the weekend is out. I know, I know, I left you on a cliffhanger three months ago, but of course I did! I want you coming back for more, don’t I?

So, rather than go into a laundry list of all the (very good, I assure you) reasons why I haven’t been writing, I far prefer to tell you that I am indeed writing again, and feeling quite good about it. Perhaps the break has even recharged my prose! We shall see. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Stay tuned, friends. Less than twenty-four hours…

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header image credit: Matt Fraser, 2021

Confrontation (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Avian voices filled the air, a cacophony of alarm. Anna needed no translator to understand the fear in those cries rising up from the beach below. Kwakitl bodies pressed back toward the cliff in their collective alarm to get away from the eight-limbed space-suited visitor, standing on its hovercraft vessel.

Read more at

Confrontation

(2,040 words; 8 min 9 sec reading time)

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It has been a busy time over here at Silence Central (heh, see what I did there?), so even though this scene has been ready for two weeks, it has taken me until now to find a moment to post it.

Why so long? Well, for one, we had a major water leak into our condo from the unit upstairs, and so the past week has been spent (once again) living in the wind tunnel of blowers, driers, and dehumidifiers to get all the moisture out of the ceiling and walls. Thankfully, that’s now done. It was nearly impossible to think straight with the constant loud noise and the temperature in the unit rising close to 100° F in the tented off area being worked on, and 85° to 95° in other rooms. Outside of that? It has also been quite the time at work, what with start-of-school and all schooling in my city now being remote. Part of my day job involves helping with that effort, on top of my regular duties.

And, it still takes me from one to two full, solid hours just to paste the scene into a new page in WordPress, format the page to my liking, find and add some artwork, then create all the various links (from the previous scene, from the chapter overview, from the novel overview, from the site menu, plus hints on the homepage that something has been updated), and finally to write this, a blog post about it. Whoever thought it would be so much work just to share?

Nevertheless, I do still enjoy sharing as I go, and I hope you enjoy reading it, too. I’m sure a few of you have been eagerly waiting to find out what will happen next, now that the dreaded Orta have arrived on the scene! Will they be friendly, or hostile? Will they help or hinder Anna’s cause of rescuing herself and her friends from being marooned on this alien planet? What will the suspicious Kwakitl do?

Read on to find out! And as always, drop me a line to let me know what you think, and even what you think should happen next. The conclusion of this story is not yet written, so anything could happen….


header image credit: Udo Reitter / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Visitors (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued…)

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The remainder of the day passed without incident. The guards remained at their post, silent and resolute, completely ignoring any attempt to speak with them. Occasionally others would pass by through the corridor outside, and Anna would catch curious glances into their chamber, but none approached the entrance nor engaged with the guards.

After several hours, with her stomach rumbling, Anna began to wonder if they would simply be left to starve, but just as she determined to speak up, a Kwakitl arrived with a tray of hot food. A quick squawk with the guards, and the Kwakitl was allowed in with the tray. He set the tray down in the center of the chamber without a word and without looking at any of them, and then left.

After eating, they were allowed, one at a time and accompanied by one of the guards, to visit the washroom. For that Anna was thankful.

She did not sleep well that night, turning fitfully on her pallet of cushions while her mind roamed across all that had happened, and all that might be happening at that moment. Who were the new arrivals? Why did the Kwakitl assume culpability or ill intent on the part of the humans? She had no answers for these questions. She rolled over to find Jaci watching her.

Read more at

Visitors

(1,388 words; 5 min 33 sec reading time)

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As promised, this scene is ready for you to read less than a week after the previous scene! That might be almost unprecedented for me, eh? Furthermore, I’m already halfway through writing the next scene, so you won’t have very long to wait for that one. And, given that I’m confined to the condo due to my city being totally smoke-filled at the moment, to point of the air being labeled as very hazardous to breathe, I’d say the chances of me completing that scene this weekend, and perhaps even posting it, are pretty good.

On a side note, yeah, things are pretty smoky in Seattle just now. We’re in no actual fire danger, but it’s definitely not good to be outside. The sky looks almost alien, a dirty yellow obscuring smoke and fog — smog — that makes me think we’re on the surface of Venus. Minus the crushing pressure and melting temperature, of course.

On another side note, this is now my second posting using the new WordPress Block Editor. While I can understand why folks who enjoy getting technical with custom CSS code might like it, overall, I feel this has been a reduction in functionality, and it definitely slows down my productive (and increases my frustration!). Many things I used to do quite easily, including inserting images and hyperlinks, are now much more difficult. Unfortunately, switching back to the Classic Editor is no longer an option. I can insert “Classic Blocks” which will emulate that editor’s look and feel for a particular set of paragraphs, but it’s not just the blocks (horrible name, by the way) — the entire editor’s functionality, toolbars, etc, have changed in a way that feels like a regression to me.

Dang it, who moved my cheese!

Ok, whinging and whining over.

So, tell me what you think about the scene! How about the interactions between the characters (there’s definitely some change going on)?


header image credit: user:kalhh / pixabay.com under Pixabay License