Karin Tanabe’s gripping new historical novel, The Gilded Years (Washington Square Press, June 7, 2016) is based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar College. With “spot on” dialogue and “narration reminiscent of novels of the 1890s” (Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August), Tanabe has crafted a tonally masterful yet supremely relevant narrative on race, women’s rights, and the challenges of finding one’s place in the world.
Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend Vassar, the country’s most exclusive school for women. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: she is the only African-American student ever to attend the college. With her olive complexion and dark hair, she has successfully passed as white for three years, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.
Anita Hemmings (Archives & Special Collections, Vassar College Library)
Pulled into Lottie’s elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a relationship with a moneyed Harvard man. With this closeness comes trouble, however, as Anita faces what it truly means to pass: the guilt of betraying her family, of lying to her friends, of cutting herself off from her community in exchange for an education. As Anita’s relationships with Lottie and her affluent classmates grow closer, she must make the near impossible decision of whether to choose the love of a man who can open doors she could not reach on her own, or to be true to her heritage and return home to her family after graduation, leaving the ease of white society behind in favor of a different sort of freedom.
Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal. The Gilded Years is a riveting account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life (Hemmings Photo Credit: Archives & Special Collections, Vassar College Library).
“An utterly captivating narrative that kept me turning pages late into the night.”–Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author ofThe Kitchen House
“Karin Tanabe limns the tensions of a young woman’s desire to participate fully in a world in which she doesn’t dare reveal her full self…Most impressive are the characters’ emotional complexity; Tanabe understands that human relations are never so simple as black and white.” –Christina Schwarz, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“This engaging novel, set in a time of conflict between old money and new ideas, captures both the bravery and the heartbreak of Anita’s decision…Readers won’t soon forget Anita Hemmings or the choices she made.” –BookPage
“In Anita’s captivating story, heightened by richly drawn characters, Tanabe insightfully grapples with complex and compelling issues.” –Booklist
Karin Tanabe is the author of the novels The List and The Price of Inheritance. The Gilded Years is her third novel. A former Politicoreporter and a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, her work has also appeared in publications including The Washington Post,The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald,Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer and in the anthology Crush: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing and the Lasting Power of Their First Celebrity Crush. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and daughter.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Who do you trust? Everyone? No one? Some people? Sometimes?
Are you ready to begin your trust trek? If you are, consider this: Whether you are walking, running, flying in a plane, or cruising on a boat, trust is operating somewhere in your consciousness. From the time you get out of bed in the morning until the time you fall asleep at night, you are functioning, operating, and depending on something or someone you trust. For some strange reason we have come to believe that trust is something that we can do or not do. The truth is that trust as a state of being and a state of mind develops and unfolds in response to our willingness to be alive.
In best-selling author Iyanla Vanzant’s new book, Trust, she encourages you to live the rest of your life with trust. In this compelling volume, filled with illuminating and heartrendingly powerful stories of broken trust, betrayal, and triumph, Iyanla demonstrates why the four essential trusts—Trust in Self, Trust in God, Trust in Others, and Trust in Life—are like oxygen: without them, none of us can survive.
That’s right! Just staying alive is an act of trust. If you don’t believe me, exhale and try not to inhale…If you allowed your body to take that next breath, you were trusting that it would happen, that you could do it, and that everything would be fine until you were ready to do it again.
Order your copy of Trust before December 20, 2015 and receive these very special gifts from Iyanla:
Peace from Broken Pieces Audio Download of Book (valued at $39.99)
Iyanla Vanzant recounts the last decade of her life and the spiritual lessons learned—from the price of success during her meteoric rise as a TV celebrity on Oprah, the Iyanla TV show (produced by Barbara Walters), to the dissolution of her marriage and her daughter’s 15 months of illness and death on Christmas day.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Iyanla shares why everything we need to learn is reflected in our relationships and the strength and wisdom she has gained by supporting others in their journeys to make sense out of the puzzle pieces of their lives.
Radio Show Bundle “Ask Iyanla!” (valued at $48.00, gift expires on December 20, 2015)
Iyanla answers questions from the audience about various life challenges and experiences. From relationship problem, career question, or just need some straight talk about life problems, no question is off limits.
Back in 1998, Iyanla Vanzant was our very first best-selling author. Since then she has graced our bestsellers list numerous times. Her books have sold well, for so long, because they resonate with people. Her struggles are our struggles. Her success can be ours too, if we listen and trust.
Writers, if you are using Facebook to promote your work—especially paid promotion— invest 30 minutes of your time to watch these two videos, and read the article. It will probably change the way you think about Facebook and save you some time, energy, and money.
AALBC.com’s Last 3 Million Visitors
As a content publisher, marketing is part of the job. As an independent publisher, with limited resources, it is critical I use my resources wisely. My website’s analytics is an important tool for me. Below is a Google Analytics report which shows the source of AALBC.com’s last 3 million visitors.
Organic Search Brings AALBC.com 75% of Our Visitors
Ranking high on Google and Bing’s search engine results contributed to bringing AALBC.com more than 75% of our last 3 million visitors.
Creating high quality content, results in higher rankings in search engine results¹. The creation of high quality content is perfectly aligned with AALBC.com’s goal. No writer or content producer could reasonably argue against a system where the creation of higher quality content results in more visitors. Visitors, of course, are a primary driver of revenue for a website.
Direct Traffic is Not Too Shabby Either at 13%
The source of our direct traffic is trickier to nail down precisely, but it does result from visitors who come to AALBC.com, by clicking a link on my emailed newsletter, through a bookmarked page, typing an AALBC.com page directly into the browser, and any instance where referral data is not passed².
With all the hype surrounding social media, and Facebook in particular, many writers are ignoring time tested marketing techniques, like a solid mailing list. Our mailing list has just under 11,000 subscribers, and 100% of them have opened an email within the last 6 months (we actively remove subscribers who haven’t). Open rates for a typical mailing is at least 20%. This means every mailing will be opened by at least 2,000 readers. In addition, many of our subscribers are generous enough to be paid subscribers. We also send a mailing, once a month, that is sponsored. Not only is our eNewsletter an effective way to reach our audience, it is a revenue generator.
Approximately 90% of our traffic is generated directly and through organic search. The remaining 10% comes from other websites including social media.
Facebook Brings AALBC.com 1% of Our Visitors
It is interesting to note that Wikipedia and Rottentomatoes (RT, a film review aggregator website) sends us just about as many visitors as Facebook.
Publishers have the ability to post links back to their websites on related Wikipedia articles. In general this practice is considered “promotion” and is purportedly against Wikipedia’s guidelines. Despite that, I’ve followed the lead of major corporations and posted links back to related AALBC.com content. As the report shows the tactic works as well as engaging on Facebook, but with a fraction of the effort.
I post interesting AALBC.com content on Facebook almost every day (I’ve shared this article on Facebook too). Again, Wikipedia, where I have not posted a thing in over a year and is free, drives as much traffic as Facebook where I post almost every day and have paid for promotion.
If I add Facebook mobile, Facebook made up just 1.3% of my overall traffic (40K of 3M+ visitors). Of course it is better to have those visitors than not, right? Well that depends on the effort it takes to get those visitors, and what those visitors do when they visit AALBC.com.
Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach
One major problem with Facebook is that the quality of your content is of little significance. Facebook controls who sees your content. Search engines control who sees your content too, but search engines are motivated, and rewarded, by giving visitors quality search results. Facebook, on the other hand, is motivated by maximizing their revenue and engagement on their website.
I have watched AALBC.com’s Facebook page “likes” quadruple over the last couple of years, while organic (free) post engagement has dropped substantially. This is Facebook’s way to create an incentive for marketers to pay for post promotion. I have experimented with paying for post promotion, but I have yet to reach the level of engagement I enjoyed organically, a few years ago, with far fewer fans.
AALBC.com Last (and Final) Promoted Post Statistics
Despite having more than 20,000 fans and almost 5,000 friends, I reach less than 300 people organically with a typical post. If I spend $7, I can increase this to 2,000. But still, this is less than 10% of my fan base and I have to pay to reach them.
Keep in mind this is an audience that I built through my efforts of actively engaging with people on Facebook.
And of course all of this assumes you can trust the data the information being provided to you from Facebook. As the videos above assert there is a lot of click fraud occurring on Facebook. Are the 2,310 people I paid to see my ad real? Are the 19 who clicked the link real? If you ask me, I’d say, “no.”
Take a look at a report (below) which shows the “people” who clicked on my Facebook advertisement. The ad ran for 7 days, from October 1 to October 7, 2015. You will see that the Avg. Session Duration is 00:00:00—this is ZERO time spent on the website! Whatever clicked the link on my Facebook advertisement didn’t even wait for the page to load. Needless to say, my content could not have possibly been read, nor could a book purchase have taken place.
The average session time for my websites is measured, not in seconds, but minutes. A zero second session time is absurd. Even someone visiting a page by mistake, will take second or two before realizing it, and leaving the page.
Sadly, there is no shortage of social media marketing “experts” who promise to help you maximize the effectiveness your advertising campaigns on Facebook.
Few of us are sophisticated enough to evaluate the effectiveness of these experts or the effectiveness of a Facebook advertising, particularly when the data supplied by Facebook is suspect. Indeed, many social media marketers would claim, “We got you 2,310 views for only $7.” When in reality, what I got, in this case, was ripped off.
Someone looking at this report may notice that all of the Facebook referrals came from mobile users (m.faceboo.com/) and claim, well Troy your website, AALBC.com, is not optimized for mobile displays. That is true, but the page I was advertising is optimized for mobile displays. In fact the link is to a newly redesigned version of AALBC.com which will be officially rolled out in early 2016.
For writers and other content producers managing their own websites, with limited resources, adding the additional effort of maintaining a Facebook page comes at the expense of maintaining and publishing content on your own website. A compromise that few of us can really afford to make. That $7, I wasted with Facebook, could have gone toward paying a writer for content that a reader visiting my website would enjoy, and that another website link to.
Why would I continue to take precious resources away from the production of quality content on AALBC.com, which is responsible for 90% of our visitors, and generates revenue, and redirect those resources to Facebook, who we have to pay, to bring of 1% of our visitors, many of whom are probably fraudulent?
On top of that, by promoting posts (a form of advertising on Facebook), I’m literally paying Facebook to provide them with free content. Continuing to do this defies all reason and logic, so I have stopped.
As mentioned in the first video above, the YouTube social network pays content producers for publishing videos on their platform. This is the way it is supposed to work. Facebook should be paying us for publishing content on their websites.
Independent Websites Send More Visitors to AALBC.com Than All of Social Media
Individually, none of these sites (see a short sample listing on the right) are sending as much traffic to AALBC.com, as Facebook, but collectively they send much more—and therein lies our potential. We just need to recognize the power we have and use it.
Often, the only effort on my part, to get another website to link to AALBC.com, is to publish content that the website’s owner feels is valuable enough to link to. AALBC.com links to thousands of other websites; rarely do we publish a document that does not link to another website. Sites linking to each other naturally (organically) is the true nature of the World Wide Web.
Another strategy get referral traffic from other websites is to engage on their discussion forums or comment on their articles. To be clear, I’m not saying spam the comments section of websites with unrelated promotional material. What I am saying is look for articles related to what you may have written and comment in a meaningful or helpful way. A properly curated and managed site, welcomes this type of interaction.
AALBC.com has operated a discussion forum for over 15 years. Authors are encouraged to post information about their books and engage with readers. However, author have turned to my Facebook page instead of using my website. I’m seriously considering removing the Facebook page as it is cannibalizing visitors to AALBC.com.
Posting information about one’s books on related Facebook pages or another user’s wall is a strategy many use. This has resulted in many groups degenerating into a places where writers make “drive by posts,” sharing content from their own pages without even visiting the groups that they are posting to.
Even if many people engage with your content on Facebook, this serves to highlight Facebook’s site, not yours. A very small fraction of people will actually leave Facebook—and why should they if you are constantly posting on Facebook.
Unfortunately, a Facebook page is becoming the ONLY web presence for many writers and even businesses—they don’t maintain a website at all. Even a simple website is far more feature rich than a Facebook page can be. If we factored in Facebook’s invasion of our privacy, selling our personal data, and controlling access to updates; the choice between a Facebook page and a website should be a no-brainer.
If this trend continues the world wide web will be a far less rich place as folks migrate from maintaining websites to creating Facebook pages. Profits generated on the web will be concentrated at the top, greatly reducing the potential for independent websites to grow and for new ones to get started.
For a content producer having a Facebook page as your only web presence is a mistake. Because you are limiting your audience, not just to Facebook users, but to the Facebook users (real or otherwise) you pay Facebook to show it to.
Many writers will tell readers to “follow me on Facebook” and fail to mention their own website, or blog. Some writers even put the Facebook logo on their business card and marketing material. Even AALBC.com has Facebook icons on virtually every page. We give no other entity, save Twitter, as much free promotion as we give Facebook.
All of this attention paid to Facebook reduces attention paid to websites. In fact many excellent writers, have just given up blogging, or their blogs languish in obscurity, because they not getting enough visitors to make it worth the effort to maintain. Engaging more aggressively on Facebook, to increase blog readership, is not helping.
The Facebook Game is Rigged
Some might suggest that if you are only getting 1% of your traffic from Facebook, then you must be doing something wrong. Well you are not. The game is simply rigged against you as I hope my reports, these videos, and perhaps your personal experience has demonstrated.
Now if Facebook was sending AALBC.com thousands of visitors, who spent time on the website, this article would not have been written. If there were countless stories of bloggers, magazines, newspapers and writers who realized tremendous success and an increase of readership through their efforts on Facebook, this article would not be necessary.
Instead what I’m experiencing, witnessing and learning in my research is a very different story. It is also a story that is not being told, especially in the Black community.
There is Hope
AALBC.com’s time, energy and money will continue to be directed to two primary activities moving forward;
Producing Quality Content
I first started AALBC.com exactly 18 years ago today (October 10, 1997). Providing a platform to connecting readers with books about Black culture is what attracts people to this website. Our planned website upgrade will allow us to share information on books in a way that no other website is currently doing.
Advocating, Sharing , and Collaborating with Other Independent Websites Spread the word about websites you enjoy. Figure out ways to collaborate with other websites. Post comments in the comments section of those websites. If we don’t have an network of strong, independent websites working together, none of us will survive, and our only option will be a Facebook page (or a page on whatever platform has the most power at the time).
Despite all the caution described about Facebook, we can, for now at least, make Facebook work for us, rather than the other way around, without spending a penny, by simply sharing content on the platform.
If you found this message helpful (or not), please comment below and share it with others.
¹ Of course this is a simplification. There are other strategies one can employ to rank higher in organic search engine results, without producing high quality content. Search engines are engaged in a constant effort to defeat those that “game” the system, to rank higher in search results, with lower quality content. Search engines don’t always get it right, but it is a very difficult task.
² I really should take advantage of tagging URLs. This will help me identify of the “Direct” traffic in my analytics reports. In fact, I’m also contemplating paying writers by the traffic they help generate to the website, through the use of tracked URLs.
³ In 2012, Facebook famously restricted organic reach of content published from brand pages to about 16 percent. In December 2013, another round of changes reduced it even more. By February 2014, according to a Social@Ogilvy analysis of more than 100 brand pages, organic reach hovered at 6 percent, a decline of 49 percent from peak levels in October. (All of the detailed data, analysis and practical recommendations are in their white paper.)