Tag Archives: tips

Serious Problems With Facebook Promotion

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.   last-3000000-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.

Side Bar: I actually stopped posting on Wikipedia over a year ago; the last straw was a battle I had with one of Wikipedia’s editors who seemed hell bent on promoting Zane’s tax liabilities and marginalizing her numerous achievements.

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 Reach³

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.

Again, I used to achieve this level of reach without having to pay for it. But those days are over as Facebook has made it clear that organic reach is a thing of the past³ .

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

otherwebsites-linking-to-aalbcIf you were able to scan further down the list of the sources of AALBC.com last 3 million visitors, you would to see the impact of other websites.  If all of the visitors, from hundreds of others sites, that link to AALBC.com were added together they easily exceed all of social media referrals—not just Facebook!  Here is a google search showing other sites with links to AALBC.com, excluding Facebook and Twitter.

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.

There are websites however that don’t recognize our collective strength and actively avoid linking to other websites. Once I ran into a problem with Ebony Magazine, posting in their comments, and got my feeling hurt 😉  But websites that react the way Ebony are exceptions and definitely not the rule.

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;

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)


Join the Fight for Independence on the Web

Join the Fight for Independence on the Web

This article is intended for writers and other content providers, who are active on social media and have a goal of generating revenue from their content.  However, people who use social media to share photos and thoughts with friends and family can benefit from reading this article too.

The best way to experience AALBC.com’s content is not through the peep hole of a 140 character tweet or a stripped-down, plain text post on a Facebook wall, but by visiting the website and enjoying our curated, multimedia content.  This may sound obvious to anyone reading this blog post.  However, given the energy I’ve invested posting content on a variety of social media platforms, it might not be obvious by observing my behavior.

As a publisher of book reviews, interviews, videos and articles, I generate revenue by attracting visitors to this website.   For over 16 years I’ve been pretty good at it, particularly when you consider the content, books written by or about Black people, is not the most popular subject on the Web.

After years of experience using social media to market AALBC.com, I’ve noticed several adverse trends.  As a result, I’ve decided to not allocate my increasingly limited resources to social media.

“So Troy, why bore us with the details?  Why don’t you stop whining, take your marbles and leave social media already?”

Well this is issue is much bigger than me or AALBC.com.  In fact, I’ve been doing relatively well, compared to my peers, using social media to drive traffic to my website.  Consider a snapshot of the insights of an AALBC.com Facebook post highlighting the work of Peniel E. Joseph (less than 24 hours old at the time of this writing):

Peniel Insight Image

There is nothing unusual about this post. Some of my posts perform better, and others perform worse, depending upon the metrics considered.  As you can see (click the image for a enlarged view), the Peniel post was viewed 1,827 times in less than 24 hours and the link was clicked six times.  While this may not sound like a lot of clicks, the ratio between the number people who saw the post, and the number who clicked the link it contained, is relatively good.  Besides, it only took about 10 seconds to share the information.

“Now I’m really confused Troy.  If Facebook is working for you, then what are you complaining about?

The popular belief is social media is a mandatory tool for anyone interested in promoting their business.  The vast majority of us have brought into the hype without question.  The reality is everything we do on Facebook, to drive traffic to our websites, enriches Facebook and depreciates our websites.  The minor, short-lived, benefit some of us might extract individually is simply not worth what we give up collectively.

everythEverything we do on Facebooking-we-doPrior to the popularity of social media, generating traffic was much easier.  It was very common for a writers to refer visitors to other writers’ websites.  We had related links pages, web-rings, blog rolls and other ways of promoting and supporting each other online.  Today there better tools that could allow independent websites, acting together, to be much more effective at promotion that Facebook can alone.

The more power we give to Facebook, social media in general, the less control we have over what is seen on the Web.  I suspect you have already noticed the effect of social media’s dominance of the Web; scandalous or celebrity driven content is recycled and dominates what we see; sponsored content (paid advertisements) masks itself as news and editorial; and advertisements are embedded everywhere you look.

Another profound and troubling problem is the ongoing weakening of platforms dedicated to promoting Black books and authors.  In a 2011 article, Black Book Websites Need Love Too, I noticed that we were losing Black book website’s at an alarming rate.   That trend has continued; the remaining sites are receiving fewer visitors and generating less revenue as a result.  With less revenue, the ability to create content and attract visitors is diminished, furthering increasing downward pressure on revenue.  Pretty soon the website is no longer a viable business—assuming it ever was.

It is an extremely hostile environment for independent websites today.  Despite social media new websites have virtually no chance to build an audience.  So not only are we losing what we had, new websites are discouraged from ever launching.

Ironically, these conditions tend to drive people to social media even more, because it is much easier to establish a web presence on a social media platform than launch and maintain an independent website.  But the result is more people competing for attention on that social platform and everyone ends up being heard by fewer people.  The writers and potential readers are the losers.  The social media platform is the only winner.  Indeed, the more we struggle to be heard, by being more “social” or paying to promote posts, the more the social media platform profits—whether we connect with our readers or not.

If what we are losing from independent websites was compensated by equivalent content on social media, it would not be so completely tragic.  Not surprisingly, social media has failed miserably in delivering the richness and variety offered by individual websites.  This is understandable as the goal of social media is to maximize revenue for their owners.  Independent websites, on the other hand, are primarily driven by their mission.

Social media is seemingly an impossibly tough opponent in the competition for visitors.  As writers and owners of websites we can not continue to exacerbate the problem by fueling our competition with content and sending traffic directly to social media with every “Follow me on Facebook” request.  The trick is to exploit social media, not to allow social media to exploit us.

AALBC.com is not immune to these pressures.  I’ve been able to grow and monetize my eNewsletter, obtain concessions from vendors, use my time more effectively and leverage the support of partners in creative ways.

Actually, I’m not pulling up my social media stakes completely.  I plan to continue to share some of AALBC.com’s updates with on social media, but posts will executed remotely from AALBC.com, using AddThis.  For automated social media updates I’ll use Twitterfeed.  I suspect my remote and automated updates will eventually be shown less frequently by social media and therefore become less effective, but I will continue to adapt my strategies as I have done over the last two decades.

I will only engage with readers on independent platforms.  Engaging with readers on social media platforms about AALBC.com content is the activity that saps the most of my time and provides social media the most value.  In the past I often found myself engaging with readers on AALBC.com and multiple platforms over the same content—I can no longer afford to do this.

Today writers struggle over the effective management of their social media.  This is understandable as they are often judged more by the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers than the quality of their writing.   Again, many say social media is a requirement—in fact I was one of these people.  When you consider the fact, the majority of top earning authors barely use Twitter and many don’t even have an account, you have the question the value.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  This is a tough problem, but not an intractable one.  If we do nothing, diversity on the World Wide Web will continue to decline.  In exchange, we will be left with a handful of social media platforms algorithmically determining what we see and how we see it, invading our privacy and profiting from the content we provide.

My goal is not to get rid of social media (though personally, I would not miss it for split  second).  My goal is to ensure that independent websites not only survive, but thrive.  The last thing I want to see is a world where the presentation of Black books (our culture really) is controlled, owned and operated by a corporation, solely driven by profit.  With the closure of the most of the Black owned bookstores over the past decade, we are essentially at a place today where Black books can only be purchased online from Amazon.

Remember, as writers it is our content that provides the most value to social media.  It is time we work together to reap the fruits of our labor and stop the digital sharecropping.

I’m working with others to develop strategies for us all to utilize our collective websites, to share and promote our content.  If you are interested in learning more, sharing your experience or joining our effort, email me at troy@aalbc.com or share your ideas in the comments below.

Finally, if you are a writer with a website send readers to YOUR website and encourage them to engage you there.  If people are desperate to find you on a social media platform, they know already how to do it.  Social media does not need any additional promotion, but our websites certainly do.

Join the fight for independence on the Web.

5 Things Writers Must Do To Survive Online

Today, despite all the technology and social media at our disposal, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the average writer to earn a living through their writing.  A few powerful corporations are reversing many of the benefits and gains writers have achieved as a result of the World Wide Web (Web).  This does not have to continue.

Almost twenty years ago, the Web became available to the public, to utilize in ways limited only by our imaginations.  By the late 1990’s software made it easy for writers to create their own websites and blogs.  Coupled with the self-publishing revolution, fueled by print on demand and ebooks, writers were able to publish anything they wanted.  They were also able use the Web to attract and interact with their target audience.

fas typing at keyboardIt was an exhilarating time as the volume and variety of stories and ideas that were expressed online increased dramatically.  Gatekeepers at corporate owned media no longer controlled what was published.  Rejection was no longer based upon what was deemed most marketable or appealed to a particular editor.

Not only could writers publish anything they wanted, they could also earn money for their efforts.  The more successful writers might be able to earn a living, the most successful ones could become wealthy.

Unfortunately the Web is rapidly becoming controlled by a handful of very powerful corporations.  These powerful corporate entities hinder the efforts of writers to independently connect with their readers and generate revenue using their own platforms.   These corporations are solely interested in maximizing revenue.  The adverse impact on writers, or the world wide web itself, is seemingly of no concern.

In the relentless pursuit of more revenue, these powerful corporations are killing independent websites using a number of tactics including controlling what is discoverable through search (reference: “Google is King — not Content” and “Google Worsens Web Experience by Retuning Poor Search Results”).

These corporations are also exploiting the efforts of writers who feel it is necessary to give their content, to the wealthiest of corporations, just to reach an audience they are no longer able to reach with their own websites.  Ironically, these writers are giving their content to the very same powers that are colluding to thwarting their own independent efforts, further exacerbating.  The barriers to entry are back up.

Writers can survive, even thrive, online but we must do things differently.  Here are just five of many potential actions that can help.

1 – Establish Your Own Website
Every writer should have their own website.  A Facebook fan page or a presence on any other social media website is not the same thing.  Indeed hosting your content solely on a social media platform only enriches the corporation that owns that platform.  Register a domain name and take advantage of one of the many applications like WordPress to create your own web presence.

I’m not suggesting that one should not have a presence on social media.   However, I do suggest that social media be used to direct people to your website, where your actual should reside — not the other way around.  Telling a potential reader to, like you on Facebook, or find you on Twitter, not only gives Twitter and Facebook free advertising, but it also sends readers visitors to those websites where they usually stay.  Direct readers to your website first.

I also discourage using social media as your primary platform because all the revenue generated, as a result of your work, goes to the corporation who owns the platform.  Your writing on most social media sites is fleeting, from the reader’s perspective.  Unless readers are online when you post your content, they are much less likely to see it, given the deluge of other information they are bombarded with.  Social media also controls, in ways not made clear, who and how often your writing is seen.  Writers feel increasingly pressured to buy, relatively expensive advertising, just to have their writing noticed on the social media platform!

Retrieving and organizing older content is often very hard if not impossible.  You don’t even control your own contacts — but the social media site does.   What happens when the social media site goes away?  How many of us have abandoned MySpace profiles and all the content and connections created there?  Building your own mailing list is still a much better way to reach your readers.

Finally, privacy is a huge problem.  How your data is used, shared with others, and monetized is completely out of your control.

2 – Link to an Independent Book Store’s Website for Online Sales
If you visit any author’s website and you should find a link to purchase their books online.  Some authors fulfill their own online orders, but you will often find a link to Amazon.com as well.  Every author should also provide a link to an independent bookstore’s website to facilitate online orders wit that store.  It does not matter which one, just pick one that can fulfill orders directly.

By linking to a independent store for online sales you also increase the potential for in store sales and promotion.  You will also help promote the store, increase the store’s potential to generate revenue. and build valuable goodwill.  If you need help finding an independent store to support you may visit IndieBound.org or Huria.org for a list.

In discussing this idea with some authors, a couple mentioned they are uncomfortable linking to a single store because they don’t want to show favoritism to one store over another.  Sure there is a risk a store may become upset over not being listed on a given author’s website, but linking to no independent stores while maintaining a link to Amazon just hurts the independents and enriches Amazon even more.

save revolution booksIt is true the web has made purchasing books much more efficient and certainly less expensive.  It may also be true that these efficiencies have resulted in the need for fewer bookstores, certainly poorly run stores.  This however, combined with the bankruptcy of Borders Book & Music and Barnes & Noble’s recent announcement of their plans to close at least 20 stores a year over the next decade, means many of us will no longer have access to a brick and mortar bookstore, let alone an independent one.

Independent book stores play an important role for both writers and the reading community.  We must actively support them if we want them to remain open.   Today Amazon sells more books than every other bookseller combined.  Do we want a world in which books can only be purchased online from Amazon?

Side Bar: Here is information on two independent stores, at risk of closing, that have asked the community for help; Revolution Books in New York City and Marcus Books in the San Francisco.

3 – NEVER Link to Amazon Without Using an Affiliate Code
I get information on books every single day with links directing me to Amazon.  The vast majority of these links do not have affiliate codes applied.  By joining Amazon’s Affiliate Program and applying an affiliate code, an on-line bookseller can generate commissions of up to 8.5% on books from Amazon (excluding booksellers residing; Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina, or Rhode Island).

AmazonFailing to use an affiliate code is simply leaving money on the table.  If you can’t or don’t want to join Amazon’s affiliate program.  You can very easily use AALBC.com affiliate code.  Just substitute your book’s ISBN-10 in the following URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385535988/ref=nosim/aalbccom-20

Not only does this generate commissions for AALBC.com, providing us with much needed support, but books sales generated through these links also count toward AALBC.com bestsellers list.   This will result in a lot of free promotion for any book that makes the list.  This is win-win for the author, AALBC.com, or any on-line book seller whose affiliate code is used.

The affiliate code rule applies to all of the large corporate booksellers including Barnes & Noble.com, Booksamillion.com, iTumes, etc.  I chose Amazon.com, for this example, because it is the site authors most frequently link to and Amazon also has a well run affiliate program.    If any big corporate site does not offer an affiliate program, I suggest that you stop sending visitors to that site to purchase books.

4 – Link to Other Independent Websites
When individuals began creating websites in the mid 1990’s, before there were search engines, people would recommend other websites they found interesting and useful, by providing links to those websites.   Often it was as simple as creating a list of “Favorite Websites” or a “Related Links” page.   Groups of related websites often banded together and formed webrings (a set of sites linked together in a circular structure).  Before “social” media became the rage, the web was actually more collaborative — it had to be.

Today, the majority of writers provide free promotion for large corporate social media websites by prominently placing social media logos and linking to them from their websites.  At the same time, links to independent websites has become a thing of the past.  Over the last few years, I’ve seen far too many book platforms; stores, websites, magazines, blogs, book review, and other related sites struggle in obscurity or just wither away partially because of the lack of support from other websites.

In order for writers to thrive online we need an environment with healthy, robust and diverse websites dedicated to writers, books and related subjects.  Linking to websites you like is just the start, but also visit them periodically and read, share and critique their content.

5 – Stop Writing for Wealthy Websites for Free
I recently wrote an article called, “The Pimping of Wikipedia.”  In the article, I describe how the work of countless researchers and writers, laboring for free, is taken by Google and Amazon and used to generate revenue.  Amazon’s “Shopping-enabled Wikipedia Page” is a carbon copy of a Wikipedia page with anything that  can be purchased from Amazon hyper-linked to enable an immediate purchase! Here is an example a Shopping-enabled Wikipedia Page for a prominent author.

coporations want information for freeThe monetization of Wikipedia by Amazon is a brilliant idea, but why would any writer volunteer to enrich Amazon without sharing in any of the revenue generated?  The same goes for volunteer Huffington-Post bloggers or writers who publish content on social media websites.

Somehow writers have been duped, by large corporations, into believing that the small potential for notoriety is ample compensation for their work; which collectively is used to generate millions and millions of dollars of revenue.  I remember how disappointed and angry some writers were when the Huffington-Post was sold to AOL for $315 million.  Meanwhile those writers continued to receive no financial compensation for their work.

There is a often quoted slogan floating around the Internet, “Information Wants to be Free”.  It is almost a cliche, but it also utter nonsense in the context of our capitalist system.  Anything of value is always sold and purchased, why is a writer’s work any different?   A more accurate slogan might be, “Corporations Want Information for Free ”, so that they may exploit it for monetary again.

Social media sites can thrive fueled solely on user generated content.  Content written by everyday folks, just being… social, and that is fine.   Those contributors get to exchange rumors, celebrity gossip, jokes, their personal minutiae and play games in exchange for a platform to engage in this activity.  They also agree to be inundated with advertising, mined for information and exposed to spammers.

Professionally trained writers need, deserve and should demand more in exchange for their craft.  The best reviews are written by professional reviewers, the best news coverage is written by journalists.   Writers who give away their writing to a fantastically rich corporations, for free, are engaged in high tech sharecropping.  Where are writer’s unions when you need them?

Sharecroppers pick cotton in Georgia in 1898 (Library of Congress)  - Sharecroppers on Wessyngton Plantation

Sharecroppers pick cotton in Georgia in 1898 (Library of Congress)      –       Sharecroppers on Wessyngton Plantation

Readers looking for quality writing will gravitate to where quality writing resides.  Writers generating quality content should be paid for their efforts.  We just need to work together to ensure this continues to happen.

Finally, Do Something
I hope you will consider implementing one or more of my suggestions.  I also hope you will share this article with other writers.  If you have any other suggestions please add them in the comments below.


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