#MondayBlogs: Is it still worth the time to blog for us authors? #amwriting #asmsg #marketing

#MondayBlogs: Is it still worth the time to blog for us authors? #amwriting #asmsg #marketing

My blog readership has been shrinking in the past twelve months

When I began blogging, most people around me didn’t even have Internet access. My first blog started way back in the late nineties, it was a “home made” (by my ISP) blog tool to enable me to write down my thoughts. In a way, my first blog was an extension of my diary writing, something I’d done regularly (more or less) through my teen years. After 1986, there was a ten plus year break from writing. Growing up, taking my first steps into the working life, studies at the university, travel, boyfriends… You know what that’s like. Life was too important to reflect on it.

Blogger readership

In 2014 I celebrated this milestone on my Blogger blog. I moved to WordPress in an attempt to grow my readership, but failed.

This current blog is an extension of a blog I started a long time ago (although I don’t really remember when), on Blogger. I had my doubts to move from my own platform to one of the two large ones, but I took the plunge and it did me well for many years. My readership grew and grew with over a hundred thousand visitors on my top months. When I left Blogger I’d had almost three million visitors, starting out with a handful, ending it with at least two-thousand daily visitors. I moved to WordPress because Blogger’s ability to create pages, and the tools surrounding the Blogger ecosphere just wasn’t as versatile. On my WordPress blog I was able to create slick and beautiful pages, have my own e-commerce (which failed miserably), blog, integrate my social media feeds etc. And once I had gotten the hang of the back office of WP, I was good.

Moving from Blogger to WordPress

I lost most of my readership in the move. I can’t really blame Google. They promote their own more than they promote others. Fine. On the other hand, I believe the quality of my readership increased. Previously, most of the visitors to my blog were only in it for my pictures. I was/am well aware of that. Google doesn’t promote images shared through WordPress, judging from the search terms that show up on my dashboard. But thanks to tools like Twitter, Triberr etc. I was slowly able to grow my readership.

This past year has shown some interesting changes. Most of those are connected to Twitter. While my Twitter following has grown, organically, from a thousand to almost 8.5K and still is growing, the number of people who find my posts on Twitter and actually click on them is shrinking, continuously. While I might average 150-200 views on a good day, the average day would be around 75-100 page views. In the past twelve months, this has gradually decreased to 50-90 on a good day and 25-40 on an average day. Not much to write home about. Yes, I do have some days that are out of the ordinary, with almost 1,500 views. Those are posts that deal with exceptional things that happen in the LGBT writing space. However, those are luckily few and far in between. Most of my readers these days are either subscribers or come in from Facebook.

Is Twitter broken?

Twitter used to be the primary referrer. No longer. It seems Twitter isn’t working any more, and if most people use Twitter the way I do, i.e. to broadcast stuff, it’s no surprise. Almost never do I look at my stream. With so many followers I’d never see much anyway. I go and look at my mentions and followers, follow back if they’re of interest (although I honestly never look at the stream) and once a day peek at my following. That’s it. Had it not been for Twitter forcing me to see my feed every time I log on, I’d never see anything.

I wonder, am I the only one using Twitter like that? As a megaphone?

I’ve worked with hashtags and yes, every now and then, I will do a hashtag search when something extraordinary happens, but wise from learning from Gaddafi’s multiple death announcements on Twitter, I’ve become wary of trusting “news” on Twitter. But as a source for blog readership? Not sure it works any more. Certainly not for me, no matter how much you tweak hashtags.

Do people still read blogs?

blog readership

Nothing to hide, and as you can see, the numbers aren’t “amazing”…

I read very few blogs. There are a handful I follow and I do read their posts when the first few lines peak my interest. Sometimes I stumble across a blog when I look for something. But regularly? Never have. I think I’ve never really seen blogging as much else as a diary turned marketing tool. I used to write about everything from politics to personal relationships. After loads of research I’ve limited myself, cut politics (mostly) and focused on my writing, reviews and LGBT issues (mostly). I even cut my travel writing. For some time, that worked, but yeah, I’ll never have the readership of a fashion or make-up blog. LOL

Blogging takes time. A lot of time. On average I spend three to four hours weekly on my blog writing, producing a couple thousand words of text every week. Then there’s the editing, finding adequate images, linking to relevant sites and pages etc. This takes time, and I wonder if it’s still worth it. I don’t think I could do it if I had a day job. I think I’d reduce my blogging to the irregular blog writing “when I have time”…

The next “thing”?

I’ve always viewed my blog as a marketing tool, to allow readers to find me, get to know me, and hopefully make them a bit curious about the guy behind “Hans M Hirschi” and his writing. I’m not sure a blog works that way any more. Question is what works in 2017 and onward. Is it Instagram? Or does that go down the same road as Twitter? Following everyone who follows you, with the consequence that your stream is so cluttered you no longer look at it? Or is it Pinterest? I’ve tried that tool, but never really liked it. Or is Facebook still the one that rules them all? I haven’t done a blog tour for a book in a year. They just don’t yield any tangible results. What does? Book sales are down year on year… I sell more paperbacks, which is nice, but ebook sales have declined drastically, and I lost (like many others) a lot (about 10%) in the ARe debacle last fall.

What are your thoughts? Is your blog still growing? Do you have a steady stream of readers on your blog? Have you stopped blogging? Are you considering it? Are you reading blogs? Or not? Where do you find new books, authors? What marketing works for you? Loads of questions, and I know that the readers I do have are smart, so let’s hear it…

Have a great week, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

 

 

#MondayBlogs: Is it still worth the time to blog for us authors? #amwriting #asmsg #marketing

Maintenance: not my favorite topic, but alas, we all get to do it #amwriting (not) #asmsg

Maintenance: to keep your author site up to date, and other little chores we all have to do

Good morning. It’s been a weird week for me. I’ve had handy men in the house every day this week, and I just didn’t get a chance to sit down and actually do any writing. Go figure! So I did maintenance on my authorship. Well, mainly my website, but you know what I mean. But before I jump into that, let me go back to last Saturday:

I finally got to meet Michael Bakkensen at my table at the Rainbow Book Fair. Great guy!

I finally got to meet Michael Bakkensen at my table at the Rainbow Book Fair. Great guy!

New York, the city that doesn’t sleep. I arrived timely on Friday night and went straight to my lodging to basically go to sleep. My host, Brent Cope, is also an author, his debut was published in December, so that was a bonus. I slept for a few hours (you know what jet lag and a new bed is like) and was up early enough for my day: Rainbow Book Fair. To meet lots of old friends, like cartoonist Greg Fox, Michael Murphy, Johnny Williams et al.

I also, finally, got to meet the man who narrated my first audio book, Family Ties, Michael Bakkensen. Great guy and we had breakfast the next day up where he and his gorgeous family live. Quite the treat! I can’t wait to work more with this talented actor. The day went by in a haze. It was scorching (for a Swede) hot that Saturday and yeah, not as many people attended as I could’ve expected, but I sold a few books and only carried home three. So that was really good.

Seaport, Brooklyn Bridge, New York

So difficult to choose a shot of New York, but I really did enjoy seeing this part of town with the Brooklyn Bridge looming in the background. Photo: Private

Andrew, a New Yorker in training (his words, not mine), and I spent Saturday night in the company of the hosts of GayTalk 2.0, the ultimate (it is!) podcast, having a great dinner. Sunday was sightseeing, and I don’t think I ever walked this much in one day. We started out downtown, at the new subway station slash shopping center, the Oculus, rode up to the top of the Freedom Tower, before we began to walk through downtown, down to the piers on the east end by Southport, over the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn and Dumbo (an area between the Brooklyn foundations of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges), walked back to Manhattan on the latter bridge and finally walked all the way up to the 14th street subway station via Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn (I had actually never been there before). Phew! I was exhausted that night.

On Monday, I met with another person who’s been following my writing career for years, photographer and artist Alina Oswald. We’d first met after she’d written an amazing review in A&U Magazine for my novel The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, and we became friends in the years since. She was the first to highlight the HIV component in the novel. Not that I wasn’t aware of it, but I never saw it as an HIV novel, yet given that Haakon is positive means a lot to a community who doesn’t have a lot of role models that are described in a positive way.

Anyway, we had brunch and then she took some new photos of me. She did an amazing job, and Central Park basking in sunshine were the perfect backdrop. Here’s just one example:

Photographing author Hans M. Hirschi in Central Park, NYC. May 1, 2017. Photo: Alina Oswald

Photographing author Hans M. Hirschi in Central Park, NYC. May 1, 2017. Photo: Alina Oswald

After that it was time for me to head home to Sweden, and you guessed right, maintenance and handy men. They came Tuesday, an hour after I reached the house, and immediately went to work, tearing down parts of the tiled wall, redrawing water pipes etc. Let’s just say they’re still not done. The installation of the bath tub proved more complicated than they thought… They’re coming back today, one last time, I hope.

Meanwhile, when not serving them coffee or checking in on progress, I spent time working on my website. I tweaked the look and feel, and replaced the static images on the book pages with a neat little Amazon plugin that allows readers to get a preview of the text and buy the book straight from my website. Neat little feature!

I also added a plugin from a site called Authorgraph. I know it sounds “wrong”, but alas, that’s the name of the site. It is geared toward ebooks, and allows readers of ebooks to get autographs for their cherished possessions. You should check it out. I’ve uploaded all my works. It doesn’t add the autograph to the book, but if you have a Kindle account, it will add the page to your Kindle. I can personalize the greeting and – once I get my hand on an iPad large enough, I might even be able to personalize the signature (signing with my fat digit just feels weird and looks yikes!)

Did I ever mention my “Donation” button? I added that a while ago. Now I’m not expecting to make a fortune through it, but if you like my work, if you appreciate my blogging or my videos, or my books, you have the possibility to support me with a voluntary donation. Why am I doing that? Since I can’t make a living on my writing, this is just one way to possibly earn a few bucks extra. I have been considering a Patreon account, but given my obscurity and how “unknown” I am, the extra work to fulfill all the promises you have to make to get funding, I just don’t think I will have the time to do it. Who knows what the future holds.

Anyway. It’s Friday, the week is almost over, and hopefully, after a week of mostly maintenance, I’ll get back to writing next week. I have a novel to finish in time for GRL this fall. But not today. The sun is shining, and I just need to get those workers focused and out of my house so that we finally, two weeks late, get our new bathroom…

Have a wonderful weekend, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

#Review: “My name is Ayla” by Phetra H. Novak (@PhetraNovak) #LGBT #trans #amreading

#Review: “My name is Ayla” by Phetra H. Novak (@PhetraNovak) #LGBT #trans #amreading

My name is Ayla is a much needed story about honor or what honor is not

Two Novaks in one month? The girl is productive. Just a couple of weeks ago I reviewed her novel Love of the Game here and it’s already time for a new release from this productive Gothenburg author. My name is Ayla was originally commissioned as a Holidays short story, with a Christmassy feel to it, but once Phetra got going, it developed into something else entirely. My Name is Ayla is a novella I wish every high school kid would read, particularly if they live in a city like ours, Gothenburg, where people from over 130 cultures live together, mostly peaceful, but yeah, not always.

And a pretty cover it is… Ayla looks stunningly androgynous and the main canal of Gothenburg so peaceful. But don’t let the calm deceive you!

I once wrote a blog post about honor, and how what many cultures consider honor is the very opposite thereof. Young men and women are locked up, locked in, abused, and sometimes even killed in the name of preserving their family’s “honor”. I have to use quotation marks, because there is no way that family “honor” can ever be used without that. I had an incident last year, where I made sure that my family compensated an elderly woman after a minor (!) traffic accident where a relative of ours handled the situation below par. I felt it was the honorable thing to do. But make no mistake. This wasn’t about the Hirschi Family honor, this was more about me being able to look myself in the mirror. I felt very sorry for the old woman and wanted to make it right. Now, point two here: no violence. Not like I sought her out to take her lights out. Quite the contrary. We sent her flowers and chocolates and a nice card apologizing for the emotional trauma the accident had put her through. Afterward she called my uncle (I did this in his name) and she was very happy.

But to keep people from loving the person they choose or fell for? NO, that’s never honor. That’s cowardice. To claim that a woman’s virginity (which biologically doesn’t even exist) is what upholds a family’s honor? Says more about the men in that family… But it’s not about honor. It’s about misogyny and cowardice. Phetra dives right into that. Now I know Phetra, she’s a great friend and I know she really, really cares about these issues, and she would probably singlehandedly save every single boy, girl or person threatened by their family. But alas, how? And who?

My Name is Ayla is a story about educating people about the risks of the so called “family honor”. Ayla is a trans woman who is almost beaten to a pulp at the beginning of the story, and I got to read an early ARC to facilitate my honest (as always) review. I didn’t know what to expect from this book. The cover looks so innocent, the cover model androgynous and beautiful, the view of the city peaceful, but this book is anything but peaceful. The pace is fast, a lot happens in the 40K or so the story comprises. And it’s hard to talk about the story without giving away the plot. But needless to say, you’ll need plenty of tissue before you’re done with it. This story will shred you to pieces emotionally, because the story of Ayla, while fictitious, has far too many parallels to the real world, from Fadime Şahindal to countless others, in Sweden and around the world. Often, such cases never even make the light of day, because victims and perpetrators hide behind the veils of their cultures.

Here’s the odd thing about “family honor”: our western societies, where we’ve mostly left this shit long behind us, do not understand what is going on, how girls suddenly disappear behind veils, or are locked up after school, we often choose to ignore the shiner under their eyes or their bodies. Even deaths are often mislabeled as suicide, because we just don’t expect a mother to push her daughter over the balcony on the fifth floor. Instead, it’s an accident or suicide. Worse, it is really difficult for anyone to talk about this. Given the tensions between the western world and the Middle East, the refugee crisis, the terror by ISIS etc. anyone who criticizes people from the Middle East for their actions or deeds (or culture) is quickly labeled an islamophobe. However, and this is really the crucial thing here. This is about culture, not about religion. And it’s not limited to the Middle East. This occurs within Christian families as much as it occurs in Jewish families or Muslim families (Shia or Sunni), and the Middle East is home to orthodox Christians in several countries, from Turkey, to Syria, Egypt, There are pockets of Jewish populations in Iran, too.

I couldn’t agree more! Phetra is an extremely talented writer with a heart the size of a small town!

Ayla’s family is Persian, and they’ve lived in Sweden for a long time. Ayla’s parents were born here, so you assume they’re well “integrated” (a cultural buzzword here) or even assimilated. They even celebrate Christmas, even though they are Muslim. But when Ayla comes out as a trans woman, all hell breaks loose. My Name is Ayla is a story you do not want to miss. You will be touched by it, and at the end of it, you, too, will want to do something about this.

I can’t recommend this story enough, even though it’s still painful to think about it. My Name is Ayla is published by “Cool Dudes Publishing” and releases today May 1, so head on over to Amazon to get your copy!

Have a wonderful week, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

Why am I doing this? I can’t be the money. I saw my royalty statement… #amwriting #author #LGBT #asmsg

Why am I doing this? I can’t be the money. I saw my royalty statement… #amwriting #author #LGBT #asmsg

My annual royalty statement is a disappointment, although not much worse than last year’s

My publisher had a little surprise for me yesterday. My annual royalty statement. Now I get my statements (and payments) from Amazon every month, but since I only have one 99c title left, there’s never more than cents trickling through. All my other books (novels and my short stories) are published by Beaten Track Publishing. I’d been sent the Q1 statement but had long ago forgotten about it (repressed?) When I got my statement, at first I was glad, the numbers looked nice. I’d sold more than I thought.

But then I went back and looked at my Excel file, compared numbers to 2015. I’d done a BookBub (lucky me?) then and managed to get over 15K copies out to people. Sadly, it didn’t help me at all with my sales. So discounting that, I’d sold about three books per day in 2015. In 2016, the numbers shrunk, Q1 was still okay, but the rest of the year? Overall, I didn’t even sell two books daily. Yeah, that won’t pay any invoices for sure. I got an invoice for an ad in a literary magazine this morning. It’s almost the same amount as my royalty payment for last year. It’s the fourth time I pay that amount… Or you could compare it to one of my five installments for my GRL sponsorship, or the fact that it’s less than I pay for my B&B this weekend in New York.

Which makes you wonder: WhyTF am I doing this? Why am I still investing in trying to sell my books since obviously so few people buy them? One thing’s for sure, it’s not the financial aspects, it’s not because I get rich. The genre I write in (LGBT) and the fact that I’m not writing (fluffy) romance, were originally not conscious decisions, but still.

My latest novel, one I’m particularly proud of.

Okay, rant over! 🙂 Luckily, I only get this reminder once a year. LOL If I look at my Amazon author profile, I can still see that there are millions of authors who sell less than I, and they obviously make even less than I. Readership is decreasing, piracy is increasing, and I would just like to add this to the thirty or so who will read this post: please don’t pirate books. It’s not just about the theft of our hard labor. It’s also about cyber security. When you get something for free (like a book or a movie), don’t fool yourself into believing you get it for free. You’ll also get malware, trojan horses and what not, used by really bad people in DDOS attacks or to spy on you or others. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Just remember that!

Will I see you tomorrow?

So, as crazy and as much of a waste of money it is, I’m flying to New York today, to participate in the Rainbow Book Fair (provided I get into the country tonight…) From noon tomorrow Saturday until six p.m. hopefully thousands of visitors will browse books and talk to us authors, maybe even listen to a reading. I’ll be reading from my latest novel Last Winter’s Snow. I just need to finalize the selection. If you are in the tri-state area, please consider a visit to New York. To set up a book fair like that isn’t easy work, and relies on a great many people’s hard (unpaid) work. See you there?

I’ll keep writing. When I read about the horrible situation in Chechnya, where the leadership under Ramzan Kadyrov promises to exterminate (!!!) the entire LGBT population before the end of May (when Ramadan will begin), my blood freezes in my veins. We haven’t seen this sort of persecution since World War II and the recent killings in Uganda. But I also see how priests in the U.S. want to see us killed, how LGBT rights are questioned even where progress has been made. I see the beautiful images on my Dubai screen saver (compliments Apple), yet I know I can never go there with my family, as the very existence of my family is punishable by death! Just imagine that. So no, no Dubai for me. But i will keep fighting for my siblings, whether they’re gay, bi, lesbian, trans or intersex, queer or otherwise, for our right to happiness, our human and civil rights. I fight for myself, and for my son, for his right to grow up into a better world than the one I grew up in.

There is no amount of money you can place on human rights, so I’ll keep fighting, even though I lose ten to fifteen dollars for every buck I make. #ImWorthIt #Resist

Have a wonderful weekend, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

#MondayBlogs: Is it still worth the time to blog for us authors? #amwriting #asmsg #marketing

#MondayBlogs: politics and writing. Inevitable? Necessary? A nuisance? #amwriting #amreading

Politics and writing: soon I’ll have to be a panelist on the subject

It’s certainly an interesting topic, and I’m glad the organizers of the upcoming EuroPride Con have asked me to be one of three panelists on the topic. The question they’re asking is: “How do politics influence fiction?” The question assumes a foregone conclusion that there is such an influence. I agree. But yeah, how?

Will I see you in Berlin? There will be lots more to discuss!

If you look at writing historically, it’s always been a reflection of politics, starting with the ancient Greek dramas and on to operas and plays that were written in the last century. Shakespeare’s plays are excellent examples, not because they use real kings, but because these kings served as examples what happened if/when the prince didn’t serve his people. In societies where freedom of speech was an unknown, the arts were often used to tell stories that might serve as admonishment of the political class. But today?

We can say whatever we want, whenever we want. Freely. At least in our western societies. Does writing still fill that purpose? The answer is of course the one you’d expect from me: it depends! A lot of our entertainment today, including fiction, is pure entertainment. Yes, there might be a moral to a story, often barely disguised as you’d expect from cheesy Hollywood movies, where the moral is so obvious it smells like old fish. Literature that aims to entertain, like romance and erotica, is also very much free of politics. But is is influenced by it? Probably. It seems that the worse the times we live in, the more trouble we have around us, the more fluff and happiness we escape to in our books. We just don’t need more misery in our fiction. We have enough of it IRL (in real life).

Literary fiction is different, of course, because in fiction, writers mirror society. And similar to my video last week, where I tried to explain the propensity for relationships in modern gay fiction with the advances in (marriage) equality legislation, current events tend to find their way into fiction, be it social challenges, political events etc. So what does it look like in my own writing? How political is my own fiction?

It varies. Family Ties isn’t directly influenced by current events, but a mirror of the world we live in: marriage equality (and the lack thereof in e.g. Singapore and the U.S., at the time), adoption legislation etc. The Opera House deals with homeless children on a certain level, and that is a direct reflection on the situation in the U.S., where 40% of all street kids have LGBT background, tossed onto the street by their (religious) parents. While not a real problem in (Western) Europe, it’s still something that affects me. The Fallen Angels of Karnataka is also dealing with children, but from a different angle. Slightly “historic” in nature, it mirrors the developments in recent decades, but it also shows how India is failing its children.

My most political novel is – without a doubt – Willem of the Tafel, as our main character becomes the leader of his people. A direct reflection of our current events (global warming, migration etc.), the novel looks at what might happen if we don’t turn around the wheel on Earth. Racism, environmental policies etc. You name it. Plus, several of the characters are politicians.

I can’t wait to see Berlin again. I just hope for better weather. Politics and writing, an interesting topic to discuss. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

I’m not going to go through all of my novels, let me just mention my latest one, which also highlights a political struggle, that of the Sami people in Northern Europe and specifically here in Sweden. It doesn’t get more political than that, not to mention that it is also a reflective account of recent LGBT history of our country.

I really look forward to this panel in Berlin. It’s going to be interesting to see how other authors look at this, particularly since most of the attending authors come from a “escapism” genre, romance, books read by people who may not necessarily want to be bothered by politics in their reading. Knowing the authors, it’s going to be an interesting debate, particularly since most of us care deeply about politics, society and LGBT rights. Is it June yet? You can still join the convention. There are still a few tickets available!

What’s your take? As reader or writer? Do you read to escape or to reflect? Do you write to entertain or to rattle readers?

Have a wonderful week, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans