[Marketing] Your New Facebook Fan Page

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

You may have noticed by now that some of the brands and fanpages that you follow on Facebook look a little different.Well that's because the inevitable has finally happened, Facebook is insisting that the product pages reflect the new layout changes that were applied to user profiles.   So if you as an author manage a fan page for your property or community or if you are thinking about starting one, you should take a peek at the new Facebook Fan Pages and get acquainted with the new bells and whistles. The layout is almost identical to the new profile pages so it won't be too jarring of a transition.  Come March everyone will get switched over so I would start playing around with it now and get comfortable.

[Anime] Angel Beats: Death is War

Monday, February 14, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

I finally got the chance to see the second epilogue of Angel Beats and the special bonus episode last week. It's been a couple months now since I've seen the bulk of the episodes, but I'll try to review the show from memory as best I can.

Summary: High school student Yuzuru Otonashi wakes up in a strange new school with no memories of his recent past.  The school turns out to be a purgatory for the souls of teens who have died but are unable to pass on to be reincarnated on Earth.  At the school the students are expected to fulfill their youthful dreams and come to terms with their deaths; however, there is a group of students called the Shinda Sekai Sensen (The Afterlife Warfront or SSS) who rebel against these expectations.  Afraid that when they are reincarnated they'll loose their personality and thus truly die, the SSS create havoc on the campus on an almost daily basis.  The theory is that by resorting to delinquency and by spurning all the rules they'll never have to face their unfulfilled dreams.  There is a single student with the ability to transform her body into a weapon that is trying to restore peace at the school.  It is believed by the other students that she is an Angel sent by God to force them to cross over, and they want none of that.

My Thoughts: Angel Beats is an exceedingly high-energy show, almost annoyingly so at times; however, the high-energy hi-jinks work most of the time. The cast is purposefully stocked with various anime cliches, but the creators are aware of this and frequently poke fun at these tropes which I always like to see.

The soundtrack of Angel Beats is also pretty awesome. The opening and closing endings are appropriately haunting, but the real stars of the show are the songs released by in-story band, Girls Dead Monster.  They are so much fun!  My favorite song from the soundtrack was the one called Alchemy (in-story) or Crow Song  in the real world which is sung by Marina.

You get the picture.  It's pretty catchy.

I know I make this sound like a light-hearted comedy, but there are two things that I would like to point out.  The first of which is the sheer amount of blood and cartoony violence that each episode brings.  This is a world in which you can be hurt, maimed, killed and you will always wake up in the nurse's office completely uninjured. Despite this obvious fact (that everyone is perfectly aware of) every death is treated as dramatically as possible.  The show gets points for creativity too.  I think the only thing that I didn't see was someone getting thrown into a wood chipper.  There's not a lot of gore so the faint of heart and stomach need not worry; however, expect to see some comical blood fountains and nosebleeds.

And secondly, over the course of the thirteen episodes and one special, Angel Beats takes on a level of depth that I wouldn't have expected from the show based on the first three episodes.  The students are forced to grapple with some pretty big issues.  What does it mean to be alive?  Do we exist as merely the sum of our experience or is there a more permanent quality to the human soul that endures? Are our dreams worth everything?  What is God?  What does it mean to rebel against him?  They have to deal with death on multiple levels: their own and the grief they feel after the disappearances of their close friends whenever one of them accidentally finds peace.  There are typical teenage struggles but many darker problems too.  Some of these children remember exactly how they died, and it isn't usually pretty.  There is so much going on beneath the surface of Angel Beats, and yet amazingly it never loses the fun factor. 

I'm shocked by how long this review has gotten.  As I said it has been months since I've seen all thirteen episodes, but it's the kind of show that does stick with you for a little while at least.  I don't believe the show has been licensed yet, but it was rumored that Aniplex was expected to bring out the North American release.

[Marketing] Stat Junkies

Monday, February 7, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

Hi, my name is Laura and I am a Stat Junkie.  I know I'm not alone.  I know many of you will have already checked your bookscan numbers, your Google Analytics, your Facebook Insights at least once, twice....maybe even three times today? 

What You Are Doing Right

It's important that you understand your sphere of influence and the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.  As an author, writer, artist, or any industry professional you need to have a solid understanding of your own platform in order to grow it quickly, efficiently, and in new and original ways; however, stat checking can also be a big time distraction.

What You Might Be Doing Wrong

It's true that stat checking might seem like a more "productive" distraction than Farmville, but in reality it is just one more thing that eats up the time you might have otherwise spent writing.  For your analytics to truly be effective you have to allow for enough time to eclipse so that the number will show you some real data.  Watching your page views climb might be uplifting, but what will be the true boon to you in your marketing efforts are the conclusions that you will draw from those numbers over time.

Some things to consider about your numbers:
  • One of the obvious things that you should be looking for are the topics and features that consistently do well for you in terms of traffic and/or discussion.  (Even if a post attracts low numbers in terms of impressions and unique page views, if it sparks the energy and intellect of your audience then it has done well.)  By honing in on that, you can work towards developing your authority within the community or subject matter.  Variety though is so the spice of life so be careful that you don't let your blog grow into a one trick pony.
  • You may notice over time that certain days of the week do more well than others.  That's good to know in terms of scheduling content.  
  • It's also incredibly important to look at how people are finding you.  Where does the bulk of your traffic come from?  If it is all from Twitter and Google Reader, is there more that you could be doing to improve the SEO of your site?
You should definitely be checking your stats once a month and it's probably a good idea to take a peak once a week.  More than that, and it get's tricky.  It doesn't take long to fall into the trap of being a stat junkie.

Obligatory Enabling Section
Here are a few analytics tools that I use/have used.  Try them out, see if any fit, but remember to check your stats responsibly.

Google Analytics: A lot of blog engines like Wordpress and Blogger already have built-in simple interfaces this data, but if you don't have that, sign up with Google Analytics.  (Blogger bloggers, you're already using Google Analytics even if you don't realize it.)
Twitter Counter:  Good at tracking your growth in terms of Followers.
Goodbye Buddy: Useful in identifying those specific users who have chosen to unfollow, seeing how long they followed you, and whether you follow them back.
Klout:  Honestly I'm still on the fence about this one, but that's a whole different blog post for another time.  Klout is a tool for measuring your influence, but it seems a lot more fun than useful. You can even earn badges like on Foursquare different milestones on the path of building your Twitter brand.
Twitter Grader: I like it better than Klout, and again offers me data on my influence and those users that influence me.  I get cleaner, clearer results and numbers with Twitter Grader and I like that they are so transparent about their algorithms.
Twitter Karma: A simple tool for finding out which of you Following list follows you back. It's a great tool in terms of housekeeping.

[Writing] Creative Approach To Brainstorming Sessions

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

Ever since I read Engineering with LEGOs: Creating the Ships of Knight Errant I’ve had LEGOs on the brain. Now I don’t have kids and it’s been a good number of years since I played with LEGOs, but I have heard the siren’s call.

John Jackson Miller, author of one of the new Star Wars novelizations Knight Errant writes about how he used LEGOs to brainstorm through the design of the ships and vehicles in his novel.

What a wonderful hands on approach to creating these larger than life mechanical constructions! I’ve sketched my way through the discovery phase of writing and writer’s block before. LEGO therapy definitely sounds like a wonderful alternative.

However, the biggest problem with this exercise is the price point of the LEGOs themselves. They are not cheap by anymeans, so unless;

a) you’ve got the cash
b) your child is willing to share
c) your mom hasn’t thrown out the LEGO collection that you squirrel away in her basement

Then you might be out of luck. Otherwise, go for it. In terms of dealing with writer's block, this gets an A+ for fun.