Writers With Wrinkles

Marketing Monday: Make AI useful, and RIP Goodreads (and Mr. Fishy!)

November 20, 2023 Beth McMullen and Lisa Schmid Season 2 Episode 55
Writers With Wrinkles
Marketing Monday: Make AI useful, and RIP Goodreads (and Mr. Fishy!)
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Can you use AI to augment and amplify your creative endeavors? Can you use it to do stuff you don’t want to? Yes!!

Tune in to hear about an experiment in creating a mini-marketing effort around holiday sales of Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls trilogy using AI to create content and produce a list of independent bookstores.

 (to go deeper, visit the You CAN Write a Book! Substack)

Also, GoodReads sucks and you’ll want to know why. :)

Join us for episode 55!



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Beth McMullen:

Hello, lovely listeners, we are back with a new Marketing Monday and remember, marketing Mondays are all about giving you things that you can do, that are practical, that won't break the bank or break your spirit or make you weep, stuff that you can put into practice immediately. So that's what we're all about. Okay, right before I turn on the record, lisa and I were talking about how sometimes we feel like we're shouting into the void, that it's just darkness out there. That's a nice way of saying. We really want you to rate our podcast. Send us an email, like us on Twitter, slash X, slash, whatever. Give us some feedback. We're very insecure and sad, sad and insecure. That sounds like the title of a picture book for adults. Oh, my God could it be. I think it could be. Maybe that's what we do. Next, we write a picture book for adults called If you're sad and insecure, go and eat all the cookies.

Lisa Schmid:

I know I'm swirling in a cloud of darkness right now.

Beth McMullen:

We get a lot of downloads. We know you're out there. Just reach out and let us know what you're doing and how you're doing and all of those things. You can email us, you can social media us all of those lovely ways that we can interact. But in this time of like shortened daylight and all of that, we just need to hear from our people. Now I'm sounding pathetic, Am I sounding?

Lisa Schmid:

pathetic we do. That's a little.

Beth McMullen:

Okay. So what did I say?

Lisa Schmid:

our picture book was Sad and pathetic or something I don't know Sad and pathetic, and lonely and alone. You know, I don't know why this made me think of this, but I was on Twitter and again I feel invisible there too.

Beth McMullen:

I just I'm feeling invisible, and I think you just said invisible like a combination of invisible and miserable. You just invented a new word.

Lisa Schmid:

Invisible. Oh my God, I love it. There was this and Gal had tweeted out about how she was getting ghosted on a request for a full and that, which I think it's happened to everyone. Like I was, I was ghosted one time by an agent who asked for the full and never, you know, she never responded and I took that as a big no.

Beth McMullen:

And so.

Lisa Schmid:

But how hard is it to just say no, thank you, when you request a full, you are putting like you're handing that writer a bundle of hope. You know what I mean. It's like I remember telling everyone I got a full, I got a full. Like how long before, you know I hear back from her and then I never heard back from her again and I remember it's brutal. We were at Better Books, the, that workshop, oh right, yes, and I was telling everybody and I remember people kind of looking at me like, oh, like she's a cute little kitten, she knows nothing. I kind of I very distinctly remember like a couple of people looking at me like, oh, she's so full of hope.

Beth McMullen:

Right, and they were just thinking about how it would not be too long before your dreams were crushed.

Lisa Schmid:

Right, well, and then somebody had requested my chapter book from my agent. It was an editor. She requested to see it after Leslie met her and pitched her and she's like, oh, I want to see it. And so she never responded, like completely like never. And I was just like to this day when I see her on Twitter, I'm like I don't like you.

Beth McMullen:

Do you have a? You have a burst of rage.

Lisa Schmid:

It's well, I just think it's disrespectful.

Beth McMullen:

Like it's rude. Let's call it what it is. It's incredibly rude and, honestly, like you're an adult, act like one, please, for the benefit of humanity. But I think we're living in a time where people just feel like being ghosting is easier than a confrontation, so they think it's okay. It's so sad, bumps me out. We're going to make that a chapter in sad and pathetic and lonely the picture book for adults. We're going to have a chapter that's like called ghosting.

Lisa Schmid:

Yeah, it's just especially rude with a full, and so when that girl tweeted that, I was like I am totally feeling you because it is like your joy has been absolutely like sucked out of your soul and so it just is very diminishing.

Beth McMullen:

Because it's really easy to just say thanks, no, thanks. We can take it. Those of us who have been in this business for a long time, you understand. Rejection is 90% of the process, Like it just is what it is. But it's worse when they'd say nothing and just disappear. It's so awful that poor person. If I was still on Twitter, I'd go give her some love, but I'm not so.

Lisa Schmid:

I did, I responded so.

Beth McMullen:

Okay, good, yeah, all right. Well, we could go on and on with this ad. What was the word? Oh the miserable word A circle of darkness? I don't know.

Lisa Schmid:

Our listeners have already like tuned out because they're like God, they're like a buzz kill right now.

Beth McMullen:

No, they're no, no, do you know what they're like? Yeah, we totally feel you. We're exactly like that. No, they're still with us. I know they are because, honestly, it's just that time of year. Anyway, we are here. We do have a purpose. It is marketing Monday. What we're going to talk about is something I actually published in my sub stack, which is called you can write a book. I encourage you all to go and subscribe. See, not only am I saying that you should email us, because we want to feel like people are listening, I also want to feel like you're reading my stuff. So, go to, you can write a book and subscribe on sub stack. Plus, I totally love sub stack. There's so much cool stuff there. All right, that's the end of my public service announcement for sub stack. Anyway, I did a newsletter on this. I will tell you right now. It is about AI. Please don't chuck your phone or whatever you're listening on across the room. So my whole purpose in exploring AI is to see if it can augment and amplify my various creative endeavors and if it can, how. So practical application of AI for authors. Today, I'm just going to talk about one thing that I've tried that you could try very easily and for free, but I am making this a segment on my newsletter, so I'm going to be just going through different resources that I've encountered and tested that you could use as an author. None of this involves actual writing. I never want AI to write for me. I have, just for kicks, asked it to write stuff for me and it's so bad it makes me wanna cry. So this is all about how can it help you have more time to do the actual writing yourself rather than wasting time on different marketing and brainstorming and blah, blah, blah. So that's the perspective we're coming from, so I hope that is not too alarming to you. So what I wanted to do was a mini marketing push for backlist titles for the holidays, specifically the Mrs Smith's Buy School for Girls Trilogy, which is out in this like fabulous box set and has been for a bunch of years. It's a great gift. So I was like, hey, it's been a few years since these books came out. A friendly reminder to some indie bookstore saying maybe you wanna put this on your shelves for the holiday season. It makes a great gift. Backlist titles are currently selling better than new books. That's just facts. So this was my perspective. This mini marketing push, something I could do in a day or two and get off my desk. So I decided I would just curate the list of indie bookstores and create a kind of a friendly letter and put it in the actual mail, old school mail. Two steps to this write the letter and curate the list. So for the first step, I use ChatGPT, the free version, which is, I think, 3.5. I have since upgraded. You do not need to pay for it or be upgraded. You can do this in the free version very easily. The thing about AI is it's only as good as the prompts you put in and you are gonna have to experiment with the prompts. So if you put in something that doesn't have a lot of detail, you're gonna get a very generic answer. That's not gonna be helpful. So this is an example of what I plugged in to create this letter that I wanted to send to the indie bookstores. So you're a middle grade fiction author, beth McMullen, writing a letter to indie bookstores in California urging them to add Mrs Smith's Biscule for Girls Trilogy to their shelves for the holiday buying season. Be concise, funny and convincing. The letter must fit on a single page. Mention that you're including stickers to share with customers, mention sales numbers and state lists, highlight the humor and adventure, mention that the box set makes a great gift and include fun holiday themed emojis All right, so that's a lot. There's a lot in there, and I came to that by trial and error. I plugged some stuff in. I saw what was lacking. I asked for more information. Eventually, this spat me out exactly what I asked for a nice letter that I then went in and edited up so that it sounded like me and that it was accurate. So AI hallucinates that's just a nice way of saying that it gives you bad information. You need to double check everything that comes out of it. So I double checked the sales information that I had asked for. I made sure that any award, stateless, all that stuff was accurate. I edited the letter. I bought some fun holiday themed stationery from Amazon, printed out a bunch of the letters. Now I wanted to send these specifically to California independent bookstores because I live in California and I thought that was a nice way to make this a slightly smaller project than saying, hey, give me all the indie bookstores in the entire United States, at which point I would have been like under my desk crying, and we don't want that. So the letter's done, I have it. So then I created a prompt to get me the address list. This prompt is generate a list of 50 independent bookstores in California. Please put each store name in a nice looking table so it looks like a calendar. The only columns in the grid should be for the store name, address, city, state and zip. That's exactly what it did. Now, remember again, ai's data is only current up to like somewhere in 2021. So this list may not be 100% accurate. Bookstores could have closed down, new ones have opened but generally, as I spot checked the list, it was pretty accurate. There were one or two that had closed down since the early 2020s. So I took this list, I copied it, I dropped it into an Excel file and then I used that Excel file to generate mailing labels for my letter. And that was it. The project took me a few hours. The hardest part was stuffing the envelopes, to be completely honest. So I was done. It was like this mini marketing effort I was done, put it in the mail. I have no idea yet if it's going to have any impact, and I won't know that until next year when I look at some sales numbers to see if there was any sort of a bump. But it felt like an effort that didn't take me a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of brain damage, and that's the sort of thing that you can use AI to help you with. Now, if I had had to do that just without AI, I would have spent a lot of time curating that list and I probably would have put off writing the letter, because I hate writing stuff like that, I hate writing like ad copy yuck. So I would have put it off and never done it and just having AI generate a version of a letter that I could then go in and tweak and edit and change so much easier than starting from scratch. Plus, it looked really cute. It popped in all of these holiday themed emojis and it made it fun and stuff that I just would never want to spend time doing. And if I don't want to do it then I put it at the bottom of the list never gets done. So that is my little AI spiel. Lisa's looking at me like what are you even talking about? I'm not, I'm not.

Lisa Schmid:

I'm just. You know what I'm thinking the whole time as you're talking. You're such a successful author. I know that you've sold thousands and thousands of books and the fact that you still do this kind of marketing effort is so impressive. That's what I was thinking. That's the whole time. I was like I don't know that I would do that, like that's what was going through my head.

Beth McMullen:

Well, that's the thing that I'm trying to get people to understand is that with this new tool and it's just a tool, it's just another tool. It's not our robot overlords yet, but it makes this sort of thing pretty easy. Because you know me, I hate marketing. I hate everything having to do with anything business of writing. I just want to write books and hang out and talk to fun other people to write books. That's like what I want for my life. So any of the business sort of marketing, pr, blah, blah, blah. I really have an aversion to and being able to just plug some nonsense into this chat GBT and have it spit out something that is not going to be the final product but gets me three quarters of the way there is such a huge totally such a huge thing for me to have in order to complete something like this. And I sent out, you know, I sent out my 50 letters and super, super easy, like literally took you know a handful of hours. So I think it's worth. You know, it's worth experimenting with.

Lisa Schmid:

Have you done this kind of stuff before?

Beth McMullen:

No, I've never done this sort of so. I know that we've talked about this sometimes, but I feel like social media has never sold a single book for me in my life, and part of that is because I'm not an avid user. I've never liked it really that much. So I'm constantly thinking about like other ways to communicate for the middle grade books, schools and school libraries and, of course, public libraries and bookstores and the people who are buying the books, selling the books, putting the books into readers' hands, and this sort of thing feels like, you know, if it's a total failure and it doesn't sell a single book for me, it's just a failure. I haven't lost very much.

Lisa Schmid:

No, you're gonna sell it. I mean, I definitely think you're gonna sell because I've seen the little box set and it's super cute. It's so cute, it's very cute.

Beth McMullen:

It's really cute and it's easy to wrap. I always wanna point that I love giving books as gifts because they're easy to wrap. I can't wrap stuff they aren't easy to wrap. I'm really bad at it. So if it's just a rectangle, I'm really good at that. I can wrap a rectangle.

Lisa Schmid:

So speaking this is totally off topic. This has come up. It just recently flared it's ugly little head. Goodreads, which is kind of the thorn in the side for a lot of people, is now like reached an even succure version of itself, and they came for today. Oh my God, I think that's why I thought of it. I'm like, hey, since we're already in a dark place, let's just go, let's go, darker. Let's go all the way in. It's like we're stepping into it now. So they have these like your choice awards, Like the People's Choice Awards for Books, every year. And last year they did this really jacked up thing where they just mushed all the kidlet stuff together Like felt for like picture book, middle grade chapter book. It was all mushed together. There wasn't like separate categories, which kind of sucked. And then this year they upped their sucky game and now they've completely eliminated kidlet. There's no kidlet, None At all, None. They have just decided that kidlet is not worthy of their time. Oh my God, do they not?

Beth McMullen:

recognize that if you don't get kids to read, they will not grow into reading adults. Ergo they're going to have no freaking customers.

Lisa Schmid:

You know what they should rename their little website? No reads, because that's what's going to happen.

Beth McMullen:

Seriously, they're like crushing the souls of like Middle grade is taken on the chin lately, especially with the Barnes and Noble stuff where they don't, they aren't going to carry practically any and there's kind of a revolt against middle grade hard cover because it's expensive and, yeah, it's raw.

Lisa Schmid:

So my response to them. I'm surprised I didn't send you the response, because I sent it and I was cracking up. I'm like this is a perfect response from middle grade author. I just put like in their Goodreads, their like announcement that they weren't doing it anymore. I just put you suck. And then I put like a little gif and it was of a little animated bear like blowing a raspberry and then turning around and farting on them.

Beth McMullen:

But really it gets the sentiment across perfectly. I can't believe they did that. That's not cool. Oh my god, I stopped looking at Goodreads, I think right after my first book came out, because I was. It felt like swimming in a toxic fog, a toxic stew of people who were really mad about stuff that had nothing to do with my book. It was scary, it scared me, so I ran away.

Lisa Schmid:

I feel like there was a lot of teachers and librarians. I only have one book on there, but I found a lot of mine were teachers and librarians that were reviewing it and I was just like this is how I'm reaching them, and it makes me sad that they're closing that down. I mean, it's still. You know, our books are still there. But to not honor, like there's so many amazing authors out there that deserve to be recognized and they're not getting it, and I just think it really sucks, and so that's my take today.

Beth McMullen:

It's a big segment. It's like a big segment of books. It's crazy that they would just well I mean, the writing was on the wall If they lumped everything together last year. They obviously don't care about it.

Lisa Schmid:

So oh man, it's just so weird.

Beth McMullen:

They're dead to me again, they weren't dead to me. Now they're like really dead to me.

Lisa Schmid:

RIP Goodreads. Oh my God, can I just close out this segment with my Mr Fishy tale.

Beth McMullen:

Oh, you're going to tell Okay, everybody, I'm not going to tell the whole part.

Lisa Schmid:

Okay, my, we have this lone fish that he, my son's, has, you know, it has a little fish tank which he loves and he originally had like five or six fish in there, and then this one fish was kind of a jerk and he would like kill everybody else off.

Beth McMullen:

He was a serial killer. He was beyond being a jerk, he was a homicidal maniac.

Lisa Schmid:

So anyway, he died yesterday. I mean he lived forever. He had one lone fish and like two snails in this fish tank for years and then he died yesterday. And so all I came home and I had him in the little box and I had him in, like it said, happy holidays, send him off with some joy. So we went out and we buried him and we had the little ceremony and I'm like you know, goodbye, mr Fishy. You know you, you were resilient, you stuck with us. You were kind of a jerk but we loved you nonetheless.

Beth McMullen:

You killed all your friends.

Lisa Schmid:

No so anyway, we buried him and we had like a little funeral for Mr Fishy yesterday.

Beth McMullen:

Oh, rip Goodreads and Mr Fishy. We buried them both. We buried them both. They are now dead to us. Anyway, I hope we filled you all with joy and happiness today with our how Did Not Be Afraid of AI and Make it Work for you. So go, if you go to Substack and find my newsletter. In the newsletter I said that if you want to see screenshots of what I'm talking about, email me. It was too much for me to put into the newsletter. So if you go to the newsletter, read it and you want to see the screenshots, just email me and I can send them to you. It gives you like visuals to go along with the stuff that I was just talking about. I think that's it. I think we've covered everything important for the week.

Lisa Schmid:

If we had like music, like any sound effects, we could end it with.

Beth McMullen:

Maybe I, maybe I learned how to do sound effects guys.

Lisa Schmid:

Oh my God, that would be so much fun, I'm going to try.

Beth McMullen:

So if you hear sound effects, you know that I succeeded.

Lisa Schmid:

Oh my God you need to do it.

Beth McMullen:

Then it's that I failed because, like I'm not a sound technician, it's complicated. Okay, that is all for today's episode. We will be back next week, november 27th, with authors Lin-Marie and Heather Mocked, who run Seasons of Kidlet. This is a really cool thing that I didn't really know existed, so I want you to tune in for that, because I think you will also be genuinely joyfully surprised by Seasons of Kidlet and all the other things that Lin-Marie and Heather are doing. These two women put us to shame with the amount of output they have, like Lisa and I, giant slackers, just for the record. Until then, happy reading, writing and listening. Bye Lisa, bye guys.

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