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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

No! I It Does Not Look as if Amazon Spies on Indie Authors in Facebook Groups


(Excerpt from NAKED REVIEW How to get Book Reviews )


ONE OF THE MOST PERSISTENT RUMORS


Though it is one of the most persistent rumors that Amazon tracks authors’ social media feeds and spies on Facebook groups I do not believe this to be true.


The #1 reason is that filtering out relevant data on Facebook would be extremely complicated. Most authors are members of at least eight Facebook groups. 


The #2 reason is that occasionally I read articles about algorithms “infused with A.I. (artificial intelligence).” To sum it  up: Not only are these algorithms already great in identifying “common denominators,” they get better every day.   


Reason #3: In 2015, the cybersecurity company Avast made their case who spies on whom, and Amazon is not on this list but Google, WhatsApp, and Facebook were. 


Hence the following scenario is much more plausible than the rumor that Amazon spies on authors on Facebook.  

Many authors join Facebook groups to find reviewers. Though all Facebook author groups I know stick by Amazon’s guidelines and advise against direct review exchanges, typically authors who DO NOT seek reviews elsewhere run into problems at some point.  They lose reviews. 


The following simplified illustration depicts a potential scenario for “reviewing and seeking reviews” in a Facebook group. 


In stage 1 some authors read and review another author’s book. Clearly, the scenario is completely random.



(Still, if Amazon would really “spy” on Facebook they’d know that

authors A – Q are in the same Facebook group and apparently know each other

A read N’s book,

B read C’s book,

D read G’s book,

H read B’s book,

I read J’s book, and

L read Q’s book.

 

In stage 2, a pattern begins to emerge. 

In stage 3, the pattern is completely clear. Probably, Amazon’s algorithm can identify it.

 

The authors who do NOT also read books from other authors who are not represented in this group, have just self-identified themselves as authors who engage in some kind of review exchange. 


What if the group is larger and has 1,000+ members? 

It does not matter how large the group is, the deciding factor is how many members are actively reading and reviewing.

 

In the past, I noticed author friends reading as many as five books from other authors in the same group. Occasionally, I stumble over a book which features eight to ten reviews, all from authors who I know are in the same author groups. It is a reasonable conclusion that after churning enough data Amazon’ algorithm can see the previously illustrated pattern and deletes some reviews.   


Summing it up: Seeking reviews from “peripheral friends” can be a good idea to get “starter”-reviews, but if you want your book to become a bestseller, inevitably, you need to make an effort to get your book known to many more people than you could know personally or on any social media platform.

~*~

Excerpt from NAKED REVIEW: How to Get Book Reviews - To be released July 20th - Moon Landing Day).

Gisela Hausmann is a 29-year publishing industry veteran who self-published her first book in 1988. Her work as an Amazon ecommerce review expert has been featured on Bloomberg (podcast) and on NBC News (blog);  her work as an email evangelist was featured in SUCCESS and in Entrepreneur.



To subscribe to Gisela's Blog pls subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of this blog's web-edition or sign up to receive summaries http://www.giselahausmann.com/free-creative-ideas.html

Gisela's website: http://www.giselahausmann.com/

Gisela tweets @Naked_Determina

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© 2017 by Gisela Hausmann


Saturday, July 15, 2017

3 Ways how Indie Authors Deal with the "Non Verified Reviews" Issue

THE ISSUE: Non verified reviews (book & products) are not shown by default any longer.

In February 2017, Amazon began hiding non verified reviews by default. Now, customers have to change the default setting from “see all verified purchases” to “see all reviews” to also see non verified reviews.


This change is retro active. By default, non verified reviews that were posted in the past are also "invisible."

Exploring the specifics of this new rule, I found that as long as verified and non verified reviews fit on the book’s first book page, all reviews (verified and non verified) will be shown. Only once reviews need more space than what is provided on the (first) book page, the non verified reviews disappear.

EXAMPLE: 

The book page of a book that received 3 reviews, 2 verified reviews and 1 non verified review of medium length (about six lines) shows all 3 reviews.

After this book received an additional 5 non verified reviews, only the 2 verified reviews will be visible by default because combined all 8 reviews take up more space than is available on first book page. To also see the six non verified reviews, customers have to change the settings.

ENSUING PROBLEMS:

a) Unfortunately, not every review reader checks out non verified reviews

b) Non verified reviews look a tiny bit suspicious simply because Amazon does not volunteer to show them.

c) Some review readers don't trust non verified reviews; after all, everybody from The New York Times to Forbes reported about Amazon's various fake review scandals.

SOLUTIONS:

1) Don't ask for too many reviews in "review clubs." They won't get you as far as they used to. If your book's sales rank does not correspond with the number of reviews they'll look "suspicious."

INSTEAD: Make contact with your old friends. Amazon does not know who your high school buddies were.

2) Because Amazon reviewers expect author-supplied review copies, ask them early, when your book has only few reviews. That increases the chance that their non verified reviews get seen; hence, they are more likely to accept your book.


3) Carefully consider if you want to enroll your book in KDP. The reviews of Kindle Unlimited readers who read your book "free with Kindle Unlimited" will be non verified reviews too.

INSTEAD: consider promoting your book with 99 cents promotions. You can schedule the promotions yourself; all readers will be able to post verified reviews.


~~*~~

Gisela Hausmann is a 29-year publishing industry veteran who self-published her first book in 1988. Her work as an Amazon ecommerce review expert has been featured on Bloomberg (podcast) and on NBC News (blog);  her work as an email evangelist was featured in SUCCESS and in Entrepreneur.

Her book NAKED REVIEW: How to Get Book Reviews is available for Preorder at the introductory price of $1.99 (till July 20th - Moon Landing Day).


To subscribe to Gisela's Blog pls subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of this blog's web-edition or sign up to receive summaries http://www.giselahausmann.com/free-creative-ideas.html

Gisela's website: http://www.giselahausmann.com/

Gisela tweets @Naked_Determina

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© 2017 by Gisela Hausmann

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

This will make you believe in indie authors' work



Image by Stokpic/Pexels

In the summer of 2016, I had a discussion with an editor of a publishing magazine, who we'll call Jane. As Jane and I were talking about my books, she asked, "So, who is your books' target audience?"

I replied, "Small business owners and dedicated indie authors."

Jane started to chuckle but stopped abruptly when she noticed my silence.

After clearing her throat she quickly said, "Please define the term 'dedicated indie author'."

"Well, believe it or not - some of us don't even consider seeking a traditional publisher. Many authors self-publish because they want to have complete control over the entire process."

Perhaps still wondering how embarrassing her laugh was on a scale of one to ten, Jane asked absentmindedly, "And, why is that?"

Somewhat surprised, I explained, "Working with a traditional publisher offers very little wiggle-room. They may not be prepared to give a niche book a longer start time. Also, they never want to make any changes. Once they publish a book it's published."

Jane pondered her answer. It was obvious that she tried to phrase it as careful as possible. "Traditional publishers try to publish a book only once it is the best it can be."

Learning from Woody Allen

"Certainly." I said, "But, having studied film and mass media I can tell you that for instance four-time Academy Award winner and more-times-than-we-count Academy Award nominee Woody Allen test screens all of his movies in a small town far from Hollywood and New York.
And, all of his actors have to sign a contract that they'll be available for re-shooting or shooting new scenes after the initial audience testing.
And, let's not even talk about the testing of commercials. Many of the commercials you see during the Superbowl have been chosen from three or more different versions."

Now I had given Jane some food for thought. "Hmm," she sort of agreed.

I continued. "Woody Allen and these marketing agencies produce successful products again and again because they insist on testing their products.
Also, software companies conduct public beta testing, routinely. Making changes to a product after it's been released is not unusual at all."

*

Unfortunately, my answer was incomplete because I wasn't prepared for the question. Even though Microsoft had been on my mind because at the time they were testing their Windows 10, I had forgotten to mention Bill Gates' famous quote:
Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana. – Bill Gates
In fact, Microsoft  now calls their Windows 10 a "service that receives ongoing feature updates."

That concept should probably apply to books too.

Over the last few years I read many dozens of nonfiction books that are plainly outdated. For instance, books explaining marketing techniques on social media platforms become antiquated very quickly. That includes books from traditional publishers.

Being one of the mentioned dedicated indie authors I learned from this situation. Since Amazon changes their community guidelines regularly my book about getting reviews on Amazon has to change too.


Most recently, I also counseled an author of fiction books. The author confided in me that though readers liked his/her book series many did not like a new persona he/she introduced in the latest book.

Readers thought that this new character was "too mean."

I see this kind of reaction as similar to Windows users telling Microsoft that they were upset with Windows 8 not having the traditional start button. Sometimes, many consumers agree that they do not like certain elements of an overall great product.

"So, change it!" I said to the author."Edit the book and upload it again."

*
If you create open technology that people can use, adapt and play with, it builds capability and they teach themselves. – Charles Leadbeater

Image by Melpomene/Shutterstock

Today's audiences enjoy communicating with authors who choose to listen.

There is no telling how far this trend will go but for sure indie authors (not traditional publishers) will be at the forefront of it all. 

~~*~~

Gisela Hausmann is a 29-year publishing industry veteran who self-published her first book in 1988. Her work as an Amazon ecommerce review expert has been featured on Bloomberg (podcast) and on NBC News (blog);  her work as an email evangelist was featured in SUCCESS and in Entrepreneur.

Her book NAKED REVIEW: How to Get Book Reviews is available for Preorder at the introductory price of $1.99 (till July 20th - Moon Landing Day).


To subscribe to Gisela's Blog pls subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of this blog's web-edition or sign up to receive summaries http://www.giselahausmann.com/free-creative-ideas.html

Gisela's website: http://www.giselahausmann.com/

Gisela tweets @Naked_Determina

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© 2017 by Gisela Hausmann

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The 5 Most Common Mistakes When Seeking Book Reviews From Amazon Top Reviewers

VLADIMIR KOLEN’S/SHUTTERSTOCK - WOMAN TYPING

(Reblogged upon request)

The day before yesterday, I received an email asking me to review an indie author’s book. Somewhat ironically, this request email stated, “... as you liked... (title of book)... you might also love my newest book,... (title)..., because it’s in the same category as the book you already reviewed...”

I remembered the book I supposedly “liked.” I didn’t like it at all; I had awarded it with a negative review.

Obviously, this indie author made a mistake; most likely, because he rushed trying to find as many top reviewers as possible to whom he could offer his book “in return for an objective and unbiased review.”

Seeking reviews from Amazon top reviewers is a common practice among indie authors. Since only about one percent of readers review the books they read, indie authors, who don’t have a huge marketing budget, try to build up the number of reviews their books receive by asking top reviewers like me to read and review their books.

In doing so, indie authors’ marketing skills are ahead of Fortune 500 companies’. Today, eight out of ten customers consult online reviews when making the decision to buy. Trying to get as many reviews as possible is the “Next Great Thing” to boost sales.

As a result, Amazon top reviewers’ Inboxes are flooded with request emails. On average, the crème de la crème, Amazon’s Hall-of-Reviewers, receive more than 200 requests per week. Consequently, indie authors need to put in extra effort to make their case.

For instance, if this indie author would have written, “while checking out reviews at Amazon, I noticed that you weren’t quite happy with … ( the competitor’s book)… My own book takes a different approach; it …” he would have had a much better chance at succeeding.

Here are five major mistakes to avoid:

Never Tailor a Template – Use Your Own Words!

You are a writer! Most likely you want to make a living off writing! So, use your own words to show off! Tailoring a template is the direct opposite of making something look interesting and remarkable. Since almost all reviewers receive dozens of request emails per week they are able to spot a template faster than you can say “template.”

Make Your Case For Your Book!

Book reviewers enjoy reading outstanding books! Therefore, avoid worn-out phrases like “my book is similar to a book you have reviewed.” Instead, dazzle potential reviewers by telling them why your book is different from any other book they have read.

Avoid writing a me-mail!

Always remember that your request email is about your book. Writing “I have written a book about…”, “I was wondering…”, and “so that I can get some feedback...” suggests that your email is about your needs rather than about your book. Instead, rephrase and write “you’ll love my book’s story-line/ protagonist/ setting because...”

Don’t waste words!

An effective email is about 150 words long. To make your case convincing, don’t waste words. There is no need to write “I found your name on the list of top reviewers.” All top reviewers know that their name is on this list.

Don’t give up & Don’t ignore the bottom line!

Without a question authors’ worst mistake is giving up. They stop contacting reviewers and they don’t interpret rejections as signals to improve their emails. The bottom-line of the whole process is: Top reviewers cannot read and review all books they get offered. Therefore they see request emails as writing samples.

*

The most effective request emails are personalized emails which demonstrate that the author has done his homework. They will almost always get a reply, even from Hall-of-Fame reviewers.

Sometimes it helps to look at a reviewer’s profile for clues to personalize the request. Relatively recently, I contacted a top reviewer myself and wrote, “Saw that you write lyrics for operas. I certainly appreciate that; I was born in Vienna...”

This is not flattery. The Vienna State Opera is one of the most famous opera houses in the world, where stars like Maria Callas, José Carreras, and Luciano Pavarotti sang. Certainly this reviewer would know that.

The reviewer took well to that approach and replied in less than thirty minutes. He began his email with the words, “... I appreciate your taking the trouble...”

All of us open our Inboxes in the hope that we receive unexpected, awesome or interesting news. We want to be surprised by emails from people who tell us that they can deliver what we want or need. The people who send us such emails receive our undivided attention.

~~*~~

Gisela Hausmann is a 29-year publishing industry veteran who self-published her first book in 1988. Her work as an Amazon ecommerce review expert has been featured on Bloomberg (podcast) and on NBC News (blog);  her work as an email evangelist was featured in SUCCESS and in Entrepreneur. She is also a frequent guest, speaking about communications topics, on WYFF-4, her local NBC TV-station.

Her book NAKED REVIEW: How to Get Book Reviews is available for Preorder at the introductory price of $1.99 (till July 20th - Moon Landing Day).

To subscribe to Gisela's Blog pls subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of this blog's web-edition or sign up to receive summaries http://www.giselahausmann.com/free-creative-ideas.html

Gisela's website: http://www.giselahausmann.com/

Gisela tweets @Naked_Determina

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© 2017 by Gisela Hausmann


Monday, June 5, 2017

How to build nerves of steel



Feel you might need nerves like steel ropes?

Maybe?
Yes!
More than ever !
I don’t know how to develop them…
? What type of nerves ?

From the dictionary:

nerves of steel
Fig. very steady nerves; great patience and courage.

(author’s annotation: a person with nerves of steel must have a deep-rooted belief in his cause or at least have hope that s/he will succeed)

According to a report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) about 27 million working-age Americans--nearly 14 percent--started or run new businesses, in 2015. These 27 million Americans are going out on their own; some of them deeply believing that they will succeed and others hoping that they will.

So, what if they don't really believe in themselves, if hope is their biggest asset?

Anybody who has ever been in real trouble knows how mere hope can stimulate us to keep going.

Hope isn’t just hope. There are different kind of hopes like ‘last hope’, ‘mere hope’ and also ‘well-founded hope’. The latter is particularly interesting, because we may know for sure that a certain deal will happen, finances can be raised, or some other important step will take place, and it may only be a matter of time.

Very often, our problem is that we cannot control the speed at which others proceed. We can ask, plead, remind, push… but inevitably, we have to wait till others are as ready as we are.

The savviest of us work so many options at the same time that they have reason for well-founded hope, any day. While a savvy person’s options A, B, C may be on hold, options D, H, and M could materialize that very day.

Have you ever looked closely at a steel rope?



A steel rope is comprised out of many thin steel threads, which are bundled into groups, which form thin steel ropes. These thin steel ropes are woven into the final product.

Of course, the obvious analogy is that the thin steel ropes represent the many opportunities we create for ourselves.

By developing lots of chances and opportunities, we simultaneously create nerves like steel ropes. They come from knowing that indeed we have reason for ‘well-founded hope’, that sooner or later one or another option will materialize.

Additional strength comes from knowing that even if a few of the thin steel ropes break, others or at least one of them will hold up.

This is how we build nerves of steel.

~~ *** ~~~

Gisela Hausmann is an email evangelist, a PR expert and an author. Her work has been featured in the SUCCESS magazine, in Entrepreneur, on Bloomberg (podcast), on NBCNews, and in other fine publications. 

Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Naked_Determina

Subscribe here for updates and blog summaries.


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© 2015 and 2017 by Gisela Hausmann


Friday, June 2, 2017

The Main Problem with Amazon's Third Party Book Sellers and What I Do About It




It’s never boring in the world of indie publishing. Most recently, Amazon began allowing third-party-book sellers to win the “Add to Cart” Buy Box.

This means that customers who want to buy a new book and click “Add to Cart” may never see Amazon’s price but instead buy from a third-party-vendor, with many customers believing that they are buying from Amazon.

Various independent authors’ and publishers’ organizations are protesting Amazon’s move, stating that it disadvantages authors and publishers. Bloggers are chiming in and offering ideas how indie authors and publishers should deal with the issue.

*

Reminder: Third-party sellers have always sold books on Amazon.

Amazon’s Marketplace, which allows third-party-vendors to sell merchandise side-by-side with Amazon, started in 2000 selling used books! During the company’s early days it helped Amazon to become the “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore.”

Even today, in the days of print-on-demand the Marketplace can be extremely helpful in building indie authors’ reputations.

For instance, in 2005 I discontinued selling my alphabet book obvious LETTERS on Amazon. Before the development of educational computer games the book was quite popular and sold around the world. Much to my delight, even today a Japanese third-party vendor offers one copy on Amazon.

To be precise, this vendor offers a used copy of my book for more than double the original sales price.

Though I won't be making a single penny from his sales I am not jealous. His offering my book in Japan shows that my book sold around the world.





The fact that Amazon keeps out-of-print books “alive” is a huge advantage for authors.


So, why are indie authors and publishers complaining? 

Amazon’s latest change affects the selling of new books; often books that are printed on demand.
Some bloggers speculate that at least a few third-party-sellers are selling used copies as new copies.


Where are the new books coming from? 

In her latest monthly newsletter, Bethany Cox, Managing Editor of The Midwest Book Review, explains what many authors know anyway:
Some #FREE independent book review services ask authors to submit paperback review copies. These books are being sold to help fund the review service’s expenses.

Considering that other noted review services charge hundreds of dollars per book review hopefully no author or publisher will question this business concept.

My personal $2.00 catastrophe

That being said I know exactly how indie authors and publishers feel about this third-party-vendor issue because I have already walked that path, inadvertently.

Months ago, long before this new change was enacted, I noticed a third party vendor selling a copy of one of my books for $1.99. I almost fainted when I saw this offer.

Who are these people?
Do they want to ruin me?
Why are they offering my book priced below production costs?
Where did this book come from?

Eventually, I calmed down enough to guess where the book came from. Three weeks earlier I myself had given away half a dozen of these books.

I am a nonfiction author who writes useful books which I update whenever needed. Most of my books have been updated at least once.

Example:



Like most indie authors I buy paperback copies to

  • give them to reviewers and bloggers, 
  • hand them out to media people to introduce my work, 
  • enter them in award competitions,
  • and similar activities. 

Occasionally, I publish a revised and updated edition or change the cover of a book even though I still have copies of the “old book (condition: new).” Personally, I find it immoral for me to sell outdated copies on Amazon or Ebay. After all, I knows that a newer version is available because I wrote and published it.

My romantic vision

Therefore, I used to donate any left-over copies to charitable organizations’ thrift stores where they will be sold for a guaranteed low price, typically $1.00 for paperbacks, $2.00 for hard-cover copies.

In my romantic vision doing this helped everybody: people who lived on a tight budget, the charitable organizations, and even me who didn’t want to throw away my “book-babies.”


view of one of nine book shelves in a thrift store in my region

However, my romantic vision fell apart in less than one second when I saw my book being offered on Amazon – for only $1.99, like a cheap, thrown out book.

This scenario looks only slightly better if the third-party-vendor is offering a “new” book.
Bestsellers too are affected. Buyers who look at the below scenario must wonder if the offered book is “stolen goods”?

(Rumor has it that some Amazon third-party-vendors will offer items dirt-cheap if they are eager to build a record quickly. )



*

Getting plunged into this unpleasant scenario a few months ago led me to change my habits – I now destroy my outdated books.

I throw them into the local recycle dumpster.

Only other authors will understand how I feel about these developments.





I also tear my books apart, just in case a dumpster diver happens to come by.

Personally, I don’t have any issues with people hunting down valuable items.

In fact, I would love to hug everybody who will jump into a dumpster to retrieve one my books.
Is there any greater love for books?
(I am not even sure that I would do that.)

I also don’t have a problem with people making a really sweet profit like the Japanese third-party-vendor.

BUT:

I just cannot allow that savvy vendors pick up my book for next to nothing and resell it on Amazon, next to regular priced copies.

Until Amazon does something to control the third-party-book-seller situation better, I cannot donate outdated books anymore.

What are your thoughts?

Please comment in the comment section below.


~~ *** ~~~

Gisela Hausmann is an email evangelist, a PR expert and an author. Her work has been featured in the SUCCESS magazine, in Entrepreneur, on Bloomberg (podcast), on NBCNews, and in other fine publications. 

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© 2017 by Gisela Hausmann 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Opening up about death –What I learned from losing my husband, brother, aunt, and BFF, who all died within 5 1/2 years



Lately, the topics grief and death receive a lot of attention, largely due to Mrs. Sandberg's PR campaign for her book "Option B." In a way, it is a sad thing that it takes a celebrity's efforts to shine light on a topic that touches all of us.

All of us are living "Option B," every day; all of us lost somebody.

I lost four loved ones within only five-and-a-half years: my husband (2000), my brother (2003), one of my two aunts (2004), and my BFF (2005). 

Occasionally, I have been asked silly questions like “And, there wasn’t anything that could be done?” and more often than not people just didn’t know what to say or ask.   

Here is one of my four stories:

Growing up in Austria, my brother Michael and I were inseparable. As the older sister and tomboy, I once beat up the hometown bully to defend Michael, a soft-spoken, smart child who detested physical violence.



In 1981, the two of us took a legendary bus trip to Istanbul. By chance, I was able to purchase last minute tickets for only sixty bucks each; the trip turned out to become an awesome adventure.



Strange little signs

A few years later, I got married, had two children, and moved to the United States. Traveling back and forth with the little ones was difficult, so I relied on the phone to stay in contact with my family in Europe. 

Sometimes, I could not reach Michael for many weeks. He said that he traveled a lot. 

When in 1998, I visited Austria, I was surprised that Michael declined meeting at a nice restaurant but wanted me to visit him at his cozy but rather small apartment. There, I also noticed that he never got out of his chair but didn’t want to mention it. It took another year till the alarm bells went off.

A cry for help in disguise

In the past I had given Michael two books about movies he liked. In 1999, he suddenly sent them back by mail, without any comment.

HI was urt and furious, I vented to my Austrian BFF Miki,
“I can’t believe that he did this! What did I do to deserve this kind of passive aggressive behavior?  If Michael didn’t want the books, he could have thrown them away. Sending them back practically screams, ‘I want you to know that I don’t want these books’.”  

That’s when Miki broke down and told me that Michael had Multiple Sclerosis. The doctors thought he had severe MS; he probably had only five to seven years to live.  Knowing that I was far away, Michael made the whole family promise that they would not tell me. There was nothing I could do.

Tragedy wasn’t done with me, yet

Then, in September 2000, my husband died unexpectedly. Reclaiming my life to the point where at least some things became easier took two years.

By Summer 2003, I was checking flights to Europe on a weekly basis. Though Michael’s condition was stable, the disease had progressed to a point where he had to live in a long-term hospice facility with 24-hour care. Finally, I got lucky and could buy three plane tickets to Europe for $350 each. The downside was, we had to wait and fly in November, usually defined as the “low season.”

The day before the kids and I started our 12 hour flight, I called mom and said, “Please call the nurses and ask them to tell Michael that I’ll be at his bedside the day after tomorrow.”

The next day I awoke to the news that Michael had died during the night, unexpectedly.

What-ifs and maybes

Instinctively, I knew that Michael died so I would never see him looking like skin and bones and being in pain all day long. He wanted me to remember him as the boy, the teenager, and the young man he had been; the cool, fun guy.

It was the only explanation. Michael had held on to life for so long, his health status had not changed in months, yet he died within hours of learning that I was about to board a plane.  If I would have been able to fly sooner, he probably would have died sooner.

The following year (2004) my Aunt Annemie died and a year later my BFF Miki who had let me in on Michael's tragic secret. 

During these years I thought a lot about life and death and tried to examine how my loved ones had lived their lives.

Without a doubt, all four, including Michael, had lived full lives.

Dealing with Grief

In her book “Option B,” Sheryl Sandberg writes how communicating on Facebook helped her in dealing with grief. Then again, isn’t the fact that everybody is glued to their Smartphone instead of talking to the person next to them, a major societal problem?

Sandberg also quotes writer Tim Lawrence, “When you’re faced with tragedy, you usually find that you’re no longer surrounded by people—you’re surrounded by platitudes.”  Again, I believe that social media is part of this problem. On Facebook, people see how others post “I am so sorry for your loss (sticker of crying kitten or puppy).” 

This shows proper etiquette, but: Is it Personal? Or Is it Platitude?

My grandparents and great-grandparents who survived World War I and II saw many dozens of their family and friends die or disappear. Still, even without grief counseling, all of them stayed pretty sane. What did they do to ease the trauma?

They told and re-told each other the good stories until they became legendary!

“The Stories”

Here are a few tales from my family:
  • During World War I, my great-grandfather and his best friend escaped from a Russian prison camp and walked home, a distance of about 1,000 miles.
  • My grandmother on mother’s side solved and sent in the church magazine’s crossword puzzle  every month for more than 40 years. She won the main prize, a paid trip to Rome, five times.
  • During the early Fifties, my father took a train trip to Paris. While there, he saved money by eating mostly bananas. In Paris, two pounds of bananas imported from the French colonies cost only 1 penny, then. Returning from that trip, dad never ate bananas for the rest of his life. 
  • During my sister’s 25th birthday party, my brother Michael predicted the Fall of the Berlin Wall–four years before it happened. Having visited Berlin and crossed Checkpoint Charlie in 1980, I bet Michael ten bucks that the wall would not come down during our lifetime. Of course, I lost this bet.
  • And, my late husband? He did it all—drop out of school, immigrate to different countries, amateur box, and fly planes...

*
Nobody ever asked for these stories but I have the choice to tell them.

Even my grandmother comes off like a super hero. Winning five trips to Rome by solving crossword puzzles is no small feat. Under different circumstances, my grandmother who researched the needed clues in dictionaries and encyclopedias could have been a code breaker or an FBI agent.

*

It is my proposition to help alleviate grief by asking for and talking about the stories that make each life unique.

Sharing stories also forms a bond between the storyteller and the listener because the storyteller can let the listener in on something special, maybe even a secret. Storytelling is the oldest form of encouraging others and ourselves to move on and forward. Long before our ancestors could read, that’s how tribe leaders motivated their people.

Personally, I believe in the power of storytelling so much that in 2012, I penned a life-skills book which features 41 true stories. These and all good stories transport messages that teach how to get to the next level while also valuing the past.


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Do you believe that storytelling can help ease the pain and moving forward?

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Gisela Hausmann is the multi-award winning author of NAKED DETERMINATION 41 Stories About Overcoming Fear and NAKED EYE-OPENER: To Reach the Dream You Must Forget About It." 

She tweets @Naked_Determina


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