June 24, 2014

Going to Tour Transylvania? Where Will You Spend Your Money?

If you plan to go on a tour of Transylvania, Romania, the best advice is to plan your trip well in advance.  More specifically, plan how much money you intend to spend because you can spend a lot of your hard earned money there.

Bran Castle

Almost anyone who has a fascination with Transylvania or with Dracula and vampires, wants to go on a tour to Romania some day.  The fact of the matter is that it costs a fair bit of money to travel there and then to go and see the major tourist sites that this area has to offer.  There are more cites and towns that a person can choose to visit outside of Transylvania, and this means taking the time to choose wisely.

If you were to go and tour Transylvania proper, what would you spend your money on to go and see?  For some, going to see the famous Bran Castle is a must since they want to see the castle which Bram Stoker made famous in his novel, Dracula.  It costs about 6 Euros for admission into the castle, and it is owned by the decedents of Princess Ileana of Romania, herself a daughter of Queen Marie of Romania.  While this doesn't seem like a large fee, they charge extra fees for filming in the castle itself.

The birthplace of Vlad Tepes, Prince of Wallachia:  This city of SighiÈ™oara is in Transylvania, and many people want to go and see it because it is linked with him, and he is the inspiration for Count Dracula.  Bram Stoker certainly knew that this man would be a memorable character, and he didn't let his readers down.

Bran Castle:  This is not the home of Count Dracula, but it was a royal summer residence for Queen Marie and her family after the end of the First World War.  Since 2009, the castle is in possession of Archduke Dominic, and Archduchesses Maria Magdalena and Elizabeth.

The many cities of Transylvania:  There are many cities who have great historical value, and there are many UNESCO heritage sites, but many also have a huge market designed for tourists.

Or, Hotel Castle Dracula: (Note that there was no such place until tourists came along.  This is not where Dracula or any of the character from the novel Dracula stayed.)  For some people who love vampires, this is a must see site, and it is apparently in the spot where the novel is set.  It is a popular site, and it is also aimed at tourists who have a love for Dracula and vampires. 

Most people might be quick to answer that they would go and see all of Transylvania, but there are always a few must-see places — based on what you want to see.  It can be a city or a town, but it can also be something you simply have to look at to believe.  It is vital that people come to see the history of Transylvania, but many do come just to see the castles.

There are also many ways to spend your money, so it is important to plan where exactly where you want to go and to build a strong plan before you leave home.  The historical sites are generally free to the public, but there is always a need to eat, and the best part of going on a tour in Transylvania is that you can eat some gerat local food.  The food tends not to cost as much money, but the drinks are often quite a bit more expensive; however, this is a means for the local economy to grow since some of the more famous sites are not government owned but rather privately held.

Many people, when asked which specific place they want to see, are quick to say they would go and see Bran Castle — after all, you might think it is a tourist place, but some will go and see it because of Dracula.  Dracula is still a large market, and although some are designed for this large market others are a definite money grab to the unsuspecting tourist who seems to have money to spare.  Bran Castle also houses a lot of information about the Romanian royal family, a good example is that the heart of Queen Marie is buried in the castle, and exhibits show many rare photos of Queen Marie, her children and grandchildren as well as having a focus on how Dracula played a role in keeping the castle alive for the tourists who come.

June 17, 2014

Make Money On Transylvania, Romania? Don't Let Your Readers Down

I have read and enjoyed a lot of books on the subject of Transylvania, and in particular, the Transylvanian Saxons. I read anything that people ask me to read, and I read anything that strikes me as interesting. Most of the books on Transylvania which are about a particular group are self-published.

What I don't enjoy reading is something that makes me feel that I bought a too short book for the price I paid for it.  This is most true when it comes to Transylvania, and this is possibly the second biggest reason why there are many self-published books out there that don't get as many reviews as they might hope for.  

The most important thing when dealing with Transylvania as a writing subject is getting the facts correct, and if the facts in the book contradict each other, the reader will leave a bad review.  It's one thing to write about a legend of history, such as Dracula (Vlad Tepes) and Bran Castle, but it is another to write in a market that is saturated with self-published books on Dracula and hope that yours will be a bestseller.  I have the experience of reading what I felt was a good book on Transylvania only to be disappointed with the fact that they only talked about Dracula and the books that others authors have written over the years.  I could have found this online with little trouble, but it was about Transylvania, and the reviews were promising when I read them.

I understand that there are writers are out there writing to earn a living doing something they are passionate about — in this case Transylvania, Romania.  I understand that this is an admirable goal to have.  What I don't understand is over-priced books with incorrect information in them or when they don't have a strong bibliography.  What can frustrate me the most is not the book itself, but what I feel as a reader when I read an 88 page book I bought for 10 dollars.  I think the message the writer is sending about Transylvania is that this place doesn't have the power to draw a reader's attention or, worse still, they are in it to make money.  They might not even have an author platform, or they don't want one for any of various reasons.

At this point, I want to ask the writer, do your readers believe that you are writing for them or for money?  I am sure that some will say, "I am doing both." But, actions speak volumes. I am also sure that some do just want to make money, and the readers can be second to anything else.  There are also new authors who simply did not take the time to really understand the market for their books.  Most of the people who read about Transylvania already have plenty of background knowledge of the subject.  Because of this, a reader can quickly tell if the history you are writing about is correct or if you were not as clear to them.  A reader matters.

It is, to me, important to find out smaller details that matter to a reader.  I learned this over time with my own book In Search of The Lost Ones.  Most readers know it's about Transylvanian Saxons, and I believe that it shows my passion for the subject.

What I believe any author, or writer, or publisher should ask themselves, is: Do my readers believe I am in it for the money? I don't think that a book should be published simply because it is finished. I have seen and heard of too many self-published books that didn't do well because they still needed some work — either with editing or marketing to the correct audience. I have also seen some wonderful books written by self-published authors which weren't selling well dimly because they were books in a niche market like Transylvania, and they were either about history or about the legends of the area.

The key to success in writing is knowing what your readers like, what they think, and what you can do to improve the way a book is read and how Transylvania is portrayed.  When publishing a book, especially when it's about Transylvania, it is important to get the history and the book right.  I love to read, and I like to sit down and enjoy a book and not have to worry about how much money I spent on it.  The answer to the question "Do your readers believe you are in it for the money?" should be, no.  It should be because you can write a wonderful story, and not the money or if it was self-published, but because you want a reader like myself to love it.

June 9, 2014

Facebook, Social Networking and Transylvania

Most people are involved in some form of social media, and most people have some type of connection to the Internet, or they have heard of either Twitter or of Facebook. When it comes to dealing with Transylvania, everything you knew about social media was wrong.

Most of the wonderful writers or bloggers who have run a blog on Transylvania, or any niche subject blog for that matter, can tell you that getting people to read and comment on your work is hard enough.  It is even harder when some readers look for and find problems where there are none.  Thanks to the strength of social networking sites, a lot of people can find your blog and comment on it.  And they'll do so — often when they feel strong emotions based on what they think the blog is about.

A good example was found on my Facebook page, I asked what the next post on Things about Transylvania should be about, and one of the followers commented, "the truth!"  At first, I wondered why they would say something like this; after all, this blog deals with history and writing it down, and possibly publishing it. It deals with writers and niche markets and what it is like to self-publish in a niche market.  This blog also deals with myths and how people see Transylvania in pop culture.

After a while, I thought about this statement a little bit more, and realized that they were talking about a perception of truth.  

I can say that before World War I, Transylvania was a part of the Kingdom of Hungary.  Yes, this fact is true, but it is not the entire truth.  Hungary was part of the Austrian Empire by the time of the start of 1914.  A more correct statement would be that Transylvania was a part of the Empire of Austria.  Even this statement is not entirely correct, since the Emperor of Austria, Franz Joseph I was referred to as:  His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty, Francis Joseph I, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria; Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Illyria; King of Jerusalem, etc.; Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Tuscany, Crakow; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, the Bukovina; Grand Prince of Transylvania; Margrave of Moravia; Duke of the Upper & Lower Silesia, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Guastalla, Oswiecin, Zator, Cieszyn, Friuli, Ragusa, Zara; Princely Count of Habsburg, Tyrol, Kyburg, Gorizia, Gradisca; Prince of Trent, Brixen; Margrave of the Upper & Lower Lusatia, in Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenberg, etc.; Lord of Triest, Kotor, the Wendish March; Grand Voivode of the Voivodship of Serbia etc. etc. This is a long title, but it has two interesting points that make a person think about how people see Transylvania in terms of society today.

When Hungary became a part of Austria, in 1571, Transylvania became an independent principality, and it would later be annexed by the House of Hapsburg in 1867.  Transylvania became a part of the Empire, and The Grand Prince of Transylvania was the current Emperor.  Again, these are facts, and for some this is too complex, but some of the Hungarians who lived or live in Transylvania take the view that Transylvania was always a part of Hungary.  This view is not correct, but it is not entirely incorrect either.

The same is true with Romanians who live in Transylvania.  Many have taken the view that Transylvania should have always been a part of Romania because it was a part of Romania historically.  They argue that this goes back to the Roman and Dacian Empires.  Again, they are not incorrect, but the truth is harder to find.  There is not as much hard evidence for this to be used as an argument for the people of Romania.  Also, Romania itself was formed when the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia united in 1859 to become the country of Romania.  The same holds true with facts about who owns Bran Castle in Transylvania.  Most people can find out quite quickly that the government of Romania does not own it, and that, instead, it is owned privately.

Facebook and other social networking sites make these facts harder to share.  People can, in an instant, take up a viewpoint that is not correct when they do not understand the entire story.  They can say that they know the truth, but the fact remains that there is simply too much information out there to make an argument for anything relating to history, especially when it is linked to culture.

The grey area in regards to facts and history that Facebook has produced is amazing as more people simply take the time to skim over long articles and don't try to learn more about the larger picture.  Facebook is a good platform, in so far as it connects people to others in a way that they never could be before, but the challenge is that with subject matter such as Transylvania, where the history of the land changed quickly, social networking is a harsh place to get your word out.

If a person talks about Transylvania in terms of tourist areas, a less volatile topic, then most people will agree that it is a wonderful place to visit and want to learn more information about it.  The Romanian government wants people to go and see Transylvania since they make money on tourism.  They use social media very well, and there are many sites a person can go to that discuss touring Transylvania which the government of Romania has set up.

Facebook and other sites play an important role in getting information to a potential reader, but the greatest challenge is not getting the reader to a blog or website, but rather getting them to express a view and see that the truth they think might they know not be the entire truth.

June 4, 2014

Who Are You Reaching with Your Blog?

Since this website has been up and running, there have always been little things that strike me as being important.  One of them is reach.

You might wonder what I mean by reach, but it's simple.  In a blog terms, "reach" is what makes people come to your blog and read what you have written.  Things about Transylvania has a bit of a reach, but it is because the people who come and read this blog have a reason to be here.  It's how people see your blog and your writing.

Things about Transylvania deals with writing about Transylvania.  What we write about is history or how the media views Transylvania as a place.  There is a lot of valuable information to go around, and it's important that the readers who come here have the opportunity to be reached.  What makes it more important is that readers are allowed a point of view.

If readers have a voice, then it is more likely that the reach of a blog will grow.  This can't happen if the website writers don't evolve and build from there.  A blog is only as good as its writers, and they are only as good as their readers.

Social media is a big factor in your reach.  It was the Facebook page for me as an author which got me to thinking, how is this blog reaching you?  Each Facebook page logs statistics that can give the page's administrator details regarding the reach of a post.  On a blog, there is the same thing, and you can find it as a "page view."  While this shouldn't tell you what to write about, it can certainly tell you if you are doing the right thing or the wrong thing.

There is another factor to reach — over doing the "best of the best."  By this I mean that you can focus so much on what works that you don't look at other things which, with a little bit of tweaking on your part, would do much better.  A blog is a very dynamic thing, and, just like the Internet, it changes with each reader.  It's not something you can view based on past results.

Past results are important, though, as they can give you an idea of what people want.  A good blog has comments on it, or has Google "liking"it in some way.  A great blog challenges what a reader thinks and makes them want to come back.  Things about Transylvania is a good blog, but there are times when the reach of the blog is not as strong as it could be.

The best posts are not the most controversial.  The best posts are often the ones we least suspect: where is Transylvania in all the posts? You need to ask these questions frequently to find the answer you need.  It is important to keep an eye out for these posts.  The next step is asking whom are you reaching with your posts?

If you are reaching the right sort of readers, this will help your blog in the long run.  With a niche focus on writing about Transylvania it is important to see where it can be improved.  A blog helps you reach the readers you want to reach.  It also means you can find out who is coming to read the blog just because they see your name or visits because they want to cause some type of discussion, either good or bad.  A discussion, either via email or in posted comments, is an important component of a blog, any blog, but it is even more so when it deals with a small number of readers.

If a blog is reaching out to writers and to people who know about Transylvania, or who read a lot of books about Transylvania, Romania it's important to talk about both things and balance them out on a regular basis.  A good example is writing about Transylvania.  Most readers know and understand that a blog post can only be so long before people loose interest. If you focus on writing in one post, it's a good idea to focus on Transylvania in the next.  In the land of the Internet, grabbing a reader's attention is more about what you write than how you say it.  The problem with this is is that people plan their writing based on what worked in the past, and this won't work now.

With social media, and the reach people now have with it, on the rise, and the ability to self-publish books, it's just as important to look at the audience who is reading and commenting on your blog.  The more you know about who is the most active and who is reading what, the more you can let your blog evolve into something that works for you as an author and the people who read it.

June 1, 2014

Do You Need A Blog When Publishing About Transylvania, Romania?

It's one of the first things that an author will hear about when they first begin the journey to publishing a book: "you need an author platform."  If they are publishing a book on Transylvania, Romania is that true?

Blogs are an important part of networking for anyone who wants to work with people outside of their own network.  A blog, such as Things About Transylvania, is an ever growing and organic piece that is a part of many people's reading list.  While most of the blog's readers might not have lived in Transylvania or Romania, they have either travelled there or are in need of some background information.  Books such as Transylvania give a reader a lot to think about before they go and see the real place.

The question is, how would they go about finding this book beyond simply going to Amazon and searching?

This is where blogs that writes and comments about Transylvania, or Romania, are important.  They can help readers and authors in two ways.  First, they can connect a reader to some new books and can give them a quick impression of what the writer, or writers, of the blog think about the book.  Two, it gives the writer of the blog, or the author of a book,
a platform from which they can talk about places and people, and it helps them learn about how to build an audience without building a large physical network right away.

My own book, In Search of The Lost Ones, is a good example of a book that benefited from the support of a blog.  Although I don't discount the other aspects of the online world, I have learned that my blog, and others like it, allow readers to see what is on my mind, and readers have the opportunity to consider and comment about it.  Social media is also important because, not only do I need to have the time to write, I also need to have other parts of this network running well.

This is why a blog is a great tool when it comes to writing about Transylvania, Romania.  A blog is, in general, a free platform, much like Facebook or Twitter.  However, unlike Twitter or Facebook, I have to promote my own work by myself.  If I am writing in a niche market (like this one) this means I am working with my readers to engage them and build my relationship (of an author and a reader) with them.  This also means that the blog is an extension of myself and my writing.  The more I learn and expand my writing, the more the readers are able to relate to me.

I can talk about Dracula, or about Romania, or even Transylvania and politics, and my readers will understand where I am coming from.  A niche market subject needs a blog.  A niche market subject needs a blogger who is willing to engage and comment to readers.  Comments are important, but if it turns one sided and the writer doesn't respond, there develops a problem with a blog that has a small reach — it will only make it smaller.  The same hold true with a Twitter account or a Facebook page; there is a limit to the reach of an author if they aren't working with their readers building a relationship.  The same holds true when you are self-publishing a book.  Write a blog to build yourself and your brand.

Transylvania, as a subject, has a lot to offer a writer to simply talk about and to create something new and different to their reader.  Part of what makes this topic work is the unlimited ability for people to find information and to comment on it.  It isn't enough to say that there is a market for a blog if you don't have a background to build on or the willingness to read, comment on, and respond to what your readers have to say.  It isn't enough to think that Transylvania is a one dimensional place and to choose not learn more about it.

Transylvania is a huge part of Romania, both in a cultural aspect and a geographical sense.  Information about the area can easily be found almost anywhere on the Internet, but it is blogs that help create a channel of communication in a smaller market.  Romania is a large country, but it is still small in comparison to many other European countries when it comes to bodies of written work.  As I have found, there is a lot to learn about Transylvania, but it was blogs that lead me to this destination.