50 Can’t-Fail Techniques for
Finding Great Blog Topics
I can’t list them all here, but this is an excellent source of ideas for your blog. You do have a blog, right?
THIS Is the Future of Publishing
YOUR E-BOOK IS READING YOU (Wall Street Journal)
It takes the average reader just seven hours to read the final book in Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy on the Kobo e-reader—about 57 pages an hour. Nearly 18,000 Kindle readers have highlighted the same line from the second book in the series: “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.” And on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the first thing that most readers do upon finishing the first “Hunger Games” book is to download the next one.
In the past, publishers and authors had no way of knowing what happens when a reader sits down with a book. Does the reader quit after three pages, or finish it in a single sitting? Do most readers skip over the introduction, or read it closely, underlining passages and scrawling notes in the margins? Now, e-books are providing a glimpse into the story behind the sales figures, revealing not only how many people buy particular books, but how intensely they read them.
The major new players in e-book publishing—Amazon, Apple and Google—can easily track how far readers are getting in books, how long they spend reading them and which search terms they use to find books. Book apps for tablets like the iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook record how many times readers open the app and how much time they spend reading. Retailers and some publishers are beginning to sift through the data, gaining unprecedented insight into how people engage with books.For centuries, reading has largely been a solitary and private act, an intimate exchange between the reader and the words on the page. But the rise of digital books has prompted a profound shift in the way we read, transforming the activity into something measurable and quasi-public.
Publishing has lagged far behind the rest of the entertainment industry when it comes to measuring consumers’ tastes and habits. TV producers relentlessly test new shows through focus groups; movie studios run films through a battery of tests and retool them based on viewers’ reactions. But in publishing, reader satisfaction has largely been gauged by sales data and reviews—metrics that offer a postmortem measure of success but can’t shape or predict a hit. That’s beginning to change as publishers and booksellers start to embrace big data, and more tech companies turn their sights on publishing.
Barnes & Noble, which accounts for 25% to 30% of the e-book market through its Nook e-reader, has recently started studying customers’ digital reading behavior. Data collected from Nooks reveals, for example, how far readers get in particular books, how quickly they read and how readers of particular genres engage with books. Jim Hilt, the company’s vice president of e-books, says the company is starting to share their insights with publishers to help them create books that better hold people’s attention.
The stakes are high for the company as it seeks a greater share of the e-book market. Sales of Nook devices rose 45% this past fiscal year, and e-book sales for the Nook rose 119%. Overall, Nook devices and e-books generated $1.3 billion, compared to $880 million the previous year. Microsoft recently invested $300 million for a 17.6% stake of the Nook.
Mr. Hilt says that the company is still in “the earliest stages of deep analytics” and is sifting through “more data than we can use.” But the data—which focuses on groups of readers, not individuals—has already yielded some useful insights into how people read particular genres. Some of the findings confirm what retailers already know by glancing at the best-seller lists. For example, Nook users who buy the first book in a popular series like “Fifty Shades of Grey” or “Divergent,” a young-adult series by Veronica Roth, tend to tear through all the books in the series, almost as if they were reading a single novel.
Barnes & Noble has determined, through analyzing Nook data, that nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts, while novels are generally read straight through, and that nonfiction books, particularly long ones, tend to get dropped earlier. Science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans often read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction do, and finish most of the books they start. Readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend skip around between books.
Those insights are already shaping the types of books that Barnes & Noble sells on its Nook. Mr. Hilt says that when the data showed that Nook readers routinely quit long works of nonfiction, the company began looking for ways to engage readers in nonfiction and long-form journalism. They decided to launch “Nook Snaps,” short works on topics ranging from weight loss and religion to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Pinpointing the moment when readers get bored could also help publishers create splashier digital editions by adding a video, a Web link or other multimedia features, Mr. Hilt says. Publishers might be able to determine when interest in a fiction series is flagging if readers who bought and finished the first two books quickly suddenly slow down or quit reading later books in the series.
“The bigger trend we’re trying to unearth is where are those drop-offs in certain kinds of books, and what can we do with publishers to prevent that?” Mr. Hilt says. “If we can help authors create even better books than they create today, it’s a win for everybody.”
Some authors welcome the prospect. Novelist Scott Turow says he’s long been frustrated by the industry’s failure to study its customer base. “I once had an argument with one of my publishers when I said, ‘I’ve been publishing with you for a long time and you still don’t know who buys my books,’ and he said, ‘Well, nobody in publishing knows that,’ ” says Mr. Turow, president of the Authors Guild. “If you can find out that a book is too long and you’ve got to be more rigorous in cutting, personally I’d love to get the information.”
Others worry that a data-driven approach could hinder the kinds of creative risks that produce great literature. “The thing about a book is that it can be eccentric, it can be the length it needs to be, and that is something the reader shouldn’t have anything to do with,” says Jonathan Galassi, president and publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. “We’re not going to shorten ‘War and Peace’ because someone didn’t finish it.”
Publishers are only just beginning to mull over the potential uses for e-reading data. Many are skeptical that analytics can aid in the industry’s ongoing battle to woo consumers who are increasingly distracted by games and social media. But at a time when traditional publishers are losing ground to tech giants like Amazon and Apple, better analytics seem to offer tantalizing possibilities.
Amazon, in particular, has an advantage in this field—it’s both a retailer and a publisher, which puts the company in a unique position to use the data it gathers on its customers’ reading habits. It’s no secret that Amazon and other digital book retailers track and store consumer information detailing what books are purchased and read. Kindle users sign an agreement granting the company permission to store information from the device—including the last page you’ve read, plus your bookmarks, highlights, notes and annotations—in its data servers.
Amazon can identify which passages of digital books are popular with readers, and shares some of this data publicly on its website through features such as its “most highlighted passages” list. Readers digitally “highlight” selections using a button on the Kindle; they can also opt to see the lines commonly highlighted by other readers as they read a book. Amazon aggregates these selections to see what gets underlined the most. Topping the list is the line from the “Hunger Games” trilogy. It is followed by the opening sentence of “Pride and Prejudice.”
“We think of it as the collective intelligence of all the people reading on Kindle,” says Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall.
Some privacy watchdogs argue that e-book users should be protected from having their digital reading habits recorded. “There’s a societal ideal that what you read is nobody else’s business,” says Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for consumer rights and privacy. “Right now, there’s no way for you to tell Amazon, I want to buy your books, but I don’t want you to track what I’m reading.”
Amazon declined to comment on how it analyzes and uses the Kindle data it gathers.
EFF has pressed for legislation to prevent digital book retailers from handing over information about individuals’ reading habits as evidence to law enforcement agencies without a court’s approval. Earlier this year, California instituted the “reader privacy act,” which makes it more difficult for law-enforcement groups to gain access to consumers’ digital reading records. Under the new law, agencies must get a court order before they can require digital booksellers to turn over information revealing which books their customers have browsed, purchased, read and underlined. The American Civil Liberties Union and EFF, which partnered with Google and other organizations to push for the legislation, are now seeking to enact similar laws in other states.
Bruce Schneier, a cyber-security expert and author, worries that readers may steer clear of digital books on sensitive subjects such as health, sexuality and security—including his own works—out of fear that their reading is being tracked. “There are a gazillion things that we read that we want to read in private,” Mr. Schneier says.
There are some 40 million e-readers and 65 million tablets in use in the U.S., according to analysts at Forrester Research. In the first quarter of 2012, e-books generated $282 million in sales, compared to $230 million for print, the Association of American Publishers recently found.
Meanwhile, the shift to digital books has fueled an arms race among digital start-ups seeking to cash in on the massive pool of data collected by e-reading devices and reading apps. New e-reading services, which allow readers to purchase and store books in a digital library and read them on different devices, have some of the most sophisticated reader tracking software. The digital reading platform Copia, which has 50,000 subscribers, collects detailed demographic and reading data—including the age, gender and school affiliation of people who bought particular titles, as well as how many times the books were downloaded, opened and read—and shares its findings with publishers. Copia aggregates the data, so that individual users aren’t identifiable, and shares that information with publishers that request it.
Kobo, which makes digital reading devices and operates an e-reading service that stocks 2.5 million books and has more than eight million users, has recently started looking at how readers as a whole engage with particular books and genres. The company tracks how many hours readers spend on particular titles and how far they get. Kobo recently found, for example, that most readers who started George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novel “A Dance With Dragons” finished the book, and spent an average of 20 hours reading it, a relatively fast read for a 1,040-page novel.
Scholastic, which publishes popular young-adult fiction such as Harry Potter and “The Hunger Games,” created online message boards and interactive games connected to its popular series “39 Clues.” The online game and message board, which has 1.9 million registered users, allows the publisher to track which story lines and characters are resonating with young readers. David Levithan, Scholastic’s publisher and editorial director, says the online feedback has shaped the ongoing “39 Clues” series and helped to turn it into a global franchise with more than 15 million copies in print.Some publishers are already beginning to market test books digitally, before releasinrint edition. Earlier this year, Sourcebooks, which publishes 250 titles a year, began experimenting with a new model of serial, online publishing. Sourcebooks has released early online editions for half a dozen titles, ranging from romance to young adult to nonfiction books, and has solicited questions and suggestions from readers. Eventually, readers’ feedback will be incorporated into the print version.
“You very rarely get a glimpse into the reader’s mind,” he says. “With a printed book, there’s no such thing as an analytic. You can’t tell which pages are dog-eared.”
Few publishers have taken the experiment as far as Coliloquy, a digital publishing company that was created earlier this year by Waynn Lue, a computer scientist and former Google engineer, and Lisa Rutherford, a venture capitalist and former president of Twofish, a gaming-analytics firm.
Coliloquy’s digital books, which are available on Kindle, Nook and Android e-readers, have a “choose-your-own-adventure”-style format, allowing readers to customize characters and plot lines. The company’s engineers aggregate and pool the data gleaned from readers’ selections and send it to the authors, who can adjust story lines in their next books to reflect popular choices.
“Data and analytics, we’ve seen how it revolutionized certain industries like mobile apps and gaming,” says Mr. Lue. “With reading, we don’t yet have that engagement data, and we wanted to provide a feedback mechanism that didn’t exist before between authors and readers.”
Coliloquy developed its software through Amazon’s Kindle data developer program, which allows outside companies to create interactive content for Kindle. Their proprietary data platform draws on complex algorithms, similar to gaming software, that lets readers choose from different narrative pathways.
The company hired six editors and five technology and product developers and began recruiting authors from a range of genres, including romance, nonfiction, young adult fantasy and erotica. Since launching this past January, the company has released eight titles, and is expanding into crime fiction, legal thrillers and experimental fiction. Mr. Lue and Ms. Rutherford declined to provide sales figures for Coliloquy’s titles, citing a nondisclosure agreement with Amazon. But they say more than 90% of readers who buy Colloquy’s books, which range from $2.99 to $7.99, finish reading them, and 67% reread the books.
In “Parish Mail,” Kira Snyder’s young adult mystery series set in New Orleans, readers can decide whether the teenage protagonist solves crimes by using magic or by teaming up with a police detective’s cute teenage son. Readers of “Great Escapes,” an erotic romance series co-written by Linda Wisdom and Lynda K. Scott, can customize the hero’s appearance and the intensity of the love scenes. A recent report from Coliloquy showed that the ideal hero for “Great Escapes” readers is tall with black hair and green eyes, a rugged, burly build and a moderately but not overly hairy chest.
In Tawna Fenske’s romantic caper “Getting Dumped”—which centers on a young woman who finds work at a landfill after getting laid off from her high-profile job at the county’s public relations office—readers can choose which of three suitors they want the heroine to pursue. The most recent batch of statistics showed that 53.3% chose Collin, a Hugh Grant type; 16.8% chose Pete, the handsome but unavailable co-worker; and 29.7% of readers liked Daniel, the heroine’s emotionally distant boyfriend.
Ms. Fenske originally planned to get rid of Daniel by sending him to prison and writing him out of the series. Then she saw the statistics. She decided 29.7 % was too big a chunk of her audience to ignore.
“So much of the time, it’s an editor and agent and publisher telling you, ‘This is what readers want,’ but this is hands-on reader data,” says Ms. Fenske, 37, who lives in Bend, Ore. “I’ve always wondered, did that person buy it and stop after the first three pages? Now I can see they bought it and read it in the first week.”
What Writers Should NOT Write to Agents or Publishers
November 12, 2011
The other week I attended a workshop on getting published and I want to share with you a few tips that came up about whatnot to write in your query letter to an agent or publisher.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, a query letter is simply a brief letter that tells the agent or publisher what your book or screenplay is about. It’s the first step and you hope that they will be sufficiently intrigued to request your complete manuscript or some sample chapters.
Before you send a query letter, check out the recipient’s web site. Look for pages labeled “submissions” or “submission guidelines” or the “contact” page. Most of the time the site will tell you what they are willing to look at in the first instance and whether they prefer it to come in an email or by mail.
The site will also tell you to whom to direct your query—be sure you send it to the right person and that you’ve spelled their name correctly.
The agent said all of the following are things she’s actually seen in real query letters—and doesn’t want to see again:
1. How much your family or friends liked your manuscript. They’re not considered unbiased judges of material.
2. How much better it is than the current best-seller in your genre. Or, possibly even worse, how much better it is than a book this agent represents.
3. That you’re unworthy. She said overconfidence tends to be a trait of U.S. writers, lack of confidence a trait of U.K. writers.
3. How rich the agent will get by selling your book or that they will regret it if they pass up the opportunity to sign you.
4. That this isn’t the final draft but it’s good enough for them to look at. They don’t want it until you’re sure it’s as good as you can make it.
5. That you have another ten or twelve other projects ready to ship them. It’s OK to mention one other project in passing when you write to an agent, but no more.
6. That you’d be happy to make your male protagonist a woman or vice-versa, or to change key aspects of the plot. It’s a given that you’re willing to make some changes if a publisher asks you to, but show confidence in your choices.
7. References to the agents’ personal lives, how many kids they have, or that you know where they live.
8 Tips to Make the Writing Process Easier
By Laura Hale Brockway | Posted: November 2, 2011
No one who writes for a living will tell you that they actually enjoy writing. It’s tedious and soul-crushing to stare at a blank computer screen, knowing what you want to write but being unable to call up the proper words.
Canadian author Ann-Marie MacDonald describes it aptly: “Writing is a hellish task, best snuck up on, whacked on the head, robbed, and left for dead.”
This year, I was asked to lead a workshop on writing for non-writers. Participants were of varying experience levels, so I spent the majority of our time discussing how to make the writing process less hellish.
What follows is my immodest list of writing tips.
1. Do your research.
Writing when you have nothing to say will lead to instant frustration. Do your research. Begin researching your topic by asking good questions—of yourself, of the books, websites, reports you read, and of anyone you interview.
2. Create an outline.
Once you’ve completed your research, write an outline. An outline is the foundation of your article, but it does not have to be complicated, like the outlines they required in high school. It can be as simple as a numbered list.
3. Learn from other writers.
Good writers are voracious readers. Like musicians who listen to music to analyze it, writers read to analyze. Pay attention to the structure, technique, and diction of the material you read. What can you incorporate into your own writing?
4. Keep your audience in mind.
As you are writing, think about your audience. What would make them chose to read your material? What can you do to make your topic relevant to your readers?
5. Separate the writing and editing processes.
Do not edit as you write. Research on the lateralization of the brain tells us that editing is a “left brain” function and writing is a “right brain” function. To make your writing more effective, turn off your left-brain critic and just write.
6. Write in small sessions.
Take frequent breaks. If you find you can’t write any more or that the words just don’t flow, it means you should stop. Take a break, work on something else, and then come back to your writing.
7. Read your work aloud.
How does it sound when you read what you’ve written back to yourself? Is your writing clear and direct? Are your sentences too long? Is the style too informal?
8. Be done with it.
Once you are finished with your written piece, stop and put it away overnight. When you come back to it, make your refinements and then stop. Hand it off to someone else to edit. Resist the urge to keep refining your work.
It’s taken me years to learn and apply these practices. Though following them can make the writing process easier, it rarely makes it any more enjoyable.
EXTRA TIP #9, from Nellie:
Write on your computer with Internet access turned OFF. Otherwise the temptation to check your mail, or Twitter, or your blog, or Facebook, or the news, or whatever else you do online will be too great and you will get NOTHING done!
For newbies - read this BEFORE you set up 12 different social media accounts
3 Blunders That Can Kill Your Author Platform
By Kristen Lamb
The digital age author has more opportunities than any writer in the history of the written word. But with more opportunities comes more competition, and with more competition comes more work.
Mega-agent Donald Maass will tell you there are only two ways to sell books—a good book and word of mouth, and he is right. Books are not tubes of toothpaste, though many of them sell for less.
Each writer is unique, each product is unique, and thus our marketing approach must appreciate that or we are doomed to fail. Too many social media approaches are a formula to land a writer on a roof with a shotgun and a bottle of scotch. I am a writer first, so my social media approach appreciates that books are not car insurance, and writers are not tacos.
Yes, social media is a wonderful tool for building an author platform. But, unlike Starbucks, we cannot hire college students to create our product. We need to be on social media and still have time left over for the most important “marketing” task of all—writing awesome books.
I am going to point out three major social media time-wasters. If we can avoid these social media tar babies, we will have more time to write brilliant books.
1. Joining every social media site for “exposure”
Many writers, when introduced to the wonderful world of social media, promptly develop what I like to call RDD—Reality Deficit Disorder. RDD prompts writers to run out and sign up for Facebook, a fan page, Twitter, G+, Tumblr, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, and on and on.
When pursued to an extreme, writers suffering from advanced RDD curl up in the fetal position under their desks muttering, “Soooo many circles. Tweet … tweet. Be my friend. I like friends.”
Social media is NOT traditional marketing. Social media gains the most power from relationships, and it is impossible for us to be on ten or even five different sites and still maintain the level of interaction required to make other people feel vested in us.
Blitzing out our message on six different sites is the equivalent of spam. People are gravitating to social media by the millions, in part, to escape spam. Bring spam into their sacred space, and you’ll either lose trust or be ignored.
2. Getting too focused on the numbers
We don’t need to “friend” 20,000 people to reach 20,000 people. Social media, unlike traditional marketing, works exponentially not linearly. Having 30,000 friends on Twitter means about as much as the White Pages I just threw in the recycle bin.
Theoretically, I could hold up my White Pages and say, “I have 30,00 friends.” But how many of those people know me? How many of those people do I know? How many of those people can I count on to help me spread the news of my next book? Only a very small percentage—people I personally know and a random handful of weird, lonely people.
In the end, do I really have 30,000 friends, or just a list of meaningless names and equally meaningless relationships?
Instead of “following” or “friending” hundreds of people, spend time networking instead. Get to know people and serve them. Authenticity and kindness are two of the most powerful assets we possess in this new paradigm. We are the product as much as our books. People buy from who they know and who they like. They also promote who they know and who they like, and, trust me, they DO NOT like the writer who junks up their Facebook with form letters and phony compliments.
If we focus on relationships and we write great books, others will promote us to their networks. That’s called word of mouth.
3. Using cutesy monikers
Writers love to be creative. Great! Awesome! But we need to be creative at the right time and place.
There is only one acceptable handle for writers who are serious about publishing and selling books, and that is the NAME printed on the front of our books.
We (readers) cannot purchase books by @FairyGirl, @BookMaven or @VampireChik. When writers hide behind monikers, they undermine their most powerful platform-building tool: the “top of mind.” Each time we tweet or blog, we are adding “beams” (content) to our author platform. The platform needs to support our name to the point that our name alone becomes a bankable asset—in some cases, a brand.
Writer’s Name + Great Content + Positive Feelings = Author Brand
Cutesy blog titles are equal offenders. I have run across many excellent blogs, but the author’s NAME was nowhere to be found. Thus, the author of the blog was working hard to contribute thousands of words a week to build a meaningless platform.
If we focus on quality, authentic relationships, we will have more time left to write great books. Combine great books with a quality online network and success is only a matter of time. It is a wonderful time to be a writer.
Numbers In Literary Publishing: You Have One Sentence
61 rejections in a row. That’s my record. Like DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Or, to be more precise, the exact opposite of DiMaggio’s hitting streak. Hitless. More like the old man’s 84-day fishless streak to open Hemingway’s novella.
61 rejections in a row. Rejections of stories, poems, and a manuscript. But that’s not even a record. Jack London was rejected more than 400 times in a row. And without Sherwood Anderson, William Faulkner’s streak would have been epic as well.
Writers count their rejections. Keep them. Wallpaper bathrooms with the pages. Create post-rejection rituals. I have thirteen of ZYZZYVA’s “Gentle Writer….” Xerox copies in my file.
But big rejection numbers are not important. Big numbers in general are not important. No, the number to worry about is one. Because this “one” is all you have working for you. If you are an unpublished writer, you need to consider one. Consider what one means for you as a hopeful writer, as a writer with no credits in her bio.
That’s how many sentences you have to impress an agent or editor.
And it’s not the first sentence of your manuscript. People will tell you how important that first sentence is. But I’m here to tell you that your manuscript’s first sentence will not be read. The sentence you need to worry about is the first sentence of your query letter. I’ve read interviews where editors or agents say that they read the first ten pages of a queried manuscript, or the first five pages, or the first page. They say that they can tell after reading these short sections. But they’re not telling the truth.
Those same editors will tell a different story over a beer or a coffee.
I’ve sat down with a book editor and asked her how many pages she actually reads at the query stage, and she said, “Zero.” I got the same reply from a magazine editor. And two agents. Plus a publisher friend of mine. So what do they actually read when they get a query and manuscript? The cover letter.
And how much of the cover letter? The first sentence.
If you have to ask why, you’ve never been a literary agent. The last time I met my with my agent she said she was a little stressed because she had 900 queries waiting in her email in-box. When I asked her how many queries she receives per week, she said, “600 to 700.” Per week. Writer’s Digest and online writers’ websites say that the first paragraph of the query letter should be a hook, be informative, and one sentence. This is standard. So you have a one-sentence paragraph to sell your manuscript.
When I decided to try and publish my memoir two years ago, querying fifteen agents, I battled that first sentence. I wrote more than thirty different versions.
I wrote. Deleted. Wrote. Rewrote. Delete again.
I kept asking myself, “How can one sentence represent an entire book? How can one sentence tell enough information without telling too much? How can this sentence be powerful and engaging, yet still be a single sentence?”
And is this a fair expectation of unpublished writers?
Unfortunately, yes. In a culture where the average book browser only reads the back of a book, this one-sentence query requirement is fitting. The jacket is not written by the author, and the first sentence of a query is not part of the manuscript. So books sell — on both ends — based on non-manuscript material.
Show economy. Be precise. Hook.
The sentence I used to query those agents was not perfect. At the danger of public ridicule, I’ll include it here as an example:
“The End of Boys, a 60,000-word memoir, is a post-pop chronicle of an obsessive compulsive boy, fevered by daymares, a voice, who gets expelled from school after school until he ends up in rehab, runs, hitchhikes, and lives in the Greyhound Bus Station in Dallas, Texas.”
A run-on. I wish I could rewrite that now. Shorten it. Replace the word “chronicle” — which is awful — and “daymares” — which is not even a real word. But that’s the sentence I sent. And four of the fifteen agents asked to read my manuscript. So it worked for four out of fifteen. It is therefore a working example. Imperfect, but somewhat successful.
At the point of sale, the body of writing doesn’t matter. The manuscript itself. But, of course, it does later. After that first query sentence, after the initial sale, and once the book is cracked, the next 5,000 sentences are somewhat important as well.
Options for Self-Publishing Proliferate, Easing the Bar to Entry
Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
By ALINA TUGEND
Published: July 29, 2011
I’M a snob. Oh, I don’t particularly care what kind of car you drive or if you wear the latest designer fashions, but until recently I turned up my nose at authors who published their own books.
It smacked of self-indulgence and vanity (as in that old term “vanity press”). But as one friend and then another chose to pay to publish their own books — people I admire and respect — and as the author Amanda Hocking became the superstar example of successful self-publishing, I realized I had been too hasty.
The phenomenon was worth a second look.
And one of the first things I learned about the self-publishing business was that there was a reason the subject of many self-published books was — yes — how to self-publish, because it’s not easy to understand all the ins and outs.
“As with many things in life, there are often hidden fees,” said Lorraine Shanley, president of Market Partners International, a publishing consulting firm.
And many options. First, you can choose to publish your book as a print edition, e-book or both. With print editions, the most common system now is called “print on demand.” That means you don’t actually have the book printed until someone buys it.
That’s unlike the old days, say 15 years ago, when if you published your own book, you had to commit to buying hundreds or thousands of copies.
The advent of digital printing means it makes economic sense to print one copy at a time, said Kevin Weiss, president and chief executive of Author Solutions, which owns numerous self-publishing companies, including iUniverse, AuthorHouse and Xlibris.
“Before, you had to fill your garage with books and pass them on to all your best friends,” Mr. Weiss said.
Self-publishing is obviously taking off, but statistics on new titles are almost impossible to come by because so many books counted as part of “nontraditional” publishing include reprints of old books now in the public domain.
But Mr. Weiss said his company was on track to publish 26,000 new books this year, compared with 13,000 four years ago. CreateSpace, the self-publishing arm of Amazon.com, doesn’t release numbers, but a spokeswoman, Brittany Turner, told me in an e-mail that its books increased by 80 percent from 2009 to 2010.
There are many reasons potential authors want to publish their own books, Mr. Weiss said. They have an idea or manuscript they have passed around to various agents and publishers with no luck; they may just want to print a few copies of, say, a memoir for family members; they want to use it in their business as a type of calling card; or they actually want to sell a lot of books and make their living as writers.
“You have to know what services you’re buying, who retains the rights, and realize that getting a book published is not the same as getting it marketed,” Ms. Shanley said. “One size doesn’t fit all.”
Then there’s choosing the right company. If you’re technologically comfortable, Lulu.com or CreateSpace may be good options. CreateSpace, for example, doesn’t charge upfront fees, but you’ll pay if you want additional services like copy editing and design layout. And it costs $5 to $10 for the printed proof.
On the other hand, iUniverse and AuthorHouse offer what Mr. Weiss called “assisted self-publishing.” But the price of that assistance can range widely, starting as low as $400 and going as high as $15,000.
For the lower end, you get help in creating a cover and getting a copyright and ISBN number (the numeric book identifier). You’ll also get one paperback copy of your finished book, as well as an e-book distributed on all platforms, including the Kindle and the Nook. The book will also be sold through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
For $15,000, you get content editing and copy editing, indexing, citations and footnoting, and promotions like book trailers, placement in Google searches and other goodies. And you receive 150 paperback and 50 hardback copies of your book.
Like many authors, Susan G. Bell, who lives in Larchmont, N.Y., had mixed experiences publishing her own book. A former managing director at J. P. Morgan Securities who went back to school to get her master of fine arts at Sarah Lawrence College, she told me she had submitted her Wall Street novel, “When the Getting Was Good,” to about 20 agents. Despite receiving some positive feedback, there were no bites.
A few years ago, after hearing that a Sarah Lawrence classmate had self-published a memoir, she decided to check out that route.
“I just wanted to get on with it,” Ms. Bell said. “I was ready.”
Following her classmate’s lead, she chose AuthorHouse and bought one of the lower-cost packages. It took about a year from the decision to self-publish to the day she held a copy of the book in her hand.
She spent some time learning the ropes: setting up a Web site, figuring out social media, getting blurbs for the book, arranging for an author photo and finding someone to design the cover.
For the cover design, she chose several she liked from novels she had read and contacted the designer of one of them through the designer’s Web site. To her surprise, she was able to commission one for $2,000.
Ms. Bell is not sorry she went the self-publishing route, but like so many authors (and yes, even those who are traditionally published) she found book promotion much tougher than she thought it would be.
“What I didn’t realize was how difficult it would be to get a review for a self-published book,” she said. “And it’s hard to sell books without reviews.”
Nonetheless, Ms. Bell has sold about 700 books through the first quarter of this year, and that is better than most: industry experts say the average self-published book sells fewer — often far fewer — than 150 copies.
And after all this, can you make money by self-publishing? How much you receive per book varies widely depending on who publishes it and who sells it. For print books, the royalty can run as little as $1 to $3 a book, although you can get much more if you sell from your own Web site or if you publish it as an e-book.
For e-books that sell for $2.99 to $9.99 on Kindle, for example, authors can earn a 70 percent royalty, and eBooks priced outside that range earn authors a 35 percent royalty, according to Ms. Turner, the Amazon spokeswoman.
Potential authors have to be realistic about what they can expect when self-publishing, Ms. Shanley said. But that should not necessarily deter them from doing it. “With all the caveats, it’s really liberating and a field-leveling advance,” she said. “That might not be the attitude of many publishers, but for consumers it is.”
After all, in the past, Ms. Bell would have just had to tuck her manuscript away in a drawer. “I wanted to cross the finish line,” she said. “I’m holding a book, and I’m proud of it.”
And that’s important. But so is knowing the drawbacks. “Self-publishing is a lot like ‘American Idol,’ ” said Mark Levine, chief operating officer of Hillcrest Media Group and author of “The Fine Print of Self-Publishing” (Bascom Hill Publishing Group, updated 2011). “A lot of people have been told that they have talent, but they really don’t. Everyone has a story to tell, but everyone doesn’t have a story to publish.
Who Are You Writing For?
From an interview with Laura Davis, author of THE COURAGE TO HEAL
Laura: The cream doesn’t always rise to the top. Plenty of crap makes its way to the bestseller lists. And as you point out, millions of books get published each year that don’t find an audience. As Janet and many others say, it definitely seems like more people want to publish books than read them. Marketing guru Seth Godin says, “No one owes you their time,” and I agree. Writers need to accurately assess the quality and value of their work. Does their work truly merit an audience? And if so, who is the right audience and what’s the right platform for their book?
Ghostwriting: Not for the Faint of Heart
Julian Assange’s ghostwriter must be wary of the omens. WikiLeaks’s founder has agreed a book deal worth more than $1m, but what lies in store for his ghost?
by Robert McCrum, in The Guardian
The news that Andrew O’Hagan has signed on to ghost the book for which Julian Assange has already been paid more than $1m is a piquant reminder that while everyone has a book in them, not everyone can get it out.
The revelations of WikiLeaks run to an estimated 300m words, but it seems that its founder either cannot or will not manage the modest 70–80,000 words about himself that his publishers have requested.
Assange is not the first. More than is generally realised, the bestselling titles of our time have a troubled (shall we say complicated?) relationship with the names whose authorship they advertise. Keith Richards’s Life was written by James Fox. Katie Price (aka Jordan) relied on Rebecca Farnworth to launch her career as a novelist with Angel. Further down the food chain, even that infuriating meerkat from the comparethemarket.com adverts has had A Simples Life put together by Val Hudson, formerly of Headline.
The top category of ghosted titles, now a declining market, remains the misery memoir, books such as Tell me Why, Mummy or Please, Daddy, No, or Sharon Osbourne’s Extreme: My Autobiography…
The ghost’s world may be one of jeopardy, but it’s probably less perilous than it is depicted in Robert Harris’s thriller The Ghost. First, there’s the inevitable tussle over money. Traditionally, the ghost receives 33% of the advance (plus royalties). In recession, this has been squeezed to as little as 10%, a figure the better class of ghost will disdain.
Often, battles over the money pale into insignificance next to the titanic clash of egos involved in taking on another’s voice and character. The ghosts I’ve spoken to tell me that the subject they approach with utter dread is the fragile personality with pretensions to authorship.
Who is not vulnerable to the tug of amour-propre? The ghost, who starts out as a hybrid of therapist, muse and friend, enters a psychological minefield. The ghost should, I’m advised, never forget that, at the end of the day, he or she ranks somewhere between a valet and a cleaner. Jennie Erdal’s Ghosting is an entertaining and often moving account of life in this literary skeleton cupboard
In France, ghosts are known as nègres, and there is a kind of slavery implicit in this transaction. It’s worth remembering, however, that much of literary life is shaped by writers in disguise. Ruth Rendell writes as Barbara Vine. Sebastian Faulks has pretended to be Ian Fleming. Doris Lessing tried to publish as Jane Somers. Even Joanne Rowling adopted the androgynous JK..
Still, there’s the magic of authorship. Andrew O’Hagan, a novelist as well as a journalist, will appreciate the nuances here. The quest for originality takes people in unpredictable ways. I recall, some years ago, a female pop star attending a book trade prize-giving for which her ghosted bestselling memoir had been shortlisted. When she duly won, she left her ghost at the table and graciously collected her prize, all smiles, modesty and gratitude, the model author.
When the prizewinner returned to her publisher’s table, the woman who had actually written the book reached out, instinctively, to touch the trophy. Bad move. The star snatched it back, clouting her ghost across the cheek to remind her who was boss. When you pay the piper, you call the tune.
Quote for the Day
An English professor once told me to “read as if you’re a writer, and always write as if you’re the reader.”
More Commonly Misused Words
3/1/11 by Meghan Ward
If a person interested in food is a foodie, does that make us wordies? I’d say yes. And all you wordies out there may remember that I took a class at Editcetera called “What’s New in Chicago 16?” a couple of months ago, which outlined the differences between the 15th and 16th editions of The Chicago Manual of Style, the University of Chicago Press’s guide to copyediting. My favorite section of Chicago 16 is the Glossary of Problematic Words and Phrases on page 262 (section 5.220).
Yes, we discussed commonly misused words back when The Editing Hour was a semi-regular post, but there are so many, many more. So I think today we should take a break from Facebook and Twitter for a few minutes to pay homage to the English language. When I quote, I’m quoting from Chicago 16.
1. Altogether vs. all together: Although my parents were altogether angry that I burned the turkey, they were happy that we were spending Thanksgiving all together.
2. All right vs. alright. It’s all right, all right?
3. Anyone vs. any one: Is anyone home? Have you seen any one of my golf clubs?
4. Avenge vs. revenge: To avenge is to exact something for a wrong (My grudges were avenged.) Revenge is usually used as a noun, but as a verb means to “inflict harm on another out of anger or resentment.”
5. Averse vs. adverse: “Adverse means ‘strongly opposed’ or ‘unfortunate’ and typically refers to things, not people” (The adverse weather conditions caused the hikers to turn back before lunch.) “Averse means ‘feeling negatively about’ and refers to people” (I am averse to eating spinach.)
5. Bemused vs. amused: Bemused means “bewildered” or “distracted,” not amused.
6. Beneficience vs. benevolence: Beneficience means capable of doing good;benevolence is the acting of doing a good deed. “The first term denotes a quality, the second conduct.”
7. Biannual vs semiannual: Biannual means every two years while semiannual means twice a year, or every six months
8. Enormity vs. enormousness: I discussed this one last time, but I have to hammer it home. Enormity does not mean largeness. It means “monstrousness, moral outrageousness, atrociousness.” Enormousness means “abnormally great size.”
9. Flammable vs. inflammable. They mean the same thing. Because so many people mistakenly believed inflammable meant not combustible, the term flammable was introduced to avoid dangerous confusion, and now has become the standard.
10. Feel bad vs. feel badly. My dad used to say, “You smell like a horse—with your nose.” To feel bad is to be sad or sick. To feel badly is to touch something unskillfully. In other words, it’s feel bad, not feel badly.
11. Forego vs. forgo. To forego is to go before. To forgo is to go without. (Just remember “fore” is in “before.”)
12. Reason why: Although “the reason because” is incorrect, according to Chicago 16, “the reason why” is just fine: “Although some object to this supposed redundancy of this phrase, it is centuries old and perfectly acceptable English.”
13. Less than vs. fewer than: These are two phrases I hear people confuse all the time. When discussing counting nouns (nouns that take an “s” in the plural like “pens,” “bananas,” and “cars,” use fewer than. When discussing partitive nouns (nouns that can’t be counted like “coffee,” “sun,” and “wind,” use less than.
14. If vs. whether: I run into this one all the time in my own writing. I’m never sure which one to use, but I generally go with “whether.” Here’s what Chicago 16 has to say about the difference: “Use whether … to introduce a noun clause (he asked whether his tie was straight) and when using if would produce ambiguity. “If you say, ‘He asked if his tie was straight,” that could mean whenever his tie was straight, he asked. … ‘Call me to let me know if you can come’ means that you should call only if you’re coming; ‘Call me let me know whether you can come’ means that you should call regardless of your answer.”
Is the Query System Dying?
Monday, January 10, 2011 - by Jody Hedlund
My agent, Rachelle Gardner, shared some statistics last week. This was one of them: “Queries received in 2010: around 10,000. New clients taken on from query (no referral): 0.”
When I read that statistic, I was shocked. If you read Rachelle’s blog, did the statistic surprise you too? Think about it. Those 10,000 queries represent approximately 10,000 writers who have dreams of seeing their book in print, who’ve likely spent months on a manuscript, who are desperately seeking a chance at traditional publication. Out of 10,000 ideas, surely there had to have been a handful—even just a couple—that showed some promise. But Rachelle didn’t take on any new clients from those queries. Of course she took on new clients through other methods (referrals, conferences, blogging, etc.). But NONE through cold querying.
I can’t help wondering what this would have meant for me. You see, in mid-2008 I cold-queried Rachelle with The Preacher’s Bride. I didn’t have a referral from one of her clients—I didn’t know any of her clients. I’d never met her at a conference—in fact, I’d never even been to a writer’s conference. I hadn’t mingled with her in cyberland—at the time I hadn’t started blogging. In other words, I was just another unknown writer and another statistic in her in-box.
The truth is, if I’d queried Rachelle in 2010 instead of 2008, things could have been very different for me. My query most likely would have gone unnoticed along with the other 9,999. But that wouldn’t have meant The Preacher’s Bride didn’t hold promise or was unpublishable—because obviously, the book is now in print and recently hit the CBA best seller list. So what does that say about the query system? Does it really work anymore? Is the system slowly dying?
Of course the system isn’t dead yet. From time to time, I still hear reports of writers landing agents through cold-querying. But if the statistics of gaining an agent through querying are slim and growing narrower, what can writers do to increase their chances of getting an agent?
Seek out new agents through reputable literary agencies. When I queried Rachelle in 2008, she’d only been an agent for about a year. She was still actively building her client load. Yes, there is some risk in going with a new agent. They don’t have a big track record of sales. Their influence among publishing houses might be minimal. But all agents have to start somewhere, and newer ones are often more open to debut authors; whereas, established agents have less time or need for new clients and are more choosey.
Realize the query system may not be enough. Even though Rachelle requested a full as a result of my query, I didn’t gain her attention until I finaled in a nation-wide contest for unpublished authors. Contest finals can often be a way to give our queries an advantage. A personal connection with an agent at a conference can help too. During those appointments, agents often give writers permission to send in a partial or full, which then bypasses the cold-query pile and gets the agent’s more immediate attention.
Shift to a new way of relating to agents. Through social media, many agents are more accessible than ever before. Numerous agents hang out on twitter or have blogs. If a writer spends some time building a viable web presence before querying (like commenting on agent blogs or mingling on Twitter), then agents will already be familiar with our names and more likely to take a look at our query over a complete stranger’s.
My Summary: Yes, the query system as we’ve known it may not work well (to put it nicely). But as with all the changes in the industry, we have to be willing to adjust. Writer friends continue to land agents. In fact, a wonderful blogging friend, T. Anne, built a web presence, and after months of perseverance and connecting with agents online, she was offered representation by Rachelle Gardner. She’s celebrating over on her blog today!
So, what do you think about the query system? Do you agree that it’s dying? Has it failed you? And have you felt like a failure as a result? Well, take hope. The query system may not accurately reflect your potential or your story’s possibility. You may just need to look for other ways to seek out an agent.
13 Steps for Establishing a Popular Writing Blog
Sunday, December 5, 2010 - by Anne R. Allen
Last week I wrote about how to set up a blog and got some great responses. So here’s some more of the stuff I wish I’d known before I started blogging:
If somebody comments, respond in the thread.
I did not know this for, like, months when I started out. If any of you who commented early are still reading in spite of my cluelessness—I apologize. Some bloggers respond via email, which is kind, but responses in the thread stimulate discussion and generate further comments.
Don’t be a voice crying in the wilderness.
To have a friend, you gotta be one. Follow and comment on other blogs. It’s called social networking. Go out and be sociable! Looking for stuff to post about? Respond to other people’s blogs on your own. Instead of leaving a long comment in that anti-prologue thread, write your own post on the pros of prologues and leave a link
Blog on the same day(s) each week,
so people will know when to visit. FYI, I recently read Wednesday and Thursday are the biggest blog traffic days. (Worst days: Saturday and Sunday. So I have a Sunday blog. I might change that.)
Stay on message.
It’s OK to post the occasional personal stuff if it’s interesting—like your cat winning the “ugliest pet” award, or the fact you have the world’s most evil, draconian health insurance policy, but keep the majority of your posts focused on your niche topic(s).
Use headers that describe your content.
Titles like “It’s Wednesday” and “So Sorry I Haven’t Been Blogging” won’t snag a lot of readers.
Be sparing with posts of your creative work.
If you want critique, you’ll do better visiting writers’ forums like Absolute Write or AgentQueryConnect. People don’t tend to read fiction posted on blogs (even by famous published authors.) Save the fiction for the occasional blogfest or contest, but otherwise, keep your WIP to yourself, especially if you’re a newbie. You don’t want that sucky first draft hanging out there in cyberspace. Trust me on this.
Join in blogfests and contests or conduct your own.
A blogfest is a non-competitive mass sharing of work. One blogger will announce a topic, say “first kiss scenes,” and anybody who wants to join in signs up. On the given day, everybody reads each other’s posts and makes comments. It’s a fun way to meet new writers and get acquainted with their work. A blog contest can be anything from a random name draw from a list of commenters to a competition for the best steampunk haiku. Prizes are usually a book or maybe a critique from the blogger. Rewards for the host blogger are an increase in traffic and more followers.
Make sure your “tags” are search-engine friendly.
List as many topics as possible, including names of people you’ve mentioned. Those tags are what attract Google’s attention. (This is what geeks mean when they talk about SEO.
Link to other blogs.
This is friendly and it also gets the attention of search engines. In fact, a weekly round-up with links to some of your favorite blogposts of the week is a great way to get readers and notice from the Google spiders.
Post an announcement when you go on hiatus.
If you have to skip a few posts, leave a message letting readers know when you’ll be back. A blog that hasn’t been updated since your rant about the totally lame conclusion of Lost is worse than no blog at all. You’re trying to impress people with your professionalism, remember? NB—if you do lapse for a while, don’t post a long list of excuses when you get back. Bo-ring.
Don’t let your best posts fade into cyberspace.
Link to them in a sidebar. Blogger has a gadget that makes a list of your most popular posts. If you want to know which ones those are, Blogger also has a “stats” feature, or you can download Google Analytics.
Ignore the rule-makers who tell you to “monetize.”
If you’re a creative writer, you’re in this for platform-building and networking, not the ten bucks or so a week you could get for letting Google post annoying stuff in the margins. Many of the ads in Google’s writing category are for predatory self-publishing outfits and bogus literary agencies. You do NOT want your name associated with those people.
Remember the #1 rule of blogging is the Golden one.
Offer the kind of post you like to read. Not too much about you. No huge, indigestible hunks of text. Save the negativity for your private journal. Keep it short, sweet, informative and reader-friendly, and pretty soon you’ll have a bunch of friendly readers.
How to Maintain a Popular Writing Blog
October 13th, 2010 - by Lexi Revellian
I’ve been blogging for over three years using Blogger. My blog is a writing one, with a 4/10 Google ranking, and I want to share with you my ideas about what makes a blog popular. You may not agree…which is fine. Every blog is different.
• Blog regularly, at least once a week. Regard it as you would a paid column for a newspaper – you wouldn’t tell your editor, “Sorry, I can’t think of anything to write this week,” now would you?
• Make sure your spelling and grammar are correct. Don’t be sloppy. You are a writer!
• Add a device to give information about your visitors. I use Statcounter, which tells me the number of visitors, popular keywords and pages, time spent on my blog, and where visitors came from. (The information it gives may surprise you – my most popular post ever is ‘One space or two after a full stop?’) And Statcounter is free.
• Be patient. It will take you time to build a following, and I don’t think there are any short cuts.
• Like all writers, when I started my blog I posted short stories, or particularly good bits from my novels. But they never got much reaction from readers, and I realized I never read these on other people’s blogs. My advice is, don’t do it unless you have hordes of fans hanging on your every word, like Neil Gaiman.
• Vary the content. If you harp continually on the same theme you will bore your readers; they will get fed up and not bother to return. I occasionally have quizzes, videos or cartoons instead of writing an article.
• Keep it brief. Readers are daunted by great wodges of text.
• Controversial is better than bland.
• Links: these are vital. A list of links to interesting and useful sites and blogs is a big plus to your readers. Update it frequently as you come across new sites, and be ruthless with those that go downhill.
• Of course you will want a link to where readers can buy your book, if you have one.
• Widgets and gadgets: on the internet you can find some fun things to put in your sidebar. I have the moon’s phases, a virtual hamster, and of course my novel in Bookbuzzr format.
• Invite guest bloggers. Most people are pleased to get the opportunity to post to a new lot of readers, and the favour may be returned.
• Use images – a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Google images is a good resource; aim for striking images that are relevant (it doesn’t have to be in an obvious way). • Think about the layout and colours of your blog, and the fonts you use. It’s easy to make your blog wider, if that’s what you want (look up how to do it on the internet). Make it different from other people’s blogs. Remember that the colour black, though it’s a dramatic background for pictures, isn’t sensible if your blog has a lot of text. It’s too hard on the eyes.
• Tweak the appearance of your blog from time to time. Good can always get better.
Comments: you want comments, right? They show to you and to anyone passing that your blog is busy and popular. So make it easy for people to comment, not hard.
• Do not make your commenters do word verification – they are doing you a favour, don’t give them work.
• Do not enable blog moderation – when readers post, they want to see their comment appear immediately. Blogger now has spam filters, and you can remove inappropriate comments, if you get any.
• On Blogger’s Settings, if you select not to show profile images on comments, you will save commenters having to tick the secure/non-secure viewing options.
• Never ignore people who bother to comment. Respond to the points they make. This is not only polite, it’s fun, like having your own mini-forum.
• It’s worth joining Twitter, since this will alert a lot of new people to your blog. The thing to aim for is retweets, which will reach people outside your list.
• Put a link to your blog in your email signature, and add to your signature in any forums you frequent.
• Comment on other people’s blogs (and follow the best). People are curious; if you make an amusing or interesting remark, they will come and look at your blog.
There, I think that’s the sum of my knowledge about How To Blog. Best of luck with your blogs, and you are welcome at mine any time!
When (or Why) Social Media Fails to Sell Books
Article by Jane Friedman 12/13/10
There are countless articles/posts out there, by professionals as well as established authors, that claim social media has had no (or marginal) impact on their sales or success. Such posts then get trumpeted by writers everywhere who feel like online marketing and promotion responsibilities have been shoved down their throats (and look for every affirmation that such efforts are a waste of time). When I do muster the energy to start an online argument on this issue, eventually I’m asked to provide hard evidence that social media activities lead to significant book sales—and I DO have such evidence, but it always fails to convince. People have already made up their minds.
But here’s the bigger problem with asking for evidence: Social media isn’t something you employ only and just when you’re ready to sell. If that’s your plan, then YES, you will fail magnificently. You will be ineffective when people can smell you shilling a mile away—when you show up only when it benefits you, when you have no interest in the channel/medium other than personal, short-term gain. Social media is about developing relationships and a readership over the long term that helps bolster your entire career (and sales too). When people claim that social media hasn’t worked for them, I can usually guess why—because I see it used wrong EVERY day, very directly (because it lands in my inbox or social media stream). Here are scenarios when social media DOESN’T work to sell books.
You send Facebook messages or updates that plead: “Like my page!” or yell some version of “Pay attention to me!” WHY should I pay attention? Why do I care? What’s in it for me?
You tweet only to push your book, and that’s clearly the only reason you’re on Twitter. Authors who get on Twitter because they’ve been told they should are automatically bound to fail. Stay off it, please, unless you’re there for the relationships, or to inform others (not to sell them).
You send out mass e-mails or social media press releases asking me to do something that benefits you and your book. Again, why do I care? What value are you providing to me? How is this important right now? How about offering me an informative guest post on my blog instead? Or a free manifesto with helpful tips? Or a piece of entertainment?
Your blog or site just focuses on selling books, and not providing anything of value beyond informing people how to buy your book.
Maybe you’re not committing flagrant online self-promotion sins. The next question to ask is how patient you are. I talk to writers who get discouraged if they don’t see results in a week, a month, half a year. It takes longer than that. Don’t expect to have an immediate impact. There are many personal anecdotes I can share about the difference social media has made in my life—many that I can’t air in a public forum like this, but I would share with you over a bourbon. But here’s at least one anecdote.
I opened my Twitter account in May 2008. I started meaningfully using the Twitter account in fall 2008. (It took me that long to wake up to its potential. This is often the case with any new tool.)
Publishers Weekly mentioned me as someone influential on Twitter in May 2010, two years later.
Someone of importance read that article, Googled me, found my website, and 3 months later, offered me a wonderful opportunity.
I didn’t start my Twitter account intending for #4 to happen. And #4 might not have happened if I didn’t have a solid and discoverable website that expanded on who I am. All of these online pieces work together and reinforce one another—which is another important thing people forget when arguing social media doesn’t work.
So. Your social media involvement and platform building won’t work as a one-time effort (though, of course, you might have a specific campaign for a specific book that’s very strategic, which is excellent). You have to be consistent and focused over the course of your career.
Most importantly, it has to be about more than selling books—or whatever your goal might be. It has to be about what you stand for, and who you are. Otherwise you will fail.
Publishing Is Hell
Publishers are all cohorts of the devil. There must be a special hell for them somewhere. - GOETHE
// Goethe had a bad day!
Try, Try Again
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
- SAMUEL BECKETT
… And Don’t Cry
// So hard to put your work out there! Most people won’t read it. Some of those who read it won’t get it.
When A Manuscript Gets Cancelled
// What happens when the publisher doesn’t like what you deliver - and how to avoid this situation
What Does It Take to Be a “Bestseller” on Amazon?
Not What You Think.
A bestselling author gives some figures
David D. Busch (see his photography books at Amazon.com) In one sense, Amazon rank is essentially meaningless, especially in measuring copies sold. A well-known tech publisher compiled an excellent report a few years back trying to correlate the two, and with a publisher’s inside knowledge of actual copies sold, plus Nielsen BookScan figures. Amazon ranking only compares actual sales of books with other books sold on Amazon on a particular day. So, a book that ranks at #100,000 on a day that many, many books are sold may have sold five or six times as many books as one that ranked at #100,000 against its “competitors” on a day that relatively few books are sold. The publisher also tried to equate rankings with sales. He couldn’t really do it, but came up with a rough rule of thumb that a ranking of around #10,000 might mean a book is selling a half-dozen copies every day, that #5,000 might mean a dozen or so every day, etc. (I don’t remember the exact figures and rankings, but I have the order of magnitude right.) When it comes to Amazon rankings, a given performance level averaged over weeks and months does translate into rough amounts of sales. Rankings over a few days or a week don’t indicate much other than initial buy-in and pre-order fulfillment. I have only my personal experience to use as a gauge. My books that have ranked in the #5000 range for several months at a time tend to sell 10,000-20,000 copies over a year. Those that hovered in the #1200 range end up selling 20,000-30,000 copies and up. When you dip into the #750-999 territory for a long period of time you can start thinking serious sales. I’ve had a sparse few in the Top 100 (that’s top 100 overall Amazon, not in a category) and they sold as many as 200,000 copies. My goal is to get each book to settle in at #2000 or better for an extended period. That’s when I start to make money. A book with that ranking will certainly be in the Top 10 of three or four Amazon category rankings, and breaking into the top 1000 can get you the #1 ranking for a particular category. Amazon has dozens and dozens of categories, so a good book has a decent chance of scoring in one of them. I tend to follow Amazon’s overall rankings to see how my books are doing against all other books, and then check out the categories to see how they are doing against books of the same genre. But not to see how many books have been sold. Amazon rankings also are a fair indicator of pre-sales. Most of my books start out in the #100,000-plus mark when announced, and then may jump to #30,000 or even sub-10,000 as publication date nears. A book that is “hot” even before it is published gets my blood pumping. As you say, Amazon ranking is not the be all and end all. It simply shows how a given book is doing against all the other books on Amazon. Oh, and my “secret” for being a best-selling author is available for free: write a great book (a requirement the “coaches” seem to ignore) and then work hard to promote it using common sense and the advice you’ll find readily available at no cost online or from other sources.
[Thanks to David for this helpful information!]
When Does It Become Worth Investing Real Money In Your Writing?
Investing in your writing - writers’ conferences etc. http://dld.bz/88yH
// Just BEWARE people who want money to show you how to market your book. You can learn that for free with a little online research.
Ask Not What Your Publisher Can Do for You; Ask What You Can Do for Your Publisher
The Rise of the Author-Entrepreneur
June 30, 2010
By Anna Lewis, director, CompletelyNovel.com
(Note from Nellie: apparently the UK is behind the US in asking authors to do all the heavy lifting in marketing their books)
LONDON: When you think of an author, particularly one who writes fiction, the image that springs to mind is not someone in a suit carrying a briefcase and a Blackberry. Unless it’s a tweed suit. And the Blackberry is actually a piece of fruit.
However, some entrepreneurial zeal to complement the creative spirit is becoming more and more important. So what are the new skills that authors are learning? And is this trend good for the publishing industry?
Authors as Marketers
Marketing, publicizing and selling a product are not often areas that authors will be familiar with. In the UK, a nation which has a tendency towards apologizing before doing most things, blowing your own trumpet is not something that often comes naturally.
However, most publishers and literary agents would agree that when it comes to selling books, an author who makes an effort to build up a profile and make themselves known is much easier to promote than a shrinking violet. There’s a lot of noise out there and if you want to be heard, then you need to be prepared to shout.
Over the past couple of years, whilst building CompletelyNovel.com, we’ve noticed an increasing number of authors, including fiction writers, treating their craft like a business. These are authors who have used our self publishing systems to sell and distribute their books. Without a traditional publisher or PR company behind them, learning new skills, particularly on the marketing front, is highly beneficial for building their audience. It’s not just the use of social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook that has risen dramatically amongst our authors, we have seen more authors thinking strategically about marketing opportunities, taking networking much more seriously and getting on the publicity trail. Here are some examples of what they have been up to:
Cultivating Strategic Partnerships
• Fiona Skovronsky was business savvy from the start and wrote a book, The Smugglers’ Caves, that tied in nicely to a local tourist attraction. She set up partnerships with local schools, bookshops and the tourist center itself to host a launch. Prior to this, Fiona had very little knowledge of marketing and was pleased to have the opportunity to learn these new skills and to sell hundreds of books in the process.
• Katherine Dixson’s book, A Year Living Musically, appeals to a niche market, so she really had to think about how to reach her audience: “I’ve been able to take advantage of existing contacts in the amateur music-making field and have trawled the net for more, building myself a distribution list that I can then update with future news, issue invitations to reading events, etc. Taking a systematic, methodical, businesslike approach to promotion might not come easily to authors, whose major asset is their creativity, but it’s essential for self-publishers.”
• Richard Denning had never used social networking sites as a marketing tool. But, following a number of consultations with experts, he came up with a framework for the key places to target. This included creating a book trailer on YouTube for his book The Amber Treasure, something that was very new territory for him, but helped to spread the word further.
• Another author, Tony Judge, has been grateful for self-publishing sites which enable him to produce professional-looking books at competitive prices. He took the time to research recent trends in publishing to inform his marketing strategy. As a result he has produced multiple e-book versions of his two novels to try and exploit the emerging e-book retail channels.
• Clare Everett, who had experience in web design used blogging, tweeting and viral adverts on YouTube to help promote her book, Rigel O’Ryan and the Orb of Andromeda. She used a “surf and see” attitude: observed what worked for other people and had a go.
Creating Space for the Author-Entrepreneur
As a start-up company, CompletelyNovel sees many parallels between our own experience and that of the authors that we work with. Starting up our business in 2008 was much easier than it would have been ten years ago. The availability of innovative tools developed by other start-ups and a wealth of information on the web meant that we could launch our product quickly and using readily available products, do a large amount of marketing ourselves with no upfront fees. We see a huge advantage in creating a similar environment for authors becoming publishers. It is now easy to produce quality books on demand and market them effectively through social media and other networks on a minimal budget.
We have even started running a series of “Elevator Pitches” for writers on CompletelyNovel who want to test their entrepreneurial skills. This concept of pitching your product in a very brief amount of time to investors/users is very well known throughout the start-up world, so we thought we’d try it out on the publishing community.
Why Entrepreneurial Authors are Good for Publishing
An increase in the commercial nous of authors has to be good news for publishers. Authors who have tried their hand at selling their own books, and therefore have some idea about the difficulties and need for promotion in book selling, will value more highly the work that publishers can do for them. In addition, by promoting to and contacting readers, authors will have a much better knowledge and reader base for the release of future books. If it fits with their creative vision, they can be thinking of the marketing and sales angles as they are writing their books.
We are seeing an increasing number of authors who are able to teach their publishers a thing or two about marketing. In our recent Author Blog Awards, a shortlisted author got in touch afterwards to thank me for making her publishers take her blog seriously. They hadn’t realized how valuable it was.
We need to embrace entrepreneurial writers and the innovative marketing techniques and increased engagement with readers that they encourage.
We are competing in a world where more passive forms of entertainment such as film and music are ever more accessible. Entrepreneurial authors will help the publishing industry as a whole to fight back.
Response by John Duff of Penguin: Work It, Authors
We rely on authors who demonstrate the “entrepreneurial spirit” and most especially when they come to us without a well-established platform. We encourage all our authors to build their profiles early by using Twitter, Facebook, and whatever social and other media are available to them. Given the nature of our publishing program that comprises mostly works of prescriptive non-fiction, popular reference, and creativity, we recognize that the authors are experts in their respective fields and can help us access the ultimate consumer or identify the vehicles, whether traditional or “new” media, with which to reach potential buyers. Publishing has always been a collaborative effort — and perhaps at one time the author’s role in this was finished with the writing of the manuscript. But that time has long since past. The collaborators on one of our forthcoming books recently declared, “Now that the hard part (writing and editing) is finished, the real fun begins…” And they started blogging, tweeting, and posting on Facebook (in response to current events related to their book’s subject) at every opportunity as a buildup to their publication date nine months off. (They also presented a marketing plan for their book that was thorough, thoughtful, and which did not rely on a big budget.) There are never any guarantees in publishing, but if enthusiasm and intelligent use of the media have any value whatsoever, then these authors’ work will certainly benefit — as will their publisher.
(Note from Nellie: See? Marketing is the FUN part. And you thought you were a writer!)
Publishing Nonfiction: The Truth Hurts
by Seth Godin
Always beware free advice. It is worth what it costs!
That said, I get a fair number of notes from well respected, intelligent people who are embarking on their first non-fiction book project. They tend to ask very similar questions, so I thought I’d go ahead and put down my five big ideas in one place to make it easier for everyone. I guarantee you that you won’t agree with all of them, but, as they say, your mileage my vary.
1. Please understand that book publishing is an organized hobby, not a business. The return on equity and return on time for authors and for publishers is horrendous. If you’re doing it for the money, you’re going to be disappointed.
On the other hand, a book gives you leverage to spread an idea and a brand far and wide. There’s a worldview that’s quite common that says that people who write books know what they are talking about and that a book confers some sort of authority.
2. The timeframe for the launch of books has gone from silly to unrealistic. When the world moved more slowly, waiting more than a year for a book to come out was not great, but tolerable. Today, even though all other media has accelerated rapidly, books still take a year or more. You need to consider what the shelf life of your idea is.
3. There is no such thing as effective book promotion by a book publisher. This isn’t true, of course. Harry Potter gets promoted. So did Freakonomics. But out of the 75,000 titles published last year in the US alone, I figure 100 were effectively promoted by the publishers. This leaves a pretty big gap. This gap is either unfilled, in which case the book fails, or it is filled by the author. Here’s the thing: publishing a book is really nothing but a socially acceptable opportunity to promote yourself and your ideas far and wide and often. If you don’t promote it, no one will. If you don’t have a better strategy than, “Let’s get on Oprah” you should stop now. If you don’t have an asset already—a permission base of thousands or tens of thousands of people, a popular blog, thousands of employees, a personal relationship with Willard Scott… then it’s too late to start building that asset once you start working on a book. By the way, blurbs don’t sell books. Not really. You can get all the blurbs in the world for your book and it won’t help if you haven’t done everything else (quick aside: the guy who invented the word “blurb” also wrote the poem Purple Cow)
4. Books cost money and require the user to read them for the idea to spread. Obvious, sure, but real problems. Real problems because the cost of a book introduces friction to your idea. It makes the idea spread much much more slowly than an online meme because in order for it to spread, someone has to buy it. Add to that the growing (and sad) fact that people hate to read. Too often, people have told me, with pride, that they read three chapters of my book. Just three.
5. Publishing is like venture capital, not like printing. Printing your own book is very very easy and not particularly expensive. You can hire professional copyeditors and designers and end up with a book that looks just like one from Random House. That’s easy stuff. What Random House and others do is invest. They invest cash in an advance. They invest time in creating the book itself and selling it in and they invest more cash in printing books. Like all VCs, they want a big return. If you need the advance to live on, then publishers serve an essential function. If, on the other hand, you’re like most non-fiction authors and spreading the idea is worth more than the advance, you may not.
So, what’s my best advice?
Build an asset. Large numbers of influential people who read your blog or read your emails or watch your TV show or love your restaurant or or or…
Then, put your idea into a format where it will spread fast. That could be an ebook (a free one) or a pamphlet (a cheap one—the Joy of Jell-O sold millions and millions of copies at a dollar or less)
Then, if your idea catches on, you can sell the souvenir edition. The book. The thing people keep on their shelf or lend out or get from the library. Books are wonderful (I own too many!) but they’re not necessarily the best vessel for spreading your idea.
And the punchline, of course, is that if you do all these things, you won’t need a publisher. And that’s exactly when a publisher will want you! That’s the sort of author publishers do the best with.
Get Out Your Red Pencil
By Jennette Fulda
The UPS man handed me a typical UPS shipping box last week with a surprise inside—the copyedited manuscript for my upcoming book, CHOCOLATE & VICODIN (in stores February 2011)!
It is certainly thrilling to see my book printed on paper and adorned with a cover letter on official publishing-house stationery. It makes me realize that the Word document I’ve slaved over for so long is soon going to put on its best clothes for its coming-out party at bookstores. However, it also means I have to review the copyediting, which is by far my least favorite part of the publishing process. I am not detail-oriented by nature, and copyediting is all about details. I’ve trained myself to be more detail-oriented in my work because it’s a necessary skill, but it’s definitely something I have to work at. It doesn’t come as naturally to me as other things.
By the time you get to copyediting, you’ve already submitted your manuscript and completed any revisions requested by your editor. The book is then printed, double-spaced, and given to a copyeditor who will make you feel like you failed second-grade English. But you should be grateful for your copyeditor because s/he will make you look much more skilled with the nuts and bolts of the English language than you actually are.
The copyeditor marks up your book with lots of proofreading marks, which look like Egyptian hieroglyphics, or occasionally like the new Geico mascot:
The copyeditor makes grammatical corrections and also points out any logical errors or contradictions in your text. For instance, mine pointed out that marijuana and hash aren’t necessarily the same thing. Good to know! S/he also marks what part of the text is italicized, bolded, and set in other styles, which helps the book designer typeset the book properly.
Because I only encounter professional proofreading marks once every two years or so, I had to search Google for a guide. I found a helpful PDF here and printed it out. After that, I had to spend about 9-10 hours rereading the book critically, making sure no typos were overlooked and that I was okay with any corrections. This is a bit more difficult when a cat keeps jumping on your lap, threatening to scatter hundreds of unbound pages randomly across the floor. The fun bit is that they sent me green pencils so all my marks were color-coded. My editor’s marks were in blue and the copyeditor’s were in red, so it was a colorful mishmash of grammatical goodness by the final page!
I also try to learn from my mistakes, so I found the Grammar Girl website extremely helpful. It explained several trouble areas for me, including:
as vs. like (I didn’t even know this rule existed to be broken.)
lay vs. lie (And believe me, in a book about a headache that doesn’t go away, there is a lot of laying, lying me in a supine position.
towards, backwards, forwards, upwards, besides vs. toward, backward, forward, upward, beside (I evidently use the British style instead of the American one.)
Much to my happiness, I wasn’t marked up for any errors with the past subjunctive tense! Woo-hoo! The copyeditor on my last book schooled me on that one, so now I know to say “If I were taller, I’d be a baller,” instead of “If I was taller, I’d be a baller.”
I also learned that it’s not okay to use “OK.” Use “okay,” okay? But you can use “OK” in notes to the author in the margin, which is okay because “OK” is shorter, okay? There were also several two-word phrases that I thought were compound words, and several compound words that I thought were two-word phrases:
Compound words that I thought were two-word phrases Backstory
Two-word phrases that I thought were compound words
Voice mail (though my phone disagrees on this one)
Quote for Success
“Your first chapter sells your book. Your last chapter sells your next book.” ~ Mickey Spillane
Why You Need a Professional Editor for Your Manuscript
Finally! My tribe gets some deserved recognition! Read this blog! Then come back here.
Rules for Making Editors Not Hate You
(Note from Nellie: You may think this editor is exaggerating. She is not. However, she is directing this article at aspiring authors, not those she has accepted. I hope.)
1) Never show up in person at a publishing company. Ever. Not unless a real person (and not an imaginary person in your head) has specifically made a date with you and asked you to come in for a meeting. Even if you are just well-meaning and happen to be in the neighborhood to drop something off, seeing an editor will make that editor feel incredibly awkward and more likely to hate you and your project. We lead crazed, frazzled existences and we don’t like having to meet with people we are not expecting. Ever. None of us.
2) Don’t call on the phone. Ever. Two reasons—1) The phone is bad for us, because we can’t choose the timing. If you email us, we can address your issue thoughtfully and when we have time to. Plus the phone is super awkward—I always feel backed up against the wall when someone I’m not expecting to talk to is on the phone. 2) The phone is bad for you. If you get us on the phone and ask for the status and we didn’t like it, we’re going to have to reject it right there, on the phone with you. Also, maybe we were thinking “maybe” about your project, but now, since you’ve forced us to talk to you on the phone, we’re suddenly thinking “no.” Just. Don’t. Call.
3) Do you have an agent? Then never, ever be personally in touch with me. Then I start to feel double teamed, and on top of that, I begin to question the relationship you have with your agent. The only time I should have any contact with an agented author before a contract is signed is AFTER I tell the agent I like the project and the agent and I arrange a mutually agreeable meeting or phone call. The author should never be involved in this.
4) Know what I acquire. If you send me your manuscript and it has nothing to do with what I edit, why should I do you the courtesy of wasting my very precious free time responding to you? Seriously. There are literally thousands of hard-working people who want to get published and have done the footwork. You are not special. You wanna get published, you do it too.
5) Do not harrass my assistant. Ever. Her job is very hard. I’ve been there, honey. Just because she’s as smart and savvy as she is does not mean she should have to deal with you and your mental issues.
6) Do not follow up the next day. Do not follow up the next week. You may follow up one month after you’ve submitted, but do so politely and in as unoffensive a way as possible. I’m softer toward the “I just wanted to make sure all my materials were in order and to see if there was any other information you might need” approach. The “Why haven’t you looked at my manuscript yet? It’s been over a month” approach? Yeah, not a favorite of mine, actually.
7) Do not leave me lengthy voicemails (although I suppose if you’re calling at all I should just direct you back to #2). I just delete them without listening.
8) Do not make me take time out of my day to blog angrily because I’m SO STEAMED about how you’ve annoyed me and my assistant when I should, in fact, be finishing my catalog copy edits. Sorry. Rant over. I know that none of the people reading this need to read it, but please direct all your crazy friends to this page.
Are There Really Than Many People Out There Writing Books?
Thursday, October 7, 2010
by Nathan Bransford, (former) agent
I’ve been getting this question quite a bit lately. I guess it’s a bit boggling to the mind to think about the queries agents receive and to contemplate the authors behind them, and the sheer number of people out there working on books. Are there really 15,000+ people a year querying agents? Are there really that many novels and memoirs and self-help books and alien encounters of the dubious kind? There are really that many people writing books? Really? There’s only one way to answer this question: yes, there are. There really are. But there’s a Part II to the answer, which is, as Kristin Nelson recently wrote: don’t worry about those other books out there. It’s so tempting to feel as if your books is in competition with all of those other books on submission, not to mention the ones coming out by already-popular authors, and to be bogged down by the sheer impossible odds of it all. It’s temping to want someone else’s success story to be yours and to measure whatever success you’ve achieved against someone who has “made it.” Don’t do it. The only person you’re in competition with is yourself. You can’t control how many people are out there, how many queries agents are getting, how many celebrities are writing books, etc. etc. All you can control is your own work. Focus on that. The odds are just numbers. Don’t let them get you down.
How to Build Your Author Platform
Friday, July 23, 2010
by Joel Friedlander
A famous and often-repeated piece of advice to writers is: The time to start working on your author platform is three years before your book is published.
I’ve repeated this to several clients, and it usually leaves them staring blankly into space. And yet there is a great deal of wisdom in this statement, and a radical remaking of the work of an author.
Many writers have no interest in getting involved with selling their work, or doing promotion. This article isn’t for them. That’s because a lot of writers have realized that it’s become their responsibility to market their books. Publishers are asking them to do it, authors are routinely submitting marketing plans along with their book proposals.
I spoke to a book shepherd recently who told me they were hard at work on a 20-page marketing plan for an author-client. And it doesn’t really matter if you write fiction or nonfiction. The new reality is that you are in charge of finding, and cultivating, your own readership. Of course, if you are successful enough at it, you will acquire a big publisher complete with a marketing and advertising department to broadcast your efforts into a much larger space.
It’s a Matter of Community
Where I live in northern California, I participate in several communities. There’s the community of families at our son’s school. There’s the community in our neighborhood, where we plan street improvements and train for emergencies together. There’s the community of self-publishers, independent publishers and soon-to-be-publishers of which I’m a member. In each case, within our geographic area, we form communities of interest. For writers, the internet and its various social media—taken broadly to mean any method for interacting with other people on an equal footing—are how we find our communities of interest. Some of the tools we use are:
* Author blogs
* Writing forums
* Other people’s blogs
* Facebook groups and pages
* LinkedIn discussion groups
* Twitter #discussions and lists
* Specialized social groups like Ning networks
A rational person understands that they cannot do all of these activities at once. What’s needed is a plan or strategy because, faced with all the possibilities, the normal human reaction is to put it off, and do nothing. Unfortunately, this may not be the best solution.
The Time for Waiting is Over
In a recent blog post, “Audience Development: Critical to Every Writer’s Future,” Jane Friedman of Writer’s Digest said: “Getting a book published does NOT equate to readership. You must cultivate a readership every day of your life, and you start TODAY. Your readers will not be interested in reading just one book; they will be interested in everything and anything you do—and that includes interacting with you online. Audience development doesn’t happen overnight (or even in SIX months or a year) and it’s a process that continues for as long as you want to have a readership. It shouldn’t be delayed, postponed, or discounted for one minute.”
Taking one step, setting up a blog for instance, can start you on the road to finding the community whose common interest is you and your writing. Your audience is out there, but they don’t know it yet. It’s your job to find those readers who are just waiting for a writer like you to come along. They will like you a lot. Some will be insanely devoted. But you have to reach out.
Getting a domain name, signing up for a hosting account, and installing blogging software takes about ten minutes. And that’s the hard way. If we are really writers, if we are writers who want readers, the closing of the circle of our own creativity, then let’s write, and find out who reads. That will be the beginning of our community, and it will grow from there. If we are going to be writers for a long time and I believe it’s a chronic condition, why not start now?
Resources, Tools, Freebies are Everywhere
To get you started, here are a bunch of resources, links, free reports, strategies and information that can help get you going. My suggestion: don’t pay for any programs, tutorials, or anything else until you’ve gotten all you can from the free resources available. There’s a whole education out there just waiting for you.
6 Articles on Building a Platform from the Guide to Literary Agents blog.
Simon & Schuster Says Authors Should Blog and Social Networkfrom Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn blog, chock full of “platform” links.
The Dreaded Author’s Platform by agent Rachelle Gardener.
Welcome To Publetariat Vault University! by Indie Author April L. Hamilton.
How to Build an Author Platform by author and Writer Mama Christina Katz
Building an Organic Web Presence by Marketing Maven Carol White
It’s Not the Size of Your Platform, It’s the Magic in It by Tribal Author Jonathan Fields
Although I could go on and on, I think you get the point. The resources are vast. All they require is your participation, your intention to act now.
Writing and Community Building: The New Job Description
So, in this new world, writers who want to write and market their books will find their job is now two-fold: writing and building community around their writing. Find the social media that appeal to you, share your work, interact with your readers, reach out to the wider reading world in different formats, and start now building the community that will support and nurture you on your writing path.
Takeaway: Finding readers is a logical extension of the writing you’ve done, because you wrote for those readers. Social media allow us to build a community of interest in our work, and the time to start building is now.
Start with a Blog
Book Authors Need a Dedicated Website for Their Books
July 23rd, 2010 by Phyllis Zimbler Miller
Edited for length by Nellie Sabin
Thanks to the online marketing opportunities made available by the Internet, authors with little or no marketing budgets can level the playing field with authors who have huge marketing budgets.
Yet before authors can truly take advantage of online marketing opportunities, these authors need a home base that they can totally control themselves.
While it is an excellent part of an online book marketing plan to have your book on sites such as freado.com, you need one place where you can publish whatever material you want about your book. A WordPress website provides this opportunity as well as providing a blogging platform.
WordPress.com is a hosted blogging platform on which you can have a blog. But you do not control this site and must abide by the WordPress.com blogging rules.
WordPress.org (known simply as WordPress) is a self-hosted blogging platform that can also be a website with static pages. Once your WordPress site is up you can totally control it, adding pages and posts with a couple of clicks. (Yes, there is a learning curve just as there was when you started using Word.)
There is a wide range of prices for getting a WordPress website up and running. Unsuspecting authors can get what they consider are great-looking sites, but these sites may not be search engine optimized. In other words, the sites may not have been set up to attract the search engines.
If you are a writer, you should definitely be blogging. You want to showcase your writing as well as have an opportunity to interact with fans when they leave comments on your blog posts. In addition, search engines love fresh content, and blogging two or three times a week provides this fresh content.
Nonfiction authors can blog about their topics and even publish excerpts of their books as posts. But truly there are numerous topics about which fiction writers can blog.
Here are some important elements to have on your website:
• Make it clear the moment someone lands on your website whether your book is fiction or nonfiction, and whether it is upcoming or already published.
• Include prominently displayed links to your social media profiles such as on Twitter and Facebook so fans can connect with you elsewhere online.
• Provide information about you.
• Feature an email opt-in box to capture email addresses.
The optimum time to have the website and start blogging is way before your book is published. You want to use the lead time to create strong relationships with potential fans so they will be eagerly awaiting the publication of your book.
Start Marketing Now
@jonathanfields - marketing guru
Marketing isn’t something you bolt on, it starts at conception.
50 Can’t-Fail Techniques for Finding Great Blog Topics
by Carol Tice
It’s one thing to know you need to create lots of great content. It’s another to actually know what you’re going to write about this week.
Are you out of ideas for blog posts? Small wonder, if the only place you’re looking is inside your own head. We all need inspiration … and you’re not going to find it banging your head against the desk and hoping an idea falls out.
You need fresh inspiration if you’re going to come up with new ideas.
To help get your inspirational motor running, here are 50 techniques for generating great blog post topics.
Two words: Google alerts. Set an alert with a few industry key words, and ask it to deliver at least 20 stories a day. Read the headlines and throw interesting links into a file for future use. When you get several related stories, you’ve got an instant roundup piece.
Skim national newspapers and magazine stories. How does national news such as the recession affect your readers? Talk about national trends, and your audience will come to rely on you to tailor big news to address their concerns.
Ask yourself, “What’s missing?” or “What will happen next?” Answer the questions those national rags didn’t address. What’s the next domino that will likely fall as a result of this piece of news? Point it out, and your readers will feel you (and they) are ahead of the curve.
Read small publications. If you have an expertise blog, check the experts’ columns in local papers or business weeklies. Few people outside your community will have read these, and their topics are often easily recycled.
Read trade publications. Trade pubs cover every imaginable industry and they’re a great source of trend ideas, from Ad Age to TWICE (This Week in Electronics). They’ll also track new companies and products you might mention (see #39).
Read your competitors. I subscribe to several competing blogs on my iGoogle desktop, for real-time headline scanning. If you write on a similar topic, you can give the other blog link love.
Riff on a popular post. Grab yourself some high-powered linkage by posting your reaction to a big-time blogger’s thoughts.
Try a new medium. Burned out on the blogosphere? Look at YouTube videos, listen to podcasts, or watch good ol’ fashioned TV shows or radio broadcasts.
Think about pain. What are the biggest problems your readers face? Focus on topics that would provide balm to their wounds.
Talk to a friend. That’s right — use your lifeline, just like on the reality TV shows. Jawing about a problem usually helps ideas bubble up.
Tackle a controversy. Weigh in on your industry’s hot topic. This can be especially effective if you have a contrarian viewpoint.
Join a blogger’s group. Knowing your group will ask what you’re posting should help concentrate the mind. Hearing what they’re blogging on will no doubt suggest subjects for you to cover, too.
Scan industry conference schedules. The list of session topics offers a quick guide to your audience’s hot-button issues.
Get a critique. Find a mentor. Have them look over your blog and point out what’s missing.
Mine your hobbies. People love posts that offer an unusual perspective on your topic. For instance, I once did a post called 7 Things I Learned About Business From Playing Bejeweled Blitz.
Do an interview. Do you have a favorite thinker in your space? Get in touch. You’ll be surprised how many authors and thought leaders are game for a quick Q&A.
Review your greatest hits. Read your most popular past blogs. Look for ways to take a slightly different angle and further illuminate the same topic.
Write a sequel. If something has happened recently that puts a new light on a past blog post, update your readers. Write a new entry and link it back to the old one.
Have a debate. Invite someone you strongly disagree with on for a point/counterpoint blog post. Learn from TV dramas — what do we love? Conflict, conflict, conflict!
Stop worrying you’ll look dumb. Buck up and be brave. Try a post idea that you’ve been scared to tackle.
Ask a question. Is there an industry issue that you’re undecided about? Discuss your mixed feelings.
Write something else. Anything. Like, a letter to your mom. A wish list for Santa. Anything that gets you into a completely different mental space. Return to your blog once the writing wheels are turning.
Talk about your mistakes. Folks love to hear about how other people screwed up. Be honest and talk about what you learned.
Make a prediction. Everybody — everybody — wants to know what’s going to happen next. Grab attention with your thoughts on the future of your sector.
Review the past. How has your industry changed in the past 5 years? 10 years? Look for milestones for reflection.
Create a regular feature. For instance, if you do a weekly news wrapup every Saturday, that’s one post you know you have covered.
Where are they now? If you know of an industry bigwig who’s been out of the spotlight but now they’re back, check in with them. Write about their new venture.
Change your view. Go to the park, a (different) coffeeshop, a museum, your backyard deck. Leave your usual writing cave.
Eavesdrop. While you’re out, tune in to other conversations and see where they take you.
Take a hike. Most writers could really stand to exercise more. It stimulates the brain, and topics will come to you naturally. Just make sure you bring something to take a few notes with.
Take a bath. Ideally, after the walk. Ahhhhh. That warm water just seems to release the creativity, doesn’t it?
Take an entire day off — every week. It’s a life-changer. Mine is Saturdays. Hit your own “refresh” button and return ready to rock your blog.
Take a poll. When in doubt, ask readers what they’d like you to write about.
Hold a contest. Provide a provocative fill-in-the-blank line, or give a prize for the best question. Presto: Instant post idea list.
Keep a journal. Ideally, that you write in first or last thing daily, when you’re unfocused and allow uncensored thoughts.
Free associate. Take five minutes and just scribble about your blog. See what percolates up.
Do a mind map. If you’re not familiar, mind mapping is a technique for visualizing how topics are related to each other. Draw a chart with branches for all the main topics you cover, to get a picture of where they might sprout new stems.
Do a book review. Tell readers if the hot new book in your niche is insightful or inane.
Do a product review. Ditto the book reviews, only for stuff. Is it a ripoff, or valuable?
Run your analytics. The most popular keyword phrases that bring people to your site provide a ready-made road map to your next post topics.
Read your comments. See what readers have asked about that you haven’t answered yet.
Read your competitors’ comments. If your blog doesn’t have a lot of comments yet, go mine someone else’s.
Read your social-media group’s questions. What are people chatting about? Answer on your blog, then go back and provide a link.
Tweet about needing ideas. Or post it on your Facebook or LinkedIn status. Let your connections do the work for you.
Hit an industry networking event. As you chat people up, mention your blog. Ask what they like to read about.
Attend a local community event. Compete in a zucchini race, volunteer at a charity auction. Get out of your head and laugh a little.
Think funny. While you’re laughing, consider writing a post that’s satirical or humorous for a change. I know funny bloggers are among my personal favorites.
Take the headline challenge. Tell yourself you need to come up with 50 story ideas today, or else. Jot down anything and everything. (This one helped me write this post.)
Take the one-hour challenge. You must find a post idea in the next hour. Go downtown, stick your head in shops, chat people up.
Recruit a guest. Or two. When all else fails, call for backup. Sometimes you just need to take the pressure off so your post-generator has a little time to recuperate.
The Book Deal: A Publishing Blog for Writers and Book People
By Alan Rinzler
Too long to put here - go see this excellent blog!