Monthly Archives: August 2011

Ask an Author a Question While Reading Their Book on Your Kindle

31 August 2011

Alert visitor Abel Keogh just pointed out some interesting news:

Amazon just announced a beta release of a new feature that allows readers to post questions to authors directly from their Kindles.

Excerpts from the @author page:

How Do I Ask a Question?

Posting a question from the Kindle:

1. Place the cursor at the beginning of the passage you’d like to ask a question about using the 5-way controller, then press down to anchor it
2. Highlight the passage using the 5-way controller
3. Enter your question about the passage you highlighted, beginning with the phrase “@author”. Please note that questions asked from the Kindle are limited to 100 characters. If you would like to ask a longer question, feel free to ask the question from the Amazon Author Page.
4. Select “save & share” from the options at the bottom of the note window when finished

Link to the rest at Amazon @author

Authors participating in the beta are:

Timothy Ferriss
J.A. Konrath
Deborah Reed
Susan Orlean
John Locke
James Rollins
Robert Kiyosaki
Steven Johnson
Scott Nicholson
Ted Dekker
C.J. Lyons
Brad Meltzer

Can we crowdsource the answer to Passive Guy’s first question: Have all these authors signed with Amazon Publishing?


Create Sympathy for Your Characters

31 August 2011

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.

Stephen King


Traffic to The Passive Voice

31 August 2011

From time to time, Passive Guy provides reports on The Passive Voice. One of the purposes is to share his experience for the benefit of other bloggers. He apologizes to those who find this stuff boring.

Today, we’ll look at the last 30 days of traffic.

So, what do we see top-to-bottom?

A few over 27,000 visits came from 477 places. However, as we’ll see, a large portion of total visits came from a relatively few sources.

On the next line is a stat that PG keeps expecting to go down, but which has drifted up by 10-15 seconds in the last month. The average visitor spends 4.07 minutes on the blog. In PG’s blogging experience, this is a big number.

When combined with 1.82 average pages per visit, this shows him that a lot of visitors are reading longer posts. As mentioned previously, you all have been commenting and doing a great job of it. Over 4 minutes per visit tells PG that visitors are reading a post or two and a lot of comments as well. Thanks for your contributions.

About 35% of visitors for the month are first-time visitors to the blog which is also a good trend. All blogs have churn, people come in and people drop out. The 35% is new blood. Not all of those will stick, but some will.

The table shows the top ten sources of visitors with average pages per visit and time on site. This table is a little deceptive because Twitter shows up in two places, #1 under Twitter and #8 under, which is Twitter’s new auto URL-shortener. The people are clicking on Passive Voice URL’s showing up in Tweets.

Twitter is still providing lots of traffic. PG keeps expecting this to drop off, but it hasn’t.

PG runs his blog on WordPress and uses a plugin called WP to Twitter that automatically sends a Tweet every time a new blog post appears. He also Tweets a few times each day about interesting things he finds but doesn’t blog about. PG checks his Twitter stats regularly to see how he’s doing.

Moving down, you’ll also see two Feedburner lines, the top one for people who visit  the site via a Feed Reader like Google Reader and the bottom one for people who receive a daily email listing of all blog posts and click through from there.

PG uses a feedreader to go through lots of posts on different blogs in a hurry. About 835 people access The Passive Voice via a feedreader.

Sources #5 and #6 are Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch who have been kind enough to link to PG’s blog posts during the past month. Dean and Kris are very respected among writers and run excellent blogs that generate lots of traffic. PG receives some of that traffic. You’ll see visitors from Dean and Kris’ sites also spend a lot of time on The Passive Voice when they come, longer than visitors from any other top-ten sources.

So, that’s the summary. Hopefully, it provides some ideas for generating additional traffic for your blog.

PG doesn’t claim to be a web analytics guru, so feel free to point out stuff he missed in the comments.


How Barnes & Noble is Selling Nooks for Kids

31 August 2011

Author and regular visitor Abel Keogh has a good blog post about the future of book signings, but one thing that caught Passive Guy’s eye was Abel’s observations about kids and Nooks at one of his recent Barnes & Noble signings:

Yesterday I did a book signing at a local Barnes & Noble with seven other authors. They table I was sitting at was set across from the section where people could look at and examine Nooks. It was interesting to watch how busy the Nook stations were for the three hours we were there—especially the Kid’s Nook station. Parents and their kids would walk in and instead of heading to the kid’s section in the back, they’d run straight to the (kid) Nooks. I saw many Nooks get sold, half of which by my estimation were bought for the kids.

[photo by Abel Keogh – PG assumes]

My first book came out before eReaders were popular. The biggest difference I’ve noticed between book signings then and now is that at least half the people who stop by the table ask if the books are available in eBook format. (Earlier this summer I had a lady pull her Kindle out of her purse and download one of my books instead of buying a paper copy.) It got me thinking if the popularity of eBooks will have an adverse effect on author signings.

Link to the rest at Running Forward where Abel has some interesting ideas about what book signings will morph into.

Passive Guy has been skeptical of Barnes & Noble’s claim that it has 30% of the ebook market, a claim reiterated in its latest earnings report.

However if there’s a kids and Nooks thing going on, that would be entirely off PG’s radar. Try-it-out-at-BN sounds like a great sales strategy since parents/grandparents can see how the kids interact with the Nook and get an idea about whether it’s something they’ll use or not.

Although Amazon has announced some retail outlets for Kindle sales, none that I’m aware of has the kid-friendly ambiance of a typical suburban Barnes & Noble. PG doesn’t see Best Buy, Staples or Target setting up a kids try-out area with small table and padded cubes shown in Abel’s photo.

Any observations from others about parents buying Nooks for kids and why that may be a trend?


Barnes & Noble Losses Continue but Nook Business Soars

31 August 2011

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Barnes & Noble Inc.’s fiscal first-quarter loss narrowed less than expected but the bookseller continued to post robust sales growth tied to its popular Nook electronic-book reader.

. . . .

Barnes & Noble stores saw overall sales fall 3% as comparable-store sales decreased 1.6% for the quarter. Online sales grew 37% with comparable sales up 65% on strong demand for the Nook product line. The Nook business soared 140% on a comparable sales basis, and it believes Nook sales will roughly double this year to $1.8 billion.

. . . .

The failure of Borders leaves Barnes & Noble as the only national bookstore chain in the U.S. While the loss of a chief rival will benefit Barnes & Noble over the long haul, the deep discounting during Borders’ liquidation is seen weighing on Barnes & Noble results until Borders disappears.

Meanwhile, intense competition from online retailers including Amazon Inc. has left Barnes & Noble with immense pressure to deliver on a digital strategy focused on its lineup of Nook e-readers, which compete with Amazon’s Kindle and Apple Inc.’s iPad, among other devices. Nook is rapidly gaining what it describes as market share approaching 30%, with the Kindle seen by analysts as controlling most of the rest of the e-book battlefield.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire after a few days)


An Entrepreneur’s Time Versus An Employee’s Time

31 August 2011

Some good perspective from The Next Web for indie authors who are most definitely entrepreneurs:

Every minute you are not spending on your company you are losing money. That is what it feels like, to most entrepreneurs I know.

For managers, employees (people who work at companies) time is, well, different.

You’ve got a fixed amount of it per week, which you have to get through. You make the best of it and try to reach goals, finish projects and have productive meetings. For every hour you work you get paid.

If you don’t work for an hour, you still get paid.

A few years ago I was invited to a brainstorm session by a big company. They had invited a few other entrepreneurs, on a Tuesday morning, to attend this session and advise them on how to be more innovative. Food and drinks were free and they figured it would be a nice networking event for the entepreneurs.

I told them I would love to attend, if they paid me 3000 euros.

. . . .

I explained that all the entrepreneurs were losing money by not spending time on their business, and all the managers from the big company were making money because this was during office hours and they were being paid to be there.

I gave them a choice: either pay me, like they were paying the employees and managers, or hold the event during the weekend, so nobody would get paid.

Link to the rest at TNW


How to Make a Book

31 August 2011

It’s important you know what an author looks like. And what girls look like.


Today’s Indie Mantra

31 August 2011
Comments Off on Today’s Indie Mantra

It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.

Steve Jobs, 1982, quoted in Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple, 1987



Social Network Fatigue

30 August 2011

From the New York Times:

When Jessica H. Lawrence left her job with the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council in Redlands, Calif., to pursue a new life in New York City, she arrived in late January without a job, an apartment or someone to keep her warm through the winter nights.

But in less than six months, she found all three — and all because of Twitter.

The job came after a friend’s tweet inspired her to attend NY Tech Meetup, where she applied for a job and became the managing director.

She found her apartment after sending a Twitter message to the founder of the Midnight Brunch supper club. That scored her an invitation and — after meeting the owners of the brownstone where the meal was held — the cellar apartment, too.

As for the boyfriend, a founder of the Noble Rot wine club, she discovered him when she began following the Rot’s Twitter feed. Next week, they’re moving into an apartment in Williamsburg.

“So you can see why I have this undying love for Twitter,” said Ms. Lawrence, 32. Yet her devotion to one social network is not an act of sentimentality — it’s part of a careful strategy for combating social media burnout. In a time when anyone with Internet access is expected to be engaged on multiple networking sites and keep a day job, Ms. Lawrence decided to focus on a singular site rather than to spread herself thin among a half-dozen.

. . . .

Put another way: one in every four-and-a-half minutes spent on the Web is spent on a social networking site or blog. And last year the average visitor spent 66 percent more time on such sites than in 2009, when early adopters were already feeling digitally fatigued.

“I’m on tech overload,” said Ms. Lawrence, who hasFacebook and LinkedIn accounts yet barely uses them anymore. “I already feel like I’m experiencing slow death by e-mail.” While she loves technology and has been experimenting with Google+ since it was introduced, “I’m having a really hard time justifying adding yet another social tool to my tool `kit,” she said.

But any attempt by weary networkers to scale back is complicated by the proliferation of Web sites like Klout and PeerIndex that are busily computing users’ influence scores to rank them in an online hierarchy. (On Klout, each user is assigned a score from 1 to 100. If you’re in the high teens, you’re average; if you’re in the 40s you have a healthy following; if you score 100, you’re Justin Bieber).

. . . .

Mr. Kaufman’s Facebook and LinkedIn accounts are tied to his Twitter page, so when he posts an update on Twitter, it appears on all three accounts. “And when I can figure out how to make it syndicate to Google+, I’ll do that, too,” he said, though he initially resisted Google+. “Do I really need another thing to keep track of?” he said he had wondered.

The answer was no, but so far Mr. Kaufman, 29, of Fort Collins, Colo., has kept his social media routine to less than 30 minutes each morning (well, except for the day he spent pruning the list of people he followed on Twitter to 85, down from an indigestible 1,500).

That said, he keeps his social networking dashboards open on his computer all day to absorb their hiccups of information. Because he works alone, he likes the “water cooler effect” of his friends’ feeds: the ease with which he can say hello to someone far away, if only for a moment.

When he has to focus, he relies on Freedom, a productivity application that blocks the Internet for up to eight hours. Alternatively, he configures his computer so that when he tries to point his browser to, say, Google+, the computer takes him to a page on the desktop instead.

. . . .

“The in-between times are important,” he said, referring to life’s idle moments, like standing in line at the bank or taking a taxi, “times when you should be checking in with yourself instead of trying to be somewhere you’re not.”

Plenty of people have taken a social media detox, or opted out only to opt back in again. Ms. Lawrence said she evaluates all networking sites by asking herself a single question: “Will it enhance my life?”

Every networking site has its own culture, said Brian Solis, a principal at Altimeter Group, a technology research firm, and the author of “The End of Business as Usual.” But each culture is not right for each and every person.

“Value is in the eye of the beholder,” said Mr. Solis, adding that a small percentage of readers of his networking sites said they were suffering from social network fatigue. Then again, they usually get a second wind.

Link to the rest at The New York Times


Creativity is Just Connecting Things

30 August 2011

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.

Steve Jobs, Wired, February 1996

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