Monthly Archives: October 2011

How an Author Should Use Goodreads

28 October 2011

From the Novel Publishing Group:

Facebook, blogs, and Twitter are great ways to push traffic and make yourself known, but how many of your connections on those websites are in your target market?
That’s where Goodreads comes in. If you don’t know what Goodreads is, please slap yourself again.
Goodreads is the Facebook of readers and writers with 5.5 MILLION members. There are hundreds of reader groups/clubs on Goodreads with thousands of avid readers all eagerly awaiting the arrival of good reads. Get it? Good reads. OK, fine, it wasn’t that funny. Shut up.

. . . .

Goodreads has so many beneficial ways to help writers connect with readers that I can’t possibly cover them all in one blog post. That’s why I’ll concentrate on the first things you should do after going to Goodreads.

. . . .

Join the Goodreads Author Program

To join the author program you must have a book already published or be in the process of publishing a book. If your book is already on Amazon.com or BN.com, then a search will usually pull up all the information you need to create an author page. Otherwise, you’ll need to manually add your book here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/new

Assuming your book is already published or you’ve manually added it, do the following:

  1. In the search box, type in your published name, i.e. ‘John Corwin’
  2. Look for your book in the list of results. When you find it, click on the author name instead of the book.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find a question: ‘Is this you? Let us know.’
  4. Click on ‘Let us know’
  5. The next page will ask you to confirm that you’re the author of the book.
  6. Enter a message: ‘Please add me to your authors program’ (or something of that nature) in the provided message field.
  7. Wait.
  8. Wait some more.

It will take Goodreads a day or so to process the application. In the meantime, go to your profile by clicking on your name in the upper right corner of Goodreads.

Click ‘edit profile’ to the right of your name. This is your personal profile. The picture and other information you enter here will only show up on posts, reviews and personal things you do on Goodreads. The author profile will show up to people who click on your name or look at your books.
. . . .

Goodreads has finally approved your application for the prestigious rank of Goodreads author, shared by only 26 thousand or so other people on Goodreads. You’re in the top 5%! Can you say gold star?!

After affixing that gold star to your forehead, refrigerator, or surface of choice it’s time to get down to brass tacks and tackle your Author profile.

You didn’t think all that work to get an author page was the end of it, did you? No, no, no, my dear authorial writer of words person, now we have to augment this august authorial status of yours so that readers will see and take notice of your newfound awesomeness.

  1. Click on your name in the upper right corner. This will take you to your author profile.
  2. Click ‘edit profile’ next to your name.
  3. Make sure all the fields are filled out to your satisfaction, especially the biography.
  4. On the right, you’ll put your tastefully appropriate picture that was not taken by Glamor Shots or during prom (otherwise slap yourself).

Save!

. . . .

Goodreads Widgets

If you have a blog, you’ll want to add the RSS feed so it’ll show up on your Goodreads page. This way you’ll generate some extra traffic to your blog. Writing blog posts is another topic altogether, but in my opinion, you’ll want to write in a similar voice to what you use in your novels. This will give your blog an identity and brand that readers can count on finding in your books. In other words, if they like your blog, they’ll probably like your books.

You can also host your blog entirely on Goodreads, but I recommend you use a dedicated blogging website like Blogger or WordPress. There are many more blog-sites out there, but these are the largest and easiest to configure when it comes to third-party apps.

To syndicate your blog on Goodreads, we’ll first need to find the RSS or Atom URL for your blog.

  1. Go to your blog, i.e. http://johncorwin.blogspot.com
  2. On Blogger, scroll all the way down to the bottom and look for ‘Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)’
  3. On WordPress, look to the right of the posts for ‘RSS – Posts’
  4. Right-click on that link
  5. Left-Click on ‘Copy Link Address’
  6. Go to Goodreads
  7. Click your name in the upper right corner to go to your author profile
  8. Click ‘edit profile’
  9. Under your picture, click ‘add/edit blog’
  10. On the right side look for ‘External blog feed URL’
  11. Click ‘change’ if the URL field isn’t showing
  12. Right-Click in the space
  13. Left-Click ‘paste’
  14. Your URL should now show up and look something like this: http://johncorwin.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default
  15. I recommend check-marking the ‘Show full post’ box
  16. Click the ‘add feed’ button
  17. Practice your evil laugh.

Link to the rest at Novel Publishing Group

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Wall Street Journal To Run E-Book Bestseller Lists Powered By Nielsen BookScan

28 October 2011

From PaidContent:

With e-books now making up about 20 percent of sales for many big publishers, it’s essential for bestseller lists to include them in order to give an accurate picture of what is selling. The Wall Street Journal will start running e-book bestseller lists starting this weekend, following a move by the New York Times earlier this year and USA Today in 2009. But there is something unique about the WSJ‘s e-book lists: They are powered by Nielsen BookScan, which has not publicly tracked e-book sales until now.

Nielsen BookScan tracks print book sales, and is believed to cover about 75 percent of hardcover and paperback sales. The company had said earlier this year that it would begin tracking e-book sales at some point. “As consumers and booksellers continue to embrace the potential of e-books, we are very happy to be working with The Wall Street Journal to produce the most accurate best-seller charts available,” Jonathan Stolper, BookScan VP and general manager, said in a statement. “These new charts uniquely reflect what people are really buying and reading and will most definitely advance the industry’s understanding of e-book best sellers.”

. . . .

The WSJ is running four lists, the AP says: “Combined e-book and physical sales for fiction and nonfiction, and e-sales only for fiction and nonfiction. Eligible releases will include self-published books, children’s books and ‘perennials,’ older works that continue to sell strongly.”

. . . .

It is unclear exactly how Nielsen will be tracking e-book sales, but it may do it the same way it tracks print-book sales: By collecting point-of-sale data from retailers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Until now, it’s only tracked retailers that sell print books, but for e-books it will also track data from Apple  and Google, in addition to Kindle and Nook.

Link to the rest at PaidContent

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Hardcover and Paperback Sales Down, Ebook Sales Up

28 October 2011

The Association of American Publishers has released sales data for August:

Adult hardcover sales decreased 11 percent in August and adult paperback sales dipped nearly six percent.

Link to the rest at GalleyCat 

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e-Book Cover File Size Specifications

28 October 2011

From Joel Friedlander:

I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about e-book covers and, specifically the size and proportion requirements for submitting the cover image of your e-book when you upload it to a retailer or a distributor.

Here’s a selection of requirements that should help. Keep in mind this information is accurate now but could change at any time, so check when you’re ready to upload.

Kindle Direct Publishing

From Kindle Direct Publishing help system:

. . . .

Requirements for the size of your cover art:

At least 500 pixels horizontally and 800 pixels vertically
Ideal height/width ratio of 1.6
Maximum of 2000 pixels on the longest side is preferred
Save at 72 dots per inch (dpi) for optimal viewing on the web

. . . .

Barnes & Noble Pubit!

From Barnes & Noble Pubit! Help system:

Your cover image must be a .JPG or .JPEG file with a file size between 5KB and 2MB. The sides must be between 750 pixels and 2000 pixels in length.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

There’s nothing earth-shaking here, you would have to hunt all over the place to find this information, so, as usual, Joel has been very helpful.

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Steve Jobs Watches Over Bookstores

27 October 2011
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From the Watched by Steve website:

You know that feeling you get sometimes, like you’re being watched? You keep looking over your shoulder, and even though no one’s there, you just can’t shake it. We booksellers have been feeling that way a lot lately, and we think we know why.

(We certainly mean no disrespect with this – it’s been wonderful to have this long-awaited book in our store. We see it as a tribute to a very striking book cover, one that we can’t stop seeing everywhere we go.)

 

Link to the rest at  Watched by Steve via GalleyCat.

Passive Guy likes people who work in bookstores. Maybe Steve sales are going to give them enough revenue so they can have good Christmases. That would be nice.

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Can big publishers actually do tech and make books at the same time?

27 October 2011

Passive Guy is always interested in what Mike Shatzkin has to say:

Something caught my eye this week that has been very little commented upon elsewhere: the news that Hachette Book Group developed an app-making capability that they are now licensing out. Their first customer was Round Table Companies, a book packager.

I found this striking because big book publishers are not generally known for developing technology; they’re more likely to be buyers of it. This is not an ironclad rule: Scholastic has an ereading platform in development to satisfy the special needs of the children’s book market and it is trying to work with other publishers who might want to avail themselves of the platform.

But from the standpoint of one who has observed publishers wrestling with technology for many years, this deal is very unusual. When Random House bought Smashing Ideas, a technology company, that seemed like the likely course for big publishers to take: acquiring technology that could be useful to them after it had been developed by somebody else.

. . . .

Even acknowledging that selling the tech to a packager is not quite the same as selling it to a direct Big Six competitor, I don’t know if this is a harbinger or an outlier.

But I do know that it challenges one of my long-held assumptions about publishers and technology.

When you invest in intellectual property, whether publishing a book or developing software, you normally want to monetize that investment across the widest possible range of customers which you can only do by distributing through the widest possible array of channels. That’s the handicap Amazon has right now being a publisher: they don’t have effective distribution to brick stores and, as long as they want to keep what they invest in restricted to the Kindle for ebooks, it is pretty certain that they won’t. Over time, the number of brick stores will diminish so that will matter less and less and, if Kindle retains its position of primacy among ebook retailers, what is a real handicap today may become trivial. But traditional or legacy or real (pick your adjective) publishers really do have a wider distribution base than Amazon for books published today. (That doesn’t mean they will necessarily sell more, but it does mean they should!)

By the same token, I never thought it made much sense for a publisher, on its own, to develop software for product development or distribution that should have industry-wide application. I figured it would be hard for one publisher to sell software to another; the buyer would be afraid they were just permanently strengthening the margins and the hand of a competitor.

. . . .

But that long-held assumption of mine is being challenged, by Random House buying Smashing Ideas and planning to keep it going as a provider of services to competitors, by Scholastic developing its own platform for displaying digital content and recruiting other publishers to join them, by three US publishers combining to create the new retailer Bookish (and three UK publishers replicating that idea with a UK version called Anobii), and, most dramatically, by Hachette creating an app-maker that a leading book packager finds a cost-effective way to build apps.

We still don’t know what will work. Will Smashing Ideas thrive under Random House ownership? Will Scholastic succeed in establishing a new reading platform for children’s books that can find a prominent place in the market? Will Bookish or Anobii succeed at becoming an important force in ebook sales alongside Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Google, and B&N?

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Passive Guy will readily acknowledge Mike’s expertise in the publishing business. Although PG doubts Mike would claim to be a tech expert, he also gets that piece right in this essay, perhaps because he understands the nature of publishers and the people who run them so well.

PG thinks the tech part deserves some additional discussion.

One of the common responses for an established business that is being disrupted by new technology is to try to buy or hire their own tech geniuses.

Somebody in the corner office says something like, “We have lots of money. Let’s go ahead and buy our way into this new technology stuff.”

This has happened over and over again. Mike mentioned Bookish, an online bookstore backed by three of the Big Six publishers that was announced last May. PG blogged about Bookish here.

The problem with this idea is 99.999% of all high-quality tech people hate the idea of working in a big bureaucracy unless they own it.

But big publisher paid good money to buy this company with all kinds of tech people in it, didn’t it? Yes it did, and it made all the principals sign employment agreements in addition to paying them way more than their technology was worth to buy their company.

So what are these tech geniuses doing? Showing up as little as possible, making occasional attempts to break through the bureaucracy (these always fail) and spending every hour away from the office working on their next big thing. Approximately 20 minutes after their employment agreements expire, all the smart guys are gone. 21 minutes after the expiration of employment agreements, the first tweets go out carrying #bigcompanyfail hash marks.

At one time, Microsoft was a tech company, but now it is a big bureaucracy. It seems as if Microsoft has bought thousands of promising technology companies. Invariably, the company disappears into the bowels of Microsoft and is never heard from again. All the smart people in the acquired company only rent houses in Seattle because they are going to do exactly what I described in the previous paragraph.

There is an alternative scenario for tech people and big companies. Bookish is an excellent example of this alternative.

What happens under the alternative scenario is that big companies hire people who have hung around cool technology companies. They may even have held some big titles. However, everybody who worked with these people in the cool technology company knew these people were really not very talented.

When a small, cool technology company starts growing, it has to hire a lot of new people in a big hurry. Sometimes, they are in senior positions. The venture capitalists tell the founders that too many strange alliances are happening and they need to hire a Vice President of Strategic Partnerships.

The founders use a headhunter to locate someone who has held that title somewhere else and hire the person the headhunter recommends. The founders are really smart 26-year-old kids who understand gaming or social media or tablets, but don’t have the slightest idea how to judge whether a 40-year-old candidate with some big company names on his/her resume is any good or not.

The new Vice President is a giant bust but everything is moving so fast that nobody gets around the firing him/her.

The headhunter receives a call from a big bureaucratic company that wants to develop some technology of some kind. The only thing better than one big headhunting commission is two big headhunting commissions, so the headhunter calls the Vice President. The big company CEO recognizes the name of the tech company because she heard her teenage daughter talking about it and decides that anyone who is a vice president there must be full of technology from head to toe.

PG has no detailed information on Bookish, but a little Internet research on the principals who were named in the original press release caused PG to conclude they quite likely fall into the category of hanging around tech companies without necessarily contributing much.

To round out the picture that Mike painted so well, it is extremely hard for a big publisher, particularly one that is owned by a big conglomerate (Hello Big Six!) to hire and retain really talented tech people. Without really talented tech people, you are not going to get very good technology. The mediocre tech people will certainly produce some technology and it may even impress a few people who know all about being a big publisher and who know as much as their teen-age daughters do about cutting-edge technology.

Unfortunately, big publishers don’t live in a glass case. Once that technology rolls out, customers will be comparing it to whatever the latest is from Apple, Google and Amazon. The hired tech people hope the headhunter calls again before that happens.

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Technique Alone is Never Enough

27 October 2011
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Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholder.

Raymond Chandler

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Is Everything Disruptive? Not So Fast!

27 October 2011

From Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Director, Content & Digital Product Development for Media Source / Library Journals, LLC, and a published poet and journalist:

Truth: Disruptors are overrated. Most are made of smoke and mirrors, and the rare “Black Swan” is exactly that, rare and unpredictable.

For every Google, there’s ten Cuils.  For every Facebook, there’s twenty Pings. For every iPad, there’s fifty Skiffs. In publishing, every day it seems there’s a new upstart or three that’s going to disintermediate (or even better, KILL!) traditional publishers, but with the exceptions of Open Road Integrated Media and, possibly, Ruckus Media Group — both run by major publishing veterans, and have partnerships with a variety of “traditional” publishers — you’d be hard-pressed to name too many others that have had any truly notable impact to match the hype surrounding them at any given moment.

Beast Books? BLIO? Copia? Cursor? Push Pop Press? Scribd? Smashwords? Zinio?

Not a game-changer in the bunch, despite all kinds of hype that proclaimed otherwise.

Last week, in preparation for a video interview with Jane Friedman (my former Writer’s Digest colleague, not the Open Road founder), she referred me to an older post by Michael Nielsen, Is scientific publishing about to be disrupted?, wherein he made a number of interesting points, including this one:

The money and power that come from commitment to an existing organizational architecture actually place incumbents at a disadvantage, locking them in. It’s easier and more effective to start over, from scratch.

It’s a longish read, and the tl:dr takeaway is basically summed up in, “It’s easier and more effective to start over, from scratch.” While that’s certainly arguable, as someone who’s worked on both sides of that equation, “easy” is often exaggerated and/or misrepresented (everything’s a bit easier when there’s millions of dollars in funding and no short-term obligations or expectations), and I’d argue that the ideal angle is building from a solid foundation with room to experiment, test, and strategically fail forward.

. . . .

I’m a big fan of Brooke Gladstone’s recent book, The Influencing Machine, wherein she states, “We get the media we deserve,” and think about it often when reading muddle-headed coverage of the publishing industry that’s filtered through the prism of technology.

Truth: Consumers control the future of media, and right now, Amazon, Google and Apple have their fingers on our collective pulse and are developing the new distribution channels via which we will consume increasing amounts of a variety of content, but they are neither infallible, nor immune to being “disrupted” themselves. The fanciest devices, apps, and websites are useless without good content, and I’d argue that’s why we’re seeing Amazon and Google move into publishing directly rather than solely as distribution channels. Same with Netflix, though their self-inflicted wounds may have already disrupted their long-term viability.

It’s also worth noting that Barnes & Noble, which has been a publisher for years now via Sterling and should not be mentioned in the same breath as Borders, is in no way ready to concede the digital playing field to Amazon:

Sales of digital content through BN.com quadrupled in the quarter, and B&N estimated it has a 26%–27% market share of e-book sales and a 30% share of the digital magazine market. The majority of e-book sales are made through the agency model and B&N’s self-publishing platform, PubIt! By the end of fiscal 2012, B&N projected that digital/Nook sales will represent about 24% of total revenue compared to 12% in fiscal 2011 (and 2% in fiscal 2010).

Link to the rest at Guy LeCharles Gonzalez and thanks to Bridget McKenna for the tip.

Guy is obviously smart and knowledgeable and makes some good points. However, Passive Guy thinks he misses some points about disruptive changes.

Guy cites a lot of technology failures as if they were indications that disruptive change will not happen. The failures are better evidence of how very hard it is to pull off disruptive change. If disruption were easy, there would be no large establishment companies left anywhere.

A lot of things have to come together at the same time to create disruptive change. At a minimum, you need extremely smart people with adequate resources and at least one really brilliant idea to come together at a time when the market externalities line up in just the right way to allow disruption to happen.

Smart people and a great idea aren’t enough. Anybody who has been in the tech business for very long can point to dozens and dozens of wonderful ideas that started flapping their wings, got a few feet off the ground, then crashed.

Passive Guy’s favorite example is the single best word processing program ever developed, WordPerfect. Before coffee comes out your nose, let him reassure you he’s not speaking about the program as it is today.

PG came upon WordPerfect at about version 4.0 while he was practicing law. It was love at first sight.

Certain types of lawyers have to turn out many pages of paper with intelligent words printed on those pages. Once PG understood WordPerfect, he could use it to turn out more paper faster than any other attorney he knew. With WordPerfect, PG could place himself in the optimum competitive position for an attorney: by working smarter, he could charge his clients less than other attorneys while earning more than attorneys who couldn’t crank out paper very fast.

WordPerfect was a disruptive force in the early days of DOS-based word processing and caused the death of many other software companies. In his own modest way, PG was a disruptive force in the field of hillbilly law with his knowledge of WordPerfect.

PG can sense BS meters twitching among his readers. Let him bolster his WordPerfect credentials a bit by saying he taught thousands of lawyers to use computers and WordPerfect. In a single year, he was paid to give talks and demonstrations to large groups of attorneys in New York, Beverly Hills and Honolulu. He was on a first-name basis with the legal product manager for WordPerfect and sat down for extended interviews with each of the two founders of the company.

So what happened to WordPerfect? Despite very talented people who created an excellent product, WordPerfect got disrupted itself. The story is longer than is appropriate for a blog post, but Bill Gates head-faked the two guys who owned WordPerfect into deferring development of a Windows version of the product.

While WordPerfect developed the best OS/2 word processor available (if you don’t know what OS/2 was, don’t worry), Microsoft introduced a new version of Windows with a crappy word processor called Word. While Word wasn’t very good, it was bundled with some other not very good products into an early version of  Microsoft Office which was easy to buy at the same time millions of customers purchased their first copies of Windows or bought their first computers with Windows preinstalled. All those millions of customers learned how to use Word and nobody wants to learn a second word processor once they have figured out the first one.

Although today, centuries later, there are still ways in which Word is not as useful as the ancient versions of WordPerfect were, almost nobody remembers WordPerfect. Disruption can be harsh and there are usually no second-place survivors.

PG believes the difference between success and failure for WordPerfect was falling for Gates’ head fake. Absent that decision, it is possible Microsoft would eventually have been able to use Windows to grind WordPerfect down, but the WordPerfect was so good for power users, PG thinks it would’ve been anything but a slam-dunk.

PG was reminded of the events surrounding the critical mistake made by WordPerfect when the trial of an antitrust lawsuit began a few days ago between Novell (the purchaser of WordPerfect) and Microsoft. (For clarity’s sake, this suit involves a second Gates move, not the one PG mentioned above.)

With that windy background, PG will observe that, like torpedoes and battleships, while many companies will try to build a great disruptive product, only one disruptive company needs to be successful in order to take down a major establishment industry. When Guy lists all the failures in his blog post, that should not make anyone conclude that every start-up will fail. All it takes is one torpedo.

While Amazon, Google and Apple are certainly capable of being disrupted, it will be a cold day in hell before anybody in the establishment publishing business beats these guys. When Jeff Bezos wakes up at night in a cold sweat, he’s worried about some guys and gals drinking Red Bull and shooting the breeze at Stanford, not HarperCollins.

Barnes & Noble? Sorry, but they didn’t work hard enough to buy Amazon during Amazon’s early days. That battle is over and Amazon won. Barnes & Noble is already a bit player on the Amazon/Google/Apple stage and is going to get smaller.

That’s what PG thinks. But he could be wrong.

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The Most Durable Thing in Writing is Style

26 October 2011

The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time. It pays off slowly, your agent will sneer at it, your publisher will misunderstand it, and it will take people you have never heard of to convince them by slow degrees that the writer who puts his individual mark on the way he writes will always pay off.

Raymond Chandler

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How-to: Browse iBookstore for Books in Your Own Language

26 October 2011

From Ebook Friendly:

Recently iBookstore was launched in 26 new countries. But don’t expect that a first thing you’ll see will be books in your own language.

Browsing through iTunes was never easy, but a lack of search by language (both in iTunes and iBooks) is a big mistake and doesn’t help to treat Apple ebookstore as a default reading system by international, non-English users.

If you want to find out how many books in your language are available in your local iBookstore, try one of those two ways described below.

1. Via iTunes & iBooks

In iTunes application on your computer, in a top bar find Books. Click on it and scroll down until you see Bestsellers by Language banner (see picture below).

Be patient, when you click on a banner you probably first see books in English, then in a couple of other languages, like Portuguese or Greek and then maybe you’ll see a section with bestsellers in your mother tongue.

You’ll see only paid books there. If you want to check free titles, go back to a home page, find Free Books banner and, sorry for that, you’ll have to check books manually.

2. Via Google

It’s actually less painful to use Google to search iBookstore.

Link to the rest at Ebook Friendly (the Ebook Friendly website was slow when PG built this link)

Ooof. When it’s easier to use Google to find things in your store than to use the store itself, you have problems.

Perhaps Apple cognoscenti can explain this to Passive Guy, but why is it hard to build a decent search function into a bookstore? Foreign language is an additional step, but others have figured that out.

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