Who am I: Writer or Bookseller?

25 August 2016

From Lit Hub:

I work at a bookstore, and I wrote a book: The Sadness. I see who buys it. Sometimes people order it online, and as a bookseller, it is my job to pick up the phone and call those people when the book arrives. But as an author, what’s my job? I don’t know.

. . . .

When Unnamed Press agreed to publish The Sadness in the summer of 2015, I was two years removed from [the university] community of writers. Instead, I was in a community of booksellers, no longer talking to people about writing but talking to people about books, mostly new releases. I hadn’t written new fiction in some time, but the people at Unnamed were very smart, and in their smartness they understood that publishing a bookseller could have its perks.

Booksellers have been responsible for pushing several recent books to prominence. Their blurbs appear on many successful small press titles, including those by Yuri Herrera, Valeria Luiselli, and Martin Seay. Even big publishers understand the power of bookstore support: readers of Lit Hub surely saw the advance copy of Garth Risk Hallberg’s two-million-dollar-behemoth drowning in bookseller blurbs.

. . . .

Michele Filgate has become one of social media’s most vocal writers, but if you search for her on YouTube, you find, toward the top, an interview she conducted with Paul Harding as part of a literary event. The description of the video identifies her as a bookseller, but the video itself identifies her, with superimposed text, as an author. To me, the suggestion here is that you are one or the other—that even if you want to be both, they cannot exist in the same space.

Yet I wonder which label she prefers—and I wonder which label I prefer, because, sometimes, it seems like being a bookseller/author is a novelty act. Everyone walks around with something superimposed over his or her face. Is there room for two labels?

. . . .

In the month that my colleagues featured The Sadness—a new release by a fellow employee!—I kept walking into the store and thinking like a bookseller; that is, after all, the label superimposed over my face most of the time. So, let’s think like a bookseller walking into my store: there’s this book by some guy named Rybeck sitting at the counter, with no shelf-talker on it, except one that mentions he works there. A couple people on staff have read The Sadness: the first works mostly in the back and liked the book; the second, if told that selling my book was the only way to keep the store open, would suggest closing the store (workplace politics ain’t always pretty). But no matter, who has read it and who hasn’t: anyone you ask about the book (at my store, at least) will happily recommend it—they are sweet people, after all—and will tell you, with pride, that a fellow bookseller wrote it.

Link to the rest at Lit Hub

Indie Booksellers: Book Clubs Are for Children Too

22 August 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Most of the five million Americans whom the New York Times recently estimated as belonging to at least one book club are adults wishing to mix reading with socializing. While book clubs are not as prevalent among children and teens, who have to contend during the school year with classes, homework, and after-school activities, and then summer’s outdoor distractions, a number of bookstores around the country have launched book clubs for young customers – with varying degrees of success.

Some readers, according to Lisa Baudoin at Books & Company in Oconomowoc, Wis., need “a social aspect” to their reading, which book clubs provide. “It’s especially important for kids,” she added. The store hosts an in-store group for middle grade students and teens, in which the members read the galleys of their choice provided by the store and then discuss them. The store also partners with a school librarian who distributes six copies of a galley at the end of the school year to rising fourth-graders and sets dates during the summer to meet to discuss it. There are eight children as well as teachers and librarians in the group, called the Meadow View Book Club.

. . . .

“It’s heavy on the boys,” Baudoin noted about the club members, ascribing that to the personality and efforts of the librarian who moderates the group. But, she wonders, “Why do we have them when they’re younger and lose them when they’re older?”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Clarissa Murphy, a bookseller at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass., who spoke to PW about a book club of boys moderated for several years by one of her bookselling colleagues that is now in hiatus: its members ranged in age from eight to 12 years old. “Then they turned 13,” she said, “And they were interested in other things.”

In contrast, Holly Myers, a buyer at Elliott Bay Bookstore in Seattle, says that the club she moderates for customers in grades six up to 12 has been doing well for the past two years with no signs of a loss of interest in its membership. Its dozen or so members are primarily female, though; they meet monthly to discuss the book of their choice. Many of them also have their own blogs, upon which they post reviews of the books they read.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Why I Started Using Pop-Ups on My Website

12 August 2016

From Jane Friedman:

I’m not a fan of pop-ups. Like most of the Internet world, I find them at best a minor annoyance and at worst a reason to stop reading. I can’t recall a time that I ever signed up for someone’s email newsletter list as the result of a pop-up. I abandon sites when I’m assiduously and repeatedly begged to sign up for an email list. I also get extremely impatient when I’m entirely prevented from reaching someone’s homepage (or content) without first being asked to sign up for an email list—when I’m forcefully diverted to a full-on sales pitch for someone’s whatever-it-is. That’s always strikes me as incredibly presumptuous—shouldn’t I get to experience you or your content for at least a few seconds before you ask for my email address?

See, I’ve already digressed into how annoying these tactics are! I hope it demonstrates how reticent I’ve been, in all my years of running this site, to place any kind of pop-up that would interrupt the reader’s experience. While I know from experience and reading case studies that pop-ups work, I rarely like how they work. They feel like a trick or a betrayal of some kind. I always figure: If people really like me, then they’ll end up on my list. I only want truly devoted people.

I’ve begun to change my mind, however.

. . . .

[The article] showed that with an exit-intentpop-up (I’ll explain that in a moment), a site’s bounce rate remained the same. That means people weren’t leaving in higher numbers after the pop-up was added. Also, there were some pretty amazing stats on how effective the pop-ups were: one person found the pop-up drove 1375% more subscribers than a sign-up in the site sidebar. (The sidebar has been my default placement and still is for blog subscriptions.)

I was convinced it was time to try a pop-up myself. Here are the results.


In this graph, the light blue is my existing email subscriber list; the dark blue is the number of new subscribers added each month. I added the pop-up in March 2016. I had roughly 5,200 people on my list before I added the pop-up; now I have 12,000. That means I more than doubled my list size in less than six months. My website traffic remains steady (it’s even increased a bit), and my bounce rate remains the same as before.

. . . .

  • I’m using an exit-intent pop-up. An exit-intent pop-up only appears when people leave the site. If it works as it should, then visitors are not interrupted while reading blog posts or browsing content. They only see it once they demonstrate clear intent to leave. Then the pop-up appears.
  • The pop-up does not show on smartphones. Pop-ups tend to be most frustrating and annoying when you’re using a small screen and can’t easily get them to close. Therefore, my pop-up only appears to readers who are using desktops and tablets.
  • The pop-up does not keep re-appearing on subsequent visits. Some of this depends on how a visitor accesses my site, but once the pop-up has been seen and closed, it should not appear again for that visitor for at least another 180 days. However, it is possible to see it again if the reader switches browsers, devices, or locations.
  • It’s easy to make the pop-up go away. Some pop-ups are sneaky and don’t make it clear how to close them. My design has the traditional “X” in the corner.
  • I do not guilt people into joining the list. Have you ever noticed that some pop-ups make you feel stupid for not joining someone’s list? They’ll say something like, “No, I don’t want to become a better person!” I dislike that kind of overt and silly manipulation.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

The Complete, Always-Updated Guide to Facebook Advertising

9 August 2016

From Buffer:

Social media has been found to be the most effective digital advertising channel for getting more impressions, clicks, and conversions. Facebook in particular stands out — in some cases, 7x cheaper than the next most affordable social media ads channel (Twitter).

. . . .

There are now over 3 million businesses advertising on Facebook and there’s never been a better time to start than now.

Here are just a few reasons why Facebook Advertising is hugely exciting for marketers:

  • Audience size: Facebook now boasts over 1.13 billion daily active users on – 1.03 billion of which access the social network via mobile devices.
  • Attention: People spend a lot of time on social networks. The average user spends about 50 minutes just on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger every day.
  • Oragnic reach decline: Organic reach on Facebook has been in decline for a few years now and has almost hit zero. If you want to break through now, Facebook is all but a pay-to-play network.
  • Targeting: The targeting options within Facebook Ads is incredible. Business can target users with by location, demographics, age, gender, interests, behavior, and much more.

. . . .

Before we get too deep into the specifics of Facebook advertising, I wanted to share this amazing list of pros and cons from the Moz blog, which was so helpful in our deciding how to pursue Facebook Ads for Buffer.


  • Campaigns are easy to track
  • Immediate influx of traffic
  • Complete control over your daily budget and maximum Cost-per-click
  • Instant return on investment (You can easily define a cost per conversion and understand what your profit is)
  • More targeting options, including, towns, regions, age, likes/interests, income bracket, and other demographics
  • Easier to set up than Google AdWords
  • The ability to reach people early on in the buying process, before they are aware of their need, while capturing those who are aware of the need in a subtle way
  • You can use images and videos to capture the interest of your target market, helping you to sell your products and services
  • CPC is relatively cheap, depending on your industry (On average, no more than $0.61 per click)


  • If set up and managed incorrectly, it can be costly, but less so than Google AdWords
  • Depending on your target market, the majority of the large potential audience can be irrelevant (For instance, we would not recommend Facebook Advertising if someone only served or supplied their products and services to one town)
  • There is no option to target your ads at certain times within the day or on certain days of the week unless you choose a lifetime budget
  • Most suitable for those operating in B2C markets
  • Reaching people too early in the buying cycle could potentially reduce your goal conversion rate

Link to the rest at Buffer

Why You Should Query Agents For 6 + Months Before Promoting Your Self-Published Book

9 August 2016

From Writer Unboxed:

When approached by self-published authors for help with book promotion, I used to ask a single question:

“Do you have blurbs from at least two established authors?”

If the answer was no, I’d suggest they gather some before we speak.  Blurbs are an essential piece of the vetting process and vetting is crucial to gaining the media’s interest. All the more so for self-published books, which don’t have the benefit of a publishing house’s stamp of approval.

While I still request blurbs, I’m beginning to think there’s another question I should ask self-published authors considering a PR campaign:

“Did you query literary agents for at least six months before deciding to self-publish?”

. . . .

I’m not looking at agent interaction as a form of validation, since in the end, the only real form of validation from an agent is a contract.

Rather, the experience of querying agents provides crucial preparation for the experience of book promotion.

As we all know, the process of querying is charged with hope and expectation, trepidation and angst.  Each query letter contains a piece of our heart; each inevitable rejection letter — or lack of response — breaks our heart in its entirety.  The waiting and uncertainty break our spirit.  Yet from these wounds grow the emotional armor we need to keep at it, the patience and resilience that allow us to shrug in the face of prolonged uncertainty and above all, the deep humility that is fundamental to every writer’s survival, and success.

. . . .

When coverage does run, it can disappoint. Reviews are not always what we’d like them to be.  Reporters are notorious for misquoting and making factual mistakes. My list of examples is shamefully long.

Of course, sometimes media opportunities pan out quickly with brilliant, exhilarating results.  Just like in publishing.  But it’s crucial to know when going into the promotion process that often, they don’t; that paying a publicist does not guarantee instant and glorious success and that there simply are no shortcuts.  No matter how you cut it, in promotion–like in publishing–you will need patience, resilience, deep humility and very thick skin.

For this, there’s no better boot camp than querying agents.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

The New Barnes & Noble: Attracting Readers, Not Authors

8 August 2016

From The Huffington Post:

Barnes & Noble. It is the last, major physical bookstore left. With Amazon physical bookstores, many people are wondering if Barnes & Noble will be able to stay afloat. I am not a fan of Barnes & Noble. For customers, it is great. Many of them use Barnes & Noble as the new hangout place to read books with their latte.

For most indie authors, Barnes & Noble can be their worst enemy. Why? Well, there are not very friendly. I only got a book signing there because of my publisher (Morgan James Publishing). Although, it was not worth my time there at all.

If I remember correctly, I sold 10 books during the book signing. Furthermore, you will be competing with the big name authors like Robert Kiyosaki, Jack Canfield, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling.

I personally do not like competition, especially when they favor the big names over the indie authors. Often, these big name authors are getting their own shelf, which usually sit at the end of the aisle. With such a great placement, their book significantly stands out from the rest of the books.

As a business, you cannot really blame them for doing such a thing. They are trying to make enough money to stay in business.

Barnes & Noble is slowly dying.

. . . .

Fortunately, there is still hope for the indie author crowd. Although, you can almost count on Barnes & Noble to not have your book stocked on their shelves. People can still buy it via special order if your publisher is Ingram or a publisher that has a distribution agreement with Ingram.

What if your publisher is not Ingram? What if your publisher does not work with Ingram?

As an indie author, it is in your best interest to befriend indie bookstores because they will be your best partners in moving books off of the shelves.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

PG wonders why anyone would go through the special order process for a book in a Barnes & Noble store when they could almost instantly acquire it from Amazon.

Any number of authors who were previously traditionally published could have told the author of the OP that book signings are a waste of time for anyone other than the already famous. Three hours working on social media or writing your next book is a much more productive use of your time than sitting in a bookstore, trying to make eye contact with someone who doesn’t want to talk to you.

The Changing Face of Social Media

7 August 2016

From author Brian Keene:

Email newsletters are hot again. Seems like every writer, actor, musician, and stand-up comic I know has started an email newsletter over the past year, or is planning on it. The reasons are simple. Blogging is dead. Readers don’t automatically go to a Blog each day, because instead, they spend their time on Facebook. It is very hard for anyone in the entertainment industry to convince people to click beyond Facebook, let alone get them to invest time in reading a Blog.

The problem for entertainers is that Facebook no longer works unless you spend money. For each thing I post there, approximately 1,000 of my 11,000 followers see it — unless I spend money to boost the post into their feeds. Yes, spending money on advertising is a necessary evil, but the way Facebook’s algorithm works, if you have more than 10,000 followers, you basically have to spend money on each and every post. Which means you eventually end up spending more than you are making.

The other problem is the changing tone of social media. It’s one thing to interact with people and answer questions and have some fun. It’s another to have people shout abuse at you or to deal with that one entitled person who monopolizes all of your online time each and every day just because they follow you on the social media platform of their choice. Writers would get a lot more written if they didn’t have to Google things for people who apparently don’t know about Google, and most of us are really not interested in your thoughts on how your pet hamster, Freddy, has proof that vaccines are a conspiracy concocted by both Trump and Clinton.

As always, most of my peers aren’t talking publicly about the changing face of social media, but it’s ALL they’re talking about in private.

. . . .

I said last year that this website would eventually be used for nothing more than news and announcements, and we’ve pretty much reached that point. I’ve also been warning you for the last year that I anticipate pulling back from social media in the future.

. . . .

An email newsletter solves many of these problems. It can get news and announcements out to people who want to see them, without having to rely on Facebook or Twitter to do it (because as we have established, those methods are becoming less and less effective as tools for that). And it allows me a place to Blog every week, and to talk about writing-specific things and personal things I might not have gotten to on the podcast.

Link to the rest at Brian Keene and thanks to J.A. for the tip.

Here’s a link to Brian Keene’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Facebook: Clickbait Has No Place in News Feeds

5 August 2016

From the Facebook newsroom:

Our goal with News Feed is to show people the stories most relevant to them — ranking stories so that what’s most important to each person shows up highest in their News Feeds. When we rank and make improvements to News Feed, we rely on a set of core values. These values — which we’ve been using for years — guide our thinking, and help us keep the central experience of News Feed intact as it evolves.

One of our News Feed values is to have authentic communication on our platform. People have told us they like seeing authentic stories the most. That’s why we work hard to understand what type of stories and posts people consider genuine, so we can show more of them in News Feed. We also work to understand what kinds of stories people find misleading and spammy to help make sure people see those less.

We’ve heard from people that they specifically want to see fewer stories with clickbait headlines or link titles. These are headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer. For example: “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS… I Was SHOCKED!”; “He Put Garlic In His Shoes Before Going To Bed And What Happens Next Is Hard To Believe”; or “The Dog Barked At The Deliveryman And His Reaction Was Priceless.”

. . . .

To address clickbait headlines, we previously made an update to News Feed that reduces the distribution of posts that lead people to click and then quickly come back to News Feed. While this update helped, we’re still seeing Pages rely on clickbait headlines, and people are still telling us they would prefer to see clearly written headlines that help them decide how they want to spend their time and not waste time on what they click.

We are focusing more effort on this, and are updating News Feed by using a system that identifies phrases that are commonly used in clickbait headlines. First, we categorized tens of thousands of headlines as clickbait by considering two key points: (1) if the headline withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is; and (2) if the headline exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader. For example, the headline “You’ll Never Believe Who Tripped and Fell on the Red Carpet…” withholds information required to understand the article (What happened? Who Tripped?) The headline “Apples Are Actually Bad For You?!” misleads the reader (apples are only bad for you if you eat too many every day). A team at Facebook reviewed thousands of headlines using these criteria, validating each other’s work to identify a large set of clickbait headlines.

From there, we built a system that looks at the set of clickbait headlines to determine what phrases are commonly used in clickbait headlines that are not used in other headlines. This is similar to how many email spam filters work.

Our system identifies posts that are clickbait and which web domains and Pages these posts come from. Links posted from or shared from Pages or domains that consistently post clickbait headlines will appear lower in News Feed. News Feed will continue to learn over time — if a Page stops posting clickbait headlines, their posts will stop being impacted by this change. We’ll continue to update how we identify clickbait as we improve our systems and hear more from people using News Feed.

Link to the rest at the Facebook newsroom

For Indie Authors, Positioning Is Key

2 August 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

We already know that more books than ever are being published these days. Figures for 2014 report more than 300,000 books traditionally published and 458,564 self-published. The rise of indie publishing has brought with it many more books, and a surge of new voices. There is much to celebrate about the rise of the independent author/publisher, and yet, looking at these numbers, you can see why industry folks are overwhelmed.

If the number of books being traditionally published represented an already steady stream of titles coming into the world every year, then self-published titles are a fire hose. This is why it’s imperative that indie authors do their research and spend time learning how to think like an industry insider, or hire outside people who have industry experience to maximize their chances for success.

One simple thing every indie author can do before they publish is to consider their positioning. Positioning is marketing term that refers to the way in which a book is angled to consumers, and by extension retail and media outlets. Books are largely positioned based on genre and category, but positioning is further articulated through title, subtitle, descriptive content, keywords, and blurbs. Positioning decisions can also downplay a certain theme by highlighting another that’s more saleable. For instance, addiction sells better than sexual abuse, so a memoir that has both might be highlight the addiction—in its title, subtitle, descriptive copy, and blurbs—and underplay or not even mention the abuse narrative, even though it’s there.

Positioning is often a point of confusion for authors who don’t have marketing backgrounds. I’ve worked with many authors who resent or don’t even consider the notion that certain elements of their book might need to be pared down, or simplified, or edited out entirely from their marketing or jacket copy. Positioning can feel like pigeonholing, or dumbing down, depending on the author’s mindset around such things.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Facebook Ads Work: How to Use Facebook to Reach Niche Readers

25 July 2016

From TPV regular, Barb Morgenroth via Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

Eight years ago when I began a second career as an indie author after many years in traditional publishing as well as television, my middle grade book,Impossible Charlie, was the only new book in its category.

Total book visibility!

By the time 2016 rolled around, things changed with the avalanche of indie books being published. Most books and authors are now inundated under hundreds of thousands of other books and authors.

The lament became one word: “discoverability”.

Up sprang book bloggers and book tours and promo sites, the Holy Grail being Bookbub. But the choices of who they accept are as mysterious as Amazon’s algorithms.

Authors grasped at any lifeline they could find and were largely disappointed.

I tried everything, changing covers, titles and blurbs. I got reviews, toured, and did everything everyone said worked. But…they didn’t.


My potential readers weren’t at Amazon. They were somewhere else.

Like Facebook.

It turns out Facebook ads work.


  • There are about a billion people on Facebook.
  • Facebook targeting to reach your audience is precise.
  • You don’t have to rely on anyone and (unlike Bookbub) Facebook is not going to reject you.


  • There is a learning curve.
  • It can be expensive—although when compared to some of the Bookbub fees—it’s a bargain.
  • You need patience, and you’ll have to do some work.

I’ve been advertising on Facebook for some months and my mailing list has increased by a factor of 6, going from a very small audience to quite a substantial one. This is good. It was easy. I’ve made back my investment. Win!

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

Here’s a link to Barb Morgenroth’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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