Advertising-Promotion-Marketing

Occupy Author Photo: On Elena Ferrante, Privacy, and Women Writers

19 February 2018

From The Millions:

When I was in my 20s, I used to spend hours at the Strand Bookstore in New York, obsessively gazing at book jacket photos of authors. I was trying to discern something — A key to genius? Or the mere fact that this lucky person, in this photo, had managed to get a book out into the world?

The variations were endless: Here was a classic black-and-white, chin resting on fist. Here was a playful one, slightly off-center. Sexy duck face for a middle-grade children’s book…okay. Or, how about this one, gorgeous photo, but one that looked completely different — like witness protection plan different — from the author I saw as I sat in the audience at a crowded Barnes & Noble. Or this one: instead of confined to the inner flap, her face on the entire back of the book, where the blurbs would normally be. Was this good? Did this mean the press thought she was such a great writer they wanted everyone to know her? Or, was it like using a pretty face to sell toothpaste?

Fast forward a few years on, and I’m finally published. My husband is in grad school, but before that, he’d worked at the venerated publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Knowing my obsession, he would often point out the different FSG authors’ pictures, noting how the press often signaled the importance of a book by commissioning one of the well-known author photographers, most famously, Marion Ettlinger, whose black-and-whites portraits are instantly recognizable by the unsmiling, dramatic poses of her subjects, the marmoreal lighting. These could run thousands of dollars for a single image.

. . . .

But after being out of the publishing game for more than a decade, it’s author photo time! But I have come to wonder if, perhaps, for women, author photos are too often a lose-lose situation.

Women are judged — very often wrongly — because of their looks.

. . . .

It’s as if we already give any American (white) man the benefit of the doubt in terms of fitting into any narrative, especially one of heroism or competence, but a woman who breaks through always has to be stopped, something must be wrong.

Women authors, genius aside, must make sure they are not too old, or too young. Not too serious, but also serious enough. They have to be attractive, but not too attractive; for some reason in men it’s dreamy but in women it’s suspicious.

Link to the rest at The Millions

PG says if you’re nervous about an author photo, don’t have one. Or, to stand out from the crowd, demand a photo that obscures your face. Here are a few examples:

.

 

Or doesn’t show your face at all:

 

Of course, just like authors regularly use pen names, you could also have a pen photo. Here are some pen photos PG might use.

 

Influencers and undisclosed sponsored activities

12 February 2018

From IPKat:

Suppose that you meet someone who tells you about a great product. That person tells you that the product has fantastic new features that no other product has. Could that recommendation influence your decision to buy the product? Possibly yes, especially if you trust and admire that person. Now suppose the person works for the company that sells the product – or has been paid by the company to praise the product. Would you want to know that when you’re evaluating the endorser’s glowing recommendation? You bet.

The latter seems to be the issue underlying the increasingly extensive debate and concerns around those ‘influencers’ who fail to declare the existence of a commercial relationship with companies whose products they wear and sponsor, including via social media.

. . . .

Quite recently, in fact, the FTC adopted a set of guidelines: the Endorsement Guides.

. . . .

Among other things, Section 5 in the FTC Act states that the FTC conducts investigations and brings cases involving deceptive advertising made on behalf of an advertiser.

In this regard, the Guides are intended to give an insight into what the FTC thinks about influencers’ undisclosed marketing activities and how Section 5 might apply to the resulting endorsements. The Guides themselves are not legally binding. However, practices inconsistent with the Guides may result in law enforcement actions alleging violations of the FTC Act. Law enforcement actions may prompt a defendant in a case to return any money received as a result of the the violation in question and to abide by various requirements in the future.

Importantly, in its aim to prevent false or misleading advertisement, the FTC requires influencers to disclose any “material connection” between the influencer and the advertisement in a “clear and conspicuous” manner. A “material connection” entails disclosure of business or family relationships, monetary payments and also gifts of free products.

. . . .

Growing concerns with influencers and undisclosed sponsored posts can be found also in Europe. For instance, a case of this kind was recently decided in Sweden.

. . . .

In late January 2018 the Patent and Market Court in Konsumentombudsmannen v Alexandra Media Sweden & Tourn Media (PMT 11949-16), ruled that famous Swedish blogger and influencer Kissie was responsible for misleading marketing on social media.

. . . .

The Court held that expressions like ‘sponsored post’ and ‘collaboration’ are sufficiently clear in communicating that a post is to be regarded as an advertisement. Crucially, such expressions must either be given a particularly clear design or placed in a prominent position in relation to the post. In this particular case, two posts by Kissie were found to have failed to provide a sufficiently clear indication that they were in fact advertisements.

Link to the rest at IPKat

Book clinic: why are some titles changed from country to country?

11 February 2018

From The Guardian:

Q: Why are book titles sometimes changed depending on country of publication (for example, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK/Sorcerer’s Stonein the US) and what factors are considered when making a title change?

. . . .

A: From Rebecca McNally, editorial director of the children’s division at Bloomsbury Publishing.

There is a little bit of magic in a good title. It must entice and intrigue potential readers. Titles are the “word” in a “word-of-mouth” bestseller. Until recently, changes were common – for commercial reasons, cultural sensitivity or because of a pre-existing book with a similar moniker. And really, it did not matter unless/until a film came out that favoured one title over the other, which was a nice problem to have.

Children’s books have been particularly prone to transatlantic title shifts: Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights became The Golden Compass; Jennifer Donnelly’s US bestseller A Northern Light became A Gathering Light; Diana Wynne Jones, Anne Fine and Dick King-Smith all found that a title beloved of British children was deemed unenticing elsewhere. Who knows why Where’s Wally? became Where’s Waldo?, but it worked. Legend has it that 20 years ago Philosopher’s Stone was considered a little arcane in America and so, no one knowing quite what a phenomenon lived within its covers, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published a year after UK readers first met the boy wizard.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Authors with Websites: Who Owns Your Domain Name?

31 January 2018

From Indies Unlimited:

The initial response to the question of who owns your domain name would likely be, “I do”. In most cases, you would be correct. That’s what I thought, too, when I received a renewal notice last August. As it turns out, I was wrong – sort of.

. . . .

I’ve had the domain name yvonnehertzberger.com since 2009, when my first website was initially set up and my first book published.

. . . .

It all began when I received an email from some random company telling me my domain was up for renewal and offering to renew it for me. It had been purchased so long ago that I couldn’t remember who it had been set up with so I asked my techie, Carolyn to check into it. When she looked it up, the domain was registered with a company called eNom, which neither of us had heard of, and at an old address of mine where I’ve not lived for years. She suggested I call them.

The rep there told me that the domain name was listed under a reseller out of Toronto. They informed me that I could get it back for five years if I paid $249.00, seven years for $500+ or ten years for more than $700. By this time I was so upset I could not remember the exact figures. But I smelled a rat and sensed eNom, and/or the secondary reseller, were holding my domain for ransom. Somehow a shred of sanity remained and I said I’d have to look into that.

. . . .

Then I got the renewal notice for the other domain name, due to expire in October. It was registered with Namecheap, also taken over by eNom. I considered letting it expire, but Carolyn suggested trying to transfer it to GoDaddy, to get it out of eNom’s clutches.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

 

Army of Clones: Author Solutions Spawns a Legion of Copycats

26 January 2018

From Writer Beware:

I don’t think there’s much dispute that the many “imprints” under the Author Solutions umbrella are among the most negatively regarded of all the author services companies.

From the predatory business practices that gave rise to two class action lawsuits, to the huge number of customercomplaints, to the relentless sales calls and deceptive recruitment methods, to the dubious and overpriced”marketing” services that are one of the company’s main profit sources, AS’s poor reputation is widely known. Along with other factors, such as the competition from free and low-cost self-publishing platforms, this has pushed AS in recent years into steady decline.

Unfortunately, whatever gap AS’s contraction has created has been filled by a slew of imitators. Why not, when hoodwinking authors is as easy as setting up a website and opening an account with Ingram? In some cases, the imitators have first-hand experience: they’ve been founded and/or staffed by former employees of AS’s call centers in the Philippines.

Like AS, the clones rely on misleading hype, hard-sell sales tactics, and a lucrative catalog of junk marketing services. Even if authors actually receive the services they’ve paid for (and judging by the complaints I’ve gotten, there’s no guarantee of that), they are getting stiffed. These are not businesses operating in good faith, but greedy opportunists seeking to profit from writers’ inexperience, ignorance, and hunger for recognition. They are exploitative, dishonest, and predatory.

. . . .

3. Elaborate claims of skills and experience that don’t check out. A clone may say it’s been in business since 2006 or 2008, even though its domain name was registered only last year. It may claim to be staffed by publishing and marketing experts with years or even decades of “combined experience”, but provide no names or bios to enable you to verify this. A hallmark of the clones’ “About Us” pages is a serious lack of “about.”

. . . .

 5. Junk marketing. Press releases. Paid book review packages. Book fair exhibits. Ingram catalog listings. Hollywood book-to-screen packages. These and more are junk marketing–PR services of dubious value and effectiveness that are cheap to provide but can be sold at a huge profit. It’s an insanely lucrative aspect of the author-fleecing biz, not just because of the enormous markup, but because while you can only sell a publishing package once, you can sell marketing multiple times.

. . . .

Stratton Press claims to offer “an experience that is one of a kind for both novice and veteran authors”. Oddly, it doesn’t display its publishing packages on its website; you have to go to its Facebook page to see them. Named after famous writers, they start at $1,800 and go all the way up to $10,500.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware

PG has had extensive exposure to quite a few different categories of businesses. While every business has its frauds and con artists, he has to say that publishing seems to attract a larger share than many other types of business.

Unfortunately, phony agents, phony publishers and phony marketers abound. Some have worked in legitimate parts of publishing in the past, but haven’t been able to support themselves in that arena and use their past experiences to support their pitches to authors.

While PG thinks indie publishing offers the best financial opportunities for most authors over the long run (or as long as anything is in internet years), if you’re convinced that the magic of Manhattan will make you an overnight sensation, PG suggests that selling very well as an indie author is the best way to attract contacts from legitimate agents.

Flogging an unpublished manuscript to agent after agent tends to become soul-destroying for many authors. Why not just polish the ms to the best of your ability, accessing your own resources, self-publish it and at least start earning a little bit of money from your writing while you query away.

If you’re paying attention to reader responses and suggestions, you may get some ideas to write a second book that’s better than the first. Number 2 may attract an agent when Number 1 failed.

PG suggests that your marketing of your indie books is not a lost effort. Nearly every publisher who talks about what they’re seeking in a new author is a platform, meaning an online presence that has attracted a lot of people to the author’s work, personality, videos, etc. On the one hand, if you have a good platform, you may gain fewer benefits from signing with a publisher, but build your platform and see how things turn out. A good author’s platform will attract more readers if indie publishing is what’s going to happen either in the near term or for an extended period of time.

The One Thing That Will Kill Book Sales Dead—And 10 Ways to Avoid it.

14 January 2018

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

I never have as much time to read as I think I will, and my trusty old Kindle is pretty loaded up. So I’m a picky book-buyer. Unfortunately, there are a lot of readers like me out here, and you don’t want to lose us.

I’m often intrigued by a book’s cover and blurb, and sometimes a glowing review on Facebook or a book blog will send me to a buy page.

But I never buy without checking out the “LOOK INSIDE!” On most retail sites, that’s 10% of the book—which anybody can read free.

That  “LOOK INSIDE” freebie is your most important book sales tool.

Make sure it’s going to snag readers, not kill book sales just as you’re about to close the deal.

With many books—not only self-published, but trad-pubbed as well—the first few pages will stop the sale for me.

. . . .

I’m a grammar freak, so a misplaced apostrophe or verb/object disagreement will stop me.  I know not everybody is such a stickler.  But I think all readers want to see that a book looks professional and polished. They don’t want to invest time in a book—even if it’s free—unless they feel they’re in competent hands.

. . . .

1) Consider Chapter Titles

The first thing the reader sees when he hits LOOK INSIDE is your “Table of Contents” (unless you have a formatter who will put it at the end. Unfortunately the Big Five don’t ever seem to do this.)

Why waste your first four pages with Chapters titled:

  • One
  • Two
  • Three
  • Four
  • Etc?

You might consider going back to the old-fashioned device of text in chapter titles. Yes.  I know they’ve been out of fashion for a century or so. But ebooks are bringing them back.

You don’t have to go all 18th Century and write:

“Chapter the Tenth, In Which Our Intrepid Hero Encounters Several Not Terribly Nice Ladies, Some Very Strong Spirits and a Face Full of Gravel, as he Searches for his Long-Lost Brother Murgatroyd, and their Father, who May or May Not be Lord Mayor of London.”

But modern chapter titles can give an idea of the action to come.

Chapter titles can also be a major sales tool. Here are the first four chapters of my rom-com mystery The Best Revenge

  1. The Color of Fresh Money
  2. Debutante of the Year
  3. Something in the Woods
  4. King of the Chickenburgers

You know there’s something weird going on with rich people, and it’s probably funny.  Isn’t that more informative than a list of numbers?

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

PG doesn’t use Look Inside very often, but he may be aberrant.

PG would be interested in knowing how many visitors to TPV are regular users of Look Inside and what they are particularly looking for when they do.

The Rise and Fall of the Blog

4 January 2018

From JSTOR Daily:

New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof was one of the first to start blogging for one of the most well-known media companies in the world. Yet on December 8th, he declared his blog was being shut down, writing, “we’ve decided that the world has moved on from blogs—so this is the last post here.”

The death knell of blogs might seem surprising to anyone who was around during their heyday. Back in 2008, Daniel W. Drezner and Henry Farrell wrote in Public Choice, “Blogs appear to be a staple of political commentary, legal analysis, celebrity gossip, and high school angst.” A Mother Jones writer who “flat out declared, ‘I hate blogs’…also admitted, ‘I gorge myself on these hundreds of pieces of commentary like so much candy.’”

Blogs exploded in popularity fast. According to Drezner and Farrell, in 1999, there were an estimated 50 blogs dotted around the internet. By 2007, a blog tracker theorized there were around seventy million. Yet, a popular question today is whether blogs still have any relevance. A quick Google search will yield suggested results, “are blogs still relevant 2016,” “are blogs still relevant 2017,” and “is blogging dead.”

. . . .

Today, writers lament the irrelevance of blogs not just because there’s too many of them; but because not enough people are engaging with even the more popular ones. Blogs are still important to those invested in their specific subjects, but not to a more general audience, who are more likely to turn to Twitter or Facebook for a quick news fix or take on current events.

Explains author Gina Bianchini as she advises not starting a blog, “2017 is a very different world than 2007. Today is noisier and people’s attention spans shorter than any other time in history…and things are only getting worse. Facebook counts a ‘view’ as 1.7 seconds and we have 84,600 of those in a day. Your new blog isn’t equipped to compete in this new attention-deficit-disorder Thunderdome.”

Link to the rest at JSTOR Daily

Innocent Author Rank-Stripped For Third Time

2 January 2018

From David Gaughran:

Kristi Belcamino is really being messed around by Amazon. Yesterday morning, she was rank-stripped for the third time, and it appears to be happening every time she puts a book free – even before she hits the promo sites or moves up the charts.

Back in September, Kristi was one of the unfortunate (and innocent) authors who were unfairly rank-stripped by Amazon for several weeks. She had a BookBub promotion which catapulted her up to #3 in the Free charts on September 18, was then rank-stripped, and didn’t have the sanction lifted until October 22 – over one month later.

. . . .

After a few weeks of “investigating,” Amazon returned the rank to Kristi’s book. She did not receive an apology from KDP, or any kind of compensation for this visibility-killing sanction. In fact, Amazon threatened to take similar action in the future.

And Amazon made good on that threat.

In early December, Kristi made another book free – Gia in the City of Dead – as part of a KDP Select promotion from December 1 to December 5. When she woke on December 1, she saw that her book had been stripped of its rank – before any promotion had even kicked in. She immediately emailed Amazon to ask them why this had happened. This was the nonsensical reply she received the following day:

Hello,

In the Kindle Store, the Bestsellers Rank is divided into Free and Paid lists. During the period when your book is being offered for free, it will have a ranking in the Free list. Once the free promotion is over, your title will show up again in the Paid list.

The Bestsellers Rank calculation is based on Amazon sales and is updated hourly to reflect newer and historical sales of every item sold on our website, with recent sales being weighted more heavily. With this in mind, titles that are part of a free promotion may see a drop in the sales rank under the Paid list after the promotion is over. However, since your sales rank takes into account recent and historical sales data, your previous Paid rank will influence your new Paid rank.

Category rankings will appear in the Product Details section of a book’s detail page to display the appropriate rank information.

While monitoring your book’s Amazon sales rank may be helpful in gaining general insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and other initiatives to drive book sales, it is not an accurate way to track your book’s sales or compare your sales in relation to books in other categories, since a particular item’s sales rank does not absolutely reflect its sales.

While monitoring your book’s Amazon sales rank may be helpful in gaining general insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and other initiatives to drive book sales, it is not an accurate way to track your book’s sales or pages read. Neither is it an accurate way to compare your sales in relation to books in other categories, since a particular item’s sales rank does not absolutely reflect its sales or Kindle Unlimited (KU) / Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) activity.

Your paperback which is linked to your eBook shows the following:
Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#1296 in Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers & Suspense > Crime > Organized Crime

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

[Name Withheld]

It appears that a customer service rep has rushed a reply after misreading Kristi’s query and pasted in a bunch of irrelevant canned responses. I merely copy it here to show that this kind of botched reply is becoming typical with KDP customer service – a situation which is frustrating normally, but critically so when you have a major issue like Kristi did at the time.

. . . .

Anyway, Kristi persisted until she got someone to actually read her email. This is where things got really weird. On December 4, she received this unsigned email from KDP’s Compliance team:

Hello,

We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. We take activities that could jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously and may temporarily remove sales rank while we investigate. The sales rank(s) of your book(s) is now available.

If you have any questions, please email us at crm-sra-compliance@amazon.com.

Thanks for publishing with Amazon KDP.

Note that while the email stated that “The sales rank(s) of your book(s) is now available”– this was not the case. The rank had not been returned to Gia in the City of Dead, as I can vouch for myself. Kristi was in contact with me throughout this episode and I was able to watch events unfolding and verify her claims.

Kristi’s rank didn’t return the following day either, but when her free promotion ended on midnight of December 5, as scheduled, her rank returned. On December 6, Kristi received this email:

Hello Kristi,

I understand your frustration and I really appreciate your patience while we investigated this further. There was a technical issue that prevented your sales rank from displaying while our system was updating the rank. Our Technical Team has corrected the issue and your sales rank is now displaying accurately. Again, I’m very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. You can confirm the sales rank is now appearing by accessing the link below.

[link to book]

Regards,

[Name Withheld]
Executive Customer Relations
Kindle Direct Publishing

Bizarrely, KDP was now claiming that a “technical issue” prevented her sales rank from displaying. This was obviously stretching credulity given the rank manipulation form letter that Kristi had again received from Amazon’s Compliance team, and she said that in response to this message. Then she received this message:

Hello Kristi,

I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. The email you received from crm-sra-compliance@amazon.com on December 4 was sent in error and the sales rank did not disappear due to free promotions or manipulation. Our Content Review team confirmed there was no manipulation and our Technical Team discovered that the disappearance of your sales rank was due to a internal issue.

Best regards,

[Name Withheld]

So, an “internal issue” caused the rank disappearance, and the rank manipulation email was sent in error. Hmmmmm. Quite the coincidence, don’t you think?

Nevertheless, at this point Kristi was relieved that her rank had been restored, even if Amazon had – once again – completely ruined a promotion which she had spent money on, killing her visibility and crippling her downloads.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital and thanks to Andy for the tip.

What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Books Of The Year

30 December 2017
Comments Off on What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Books Of The Year

From The Cardiff Review:

When we talk about “Books of the Year”, what we most often mean is, “Of the few books I read this year, I enjoyed the following…”

Or: when a writer is doing the choosing, I assume they mean, “Here are the books which I enjoyed and were written by people I know—and it would be awkward/rude of me not to mention them.”

Having benefited from having my book on these end-of-year lists in 2015 and ’16, I feel compelled to state that—in the majority of cases—I happened to know the writers who put me on these lists. In the past, when asked for my Books of the Year, I’ve likewise listed some books written by people that I know. In other cases, I’ve omitted books that I liked because of the very fact I knew the author and felt that if I mentioned their book, it would seem like a direct slight to other authors whom I knew but whose books I hadn’t yet read, or whose books I had read but didn’t want to recommend. 

. . . .

I am under-read, and my reading is very rarely up-to-date. So when I’ve been asked to choose Books of the Year in the past, I’ve done so with a heavy dose of guilt—namely because in the rare instances I have a read a book in its year of publication (which always feels too soon, really) it’s more often than not because I now know the author, or because I’ve been put on a panel with them, or because I’ve been a judge on a prize.

. . . .

I think the context of my recommending is further misleading, because:

a) it suggests that I think these books are the best books of the past year; and

b) by extension, it suggests that I have read many, many books published this year, and am thus in a position to make this kind of judgment; and

c) by further extension, it assumes that such a judgement is even possible or helpful—and, indeed, that I believe I’m rightly qualified to make such assertions

I am not naive enough to think that the writing industry can exist outside of the machinations of capitalism, but I do think these kind of lists are in a ragged service to a skewed, misguided market-logic whereby literary “product” values are something measurable and commensurable—and inherently related to newness.

. . . .

And once the year passes, the media—more or less—tells us that a book has had its time (unless it happens to win an award the following year) and so onwards we go to the next year, onwards we go to the next pile of books. Onwards! The march of progress waits for no one! 

But outside of the book industry itself, who gives a crap when a book was published?

Link to the rest at The Cardiff Review

Google Chrome will block autoplay video starting January 2018

7 December 2017

From Ars Technica:

Google is taking on the irritating trend of auto-playing Web videos with its Chrome browser. Starting in Chrome 64, which is currently earmarked for a January 2018 release, auto-play will only be allowed when the video in question is muted or when a “user has indicated an interest in the media.”

The latter applies if the site has been added to the home screen on mobile or if the user has frequently played media on the site on desktop. Google also says auto-play will be allowed if the user has “tapped or clicked somewhere on the site during the browsing session.”

. . . .

In addition, Google is adding a new site muting option to Chrome 63 (due for release in October), which allows users to completely disable audio for individual sites. The site muting option will persist between browsing sessions, allowing for some degree of user customisation.

However, Apple’s upcoming Safari 11 browser—which features its own auto-play blocking tools—will allow for more granular control, enabling users to mute auto-playing media with sound or block auto-playing media entirely on specific sites or on the Internet as a whole.

. . . .

In addition to auto-play blocking, Google is planning to implement ad-blocking inside the Chrome browser. The Google ad-blocker will block all advertising on sites that have a certain number of “unacceptable ads.” That includes ads that have pop-ups, auto-playing video, and “prestitial” count-down ads that delay content being displayed.

Link to the rest at Ars Technica

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