Self-Publicity

A Call for Digital Media Ethics

29 October 2014

From Publishing Perspectives:

Self-appointed digital experts on any digital topic are very popular these days in the digital media. It seems that just being “digital something” gives anyone the right to feel competent at anything that has some “digital” flavor/attribute/declination/relevance. While there is a clear difference between being “a jack of all trades, but master of none” and a “windbag,” in the digital media almost anyone feels to belong to the former rather than to the latter. This is often because they believe their readers know even less than they do. While this might or might not be the case of the average reader, it is never true for the entire reading community. There always are readers that know better than any bigmouth.

These days I have been asked by few friends and colleagues in Europe what I thought about the recent and very popular article appeared on vox.com titled“Amazon is doing the world a favor by crushing book publishers” by Matthew Yglesias.

The title speaks for itself: it is clearly not unbiased journalism, but just another self-serving and very effective propaganda, with 2,300+ shares on Twitter, 6,700+ on Facebook. A lot less (300+) on LinkedIn. Good job, great traffic, a lot of eyeballs and advertising money. This is an example of how a digital media can become “creative” at content publishing to pursue advertising money.

Bashing “book publishers” is a very common sport these days, as publishing expert Mike Shatzkin noticed.

. . . .

However no individual has the right to be listened to. Especially not if it’s for his/her own profit. Being listened to is a privilege that needs to be ethically earned and handled. Not seized by exploiting listeners’ trust or abusing own properly earned listeners’ base. Intentionally and unintentionally. This is still one of the things where the most digital media companies have got plenty of room to improve.

Thus the only point I have here is ethics. Manipulating readers for its own profits perhaps it is legal but not always ethically correct. In my humble opinion.

. . . .

However no individual has the right to be listened to. Especially not if it’s for his/her own profit. Being listened to is a privilege that needs to be ethically earned and handled. Not seized by exploiting listeners’ trust or abusing own properly earned listeners’ base. Intentionally and unintentionally. This is still one of the things where the most digital media companies have got plenty of room to improve.

Thus the only point I have here is ethics. Manipulating readers for its own profits perhaps it is legal but not always ethically correct. In my humble opinion.

. . . .

This would help, in the end, to reduce the overall online buzz around unqualified opinions and ultimately better curate a quality selection of content by ethical digital media to the great benefit of the readers. And still — hopefully — with decent profits for the digital media owners.

“Digital media ethics” are three simple words that open an entire very complex world of options, risks and opportunities. A Pandora’s box, perhaps. It is about time to seriously do something about it. The readers will certainly appreciate ethics. Advertisers will follow and shareholders will be happy too.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Bill for the tip.

In PG’s inexhaustibly humble opinion, this article has a fairly high incomprehensibility index. However, the comments are great.

From David Gaughran:

Ethics? Values? Give me a break. What kind of values does the publishing industry have exactly?

Penguin Random House owns the biggest vanity press in the world and is aggressively expanding its exploitative operations. Harlequin, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have white label vanity press imprints powered by Author Solutions. Harlequin is facing a class action for swindling its own writers out of contractually agreed royalties. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The reason we criticize the industry (as I explained to Shatzkin), is because (a) we find this behavior unacceptable and (b) we want the industry to change.

From Joe Konrath:

You claim Yglesias is engaging in the sport of “book bashing” in order to make advertising dollars. You claim the author didn’t disclose his background. You claim this is unethical.

You’re funny.

Where is the citation and refutation of any of Yglesias’s points? You make a claim of “fiction” without supporting your belief that Yglesias isn’t telling the truth. We should agree with your “fiction” pronouncement because you’re an expert?

Must I have a PhD in mathematics to say “2 + 3 = 5″? Am I not allowed to defend gay rights because I’m not gay?

Do you know that the “arguement from authority” is a fallacy?

You speak of propaganda that “pursues advertising money.”

Kind of like someone who makes money in the digital book business and writes an editorial defending the groups who hire him? But there’s no propaganda behind your piece, eh?

From William Ockham:

I notice that the author doesn’t follow his own advice. Shouldn’t his disclaimer include that he has never run an online magazine, never been a professor of ethics, etc.?

Negative disclaimers are silly. This isn’t about ethics, it is about attacking the credibility of outsiders who have the insolence to opine about publishing. Vena wraps his hit piece in the veneer of ethics, but he really seems to be afraid of open debate with people outside his ‘tribe’.

The Content Flood and Authors Whining

23 September 2014

From from author Bob Mayer on Digital Book World:

Sales are down for most authors. You don’t see blog posts about it or tweets, but it’s a reality. And the reason is simple: there’s more content out there than ever before.

Jon Fine of Amazon calls it a tsunami but at least a tsunami recedes. This is a flood that is going to get deeper and deeper.

Authors United (a misnomer as it represents less than 1% of authors) wraps itself in a cloak of noble intentions. But while some of them certainly do have those, for many it’s an economic quandary. They look at their royalty statements and see less. They also see sales shifting from hardcovers and paperback to digital. Where the contracts they signed award them less than stellar royalties.

The chosen, many of the Authors United, didn’t face much competition at the front table in Barnes and Noble and on the racks at the airport and in other retail outlets for years, and they still don’t. In fact, they face less. It’s mind-numbing to see the same names splayed out in an airport store. Publishers are pouring more coop money than ever before into their big names and not taking chances on lesser names. Tom Clancy has a new hardcover out. Really?  That’s what Authors United is trying to protect?

But in digital, readers are finding new authors. And liking them. Many of them self-published. Bookbub contributes to that. So does the fact that many bestselling indie authors understand the business so much better than the Big 5 and use it to their advantage.

. . . .

So for Authors United to claim they represent freedom of expression and ‘books aren’t a commodity’ is a flat out piece of BS. In fact, Amazon and other digital platforms have indeed democratized publishing. That’s not to say there aren’t storm clouds on the horizon, but it is the reality right now.

I’m sorry some bestselling author’s ten million is now seven million. Actually, I’m not, because many of those authors are extremely clueless about the realities of publishing, being shielded by their agents, who single-mindedly pursue their next advance without considering long-term income via higher royalties.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Here’s a link to Bob Mayer’s books

The Hardest Post… As goes the publishing world, so goes the blog

22 September 2014

From author and TPV regular Julia Barrett:

After six years, I’m done. The publishing world has changed, we all know it. So has the world of blogging.

Once upon a time, as recently as 2-3 years ago, a blog was crucial for outreach, for getting to know readers and other authors. Blogging meant putting oneself out there. No more.

Readers find books and authors via other algorithms. Via Amazon and Goodreads and who knows where. There is far less interest in the individual thoughts of individual authors like me.

I’ve loved this blog. It is precious to me. I’ve loved interacting with my readers and my friends. I will miss writing posts and reading your comments. But it’s time to make a change. And change is good. I’ll have more time to write regular old books.

Link to the rest at Julia Barrett

Here’s a link to Julia Barrett’s books

Paulo Coelho, Fiction’s Digital Alchemist

16 August 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

When Mr. Coelho’s novel, “Adultery,” comes out Tuesday, the publicity will be handled almost entirely by the 66-year-old writer, a self-styled spiritual guide who has sold more than 165 million books in some 80 languages. The Brazilian-born author has become an international celebrity due in no small part to his knack for the provocative and his immense social-media following. An early blogger and Facebook poster, he knows how to cast clickbait (breezily endorsing illicit affairs during business trips) and shape his image.

Mr. Coelho (pronounced “Coe-AIL-yoh”) has more than 25.6 million fans on Facebook in three languages and over 9 million followers on Twitter. He has more followers on those platforms than Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, John Green, Dan Brown, Danielle Steel and John Grisham—combined.

Many readers have come to see a writer’s Internet persona as a digital extension of their books. For some fans, a personal tweet from their favorite novelist is more thrilling than a signed copy. Social media’s influence on book sales has publishers pushing authors to put more of themselves online than ever before.

Mr. Coelho didn’t get to the top of the digital pyramid by accident. His niblets of inspiration about life’s challenges and personal fulfillment fit neatly with a link and a picture on a phone screen. He connects daily with readers, sending private messages of encouragement and comfort, while updating his blog and public feeds with snapshots from his life and aphorisms from his books. Fans describe being profoundly moved by his online affirmations, professing their love for him in retweets and comments.

. . . .

Years before other novelists joined Twitter and Facebook, Mr. Coelho was reaching out to fans on MySpace and, later, putting short videos on YouTube. He has accounts on Instagram, Tumblr, Vimeo, Google+ and Pinterest. He often posts during high-traffic intervals in the U.S. to reach the most readers. Since 2012, he has more than tripled the number of @paulocoelho followers on Twitter. He doesn’t follow many people back—those he does include Jeremy Piven, Jessica Simpson and Deepak Chopra.

He speaks and writes in Portuguese, English and French and posts in Spanish through a translator. He also keeps up a presence on Russian and Chinese social media.

. . . .

Clearly, though, the right kind of digital engagement moves sales. When Grijalbo, an imprint of Random House Spain and Latin America, put the first chapter of “Adultery” online last month, it drew 10,000 views. Mr. Coelho then posted the link on Facebook and within 12 hours the tally jumped to more than 200,000, says his agent, Mônica Antunes.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

The Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post

9 June 2014

From Buffer:

The 7 essential elements of a perfect blog post

I can often get wrapped up in making sure that every little detail of a blog post is perfect. No doubt I could list way more than seven elements from perfect blog posts, but these seven seem to cover all the most important bases.

  1. Headline: the 6 words that count most
  2. Storytelling hook
  3. Fewer characters per line at first
  4. Featured image
  5. Subheads for scanning
  6. Content and the 1,500-word sweet spot
  7. Soundbites for sharing

. . . .

Eight out of 10 people will read your headline. Two out of 10 will read the rest of what you wrote.

. . . .

Readers tend to absorb the first three words of a headline and the last three words. These numbers via KISSmetrics come straight from usability research, revealing that we don’t just scan body copy—we scan headlines, too.

Of course, few headlines will be six words long in total. In those cases, it’s important to make the first three words and the last three words stand out as much as possible.

. . . .

Beyond those specific numbers, there is extensive advice on the techniques for writing a great headline. And I do mean extensive. At last check, there were 56 million results in a Google search for “how to write a great headline.” We enjoy pairing the workflow of headline writing with the science of human psychology. With that in mind, here are eight headline strategies that are backed by psychology.

  1. Surprise – “This Is Not a Perfect Blog Post (But It Could’ve Been)”
  2. Questions – “Do You Know How to Create the Perfect Blog Post?”
  3. Curiosity gap – “10 Ingredients in a Perfect Blog Post. Number 9 Is Impossible!”
  4. Negatives – “Never Write a Boring Blog Post Again”
  5. How to – “How to Create a Perfect Blog Post”
  6. Numbers – “10 Tips to Creating a Perfect Blog Post”
  7. Audience referencing – “For People on the Verge of Writing the Perfect Blog Post”
  8. Specificity – “The 6-Part Process to Getting Twice the Traffic to Your Blog Post”

You can also learn a lot from the headlines of high-traffic blogs. Lenka Istvanova developed a headline formula based on her analysis of best practices for headlines that get clicks. The formula goes like this:

Numbers + Adjective + Target Keyword + Rationale + Promise

Link to the rest at Buffer

Book Blurb As Salesperson

20 May 2014

From Digital Book World:

Your book blurb is a salesperson. The “book description” area of your online sales page (commonly called a blurb) must sell your book for you. In an online store, there’s no knowledgeable store clerk ready to offer a verbal book recommendation to browsing customers. If you’re self-publishing a novel, you need a book description that works hard to sell your book.

Create a mood

First, the book description has to create a mood. Readers want to slip into a feeling when they dip into a book. That feeling could be suspense, romance, humor, nostalgia. When you begin to write your description, don’t worry about outlining the plot step by step. First, think about the atmosphere you’ve built in your book.

. . . .

Explain what happens, briefly

Sure, your audience wants to know the characters they’ll be reading about and the events that happen. But do this briefly. Mention what your character yearns for. Describe the challenges of the situation. Don’t go into the sub-plot, that’s too much for a book blurb.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Indie publisher advertising: Books on cars

4 May 2014

From TeleRead:

I can’t say I ever expected I’d run into independent publishing marketing in the wild, but there I was this afternoon, coming down from the Soldiers and Sailors Monument viewing tower in Monument Circle in the heart of downtown Indianapolis when I noticed a colorfully-vinyl-wrapped van pull onto the circle and drive around a few times. It had a logo on it saying “Elfhunter.”

. . . .

So there you have it. Advertising your books on vinyl car wraps works! At least, it worked on me. It made me curious enough to hunt up the writer’s web site, and poke around some once I got there. It looks like an interesting fantasy series.

Link to the rest, with a photo, at TeleRead

PG did some quick internet research and it appears that a full vinyl car wrap costs $2-4K, with prices varying by geographic area and the the amount of the car to be covered. Partial wraps are less expensive.

Advertisers Use Social Media to Promote Brands in Real Time

22 April 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

The usual formula goes something like this: Marketers and advertisers spend huge budgets to craft their campaigns, then refine them over weeks or months until they find just the message that will reach their target audience.

Now some companies are trying to squeeze all of that work into mere minutes.

These advertisers are watching Twitter and other social networks to see what topics are getting the most attention, and putting together short blog posts, tweets and videos that match those themes—in hopes that the online audience will become more aware of the brand and see it as relevant to their interests and needs. Then, if one topic isn’t getting attention anymore, the companies can drop it without much fuss, and switch gears quickly to follow the next hot discussion.

. . . .

“The data comes into the room from many sources, and you have to use that data like a modern-day orchestra leader, blending the inputs in real time in a combination that is as much an art as a science,” says Louis Paskalis, Bank of America senior vice president.

The bank’s attempt to use the [Davos] conference to promote its brand seems to have paid off—97% of people who clicked on BofA’s content on social media during the economic conference were engaging with the bank for the first time, Mr. Paskalis says.

. . . .

Companies should look for people who are tweeting about the company’s core strengths and see what’s on their minds.

Ms. Boff’s team, for instance, searches on Twitter for hashtags and conversations about science. When the companies have a sense of the kind of content that these communities care about, they can craft similar content and tweet it, perhaps using the same hashtags these communities are using.

“We try to behave the way you would if you were meeting somebody in a social gathering—you don’t accost them, instead you try to find a commonality of interest,” Ms. Boff says.

. . . .

Rather than publish content on a huge range of topics, focus on where your brand has built expertise and can add the most value to a conversation. GE, for example, sticks to messages about science and technology on social media—rather than try to sell its products or take shots at competitors.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research

21 April 2014

From Buffer:

Every so often when I’m tweeting or emailing, I’ll think: Should I really be writing so much?

I tend to get carried away. And for the times that I do, it sure would be nice to know if all this extra typing is hurting or helping my cause. I want to stand out on social media, but I want to do it in the right way.

Curious, I dug around and found some answers for the ideal lengths of tweets and titles and everything in between.

. . . .

Twitter’s best practices reference research by Buddy Media about tweet length: 100 characters is the engagement sweet spot for a tweet. 

Creativity loves constraints and simplicity is at our core. Tweets are limited to 140 characters so they can be consumed easily anywhere, even via mobile text messages. There’s no magical length for a Tweet, but a recent report by Buddy Media revealed that Tweets shorter than 100 characters get a 17% higher engagement rate.

The Buddy Media research falls in line with similar research by Track Social in a study of 100 well-known brands that are popular on Twitter. Track Social also found that the perfect Tweet length was right around 100 characters.

. . . .

The ideal length of a Facebook post is less than 40 characters

Forty characters is not much at all. (The sentence I just wrote is 35 characters.)

But 40 is the magic number that Jeff Bullas found was most effective in his study of retail brands on Facebook. He measured engagement of posts, defined by “like” rate and comment rate, and the ultra-short 40-character posts received 86 percent higher engagement than others.

The 40-character group also represented the smallest statistical set in the study (only 5 percent of all posts qualified at this length), so best practices on Facebook also include the next most popular set: Posts with 80 characters or fewer received 66 percent higher engagement.

. . . .

The ideal length of a Google+ headline is less than 60 characters.

To maximize the readability and appearance of your posts on Google+, you may want to keep your text on one line. Demian Farnworth of Copyblogger studied the Google+ breaking point and found that headlines should not exceed 60 characters.

. . . .

The ideal length of a headline is 6 words.

How much of the headline for this story did you read before you clicked?

According to a post by KISSmetrics, you might not have read it all.

Writing for KISSmetrics, headline expert Bnonn cites usability research revealing we don’t only scan body copy, we also scan headlines. As such, we tend to absorb only the first three words and the last three words of a headline. If you want to maximize the chance that your entire headline gets read, keep your headline to six words.

. . . .

The ideal length of a blog post is 7 minutes, 1,600 words.

When measuring the content that performs best on their site, Medium focuses not on clicks but on attention. How long do readers stick with an article?

In this sense, an ideal blog post would be one that people read. And Medium’s research on this front says that the ideal blog post is seven minutes long.

Link to the rest at Buffer

The 10 Commandments of Social Media Etiquette for Writers

14 April 2014

From author Anne R. Allen:

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.

That’s true even in a thread where a lot of people are being snarky and you’re simply going along with the crowd. I’ve done it myself and ended up hurting good people’s feelings. Remember when you’re online, you’re “in public” and anybody can see what you’ve written.

If you’re planning to publish traditionally, the reason to follow mom’s rule is simple. Editors and agents will Google you (often before they decide to read your pages) and if they find a bunch of nasty Tweets, forum flames, and bullying blog comments, your career is going nowhere.

Why do they Google you before reading your writing sample? The same reason any prospective employer Googles you. Most people prefer to work with level-headed, rational human beings who are not prone to drunk-posting, dissing their co-workers, or dancing naked with tighty-whiteys on their heads. Just the way it is.

. . . .

The tech world was invented by young, rule-breaking types, mostly males. So an early Internet culture evolved that tended to be adversarial, snarky, and intolerant of newbies—more like posturing teenagers than adults doing business.

But the publishing world is the opposite. It’s a business that has always been powered by the gentlemanly art of the schmooze.

Making people angry may drive people to your blog, and you may hear that “troll posts” and creating controversy is a way to get traffic. But it’s probably not the kind of traffic you want, even if you self-publish.

. . . .

1) Thou shalt not spam.

I realize I’m repeating myself, and some authors will continue to post endless book spam to every social medium until the whole thing has gone the way of MySpace, but here I go again:

What is book spam?

  • Repetitive links, blurbs, and quotes in your Twitter stream.
  • Compulsively posting your book blurbitude in 100s of FB, GR and Google+ groups and forums.
  • Putting somebody’s address on your mailing list when they haven’t subscribed.
  • Posting endless, non-news, non-informational promos for yourself or other authors. A little promo is good. Nothing but promo…is nothing but annoying.

People want news and personal connections on social media, not robotic advertising.

. . . .

2) Thou shalt support other authors.

Your fellow authors are not “rivals”. Authors who band together do better than antagonistic loners. In fact the number one thing a beginner should be doing on social media is getting to know other authors in your genre and subgenre and making friends.

One of the hottest sales tools in the business right now is the multi-author bargain boxed set with several titles by different authors. These boxed sets are getting on to the bestseller lists and raising visibility for all the authors. Yes. The NYT and USA Today Bestseller lists.

Another is the joint 99c sale. I participated in a 99c sale with other chick lit authors last year and it got my boxed set on the humor bestseller list where it stayed for 8 months.

Authors who band together get their books in front of the fans of all the authors in the group. Supporting each other is fun and profitable.

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

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