Social Media

A manifesto for reaching readers

27 August 2015

From Futurebook:

“Direct to consumer” is not about selling books through your Web site.

Rather, it is a philosophy that puts your consumer, the reader, first and foremost in each and every activity that the business undertakes. That might seem straightforward enough, but with decades of complex author, agent and retail agreements piling up — not to mention territorial licensing, franchise deals and the like — readers may have taken a bit of a back seat in publisher corporate strategy.

The first phase of the digital evolution of the industry has taken place, and where we go next depends on publishers shifting their business away from B2B  —  we are no longer in the exclusive domains of resellers and middle men. Whoever makes the most of the unparalleled direct access to the consumers that digital platforms provide will emerge as the next dominant player in this ever-changing ecosystem.

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Publishers must recognize that they are brand owners

They are the gatekeepers standing between fans and the authors and stories they love.

  • Ask the average reader who their favourite author is and you get a clear-cut answer (or two, or more!).
  • Ask who publishes that author and you see where the branding loses focus.

I look to my previous career in videogame publishing and how game publishers organized business verticals and brands around genres, and I see a lot of opportunities for book imprints with more defined offerings to play a larger role in bridging the publisher-to-reader divide. On noisy social networks, targeted content that speaks to individual interests is more likely to attract attention than general mass communication.

Authors, with varying degrees of success, have been better at connecting and communicating with their readers. Publishers can amplify those successes, instead of adding competing voices to the mix, by empowering and enabling these connections and by looking to innovators in the digital space to maximize the breadth and depth of these interactions.

So what is it that readers want?

The simple answer is more books to read. The detailed answer involves curation, personalization and greater engagement. Whether that engagement is with the publisher, imprint, author or book character depends on the book genre and reader habits, and there is no one-size-fits-all.

Link to the rest at Futurebook and thanks to Barb for the tip.

PG is interested that Futurebook has discovered a great unaddressed longing among readers – more engagement with publishers. “I just want to snuggle up with Simon & Schuster.”

PG suspects the only people who truly want more engagement with publishers are those authors who have signed publishing contracts and can’t get anyone from their publisher to reply to their emails or return their calls. And unemployed MFA graduates.

Readers don’t care who published the book. Moviegoers don’t care who financed the movie. Music fans don’t care who distributed the song.

HarperCollins to close Authonomy

22 August 2015

From The Bookseller:

HarperCollins is to close its Authonomy online community for aspiring writers, which has been live since 2008.

The site has worked by inviting users to submit manuscripts online, with submissions ranked by users and the best-ranked considered for publication by HarperCollins. Authors found by HarperCollins through the Authonomy community include Miranda Dickinson, Steven Dunne and Kat French. However the community will now close at the end of September.

On the Authonomy site, the publisher explained to community members: “Unfortunately in recent years publishing of titles from the site has slowed as we have opened other submissions channels, and the community has become smaller… HarperCollins remains committed to discovering new writers, and this is reflected in our dynamic, genre-focused, digital-first lists such as HarperImpulse, and our open submissions windows for innovative commercial imprints such as Voyager and The Borough Press. We would encourage the very talented members of the vibrant Authonomy community to continue to show us their work through these channels.”

. . . .

HC gave no further comment on how many, if any, jobs were affected by the development.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller and thanks to Lexi for the tip.

39 Stellar Examples of Author Facebook Cover Photo Designs

18 August 2015

From Bookbub Partners:

Social media is an important element of any author’s online platform. According to a survey of 6,000 readers by Marie Force, 69% of readers use Facebook to find information about their favorite author, and 88% of readers follow their favorite author on Facebook. Whether you have a page, public profile, or group, you can brand your Facebook presence with a unique cover photo design.

Your online platform should always look polished and professional, and make it easy for readers to connect you with your books. Also, whenever someone likes your page, follows your profile, friends you, or joins your group, your cover photo will appear on her News Feed for her friends to see (a percentage of which is determined by Facebook’s algorithm, but regardless, some people will see it). Your cover photo will also appear on fans’ News Feeds whenever you update it.

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If you don’t have a professional designer at your disposal, here are some quick tips for spinning up a great Facebook cover photo:

  • The full dimensions of the cover photo are 851px wide by 315px tall.
  • To ensure your design isn’t cut off on mobile, on people’s news feeds, or upon their first visit to your page, try to fit your most important design elements within the bottom 150px and middle 563px. Still confused? This guide to Facebook’s dimensions should help.


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Link to the rest at Bookbub Partners

Stop Grading an Author’s Social Media Presence

12 August 2015

From Digital Book World:

I see too many publishers placing too much importance and assigning dubious grades to authors based on the strength or weakness of their social media following. I’ve actually sat in several meetings with literary agents, acquisitions editors and marketing directors who asked misguided questions, such as:

• Is this author on Facebook and Twitter?
• How many followers do they have?
• How often does the author post and do they get many shares and retweets?

Making acquisitions and marketing decisions based in large part on an author’s social media popularity is like assigning grades to students based on their accent or physical attractiveness: it’s subjective and largely unrelated to the actual skillset needed to succeed.

There is little correlation between the amount of Facebook followers an author displays and the amount of actual book buyers those numbers generate. Here are three reasons why:

1. An author could have thousands of followers, but not one of whom might actually purchase the book, since they are only following that author for the time being because doing so is free.

2. Social media followers can easily be bought and faked. I’ve seen authors plant their Facebook accounts with thousands of “followers” purchased on eBay and other sites. There are also free apps that show the amount of fake and inactive Twitter followers in someone’s account.

3. A recent study by McKinsey Consulting revealed that email is 40 times more effective than all social media combined at acquiring new customers. Despite the results of this study, I still hear publishers say they’re placing more and more importance on social media.

. . . .

Informed publishers should focus greater attention on numbers that reveal more substance of an author’s platform.

. . . .

Monthly website visitors
 Again, social media numbers can be easily faked. But an author’s website traffic tends to be a more legitimate number. Google Analytics is free and makes it easy for authors to run reports and provide this data. At the very least, publishers should request information from authors on the amount of monthly unique sessions, users and page views to their site. In addition, they should ask for reports that show traffic dating back 18 months. Don’t just look at the present numbers; look at how the author is trending.

. . . .

Previous sales history 
Building email lists, generating web traffic and attracting speaking engagements are key skills. But they are still distinct from actually selling books. Some authors know how to work hard, but not smart. They generate a lot of activity, but it doesn’t transfer into actual book sales.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Ready for Your Close-up? What YouTube Can Do for Writers

6 August 2015

From Publishing Perspectives:

One day, as I was getting to the end of the third draft of my novel, I decided to tell my story. Not the story in my book, but the story of writing the book, the story behind the story. I’m not sure what prompted me: the exhilaration of going digital, a desperate need for a reason to shave, who knows. I checked whether the pocket camera I used for weddings and hiking trips could shoot video (it could!), piled up a few books to rise as high as my head (I have a lot of books, and I’m no giant), and I pressed the red button. Go. What was I supposed to say?Anything goes, I said to myself. Just hurry up because you don’t have much battery. I started talking.

I introduced myself (to the world? to my friends? to no one?), and I said I wanted to self-publish my novel. I said it out loud, in the middle of an empty room, and I felt giddy. But I didn’t want to over-promise. Unlike the story in my book, this wasn’t fiction. I had to announce that I knew nothing about self-publishing. That I wasn’t an expert, an authority, or even – gasp – a professional. I would figure it out along the way. The words that came out formed a plan that I hadn’t fully thought out in my head: every week I would shoot a quick update on my self-publishing adventure, and I would post it on YouTube. Perhaps others might benefit from my experiences? Perhaps my videos could help others who, like me, were clueless but optimistic about the promises of self-publishing? About the mysteries of finding an editor, a book cover, a platform, a reader? Surely more unwarranted videos existed out there (I can confirm: they do). I posted the video and drank a tall cold glass of water.

. . . .

I sent the link to my family and friends. It didn’t go viral (was I relieved?), but people saw it. People liked it (both in their hearts and on social media). A few days went by. Then something strange began to happen. I could feel something heavy and vaguely menacing in the distance. It was new but not unfamiliar. By the end of the week, I knew what it was: a deadline. I had promised a new video. I had to deliver it. I piled up the books again, and episode 2 went out.

. . . .

Then something else started happening. This time, it was completely new. People I didn’t know began to reach out. They started following me online, messaging me, liking me (again, one hopes, both meanings). Their numbers are small, but I’ve learnt new names; new names of people and even cities where they live. That’s when I understood what YouTube can do for writers. It’ s not easy to describe or put a price on (which is great, because it’s free). But it might be what I’d been searching for all along, even before the age of self-publishing, even in manuscripts 1 through 4. It’s changed the way I think about writing, when I used to think that perseverance and irrational confidence were everything I needed. It’s a sense of responsibility that comes out of trust. It shows a safety net beneath the blank page, a friendly face in the panel of judges, the face that all the perfect somersaults are really for. What YouTube gives a writer is someone to write for.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

An Introverted Writer’s Lament

3 August 2015

From The Atlantic:

Whether we’re behind the podium or awaiting our turn, numbing our bottoms on the chill of metal foldout chairs or trying to work some life into our terror-stricken tongues, we introverts feel the pain of the public performance. This is because there are requirements to being a writer. Other than being a writer, I mean. Firstly, there’s the need to become part of the writing “community”, which compels every writer who craves self respect and success to attend community events, help to organize them, buzz over them, and—despite blitzed nerves and staggering bowels—present and perform at them. We get through it. We bully ourselves into it. We dose ourselves with beta blockers. We drink. We become our own worst enemies for a night of validation and participation.

Lately, though, I’ve been asking why.

This question comes after several years of feeling ill at ease about my increasing lack of participation in the writing world. There’s my avoidance of readings, my fake enthusiasm as I swindle my own students out of their Friday nights to go to a lecture I won’t attend, my gag-triggering physical loathing of bookstores, my requirement that reading materials appear on my nightstand by benevolent conjury, without any consumer effort from me. There’s my acute failure as an educator to fill any tiny part of the role of writing-community steward that is assumed of me. There’s my own titanic hypocrisy most recently as I think about promoting a new book in the very community I can’t show love for. So here I am. In all my humility. Hello friends. Hello community. If you could pretend along with me that I’ve been here this whole time, that would be super.

. . . .

Since when did the community become our moral compass—our viability and ethics as writers determined so much by our team spirit? What if the community and the kind of participation it involves are actually bad for my writing, diluting my writerly identity, my ego and my id, and my subservience and surrender to the craft? What if I just want to make something? What if all this communing actually hurts the primary means by which I set out to participate and communicate—my writing itself? What do I do then? I mean, why can’t I make art in my clerestory abyss and snub the community without feeling like a snotty little brat? Why can’t I?

Despite the fact that the introvert is a romanticized figure, in practice the introvert is reviled and pitied.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Authors marketing themselves online: the components of a strategy

31 July 2015

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin via Book Machine:

A range of useful options is available to any author as they consider their online presences. All can be useful to any author but their own website is an essential component of that. It’s an anchor and it is the only web presence the author knows s/he will always control.

An author’s objectives for a website should be to:

  • Make it crystal clear to search engines who the author is and for what they are an authority.
  • Give the author a platform that can be used for many things: blogging, posting parts of books or works-in-progress, and gathering email addresses.
  • Give fans of the author a sensible place to link to an author’s content and biography that is not called
  • Collect data that is independent of any specific book’s sales that can help an author know how s/he is doing in the digital world.

In addition to a web site, which is real estate an author totally controls and is the most important tool in an author’s kit to get new followers through search, an author can do him or herself some good by going where fans could be.

. . . .

And authors should be in touch with other authors too. They have blurbed for each other’s books for years. Now they can link to each other. They can mail to each other’s fans. No author is so prolific than s/he needs to “own” fans exclusively.

Link to the rest at Book Machine

#TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter Hashtag Has Famous Authors Venting and Bonding on Twitter

29 July 2015

From Observer:

Writing is not a career for the weak.

It comes with seemingly everlasting periods of writer’s block, glooming fits of self-doubt and often little recognition or remuneration in return for great dedication. Perhaps the biggest bother, though, is constantly having to defend who you are, what you write and why you write it.

For many people, because they know how to write, they carry an assumption that writing is easy. What they don’t realize, however, is that writing, the tool you learn in school and use to jot texts, refrigerator memos and the occasional letter, is quite a ways away from writing, what novelists, poets, journalists and others who connect words professionally do.

Today, hobbyists and professional writers got the chance to vent the everyday frustrations associated with writing on Twitter when the hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter began trending. Authors of best-selling novels, journalists and passionate just for fun-writers participated, and they pretty much covered all of the bases. As they tweeted, RTs, favorites and replies were all plentiful as the writers digitally bonded over their work problems—we’ll call it a water cooler vent session.

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Link to the rest at Observer

Reader Expectations: Blessings or Curses?

24 July 2015

From author Elle Casey:

If you know me, you know I write in several genres. At last count, those included urban fantasy, romance, thriller/suspense, paranormal, action-adventure, dystopian, and hard science fiction-space opera. The hard sci-fi was new for me as of last month. It’s a genre I enjoy as a fan of TV, film, and novels (Dune was my first!), but had never experienced as a writer.

So far I’ve published one sci-fi novel (Drifters’ Alliance, Book 1) and a short story prequel to that series (Winner Takes All), which is scheduled for release on August 24th as part of an anthology titled Dark Beyond the Stars.  I’ve really enjoyed stretching my wings and trying this new thang. I love space battles! Pew-pew!

I’ve also realized something important about myself and my job as a writer, and because this new discovery is kind of slowing me down and holding me back from writing my next book (by clogging up my brain), I figured I’d blog about it. Generally speaking, when I write something down in the blogosphere, it gets it out of my head and allows me a clear path ahead. And right now, my brain is completely clouded and jammed up with the specter of … duh-duh-duh-duuuhhhh … Reader Expectations.

. . . .

Once you write a book, if it’s good enough and all the planets and stars have aligned (meaning you get some kind of online exposure somewhere, be it via a retailer and/or an influential blogger), you gain a following of readers looking forward to your next release. And those readers will naturally have some expectations concerning that next release. For example, they’ll want your next book to be similar in tone and style, similar in length (or longer if possible), and capable of evoking the same kind of emotional responses the previous one did. Fair enough, right? That’s cool.  I’m down. I’m a reader too. I toootally get it.

When there are just a few expectant readers out there, it’s somewhat easy to make them happy. After I wrote one book, I had maybe three people who bothered to email me and tell me what they were hoping to see in the next book (and one of them was my mother). I was happy to accommodate any of those requests that made sense for the next story, and I did my best to write the second book with as much passion and focus as I had the first. Reader expectations in small doses like that were invigorating!

. . . .

The problem with reader expectations for me at this point, really, is twofold: First, because there are so many, they constantly conflict with one another; and second, because of that first point, they eventually make it very difficult for me to write anything at all.

I’ll give you an example of the first situation, a phenomenon you can verify by reading the reviews on any of my books. For the same book, I’ve heard from readers that :

  • the story is too long, and the story is too short,
  • the girl should have gone with boy #1, and the girl should have gone with boy #2,
  • a girl of this age would never do what my character did, and my character acted exactly as a girl of this age would,
  • I didn’t resolve the main conflict, and the main conflict was completely resolved
  • people don’t say in real life what my characters say, and my characters are so real they practically jump off the page,
  • I don’t know what I’m talking about, and I’m a frigging genius,
  • series suck, and series are awesome,
  • cliffhangers suck, and cliffhangers are awesome,
  • characters shouldn’t swear (because it’s not nice to read in a book), and characters should swear (because real people swear and characters in books should act real).

Link to the rest at Elle Casey and thanks to Noelle for the tip.

Here’s a link to Elle Casey’s books

Another wake-up call from Amazon as they serve author interests better than publishers have

24 July 2015

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

Although those fighting Amazon can and will point to what they consider to be situations where Amazon takes unfair advantage of its marketplace position, there are two aspects of what has transpired over the past 20 years that the critics who plead for government intervention will almost certainly ignore.

Most of Amazon’s success is due to their own stellar performance: innovating, investing, executing, and having a vision of what could happen as they grew.

Most of what Amazon has done to build their business — almost all of what they’ve done until the past few years of Kindle dominance — benefited most publishers and helped them grow their sales and their profitability. (In fact, book publishing uniquely among media businesses didn’t fall off a cliff in the decade surrounding the millenium and a strong case could be made that Amazon actually saved them.)

This has not stopped. The most recent example was announced yesterday. Amazon is now enabling readers to sign up on their favorite authors’ pages for notification of forthcoming books. This once again demonstratesAmazon’s willingness to innovate. And by doing this they also will deliver benefits to the publishers — an increase in out-of-the-box sales of new books to the authors’ sign-up lists. But the chances are that authors will be more appreciative than publishers will. That aspect of this initiative then feeds into the meme that “Amazon is taking over!”

. . . .

When we talk about author websites, we stress the importance of building the fan base in size and intensity. Among the big literary agencies investing in helping authors with their digital presence (and many are), we helped one figure out the techniques to teach to help their authors gather mailing list names.

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Now Amazon has, in their typical way (simple and self-serving) made this incredibly easy. We’ve met publishers who wonder why an author would need a website of their own rather than just a page on the publisher’s site. There are a lot of reasons that might be true, including many publishers’ apparent reluctance to “promote” the books an author has done with a prior publisher. But now publishers might hear authors asking the question a different way. Why do they need any author page on the Web besides the one they get from Amazon?

. . . .

But the single most important thing an author would want to tell his/her fans is “I’ve got a new book coming” and Amazon has handled that.

And in so doing, they have increased the control they have of the book marketplace and highlighted once again that part of the ground they take is ground the publishers simply cede to them. Any publisher that is not helping authors engage with their readers and actively create their own email lists to alert the interested to new books is put on notice now that they are quite late. But one thing is still true: better late than never.

Link to the rest at Mike Shatzkin and thanks to Chris for the tip.

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