Social Media

Social media witch hunts: “We’re the merciless ones!”

31 March 2015

From Salon:

Jon Ronson’s new book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” is a departure of sorts for the bestselling humorist/journalist. Instead of interviewing paranoid extremists (“Them”) or bizarre military researchers (“The Men Who Stare at Goats”) or convicted murderers (“The Psychopath Test”), he had heart-to-hearts with a publicist, a science journalist, a software developer and a caregiver for adults with learning difficulties. What drew Ronson to this collection of fairly ordinary people is an ordeal they all shared: public shaming in the age of social media.

. . . .

Justine Sacco, the publicist, tweeted a lame joke meant to parody racist attitudes toward AIDS, then boarded a flight to South Africa while Twitter erupted with calls for her head on a platter and gleeful jibes about the nightmare that would greet her when her plane landed. Jonah Lehrer, the journalist, got busted for plagiarism and fabrication and then somehow ended up apologizing at a podium while tweets accusing him of being a “sociopath” and a “delusional, unrepentant narcissist” scrolled up a giant screen behind him. Hank, the developer, made stupid double entendres about dongles with a buddy while sitting in the audience at a tech conference, offending another programmer, Adria Richards, and setting off a string of events that would end with both fired and Richards subjected to horrendous online harassment.

. . . .

All four, and a handful of others whose fates Ronson describes in “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” had their lives wrecked when hoards of digitally empowered crusaders descended on them. All lost their jobs. All went through periods of depression and withdrawal. “It’s not like I can date,” Sacco told Ronson, “because we google everyone we might date.” Some, like Lehrer, were more culpable than others, but their stories left Ronson with nagging doubts about the tools he’d once idealized as a means by which “giants were being brought down by people who used to be powerless.” He decided to investigate what he calls “the great renaissance in public shaming.” And he was frightened, badly, by what he found.

. . . .

I was so happy that you were able to help Lindsey Stone, whose name I hesitate to even mention.

Lindsey is quite happy to be part of the conversation. Being talked about in the way that I’ve been talking about her is actually better than having it all vanish. There are few things more traumatizing than being cast out into the wilderness by the masses, and there’s nothing better than being brought back in. So Lindsey — and Justine [Sacco], too — doesn’t really mind being discussed now that people are discussing them in this new way.

Was it Justine’s case that pulled you into the story of social-media shaming?

I was already in the midst of this when I came across her, but when I did, I just thought, “This is unbelievable.” There’s huge numbers of people willfully misunderstanding this woman for their own ideological ends and those people who were doing it: they’re us. I identified both with Justine and also with the people who tore her apart. And I thought: We’re punishing Justine, gleefully punishing Justine, with this thing that we are the most terrified might happen to us. That’s not a world that you want to live in.

. . . .

Some version of what happened to Justine really can happen to anyone, clearly, because how many followers did she have beforehand?

She had 170. And when the New York Times was fact-checking the excerpt they ran, she told them that no one had ever replied to any of her tweets, either.

She thought she was just sending this stuff off into the void.

Exactly, which is why I don’t buy the slightly cold argument of “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” and when you broadcast on Twitter you should expect these things to happen. Justine had no reason to suspect that.

. . . .

I think what people also don’t realize — or maybe they just don’t care — is that jumping on someone and telling them how terrible they are isn’t actually a great form of persuasion. It makes people dig in their heels and get defensive.

Yeah, although I know that Lindsey believed every negative thing that was written about her.

Oh, that’s terrible!

It was awful. I reinterviewed her a couple of weeks ago for the BBC and she said she read everything and felt worthless. I really think that when she said “worthless” she meant it; poor Lindsey believed everything. I think Justine had more self-esteem. Even me, with all my self-esteem [laughs] when a little flame war happened after the New York Times extract, I didn’t reply to everybody and I muted everybody but I read it all and it definitely made me feel anxious. I was, like, waking up at 4 in the morning and immediately going onto Twitter to see if anything else had happened. Even my tiny rain of shaming had an impact of me.

Link to the rest at Salon and thanks to Dave for the tip.

When You Know It’s Time to Move On

30 March 2015

From author Elizabeth Spann Craig:

In October, my agent received an email from my editor.  I have a release scheduled in the Southern Quilting series this June (book 5).  My editor knew my contract for the series was about to run out and asked me to come up with some ideas for additional books for the series.

I developed two book outlines but never emailed them.  My editor wrote my agent last month to say that print sales had decreased (I’ve no doubt…they’re only a fraction of my digital sales for my self-published books) and Penguin Random House wanted to stop printing the series.  Instead, they were interested in my exploring their e-only line, InterMix.

And…I asked for my character rights back.

The publisher promptly returned a non-renewal notice for the series and a permission grant for me to continue it via self-pub.

I know my ebooks have been selling well—I get royalty checks.  I haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid here.  I know what I need a big-five traditional publisher for…expansive print distribution into bookstores.  But this is now becoming less and less important as indicated by my publisher moving away from printing this series.

I read my agent’s email and immediately knew I wanted to self-pub the series before I’d even finished the email. I’m fortunate enough to have a decent reader base at this point, making this the right decision.  Would I discourage everyone from accepting an e-only deal?  I wouldn’t.  But I’d add that we really need to go into these types of arrangements with our eyes open.  What do we want to get out of it?  We should do some soul-searching.

. . . .

Important for writers, I think—don’t let these types of decisions become personal.  I love my editor…I’ve had a fantastic working relationship with her.  My agent and I have worked together well.  This isn’t about relationships…this is business.  This is about my making a living.

I think they understand that. There are no hard feelings.  I’m not just taking my ball and going home out of pique. E-only isn’t a good fit for me…that’s all there is to it.

Link to the rest at Elizabeth Spann Craig

Here’s a link to Elizabeth Spann Craig’s books

When TPV was birthed in 2011, Elizabeth was already operating a thoughtful blog and PG has linked to quite a number of her posts over the years. Additionally, Elizabeth also has an active Twitter presence and has maintained that during the period PG has been following her.

Why I Quit Goodreads (or, The Bookternet Is Not Safe for Women)

29 March 2015

From BookRiot:

A few months ago, I quit Goodreads.

Partly, I was paring back my social media life to those that are most useful to me  (Twitter) or make me happiest (Instagram). Partly, I found the Kathleen Hale controversy profoundly upsetting. But mostly, I was just sick of being harassed. I was tired of being questioned by authors or rabid fans about my three-star reviews (by the way can we talk about how a three-star review is not a bad review, people?), messaged and spammed and poked at to read someone’s self-published magnum opus, and invited to everything all over the world always. But those are minor annoyances. The Kathleen Hale controversy snapped into focus something I had always kind of wondered about: as a woman, putting my views on the internet is an act of risk-taking.

And this is gendered, folks. I don’t think Hale would have stalked a male commentator, and I know my male colleagues here at Book Riot get very different reactions for saying the same things my female colleagues do. This is about being a woman who wants to exercise her voice, and this is about the people who will always read that voice as a threat.

Once, a week or so before I deleted my Goodreads account, I gave a book that shall remain nameless a two-star review. A man claiming to be the author’s publicist messaged me to ask that I reconsider. I ignored the message (I never had that many followers on Goodreads and it seemed to me that I was a small potatoes target) and, a day or so later, received an angrier message, this time demanding that I take down the review. I wrote back and noted that I had made some positive points about the book but that overall it didn’t work for me. Reviews on Goodreads, I noted, are personal reflections for the most part — mine certainly were — and I wasn’t condemning the book as a whole. The person wrote back and asked, “How would you like it if people used the internet to say mean things about you? It can be done, you know.”

. . . .

It got me thinking about how often I read articles on book sites (not, blessedly, this one, with its carefully managed community and moderated comments) where I have wanted to join in the discussion, only to read the comment threads full of male aggressions and personal attacks, racism and sexism and threats of violence, and think: no, this is not for me. My voice is not welcome here.

At least once a week, now, I scroll past a comment thread and move on.

This is a problem that is wider than us in the bookternet but it is, make no mistake, a problem in the bookternet. We were supposed to be the safe space for intellectual discussion of this act of reading that we so love. And yet.

. . . .

When I say the bookternet is not safe for women, I mean it. Thankfully I have never been physically attacked or directly harmed by my experiences tweeting and blogging about books. But I have certainly been made to feel unsafe, to live on the defensive, to question the motivations of those who engage with me, to block first and ask questions never. That’s not the person I want to be, but it’s the person I must be if I wish to have a public voice on a big platform like Book Riot. If I have to choose between my sweetness and my voice, my voice will always, always win. It has to.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Conversations in Private Author Loops

27 March 2015

From author Courtney Milan via Smart Bitches, Trashy Books:

Courtney Milan says:

Look, there’s a reason I haven’t said much. I’m still untangling things. There are a lot of things that I need to untangle. I’m sorry that’s not convenient–I conveniently wish I could untangle this easily, too.

But here is one thread of about 45 tangled threads that I think I’m finally clear on: There is an intersection between Jane being on author loops and the lawsuit.

Everything that crosses Jane’s eye about Ellora’s Cave is discoverable by Tina Engler–someone who has allegedly inflated the 1099s of former editors who testified in the suit in retaliation for their testimony, an action that will cost them time and money to correct. A lot of authors–and I mean a LOT–are being very cautious about what they say because they don’t want to be retaliated against. I understand that worry and I’m not going to tell people to put their careers on the line when they’ve got a living to make.

Now we come to those private author loops. Because that’s where we do a lot of processing behind the scenes, including processing of the questions regarding the EC suit. On private author loops, authors have asked each other questions like this: Do I say something in public? Is it worth the risk? They still have six of my books, and they’re still paying me and I need that money to pay rent. Or, maybe the calculus goes, They haven’t paid me yet but I think they will and I can’t afford not to get it. I can’t speak up.

Ellora’s Cave is going to ask for discovery of any and all communications received by Jane in any form regarding Ellora’s Cave. If Jane was on any of those loops? That stuff is discoverable. Even if Jane as Jen didn’t respond or instigate the discussion. Even if she never used the information.

It is a huge risk to speak frankly in front of someone who may be compelled by court order to report your speech to the person you are talking about. There’s even the risk that, as a result of that speech, you may be compelled by subpoena to testify in court. These are risks that are vastly different in kind than the risks authors normally assume–and Jane spent six months on authors’ loops not disclosing that a court could compel her to put everything said in front of her about Ellora’s Cave in front of Tina Engler.

Link to the rest at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and thanks to Phoenix and several others for the tip.

Here’s a link to Courtney Milan’s books

Visual Check

26 March 2015

PG is trying out a new WordPress plugin that is designed to make TPV easier to consume on mobile devices. Basically, the plugin is supposed to know when someone is using a mobile device and send them a mobile-friendly layout instead of the one they see when they visit TPV with a web browser on their computer.

PG’s past experiments with this type of plugin resulted in some people getting the mobile version on their computers and others getting a broken mobile version on their smart phones or tablets.

The plugin will be activated immediately after this post appears. If you could respond with your experience, particularly if you have problems, it would be much appreciated.

UPDATE: Between the comments and the emails, it appears that I need to find another plugin. I’ve deactivated this one. Thanks for giving me feedback.

Starter thoughts for publishers to develop new author marketing policies

26 March 2015

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

In a prior post, we suggested that the time has come for publishers to have clear policies around what they should require from author web presences for an effective publishing partnership. This is a really complex and multi-faceted challenge for every publisher.

. . . .

1. The first step is for a publisher to articulate their minimum standard for an author’s online presence. We have found that the role of web presences an author controls in helping Google and other search engines understand an author’s importance in context is routinely underappreciated. In addition to a properly-SEOd web site, publishers will want to make sure authors fill out their Amazon author page, their Google Plus profile, and their Goodreads page as well. All of this verbal metadata — along with images including photos and book covers — builds a strong foundation for discovery.

Obviously, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, Instagram, and Pinterest (among others) could also be a constructive part of the web presence for many authors.

. . . .

2. Although many, if not most, authors will have a website or the intention to create one, many others don’t. In that case, the publisher will want to have a fast, inexpensive, and effective way to put one up on the author’s behalf. (The non-website components of the foundation don’t lend themselves as readily to publisher assistance.)

For authors who either don’t have the skills to put up their own WordPress site or the budget to pay for a unique one to be designed and built for them, the publisher should provide a templated interactive process to create a site inexpensively. They also will have to do the research into key words, topics, and phrases to inform the SEO. We believe that for a publisher who will operate at scale, building dozens and perhaps hundreds of these sites per year, the cost should come down to $2,000 or less per site, perhaps $1,000 or less for first-time author sites that have minimal needs for unique book pages.

. . . .

4. Of course, in more cases than not, the author will already have a site. In that case, the publisher won’t be building one but does need to assure itself that the existing site meets the SEO standard.

. . . .

5. The publisher should also be giving authors advice about maximizing other opportunities. If the author might blog, suggestions about length, frequency, and topics are worthwhile as are very specific ideas about maximizing the other platforms like Facebook. The publishers should be giving authors a Wish List, making absolutely certain that no opportunity for author-based promotion is ignored because of a lack of awareness on the author’s part.

. . . .

8. What should be clear is that the author is being given a choice: they can build their own website (or do the tweaking necessary to one they already have to bring it up to standards) or they can have one built for them by the publisher from the templated choices the publisher offers.

9. This leaves two very large commercial questions for the publisher and author to negotiate, both of which should rise to the level of being covered in the contract. The first one revolves around the investment in and “ownership” of the author’s website and, perhaps the investments needed for ongoing marketing on the author’s behalf. Of course, there is nothing to discuss if the author builds and maintains her own site and social presences. The publisher should still provide all the help they can — SEO research at the beginning and analytics help all along — but there would be no reason for any compensation or publisher ownership.

However, if the publisher invests the dollars to build the author’s site or pays for any of the ongoing efforts by freelancers, there is definitely a negotiation to take place and there are a few moving parts to that negotiation. One way to address this might be for the publisher to advance the money for this work but have the opportunity to recoup it out of proceeds, as though it were part of the advance. Or the publisher could just render the author a bill for the site creation cost (remember, we’re positing $2,000 or less) which the author could simply pay. Another possibility is that the publisher might “own” the author’s website. That is not an end result we would recommend and, if it is necessary, there should be a “buy back” clause that enables the author to recover that ownership if, for example, they move on to another house.

. . . .

10. The other knotty element that should be negotiated is around the use of email lists that these optimized author sites will generate. It is self-destructive for either the author or the publisher to simply say “they’re mine!”

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Jane Litte/Jen Frederick

25 March 2015

PG doesn’t usually post anonymous commentary, but he decided to do so because this post raises concerns that lie at the intersection of social media and indie authors.

The commentary also involves pen names which, of course, have a long history in the book business and are generally considered benign business practices by most authors.

The commentary involves a topic that first sprang up about 15 minutes after the first online communities did – whether participants should be able to use fake names. As regular visitors to TPV will clearly recognize, PG has no problems with comments from anonymous or pseudonymous sources.

Finally, PG visits and quotes from Dear Author for the useful and interesting business/legal material that appears there. He’s never read a DA review.

PG will be interested in the response TPV visitors have to this author’s concerns:

So…yesterday, Jane Litte announced on her blog (Dear Author) that she has been writing new adult romance under the pseudonym Jen Frederick. I’m not going to rehash it all, but here is the link if you’d like to read the reasons behind her decision in her own words.

First off, I want to make it clear that I harbor no ill will toward Jane. I think she’s whip-smart, and a fabulous businesswoman. I also congratulate her on her amazing success as an author. In the past, I have agreed with a lot of what she says about reviews and reviewers rights, and have lauded her efforts to take a stand against author and publisher misconduct. I also know how influential she is in the industry. Which is why I spent pretty much my whole day writing and deleting this and, ultimately decided to post anonymously. Because I KNOW I would lose friendly author acquaintances over this. I KNOW I would get emails and tweets and people coming at me because I didn’t just jump on the kumbaya bandwagon and high five her about her announcement. But when I thought back through the Ellora’s Cave/Dear Author situation, I kept coming back to the hashtag…

#notchilled

And guess what? I’m not chilled with this. I respect Jane. I don’t think her intention was to hurt anyone with her choice not to disclose her author name. I also don’t think she used her unique position to intentionally benefit herself as an author or reviewer, or to benefit her publisher. What I do think is that there are other, much more complex issues at play here that the reading (and reviewing) public might not be aware of. I’m going to lay them out for you now, as I see them.

BUT FIRST!
I want to clarify something here (because I know it will come up). I am not a bitter author who is reveling in the potential GOTCHA! moment for Jane due to a bad review on her blog or some personal beef. Full disclosure: I have been reviewed by Dear Author more than once and have received reviews ranging between a C+ and a B-. I was happy that she reviewed me, thought the reviews were even-handed, and I believe I re-tweeted and squeed when I was notified that I’d been reviewed. I’ve never been lambasted by Jane or anyone else on her review blog (that I know of, at any rate) and I have no ax to grind with her on a personal level.

I’m writing this specifically because I don’t want to.

I’m writing this specifically for all the people I know who feel the way I do and are too afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation.

Here are the two main things I’m #notchilled about:

Firstly, reviews are sacrosanct. Reviewers are sacrosanct. We are told on a daily basis, as authors, that we are not allowed to respond to reviews publicly, whether a review is gushing, fabulous and insightful and we want to thank the reviewer, or the review is cruel, misinformed, or downright threatening and we want to defend ourselves. I agree with this (although, there are times I admit I don’t like it so much, lol, because I’m human) and have spent the last five years as a professional author adhering to this tenet (although, I admit, before I knew better, when my first book released, I did cry on Twitter once and solicit virtual hugs the first time I got a “This author should go die in a fire” type review that laid me low for a week before I grew thicker skin. I did not comment on said review, or send in troops to defend me. I just…cried). Now that I know better, I make sure that, if I vent at all about anything industry or book related, I vent to trusted friends and colleagues and in loops with other authors. In those private loops (and yes, I’m aware nothing online is ever truly private) likeminded authors speak more freely. Because you have to understand, we don’t have an after work softball team, or a water cooler, or a birthday cake for Sally on Tuesday where we get to bitch about old Mr. Jennings and how he’s really busting our hump at work that day.

We just have each other and those loops. Most of us never see another author face to face more than once or twice in a given year, if that.

In those loops, we talk industry and strategy and marketing and pricing and trends and hard sales numbers. We talk about the writing process and how hard it can be sometimes, and acknowledge that the muse doesn’t necessarily pepper our dreams with glittery ideas for bestsellers and that it’s a freaking GRIND sometimes, or how we just HATE our current manuscript and are terrified our readers will hate it too, and what a struggle it’s been, and yes, some authors talk reviews. It’s the place that we get to speak freely and treat our business like exactly that. A for profit business. A place where we don’t have to wear our public hat that, by necessity, requires us to stifle ourselves to some degree or risk ostracizing our readership. A place where we take our bra off and stretch for a minute with other braless writer-types. Not that I’m pretending to be someone else on open social media, but there are definitely things I say to authors in “private” that would pull back the curtain, so to speak, in a way that would make me uncomfortable in public, not unlike a school teacher talking politics on Facebook or something.

Imagine my surprise, then, to realize that Jane is on more than one of these loops with me as Jen Frederick. I find myself…not okay with that. Not because I’m ashamed by anything I’ve said, but because I even have to sit here and worry about it. And I’m feeling even sicker for the authors who thought they were in a place that was safe to share certain things and did so who would NOT have done so had they known Jane was present. Do I believe Jane would or has intentionally retaliated against these authors if they said something negatively about her site, her books, her writing partner, or the EC case or any myriad of things? No. But that doesn’t change the fact that it feels like a violation. And the thing that readers of this post need to realize is that JANE KNOWS THAT. There is no way that a right-minded person would be privy to the posts and information she was privy to who would not realize that they were eavesdropping on a conversation that they weren’t supposed to hear. That they were peeking through someone’s window who wasn’t aware they were watching. Yes, it’s the internet. Yes, maybe we should’ve closed the bedroom door more tightly. Yes, maybe would shouldn’t have left our curtains open. But morally, there is no question in that situation, a right-thinking person knows they should look away. Especially a person as smart as Jane.

And as much as I believe the intention was to “wear two hats” and not let one influence the other, or let what she may have read poison the well, I just don’t think brains are like hats. Jane’s a lawyer, so I’ll use a (fictional) law analogy. I always see these legal shows on TV where one of the lawyers says something KNOWING it’s going to be objected to, or coaches a witness into a response that reveals something inadmissible. The judge slaps their wrist and has it stricken from the record, and advises the jury to “disregard it”. Why would a lawyer do something like that when they know it’s going to get stricken and the jury is supposed to disregard it? BECAUSE THAT’S NOT HOW LIFE WORKS. The same way cases get moved from one place to another because one area has been tainted by media coverage. They can advise the person not to pay attention to that. Not to consider any of that information when making a decision, but that’s just not doable. You can try, but once it’s heard, you can’t unhear it. Just like Jane can’t UNSEE if someone posted they thought her blog was cruel, or that they didn’t support her legal fees gofundme because they disagreed with her, or that they think her publisher’s contract is crappy or herr agent is unethical etc. (Not that these things were discussed, necessarily, but they might have, as they SHOULD be, if that’s what the authors in that loop feel like discussing). Because that’s where we get to do that without censure. That’s where we get to learn and teach and help and support one another without judgment.

I recall one specific conversation on an Indie author loop about the EC/DA case where authors expressed varying points of view. Jane was (according to various members) part of this loop. Would people have spoken so freely if they knew she was there? The answer is unequivocally no. And I’m extremely uncomfortable with that. Like Old Mr. Jennings who was busting my hump was also hiding next to me at the water cooler in a fake mustache and glasses this whole time, listening it.

That’s not okay for me and I feel like I lost something today. Something that I’m already mourning because it’s something that, in this solitary profession, I needed very badly. And it makes me really sad.

The second issue I have is the lack of disclosure on a professional level. Whether Jane promoted her own books, her writing partner’s books, or her publisher’s books, or did or did not review her publisher’s books during the time between the signing of her contract and today, it doesn’t matter. Everything comes into question now, regardless, because what she didn’t do merits as much scrutiny as what she did do and even the potential for impropriety cracks it all open. Everything becomes something to reconsider from a different lens. From choosing to write an exposé on one publisher’s misconduct while wondering if she would do the same, as aggressively or as objectively, to her own, to the DABWAHA nominees, to positive reviews for pub sisters whose Berkeley books she might not have reviewed but who ALSO write for other publishers whose books she did review, to opinions on other authors that would be one thing coming from an impartial point of view become very different animal coming from an author who writes in the same genre she runs a majorly influential review blog about. There are soooo many potential and complex ways that lines could have been crossed here, it would take hours to explore them all, but I do think they shouldn’t be ignored.

Again, do I think that she intentionally took advantage? I don’t think so. And loads of people are going to chime in and say, “Jane would never do that.” Which is all well and good, but guess what? I don’t know Jane. And I daresay most of you don’t either, even if you thought you did yesterday. The way I see it, she’s no different than a judge who recuses himself in a case because he knows the defendant or plays golf with the father of the plaintiff. Does that judge have it in him to not abuse his position and still make an unbiased decision? Maybe he does. But it doesn’t matter. That’s NOT how it works because even the possibility of it would later call everything that happened in that case into question. Jane’s a lawyer. She knows this and she did it anyway.

And it makes me feel…squitchy. Catfished. Sock-puppeted. Hoodwinked, to be honest. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I did what I do. I wrote about it. I’m sorry it’s not the popular thing to say, but it needed to be said.

I’m not angry, and I don’t wish Jane ill will. I hope she comes out the other side of this happy and successful, both as a person and as an author. But seeing a person who has built a career on commenting on the quality of romance novels and behaving as a watchdog…a person who has publicly wagged a journalistic finger at every wrong-doing, real or perceived, from every publisher and author in the industry (and would go back for seconds or thirds when an apology came off like not a good enough apology or when she felt that a person hadn’t been humbled enough), watching this pass by with only stunned whispers behind closed doors because authors are afraid they’ll find themselves at the bottom of a bloody dog-pile? That sticks in my craw. She is in a position of power, whether she wants to be or not. Whether she uses that power or not. And we feel silenced because of that power.

But someone needs to wag a finger here.

Someone needs to do what Jane would have done if this hadn’t been about Jane.

Someone needs to stand up and say that what she did was wrong.

So I’m saying it.

You wrong, Jane. You wrong.

Goodreads Has Decided That There is No Friendzone for Authors and People

25 March 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

Goodreads may have picked up tricks from their corporate parent since being bought by Amazon in 2012, but beta testing new features was apparently not one of them.

The social network added new relationship options on Friday. Ostensibly intended to better define how authors and the hoi polloi interact, the new options are causing more problems than they solved.

Where under the old setup you could be a friend or a fan of an author (or both), the new system offers “three ways you can choose to engage with author pages on Goodreads” : friend, follow, or favorite.

While I’m sure it sounds like follow is simply a new name for fan and that favorite is a brand new option, it’s more complicated than that.  The relationships friend:fan and friend:follow:favorite don’t match up cleanly.

To start with, the old system had members forming connections with authors, while under the new system members “engage with author pages” – and yes, that is the way GR framed the interactions.

Yes, authors are no longer members of Goodreads; they’re now pages. In other words, Goodreads sees authors as things.

. . . .

Numerous Goodreads members have responded to the announcement with complaints that the existing “friend” relationship has morphed into a mutant friend+follow engagement. Anyone who was a friend of an author is now both a friend and a follower of an author page.

That would not be an issue of not for the simple fact that unfollowing an author page alsobreaks the friend engagement with that page.

Apparently it escaped Goodreads’ attention that a member might be a friend of an author because they like the person while at the same time not having any interest the books that person writes.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels and thanks to Sandra for the tip.

No author website rules of the road in publishing contracts is a big fail for the industry

20 March 2015

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

The topic of author websites and what the relationship between publishers and authors around them should be is a big “fail” for the publishing industry at the moment. Nobody seems to have thought this through. Publisher policies are all over the lot, even within houses, and that demonstrates that agents haven’t figured out what policies and publisher support an author should require. When they do, there will be much greater uniformity across publishers. (Note to conspiracy theorists about often-alleged Big Five “collusion”: that’s how it actuallyhappens. They’re bullied into it by agents or accounts.)

. . . .

On one hand, we have supplied an agent who asked for one with a proposal to build a website for a key author. The agent is talking to the publishers on both sides of the Atlantic (different divisions of the same big house), trying to get some financial support from them for what the author wants to build and own. Each of the two imprints is lobbying to build the site themselves. We’re not privy to the details of that conversation, so we’re not sure exactly why they want to build it themselves or what other considerations — like domain name ownership, list ownership and management, outbound links, and day-to-day attention to the site — might be motivating the publisher side of this conversation (in addition, we’d assume, to legitimate concerns about the quality of the site and its SEO).

Last week we did a seminar at another house. As we usually do in those sessions, we gave the house the benefit of some of our research into digital footprints for some of their own books and authors. What we found, as usual, is that the author website deficiencies were handicapping their sales and discovery efforts, sometimes by their total absence. That is, on occasion we found no author website at all.

. . . .

From where we sit, not having contractual policy around a host of questions that involve an author’s web presence is as big an omission as it would be not to have clearly-defined subsidiary rights splits. In fact, we’d argue that, for most authors, the commercial value of the assets around the web presence are more valuable than subsidiary rights are! No publisher or agent would accept a contract that didn’t cover subsidiary rights. It is a sign that the industry is not keeping up with the new realities that the website policy is so far from being worked out.

This is a big challenge on both sides: for agents and for big houses. Most agents don’t operate at a scale that would enable them to gather the expertise and the knowledge to set their authors up properly or to inform what the demands on the houses should be. But the biggest publishers have a hard challenge too. They’ve all structured themselves around clear delineations between what’s big, requires scale, and should be handled centrally (warehousing, sales, IT) and what’s small, requires an intimate relationship with the author, and should be handled in decentralized imprints (title acquisitions, creative decisions, individual title marketing and publicity). This is a really tricky balance to strike from an organizational perspective. It is reflected in job descriptions and in each staff member’s bonus structure. That is, it is really complicated stuff to mess with and requires attention from the very top of enor

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files and thanks to Jan for the tip.

PG did some arithmetic on his fingers and discovered he built his first website over 20 years ago.

Big Publishing is a slow-lane kind of business. One where the turn signal never gets shut off.

PG’s second thought was that’s all publishing contracts with authors need: a binding provision requiring that an author have a website. On a contract that will last perhaps 100 years.

How NOT to Sell Books: Top 10 Social Media Marketing No-Nos for Authors

16 March 2015

From author Anne R. Allen:

Let’s face it. Authors do a lot of obnoxious things online in the name of “marketing.” I think that’s because the average author isn’t educated in the field and we don’t realize that not all marketing is created equal.

Good marketing is not about bullying your customers. It’s about enticing them.

. . . .

Thinking of your readers as “targets” or a generic “them” can lead to wasting time and money as well as just plain bad behavior.

Using hard-sell, intrusive, or unethical marketing techniques doesn’t work to sell books. Your only result will be to make readers dislike you.

Ditto swaggering around social media with a literary or techno-nerd chip on your shoulder. Even if you have an MFA so expensive it won’t be paid off until you’re 93, you’ve memorized every word written by Marcel Proust—in French, of course—and/or you personally knew Steve Jobs, you’re not going to entice readers by telling them you’re better than they are.

. . . .

10) Forgetting that social media is social.

Social media is for networking, not direct selling. It’s for making friends. You are not here to broadcast your message but to engage with potential customers.

An endless Twitter, Google+, or Facebook stream of BUY MY BOOK is not friendly. Neither is barging into forums and groups to leave a drive-by promo without interacting with the other members.

Not only is this behavior annoying, IT DOES NOT SELL BOOKS. Yes, people may buy stuff like a Sham-Wow! or collapsible garden hose sold by screaming pitchmen endlessly replayed on late night TV, but this is because the pitches are designed to convince people they have a burning need for the product and will save a ton of money.

But nobody “needs” a book in that way, especially not a novel.

I once pointed this out to a writer in a workshop, and he said “but that’s easy for you to say—you’ve got bestsellers—I’m just starting out, so I need to market!”

. . . .

7) Projecting a snarky, nasty online persona. 
Always follow Wil Wheaton’s law: “Don’t be a D***.”

Shocking headers may work as “click bait” to get people to your blog, and you may get more initial engagement on Twitter or Instagram if you project a “Mean Girl” image, but it won’t work in your favor in the long run.

Reading a book, even a free one, is an investment in time. Strangely enough, most readers don’t want to spend their time with jerks.

I know some people love to use social media to say nasty things about celebrities, but if you care about your writing career, you need to act like a grownup online—at least when using your author name.

That means cutting out the tweets about how all bestsellers suck and all readers are stupid.

And never make obscene or threatening remarks on social media if you intend to have a career other than picking up cans on the highway. That stuff is forever.

It’s also not a good idea for authors to leave nasty reviews of other authors’ books, especially in your own genre. You can say respectfully that you didn’t enjoy this book as much as the last or whatever, but if you indulge in name-calling and insults, you’re burning bridges you may desperately need later in your career. Even if an author has tons of reviews, they remember the nasty ones.

Do follow the top authors in your genre, but treat them with respect. If you diss a bestselling author, you’re dissing all their fans. That’s a lot of readers in your potential audience who won’t buy your book now.

NOTE: DO NOT RESPOND TO A NEGATIVE REVIEW, EVER!!!

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

Here’s a link to Anne R. Allen’s books

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