Social Media

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)

You Are So On (Because They Are, Too)

15 August 2014

From Writer Unboxed:

My address is 2025 Avenue of the Stars.

This is as it should be, of course. 90067.

With my sunglasses so firmly in place that I can barely read anything on the screen, I’m writing to you on the eve of Phil Sexton’s Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference in Los Angeles. It’s at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza again this year, the kind of hotel that’s designed to look good on you.

. . . .

There are certain dangers here, naturally. If the paparazzi are spotted, you can be trampled by starlets running toward them. And parts of LAX still seem to be undergoing the same renovation project that put Hangar No. 1 into place in 1929.

But one of the side benefits of being in Tinsel Town from time to time is a reminder that being on is no longer just something stars and motivational speakers worry about.

The more we talk about authors needing to market themselves, their brands, their work, the more we’re really saying that they need to be aware, be alert, stay on top of issues, to position themselves in and around the going media story about publishing and books and writing.

In short? Like a Hollywood hopeful, you want to be…on.

. . . .

In today’s edition of The Bookseller, my fine London colleagues Tom Tivnan and Felicity Wood are writing with special timeliness about what publishers’ growing understanding of consumer data might mean to how those publishers work with their authors.

“Publishing’s increased focus on consumer insight and customer data,” they write, “is set to drastically change relationships with authors, informing decisions around acquisitions, contracts and publication itself.”

And if that line didn’t fully get your attention, go back and read it again. You may not be quite on, baby. Grab the sunglasses for better viewing and I’ll give you more:

Rufus Weston, insight director at HarperCollins [UK], explained: “Publishers are realising what Amazon realised much earlier: that our own data is a business asset. As physical sales become less important, it is more difficult to use the TCM to calibrate what a successful book or author is.

“We can now look at the social trajectory of a potential acquisition and use that to our advantage to set the advance. We’re seeing authors becoming more data-savvy, and I think we will see a further recognition that data is part of the business process. I can see us asking for a regular amount of tweets from a celebrity as part of their contract, for example.”

Note that this all is being phrased in a positive light. I mean, eureka!, right? Well, of course right. More data on how readers are reacting to authors’ interactions on this or that social medium? — means more info on how to enhance those authors’ readership with such knowledge. Big smile, darling, they’re all watching. Right now.

Author care will also be further improved by the rise of consumer insight, Weston said, with publishers better equipped to expand author brands through feedback. He added: “We can monitor an author’s interactions on Twitter and then say when is the best time for them to tweet, and who they should be interacting with. It will increasingly become part of the service we offer and [it] will also help to emphasise authors’ obligations for social media.”

Catch that last line? About emphasizing “authors’ obligations for social media?”

. . . .

Never does one hear, “It also can show us which authors to cut off at the knees if they’re not toeing the line and workin’ it the way our data says they should.” Heaven forbid. It’s all as bright as an ingenue’s grin on premiere night. Just before she tweets that selfie to her fans.

. . . .

And in case you haven’t felt personally digitally disrupted so far as an author? Let me suggest you feel harder.

When your publisher — or your self-publishing platform which may or may not be your friend — learns to gauge how well you’re getting out there to the folks, then you will begin hearing…things. About about your “profile,” your “visibility,” your “presence,” your “reach,” your “connection,” your “commuuuuuuuuuunity,” and your….on-ness.

. . . .

I’m saying the world has changed. And is about to change more. You don’t have to “worry about all that,” no. But somewhere, somebody is going to be worrying about all that for you, if you do want to have a bit of a career, a salable, going little thing here in the marketplace. They have to worry. So you may want to worry first, worry faster, worry better.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed and thanks to Louisa for the tip.

PG was about to let slip the dogs of snark, but he’s running behind this morning, so he’ll just ask a few questions:

If you had notable talent for understanding consumer data, why in the world would you work for an antediluvian organization like a publisher instead of a sexy modern company where you could do really cool stuff, get paid well today and receive stock options that might be worth a lot of money tomorrow?

If you’re an author who wants a publisher so you can just focus on writing, do you really want to focus on writing tweets in addition to writing books?

And receive critiques on your tweets? And quotas for how many tweets you must send each week?

If you’re an author who is data-savvy and tweet-savvy and can build your own brand, what, exactly is your publisher doing for you that justifies giving it the large majority of the money your books earn?

Particularly when all this online marketing, etc., is more likely to lead to sales on Amazon and other ebookstores than sales in traditional bookstores?

If your horde of followers on Twitter sees a tweet about your new book, any social marketer will tell you to include a link. Where is that link going to point? If you say to Joe’s Bait Shop and Book Store instead of Amazon, you flunk Social Marketing 101.

And if your hordes of followers click on the link, would you rather receive 70% of the money they spend on your book at Amazon or 17%? (Even less after your agent’s cut)


Publishers Turn to the Crowd to Find the Next Best Seller

12 August 2014

From The New York Times:

Sandy Hall was nervous. Ms. Hall, a librarian in Morristown, N.J., was preparing one recent night to lead her weekly book club meeting with a group of 14 teenagers. The book being discussed, a young-adult romance titled “A Little Something Different,” was her own debut novel.

“I’m still in the ‘I hope they like it’ phase,” she said an hour before the meeting.

But Ms. Hall, 33, has more cause for confidence than most other first-time authors. Her novel is the first book to be published by Swoon Reads, a new young-adult imprint that lets fans vote on manuscripts to choose which ones are published.

About 9,000 readers have already sampled her story online, and it drew the highest possible rating of five hearts. Her publisher is so bullish about the book that it is planning a hefty first print run of 100,000 copies in the United States and simultaneous releases by its sister imprints in Britain and Australia.

Swoon Reads, a young-adult imprint that is part of Macmillan Publishing, is upending the traditional discovery process by using crowdsourcing to select all its titles. By bringing a reality-television-style talent competition to its digital slush pile, the publisher is hoping to find potential best sellers that reflect not editors’ tastes but the collective wisdom and whims of the crowd.

. . . .

So far, Ms. Feiwel has acquired six debut novels out of the 237 manuscripts posted on Swoon Reads’ website. The novels, which range from contemporary realism to paranormal romance, were chosen based on comments and ratings (from one to five hearts) from the site’s 10,000 registered users. Readers also vote on audiobook narrators after listening to digital audio samples, decide which cities the authors visit on their tours and choose the books’ covers. Writers published by Swoon Reads receive a $15,000 advance, plus royalties.

. . . .

Some question whether fans will have greater success finding undiscovered gems than the publishing industry’s traditional gatekeepers. Two years ago, Avon Romance, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, created a site for aspiring romance writers to share their novels and get feedback, in the hope that great new novels would surface. A handful of editors comb through the site every week to evaluate the manuscripts that are getting the most “loves” — the equivalent of Facebook “likes.” So far, 500 works have been posted, but none have been acquired for publication.

Erika Tsang, the editorial director of Avon, said she was a bit skeptical of the rating system. “Honestly, a lot of the time it’s the writers’ relatives who are ‘loving,’ ” she said.

It is also unclear whether involving fans in the editorial evaluation process is any more efficient than sorting through unsolicited manuscripts or relying on submissions from agents. In Britain, HarperCollins created a website where writers can upload their manuscripts and evaluate one another’s work. The site, Authonomy, now has about 100,000 registered users and more than 15,000 manuscripts. Every month, a team of HarperCollins editors reads the five highest-rated manuscripts, but so far just 15 of the novels posted on Authonomy have been published.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Josie for the tip.

Josie notes that the story somehow omits agents and publishers scouring Amazon’s bestseller lists looking for top-selling indie authors.

That strategy does have problems, however, because an indie author’s response to the offer of a $15,000 advance might be something like, “I made more than that last month.”

Facebook is Adding Buy Buttons to Ads – Do You Think They Could be Used to Buy/Sell eBooks?

20 July 2014

From The Digital Reader:

This crossed my desk yesterday:

Facebook is trying out letting you pay for ecommerce purchases from other businesses without leaving its site or app. For now it won’t be charging the few small and medium-sized businesses in the US to test this new Buy button on their News Feed Pages posts and ads. When I asked if Facebook would be charging businesses for the feature eventually, it said “it was not disqualifying that option” in the future.

Facebook is getting ready to take a cut of the retail sales made on their site, something I thought they would have done years ago.

. . . .

So do you think the new ads could prove useful for buying or selling ebooks?

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype

23 June 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

Businesses are looking more critically at social media and its influence on the bottom line. A majority of respondents in a Gallup survey said that social media had no influence at all on purchasing decisions.

. . . .

In May 2013, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. bought ads to promote its brand page on Facebook. After a few days, unhappy executives halted the campaign—but not because they weren’t gaining enough fans. Rather, they were gaining too many, too fast

“We were fearful our engagement and connection with our community was dropping” as the fan base grew, says Allison Sitch, Ritz-Carlton’s vice president of global public relations.

. . . .

After years of chasing Facebook fans and Twitter followers, many companies now stress quality over quantity. They are tracking mentions of their brand, then using the information to help the business.

“Fans and follower counts are over. Now it’s about what is social doing for you and real business objectives,” says Jan Rezab, chief executive of Socialbakers AS, a social-media metrics company based in Prague.

. . . .

Gallup says 62% of the more than 18,000 U.S. consumers it polled said social media had no influence on their buying decisions. Another 30% said it had some influence. U.S. companies spent $5.1 billion on social-media advertising in 2013, but Gallup says “consumers are highly adept at tuning out brand-related Facebook and Twitter content.”

. . . .

Gallup says brands assumed incorrectly that consumers would welcome them into their social lives. Then they delivered a hard sell that turned off many people.

More recently, changes in how Facebook manages users’ news feeds have hindered brands’ ability to reach their fans. Rather than a largely chronological stream, Facebook now manages the news feed to feature items it thinks users will want to see.

. . . .

Another reason companies are looking beyond fan numbers is that the numbers are easily gamed. Researchers say many fans are fake, or automated, accounts designed to inflate numbers.

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

Four Ways to Rock Goodread’s New “Ask the Author” Feature

16 June 2014

From Digital Book World:

Building relationships with readers is a valuable way for an author to grow book sales.

The Goodreads book recommendation site has recently extended its author tools with a new feature called “Ask The Author” that allows authors to answer fans’ questions.

The way Ask The Author works is that readers visit participating authors’ pages on Goodreads and submit questions to authors. When open for questions, an author can read the incoming queries and choose when to post the answers. The questions are all private to the author to you until the author chooses to make them public. That means, if you’re an author, you don’t need to answer every question that comes in. And you can control the flow of the answers.

The questions you (the author) choose to answer appear in the newsfeeds of all of your followers. Goodreads also directly informs the questioner that his or her inquiry has been addressed. A log of your questions and answers shows up on your Goodreads profile page.

. . . .

At the 2014 BEA Conference, Patrick Brown, Director of Author Marketing at Goodreads offered some tips for authors to get the most out of this new feature.

1. Set Expectations

Whether you are willing to answer questions for a day, or for a week, please let your readers you’re your parameters. Maybe you only want to answer questions about your new book—make that clear. You’re not obligated to answer all your questions, but you do need to be a good citizen and let your readers know what kind of questions you’ll take.

Goodreads suggests guiding your readers to ask following types of questions:

• The author’s writing process
• The author’s favorite writers or influences
• Questions about specific characters or moments in books
• Questions about author’s writing life (not personal life)

. . . .

3. Distribute Your Answers Over Time

The answers in Ask The Author get posted in a newsfeed. So if you put a little time between your answers they won’t all appear in a clump and your fans will receive them on a more consistent, regular basis.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World and thanks to Jan for the tip.

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

Ask Your Favorite Author or Fellow Readers Questions on Goodreads

23 May 2014

From the Goodreads Blog:

If you could ask Margaret Atwood, Khaled Hosseini, or James Patterson anything, what would it be? Maybe you want to know their writing inspiration, what they read as a guilty pleasure, or you have a burning question about one of their bestsellers. Now’s your chance because these three are among the 54 major authors who are helping us launch an exciting new program on Goodreads—Ask the Author!

Ask the Author allows readers to ask questions and get answers from their favorite authors. At Goodreads, we believe the relationship between authors and readers is very special. Authors tell stories and create worlds that spark the imaginations of their readers. Now readers can deepen that connection by asking questions about the new worlds, ideas, and people they’ve discovered in books.

Starting today, you can submit your questions directly to any of the 54 authors participating in the Ask the Author launch. (Full list below!) If an author answers your question you’ll be notified, and every answer will be shared on the author’s page so that other readers can enjoy them, too. In the coming weeks, all of the 100,000+ authors in the Goodreads Author program will be able to opt in to the feature. (To check whether an author is participating, visit his or her author profile and look for the “Ask the Author” section.)

Link to the rest at Goodreads Blog

What Should We Do with the Online Undead?

21 May 2014

From io9:

The Internet has given us a kind of digital afterlife, where our online activities can be preserved and memorialized like fossils in a rock. We talked to an expert about how your friends, family, and complete strangers will use the Internet to remember you long after you’re gone.

One person who’s given this subject considerable thought is Sarah Cashmore, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. I contacted her to learn more about this subject — one that’s affected her quite personally.

io9: Tell us how you came to be interested in digital afterlives.

Sarah Cashmore: I sort of fell into this issue. My personal experience is that back in 2009, a close Twitter friend of mine, Mac Tonnies, passed away very suddenly. Mac was a science fiction writer and prolific blogger who left behind a lot of unique digital content and many friends who loved him. His blog, Posthuman Blues, was a collection of everything that interested him; it was a wonderfully weird curated collection of esoterica he scoured the internet for. After he passed away, there was a growing concern among his friends what would become of his online legacy; for many of us who hadn’t met him in person, his online presence was the only way we knew him, so it was very important to us to preserve it. His legacy consisted not only of his online materials, but also the friendships he had developed.

. . . .

 One friend, Mark, took it upon himself to back up Mac’s websites. This required him to collaborate with Mac’s parents, who were taking care of Mac’s affairs, because it took some figuring out where his credit card charges were going, and so on. But Mark bought some hosting space and archived everything so we wouldn’t lose it. Everyone appreciated Mark’s incurring that cost, because no one really knew what was going to happen to the site. I still don’t think the policies around blogs is very clear. Anything could happen.

. . . .

I, on the other hand, wanted to maintain the community of his friends. After news of his passing spread, there was a period of about a week where Mac’s online Twitter friends found each other through hashtagging his name, and we just introduced ourselves to each other, shared condolences and shared memories. I met dozens of people, each as grief-stricken as I was, many of whom had never met Mac in person but were very devoted to him and devastated by the loss of this friend. I started Macbots as an outlet for these friends I’d met to continue sharing, and hopefully heal through expressing themselves, creatively or otherwise, to a community of Mac’s friends who understood how it felt to lose this unique friend.

Macbots began as a tribute site that I thought might be geared toward his more artistic friends. I just thought that a site for posting fan art might be a fun way for his friends to commemorate such a special guy. But I never really pressed the idea; it was just a suggestion. I didn’t want to take ownership of the blog; I just wanted to set up a collaborative space for Mac’s friends. I added anyone who contacted me as Mac’s friend as an author so they could add to the site as they pleased. And whereas some people did create artistic pieces, there are also a lot of posts that are just messages from us to Mac, and us to each other. A really special day was when Mac’s mom Dana send me sci-fi pictures and short stories Mac had created as a child to post on the site. And it’s amazing, but all this time later, we still have visitors to the site every day.

. . . .

There are also some philosophical and metaphysical considerations to be had. What does it mean to have our digital echoes reverberate throughout the Web after we’re dead? And can that be seen as a kind of immortality?

I think the issue of using social media to bereave a friend points to a problem that goes for any cultural institution: as soon as you institutionalize a way of doing something, you open a possibility for responses to become artificial very quickly. For this reason, I don’t think there should be one way of bereaving a friend online. I think the lesson to be learned here is that the internet needs to be open, and that we need to stay free to create our own spaces and new ways of communicating, on our own terms. Without that, I fear we may become inauthentic.

. . . .

 Another philosophical question this raises is what is the nature of a person’s life? If you see a person’s cultural contributions as a literal extension of him- or herself, as advocates of meme theory do, a website such as Posthuman Blues, or the memories I share with the Macbot community, is as real a part of my friend Mac as his physical body. And if you believe our physical environment actively supports our memories, as proponents of the extended mind philosophy do, then people who are looking to these digital archives and communities may be doing more than just reminiscing — they may be engaging in a kind of socializing we’ve never taken seriously before.

Link to the rest at io9


21 May 2014

A few weeks ago PG added an additional security plugin to The Passive Voice. It’s called Wordfence and both free and paid versions are available at plugin world on the WordPress mother ship.

Wordfence does a lot of mundane things, but its most interesting feature is that it can be configured to send PG an email every time someone tries to hack into The Passive Voice.

The first surprise is how often someone somewhere tries to break in. Usually several times per day. PG knows this isn’t anywhere close to as frequently as people try to hack the NSA’s prime targets, but he was still surprised.

The second surprise comes because the emails include the IP address of the would-be hacker. As expected, there’s a lot of action from countries comprising the former Soviet block and from various places in Asia, but every once in awhile, PG will get an IP from Manhattan.

Now, PG doesn’t want to start any conspiracy theories, but, in addition to undoubtedly being the location of some garden-variety hackers, Manhattan is, of course, the capital of Big Publishing.

Anybody who looked like they were from New York would set off car alarms and make the dogs howl if they came to Casa PG, so maybe this is the best they can do.

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