Barnes & Noble Cancels Black History Month Covers After Backlash

From The Huffington Post:

Major bookseller Barnes & Noble canceled a Black History Month initiative at its flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York City after public backlash. 

The store planned to host an event Wednesday evening launching its new “Diverse Editions” project, which would showcase ”classic” books ― like “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and “Moby-Dick” ― with new covers illustrating the main characters as people of color. The store planned to feature the newly jacketed books in its window display all month.

But after significant outrage online, the company canceled the initiative midday Wednesday.

People on Twitter suggested Barnes & Noble promote diversity by featuring works by actual writers of color. Most of the books the bookseller created new covers for, including “Emma” by Jane Austen and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, were written by white authors and feature white protagonists.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

PG wondered if B&N’s brilliant marketing/virtue-signaling strategy included a black Moby Dick.

‘American Dirt’ was supposed to be a publishing triumph. What went wrong?

From The Los Angeles Times:

It was poised to be a blockbuster long before copies arrived in bookstores last week: a thrilling contemporary migration story following a mother and her son, desperate to cross Mexico and reach the United States.

Its publisher, Flatiron Books, an imprint of Macmillan, paid a seven-figure advance after outbidding several competitors for the novel. It snagged a coveted selection in Oprah’s Book Club and had been shipped to key celebrity influencers, including Stephen King, Sandra Cisneros and Salma Hayek. A reported first run of 500,000 copies was printed. The film rights were sold.

But by week’s end, the novel “American Dirt” had garnered attention that its boosters likely didn’t expect: angry charges of cultural appropriation, stereotyping, insensitivity, and even racism against author Jeanine Cummins, who herself said in the book’s author’s note, “I was worried that, as a nonmigrant and non-Mexican, I had no business writing a book set almost entirely in Mexico, set entirely among migrants.”

Despite the backing of towering figures in American media, Cummins’ page-turning portrayal of a mother on the run is now at the center of the first bonafide literary controversy of the year, and is forcing a hard reflection on the state of Latinos in a cultural field that remains overwhelmingly white.

In the face of critiques, Cummins is pushing back in public. Her publisher released a statement encouraging discussion around the title, while some authors and booksellers have come to Cummins’ defense. In a culture that is used to debating black and Asian representation and stereotypes, the entrenchment around “American Dirt” is fueling even more complaints over the ease with which popular culture still employs Latino-related stereotypes in contemporary movies, television and fiction.

“American Dirt” is also highlighting factors that observers say have contributed a near shutout of contemporary Mexican and Mexican American voices from the top tier of the publishing publicity machine — the sorts of books that are guaranteed handsome sales by virtue of projection.

What went wrong?

As passages from the novel began emerging last month, Mexican and other Latino voicesbegan raising red flags. The author’s portrayal of Mexican culture was called outlandish, littered with stereotypes, stilted bilingualism and an awkward peppering of italicized Spanish phrases.

. . . .

“American Dirt” has also sparked an emotional discussion about how far the publishing industry still must go to more richly represent the scope and diversity of the Latino experience, said authors, literary agents and other industry figures in interviews last week. It’s a discussion focused on a complicated question: Who gets to frame others’ stories, and how?

. . . .

“American Dirt” has opened a window into the ways a few select books are brought to the public’s attention at a time when many authors have to hire their own publicists or arrange their own book readings and events. The roll-out to some took on the veneer of insult to Central American trauma and pain surrounding the treacherous passage through Mexico.

“They’re handling it like they handle a Marvel comics movie,” said Roberto Lovato, a Salvadoran American writer in San Francisco, who is finalizing an upcoming memoir. “But this industry will make you dance the minstrel salsa dance or the minstrel cumbia dance,” he added, in reference to the tenor of Latino-themed titles that are deemed palatable to wide audiences.

Indeed, the operation behind “American Dirt” made what many describe as cringe-worthy errors even before the book hit stores.

. . . .

More criticism followed among Latino writers, from the fringes to the center of the literary power establishment. Mexican author Valeria Luiselli, a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant recipient, called the book the “worst possible” pick for Oprah’s nod. Francisco Goldman, the celebrated Guatemalan American novelist and journalist who divides his time between New York and Mexico City, said in an interview he was “shocked” by the “tone-deaf” publicity roll-out. “And these are supposedly sophisticated people.”

. . . .

Kate Horan, the director of the McAllen Public Library in Texas, posted portions of a letter she sent to the American Library Assn. and Oprah’s Book Club, declining to participate in a recorded “unboxing” event meant to push “American Dirt.” Horan said she felt compelled to turn down the offer from Oprah’s Book Club after seeing the reactions among Latinx writers she and her staff admire

. . . .

“When we took the book out, our hearts dropped,” Horan said in a telephone interview from Philadelphia, where the American Library Assn. is holding its mid-winter conference. “There followed many conversations with people in my community, and of course reading the book, I can only compare it to a telenovela. It’s so hyper stereotyped, that it’s harmful.” 

. . . .

By week’s end, as the U.S. commercial publishing industry was reeling from the expanding maelstrom over what its critics called a cartoonish melodrama about contemporary Mexico, Cummins still hit the road on a book tour. At an industry conference last week in Baltimore, she defended her right to write the novel from the perspective of the Mexican woman at the heart of her book.

Her character Lydia, 32, is middle-class, college-educated wife and mother who owns a bookshop in the resort city of Acapulco and survives a bloody massacre at a family quinceañera. With her journalist husband and other family members killed, the bookish protagonist and her 8-year-old son make a desperate run for the U.S. border, partly on the freight train La Bestia. Critics have mocked the narrative ploy as implausible for anyone of Lydia’s class stature, who can usually buy airline or bus tickets.

In Baltimore, Cummins said the migrants she met during her research for the novel “made me recognize my own cowardice” as she grappled with early failed drafts and doubts about authenticity. “When people are really putting their lives on the line, to be afraid of writing a book felt like cowardice,” she said, according to a report for the trade site Publishers Lunch.

The author, who did not respond to a request for comment for this article, identified as white as recently as 2016. On Wednesday, Cummins, whose grandmother was from Puerto Rico, said she was “a Latinx woman” while addressing the negative reactions to the book among Mexican, Central American and Chicano readers who have vigorously questioned her authorial integrity. “Not everyone needs to love my book,” she said.

On Friday, Cummins turned up her defense during an interview with NPR: “I am a white person. … I am a person who has a very privileged life. I am also Puerto Rican. … That fact has been attacked and sidelined by people who, frankly, are attempting to police my identity.”

But her critics weren’t buying it.

Gurba and others accused Cummins of profiting off Latina identity and transforming her own ethnicity over time to suit professional interests. “She became a person of color for the sake of financial convenience,” Gurba told The Times. “I call that POC, a person of convenience.”

Another set of earlier photos of Cummins with barbed-wire decorated fingernails brought even more criticism. “Every day I see something new that pertains to this, that it seems like it can’t get worse, and it gets worse,” said YA author Rivera.

Cummins’ somewhat apologetic author’s note also fanned the flames. In it, she says she wished someone “slightly browner” than her had written her book. She also argued that her effort seeks to counter depictions of immigrants as a “faceless brown mass.” Goldman, reached in New York, called the phrase an admission to the book’s “pornographic feedback of violence.”

“It’s just unbelievable,” he said Thursday. “How mediocre, third-rate and sleazy it is for a fiction writer to appropriate violence and suffering that way.”

In her note, he added, Cummins also writes, “we seldom think of [migrants] as human beings.”

. . . .

The controversy doesn’t look to go away soon. On Saturday, a group of writers including Lovato, Gurba and others said they sent a letter to Macmillan promising more “action” if the publishing house doesn’t respond more directly to their critiques. Industry players are abuzz with the topic, book agents said, as a string of “American Dirt”-inspired Twitter parodies by brown writers took flight, mocking the publishing industry’s devotion to tired Latino tropes involving gangs and grandmothers.

Eddie Schneider, vice president of JABerwocky Literary Agency, and who represents author Rivera, said Flatiron Books made a string of mistakes in rolling out “American Dirt” and isn’t correcting them. On Thursday, the publishing house defended the title in a statement to The Times.

“I’m baffled I haven’t seen any apology yet,” Schneider said. “Maybe not for the book, but certainly it seems like an apology is in order for the insensitivity of the roll-out.”

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times and thanks to Karen and Elaine for the tip.

PG says that indie authors must admit that, for executing a really big book release, nobody can match the world-class talent and savvy that a major New York publisher brings to the task.

The 9 Best Apps to Create Fast Graphic Designs

PG recently posted some links to discussions about online graphic design programs for authors. Here are some other possibilities

From Makeuseof:

In today’s world where selfies rule and videos are king among content, there’s no doubt killer visuals are important. But adding visual elements to your written content can feel like a major time-suck, especially when you don’t have any design skills to lean on.

Here are the best apps to create fast graphic designs.

1. Klex

klex editing app

Want to create beautiful graphics at warp speed? Well, Klex has got you covered. This application is best used to customize visual assets with stock photos, vectors, and illustrations, and add in text, fonts, and backgrounds that meet your needs.

Add your own photography or use the stock photos they provide. What I like about Klex is this platform gives you some space to mess around with a whole host of effects. It’s also not hard to use.

Klex uses the same technology behind Gravit Designer, but the aim here is to give users something much easier to work with. The app includes templates for everything from properly sized social graphics to posters, cards, and blog graphics.

. . . .

5. Desygner

Desygner Templates

Desygner is one of the best web-based apps for graphic design. The process is much more smooth than you’ll find with some of the other apps, such as Pixlr, which can feel a little clunky at times.

Where Desygner shines is in its mobile functionality. It’s perfect for social media users designing on the go, as Desygner has virtually eliminated the frustrating dragging and pinching process you’ll find in other tools.

We like that there’s a web app and a mobile version, as this potentially can save you a lot of time if you’re sick of wasting time on graphics when that’s not your main job, or it feels like a chore.

But as far as features go, this app is similar to Canva, but not as robust. Meaning, you do miss out on some features, but you also get a simplified experience where you can rearrange items, add layers, text, and customize photos with ease.

Desygner is free but offers a $6.95 monthly plan for access to more templates and features.

6. Google Drawings

Google Drawing interface

Want to create a customized PNG image with a transparent background? All you need to get started is a Google account, and who doesn’t have one of those?

Now, Drawings isn’t the most sophisticated tool; you’re essentially working in a Google Doc. However, it’s quite convenient. All you need to do to get started is install the extension. From there you can edit photos and create little graphics just as easily as a Google Doc.

Still, adding little labels or designs on top of a photo or plain backdrop can be a great way to incorporate humor or helpful instructions into your visuals. And once you get the hang of the “drawing” aspect, you’ll realize just how incredibly intuitive this tool is.

Link to the rest at Makeuseof

OverDrive Reports Record Digital Borrowing in 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

Public libraries around the world generated a record level of digital content circulation in 2019, providing patrons access to more than 326 million e-books, audiobooks and digital magazines, a 20% increase over the previous year, according to a report by Rakuten OverDrive, a digital distribution vendor for libraries

According to the report, 73 public library systems in five countries each loaned over 1 million digital books over the past year, including eight systems that hit the million loans mark for the first time. Among the top digital library lending systems are the Toronto Public Library (6.6 million digital loans), Los Angeles Public Library (the top U.S. library with 5.9 million digital loans); and the National Library Board of Singapore (the top lender outside of North America with 4.2 million loans).

According to the OverDrive report, the increase in digital borrowing represents the “library’s role as a valued discovery channel” for publishers and authors. Nevertheless, the OverDrive report on digital lending comes in the wake of continuing concerns by publishers that digital borrowing may undermine book sales. These concerns have led to a continuing dispute between publishers and libraries over efforts by some publishers to restrict the ability of libraries to offer digital access to their titles.

According to the OverDrive data, the number of e-books borrowed rose 15% in the year to 211 million; digital audiobooks borrowed jumped 30%, to 114 million, and 59 million children’s/young adult checkouts took place, a gain of 27% over 2018.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG thought publishers’ concerns about consumers borrowing physical titles from the library instead of buying them at bookstores had been resolved a long time ago. If lending libraries and the consumer behavior they enable were dangerous or fatal to publishers and physical bookstores, such damage would have manifested itself long ago.

If it makes sense for publishers to sell physical books to libraries with the understanding that the library is going to lend the book and the publisher will receive no incremental income from such loans, nothing about ebooks should really change the underlying business considerations. With the specialized software the library uses to lend a copy of an ebook and delete it from the reader’s device at the end of the loan, the likelihood that ebooks lent through the library are going to be pirated is lower than those sold (licensed) through Amazon where no such automatic deletion function is built into the ebook management system (at least to PG’s knowledge).

Here’s an excerpt from the help file of Libby, a popular (the most popular?) lending software used in the United States:

Books are automatically returned to the library on their due date. When they’re returned, they’re also removed from your Loans and deleted from your device (if downloaded).

PG has noted before that on a scale of most to least sophisticated marketers and advertisers, traditional publishers are at the bottom, just below used car lots and payday lenders.

Why?

Free samples are a long-time staple of advertising and promotion campaigns for a variety of products.

Perhaps there are physical bookstores that do not allow visitors to leaf through and read parts of books as part of the shopping process, but PG is not aware of their existence. Such consumer behavior is sampling. Amazon permits the same behavior in its bookstore. No one expects that everyone who samples a product will purchase it.

If sampling was not a reliable method of increasing sales, PG expects retail establishments would end the practice.

If a reader borrows an ebook from a library by an author she hasn’t read before, from the reader’s perspective, that’s another form of sampling. (In this case, the publisher receives some compensation from the library for licensing the book in the first place.)

If this instance of book sampling is successful and the reader enjoys the book, then returns it to the library and looks for the next book in the series or another book by the same author and finds a two-month waiting list to borrow that next book, the reader is only a few clicks away from buying the next ebook by that author on Amazon and starting to read it in a couple of minutes. The reader may even purchase a printed version of the book she has borrowed and enjoyed for her own physical library, sign up for the author’s and/or publisher’s email list, etc.

Discovering a great new author and buying other books written by that author is a far more frictionless process with ebooks than it is with physical books. Going to a physical bookstore to buy that book requires transporting oneself to that store, hoping the store stocks the book, etc., etc. Buying a physical copy of the book from Amazon involves a wait of at least one or two days.

The incremental cost of goods for the publisher in creating, storing, transporting, etc., a copy of the second ebook is probably zero. The same costs for a physical book are definitely more than zero.

A sophisticated seller would be overjoyed to sell products with no incremental costs of producing and transporting those products instead of dealing with the costs and friction involved in selling physical products. Bill Gates, Microsoft and a lot of other people and business organizations have become extremely wealthy from selling organized collections of electrons.

Harrogate stands by author exclusion clause

From The Bookseller:

Harrogate International Festivals has stood by its author exclusion clause, saying the exclusivity option only applies to 5% of its authors.

On Friday, The Bookseller reported that Harrogate’s special guest authors are required to appear exclusively at Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and not as a special guest at other crime fiction festivals taking place in the same calendar year. The requirement was branded “predatory” by crime fiction event CrimeFest.

Now, Harrogate has clarified its stance saying: “While 95% of authors who take part in the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Festival are not subject to an exclusivity option, for our special guests we make this request at invitation stage to ensure that our offering for both authors and visitors is protected, and this is something which is carefully discussed and considered on an individual basis in conjunction with each author. As a not-for-profit arts charity, rather than a convention or commercial venture, Harrogate International Festivals relies heavily on ticket sales to deliver our year-round literacy development programmes, and our curated offering therefore must be as distinctive as possible, ensuring authors and guests alike enjoy the best possible experience.”

The statement added Harrogate’s policy is to “offer authors fees and accommodation, and to support smaller publishers in taking part—something which some other events do not provide”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

The Best Book Covers of 2019

From BookRiot:

It’s the season of best of lists, and with the bonus of this being the end of a decade, we’re being treated to double the number of best of lists this year. What shouldn’t be overlooked among those lists are the incredible book covers that graced shelves this year. Works of art in and of themselves, it’s an outdated belief that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The reality is we do and that we should. In honor of that, let’s take a peek at the best book covers of 2019.

 

 

The Ash Family by Molly Dektar

Cover design and illustration by Kimberly Glyder.

This is one of those covers of which I would happily buy a print and hang on my wall in the center of the living room. The shades of blue and orange contrast against each other beautifully. That stark contrast gives off the feeling of turmoil amidst the calm of the forest—imagery that aligns with life in the Ash Family commune.

 

 

 

 

. . . .

 

 

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Cover Art by Noah Saterstrom.

I saw Patchett speak in Chicago shortly after her new novel’s release. She said: “Book jackets are like your birthday.” A week before, you insist you don’t know what you want to a friend and say you don’t want anything, “and when that person gives you nothing, and you go to bed on your birthday hurt and bitter, it’s only your own fault.” So she fought for her version of the cover. She didn’t want a house—she wanted that to exist in the reader’s imagination—but she thought it would be wonderful to have it feature the portrait of 9-year-old protagonist Maeve, an object that is important within the novel. Her first choice for artist, Noah Saterstrom, delivered the art that would become this gorgeous, richly colored cover.

 

. . . .

 

Medieval Bodies by Jack Hartnell

Cover Design by Peter Dyer.

I found this in a book fair. It was the only copy in show and it caught my eye instantly. It is printed in a silky paperback, with lots of different textures and gold foiling. Plus it is an amazing piece that incorporates both amazing graphic design and medieval art work.

(PG note: Evidently somebody with influence didn’t like the original cover. Here’s a link to the more predictable current cover he found on Amazon.)

 

 

 

Link to the rest, including lots more covers, at BookRiot

PG was struck by the note that Ann Patchett had to fight for her preference for a cover. Ms. Patchett has made a great deal of money for her publisher(s) and PG expects she would be well-connected with the thoughts and feelings of her readers.

PG suspects that an author who hadn’t sold as many books might well have been less successful in a fight for a good cover. It’s not difficult to find a prolific traditionally-published author who has one (or more than one) horror story about being saddled with a terrible cover that doesn’t do anything useful to sell the book.

Absent a quite unusual clause in a traditional publishing contract, the author has no say about what her/his cover looks like.

Indie authors, on the other hand, hire their cover artist, share their ideas and collaborate with the artist to develop a cover the author really likes.

Do all author have great tastes where covers are concerned? Of course not. Do all underpaid editors at traditional publishers (who are almost always dealing with a limited production budget) have greate tastes where covers are concerned? Ditto. If the editors are familiar with the applicable genre (not always the case), they may be more concerned with a cover that fits in rather than stands out on the shelf or Amazon product page.

One additional point PG will make is that it is very, very difficult to persuade a typical publisher to pay for a cover refresh for a book once it has been published. The experience of many authors who are able to wrangle back their rights to a traditionally-published book is that their new cover choices for the indie version can have a very beneficial effect on sales.

Promote Your Book with Local Collaborations

From The Book Designer:

I often advise authors to start their book marketing locally. Local “gatekeepers” – retailers, librarians, and reporters – will nearly always be more open and friendly to a new author with a great book than their counterparts in distant locations will be.

This approach applies to distribution and publicity opportunities, of course, but what if you used your local know-how to collaborate with a wider range of local businesses?

. . . .

When a local physician spoke about the health benefits of chocolate at the grand opening of a candy shop near me, I was disappointed that he wasn’t an author. If he had written a book about that topic – or even about healthy eating in general – opening day chocoholics would have been eating out of his hand and buying his book.

Think about the potential for partnering with a range of local retailers or other business owners in a way that benefits all parties. What can you do that will attract news media attention – publicity – along with increased traffic for the business and book sales for you?

Here are just a few ideas to show you how this could work:

  • A young adult author can talk about writing at a tutoring center.
  • The author of a financial planning book can present to bank customers.
  • A romance novelist can speak at the grand opening of a lingerie store.
  • A parenting book author can offer toddler parenting tips to parents touring a new daycare center.
  • The author of a local historical novel can host a themed dinner at a landmark restaurant.

. . . .

Naturally, some authors are high-profile enough locally that they receive invitations to speak at these types of gatherings without making any effort. Most of us, though, have to look for or create those opportunities.

This requires getting plugged in locally so you know what’s going on and what’s coming up. There are a number of ways to do that:

  • Like and follow Facebook pages for businesses that reach your book’s target audience.
  • Subscribe to the mailing lists of businesses that reach your book’s target audience.
  • Monitor retail storefronts for remodeling and the “coming soon” signs that go along with that activity.
  • Be an active member of your Chamber of Commerce.
  • Participate in business membership groups such as Rotary and the National Association of Women Business Owners.
  • Read the local daily and weekly newspapers for relevant announcements.
  • Follow local leaders and elected officials on Twitter for advance information.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

With no disrespect to the author of the OP or Book Designer Joel, the OP reminded PG of the sort of busywork that low-level operatives at publishers used to suggest to authors because it cost the publisher nothing and might generate a small payoff for the publisher. The author’s time cost nothing.

PG is happy to be corrected if he misperceives the value of this type of activity for an indie author, but the idea that there is a broad general market for all but a handful of books is hearkening back to a much earlier era when the US (and perhaps many other countries) were more homogeneous in their tastes and media consumption than they are today.

Online promotion and interaction with the particular slice of the reading world that is interested in what the author is writing about seems a much more useful activity than speaking at the local Rotary Club.

But PG could be wrong.

How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results

From The Wall Street Journal:

Every minute, an estimated 3.8 million queries are typed into Google, prompting its algorithms to spit out results for hotel rates or breast-cancer treatments or the latest news about President Trump.

They are arguably the most powerful lines of computer code in the global economy, controlling how much of the world accesses information found on the internet, and the starting point for billions of dollars of commerce.

Twenty years ago, Google founders began building a goliath on the premise that its search algorithms could do a better job combing the web for useful information than humans. Google executives have said repeatedly—in private meetings with outside groups and in congressional testimony—that the algorithms are objective and essentially autonomous, unsullied by human biases or business considerations.

The company states in a Google blog, “We do not use human curation to collect or arrange the results on a page.” It says it can’t divulge details about how the algorithms work because the company is involved in a long-running and high-stakes battle with those who want to profit by gaming the system.

But that message often clashes with what happens behind the scenes. Over time, Google has increasingly re-engineered and interfered with search results to a far greater degree than the company and its executives have acknowledged, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

Those actions often come in response to pressure from businesses, outside interest groups and governments around the world. They have increased sharply since the 2016 election and the rise of online misinformation, the Journal found.

Google’s evolving approach marks a shift from its founding philosophy of “organizing the world’s information,” to one that is far more active in deciding how that information should appear.

More than 100 interviews and the Journal’s own testing of Google’s search results reveal:

• Google made algorithmic changes to its search results that favor big businesses over smaller ones, and in at least one case made changes on behalf of a major advertiser, eBay Inc., contrary to its public position that it never takes that type of action. The company also boosts some major websites, such as Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

• Google engineers regularly make behind-the-scenes adjustments to other information the company is increasingly layering on top of its basic search results. These features include auto-complete suggestions, boxes called “knowledge panels” and “featured snippets,” and news results, which aren’t subject to the same company policies limiting what engineers can remove or change.

• Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results. These moves are separate from those that block sites as required by U.S. or foreign law, such as those featuring child abuse or with copyright infringement, and from changes designed to demote spam sites, which attempt to game the system to appear higher in results.

• In auto-complete, the feature that predicts search terms as the user types a query, Google’s engineers have created algorithms and blacklists to weed out more-incendiary suggestions for controversial subjects, such as abortion or immigration, in effect filtering out inflammatory results on high-profile topics.

• Google employees and executives, including co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have disagreed on how much to intervene on search results and to what extent. Employees can push for revisions in specific search results, including on topics such as vaccinations and autism.

• To evaluate its search results, Google employs thousands of low-paid contractors whose purpose the company says is to assess the quality of the algorithms’ rankings. Even so, contractors said Google gave feedback to these workers to convey what it considered to be the correct ranking of results, and they revised their assessments accordingly, according to contractors interviewed by the Journal. The contractors’ collective evaluations are then used to adjust algorithms.

. . . .

The Journal’s findings undercut one of Google’s core defenses against global regulators worried about how it wields its immense power—that the company doesn’t exert editorial control over what it shows users. Regulators’ areas of concern include anticompetitive practices, political bias and online misinformation.

Far from being autonomous computer programs oblivious to outside pressure, Google’s algorithms are subject to regular tinkering from executives and engineers who are trying to deliver relevant search results, while also pleasing a wide variety of powerful interests and driving its parent company’s more than $30 billion in annual profit.

. . . .

Google made more than 3,200 changes to its algorithms in 2018, up from more than 2,400 in 2017 and from about 500 in 2010, according to Google and a person familiar with the matter.

. . . .

As part of its examination, the Journal tested Google’s search results over several weeks this summer and compared them with results from two competing search engines, Microsoft Corp. ’s Bing and DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused company that builds its results from syndicated feeds from other companies, including Verizon Communications Inc. ’s Yahoo search engine.

The testing showed wide discrepancies in how Google handled auto-complete queries and some of what Google calls organic search results—the list of websites that Google says are algorithmically sorted by relevance in response to a user’s query.

. . . .

The Journal tested the auto-complete feature, which Google says draws from its vast database of search information to predict what a user intends to type, as well as data such as a user’s location and search history. The testing showed the extent to which Google doesn’t offer certain suggestions compared with other search engines.

Typing “Joe Biden is” or “Donald Trump is” in auto-complete, Google offered predicted language that was more innocuous than the other search engines. Similar differences were shown for other presidential candidates tested by the Journal.

The Journal also tested several search terms in auto-complete such as “immigrants are” and “abortion is.” Google’s predicted searches were less inflammatory than those of the other engines.

. . . .

One Google search executive described the problem of defining misinformation as incredibly hard, and said the company didn’t want to go down the path of figuring it out.

Around the time Google started addressing issues such as misinformation, it started fielding even more complaints, to the point where human interference became more routine, according to people familiar with the matter, putting it in the position of arbitrating some of society’s most complicated issues. Some changes to search results might be considered reasonable—boosting trusted websites like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for example—but Google has made little disclosure about when changes are made, or why.

Businesses, lawmakers and advertisers are worried about fairness and competition within the markets where Google is a leading player, and as a result its operations are coming under heavy scrutiny.

The U.S. Justice Department earlier this year opened an antitrust probe, in which Google’s search policies and practices are expected to be areas of focus.

. . . .

In one change hotly contested within Google, engineers opted to tilt results to favor prominent businesses over smaller ones, based on the argument that customers were more likely to get what they wanted at larger outlets. One effect of the change was a boost to Amazon’s products, even if the items had been discontinued, according to people familiar with the matter.

The issue came up repeatedly over the years at meetings in which Google search executives discuss algorithm changes. Each time, they chose not to reverse the change, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Google engineers said it is widely acknowledged within the company that search is a zero-sum game: A change that helps lift one result inevitably pushes down another, often with considerable impact on the businesses involved.

. . . .

Many of the changes within Google have coincided with its gradual evolution from a company with an engineering-focused, almost academic culture into an advertising behemoth and one of the most profitable companies in the world. Advertising revenue—which includes ads on search as well as on other products such as maps and YouTube—was $116.3 billion last year.

Some very big advertisers received direct advice on how to improve their organic search results, a perk not available to businesses with no contacts at Google, according to people familiar with the matter. In some cases, that help included sending in search engineers to explain a problem, they said.

“If they have an [algorithm] update, our teams may get on the phone with them and they will go through it,” said Jeremy Cornfeldt, the chief executive of the Americas of Dentsu Inc.’s iProspect, which Mr. Cornfeldt said is one of Google’s largest advertising agency clients.

. . . .

One former executive at a Fortune 500 company that received such advice said Google frequently adjusts how it crawls the web and ranks pages to deal with specific big websites.

. . . .

“There’s this idea that the search algorithm is all neutral and goes out and combs the web and comes back and shows what it found, and that’s total BS,” the former executive said. “Google deals with special cases all the time.”

. . . .

Online marketplace eBay had long relied on Google for as much as a third of its internet traffic. In 2014, traffic suddenly plummeted—contributing to a $200 million hit in its revenue guidance for that year.

Google told the company it had made a decision to lower the ranking of a large number of eBay pages that were a big source of traffic.

. . . .

Companies without eBay’s clout had different experiences.

Dan Baxter can remember the exact moment his website, DealCatcher, was caught in a Google algorithm change. It was 6 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17. Mr. Baxter, who founded the Wilmington, Del., coupon website 20 years ago, got a call from one of his 12 employees the next morning.

“Have you looked at our traffic?” the worker asked, frantically, Mr. Baxter recalled. It was suddenly down 93% for no apparent reason. That Saturday, DealCatcher saw about 31,000 visitors from Google. Now it was posting about 2,400. It had disappeared almost entirely on Google search.

Mr. Baxter said he didn’t know whom to contact at Google, so he hired a consultant to help him identify what might have happened. The expert reached out directly to a contact at Google but never heard back. Mr. Baxter tried posting to a YouTube forum hosted by a Google “webmaster” to ask if it might have been a technical problem, but the webmaster seemed to shoot down that idea.

One month to the day after his traffic disappeared, it inexplicably came back, and he still doesn’t know why.

“You’re kind of just left in the dark, and that’s the scary part of the whole thing,” said Mr. Baxter.

. . . .

Google’s Ms. Levin said “extreme transparency has historically proven to empower bad actors in a way that hurts our users and website owners who play by the rules.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

A Comprehensive Guide to a Content Audit

From ReadWrite:

In content marketing, it is always the 80/20 rule. 20% of content brings 80% results. This holds water for every content marketing audit I have done. A handful of articles pull the maximum number of clicks and conversions. When we talk about content marketing, the first thing should be to create and distribute content that often we don’t reuse.

According to a study, most content marketers don’t feel the need to audit, which is strange as it helps improve content marketing strategy.

What is a Content Audit?

It is a process of systematically reviewing all the content on your website. The process allows you to pay special attention to the optimization efforts and see whether you meet your business objectives or not.

If performed adequately, you can find gaps in your content which can be fulfilled to serve your target audience better. Finding your target audience will not only step up your content game but will also help mature your digital strategy following the dynamic industrial trends.

. . . .

Before creating content, you must ask yourself who your audience is? What is your audience looking for? How can you solve their problems? All these questions will help you to write a clear and crisp copy that is as relevant to your audience as possible.

Once you’re done, you’ll be all set to write content copy that can move mountains. Every content marketer has their way of creating and publishing high-quality content, but there are a few things you must ponder before creating a writing piece. The first one is the audience.

Your content should resonate with your audience, so they keep on coming back to you. Seek feedback from your current customers through social media pages, emails, and surveys.

. . . .

Identify where your SEO stands:

  • Identify your high ranking web pages and keep them aside from the low ranking ones. Take the help of Google spreadsheets or any other spreadsheet while doing so.
  • Understand what content you need to remove or update on your website.
  • Check for backlinking and interlinking.

Link to the rest at ReadWrite

Finding and Using Competing Book Titles in Your Book Marketing

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

As an author you’ve probably been told to look at competing titles through multiple stages of your journey from writing, to publishing, to book promotion.

Competing book titles can be lucrative references for cover design, book length, and choosing your categories and keywords. They’re also helpful in deciding how to price your book and determining the best strategies for marketing to potential buyers in your genre or topic, and more!

. . . .

Keyword research will show you who else is showing up on Amazon for the keywords you’d like to be ranking for. This is beneficial not only because you’ll start developing a list of titles, but it will also clue you in if you’re not on the right path with your keywords, or sometimes your branding. But we can fix that!

For example, what if a keyword search brings up a bunch of books that make you say, “My reader wouldn’t be interested in these!” That’s a sign you might be using the wrong keywords.

. . . .

Maybe your keywords are on track but the books coming up just don’t look like the kinds of books you had in mind. Then perhaps you need to do some cover comparisons once you have a solid list of competing titles to work with. It may mean you should consider tweaking the branding of your covers to align with your readers’ expectations for your genre or topic.

. . . .

Similar to keyword research, category research is just another layer of ensuring you’re aligned with your reader market’s expectations.

Get on Amazon and I recommend the Kindle search because there are so many more categories to choose from. That way you can get really niche with your comparisons. Start digging into categories you’d like to rank in. Take notes of which books come up along the way, and go as far as you can down the rabbit hole of refine by terms that fit your book because this is how you find the competing book titles that are most like yours.

. . . .

The “also bought items” section on your book page on Amazon is a great place to look for competing book titles.  It will give you insight into buyer behavior. Be prepared for some surprises here. Not every book will be a direct competitor of yours. But it’s a good reminder than a lot of readers, especially in fiction, will bounce between different subgenres.

. . . .

Once you have a solid list of competing book titles, be sure you’re not only reading as many of the books as you have time for. Definitely read the reviews for the books as well.

Reviews tell you what readers like, what they don’t like, what stood out as special, what they found distracting or too complex. They’re another great tool for gathering insight into how to compete in your genre or topic.

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

Public Speaking

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I never meant to become a public speaker, although I did train for it. I was in competitive forensics (public speaking) in 8th and 9th grade, although I transferred over the debate in high school. Even though I went to State both years (once with a poem I wrote myself), I didn’t like memorizing and declaiming. I was much more comfortable with debate—learning a topic and arguing it in front of judges.

. . . .

I learned how to speak in front of groups then because speaking in front of groups terrified me. That tends to be my M.O. If something frightens me, I confront it. If it’s a “silly” fear, like public speaking, I learn how to overcome it—enough.

(I also had a career in radio, but it doesn’t translate: what terrified me was being seen, not the speaking part.)

. . . .

One other side effect of being a “famous” author was attending a lot of banquets, many of which had speakers. I had to go to every major event in science fiction when I was the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which gave me a heck of a speech-survival instinct (still!). Back then, I could flee a room faster than anyone except Jack Williamson and Robert Silverberg at the very whiff of a bad speaker. (Oh, dear, I would say to my seatmates, I need to hit the restroom. And then I would vanish…until the speaker was done. You see, it’s not polite to return to your seat while a speech is in progress…)

I’ve given speaking a lot more thought than I usually admit. Here’s what I do.

  • I make sure I know the topic I’m asked to talk about. (You’d be surprised how many folks don’t.)
  • I make sure I’m as entertaining as I can be. Or as shocking as I can be. (Sometimes I want writers in the audience to think about what I’m discussing.)
  • I leave time for questions, because that’s often the best part of a presentation. People ask questions about things I’ve never thought of. If I don’t know the answer, I say so. If I do, I pontificate a bit. And often, I end up thinking about that topic for a while thereafter. That’s one reason why I started doing Ask Kris Anything, because I can’t travel, and I miss the questions.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

PG has also done a lot of public speaking. One of the results is that he has developed a love/hate relationship with Powerpoint.

When Powerpoint is good, it is very, very good, but when it is bad, it is horrid.

PG has a tendency to push Powerpoint toward its theoretical maximum. When he has been dealing only with Powerpoint, it generally manages not to embarrass PG by doing something different during the presentation than it was doing while PG was practicing with it in his hotel room.

PG’s worst Powerpoint disasters have occurred when he has used third-party programs or programettes to do things Powerpoint can’t do on its own. On those occasions, what looked wonderful and entertaining in his hotel room has sometimes crashed and burned when a couple of hundred people were watching it on a large screen. A general rule is that a computer takes ten times as long to reboot when other people are watching than it does when PG is the only viewer.

Yes, there are many more boring and terrible Powerpoint presentations than there are good ones. However, there are many more boring and terrible speeches without Powerpoint than there are good ones as well.

Being an expert on a topic and being able to speak in a fluent and interesting manner about that topic in front of lots of people are two different things.

For some people, the speaking part seems to come naturally, but speaking fluently is often the result of a lot of practice and spending time thinking about how the speaker’s knowledge can be communicated in an interesting fashion to an audience. If attending the presentation is like reading the book, the speaker has not succeeded.

Here are a few of PG’s don’ts for making a presentation:

  1. Don’t read your speech.
  2. Don’t avoid looking at your audience – look at individual members of the audience just as you would if you were standing or sitting in a group with them having a discussion. Human beings respond to eye contact.
  3. Don’t read your Powerpoint. The Powerpoint is for the big picture, to help provide structure and continuity for your presentation. No tiny type in your Powerpoint, either.
  4. Don’t use one of the default presentation themes that come with Powerpoint. If they don’t seem boring to you in and of themselves, they are boring for at least some members of the audience who have seen those same themes before. If you spend a little time searching online, you can find lots of free and paid themes that are better than Microsoft’s and that your audience hasn’t seen before.
  5. You don’t have to use Powerpoint. Google Slides can also provide a good presentation platform if you don’t want to pay for Powerpoint. The last time PG dug deep into Google Slides, it didn’t have as many bells and whistles as Powerpoint does, but there’s no reason you can’t prepare a creative and effective presentation with Google Slides. As with Powerpoint, look for a Google Slides theme that at least some members of the audience haven’t seen lots of times before.
  6. You don’t have to run a presentation from your laptop computer. PG can’t speak for Android, but your iPhone and your iPad can provide a platform for presenting with Powerpoint. The first step is installing a Powerpoint app, which you can find online. You will want to check your presentation thoroughly using your iPhone or iPad before showing it to others. In PG’s experience, iPhone/iPad presentations are sometimes a bit different than the same one on his laptop. Fancy transitions between slides don’t always work right. He hasn’t had any similar problems with Google Slides on a smaller device, however. Make sure your iPhone/iPad has a good battery that’s charged up and bring your plugin charger just in case.
  7. Don’t trust hotel internet connections. If you have anything in your presentation that relies on a good internet connection, have a Plan B if the connection is slow or nonexistent. Most hotels have improved their internet access greatly from the net dark ages many years ago, but a presentation that works well with a wireless signal in one room in the conference center may not work as well in a different room in the conference center. Smart presenters check the internet speed in the room where they are going to present on the day or night before their formal presentations to make certain the internet connection works well. (Even doing that is not a guarantee the internet experience will be the same the next day when 500 audience members are on the same internet connection you’re trying to use, however.) If you don’t have a reliable internet connection where you are going to present, or you’re not sure and want a Plan B, you can take screen shots of your browser and drop those into your Powerpoint to create a faux online experience. You can even click on the appropriate buttons or icons in the screenshots to move forward to the next screen shot for a more believable faux experience.
  8. You don’t need a Powerpoint to make a good presentation. People have come to see and hear you, not your Powerpoint. If all else fails, be prepared to present your thoughts effectively without a big screen. PG always has a printed version of his Powerpoint that he can use to present if the technical/internet gods are displeased with him. And don’t act like the lack of your Powerpoint is a disaster that has ruined everything. Be chipper and upbeat. Generally, the audience wants you to succeed and will appreciate your pluck for forging ahead without your electronic crutch.

The 30 Scariest Author Website Mistakes And How To Fix Them

From Bad Redhead Media:

I recently had the pleasure of taking part in the Wednesday evening #BookMarketingChat hosted by BadRedhead Media. Our topic was easy updates to refresh your author website. To prepare for the chat, I visited the sites of several writers, including those who have left comments here in the past. I figured I would snoop around and find out what kind of slips the average writer is making with this vital part of their online platform.

My verdict? As a community, we need to pull our socks up if we want to show our readers we value their website visits and respect their time. I saw too many websites that were dated in design, neglected in content, or both.

According to a Stanford University study, 75% of users admit to making judgments about a company’s credibility based on their website design. Readers will lose trust in your professionalism and the quality of your work if you can’t present a reasonably spiffy website to the world.

Since it’s October and Halloween is fast approaching, here are the 30 website mistakes I consider the scariest, in terms of turning your reader off. I’ll start with the ones I saw on multiple websites that are easiest to fix.

Dated items, which show how long you’ve neglected your website. For example:

  1. Blog post dates
  2. A book page which announces a title is “Coming Spring 2018”
  3. An events page with nothing forthcoming or recent
  4. Copyright year not current

. . . .

 Links to social media accounts that you no longer use. Watch out in particular for an icon advertising Google Plus, which shut down 6 months ago!

. . . .

Cluttered sidebars. Sidebars are a magnet for outdated distractions, for example: tag clouds, tiny photos of your followers, or badges for everywhere you’ve ever been featured. A little social proof is important, but too much looks desperate.

. . . .

No “About” page, and/or no contact information. Even if you’re writing with a pen name, you should still give visitors some context to connect with. Your readers want to get to know you, not just your work.

. . . .

Unless you’re using a free service, you don’t have to declare which theme you’re using, or that you’re powered by WordPress. Professionally designed websites don’t do this, so you needn’t either.

Link to the rest at Bad Redhead Media

 

How to Use MailerLite (So You Can Dump MailChimp)

From Social Media Just for Writers:

Yep, I gave the boot to MailChimp and am a happy MailerLite customer.

In the past I raved about MailChimp. I wrote blog posts about it. I even recommended it to clients.

 But over the years, I liked it less and less. Their customer services degraded as their prices climbed. 

 A terrible combination.

. . . .

MailerLite’s customer service is superb. Whereas before, I would wait four days for an email response from MailChimp’s tech support, with MailerLite, it’s just a few hours.

 Learning MailerLite’s system took a bit of time, but their tech support made it a smooth transition.

 And it’s cheaper than MailChimp while offering the same services.

 I’m paying $30/month for MailerLite (MailChimp was $75/month) because I want extra features. You can use it for free if you’d like to.

. . . .

Let’s face it; email marketing is more effective than social media marketing. 

 And consider this fact: if Instagram or Facebook disappeared or changed into a format you couldn’t make sense of, what would you do?

 All those people you were connecting with would be gone. 

 Consider email marketing as an insurance policy and an excellent way to connect with your readers.

Link to the rest at Social Media Just for Writers

9 Most Frequent Mistakes in Author Press Releases

From the Nonfiction Authors Association:

When an author snail-mails me a new book, whether or not I’ve asked for it, I page through it to see if I can find a press release that will help me decide if I want to read it.

Nine times out of 10, the release is missing.

But if I find one and it includes seven tips from your nonfiction topic that interests me, or tells me about the wild adventure thriller your novel is going to take me on, chances are good I’ll set it aside to read later.

Seldom does a press release perform that important duty.

Too often, author press releases land with a thud. They’re boring. They lack the important details that explain what the book is about. Almost always, the author or publicist fails to include information that helps make the author make money aside from selling the book.

. . . .

Mistake #1:
Not taking advantage of the many opportunities to write releases.

Your book launch is just one of many events that warrant a press release. Others include book awards you’ve won, speaking engagements and book signings, a second edition of your book, getting a celebrity endorsement, convincing a celebrity or influencer to write the foreword to your book, library appearances and classes you’re teaching.

. . . .

Mistake #2:
Cutesy headlines that offer no clue what the release and book are about.

The writer relies on a pun or bad alliteration to be clever but only confuses the reader. A confused reader does one thing. Leaves.

Don’t worry about writing headlines that are too long. One of the new rules of today’s press releases is that we can bypass the media gatekeepers and write for consumers, not only journalists.

. . . .

Mistake #7:
No links to high-resolution photos of the book cover and the author.

Magazine editors are practically begging for high-resolution (300 dpi) images of book covers. Editors have told me that they’d love to feature books in their “New Products” section but can’t if they don’t have an image that will reproduce well. Again, a missed opportunity!

Link to the rest at the Nonfiction Authors Association

Facebook has begun hiding likes (in Australia)

From C/Net:

Facebook began hiding likes on Friday, Sept. 27, making the number of reactions, views and likes visible only to a post’s author. The test kicked off in Australia, the social media giant confirmed last week, and includes ads.

“We are running a limited test where like, reaction and video view counts are made private across Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNET in an emailed statement on Sept. 26.

. . . .

As of Sept. 30, Facebook said it is still expanding the experiment to more people in Australia, but it should be out to the majority of people in the country within the next day or two.

The social network indicated earlier in September that it might experiment with hiding likes, after testing the approach on Facebook-owned Instagram this year. In August, Facebook said the Instagram test was meant to “remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive” on Instagram, and that Facebook was “excited by the early test results.”

Link to the rest at C/Net

PG would be interested in comments from serious Facebook users about whether this is a good/bad/whatever idea for authors who use FB as an important part of their promotional efforts.

Amazon is Shutting Down Kindle Matchbook, Its Print+eBook Bundling ProgramAmazon is Shutting Down Kindle Matchbook, Its Print+eBook Bundling Program

From The Digital Reader:

It’s only been a few short days since Amazon announced that Amazon Giveaways was ending, and now they’ve decided to shut down another promotion service.

. . . .

Starting October 31, we’re retiring the Kindle MatchBook program. If you have books enrolled in Kindle MatchBook, they’ll be unenrolled at that time.

Here are a couple things to know:

  • Readers will still be able to buy books in their preferred format (eBook or paperback).
  • We’ll issue payments from any remaining Kindle MatchBook sales on your regular payment schedule.

Best regards,
The Kindle Direct Publishing Team

Launched in 2013, Kindle Matchbook was a program where authors and publishers had the option of creating ebook+print bundles that combine a Kindle ebook with a print book sold by Amazon. The ebook could be given away for free, or sold for $1.99 or $0.99.

. . . .

Most authors have never heard of it, and the ones that do have books in the program report that there was little interest from readers. “I can see why they are retiring it. I’ve had all my books enrolled in Matchbook since the beginning, allowing people to get a free ebook copy of any paperback they buy,” Shawn Inmon wrote on FB. “I think I’ve given away maybe 20 copies in all those years. It just doesn’t seem to be something people are interested in.”

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

What influences Book Purchasing Decisions?

From Marketing Christian Books:

BookNet Canada conducts studies on book reading and buying behavior. In one of their studies, they looked at which element influence readers to purchase a particular book. Were readers drawn in by the awesome cover design? Were they won over by the gripping book description? Did endorsements influence readers purchase decision?

It turns out familiarity was the most cited influence for reading a given book. In other words, the reader was familiar with the author. Somehow the reader knew about the author. They may have read another book by that author. They may be familiar with the author because he or she is already famous. Maybe they saw the author on television or heard her on the radio. The key ingredient was that they “knew” the author somehow.
Here is the breakdown of the percentage of people who ranked each option first in terms of how they influence when books they read / listen to:

  • Familiarity with the author – 35.5%
  • Read a synopsis – 25.8%
  • Familiarity with the series – 17.2%
  • Cover design – 6.9%
  • Awards and bestseller stickers/badges – 6.5%
  • Saw an ad for the book – 4.7%
  • Author or celebrity endorsement – 3.1%

Notice in this breakdown that “Familiarity with the Author” was chosen by over one-third of the readers, and “Familiarity with the Series” was chosen by just about one out of every six readers.

From Marketing Christian Books

Questions for Indie Authors

Mrs. PG and PG were discussing the upcoming release of her newest book (more details in a later post) and came up with a couple of questions, the answers to which we were uncertain:

1. What is the best day of the week for the release of an indie book? Or does it not matter?

2. What experience has anyone had with BookGorilla?

Feel free to provide facts, opinions, opinionated facts or factual opinions in the comments.

The Five Myths of Crisis Management for Authors

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

I know what you’re thinking. You see the word crisis and say, that will never happen to me. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you are wrong. As with all public figures, a reputation-tanking, book-disappearing, fan-stalking, Twitter-storm crisis can happen to any author.

And it could ruin your business and your reputation if you’re not prepared.

You need to know about crisis management.

Let’s face it, author businesses thrive or die online. Whether it’s a website, social media, our newsletters, online classes, bookstores like Amazon—whatever it is—our business and our reputations exist online. We may have lots of offline marketing going on, but the bulk of our livelihood is attached at the hip to the internet where the good, the bad, and the ugly hang out.

. . . .

1) I don’t need crisis management. I don’t pay attention to what’s being said about me online.

Listening is the first line of prevention when it comes to your reputation. If you don’t have your author name set up on a Google Alert, it needs to be. This is the bare minimum of prevention. These searches can be set to come to your inbox once a day. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And in online crisis, sometimes there is no cure.

If you’re not listening to the chatter around your name, you will miss the warning signs of a potentially life-changing event. On the flipside, if you’re overanxious and listen to everything, you won’t know what you’re looking for.

If you don’t know how to evaluate the severity of the crisis, you’ll respond to nothing or everything. And, if you don’t have a response plan, you will be making spur of the moment decisions fueled by emotional pressure. Or worse, you’ll be tempted to hide your head in the sand—a sure recipe for failure in this connected age.  The old adage is truer in crisis than anywhere else: fail to plan – plan to fail. And you can’t afford to fail in a crisis.

. . . .

2) I don’t have time to build a core group of engaged fans that will support me.

When you build engagement on social media and through your newsletter, you’re building credibility. Advocates can do more to shorten a crisis than anything you can say or do.

I have personally seen many crises cut short or averted by purposeful intervention by engaged friends, fans, and press. The sum total of your engaged network constitutes your reputation. And reputation is your biggest asset in most crisis events.

We’re not talking about taking to the internet to let loose an army of positive talking do-gooders here. We’re talking about building a network of core readers, author friends, media people, and industry friends who know you, like your books, and would do you a strategic favor if asked.

You never want to try and go online to dispel your own crisis. Everything you say when you’re under fire is gas on the fire.

. . . .

4) If people start harassing me or talking about me, there’s nothing I can do.

Actually, there are lots of things you can do. You can’t stop them from blabbing, but you can do some things to slow them down.

  1. Report them. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have procedures for reporting stalking, hate speech, impersonation, and more. Become familiar with them.
  2. Familiarize yourself with deleting, blocking and reporting features on all the social media channels where you maintain a presence. Know how to report inappropriate content, where to go to register a complaint or concern on Amazon (I’ve found using Author Central is the best way), get a manual review on an ad, and report someone who has stolen your name on a social media channel. Don’t skip this one—it will save you a ton of time when you discover something is wrong.
  3. Don’t engage in dishonest online practices like buying followers or reviews, adding email subscribers that haven’t opted in, buying or trading reviews, or sending out spam (or cold calling as the marketing world politely calls it). Bad habits invite crisis. Your ignorance may not get your books reinstate on Amazon. Be honest, transparent, and remember you are on rented land. You don’t own that Facebook page—you’re renting it.
  4. Have a posting policy on your social media sites. Stick it under your About tab. Tell people you have the right to delete, block, or report. Ask people to be civil or risk getting the boot. Have the courage to delete posts that don’t comply with the policy or block people who don’t play nice.

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

Level the Playing Field for Books in Translation

From Publishers Weekly:

(PG Note – The author is a Slovenian publisher)

Nowadays, when everything is just a click away, people around the world have come to expect the latest installment of great TV series such as The Handmaid’s Tale or Game of Thrones to be delivered to their screens more or less simultaneously with the original release, together with corresponding subtitles in Croatian, Macedonian, Serbian, Slovenian…. There are many people involved with the production, and the security risks are extremely high, but still—the magic happens.

It is therefore somewhat surprising that in book publishing we’re witnessing a discriminating practice that has become increasingly common in recent years. In fact, this is now a sort of a status symbol, which divides major from merely big or important authors. At my Slovenian publishing company, Mladinska Knjiga, we still receive Mr. Barnes’s or Mrs. Hawkins’s or Mr. McEwan’s or Mr. Nesbø’s or Mr. Walliams’s new novels way ahead of publication (Mr. Nesbø even kindly provides the complete English translation for those who are not translating from Norwegian!), whereas this is not the case with authors (brands?) such as Dan Brown, John Green, or J.K. Rowling. Even Harper Lee’s second novel, Go Set a Watchman, was strictly embargoed until publication of the English edition. And now Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments faces the same issue.

The reason given is always the same: security. We were told by Atwood’s agency: “If this manuscript leaks, the consequences are huge, and therefore we have to have a strategy that minimizes the risk.”

A strategy? Some (well, most) of us are obviously not trustworthy. But there’s more. Initially a universal practice, this “strategy” is not without exceptions now. For example, the German version of The Testaments is scheduled for simultaneous publication with the original—so is the Spanish one and the Italian one. Is this then just a variation on a good old theme of “paying more” ? (One wonders how much of this is known to authors themselves, all fine people, who are usually sincerely grateful to each of their publishers from all around the world.)

The Booker shortlist was just announced, and it includes The Testaments. This is great news. It means that the book is good. But what it also means is that the jurors were given the manuscript ahead of publication, too. How did security procedures work in this case? I would rather not speculate, but let me just say that this only made us even more furious.

. . . .

In the case of The Testaments, we were particularly disappointed because we had initially been promised the manuscript in March (just enough time to publish more or less simultaneously), only to later be told that we’ll have to wait until September 12.

Why is this so crucial? We will lose the global promotional momentum and lose face in the eyes of our readers, booksellers, and librarians: the book is published, so where’s the Slovenian version? Most of them will think that the publisher is rather sloppy and slow.

The bottom line: we will sell less. And this is as important for German publishers as it is for Slovenian, Slovakian, and Icelandic publishers. Literary bestsellers are extremely rare. Therefore, one must seize every selling opportunity, and publishing simultaneously with the original edition is an especially effective one.

Sure, there are those houses that will hire multiple translators to finish the translation in two weeks, enabling the hasty publisher to publish the book just in time for the Christmas season. But would you really want to see or read the result? Margaret Atwood is a very fine author, one of the best. Her books deserve a committed translator and proper editorial dedication. And this takes time. So here is another factor that speaks against this strategy—the author’s reputation is at stake.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG suggests that large publishers are almost religiously attached to their superannuated ideas about how to promote and advertise the books they release. Based upon shared folklore that the world is breathlessly awaiting the next release from OldPub in New York, they believe that a relative handful of chosen bookstores and an exclusive review in The New York Times will move the sales needle like it did before most people buy books online and the Times print circulation is plummeting.

New York Times Print Circulation – Monday-Friday – Wikipedia

Amazon Under Fire for Breaking Margaret Atwood ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Sequel Embargo

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Margaret Atwood’s latest work The Testaments — the highly anticipated sequel to her 1985 best-selling novel The Handmaid’s Tale — is set to be released globally next Tuesday. However, a “retailer error” by Amazon broke the embargo, resulting in a “small number of copies” already ending up in the hands of readers.

Todd Doughty, Doubleday’s executive director of publicity, told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement, “A very small number of copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments were distributed early due to a retailer error which has now been rectified. We appreciate that readers and booksellers have been waiting patiently for the much-anticipated sequel to the best-selling The Handmaid’s Tale. In order to ensure our readers around the world receive their copies on the same day, our global publication date remains Tuesday, Sept. 10.”

. . . .

The embargo breach has also created an outcry from independent booksellers on social media, including Astoria Bookshop owner Lexi Beach, who shared her frustration on Twitter. “There will be ZERO consequences for $amzn violating not just the fine print but the entire basis of this embargo agreement some exec surely signed digitally through Adobe Sign just like the rest of us did,” she wrote Tuesday.

Added Beach: “And the kicker is that $amzn will make hardly any money selling this book. Books (especially big splashy publications like this) have always been a loss leader for them. Whereas I and many other independent retailers are counting on this release to pay our bills.”

Link to the rest at The Hollywood Reporter

PG notes that embargos occupy a hallowed spot in the uninspired world of Big Publisher marketing.

Embargos are also breached with some regularity by people other than Amazon. PG is not the only one who suspects that publicity about the breaking of more than one embargo has been part of a publisher’s staged marketing campaign for quite a while.  Throw in the dreaded Zon and people become even more excited.

From The Washington Post, September 27, 2012:

The embargo on the J.K. Rowling novel “The Casual Vacancy,” reportedly one of the most draconian non-disclosure agreements in the history of publishing . . . did not quite work. ¶ Thursday is the release date for the first book for adults written by the empress of Hogwarts. Reviews were embargoed until 1 a.m. and book sales until 3 a.m. Since Rowling’s Harry Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide, the release of her new book — even though it is set in an unmagical British town called Pagford — is one of 2012’s largest publishing events. ¶ Thus, it is a test case for the common, if unloved, practice of forbidding booksellers from selling the book in advance of the embargo date, and forbidding media outlets from reviewing said tome before the date the publishing company decrees. ¶ The practice generally has several intents: to make sure books are in stores when readers hear about them; to retain the news revelations in nonfiction books; and to try to bottle up interest in big fiction titles, propelling them onto bestseller lists with an unusually high number of immediate sales.

“For franchise authors, you want to drive it to Number 1 by having everyone buy it the first week of release,” said Elyse Cheney, a literary agent in New York.

Rowling, who is nothing but a franchise author (she is the first in the world to earn more than $1 billion in book sales), added spice to this release with an unusually strict legal document that its publisher, Little, Brown, reportedly imposed on prospective reviewers.

The Independent in London reported a clause that not only required signees to hold off on sales and reviews but also forbade them to even mention a contract.

But — and this almost always happens — somebody got the book anyway.

The Associated Press and the New York Daily News (and perhaps others) said they managed to get early copies of the book, and they published reviews Wednesday. AP reported it did not sign the contract but “purchased” the book; the Daily News said the novel was “obtained.” Because they alone had reviews, those two organizations set the tone for readers’ perception of the book.

The Post and other news organizations observed the embargo, running reviews Thursday.

Just about nobody was happy.

“I couldn’t even get an embargoed copy to review,” said Dan Kois, editor of the book section for the online magazine Slate, which is part of The Washington Post Co. “They wouldn’t send it to us. They had very clear levels to this campaign.”

. . . .

The Post and the New York Times refrained from publishing their staff-written reviews online Wednesday, though The Post put AP’s review on its Web site. The Post’s executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, said he thinks the publishing industry is ultimately “fighting a losing battle.”

A spokeswoman for Little, Brown said she would have a company representative call for comment on this article, but no one had done so by press time.

This sort of struggle between publishers and media outlets has been small-arms combat for years. With some books, in which authors and publishers have signed exclusive excerpt rights with magazines or newspapers, there is a clear business mandate to preserve those rights and to keep others from writing about the material.

. . . .

Connie Ogle, books editor for the Miami Herald, and LaFramboise, the Politics & Prose book buyer, both noted a similarity between some embargoed titles and B movies that are not made available to critics for pre-screening.

“There is a core audience that is going to go see the movie or read the book anyway,” Ogle said, “and those films or books often tend not to have a long shelf life.”

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

Is a “Personal Relationship” with Authors What Readers Want?

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

The latest trend in online marketing is building a “personal relationship” with customers and readers. Sending newsy emails about your fab summer vacation isn’t enough anymore. Now you have to ask them about their fab summer vacations.

This is supposed to let readers know you really care about them.

Does it?

Speaking as a reader, that would be a…not so much.

I read lots of books. Do I want all those authors clogging my inbox, trying to be my BFF? Nope. Not even if it’s Margaret Atwood. If she really cares about me, she’ll write another book, not have a virtual assistant send me a faux-friendly email.

As an author, it all makes me want to cry. How can a working author find time to be pen pals with thousands of readers—even with robotic help?

. . . .

In this current marketing scenario, the author/vendor offers a bribe, like a free ebook (called a “reader magnet”) in exchange for a potential customer’s information. (And recently many vendors have dropped the freebie, and the “magnet” is simply the privilege of entering a website.)

Once they’ve got your deets, they’ll hammer you into a “personal” relationship with their robots whether you want it or not.

. . . .

The plan goes like this: once you’re on the hook, the author or vendor sends an immediate automated email that asks friendly questions like:

  • What books do you read?
  • Where do you live?
  • What do you like to do?
  • Yoga? And when are your classes?
  • Oh, so you’re out of the house on Tuesday evenings between 7 and 9?
  • Where do you keep your valuables?

Kidding aside, not everybody feels warm and fuzzy when asked personal questions by complete strangers. The line between “friendly” and “invasion of privacy” can be a thin one. When you cross it, you are going to have less than positive results.

. . . .

And somehow unsubscribing takes weeks, if it happens at all. (I still get emails addressed to “Dear Unsubscribe Me You Morons.”)

And unsubscribers are also subjected to a major guilt trip. “Where did we go wrong?” one site asks if you try to leave. Or you have to hit a button that says: “I’m not interested in becoming a published author,” or “I prefer to remain ignorant.”

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

 

Tumblr and the End of the Eyeballs-Are-Everything Era

From The Wall Street Journal:

At its apex, Tumblr had more users than both Instagram, now estimated to be worth close to $200 billion to parent Facebook , and Pinterest , which has a market cap of nearly $18 billion. In 2013, Tumblr sold to Yahoo for $1.1 billion. On Monday, the parent company of WordPress.com bought it for a pittance.

The precise amount is hard to pin down but insiders have observed that there are modest homes in Silicon Valley that might be comparable in price. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s former chief executive, once described Tumblr as an “incredibly special” property with “105 million different blogs, 300 million monthly unique visitors and 120,000 sign-ups every day.”

“We promise not to screw it up,” she famously added. And now look where we are.

Tumblr was ostensibly a blogging site but it quickly became one of the dominant, if hard-to-navigate, social networks of the early aughts. It attracted users who made and shared memes, art, their random thoughts and, eventually, a sense of community. Its mechanisms were opaque to outsiders: For many years, it didn’t have a function for direct messages or even traditional commenting, forcing users to communicate with each other by, among other things, reblogging each other’s posts.

Since it was difficult or impossible for outsiders to insert themselves into conversations, and because it was and still is a place that allows pseudonymous accounts, the site felt safe for members of marginalized communities, says Alexander Cho, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine, who coedited a forthcoming book on the history of Tumblr.

“Tumblr can be as anonymous as you want it to be, and that allows people to share in a way they might not on Facebook,” says Catherine Holderness, Tumblr’s senior community trends analyst.

. . . .

Alas, Tumblr was inherently ill-suited to advertising, says Katrin Tiidenberg, a social-media researcher at Tallinn University in Estonia who has studied Tumblr for years. Its impenetrability was a challenge to advertisers. On top of that, many of its users interspersed their posts on various fandoms, obsessions and memes with sexual content. “A lot of advertising clients, particularly in the U.S., get disproportionately nervous about being seen next to someone’s boobs,” says Dr. Tiidenberg.

Advertisers instead turned increasingly to the ostensibly safer realms of Google and Facebook. Together, the two giants now suck up 57% of all digital ad spend, according to eMarketer. In addition to owning the biggest ad networks, their crown jewels are incredibly sophisticated advertising engines that drive measurable results for advertisers.

. . . .

It also doesn’t help that Tumblr, never a very polished or particularly reliable service to begin with, had a hard time going mobile. That’s where Google and Facebook ended up moving—quickly, through acquisitions and manic development—to maintain their revenue growth.

“The site was just fundamentally broken; it broke all the time” says Klaudia Amenábar, a senior media producer and comics vlogger who is also a self-described Tumblr power user. Now 24, she found the service at 16 and has been on it ever since, building a career in fandoms and social media from what she learned there. “The mobile app is a lot better now, but before, jokes about the mobile app were rampant on Tumblr,” she adds.

In the past year, Tumblr’s traffic has dropped by more than 40%, from approximately 640 million visits in July 2018 to around 380 million now. Much of that drop happened after the service implemented a ban on adult content.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

Vouching for Lit Fest Vouchers

From Publishers Weekly:

Few people are happy with how books are sold at literary festivals. New York City publishers think festivals don’t move books at volume. PW reported that attendees at this year’s BookCon were unsatisfied with aspects of the event. “There’s hardly any ARC drops or free books,” one BookCon attendee said. “It felt a lot like we paid for a ticket just to be allowed in to buy things,” said another.

But that’s not the case in Portland, Ore., where book vouchers power a high volume of book sales at the 10,000-person, one-day Portland Book Festival held each November. A $5 voucher is rolled into the cost of a festival ticket. Admission is cheap at $15 for preorders and $20 at the door. With vouchers for all paid ticketholders, festivalgoers get up to one-third of their entry fees back to spend with vendors at the festival, including booksellers at the nine event locations and small- and midsize presses that exhibit their wares on the expo floor.

The voucher idea appealed to Amanda Bullock shortly after she was hired in 2015 to be director of the PBF and moved to Portland from New York. In New York, she noticed, “you’d pay for a $10 event ticket, and they’d throw in a free drink.” Why not do the same thing for books?

Vouchers keep everybody happy because they are not a discount. Literary Arts, the largest literary nonprofit in Oregon, which acquired PBF in 2015, absorbs the cost, and booksellers and publishers get paid their full prices.

. . . .

Vouchers lower the risk of buying a new thing. Craig Bunn, associate sales manager for Pomegranate Communications, said the press collected three to four dozen vouchers at last year’s PBF when it rented a large endcap booth on the expo floor. Pomegranate sold out of boxed notes, Edward Gorey specialty items, jigsaw puzzles, and knowledge cards. “People often spend more money when it feels like they’re getting a discount,” Bunn notes.

Because the vouchers can only be spent in person and on the day of the festival, people want to use the $5 for something. “We have seen an uptick in sales,” says Rachel Bell, publisher of Overcup Books. “As an independent publisher with a small catalogue, we love it when people deem our titles voucher worthy.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Animated Ebook Cover

Amazon Publishing has created an animated cover for its listing of Patricia Cornwell’s Quantum.

The book description includes the following:

Kindle in Motion

This book can be read on any device, including Kindle E-readers. It may include art, animation, or video features that can be viewed on certain Fire tablets and the free Kindle app for iOS and Android. You can switch features on or off at any time.

Here’s a link to the book page for Quantum and here’s a link to other examples of Kindle in Motion.

.

6 Email Marketing Trends You Need to Be Aware Of

From ReadWrite:

Email may not get as much love as channels like social media, but it remains perhaps the most important communication tool for marketers. That’s especially true when you consider that estimates indicate there will be more than 4 billion users by 2023.

But the only way for email marketing to be effective is to stay on top of the trends.

. . . .

1. It’s all about artificial intelligence. 

Considering that AI has completely changed the business world, this shouldn’t be all that shocking. In fact, one recent survey found that 85% of marketers are already using artificial intelligence. They believe the technology has the power to drive double-digit growth within the next two years.

Right now, AI handles a variety of sales and marketing tasks. This includes segmenting leads and customers, engaging and qualifying leads, creating more personalized recommendations, and predicting customer actions. When it comes to email specifically, AI can do everything from generating more engaging subject lines to automating optimized content. That can boost engagement rates, along with AI’s ability to determine the best times to send email campaigns. AI can also customize email promotions and fine-tune your retargeting strategy, decreasing your cart abandonment rate.

2. Interactive content will continue to rise. 

“I’m a firm believer in interactive content and I’m predicting it will continue to take off in 2019,” writes Kyle Henderick, senior director of client services at Yes Marketing. “Emails that contain games, quizzes, image carousels or simply ‘fun’’ clickability (my word for 2019) allow users to interact with the brand without leaving the email itself.” Other examples of interactive elements are clickable hotspots, navigational anchor tags, live social media feeds, and videos.

“The more brands allow subscribers to engage within emails in new ways — whether it’s a personality quiz or the ability to book hotels without leaving email — the more engaged and ready to purchase subscribers will be with the brand,” adds Henderick.

. . . .

4. Continue to think mobile-first.

The mobile revolution has been in full swing for several years. I’m still surprised, however, at how many marketers still haven’t completely embraced a mobile-first mentality when it comes to email marketing. This is even more mind-boggling when you consider that 61.9% of email opens occurred on mobile.

If you haven’t done so yet, it’s time to make sure your emails are mobile-friendly. The best place to get started is with the design of your emails. First, keep messages less than 102KB in size, and use single-column layouts. Utilize the subject line so the recipient knows why you’re emailing — and even who you are. And perhaps easiest of all, segment your messages according to users’ time zones so you’re emailing at a time when they’re likely to receive your message.

. . . .

6. Data privacy needs to be top of mind. 

Cybersecurity needs to be a top concern for both marketers and their audience members. After all, 91% of all cyberattacks are a result of phishing emails, and 92% of malware is delivered by email. What’s more, in 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in Europe, and California introduces a similar law in January 2020.

If you want to build trust with your audience members, you need to take their security seriously. The most obvious place to start is making sure that you follow cybersecurity best practices. However, you should also have a stricter subscription process, such as double opt-outs. Explain to email subscribers what data you’re collecting and how you’ll use it.

Link to the rest at ReadWrite

PG tends to be a tech-oriented kind of guy, but he thinks the OP emphasized tech solutions as an alternative to much more important email issues.

  1. Know your audience – It’s not about what interests you, it’s about what will interest your readers. Your email has less than a giga-milli-tetra-second to catch the interest of the recipient. It depends to a certain extent what ereader the recipient is using, but the sender and subject may be all the recipient uses to decide whether to hit the delete key (the default key for most email users) or not.
  2. Be reliably interesting – PG expects he’s not the only one who automatically deletes all emails from some senders because they don’t have much to say or they say the same things all the time. Yes, he might unsubscribe, but that involves hunting through the email for the unsubscribe link and, on a busy day, a one-click delete is quicker.
  3. Don’t tempt recipients to hit the spam button – For an email recipient, clicking the spam button may be as easy as or almost as easy as clicking the delete button. Again, depending upon the email reader/service recipients use, if a recipient marks an email as spam, the email mothership may take note of that action. If enough people hit the spam button, the email mothership may classify the sender as a suspected or actual spammer. Depending on the email service, your email may arrive pre-marked as Possible Spam or simply dumped into a Spam folder for later examination by the recipient (On the Internet, later = never).
  4. You can use more than one email list – This is a baby-step in the direction of artificially-intelligent reader segmentation. Some email subscribers may want notice when you release a new book. Others may enjoy monthly updates in which you talk about your WIP, your cat, etc. If you’re worried that too many of your readers will opt out of the regular updates and just want a less-frequent new book announcement email, you may want to consider whether your emails need improvement per items #1 and #2 above.
  5. Don’t get skeevy – If someone wants to use your email list or have you send out an email promoting a new class, etc., think hard about why the subscribers signed up to receive your emails. Presumably, it was because of their interest in you and your books. If the new subject fits within that classification, great. If not, treat your subscribers with respect and put them first.

 

Should Authors Break Free from the Brand?

From Writers in the Storm:

The standard advice given to writers is to brand yourself. Find a genre, and stick with it. This strategy has proven successful for many contemporary authors such as Danielle Steel and Mary Higgins Clark, but even Jane Austen had perfected the practice years earlier, and Agatha Christie used it to pen mysteries that ranked her in the sales zone with Shakespeare and the Bible!

So why have I chosen to go against the gold standard of good advice and cross genres? I admit, it’s probably because I have no business sense, but it’s also because I love to learn new things and to challenge myself creatively.

. . . .

When I sit down to write a story, I don’t think about sales numbers or marketing strategies. I don’t even think about publishing it. Instead, I open myself to the creative flow and let the words find their way through me to the page. It’s not as hokey pokey as it sounds, but it isa beautiful, powerful, and spiritual process that helps me tap into something bigger than myself.

My first book was written with my daughter in my lap. Together, we wrote a simple story, searching online for stock photos to attach to each page. We printed the “book,” and stapled it together. In time, that handmade picture book was shared with her friends and their mothers, until it found its way to an agent and then to a publisher. Zonderkidz produced a two-book series, God is with Me through the DayGod is with Me through the Night. And before I knew it, I’d become a children’s book author.

. . . .

Truth is, many of my readers have followed me from the start. Sure, some prefer one genre or the other. Some like the romance flair of When Mountains Move while others prefer the literary tone of Into the Free. Some dig the gritty edginess to The Feathered Bone while others enjoy the lighter themes in Perennials. Heck, my books even crossover from faith-based to secular audiences and from adult to YA. I just can’t find a box that fits me.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

Social Media Could Make It Impossible to Grow Up

The following is a longer post/excerpt than PG usually includes on TPV, but the topic fascinated him.

PG is happy that the foolish things he did in high school and college have disappeared into thickening mists of the fading memories scrabbling for survival within the minds of himself and fellow members of the Order of Lavishly Idiotic Youth.

From Wired:

Several decades into the age of digital media, the ability to leave one’s childhood and adolescent years behind is now imperiled. Although exact numbers are hard to come by, it is evident that a majority of young people with access to mobile phones take and circulate selfies on a daily basis. There is also growing evidence that selfies are not simply a tween and teen obses­sion. Toddlers enjoy taking selfies, too, and whether intentionally or unintentionally, have even managed to put their images into circula­tion. What is the cost of this excessive documentation? More spe­cifically, what does it mean to come of age in an era when images of childhood and adolescence, and even the social networks formed during this fleeting period of life, are so easily preserved and may stubbornly persist with or without one’s intention or desire? Can one ever transcend one’s youth if it remains perpetually present?

The crisis we face concerning the persistence of childhood images was the least of concerns when digital technologies began to restruc­ture our everyday lives in the early 1990s. Media scholars, sociolo­gists, educational researchers, and alarmists of all political stripes were more likely to bemoan the loss of childhood than to worry about the prospect of childhood’s perpetual presence. A few educa­tors and educational researchers were earnestly exploring the poten­tial benefits of the internet and other emerging digital technologies, but the period was marked by widespread moral panic about new media technologies. As a result, much of the earliest research on young people and the internet sought either to support or to refute fears about what was about to unfold online.

. . . .

Many adults feared that if left to surf the web alone, children would suffer a quick and irreparable loss of innocence. These concerns were fueled by reports about what allegedly lurked online. At a time when many adults were just beginning to venture online, the internet was still commonly depicted in the popular media as a place where anyone could easily wander into a sexually charged multiuser domain (MUD), hang out with computer hackers and learn the tricks of their criminal trade, or hone their skills as a terrorist or bomb builder. In fact, doing any of these things usually required more than a single foray onto the web. But that did little to curtail perceptions of the internet as a dark and dangerous place where threats of all kinds were waiting at the welcome gate.

. . . .

A common theme underpinning both popular and scholarly arti­cles about the internet in the 1990s was that this new technology had created a shift in power and access to knowledge. A widely reprinted 1993 article ominously titled “Caution: Children at Play on the Infor­mation Highway” warned, “Dropping children in front of the com­puter is a little like letting them cruise the mall for the afternoon. But when parents drop their sons or daughters off at a real mall, they gen­erally set ground rules: Don’t talk to strangers, don’t go into Victoria’s Secret, and here’s the amount of money you’ll be able to spend. At the electronic mall, few parents are setting the rules or even have a clue about how to set them.”

. . . .

In such a context, it is easy to understand why the imperiled innocence of children was invoked as a rationale for increased regulation and monitoring of the internet. In the United States, the Communications Decency Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, gained considerable support due to widespread fears that without increased regulation of communications, the nation’s children were doomed to become perverts and digital vigi­lantes.

. . . .

Jenkins was not the only one to insist that the real challenge was to empower children and adolescents to use the internet in productive and innovative ways so as to build a new and vibrant public sphere. We now know that a critical mass of educators and parents did choose to allow children ample access to the internet in the 1990s and early 2000s. Those young people ended up building many of the social media and sharing economy platforms that would transform the lives of people of all ages by the end of the first decade of the new millen­nium.

. . . .

Among the more well­-known skeptics was another media theorist, Neil Postman. Postman argued in his 1982 book The Disappearance of Childhood that new media were eroding the distinction between childhood and adulthood. “With the electric media’s rapid and egalitarian dis­closure of the total content of the adult world, several profound consequences result,” he claimed. These consequences included a diminishment of the authority of adults and the curiosity of children. Although not necessarily invested in the idea of childhood innocence, Postman was invested in the idea and ideal of childhood, which he believed was already in decline. This, he contended, had much to do with the fact that childhood—a relatively recent historical invention—is a construct that has always been deeply entangled with the history of media technologies.

While there have, of course, always been young people, a number of scholars have posited that the concept of childhood is an early modern invention. Postman not only adopted this position but also argued that this concept was one of the far­-reaching consequences of movable type, which first appeared in Mainz, Germany, in the late 15th century. With the spread of print culture, orality was de­moted, creating a hierarchy between those who could read and those who could not. The very young were increasingly placed outside the adult world of literacy.

During this period, something else occurred: different types of printed works began to be produced for different types of readers. In the 16th century, there were no age­-based grades or corresponding books. New readers, whether they were 5 or 35, were expected to read the same basic books. By the late 18th century, however, the world had changed. Children had access to children’s books, and adults had access to adult books. Children were now regarded as a separate category that required protection from the evils of the adult world. But the reign of childhood (according to Postman, a period running roughly from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries) would prove short­-lived. Although earlier communications technologies and broadcasting mediums, from the telegraph to cinema, were already chipping away at childhood, the arrival of television in the mid­-20th century marked the beginning of the end. Postman con­cludes, “Television erodes the dividing line between childhood and adulthood in three ways, all having to do with its undifferentiated ac­cessibility: first, because it requires no instruction to grasp its form; second, because it does not make complex demands on either mind or behavior; and third, because it does not segregate its audience.”

. . . .

In the final chapter, Postman poses and responds to six questions, including the following: “Are there any communication technologies that have the potential to sustain the need for child­hood?” In response to his own question, he replies, “The only technology that has this capacity is the computer.” To program a computer, he explains, one must in essence learn a language, a skill that would have to be acquired in childhood: “Should it be deemed necessary that everyone must know how computers work, how they impose their special world­view, how they alter our definition of judgment—that is, should it be deemed necessary that there be uni­versal computer literacy—it is conceivable that the schooling of the young will increase in importance and a youth culture different from adult culture might be sustained.” But things could turn out dif­ferently. If economic and political interests decide that they would be better served by “allowing the bulk of a semiliterate population to entertain itself with the magic of visual computer games, to use and be used by computers without understanding … childhood could, without obstruction, continue on its journey to oblivion.”

. . . .

Thanks to Xerox’s graphical user interface, eventually popularized by Apple, by the 2000s one could do many things with computers without knowledge of or interest in their inner workings. The other thing that Postman did not anticipate is that young people would be more adept at building and programming computers than most older adults. Fluency in this new language, unlike most other languages, did not deepen or expand with age. By the late 1990s, there was little doubt that adults were not in control of the digital revolution. The most ubiquitous digital tools and platforms of our era, from Google to Facebook to Airbnb, would all be invented by people just out of their teens. What was the result? In the end, childhood as it once existed (i.e., in the pre-­television era) was not restored, but Postman’s fear that childhood would disappear also proved wrong. Instead, some­thing quite unexpected happened.

. . . .

Today, the distinction be­tween childhood and adulthood has reemerged, but not in the way that Postman imagined.

In our current digital age, child and adolescent culture is alive and well. Most young people spend hours online every day exploring worlds in which most adults take little interest and to which they have only limited access. But this is where the real difference lies. In the world of print, adults determined what children could and could not access—after all, adults operated the printing presses, purchased the books, and controlled the libraries. Now, children are free to build their own worlds and, more importantly, to populate these worlds with their own content. The content, perhaps not surprisingly, is pre­dominantly centered on the self (the selfie being emblematic of this tendency). So, in a sense, childhood has survived, but its nature—what it is and how it is experienced and represented—is increas­ingly in the hands of young people themselves. If childhood was once constructed and recorded by adults and mirrored back to children (e.g., in a carefully curated family photo album or a series of home video clips), this is no longer the case. Today, young people create im­ages and put them into circulation without the interference of adults.

In sharp contrast to Postman’s prediction, childhood never did disappear. Instead, it has become ubiquitous in a new and un­expected way. Today, childhood and adolescence are more visible and pervasive than ever before. For the first time in history, children and adolescents have widespread access to the technologies needed to represent their lives, circulate these representations, and forge networks with each other, often with little or no adult supervision. The potential danger is no longer childhood’s disappearance, but rather the possibility of a perpetual childhood.

Link to the rest at Wired

Here’s the blurb for The End of Forgetting:

Thanks to Facebook and Instagram, our younger selves have been captured and preserved online. But what happens, Kate Eichhorn asks, when we can’t leave our most embarrassing moments behind? Rather than a childhood cut short by a loss of innocence, the real crisis of the digital age may be the specter of a childhood that can never be forgotten.

And here’s a review from Inside Higher Ed:

Someone brought a video recorder to Thanksgiving 1980, during my final year of high school. Not a close relative, certainly. Back then, it was too insanely extravagant a piece of consumer electronics for any of us to imagine buying one. (Not for several years, anyway.)

The camera sat on a tripod and recorded the holiday goings-on, which were shown — continuously, as they were happening — on a nearby television set. It would have been able to record two to four hours, depending on the format and system. A blank video cassette cost the equivalent of $50 to $75 in today’s currency. There was much apprehension over very young family members getting too close and knocking something over.

The novelty of seeing one’s actions and expressions from the outside, in real time, was intriguing but unsettling. Nothing meaningful or interesting happened, and I cannot imagine anybody getting bored enough to watch the recording. But it means that my 17-year-old doppelgänger may be preserved on a tape in an attic someplace in Oklahoma, and that possibility, however slim, has kept the memory vivid. No adolescent photograph would ever be as awkward. The tape was probably Betamax: technological obsolescence can have its upside.

. . . .

Most 17-year-olds today probably do not remember a time when they had not yet seen themselves onscreen. Chances are that many of the videos will have been their own recordings. Creating them requires no technical skill, and duplicating or transporting them is equally effortless.

None of the technology is unwieldy or uncommon, or all that expensive. And while the storage capacity of a phone or laptop is not boundless, neither is it much of an obstacle. Everything ends up in the cloud eventually. (That may not be literally true, but all trends lead in that direction.) “With analogue media,” Eichhorn says, “there is invariably a time lag between the moment of production and the moment of broadcasting; in the case of digital media, production and broadcasting often happen simultaneously or near simultaneously. Adolescents are in effect … experiencing the social world via documentary platform.” And it is a kind of social death when they can’t.

In this cultural ecosystem, the normal excruciations of adolescent self-consciousness are ramped up and acted out — often before an audience of unlimited potential size — then preserved for posterity, in endlessly duplicable form.

. . . .

The potential for embarrassment increased by several orders of magnitude after America’s Funniest Home Videos debuted at the end of 1989, but even that looks minimal in the wake of YouTube. Two or three cases of extreme humiliation and bullying via digital video are now familiar to millions of people.

Eichhorn discusses them while acknowledging the ethical dilemma that doing so runs the risk of perpetuating mindless cruelty. But her point is that the famous examples represent the tip of the iceberg. Digital images are produced and circulated now in ways that encourage the self-expression and experimentation that Erikson regarded as one of the privileges of youth — while at the same time creating a permanent record that is potentially inescapable.

Inescapable, that is, because unforgettable.

Link to the rest at Inside Higher Ed

Over 400 years ago, William Shakespeare famously wrote, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

Perhaps the Bard peered into the future and somehow discerned Twitter and Facebook.

It occurs to PG that Twitter and Facebook would have made lovely names for a couple of the fools which populate some of his plays.

This is to make an ass of me, to fright me if they could.

– Bottom, Act 3, Scene 1, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

What You Get Back When You Reclaim Your Time from Social Media

From Medium:

Last fall, in the midst of touring for my latest book, I stepped away from the public stage that arguably made my publishing career possible.

After investing six years into growing my following on Twitter from zero to over 42,000, with millions of monthly engagements, I left the platform, at least for now. This might not sound like such a momentous decision, but it was for me. My 127,000 tweets — an average of 57 tweets per day — had dramatically raised my profile as a writer, sociologist, and scholar on race. The platform prompted countless interactions and conversations, frequent media attention, and valuable professional opportunities — such as connecting me with my literary agent and helping secure a publishing deal for the book I’m still touring with, How to Be Less Stupid About Race.

Yet at the precise moment when most writers would have redoubled their efforts to promote their work, I felt compelled to step down from my bully pulpit and shutter my most successful social media account.

. . . .

Most disconcertingly, even when I wasn’t tweeting, I found myself thinking in tweets — crafting pithy, retweetable observations about my life, social dynamics, and world events to share with my followers as soon as I could get my hot hands on my phone or laptop.

And then I reached a critical breaking point. Crisscrossing the nation for the book tour and connecting with readers in real life was a new, thrilling experience for me, but it was also unspeakably exhausting.

. . . .

While the vast majority of my interactions with folks at book events were uplifting and supportive, I never quite knew what to expect from Q&As. I felt the constant need to mentally prepare for everything from microaggressions to outright hostility.

What I faced most often, however, were the racialized and gendered expectations that I provide on-the-spot emotional processing, counseling, and strategizing for a never-ending stream of racial dilemmas and existential trauma. “How do I deal with my racist cousin?” a white woman would ask, expecting a sensible answer in 60 seconds or less, while a dozen people waited in line behind her. “What should I do about racism on my job?” a man urgently inquired as I signed a copy of the book.

. . . .

But as I struggled to give the fullness of my attention and intention to each and every person who I met on the road, I began to realize that I had little energy left for myself, and no energy at all for Twitter.

I began experiencing debilitating insomnia for the first time in my life. Anxiety became a daily concern.

. . . .

Media technology companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are quite literally invested in making us internet addicts. They’re effectively manipulating social psychological responses to ensure that our clicks and engagements don’t fizzle — or else their bottom line will. Sean Parker, one of Facebook’s founders, described the platform’s “like” button as “a social validation feedback loop… exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

. . . .

If it feels difficult to quit social media, it’s because corporate strategists and programmers work very hard to embed their apps with digital carrots that ensure that scrolling through our feed feels deeply rewarding. Facebook “likes,” Twitter “hearts,” and Instagram notifications all drive addictive behavior by doling out intermittent and unpredictable rewards. These rewards, in turn, fuel the release of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, which are associated with the experience of pleasure in the brain.

. . . .

Of course, the sense of community created on social media has many potential benefits when used appropriately and in moderation. But these fleeting digital rewards come at a great price. Social media apps are able to stealthily manipulate our brains into believing that we are experiencing pleasure, despite the fact that heavy usage leads to increased depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and reduced quality of life.

. . . .

“Computer internet businesses are about exploiting psychology… we want to psychologically figure out how to manipulate you as fast as possible and then give you back that dopamine hit. We did that brilliantly at Facebook.” And it’s not just the individual that this affects, he observed: “We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”

. . . .

As Alex Hern has pointed out in the Guardian, many social media executives and developers have either stopped using their own products or never used them excessively in the first place. Facebook made Palihapitiya a billionaire, but he has said he doesn’t use Facebook himself, and his own children are not allowed to use social media. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, “rarely replies to strangers and avoids discussions or arguments on the site,” Hern wrote. “He doesn’t live-tweet TV shows or sporting fixtures. In fact, he doesn’t really ‘use’ Twitter; he just posts on it occasionally.” Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, has an entire team to manage and curate his social media account for him.

. . . .

Emotionally, my mood has greatly improved. I feel less glum, pessimistic, and angry with the world than when I was constantly “connected.” I keep a gratitude journal and count my blessings. While I sometimes miss the creative, intellectual, and political community of my tweethearts, I’m immensely relieved to no longer feel the mental pressure of organizing a social media press conference several times a day in response to trending hashtags, controversies, and tragedies.

Link to the rest at Medium

 

 

Top 10 FAQs About Book Publicity and Promotion

From The Bookseller:

What’s the one question authors ask me most frequently?

“How long do I have to market my book?”

I never deviate from this answer: “Only for as long as you want to sell it.”

Every author hates hearing that. By the time most get around to asking it, usually a few weeks from their launch date, they’re exhausted and broke. By then, it’s much too late.

To save you time, trouble and disappointment, I’ve collected the most frequently asked questions I hear about book publicity. But first, let me explain why you have to market your book only for as long as you want to sell it.

Authors publish more than 600,000 books a year in the United States. That’s 50,000 books a month! As many as half, or even more, are published by indie authors.

If only a fraction of those authors promote their books with blog tours, articles, book reviews, YouTube videos, print and online publicity, and social media content—and you’re doing nothing—your book languishes. And then it dies.

. . . .

5. “What’s the difference between a press release for my book and a pitch?”

A press release is a digital file that explains the main information about your book such as the topic or storyline, the genre, price, ISBN, publishing company, why you wrote it and where people can buy it. Most authors only write one version of a press release. They link to it from a customized pitch to a specific media outlet or journalist.

Let’s say your book is a romance novel. You can send a short email pitch of three paragraphs to an editor of a woman’s magazine and pitch your quiz called “Are You Dating the Wrong Men?” Within the pitch, link to the press release at your website or elsewhere online.

If you’re pitching your local weekly newspaper because you’re doing a book signing in your town, you can send a different email pitch highlighting the fact that you’re a local author, mention the event, and link to the same press release. See my two articles The pros and cons of press releases vs. pitches and When to use a press release and when to deliver a pitch.

. . . .

6. “I can’t afford those big media databases of $1,000 or more. How can I get names and contact information for journalists?”

Those expenses databases are used mostly by PR firms and publicists. You don’t need them. Besides, I don’t recommend pitching dozens or hundreds of media outlets because you won’t have the time to send a customized pitch to each one.

USNPL.com is the best free resource for contact information for thousands of media outlets in the United States. It’s short for U.S. Newspaper List. Read more about it in my article The Best Free Media Contacts Tool You Probably Aren’t Using.

Another terrific free resource is the Society of Professional Journalists Freelance Directory which lets you search by topic.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

 

We’re All Bozos on This Bus: 10 Lessons from 10 Years of Blogging

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

Ooops. I seem to have missed my 10-year blogiversary! I posted my first attempt at blogging on Friday, March 13, 2009.

Yes, Friday the 13th. Apparently I have a need to tempt fate.

But I immediately lost the blog for about three months, and didn’t write my second post until June 20, 2009. It was a post on Writers Conferences.

After that, I posted pretty regularly, so I figure today is my real 10-year blogiversary.

I knew pretty much nothing about blogging at that point. I simply wanted a place to put the unpublished columns I had written for Inkwell Newswatch, a Canadian writers’ zine that stopped publication in January 2009.

So after somehow finding the blog again, I fumbled around with Blogger and started posting my unpublished columns on my new blog.

It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t know how.

I settled on putting up weekly posts on Sunday at 10 AM. I can’t remember why. Maybe I pictured my fellow writers relaxing with a cup of coffee on Sunday mornings and surfing the writing blogs the way I did.

Later I read that “the rules” of blogging say that Sunday is the worst day to post to a blog.

But this blog has never followed the rules. And that’s probably the most important of the 10 things I’ve learned:

1) Question Authority

“The rules” will come and go. So will gimmicks and tricks for SEO, ROI, SERP, and LMNOP 🙂 . The only thing that stays the same is the value of good content.

When I started out, “the rules” said a blogpost should be 300 words long and you should blog at least twice a day. Yeah. How many successful authors do you know who do that?

We were also told that an author blog should follow the same rules as a blog about make-up tips for teens or how to make decorative pillows out of dryer lint.

And we were supposed to run advertising all over the site. I remember reading that the #1 failure of new bloggers was “failure to monetize.” (I had to look up the word “monetize.”)

How many successful author blogs are peppered with irrelevant advertising these days?

Also, you needed a niche. You could only blog about jelly doughnuts or training your cat to use the toilet. Otherwise, readers would get confused.

Rule-makers are always underestimating readers. I slowly found out an author can blog about anything. We’re blogging to attract readers who will like our books. So we can write about anything those people would like to read about.

We simply have to make sure that what we say is honest, well-written, and helpful.

. . . .

4) Your Commenters are Your Most Important Asset.

A blog is nothing without readers. And readers who comment are giving you a lovely gift. Even if they disagree with you.

Answering comments quickly and honestly is one of the best ways for a blogger to get commenters coming back. (Although I have to admit I’m going to be away from the computer for a while today. But I will answer all your comments by the end of the day. )

Responding to comments acknowledges your readers as your equals. You’re not supposed to be sitting on a blogthrone waiting to be adored. You’re exchanging ideas with your peers.

I met Ruth Harris as well as two of my publishers when they commented on this blog. Plus I get some of my best ideas for new blogpost topics from the comments here.

. . . .

7) An Author Blog is Not a Business Blog.

Business blogs are for selling stuff. Author blogs are for communication. They’re simply a place for you to get in touch with other writers, readers and potential readers and exchange ideas.

So the most important thing is to be real and entertaining, not hype-y. A blog is a place on the Web where people can come and hang out with you.

Pushy, “buy my book” posts don’t get traffic. And following all those complicated business blog rules will exhaust you and drive away readers. You don’t sell books like cat-carriers or Ginsu knives. Hammering readers by endlessly screaming your title at them does not make people want to relax and hang out with your work. It makes them want to block you.

I’ve watched a lot of author-bloggers give up because they tried to blog so often it became drudgery. An author doesn’t need to blog more than once a week. You want people to read your books, not daily reports of what you had for lunch. Besides, when you’re bored and miserable, your readers will be too.

Have fun with your blog. and when it isn’t fun anymore, take a break.

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

Launching a Book? Do It At a Bar.

From Publishers Weekly:

I’ve thrown launch parties for all three of my books, and two of the most well-attended launches occurred at popular bars in Orlando—namely the Eden Bar and the Imperial. What makes this type of book party more successful than a traditional, on-site launch at your local indie bookseller? Think creative cross-promotion. Particularly for my most recent release, Perfect Conditions: Stories, I felt the uniqueness of the Imperial captured the book’s settings and themes. The bar is located within Washburn Imports, a purveyor of hand-carved furniture from Southeast Asia that, at night, the owner turns into the Imperial, a beer and wine bar. Its enchanting space uncannily evokes the themes of Perfect Conditions, whose characters often find themselves unmoored in far-flung locales.

To get things started, I approached some members of a jazz band I know well and admire, the Strange Angels, who regularly play at the Imperial. I asked if they’d be open to making one of their upcoming Thursday-night appearances a joint venture: their usual show plus my book launch. Once the members agreed, we contacted the owner, who was more than happy to schedule a doubleheader.

Here are some key advantages and strategies for authors looking to launch their book at local hot spots, with bands, if possible:

  • Remember that even trendy bars have slower times when they look to bring in more patrons. You might ask the owner or manager when the bar is seeking to boost sales. Daytime or nighttime can work equally well. For the launch of my debut story collection, Train Shots, I chose a Saturday at 2 p.m. event at the always-hip Eden Bar, which has a lovely outdoor patio under magical ancient oaks. If many in your circle have young kids, you might want to explore this type of venue and time slot for something more family friendly.
  • If you’ll be using your local indie bookstore to handle sales, coordinate with them early on about the venue and setup. Or, if you’ll be handling book sales on your own, be sure to have a friend or two agree to work the cash box while you meet people, chat, and sign.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Introducing “Author Website in a Box” (beta)

From The Digital Reader:

For the past couple weeks I have been working on a new project, and I think it’s gotten to the point where it’s ready for public testing and feedback.

The project has the working title of “Author Website in a Box”, and it is intended to provide a complete author website based on WordPress.

The site has everything from a home page to a contact page, about the author page, and even bookshelf pages. I even included dummy content that you can replace, and I installed SEO, security, backup, and other essential plugins.

  • Yoast (an SEO plugin – it helps readers find you in search engines)
  • Novelist (a bookshelf plugin that makes it easy to display your books)
  • All in One WP Security (a firewall plugin that keeps hackers out)
  • Contact Form 7 (the best free contact form plugin)
  • Mailmunch (a great plugin for integrating your mailing list into your site)

The site has a good general design which can be improved upon or customized with a little work. It is built using SiteOrigin’s pagebuilder, my preferred tool for building author websites. Almost everyone I know agrees that while it is not the best tool available, it is relatively easy to learn. It’s also free, which means I can include a copy for you to use with this site.

I have a version of the site myself (this is what I use to develop the site for you to download) which you can see here: dummy.authorwebsiteinabox.com.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG thought Nate’s dummy site looked promising.

If you’re going to play with it with your own content, read Nate’s Caveats carefully.

PG will second some of Nate’s warnings:

  1. Never play around with new plumbing/apps/etc. on your principal business website. You can buy a weird domain name for $5 bucks at some places online. Install WordPress there and put some dummy data in to get an idea of how it looks.
  2. If the dummy site looks good, make a copy of your main website and move it over to your dummy domain. If you Google “moving a website to a new domain“, you’ll find techniques, tools and a WordPress video that talks about it.
  3. PG has moved some sites to new domains in the distant past, but can’t remember exactly which tool(s) he used, but it wasn’t terribly difficult or time-consuming. If you move your entire site, including your current theme, that might make it easier for you to compare the usability of your potential new theme with your current theme pretty easily.
  4. If this sounds daunting for you, contact Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader or somebody else who really knows what he/she is doing. (PG knows your unemployed brother-in-law will work on your site at no charge just for the experience, but if you’re in the business of writing instead of the business of fixing website glitches that appear and disappear at random and trying to live with a site that never looks quite right even without glitches, spending a little money for qualified assistance will save you lots of time and serious heartburn. A semi-functioning website doesn’t do a very good job of attracting new readers.)

 

45+ Author Websites with Stellar Designs

From BookBub:

Many successful authors have websites that are the hub of their online marketing activity — they provide a central platform for everything from blogging to book sales and email newsletters. But what should you include in an author website?

We’ve compiled 45 stellar examples to give you some ideas. These sites can provide inspiration for any authors or publishers looking to launch or redesign an author website.

. . . .

To appear on this list of examples, sites had to meet most, if not all, of the following criteria:

  • Include a list of published books
  • Prominently display new or impending releases
  • Provide an obvious way to subscribe for updates
  • Provide a way to contact the author
  • Include links to the author’s social media profiles
  • Display a list of upcoming events
  • Include a blog to showcase the author’s personality and/or writing process
  • Be easy to navigate
  • Have a clean, unique design
  • Be mobile friendly

We’ve made sure to include both traditional and self-published authors, along with a variety of styles and genres, so everyone can find some inspiration.

1. Bella Andre

2. Brett Battles

. . . .

18. Kevin Hearne

. . . .

22. Rachel Howzell Hall

Link to the rest at BookBub

PG has to admit that he liked some of the designs, but others looked pretty generic and home-made (by people who do not have a design-centric person in their home).

Clean design is great, but (in PG’s immanently humble opinion), it’s easy to slip over the line from clean-cool to clean-generic.

Rectangular blocks of text against a contrasting plain background have been done before.

Arial, Helvetica and Times Roman (New, Old or in-between) have been done, done, done, done, before, before, before, before.

The combination of rectangular blocks of text and Arial/Helvetica/Times Roman can be used in original and impactful ways, but (in PG’s gracefully cultivated opinion) doing that is hard and rare and most people don’t succeed.

That said, PG thought Bookbub’s minimum standards bullet point list of criteria provided a good checklist against which an author might wish to compare her/his/zir/hir/eir/vis/tem/eir website to make certain the fundamentals are sound and complete.

For ideas on fonts, see Stop Using Arial & Helvetica in which Arial is described as “Microsoft’s bastard son (rip-off) of Helvetica. It’s just a bad copy of Helvetica – a really bad one. It’s just ugly.”

For more ideas on fonts, see Best Times New Roman Alternatives: Fonts to Avoid Default Fonts – “I had to believe there were other ways of presenting information that didn’t involve Times New Roman words endlessly written on a white freaking document.”

(Yes PG is aware that TPV could improve in the fonts department, but he likes the color, textures and mood of his current WordPress theme and whenever he looks for a good alternative that isn’t ten years behind the times, he can’t find one he likes as well or that he can make look like Ancient Faithful, the theme that (like this sentence) just won’t die. He’ll try out more alternative themes on TPV to gather comments at some time in the future.)

Can Piracy Save Literature? a Bestselling Author Says Yes

From Blop Culture:

Paulo Coelho is one of the most well-known Brazilian writers; he sells millions of books all over the world yet surprisingly he’s a firm supporter of piracy. So much so that he even pirates his own books.

The entertainment industry will tell you that nothing is for free and that you must pay up, otherwise creators will starve. But will they, really? Is it that simple? Paulo Coelho might seem like an exception, but Game of Thrones, another juggernaut of the entertainment industry, further underlines his reasoning: as GoT grew in popularity more and more pirated copies of the hit show were distributed across the internet, yet ratings continued to climb.

. . . .

Piracy is, to some extent, a way in, an open door for consumers to get to know an author, a series, or artist. Game of Thrones is officially the most pirated TV-show in internet history, yet it also became one of the highest-rated shows in entertainment history.

In fact, piracy not only didn’t hurt ratings, but created a much-needed buzz for the show in the early days. Through piracy distribution you’re reaching people who maybe can’t afford to subscribe to cable or to HBO Go, but can turn into consumers of GoT merchandise or become evangelist for the show on social media, for example.

Researchers found that piracy can help a TV show by creating a “shadow competition” in which both manufacturer and distributor benefit, albeit in delayed fashion. That said, it’s not complicated to understand why: imagine 5 million people are watching a show. Only they will buy merchandise, buy tickets for a movie based on the show, watch a spin off, etc.

But if you have an additional 10 million or more people watching the show through torrent or any illegal streaming website, the buzz generated will be amplified. You may not immediately profit from viewings, but in the long run, it will be beneficial for the brand as a whole — and the resultant effect will be having to spend less on things like paid advertising.

. . . .

In 2012, Paulo Coelho wrote in his blog that readers were “welcome to download my books for free and, if you enjoy them, buy a hard copy — that way we can tell the industry that greed leads to nowhere.”

There are studies that show that people who download music illegally are also those who buy more music, because piracy is a way to introduce the listener (or the reader, in our case) to a band, a musician (or a writer). Coelho agrees, for him “‘Pirating’ can act as an introduction to an artist’s work. If you like his or her idea, then you will want to have it in your house; a good idea doesn’t need protection.”

Link to the rest at Blop Culture

PG notes that he does not always agree with everything he posts on TPV.

Should Authors Have More Control over Their Covers?

From Nathan Bransford:

It often comes as a surprise to people that authors in the traditional book world don’t have that much control over their book cover.

Approval is rare. Consultation is more common, but how meaningful and sincere that consultation is vary greatly. (I liked to joke when I was an agent that authors are often consulted on a scale of love to simply adore).

So bestselling author Daniel José Older caused a stir when, in a thread urging authors to not take what they’re offered at face value, he urged authors to fight for approval over their cover:

. . . .

. . . .

Should authors have control over their covers?

I’m somewhat split on this one.

On the one hand, publishers really do have a great deal of expertise on covers. They have a sense of what’s worked in the past, they know the tastes of key accounts (for instance, if Target or Barnes & Noble doesn’t like your cover, guess what, your cover is getting changed), and the people who source and design the covers are enormously talented.

On the other hand… in my opinion it’s still more art than science, and I don’t know that publishers are quite rigorous enough in the way they bring data and A/B testing to bear with covers (I’d love to be corrected on this if I’m wrong). I’ve also seen authors get pigeonholed with their covers in seriously unfortunate ways.

And fundamentally, even if publishers did bring more data and objectivity to bear, that expertise still skews toward looking backward rather than forward. What’s worked in the past isn’t necessarily an indicator of what will work in the future. Some of the most iconic cover designs in history were marked departures from what came before and were simply great design and true to the book.

To me, it’s authors who are most in tune with what note their book is trying to strike. Authors may not be graphic design or product marketing experts and they should be humble about that, but they are in tune with some ineffable cultural chords.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

PG says those who fall into the “let the publisher decide on the cover” side of this argument are operating from an unstated assumption that publishers are good at what they do. They know their business.

PG can respond with confidence, “This is not always the case.”

Sometimes, publishers do a terrible job with a book. From editing to proofing to marketing to accounting, sometimes publishers perform in a horribly inept manner.

Large publishers, small publishers, established publishers, new publishers can and do make idiotic decisions and stupid mistakes. The more such decisions are challenged and mistakes exposed, the more vigorously the idiots defend them.

PG found a nice comparison of Malpractice vs. Negligence in lay terms at a site called Diffen:

Negligence is a failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances. In tort law, negligence applies to harm caused by carelessness, not intentional harm.

Malpractice is a type of negligence; it is often called “professional negligence”. It occurs when a licensed professional (like a doctor, lawyer or accountant) fails to provide services as per the standards set by the governing body (“standard of care”), subsequently causing harm to the plaintiff.

Link to the rest at Diffen

When a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, an engineer, etc., fails to act in accordance with the standards of her/his profession, they are subject to being sued for malpractice.

When anyone acts in a negligent manner and someone is harmed, generally, they may be sued to obtain compensation for the consequences of their negligence.

Publishers are not licensed to be in the publishing business by any government authority (at least in the US), so, technically, there is no such thing as publishing malpractice right now.

However, publishers hold themselves out to be knowledgeable professionals operating in the publishing business. Why else would an author ever approach a publisher with a manuscript if not to have the manuscript professionally published in a competent manner?

If we apply the Negligence definition above to someone (or a group of someones) who says, “I am a publisher,” what do we get?

PG suggests the following definition for negligence by a publisher:

Failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances when the person is representing her/him/itself to be a publisher and entering into contracts to publish manuscripts owned by others.

Given that standard of care, PG suggests that publishers large and small regularly act in a negligent manner, thereby harming authors.

Back to the OP – A book’s cover design is perhaps the single most important element in the marketing and selling of a book.

The cover design stops (or doesn’t stop) someone browsing through the world’s largest bookstore, Amazon. In an online or a physical bookstore, instead of seeing a single book, a potential purchaser is usually presented with a group of books to choose from, and, hominids being primarily visual creatures, the cover design – color, artwork, formatting of title, etc. – is the most eye-catching element of the book. If the cover is off-putting or bland, the potential purchaser is likely to move on to something that looks more interesting at first glance.

A good argument can be made that the author’s name and reputation is even more important than the cover design, but PG suggests this standard only applies to books written by authors whose names are recognized by a reasonably large number of readers, a number large enough to constitute a commercially useful target market.

A commercially useful target market must be much larger for an author who is commercially published (many mouths demanding to be fed at the publisher) than it is for an indie author.

So, generally speaking, other than for a relatively small number of authors, a book’s cover design is the single most important element in the marketing and selling of a book that is commercially published.

Perhaps an author is independently wealthy and writes as a hobby.

That person does not need to worry about covers.

Every other author has a cogent business requirement for a good cover. Just as the author should be consulted about recommended changes in the manuscript (and have ultimate veto power), the author should be consulted and have veto power about the cover.

We’re getting down to the bottom of the list of rational reasons a publisher might not want to give an author any say about the cover of the author’s book.

This last reason is:

“What if the author is a crazy person?”

PG turns to one of the fundamental business principles that govern his legal practice:

.

.

Construction Guy Instagram Influencer Turns out to Be Coffee Ad Stunt

From Petapixel:

A construction guy named Omar in Austin, Texas, became an “Instagram influencer” recently after attracting hundreds of thousands of followers to his @justaconstructionguy account with just a handful of photos. But it turns out the guy was a carefully crafted persona designed to help a small coffee shop sell coffee.

After being created in May, the account shot to Insta-stardom when it was Tweeted out by Twitter user @barbzlovescarbs, who purported to be Omar’s daughter.

In his photos and captions, Omar was apparently an ordinary construction worker who had a knack for poking fun at Instagram’s exploding “influencer” culture:

. . . .

The coffee roaster Cuvée Coffee in Austin finally revealed that the whole thing is actually a clever marketing stunt that resulted from a “creative brainstorming session.”

“The whole idea was what we always thought as an influencer, and what we used as an influencer in the past, they don’t always fit our brand,” owner Mike McKim tells BuzzFeed News. “We need a different type of influencer: a hard-worker, blue-collar guy.”

McKim enlisted the help of the advertising agency Bandolier Media, which helped him to create “Omar”, a fake influencer persona who’s played by an actual Austin-area construction worker. @cuveecoffee is tagged in several of Omar’s posts. After the @barbzlovescarbs Tweet, things just took off, spreading through social media and sites like Reddit.

Link to the rest at Petapixel

How Indie Bookshops Are Fighting Back

From The Guardian:

As global temperatures rise at the rate political standards fall, the news that independent bookshops are reviving gives rare cause for celebration. Last year the number of indies on UK high streets grew for the second year running – by 15 to 883, according to the Booksellers Association. As a reader, writer and literary salon host, I’m delighted.

. . . .

This resurgence is partly thanks to Independent Bookshop Week, which started on Saturday and runs to 22 June. Across Britain and Ireland indies are doing what they do best: hosting readings and signings, cooking up literary lunches and generally feeding curiosity. Bookshop crawls are quite the thing now and you can join one locally or engage in literary tourism farther afield. Check the hashtag or just join a convoy of people with Books are my Bag totes – I refuse to wash the Tracey Emin special edition.

Reading is solitary and social – for over 10 years I’ve hosted literary salons inspired by Madame de Pompadour and the 18th-century salonnières. Now based at the Savoy, my salon is simple – a mix of established and emerging writers read new work, then we talk about it and them too. Nowadays, readers want to meet writers (whether writers like it or not). I’m lucky enough to love it and have toured over 50 indies since my novel You Will Be Safe Here came out in April.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG will note that the increase of independent bookstores in Britain by 15 to 883 is an annual growth of 1.7% – not exactly what PG would call boom times.

Here’s a bit of historical perspective, also from The Guardian:

Before 2017, the number in the UK and Ireland had declined every year since 1995, when there were 1,894 independent bookshops. A low of just 867 shops was reached in 2016. . . .

PG further suggests that the population of Britain is also relevant in calculating whether bookshops are actually becoming more interesting to its population.

Here is British population on the two dates mentioned in the OP:

1995 – 58.02 million Britons

2019 – 66.85 million Britons

A bit of calculation demonstrates that the number of bookstore per 100,000 Britons has declined precipitously:

British

Population

Boookstores per

100,000 Britons

1995     58,020,000                          3.26
2019     68,850,000                          1.28

The Complete Guide to Attracting a Loyal Audience for Your Writing

From Medium:

Admit it. You want more fans for your writing.

You’re tired of writing posts nobody reads and being jealous of other online writers who hit a home run every time they publish.

You know it’s possible to attract an audience of loyal fans because you see others doing it, but for you, it feels like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube while blindfolded.

. . . .

The Subtle Psychology of Attracting an Audience Online

I have many author friends.

We all collaborate in a Facebook group and talk about strategies to attract more readers and sell more books.

I found a tactic that virtually guaranteed I’d get 100 subscribers to sign up to my mailing list with each post I wrote. I shared the strategy with them.

They loved it. They all told me they’d try it.

I checked in with them a few weeks later to see their results.

None of them tried it.

A few weeks later, I checked the group again. They were still asking each other about strategies to attract more readers for their list, even though I gave them a solid strategy none of them tried.

Why?

Moments like this cement the idea that tips on their own don’t help. If you want to build a writing career and attract the fans you need to make it happen, start with your psychology.

. . . .

The strategy I gave my author friends was straightforward, but they overcomplicated the situation.

Attracting an audience is simple — You find out where your potential audience hangs out, and you write posts they resonate with.

That’s it.

I’m giving you the step-by-step playbook to help you. If you follow it to the letter, it’ll work. It won’t work, however, if you get in your own way. Your mentality either provides a path to success or a series of obstacles.

. . . .

The Number One Lie Writers Tell Themselves

John starts a blog or creates an account on Medium. He writes a few blog posts. Maybe he shares them on social media. He hits publish, waits, and no one shows up.

He decides this writing thing is a sham. After all, he did all the work and no one showed up.

“Why even try?” He thinks. He gives up and blames everyone else but himselffor his lack of success.

John doesn’t realize the importance of promoting his work. He believes great work should stand on its own and attract people.

There are many writers like John, who think, “If I build it, they’ll come.”

If you use logic, it makes no sense.

How are people supposed to find your writing if you don’t promote it?

. . . .

If you want success so badly it causes you to become self-centered, you’ll focus on yourself too much and ignore the signs pointing you in the direction of your desired outcome.

I fall victim to my ego at times.

I’ll write a blog post I think should be written instead of asking my readers what they want to learn about.

I’ll hastily launch a new product without doing enough customer research.

I do my best to remember my work is for you. I’m here to help you because I know how it feels to be stuck in the weeds and lost. When I remember why I’m doing the work I do, the process is ten times easier.

If you focus on your goals and your vision alone, you can lose sight of the people who will make or break your writing career. You can’t be a successful writer if nobody reads your work.

Your writing isn’t about you — not if you want to make a career out of it and income from it. Writing for an audience means writing at the intersection of what you love and what people want to read.

. . . .

Tools of the Trade

If you want fans for your writing, you need to create a “home base” online for people to find your work.

You want to have your own website instead of having an account on a blogging platform like Medium or Blogger.

Why?

When your writing is on your own website, it looks more professional.

Also, you’re free to do what you want with it. Other blogging platforms have restrictions on the features you’re allowed to have. Some forbid you from selling anything on their platform.

You want to make money, right? Owning your own website gives you the freedom to build a business around your writing.

. . . .

Why You Absolutely Must Have an Email List

You need an email list because it’s the lifeblood of your writing career.

Email marketing is still the number one channel for reaching fans and customers.

An email list helps you:

  • Communicate with your readers and send them new material
  • Learn about their needs and give you new ideas to write about
  • Create a relationship with your readers
  • Sell books and other products to your readers

The first three are more important than the last item. You want to develop a relationship with your readers and learn about them before you try to sell anything to them.

Link to the rest at Medium

Your Book Marketing Plan Won’t Work

From Joe Konrath:

So you wrote a book.

Hooray.

Now you should celebrate. Enjoy the moment. I suggest craft beer. My go-to is barrel aged stouts, invented and perfected by Goose Island. But Prairie Artisan, The Bruery, Alesmith, Founders, Stone, Central Waters, Epic, Boulevard, Oskar Blues, and Avery also work well. More suggestions welcome in the comments.

Now, after celebrating, you are creating a marketing plan.

You’re nervous, but you’ve been an avid student, devouring everything you can on how to sell books. And you’ve discovered a lot of chatter about a lot of things, including:

SOCIAL MEDIA

The catchall go-to for all authors. You have two Facebook pages, a personal one and a public one. You’re on Twitter. You’re on Instagram and Tumblr and Pinterest and Flickr and Reddit and 4chan and 8chan and Kboards and Goodreads and Blogger and you are constantly posting new and interesting content because you’re smart enough to know that yelling “BUY MY BOOK!” doesn’t sell anything.

Guess what? Posting new and interesting content doesn’t sell anything either.

When was the last time you actually bought anything because someone liked it on Facebook? Or retweeted a product link?

Your social media isn’t going to sell much for you. This blog gets millions of hits a year. You’re one of them.

How many books of mine have you bought? Can you name any? What’s the latest one?

. . . .

THE HARD TRUTH ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA

You’re not going to sell a lot of books on social media. While social media does help inform fans that you have a new book out, or something priced cheap, it won’t amount to many sales.

That’s not to say you should ignore social media. But it isn’t going to cover your car payment. Stop thinking it will.

. . . .

THE HARD TRUTH ABOUT HOW-TO BOOKS

There is no book you can read that will help you improve your sales to a degree that was worth the time and money you wasted on it.

Feel free not to believe me. Feel free to tell me about the book that helped you sell a zillion copies. But beware: I’m gonna check your rank and post it and make you feel stupid.

. . . .

THE HARD TRUTH ABOUT ADVERTISING

You’re doing well if you break even. And while you can crow about the intangibles of “finding a new fan who buys your whole backlist” the fact is that any serious attempt to explode your sales using ads will require you spending a LOT of time tweaking them, and a LOT of money buying them.

I’ve spent tens of thousands on advertising over the years. NOTHING is guaranteed. They all require a lot of thought and effort. And all the effort you spend on ads is less time you spend writing.

. . . .

SO HOW DO I IMPROVE MY LUCK?

That’s the question, isn’t it?

I’ve driven myself half-insane trying to figure out how to sell ebooks. And I’ve sold a lot. But, like many, my sales have slowed down over the years. I used to make $800k a year. Now I make less than half of that.

Why?

Well, the reason I broke out and made major money was due to pure luck. Amazon created the Kindle and allowed authors to self-pub with DTP (now KDP). I was uniquely suited to exploit this new type of media because I had ten shelf novels that publishers had rejected, and I now had the opportunity to self-publish them while undercutting traditional publishers on price. Then, as ebooks grew in popularity, I got my backlist back and was able to leverage a whole lot of cheap books into a whole lot of money.

I still make a lot of money. But when Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited, my income cut in half, and has never recovered.

Luck again. Amazon giveth and Amazon taketh away.

I have gotten some decent publicity in my time. It never moved the needle on sales.

I’ve had a very popular blog. It never moved the needle on sales.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

PG has missed Joe Konrath.

Joe’s blog was required reading for anyone interested in self-publishing for a long time, then he went quiet for a while. PG doesn’t know why and figures that it’s Joe’s business and he’ll tell us if he wants us to know.

Now that Joe’s made a couple of new posts, PG has recalled how much he enjoys Joe’s unique voice and views.

Overthrow the Prince of Facebook

PG will note that TPV is not and has not been a political blog. PG would like to keep it that way.

PG understands that everything is supposed to be political, etc., but he believes such sentiments are, of themselves, political, and he manages to do a lot of things and have many satisfactory online and offline interactions with others that are simply not political.

While the growth of the internet and the many different ways of accessing it have produced many benefits for humanity, those benefits have been accompanied by some detriments. In PG’s unpresuming opinion, one of the largest is the internet’s ability to enhance and magnify the concerted actions of crazy people.

While at one time it might have been difficult for a single crazy person to connect with others who are crazy in the same way because of the rarity of that person’s particular variety of craziness, now, the internet allows almost anyone to join an online community of people who are exactly like her/him/etc. Cross-dressing differently-abled Lithuanian-American pediatricians can gather online and magnify their voices to fight the injustice that is part of their lives.

Online, everyone can be part of a hyphenated interest group.

PG’s bloviated opining was intended as a brief introduction to a column in today’s Wall Street Journal written by columnist Peggy Noonan, but it grew. [Trigger Warning: Ms. Noonan is a Republican, but not as Republican as a lot of people on the internet believe she should be.]

I’ll start with a personal experience and then try to expand into Republicans and big tech.

In the spring of 2016, Facebook came under pressure, stemming from leaks by its workers, over charges of systemic political bias. I was not especially interested: a Silicon Valley company that employs thousands of young people to make decisions that are often ideological will tilt left, and conservatives must factor that in, as they’re used to doing.

My concerns about Facebook had to do with its apparently monopolistic nature, slippery ethics and algorithmic threats to serious journalism.

Soon after, I received an email from Mark Zuckerberg’s office inviting me and other “conservative activists” to attend a meeting with him to discuss the bias charges in an off-the-record conversation. I responded that I was not an activist but a columnist, for the Journal, and would be happy to attend in that capacity and on the record. That didn’t go over too well with Mr. Zuckerberg’s office! I was swiftly told that wouldn’t do.

What I most remember is that they didn’t mention where his office is. There was an air of being summoned by the prince. You know where the prince lives. In the castle. Who doesn’t know exactly where Facebook is?

In February 2018 Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein of Wired wrote a deeply reported piece that mentioned the 2016 meeting. It was called so that the company could “make a show of apologizing for its sins.” A Facebook employee who helped plan it said part of its goal—they are clever at Facebook and knew their mark!—was to get the conservatives fighting with each other. “They made sure to have libertarians who wouldn’t want to regulate the platform and partisans who would.” Another goal was to leave attendees “bored to death” by a technical presentation after Mr. Zuckerberg spoke.

. . . .

I forgot about it until last summer, when Mr. Zuckerberg’s office wrote again. His problems were mounting. I was invited now, with an unspecified group of others, to “an off the record discussion over dinner at his home in Palo Alto.” They used that greasy greaseball language Silicon Valley uses: Mr. Zuckerberg is “focused on protecting” users and thinking about “the future and how best to serve the Facebook community.”

I ignored the invitation. They pressed. Their last note reached me at an irritated moment, so I wrote back a rocket, reminding him of the previous meeting and how it had been revealed to be a mischievous and highly political enacting of faux remorse. I suggested that though it was an honor to be asked to cross a continent for the privilege of giving him my time, thought and advice, I would not. I added that I was sorry to say he strikes me in his public, and now semiprivate, presentations as an imperious twerp.

For a second I actually hesitated: The imperious twerp runs the algorithms, controls the traffic, has all the dark powers! But I am an American, and one with her Irish up, so I hit send.

And I’m still here, at least at the moment, so I guess that’s OK.

. . . .

I once wrote the signal fact of Mr. Zuckerberg’s career is that he is supremely gifted in one area—monetizing technical ingenuity by marrying it to a canny sense of human weakness.

None of this is news. We just can’t manage to do anything about it.

. . . .

The New York Times this week had a breakthrough report . . . on how the tech giants are fighting back. They are “amassing an army of lobbyists.” Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple spent a combined $55 million in lobbying last year, about double what they spent in 2016. They “have intensified their efforts to lure lobbyists with strong connections to the White House, the regulatory agencies, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress.” Facebook hired Mrs. Pelosi’s former chief of staff. The speaker herself has received major campaign money from employees and political-action committees of all the tech giants.

. . . .

But the mood in America is anti-big-tech. Everyone knows they’re too powerful, too arrogant, loom too large in public life.

And something else: This whole new world of new technology was born in the 1970s and ’80s. We still think it’s new and we’re figuring it out, but we’re almost half a century into it and we can see what works and what doesn’t, what’s had good effects and hasn’t. It is time to move.

. . . .

Here’s what [Washington politicians] should be thinking: Break them up. Break them in two, in three; regulate them. Declare them to be what they’ve so successfully become: once a pleasure, now a utility.

It all depends on Congress, which has been too stupid to move in the past and is too stupid to move competently now. That’s what’s slowed those of us who want reform, knowing how badly they’d do it.

Yet now I find myself thinking: I don’t care. Do it incompetently, but do something.

. . . .

The Times quoted Republican Sen. Josh Hawley as saying “the dominance of big tech” is a “big problem.” They “may be more socially powerful than the trusts of the Roosevelt era, and yet they still operate like a black box.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

PG knows some indie authors have had good results from their social media book promotions and he applauds their skill, creativity and generosity for sharing their best online practices with other authors. In such cases, PG’s impression is that the authors are using the social media platforms rather than the other way around. Readers benefit by receiving information they would like to receive about books written by some of their favorite authors.

PG is probably some sort of social media snob, but he rarely uses social media to receive any information. (Because Crazy People) However, he’s a compulsive early adopter, so in days past, when he heard about a new social media platform, he signed up and checked it out. After 3-4 visits, he usually was bored by the content and quit checking in. (As a result, he has some four and five character social media user IDs that might be valuable if he could sell them.)

These days, PG uses social media strictly as an outbound communication device to provide information he thinks might be beneficial to people who like to receive information via this channel. To this end, he has a plug-in for TPV that automatically produces a row of colorful little icons below each post that should make it easy for any visitor to repost/forward any of the TPV posts to their own social media accounts and is happy to have anyone use them to do so. To avoid charges of false altruism, PG is also happy if some of these reposts result in more visitors to TPV.

Of all the major social media platforms, PG formerly signed on to Facebook the most frequently (1-2 times per month) to keep up with a handful of old friends/relatives who would occasionally post news and photos there. However, for the reasons Ms. Noonan describes – Facebook’s breaching of privacy and ethical boundaries – PG closed his account several months ago.

How Does Color Affect Your Potential Customers?

From ReadWrite:

Color design can be an effective marketing tool if used correctly. Acting directly on the subconscious of the site visitor, the color in web design can form a positive attitude to the product, trust, and positive emotions that cause a person to make a purchase and believe your brand.

When a person first enters the site, he intuitively perceives the picture as a whole. Within the next 1-2 seconds, the client decides to stay and explore the resource or to close the tab and go back to the search results. If the color design of the online business is chosen and implemented correctly, the user will more likely remain on the page.

. . . .

The principles of color combinations originate from Newton’s color ring. Of the three primary colors, intermediary ones are produced by mixing, which is located in the adjacent ring segments. To choose colors, use one of the following seven schemes:

Monochromatic – for design creation, one primary color is chosen, and additional colors are formed from its hues (saturation and brightness are adjusted).
Complementary – in this case, the color selection for the web site begins with the choice of two contrasting tones, which are complemented by several more derived shades.
Split – this scheme is similar to the complementary one, but one of the contrasting colors is replaced by two similar ones from the adjacent segments.
Analog – according to this scheme, 3 colors are chosen from the neighboring segments: one is used as the main one, and the other two play the role of additional accents.
Triad – the designer takes three colors that are equally distant from each other, and on the basis of them forms a color palette.
Rectangle – here, four colors are used, and each pair is chosen according to the principle of contrast.
Quadrate – the scheme resembles the previous one, but all colors are equally distant from each other.

. . . .

In developing the color scheme of the site you should not be guided solely by your own preferences. After all, the site is created, first of all, for the user. How to choose the right color for a site is a question of understanding the psychological aspect of the influence of colors and using this knowledge in accordance to your goals. There are three methods for choosing the color of the site which we will discuss in detail below.

. . . .

Colors for website design should correspond to its theme or product/services to which it is dedicated. For example, purple is the traditionally chosen shade for perfume sites, a site about auto lease deals is difficult to imagine without the use of dark blue or gray colors in the design.

. . . .

The site, designed with a large variety of colors, is hard and even repulsive: getting to it, the user wants to quickly close this tab. If there are few colors, the site may look monotonous, and the user’s attention will be dispersed. The optimal working palette for the designer is 3-4 colors:

Main. The basic color in the design, which highlights the main content on the pages.

Additional. Color to highlight background information, which is advantageously combined with the main color, complementing it.

Background. Calm shade on which the main and additional colors are not lost.

Accentuating. Contrast primary color that attracts the visitor’s attention to key elements of the site.

. . . .

Color perception is not constant. How a person responds to the same color depends on many factors. But still, before choosing a color for a site, you need to examine the typical associations for each color that are specific for most people.

Link to the rest at ReadWrite

PG says authors should be color conscious in all of an author’s marketing activities.

These will include:

  • Website
  • Book Covers
    • Individual Books
    • Series
  • Email Newsletters/Announcements
  • Online and Meatspace Advertising
  • Online Product Listings – Amazon, Nook, etc.

Here are some tools that might help with your color choices:

  • Colorpick Eyedropper – Have you ever been online and found an image, website, etc., etc., that includes colors you absolutely love? Here’s an app that lets you determine exactly what colors are being used and provides the necessary color codes to let you reproduce those colors in your own marketing. https://go.shr.lc/2QNwQEp

On the left below is the color of the font PG uses for The Passive Voice title at the top of the blog and also the background of the post section. Its hex color code is #f9eacc. If you put that color code into your browser, you’ll see the same color. On the right is the brown color PG uses for the headlines of each blog post – #723419

 


 

  • Palette Creator is another Chrome app that will pull all the colors out of a photo and save them. https://go.shr.lc/2WKFYPn

Here’s an example of Palette Creator in action:

Here’s a photo:

Here’s the 16-color palette that Palette Creator pulled from the photo:

You can use some or all of the palette colors to create a Macaw-like image.


 

  • If you’re worried about correctly identifying what colors go with other colors, there are several online color palette creators. Here’s Coolorshttps://go.shr.lc/2QPD4U2

PG will pull the dark blue color – #23508D – from the Macaw palette above and use it as the base color of a complete palette. Here’s what Coolors came up with. The original dark blue is the color strip with the lock symbol on it:

Don’t like this one? Hit the spacebar while Cooler is running and see a different palette based on the dark blue.


 

Below is the opening screen – PG has dropped the same dark blue color code into the website – 23508D as a base color for Paletton. You can barely see it at the tip of the white arrow.

Below, you can see the upward arrow pointing to the Monochromatic palette. On the right side of the screen you see a variety of colors that are complementary to the original dark blue color we’ve been working with.

The white arrow below is now pointing toward the Triad setting. You can see the results on the right side of the screen. You can also see three little gray dots on the color wheel over the original blue plus an old gold and a light umber color added to make up the Triad.

Adobe also has a palette design page at https://color.adobe.com/create. It’s easy to use, somewhat like Coolors. If you have a subscription to Creative Cloud, Adobe’s pallet design can be easily imported into other paid Adobe products for use there.

 

Top ‘Live-Streamers’ Get $50,000 an Hour to Play New Videogames Online

Not exactly to do with books, but a look into another kind of publishing.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The world’s biggest videogame publishers are paying popular gamers tens of thousands of dollars to play their latest releases live over the internet, hoping to break through to buyers in a crowded industry where dominant games like “Fortnite” cast a large shadow.

Electronic Arts Inc., Activision Blizzard Inc.,  UbisoftEntertainment SA and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. are among the publishers making hefty payouts for the real-time broadcasts, or live streams. The amounts vary depending on the popularity of the “streamer,” and could go as high as $50,000 an hour for top celebrity gamers, according to talent and marketing agents.

Take-Two plans to pay streamers to play “Borderlands 3” when the comedic shooter game launches Sept. 13. Ubisoft, an early adopter of the live-streaming strategy, plans to use it again for the Oct. 4 release of its special-ops shooter game “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint.”

“Having celebrity streamers play games is an important part of the business,” Strauss Zelnick, Take-Two’s chief executive, said in an interview. “It is relatively new, but it has to be organic. The streamers have to believe in it.”

. . . .

“If you don’t have live-streaming as part of your marketing spend, you’re doing it wrong,” Mr. Benyamine said.

People last year spent 8.9 billion hours watching videogame content on Amazon.com Inc.’svideo-streaming site Twitch, up from 6.3 billion hours in 2017, according to industry tracker Newzoo BV.

Big-budget videogame launches have become major affairs in the $130 billion industry, akin to the opening weekend of a star-studded Hollywood movie. First-week sales are closely watched, and game companies are looking for ways to stand out—especially as players sink ever more of their time and money into a handful of constantly updated games that don’t really ever end.

. . . .

The exploding popularity of live-streaming and professional gamers such as Tyler “Ninja” Blevins gives game companies another marketing lever to pull. Live streams show the pros playing and commenting on games while reacting to text messages posted by viewers in real time. The paid streams are typically labeled as sponsored.

. . . .

Videogame player Karlissa Juri downloaded “Apex Legends” after seeing a streamer play it on Microsoft Corp.’s Mixer, a platform similar to Twitch. She said it doesn’t bother her that some live-streamers are paid to play games, as long as the broadcasts are clearly labeled, something that wasn’t always the case in the past.

“It really sold me watching him,” said the 34-year-old New Yorker, who has since been playing the game daily and spent about $20 for virtual currency for spending on virtual costumes.

Electronic Arts said earlier this month that sales of virtual goods in the game helped the company beat its quarterly profit forecast.

. . . .

Unlike the past, when big publishers reserved the right to edit paid game footage before it aired, a live-streaming audience injects uncertainty and gives publishers less control, Mr. Duchscher said.

Technical glitches could make a poor first impression or a live-streamer could speak off-color—both have happened. There is no guarantee a streamer will be converted into a regular player. And audience interest in watching a game stream can tail off. Last month, people spent 24.7 million hours watching other people play “Apex Legends” on Twitch, down from 122.1 million in February, according to Newzoo.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Use Expert Sources to Generate Local Book Publicity

From The Book Designer:

When Champion Products sponsored the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s Player of the Year Awards for the NCAA’s five college divisions in the U.S., I was responsible for publicizing the award nominees in their hometown media.

To get the most publicity possible for the authentic athletic wear brand and the athletes, I used what marketers would now call a “hyper-local” approach.

Another publicist probably would have created one press release naming all 25 nominees and sent that announcement to a mass media list. But I knew that with publicity (as with many other things), personalization was the key to success.

I knew I had to make it instantly clear to every hometown media outlet that the press release I sent contained local news for a local audience. To do that, I created a fill-in-the-blanks press release template that I merged with a database containing relevant specifics about each athlete. All I had to do was press a few keys to produce each nominee’s hometown press release.

Because of this customized approach, each nominee (and the subsequent five winners) received the hometown newspaper and TV news attention they deserved.

. . . .

You can use this tactic to generate local market publicity for anyone you quoted or referenced in your nonfiction book, too.

Whether it’s an expert source or a short profile in a sidebar, you can create a press release showcasing that individual’s contribution and send it to their local media outlets.

To get you started, here’s a sample fill-in-the-blanks press release I created for you. Because it’s so generic, you’ll want to make sure your resulting press release for each source reads well and makes sense, but that won’t be hard.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Deconstructing ‘I Wrote a Thing’

From Publishers Weekly:

For every essay and article I write, my process is the same. There is contemplation and research, writing and rewriting. Each piece is fact-checked for accuracy and read out loud for rhythm, sent to a first reader or two for critique, and rewritten and polished again before I finally hit “send.”

And when it is done, I paste the link into a tweet and wrestle with the impulse that never goes away—the instinct to announce my work to the world with the words, I wrote a thing.

Spend any amount of time on social media and you will see a lot of I wrote a thing. Men use it, but, according to my entirely nonscientific observations, women use it more, announcing our work in our native tongue, the universal female language of self-deprecation. I wrote a thing employs the funny, ironic, humblebrag shorthand that is common across social media, but it also evokes a familiar posture: that of a woman trying to make herself as small as possible—a woman standing with her head down and her chin tucked against her chest, hands clasped behind her back, and toe twirling in the dirt, saying, “Oh, this little heap of words here? It was nothing. No big deal. Just, you know, a thing! So maybe read it? Or don’t! Whatever!”

Maybe it’s a generational problem, and the kids today don’t struggle with reflexive self-effacement. I suspect that it’s gendered, and I wrote a thing is born of women being told, overtly and implicitly, that our stories do not matter—not the stories we write, which are still not reviewed as frequently or taken as seriously as men’s books, and not the stories we tell, which are still too often met with skepticism and shrugs.

. . . .

It feels strange to announce, plainly, Here is an essay, or, This is my novel, when we’ve been told all our lives not to brag and not to boast—until the six weeks prior to a book’s release, when our publicists beg us to do nothing but brag and boast. It feels unnatural, and if you could peek into any woman writer’s inbox, you’d probably see agonized queries from her peers: “I just got a starred review from PW. Should I tweet it?” or, “I just got a rave in the Times. Is it going to look weird if I put it on my Instagram more than once? How much is too much? Are you sure this is okay?”

Self-promotion feels weird, and risky.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG doesn’t believe that he has ever told any author, “overtly” or “implicitly” that the author’s story doesn’t matter.

Outside of the world of traditional publishing, PG doesn’t believe that he has ever heard or observed anyone else conveying that message to an author.

Various pursuits and occupation require different personal characteristics and aptitudes. Some people who have great natural talent in a field of endeavor don’t have the personal characteristics necessary to rise to the top of that field.

If someone is afraid of flying, regardless of whatever talents they possess, they are not a good candidate to become a pilot.

If someone can’t stand being involved in a contentious situation, they are not a good candidate to practice most types of law.

Ditto for fainting whenever being exposed to blood and the practice of medicine, fear of dogs and animal training, fear of fire and firefighting.

Of course, there are degrees of fear or other personal characteristics and many people are able to overcome their fears or reticence or anxiety and succeed in a field that once seemed impossible to enter.

Perhaps writing about fear or otherwise sharing it is a part of overcoming that fear. PG hopes the author of the OP falls into that category.

Nine-Year-Old Author Shares Her Story and Seeks to Publish

Apparently a press release. PG has added paragraph breaks. The italics are part of the original.

From LifePulseHealth:

Mantua resident and Centre City elementary school student MaKayla Rose had a problem one night at bedtime. She couldn’t find a book that she wanted to read. She couldn’t find a story that represented her family and her point of view.

MaKayla is a problem solver, however, and knew that the best way to fix the problem was to write a story of her own! This was the beginning of “Why Bedtime Sucks: The Opposite of a Bedtime Story”, and a journey for her whole family.

Once MaKayla had written her story and hand drawn her illustrations, she shared it with her peers and teachers. Other students were inspired by her initiative and began writing stories of their own.

This is when her mother, Shalina, knew that Why Bedtime Sucks was a story that could reach and inspire so many other young people to relate and create for themselves, and she began the process of making MaKayla’s tale into a book.

One of the first steps was to connect with the right illustrator. All the illustrations in Why Bedtime Sucks are hand created in collaboration with artist Isabel Rivera of Cancun, Mexico.

To retain the creative independence and MaKayla’s true voice in the story, the Hubbs have decided to self-publish launching the project as a campaign on Kickstarter. Why Bedtime Sucks is an opportunity to provide diversity into illustrated children’s books that would benefit all children.

Link to the rest at LifePulseHealth

Book Trailers?

While he was combing through non-work emails accumulated over the weekend, PG saw one about book trailers and how great they are.

He tried to remember when he had last viewed a book trailer and came up empty. He tried to remember the contents of any book trailer he had ever viewed and had a similar result.

PG is a visual kind of guy and remembers all sorts of other videos he’s seen over the last several months.

So, a question arose in his mind (it was a waking-up sort of mind, but should not be dismissed because of that fact alone) – Does anybody watch book trailers? Do they actually sell books? Has any reliable person or organization documented a measurable positive impact a book trailer had on the sales of a book?

Since book trailers are often used as part of a book launch, has anyone been able to ascertain what a book trailer added to the launch in the midst of all the other promotional noise?

PG did a very cursory search to locate book trailers that might have been noticed in a positive manner and found The Six Best Book Trailers of 2018.

Here’s the Number One Best Book Trailer of 2018:
.

.

Having no experiential basis for judging how this book trailer stacks up against other book trailers, PG is not in a position to say whether it belongs on any sort of Best Book Trailer list or not. It may well be better than all other book trailers released in 2018.

However, in the continuing contest to capture online eyeballs, for PG, this wasn’t captivating video. It was not nearly as interesting to watch as Mr. Enjoy, Gianluca Vacchi, social media influencer and DJ, in his orange Santa suit, which PG posted yesterday. (It occurred to PG that Mr. Enjoy might want to pitch his services to Random House.)

PG suggests that book trailers don’t just compete with other book trailers for online video attention.

Book trailers compete with Mr. Enjoy and Selena Gomez (149 millon followers) Kylie Jenner (133 million followers) and Christiano Ronaldo (133 million followers) on Instagram plus PewDiePie , video makeup maven Jeffree Star and a 7-year-old boy named Ryan who Forbes says made $22 million last year on YouTube (Warning: the YouTube channels start playing video w/audio right away).

But PG could be wrong.

Are book trailers worth the hassle and expense for authors?

Is Noah Hypnotik the cream of the 2018 crop of book trailers? (When PG pulled up the Noah Hypnotic book trailer, YouTube showed it had been posted in July, 2018, and had collected 249 views. Ryan’s featured toy video was posted three weeks ago and has 3,366,659 views.)

The Key to Capitalizing on Online Video Trends

From Forbes:

Software is eating the world and video is taking over the internet. According to Cisco, video will account for 80% of all internet traffic in 2019. Any savvy marketer or business executive should be incorporating video into their business strategy. Companies in a wide range of industries are using premium video as a means of winning a market, and they’re driving consumer engagement and revenues in the process.

To see the seismic shifts in video, look no further than the cable and television industry: Streaming video is the new TV. More and more people are cutting the cable cord and watching instead through online platforms. Direct-to-consumer models have taken over and made it easier than ever for viewers to get the content they want anywhere and on any device.

Video is also dominating when it comes to brand engagement and marketing content. One report found that 79% of consumers would rather watch a video than read about a product.

Link to the rest at Forbes

PG would be interested in hearing about successful video marketing by indie authors. Feel free to comment/provide links, etc., in the comments.

Indie Authors Promoting Through Book Clubs

Whereas, Mrs. PG scheduled a business meeting to discuss her various and sundry books today; and

Whereas, after a refresh of PG’s book-related to do list, we talked about book clubs and how indie authors might gain access to significant numbers of book clubs; and

Whereas, in the part of PG’s brain where spiderwebs are thickest is a memory from a few years ago about someone who was gathering contact information for book clubs for the purpose of helping authors launch books.

Now, Therefore, here are some questions for denizens of TPVWorld:

  1. Have any indie authors tried book launches/promos through book clubs (of which their friends or relatives aren’t members)? If yes, what were the results? Lessons learned? Best practices?
  2. Are there any reliable pipelines to more than a handful of book clubs that are indie friendly? If so, what are the costs?
  3. Is PG correct in his speculation that book clubs still like to deal in trade paperbacks instead of ebooks?

For Good and Valuable Consideration, Receipt of Which is Hereby Acknowledged, feel free to hold forth in the comments.

3 Factors for Choosing an On-Brand Pen Name

From BookWorks:

If you’re thinking about using an author pen name, you’re in superb company.

After all, countless top authors have chosen to make use of a pseudonym when releasing their work. Like George Orwell, the pseudonym chosen by Eric Blair so he could write about poverty without the fear of shame, or Mark Twain, the pen name favored by Samuel Clemens so he could compartmentalize his different writing styles/personas.

. . . .

In today’s exploration of author branding, I’m going to share my five top pieces of advice for ensuring your author pen name serves your brand in the best way possible.

. . . .

Remaining Ageless

As much as we might like to think we are not ageist, we probably are, at least subconsciously!

Whether we know it or not, we tend to look for one of two things when it comes to author age:

  • Sometimes, we like to seek out authors we feel to be in the same age bracket as ourselves. This is because we find such people to be relatable.
  • Whether we know it or not, we probably have subconscious expectations for how old an author should be. For example, would you rather read a history book by a fifty-something author or a teenager?

. . . .

In order to ensure your author pen name has the right feel in terms of age, consider the following possibilities:

  • Think of people in your life. Say, for example, you want your pen name to sound like a fifty-year-old man. Think about the fifty-year-old men in your real life. What are their names? Are they different from the names of your own generation?
  • Look at data. Data exists showing the popularity of different names by ages. Use this to ensure your name is a suitable fit for the age it purports to represent.
  • Look at reviewers. Check out the Amazon reviews for a particular genre. What kind of names do the people have? You can use this as inspiration for your pen name.

Ensuring your pen name ‘feels right’ in terms of age is an essential step in achieving similarity or suitability.

. . . .

Fitting Your Niche/Genre

Certain names have certain feels to them.

It’s kind of an intangible thing.  A vibe, almost.

Although there are no hard and fast rules for fitting your pen name to a particular genre, it’s worth considering whether it feels like a good fit.

. . . .

Authors publishing under their real name are obviously unable to express creativity. Their name is their name!

However, if you’re choosing your own pen name, you have a little more creative license to work with.

So how can you explore whether a potential pen name is a good fit for your genre or not?

Link to the rest at BookWorks

PG considered going by Esmeralda but changed his mind.