Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

04/06/2015

Amazon Is Winning at Publishing – Here’s Some Reasons Why


Winning The Publishing Race

Tonight’s post will get into why Amazon is so much better at marketing and selling than the book publishing industry.

Briefly, the answer lies in push marketing versus pull marketing, timing (being late to the dinner table) and true innovation.

Tonight’s research/resource article is from The Digital Reader (Ink, Bits and Pixels) written by Nate Hoffelder:

 

The Ubiquitous Bookstore, Or Why Amazon is Winning at Publishing

Scholarly Kitchen posted an article yesterday which explains why Amazon is so much better at marketing and selling than the book publishing industry.

Joseph Esposito uses the post to lay out his vision for a new type of bookstore – one which could compete with Amazon. Describing Amazon as a destination site, Esposito sees its success as primarily due to pull marketing. In other words, Amazon draws people in by offering a huge warehouse of books and a great shopping experience.

To compete with Amazon, Esposito thinks publishers need to adapt to the new nature of the internet:

But the Web is now being brought to us; it’s evolving into a push medium. All that time we spend looking at the news feeds for Facebook, Flipboard, and Twitter point to where the Web is going and where new bookstores will have to be. To build a bookstore that goes head to head with Amazon is foolhardy. It would be easier to carry the ball into the defensive line of the Chicago Bears.

So a new bookstore is going to have to bring its offerings to where people are rather than the other way around; a new bookstore has to be ubiquitous. A recent example of this comes from HarperCollins,which has created an arrangement with Twitter to sell copies of the bestselling Divergent series of young adult novels from within individual tweets.

The fact that this is a topic of discussion in the publishing industry, in 2015 no less – folks, this is why Amazon is winning whatever war publishing feels it is fighting with the retailer.

It’s not that Esposito is wrong so much as that he is five years late to the discussion. Both Amazon and authors started push marketing at least 5 years ago.

 

Authors have been on social media since at least 2010, and they’ve been pushing people to bookstore to buy books. This concept is so well established that there are dozens of blog posts by indie authors which discuss the nuances of how to go about it.

What’s more, Amazon mastered the concept of push marketing even further back. I don’t know exactly when Amazon launched its affiliate network, but that was explicitly designed to give other websites a financial incentive to push customers to Amazon (h\t to Marshall Poe for making a similar argument in TSK’s comment section).

Tell me, can I make more money by pushing people to HarperCollins’ bookstore than by sending them to Amazon? No? Then why would I bother?

Speaking of HarperCollins, they are a great example of a publisher trying and failing to market and sell directly to consumers. Have you visited HarperCollins.com, and tried to browse, search, or buy an ebook?

I have, and so have several commenters on The Passive Voice. It’s terrible. If, as Esposito posits, direct retail is the future of publishing, then HC literally cannot build a retail site to save its life.

But never mind HarperCollins; let’s consider what Esposito wrote next:

From a conceptual point of view, the most interesting project I have stumbled upon for “post-destination” bookstores is that of Chris Kubica, who explained his work in two articles in Publishers Weekly, which you can find here and here. Kubica gathered a group of publishing people in New York to brainstorm about a post-Amazon bookstore. The conclusion was that each individual potentially could be the site or source of a bookstore–a bookstore of one. With seven billion people on the planet (and growing), that’s potentially seven billion bookstores. Now, how can Amazon compete with that?

Easy. Amazon thought of it first, they thought of it ages ago, and they do it better than anyone in publishing.

Folks, if you want to beat Amazon then you need to come up with an idea first. You can’t decide to adopt an SOP five years after it becomes an SOP. That’s not innovative; it’s reactionary.

 

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06/25/2014

Con’t: Book Launches, Stress, Introverted Authors = Spicy Gumbo of PPTSD (Post-Publishing Traumatic Stress Disorder)


Sharon Glassman

Yesterday’s post continued:

If, indeed, you tend to be stressed out and introverted and suck all the energy out of a room when involved in performing your publishing/author events (launching and marketing your book/s),  there ARE ways you can write the calming solutions right into your own event before hand — And, Sharon Glassman shows you how in her piece in the HuffPost below and when she lets you Meet the introvert heroine of her traveling novel-with-songs, BLAME IT ON HOBOKEN in this short video.

A traveling novel-with-songs is an intriguing vision in and of itself 🙂

 

5 Tips to Reduce Stress for Introvert and Highly-Sensitive Authors

If you’re an Introvert or Highly-Sensitive author, launching your book can traumatize you naturally. This excessive stress can lead to a condition I’ve named PPTSD (Post-Publishing Traumatic Stress Disorder). The name sounds funny. But its effects are serious.

(Read my feature about PPTSD here).

How can introverts and HSP authors publish our books successfully – and wholeheartedly – while honoring our need to recharge? How can we defuse our natural tendency to absorb a room’s energy during on an event-packed book launch or tour?

1) Eat the elephant in small bites to ward off the tiger

“The tiger” is a common metaphor for acute stress disorders and trauma. The metaphor refers to the fight-or-flight scenario of a cave dweller confronting a saber tooth tiger.

A book launch isn’t a tiger attack. Our higher brain knows this, intellectually. But our lower brain doesn’t differentiate between book-stress and tiger-stress. It leaps into survival mode when it feels threatened. And it can get stuck there. Trust me. It’s not fun.

One way to slow the brain’s rush to tiger-town?

Divide your Big Book Launch into bite-sized tasks. And then:

Celebrate each completed task.

Rest.

Repeat.

Why?

The brain’s repeated experience of small victories can create neural pathways that link your book launch process with feelings of achievement.

These positive links can boost your immunity to large stresses – and even minor annoyances, like my mixed metaphor about the tiger and the elephant.

2. Write “set breaks” into your work day

Have you noticed how bands hire opening acts or take set breaks during a show?

It’s an idea worth copying. Build, then satisfy your fans’ desire for your creative product by offering them your presence in packets. Enlist a musical or literary opening act. Create set breaks (official or ad-hoc) during a live event to conserve and recharge your physical energy.

The set-break concept is also useful on everyday workdays.

As Christine Gust, a former Halliburton HR manager who teaches practical applications of stress management tools in Colorado likes to say, “It’s amazing how much you can achieve by going for a walk.”

3. Schedule A Daily Author’s Retreat

“You need to retreat every day,” says Maureen Clancy, a New Jersey-based holistic psychotherapist and Highly-Sensitive Person, about the need for quiet amid a busy book tour or launch.

“Build it into your schedule, like you’re going to the dentist. Although, hopefully being with yourself will be more pleasant than going to the dentist.”

4. Bring a familiar scent to parties and events.

This is another tip of Clancy’s, which I now practice. She finds lavender to be a very relaxing scent, but let your nose be your guide.

You can wear your scent on your skin or on a piece of fabric.

“What happens is you inhale it and it goes to the part of the parasympathetic nervous system that helps you relax,” Clancy says.

This is particularly helpful if you’ll be speaking – or singing – at an event.

As singer-songwriter Vance Gilbert tells his students: our body uses our heartbeat as its metronome.

It may help to think of your heartbeat as your body-clock’s second hand.

A racing heart makes us speak and sing faster. Our tongue is timed to our speeding heartbeat.

A calmer heartbeat prompts us to communicate more calmly, creating a truly human connection between author and audience.

And isn’t that what this whole book-writing thing is about?

5) How does an HSP/Introvert yell for help?

If this were a joke, the punch line would be, “Please don’t yell. Yelling traumatizes me.”

But it’s a serious question.

Introverts and HSPs need to tell ourselves and others when we’re being stressed to unhealthy extremes. Especially since we can be overwhelmed by experiences others find “fun” or “exciting.”

To this end, I’ve been thinking about the idea of “author advocates” – friends, colleagues, or publishing team members who’d be willing to help Introvert and HSP authors launch and promote their books in mutually-beneficial ways.

Right now, my Introvert Author Advocate is my self.

I ask “her” (aka: me), “What would you suggest that I do, as someone who knows me, my book, and the publishing biz?”

And so far, she’s come up with some good ideas.

Do you have other suggestions for publishing, promoting or touring a book as an Introvert/HSP author? Do Introvert/HSP tips work for extrovert authors as well?

Please share your thoughts in comments below and at Sharon’s HuffPostl article here:

 

 

 

 

11/23/2013

Custom Publishing Can Help Sell Your Books


Custom Publishing Examples

How often have you heard a conversation something like this:

“Hell, man, having struggled through writing my novel I now find that THAT was the easy part. Marketing the damn thing and getting buyers and readers is ten times harder!”

True enough. Even if you’re a newbie with an agent and a big house publishing contract. They’re not going to throw big bucks behind an unknown — Oh sure, they will get you into a distribution system (like shelf space in a Barnes & Noble bookstore) for a short time, BUT, they are not going to fund major advertising for your book while it gathers dust on that bookshelf.

YOU’RE going to have to get the word out RE your own book and at your own expense (of course this also includes self-published e-books).

Everybody complains about marketing their own books — And you know why, don’t you? Because hardly any of us know beans about real marketing techniques — And what we do know is probably wrong — Hence, the poor results whenever we try to do any self-help marketing.

SO, this situation shouts at us to learn as much about marketing our books as we can; even to the point of taking some college training courses (or better yet, get the whole damn marketing degree if your situation allows).

Well, all that said, tonight’s post will discuss a good way to market your book by writing and publishing something ABOUT your book — this kind of publishing is called custom publishing, content marketing, custom media, branded media, etc. in our country and contract publishing and customer publishing in the UK.

If you can write a decent novel, you can do this. But, if you have some resources, let a professional custom publisher (a growing field now) handle it. They will have contacts/contracts to get the piece about your novel in the right places and the equipment and staff to make the piece professionally glossy and dynamic.

Some top custom publishers are Diablo Custom Publishing, TMG Custom Media, Rodale Grow and Pace. These firms were among custom publishing’s prominent firms gathered at the Liberty Theater in New York Monday night during the annual Pearl Awards presented by the Custom Content Council. TMG and Pace took home most of the gold Pearl awards.

More details at Virtual-Strategy Magazine:

Diablo Custom Publishing Takes Home Two Gold Pearl Awards

The Pearl Awards are an annual event created by the Custom Content Council, an international association, to honor excellence in editorial, design and strategy in the custom content industry.

Walnut Creek, CA (PRWEB) November 21, 2013

Diablo Custom Publishing (DCP) was honored with two Gold Pearl awards for its exceptional work in custom publishing on November 12, 2013, at the Pearl Awards ceremony held at the Highline Ballroom in New York City. DCP received a Gold Award for Best Opening Spread for the April 2013 edition of Giants magazine and a Gold Award for Best Feature Article/Package for UC Hastings, Spring 2013.

Giants magazine, the official magazine of the San Francisco Giants, is produced six times per baseball season. The magazine’s mission is to engage Giants fans through in-depth articles and personalized stories about the players and the Giants’ organization. The winning design features an action photo of Buster Posey taken during the 2012 National League Championship Series. The spread was designed by DCP designer Jake Watling, incorporating a photo from Missy Mikulecky, Director of Photography and Archives, San Francisco Giants.

Read more here

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02/14/2013

A Little About Book Discoverability


TOC Discusses E-Book Discoverability

Many today are whining about the difficulty (or impossibility – as they see it) of getting their individual e-book/s ‘discovered’ among the onslaught of  millions of other e-books.

“There’s a literal (excuse the pun) explosion of e-books being published out there since any Tom, Dick and Harry can publish now-a-days — AND they are all badly written as none of these so-called authors have any editing done!” So say the feeling-victimized, stuck-in-the-past, unadaptable, wannabe writers of the present — Now, not all of them fit into this category, thank God.

Book discoverability is not a one-dimensional process. It is more of a three-dimensional or multidimensional procedure. One doesn’t just put a book ad out and expect good results. Or jump on social media, for that matter, and push one’s book and expect the buyers to stampede to the book.

Before you can get results from such one-dimensional actions you must first invest some time and establish relationships, community and trust — build up a following of sorts.

Once you invest your time in others and establish your name, then you will discover there are numerous ways to get your e-work discovered, also 🙂

Insights on discoverability from the Tools of Change Publishing Conference, happening in New York, NY, February 12-14, 2013, reported by Erin L. Cox:

TOC 2013: Authors, What Are You Doing Worth Discovering?

Monday at Author (R)Evolution Day — presented by Tools of Change and Publishers Weekly — authors and speakers worked to answer the question, “how will a reader discover my book?”

Mark Lefebvre, Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo, retorted, “Ask not what discovery can do for you, ask what are you going to do that is worth discovering?” As with any discussion on discovery, the panel reminded the authors that they must first write a book that will attract and engage readers then they can create a marketing campaign that is tailored for their audience.

“The same kind of alchemy does not work for all writers and books,” said Elizabeth Keenan, Director of Publicity for Hudson Street Press and Plume. For authors like Anne Rice, who already reaches out to her followers several times a day, reaching out to them via Twitter and Facebook to promote her book was successful. That may not be true for everyone.

Lefebvre added that a million Twitter followers doesn’t necessarily translate into sales. Like with any curation or recommendation, there needs to be a level of personal trust in order to reach out to that audience.

Read and learn more

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08/16/2012

Self-Published Books Are Dynamic ‘Business Cards’


For those who want to learn more about marketing their books — and do so free or at low-cost — guess what? The tools are right in front of you like low hanging fruit, ready to be picked 🙂

To publish and market your big ‘masterpiece’ for lucrative purposes, you might first try self-publishing smaller works for non-lucrative purposes (and they might even make a few bucks, too). 

Are you with me? Or are you thoroughly confused?

Self-publishing can cut through tons of red tape and time-consuming study programs to give you instant credibility, expertise, build your fan base and establish a platform from which to launch your ‘masterpiece’ (and subsequent works) — not to mention a calling card that showcases your talent.

All of this assumes, of course, that you possess a modicum of talent.

Scott Steinberg, a professional keynote speaker, business strategist and CEO of TechSavvy Global, a management consulting and market research firm, explains more in this article from Huff Post Business:

What the Publishing Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

Outside of 50 Shades of Grey, self-publishing a book is seldom lucrative — but for entrepreneurs, executives and authors alike, it can also be an exercise that’s well worth taking. Not only do self-published works establish subject matter expertise, provide a platform for growing visibility via media and speaking engagements, and offer a vehicle through which to rise above increasingly impenetrable volumes of marketing-, PR- and social media-generated noise. They also act as a signature calling card for you and your business; heighten trust and engagement; serve as demonstrations of your talents and services; provide a low-risk way to test potential markets; act as a unique promotional leave-behind; let you cost-effectively garner fan feedback; create added revenue streams; and, most importantly, offer an immediate way to set an individual, brand or company apart.

An inside secret: Many authors actually refer to them as “business cards” — because that’s exactly how they can function. Many savvy content creators likewise use them to create direct customer relationships, build a community following and create a stable income-generating platform through which to launch future products, services, and startups. But the truly wise? They’ll leverage such opportunities to create heightened visibility, open doors (including securing otherwise unattainable networking, speaking and consulting opportunities) and negotiate better deals. Successful authors not only enjoy heightened awareness and a boost in perceived value. They may further find it’s far easier to bargain with prospective publishing partners, should they wish to expand into new areas or volumes. Establish audience demand, build ongoing revenue channels and cultivate one-to-one customer relationships, and you not only mitigate risk for all parties involved. If you can prove out demand for your works, and are already bringing money in the door, you’ll also be able to negotiate better deals. Leverage gained can allow you to comfortably refuse onerous terms, retain greater equity in creations and enjoy the freedom to step away from failing partnerships without fear.

Better still, thanks to the rise of technology, online and social media tools, suddenly, anyone can advertise and promote their works affordably — meaning, for the most part, that you can tell coaches and consultants to take a hike. However, for those who do choose to go the DIY route, it also bears remembering: Even in the best of cases, from a promotional standpoint, due to the sheer volume of products, services and announcements competing for attention, you’re still screaming into a wind tunnel. Happily though, with a little ingenuity and a good hook, you too can effectively market your works to the masses, potentially scoring high-profile placements and media mentions. Interested in getting started? Having successfully launched new publishing label READ.ME, and launched two back-to-back bestsellers (The Crowdfunding Bible and Modern Parent’s Guide) featured in dozens of leading press outlets, we counsel keeping in mind the following hints, tips and advice.

Read and learn more

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08/11/2012

Insight Into How SEO Affects Publishing and Content (and Ultimately Book Marketing)


In days prior, one who understood how to juggle (fool) the search engines with keywords, etc. could fool robot search crawlers into promoting shit content into digital/online best sellers.

Well, google is working to make content king in publishing once again with last year’s Panda release and the more recent Penguin release. Google is going to flip SEO on its head.

How will they ever find the algorithms or formulas to rank content itself? 

Details are provided by Yaron Galai [you’ll find this guy quite interesting 🙂 ] in AdAge.com :

How Google’s ‘Penguin’ Update Will Change Publishing, for the Better

Over the past decade, the publishing industry been swinging on a pendulum created by the effects of search engine optimization (SEO). In the old, primarily print days, the most successful publishers were those that could produce great content for a specific audience and keep that audience engaged via subscriptions or at the newsstands. More recently, the kings of publishing were those that could best engage web crawlers and monetize their sites through a windfall of free search traffic. The focus has been less on creating great content and engaging readers than on producing lots of words on lots of pages to engage web crawlers.

But there is a silver lining to all of this. With last year’s Panda release, and the more recent Penguin release, Google is going to flip SEO on its head. If Old SEO enabled some to fool a crawler into indexing borderline junk content to get high rankings, New SEO looks likely to take any notion of fooling anyone out of the equation. 

New SEO will put all publishers on more equal footing, favoring those that produce quality content that is highly engaging to a certain audience. If SEO was previously a linear method of feeding a crawler with words and links, Google’s results are now the result of a feedback loop: show them that you can produce quality content that people are attracted to, and free search traffic will follow. 

There are two ways for a user to arrive at content — the first is actively searching for it on a search engine like Google or Bing. The second is to discover or stumble onto it via a link on another website, an e-mail from a friend, a link shared on Twitter or Facebook, etc. “Discovery” encompasses all those times we reach a page without first typing a keyword into a search box.

Read and learn more

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08/26/2011

Publishing as Manufacturing and the Tribalism of Literary Communities.


Richard Nash - Publishing Entrepreneur

Publishing needs to return to the basic concept of connecting readers with writers … and get away from selling book products to bookstores.

I like this concept! …  And, it is one discussed in an interview titled Revaluing the Book with publishing entrepreneur Richard Nash by Matt Runkle in the Boston Review.

Richard Nash “has created a social-networking platform called Cursor, which allows writers to form literary communities and post their manuscripts for members to read and react to.”

The interview:

Revaluing the Book

Richard Nash, former head of Soft Skull Press, insists that book publishing needs to return to the simple task of connecting readers and writers. He has created a social-networking platform called Cursor, which allows writers to form literary communities and post their manuscripts for members to read and react to. Nash also helms Red Lemonade, Cursor’s first imprint, which publishes work selected from its site. Matt Runkle spoke to Nash recently about publishing as manufacturing, the closing of Borders, and the tribalism of literary communities.

Matt Runkle: There’s a lot of worrying about the disappearance of the book as an object. Do you see the printed book in the same state of flux as the publishing industry?

Richard Nash: If people want something, why do they think it’s not going to exist? Not to get all sort of laissez-faire capitalist about this, but I’m going to have a moment of laissez-faire capitalism here and note that if people want to read the book in its printed form, then I predict there are going to be ways in which they can ensure that they will continue to get it in printed form because people are going to be willing to pay for it.

I mean the reality is that soon enough—even right now, technically—anyone will be able to get a digital version of a book and go and get it made into a physical printed book if they want. I mean right now, whether you’re using the espresso machine or—goodness gracious—3D printing, which is very, very, very much in its infancy, any kind of manufacturing over the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years is going to be able to be done as a hobby. So if you want a printed book, you will be able to get a printed book.

It has been a fascinating phenomenon in the discussion around publishing how adversarial people get around other people’s choices. So if someone says “I like an ebook,” a person will respond “Ohhh, I can’t believe—how can you do that?” It’s like that obnoxious person who you don’t want to go out to dinner with anymore because they can’t just order what they want, they have to comment on what you’re eating as well. What’s been epidemic in this discussion is that when both camps talk about their own preferences, they have to malign other people’s preferences too, and make grandiose extrapolations about the consequences of other people’s preferences for their own. If they like printed books, they should be buying the damn things instead of whining about other people’s preferred mode of reading. So I’m tremendously optimistic about the future of the book as an object. I think the worst years of the book as an object have been the last 50 years. 

What we have witnessed over the last 50 years is the progressive shittification of the book as an object.

MR: Why?

RN: When I started at Soft Skull in 2001 we were printing on 55-pound paper. By 2005, we were typically printing on 50-pound paper. By 2008, half our books were on 45-pound groundwood. And that’s because our print runs were going down. And even with publishers whose print runs weren’t going down, they were trying to save money. Because when the book’s primary purpose was not to be an object, but rather to be a mass-produced item for sale in big-box retail, then there’s going to be downward pressure on costs. And so what we have witnessed over the last 50 years is the progressive shittification of the book as an object—a process that is not external to publishing as it was practiced over the last 100 years, but has in fact been at its fore.

If you’ve got a manufacturing supply chain, then the dictates of manufacturing are going to be the ones that drive the business. And there’s certainly going to be some ad hoc occasional efforts not to do that: certain independent publishers will try to focus on quality, and certain individual books from other publishers might be tarted up for one reason or another, for marketing purposes. But those are the exceptions. Basically, when you’ve got an industry that is pushing out $25 billion worth of physical products into a supply chain, the vast majority of businesses are going to try to cut costs and increase revenues. And the simplest way to cut costs is going to be on the production side. So if the core of the business is no longer a supply chain, but rather the orchestration of writing and reading communities, the book is freed of its obligation to be the sole means for the broad mass dissemination of the word, and instead become a thing where the intrinsic qualities of the book itself can be explored.

MR: How did you come up with the idea for Cursor?

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07/21/2011

Paid Book Reviews – Credible or Expensive Trash?


Do Book Reviewers Actually Read the Material?

All the new indie publishing opportunities out there begs the question: Are book reviews functional or even necessary … especially in the digital sector where readers can just read the trailer or synopsis to find if the story may appeal to them enough to fork over $.99 to $1.99 (or a little higher).

I really don’t know. I’m a little conflicted on the whole concept of book reviews … especially paid book reviews.

Even in traditional publishing, book reviews RE fictional story telling, especially, were dubious to me at best. After all, reviews are just opinions … and you know what they say about opinions. Just because another author or other person of note says a story is good or bad, doesn’t mean another one million readers won’t disagree!

The only legitimate book reviews, I believe, probably exist in the science, math and technical areas when an expert in the field of the subject matter comments on its viability … But, this is something that can be politically motivated, so you have to be careful here, also! 

So, are book reviews necessary or good? I feel they might have a certain marketing value among those enamored with the reviewer … usually this applies to the adolescent, younger crowd.

Reviews will also be taken more seriously if the reviewing source has worked up a certain credibility (this seems very hard work) and track record amongst a particular niche. “I have enjoyed every single book that XYZ has reviewed and recommended! I will always read their reviews.”

If your e-book is good, it will get great word-of-mouth (or social media rush) and that is the best reviews you can receive … and they are free!

Here is a good insight and view on book reviews by indie author advocate Lynn Osterkamp, Ph.D. at http://pmibooks.com:

Are Paid Book Reviews Credible?

What if you could get 50 people to post positive reviews of your book on Amazon? For a reasonable fee?

I know the importance of having reviews of my books on Amazon. A mix of professional reviews and customer reviews is ideal. But for indie publishers and self-published authors, reviews–especially professional reviews–can be hard to get. Many professional reviewers still refuse to review books not published by mainstream publishers.

Sites that will review our books are increasingly charging a fee for what they term an expedited review or for posting the review they write on sites like Amazon and B&N. While most of these book review sites continue to offer free reviews, they warn that due to increasing numbers of submissions, a book submitted for a free review may take months to get reviewed or might not get reviewed at all.

So should you pay for a review?

Purists on author discussion groups and blogs continue to insist loudly that paying for a review with anything other than a free copy of the book, it is wrong. They say these reviews have little to no credibility and will ruin your reputation.

Read and learn more

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03/31/2011

Build Your Platform or Write Your Book? Which is the Chicken and Which is the Egg?


Should I spend time building my online presence or writing my book??

Recently I joined Ditchwalk (Storytelling in the Digital Age), an intelligent, well thought-out and written site…And tonight, it’s content hit me like a ton of sheep shit! It nailed me for the procrastinator-in-denial that I’ve become.

 Mark Barrett is the author of Ditchwalk and, while exploring the question of how much time and energy should be spent on building an author’s online presence as opposed to actual writing and writing production, he philosophizes on using platform building (blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc) as an excuse to procrastinate on actual writing.

He exposed me in my own mind instantly!

I agree with Mark that you do, in fact, need something of an online presence…but, how much and at what time (before or after you write your book).

Mark has an incisive viewpoint on this writers conundrum and I am happy to direct my visitors to his wisdom:

Platform Evolution

Here’s a graph from my Twitter Quitter post:

A basic premise of independent authorship is that authors should establish their own platform in order to reach out to readers and potential customers. I believe in that premise. What constitutes a platform, however, remains undefined.

Implicit in the idea of an author’s platform is the creation of an online presence. Because the internet has become commonplace it’s easy to forget that an independent platform for individual artists would be impossible without it. (Prior to the internet an artist’s platform was limited by geography. Bands were limited not by their music but by their touring range.) While the advantages and opportunities provided by the internet are astounding relative to the pre-internet age, the internet is still a communications medium devised by human beings, with inherent strengths and weaknesses.

Understanding how the internet works in a business context is an ongoing process. Two days ago the New York Times put up a paywall, attempting for the second time to derive revenue from its own online platform. (The first attempt failed.) That one of the most prominent newspapers in the world is still struggling to monetize content despite almost unparalleled visibility and economic muscle is a reminder to everyone that the platform question has not been answered.

Depending on your perspective, the tendency of the human mind to cherry pick information can be seen as either a bug or a feature. In the context of online platforms, it’s easy to see successes like iTunes as indicative of potential and promise when it’s actually the result of a unique set of circumstances. Finding gold in a stream may spark a gold rush, but only a few people will stake claims that literally pan out. The internet is no different. As I noted in a post about the future of publishing:

In return for making distribution almost effortless and almost free, the internet promises nothing. No revenue. No readers. Nothing.

Possibilities are not promises. Possibilities are chances, which is why I always say that writing for profit is gambling — and gambling against terrible odds. Determining what your online platform should be, and how much time you should devote to that platform, is an important part of nudging the odds in your favor.  

Lowering the Bar
Platform-services consultants, like marketing consultants, will always tell you that you can never do enough. Because the time you can devote to your platform is limited, but the time you should devote is infinite, these people will offer to bridge that gap on your behalf, for a fee. Because the internet is driven by technology, and because anything less than a cutting-edge platform means you’re falling short, platform consultants will also offer to sell you myriad apps and solutions, all of which they will teach you about, maintain and upgrade for a fee. (The New York Times was convinced by these same people to spend $40 million dollars on a paywall that can be easily circumvented.)

Approaching your platform as a vehicle of infinite possibility constrained only by your own feeble lack of determination is a recipe for failure. You do not have an infinite amount of time and resources to devote to your platform. Even if you did, there’s no guarantee that such a commitment would equal success. From part IV of my marketing and sales series:

In the real world, if you really did grab a pick and shovel and head out into your backyard to strike it rich, your friends and family would rightly think you a loon, no matter how deeply felt your convictions were. Why? Because it’s common knowledge that gold isn’t plentiful everywhere. Rather, it’s concentrated in veins of rock or in waterways that hold gold from eroded veins of rock.

If you try to dig in the wrong place it doesn’t matter how much time or money you spend, or how cutting-edge your tools are. You’re not going to get any gold even if you have infinite resources. Because the internet obviates geographical limits it seem to negate all limits, but as the NYT’s second attempt at a paywall makes clear that’s not the case. The internet is not an infinite vein of gold waiting to be exploited if only you’re smart enough to pick the right mix of apps, site functionality and marketing techniques.

(This false premise echoes the happiness industry’s determination to blame everyone for their own failings. If you’re not a happy person it’s your own fault: stop whining and try harder. If your platform isn’t racking up clicks and sales it’s your own fault: stop whining and try harder.)

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10/31/2010

Marketing Books Today


I have discovered a new literary group: BISG (Book Industry Study Group)…and they have culled some new marketing savvy from their webcast last Wednesday where 80 publishing professionals tuned in.

Some (or all) of this marketing intelligentsia you may have discovered for yourself already, but there are gold nuggets in here for those that are still seeking and learning about book marketing in today’s digital environment.

Lynn Andriani of Publisher’s Weekly reports this:

It’s All About the Social Network
BISG webcast covers marketing books in a digital world

Nearly 80 publishing professionals tuned in to a BISG-sponsored webcast, “Marketing ‘Books’ in a Digital World,” on Wednesday. The hour-long discussion covered a range of tactics publishers are taking to get their books into readers’ hands, but the topic that loomed largest was socia networking.

Rob Goodman, director of online marketing at Simon & Schuster, revealed a battery of impressive figures about how social networking influences consumer buying habits, among them: consumers are 67% more likely to buy from the brands they follow on Twitter, 51% more likely to buy from a brand they fan on Facebook, and 79% more likely to recommend brands and products they follow on social media. The other speaker, Peter Milburn, digital products marketing manager at Wiley Global Finance, called Facebook (which has 500 million users), Twitter (125 million users), YouTube, and LinkedIn “the new retailers,” an idea moderator Jim Lichtenberg, president of the management consulting practice Lightspeed, confirmed when he noted, “You go to Facebook, hear about a book, then go to a retailer and buy it—so at that point the retailer’s just fulfilling your desire.”

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