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Discoverability: A problem for authors AND readers

November 23, 2012

Interesting piece in the Guardian book blog: the paper’s reviewers want to cover independently published books but are unsure where to start.  So they solicit their readers for ideas on how to discern the good stuff from the not-so-good stuff.

The comments are notable for a thread about curation. Wouldn’t it be nice, some say, if there were a website that helped the good stand out from the bad, the job that traditional publishers have done in the past. Hmmmm…Is that just replacing one set of gatekeepers with another? But clearly readers want reliable sources of recommendation as do authors.

Another pattern emerges from the comment stream: self-published writers apologize again and again for recommending their own books. One of them points out, fairly, that with so few opportunities for their work to be promoted,  self-promotion is their only recourse.  Hmmmm…why do authors get knocked for self-promotion when, surely, that’s almost the entire basis of celebrity in this culture? Self-promotion is the currency needed to get attention. When you don’t have a publisher or publicist to get attention for you, then it’s DIY time. Or as one writer put it, self-publishing=punk rock.

One commentator, novelist Alan Skinner, offers this suggestion: “Nothing will give self-publishing as much credibility as winning a prestigious literary prize. I’d love to see a self-published ebook on the long list for the Man Booker, for example. Given the nomination fee, this is unlikely to happen, though. There are other prestigious awards and prizes and it might benefit us all in the long run for a few of us to get together, find some worthy self-published contenders, and set-up a blog to gain some momentum.”

His suggestion is a smart one. Rather than self-published writers talking to one another about their books–or rather, blurting blurbs about their books at one another as in the Guardian thread–what if they banded together to professionalize their independent approach to publishing, gain credibility in the minds of readers, and create a forum for recognition and discoverability…well that would be kind of like punk rock going mainstream. And that would be a good thing.

Crazy ways to get attention for your book (part 3)

April 13, 2012

In today’s Big News Cycle: the Department of Justice sued Apple and five big publishers over ebook pricing; three settled and three will fight it.

And yet two unrelated items that crossed my desk today remain on my mind far more than that pressing issue.

The first: Snoop Dogg releases a smokable songbook.  Seriously? A book that you use as rolling paper after you’ve read it? According to the Guardian, “the songs are printed on Snoop’s new king-size slim rolling papers, with the pages perforated for easy removal.”

So that got me to thinking. I publish a lot of cookbooks. Could I perhaps publish an edible cookbook? Could this be done?

Turns out I was slow off the mark, last to the party, not as smart as I think I am. Someone has already done this. Seriously. It’s a book made of lasagna pasta and you prepare it while you read the recipe. Then you cook it. You can see the step by step instructions here. Is it a joke? Hard to tell, in part because I don’t speak German, and Germany is where The Real Cookbook was created. But it sure is impressive. As a book and as a meal.

This takes Crazy to a whole new level. (And it’s far more entertaining that the DoJ.)

Kickstarter for Authors: How to fund your book tour

March 17, 2012

Writing is solitary. Publishing is not. Which means you need to connect with others for your publishing success.

Kickstarter offers one approach for artists and writers and other creators: Post your project and the amount of money you need to raise in order to get community funding. Fund your book tour, for instance, or your self-published book.

I like the way Richard Christie is doing it. He’s a children’s book illustrator and seeks backing for his Decatur childrens bookstore.

I also like the way Ron Hogan is using it to underwrite a free app showcasing multi-media author interviews from his site, Beatrice.

And then there’s this enchanting project from A.N. Devers. She was seeking funding to report on 15 writers homes around England as material for her literary blog.

Like contributions to a PBS pledge drive, various levels of donation earn rewards such as signed works of art (Christie), social media consultations (Hogan), and limited edition illustrated postcards about the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth and the Dickens House in London (Devers).

Kickstarter is not for everyone. A friend sniffily pronounced it dishonest. But, to the contrary, I find myself charmed by the artistic energy found there and am rather tempted by Hogan’s social media consultation.

Go to Kickstarter and search on “book” or “author” to see what your colleagues are up to.

Crazy ways to get attention for your book (Part 2)

February 5, 2012

You simply cannot doubt an author’s commitment when he runs his first London Marathon wearing the bright orange costume of his superhero character. Especially when that character is Johnny Catbiscuit. That’s impressive: 26 miles in an orange cape.

Michael Cox is the author of many children’s books and possesses stunning writerly credentials, including air trombonist. His website is here.

It’s one thing to run a marathon in superhero garb, another to make sure the word gets out. Enter Michael Cox’s son, Tom Cox, also a writer. The most recent in his series of humorous cat-centric memoirs is Talk to the Tail. His piece in the Guardian, My Dad, the Superhero, neatly tells the story of his dad’s marathon and  pulls the reader into the warmth of his family’s life. A win for both father and son in publicizing their books. (And I bet Mrs. Cox has some stories to tell, too.)

Would you run a marathon to promote your book?

Social Media Week: Free Marketing Advice for Authors

January 29, 2012

One of the cool things about how media is shifting is that new media tools are open and accessible to all of us. In the true spirit of the early days of the Internet, information is shared freely for the benefit of all.

Social Media Week (@socialmediaweek on Twitter) is but one example. And if you have plans to be in Hamburg, Hong Kong, London, Miami, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Tokyo, Toronto or Washington DC during February 13-17, then you can take part. For free.

What is Social Media Week? It’s when leaders in mobile and social talk about their work and trends in their fields. The events are held at various locations in each participating city. And let’s repeat: it’s free.

Getting Published and Beyond in the 21st Century is aimed squarely at authors trying to make sense of social tools to market their work. It’s in NYC.

Perhaps you’re interested in gamification—the idea of bringing game play dynamics to your business (and in a writer’s case, to finding your audience.) Then do not miss Gabe Zichermann’s NYC keynote on The Business of Fun. (Follow him on Twitter @gzicherm.)

Or you’re looking to break out of your mental rut when it comes to figuring out how to market your book. Then the panel on How to Identify Topical Influencers in San Fran might kickstart a new way of thinking.

Curious about how to collaborate with others through social media? Try Social Media, Art & Collaboration in Toronto. Or Literature Unbound: Radical Strategies for Social Literature in NYC.

It’s so important for writers—for anyone, for that matter—to get out of our heads and join in these sorts of larger marketing forums. There is a lot to learn and you have a lot to contribute to the discussion, too. Everyone’s trying to figure out what works—from large businesses to individual authors. Enjoy!

Kick start your online campaign

January 16, 2012

Lest you think that professional marketers in the publishing business possess all the secrets about book publicity, they don’t. Book marketing is far from being an exact science, partly because it’s in a constant state of flux.

That’s a good thing because new promotional opportunities to connect with readers are emerging every day. And today, every author has abundant access to the tools of promotion to make those all important connections.

However, if you’ve got the budget, consider hiring a professional marketer—whether a publicist or digital marketing specialist—to help you jump start your book campaign and identify the best promotional opportunties. Take advantage of his/her experience to learn the basics before you go it alone. Think of it this way: how much is your time worth? If hiring a pro will save you 80 hours of research and reaching out to leads, then is that money well spent?

It bears repeating: hiring a pro for your book’s launch is simply a kickstart to your ongoing campaign for your book. The key word here is ongoing.

In the video below you’ll see Fauzia Burke, who heads a book marketing company that specializes in online promotions, talking about the changes she sees in the marketplace. There are good lessons here for any author.

Burke describes a departure from event marketing. Rather than treating a book launch like a singular event, an author and publisher have a greater opportunity by promoting the author’s entire body of work over a longer period of time.

Novelist Ruth Ann Nordin knows this, too. See her thoughtful blog post about the marathon required in book promotion. Most interesting, she talks about how “promotion is about investing in people.”  This writer understands that successful promotion is about building relationships, it’s about earning the attention for your work.  And like almost anything worthwhile, that takes time.

We’re all in this for the long haul.  Are you wearing your comfortable shoes?

Twitter basics: Find people you want to follow

January 15, 2012

As an avid fan of novelist Margot Livesey, I was pleased to discover that she has started tweeting. If you’ve not read her work, start with Criminals or The Missing World. Critics rightly compare her to Patricia Highsmith and P.D. James.

I was even more thrilled to see that she has a new book out—a nice promising start to the New Year.

I found her by typing her name into the Twitter search field, a happenstance sort of discovery triggered only by the fleeting thought that I hadn’t read her lately.

So how do you find people to follow in a more organized way?

One place to start is by looking at who your close friends follow. If your core circle shares your interests, the people they follow are likely to post things you’re interested in, too.

Another approach: type  a subject into the search field. For example, type “books” and you’ll get screens full of tweets that mention books in their posts. Follow the ones posted by people who seem interesting to you. Alternately, on the “who to follow” link, click on the browse interests field for topics that interest you.

You can also search with a hashtag—particularly useful during fast-moving breaking news or other types of event. For example, Social Media Week takes place in several major cities around the world in early February. For the New York conference, organizers are posting tweets using the #SMWNYC hashtag name. During the event itself, you’ll read thousands of live streaming tweets from attendees at the various panel discussions. Following a hashtag is a great way to follow what unfolds in a conference even if you can’t actually attend.

Another example: Interested in what’s going on in ebooks and digital marketing? Can’t attend the Digital Book World conference this month? Then look for the #DBW hashtag during the week of January 23rd to catch up on some of what you’re missing.

Then there are curated tweet lists you can jump on. Try a Google search to find lists like these. For instance, Zagat’s has created a list of food-related tweeters to follow. People you already follow may offer lists which you can tap into. (Just click on the lists link on their home page.) For example, Publishers Weekly has a list of book publishers it covered for an article about Twitter.

Want to follow book critics? You could start with the National Book Critics Circle @bookcritics. Better yet, take advantage of the many publishing-related lists compiled by the industry trade newsletter, Galley Cat, and its book reviewer list in particular.

One thing is for sure: if you discover that Twitter is for you, you’ll soon find yourself spending many hours exploring what it has to offer. It can be quite addictive as the possibilities are endless.

What are your favorite lists?

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