Monthly Archives: March 2015

Beginnings

A number of years ago I wrote The Book of Margery Kempe. I was inspired to write the novel by Edward Nolan, a professor of literature at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I was developing a CD-ROM on the history of the humanities and had hired Ed to write the section on the Middle Ages. One script, on the outspoken medieval pilgrim, Margery Kempe, fascinated me. Ed portrayed her as a character right out of Faulkner — except, of course, that she was English and lived in the fifteenth century. Regardless, I’m a big fan of strong women, and of pilgrimages, and for years Margery roiled about in my head until, finally, she walked out of it and onto the page. I hope I did her justice.

Like many of you, I self-published my novel. I couldn’t bear the thought of having to pitch a literary agent, assuming I even got one to respond to a query letter. I’m an entrepreneur and I’m used to asking people for money to build software but to have to do the “song and dance” for an agent didn’t sit well with me. The act of writing is such a personal process, such an act of self-discovery, that I didn’t want my hypothetical “market value” to determine my own self worth. Call me thin-skinned, but I decided to pass on that evaluation.

magaphone

So I jumped into the self-marketing game — started a blog, then added Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. I figured Facebook and Pinterest would come down the road once I got my “author platform” humming. I started blogging away and following other writers. And I worked those channels hard but it quickly became apparent to me that there was a lot of “noise” out of there — and it was time-consuming work, to boot! When I did hawk my book, what Jane Freidman calls “bullhorning,” it was unclear to me who was seeing the message or if the message was working — there just didn’t seem to be a good way to find and quantify which folks would be more “predisposed” to like my book. From that experience was borne Find My Audience, which is dedicated to finding a writer’s audience on the social web. And doing it quickly, so writers can have more time for — writing!

More than a year later we are in the final stages of preparing the Find My Audience application for Beta, which we will deliver to the market in June. We are having our first users test the application now. They provide us with feedback, we incorporate their suggestions, and then we release another version of the application — and so on, until we feel the application is ready for prime time. We’d love to have you join in the process. Take a look at the brief video of what we are doing at www.findmyaudience. If you like what you see, sign up for it here. Thanks for your support!

- Mark Schroeder

At Find My Audience, we understand that not all authors are marketers. That being said, growing your social audience can expand your readership and book sales. You don’t have to be a book marketer to find new readers online. We are here to simplify this process for you. Sign up today and connect with potential readers across the globe.

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Metatagging, Genetic Analysis and Audience Discovery

In a recent blog post, Mike Shatzkin of the Logical Marketing Agency talks about the importance of understanding the potential audience for a book, as a crucial complement to metatagging (generating descriptive metadata that would allow a work to show up at appropriate places in search and recommendation engines.)

As the co-founder of a company called Find My Audience, I agree with Shatkin’s general point; indeed, I said something very similar in my blog post last week. But I disagree with several contentions that seem to inform his view.

The first thing I disagree with is his pooh-poohing of the type of structural, or genetic, deconstruction that companies like Trajectory are doing to help literary distributors or buyers find books they might like.

Towards the end of his post, he states bluntly: “If what you want is to make your book pop in the searches of likely readers … finding a book that is similar in writing style, pacing, and story construction really won’t help you at all.”

Really? It seems odd to me to dismiss the rather obvious notion that if I like one book, I might like a book that is similar to it in some way.

Sure, this can be done crudely … I happen to love Thomas Pynchon but have never taken a shine to the writing of Don Delillo, with whom he is often compared in theme, mood, voice and style.

But why shouldn’t we try to build and extend our understanding of how certain books work, and relate them to similar works, in the hopes that readers might find some guidance venturing into their next reading experience?

This work is still in its infancy, but where I see it going is that we will be able to describe writings in greater detail relative to the great literary critical frameworks of the last century:

  • Northrop Frye’s archetypal types and modes (tragedy, comedy, thematic; mythic, romantic, ironic).
  • Gerard Genette’s syntax of narratives (Order, Frequency, Duration, Voice and Mode)
  • E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel (story, characters, plot, fantasy, prophecy, pattern, rhythm)
  • Wittgenstein’s theories of language games.

I think it will be amazing when we can go way beyond “keywording” to teasing out (with more or less help from humans) many of the generic, genetic and genealogical structures operating in a work and sending readers to interesting nearby lands. I believe the work Trajectory is doing (and Booklamp and Small Demons before them) is just the beginning.

The second place I disagree with Shatzkin is more a matter of emphasis. As I mentioned, I share his belief that audience research is a key component of book marketing. As he puts it, it is a “separate task that can take a couple of hours or more and requires a dedicated effort.”

But I believe he goes on to overstate what it takes to do this: “The research exercise we’re suggesting is a prerequisite doesn’t just take time: it takes knowledge and skill, as does applying what is learned to the copy. Even if the knowledge were there and distributed across all the people who write descriptive copy today — and there is no publisher on the planet in which it is — the time required for the research would tax the resources of any house.”

The proposition here is that understanding the audience for a work is the “core activity” for book marketing, that undue attention on genetic deconstruction is “distracting,” and that the core activity is best done by a professional digital marketer.

We say: not so fast. Digital platforms like Trajectory are getting better at understanding key effective structural elements of books, social listening platforms are already being used to understand sentiment and affinity trends, and platforms like Find My Audience are getting better at finding and understanding readers based on their expressed (and implied) interests and affinities.

There will undoubtedly be a role for professional book marketers for many years to come. We are in an age of constant evolution and disruption, and there will not be a monolithic platform for how books are marketed. Our interest is in developing tools that help writers first and foremost, as well as professional book marketers, agencies, and publisher-press marketing departments.

Algorithms and Big Social platforms that bake in smart and sensitive understanding of literary and semantic models will be a key part of the mix.

-Paul Agostinelli

At Find My Audience, we understand that not all authors are marketers. That being said, growing your social audience can expand your readership and book sales. You don’t have to be a book marketer to find new readers online. We are here to simplify this process for you. Sign up today and connect with potential readers across the globe.

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Twitter Tips & Tricks

“Are you on Twitter?” I ask my new client.

“Yeah…um, well…sort of. I mean, I’m on it but I don’t use it.”

“Why not?” I ask.

The answers writers give tend to follow the same pattern:

  • I don’t know what to say
  • I’m not funny enough
  • My life isn’t interesting enough
  • I’m not good at social media
  • Who wants to read my tweets anyway?

But not one of these statements matters when it comes to building an awesome author presence on Twitter.

The key to becoming a Twitter Rockstar is that it’s not about you being impressive.

It’s about you finding your people.

But how do you put yourself out there and find your people?

One of the biggest misconceptions new users bring to Twitter is that they should be concerned with building what we call “clout.” Sure, Stephen King has over 600k followers and is only following 21 people. But you don’t have to be Stephen King to rock the Twittersphere.

You can be yourself and still build your audience. You can be 100% authentic and still promote your book and grow your writing career. Instead of focusing on pushing your advertising, your focus should be on pulling in a grassroots network of writer friends who want to support your work.

Twitter Tip #1

Check the Follower Lists of Popular Organizations in the Writing World.

Writer’s Digest, Artists and Writers, and AWP all have a mass following on Twitter. Look at who is following them and then follow the novelists, poets, freelance writers, editors, agents, and publishers who catch your eye.

Follow those Followers who share your vibe.

Zoom in on the details. If you’re a horror author, look at the Follower list of the Horror Writers Association. If you write contemporary romance, check out Chick Lit Central. Follow the people you have something in common with, and if they don’t follow you back it’s no big deal. The people you are meant to connect with will.

Twitter Tip #2 

Be Supportive and Share the Content of Others.

When you find someone on Twitter who shares your vibe take it a few steps further. Look up their About page on their website, Like them on Facebook, and subscribe to get their posts if they have a blog. Then, tweet their stuff.

Twitter is about connection.

Once you build those relationships it becomes a two-way street. The people who appreciate your help with their writing dreams will cheer you on as you pursue yours. You will build a virtual community that is compatible with you, your message, and your mission. And when you put your own content out there, members of this community will share it with their audiences.

Twitter Tip #3

Harness the Power of the List

If Twitter is like a party with millions of people in attendance, the Lists you create are rooms within the party. As you stumble across people who always tweet good stuff, or who you want to get to know better, you can add them all to one room.

Your lists should include people and organizations who only share interesting and useful tweets.

When you’re crunched for time check one of your Lists and retweet the good stuff. It only takes five minutes when you have a great List going and you’re not under so much pressure to come up with witty, insightful tweets of your own. Plus, you can actually keep up with what’s going on with a select circle of your Twitter friends instead of becoming overwhelmed by the main stream.

Twitter Tip #4

Talk to Strangers and Tell Them You Love What They’re Doing

Once you start following a lot of different writing people, you will stumble across a few who have fantastic projects going on. If you find a new indie author who’s just come out with a book that looks intriguing, tell them so. If you discover a cool writing contest devoted to charity, tell them to keep up the good work.

Be open and generous with your most positive presence and others will respond in kind.

And sometimes, they won’t. That’s okay too. Remember, your Twitter strategy is to pull in the really incredible people and the most compatible organizations. The ones who fail to connect were never going to be a good match for you anyway.

It’s just like making friends in the real world. You don’t need every single person in the virtual universe to support you as a writer, only the few who really matter.

About The Writer
Lauren Sapala is a writer and a writing coach and a social media expert. If you’re interested in improving your writing, and building your confidence as a writer, she can help you. Email her at writecitysf@gmail.com and talk to her about your writing.

At Find My Audience, we understand that not all authors are marketers. That being said, growing your social audience can expand your readership and book sales. You don’t have to be a book marketer to find new readers online. We are here to simplify this process for you. Sign up today and connect with potential readers across the globe.

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