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Getting The Most Out Of Google+

Since its beginning, Google+ has been a phenomenal writing community and resource. As a writer, you can find plenty of support, information, and feedback from people every step of the way throughout your writing process. Plus, there is an underutilized promotional tip that can bring attention to your book events. Some of the tips listed below will help you make the most out of your Google+ experience.

To forewarn those of you who aren’t familiar with Google+, this post is designed for those who have some experience with the social media site, but feel as if you just don’t “get it” or you haven’t unlocked all of its features yet. So, let’s get started!

1) Don’t forget to follow and engage.

 google_one

Much like Twitter, it’s easier than you might think to find other writers on Google+. Simply search for terms such such as “writing,” “writer,” or “author” and you will uncover a slew of fellow writers and authors on the social network.

Circling people is meaningless, though, if you don’t spend a little time engaging with their content by sharing, “plusing,” or commenting. With Google+, comments and interaction are much more meaningful than on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, where it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.

2) Utilize Communities

 google_two

The communities feature of Google+ is a wonderful resource for writers. Communities such as Blogger Coffee Shop and Speculative Fiction Writers allow one to ask questions about the writing process and gain support. I have also seen people ask questions about self-publishing, book covers, and everything else in between. Google+ Communities are the new hub of writing communities. You can find any group of writers you need for your niche.

3) Create events for book promotional dates, tours, etc.

google_three 

I utilized events recently when I launched a Twitter Party event for an author with a new book coming out. It was the first time I had used this feature, and I was nervous about sending this event request to so many people I followed. The results? All positive. I received a lot of supportive remarks and a lot of people RSVP’d.

If you haven’t used this feature before, I highly recommend it. It is very useful for book launch events or tours. Use it wisely, though, as it gets sent out to everyone you’ve selected to send it out to (I sent it to over 5,000 people I followed) and you don’t want to be flagged as nuisance. So, make sure you are sending this to other writers and bookworms who will appreciate this event.

4) Create smaller circles of more engaged people to be able to send out niche specific posts.

google_four 

One of the beneficial, but more “housework-related” features of Google+ is the ability to create smaller circles of people with whom you share your posts. I’ve clumped people into one or two categories of “following” or “writing” people. However, if you have a variety of people you share content with, some posts may cater to a specific crowd. With Google+, it’s very easy to build a circle of people who only receive certain kinds of posts.

5) Complete your profile and be active.

One deterrent to circling someone back is an incomplete profile. If someone doesn’t have a photo and they have shared nothing about themselves and have never shared anything on Google+, more than likely I will not follow them back.

Make an effort to have a photo of yourself on your profile and share a little bit about yourself. Better yet, make sure in your tag line you describe yourself as a writer. Many people search for people to follow based on various search terms that interest them, so if you want to gain the attention of other writers on Google+, use words like author or writer in your profile.

6) Don’t be overwhelmed by number of followers.

Last, but not least, what I’ve noticed about Google+ is just because you have a high number of people who have circled you back, doesn’t mean that you have a lot of engaged people reading your content. Indeed, if you have a core group of people who are engaged and share your content, then you are way ahead of the game. Don’t get bogged down by the goal of having more than 1,000 people who have circled you back. If you have 100 who have circled a comment, or given a plus one, or share your posts and interact with you, then you don’t have anything to worry about.

What I like best about Google+ is that it does engage writers. You can use more words in your posts and you can seek refuge in the community area to gain support. Whether you have just signed up or you have been with Google+ for a long period, it’s always possible to enhance your experience and make it the best social network you use. There’s a whole world of writers on GooglePlus. So don’t miss out.

About the Author
Nicole Pyles is a writer and blogger living in the Pacific Northwest. In her free time, she loves to read and write about things that go bump in the night. She enjoys helping authors unlock their potential with social media and recently started hosting Twitter parties for the book promotional service Pump Up Your Book. Read her blog at World of My Imagination and follow her on Twitter and, of course, GooglePlus.

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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The Do’s and Don’ts of Facebook for Writers

If you’re a writer who wants to build a thriving fan base around your latest book, facebook  is still one of the best places on the web to do so.

Your facebook presence could catapult you to the next stage in your career, opening up hundreds of shiny new opportunities for you and your book…but you have to do it right.

Here are a few do’s and don’t’s that will help you make it happen.

DON’T: BE LAZY
There’s worse no faux pas than writers who join facebook groups to try to sell their fiction books to other writers. It’s like real estate agents trying to sell houses to other real estate agents, or car salesmen trying to sell to other car salesmen.

Yes, writers are also people who read from time to time, but they don’t join groups called “New Top Authors” to look at what YOU wrote.

DO: KNOW WHERE YOUR READERS ARE
Join groups where you’ll find people who love the genre you write in. Find people who will look to their facebook groups when they want to buy new books. Create posts that will be relevant to them, and will get your name remembered.

Don’t sell to them, befriend them – so that when that day comes, they’ll look to you.

DON’T: ACT CREEPY, DESPERATE OR PUSHY
People typically don’t log on to facebook with the intention to buy books. They log in to be entertained, to discover fun and interesting things, and to stay up to date with the things they care about. Your job is to integrate yourself seamlessly into their objectives, not rush in and ruin their downtime with rude interruptions and unwanted marketing.

You want attentive, interested people who are dying to hear about your new work, right?

Well, your typical facebook users won’t be in that mindset until you give them a reason to be. Interest is something you have to cultivate, not force.

Find your perfect space (a facebook page or group) to draw people into your world. Think  about what it will take for people to know, like and trust you.

DO: BE FRIENDLY & USEFUL
Engage with people through groups and other relevant pages. Ask your friends for introductions, like people’s stuff, and build relationships.

No one will feel threatened or offended if you’re adding value as opposed to self-promoting. Any self-promotion can come later, because once earned, you’ll be offered opportunities to do so with open arms.

We all know how we’re good at helping people, deep down. We know what people would appreciate from us most. A great sense of humour, for example – a caring ear, or fantastic advice. Even if it’s something you feel you could charge for – ESPECIALLY if it’s something you feel you could charge for – it is essential that you share it.

Sometimes your generosity will pay off right away, and sometimes not, but it’s the only way your marketing ever will.

About The Author
Stephanie Lennox is an award-winning author, keynote speaker, holistic writing coach and wellness advocate. She’s also the founder of “The Authorship Program®” – a book, blog and online course that helps writers write successful books and lead successful lives through spirituality and personal development. For free tips on feeling well and writing well, you can visit her at www.theauthorshipprogram.com.

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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11 Steps To Take In Marketing Your Book

Words that go with writing: solo, alone, unaccompanied, quiet, unobtrusive, internal.

Words that go with marketing: connections, mass, commercial, global, universal, noisy, external.

Few other art forms require both skills from one human being.

That’s you.

Yes, you could write the best book ever and run for the hills, never to fret about a bookstore signing or a writer’s conference. Hello, J.D. Salinger. And Cormac McCarthy. I guess Marcel Proust wasn’t out and about very much, either.

If you’re not producing work at that level, at some point you might have to undergo that strange transformation from recluse to extrovert, from solo artist to mass marketer.

No doubt you’ve perused a hundred web sites—looking for the secret.

You may have shelled out good money for a marketing class or a marketing workshop—searching to learn the magic touch.

You may have felt that electric tingle when you spotted a come-on tweet or a promising Facebook ad—sell millions of books tomorrow.

In fact, there seem to be as many people selling book marketing tips and strategies as there are actual writers.

Guess what? They don’t have the secret, either. Check their list of clients. Have you heard of the books they represent? Do these marketing “geniuses” really possess the perfect formula?

Just stop.

There is no magic.

Only thoughtful work.

Yep, it’s work. And it takes time.

So I’m here with a healthy dose of reality.

So herewith a list of (I hope) common-sense thoughts about marketing your novel:

  1. Be yourself. Only do what comes naturally.
  2. Go where readers congregate: bookstores and libraries. Introduce yourself to every independent bookshop within driving distance of your home. Check with the chains, too. Drop off books as gifts with the person at each store who handles events and inquire about options that might include you. Get to know your local librarians (you’re looking for speaking opportunities).
  3. Months and months before your book comes out, edit and check every email and every street address of every single friend, classmate, colleague, cohort, and relative you know. You will gently nudge them with postcards and well-designed, simple emails about the fact that your fabulous book exists. Once or twice, a few months after the book is published, you might remind me that it STILL exists and has drawn rave reviews. You can ask them to do things to help you (host book clubs, post reviews, tell friends).
  4. You will remind yourself on a daily basis: not all books are for all people.
  5. Be supportive of others in the writing community. Don’t write negative reviews. Don’t argue with people who don’t like your book. Don’t try and sell to other writers. Fellow writers are supportive. Make connections. You never know where a relationship could lead.
  6. If social media comes naturally, start making friends online many months or a year or two before your book comes out. Comment on reviews. Listen to podcasts. Re-tweet comments from your favorite critics or other writers. Yes, you can actually “meet” people here—people who can help you. Establish your voice and be clear about what you stand for. Not just “I got a book,” but comment and post about yourself and your priorities, too. What do you have to say? Establish yourself online the same way you do in your community.
  7. Hire a publicist. Yes, but only if it feels natural to you. Yes, if you have the money. Yes, if you are willing to interview three or four of them and choose the one with the most proven experience and legitimate contacts. Good publicists have connections and relationships. You’re looking for publicists who can increase your chances of receiving reviews and/or profiles written about you and your new book. You’re looking for publicists who can book you on radio or television shows and who will pitch you as a speaker at conferences. It is entirely possible to do this yourself. But it takes time.
  8. Months and months before your book comes out, make a list of dream publications you’d love to prod to write a review of your book (or a profile of you). Do you know anyone who knows anyone at these publications? Develop your pitch. Send a friendly email, something simple.
  9. Don’t overlook neighborhood newspapers and local magazines.
  10. Think topically. Make a list of every publication and website that might have an interest in the themes and topics covered in your book (even if it’s fiction). Start querying them early. Don’t get discouraged. A book editor at the Denver Post told me that they receive 50 to 60 book submissions each day. They review only a few each week. That means 300+ are not reviewed. (You know the editors can’t even give some books more than a cursory look.)
  11. Be yourself. Think long term. Think of a steady 24-month push for your title. Do something every day, whether online or sending an email or reaching out to someone online.

If it was a science, we would have long shared the formula. Book marketing is an art and it’s a long, thoughtful haul. Enjoy the ride. And start work on your next book. Maybe the next time it will be so good you can run for the hills.

About the Author
Mark Stevens has worked as a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor in Boston and Los Angeles; as a City Hall reporter for The Rocky Mountain News in Denver;  as a national field producer for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour (PBS) and as an education reporter for The Denver Post.  After journalism, he worked in school public relations before starting his own public relations and strategic communications business. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Colorado Authors League, Pike’s Peak Writers, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Mark is the author of The Allison Coil Mystery Series, which includes Antler Dust, Buried By The Roan, and Trapline. Visit him at http://www.writermarkstevens.com/.

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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By |January 19th, 2015|EBook Marketing Innovations, Interviews|0 Comments

Think You Don’t Need a Writing Coach? Think Again.

Writers are idea people. Big picture people. We are the visionaries who weave dozens of diverse colorful threads of narrative together to create one unified story. Writing is the thing we feel born to do and the thing no one could ever take away from us. It is our true purpose in life, whether it brings us euphoria or pain. Because we push on with it no matter what, the actual writing is never the problem.

It’s all the stuff that comes along with it, that is.

And that’s where a writing coach comes in.

Every writer I work with struggles with the same issues. They have a brilliant idea but can’t seem to finish writing the book it inspired. Or they finish but then feel lost on how to handle the revisions. They want to grow their writing career but they could use help with social media and getting reviews. They feel overwhelmed in this brave new world of publishing where a writer’s name depends on forging a unique identity, and they have no idea how to go about doing just that.

A top-notch writing coach helps with all this and more by:

Working with Writers to Release Inner Blocks
Many creative people unknowingly hold themselves back and self-sabotage out of fear. By honing in on who you are and how you psychologically tick, we can start to dissolve layers of resistance and open up the mental space needed for a writer to do their best work.

Getting Writers on a Realistic Writing Schedule
We set appointments for writing time and hold writers accountable for showing up. By committing to a regular schedule of time slots and word counts, even the slowest writers will see the pages increase week by week.

Being the First and Best Reader for a Writer’s Work
A top-notch writing coach also boasts the skills of a professional-grade editor and unfailingly supportive beta reader. If you don’t know the difference between the two, this is yet another thing a great writing coach can teach you.

Navigating Writers into Community, Career, and Claiming the Writer Identity
Writing groups, writers’ conferences, writing blogs—trying to get a handle on which is for you is confusing and exhausting. Writing coaches help writers find alignment with other writers, as well as the writing community that is truly a perfect fit.

If you feel scared and unsure about your writing, we can help. If you want to take the first draft of your manuscript to the next level, we can help. If you want to become the writer you always dreamed you could be, we can help.

All you have to do is ask.

About The Author
Lauren Sapala is a fiction writer, writing coach, and blogger. She founded the Write City writing group in San Francisco, and its sister branch in Seattle. She coaches all levels of writers, helping them to discover their voices and realize their goals and dreams.  Lauren currently lives in San Francisco and is working on her fifth novel. She blogs regularly at www.laurensapala.com.

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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Why Similarities Are Important In Book Marketing

We’re new to the publishing industry and so we have been, for the last year or more, eagerly devouring articles from industry notables in an attempt to “school” ourselves in the language and practice of publishing. We have, in particular, learned quite a bit from Peter McCarthy and Mike Shatzkin, founders of Logical Marketing. Their posts have not only enlightened us but have reassured us that we are heading down the right road in the development of our Audience Management Platform for Writers.

A recent presentation by McCarthy entitled The Big Ideas in Big (or Small) Marketing Data reinforced for us the critical role that “similarities” play in book marketing. The sweet spot, as McCarthy notes, is to use similarities to find the audience that is “unaware [of my book] and just might [buy)” it. These adjacent  or “look-alike” audiences are comprised of people who are similar to our own followers or to a specific profile. They share the same demographic characteristics, use the same hashtags, etc. They may, in fact, like the same books.

Set of Black and White Feather.

We have trod down the same path as McCarthy in searching for those look-alike audiences – though we may use different terms and perhaps have received different inspiration for doing so. We are inspired by the philosopher Wittgenstein’s meditations on how “language” means (through “family resemblances”) and also from the linguist de Saussure, who posited that language was comprised of similarities and differences between words or signs.

This is not a leap, of course, for most writers – or readers. Amazon, Netflix and other companies have fashioned their recommendation engines so that we are constantly reading or viewing or listening to “similar” things (fortunately we can be a fan of many genres!). And many social media users are experts at finding similar hashtags through the use of www.hashtagify.me and other tools.

So we have been, instinctively, using similarities (or analogies) all along in our search for an audience (and for meaning in general). And this makes sense – as Douglas Hofstadter writes in Surfaces and Essences, “analogy is the fuel and fire of thinking.” It also drives what we are doing at Find My Audience. We are trying to automate that process, however. Take, for example, the screen presented below.

 

__FMA_PROFILE_01b_

 

This is our Profile Screen. Here we ask writers to tell us what genre(s) their book fits into, similar books, and keywords or phrases that might describe their book. Later on, the writer will be able to provide a fuller profile, but for now, these inputs are sufficient. We use those inputs to search the social web not only for matches but for similarities to the inputs the writer entered. Below is a sample screen return from our search of Twitter.

 

fma-audience-twitter-people

 

Note that our application returns users who have been “ranked” as being potentially predisposed based on the language they are using. We then enable you to communicate directly with that user. By narrowing down the audience, we save the writer time and we provide a direct-to-consumer marketing vehicle.

There are a lot of neat feat features in our Audience Management Application and in the weeks to come we will start to share them with you. In the meantime, should you want to be on our beta list of users, send us an e-mail at mark@findmyaudience.com.

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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Reading and Memory

kindleA recent piece by Alison Flood in The Guardian brought up the issue of whether comprehension is lower when reading on a Kindle e-reader. Flood cites the work of researcher Anne Mangen of Stavanger University in Norway, who recently tested 50 people on their comprehension (plot, setting, etc.) of an Elizabeth George short story. Half of those tested read the story on a Kindle and half read it on paper.

Lo and behold, those who read the piece on a Kindle came up short when they were examined on the particulars of George’s story. Does this surprise anyone? I don’t think so.

Truth be told, our memories have, through the centuries, become increasingly downsized and outsourced. It’s true that back in the age of Homer (memory’s halcyon days), traveling bards memorized long epical poems in their entirety – and some mnemonic contortionists could recite epics like the Iliad backwards.

But even those bards used various  “distributed memory sourcing” techniques. In particular they (and their followers in the centuries to come) deployed the mnemonic strategy of loci et imagines. This is a technique where one placed what one wanted to memorize in a familiar place or attached it to a familiar object. That world is far removed from our own, and indeed it must have been a magical place, one that abounded in memories – but it does underline the fact that humans have historically created or found storage devices, both for mental and physical objects.

Scholars have posited that this kind of memory, which characterizes oral cultures, was pre-analytical, pre-logical, that it was external in nature. But that changed when books started to be produced and knowledge dramatically increased; memory migrated from the world to the page. The new “print” paradigm demanded that we only know how books were categorized; of course it helped if we knew what book specific information could be found in – but it wasn’t necessary. Freed from the taxing demands of personal memorization, our minds were able to, as Walter Ong, Robert Logan, and others have argued, to become more logical, more analytical – in short, the rise of books also witnessed the rise of the rational mind.

 

sleep_of_reason Goya, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters

Of course this is all dialectical in the sense that one paradigm – oral, print, digital – doesn’t replace an earlier one but rather subsumes it in itself and resolves the tensions and weaknesses of the previous paradigm. Having a good memory is still important – indeed, just a generation ago reciting long poems by memory was still a staple of high-school English. And recently I heard Peter O’Toole in a Fresh Air interview reciting Shakespeare’s sonnets by memory. A magnificent performance!

So, back to the Kindle and the digital age. I wonder if the Kindle doesn’t suffer from the same cognitive ailments that plague computers: namely, automation complacency and automation bias. The former refers to those moments when a computer lulls us into believing that it has everything “handled” (including memory). The latter refers to the tendency to place too much faith in believing what the computer says or does is accurate. In an article in The Atlantic entitled “All Can Be Lost: The Risk Of Putting Our Knowledge In The Hands Of Machines” Nicholas Carr chillingly points out what can happen when we let the computer do too much for us – quite simply, we forget how to do things. And when it comes to navigation (airlines, trains, ships, cars, etc.) or the operation of large equipment that can have tragic consequences.

But what does this mean for reading – specifically for reading on devices such as the Kindle or the iPad? Do readers subconsciously change their reading habits when reading on a device? Do they not concern themselves with the details per se (since the device supposedly is) but rather with a holistic or even lateral view? Could reading on a device such as the Kindle increase empathy for characters, for the human condition? Could reading on the Kindle be, in fact, a radical act, one that challenges the “dominant” mode of thinking and remembering? Certainly changes are afoot – and in the same manner that the environment worked on and reshaped our genetic map through time, our increasing reliance on devices (and not just the Kindle and iPad but all of the devices that make up the Internet of Things) may well do the same thing to our cognitive capacities.

Of course some people will be upset. Paradigm change always has its naysayers. Think of how many people were burned at the stake or in a barrel by the Church for having a copy of the Bible (or even quoting from it). Learning and thinking for oneself have always threatened those in power – but, as Nietzsche reminded us, now more than ever it’s time to live dangerously!

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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By |September 5th, 2014|EBook Marketing Innovations, FindMyAudience|0 Comments

Expression and Intention

 

Big Ben & Houses of Parliament, black and white photo

Years ago I read Jacques Barzun’s Simple and Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers. Barzun was one of those elegant and lofty minds of a certain generation; think Lionel Trilling, Edmund Wilson, Mary McCarthy, the Chicago School, and maybe a little later, M.H. Abrams, Northrup Frye. You know the type: fluent in a handful of languages, many of them no longer spoken (at least by the “man on the street”); played the piano beautifully; did a stint at Oxbridge; maybe served in WW II at Bletchley Park; took a post at one of the Ivies after the war. Always dressed professionally, maybe smoked a pipe, thought that teaching and mentoring the next generation was critically important (yes, it was a long time ago!).

Thus Barzun, who died two years ago at the age of 104 and who taught at Columbia University for over 50 years. A recent discussion by the Find My Audience team about the relationship between tweets and hashtags reminded me of one of Barzun’s memorable sentences, to wit:

The mind tends to run along the groove of one’s intention and overlook the actual expression.

Barzun’s sentence reminds us of the need to always have an editor at our side, but it also has application, if of a tenuous nature, to social discourse – and in particular to the relationship between what one says, for example, in a tweet and what one intends to say (or the audience the tweet is intended for), which is often signified by the use of a hashtag.

Now of course the hashtag has multiple purposes: it inserts one into an ongoing conversation; it serves as a bit of intentional signposting for one’s tweet (“my tweet is relevant to people speaking about X”); it can even signal the start of a new conversation.

But what is actually said in a Tweet and the hashtag used in a tweet are not the same thing. The hashtag indicates, I believe, a higher-order, even meta-intention; indeed, the expression may not have anything to do, at least on the surface, with the hashtag used.

For example, take the following tweet:

Just had a great meal at The Kitchen in #Boulder. #organics #kimkardashian

The Kitchen is a well-known “farm-to-table” restaurant in Boulder, so #Boulder and #organics make sense as hashtags, but how did #kimkardashian get in there? Did I see her while eating? Do I want her to see my tweet so she will eat at The Kitchen? Am I using that hashtag to amplify my reach? It’s hard to know.

This is one of the issues we are wrangling with at Find My Audience. Do we pay more attention to the actual expression, to the hashtag(s) used, or both? What is the most important element to focus on as we try to “find your audience.” We are experimenting with different approaches. In the next few weeks we will unveil what we have discovered. Drop me an email at mark@findmyaudience.com if you would like a sneak preview.

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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Amazon, Hachette and Commodification

amazon_hatchette

A recent editorial by Joe Nocera in the New York Times  got me looking at this conflict in a new light. Nocera, a business writer with keen insight and an alert conscience, boils the conflict down in this way:

No matter what you think of Amazon’s tactics, they surely don’t violate any laws. It is acting the way hardheaded companies usually act — inflicting some pain on the party in a dispute to move it toward resolution. On some level, the book industry has never fit comfortably in the contours of big business. But over the years, as one house after another was bought by conglomerates, as they merged with each other, as they tried to increase profits with the kind of regularity that pleases Wall Street, they began the process of commoditizing books. Jeff Bezos? He’s only taking that process to its logical extreme.

With all due respect to Joe Nocera, I have to ask: really? Books are inevitably headed down the path of widgetification, in which the only thing that matters is maximizing profit margins and moving units? And there is nothing to be done about it? What a dispiriting reality, if that is true.

But I don’t think it is.

Let’s take a quick look at commodification. When it comes to the market economics of products, commodification is at the far end of the Value-Volume spectrum.

At the Value end of the spectrum, the market price of a product depends more on the unique qualities of the product. A Stradivarius violin or an original Picasso are examples of the farthest Value-based valuation. Lower down the scale, you might find a Bentley or a Rolex, elite luxury goods whose prices are based as much on their quality as on market demand and production costs (although these factor in). With a traditionally lower supply for Value products, the price skews to the highest price that buyers will pay for it (such as an art work sold at auction).

As we move down the spectrum toward Volume-based valuations, profit margin (factoring in costs of production, distribution, and marketing along with price) becomes all important. If you have the formula for producing a product at even a small profit, and you can scale your production efficiently, you can maximize overall profit infinitely by increasing volume. Most consumer packaged goods (CPGs) in the world (such as soap and soybeans) are securely toward the Volume side of the spectrum. These are commodities. Prices for commodities skew toward the lowest price a manufacturer or producer can bear.

In aggressively driving to minimize the costs associated with their supply chain, which Amazon is unquestionably doing, they are certainly abetting the commodification of books. I don’t think any writers believe this is a good thing, nor do I.

Hachette of course is taking the position that not only is commodification bad for writers, but that publishers are an intrinsic part of the value-creation process itself (they are not just glorified “manufacturers”); they provide curatorial, editorial and marketing services which raises the quality of goods across the board, which ultimately serves both readers and writers.

To a certain extent this is true, although I agree with Nocera that corporate aggregation in the publishing industry has generally worked against the Value proposition for writers, and more towards a corporate bottom line orientation. You may feel (as I know my colleague Mark Schroeder does) that Hachette’s recent round of layoffs, followed quickly by its corporate acquisition of Perseus Books Group, puts the lie to Hachette’s moral high ground stance.

I’ll conclude by affirming my own belief that the best way to look at this dispute is not to look at what is best for Amazon or Hachette, and how that might then effect our economy down the line, but instead to look at what is best for readers and writers, and ask how the publishing industry might be best aligned to serve society down the line.

Books have always been an elite product, and they have served society magnificently. Does driving book costs down for consumers really serve society? I would prefer the costs of books remain higher, to better serve readers and writers.

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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By |June 29th, 2014|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Silicon Valley, Beat This!

Finch Lake

Finch Lake

We’ve been deep in stealth mode of late designing The Writer’s DashBoard. But lest you think all we do is burn the midnight oil in search of your audience (don’t worry, our beta will be out in September and then you really will be able to find your audience), occasionally we play hookey on a Friday afternoon and head up to the mountains for natural, as opposed to caffeinated, inspiration (“Make me thy lyre,” wrote Shelley of nature – and we second the thought!).

Access to nature is the reason why many of us live and work in Boulder. The natural beauty of the Front Range serves as a source of inspiration and is also a refuge from the daily grind. Whether it be biking, running, rock climbing, kayaking, hiking or yoga, Boulder is an ideal place to blend an active lifestyle with creative endeavors.

Wordsworth wrote in his “Ode on Intimations of Immortality” that

                               There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
                               The earth, and every common sight,
                               To me did seem
                               Apparelled in celestial light,
                               The glory and the freshness of a dream.

One often feels that way in Boulder. Seriously.

Below are a few pictures of our hike up at Wild Basin, about thirty miles north of town.

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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By |June 25th, 2014|FindMyAudience|0 Comments