“Dogs Are People, Too”: What I Learned At Big Boulder 2016

This week I had the fantastic experience of attending the 2016 BigBoulder conference, thanks to the largesse of our partners over at GNIP. This was my first time attending the conference and the Big Boulder Initiative deserves a round of applause for the great job they did. Boulder’s best hotel, the St. Julien, was a gracious host, the food and drinks catered to a variety of tastes, the talks covered a wide range of pertinent issues in the social data world, and of course informing it all was the vibe of Boulder — even though I have lived here for twenty years, I still can’t get over how spectacular a venue it is. And if that wasn’t enough, the Dalai Llama was also staying at the St. Julien. Talk about a vibrational charge!

The BBI has already blogged about the talks in some detail so I won’t rehash a job well done; rather, I would like to share a list of thoughts, observations, and “things overheard” (without “last person” attribution). I have kept the list short, but truth be told, the conference generated a whole host of thoughts and ideas. So, without further ado: 

  • Dogs are people, too.
  • Brad (a real guy) does a better job than Radian Six at measuring sentiment. No one should tell Salesforce that.
  • A lot of folks are watching Mr. Robot. Is life imitating art?
  • If not art, then life often imitates (or is shaped by) Twitter — at least during political crises.
  • Pictures can tell a story — if we can see them.
  • Empathy — in design and presentation— will be a key element.
  • There are multiple truths.
  • We have miles to go before we sleep.
  • Bots are the future. But they still need Brad.
  • Algorithms are biased.
  • Now what?

Here are a couple of suggestions for the BBI for next year (assuming unlimited time and budget):

  1. It would be great to have a meeting planner capability where attendees are able to schedule meetings with other attendees prior to the conference. That may have been available and I was not aware of it.
  2. How about some workshops for brainstorming specific problems?
  3. What about a start-up competition? Start-ups would get ten minutes on the stage to make their presentation. Attendees could vote on the winner.

Look forward to seeing you all at Big Boulder 2017!

— Mark Schroeder

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Writers & The Zero Moment Of Truth

 

In our last post we discussed the importance of Micro Moments for writers. Micro moments present opportunities for writers to build their communities and/or market their books, assuming the timing is right. Micro moments comprise the first step in what we are calling the Audience Location Journey.

Here’s an example: assume that you have written a phenomenal work about a woman who is stranded on a distant planet without food or water. She will need to use all the ingenuity she possesses to survive until her crew can make it back to rescue her. Sound familiar? Of course it does. Your book could be the kissing cousin of the best-selling The Martian. And that’s not a bad thing, for if you can identify positive tweets and posts about The Martian, and connect with the authors of those sentiments, you may also find your own audience. Marketing experts call this an “affinity audience.”

Let’s further assume that your affinity audience has finished The Martian and is looking for a similar book to read. They are full of “intent to buy” but aren’t sure which book they will be buying. So they whip out the phone, pad, or computer and start researching. Google calls this The Zero Moment of Truth, which is “the precise moment when they [your potential readers] have a need, intent or question they want answered online.” This is the second step of the Audience Location Journey.

And journey it is, for in this phase your potential reader moves back and forth between devices (phone to computer and back again) and channels (Twitter, Facebook, et. al), checking prices, reviews, and in the case of books, asking for recommendations or simply taking a look, for example, at friends’ Bookshelves on GoodReads.

The marketing task, then, is this: to “shape” your potential reader’s journey — and anticipate the questions s/he might ask along the way.

This requires that you understand your reader’s intent. Indeed, one of the truisms of marketing today is that intent and immediacy of messaging are more important, as Lisa Gevelber of Google notes, than “reach and frequency.”

Zero_IMG_02_

So, where should you start? We suggest you first answer a number of questions, such as:

* What questions will the user want answered? And what are the answers?

* What kind of cover images or art will hook the user?

* What blurb works best to compel the reader to continue reading?

* Which books are similar to your book?

Keep in mind that your marketing efforts at this stage are not so much about “your” work but rather about addressing what your potential reader wants — what they feel comfortable with. To be sure, in the “morphology” of reader taste similarity takes pride of place. As a result, especially if you are a self-published author, you might want to engage in a species of resemblance marketing.

Another way of looking at this is that the answer to every potential reader question is this: “It’s like the book you just read (but with a slight twist).”

Let’s make this more concrete. Take a look at the following three book covers.

Notice the family resemblances? Now is not the time and place to talk in depth about our desire, or lack thereof, for originality in what we read (and see). Notwithstanding, it is important to take into account the degree to which the publishing industry shapes your readers’ tastes. Tim Parks in a recent NYRB article describes the situation as thus:

The difficulties of the writer who is not yet well established have been compounded in recent years by the decision on the part of most large publishers to allow their sales staff a say in which novels get published and which don’t. At a recent conference in Oxford–entitled Literary Activism–editor Philip Langeskov described how on hearing his pitch of a new novel, sales teams would invariably ask, “But what other book is it like?” Only when a novel could be presented as having a reassuring resemblance to something already commercially successful was it likely to overcome the sales staff veto. 

In closing, we should point out that your “public face” (cover art, web site, etc.) needs to be professional and enticing — in short, it needs to pass the “gut test.” If it does pass that test, and many don’t, then you have a chance to further influence the reader’s Zero Moment of Truth. In our next post, we will discuss the different ways you can do that.

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This is How You Know You’re Working With a Great Editor

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Guest Post by Caroline Beaton

Editors are writers.

This is good news.

Because they’re writers, editors ideally grasp basic grammar, flow and how to skirt buzzwords, adverbs and cliches. As writers,editors dissect phrases and painstakingly rearrange them. They seek clarity and precision in every word.

It’s also bad news.

Writers have pet peeves, preferences, unique voices, bad habits and egos. As a result, editors can be persnickety about making something “just so,” even if it’s contrary to the author’s vision. At best, editors’ creative biases leak benignly into the writer’s work. At worst, past publishing traumas and insecurities haunt each piece they try to “remedy,” causing them to overwork or over-critique your piece.

Because writers see editors as authorities (as they often are, with influence over what’s published), incidental power dynamics abound. Once entwined with a certain editor, it can be difficult to recognize if they’re damaging your work and even your well-being. Here are some signs you’ve found a keeper:

1) The best editors write.

If your editor isn’t actively or occasionally writing and getting published, ask yourself why not. We already established that editors are writers, so if they can’t get their own stuff published, they probably can’t get yours published, either. Would you take cooking advice from a self-professed cook who hadn’t prepared food for anyone in years?

Editors who write stay off their high horses because they’re constantly immersed in the trials of publication themselves. They know it’s hard. When editors are active in the field instead of just calling fouls from the stands, they’re more humble and better able to relate.

At the same time, editors shouldn’t write your stuff because:

2) The best editors are not construction workers.

If your piece gained words while you were away, get out of the relationship. Editors should play Tetris with the building blocks you provide. When they dump confetti atop your solid castle, they’re showing off and don’t have your best interests in mind. Great editors want you to come through.

On the other hand, well-intentioned deconstructionists can become butchers. Though Raymond Carver’s first editor, Gordon Lish, played a key role in Carver’s initial fame, the degree to which he cut Carver’s stories—by as much as 50 percent—made Carver resentful and embarrassed. Lish’s incessant trimming ultimately ended their relationship.

Great editors, in short, leave heavy lifting to the writer. The author should govern major content changes while the editor guides smaller design work and helps them articulate what they’re trying to say. This is why:

3) The best editors are psychotherapists. 

Good editors don’t put words in your mouth (even if it sounds better that way). Instead, they ask questions; they try to get to the bottom of the scene or message. They help you see your piece in a different light.

Here are some examples of what editing psychotherapy sounds like:

“It seems to me like you’re trying to convey ______. Is that right?”

“Can you tell me more about that?”

“Help me understand this.”

“I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say. Can you explain?”

“This really grabbed me. Say more!”

And of course: “How do you feel about that (scene, part, sentence, transition, character)?”

In this way, great editors are like Harry Potter’s Mirror of Erised: they help us see both what we lack and what we most want our work to express. But this kind of dungeon digging can be aggravating, so:

4) The best editors are nice.

As an editor for elephantjournal.com, I sometimes get submissions prefaced by, “Be as critical as possible. Tell me exactly what I did wrong!” I admire such vulnerability, but tearing the piece apart doesn’t actually help anyone. Remember? I’m just a writer! I have perspective and editing skills that may make stuff successful, but that doesn’t mean I’m always right. Many editors and producers have, in fact, been fatally wrong. Before the Beatles got famous, they auditioned for the production company Decca Records. Decca rejected them on the basis that, “The Beatles have no future in show business.” Great editors know that arrogance makes them both unkind and more likely to mess up.

Overly critical editing also signifies laziness. It’s easier to say what’s bad about writing than what’s good about it. But pointing to what authors did right gives them a better revision guide than outlining everything they did wrong. In other words, framing critiques around “more of this” is more helpful than saying “less of that.”

Great editors respect your work, even if it’s not yet where it needs to be. They are willing to work with you and see multiple solutions. They don’t mind you backseat driving because it’s your car. But they also know when to lay down the law:

5) The best editors are ruthless.

Great editors kill our darlings even when we can’t. Though they communicate before changing key parts or removing large sections of text, they won’t let just anything by. Their standard is impossible and they constantly challenge you to meet it. When you’re getting too heady or self-important, they’re not afraid to say, “This part sounds a little self-involved.” When you’re off track, they’ll tell you, “I got lost! What are you saying?” Great editors, in sum, won’t take your crap.

Of all the above, this characteristic causes the most contention between writers and editors. Elephant’s writers, particularly the regular ones, routinely challenge our edits and/or feedback. It hurts to be told “no”; it also hurts to have something you sweat for shredded. But tough love is essential. An editor without spine is just a cheerleader. By and large, Elephant’s writers ultimately thank us for pushing them.

When you have a “flawless editor” who you “never disagree with,” ask yourself if he or she is helping you grow.

If you’re already working with someone who failed this test, remember: “Great editors do not discover nor produce great authors; great authors create and produce great publishers” (John Farrar). Set the bar by communicating with your editor what you want out of the relationship. Hold your editor accountable by asking specific, pointed questions and checking in regularly. Don’t let yourself be bullied into silence, but make sure your editor isn’t either. If there’s still tension and multiple editors have seen your piece, be honest with yourself: is it them, or is it you?

 

Caroline Beaton

Caroline Beaton is a Denver-based freelance writer and an editor for elephantjournal.com. Her articles and fiction have appeared in The Denver Post, The Aspen Times, Yoga International and The Commonline Journal, among other places. Get in touch with her at www.carolinebeaton.com or via Twitter @cs_beaton.

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 9th, 2015|FindMyAudience|0 Comments

Pinterest for Authors

Every morning I spend a few hours collecting content to share on the Find My Audience social media platforms. I look for trends in the publishing industry and I pay special attention to the articles that describe how things are changing for writers (and readers, for that matter).

The publishing industry is always evolving and it adapts with the times—and fast! That said, in today’s age an author’s success is dependent on his or her ability to hit a moving target. Authors are left wondering, “What can I do to keep up?”

One thing the experts do agree on is the need for authors to focus on building a strong social media presence—right now. The social web is where things are happening for authors these days; and it makes sense, considering that’s where their readers spend their time.

One of the best social media platforms for reaching readers and sharing content on the web is Pinterest. You can use it as a tool to introduce yourself, engage with your audience, and drive traffic to your various websites.

What is Pinterest?
Jon Reed describes Pinterest as “a virtual corkboard – a place to pin your interests. You create and arrange boards on specific topics and pin images and other media such as video to them.” In essence, Pinterest is a referral engine that is filled with customer insight intelligence. Seth Fiegerman adds to the conversation in his article explaining why, “Pinterest Drives More Traffic to Publishers Than Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit Combined.” He says that, “When it comes to referral traffic from social networks, there’s Facebook and Pinterest—and then there’s everyone else.” Instead of having to ask people what they like, they tell you by pinning it.

Why is Pinterest a useful tool for authors?
It gives you the opportunity to share your content and your books with your current audience, as well as many potential prospects. As long as you have a visual representation of the work you have done – book covers, book trailers, illustrations from your novel, fan art, or even a headshot – you can pin links to your work, driving traffic to your website(s). Because referral marketing is so powerful in the publishing industry, it’s no wonder why successful authors are starting to use Pinterest. It screams book marketing!

Authors who are on Pinterest already?
Take a look at some of these Young Adults authors who already have accounts on Pinterest:

Lisa Shafer (Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire): http://pinterest.com/lisawriting/
Laura Thomas (Tears To Dancing)http://pinterest.com/lauracthomas/
Todd R. Tystad (Blue Hill): http://pinterest.com/toddrtystad
Sara Zarr (Story of a Girl, How to Save a Life, etc.): http://pinterest.com/sarazarr
Amie Kaufman (Wrecked): http://pinterest.com/amiekaufman
Lynne Kelly (Chained): http://pinterest.com/lynnekellyh
Caitlin Kittredge (The Iron Codex series, etc): http://pinterest.com/caitkitt/

So how do you get started?

  • Sign up. You have the option to log in using your email, Facebook or Twitter account. I recommend connecting with one of your existing social media accounts because it will be significantly easier for you to find your friends, family members, and favorite public figures or blogs to follow.
  • Create your profile. You get to choose a username for your account. Keep it consistent with your other social media usernames. That’ll make it easier for your fans and potential followers to find you.
  • Check your settings. Turn your email notifications on. You want to know who is pinning what, and overtime you’ll start to understand the “why” behind their behavior. Having access to the “whom”, “what”, and “why” is important.

How do you pin?

  • Install the Pin It Button. With the Pin It button on your browser, you can easily pin any of the content you have on your page.
  • Add a Pin. When you are browsing the web and you want to add a pin, you can click the Pin It button on your bookmark bar or on the website you are pinning from. Then, Pinterest will give you the option to select which board you’d like to pin it to.
  • Create a New Board. Everything you pin is added to a board you have created. You can do so by clicking the “Add +” button in the upper right-hand corner of your main Pinterest page. Select the option to Create a Board. You can name your boards anything you’d like–but try to be specific, so that when potential users search for pins or boards similar to your board, it will show up in their search results.
  • Repin from Your Feed. You are able to see what your followers are pinning as well. In order to repin their post, all you have to do is run your mouse over the pin and select the “Pin It” button. It’ll direct you to the board you’d like to pin it to.
  • Like and Comment. Engage with your Pinterest community! Like pins; comment on pins; get to know your followers and let them get to know you.

Sources used for the above information:

–Alexa Davis

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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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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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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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

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

Magical Realism Realized

cortazar_1The Simon Bolivar of the Novel: Julio Cortazar

I received a text today. Or maybe it was yesterday. I can’t be sure…

It was from my youngest daughter, who was attending the Buenos Aires Book Fair. She couldn’t pass up the chance of sending me a photo of Buenos Aires’s own great writer, Julio Cortazar, author (most notably) of Hopscotch, amongst other works. A handsome fellow, that Cortazar, and with that cigarette hanging from his mouth, he reminds me of Camus  (famous picture of whom below) – and there are other similarities, too (the fight against oppression, the fascination with memory, etc.).

camusSmoking Never Looked So Good

***

I believe that for my daughter Buenos Aires may have a tenuous, albeit unconscious, connection to another city she experienced as a  young girl, a city where the older people carry within them secrets and painful memories, where they walk in a similar manner, still cast furtive glances when out on the streets (J’accuse!).  A city where they give books and roses to a loved one once a year. Barcelona, that is. Like Buenos Aires,  a stylish city, yet one full of ghosts, one that still bears the pall of dictatorship.

BA_6

Are books always the great foe of dictatorships? Is imagination our last refuge? The only place we can be free?

***

Buenos Aires has been on my mind a lot lately…

Whilst wandering the streets of San Telmo, Buenos Aires’s well-known historic barrio, I was struck by the presentness of its past - different epochs meld into each other, historical figures have a life, are tangible on a daily basis (the Perons, for example – and Evita’s visage is prominently displayed on buildings).

One can see a Porsche plying its way through the streets followed by a horse-drawn cart. On one side of Plazza Dorrego couples will dance the tango, a mating ritual seemingly as old as time – and on the other, kids will be playing techno pop, banging drums. It all works, like some fabulous Magritte painting. Garcia Marquez said of Mexico that “surrealism runs through the streets.” The same can be said of Buenos Aires.

BA_2

***

At night the streets of San Telmo are crowded with los cartneros searching through the  garbage bins for recyclables Not one or two, mind you. There are families. Gangs. Running mates. Solitaries. People pushing carts. When the sun comes up, they disappear.

BA_5

I barely know Buenos Aires, but like Cortazar’s Hopscotch, it seems to invite one to play a game with it – to begin where one finds oneself, to be swept up in a postmodern gesture that eschews structural and cultural unity.

Cortazar said, “These days, my notion of the fantastic is closer to what we call reality. Perhaps because reality approaches the fantastic more and more.”

Buenos Aires is a fantastic city. I will be returning soon…

 

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By |May 11th, 2014|FindMyAudience|0 Comments