“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

Why Social Media is Important for Self-Publishing

Social media concept

We’ve witnessed a lot of changes in the last 8-10 years since the social media craze started sweeping out from underneath the doors of tech startup companies and making its way onto the scene. Since then, we’ve seen a variety of social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, transform into versatile, user-friendly networks that nearly all of us make use of and engage with in some form or another. The use of social media platforms has completely revolutionized the ways in which we communicate and interact with each other as a culture, a society, and as a global nation. The ability to create and cultivate community engagement on a much larger scale offers opportunities for relationships to bloom in all kinds of unexpected ways. It should come as no surprise, then, that for the self-published author, social media is perhaps one of the most important tools and resources that one can utilize.

What are some of the benefits of using social media for self-publishing?

  • It is an effective and inexpensive way to market your book.
  • It allows you to connect with other authors and publishing companies.
  • It allows you to communicate with fans and identify potential readers.

And most importantly:

  • It allows you to engage and build relationships with your readers.

Below you’ll find a list of 6 Social Media Tips for Writers:

http://writerscircle.com/2014/10/6-ways-writers-can-use-social-media.html

Sincerely,

The FMA Curation Team

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 |July 14th, 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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Readers Are Not Consumers!

Spring has finally come to the Front Range of Colorado, where we are enjoying the warm days (along with the occasional snow shower!)

Here in Boulder, we like to think of ourselves as positioned not just geographically, but also culturally, between the traditional publishing world of the East Coast and the tech world of the West Coast.

“Big Data” is not a dirty word for us, but it is not an end in itself. Quant culture can be put in the service of the Human Creative.

A few weeks ago, I talked about the first of two principles that drive our vision:

  • Audience Discovery is a critical complement to Content Discovery.

Today, I’d like to talk about the second principle (a family of principles!):

  • An Audience is a special kind of market, a reader is a special type of consumer, a writer is not a merchandiser, and writing is not a commodity (or mere “content”).

One of the fascinating dimensions of the conflict between Hachette and Amazon last year (a conflict that played out again with Harper-Collins last month) is the clash of two visions of the cultural economy. On one side stand the technocrats of Amazon, ruthlessly rationalizing supply chains and profit margins in order to increase shareholder value; on the other stand the old-school book publishers, bravely championing a commercial structure that adequately compensates the Curatorial/Editorial Guild for their essential value.

Of course, both positions were immediately deconstructed by pointed counterarguments: 1) Amazon has served a great many authors — self-published and traditionally published, e-books and print — with their ubiquitous commerce and distribution infrastructure; and 2) Hachette is owned by a multinational conglomerate as committed to the bottom line as anyone else, and is run accordingly.

Who’s in the right? Well, both and neither, of course. To the extent that both institutions serve readers and writers, they are good. To the extent they serve a corporate bottom line divorced from social value, they are off base. That’s our view, at least.

The internal dynamics of commodity capitalism tend to diminish the unquantifiable allure of a creative work. In his classic essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” the German cultural critic Walter Benjamin famously declared that mechanical reproduction destroys a work’s “aura.”

Indeed, the allure of aura is different from demand for a product.

Commodity capitalism does not know what to do with “aura.” What it does know is “branding” — a rich process of creative self-definition — and its moronic stepchildren: “hype” and “buzz.”

When we think of books as “commodities” and readers as “consumers,” we subject ourselves, indeed our entire society, to a world devoid of aura. If we follow the tried-and-true logics of consumer capitalism, where supply and demand, labor costs, profit margins, and supply chain dynamics are the governing parameters, we lose the very thing that makes literature and art valuable: the expression of an individual vision, voice, heart and mind as they percolate within a collective consciousness.

Authors are on board with this. They know aura. They are looking for readers, not “consumers.” They are looking for an Audience to engage with, not a “demographic” to sell merchandise to. Merchandise is entirely subject to the dynamics of supply chains and distribution channels. Creative works are not (ideally).

Cultural currency in an attention marketplace is not the same as dollars in the bazaar. 

Of course, all writers want lots of readers. But they don’t want to find them using the de-personalized techniques of modern commodity marketing, putting up billboards on the attention superhighways, or bullhorning slogans across the town square. They want to gain fans through engagement, listening, entertainment, and the sharing of interests and affinities.

Much of the advice being given to authors these days is spot-on. I’m thinking of Guy Kawasaki’s thoughts on Authorpreneurship, and everybody-and-their-sister’s advice on “building an Author Platform.” That’s what authors need to do nowadays, and that’s a good thing. It keeps writers engaged with their audience and with their own voice.

The missing piece to the empowerment of Authors is to put them directly in touch with their potential audience, and not trust to the “shelf space” dynamics of merchandisers (and search engines) to be “discovered.”

By now, if you are still reading, you may be wondering what I’ve been smoking (I do live in Colorado after all), or whether I am serious. Are these principles too out of touch with reality to apply to the daily lives and challenges of writers in America today?

I think not. Old structures are breaking down, and Creatives are taking it into their own hands to work out how to reach the most people who might have an affinity to their work. To a certain extent, audience-building is always, at least partially, a numbers game. And it always involves some level of inspired, efficient promotion. That’s where the Quant techniques can help. Any author who truly wants to appeal to a readership of any size, must put the numbers to work for them, and commit to reader engagement and promotion.

At Find My Audience, we want to help writers do just that.

–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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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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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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First Principles

From the first day at Find My Audience (FMA) — an Indian lunch amongst our four co-founders in downtown Boulder — our driving purpose has been to put data, technology and social networks to work helping writers find readers. Although we quickly saw the potential of an “audience search engine” for other Creatives, and even small businesses, our focus has remained on writers, because that is who we are, and what we love.

As I watch the rapid evolution of all aspects of the publishing and blogging worlds, two principles continue to drive our vision:

  • Audience Discovery is a critical complement to Content Discovery.
  • An Audience is not the same as a market, a reader is not the same as a consumer, a writer is not a merchandiser, and writing is not best treated as a commodity.

I’d like to say a little more about these principles, because they are not self-evident.

Audience Discovery is a Critical Complement to Content Discovery

Right now, most of the really smart thinking about digital marketing of writing is being applied to “content discovery.” That means creating a digital profile of your work (using metatags, etc.) that causes it to appear in search results, recommendation engines, relevant social conversations, and potentially paid advertising channels.

As I read various online conversations about book marketing, I see advice on enhancing discoverability crop up EVERY DAY. It appears in self-publishing discussion groups, publishing industry trade articles, and in the services of professional book marketers. (That last link goes to Peter McCarthy and Mike Shatzkin’s Logical Marketing Agency, which does much more than SEO optimization.)

As a writer, improving your content discoverability is essential. However, two things make it a less than ideal way for writers to find readers:

  1. It requires a writer to think like a search engine. When you are improving your discoverability, you are prettying yourself up for a machine.
  2. It is passive. Once you metatag your work, you sit back and hope readers find you via the aforementioned algorithm-driven systems.

Audience Discovery is a critical complement to Content Discoverability because it turns the tables on these two factors. With Find My Audience, writers talk about their work in terms of specific interests and similar works, that is, in terms of what a potential reader (not a search engine) is interested in. And when an Audience is returned, the author can reach out and engage directly with people, communities, groups and conversations, extending the voice they have created in their work.

Some may contend that writers are not marketers and don’t want to do “active promotion,” but I disagree. Not only is it the way of the world these days, but writers are temperamentally disposed to talk about their writing; it is their passion!

The problem is when marketing tools are too difficult to use or appear to create spam. A writer never wants to come across as a shrill self-promoter.

We feel we are building a platform that puts the power of active engagement into the hands of writers, and based on responses so far, many writers agree.

I’ll talk about our second principle in a future blog post. As I just mentioned, I do believe that writers are actually well-positioned to be self-marketers, when the tools and context of their outreach are consistent with the usual skills and attributes of a writer. I DON’T believe that writers are well-positioned to be merchandisers, who are typically focused on engineering various environments to maximize sales for a commodity product.

Sorry…a book (or blog, or magazine, or newspaper) is not JUST a commodity, and writers don’t ONLY want sales.

Of course, they are, and they do…just not exclusively.

All right, it’s back to getting our alpha ready…keep writing, and I’ll talk back at you soon!

–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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