Thursday, July 25, 2013

Are podcasts dead, make gorgeous quotes, make any self-pubbed book a bestseller, and more

Podcasts! Immortalize your best lines in spiffy graphics! How to make any self-published book into a bestseller (yeah, right)! And more in this week's social media news for writers.

Nice quote graphics: You know what's popular on Pinterest? Quotes. Only who has the time to sit down with some graphics program to pull quotes from your book, or your favorite book, and make nice shiny graphics? Now you don't have to: there are a few tools out there that do it for you, nice and easy and, for the most part, free. And it's not only good for Pinterest: it gives you a graphic, which you can post anywhere. This article has a list of several you may want to try out, but since I like quotes I went ahead and tried most of them, and am happy to give you my feedback:

  • Livluvcreate is a site for fan fiction AND generates these cute quotes. They have an okay assortment of templates, but I couldn't figure out how to download them from the site after I'd made them. If you're a YA or children's author, you might find the site a good way to reach a new audience.
  • Pinstamatic does more than make quotes for you; it offers a range of tools to spice up your Pinterest activity. But the quote tool is perfectly adequate.
  • Recite ended up being my favorite. Dead easy to use and a nice assortment of templates. Type in your words and voila, a masterpiece.

And speaking of Pinterest, if you're wondering if people really want to be sold to on the site, this article from Read Write Web weighs in by talking about when, it thinks, it works and when it doesn't.

Are podcasts dead? Read Write Web says the answer is no, as Apple announced its one billionth podcast subscriber through the iTunes store.  Okay, so what are the best book related podcasts you should listen to? I used to listen to podcasts while on the treadmill, but since I'm in the gym less frequently now, my podcast listening has been drastically reduced. These are the ones I know of, but readers I want to hear from you! Which podcasts do you think writers should listen to? Let us know in the comments section.

  • Books on the Nightstand:  I met Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness several years ago and have been listening ever since. 
  • Bookrageous: Josh, Rebecca and Jenn, two booksellers and a literary gadfly, talk about an interesting mix of books across genres. 
  • Jeff Rutherford's Reading and Writing Podcast: Jeff talks to many well-known commercial fiction writers (and some not so well known, like me). (Check out Jeff's Pinterest board of 50 things podcast!!)
  • Literary New England: Cindy Wolfe Boynton always has the most interesting shows, all with a New England angle.
  • Midtown Review: Dana Barrett is an Atlanta-based broadcaster who talks to authors on the side in her popular podcast. One of the nicest people you'll ever meet, too.

How to make your self-published book a bestseller: We see articles like this one from Brian Hall on Read Write Web and James Altucher in Techcrunch all the time, don't we? It's so easy to have a bestseller, puny mortals; here's how I did it and you can do it too... if you've already had a bestseller and have a huge following, don't mind spending a lot of money on professional marketing (probably more than you'll make selling the actual book), and oh yes, it's non-fiction (and you're doing it to enhance your image as an "expert" in whatever field you're in.) As teeth-grinding as these articles are, however, I always cast an eye over them in case there's one small tidbit that might come in handy, something that this author did that I might be able to use. 

Premature rumors of death and all that: When Amazon purchased Goodreads, some in the book community grumbled that the new parent company would probably kill off GRs, as it already had a reading social network site in Shelfari. Well, don't go measuring for a casket yet as Amazon announced yesterday that GRs has doubled membership to 20 million members, says Venture Beat.

Two tiny Facebook tips: David Pogue, tech guru of the New York Times, made two tiny discoveries on Facebook that he'd like to tell you about.

And if you've decided that Facebook isn't for you, Fast Company lists a few "niche" social networks that might be more to your liking.

Hate the new tabs in Gmail? Me, too. This article from Mashable might give you an idea of how to make them more useful and less, well, sucky.

Graphic novels making a resurgence? Maybe it was just because of Comic-Con San Diego, but this article on how tablets may be the savoir of graphic novels has been making the rounds.

Hey, my novel The Taker is on sale on Kindle for one more week. $2.99. About the same price as a fancy cupcake (here in DC anyway) and much less fattening. And it will last a lot longer.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Now's Your Chance

I love my debut novel, The Taker. I poured ten years into writing it. I was extremely proud when it was selected as one of the ten best debut novels of 2011 (a big year for debut novels, from The Night Circus to The Art of Fielding) and again as it racked up 16 foreign rights sales.

That's why I'm so excited that Amazon has chosen it to be part of its Big Deal promotion and lowered the price of the ebook to $2.99. The book has never been on sale--never. I'm hoping that this will encourage those folks who have wanted to read the book but didn't want to pay full price (because, let's face it, we're in a time of incredible flux right now in the book business and why pay full price if you don't have to?) to get a copy. Like every proud momma, I want everyone to get to know my baby and to love it.

If you love big epic supernatural stories like Interview With The Vampire, The Historian, A Discovery of Witches or Outlander (all books that it's been compared to), I hope you will give The Taker a try. And if you have friends who like these books and own a Kindle, I hope you will tell them about The Taker, too.

Thank you.

Agent-assisted publishing: a new hybrid? and more social media news for writers

A snippet from NYT cartoonist Grant Snider's 'The Story Coaster'.
 Click on the illustration to go to the full document
There are as many models in today's wild west of publishing as there are drops of water in the ocean, or so it seems, but you won't want to miss the story below on one literary agency's foray into agent-assisted publishing. If you want to go negative, we have stories on why people post negative reviews and how to cheat your way to popularity. And a few humorous universal truths about the internet. If you stay through to the very end, I have a tiny bit of news (and a commercial). Enjoy!

Agent-Assisted Publishing: Publishing Perspectives produced a series of articles on Movable Type Literary Agency's experiment to launch Rogue Reader, it's agent-assisted (self) publishing arm. Here, the agents talk about what worked and what didn't. In this program, the writers wrote and the agents provided the editing, production, design, distribution and product management. It was their own form of hybrid (a term all writers are hearing a lot lately). Movable Type is pretty generous with the details and there are lessons in this article for every author, self-published or not, and I recommend you read it. Author Ro Cuzon talks about what it was like to see his first two novels published under Rogue's program.

Negative Online Reviews: If you've ever wondered why people seem so invested in writing negative reviews, you are going to find this NYT article fascinating. According to a recent study, it seems those vehement negative reviewers are devoted fans who don't want to see things change. They don't want to see a 'new and improved' product when they liked the old one just fine. The same could apply to that serial character you just bumped off.

If you loved the past articles on how to acquire fake Twitter followers, you're going to love this Wired article on how to make your blog post/article seem more popular than it actually was.

Getting Organized: Because we are all engaged in a never-ending struggle to be better organized, here's  an article from Wired with a handful of apps that will help you do just that, for both iOS and Android.

Do you have multiple Instagram accounts? Chances are you don't because you're a writer and not a thirteen-year old girl, but if you do, this articles gives some tips and tricks on how to deal.

YouTube Mirroring Self-Publishing?: Success on YouTube these days apparently lies with banding together to form YouTube networks. Oh yeah, this sounds familiar: "Collaboration can be the first step in growing one's audience." Also, YouTube networks are building around niche verticals (like popular video games or, in publishing parlance, think "erotica"). And tomorrow's big media production companies are expected to come out of the DIY networks building and growing today on YouTube (similar to the future of publishing?) Nothing profound here, just interesting.

Your RDA of Universal Truth: New Media superman Anil Dash posted his ten rules for the internet which are funny because they're true. You might not see the wisdom in all of them, but I thought I'd post a couple to prove that they really are universal:

  • Once a web community has decided to dislike a person, topic, or idea, the conversation will shift from criticizing the idea to become a competition about who can be most scathing in their condemnation. (See The Law of Fail.)
  • Any new form of electronic communication will first be dismissed as trivial and worthless until it produces a profound result, after which it will be described as obvious and boring.
  • Most websites treat "I like it" and "This is good" as the same thing, leading to most people on the Internet refusing to distinguish between "I don't like it" and "It's not good". (Try substituting "reviewers" for "websites" and ta-da, makes sense now, doesn't it)
  • We hate most in others that which we fail to see in ourselves.

We now interrupt your reading for this commercial message: Amazon has selected my debut novel, The Taker, for a discounted ebook promotion now through August 4th. It's just $2.99 on Kindle. Please check it out (it was named to some nice 'best of' lists the year it came out) or pass the word along to your friends who are fans of Anne Rice, Deborah Harkness and Diana Gabaldon.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dream Come True

Today, I know I am an author. I was at the gate at the airport, waiting to board, and the woman sitting across from me pulled out THE TAKER and started reading.

Writers have stupid dreams. Mine, for some reason, was for this very thing to happen to me one day. Figure the odds--really. How many books are there, how many people, how many airports. But it did. And I couldn't help myself: I interrupted her and introduced myself. We both whooped with excitement (she did make me provide some proof that it really was me, because it was like 8 AM and I did not look like my publicity photo).

Jaira was so so gracious. It was kind of an inconsiderate thing for me to do. It put her on the spot. I felt like I mugged her. Like I said, she was immensely gracious about it. She is in the military and told me that when she finishes a book, she likes to leave it where someone will find it and pick it up. So we left a note in the back, thanking Jaira for her generosity and encouraging whoever finds it to email me if they enjoyed the book.

God, this made my week. Thank you, Jaira!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What Makes A Reader Stop Reading a Book? and more social media news for writers

Hello from ThrillerFest 2013 in New York City! As I put this post together, the conference is in full swing. As a matter of fact, I've been here all week and so I haven't been able to stay up on the news as closely as usual--but there's still news you won't want to miss, such as Facebook making their powerful Graph Search available to all and what it means to you; a great survey on what makes readers put down a book; and, just as the universe has unexplainable dark matter, 'dark social' and 'dark Google' are coming to the world wide web.

What makes a reader put down a book? Goodreads recently ran a poll and you can see the full infographic here. Below are a few excerpts to whet your appetite. 

Facebook's Graph Search to be available to all users: Facebook announced this week that it's rolling out its Graph Search, which has been available to beta testers up till now, in tranches. Graph Search is designed to make it easier to find precise segments  among your friends, the people who are within your social network. For example, you'll be able to ask Facebook to show you all of your friends who live in Des Moines should your book tour be taking you through that city, or everyone who's identified themselves as a doctor or nurse should your next book be a medical thriller. Says Techcrunch, the endgoal for Facebook is monetization: "Graph Search is an important tool for Facebook as it prepares to sell demand-fulfillment ads, but the company has taken a conservative approach to monetization and is yet to announce Graph Search’s mobile rollout (it is currently available only on the Web site)." Which means that eventually, for paid advertising, this powerful function should extent beyond your friends' network to the entire Facebook site.

Trying to understand your website traffic but things aren't adding up? Everyone should read this article from Digital Trends on why it's getting harder to make sense of your website analytics. To explain: if your have a website, you should definitely run analytics on the site to understand where your traffic comes from, how much time visitors spend there and the like. You can use this information to guide what you do in the future. However, as the social web becomes ever more layered and complex and voluminous, it's getting harder and harder to track down all those sources of traffic. For most of us, 'dark Google' and 'dark social' won't be that much of a problem: the volume of traffic we see isn't big enough, there are going to be options for activity that won't run afoul of the percentage of 'unknown' traffic. However, even if you're not running Vanity Fair's website, you still want to be aware of this growing trend in internet traffic.

STILL looking for a new RSS reader? Maybe isn't working for you. Maybe you're still in denial over the death of Google Reader (you aren't be alone). This article from All Things D gives you two new products to try: Newsle, and Nuzzel (in beta). 

First there was Spotify: Readers can create soundtracks to provide background ambiance while they're reading your book with Booktrack Bookshelf. Like Spotify, perhaps you can build a recommended soundtrack as a way to engage your audience? I understand this is still popular with the YA crowd. Make no mistake, these apps are designed to sell music, not books, but can be another way to enhance the reading experience if you know you've got music lovers in your audience or if it's particularly appropriate to your book (set in blue grass country or the Jazz Age, for instance).

Thursday, July 4, 2013

How celebrities use social media & more

So much news this week: how to use social media like a celebrity; the future of the book from a publisher and an author (think "cross-media"); how to reach beyond your fans; more on Facebook hashtags and RSS reader replacements; and much much more on this week's social media news for writers.

How celebrities use social media: Shy when it comes to self-promotion? If you've ever wondered with envy how celebrities are able to pull off some outrageous stunt on Twitter and Facebook, take a look at this article, which might give you some ideas of how to use your social media. 

And if you’re still shy, this article from a political consultant explains how politicians use social media: if you don’t ask people for their support, you won’t get it. Here’s how to ask and still preserve your integrity.

And if you’re into creating a really deep fan experience around your writing, this Fast Co article describes how bands Phish and Insane Clown Posse do just that.

Do books need to be 'innovated': Fast Co interviewed Ana Maria Allessi, vice-president of HarperCollins for innovation, and she had a lot to say about what book publishers need to do and where the future might be headed. "'Publishers need to be thinking like technology companies'...How can a book be made into something more--or other?" She talks about the Book Smash Challenge and other things HarperCollins (probably one of the most forward thinking publishers) is doing to engage 21st century readers.

Authors as well as publishers have tried different things to get their books noticed both by fans and the media, including creating online games for an immersive experience, but in this Mashable article, Goran Racic talks about the “cross-media” promotion he’s developed for his latest novel, Loud Evolution. Besides having a thrillerque book trailer and tweeting as the main character, he’s developed a Minecraft-based game environment tied to the book. His philosophy? " ‘The overall idea is to have a story that's unfolding in real life,’ Racic tells Mashable.’There's so much technology available for storytelling. It just feels natural to combine everything’."
The company responsible for some of the most viral content on the web gives you three easy steps to capturing people’s hearts (and eyeballs) online. If you click on only one link on this page, click on this one.

If you’ve ever wondered how to make the jump from getting the attention only of your known fans to reaching people who don’t know you (or your books), you might gather some insight from Seth Godin’s post on the cycle of media attention, or how buzz builds.

Two weeks ago, we announced that Facebook has instituted hashtags, and that this might help you get posts before the eyes of people who search on those terms, kind of like the way you can search on hashtags in Twitter and see all the posts that have that hashtag, whether you follow the people who posted’em or not. This article provides a bit details as to what’s going on and, if you’re still not clear on what hastags are exactly, read this article.

If you, like me, are still in denial over the demise of Google Reader and struggling to adjust to a new RSS reader, you might enjoy this article with tips on how to make your new reader work for you, and some alternatives in case isn’t cutting it for you.

Fast and furious links:
  • For newbie writers: this article on how to break into the music industry can be applied to starting out in book publishing.
  • Going to be on television? Congratulations. This article from Quartz tells you how to make every second count.
  • End of advertising as we know it: If you haven’t stopped thinking in terms of traditional advertising yet, this article will explain the new paradigm to you. (And even though you hate the word paradigm, you should read the article.)
  • With disappearing photos on Snapchat and 6-second video loops on Vine, this article in Techcrunch asks if social media is entering the time of the ephemeral?
  • Looking for visual inspiration or alternatives to Pinterest to grow your audience? This article lists 14 alternatives to the popular photo-pinning site.
  • Need help staying focused while writing? There’s an app for that.

 Happy Fourth of July!