Sunday, August 18, 2013

Social media news is moving!

I finally got off my lazy butt and created a separate space for Social Media News for Writers. You can head over there right now and subscribe by email if you want, so you don't miss a future issue. And I can start using this blog again for books news and, well, me news.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How much money does Amazon make from Kindle, new publishing models and more

How much money does Amazon make off the Kindle ecosystem; a new publishing model for non-fiction with cinematic appeal; being positive on social media pays off; understanding recommendation engines; and more in this week's social media news.

An interesting new publishing model that you should know about: journalists Josh Bearman, who wrote the article that the movie Argo was based on, and Joshua Davis, who has also sold film rights to a couple of his articles, recently started Epic, a site for long non-fiction pieces. But not just any articles: the two men started the site specifically to launch pieces with cinematic possibility. As reported in the NY Times, Epic is "a kind of online literary platform that will commission and publish big, nonfiction narratives that might also make good movies. They are trying to build a model for long-form journalism where the revenue generated over the entire life of a story--magazine fees, sales on and Amazon Kindle singles, ancillary film and television rights--can be used to finance the costs of reporting." Is it a new way to support long-form journalism and to find it a new audience in these times of falling newspaper and magazine readership?

Another interesting new model: an author-run publishing company. Forty science fiction and fantasy writers working together have produced and published over 200 books. Read about it in this article in Publishing Perspectives.  

Amazon is really cagey about how many Kindles and ebooks they sell. Amazon just doesn't share its data. So it's interesting to see this story on All Things D, which reports that Morgan Stanley estimates that Amazon will sell about $4.5 billion in Kindles and tablets in 2013, up 26 percent over last year. It also estimates that Amazon will do $3.7 billion in digital media services (that includes movies, games and music in addition to ebooks, don't get excited that people have suddenly become more literate) and will jump to nearly $6 billion in sales next year. Morgan Stanley estimates that the entire Kindle ecosystem contributes 23 percent to Amazon's operating profit.

"Vilifying Amazon makes no sense": No doubt about it, Amazon plays a big role in the disruption of the publishing business today. It's not as simple as good/bad. There are reasons to dislike it, to question its motives and business practices, just as there are reasons to embrace it, like it--heck, even be grateful for it. In this interview for Publishing Perspectives, Seth Godin talks about why he thinks we're in a "golden age for books" thanks, in part, to Amazon, the evolution in book selling, and the role of book stores.

Positivity helps: This bit of research bears out what you probably know intuitively: positive news on social media is more likely to be widely shared than negative or neutral information. People were more likely to share your post on Facebook or other social sites if it already had a few 'likes', too, indicating that prior ratings can create significant bias in subsequent users.

Would you join a social site for instant messaging? IMO is still in beta but you can ask to join. You can search through profiles of all the members and IM anyone who strikes your fancy. I can see where this become like a Google Hangout or a Reddit AMA: a site you can use to talk to your fans or followers. Tell them to join you on IMO at a set date and time. If you're an early adopter type, you might want to check it out.

Recommendation engines are a special kind of algorithm. These are the algorithms that make suggestions for you based on your previous viewing or buying activity. It's hard to make a good recommendation engine. Those on commerce sites are, shall we say, suspect (who knows if someone is paying a fee to have their book or product pushed to you, regardless of its applicability?) If you'd like to learn a little bit about how recommendation engines work, you might as well as learn from what most people consider the best in the business, Netflix.

Let's play the lightning round! A bunch of quick takes:

  • Instagram has a video feature similar to Vine's. How might you use it? This article in Mashable shows how some brands--Gap, Lulumon, Nowthisnews--are doing it.
  • Do you sometimes feel like Twitter is just a bunch of drive-by conversations? Looking for a better way to connect with your followers on Twitter? Nestivity is a new tool that's supposed designed to do just that. Free at the basic level, advanced levels offers the ability to do tweetcasts.
  • Facebook continues to steal strategies to boost traffic from Twitter, now encouraging celebrities to post more. The other thing they lifted are trending topics. And of course, they launched hashtags just a few months ago.
  • Mashable has launched its own book club. They say that they'll be doing mostly fiction. If you're looking for a nerdy, hipster book club this may be the place for you.
  • Itching to do business on Tumblr? It now has a blog to help you do just that: Marketr

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Surveying readers; social media dominating US adults' time; and more social media news for writers

Readers are a mysterious bunch, aren't they? Who knows why they buy the books they do, how they find out about new books... wait, why don't we just ask them? Author Marie Force did, and the results of her survey are highlighted below. Also, more survey results: 3-in-4 American adults are on social media; Americans spent more time on social media than watching television; and Nielsen says it's proved tweeting about a show while it's being broadcast can increase its viewership. All this and more in social media news for writers.

Survey says: Author and vendor of ebook services Marie Force posted on her blog the results of a survey she conducted in June, with a dozen other authors, on reader's habits and it makes for interesting reading. The survey asked 44 questions. She reports getting almost 3,000 replies. 

Force deserves a lot of thanks for doing the researching and making the results public and I encourage you to read the blog post and look through the full results of her survey, which she makes available in a 330 page pdf. Force, as you may know, writes romance and romance suspense, and while she doesn't indicate which authors also participated in the survey, I suspect from some of the answers--see question #4, "what is your favorite genre of fiction?" to which 81 percent responded "romance"--that this survey is a good representation of how romance readers feel but perhaps is not representative of the readers of other genres. Would readers of thrillers or sci-fi or biographies report differently? It would be interesting if authors from other genres used Force's questions and conducted surveys of their own. Biggest takeaways:

  • Readers expressed a preference (77 percent) for ebooks over (52 percent) paperbacks (respondents were allowed to choose all formats that applied). She interprets the results to mean that there's a good number of readers buy multiple formats, perhaps buying paperbacks when that format is available.
  • Amazon was the vendor of choice for books (she didn't distinguish between books and ebooks), getting nearly 80 percent of the vote.
  • When asked how readers find out about new books, answers were "all over the place" with Facebook scoring highest at 18 percent, retail sites (unspecified) at 17 percent, Goodreads at 13 percent and authors' sites at 10 percent.
  • As for where readers get information about their favorite authors, 62 percent said from Facebook and 63 percent said from authors' websites.
  • When asked which reviews were most important to them, readers said retail sites (50 percent), Goodreads (16 percent), bloggers (13 percent) and others such as RT Book Reviews, Kirkus, PW at 10 percent.

 (Thanks to Karen Dionne for telling me about the survey.)

Can Twitter boost a television show's ratings? Nielsen believes its latest study proves that yes, it can (causation) boost viewership of a TV show as the show airs live. Granted, there's no guarantee and the study reports that it happens a minority of the time. How much of a lift a show gets from all that tweeting isn't yet know, and apparently TV execs feel that after it reaches a certain point, Twitter activity doesn't get you any more eyeballs, it just gets you...more tweeting. Does this mean anything for books? Probably not, but if you're interested in finding out what books your friends are talking about on Twitter, you can try this app, BookVibe.

Where the eyeballs are: Fast Co. quotes a Nielsen study that says Americans now spend more time consuming more social media than they do television, spending over 5 hours a day on social media. 

And, in separate news (Pew, to be specific), almost 75 pecent of Americans use social media, and 1-in-5 are on Twitter.

Would you pay for Facebook? With advertising exploding all over the site, would you pay for a premium version that would skip all the ads, asked Digital Trends recently. You can see the answers here. Many of the respondents are in media or marketing, but there are a few writers quoted, too: “Yes, I would pay for Facebook. Not because I find it that valuable for my personal life, but it’s essential to my freelance writing work. I focus on travel and dining and visit Facebook multiple times a day to look for contact info or photos I can use online.” - Zach Everson, writer

What will agents do in the new publishing paradigm? Forbes recently reposted this Digital Book World interview with agent Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich, where she talks about how her business is shifting. There's also a link to DBW's report on the hybrid writer, which you can purchase for $70 if you're that curious. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Thrill Me! Win books & swag from ThrillerFest 2013

I think some of you know that I go to ThrillerFest, the annual conference of the writers group International Thriller Writers (ITW), most years. It is a marvelous writer's conference and you don't have to take my word for it--you can read about it on Forbes and Time Out NY and other places.

This year's event was an extra special one. There was magic in the air. I don't know why it was; maybe it had something to do with Anne Rice and her son Christopher. They both have books coming out in October on the same days, did you know? I was lucky enough to be on a panel with Christopher and found out we're published by the same imprint at Simon & Schuster--Gallery!

I wanted to share the fun of ThrillerFest by giving away a couple books. One is "Playing Tyler" written by TL Costa, one of this year's class of debut authors. Tons of buzz about this book. "When is a game not a game? Tyler MacCandless can’t focus, even when he takes his medication. He can’t focus on school, on his future, on a book, on much of anything other than taking care of his older brother, Brandon, who’s in rehab for heroin abuse… again. Tyler’s dad is dead and his mom has mentally checked out. The only person he can really count on is his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. The one thing in life it seems he doesn’t suck at is playing video games and, well, that’s probably not going to get him into college. Just when it seems like his future is on a collision course with a life sentence at McDonald’s, Rick asks him to test a video game. If his score’s high enough, it could earn him a place in flight school and win him the future he was certain that he could never have. And when he falls in love with the game’s designer, the legendary gamer Ani, Tyler thinks his life might finally be turning around. That is, until Brandon goes MIA from rehab and Tyler and Ani discover that the game is more than it seems. Now Tyler will have to figure out what’s really going on in time to save his brother… and prevent his own future from going down in flames."

The second book I'm giving away is "The Wicked Girls" by Alex Marwood. This was a giveaway in the conference bag. I've heard great things about this book, too. "Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young female tourists in a seaside town when her investigation leads her to interview funfair cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it's the first time they've seen each other since that dark day when they were just children. But with new lives - and families - to protect, will they really be able to keep their wicked secret hidden?"

The last prize is the conference bag itself, a black nylon drawstring backpack from 5.11 Tactical, which makes clothing for police and security forces. A one-of-a-kind conference bag, that's for sure!

All this makes for a unique prize pack, I'm sure you'll agree. All you have to do is enter from the list of options below. The contest is open to the US only this time around, folks.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Finally, good news about Facebook advertising, irresistible emails & more

What digital (in all forms) means to literary agents; FINALLY a good news story on Facebook advertising; make your emails irresistible; thinking about blog platforms; we don't like social media but we're not going to stop using it; and more in this week's social media news for writers.

From transforming the slush pile to enabling its authors to connect more easily with readers, literary agent Scott Hoffman talks about what digital means to literary agents in Business Insider (tip o'the hat to Karen Dionne for pointing this article out).

Facebook, advertising and you: Yes, we've talked about the pressure Facebook is under to monetize since going public, and how aggressively they've marketed their advertising. Apparently they're doing something right because they posted some modest gains lately. 

You may recall I posted recently that advertisers were seeing click-through rates 50 times better for ads in the news feed versus those in the right hand column. (Well, I thought I did but I can't find it. So here's a link to the original article). Anyway, with CTR like that I wanted to try it out for myself. So I ran some in-the-newsfeed Facebook ads for the price drop on Kindle for one of my novels and I am happy to report a ten-fold increase in the CTR from previous ads for the same book. Of course, there's no way for me to know how many of those clicks converted to sales, so it's hard to say it generated sales, but it certainly generated attention.

Make your emails irresistible: We all have to ask people for something through an email: review my book (please); come see me at a live event (please). The list goes on and on. I'm sure we all could advice on how to write an effective email? How about if that advice came from Harvard Business Review?

Now that your emails are irresistible, you might want to read this article on how Gmail's new tabs are affecting whether people open your newsletters and other promotional emails (Clif notes version: fewer people are opening them, and here's why).

Are you in the market for a blog platform? Have you considered WordPress? Apparently 19 percent of all websites are using WordPress. Undoubtedly you've already heard that the cool kids use it (those who are too cool have gone to Tumblr). Me, I was doubtful (Blogger is so easy!) until I had was made administrator of my office's blog, which runs on--you guessed it--WordPress. Now that I'm used to it, I love it. And WordPress is not just for blogs; their templates are extremely versatile. I daresay any website could run very well on WordPress. 

And speaking of Tumblr: here's an article on how to create a meaningful campaign on Tumblr

We don't like social media, but we're going to keep using it anyway: Digital Trends reports the findings of a consumer survey that says we're unsatisfied with our experiences with most social media sites but that we expect we'll keep using them--because what's the alternative? Of the major social media sites, while most of them lost users in 2012-2013, Pinterest showed modest gains. Google Plus lost 9 percent of users, according to this study, anyway. 

Bloomberg gives a hard-nosed look at the ouster of William Lynch as CEO of Barnes & Noble.

Twitter is making it easier to report those abusive tweets (take that, bullies).

Looking good: Video has been on my mind after taping myself for a SIBA promotion (read a paragraph from your book!). It's harder than it looks, if you haven't experienced this for yourself. If nothing else, you have to have the stomach to repeat those muffed takes over and over... Anyway, if you're going to be on camera anytime soon, take a look at these tips on Mashable.