Friday, April 26, 2013

Front-line Fridays: social media news writers can use

Welcome to another Friday link wrap up. First of all, thanks to everyone who's written to let me know that they find the posts useful. It helps me gauge what kind of news items to focus on. Also, please feel free to forward to your friends, or link to it, or whatever. Just please give this blog a little shout-out if you do.

I thought you might be interested to know that in the few weeks since I started this, it's been picked up to be a monthly feature both for Horror Writers Association's newsletter and the Washington Romance Writer's website. International Thriller Writers is letting me post links on their Facebook page, too. Thanks to CJ Lyons and Bob Mayer for getting the word out to their audiences, too. It's nice to know that the posts are filling a niche for people.

Now let's get on to the news . . .

1. Facebook still making an unholy mess of things: Ever since it went public, Facebook--under tremendous stress to turn a profit--has been rejiggering their algorithms so that business pages are pretty much forced to buy advertising in order for any of their followers to see their posts. Not a good move, especially at a time when major segments of your users are leaving your platform in droves. This New York Times article says that Facebook is going to start using outside data sources to improve its ability to target the right people to show your ads to, though the author seems doubtful that this latest move is going to make much difference. And Mike Allton at Social Media Today talks about Facebook's recent changes to the admin panel of your business page, why FB did it, and why they shouldn't have bothered.

2. First it was fake reviews, now fake Twitter followers: Tempted to beef up your Twitter numbers by buying fake followers? Read this interesting article written by a Slate reporter who bought 27,000 followers for $202.

3. New UK site for articles and short stories: Tim Waterstone, found of the UK's Waterstones bookstore chain, is involved in ReadPetite, a new subscription site for short fiction and journalism. The site was announced at the London Book Fair and will go public in the fall. Founder literary agent Peter Cox told The Bookseller, "We are genuinely trying to expand the reading market, and bring publishers together under our aegis to do something new." PaidContent likens ReadPetite to US e-singles sites Byliner and the Atavist, not to mention ThinReads, which we noted in the blog two weeks ago.

Speaking of short form prose, the New York Times ran this article on David Blum, the power (and we do mean power) behind Kindle Singles.

4. They don't call it shameless self-promotion for nothing: Social Media Today tells you how a normal mortal can market like a Kardashian.

5. Does your book have a graphic angle to it--a picture book, cookbook, anything that lends itself to imagery? Then you might be interested in TintUp, a new tool that helps you turn your website in a "social hub", corralling your tweets, pins, Tumblr posts and the like in one place in a visually interesting way.

6. Handsome is as handsome does: I love clean, simple design but unfortunately, I'm saddled with an email service (I inherited it from my website designer) with templates stuck in the 1990s. If you love clean modern design, don't make my mistake: go check out Sendicate, a new email service. I didn't kick the tires since--see above--I'm handcuffed to my current service provider, but I did check out their rates and they seem comparable to most other email services.

7. More potential Amazon hijinks: You may have seen that Amazon recently screened "pilots" of potential online shows they'd make available exclusively to Amazon Prime users. It's an interesting concept, and it made me wonder if something like this might be in the offing for Amazon's books publishing arm. Throw out the first chapters of various books you're thinking of publishing and see which ones have a potential audience. Except that there's probably no need to, as books are so cheap to produce (as opposed to television serials). 


8. Having trouble coming up with names for your characters? Maybe these 10 baby-naming apps can help.


You may know that in my other life, the one where I'm not a novelist, I'm an expert in emerging trends and technology for a major think tank. I spend a good deal of time scanning through technology news, particularly about emerging media. On a typical week, I probably see a handful of stories of interest to the novelist, stories about a new or interesting twist to what's going on in publishing and I'll publish them here every Friday.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Front-line Fridays: social media news for writers

Lots of news this week. I'm trying to keep it down to a manageable number of articles--if there are too many articles, it becomes overwhelming, don't you think? The alternative is that I could go to posting twice a week . . . Don't worry about missing anything, though, I'll let you know if that happens. You CAN always subscribe to the blog by email using the form to the right . . . Just a friendly suggestion, if you don't want to miss any new posts.

1. Don't focus just on the day your book publishes, says Clay Shirky in this post. It takes more than one day for a book to find its audience but traditional book publishing still focuses on the day a book goes on sale, he says. Read his post to learn why you shouldn't.

2. A picture tells a thousand words: Instagram is another mega-hot app, especially with the young crowd. Here's an article on how the most-followed brands on Instagram use the site to market themselves. If your book lends itself to visuals or your target demographic is young, you might want to think about upping your presence on Instagram.

Of course, these days when you think pictures you also think of Pinterest, the social pinboard for people who like to collect images. Here are some articles to get you thinking of how a presence on Pinterest might help your book sales: This article from Fast Company talks about what Pinterest's recent redesign means for companies and provides some visual stimulation, too (see how entities as diverse as the US Army, Sony, and Penguin Books use Pinterest.) This article from Read Write Web compares Facebook's engagement stats to Pinterest's and finds Facebook's lacking (no surprise). 

3. If the founders of Twitter founded this, it can't be all bad, can it? I still haven't quite figured out what Medium's niche is, but it doesn't matter: people didn't get Twitter either when it first came out but only an idiot would second-guess Ev Williams and Biz Stone. At first glance it looks like a Tumblr for text (as opposed to visuals) but it purports to be a new kind of publishing platform that especially lends itself to working collaboratively. That wasn't exactly what I saw when I poked around but hey, Rome wasn't built in a day.

4. Building Your Mailing List: A few months back I wrote a post or two on why it's important to have and build a mailing list--yep, why good ole email was still king in a world of social platforms. This article will give you some ideas of how to use Facebook to build your mailing list.

5. Novel-Game Nexus: Random House UK tries a new kind of online game experience, The Black Crown Project, for a new novel, where you play to unlock clues, excerpts and other things. Yes, it's been done before, but if you're into gamifying your next book, you might pick up an idea or two here.

6. Market or Die: Okay, strictly speaking this isn't social media but I think you'll benefit from the mention. I met Jennifer Fusco in 2012 at a RWA event. She's a writer who is also a marketing professional, different from many marketing folks I've met in that she's a no-nonsense kind of gal. She gave one of the best, direct talks about this crucial aspect of the business that I'd seen. She recently launched a marketing business specifically for writers, Market or Die, that you should check out. She will help you do the hard stuff up front that will make your promotional efforts coherent and her prices are, frankly, crazy low.

7. Mini-videos for promotion: Remember the link last week on how bands are using Amazon Vine to promote themselves? Looks like some authors are already using Vine in the same way. (Via Galley Cat)

8. Make your own magazine: Galley Cat talks about using Flipboard to make your own magazine in much the same ways some people use paper.li to scrape content off the web to come up with your own newspaper--daily, weekly, whatever. This gives you a product you can push out to your followers. Does it work? I find most people don't edit their paper.li products so they end up being a gibberish dump of links, many of which aren't particularly compelling for the target audience. Prioritizing the stories is very important--if you let them go up willy-nilly, it looks like you don't know enough about your subject to be a good curator. And that should be why followers want to read your newspaper or magazine, because they trust your judgment as the gatekeeper; they're letting you do the hunting and gathering for them. If you mess this up, they stop reading.

You may know that in my other life, the one where I'm not a novelist, I'm an expert in emerging trends and technology for a major think tank. I spend a good deal of time scanning through technology news, particularly about emerging media. On a typical week, I probably see a handful of stories of interest to the novelist, stories about a new or interesting twist to what's going on in publishing and I'll publish them here every Friday as long as I get feedback that it's of interest.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Front-line Fridays: social media news for writers

The best of this week's social media news, pruned especially for writers.

1. Et tu, Google Alerts? It looks as though Google Reader isn't the only tool about to bite the dust. Rumors have been circulating that Google won't be supporting Google Alerts for much longer, and if you use it (as I do) you've probably noticed that the service isn't what it used to be. If you're in the market for a new tool to replace it, one I've tried recently in Mention. It's too soon to tell if it will be a good substitute and the two systems aren't exactly alike: Google Alerts were better for indexed web pages (naturally) while Mention does better with social media, most notably Twitter.

There are many social media monitoring tools out there, most of them are by subscription. If there's enough interest, I'll post a list of them in the future. For most authors--if you're not JK Rowling or EL James, for instance--the volume of traffic generated about you is such that you're not going to need a service. You can do it yourself, and in the future I'll tell you how.

And if you're still stuck on the fact that Google Reader is going away this summer, here's a list of other RSS readers you might want to try.

2. New Site for Singles (Amazon Singles, That Is): Thin Reads is a new "consumer-facing" site for e-singles. It is the brainchild of Howard Polskin, media guy, most notably on the side of magazines. It carries reviews of e-singles, interviews with authors and a database of short stories and articles on Amazon, iBookstore and BN.com. Here's what Mashable had to say about the site. And here's an article on Joseph Bottum, the most profilic author of e-singles. If you've got stories on any of those three platforms, you might want to contact Thin Reads and get your content listed.

3. Amazon Kindle Tell-All? Jason Merkoski was part of the team that developed and birthed the first Kindle in the mid-2000s and you can imagine he has some interesting stories to tell about. Well, as much as the lawyers at Amazon will let him (I know all about non-disclosure agreements). If you're interested in learning more, you might be interested in his book, Burning the Page, which--fittingly--is only available as an e-book. As this article at Paid Content says, Merkoski can't tell too many stories of what went on at Amazon, whether Bezos was intent from the very start on disrupting the publishing industry, but he has some interesting thoughts on the future of the book and which mega corporation may win out in the end.

4. Has anyone found a way to make money using Google Hangouts? Glamour magazine gives it a try. Maybe your deep-pockets publisher could team up and host a gathering for you.

5. Vine is the top free app in the iTunes app store. New media types love it. Any mojo there for writers? Well, this is how bands and musicians are using it. Maybe you could do something similar--videotape a portion of your next reading, an interview, your book trailer.

6. The Guardian takes a smart look at how the book industry has changed thanks to self-publishing, and where we stand today. From "gone is our confidence that publishers and agents know exactly what everyone wants to (or should) read" to "self-publishing means taking personal responsibility for the  management and production of your content", the article is at times a little optimistic but, overall, does a good job capturing how publishing looks at the self-published and how the self-published look at themselves.

You may know that in my other life, the one where I'm not a novelist, I'm an expert in emerging trends and technology for a major think tank. I spend a good deal of time scanning through technology news, particularly about emerging media. On a typical week, I probably see a handful of stories of interest to the novelist, stories about a new or interesting twist to what's going on in publishing and I'll publish them here every Friday as long as I get feedback that it's of interest.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Front-line Fridays: must-reads from the ever-evolving world of e-publishing

You may know that in my other life, the one where I'm not a novelist, I'm an expert in emerging trends and technology for a major think tank. I spend a good deal of time scanning through technology news, particularly about emerging media. On a typical week, I probably see a handful of stories of interest to the novelist, stories about a new or interesting twist to what's going on in publishing. It finally occurred to me that I should probably start putting them up on the blog, because a good portion of those of you who follow me do so because you're writers, too.

So here's the deal: I'll do a link wrap-up of these stories every Friday (I'll try to get it up by Friday morning starting next week, okay?). If you find them helpful, drop a comment, tell your friends, spread the word, because to be blisteringly truthful, that's the reason for doing something like this, to grow my audience. Okay?

1. Is this a publishing model worth replicating? Best-selling author Tim Ferriss didn't get where he is today by doing anything in a conventional manner. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at a private conference where he discussed the very unconventional things he did to get his first book, "The Four Hour Work Week", to the best-seller's list. In this blog post at ReadWriteWeb, John Paul Titlow dissects Ferriss' most recent controversial move, to not only partner with Amazon as his publisher, but to market aggressively on BitTorrent, the file-sharing site best known for illegal downloads of media including, uh, books.  Will more people buy, rather than steal, Ferriss' book? Ferriss' reasoning: "If someone is willing to spend time finding a legit bootleg source and reading a DRM-broken hard-to-read copy of my book on a computer screen not intended for reading, just to avoid spending $12 or so, they weren't ever my core audience to begin with," Ferriss says. "If I get them, it's nothing but bonus points."

2. Can Facebook's Social Graph Search Help You Find Readers? Ostensibly, Facebook's new search function is supposed to help businesses get discovered on Facebook but the jury is out as to whether it's working or not. If you are of a DIY-mind, you mind be inclined to roll up your sleeves and poke around after reading this article from Mashable's Todd Wasserman. Wasserman figures that if you're a small business that's doing well enough to have super fans who are willing to post about you, you might be able to get the new search tool to work in your favor and help direct new potential followers to you. All without spending ad bucks.

3. Looking for good book blogs? Not just to follow and read, but as potential sites to pitch to feature your book, let you write a guest post or plain ole get-the-word-out-about-you? I'm always on the lookout for good lists of blogs in the hopes of finding new popular ones that I don't already know about. When I got a link for this list of "100 Essential Book Blogs for Voracious Readers" I was skeptical, especially considering that it came from one of those pop-up content sites (in this case, Mastersinenglish.com, which--if you're going to content-farm for advertising dollars, better for a Master's degree in English than for, I don't know, time-share rentals.) The list is pretty good, it turns out: it has all the stand-bys like The Millions and Bookslut, but some I'd never heard and some that were good for certain niches, including some book clubs for various genres. Worth casting your eye over.