Archives: Technology & Social Networking

It’s expensive to launch a “successful” book, whether the investment is the publisher’s, yours, or a combination of both. And by successful, I’m not even talking about New York Times bestsellers, whose successes seem as much the result of a quantifiable financial investment as they are the result of unquantifiable variables like reader enthusiasm and sheer serendipity. By successful, I’m referring to any book that earns out its publisher’s investment and sells through its first printing. Any author who’s gotten that far should be immensely proud.

Here are some of the most critical costs I’ve seen responsible for creating a successful book:

*Print run (the number of books printed)
*Co-op (exhibition or shelf space the publisher is buying, whether at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com, to offer your book exposure to browsers. Involved explanation here.)
*Marketing & publicity (ranging from advertising to a freelance publicist)
*Buying back books (for events or giveaway/review purposes)

For authors who receive an advance in the tens of thousands of dollars, a robust first print run, co-op, or hefty publicity/events support isn’t likely. And even the rare, proactive publicist who works with you at your publishing house…his/her efforts may simply not translate. If your hope is to exceed expectations and give your book a real shot on the market, you will need to find ways to supplement what’s lacking in the publisher’s investment.

Here are some ways to properly prioritize your time and energy that won’t cost you a dime, excluding gas money.
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There’s a whole lot of noise about crowdfunding out there, and in recent years, it’s permeated the publishing industry–happily so, since there are more writers wanting to publish than ever before and fewer agents and publishers willing to take the financial risk. Publishing crowdfunding models from Kickstarter to Pubslush (which we wrote about here) to Publishizer (more in a minute) give writers the resources to bring their books to market in unconventional, effective, and creative ways.

Unfortunately, crowdfunding sites have a bad PR problem: first, there’s the desperation factor, the very public admission that you need financial assistance in order to publish because you weren’t given a traditional book deal. (Hopefully Seth Godin has done something to improve upon that image!) And then, if you’re lucky and talented enough to succeed in your publishing campaign, you may have to contend with some serious slack for it.

I was introduced to the very smart and affable young CEO of crowdfunding site, Publishizer, about a year ago. Publishizer’s modus operandi is to give authors the “freedom” they want to publish, freedom that is as much financially-driven as it is creative. Since my business is with authors who are published with commercial houses, it wasn’t the crowdfunding piece (though I was certainly impressed by it) that compelled me. It was the potential of agents and publishers to work with Publishizer purely from a pre-orders standpoint. Some of Publishizer’s authors have raised $20,000-$30,000 in pre-orders; enough not only to produce a print run of books, but to fly around the world  promoting them. As publishing sometimes seems to gallop at an elephant’s speed, you remember those revelatory, re-energizing conversations when you can see yourself at the brink of something new and even earth-shattering for your industry.

Yesterday, the hope I’d harbored for Publishizer came true when a romance author of Full Fathom Five Digital set a campaign live on its site–the very first time Publishizer has launched a preorders campaign for 1) a novelist and 2) an author who already has a publisher in place. In less than 48 hours, The Absolute Novels Campaign has raised over $500, and by the time you read this, it may have broken 6. I am in love with this campaign–because of Publishizer’s design and seamless user experience, because SJ’s story is a real one and a tearjerker, and because the gift options she’s created for those who pre-order the book are brilliantly branded and creative. No doubt there will be haters. But I’m personally wishing SJ and the other authors on Publishizer all success.

In theory, writers should take easily to Twitter—by very definition, a medium of words and a form of publishing. Yet, for many authors accustomed to producing tomes of literature agonized over in a state of aloneness, to publicly document inner ephemeral dialogue is a change of pace. To say the least.

So we’ve created a short weekend blog post to let you know you’re not alone…and perhaps to make you laugh or smile in appreciation.  Some may even guide you to find your own voices on Twitter.

The Cozy Weekend Tweet

The Disparaging-Twitter-While-Tweeting Tweet

The Disparaging-Writing-While-Tweeting Tweet

The Musing-On-the-World Tweet

The Musing-On-Writing Tweet (1)

The Musing-On-Writing Tweet (2)

The Musing-On-Writing Tweet (3)

The Endearingly Self-Deprecating Tweet

 The Sardonic Writerly Tweet

The Brilliant Writerly Tweet

The Movie Tie-In Tweet

The Subtly Self-Promotional Tweet

The Hardy-Har Tweet

The Touchy-Feely Tweet

The Author Crush Tweet

The Just Plain Honest Tweet

The Atmospheric Tweet

“The sport of book promotion is more of a relay race than a sprint.”

It’s almost a cliché to hear an author complain about his or her publicity team. But the fact of the matter is that celebrity has become as important as literary merit, with more titles competing for consumers’ attention than ever before, so authors need to work just as hard as their publicists to promote their work.

That can be frustrating, unless you’re able to “rewire” the way you approach publicity. It begins with remembering that you and your publicist are on the same team, and that the sport of book promotion is more of a relay race than a sprint. There’s no recipe for guaranteed attention, but with the right partner, you can at least have a hand in orchestrating your book’s destiny. As an author and a publicist, here are a few things we’ve learned.

1) Rewire the way you think about publicity.

What does publicity “success” mean to you? If it’s getting an interview on NPR or a book review in the New York Times, you should be plugged into those outlets, knowing the kinds of authors and subjects they cover. While it’s always difficult to attract national media attention, if you can convince your publicist that your book should make the cut—e.g., based on the success of comparable titles, or news trends—you’re giving her the artillery she needs to make the case for you.

If national media isn’t available to you, it’s time to rewire. Coverage by a wide network of bloggers, a Facebook post by a celebrity author, or a viral op-ed in Huffington Post gives you a lot of exposure and often translates to sales. Website analytics yield more data than offline media. We can’t recommend enough that authors follow their traffic, experiment with posting online, and actively engage with reader communities to exploit the loudspeakers of social media.

For Bianca’s book launch, a series about a vintage-obsessed 12-year-old girl who’s carried away to different historical eras, we found immense support from YA and style bloggers, who hosted Bianca on a blog tour and posted images of her book on Instagram. When drumming up book reviews proved difficult, we placed larger profiles about Bianca in adult fashion outlets.

Read the full essay with Bianca Turetsky at PublishersWeekly.com 

Marketing your book is almost as vital to your success as writing it. Unfortunately, adequate marketing practices often come at an unfriendly price if not backed by a publishing house with a big budget.  Luckily, an industrious few have begun to investigate new ways to spread the word about their work and reduce personal expenses.

PubSlush, a startup modeled after Kickstarter (but for books only), aims to help self-published authors achieve the financial resources to get their projects off the ground. (Another up-and-comer to watch is Publishizer.) Today, Pubslush’s Development Director, Justine Schofield, shares a few star examples of crowdfunding campaigns, with some takeaways for how other writers can use the model successfully.

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Trying to publicize a book, particularly by way of newspapers and magazines, can be so challenging for already published or just publishing titles that authors in this position are often turned down by publicity firms. Finding the right publicist has become a bit like finding an agent.

There is enormous value to be had in the months until publication, and when consulting with writers, this has become the starting point of any conversation. Carving out ample lead time to promote or think about promotion can make the difference between a book published proactively and a book published reactively. With 3-6 or even 8 months to plan what you want your publication to look like, the reading world is your oyster. You can begin to craft a marketing strategy including those blue sky ideas that, when you’re publicizing a book retroactively, will be near impossible to achieve. With 3-8 months ahead, you can do a lot by way of networking, social or otherwise, and have a much better shot at mainstream publicity.

But for lack of knowledge or budget, or for relying too heavily on their publishers, many authors find themselves in the retroactive position. Instead of tossing in the towel come what may, I think there are avenues to market or publicize your book in a way that builds an audience perhaps slowly, but also more meaningfully and permanently. Before you begin, it’s crucial to shift your objective from ‘buy my book!’ to ‘learn about my book and see if you like it.’ Don’t fall prey to algorithms and popularity contests. What good are those thousands of followers and friends, those form letters to no one in particular, if these are not people who would realistically enjoy your book?

Here are a few ways to use free social platforms available to everyone to genuinely connect with readers at an individual level:
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For authors promoting their books, there are so many methods of marketing online that one can often overlook the most essential platform second to your website: your Amazon book page. Much like your website, this is your showcase—but unlike your website, you’re not allowed the same freedom to design beyond Amazon’s basic infrastructure. So, if your page will appear at least superficially like everyone else’s, how will you hook a potential reader in those very first seconds he or she is scanning your page? How will you stand out? Here are our top 6 hints.

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I recently wrote an article for Mary Cummings‘ blog on Digital Book World. Hopefully, it answers some of the questions I often hear from authors: Is NPR a possibility? What can I expect in terms of book reviews? Why again is Twitter important? Here is a teaser, and you can read the full article here.

Every book that you could at one point feel in your hands has today become something you can instantly access on your cell phone. For authors, publicists and publishers, this has meant that we’ve needed to re-think the traditional publicity tools—print reviews, radio, and television that once, in the gilded age of publishing, worked so well for hardcovers. More than ever, it may now be online marketing that makes the PR difference.

Permanency and Possibility in Online Outlets

The moment physical became virtual, publicity both expanded and became more limited. Expanded, because we’ve never known a time when so many online outlets have existed—not merely the digital counterparts of print magazines, but an infinite sea of online programs and blogs, each with their own set of followers. When a book is covered online, a title and link are given permanency. Readers have the opportunity to click directly to buy. When it is so easy to move from point of mention to point of sale, and when eBooks are priced affordably (under $5), the possibility of the impulse buy is all the more tenable. The chance any person of a younger generation will see an interesting author interview on television, remember the name of the author or book, remember to find it the next time he or she is by the internet or browsing in a book shop, and finally buy that new book in hardcover at a price point of $25.99…well, it’s a big leap of faith you’re taking on a consumer. The “un-immediacy” of how books are still presented today using these major outlets will be even more of a challenge for forthcoming, instantly gratify-able generations—if those outlets still exist.

When I learn about a book on Twitter, one 140-character tweet from someone who shares my interests can move me to action. Maybe I click on the link to that blog review. From there, a good review will seamlessly send me to an author’s website or Amazon page.

Online PR is Not Less Credible, and Possibly Even Profitable

For eBooks, and particularly those self-published, the reality is that NPR, Today, and People Magazine are not reasonable targets. Forgetting any argument of stigma, the lack of “physicality” becomes an issue for events; you simply don’t have something to hand sell. To further complicate matters, these longstanding book reviewers are often still of the hardcover “old school,” preferring to see physical review copies of books. This is the limiting side of publicity as it exists currently, not future. Fortunately, authors are understanding more and more that there are all kinds of ways to sell a book; a different kind of “hand selling” that may be less a blanket approach, and more about targeting individuals in reading communities like Goodreads, or promoting their own events via Togather, and gathering a fan base to help.

Happily, I’ve witnessed authors in successful campaigns, thrilled by the snowballing effect of online coverage—the kind that doesn’t start and end at publication, but which builds momentum and endures. In best case scenarios, great websites, blog reviews, and social media buzz are capturing the attention of NPR and newspaper reviewers, and a fortunate author can benefit from all means of exposure.

Read the full article

Mary

We were thrilled to sit down with Mary Cummings, the Editorial Director of Diversion Books, to pick her brain on what she sees really working in the world of eBooks, and to get her recommendations for authors on best marketing practices for their books.

First, I’m so curious about how you came to naming your company Diversion.

I can take no credit in the naming of Diversion, as it happened well before my time, but we think of “Diversion” in a couple of ways. There’s the book-as-entertainment aspect, as in “this book is a welcome diversion from my busy day,” but also the very real and important distinction of Diversion as a publisher that has “diverted” from the path of traditional publishing insofar as its digital focus and all that comes with it, but has not abandoned the path altogether. In general, we like to think of Diversion as: “traditional approach, digital focus.”

Why publish with Diversion over Amazon?

Do you mean why not self-publish? Well, if you have time, savviness, and energy to put into publishing and promoting your book in an aggressive, ongoing way, then go for it! But even the most successful self-published authors are turning to companies like Diversion because they see value to more hands on deck, a reputable house backing them and enhancing their efforts, and abandoning the more nitty-gritty, technological, metadata-oriented tasks that are in constant need of management for the entire life of the ebook, assuming it is to be successful. Very few authors will be successful just by putting their work out there–it has to be continually nurtured, updated, and attended to on the marketing end.

Do you predict a fadeout of traditional publishers in favor of eBooks? Read more »

At first sight, Jim Estill’s blog would appear like many others.

But there’s something Jim is doing that has gotten his business blog noticed. I found Jim while researching the top business bloggers on Technorati for an author I worked with, Alan Wurtzel, the former CEO of Circuit City and the author of Good to Great to Gone: The 60-Year Rise and Fall of Circuit City. Jim’s blog made Technorati’s Top 50 list, not an unimpressive feat in a competitive space. Despite his online popularity and active day job, Jim was not only responsive and thorough in his read of Alan’s book, but he leapt without my asking to write a lengthy, glowing Amazon review. And recommended the book to others who shared his interests.

In publishing, we need more advocates like Jim. I wanted to interview him to lend advice to fellow bloggers and to authors on how we can all be better promoters.

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