Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How Book Publishers Can Use Google+ Pages

Today was the second Google+ business pages seminar I attended in as many days. If you missed it, I live plussed (live+'d? Live +'d? Doesn't roll off the tongue like live tweeted or live blogged, does it?) the event as it unfolded. My aim was to post nuggets of info that book publishers could walk away with and implement on their Google+ page.

Don't feel like you have to go back and read all those posts. Because I'm going to sum it up for you (and Teel) right now. Feel free to pass this post along to your publisher. If they need help implementing, I'm available.

Finish before you start

Don't start sharing content -- and certainly don't start telling people -- until you've filled out all the options for your new Google+ page. That means everything. Not just the name of your publishing company and a hastily thrown together logo. A complete profile, please. Which consists of...

  • Name of your page - Same as the name of your publishing business. Unless you've got a cutesy or boring name. Search results for Google+ pages only trigger when the keyword searched is in the page name. I added "audio books" to's page for that reason.

  • Tagline - Google asks you to enter "the 10 words that describe your page best". I'll change that to say simply write a good sentence that describes your publishing company. Don't get too wordy, as anything after ~80 characters will be truncated. And that doesn't look very good.

  • Profile photo - It needs to tie-in with what's coming up next, so put down the Paint program and get your graphic designer involved.

  • 5 photos uploaded to your "scrapbook"-  Order is important, as is how they look when you are done. I love the treatment Innova Disc Golf did on their Google+ page. Pick (or create) iconic imagery about your publishing company. Not just the last five books you published. Not even if they look good. They need to look good together, and they need to paint a picture (literally) that represents your brand.

  • Videos - Don't have any? Then uncheck the box that says "Show this tab on your profile" to make it go away. Then seriously think about adding videos. You'll see why in a moment.

  • A nice sounding (and looking) introduction - Don't copy-paste your mission, value statement, or company history into this section of your About tab. Tell people about your company and what you are doing with Google+. Not sure about that last part? Then you didn't think about your strategy before you jumped in, did you?

  • Contact info - At a minimum, include a contact email. Preferably one that will be answered but isn't someone's personal email account. If you don't have a "contact" email sent to more than one person at your publishing company, you're a few years behind.

  • Main website - Er... your main website.

  • Custom links - If your brand is active in other social properties (Twitter, Facebook, etc.,) link them here. It's also a good idea to link to the Google+ profiles of the people who'll be manning (personing?) the Google+ page on behalf of the company. Personal touches mean a lot!

  • At least three good posts published to your Stream - No one wants to circle an empty page without any idea of what the page may share. And I'd prefer it if the first post you make was not "Hey, we're on Google+!" or "What would you like us to share on Google+?" Those are throw-away posts. Instead, bring some flavor of the kinds of content and information you'll be sharing. If you aren't sure, call me.

  • Connected you website - No, that's not the same thing as just listing your website on your About page. Go back to your main Google+ page by clicking the Google+ logo. Below your profile image, you'll see a "Get started" link. Click it, then follow the "Get the badge" link for options on adding a small snippet of code to your website. This is a crucial step, but you won't see any benefit from it immediately. But soon, Google will be unleashing more options to page owners. Those that do this will be in the lead. You want to lead, don't you?

Once you've done all those things -- no skipping steps! -- you're ready to announce your page to the world about your kick-butt Google+ page!

Attracting circlers

Google+ pages cannot circle a person who has not circled the page first. That may sound wonky at first, but it makes sense. You don't want the IRS following you first, do you?

So how do you get people to add you to their circles? You ask! No, your page can't ask, but your profile certainly can. And if you do it right, you can get other profiles to spread the word for you.

Start by telling your employees, authors, vendors and partners about your new page. If you already have them in circles on your personal Google+ profile, share your new page with them. But you'll get the most bang for your buck by drumming up people off Google+. Send out an email. Include a quick writeup in your next newsletter. Tell every vendor and partner you talk to on the phone for the next week. If you want to grow your network, start getting people involved.

Google+ Hangouts are another great way to attract more people to your circle. Currently, pages are subject to the same limitations (10 people max) of profiles, but that should be changing... soon? But that shouldn't stop you from trying. Publishers should create Hangouts of interest to both readers and authors. After all, you really need to attract both types of people to be successful, right? Sponsor author readings. Hold a writing workshop. Make a launch party a Hangout. There are lots of ways you can go.

Searching for people already talking about your brand, your authors or the books you publish is a great idea, too. Google+ makes it simple to save a search for repeat use. When you find someone mentioning you, your authors or your books, join the conversation. You may not be able to circle them, but you certainly can post a comment and +1 the things they have to say! And yes, it's OK to ask the person to circle your brand's page!

Sustaining success comes from sharing amazing content

Here's the hard truth: most people don't need one more social network to keep up with. So if you're going to make Google+ work for your publishing company, you have to be willing to create the kind of kick ass content that makes it worth their while.

The trouble is this: I can't tell you what amazing content is for your brand. Not without going through an exhaustive strategy session with you. But you should know what's amazing about your company. Figure that out. And share it.

Google has told us that the posts that feature rich content -- videos & images -- perform the best. That's nothing surprising. Again, look at the posts that Innova is creating. Even if you aren't into disc golf (few of us are), you have to admit that the  content is compelling. That is what you need to do. Be compelling!

When you do, consider segregating your sharing. Think of it in three ways:

  1. Things my brand only wants to share with authors

  2. Things my brand only wants to share with readers

  3. Things my brand wants to share with everybody

That should drive the circles you create and add people to. Unsure if someone who has circled your brand is a reader or an author? Ask! I'd check internally to see if they are an author first, though. That question can be a little embarrassing for you both. For advanced circling, consider breaking your reader circles down by genre preference. Again, you have to ask to figure out where someone belongs.

Keep this rule of thumb in mind: at least 80% of the posts to your stream should go to the Public. Most of what you do should be shared with everyone. Your particular needs may overturn that rule, but that will be uncommon for most. Google+ isn't a replacement for other communication channels. It's augmentation. And a mostly public one.

Things to think about

Google+ pages for businesses is still growing. They've gotten lots of great feedback on the things they need to release. Quickly. Here's what I think you'll see in the coming days/weeks:

  • Multiple admins - This was a huge miss at launch. I think it's keeping some businesses away. Which means a better chance for those who adopt it early to shine. I'll be surprised if they don't announce a fix by the end of the week.

  • Pushing of activity notifications - It stinks to have to log into your Google+ and click the "Notifications" link to see how people are interacting with your posts. It think that's coming very soon, as they are already integrating with some third-party tool providers. The end of November is likely. But I could be wrong.

  • (Practically) Unlimited circle sizes - Currently there is a 5,000 limit on any circle. I doubt you'll exceed this anytime real soon, but at the rate Google+ is growing, it will happen. Expect it quickly.

  • Extended view-only people in Hangouts - The 10-person (including you) limit stinks. I think this is weeks away, not days. Dang it!

So there you go, publishers! My thoughts on how you can use Google+ effectively for your publishing business. All that hinting I made about consulting? I wasn't kidding. Jeff and I have been doing professional social media consulting for a few years now. If you'd like us to come speak to your staff or help you plan an effective digital strategy, we'd love to talk. We're not cheap, but we're damned good at what we do.

I'm going to go play with my new Kindle fire now.

Monday, November 14, 2011

An Author's Guide to Google+ Circles

[caption id="attachment_1833" align="alignleft" width="296" caption="A sampling of my Google+ Circles."]A sampling of my Google+ Circles.[/caption]

Yesterday on Google+, I teased that I had come to an epiphany that resulted in a radical change to my profile. After letting it soak for a day, I think I'm ready to share.

1st Warning: Some of you are going to disagree with this. Strongly.

2nd Warning: I'm aming specifically at authors who want to use their Google+ personal account1 in a professional way. If that's not you, then go away and figure out your own methods on Google+.

3rd Warning: This is very long. Yet terribly short. It's so complex, I'm building out curriculum and will offer it as training on ePublish Unum. Stay tuned.

To circle or not to circle?

As it turns out, not is the correct answer. Not unless very particular circumstances occur. Then, and only then, do you circle back. Take these steps right now. You may want to block off a couple of hours, depending on how far behind you are.

Step 1: De-clutter

Google+ makes it easy to do the wrong things. Assuming you've implemented a different strategy, you need to do some cleanup. Like:

  1. Un-circle everyone. Right now. Do it. Trust me. Save yourself the pain I went through before I decided to take this step. You'll thank me later.

  2. Delete all the default circles that Google+ created for you. None of them are helpful to authors.

Step 2: Make outbound channels

Let's craft this sucker to work for you as you build your professional author presence on Google+, yet still let you be a human  being. Or at least seem like one.

  1. Figure out what you are known for. What are you an expert in? What are you seen as an expert in? This is your primary voice, the thing you'll talk about. You know, the thing you write books about. Write it down. Remember it. But do not make a circle for it. I'll explain why in a moment. For now,  trust me.

  2. Make a circle for "that other thing" you want to talk about from time to time. You're on a social media site, for goodness sake! This is no time to be one-dimensional. Maybe it's photography. Maybe it's a sports team. I don't care. You should care, however.

  3. Circle people to this "other thing" (I hope you didn't call it that) who would mostly be interested in this aspect of your online persona. Look through the people who've previously circled you to see if they fit. But as you naturally discover others, add them to this circle as well.

3: Create your selective attention

To keep you out of the circle-back reflex, create and populate these custom circles:

  1. "Firehose". This is for people you ALWAYS want to hear from. That word is bold, italic and in all caps for a reason. This is not an analog for "Friends". Be very selective about who you circle here. I'm pretty good at handling inputs. And I only have 18 people in here.

  2. A circle for a topic you want to learn about or on which you wish to stay well-informed. When populating, make sure you only circle people who talk primarily on this topic. The occasional on-topic post won't do. To make this work, you need to keep your inputs clean. If you have more than one topic you want to stay informed about. Add it. But remember: this is about your career as an author. You have many other sources of news than Google+, right? Don't dupe.

 Step 4: Check your appearance

Get to your Profile and click the link that says "View profile as..." on the right side under your five-image strip. Click "anyone on the web" and focus on the "In [your name]'s circles (###)" section under your picture on the left side. How does it look? More importantly, what does it say about the implied endorsement you've given those other Google+ profiles and Pages?

If they are off-brand for you, hide them. Make a new circle called "Hidden" (or whatever) and add in the offending profiles/pages. Clicking the "Change who is visible here" from your profile page let's you do just that! Leave it set to "Anyone on the web", as you're wanting more people to learn about you, not less!

Step 5: Gauge and engagement

I'm a firm believer that the ultimate, over-arching goal of any author using Google+ professionally must be to increase engagement with fans. Sure, you want them to buy your books (all of them), but that's something that happens down the road after you've engaged with them and they decide like you. Then they buy. And tell a few dozen of their closest friends to do the same. That's how social marketing works.

Here's the beauty of Google+ where engagement comes into play: Google+ is the only high-volume social network that doesn't limit interactions by default. It matters not if you have circled a would-be fan or not: their ability to interact with you isn't inhibited one tiny bit!

Everything a circled fan can do, a fan outside of your circles can do. That's a huge change from Facebook, where the default level of interactivity among non-Friends is zero. Even Twitter allows extra permissions once you've followed someone.

But on Google+, un-circled fans can comment on your posts and you can comment back to them. They can +1 your posts and you can thank them for it. They can mention you and you'll be notified just like you would be with circled fans. The fan gains nothing when you circle them.

Step 6: Don't ignore the Ignore option

Now that you know that un-circled friends aren't inhibited in the least, it's time to discover that link you've probably been avoiding: Ignore.

Click on your Circles, then the text that reads "People who've added you (####)". Change your Sort option to "Not yet in circles". (This doesn't show you only those people. It just puts them first in the list.) Scroll to the bottom, and you should see rectangles for people with small rings in the lower right corner. That's not a ring, it's a circle. When you see it, that indicates the person is in your circle.

Now is when it gets fun. Or terrifying.

Go back to the top and start selecting some people who aren't in any of your (now much limited) circles. If you have no idea who they are, click the Ignore button on the upper right side. Poof! They're gone. Keep going. Liberating, isn't it? Who says Inbox Zero can't apply to Google+!

This is the only action the Ignore button has: to remove people from your list of to-be-circled. Those you've ignored can still comment, +1, mention you... all of that. The block feature is entirely different and stops all interaction. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're just cleaning house. And keeping it clean.

Step 7: Start publishing!

Remember how you didn't make a circle for your primary topic?  That's because it's 100% the same as your public posts! This is the thing you talk about. Always. Every day. Multiple times a day, if you can. You don't need a circle for it because you aren't limiting these posts. These posts work to define you on Google+. Even those people in your "other things" (really, you didn't name it that, did you?) circle shouldn't be immune to your public posts. If they un-circle you for your primary content; fine. They probably shouldn't have circled you in the first place.

But you can (and should) send out some public posts of interest to this "other things" circle on a regular basis. Remember -- don't be one dimensional. But some things of interest to this group may be super geeky, and you may not wish to share that with your regular audience. Great. That's why you made this special circle. Send it only to them and keep it away from your regular audience.

Step 8: Maintenance

People are joining Google+ at a crazy rate. Expect to be circled a lot. Especially as your career grows. Click the "Notifications" link from under your Stream list. From here you can see any new people who have circled you. And Google+ provides a quick Ignore link right from here. Use it. Liberally.

As I said earlier, this isn't going to sit well with some people. I fully expect a slew of "who the hell are you to be dictating how I use Google+" comments and posts. It comes with the territory. But if you have a dissenting opinion and want to engage in a spirited dialog, I'd love to hear from you. Even if I haven't circled you on Google+.

1 - Not to be confused with a Google+ Page. Yeah, they are different.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Office hours for authors on Google+ Hangouts

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="OPEN by Tom Magliery on Flickr"]OPEN by Tom Magliery on Flickr[/caption]

Earlier this week I gave a Google+ Hangouts tip to fiction authors. Here's one for non-fictions authors -- use Google+ Hangouts for "office hours".

Think back to college. Sure, it's hazy from time, beer and... college. Remember when you were struggling like mad to grasp the concepts of electron clouds because your shitty high school chemistry teacher knew nothing of basic science and only wanted to blow things up in the lab like you so you didn't really learn anything and now here you are at university and...

Wait. Sorry. I'm already off-track.

College professors deal with the failings of secondary education all the time. And one tool they use to help students (like me) with personalized attention is through office hours. These are posted times when they are available to walk-in students. They sit in their office, have a light workload, and wait for students to come to them with questions. They're the experts. We're the... well, students.

The parallel for non-fiction authors, typically masters of their chosen field, should be obvious.

So do it. Find a time that you can commit to being in front of your computer each and every week. That's really the key part; consistency. Make that time publicly known. Post it everywhere. Add it to your Twitter bio. Set up auto-tweets to remind people about it. Create a Facebook event and invite your fans. And obviously, talk about it on Google+.

When it's time for the event, start your Hangout. Don't just sit there and stare at the screen waiting for the masses to come to you. That way lies madness. And depression. Instead, get some work done. I would not recommend writing. At least not on the computer that's running the Google+ Hangout. File papers. Read a book. Fiddle with your tablet. But stay in view of the camera, and keep your sound up so you can hear when people join.

Who will come? Dunno. That's the beauty of it. It's open season. What will they ask? Anything, really. Hopefully things related to your expertise. It's your job to steer the conversation there.

What happens if more than 9 people want to be there at the same time? If you fill up on your Hangout, make a post on G+ asking people to be patient. And as soon as you've answered someone's question, exit them from the Hangout to free up a slot.

What happens if no one comes? Then you have a great hour of not futzing with the computer in front of you. Use it wisely!

If you decide to try this, please let me know. Send me a message on Google+ and tell me about. I'd love to hangout and watch the experiment unfold!

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Google+ Hangouts for Author Readings

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="reading by Hans Splinter on Flickr"]reading by Hans Splinter on Flickr[/caption]

One old promotional trick gets a facelift with Google+. I'm talking about author readings, something that was previously limited by proximity.

Not any more.

In the olden-days of, oh... 3 days ago, author readings were the bastion of book tours and conventions. Readers had to be at the same place as the author at the same time to experience the reading. Sure, readings could be recorded and later broadcasted. Or podcasted. Or accessed through live-streaming sites like But while the technology to reach the masses was there, they by-and-large weren't connected to the author's network, so they didn't spread very far.

Google+ can change that through the Hangout feature.

Google+ Hangouts are live video sessions that can house up to 10 people. Now, I know what you're saying: 10 people does not a broadcast make. I agree. But hear me out.

First, consider this is the first large-scale social network to tightly couple the idea of friends/followers -- called "circles" in G+ -- with the ability for multi-person, bi-directional video chat. That's key to making the author feel like they aren't talking to a camera -- they can actually see the people who are part of the audience. And rather than drumming up interest on one social channel (Facebook) and then trying to drive people to go to another social channel (uStream) to watch the show, it's 100% self-contained.

Yes, Google+ really needs to get some sort of "event" feature like FB has. That would allow authors to announce and let fans RSVP to the reading in advance. I trust that they are working it. And a lot more.

But back to the 10-people-max problem. Which is really a 9-people-max problem, because you -- the author -- are one of those 10. I'm going to compound the problem and suggest you have an assistant taking up another seat, which makes it an 8-person-max problem. The horror!

Don't think single-instance audience size -- think volume. That assistant has a single job: to rotate people through the hangout. Maybe it's on a timed schedule. Maybe some sort of RSVP system is used. And maybe Google will eventually figure out some sort of round-robin. But the idea is sound: authors build interest in their readings and give those readings in a Google+ Hangout. People come and go through the experience.

Will it work? I think so. The infrastructure -- the important parts, at least -- is built. Creating a joining a Hangout on Google+ is incredibly simple. Just work through the issue of having too many people and you're well on your way. And I wouldn't sweat it too much. I think Google has plans on increasing -- drastically -- the number of people who can attend a Hangout. So cut your teeth on them while they are somewhat controllable.

The more I dig into Google+, the more I really like it for the indie author or publisher. I'm off to think about it some more. In the mean time, circle me on Google+. You know you want to...

Google+ Pages for Authors

[caption id="attachment_1817" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Google+ Pages Logo"]Google+ Pages Logo[/caption]

Yesterday, Google announced that the business-side of Google+ was open for business. Often called "the Facebook killer", Google+ was off-limits to anything but people. And real people. No funny anonymous names like "FuzzyBunny142". Real names, or at least the names you were commonly known by in the real world.

Now with the launch of Google+ Pages, entities other than people are free to make profiles. I've had about 3 hours to play around, creating G+ Pages for and ePublish Unum, and think that there might be a play for authors here. My thoughts are only about half-baked, so I don't want to write much more here this morning other than some immediate observations and steps you, the indie author or publisher, might want to take.

  1. There's value getting in early. Yes, there's also the chance that a new thing will fail to take off. Google has plenty of failed social projects. This one doesn't smell that way. As more people get involved, those who have built a good presence will naturally garner more attention.

  2. Go slow and complete. Like all-too-many social properties, Google+ Pages encourages you to "share your page with friends!" way too early in the process. Resist that temptation. Fill out your About section (smartly), load some pics (get creative), and make a few solid posts before shouting to the masses.

  3. This isn't Facebook. Facebook is fun. It's friends and family. It's a place to be social and goofy. Google+ just feels different. More serious, perhaps? More research- or discover-focused? Hard to put my finger on it. Google+ Pages lack a lot of the support structure (currently) that you'll find on Facebook Pages. I assume those are coming soon.

  4. Don't cross the streams. I'm not sure there's a lot of value in reposting everything you do on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and your own blog on your Google+ Page. Or even your Google+ profile. That seems like wall-papering, and I fail to see the value. Each of the channels is different. Your content should be, too.

  5. Consider making a Google+ Page for each of your books. Wow. I can't believe I just wrote that. But there is an option to set up a Google+ Page for a book. Select Arts, Entertainment or Sports > Book to do this. Right now, it doesn't look like there are any custom fields you get when you make that choice, but you can bet there will be. Perhaps with links back to Google Books, I'd wager. And probably places for reviews and such. Yeah, this is starting to make more sense.

  6. Consider making a Google+ Page for your protagonist. Here I go with the crazy talk again. But sure enough, Fictional Character is an option. I'd hold off on creating one for every character you have. That way lies madness.

  7. Link in your other primary social properties. And your website. That's on the About page.

  8. Start circling people. Which Google+ Pages makes rather difficult, since a G+ Page can't circle someone unless the person first circles the G+ Page. Leverage your existing Google+ Profile (your personal one) to start getting the word out about your new one. Encourage folks to pass it along to the people in their circles, too. But you better make sure you have solid content for that. The novelty of "hey, I have a G+ Page" will wear off in about 3 more days.

  9. Delete the dumb default Circles. Create your own. You're using this as a marketing tool. I'd go with Fans, Support Staff, and maybe Superfans. You can create and direct messages to these very specific groups.

  10. When people circle you, circle them back! All of them! They are opting in to your communication stream. Why wouldn't you add them to a circle? And if Google+ Page circle you, circle them back, too. A person is behind that Page, so why not? Stick them in the generic "fans" circle. Or if you want to keep up with what they are doing from an approach POV, create a new circle called Other Pages.

That's it for now. Much more to learn in the coming days. When I've got it all figured out, I'll probably post about it on ePubish Unum.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

3 reasons I hate NaNoWriMo

[caption id="attachment_1808" align="alignleft" width="180" caption="No, I'm not participating. Should you?"][/caption]

This time of year, thousands of authors are gearing up for a month of uber-productivity. They're canceling weekend plans. They're figuring out how to re-set their alarm clocks. They're shifting work deadlines so they never, ever have to work late. At least not for the next month. And they do these things for a single purpose: to write a novel in 30 days.

Yes, next month is NaNoWriMo. And I hate it.

Sorry, but it's the truth. The mere thought of this causes a Cheney-like sneer to dominate my features. My eyes being to auto-roll at the mention, and I start looking for sharp objects to end the pain. One way or another.

On the surface, NaNoWriMo is a great idea. You join a thousands-strong peer group and achieve the unthinkable; you write your own novel, and you do it in 30 days. No editing. You just write. You shock your brain into a routine that keeps your butt-in-seat, forces you to pound on the keys, and just keep going until you hit (at least) 50,000 words. Then... you win.

All of that? I love. And hate.

I hate NaNoWriMo for 3 basic reasons:

  1. Repeat offenders. NaNoWriMo, at its core, teaches you that yes, you can put the requisite work in to write 50,000+ words. Congrats. You've done it. You know you can. You have what it takes inside you. And you did it in only 30 days. Imagine what you could do with 365 days?

    But you forget that last part. You've somehow become conditioned that the only time you can write is in November, and the only way you can complete a novel is to do it all within a month.

    What are you, Pavlov's dog? You did it! Great. It's time to move on. It's time to incorporate writing into your daily routine. It's time to move from doing a novel activity and becoming a novelist. Did you think high school was so great that you wanted to repeat it again? Of course not. So stop it. Get serious with your writing.

  2. Premature epublication. The writing process is not over when your word counter ticks past the 50,000 mark. That's just the first draft. And since every author will tell you that their first published novel sucked compared to their other works, imagine how terrible your first draft ever really is!

    This is reality. Writing leads to re-writing. Lots of it. And then it leads to editing. Which feeds back into more re-writing, more editing... Rinse. Repeat.

    You are not done when you hit 50,000 words, or on November 30th. But I will bet money that around mid-December, every eBook publishing marketplace will see a new crop of "NaNoWriMo 2011 Winner!" books show up on their virtual shelves. I know for a fact I'll be bombarded with "winners" presenting me audio book-versions of their freshly "completed" books for Hold the fort! NaNo just ended days ago! How did you go through all the revisions, editing, production, design and the rest of the things necessary to create a digital book for publication in a matter of days? Oh... that's right. You didn't. Writing is just the beginning.

  3. Not everyone is cut out to be a writer. I hesitate to use the word most because it assumes I have knowledge of over half the population, and I obviously don't. But I'm going to break my own rule and say this: Most people do not possess the skills to write a cogent novel. And I'll go so far to say that most people could not be taught the skills to write a cogent novel. And of those that do, most won't put in the time, energy and effort to get better at the skill of writing. Like a never-was cover band, they'll continue to pump out the same low-level work and never, ever improve.

If you've made it this far, you're either fist-pumping in the air with me or just looking for my contact info to tell me what a giant douchebag I am. Thanks to the former, and it's under contact for the latter.

Having said all of this, I remain committed to helping indie authors and publishers be even more awesome than they already are. But that presumes a certain amount of awesomeness to begin with. And yes, I can point to a myriad of awesome indie authors. These are the people who elicit a little squee from me when they publish a new book.

So see? I'm not a cold, heartless bastard who's trying to keep you from expressing your creativity. Far from it. I'd just like you to do it better. Much, much better. If you don't know if you have what it takes to write a novel, then I highly urge you to take part in NaNoWriMo this year. Or next. And then once you've learned that you can, it's time to learn the rest of what it means to be a writer today. Because you're just getting started!

Oh, and because someone will ask: No, I've never participated in NaNoWriMo. I'm not a novelist. And I have no desire to be one. My love/hate relationship is much more pragmatic than simple jealous anger.

Let the hate mail begin.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why Authors Should Attend Podcamp AZ

At the digital publishing workshop Jeff and I gave last month, a sizable portion of the authors wanted more information about making their work into audio books. As I explained to them, very good and very inexpensive pro-sumer grade recording equipment is out there. And while you may not pull off a performance of Scott Brick's in-studio caliber, many authors do a damn fine job recording their own audio books at home.

A great way to learn how to record your own audio book will be to attend Podcamp AZ on November 12th & 13 in Tempe, AZ. No, the conference isn't specifically about recording audio books. But it is a great place to get your "how do I get started" questions answered by people who are there in the trenches, recording audio every day. You can also see and get hands-on experience with recording equipment you can buy at your local music shop or on I'm telling you, this isn't rocket surgery.

And it's free!

I'm currently slated to give the following talks at the following times. This is a preliminary schedule and is subject to change:

  • Saturday @ 9:15a - Lessons From A 7-Year Podcasting Veteran

  • Saturday @ 1:30p - Podcasting Panel Discussion

  • Sunday @ 11:15a - You're At Podcamp - Let's Make A Podcast!

I'll talk quite a bit about authors and podcasting in all of my talks, as it's largely the place I've been involved in podcasting since the start.

Outside of those talks, I'm completely available to chat, give ideas or push you in the right direction. Podcamp AZ is a blast, and I think any author serious about embracing digital publishing -- even if you aren't ready to record your own audio book -- should attend.

Here's a smattering of the other talks happening that authors and publishers would get the most from:

  • Branding, Not Bragging - It's presented by Carey Pena, local TV personality and awesome person!

  • Social Media for Historical Figures - I expect great non-standard ideas authors can adapt to their needs.

  • Building Your Brand Without Being A Social Media Douchebag - Presented by finalist for Nicest Guy In Phoenix James Archer.

  • How To Pay The Bills With Your Blog - Great insights for a new outlet for you (us) non-fiction authors!

  • How Anyone Can Shoot Great Video - Book trailers are all the rage. Izzy will show you how to do it with style!

  • A Writing Panel that includes the Grammar Girl herself, Mignon Fogerty!

And that's just the start. Talks on WordPress (because your website probably sucks), email marketing, using photos in your work and loads of other information you need as a digital author or publisher is all there for the taking. Come on!

So go register. Right now. It's free. And then drop me a line. I'd love to get together!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Digital Publishing for Authors Workshop was a hit!

On Saturday, Jeff Moriarty and I talked for 8 hours. No, you're not surprised. But this time, it wasn't just to see which one of us got tired first.

That day marked the first of many workshops, classes and educational experience for a brand new company we started, ePublish Unum. The intent? To educate independent authors about the world of digital publishing. And by all accounts -- half the post-class surveys are in -- it was a smashing success. If you were one of our attendees, much thanks for coming out. We really enjoyed presenting to you.

I'm not going to wax poetically on the event here. I'm going to let Ruth and Dan do that, as they both have great posts on what the class meant to them. And no, we didn't ask them to say nice things about us, either!

If you missed it, fear not. We have many more planned. Yes, more full-day workshops like this one. Even some multi-day conferences. And a slew of smaller, much more highly targeted opportunities as well. And that's just the in-person stuff! We're scheming on a virtual options for those of you who don't live in the greater Phoenix area. Stay tuned for more.

Finally, a huge THANK YOU goes out to my lovely wife, Sheila Dee, and Jeff's lovely wife, Dannie Moriarty. Not only are they tireless (oh, but I can only be they get tired) supporters of the two of us, but they also quite literally built the workbook we used during the class. And it got rave reviews! Thank you, ladies. We could not have done this with out you.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Workshop Announcement: Platform Building Tools and Techniques for Authors in a Digital World

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="bleachers full of Lego folks by Scorpions and Centaurs"][/caption]

Tomorrow, I'm teaching another workshop about digital publishing. Specifically, I'll be guiding a small class through a sort of aptitude test, helping them find their strengths and showing them how they line up with various promotional efforts. Yes, that sounds very amorphous, but it's based on solid business acumen I learned from Barbara Weaver Smith. She's the founder of The Whale Hunters, an internationally respected sales training organization. No, I have no interest in making authors into salespeople. That's someone else's job. But her lessons on key account planning inspired my workshop on helping authors choose the right "platform" with which to reach their audience. I call it Platform Building Tools and Techniques for Authors in a Digital World.

It's generally accepted that authors today must have a "platform" to help them build, communicate to and connect with their audience. It is through this platform that audience members make their decisions to buy one or more books (or other products) from an author. This platform isn't a technological build -- it's the new name for an activated and motivated audience.

There are many ways authors can build a platform. Some do it by blogging. Some do it by podcasting. Others with an active social media presence, and many prefer to "press the flesh" in person. I've identified 24different ways in which authors can build a platform. And that's just getting started. Some work better than others, but don't rush to jump on the one that is the most successful. You're missing an important part of the equation: you.

Your ability to build and leverage the "platform" matters. Complexity for you personally must be a consideration, as is your own aptitude.  Without the skills and understanding necessary to implement, even the most successful technique will fall flat. So rather than expending resources on something that doesn't work for you, this workshop helps you pick something you can do that will work for you. Once you've taken care of that, then you can start acquiring the skills to take on the rest of the techniques.
That's what I'm teaching tomorrow at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe from 6:30p - 8:30p. I know this is rather short notice, but there's only limited room, and I don't want to overload them. When I taught this class two months ago it was full without me mentioning anything. Give them a call at 480-730-0205 and see if there are spots still available. I'd love to see you there!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Being an indie author means more than just writing

I know things have been rather quiet over here. That's largely been the aftermath of launching a new venture in digital publishing with Jeff Moriarty called ePublish Unum. It combines our knack for training, education & presenting with our fascination of the changes in digital publishing. No, we won't edit your soon-to-be-penned blockbuster, but we will teach you how to go about finding someone who will. It's still in the infant stages, but is shaping up nicely.
Writer Wordart by secretagent007 on Flickr
Writer Wordart by secretagent007 on Flickr

Today as I was doing my morning reading, I came across an article written by Bob Mayer as he attended Thrillerfest, a big-deal writers conference / writing workshop event in NYC no one bothered to invite me to. Bob is a NY Times Best-Selling multi-published author and has his own publishing venture called Who Dares Wins. In that post, he was waxing poetically on the subject of being an indie writer these days. I'll dissect a key paragraph in his post:
Those who are finding success with it are finding they can’t keep it up on their own.

Here, "those who" refers to authors and the first "it" is a stand-in for publishing without the support of a publisher, big or small. I think I'll chose to read this sentence as simply "Guess what? Being a successful indie author is harder than some thought it would be." Granted. Let's move on.
Even outsourcing a lot of the work on one-time fees doesn’t really work because writing and publishing is an ongoing and evolving thing to be a career author now and make a living at it. Sure you can pay someone to do cover art, editing, formatting and uploading, but that’s only the foundation of the business.

I had to re-read that a couple of times to unpack it.1 Again I'll give Bob the benefit of the doubt and assume he's saying "Sure, you can outsource some of the things that a publisher typically does, but there's more to publishing than finding a good editor and cover artist. To have a career, you have to keep up with the changes and adapt to the industry." Granted again.

But here's where it goes off the rails for me.
Doing promoting, marketing, trying new things, foreign rights, audio, etc. etc. while still doing the most essential thing which is producing more books is almost impossible for an individual to accomplish alone.

This is a typical example of old thinking from back when publishers actually did things like promoting, marketing and trying new things. I'm sure that Bob received support like this from his publisher during his career. That's the only logical reason he assumes publishers do this for every author. They don't. While publishers may spend some energy today on their tried-and-true authors, they generally expect new and unproven authors to do the lion's share of marketing and promoting. And new things? Please. There are few industries more risk-averse than publishing.

Authors in the world of digital publishing today must do all of those things, and they are all essential. The good news is that the tools to do all of those things (with the possible exception of foreign rights, which is quickly becoming a moot point) are becoming more and more accessible to indie authors every day. Publishers won't. Authors now can. And must. And are.
... Some of the authors who have indie success are now banding either with agents, publishers or other entities to take the heavy lifting on with those things so the writers can focus on the writing. That’s simply a reality.

Yes, many collectives are forming. And it's working well. Some publishers are even responding to pressure. But the days of old where an author can simply "focus on the writing" and leave everything else to someone else are long gone. For the new author, at least. Writers must understand all aspects of the publishing world. They don't get to sit in the corner and write, feeding pages to someone else to sprinkle with magic dust so other people feel compelled to trade them for money.

You, the indie author need to recognize the new reality. Don't want to do all this? Well.. tough shit. You have to. Deal.

1. Not a slight on Bob's writing, as this is a blog post written, as I said, at a conference. I tend to spend much of my down-time at cons in the hotel bar in "business meetings", which is why you don't see much from me when I'm on-site.
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Soon ebook pricing will cease to be relevant

There has been more than a little freaking out buzz regarding ebook pricing. Specifically, this freaking out buzz is bi-directional. One side features authors and/or publishers pissed at morons who have lowered the value of ebooks by pricing them as low as $.99. The other side features consumers pissed at moronic authors/publishers who price ebooks higher than their dead-tree versions.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image by evo_terra via Flickr"]Five O'Clock Shadow 50[/caption]

So who's right, and who's wrong?


Welcome to the world where no one controls the price. No one. Not the author. Not the publisher. And not even the customer. That world is just around the corner, where a complex algorithm figures out the right price point for the book (e, audio, enhanced, print, holographic, etc.). And that price point will be different tomorrow. Hell, it might be different five minutes from now. It's demand-side pricing, and it's dynamic. And doable. And it's coming.

So keep buzzing freaking out if that is important to you. Venting is good for the soul. But ultimately futile.

Because number of books sold takes a back seat to number of dollars earned in a post-scarcity world. Would you rather sell 10,000 books and make on average two dollars profit, or 100,000 books and make thirty-cents each on average? Do the math. I'll wait.

The good news is that you won't have to figure it out. Someone will come along and create the Google Adwords analog that works for book pricing. Its job will be to maximize the bottom line. For the author. For the publisher. For everyone.

I, for one, welcome our algorithmic overlords.
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Friday, April 1, 2011

Self-publishing and big-publishing work together for one author

I'm a big fan of authors who work their way around the system. Take my friend and New York Times Best Selling novelist Scott Sigler. Even though he landed a sweet 3-book deal with a major publishing house a few years back, he didn't sit back and start smoking expensive cigars. Nor did he assume that the big publisher would be his meal ticket forever.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="It started with THE ROOKIE"][/caption]

Instead, he started working in parallel. Sure, three books were snatched up, but Scott has lots of books. And many of them just weren't of interest to his big publisher. That's not too surprising, since one of his series of books looks at professional football 700 years in the future. You know, when aliens play along side humans. Really, really big humans.

Again, it's kinda hard to fault the publisher too much for passing on that. I mean, what sort of road has been paved in that world? Will scifi geeks be able to handle the sports-talk? Will sports nuts be able to handle the scifi? And how can they get kids interested, when fans of either side at that age don't mingle all that much? So... they passed.

But Scott didn't give a shit. He already had tens of thousands -- no, I'm not exaggerating -- of fans already hooked on the first book, THE ROOKIE, released as a serialized free audio book. Many of them wanted to hold a copy in their hands, or to share it with a younger member of their family who more a reader of books than a listener.

So he did it. Though an ingenious system of pre-ordering, a dedicated team of pros to help him crank out a top notch product, and the business acumen to make it all happen, he launched his own publishing company and started cranking out limited edition hardcover books. And it's worked out. Big time.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="150" caption="... and then there was THE STARTER"][/caption]

Is he selling NYT-best-selling numbers of these self-published books? No, no he's not. But he doesn't have to. When he sells 5,000 limited edition hard cover for a premium price, he gets a premium amount of profit. Way better than typical royalty rates. And this isn't some cheap, run-of-the-mill POD pulp. This is serious quality that you can stack against any new release hardcover in the bookstore. It smells like quality.

Today, he's starting pre-order for his third book in the series, THE ALL-PRO. Order your copy here and use the discount code EVO to save a little cash. Even with the discount, it's not the cheapest book you'll ever buy. Nor is it intended to  be. But it is intended to get you thinking about ways you could work outside the system, and start making the math work better for you, too.

Way to go, Scott. Keep cranking out great titles (I think I own them all, and I know I've listened to them all) and I'll keep buying them. So will others. Oh, and when you get my pre-order notice for THE ALL-PRO, write something inspiring about me, OK? Thanks, buddy!

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

7 tips for authors attending SXSW 2012

My badge from SXSW 2011I recently returned from SXSW Interactive, the giant geek-fest that happens in Austin, Texas every year. For my money, it's the place to be to see what is happening in the interactive space. And I think that many authors could benefit from attending next year.

But let's be clear: SXSW isn't a publishing conference. It's not a convention. So if you're not writing books about interactive or digital things, you may wonder why I recommend you go.

Here's the reason: the world is changing faster than you imagine. This conference exists on the bleeding edge. Go, and you stand a much greater chance of not being left behind. Go to forward your knowledge and expertise in the interactive world. That needs to be your goal.

Often times authors have their own ideas on how to maximize their benefit of attending conferences and conventions. Remember when I said this was neither? Pack away your assumptions, authors. I'll give you 7 tips on how authors should approach and engage at SXSW 2012.

  1. Leave your books at home. You aren't here to sell. You're here to listen and learn. So don't schlep. Don't pack that extra bag full of books. Forget burning CD-Rs. Skip the thumb drives. This isn't where you will sell books. Unless you're fortunate enough to land one of the coveted speaking spots. In that case, the on-location bookstore will probably carry your titles. If you are lucky enough to find someone in the industry or with something that looks promising, you still shouldn't sell. Instead, take this as an opportunity to tell them about you - specifically - and find out how they can help you. If they can't, be nice about it and bring up your concerns. If what they offer is not for you, that's OK. Keep their product or service  in mind and maybe you can share with someone else.

  2. Stay close to the hotel. That means booking your hotel early. Things will change for you so fast, it's nice to be within a short walking distance to the convention center.

  3. Watch the gadgets. Loads of new stuff get launched at SXSW. Most of it won't be of interest to you as an author. But some certainly will. Pay attention to anything that lets readers interact with books, stories, and authors. Think about how you can capitalize on those.

  4. Go to publishing panels/keynotes. Even though this isn't a conference about publishing, plenty of the people in attendance and speaking are in the industry. They know their audience lives on the bleeding edge, so they'll craft their talks accordingly. Go. Listen. Learn.

  5. Don't be an author. You're going to meet a lot of people. And most of them are going to ask you what you do. When asked, say you're in publishing or interested in changes to publishing. Resist the temptation to claim to be an author. Not because it's something to be ashamed of, but so you don't have to carry out the typical "oh, and what is your book about?" conversation. Remember -- you're not selling here. You're learning.

  6. Plan ahead. Then abandon your plan. SXSW puts out a series of tools -- official and less-so -- to help plan out your activities while in Austin. They're great, but of-the-moment things happen. Don't be a slave to your schedule. I attended about half the panels I was planning. Every time I skipped one, I got substantial value out of that which caused me to skip. Let SXSW happen to you, too.

  7. Open your mind. Digital is more than ebooks and .mp3 files. This field is always in flux. You will never have your arms around it. All you can do is toss in a grappling hook and try to hang on.

Been to SXSW before? Please share your tips for authors in the comments below. See you in Austin in 2012! Book it now...

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Friday, March 4, 2011

When is your next book coming out?

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="160" caption="Image by niznoz via Flickr"]duly ignored[/caption]

The world is full of wannabe would-be authors. Encouragement is nearly everywhere, with an entire month dedicated to showing people that they can, in fact, write a book.

Big deal.

If you want to impress me, tell me about your next book. Because if your first book is your only book, your next step towards becoming a real author is clear: write another one1.

Here are four truths you probably don't want to hear:

  1. Statistically speaking, your first and only book won't impress an agent.

  2. Statistically speaking, your first and only book will never get picked up by a big publishing house2.

  3. Statistically speaking, your first and only book won't sell more than a handful of copies.

  4. Statistically speaking, your first book is the worst book you'll ever write.

So keep going. Take that next step. Write the next book. Develop new characters. Tackle a different problem. Illustrate a new path. Explore a different genre... a new perspective.

The most successful authors are always working on their next book3. So why aren't you?

1 - This isn't an endorsement of ignoring editing, cover design, interior layout and everything else that went along with that first book. If you're going to try and sell that first book, you have to do those steps. I'm just trying to convince you to not sweat the sales just yet. Keep writing.

2 - Yes, I recognize that there's more to success than getting an agent or a big house. Much more, in fact. But it's still a goal for the majority of authors I meet, right or wrong. Wrong, mostly.

3 - I use "book" in the most subjective way here. Substitute "project" and the same holds true for all sorts of new opportunities beyond the typical page.
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

5 Tips for Digital Authors in 2011

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="147" caption="Image by Mooganic via Flickr"]Robot typing 02[/caption]

Lately it seems my worlds are colliding. I've made my living as a digital business strategist for over a decade now. And for nearly that same amount of time, I've been peripherally involved in the publishing world. The chocolate of one is mixing with the peanut butter of the other.

Here are five themes to help authors adapt and relate to the digital world of 2011 (and beyond) I'm noodling over currently. They appeal directly to authors -- fiction, non-fiction, screenplay... you name it. In the next few weeks(?), I'll flush them out in greater detail, perhaps ad nauseum.

But until I do, here's a taste to whet the appetite:

  1. Promote you, not your book
    It's a personal and connected world out there. People are more influenced by people than promotion. And you should be working on your career as a writer, right? So before you spend another minute planning the most epic website ever for your book, see how your personal digital credibility stacks up.

  2. No, you can't have a private life
    Because of what I just said, this isn't an option. Boycotting social media on principle is premptive career suicide. People will find out where you live. Fans will find out where you are going to be. Your privacy is an illusion. Deal with it.

  3. Fail fast
    The future is unwritten. Authors who try interesting digital experiments will fail more often than they succeed. The trick isn't to avoid failure, it's to quickly recognize it, bail and move on to the next new idea.

  4. Publishers won't help you
    Publishers aren't evil. Some are even pushing the forefront of technology. But they are here to make money. As long as they can make money off of you, they'll be on your side. But they aren't your friend. Nor should they be. It's just business.

  5. The past has passed
    Publishing doesn't mean the same thing as it did 50 years ago. Hell, it doesn't mean the same thing as it did five years ago. Adapt, or die.

Feel free to agree or disagree below. As I said, I'll dig into more of this stuff in the coming [unit of time]. And I'm looking forward to concentrating more on the publishing world!

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