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human-towersPotential ways that bookstores and book bloggers might work together proved a lively discussion topic on our most recent Twitter discussion, now a weekly event on Fridays from 4pm -5pm ET.

[To listen to our discussions in real time, go to Twitter Search and type in #followreader. To join in the discussion, follow @charabbott and @katmeyer on Twitter, and include #followreader into your responses.]

The topic was sparked by Drew Goodman, a bookseller at The Bookmark at the University of Utah campus store. A Twitterer who writes the Bits of Ink blog, Goodman recently explored the future of the book blogger in a provocative series of posts that got us thinking about bloggers’ potential to straddle the roles of traditional book reviewers and booksellers, and how booksellers and book bloggers might work together.

Interlinking Indie Booksellers and Book Bloggers

While acknowleging that “Every bookstore should have a blog,” Goodman points out:

“Very small stores may not have the time or the resources to devote to maintaining a blog. Small to mid-size stores may not be able to dedicate someone to consistently write a blog (and you must be consistent). Some bookstore owners or managers may not feel they have the technical expertise or internet savvy to create a blog. Some stores question the effectiveness of a blog in generating sales. I’ve heard all the excuses.”

Yet traditional booksellers and bloggers can help one another, Goodman suggests, if stores forge relationships in which a blogger links all their book reviews to a store’s web site. In compensation, he proposes, bloggers “would earn a percentage of each item sold through their recommendation” and might also earn a slightly higher affiliate percentage if they were dedicated to promoting a particular store. The blogger might also receive advanced reading copies of books, and promotion of their site through store marketing efforts, such as listing the blog address on posters and on store bookmarks, mentions at events, etc.

Bookstores might request that a blogger feature a particular book, or post by an author who will be attending the store for an event, Goodman suggests. “Maybe the blogger could allow for guest posts from members of the bookstore staff, still creating potential for sales, while taking pressure off the blogger,” he adds.

More Bookseller Input Needed

The bloggers and booksellers who participated in our Twitter discussion took these ideas in myriad new directions, during an impassioned discussion that went on for a solid hour and a half. Yet as you’ll see from the highlights below, there was more imput from bloggers than from booksellers.

So, booksellers, we would welcome your reponses to this discussion in the comments area below – and surely Goodman would too, on Bits of Ink. [Note: Goodman is identified in the comments below as @booksliesalibis.]

Book Bloggers Unite!

@mawbooks: Book bloggers going to #BEA, message @ftoolan for meet & greet booth space! Great opportunity! Take advantage! #followreader

@ftoolan: Thanks. I hope it catches on. I think bloggers need to show themselves as a community instead of disjointed individuals #followreader

@susanmpls: Is there a comprehensive-ish directory of book bloggers? Ideally w/blog interests. Might be way for indies to find like minds #followreader

@AnnKingman: I am trying to create a database of book bloggers by region to help book community at large #followreader

@bostonbibliophl: I would love to do shelf-talkers/recommendations for a store. porter square, are you out there? harvard bkstore? #followreader

@AnnKingman: Do you know@Bookdwarf? I think we may have to have a Boston area blogger/bookseller meetup. Good idea #followreader

@myfriendamy: Any SoCal bookstores willing to be featured on my blog (a visit from me!) please contact! #followreader

@BookWorm71: I am in Ontario, Canada #followreader

How Can Bookstores (and Publishers) Support Bloggers?

@myfriendamy: If bookstore promotes my blog as place 4 reviews, would gladly link 2 them 4 purchase bc readership is my #1 #followreader

@R_Nash: Hey, how about trusted bloggers’ shelftalkers ‘n’ such? #followreader

@AaronsBooks: we’d do shelf talkers for bloggr reviewed books, & we give ARCs, wld lv bloggers to let us know who they are when in the store #followreader

@JoniParagraphs: I have been working on a blogger recommends shelf – I don’t have staff. Will supplement IndieBest sec. #followreader

@craftygirljen: I think the shelf talkers would be a great way to draw attention to various books & blogs. #followreader

@booksliesalibis: Bloggers, would you print bookmarks with your blog info to leave in stores for stores to share?

@mawbooks: Absolutely! I’d be thrilled to have bookstores pass on my blog info via business cards or bookmarks

@jane_l: Most bloggers are hobbyists & don’t make money from blogging & therefore cannot/will not spend $$ on advertising. #followreader

@ColleenLindsay: Ack! As a former bookseller, I hated when publishers left bookmarks. They end up getting tossed. #followreader

@ColleenLindsay: Stores could offer a promo discount code for readers of a particular blog #followreader

@ largeheartedboy: @bookavore @atomicbooks already offers discounts for my 52 Books series: http://is.gd/vXT8 #followreader

@booksliesalibis: How about a book blogger Tweetup at a local bookstore each month? Have customers talk with bloggers about favorite books #followreader

@RonHogan: Blog/bookstore events don’t have to be author readings. One alternative: book club hosting! #followreader

@bookpatrol: An affiliate program for bloggers with e-commerce enabled publishers AND bookstores might help the cause #followreader

@susanmpls: Pubs would approve co-op to store. It’s up to store and blogger to divvy the share. That’s how I’d run it from our house. #followreader

@ColleenLindsay: Technically, co-op monies belong to the publishers; they would have to approve pay out for this. #followreader

@RonHogan: The collaboration between @maudnewton & Housing Works is a perfect example of blog/store synergy. #followreader

@AaronsBooks: we link to some blogs on our site, we’d do link exchanges with more if there’s interest, but not want it too cluttered #followreader

@trishheylady: If I got to pick from your ARCs, I’d consider not linking to Amazon. #followreader

@mawbooks: I do get to pick ARC’s from my local indie, but it was never expected of me to get rid of my Amazon links. #followreader

@nethspace: Indies offering me galleys and swag does little – I’m already buried and have TBR Stack that’ll last years #followreader

Do Regional Relationships Between Bloggers and Booksellers Make Sense?

AnnKingman: Would think that pubs would love to target regional interest books to local bloggers. #followreader

@largeheartedboy: I am surprised more indies don’t work closer with blogs, especially regional wonders like @mnreads #followreader

@AnnKingman: local certainly not mandatory, but there is power in local. Access to authors, ARCs, community issues & commentary #followreader

@mawbooks: I would love to see if my local indiees would be interested. We have 20+ bloggers in our area. #followreader

@nethspace: link to local store isn’t so good for bloggers who live in small towns with few stores and people #followreader

@nethspace: I love indie stores – but the one’s close to me have terrible SFF selections and knowledge #followreader

@ColleenLindsay: When I started to research SF/F book blogs for online promotio, fully 50% of them were outside US #followreader

@nethspace: Exactly – my reach is probably 99% national/international and <1% local/regional #followreader

@jane_l: That’s the appeal of blogs – bringing together a geographically diverse readership #followreader

@booksliesalibis: If there are few bloggers in an area, why couldn’t a blogger from a distance away support a store? #followreader

@wordlily: Different approaches/scenarios are necessitated by whether area has many/few bloggers/bookstores #followreader

@alexanderchee: Should stores and blog rings adopt each other, and share? #followreader

On Linking to Indies vs. Amazon

@mawbooks: I’ve always had “invisble” links but will start saying “Title available through . . . ” #followreader

@mawbooks: I am uncomfortable with exclusive linking. I would link back to store in addition to Amazon & other sources #followreader

@mawbooks My local indie asked for indie link to be listed first. I can do that. #followreader

@mawbooks: I’ve made exactly zero dollars from Indiebound. But I am changing my linking habits to see if that changes. #followreader

@mawbooks: I have indiebound in my sidebar, but it’s not enough. Links need to be in the posts too.

@jane_l: I linked to AMZN & Powells for 6 months — Earned nothing from Powells & good $$ from AMZN #followreader

@jane_l: I made enough to cover shipping for prizes and blog hosting fees (shipping is hugest event 4 me) #followreader

@jane_l: I switched to Indiebound after #amazonfail. Wanted to walk the talk even at a loss. Am definitely losing $$ #followreader

@jane_l:I have had more than one reader email me that they were disappointed I removed Amazon links #followreader

@jane_l: Part of success of AMZN was offering $$ to bloggers & making it easy for them to integrate into sites & earn $$ from content. #followreader

@Wordlily: Amazon is easy for the purchaser, too, though. One-click purchase, wishlist, free shipping options … #followreader

@BookishRuth: the problem that bloggers have is that most readers want to buy from Amazon. It’s frustrating. #followreader

@bostonbibliophl: I link to Indiebound. But response is always “I like Amazon better.” Indies still going uphill #followreader

@BethFishReads: I’ve made zero from Indiebound, but then I’ve made < $10 from Amazon. I’m not pushing enough, I guess #followreader

@Condalmo: I link to Powell’s w/out any problem. #followreader

@trishheylady: I’m linking to Powell’s along with Amzn. Powell’s link is 1st. Really gd aff prgrm. Don’t know if indiebound compares. #followreader

@booksliesalibis: A problem for indie booksellers. If we give space in our stores & web, we hate to see Amazon on yr blog. #followreader

@myfriendamy: Received a lot of anger from indie sellers for linking to Amazon on buybooksfortheholidays.com not impressed #followreader

@mawbooks: I don’t think you’ll ever get bloggers to stop linking to Amazon.BUT you can get them to do mulitple linking. #followreader

@DevourerofBooks: I’d likely lose sales but willing to put indie first- but I don’t think fewer people would read the blog #followreader

@DevourerofBooks: Could definitely give indies top billing, make a statement ‘consider supporting an indie’ #followreader

@booksliesalibis: That’s the beauty of Indiebound. You promote books, get affiliate $’s and Indiebound handles which store. #followreader

Other Blogger Concerns about Working with Indies:

@myfriendamy: My readership is my no 1, will not compromise for bookstore must consider global readers #followreader

@myfriendamy: Will bookstore be upset if I give neg review 2 one of their hot titles if sending patrons 2 my blog? #followreader

@BethFishReads: I don’t really want to become a commercial-looking site. I want to promote books rather than any 1 store #followreader

@craftygirljen: Stores should make clear they don’t necessarily support blogger views, so bloggers could say what they want. #followreader

@leatherzebra: It’s hard to support indie booksellers when they treat you horribly (directly) for being a genre writer #followreader

@booksliesalibis: I think there are stores out there that respect books, not genres, you could work with them. #followreader

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Addendum to original post:

Matt Supko contacted me today and offered a note of clarification regarding the ABA/Indiebound’s plans for an IB iPhone app eBook purchasing option:

At no point has ABA been in direct partnership with Lexcycle.  We had been planning to use a publicly documented protocol which any developer may use ( http://www.lexcycle.com/booksellers ) to send ebooks to Stanza for reading.  Those plans are now under review. Otherwise, our ebook strategy remains unaffected.

Again, we’ll be in touch when we have something exciting to announce!

- Matt Supko, Web Content Coordinator, American Booksellers Association

Book curation is much on my mind lately. And it’s also on the minds of some of my favorite people.

Thanks to #AmazonFail, we now know that we can’t believe everything we find in search is everything there is to find. Automated lists based on alogrithms and key words work quite well to a point, and have their place in the world. But, when it comes to something as specialized as finding a book that will fit my interests and tastes and changing whims — I’d prefer to trust that kind of search to a human being who has made a professional career of matching books to people.

Unfortunately, at the same time that more and more books are finding their way into the world, more and more of the people who help us find our way through the stacks are finding themselves out of work. Ironic? Well, maybe. Depressing? Definitely. And, as not to be all gloom and doom on a Monday, I’m holding the sad stories for Part II of this 2-part post.

Today is all about the hope and happiness — and you can’t beat the ABA iPhone App for happy!

IndieBound on Call!

IndieBound on Call!

The awesome IndieBound for iPhone app announced early last week is my new best friend. It’s like having my favorite indie bookseller at my beck and call, ‘cuz with it I can:

  • Browse indie bookseller recommendation lists (The Indie Next List, The Kids Indie Next List) and bestseller lists (The Indie Bestseller Lists)
  • Search for books from a comprehensive database of in-print titles
  • Review detailed book information
  • Buy books online from indie bookstores
  • Find local, indie bookstores nearby, or across the United States
  • Find other independently-owned businesses, like coffee shops, movie theaters, and bicycle stores

After downloading and trying it out, I simply had to talk with Matt Supko, Web Content Coordinator for the American Booksellers Association and the guy behind this very cool app, and find out how it came to be:

KM: When did the idea for the IndieBound iphone app first originate, and how long did it take from start to finish to get it created/approved by Apple/and officially launched?

MS: Probably the first mention of an IB for iPhone app goes all the way back to last summer, but we didn’t decide to really jump on it until early December. I worked on it in my spare time from December through March (I do a lot of other stuff for ABA, too!). The backend, web service stuff was easy to do, but to make the app itself I had to teach myself Objective-C–that took a while! Then we had a beta test with some booksellers and some publishers and everybody in the office with iPhones frantically trying to break it. It went to Apple early this month; came out on Monday.

KM: What has reaction been among IndieBound bookseller members; iphone owners; and tech trade pundits/reviewers of new apps?

MS: Booksellers have basically said: “Thank you.” They’re excited, whether they have iPhones or not, because they recognize how large a market this is and what the future potential for independent booksellers is in the mobile marketplace. I think it caught a lot of people by surprise, even though Avin let it slip in his address back at Winter Institute. My goal was to make an app that was fast and fun to use, and everyone I’ve seen who has actually *used* the app has agreed that it came out well. We’ve had very positive reviews in the App Store so far, and I’m pleased that most people seem to immediately get what the app is all about.

KM: Rumor has it you will be adding ebook purchasing capability/access — can you elaborate, or is it still being worked out?

MS: Sure. ABA’s E-Commerce Solution is working feverishly right now on ebook functionality for members’ websites. This will be a complete, robust ebook solution with availability in multiple formats–notably Palm (eReader) and ePub–etc. Concurrently with this, we’ll release an updated version of the iPhone app that adds ebook search functionality and an “also available as an ebook” feature to relevant titles on the book lists. Users will also have access through the IB app to ebooks they have purchased on any ABA E-Commerce Website. Ebooks will download directly into Lexcycle’s popular Stanza app for reading.

I can’t give you an ETA, but it’ll be ready sooner than you think. I think it’s worth pointing out that, with the exception of Stanza, most other ebook solutions for iPhone (Fictionwise’s eReader, Amazon’s Kindle app) also currently require you to purchase on your computer, then sync to the phone. Further down the road, we’re planning to integrate ebook purchasing directly into the app as well, avoiding the hop to Safari.

KM: Philosophically, what is the ultimate goal of the IndieBound App, and does IndieBound have other such innovations in the pipeline?

MS: The goal of the IndieBound app is the same as the goal of the whole IndieBound movement: to raise awareness of the importance of shopping local, and to call attention to the vast curating expertise of independent booksellers. That’s really where I feel our niche is in the App Store right now. There are plenty of apps that will let you search for books, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, they’re not going to be much help. Our app does both: it includes a search, and carefully-curated book recommendations. And that’s what we’ll continue to focus on even as we add additional functionality to the app. Do we have other innovations in the pipeline? Of course!

***

I, for one, am incredibly impressed. No, it’s not the same thing as shopping/browsing AT an indie bookstore, and you can’t get that sense of community via an app, but it’s a really great way to take some of the expertise housed in our wonderful bookstores and make it more widely available.  Check out the IndieBound app for yourself - but be warned — it can lead to major book shopping!

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Bookish Twitterers Getting All Riveted Up!

Bookish Twitterers Getting All Riveted Up!

Hello Dear Readers:

Happy belated chocolate bunny day. Hope you are all recovering nicely.

And with the pleasantries out of the way, I will now begin my lecture on the importance of understanding and participating in social media. This is a lesson that Amazon learned–or at least, we hope they learned–yesterday via the lovely bookish community on Twitter.

If you missed it, and in a nutshell (for details do a quick Twitter search on the term #AmazonFail and/or check out this post on Storm Grant’s blog or Leah Braemel’s timeline of the event):

  1. Many GBLT and erotic themed titles at Amazon.com recently mysteriously stopped displaying their sales rankings (which are a key factor customers consider in making their buying decisions).
  2. The Bookish Twitterverse POUNCED on this — even though the issue itself started a few months back – Sunday it snowballed — and …
  3. Amazon said NOTHING. Amazon was completely absent in droves.

I am not out to demonize or make a scapegoat of Amazon. Amazon may be completely innocent of causing this “glitch,” and there are plenty of theories (conspiracy/technical glitch-based/and otherwise) being bandied about regarding what actually caused the great de-ranking of Easter Sunday, but Amazon definitely is guilty of one thing:  Ignoring the collective online outrage of their customers and content providers during a critical time — which is just sad when you’re talking about a major player in web commerce.

“So, Kat” (you may be asking yourself — which is a funny thing to ask yourself unless your name is Kat — i so crack myself up): “Monday morning quarterback, much Missy?”

And to this I reply, “No. Absolutely not.” And here’s why: while Amazon was noticeably offline and seemingly unaware of this situation, a whole heckuvalot of their indie competitors were savvy enough to be right there on Twitter’s front lines and engaging with the publishers, authors, readers, and other players who were leading this conversation. Those indies, and their supporters were helpfully (and quite cleverly) offering a suggestion to the angry and frustrated Amazon customers: “Not happy with Amazon? Try us instead!” (The American Booksellers Association even received a nice nod when their acronym was appropriated for the cause –ABA, “anywhere but Amazon.”

The lesson, my bookish buddies, is this — Amazon can’t afford to ignore social media (Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc.) and neither can you. There are just so many reasons not to ignore it. Carri Bugbee, a twitter celebrity in her own right (her twittering prowess as characters from the AMC show “MadMen” is legendary)–and PR pal of mine, sums it up rather succinctly:

Carri Bugbee

Carri Bugbee of Big Deal PR

After several PR crises that exploded on Twitter in the past year, it’s kind of astounding that any large brand could still be caught with its pants down over a weekend. The Motrin Moms should have been the final warning to all who were still clueless to the power of social media.

I’ve been saying this since I found myself in the middle of the Mad Men Twitter kerfuffle last August: it’s time to staff your PR team like you’re running a 7/11. The Internet never closes. Neither can you. A quick look at @Amazon indicates they have no idea how to do Twitter right. That’s ironic for the biggest pioneer of user-generated content! Unfortunately, they’re just using Twitter to broadcast sales messages – not to engage with customers. If they were smart, they’d be using Twitter to quell the outrage.”

So, if you care about what is happening with the community of books and publishing and readers — you need to engage with them via social media. If you don’t know where to begin,  I recommend checking out this HubSpot primer, “How to Use Twitter for Marketing & PR” for starters.

For me the take away from the “#AmazonFail” fiasco is this: There are a lot people in the book community who are very passionate. And, a lot of the most passionate of these people are online and engaging with each other. And when they get excited about an issue, they can make the audience for that  issue much bigger than just their seemingly small online circle.  Consider what Brett Sandusky (a passionate bookish twitterer if there ever was one) had to say about the situation:

Brett Sandusky (aka @BSandusky)

Brett Sandusky (aka @BSandusky)

The fact that a movement on Twitter caused so much upheaval, and garnered interest in the traditional media is significant. This is the point of social media, and we have proved with yesterday’s tweets that much can be done when people make a statement.”

Here, here, Brett. Let’s all remember that. And, let’s channel some of the passion that was displayed Sunday into some positive directions for the community of those who love books and publishing!

Okay, you can have the soapbox back now. :)

Luv,
Kat

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