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Joe Wikert's blog on Kindle

Joe Wikert's blog on Kindle

Last week Amazon announced a few things.
One, Amazon Encore, a program that rewards successful self-published titles, and the other – Kindle Publishing for Blogs in beta: a fast track self publishing tool to upload your blog for sale via the Kindle Store. In a nutshell, via Kindle Publishing for Blogs, bloggers can create an account, login and then add blogs for publishing to the Kindle Store. After review, there are chances the blog will be published in 48-72 hours (it could initially take longer because of the initial rush). Amazon will define the price based on what they deem is a fair value for customers, and bloggers will (eventually) be paid 30% of the monthly blog subscription price for every subscriber to their blog. (For more details, read the FAQ’s here.)

“Hmmm,” I thought. “I blog. I know bloggers. This sounds like something worth looking into, thinking about, researching, perhaps.” Because, you know, I’m one to hold a grudge (I’m working on this – therapy helps) and am still a little bit miffed about Amazon’s lack of interest in community relations during and after the whole #AmazonFail kerfuffle. And, to be honest, as a small press publisher (on many occasions, in past and future lives) AND as a book marketer for publishers and authors big and small, I’ve always had mixed feelings about the equity in relationships between Amazon and content providers.  No one can argue that Amazon doesn’t offer unequaled wide-reaching distribution, but their terms tend to lean largely in favor of Amazon.

I know, they’re in it for profit and what should I expect? Amazon’s “odds in the house’s favor” policy is exactly why they’re enjoying life aboard the good ship Amazon, while the rest of us in the book publishing ocean are fighting over the last remaining life rafts.

Yes, Amazon is very good at what they do.  Anyway, this isn’t exactly my point, or points — trust me I have one or two. And, I’ll get there eventually, but let’s get back to the story…

I was curious to find out more. I wanted to read Amazon’s agreement and perhaps flesh out what I could discern about what Amazon was offering to bloggers, and what bloggers were possibly giving up in exchange. So, I took a gander at that agreement.

kindle agreement

I started reading.

And, I got confused after the second sentence.

And,  as I always do when I get confused – I went to my Bookish Tweeps. Surely someone in Twitterland was twittering about Kindle publishing for blogs, and they’d be able to offer a fair and balanced view of the pros and cons… Okay, that’s just not true. Honestly — I just couldn’t wait to read what I assumed would be defiance from my upstart, renegade bookish blogging tweets. Surely they  would be up in arms about this. “30%? HAH! Who does this Bezos think he is, anyway?” Yeah. I was looking forward to some indignant railing against the man.

Wow.

Was I wrong. Instead of protests and jeers, I was quite surprised to find that some of the people I wouldn’t have expected in a million years to sign up for anything even remotely related to Amazon, were jumping quite readily on the Kindle blog publishing bandwagon. Yup. They were signing their blogs up for Kindle distribution, and they appeared to be not only willing, but also gleefully excited at the opportunity to do so.

I won’t name names (it would take too long). But, a LOT of book bloggers have signed up for Amazon’s Kindle blog publishing beta program. To paraphrase, the reasons blogging buddies are signing up for the Kindle program are all quite reasonable and run the gamut:

  • To claim one’s blog feed as their own rightful property (you see, a rather large loophole was/is still? allowing just anybody to claim just any blog as their own and sign it up to the program. See TechCrunch’s article: “How The Kindle Now Lets You Steal This Blog” to learn more about this.)
  • Make some income off of their blogging efforts.
  • Gain access to a huge potential audience of readers.
  • Just curious to see how it works.

But, I needn’t have completely despaired–a bit of banter on Twitter revealed that not everyone was jumping on board. Some individuals were joining me in my cautiously skeptical approach. Among the reasons for refraining from signing on that dotted line:

  • Amazon’s murky Digital Publishing Distribution Agreement including open-ended phrasing such as: “You grant to us, throughout the term of this Agreement, a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide right and license to distribute Publications as described in this Agreement.” Sure, the “nonexclusive” part sounds good, but “irrevocable and worldwide” are rather broad terms. Oh, and this part is also a little daunting: “We reserve the right to change the terms of this Agreement at any time.”
  • Keeping one’s blog free. (One blogger said, ” I don’t want some users to have to pay for it. I’d much rather optimise it for mobile use so people can read it on their phones.”)
  • And, as expressed by Eoin Purcell: “the locking in of revenue splits.” In his post, Bloggers: Amazon will eat your lunch, Eoin states, “One of my major concern is that if bloggers agree to this completely uneven deal from Amazon now, it will persist. This will give Amazon an enviable position and allowing even their competitors to take hefty slices of the distribution chain value even while offering better terms than Amazon itself.”

Myself, I have all sorts of crazy ideas about the longer-term effects of bloggers jumping on board with Amazon’s blog publishing to Kindle program. I think Amazon stands to gain a lot more here than the rights to distribute blogger content. They are also:

  1. Gaining access to very valuable customer data, and
  2. Gaining access to high-quality, trusted reviews of products (e.g.: books, movies, music, water heaters, etc.) that they also happen to be selling on their world-wide web of a global marketplace.

With this new program, Amazon will have access to data on who is paying for blog content and what content they are paying for. That data is incredibly valuable. Even more so than mere web-based traffic analytics. Because, not only will they be able to track who the blog customers are and what they are interested in topic-wise, but they can use that data to make decisions about what products would most likely be the best bets to offer for sale in their big world-wide-web super store.

Add to that the potential to aggregate and repurpose blogger content (the high quality, trusted reviews I mentioned before) on Amazon product pages, and Amazon sure has a lot more going for them in this deal than a mere 70% of blog subscription sales via the Kindle.  Amazon has already scored big points with their customer reviews, and they license some “professional” review content, but with the Kindle Publishing for Blog program, they will be in a position to aggregate and post the most-highly read blog reviews for books, movies, virtually any product they sell — AND they’ll be getting passive income from the sale of the content to Kindle to boot. Smart!

So, it is the proverbial double-edged sword. While bloggers will no doubt enjoy some immediate benefits, they will also be aiding Amazon’s efforts to be conquer the world, er I mean become  even stronger in the online marketplace. Bloggers may not care so much right now, but in the future they might find themselves in the unenviable position of competing against Amazon for a share of that market. And, that my friends, is one heck of losing proposition.

Of course, bloggers are getting SOMEthing. Wider possible readership, and revenue (albeit not much) where they had none before.

So, I open up the floor to you — you Book Bloggers, you. What’s your 2 cents (i won’t take 70%, I promise) on this issue?
Have you signed up for Kindle’s Blog Publishing Program? Why, or why not
Do share!

Luv,

Kat

Also on the Web re: Amazon’s Kindle Blog Publishing:
HOW TO: Publish Your Blog on the Amazon Kindle (Mashable)

Amazon Puts Any Blog on the Kindle, for a Price (PC World)

Bloggers: Amazon will eat your lunch (Eoin Purcell’s Blog )

Note to FOFTR (that’s “Friends of Follow the Reader” – acronyms have never been my strong point): Please join this week’s publishing discussion on Thursday May 21 from 4-5pm ET. We’ll be on Twitter at #followreader, a day ahead of our usual Friday timeslot because of the Memorial Day holiday in the U.S. This week’s topic is the connections between librarians/publishers/authors/readers. To follow to our discussion 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.

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The presentations from the Making Information Pay conference organized by publishing consultants Mike Shatzkin and Ted Hill for the Book Industry Study Group are now up on the web.

Having attended the conference, I recommend checking out “The Customer’s Always Right: Who is Today’s Book Consumer?” by Kelly Gallagher of Bowker. His data-rich slides reveal fascinating customer behavior by age and gender that should be required reading for editors and publicists as well as booksellers, librarians, and media. In other words, a much wider audience than the publishing operations executives, indie and university press publishers and academics who attended the half-day program at the McGraw Hill Auditorium on May 7th.

Why does it always seem like the publishing rank and file are the last to be exposed to this crucial information? Oh well, I guess that’s where Follow the Reader can play a role.

Getting to Know the Customer

Gallagher prefaced his talk by arguing that we need to work harder to understand people who buy books, since they are buying them in new places and in new ways. As it happens, Bowker, one of the show’s sponsors, has a helpful product in this area: PubTrack, a syndicated consumer research service that delivers monthly stats based on responses from 36,000 book buyers–selected according to age, gender, income, household size and location–who buy 120,000 books over the course of 80,000 “shopping occasions,” and have signed on to answer 75-question surveys. Nice information, if you can afford it!

To his credit, Gallagher did share a lot of great information. For example, did you know…

Most readers now get book information online

  • 67% of readers say they find reviews online vs. in traditional print media
  • 54.8% rely on online/internet ads to find books
  • 24.8% rely on retailer e-mails

Seniors are embracing e-readers and e-books

  • Of Kindle owners, people 50 or older are the biggest adopters, followed by 18-34 year olds
  • 35-49 year olds who read e-books prefer doing it on their iPhones
  • But most people (48%) are still using their computers or laptops to read e-books
  • E-book sales grew 183% among seniors aged 65+ and 174% among seniors aged 55-65

Sales channels skew by age

  • Online is the #1 selling channel: 23% of the market vs. retail chains at 21%
  • Younger readers are big supporters of bricks and-mortar retail, while older buyers tend to buy online
  • 20% of all female buyers and 16% of female buyers 65+ buy books through traditional consumer book clubs

Here are more highlights for all the omnicurious number crunchers out there. There’s lots to chew on and discuss. We welcome your comments below!

Who was reading in 2008

  • 45% of Americans read a book last year
  • The average age of those who read a book was 44
  • 58% of readers are women
  • 32% of readers are over the age of 55
  • The average reader spends 5.2 hours reading per week vs. 15 hours online and 13.1 hours watching TV  (In 2008, going online surpassed watching TV as a primary activity)

Who was buying books in 2008

  • 50% of Americans over 13 bought a book
  • The average age of the most frequent book buyers was 50 years old
  • 57% of book buyers are female and they buy 65% of books (e.g. women buy books and they buy in volume)
  • 67% of books were bought by people over 42; Gen Xer bought 17% of books; Gen Y bought 10%
  • Of books purchased by those who earn $100K or more, mystery and detective fiction represent 16% of sales, juvenile 13%, romance 6%, thrillers 4%, and comics and graphic novels 4%
  • 41% of all books are purchased by those who earn less than $35K
  • The average price of a book purchased last year was $10.08
  • 31% of all book purchases are impulse buys

Who bought what digitally in 2008

  • People 50 or older are leading the way in adopting the Kindle, followed by those 18-34
  • People 35-49 prefer using their iPhones to read e-books
  • But most people (48%) are still using their computers or laptops to read e-books
  • While e-books are1.5% of the total book market, ebook sales grew 125% overall in 2008
  • E-book sales grew 183% among seniors aged 65+ and 174% among seniors aged 55-65

Today’s fiction consumer

  • Mystery/Detective and Romance account for more than half of all fiction people buy
  • Fiction buyers in every category are predominantly female

Where people bought in 2008

  • Online is the #1 selling channel: 23% of market, vs. retail chains at 21% (these numbers flipped in 2008 vs. 2007, when retail chains were at 23%)
  • 21% of fiction was purchased online in 2008
  • Younger readers are bigger supporters of bricks and-mortar retail while older buyers buy online
  • Traditional book clubs (e.g. Bookspan) still capture significant part of older adult market – 20% female buyers and 16% of 65+ female buyers

How people became aware of books in 2008

  • 67% say they see reviews online vs. in traditional print media
  • 54.8% rely on online/internet ads to find books
  • 24.8% rely on retailer e-mails
  • 15.7% rely on ads in newspapers and magazines
  • 21% of fiction purchases in 2008 were based on online awareness, with online book reviews the lead source of information (6.2%), followed by online ads (4.8%), the author’s personal website (4.6%), e-mails from retailers (3.2%), publisher’s website (2.9%) and online forums, blogs, Google and Yahoo searches (1.1%).
  • Fantasy readers and romance readers are more active on social networks than thriller and mystery lovers

Please feel free to share your thoughts below. And please join us tomorrow (Friday, May 15) on Twitter from 4-5pm ET for our weekly publishing discussion at #followreader. To listen to our discussion 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.

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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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I often hear people say they hate to read on screen. And after spending hours each day trolling the web – squinting at my backlit screen until my eyes feel like hot, dry marbles rolling around in their sockets - I start to hate my computer too. Yet I have to acknowledge that without it, I would hardly know what to read for work or pleasure (er, aside from the many books I own but haven’t read, that is). And now, Twitter has made reading online even more exciting, absorbing and efficient.

Yes, Twitter. Many publishing people say they are avoiding it, because they already spend more time on the computer than they want to. But when it comes to gathering book news – and engaging with smart insiders across the industry, as well as general readers – there are a few good reasons to consider it not only a labor-saving device, but even as a unique and powerful tool.

Twitter as Information Filter: #amazonfail

Case in point: yesterday, I had only half an hour in the morning to check my e-mail and the top publishing news. Three e-mails from friends sent to me to:

1.       Jacket Copy, a blog at the Los Angeles Times, which reported author Michael R. Probst‘s claim that Amazon.com had a new policy to remove books with “adult” content from the site’s bestseller rankings (meaning that books were significantly less visible on the site and could only be found by an exact title search). Yet many of the affected books were hardly pornographic, such as the children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies, as well as James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room and Ellen DeGeneres’s: A Biography.

2.       An online petition demanding that Amazon reverse the policy, which appeared to affect queer books disproportionately. (A later statement from Amazon did not address the putative policy issue,  claiming instead that there had been “cataloging error” affecting 57,310 books and not just queer authors.)

3.       A link to the Twitter discussion on this topic, #amazonfail, which has surpassed the discussions about Easter and Jesus on the popular microblogging site. That discussion immediately led me to breaking news stories that other readers said were the best they’d read, and pithy observations by publishing insiders, sassy queer commentators and smart bloggers I’d never heard of before. It also gave me an ongoing reference point for real-time updates and commentary.

The Twitter Difference

Before Twitter, when I relied on e-mail alone, I’d have spent 15 minutes reading one article on the day’s big story, signing a petition and emailing a few friends about the issue, and would probably have left it at that.

But with Twitter, and another spare 15 minutes or so, I was not only able to find and read a well-curated handful of breaking news stories quickly, but also to absorb insights from scores of knowledgeable people and share my thoughts with them directly – and even to bookmark those whom I’d like to actively engage in building community around queer books going forward. 

Now, you might well ask if I needed to spend a half hour on a Monday morning reading up on this story and discussing it with others. This time, the answer is yes, because I report on the intersection of publishing and new media, and am also committed to building community around queer books. (In other cases, like when I spent half an hour engaging the Twitterverse about my nephew’s architectural dessert jellies, the answer is not so much.) 

But here’s my main point: the Twitter difference is connecting with a spontaneous, engaged community that cares about what I care about, and is thinking about it at the exact same time as me – and sometimes even making big news while doing it.  And it’s a community I can remain in touch with, simply by choosing to follow the smartest and best commentators in the Twitterverse.

So, even though it may not help with eyestrain, I find Twitter indispensible to my job - which is, of course, following the readers.

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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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