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This week has been a busy week. The fact that I just accidentally wrote “Win/Wine” for the headline, is probably an indication it’s a good thing it’s Friday. The fact that I caught the typo is probably an indication I am still sharp enough to host(ess) today’s #FollowReader! (Assuming you’ll all be there to help out…you never know when the tide might turn for the worse).

So, back to today’s #FollowReader. I’ve been blessed to know some very talented book marketeers in my day. As such, I get to hear out about innovative book marketing promotions and marketing projects all the time. Lots of groovy book marketing projects are in the works, and while some may rely on fancy bells and whistles and online components, one thing that all the best book promotions have in common: they put the right books in front of the right readers.

On today’s #FollowReader, we’ll be chatting with some of my favorite book marketing genius friends:

  1. Ron Martinez, of Aerbook, a company offering a unique approach that gives a book its own social identity, plus a linkable web and mobile edition, custom WordPress site, and Reader Radar (providing a platform that connects online conversations around a book).

  2. Brett Sandusky of Kaplan. Kaplan has been around forever, but Brett and the team at Kaplan have some really smart strategies to bring their moving target of an audience and oft-revised materials together year after year. And…
  3. George Burke and Jeevan Padiyar, of Bookswim.com, a book rental company (ala Netflix) who have just launched a promotion that let’s readers choose the book giveaway of their choice (cleverly giving Bookswim a better idea of what kinds of books their would-be customer base are most interested in).
  4. Of course, we very much welcome any and all of you to play along and share your own ideas for smart book promotions. We’ll be starting at 4pm ET, so be there or be square.

    To join this Friday’s #followreader conversation here’s what to do:

    1. Just before 4pm ET, log in to Twitter or whatever interface you prefer. (We recommend Tweetchat, which refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.)
    2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
    3. I’ll start by asking our guests a few questions, before opening up the discussion to the group.
    4. To post a comment to the discussion, make sure that the hashtag #followreader is in each tweet you write.

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BookSwim.com's Nick Ruffilo (@bookswim)

We bookish folks currently live in a funny and expanding universe. Funny and expanding because much of it, for many of us largely takes place virtually. Well, #followreader is one prime example. And, chatting about books and publishing outside of #followreader with fellow Twitter bookish tweeps is another. As are: all the groups and fan sites and friends of a bookish feather we hang out with on Facebook. Did I forget to mention book blogs? Perish the thought! Bookish blogs are a big virtual stop for many of us.

Added to this is the increasingly (again, for many – not all – of us), digital nature of reading itself. Ebooks and ibooks and book apps and whatever will electronic reading gizmo or format will come out in the seconds it takes me to finish typing this sentence — many things about the lit life have gone virtual.

So, it’s pretty fabulous to consider the flip side of all this online activity — it can lead to some wonderful real world interactions with real world books. Consider if you will: I’m in Cambridge a few weeks ago. I casually tweet about being in Cambridge. Not moments later, my Twitter buddy @ConMartin (whom I have never met in real life), direct messages me back, and asks if I’d like to meet for coffee. REALLY meet. For REAL coffee. Well, how cool is that? Long story short, we did meet (real coffee was nixed in favor of real frosty adult beverages). And Constance gave me one of the best tours of Harvard Yard and Harvard BOOKSTORE (definitely worth a visit) that anyone could ever hope for.

@conmartin + @katmeyer meet IRL

In addition, we have a really great conversation, and I learn more about Constance’s own love of books — real booky books– and “in real life” book clubs. I, on the other hand, was able to impart to her some of the reasons I’m crazy about e-reading opportunities and online reading communities.

This is but one example of a bonding with virtual book buddy in the physical plane — another being, just last night I got to meet @susanmpls for the first time in real life for a real dinner at a real restaurant. (more accurately: a really fattening and delicious dinner at a really fabulous Italian restaurant). We talked a lot. A LOT. Almost entirely about books and publishing, but also about chocolate, and family, and – come to think of it, it was mostly about books and publishing.

Begs the question, if virtual relationships can manifest in the real world, what of the connection between physical books and ebooks? I’m not one of those alarmists (I use the term with a tiny grain of salt – please do not take offense all you alarmists, you) who worry that the paper book will be obliterated from the planet. I think paper and plastic will co-exist nicely for as long as we flesh and blood readers remain more real than virtual. But, I have also been running into a lot of cool things happening with booky books lately that make me more and more excited about the book as a real life object. One is visual search, which is a technology that allows the physical to be married to the virtual via smart phones ( QR codes for example, only, visual search ot less bar code-y and a lot more seamlessly integrated into your day to day life).

I’m working on a post over at my day job (Tools of Change) that will offer a glimpse into just how cool this technology is, and how rapidly it’s evolving. So, go over there and check it out tomorrow. (Fingers crossed it will be up tomorrow — I swear, Jamey!).

I’ve also run into some booky-bookish touchstones lately that while are not in the least bit high-tech, do a fabulous job of blurring the lines of what a book is and what the physical book as object means to us as flesh and blood readers. Another story for you: Last month I’m frantically running around BookExpo America, and I have the good fortune of meeting up with the calm, cool and collected Nick Ruffilo of BookSwim.com. We catch up (in real life, for a change) — Nick telling me some of the very interesting things that BookSwim has in store in the near future, and before parting ways, we decide to do the proper IRL thing and exchange real papery business cards. In my usual uncool, uncalm, uncollected manner, I fumble through the black hole that is my purse, looking for one undamaged and mostly legible business card. Nick, on the other hand, reaches calmly into his messenger bag and pulls out an old, leather-bound book:

Nick's book

How odd, you might think – as did I.

But, Nick is full of surprises. Turns out his book is no mere book. His book hides many secrets.

Nick's business card holder

Yeah – that’s cool. As a hobby, and side-gig, Nick takes old, damaged books and converts them into really cool bookish artifacts-with-a-purpose.

It’s interesting how the virtual and the real worlds of books and the bookish tend to collide. Interesting in a good way, I think.

p.s. – Check out Nick’s etsy store. He creates his secret compartment books on request. I might have gone and gotten one. And I might love it to death and highly recommend getting one yourself, if you’re so inclined.

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When it comes to building online communities around books, authors and publishing imprints, what are the top social media platforms and analytical tools? To what extent can the results of these online efforts be tied to increased book sales? And which independent publishers are ahead of the game, and what obstacles do they face?

These are some of the questions we explore in the second part of my conversation about building online communities with social media consultant Jesse McDougall, which picks up where we left off in Tuesday’s interview

Q&A with Jesse McDougall

What are the top two or three technologies have you found most valuable in engaging audiences online?

Twitter for daily conversation. A blog as a conduit for book, author, and community content. Blip.tv for serving up high-resolution video with no size or time restrictions.

For tracking your success and progress, ChartBeat, HootSuite, and Google Analytics are essential.

What concrete results have you achieved so far?

In the first year after Chelsea Green implemented the new social strategy, the company roughly doubled their web traffic. Eighteen months after launch, traffic regularly spiked to 150% over the starting point. In that time, Chelsea Green added several thousand people to the e-newsletter mailing list, grew to become the second-most-followed book publisher on Twitter, and established weekly content delivery relationships with top blogs in the niche (Huffington Post, PlanetGreen, Alternet, etc.). Also. many of Chelsea Green’s authors were invited to become regular contributors on many of these same blogs—increasing the exposure to new and major audiences.

To what extent can you tie your results to increased book sales?

At the present time, the effect social media promotions on book sales can be difficult to track. The only time a publisher can directly track sales from online promotion is if a person learns of a book “out in the digital wild” and then follows the accompanying link back to the publisher’s online bookstore where he or she purchases the book. If the person decides instead to purchase the book from their favorite local bookseller, or from a different online retailer, that sale is difficult (or impossible) to track directly back to online promotional efforts.

The best a publisher can do—if they would like to prove that their social media strategy improves sales—is to boost their own site traffic through social media outreach, and then focus on boosting their own site’s sales conversion rate to do a better job of converting the new traffic to sales.

Which publishers do you see as most effectively marketing their books this way?

Chelsea Green, obviously, is still doing a great job. O’Reilly is another great example. Greywolf Press in Minneapolis is doing a great job on Twitter. The keys to being effective are consistency, personality, and community involvement. These are not one-way media channels, they require that participants speak AND listen. The presses above do a great job of that.

What are the biggest obstacles for independent presses in building and maintaining these online audiences?

Time and staff. Some of these campaigns require significant upkeep. It can be difficult to find the time and people to maintain a consistent presence on any of these social media platforms. The key is to do something every (week) day—whether you can afford five people for five hours, or one person for ten minutes. People who reach out and contact you in any fashion on Twitter or Facebook or your blog will need a response, or they’ll disappear.

Do you see any downside to giving away books or content online?

Books should be owned and content should be free. Content is stolen when publishers make it easier to steal than to buy. By locking up digital content with DRM or asking readers to sign unholy licenses or making content exclusive to one vendor, publishers are making it more attractive to snub the law and steal (and distribute) the digital content than to buy it. Publishers should offer digital books and chapters for sale for a slightly reduced price straight from their web sites in an open-source (or universal) format. Currently, a DRM-free PDF gets my vote, but I see room for something better.

What technological tools or developments are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

I’m looking forward to the development of mobile media. I think that high-quality digital content delivery through mobile devices with screens big enough for reading long-format books will revolutionize book reading and book content. Paper books will continue to have their place and incredible value. Lifelong readers recognize that and will continue to buy paper books for their unique virtues. Electronic devices will never be as good as paper books for quiet, powerless, peaceful reading.

However, once high-quality digital mobile content delivery is done well, book content can grow beyond paper and e-ink devices. Books will slowly evolve to look more like web pages, with links, supplemental videos, audio clips, and the book publisher’s intended formatting and design. Of course, plain text should still be an option for readers who don’t want to be bothered with the flash and bother of videos, etc., but the option for all the bells and whistles we’re already used to on the web should be available as well. The ability to include such ancillary content will provide publishers with an entirely new product that offers more than the bound book can or should. This new product could be a powerful new revenue stream.

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Ashleigh Gardner of The Dundurn Group

These days it’s a given that authors will be expected to take part in the marketing of their books. But, navigating the world of book marketing is no easy task for an author, and there are no hard and fast rules for them to follow.

Which is why it was such a pleasure to hear how one particular publisher’s marketing team has taken the lead in helping authors help them. In part three  (the last part) of our behind the scenes look into the world of book marketing, publicity and advertising,  I asked Ashleigh Gardner, Manager of Digital Development at The Dundurn Group, all about Dundurn’s innovative author marketing program, dubbed “The Author Countdown.”

KM: Can you sum up in a few sentences what your author countdown is?

AG: Starting on a bi-weekly basis — and increasing in frequency as the publication date nears — our authors are automatically sent a customized e-mail from us. Some of the messages are tutorials, some are informative to let the authors know what stage we’re at in-house, and some are just showing them some fun things that other authors are doing.

KM: What inspired you to create the author countdown program?

AG: Shortly after I started at Dundurn, close friends of mine found out they were expecting a baby. They signed up for those automated weekly e-mails that let them know what’s going on, and what they need to do based on their due date.

I loved hearing their updates each week and it was an easy jump to see the possibilities to inform authors. So many people refer to their books as their children, and there is so much worry and insecurity about the process and misdirected energy. When an author first signs, especially first-time authors, they want to do everything all at once. Our Countdown helps break down the process into manageable chunks so that both our team and the author get the information that they need when they need it.

KM: What kinds of info do you send to the author’s each week?

AG: Some weeks it’s just useful information, like a staff roster that lets you know who to contact with what questions. Other weeks it’s tutorials on popular social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook. We have some that give them direct tasks to aid our efforts. We’ve recently added some that are targeted to a smaller group, so only authors within a certain subject get a message that’s relevant to them.

KM: How have Dundurn’s authors responded to the countdown – are they all enthusiastic, do some object to being tasked with marketing responsibilities?

AG: Almost everyone is enthusiastic and it’s definitely helped communication. While some authors in the past have had the belief that their only job is to write the book, I think that’s definitely changing and not something I’ve experienced much of in my position. Almost everyone is going online for information these days — authors included. And with the attention the mainstream media is paying to author promotion online, it’s easier to get them on board.

As publisher we can (and do!) as much as we can for our books — but readers trust the author more than the publisher. They’re the authority, they’re the creators, and they’re the ones that the fans want to interact with.

KM: Have you made any changes to the countdown program based on author feedback?

AG: Definitely! Some of our authors have come back with more questions and, where the answers can be general, they often become their own message to everybody. We also have some authors who have been inspired to do really creative promotion from the letters and then we add their examples in for everyone to see.

It’s also been changed by outside influences. A good blog post or a new site launch can inspire a new countdown message. Meghan at Booknet Canada has recently posted some fantastic Social Media How To’s on their website. After reading those I incorporated some of their tips and added the links to our suggested reading.

KM: Can you give an example of a Dundurn author who done a really good of promoting their book? Did they need a lot of coaching? Did they just jump in and start promoting?

AG: The authors who are the best at social media are the best self-promoters, period. It’s only new tools for the same jobs. One of our savviest authors online, Jill Edmondson, is also the most creative with promotion offline.

I find most authors need help with the technical issues, and have a few questions about the culture of certain sites and how they work. Once they see a few examples and get comfortable, they’re often able to jump in and make it their own.

KM: Can you give an example where social media marketing just didn’t seem to work for the title or author?

AG: There have been some places where I didn’t think we’d have a big response online and I was proven wrong!

I think that as far as specific books go, you can find a place online for any title. The internet has made it so easy for communities to gather, it’s easier to find groups that are interested in our content. And, with good search engine optimization, it’s never been easier for them to find you!

Where social media marketing doesn’t work is where the author is resistant. It’s hard to create enthusiasm online for a book when the author is impersonal and hesitant to interact with their audience. A lot of older authors have fears of losing their privacy when it comes to online networking and I think it’s important to remember that you’re in control of what you put out there. You don’t have to be personal, but be personable.

KM: What one piece of advice would you give to publicists/marketing staff who are trying to get their authors to promote their books via social media?

AG: For the most part, work in baby steps. I think a lot of authors are overwhelmed thinking that they need to be on every site with a million followers and it paralyzes them into doing nothing. It’s so much better to strategically choose a few projects and do them well than to have an out-of-date profile on every site you can find. I usually have authors start with a Facebook Fan Page because these days almost everyone they know will be on Facebook and that instant growth and feedback is great for momentum.

KM: What one piece of advice would you give to authors about taking on the social media marketing of their books?

AG: Watch first, then act. Start reading the blog of an author you admire. Become a fan of lots of Facebook pages so you can decide what’s working and what isn’t. Sign up for every eNewsletter to see what the competition is doing.

And, most of all, have an idea of who you’re doing it for. Know who your reader is, where they are online, and what they’re interested in.

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In this second of three posts all about book marketing, publicity and advertising, Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson of Verso Digital Advertising were kind enough to offer some really great advice to authors and publishing professionals alike on how to make the most of the many advertising and marketing options available — and yes, they even have advice for authors with no budget!

[Verso recently published an incredibly insightful survey of book-buying behavior which is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the book industry. Check it out here. And for more info about Verso, check out Charlotte Abbott's interview with Tom and Denise from late last year.]

KM:What one piece of advice would you give to publicists/marketing staff who are trying to figure out online marketing?

DB: Know your book’s audience: everything you do flows from that—where you go, what you say, and how you say it. In terms of social media, this is obvious. But it’s also true of other, more traditional forms of marketing such as advertising, direct mail, and event marketing.

TT: Believe it or not, social media didn’t invent the idea of communities! It has only changed how many new ones tend to come together at the moment. While the mega-companies like Proctor and Gamble have had to reboot their entire marketing machine, book marketing has always been more about niche targeting than mass because we’ve never had the huge budgets that make major brand campaigns work.

DB: Looked at in this light, for example, the NYTBR is a highly important locus for the general book community: authors, agents, booksellers, publishers. While its ability to move massive sales has diminished, it has not disappeared – which is why we continue to find that ads there still work for the right book.

TT: It’s also important not to lose sight of scale in all the talk about community. To really have an impact, you need to reach a lot of people. This may seem obvious, but too often I see “marketing fibs” (e.g., $500 of Facebook ads, or a few Tweets) standing in for comprehensive marketing plans that will reach many hundreds of thousands of readers.

DB: In terms of social media, if you’re a publishing house that’s a full-fledged member of the relevant community, congratulations: you can now go to town with your Twitter account, Facebook fan page, blog, and comment fields far and wide. If you’re not the expert in your community—and let’s face it, most publishers aren’t at this point—then help your author develop his/her status in the community. If that author doesn’t have status, now’s the time to start building it.

KM: Self-publishing authors, and even traditionally published authors must be more involved than ever in the marketing efforts for their books. What one piece of advice would you give to authors who are trying to figure out online marketing?

TT: If you’re one of the vast majority of authors who don’t have a lot of money to spend, don’t worry about advertising, cut straight for social media. As an author you have an advantage over your publisher because you have the true passion, expertise in the field, and long-term brand commitment you need to make social media work. But if you try to do it all—Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc.—you will quickly run out of gas. There are still only 24 hours in the day, and you also have new books to write, a day job to work, and chickens to tend.

So the big lesson here is: pick one or two things that you do well and (here’s the real secret) that you really enjoy. If you hate the idea of the blog commitment, try Twitter. If you find Twitter inane, get busy in the comment fields of relevant websites.  If that’s all too much, maybe just try starting locally with a group at your local bookstore, or library. Nathan Bransford wrote a great post on this: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/01/key-to-marketing-your-book-time-well.html

DB: And if your publisher is offering any ad support, make sure they’re fully aware of your efforts, and tie in the ad campaign to your own outreach by driving people to your blog, your fan page, or whatever it is you are doing.

TT: There are a few (very few) authors who have the resources to run an ad campaign of their own across media with all guns blazing. At the agency, we have seen a lot more business on this front in the last few years from authors  taking care of their brands themselves. We love working with authors. They always get the big picture.

KM: What are the major differences between print advertising and online advertising?

DB: What’s even more interesting to me than the differences are the similarities. The golden rule of advertising is to be where your market is. Of course everyone’s online now, but print’s not dead yet, a hell of a lot of people still watch TV, and radio, billboards and bus ads continue to have their place.

TT: Gary Vaynerchuck gets a lot of air time these days for being a new media king, but even he took out ads on billboards, taxi tops and newspapers for his most recent book. Why? Because that’s where people are looking. The smart thing he did was to make sure that the ads all tied in to his other efforts, including online. He looked at it as all one marketing push, with many means.

KM: In a nutshell, can you tell us what Verso does? Can you give us a few examples of campaigns you’ve put together and results?

TT: Verso Advertising is a full-service agency. That means we plan and buy media as well as handling creative for all kinds of advertising: online, print, broadcast, and outdoor. Some of the most fulfilling campaigns are those in which we can work in several media at once and have all the pieces working together to support the book.

DB: An example of this is a recent campaign for Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta. We started by teasing the new hardcover months before publication in ads for the author’s previous book. We amortized the budget for video production over broadcast, online and publicity channels by shooting and editing spots for a :15 TV spot, a behind-the-scenes video for the author’s site, a book trailer, as well as a promotional video that was easily customizable for use on morning shows, websites, and more. We also made sure that the print and outdoor ads we ran drove people to all the online efforts.  It was the ideal campaign in that each piece worked to amplify every other piece.

KM: Can you further define, and give some advice to publishers AND authors about “marketing fibs?”

DB: Too often a publisher will announce that they’re putting a major push behind an author, but the reality is empty. Maybe they tout a book’s “national advertising campaign” to the author, bookseller or the media, but the campaign is really $100 worth of ads on Facebook. Or maybe they declare “a major social media campaign,” when all they’re doing is sending out a few tweets from the publisher’s username. The problem for publishers is that these kinds of “fibs” devalue real work they do in other areas, and make it less likely that a legitimately strong social media campaign will be taken seriously. See under: All hat, no cattle.

KM: Do you think anything has been, or risks being, lost as discussions about, and around books migrate more and more to the online ecosystem? What do you see as the benefits of this shift to an online book community?

TT: The immediate losses are the book reviews that can reach enough people in one go to make a real difference in book sales. The other problem with the loss of these book reviews that I don’t hear spoken of much, is the reality that the old print book reviews paid enough to give many authors the supplemental income to make a writing life possible as a career.

DB: I see a lot of potential benefits to the online book community, but frankly I don’t think they’ve kicked in yet. At some point, soon I hope, there will be a real process for discovery of new titles that will involve citizen readers. Maybe this will come from a book community like Librarything or Goodreads (where some of the most influential members are not well-known authors but regular reviewers). Maybe a singular online resource will emerge, like the New York Times Book Review was in its heyday, that will be able to introduce readers to new authors and make careers with a single review. But I doubt it will be one answer. I think it’s more likely to be collaborative: a review aggregation tool or a field of communities.

TT: People keep waiting for the device that will be like an iPhone for books. But the revolutionary thing about the iPhone isn’t the device. It’s the wickedly broad and divergent community the device opened up through apps.

DB: As we move away from desktops and laptops toward mobile computing, we will see that the most successful campaigns will tie in the digital with the physical world, be it through QR codes, geo-location communities like Foursquare and Gowalla, or simply more sophisticated geo-targeting. That’s where everyone with a stake in the future of publishing needs to be looking right now. I think there’s good news there for readers, publishers, booksellers, and authors.

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Because my real job is more or less all about helping books find their ways to readers, I love talking with authors and industry professionals about marketing – and as a reader, I think it’s fascinating to hear how – out of all the zillions of books in the world – a relatively small amount of particular titles seem to get a lot more attention (and readership) than others.

What do marketers think about when they think about marketing? I asked some really talented book marketing type people, each of whom approaches the marketing of books from a slightly different perspective: Jeff VanderMeer, novelist and author of BookLife: Strategies and Survival Tips for 21st Century Writers; Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson of Verso Digital Advertising; and Ashleigh Gardner, Manager of Digital Development at The Dundurn Group.

Today’s Q+A is with Jeff VanderMeer, and I hope you find it as interesting as I did!

Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist who makes “part of his  living writing fiction and part of it doing book reviews, teaching writing workshops, and taking on individual manuscript critique assignments.” In other words, he has a day job. But what makes Jeff unique among authors is that a big part of his day job is helping other writers learn the art of sustainable creativity. In fact, his recent book, BookLife, is all about doing just that.

Jeff VanderMeer Q+A:

KM: What one piece of advice would you give to publicists/marketing staff who are trying to get their authors to promote their books via social media?

JVM: Go through a discovery process wherein you discover

  1. What your authors are passionate about
  2. What their core abilities outside of writing are
  3. How even-tempered they are
  4. How outgoing they are, and
  5. How involved in social media they already are.

Create a social media plan for each author based on the answers. DO NOT give each author a “one size fits all” solution.

KM: What one piece of advice would you give to authors about taking on the social media marketing of their books?

JVM: Know your limitations and have specific goals, but also have fun with it. If you don’t have fun, nothing else is going to matter much.

KM: Authors are pretty much expected to take on marketing of their books these days. And that generally means being available online in some way shape or form to the public. What aspects of the new media/social media landscape do NOT appeal to you as an author, and as a private citizen?

JVM: I’m not fond of the way the new media landscape tends to level out experience, which is to say that one negative aspect of the overall positive effect of the internet leveling out hierarchies and creating alternatives to traditional power structures is that it also seems to make a lot of new creators not see the value in listening to those in their field who have been around the block a few times.

I also don’t like feeling addicted to social media platforms like Facebook, and the lack of personal distance from readers. This just means you have to be continually evaluating your relationship to social media, and adjusting accordingly.

KM: Do you think anything has been, or risks being, lost as the book publishing paradigm shifts from a one way channel: author – publisher – reader – to one of any number of possible variations on that? Do you worry about the creative process being hindered, eroded or changed by instant and constant cycles of audience feedback?

JVM: Creators need the time and peace of mind to create, and the fragmentation that the internet brings with it is a definite threat to the act of creation. Writers need to take whatever measures necessary to get off of the internet entirely for large blocks of time. Otherwise, one’s powers of intense concentration tend to become eroded. One good test is:  are you still able to read a serious, difficult book? If you can’t, something’s wrong.

The same thing goes for audience feedback: don’t solicit it while working on something, and depending on how thick your skin is and how suggestible, insulate yourself from too much feedback once a book is out. There are tons of great opportunities on the internet, but many dangers as well.

As for what we’re losing—we’re losing those eccentric or introverted creators who don’t like interacting on the internet and who just want to write. I worry about this a lot, since I feel like we may be losing a certain *type* of writer as a result, unless that person has a strong advocate working on their behalf.

KM: As an author, what do you love most about social media?

JVM: I love the sense of community and the ways in which it creates opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas. It also is an ally to collaboration, and it makes big projects that require input from creators across several continents to be viable and relatively inexpensive. It also often does allow for interacting with readers while still keeping some distance. An email in my Facebook account doesn’t seem as invasive as one in my personal email account, for example.

_________________________________________

Check back Wednesday for Q+A with: Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson of Verso Digital Marketing

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This Friday, January 29, Gretchen Rubin, author of  the memoir The Happiness Project and the popular blog by the same name, joins host Charlotte Abbott for our weekly #FollowReader chat from 4-5pm ET.

The Happiness Project book was an instant New York Times bestseller earlier this month. The blog has appeared on Slate as well as the Huffington Post and other sites - and more than 33,000 people have signed up for the monthly newsletter. 

Gretchen Rubin has published four books and written three unpublished novels— now safely locked in a drawer, she says. She began her career as a lawyer – starting as editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal and clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor - before becoming a full-time writer.

Among the topics we’ll explore on Friday: 

  • How Gretchen developed her blog while writing her book, and was picked up as a featured blogger by Slate and the Huffington Post, while also using Twitter to drive traffic to her blog
  • How she differentiated her blog from her book, and convinced even her most loyal weekly readers that her memoir would be fresh and rewarding enough to buy in hardcover
  • How she lay the groundwork for her national book tour by engaging her blog readers, and other factors that helped her memoir become an instant New York Times bestseller

Here’s a taste of what Gretchen has to say about planning her book tour:

“When I asked my readers whether they would come see me if I came to their town, I figured I’d just get a few responses, but I was curious to see what people would say.

But the response was fabulous! Last time I checked, 700 people had replied to my question! I was dumbfounded – and thrilled by the enthusiasm, as you can imagine.

Of those 700, a lot of replies came from towns that would be hard to add to a tour – Anchorage, Alaska say – and a surprising number of people responded from overseas. It was great to have this new way to get a feel for my readership, and I could see interesting “hot spots.” For example, I was struck by the number of people who responded from Philadelphia, but then I remembered that the Univ. of Pennsylvania offers a program for Masters in Applied Positivity Psychology, so maybe that has something to do with it.

To join the #followreader conversation, here’s what to do:  

  1. On Friday, January 25, just before 4pm ET,  log in to Twitter or whatever interface you prefer. (We recommend Tweetchat, which refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.)
  2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
  3. I’ll start by asking Gretchen Rubin (@gretchenrubin) a few questions, before opening up the discussion to the group.
  4. To post a comment to the discussion, make sure that the hashtag #followreader is in each tweet you write. 

 If you can’t join the discussion, watch this space next week for a recap of the highlights.  

Have a topic you wish we would cover? Please feel free to suggest topics for upcoming #followreader chats below.   Happiness Project Book trailer  

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We’re not quite ready to put down the New Year’s party favors, so in order to extend the ringing in of 2010 just a bit, we are inviting you to join us for a fun (and informative) discussion with the publishing peeps behind the vlog, “Quit Being A Hooker, Hooker!

How does one explain QBAH2? Well, think Terry Gross meets wacky morning dj zoo crew with a little bit of Andy Rooney for good measure, and you’re getting a vague picture of what it’s all about. Here, I’ll hand the virtual mic to Russ Marshalek (the Jerry Lewis to Brett Sandusky’s Dean Martin), and let him try and explain himself:

(@QBAH2) is the world’s first publishing vlog, and the only publishing vlog with the word “hooker” in it twice. It was started as a joint project between publishing industry vets Brett Sandusky (@BSandusky) and myself (@RussMarshalek) after the former pushed Patricia Cornwell down an escalator at BEA 2009, and we concluded that the only way to save the world of publishing-an industry we both love dearly and operate inside-was to take it apart piece by piece. Quickly realizing that all QBAH2 would amount to was too many truck stop lemonades and fake retweets (a twitter activity we arguably originated), we enlisted the help of sassy Lucy Swope (@LucySwope) as creative director to rein in both our ideas and our alcohol problems.

To date, we’ve interviewed the likes of Gary Vaynerchuck, Isabella Rossellini and Richard Nash in our own inimitable style, and our site-qbah2.com-hosts written, humorous dissertations on the ‘three types of publishing blog posts‘ and various book critiques. QBAH2 is proof that taking publishing with a lot of heart and a sense of humor will be what, in fact, saves us all. Or not. We don’t know. We wrote this drunk.”

So – how can you possibly miss Friday’s #FollowReader? Sure, it may be somewhat silly, but we’ve got some serious questions for the QBAH2 crew, as well. For example:

  • How did they come up with their vlog’s, erh “unusual” name, “Quit Being a Hooker, Hooker?” Is there some deeper meaning that makes the name worth the ire of some feminists?
  • Given the impressive roster of guests they’ve interviewed so far on QBAH2, they have quite a first act to follow. How is the QBAH2 guest list for 2010 shaping up?

  • Will blogs, vlogs, and other forms of social media replace traditional book marketing and publicity efforts?
  • Their love for book publishing is admirable if not infectious, but why do they so love the publishing industry, and why do they fear its loss?
  • What are their predictions for the next 10 years in publishing and literature?

Should be quite a fun and interesting discussion!

To join the #followreader conversation on Friday, here’s what to do:

1. Just before 4pm ET, log in to Twitter or whatever interface you use (we recommend Tweetchat).
2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader.
3. I’ll start by asking a few questions.
4. To post to the discussion, make sure that the hashtag #followreader is in each tweet.

NOTE: TweetChat refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.

If you can’t join the discussion, watch this space next week for a recap of the highlights.
Please feel free to suggest topics for upcoming #followreader chats below.

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How do major book reviewers select books, and how much has social media and other technology changed the way they discover new titles?  Do print galleys, pre-pub reviews and trade shows matter any more, as digital tools expand and print review outlets continue to shrink? 

Those were some of the questions we explored with Lev Grossman, Time magazine’s book critic, technology writer and Nerd World blogger, and Carolyn Kellogg, who reviews for the Los Angeles Times and writes the Jacket Copy blog, last Friday our #followreader discussion on Twitter (October 30, 2009).

Among the highlights:

  • Social media buzz is gaining importance, but it can’t make up for a book that doesn’t deliver
  • Paper galleys are most desireable because taking notes in them is easy
  • Standalone e-readers are still too expensive for these professional readers
  • Some reviewers pay more attention to publisher marketing efforts than others
  • Small houses do have a shot at getting reviewed
  • Becoming the author of three novels has made Grossman wince at what he used to say in his reviews
  • Reviewers do regret it when they miss the chance to review good books

Here’s the full conversation:

What makes you sit up & decide to review a book?

Lev Grossman@leverus: Have your publicist tuck a $50 right around page 100. Works like a charm. Not many people know this. #followreader

@Corb21: we tucked 1,000,000 dollar bills in our books once…funny, but not necessarily more reviews. #followreader

@leverus: My antennae start to crackle when I see somebody doing something genuinely risky or genuinely new. #followreader

@leverus: Doesn’t happen very often. For example: I skipped the Doctorow this fall. It’s a great book. But not a new book. #followreader

@leverus: Formally, stylistically, thematically: I had seen Doctorow do these things before. No one does them better. But: not new. #followreader

@paperhaus: Well I nearly fell over dead when my editor showed me the new Thomas Pynchon. Having a recognizable name helps. Esp. Pynchon. #followreader@paperhaus

@leverus: Counterexample: Jess Walters’ FINANCIAL LIVES OF THE POETS. Nothing else I’ve read this year felt that utterly contemporary. #followreader

@leverus: (Except Cory Doctorow’s MAKERS) #followreader

@leverus: The more I review, the less I’m interested in names. The writing has to deliver. #followreader

@paperhaus: Since advance copies of books don’t have art, we rarely judge by the cover. #followreader

@charabbott: Does this mean you read 10x more books than you review? #followreader

@leverus: I wouldn’t put it as high as 10X. But I read a lot more books than I review. And I read a HELL of a lot of first chapters. #followreader

@bnreviewer: Curious to know what books over past year you passed on and now wish you’d covered (assuming any). #followreader

@leverus: There are so many worthy books I regret skipping. The Dan Chaon comes to mind. #followreader

@CollectedMisc: Is there a place for audacious failures? Works that tried something big but failed or did so in an interesting way? #followreader

@paperhaus: Yes, one of the great things about Jacket Copy (the LA Times book blog) is that we can cover so much #followreader

@leverus: Give an example of an audacious failure! I want names named. #followreader

@paperhaus: There was an intentionally failed book, @leverus, called B is for Bad Poetry – genuinely terrible poems, cute blog post. #followreader

@leverus: I would call KINDLY ONES an audacious failure. I was truly blown away by its ambition. #followreader

Where do you pick up buzz about new books and authors?

@charabbott: Do you just read the books on your desk? What else influences you? #followreader

@leverus: I read the trades. But I don’t trust them. I talk to editors and publicists and agents, a lot. And other writers. #followreader

@charabbott: Why not trust the trades? #followreader

@leverus: in the case of PW: no bylines. I need to know who the reviewers are, so I can understand their context, biases,etc #followreader

@Corb21: What chance does a smaller publishing house have at getting reviewed? What ups their ante? #followreader

@paperhaus: Indie houses have a good chance of getting attention around here. We review New Directions, Two Dollar Radio… #followreader

@charabbott: What’s the most offbeat book you’ve covered lately? #followreader

@paperhaus: Offbeat: probably LA BIZARRO, an updated list of wildly eclectic restaurants & places around LA. #followreader

@charabbott: How did you find out about LA BIZARRO. Sounds like a local publisher? #followreader

@paperhaus: LA BIZARRO was pubbed by Chronicle Books. #followreader

Do you use digital Galleys and e-Readers?

@NetGalley: Does having a printed galley on your desk influence you or will you track down a book if you want it? #followreader

@leverus: It never hurts to have a paper galley kicking around. But yes, I’ll hunt down a book if I know I want it. #followreader

@Corb21: how do you feel about a digital copy? Does it HAVE to be paper for you? #followreader

@leverus: No digital ARCs here. I don’t think e-reader tech is mature yet. and I need to take notes as I read. #followreader

@paperhaus: No digi ARCs here, either. Until a free reader shows up on my doorstep, I can’t afford to switch. #followreader

@leverus: It’s really about the note-taking functionality. Though also, yes, the $$$. Kindles are expensive. #followreader

@CollectedMisc: Just thought I would note that you can highlight and take notes on the Kindle and export as a text file. #followreader

@leverus Exporting from Kindle = possible but cumbersome. I’m a technophilic guy, but it has to outperform paper. to me, it doesn’t yet #followreader

@Corb21: if you got something digital would you ignore it or request the paper? #followreader

@leverus: I would request paper. Though if the pitch was v off-base, I would (to my lasting shame) probably ignore. #followreader

@paperhaus: I do not own an ebook reader, other than my iphone, on which I’ve installed several e-reader apps. #followreader

charabbott: Do you read for work on your iPhone? and if so, how does it affect the reviewing experience? #followreader

@paperhaus: I read on my iphone to compare apps for a blog post. But now it’s recreational; haven’t finished Moby Dick yet. #followreader

How Important is Publisher Marketing?

@jenwgilmore: Can we pls address the importance/influence of marketing? #followreader

@leverus: Re: marketing, I agree it is relevant. If a publisher is really investing $$$ in a book, that interests me. #followreader

@paperhaus: Wow, I’m really different than @leverus on this. I don’t care how much $ a pub house spends. This may be an east/west thing. #followreader

@leverus: I feel like I should clarify: marketing interests me b/c somebody at the house is willing to bet money on a book #followreader

@jenwgilmore: With so little marketing on “non-brand” names, what are the signals you respond to? The same as old days? #followreader

@leverus: Same as old days — “buzz,” whatever that means. gossip, good trades. but also blogs and twitter. #followreader

@paperhaus: My creaky old punk self distrusts marketing. Too much push and … I feel pushed. #followreader

@paperhaus: That said, it means a lot to have a genuine publisher or trusted publicist promoting your work. #followreader

@mattbucher: Should books be marketed at all? The cream will rise to the top?? #followreader

@leverus: I wish I believed that. I just don’t see the literary world as reliably meritocratic. sometimes cream sinks! #followreader

How Much Are Your Influenced by Social Media?

@charabbott: In the past year, have you heard more about books through social media or other online sources before publication? #followreader

@leverus: Yes, info about new books is definitely reaching me thru social media. Twitter especially, it’s amazing tool. #followreader

@paperhaus: I love hearing about books thru new channels (Twitter, Facebook) but also standing in the book room and reading #followreader

@paperhaus: But all the buzz in the world can’t save a book that doesn’t have that zing. #followreader

@Corb21: Who do reviewers trust on social media? Authors, Publishers, Publicists? Readers? #followreader

@paperhaus: Reviewers trust all of the above on social media: Authors, Publishers, Publicists, Readers #followreader

@michellekerns: I’d like to know what you both think about the explosion of blogs, etc. reviewing books. Does it drag the art down? #followreader

@paperhaus: I was an indie blogger before coming to the LATimes, so I’m a big fan of book blogging. More conversations! #followreader

@leverus: What a perilous question.More reviewers=more good reviewers, but I think there are irresponsible voices out there #followreader

@leverus: I think good reviewing rests on solid scholarship. must have read the precedents #followreader

@charabbott: Has direct feedback from readers via your blog prompted you to change any of your reviewing practices? #followreader

@paperhaus: re: direct feedback via the blog – never change practices. But my feelings have been hurt once or twice :) #followreader

@ClaudiaC: I’ve read that people are more inteested in ‘people like me’ reviews (Amazon) vs. ‘expert’ reviews. Thoughts? #followreader

@leverus:it’s a huge question. too big for a tweet. shifting from top-down to bottom-up culture. will change everything! #followreader

@ClaudiaC: fascinating change! Do you see bottom-up culture happening? #followreader

@leverus: I really do. See my much maligned WSJ piece “Good Books Don’t Have to Be Hard” for extended-play version. #followreader

How much attention to you pay to trade shows?

@charabbott: What about trade shows? Do you rely on buzz from Book Expo as much as ever? #followreader

@paperhaus: I’ve been to 4 or 5 Book Expos and I think it’s changed a lot.

@leverus, you’ve been to lots more, right? #followreader

@leverus: I’ve been to a grand total of 3 book expos! #followreader

@leverus: I listen to trade show buzz. I’m looking for info everywhere, even if it’s not top quality info. more = more. #followreader

@leverus: But with Book Expo in New York now, I’ll never be able to escape it again. #followreader

How much does your readership, and being an author yourself influence you?

@susanmpls: does your reader demographic influence picks? Or are you selecting what peaks your interest? #followreader

@leverus: reader demo does affect what I cover. I’m paid to serve Time readers. They skew older, and female.I keep it in mind #followreader

@charabbott: How has yr experience as an author changed your approach to reviewing? #followreader

@leverus: Being an author has definitely made me a gentler reviewer. I realize it’s partly a conversation w/ the author. #followreader

@charabbott: It sounds like you don’t review books you hate – so that should help with author relations! #followreader

@leverus: I don’t do hatchet jobs anymore. I used to. I wince when I think about it. #followreader Future of reviews?

@NetGalley: Do you worry about disappearance of standalone book review sections? or trust reviews will be elsewhere? #followreader

@leverus: I worry about disappearing book sections. but at the same time I wonder if they couldn’t do more to save themselves #followreader

@paperhaus: It’s OK for books not to have a stand-alone section; the real challenge today is to newspapers as a whole. #followreader

@paperhaus: I worry that professional reviewing is shrinking – anyone who wants in has to work xtra hard, bloggers or not

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Delivering books to readers in new, more accessible ways is the book industry’s new challenge. Yet few publishing insiders can claim to have pioneered new delivery systems the way Susan Danziger has with DailyLit, which offers subscriptions to regular book installments that can be read in 5 minutes or less via email or RSS.  Fewer still have devoted themselves to introducing publishing’s rank and file to today’s digital leaders. Yet that’s what Danziger has done with the free monthly speaker series The Publishing Point (formerly known as the Digital Publishing Group).
Susan Danziger

Susan Danziger

Danziger is used to looking at the industry from fresh vantage points. Trained as a lawyer, she began her career negotiating licenses at a children’s media company, before moving to Random House, where she headed up legal and business affairs in the children’s division. After spearheading a project to digitize thousands of the company’s backlist titles in the early ‘90s, she left Random to start her own literary agency, Fox Meadow Media, and then, six years later, DailyLit.

In this installment in our series on publishing professionals who are helping change the way we read, we talk with Danziger about the future of digital reading. For more background about DailyLit and the Publishing Point, keep scrolling.

What reading habits are emerging among your subscribers?
They’re all over the map. More than 60% of our subscribers change the default day and time that our e-mails arrive  – compared to 90% of people who accept the default with other subscription media. Commuters may start their day with an installment of DailyLit, or read it when they get to work; there are also people who read it on their lunchtime break, or tell us, “this is my 5pm martini”.

How do most people access DailyLit?
The iPhone is getting bigger, but last survey showed that most people were reading on PCs or laptops.

Do your readers seem to have different reading tastes, based on the device they are using?
We’ve been conducting a survey and people say that when they’re reading on the computer, it’s more for information than relaxation. I’m also hearing that younger people actually read blogs for relaxation on the computer. But DailyLit readers are  definitely reading serious books. They are reading and finishing Anna Karenina on DailyLit, saying things like “this is the first tool that’s allowing me to read the classics I want to read.” We have more fiction available, but nonfiction is doing well too.

How do you see the future of digital reading, based on the feedback you’re getting to Daily Lit?
It’s all about consumer choice and giving readers what they want. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg now. The whole industry will be completely transformed, and not very far in the future. I think there will be lots of options for people to read. Some will read a book in bed, or an iPhone app at the beach. DailyLit is one way for people to integrate books into their lives. As content is created for different mediums, the market for reading will only get bigger, and that’s where the fun begins.

How do you think the reading tastes of people who are in their 20s now will evolve in the next few decades?
My gut instinct is that books will be evolving in terms of content, and will emerge in different media. There will still be paperbacks, but there will also be a whole world of books that merge text with video and social media. We’re starting to see projects now that make use of the tools that are out there. But at end of day, it’s all about story and storytelling. Words will still play a big role, but they will be supported with visual and audio tools. Books as we know them will continue, and the great ones will live on.

Do you think Japanese-style cell phone novels have a chance in the U.S.?
We really want to keep DailyLit about high quality work. We want to make sure that we have content people can trust. We might open DailyLit up to previously unpublished work down the road, I’m definitely thinking about that, but it’s not currently a site where people can automatically add content they’ve created.

How will DailyLit keep up with reader tastes?
We’re in the process of adding more titles created specifically for DailyLit, and are allowing authors and publishers to create content that work well in the serialized format. We’re also developing lots of interesting technology to help market books and expand our reach to additional readers. For instance, we recently launched a virtual book club on Twitter, so that folks can read books on to the same schedule.

DAILYLIT Vital Stats

Laurels: Chosen by the Sunday Times (UK) as the # 1 best book website in August, 2009

Number of Daily Lit subscribers: “Hundreds of thousands,” says Danziger.

Number of titles read to date: More than 500,000 books in more than 25 million installments.

Number of titles available: about 1500 – including newly released and public domain fiction and nonfiction titles, language lessons, SAT prep, and original series, such as a “Wikipedia tour” of Greek gods and goddesses, and a fashion series, Shoes, Bags and Tiaras, which draws on book content published by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Price range: About half the available titles are free, including classics and some new titles sponsored by their publishers. Short stories cost 99 cents. Full length books range from $4.99 to $9.99.

Partners: Publisher partners include Harper Studio, which entered a sponsorship making all of their fall titles available for free, and Macmillan, which is sponsoring a backlist push for suspense author Joe Finder. Non-book title sponsors have included H. Stern Jewelers and Gallery Collection.

Promotion: Users can link their DailyLit profile to Twitter, to automatically tweet about when they start and finish a book

Extern program: Publishing people who want to learn about digital world can join this program, which requires starting your own blog, usingTwitter and Ning to engage a community, and eventually presenting project results to Daily Lit.

THE PUBLISHING POINT Vital Stats

Launched: Spring 2009 as the Digital Publishing Group; Relaunched October 2009 as The Publishing Point

Mission: “The group is a way to educate and empower and inspire people in publishing to move to the next level in publishing’s industrial revolution, and to help publishers become more comfortable in this space.”

Features: Free monthly speaker series typically meets in conference rooms at the Random House building, 1745 Broadway at 55th St., New York City. New website includes community forums, a listserv, and a video interview series (first up: Cory Doctorow).

Members to date: 304

Next meeting: Michael Healy, Executive Director of the Book Rights Registry, to speak on The Google Book Settlement: What You Really Need to Know (November 18, 2009 at 12:30pm). Details here.

Speakers to Date:

  • Hanny Hindi, from Clickable, on Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimizaton
  • Seth Godin, author of Tribes, etc., on Rethinking the Publishing Industry
  • Andrew Savakas, from O’Reilly Publishing, on Why Mobile Matters
  • Gail Harwood, from Martha Stewart Omnimedia,  on What Is a Publisher?
  • David Karp, from Tumblr.com, on developing books ideas via social media
  • Neilan Choksi, from Lexcycle/Stanza, on mobile e-publishing
  • Debbie Stier, from HarperStudio, on the future of publishing

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