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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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