Archive for April, 2012
When is a book not just a book? Well, today.
You see, a book used to be nothing but print on paper. But then e-books started taking off, and the traditional book became an electronic version of the same. Today, with all of the downloads and apps out there — which have numerous bells and whistles — the book industry is just starting to figure out that it needs to catch up.
According to a recent article on Wired, book publishers are trying to figure out how to make their titles more immersive in this digital world. In other words, they need to take what was once a reading experience and add audio, video and interactive components for their built-for-tablet books.
According to the Wired article, here are some examples of the initial authors and publishers venturing into this realm. Check these out … hopefully they can spark some ideas.
- Chronicle (a small publishing company) recently released an iPad app for artist Stephan Pastis’ comics series Pearls Before Swine.
- A few years ago, author Amanda Havard wasn’t able to find a publisher that could bring her book The Survivors to electronic life the way she wanted. So she and her father, L.C. Havard, a former executive for a company that developed technologies for the health insurance industry, formed a company called Chafie Press to publish her books and create digital offerings. The app version of The Survivors, the first in a series of five books, integrates audio files of the music her characters are listening to (some of it produced by Chafie), pictures of the designer clothes they’re wearing, links to the characters’ Twitter accounts (Havard mostly runs them herself) and Google Maps of the places they visit
- HarperCollins released an app for The Art of the Adventures of Tintin last year; Penguin Books also launched a much-lauded app of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.
- An immersive retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is also being released as an iPad and iPhone app on April 26.
As an author today, you have to do more than just put words on paper. When you start working on your next book, think about it as a three-dimensional experience. Think audio, video, graphics. Consider how readers can interact with the story. If you don’t keep these types of things in mind, you’ll probably fall behind the times.
They say that no press is bad press. I would venture to say that book reviews are similar. The more mention your book gets throughout the web, the more likely people are to hear about it and decide to check it out for themselves. Of course, a rave review will garner far more interest than a bad review, but getting your book reviewed at all can only be a good thing.
With that in mind, here are four ways to start racking up those online book reviews…
1. Think GoodReads. Scour GoodReads to find people who regularly review or recommend books in your genre. According to a blog post on Build Book Buzz, “With more that 7.3 million members, Goodreads.com gives book lovers a chance to create virtual bookshelves (with more than 260 million books!) that others can peruse. Those members not only share what they’re reading with their personal Goodreads networks, they also review and recommend those books, or create lists that announce what they want to read next.”
2. Contact Amazon reviewers. Go to the Amazon pages of other books in your genre. See who is reviewing them. Then, compare some of those names to the list of top Amazon reviewers (which you can find here). This will allow you to identify the regular reviewers who are most respected on Amazon. Reach out to each of them, tell them about your book, and offer them a free copy of the ebook. If you’re lucky, they’ll take you up on it.
3. Think bloggers. If you’re a nonfiction author, track down bloggers who regularly write on the subject matter of your book. Reach out to them, tell them about your book (and how it would benefit their audience), and ask if they’d be willing to review it. You may also want to consider offering something to sweeten the deal, like a link to their blog from your site or an article you’d be willing to write exclusively for them. Again, this is a great way to get your book right in the face of your target readership.
4. Mind your manners. There’s a blog entry on the Infinity Publishing site about the to dos (and not to dos) when contacting a book reviewer. You can read the full list, but here are some highlights:
- Don’t ask when the review will be completed.
- Don’t tell the reviewer what you want them to say.
- Don’t be offended if they don’t like the book.
- Always send a “thank you” note
Remember, even if a book review isn’t as positive as you’d like, you can probably find a sentence or two to pull and use in your promotional material. As I said … no reviews are bad reviews.
I just read a great blog post this morning. It was by Sonia Marsh, author of the forthcoming travel memoir, Freeways to Flip-Flops: Our Year of Living Like the Swiss Family Robinson.
Sonia’s premise is one that I have focused on in previous blogs: Building a successful author website is about providing valuable information to your readers and thinking about them more than thinking about yourself. She puts it like this:
There is a secret which writers tend to forget, especially if they are not familiar with the way social media works.
Stop focusing on yourself and your book, and your audience will grow.
Here are some of the ways that both Sonia and I think you can do this…
Step 1. Bring all of your work together under one umbrella. I don’t care if you’ve written two fiction books, two nonfiction books and a wealth of poetry. Find some common factor that carries through all of your work and use it to build a brand. In Sonia’s case, the theme was “gutsy living.” Figure out what yours is.
Step 2. Develop a tagline. I tell all of my authors to have some kind of tagline under their name at the top of the website. Otherwise, how is someone going to know what they will be getting from “JaneSmith.com” or “JohnJones.com.” Once you have the branding figured out, find a way to briefly, succinctly, and creatively express it in a tagline. Sonia translated her “gutsy living” theme into the tagline, “Life is too short to play it safe.”
Step 3: Carry your theme into other works. Make sure that all of your online efforts fit under this same umbrella. Blog about the topic that ties together your work. Comment on other authors’ blog posts or articles on the topic. Use social networking tools to build a following among people interested in that subject matter. Remember, you’re building a brand here. As Sonia puts it, “You wouldn’t shop at Target for a car, so when a reader visits a travel blog, they expect to get information related to travel.”
Step 4: Interact and inform. Now that you have a “brand,” it’s important to get people interested in it and willing to come back for more. Remember, your readers are more important than you are. Provide them with information, education, etc… relevant to the subject matter. Ask them questions, and respond to their questions. If you give more than you get, you’ll be rewarded for it.
Sonia wraps her post up wonderfully, so I will simply quote her here:
The more you connect and help others, the more people will subscribe to your blog or website, and you will gradually build an authentic platform with loyal followers. It won’t happen overnight, but once people realize that you care about them, and are willing to share helpful information, all the pieces suddenly fit together. That’s when the magic happens, and you know you’ve accomplished something more than simply being an author who wants to sell her book.
Authors tend to spend a great deal of time designing and perfecting their homepage. They treat it just like a book cover, as authors often assume that this is the page that people see first, and it’s the one that will determine whether someone decides to stay or go. Well, that’s only partially true…
You see, a website is not like a book. It’s not linear. People don’t start at page one and then peruse through. In fact, it’s safe to assume that a chunk of people visiting your website will never see your homepage.
Here’s why: The majority of people who visit your website probably don’t just type in your domain name. Instead, they go to Google and search for your name or one of your book titles. The page that shows up on search results is often not your homepage; it’s the page on which that search term appears most frequently. If the search term was your name, someone is likely to wind up on your bio page. If the search term is your book title, then they may enter your site through your book page. It’s how much you impress them on those entry pages that will determine whether someone will stay, give you their email address, buy a book, etc…
So what does this mean? It means that you have to make a good first impression just about everywhere on the website. Here are some creative ways to do that:
- Have the most important (and impressive) information appear site-wide. For example, if you have a testimonial from a NY Times book reviewer saying that your book is the best one he ever read (don’t we wish!), that should be either in the header or in a sidebar that appears on every page.
- Have each page serve a different purpose. If the goal of your book page is to sell your book, have everything someone would need to know about WHY and HOW to purchase your book right there on the book page. The goal of your author page may be to get people to give you their email address or become a twitter follower. Make sure to promote all those things on the author page.
- Include links to buy your book everywhere! I can’t stress this enough. You never know how someone is going to find your site, or which page will be the first one they visit. You don’t want to make people click around if they like what they see — wherever they arrive. Make it easy to buy your book with one click on every page of the website.
Lastly, I recommend that everyone set up a free Google Analytics account and review their site traffic data regularly. It’s only by knowing which pages on your site are visited the most that you can tweak your content and ensure that each page gets the attention it deserves.