Archive for the ‘Author Trends’ Category
It’s hard to believe, but the word “app” has become an essential part of the English language. Nearly every person with a smartphone uses apps in one way or another; from the app that helps you find the nearest gas station to the one that keeps you abreast on the latest news and events.
But books have been kind of late to the party. Very few authors have thought about taking their books and creating corresponding apps (and potentially increasing their profit margin).
Here are a few stories of successful app offshoots of print books:
‘Shifter’ Book App
According to Publishers Weekly, “Anomaly Productions, an indie comics publisher specializing in digitally enhanced graphic novels, has released an app verision of Shifter, a sci-fi graphic novel with augmented reality technology that features actor Wil Wheaton and a cast of voice actors. Since its release last week the app has been the #1 selling book app in 25 countries. … The app features 200 pages of comics material, 65 interactive touch points and two and a half hours of audio.”
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Car Trip App
Yup. There’s an app for that. This app allows kids (and their parents, I suppose) to join the Berenstain Bears as they embark on a family road trip. The app claims to help children learn new vocabulary, while they personalize the story with their own narration and select-a-scene navigation.
Dracula: The Official Stoker Family Edition
This app was recommended by Common Sense Media as a one of the best apps for tweens/teens. As they describe it, this “classic tale makes for bloody, unique iPad book experience.” Sounds … fun?
So what do these apps have in common? And should you think about having an app made for your book? A few things to keep in mind…
- The genre that has most saturated the app market is children’s books. This isn’t a surprise, as apps keep kids busy (and that keeps parents like me happy).
- The only other genre that has really delved into the app market is graphic novels. Again, this makes sense: the visual, interactive qualities of that genre are perfect for an app market.
- A book has to be successful before an app can take off. It costs a fair amount of money to make an app to correspond with your book. And you have to be confident that you’re making a sound investment. Everyone knows who the Berenstain Bears are and who Dracula is. Being a “fan” of these books will make people buy the corresponding apps. But, if you’re a new novelist, the likelihood that your app will sell before your book becomes mainstream is relatively small.
- If you’re a children’s author or a graphic novelist, an app may be in your future.
- Once your book takes off, you should definitely think about an app for it. After all, who can say no to an additional revenue stream?
It’s probably the most important question I ask authors before putting together a proposal for them: What are your goals for your author website?
Generally, there are three overarching goals that an author may or may not have for the site. Many authors are interested in more than one. They include:
- Self promotion
For some authors, the most important thing is getting his or her name out there to build a fanbase, get speaking engagements, and pre-sell future books before they come out.
- Selling books
Other authors want to put more focus on the books themselves and keep his/her profile in the backburner. For these authors, the books speak for themselves. I’ve had many authors who fit in this category tell me, “I’m just not that interesting.”
- Spreading the word
For some non-fiction authors, the most important thing about publishing the books and building the website is to get the message out there. Maybe the books are about mental health. Or animal rights. Or something political. Regardless, this type of author website focuses on using the web to further enhance the messages of the books.
Clearly, each one of these three types of websites would be different. For example, an author-focused site should would have a large photo of the author in a prominent spot in the design, while a site that’s more focused on spreading the word would have other images and graphics that represent the message of the books. In addition, a site that’s focused on selling the book would have a larger “Buy the Book” button, while a site for an author who is trying to build a following would be encouraging people to enter their email address and join the mailing list.
These are just a few examples of the ways that an author with different website goals might be vastly different in design, layout, action items, etc…
Now, I’ve always been focused on an author’s goals for his or her website. But what about an author’s goals for his or her career? That’s what I stumbled across on a conversation on in a LinkedIn group.
The question posed was as follows: How do you define success as an author?
And, of course, the responses varied greatly. Here are a few of the more interesting ones…
Success as an author (for example, with regard to a book) entails several components:
–Making a contribution in terms of the “message”–whatever it might be. . .leading to
–Enhancing one’s reputation. . .
–Furthering one’s career and,
–Generating meaningful royalties:or other remuneration.
The short answer for my definition of success as an author is to reach a readership significant enough to sustain my writing as a full time vocation.
Money! Unless you write as a hobby.
I know no author in the field of gardening writing that makes a living only off of royalties from a publisher. And I know some VERY famous garden book writers. The money comes from consulting, design work, lectures, workshops and other media events. (I do all of these in order to keep on writing.) Books are a good springboard to new professions. At least in my “field”. (My web site generates only about 10% of my income.)
For me, success as a writer is much, much more about the satisfaction of seeing my words in print, and envisioning some young reader discovering one of my books and becoming inspired by something inside.
–Andrew A. Kling
Books sales are great, don’t get me wrong, but to me, it’s the human connection that’s priceless
How do you define success as an author? What are your goals? Share them with us!
This blog post is very much off the topic of my usual posts (author websites), but I had a realization over the holiday break that I had to share with all my author friends.
You see … I took a day to myself during the holiday break. That’s right, an entire day dedicated to doing whatever struck my fancy. I decided to spend it visiting my old stomping grounds: the neighborhood in New York City in which I lived for over a decade, but that I moved away from nearly a decade ago.
I spent the day walking miles and miles, retracing every step that I used to take. I found myself excited to see when some of my favorite stores and restaurants were still there, and appalled when others had been replaced by Starbucks.
But there’s one particular thing I noticed that I feel compelled to share with all of you… and it has to do with bookstores.
What Stayed, What Went
Interestingly, all the big, multi-level bookstores that I used to frequent are gone. The Borders. The B&Ns. They’re replaced by Staples. Or a gym. There really are no more super-sized bookstores. They’ve been usurped by Amazon.
But do you know what was still there? Every single one of the little, mom-and-pop, specialty bookshops that I had visited for years. The travel bookstores, the gay bookstores, the tiny little bookstores that you can barely fit through the door of. They are all still alive and kicking.
So no matter what anyone says, small bookstores are still going. Even Amazon hasn’t squashed them.
I take some solace in knowing that all those bookstore owners are still doing enough business to stay afloat. Do your part to support them. I hope when I go wandering those same streets again (hopefully in less than a decade!), they will still be there.
And while those reviews are still golden, today’s world of self-published authors, Amazon, and online reviews have turned the concept of book reviews upside down.
With that in mind, here are some ways that authors like you can get reviews of their books nowadays (and my commentary at the end):
1. Reach out to reviewers and bloggers in your genre. Submit an e-copy of your book to a reviewer or blogger and explain why his/her readership would benefit from exposure to your book.
2. Offer to exchange reviews with another newly-published author. This type of authors swap is becoming very popular.
3. Email friends and family asking them to post reviews of your book on Amazon. Extra points if that same person has actually purchased it from Amazon; that way, the review is labeled as a “verified purchase”
4. Communicate with people on GoodReads who are interested in books in your genre. Bring your book to their attention.
5. Look for Amazon reviewers who commonly review books in your genre. Tell them about your book and see if they’d be interested in a free copy.
6. Make it easy for readers to contact you. Then, when people send you comments about your book, ask for their permission to use it as a sort of review. You can also ask them to reprint it on Amazon, if they don’t mind.
7. Remind, remind, remind. Do you have followers on Facebook? People who read your blog? Keep reminding them to review your book on Amazon or GoodReads.
8. Pay for a Kirkus review. Yup, you can do that now. Say what you wish.
And now on to #9 … a really interesting (albeit, controversial) method I read about on LinkedIn…
9. Incentivize it for your readers! Here’s the quote from one author, who will remain nameless:
Basically, readers earn points for making recommendations. A reader gets so many points for each recommendation and a larger number of points if the person emailed to purchases the book. Readers then earn a proportionate share in the profits based on the ratio of their points to total points.
In my case, I’m going to share 50% of the cash receipts (instead of profits because I think that works better) hoping that the extra volume of sales will provide me with a greater net return than if I did not share the cash receipts.
Well, that’s …. creative. Is it a marketing tactic? Of course! Is it legal? Yup. Is it ethical? Well, that’s questionable. After all, what reader would write a negative review of a book if he/she has a potential to reap a percentage of the profits?
And that’s where all of this gets sticky. In the old days, you knew that a book review you were reading was a real review. If a review had five stars, that’s because the book was good enough to deserve five stars.
But today, when you read a review, you have no idea about the “agreement” that went into the review. Was the reviewer a relative of the author? Was he/she being paid for it? Is he/she getting a percentage of the profits from the book?
So are these techniques ethical? Well, that’s not my place to judge. But they are techniques that can be used to generate some reviews for your book. Use them at your own peril.
And if you have other techniques for getting reviews, please share them with us!
And this isn’t the first time I’ve seen something like that. I’ve seen other authors asking for feedback on book covers, website designs, and more.
So is this a good idea?
Reasons to Do It
What better way to utilize social media than to get feedback on things before they are finalized? Just like it makes sense to bounce baby names off of other people (they may notice something you don’t, like inappropriate initials or bad nickname combinations), it makes sense to bounce book titles off people as well. They may spot something that you don’t.
I can personally say that I’ve been the person providing that feedback/insight before. I once worked for a company that wanted to use the tagline on their site, “We’re all in this together.” Clearly, none of them had family members who watched High School Musical. Fortunately, I did. And I alerted them to this, which was honestly all I could think about as I heard that name:
Needless to say, they went in another direction. In cases like these, it’s a very, very good idea to put your ideas out there.
Reasons Not to Do It
If you think I’m convinced that every author should be doing this before titling a book, approving a book cover, or launching a website … well, I’m not. And here’s why.
Writing is, in many ways, an art form. Sure, it’s also a business. But at its core, it’s a skill and creative talent, not all that different from painting or sculpting. Do you think great artists run their ideas by the general public before finishing (or naming) their work? Probably not…
Many authors write out of inspiration. They have a vision. They have a message. Once you start questioning that vision and collecting feedback, the message begins to get watered down.
Think of it like the difference between an Oscar-winning movie and a TV movie that airs on one of the major networks: one is a true work of art (with little to no limitations) and the other is a watered down, shortened, cleaned up version. Which one is really better?
When it comes to art, there really is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen.
My philosophy in life is always this: do what works for you. Whether we’re talking about religion, medicine or authorship, there is no one “right” answer. Some authors may get incredible feedback by bouncing their ideas off of others. Other authors are better off following their instincts and sticking to their guns.
As with many things in life, it’s up to you to figure out which path to take.
That said, if you have any positive/negative experiences doing this in the past, please share them with us!
A decade ago, blogging was a relatively new concept. Authors who jumped in grabbed a hold of the marketshare and never let go. Blogging was the hottest new thing.
Fast forward to 2013. Just about every author is told to start blogging when their book is released (or earlier). But does it have the same value that it used to?
I argue that it’s still worth an author’s time. After all, how are people going to learn about an author and his/her book if he or she doesn’t post regular blog entries about topics in the news related to the book’s subject matter. Sure, you can do something similar via Facebook/Twitter, but come on … you’re a writer. You need a place to … you know … write.
But not everyone agrees with me. In fact, I just read an article this morning by L.L. Barkat about why blogging is a waste of time for authors. Here’s an excerpt:
Does this mean I would recommend that everyone stop blogging? No. I encourage new bloggers, just the way I always have. It’s an excellent way to find expression, discipline, and experience. But if writers already have experience, and they are authors trying to promote themselves and their work, I tell them to steer clear. If they’ve already found themselves sucked into the blogging vortex, I suggest they might want to give it up and begin writing for larger platforms that don’t require reciprocity (an exhausting aspect to blogging and a big drain on the writer’s energy and time).
Someone will disagree with me and point to a case like best-selling author Ann Voskamp, and I will point them back to the facts. Yes, Voskamp made it big largely because of the power of her blogging platform, but she had the power of being first. Before blogging was a “thing,” Voskamp was already blogging quietly and steadily in 2003. Before blog networks came of age, she was writing for one of the few women’s sites that also had the power of being first. Time cannot be turned back. Few authors can make of themselves what Voskamp did—not for lack of talent but for lack of timing and sheer cyber-longevity.
Sure, he has a point. Blogging isn’t what it used to be. But is it time to give it up? I’m not sure I would quite go that far yet.
What do you think? Is it time for authors to quit blogging? Tell us your thoughts!
I need to start this post with a confession. I build author websites, not apps. So I’m a bit biased in writing this post. That said, I’m going to do my best to give you an honest opinion on this issue, with quotes from others in the field who know more than I do about apps.
Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s start by defining both websites and apps. Most of you use both of these on a regular basis, but may not be totally clear on the differences. For example, you might read news on the NY Times website or you might get highlights on the top stories from the NY Times app. In cases like this one, they’re almost one in the same.
But when it comes to authors, there are distinct differences between the two. And it’s important that you understand these before deciding what you’re going to spend your money on.
The first — and most important — difference to understand is that websites are used for browsing, and an app is a bit more of a commitment. For example, when you’re looking for a good restaurant in the area, you may use your favorite restaurant app. You would then click on the links to some local restaurants that you’ve never tried and “browse” those restaurants’ websites. Let’s say you then pick a restaurant for the evening and absolutely love it. You may decide later on that you want to download that restaurant’s app, through which you can regularly browse the menu, order meals for pick-up, etc…
See what I mean? A website is something that you “visit.” An app is something that you use regularly.
When a LinkedIn member recently started a conversation about whether or not authors should create apps, there were a few interesting responses. The one that I found most helpful was from Kristen McLean, Founder & CEO at Bookigee, Inc.
She said, “Apps are costly, and will generally not return their cost unless you have a good way to promote them, or you make it so awesome that it will spread virally. I have yet to see an app related to a specific book that has performed this way. So, I guess this is a long winded way of saying ‘No, I don’t think so.’”
So does this mean that an app is a bad decision for all authors? That they should all build websites instead?
I would venture to say that’s pretty much the case for 95% of all authors today. After all, what’s the purpose of your author website? Chances are, it’s to sell books. And most people who visit your site probably are first-timers. The purpose of your site should be to entice readers to stay, to read an excerpt, and to buy the book. You’re probably a long way from having a list of loyal readers who will be willing to download your app — be it free or for a minimal cost.
That said, even Kristen says that there are a few exceptions to the website-not-apps rule. For example, if…
1) You’re an app developer yourself, and you can build it with very little cost
2) You’ve got a project that is inherently “transmedia” in that it would benefit from some of the things you can’t do in books but can do in apps. Examples would include adding movies, animations, or game-like interactivity that moves the story forward in unique ways. Examples Kristen gives include Inanimate Alice-http://www.inanimatealice.com and Moonbot’s http://morrislessmore.com/);
3) You are Amanda Havard. http://amandahavard.com/immersedition.Yes, if you’re already a bestselling author, you probably have a whole slew of fans ready to download your app as soon as it’s released. If you’re a self-published author just getting started … not so much.
Now, none of this means that you have to choose between an author website and an app. In an ideal world, you’d have it all: websites, apps, social networking profiles, and e-books in every possible format. But in reality, you have a limited budget and want to use it wisely. In this case, think of an app as something that might be great for you to add down the line, but not a must just yet.
Okay, this post is nothing but a vent. It’s a vent from me — a writer and creator of websites for writers – about a social media world that is getting dumbed down.
Quick. Take a look at what’s hot on YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest. What’s getting the most “shares” and “likes”? No, it’s not the witty prose that great authors are putting together. Nor is it the interesting commentaries on our society. It’s pictures like the one above. Photos of dogs drinking from a toilet, or of babies with food smeared all over their faces. Now, I love dogs and babies as much as the next guy, but what in the world does it say about our society that this is what people find most appealing?
I’m a writer and reader. I’m a person who loves the written word. Nothing is as exciting to me as reading something that makes me think about things in a new way, or that makes me laugh or cry.
Today’s writers can do everything right when it comes to marketing themselves online. They can write witty tidbits about what’s going on in the news. They can put together beautiful short stories and share them with the world. And yet, their content isn’t going viral.
So why is that? I have a few theories…
1. The dumbing down of America. Seriously. It’s not a joke. People’s attention span nowadays is about that of a gnat. If someone has to read more than five words, it’s not worth their time.
2. The speed of social media. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest is like life in fast forward. You have less than a second to capture someone’s attention. So, of course, a funny picture — which you can absorb in less than two seconds — garners more interest than a well-written article.
3. The move towards a visual world. I’m a very verbally-oriented person. I think in words, not pictures. I enjoy words more than pictures. But I think I’m in the minority … a minority that is only getting smaller by the day. Today’s world is led by the visual image, with even captions being a very minor piece of a puzzle.
So what’s an author to do? How are you supposed to become noticed if you can’t whip up an infographic at will, or take an adorable picture that will go viral? I wish I had an answer to that question. I’m trying to figure it out myself.
Meanwhile, if you’ve made it this far down in the blog post, then you probably are like me and have a longer attention span than most. Do me a favor and “share,” “tweet,” or “like” this post. Give me and all the other writers out there a little hope.
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.
The short answer? As little as possible.
We know that you want to make money off of your book. But before you can become a bestselling author, you have to create a little buzz for yourself. The best way to start doing that is to allow people to read your book for dirt cheap. If they love it (as you’re probably pretty confident they will), and the word starts spreading about your book, then you can consider raising the price.
Consider these two separate blurbs that I found on PublishersWeekly.com today…
- The top of the Kindle romance bestseller list favors the cheap. The top five titles are all $1.99 or less, with three of the five priced at 99 cents. The titles are, in order, Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee, Golden Lies by Barbara Freethy, Daddy’s Home by A.K. Alexander, Not What She Seems by Victorine E. Lieske, and Eye of the Beholder by Emma Jay.
- The Kindle Daily Deal, which drastically reduces the price on one Kindle book for a 24-hour period, featured on January 24 A Heart of Freedom by Chai Ling, cutting its price from $10.79 to $1.99. The book immediately jumped to the top of the paid Kindle charts, but what’s more interesting is the book’s staying power: as of January 25, the day after the deal with its price back up to $10.79, Ling’s book is still at number four on the chart, showing that the Kindle Daily Deal helps a book for longer than a 24-hour window.
In her blog, Ruth Ann Nordin argues that you should charge what you think your book is worth, which is most cases is more than 99 cents. That’s a valid argument. But then, in the same post, she goes on to say this:
“Now, if you’re cheap like me, you’ll be scouting out freebies and $0.99 deals. This is why I do that with my own books, by the way. I am not willing to spend more than $1.99 on a new author, and if I have to spend that $1.99, then I better really like the plot idea. If I spend any more than that, then I obviously know the author and really like them. When it comes to supporting people I care about, I’ll throw in the extra couple of bucks. But most of my time is spent looking at free ebooks. So that is why I price my books at no more than $0.99. Fair is fair, right?”
Look, if you’re an author who is already well-known and well-respected, then charge as much as you think your book is worth (after all, an ebook costs you nothing to “print”). But if you’re an author just starting out — as most of my clients are — then you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by pricing your ebook really, really low. Sure, you might not make as much money up front. But doing so greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll ultimately become one of those authors who can charge $10-$15 for an ebook and still sell a lot of them. Now that’s a profit!