All the Voices in the Room: Thoughts on The Bookseller’s First Author Day

YOUAREHERE2 Last spring I asked self- and traditionally published authors, Couldn’t you at least talk to each other? Because in spite of the fact that they have more in common than not, and that they stand to learn a great deal from each other, they seem to be camped in two solitudes, sometimes wearing their route to publication like a badge.

What if there were a space where a conversation between them could take place?

Well, now there is. And in introducing The Bookseller’s inaugural Author Day, Porter Anderson put it this way: “The time has come for the people of publishing to stop, sit together, and begin to understand what’s happening to the creative corps.”

Indeed. I was privileged to attend this event on November 30 in London. It was an intense and fascinating program—a full day of speakers and panels, brilliantly choreographed by Porter Anderson, who seemed to be everywhere at once. So there was much to take in. Here’s the Author Day program, and here’s some coverage.

First off, it was wonderful to be in a roomful of book people—publishing industry people and authors of both persuasions. They do have a common goal, after all—to keep books in our field of vision, both as cultural artifacts and as sources of immense pleasure. More than once it was pointed out that as entertainment, books have lots of competition these days. So way to go, Team Reading!

This collection of players from different parts of the business, though, reinforced the understanding many have that the industry is fractured. We already know this. But it was hearing the different voices in one room that deepened my impression of the various parties as silos, or unconnected pieces, some seeming to be discovering each other for the first time.

Here are just a few examples of what stood out in the rapid exchange of often disparate ideas:

  • Literary agent Andrew Lownie foresees traditional publishing producing just 10 percent of books in the future.
  • Harry Bingham’s author survey found that authors value the editorial input they get from their publishers and despite complaints, wouldn’t leave their publisher. And that even though we might assume that book people are also word people, publishers apparently cannot communicate well with their authors.
  • For technologist Emma Barnes, it’s the tools, the tools, the tools, that will make both authors and publishers more productive, efficient and accountable. The tools will also help them communicate better. But who will take the time to learn them? (And I’m sure some were wondering, “what do you mean by tools?”)
  • And after hearing all of this, we heard from a longtime traditionally published author who can’t decipher her (semi-annual) royalty statement. I hope she (and her publisher) heard the part about trade accounting for only 10 percent in the future, and the importance of learning the tools.

The point isn’t that these voices contradict each other, or that anyone is wrong. I believe that everything we heard at Author Day is true, and that each voice is a piece of the picture we’re all trying to focus on. But these bits are flying past us at a pace that has us gasping—you reach to snag an idea before it gets away and miss three more in the process.

Technology is driving change in every industry on the planet. We’re exhausted by trying to keep up, and I heard this in the room too. Decision fatigue, the learning curve, frustrations with the process—these are issues both authors and publishers are facing. We’re in transition, and everyone’s at a different place on the trajectory. Would it help to affix on it a You Are Here label as a kind of progress report?

Author Day provided a place to begin connecting the dots, to turn the silos into networks. I was so pleased to be part of it.

Copyediting: “It’s Not Rocket Surgery”

rocket

by Carla Douglas and CK MacLeod
@CarlaJDouglas @CKMacleodwriter

This post appeared first at The Book Designer on July 23, 2015.

In this space a couple of months ago we distinguished copyediting from proofreading. Knowing the difference can help authors identify the kind of editing they need and understand just what an editor might be doing to their manuscript.

In response, one author commented that copyediting is not that hard—that there’s no “rocket surgery” involved, and that self-pubs can and do manage all aspects of self-publishing themselves. Indeed they do. But if copyediting isn’t rocket surgery, then what is it? Maybe we need to clarify this, too. Could you copyedit your own book? How do the pros do it? There could be more going on than you realize, and in more ways than one.

What is Copyediting?

Copyediting isn’t one thing. It’s a process that incorporates many tasks and requires various skills. We’ve talked about copyediting before: it’s the sentence-level and second-last stage of the editing process, where a marked-up manuscript can look like a crime scene. Copyeditors work to the principles of correctness, consistency, accuracy and completeness, and communication (Editors Canada website). They make corrections to

  • grammar, spelling, punctuation and style
  • word usage, sentence and paragraph structure
  • voice, tone, appropriateness of language to audience

They also watch for consistency and plausibility of story, time, and place, and will alert an author if something’s amiss. Copyeditors perform these tasks, and more, to ensure a smooth reading experience with the fewest reader distractions. They also want to ensure that your meaning is crystal clear. The last thing you want is for readers to misunderstand what you’ve said. Something as subtle as tone can make a reader think you mean the opposite of what you intended. It is very difficult to assess your own work from this objective distance.

Most copyeditors have a system—a first-then-next approach to tasks—which usually begins with manuscript cleanup. Copyeditors also use a style guide and a detailed style sheet to stay organized. If you’re thinking about a DIY copyedit, keep this in mind: copyediting means putting a lot of balls in the air, and these tools help you stay in control.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Here’s another author’s take on copyediting:

“Getting copyedited is like going to the doctor and finding out that you have some disease you’ve never heard of.” (Mo Daviau, Every Anxious Wave)

Ha! So perhaps the medical analogy stands up. After all, copyeditors do perform diagnostics, create and apply a treatment plan, and they also consider and review outcomes. So do doctors.

But this author puts her finger on something else copyeditors have observed: that often, writers don’t know what they don’t know—about style, grammar, punctuation, consistency, tone, and more. “You mean there’s a way I’m supposed to write numbers in fiction?” they ask. Yup—but you can’t correct an inconsistency that you didn’t know was there.

Editing Tools to the Rescue

We’ve written before about editing tools and how they can also be useful to writers in the self-editing process. These tools can make you aware of what you don’t know. And there are some brilliant digital tools for identifying errors and inconsistencies in the mechanics of punctuation and style. PerfectIt Pro, for example, will spot quotation marks you’ve forgotten to close, absent serial commas, numbers written out that should appear as numerals, spelling and capitalization inconsistencies, and much more. It will also guide you through the manuscript as you make corrections.

Some wonderful tools for identifying language issues in a manuscript are available, too. Have a look at the table in our post last month: the Hemingway app is especially good at identifying sentences that are too long or complex, and it will also flag your (over)use of adverbs, adjectives and the passive voice.

Similarly, self-editing macros can identify many of the same issues as Hemingway, but macros can also be customized and expanded to suit your own writing quirks. What these language tools won’t do, however, is offer solutions—because technically, what the macros point out aren’t errors. The macros identify some of your writing habits, and it’s up to you to recognize what might need improving. In other words, you need to know something about the issue the tool is pointing to, and then decide if or how to change it.

Where the Hazards Lie

If you are going to run into difficulty while copyediting your own book, it will most likely be in identifying, diagnosing and correcting language issues—usage, mixed or mangled metaphors, faulty parallelisms, awkward and poorly structured sentences, and so on. What’s more, you might not realize you’re in trouble until after your book is published. We are seldom aware of our own blind spots.

You need to have a hunch that something’s wrong before you’ll do the extra work of looking it up to confirm if the word you’ve chosen is accurate. Here’s an example:

Do you flaunt the law or flout the law?

The confusables macro can identify possible usage errors—but only if at least one of the frequently confused words is in your macro. How can you know if the word you might fumble is not in the macro you’re using?

Google ngram viewer is also a helpful tool both for checking that you have the right word and for confirming how and when it was used. Look what happens when we enter flaunt the law and flout the law into the search box:

ngram

The red line shows that flout is the right word in this case, but the blue line shows that a significant number of writers get this wrong. Ngram is also good at pointing out miswording and popular usage in phrases: Thin edge of the wedge or thin end of the wedge? Do you stanch the bleeding or staunch the bleeding? Try it and see for yourself. You’re also able to sort for British or American usage in your search, which is helpful if you’re writing to a specific audience.

Where to Get Help

Rarely does a copyeditor begin a project without first establishing which style guide to consult. The style guide sets the standards for how to handle the many details that go into a finished book and give your writing polish: punctuation, quotations and dialogue, numbers, abbreviations, and on and on. A style guide can be as brief as 10 pages, or it could be more than 1000 (that’d be you, Chicago Manual of Style). Our forthcoming book, You’ve Got Style: Copyediting for Self-Publishing Authors, is a scant 80 pages, and covers the least you need to know about copyediting. Watch for it in August!

DIY Copyediting

Would you take on the job of copyediting your own book? Could you diagnose and treat the problem areas in your manuscript? There’s no reason not to try. With a style guide, a few willing beta readers and a cache of editing tools, you’ll improve your chances of producing a distraction-free book that stands up to reader scrutiny.

Measuring Success

How many errors will readers tolerate before they bail on your book? Most editors agree that correcting 95 percent of errors is the industry standard for professional editors. The message? No book is error-free. When asked how many errors they could tolerate in a finished book, one editor replied: “Zero! Because finding a single error can turn a reader into a proofreader!” Enough said.

We hear a lot now about the “good enough” book. What does that mean for readers and what does it mean for authors? One thing is certain: if you’re an author, you’d better know what it means for readers.Understanding what’s involved in copyediting can bring you closer to delivering a satisfying experience to your reader.

Image by Steve Jurvetson

 

How to Turn Your Print Book into a Digital File

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

My grandmother’s typewriter: an Underwood Noiseless Portable

OCR—not your grandmother’s typewriter!

A few weeks ago I suggested that you could turn your essays, stories and other documents—stuff you might have lying around in a drawer—into ebooks. You also may have unpublished or previously published books, now out of print, that you want to self-publish as ebooks (be certain you own the rights).

You can do this yourself, but first you need to get this material into a digital format. One way is to re-key the text manually (not really an option if you have a book-length work) or you can use optical character recognition (OCR) software, which converts a scanned document into a digital file.

There are many OCR programs available, ranging in price from free to fairly costly. I chose OCRonline to experiment with. It’s web-based, and your first 5 page conversions are free. After that, they’re 4 cents per page. Simply open an account and log in, then follow the instructions.

1. Scan your document and save it as a pdf. The photo at the top of the page? That’s my grandmother’s typewriter. She was a prolific correspondent, and I’m currently digitizing a collection of her letters. Here’s a snippet of one, dated March 13th, 1944:

Tip: Be sure to scan all pages into a single document, or you’ll be stuck (as I was) with multiple separate files that have to be compiled later.

2. Upload your scanned file.  Browse >> Upload

3. Convert your scanned file to MS Word .doc (no .docx option) >>Process


4. Retrieve your converted file at the link provided.
Here’s what my converted snippet looks like:

That’s it! As you can see, the Word file is littered with debris and some ugly bits, but you’re well on your way to having an editable, searchable file, suitable for formatting as an ebook. So go ahead—open your drawer…

Next: File cleanup.

Photo by Carla Douglas

Related Posts

A Quick Guide to Writing Short—Part 1: Fiction
A Quick Guide to Writing Short—Part 2: Nonfiction
Why Editors Use Word—Authors Can Harness Word’s Powers, Too!
Scan, OCR and Restore BackList Books, by JW Manus

How to Improve Your Writing with Macros—Tips for Beginners

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

Paring down your prose is immensely satisfying—it makes images and turns of phrase come alive, and it helps clarify your meaning, too.

Finding ways to trim what you’ve written is drudgery, but macros can help you by automating part of this process. In her post a couple of weeks ago, Corina mentioned three macros that are especially helpful to writers: NeedlessWords, TellingWords, and -ly Words.

Get a snapshot of your writing habits

These macros locate and highlight potential offenders—words that clutter your writing and cloud your meaning. They’re easy to use and can be adapted and tweaked to suit your task. I love them because they provide a rudimentary data visualization of your personal writing ticks: they show (don’t tell!) you exactly where your bad habits reside.

Give them a try—if you need  help adding a macro to Word, you’ll find it here. To run a macro in Word, you’ll find instructions here. If you have 20 minutes to spare, this free 20-minute macro course will have you up and running with macros in no time.

What to do with highlighted text

So, you’ve run the macro and all the possible culprits are magically revealed on the screen before you. What’s next?

The macros have done their part—now you have to apply your own sweat. You need to look at the highlighted words and assess them, one by one. Here’s a preview of what your decision-making process might look like for the three macros I’ve mentioned.

NeedlessWords

Needless words are the words you can eliminate without changing your meaning. Words like that, which, to, in order, really, very, barely—in short, many prepositions, adverbs and adjectives—that stand in the way of what you’re trying to say.

Which words are needless?

In this sample text, you can easily see which words could go and which need to stay. I need to keep begin but can do without then, almost, just and just. (Who knew that I just love the word just?) These words cause drag in the writing: they qualify, delay and postpone the point I’m trying to make.

The other highlighted words need to stay to make the sentences they’re in grammatical. The macro can’t identify what part of speech a word is acting as—that’s your job.

-ly Words

The -ly words can be a pox on your dialogue: “He said sadly,” “she replied enthusiastically,” “they chirped boisterously.” And when you’re trying to bang out a quick first draft, these adverbs appear fast and furious, both in your dialogue and in straight narrative. Here are two sample passages with some -ly words highlighted:

Adverbs are almost always optional, as are those in this short passage. They’re not strictly needed, but they might function in ways that aren’t obvious—by adding texture to the narrative voice, for example.

The -ly words in the sample below, however, should be zapped. Adding adverbs to dialogue tags almost always results in flat, inanimate speech.

TellingWords

Telling words are different than needless words and -ly words—they provide a broader diagnosis. A cluster of these words is a symptom that you might be doing a lot of telling, and eliminating them one by one won’t solve your problem. Here’s an example:

Telling words appear most often in narrative passages, in which writers are trying to fill in story gaps or provide background information. The telling words macro can act as a red flag: if you see too many telling words, ask yourself if the narrative has become boring or flat. And if it has? This could be a good place to switch to dialogue.

What stage of writing is best for using a macro?

Most writers actively suppress their inner editor during a draft, and plenty of writing advice also recommends writing a first draft quickly and paying little attention to details like word choice. Writing macros come in handy at the end of this stage, and point to areas that will need more attention.

You can also run a writing macro when you’ve completed two or three chapters, to point out some of your writing habits. And they’re also useful in later stages, if you’re trying to reduce your word count. In other words, run them any time you want an objective snapshot of your style and habits.

Finally, many of the words targeted by these macros are needed, but maybe they are not needed as often as you think! Rhythm, pacing, tone, voice—these aspects of your writing make it distinctive and interesting, and you don’t want to strip that away for the sake of efficiency. And whether a word should be excised also depends on your audience, subject, genre and purpose.

Macros won’t fix your writing. That’s up to you. What they will do is point out what you should be thinking about—they’ll help you switch off autopilot, and that’s an enormous first step.

Image by ProAdventure

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How and Why to Bundle Your Ebooks and Pbooks

BitLit-App
 BitLit

Ebooks or pbooks? 

What if you could have both? That’s right—your library, in both pbook and ebook formats. We often think in terms of one or the other, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

There’s an app for that

Ebook and print bundling has been available at the point of sale for some time via Amazon’s Kindle MatchBook, but a recently launched app from BitLit now makes it possible to get a free or low-priced ebook copy of the print books you already own.

BitLit’s target users are hybrid readers—its tagline is “the feel of a book and convenience of an ebook.” They’ve done their homework and determined that only about 4 percent of American readers are digital-only. As Mary Alice Elcock, BitLit’s content VP explains, hybrid readers want the look and feel of a print book, and the convenience—while travelling, for instance—of an ebook. And they can have this for the same price, or just slightly more, than the cost of a print book.   
So far, BitLit has partnered with more than 120 publishers and has 20,000 titles in its catalogue. They’re also running a “two for one” promotion in a growing list of bookstores. “The overwhelming majority of titles available through BitLit are not out-of-copyright works.” In other words, there’s no public domain epub file available, so BitLit is not in competition with sites like Project Gutenberg.  
I first heard of BitLit last fall when I read Porter Anderson’s interview in The Bookseller with Peter Hudson, BitLit’s founder. At that time it was still in beta. The idea intrigued me, though, so when I learned a few weeks ago that the app was now available, I was eager to try it. 

How it works

It’s easy. Instructions on the site are good for walking you through the process, but here are the basics.
1. Begin by downloading the app for iOS or Android. Create an account, and log in.
2. Choose the book you want to get an ebook copy of. To find eligible books, you can search by publisher, title, or author, or you can scroll through available titles. Many are free. Most of the others range in price from $0.99 to $4.99, with a few priced a bit higher.
It took me a while to find a book in the BitLit catalogue that I (still) owned in print. Keep in mind that it’s early days for BitLit, and they’re in the process of acquiring more content. 
3. Take a picture of your print book using the BitLit app. Tap the camera icon at the top right of your iPhone screen or the navigation icon on your Android device. Follow the prompts to scan your book, keeping it inside the contour lines provided. Here’s what my book looks like:
4. Print your name on the copyright page of the book and take a picture of it. 
5. When your ownership is verified, BitLit will email you an epub, mobi or pdf file, ready to read. They’ll do audio, too. Elcock says, “We work with each of our publishers directly, and they supply their own files and metadata—as they would for any other vendor.”   
I received an epub version of Wayne Grady’s The Great Lakes—it was the first title I came upon that I owned a print copy of. The hardcover has many illustrations and photographs, and all of them show up nicely in Adobe Digital Editions.  

Why would you want ebooks and pbooks?

Rich Adin, who blogs at An American Editor, commented recently that if it were always available, he would always buy the bundle. Many would agree. There’s an appetite for bundling among consumers, and there are many applications for print and digital bundles. Here are a few:
For travellers: The convenience of packing a single device speaks for itself.
For teachers: Every class has a range of learners with a range of preferences, and you should be able to offer your students both formats. Digital reading offers so many benefits to students, especially those who are English language learners or who have learning disabilities: text-to-speech capabilities, read-aloud features, built-in dictionaries, variable text size, and the option to highlight and compile notes, to name just a few. Educators have only begun to tap into the learning opportunities made possible with e-readers.
For students: Ebooks offer the same advantages that they do for teachers. They’ll also save your spine and your posture by lightening your backpack! The dictionaries, notes feature and opportunities for social reading available on e-readers and tablets are changing education and literacy. Read in print if you like, then go to the digital text to search, expand your understanding, and share it with others. 
For higher ed students: The ability to scan a digital text for keywords is a boon for research and essay writing. But that’s just the beginning: computing and data analysis tools are changing both how we study literature and the humanities and how we understand them and make meaning. It’s thrilling. 
For anyone who might have to move: One day you will probably downsize—possibly from a few thousand square feet to a few hundred. If you already own a digital copy of your favourite books, it might be easier to part with print down the road. See benefits for travellers, above.
Is bundling a way readers can transition from print to digital? It seems like that would be the logical next step, but Mary Alice Elcock at BitLit says the research doesn’t support this theory. At least not right now. In time, that 4 percent who are digital-only will probably increase as readers become more used to digital text and as more books are available only as ebooks. In the meantime, readers have many choices about how they’ll read, and the important thing, really, is that they keep on reading.  
What about you? Do you have books in print and digital formats? Tell us how you use these bundled titles—we’d love to hear from you!

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Tips for Posting a Review on Audible.com

audiobook-2

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

Image by Brett Jordan

Good news for self-pubs: Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) has just become available in the UK, making it possible for self-publishing authors there to produce professional quality audiobooks.

The platform has been available in the US since 2011, and plans are in the works to expand availability to Canada, Australia and beyond.

Audiobooks are flying off the (virtual) shelves. We’re all trying to cram a little more into each day, and we’re listening to books at the gym, while walking the dog, and during the daily commute. The audiobook is custom-made for reaching readers on the go.

If you’ve produced an audiobook through ACX or if you have plans to do so, you’ll also want to know where and how to post reviews. 

Here are a few things to know ahead of time:

ACX is a division of Audible, which is a division of Amazon. If you’ve created your audiobook through ACX, it will be available for purchase on Audible.com.

Readers can log into Audible.com with their Amazon account information—they don’t need to create a separate Audible account. But it’s not obvious on the Audible website just how or where readers should go to post a review.

If you want to review a book, it must first be in your Audible library. This means that a reader (and potential reviewer) must have purchased it or received it via giveaway or free download. You don’t need to be an Audible member (site subscriber) to post a review, but you need to own the book.

Here’s how to find the review option in Audible:

Audible.com > Library > My Books > Rate and Review

Click on Write a review. This is where you post a review.

Help with writing a review:

After clicking on Write a review, a template opens with boxes for readers to enter their comments. The template includes writing prompts—questions readers can answer to quickly create their “review.”

Some sample questions:

Could you sum up this book in three words?
What other books would you compare this book to?
What did you find wrong about the narrator’s performance?
What did you like about this audiobook?

Reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads are more like recommendations and ratings than true reviews. (I’ve discussed this in a previous post.)

The kind of reviews encouraged by the Audible template are even less like reviews—they’re more like book blurbs. But providing the structure might encourage reluctant writers to post their response to a book, and that’s a good thing. The more voices speaking up, the better.

On the other hand, some of the questions—like “What other books does this one remind you of?” and “Could you sum up this book in three words?”—appear well-designed to capture the kind of information about reader behaviour and preferences that Amazon guards so closely.

But readers don’t have to use this template. They can write a review with a different focus, and post it in the Further Comments box at the bottom of the page. Audible reminds reviewers that not all reviews will be accepted. (Don’t forget the brouhaha over reviews at Goodreads last summer.)

Tips for writing an audiobook review:

The principles for writing an audiobook review are the same as they are for an Amazon book review. I outline the basics here, but here are a few of the main points:

Keep it short—200–300 words.
Use an informal tone.
Provide reasons for your opinion.
Be informative.
Be polite.

Don’t forget about the audio component.

This is your opportunity to rate both the audio format and the voice actor’s reading performance. Consider and comment on any of these aspects, or on anything else that stands out:

Have you also read this book in print or as an ebook? How does it compare?
Did you like the reader’s voice?
Was the reader male or female, and did the voice suit the book?
Could you easily understand what the reader was saying, or were some words garbled? Was he reading too quickly or slowly?
Was there enough expression?

We’re just at the beginning of the explosion of audiobooks onto the market. And positive reader reviews can be an excellent way to promote your book. Beyond the recommendation, though, reader feedback—about the book itself and also the audio adaptation—provides you with important information about how your audience is responding to your work. You can learn a lot from readers’ comments—don’t underestimate the potential value of a bad review!

Related Posts

Author Options for Creating an Audiobook
Amazon and Goodreads: Guidelines for Reader Reviews
How to Enjoy Audiobooks More and Listen More Widely, by Sue Katz
Audiobooks and the Return of Storytelling, by T.M. Luhrmann

How to Get Helpful Feedback From Beta Readers

Beta-Reader

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

Sending a finished manuscript out to beta readers has become a routine step in the self-publishing process. 
Beta readers can provide crucial feedback about whether your book is ready to go public, and authors know this.
It’s one thing to get readers to agree to give your manuscript an assessment; it’s another thing entirely to make the most of the precious time a beta reader spends with your material.
So, you’ve found one or more avid readers to take on the task of giving your book a first read. What next?
Read on: below I discuss how to get information you can act on from your beta readers.

How to Ask for Feedback

You’re asking your beta readers for feedback. But what does that mean? Be specific. At the very least, include a checklist so that your readers are paying attention to the kinds of things that concern you most.

Fiction

For fiction manuscripts, focus on the aspects of your book that you are least confident about.
For example, if you’ve struggled with dialogue in your novel, include a question or two about it, such as, Is it always clear who is speaking during passages of dialogue? or Does dialogue successfully advance the plot and/or help to develop character?
Encourage beta readers to write their observations and comments either in the checklist file or annotate your file.

Nonfiction

For nonfiction manuscripts, your focus will be somewhat different. People read nonfiction for information and understanding—guide your beta readers with questions about the clarity of your content and how it’s presented. You might also ask about how the book as a whole is organized.
In nonfiction, the tone of your writing is more important than you might think. The wrong tone can put a reader off early in a book—don’t be afraid to ask your beta readers about this. If you have a subject-matter expert who’s agreed to read for you, then customizing a checklist/feedback form specifically for that person is a good idea.
So, what would such a checklist look like? Below is the checklist that was sent to beta readers for Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast.

For both fiction and nonfiction, let your beta readers know that they needn’t pay too much attention to things like typos and formatting. You’ll cover these items later when your book is copyedited.
Your beta readers are doing you a huge favour. Giving them a checklist to guide their feedback will help them help you.
Image by goXunuReviews

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The 5 in 4 Rule of Marketing: How to Avoid Being a Pest

Mosquito
Image by John Tann

You wrote a book and you know you need to market it. You need to tell your audience about it. But how often should you do that? This week at Beyond Paper, author Sarah Tun shares a tip for staying in touch with your audience, without being a pest.

by Sarah Tun

Marketing is tricky. You have a good lead and you want to seal a deal.

How frequently is it prudent to contact an agent, publisher, customer, or client when in pursuit of a contract?

A proven effective rule-of-thumb is five times in four weeks.* If the individual or company you are targeting is interested, that frequency will bring them to an agreement or purchase. Or, if what you offer is not suitable to them, in that timeframe they will have collected enough information to know to decline, leaving you free to pursue the next lead.

Each time you contact the lead have a viable reason, some new and useful information to offer. This frequency is enough to ensure your lead remembers you but not too often as to label you a pest.

Ultimately, you want an answer from the person you are pursuing. You need to know in order to move on to the next stage in the deal or, if the answer is a “no,”to move on to the next target.

Person-to-person marketing is still a piece to the puzzle in this internet world of social networking. Be wise, be sensitive and you will be fruitful.

*Peter Skebo & Associates Inc

Sarah Tun is the founder of Larus Press: Christian-based books, blogs and literature to inspire, equip and empower. You can also find her at  at Google +.



Related Posts and Resources
Book Marketing, with Pat Flynn and Jeff Goins (podcast)
How to Keep Your Fiction Marketing Lean and Focused, by Jason Kong
The 9 Best Email Subject Line Styles to Increase Your Open Rate, by Megan Marrs


3 Things Successful Self-Pubs Do Well — Why Not Get Mentored by the Pros?

JPENN-ARKANE

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

Welcome to the first post in a new series about how to publish a good book.

One of our goals at Beyond Paper is to help you see your book through an editor’s eyes—to point you toward the things that leap off the page and either make us cry, “eek!” or say, “yes, nicely done.”

What are these things that can make or break a book? They vary, depending on genre, purpose for writing, audience, and so on, but things like tone, originality, usefulness, and design would be on most lists. They may reveal themselves early on during a manuscript evaluation, or after a book has been published, when it’s being reviewed. Some of these are big topics, others warrant just a mention. Most are difficult to explain or describe in isolation.

In a recent post on the Smashwords blog, Mark Coker says, “The most successful indie authors are mentoring the next generation of authors. Indie authors act like a vast publishing collective of writers helping writers.”

It’s true. Successful indies are stepping up and showing others the way. And what better way to learn how to do this right than to watch those who are not just doing it right, but doing it exceptionally well? If it’s true that you learn to write by reading (and I think it is), then it’s also true that you can learn good publishing techniques by keeping one eye on those self-published authors who are at the top of their game.

So, why not look to the pros for mentorship and guidance?

That’s what I’d like to do in this new series—look at a variety of recent books by the pros, and point out three things they’ve done really well. This doesn’t mean, of course, that they’ve only done three things well—these just happen to be the things I’ve fastened on.

First up: Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book: For Authors by an Author, First Edition

In the world of self-publishing, this book is not exactly “new”—it was released in July 2013. But it covers some of the most current information available to help authors in this most difficult area of self-publishing. You’ll find it on any list of recommended titles for showing self-pubs the ropes of marketing.

So, what is Ms. Penn doing right?

1. Visual Presentation

She makes it easy for readers to move quickly through her content and find the key information they’re seeking.

For 21st century readers, especially readers of non-fiction, you will do them an enormous favour by improving your book’s readability. When reading information-based non-fiction, readers are not hanging on your every word (sorry!). Rather, they’re looking for content, answers and solutions, springboarding from section to section, picking up a fact here and a keyword there.

You can help readers navigate your book more easily by including effective visual elements: boldface print, headings, subheadings and ample white space.

Here’s an example:

Ebooks—with variable fonts, text sizes and other options—allow readers to customize their reading experience. Adding visual features improves the reading experience even further by letting readers quickly pick up the key points and move on. Choose any page at random from this book, and you’ll find you can move through the material with remarkable ease.

2. Tone

Tone is usually defined as the writer’s attitude toward both the reader and the subject, and it can often be expressed in a single adjective: serious, direct and authoritative are three examples. Tone also positions a writer in relation to his audience—he might appear formal, distant, or even patronizing.

In How to Market a Book, Penn masterfully achieves a tone that is direct (no mincing words, here), but also pleasant and sincere, with a frequent touch of dry humour thrown in. Example: “Don’t use a painting that your child did or that you did yourself” for your cover.

Joel Friedlander sums up Joanna Penn’s tone best in his front-of-book blurb: “charming and well-informed.”

Why does this matter? The right tone allows readers to fully engage—to trust both the writer and the information she’s imparting. The wrong tone, on the other hand, can make a reader put down a book before she’s reached chapter one.

3. Generosity

This is more an impression than a category, and it has to do with tone, integrity of content and sincerity of purpose. It’s exemplified in How to Market a Book by Penn’s many references to community and her willingness to share—not just her own recommendations and advice gained through experience, but also the readiness with which she points readers toward her many expert colleagues in the self-publishing field.

It says, “I know something about this, but if you want the real goods, read what my colleagues have to say.”

In other words, it’s cooperative rather than competitive—and who doesn’t appreciate that?

Nicely done, Joanna.

Image: Flikr: TheCreativePenn’s Photostream

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Author Options for Creating an Audiobook

Audiobook2

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

Are you thinking about turning your book into a podcast or audiobook? There are lots of reasons to do so. As many book marketing specialists have pointed out, an audio version can be a marketing tool before your book is releasedIt can also be a free ongoing giveaway on your website, or it can be sold separately as a book in audio format.

Podcast or audiobook? 

We sometimes use the terms interchangeably, but there’s a difference, and Joanna Penn explains it well in this post. A podcast is usually used as a free marketing tool, and most often it’s made available in installments. An audiobook is a complete audio version of a book, distributed for sale. (Penn provides detailed information about audiobook production and distribution in the post and in the accompanying interview with J. Daniel Sawyer.)

Why choose a podcast?

For one thing, readers love getting something free, and a podcast might help generate interest in your book. It provides a low-risk way for readers to sample your book, and some writers have found real success by using this marketing method. Here are a couple of examples:

Mark Jeffrey* created a podcast of his YA book, Max Quick: The Pocket and the Pendant, and distributed 2.4 million free copies. Then, he self-published it as a paperback on Lulu and created an iPhone app for it, which he sold on iTunes. The result? A traditional publishing deal.
  
Terry Fallis is a Canadian author who tried unsuccessfully to get a publisher for his first novel, The Best Laid Plans. Persevering, he recorded and released his book as a podcast and then as a print-on-demand paperback through iUniverse. And then in an unheard-of turn of fortune, it won an important award — the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. Following this, he signed with a major publisher and is now about to release his fourth book. Oh, and The Best Laid Plans also won Canada Reads in 2011. Not bad for a self-pub.

Right now you might be thinking, “that sounds like a lot of work.” It is, and it’s not just work, but it requires vision and a tech-savvy, DIY attitude. Jeffrey was developing apps before anyone had really heard of them. Fallis reads for, records, edits and produces the podcasts that he still makes available free on his website.

Get help creating your podcast.

Podiobooks is an online library of free audiobooks, where authors can record and upload their books, and readers can download and listen to them. Support and instructions are provided, as well as a form of mentorship, but authors are warned that the learning curve is theirs to conquer, and that some equipment and persistence will be required. There’s an extensive help page, too.

There are thousands of books on this site, a few by some well-known writers — Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, and Cory Doctorow, for example. I’ve been listening to Melanie Dugan’s Dead Beautiful. The sound quality is good, it’s a pleasant listening experience — and the writing is good, too. I like hearing an author read his or her own work.

If you want an audiobook. 

Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX, a division of Audible and Amazon) has been the main place authors (those who hold their own rights) have gone to produce professional quality audiobooks. ACX offers various structures for production, including partnerships and royalty sharing with agents, producers and voice actors. Alternatively, authors can produce a book on their own, too. The site is big and detailed, and offers marketing and promotion tips along with lots of how-to information. ACX is only available to US residents.

And from most accounts, authors have been pleased with this arrangement — until a couple of weeks ago when ACX drastically slashed author royalties. For details and discussion, see Porter Anderson’s A Most Audible Alarm: ACX Chops Royalties.

ACX seems to be structured for all levels of author participation and remuneration, promising a professional product, market ready. And there’s nothing to say that any of that has changed — except the take-home pay for authors.

How do audio versions of traditionally published books compare?

Audible is the major producer and seller of audiobooks, and it’s where you’ll find most traditionally published titles. Is getting a book on Audible the gold standard? Maybe, maybe not. In a blog post titled Audible.com is Killing Me, author Mark Sinnett criticizes Audible’s choice of voice actors, writing, “Now it’s not like I was expecting Donald Sutherland to read the book.” Then Sinnett links to the audio version of The Carnivore, in which the name of a main Toronto thoroughfare is mangled splendidly.

So there’s no perfect method for turning your book into an audio product. You should know what you want to achieve with your recording beforehand — to sell it outright or to use for marketing — because some methods cost more than others and have more direct routes to distribution and discoverability. Remember, too, that a higher cost doesn’t determine the success or quality of the product. Lots of DIYs produce really high quality podcasts and recordings, and sometimes a “professional” production is less than satisfactory.

*In her 2011 O’Reilly Tools of Change conference presentation, The Publishing Pie: An Author’s View, Margaret Atwood details the steps Jeffrey took to realize this success. She also gives an account of self-publishing from an author’s perspective. Have a listen if you have 30 minutes to spare — it’s charming and informative, and Atwood is never short on humour.

Image by neinarson

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