Category Archives: Publishing @4GSpeeds

Reigning Press|September Newsletter Podcast


 

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The Gathering, (Book One The Remnant)

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 Is Amazon The Only ‘Big Dog’ In Town? 


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“You are a start-up … The next great business is you.”  Hugh Howey

Perusing my morning Tweets I came across a post by Doris-Maria Heilmann @111publishing ‘Is Amazon Really a Great Deal for Indie Authors?’ (here)  To summarize the article, Heilmann suggests that while Amazon might have seemed like the savior of the Indie Publishing world at one time, like all great heroes, they have now become pretty much the only ‘Big Dog’ in town.

While its true Amazon might look like they hold all the cards, and have worked very hard to try to convince authors their only hope of success is to put all their novels into the Amazon basket of KDP, I personally don’t think they are the only viable gig in town.

Smashwords for instance, offers authors the same ‘Free’ publishing eBook services, distributing their books in all the major eBook stores (KDP authors can only sell through Amazon) a generous % of the royalties (60% through major e-book retailers; 70.5% when purchased through affiliate e-book retailers; 80.5% when purchased on Smashwords*), an author page as well as the ability to set up a publishing dashboard that will allow a single author to publish under multiple pen names (something this author plans to take advantage of).

While Smashwords may not currently have as long an arm as Amazon, they are, in my not so humble opinion, a more than viable option for those of us who refuse to kowtow to the ‘Big Dog’ propaganda.

(There are other sites such as Lulu, Booktango [just heard about this, haven’t checked it out yet] who offer free, or for a small or not so small fee, e-publishing services and distribution.)

Now we all know Doris-Maria Heilmann isn’t the first blogger/writer to comment on the Amazon’s monopoly issue (and she won’t be the last). But what I haven’t read or heard a lot of people talking about (at least in the world of self-publishing) is the fact that the only reason Amazon has become the largest self-publishing site in the world, is because of the hundreds of thousands of authors who have published through them.  

Authors who, even though they have put all their eggs in one basket, are under no contractual obligation to remain with them.

Authors who, because they have already demonstrated authorpreneurship abilities by the very act of self-publishing, have the power to take that pioneering spirit to its conclusion by taking control of their ‘business’ and building their own publishing platform, instead of leaving it in the hands of Amazon to tell them where and when they should publish.

If, and this is a big IF, Amazon has become the Big Dog, it has done so on the backs of its authors.

Which also means those same authors hold the power to change the landscape (unlike the Big 5 who own their authors and their books, for the length of the contract). Maybe not the company (eBook publishing makes up only a small, but profitable percentage of Amazon’s overall worth), but certainly its publishing interests.

In the mean time, sites like Smashwords, who’s only venue is self-publishing, offer authors a larger publishing distribution, a generous percentage of their royalties as well as the freedom to market their products in as many avenues as those authors have time and ambition for.

In my not so humble opinion, just as the uprising tide of tens of thousands of self-publishing Authors helped Amazon to change the landscape of Traditional publishing, so to will those same authors change the landscape of any one single entity who tries to herd them back into a conformity not of their choosing.

In other words, Authors, not Amazon, hold the real power. It just takes time for them to wake up and smell the grass on the other side of the fence.

Sharing the journey,

SSpjut

© All Rights Reserved

*Quote Source – Writers Circle, ‘E-Books: Pros & Cons of the Top 5 #Self-Publishers’ (http://buff.ly/1x7KiXH).

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Social Media or Racing a Horse – It’s All The Same To Me


downloadEmploying Social Media as a tool for building your brand and marketing your book is like racing a horse; it’s all about understanding the animal, the landscape, the competition and having the patience and timing to get there.

Understanding the animal is knowing everything there is to know about horses in general as well as specific. If you want your horse to win, you need to know the breed and you need to know your horse physically, mentally and emotionally – and what it will take to make him a winner.

The same is true for an author. In order for an author to be successful at marketing their work, they need to understand themselves first. That’s right. In an age where there is a plethora of how-to, should-do, must-do free and paid advise on building brands and marketing your book, it’s important that authors know their strengths as well as their weaknesses; what they are and are not willing to do to in order to get their books out there for the world to buy and read.

Understanding the landscape for a race horse means studying the terrain the animal will be running on and doing everything you can to prepare him for it. Some tracks are made of grass, some dry and others muddy. Knowing which one your  horse runs on best can mean the difference between winning, getting lost in the pack or losing.

It’s no different for authors stepping out onto the landscape of social media. Just as not all tracks work for all horses, so not all venues of social media work for all writers. For instance, some authors don’t mind building/creating their own web-blog site, so they might choose WordPress or Blogspot (both drop and drag) rather than paying someone else to design and maintain a more individualized site for them.  And when it comes to interacting with their readers, some may choose Twitter, with its short attention span and rapid regurgitation of information , over Face Book and its slower paced interactive visual capabilities. The point is, which ever landscape an author chooses,  they just need to make sure its the one they work on best.

Understanding the competition in racing is all about knowing the other guy’s horse almost as well as you know your own. It’s not enough for an owner or a  jockey to know their own horse and what he’ll do on any given track, they need to know same thing about every horse they’ll be competing against. What’s a weakness to one horse, may become the strength of another.

Utilizing social media to market your work successfully means knowing what the other guy is writing, blogging and tweeting about. It’s knowing your genre,  what readers are looking for and what they are passing over – even if its free.  It’s going to other author websites and studying the layout, joining forums and keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry and where its going. It’s reading another authors stuff (even if its crap), listening to their interviews and discovering how to leverage what you’ve learned to your advantage.

Having the patience to get there. Nothing is more critical to the success of any race horse than having an owner and jockey who understands patience and timing. A horse raced too soon will blow out a knee, develop shin splints or even break a leg. And even after he’s ready to race, the owner still waits for the right time and place, knowing winning is as much about picking the race as is it about running it.

Authors need to understand the importance of patience and timing as well. Just because you’ve finished your manuscript and think its ready to publish or market, doesn’t mean it is.  And if it is ready, choosing the right time to launch and promote, is as important as all the other things you’ve done to get it here.

Whether your racing a horse or marketing you and/or your book, the challenges are still the same. In order to win an owner/author has to know the horse/themselves, know the terrain they’ll be running on, understand the competition and learn to appreciate the value of timing and patience. Those that learn those four things will set themselves up for the best chance of winning. Those that don’t? All I can say is, after all you’ve done to get here, do you really want to blow it now?

By SSpjut

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Changing Landscapes: Transmedial Immersedition


Transmedial Immersedition:

3 of 3 Part Article

“There is an increasing amount of interest and attention around the idea of ‘transmedia storytelling’ these days because of our increased awareness of converging and permeable media technology boundaries, but humans have always been transmedia storytellers.” Dr. Pamela Rutledge, PhD, MBA 

According to writer>digital transmedia strategist Jenka Gurfinkel, our lives are actually a series of Transmedial Experiences, and Transmedial Storytelling is just one of the ways we partner with other to share in the ‘tellin’.

From scratching in the dirt with a stick to shielding our e-book screens against the distorting rays of an afternoon sun, humans have been searching for ways with which to record and share the thoughts, events and imaginations in their lives through a media that would draw the listener and reader into the experience with them.

In the beginning our media was limited to cave walls, large rocks and tree bark. But as the wheel of time rolled forward and our imaginations and experience’s changed, we found ourselves chiseling on stone, scribbling on papyrus and pressing ink soaked blocks of wood on to sheets of paper.  Often in an effort to engage as many of the five senses of the reader as possible, these recordings were augmented by beautifully etched pictures, pressed flowers and wax – sealed impressions.

Like oil and chalk, words were used to paint images, recall childhood memories or draw forth the secret longing within the reader’s heart to be that hero, slay that villain or save that damsel in distress.

Through the use of layered media, a reader was invited to go beyond the written word and join the author in a partnership of the mind and senses. For a moment following the last word spoken or the final page turned, the audience was able to feel as though the possibility of living another life was but a word or thought away. The power of storytelling (be it verbal or written) offered even the lowest peasant a chance to be someone other than who they were for however long they could hold onto the imagined experience.

Then suddenly mankind is thrust into the twentieth century where we find ourselves viewing yet another tale or event from a variety of angles, textures and stimuli. What began on the pages of a book moved to the fabric of a theater screen, and from there we were handed tools which allowed us to delve even deeper into the characters we’d just watched through ARG’s like Warcraft,  RPG’s  such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and in some cases,  like Neal Stephenson’s multimedia metaver  novel  “The Mongoliad”,  made a partner  in creating alternate story>plot line and endings.

Now instead of voyeuristically imagining ourselves as part of the story from a flat, one dimensional plane of readership, we have been given the opportunity to become engaged in a partnership whereby the tellin’ is a collaboration of transmedial immersion which will bring you and I into a 360˚ storytelling experience.  An alternate reality where it is no long one person’s imagination controlling our own.

Even as recent as eight months ago,  these experiences were still ( in this literary purist’s mind,) gaudy attempts to try and get people like me to leave our celestial peaks of antiquity and come down amongst the rabble rousers of technology. And without an object shiny enough to rouse my curiosity, I remained immune to their best marketing persuasions.

That is until I came across an article in Wired.com about a young first time novelist named Amanda Havard and her visionary concept Immersedition.  The flight out of my mountainous domain was rather faster than I was prepared for and even now I am still applying dressing to my skinned ego and cold compresses to my bruised imagination.

Ms. Havard’s  bio reads like most YA author’s who have grown up living with one foot in flat land and the other in the multi dimensional world of their own imaginations. Writing and telling stories from the time she was a little girl growing up in Dallas Texas, Amanda, like so many who have gone before, followed the natural literary progression from budding elementary school author to Vanderbilt University,  where she received her MA in childhood education.

In an interview with Sally Schoss (freelance writer for  Nashville Arts Magazine), Ms. Havard said that it was while she was on her way to attend a wedding in Tupelo, Mississippi that the idea for her The Survivor’s (a first novel in a five part series) and its immersive transmedial storytelling potential was first conceived.

But in 2008, while pitching to agents  her vision of publishing The Survivor’s in a transmedial format that would retain all the appearance of a book, while still allowing Ms. Havard and other collaborator’s  to produce a story that would offer the reader an immersive 360˚ experience, she told  reporter Angela Watercut  that what those agents basically said was,  ‘That’s a really cool story you have here and it sounds like a really marketable product, if you could just stop talking about all that other stuff, let it go and realize that you’re not going to have that, sit down, shut up and listen to what they tell you, then you’re going to be fine.’

But according to Ana Maria Allessi, vice president and publisher of Harper Media, due to the speed at which Ebook technology is changing, what Amanda Havard encountered was not a surprise. “That kind of reluctance to adapt and adopt new ideas in e-books is unfortunate, but it’s somewhat understandable. Tablet devices evolve at the speed of light compared to the book industry, in which a single title can take well over a year to produce. Heretofore publishers have been dependent on device makers to support any new ideas they want to execute…. One of the biggest hurdles…is creating something that will work across all devices and platforms. Currently, each enhanced e-book her company wants to put out must be altered to adhere to the specs of the Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet and the iPad. (Nearly all tablets, however, support the stripped-down “.epub” files used in basic e-books.)

Undaunted in her vision, Ms. Havard, along with her father L.C. Havard (a former executive in the health insurance industry) created Chafie Press, a publishing company whose mission is ‘to reinvent storytelling’ by bringing several collaborators under the same roof. By bringing together a full media studio, Chafie Press book publishing, FPR music recording label, Point of Origin Music Publishing as well as a score of other in house videographers and designers, she was able to bring her dream to fruition.

Add Demibooks (who designed the Immersedition app for iPad, iPhone application) and you now have a revolutionary concept for storytelling that combines an undesecrated screen with immerseive watermarks, that when touched,  take the reader to more than 300 pages of history, backstory, character profile as well as ‘written>produced for music>video, fashion, iGoogle maps  and interative real time Twitter and Facebook accounts.

In this transmedial evolving reader’s mind, Amanda Havard and Chafie Creative have given a whole new meaning  to what it is to ‘do the tellin’ and pass on to yet another generation the ability to give greater depth and dimension to the world around us, and the ones we’ve yet to encounter.

If by the simple touch of a finger, the flick of a wrist and the push of imagination we can now extend ourselves beyond the confines of our known world, how much longer will it be before movies like Total Recall, Twilight Zone, Star Trek and Star Wars have become our past and no longer our future?

From the laptop of an uncensored dreamer,

SSpjut

If you’re an emerging author, established one or just like to read interesting content, feel free to share your thoughts on what you think transmedial storytelling is and how you see it affecting you and the future of ‘Doin the Tellin’

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Changing Landscapes: A Multiverse of Transmedial Storytelling


 2 of 3 Part Article

In Transmedial Readership, (the first of a three-part series on Changing Landscapes in the world of publishing), I took a look at the evolutionary progress of the modern-day eBook from its 1940’s humble (HES) electronic beginnings as a means to record the work of Catholic philosopher>theologian Thomas Aquinas, to its use as a way of sharing large amounts of text within the educational community.

In wasn’t until the late 90’s, early 2000’s that we saw this PC monolith of data transfer evolving into an embryonic hand-held device which would eventually morph into a AI that responds to voice recognition and allows its user to down load @4GSpeeds books, magazines, games and movies, access the internet, read PDF files as well as import>export those last minute>out the door>I forgot to send the statistics the boss needed 30 seconds ago.

Then I took a look at the predictions of the early 2000’s in regards to the viability of these handheld book readers, and concluded that the greatest giants to be slain at this present time weren’t the consumers, but rather the twin peaks of Author and Publisher on the Mt. Olympus of Literature, where change for the sake of change doesn’t come easy. From there I concluded that with an ever-increasing readership demand for “newer>better>faster” ways in which to partner with the writer’s, producer’s and designer’s of today’s storytelling, there is now a natural impetus for author’s to relook at how they will develop story content, as well as explore what other forms of media are available in order to bring the purveyors of  sensory interaction into the best experience possible.

So What is Transmedia?  

In an interview with Neela Sakaria, SVP @Latitude magazine, transmedia creator Andrea Phillips said that a true transmedia project is one that involves audience participation, which in turn means they will have to seek out and find multiple layers or pieces of information in order to understand the entire story. 

The Producer’s Guild list its Credit Guidelines for  “transmedia” as a project which “…must consist of three or more narrative storylines existing within the same fictional universe on any given platform: film, television, short film, broadband, publishing, comics, animation, mobile, special venue, DVD>Blu-ray>CD-ROM, narrative commercial, marketing rollouts and other technologies”.

In other words, there has to be a collaborative effort of three or more forms of media being used to tell the same story within the same platform. An early example of this would be L. Frank Baum‘s 1900 novel,  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Mary Shelley’s 1818 classic Frankenstein,  both of which were presented to the public on multiple platforms or layers of media (book > play > movie).

So What is Storytelling? 

Wikipedia  tells us that storytelling is a means by which mankind has of conveying events through words, images and sounds, which in turn are a part of every cultures means of entertainment, education and cultural preservation, endued with the power to instill moral values.  In his interview with fastcocreat.com, Gottschall said that he believed that fiction was more effective at changing the way a person believes about something than any writing that was specifically designed for that purpose.

 WhenRobert Pratten of Transmedia Storytelling was asked why people tell stories he said, “We tell stories to entertain, to persuade and to explain. Our minds do not like random facts or objects….we naturally and often subconsciously connect the dots…in a… stimulating way we call stories. Great stories win hearts and minds.”

Jonathan Gottschall, author of “The Storytelling Animal” states, “….story is the most powerful means of communicating a message…..People are moved by emotion. And Peter Guber, Studio Chief at Columbia Pictures and author of Tell to Win, says, “The best way to emotionally connect other people to our agenda begins with “Once upon a time…”

So Why Use Transmedia in Storytelling?

In a gathering of creative individuals hosted by Electronic Arts in 2003, Henry Jenkins, a Provost Professor of  Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Art at the   USC Annenberg School for Communication and the USC School of Cinematic Arts noted in an article he wrote for Technology Review ,  that transmedia>multi- platform or enhanced storytelling as they knew it,  was on the cusp of undergoing significant changes and that those changes would mean an entirely new way of ‘doin the tellin’.

Those present stated that they saw a future where the masses would no longer be satisfied being told stories on a one-dimensional plane such as watching a movie or reading a book, leaving the theater or turning the last page, and be satisfied that what they have just experienced was all there is and there is nothing more.

People today have evolved from hunter>gathers on open grass lands   to hunter>gather’s on the internet, and they take “great pleasure…uncovering character backgrounds… plot points…and… making connections between different texts…”  It’s no longer enough just to read or watch a story from a one-dimensional aspect. Audiences now want to have an opportunity to enter into the story and participate in both its development as well as being able to decide alternate endings.  It becomes a case of where the whole is now greater than the parts.

By combing multiple layers of media in the development and publication of EBooks, authors can now take a story which began as an arrow through time and folded it back upon itself in complex layers impregnated with texture, depth, emotion and visualization. No longer do our characters move from point A to point B solely dependent upon their creator’s narrative abilities as the primary means by which the reader enters into and experiences the story.  By apply multiple sensory applications the story now becomes a collaborative partnership between the author, the characters, the reader and everyone else who has contributed in creating an experience that moves everyone beyond the land of cardboard cutouts and into the realm of interactive>inter-dimensional> transmedial adventures.

In the third and final part of this three-part series I want to zoom in on what transmedia storytelling is doing for EBooks and how Amanda Havard, first time author of the Urban fiction “Survivors“ and entrepreneurial genius behind Chafie Creations and the development of Immersedition, is taking the world of literary experiencialism to a whole new level.

From the laptop of an uncensored dreamer

SSpjut

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Changing Landscapes:Transmedial Readership


Transmedial Readership

Part 1 of 3 Part Article   

What began as a technological search for better and faster ways to record and share information in an educational format that would be equitable for as many users as possible, has now become a multi-billion dollar, multi-media frenzy of looking for newer>better>faster ways in which to engage and entertain a readership that is evolving almost, if not faster, than the technology that spawned it.

The basic DNA of e-books began as an electronic index and concordance to record the works of the Catholic philosopher>theologian Thomas Aquinas. But as with all things technical (or otherwise) the early progenitor of digital formatting began its natural evolution by growing legs, developing gills and eventually finding its way onto the landscape of the late 1990’s – early 2000’s,  where it emerged as the first recognizable sub-species of our current day Ebook.

And as with all things which evolve by way of ‘survival of the fittest’, the emerging technology for knowledge and entertainment is being viewed, culled and gone over much like the livestock my father choose to purchase for the farm I grew up on. Only those devises which hold the best possible traits for future economic advancement will be kept. All others will either be passed on to less competitive merchandisers or left in the 50% off reader’s bins to be recycled in whatever way the seller sees fit.

Within a matter of just under seventy years, the progression from pre-historic HES (Hypertext Electronic System) to Apple’s iPad>Amazon’s Kindle Fire has meant not only a significant change in the way reader’s have begun to pursue their intellectual entertainment, but how that entertainment is going to be presented as well.

On January 01, 2001 Wired magazine published an article by Kendra Mayfield on the future of e-books in which she interviewed Roland Laplant, chief marketing officer for Xlibris (a self-publishing>print on demand company). His prophetic comment about the then approaching future of e-books was, “Ultimately e-books will eclipse paper books. It’s just not convenient now…. There needs to be a lot of change in actual consumer behavior for that shift to occur.”

In that same article senior analyst E. Yegin Chen, of Eduventures.com was quoted as having this to say about the consumer’s of the gradual evolving technology of digital reading, “The retail consumer market is not quite ready for e-books yet…E-book vendors need to improve the reading experience to obtain significant adoption rates.”

While O’Brien from Forrester Research had this to say; “….With limited content, inadequate reading screen resolution and differing formats, e-book devices will fail to find a mass audience.”

As predictive as all three of these gentlemen were about the need for change, what they failed to either foresee or comment on, was that ultimately it wouldn’t be consumer’s who would need to change their behavior, but rather, the battle for change would come from the Mt. Olympus of literature its self; the peaks of Author and Publisher. Two of  the biggest giants in the land who (in my opinion) are not only those most affected by this juggernaut of technological driven consumerism, but who are also the two most resistant to change for the sake of change.

All change, be it literary, social or political requires an ability to let go of the familiar and embrace, by faith, a new way of thinking and doing that is neither predictable nor safe. It means embracing ideas and concepts, that for many us who grew up during the Baby Boomer era, threaten our belief in the traditions of our ancestors that held onto: “if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it”. And I’m afraid there are still many authors and publishers that don’t want to fix, what in their point of view, isn’t yet broken.

Every since people like Martin Luther stood up and challenged the way in which the written  word was produced and made available, mankind has been forging a pathway towards creative expression that will in inevitably rise up and confront that which tries to hold onto and control the reins of the printed (and now digital) word. There will always be those individuals who will want to challenge the status quo, engage the Goliaths  of the land and topple them with the stones of; creativity, individualism, expressionism, consumerism and just plain chutzpa.

In an article for the Washington Post in December of 2009, staff writer Marion Maneker wrote a piece entitled “E-books spark battle inside the publishing industry” in which she made this observation; “Publishers can no longer be vast containers of intellectual property distributed in paper form to bookstores, supermarkets and warehouse clubs. But they don’t have to be: They can become highly selective distributors to bookstores, supermarkets and price clubs. That’s the lesson of the television, music and movie businesses.”

I think the same argument can be used for authors as well; the time for viewing the written word as a sacred shrine of literary prose that will strike down all those who try and approach its oracles with anything other than our four hundred and fifty years of printing tradition, is over.

Not only is the e-book technology biting at the heels of the publishing world, but in many ways it has taken hold of the pant seat of authors too. In today’s ever emerging readership, it is no longer enough just to spin a good yarn or weave an ‘edge of your seat’ thriller that allows the reader to engage their imagination as part of the journey. Today’s technology is fast becoming the impetus for the way in which a writer develops their story content as well as the media  they want to use in order to bring their reader’s into the best possible experience of that story.

In the future (if not already), authors will need to decide whether to stay with text>alone storytelling or to step off the map of their literary forefather’s and begin sculpting complex ideas that require a more transmedia approach. Will the story they want to tell be interactive or will it require nothing more from the reader than a rapid eye and finger movement as they go from one textual page to the next? Or will it be created in such a way that the journey from page one to page two hundred and seventy five be given multiple scenarios and alternate endings? Or will it lend itself to embedded sound tracks, multi-verse formatting and off world overlays?

In my recent blog The Flux Capacitor I talked about the possible dangers of moving away from the written word and embracing a lifestyle where what we read and see can be neither touched nor put on a bookshelf to admire, and as a result we flirt with the possibilities of one day losing the resources and abilities to pass on to future generations the history of who we are. Interesting that in the process of writing that blog I discovered an idea that made me go back and rethink my previous viewpoint.

Next blog: Who’s ‘Doin the Tellin’ Now? > Part 2 of 3 Changing Landscapes

From the laptop of an uncensored dreamer

SSpjut

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Changing Landscapes: A Multiverse of Transmedial Storytelling


Changing Landscapes: A Multiverse of Transmedial Storytelling.

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Personal Branding @3.0|Grass Roots 1.05


Sharing the Glory

You’ve worked your kester off establishing your name, building a community, creating a credible-online presence, and getting that novel written, edited and published. The first ebook is already at Amazon.com and the hardcopy is due to hit the market anyday now. So all that’s really left to do before you hit the road and spend the next gazillion days of your life promoting it is…Celebrate! Party! Get together with your peeps and let the world know that despite what Uncle Carl and Aunt Suzie said about getting a real job, you’ve done it. Wrote your first book, seen it through the birthing canal of re-write>edit>production and now your ready to let your hair down (or take off the baseball cap if you don’t have hair) and get down.

Having not personally reached this milestone of success…yet,  I quickly went to Google and typed in ‘Writers Celebrating’.

I’m not sure what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t what I found. Instead of tequila shots, BBQ’s, block celebrations and rented limo’s (with the top open and someone standing up singing “We Are The Champions” by Queen),

all I could find were sober book readings, more conferences and dull, boring people talking about writing the next book (Yes I know that getting onto the next novel is crucial, but must we forget that we could also die tomorrow, and then where would that leave us?). So instead of ending this rather long series on Personal Branding with yet another sobering thought, I decided to give you something else. A visual of what celebrating all that hard work might look like instead.

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Personal Branding @3.0|Grass Roots 1.04


Marketing You

The 1950’s television show “What’s My Line“, was a game show that featured a panel of four people whose sole job was to guess the identity of a mystery guest.  Like any emerging author, the identity of the shows guest was unknown, and could only be discovered by someone on the panel asking a question such as: where they came from, what was their niche or line of work, what or where had they performed before, etc.

In other words, by asking the right questions, it was possible for anyone on the panel to discover who the mystery person was. But unless this person had done something to set themselves apart, or had created a unique niche, the participant often remained unknown, simply because they hadn’t really done anything that set them apart from everyone else.

An author’s ability to successfully market themselves is a lot like being that ‘mystery guest’. When you first emerge out onto the landscape of readership and publishing, no one (except for your friends and family, agent and editor) really knows who you are.  You may have even been around on the social network scene for a while, but without being intentionally engaged in the community you surf in, and establishing yourself as someone worth investing time and money in, you too will go undiscovered.

So how do we take everything we’ve been working on: building community, honing our craft, developing credibility and becoming socially visible, and roll it into a marketing strategy that will take us to that all important goal of getting our work in the hands of readers, agents and publishers?

How do we market ourselves from obscurity to financial viability?

I decided to start with “Books & Such”   Blogger, Janet Kobobel Grant.  In Janet’s 2 part post, “What Do Your Readers Really Want From You?”, she  uses Jessica Beinecke , (digital story-teller who teaches  Mandarin Chinese youth,  American slang via her online program ,OMG! 美语, ) successful YouTube video feeds  to highlight the power of engaging our community in unique ways,  that also allow us to be ourselves, build friendships and connect with our audience at a deeper level.

“Your mission in connecting with your readers online goes beyond getting them to buy your books, says Janet. If that’s your goal, then you’ll end up offering potential readers ads. But if your desire is to make an inherently deeper connection, then you’ll be more self-revelatory and, well, someone the reader feels as if he or she knows. That engenders loyalty that goes way beyond selling a copy of your latest work.”

My next stop was The Creative Penn where Joanna Penn doles out some much needed advice on different things that have worked to make her blog site voted the  Top 10 Blog Site two years in a row.

In order to stand out, you need to have an online presence with quality content that people want to consume either for information or entertainment. Each piece of content you put out there is another way for people to find you. By spreading your content across different media, you will be able to target a variety of audiences.”

Some of her recommendations are:

  1. Blogging (of course) for ourselves as well as others.  Joanna says that once we’ve gotten the hang of writing a blog on a consistent basis, we need to start looking for guest blogs on other sites as well as inviting other’s in our community and niche to guest blog on our own.

(A great collective blogging site I recently discovered is, My Blog Guest. This is a free guest blog site where authors can submit and access quality articles on a variety of topics, thus enlarging their sphere of influence, garnering new friends as well as marketing their PB.)

2.     Using online video and audio s such as YouTube, iTunes and webinars. One my favorite ‘go to gals’ for all things author>writing is C. Hope Clark. The other day she posted  her podcast interview on What The Glass Contains with  Austin Moss on SoundCloud, a free site that lets you record and upload sound and connect to SM like Twitter, FB and Tumblr.

3.     Joanna also recommended uploading drawings (such as sketches or maps of your book), doodles or pictures that can help to engage your audience with more of who you are and what you’re doing. You could use this to tell about your hobbies, vacations, friends and family.

4.     And of course there is the standard; SM of Twitter, FB etc. I love to Share other bloggers, authors work on-line at places like Digg, Stumble Upon, Tumblr and Linkedin.  It’s a good way to build community as well as let other people know what my likes and dislikes are. I’ve had several people stop by my site simply because of what I posted on SM.

5.     Developing a schedule for blogging, writing, networking and marketing. Her list entails everything from daily Tweets, to using links in post, to audio>video, to how many books to write per year.  I have started using a program called Free Mind, that lets ne visually map out my blog post for the next year. I’ve also used it for my ghost blogging as well as a way to strategize plot and chapter outlines.

And of course no article would be complete without going over to C. Hope Clark’s site and taking a look at what her favorite marketing tools, which are writing articles and using postcards. As an author (Low Country Bribe) and free-lance writer, Hope understands the power behind authors getting their work out where editors, publisher’s and other writers can see it (She attributes much of her success as an author to learning how write content in 700 words or less under deadline). And using bright, shiny well designed postcards as a means of giving away something for free that customers and followers are less likely to put down and lose.

While researching this post I came across an article by Robert Lee Brewer, (site owner of My Name is Not Bob) entitled How to Brand Yourself (And Take Over the World). In it he makes an astute comment about writers and authors in general,

“First off, I know that personal branding is a topic that will probably turn many writers off. For one thing, many writers (including myself) like to think of themselves as unique creative talents. For another thing, isn’t branding reserved for businesses (not writers)? Shocker: If you’re a writer who’s interested in getting published and making an income (whether supplemental or full) from your writing, then you’re in the business of writing…”

Whether we write because it’s an addiction we don’t’ want to be rescued from, or we write because  we have a BA in Journalism and believe its compulsory, the brutal fact is,  the responsibility for marketing ourselves is serious business.  From the moment we start taking ourselves as writers and authors seriously until the last breath leaves our bodies, the PB and marketing of ourselves will never stop. Be it guest blogging for one of our peers, submitting a first draft to our online writers group for critiquing,   to announcing the launch of our first book the process of marketing ourselves will never stop.

By building a strong foundation of community, credibility, content and visibility, we as writers will develop a PB that is not only marketable, but sellable. Who better to help promote ‘You’ than the people and communities you and I have taken the time to share, comment and interact with?  Sure there a lots of other ways, in which we might reach the public without having to extend ourselves beyond laptops, book signings and occasional Twitter or Facebook posts. But when things get tight and money is held close to the chest, people tend to spend where loyalty has been earned.

In my next and final post in this series on Personal Branding, I’ll take a look at how you and I can celebrate and share the glory of success with those who are as much a part of it as we are.

So what have you been doing to market yourself and your book? What tricks of the trade have you found that work, and which have your found that didn’t? Feel free to drop the ball and get the conversation going.

From the laptop of an uncensored dreamer,

SSpjut

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Personal Branding @3.0|Grass Roots 1.03


Creating Author Visibility

“With over 15 years of experience in online marketing, I can say without a doubt or any reservations, that developing a personal brand online is crucial to your success as an author.”  Fauzia Burke, (Founder and President of FSB Associate,@WebSnapshot

Building a Personal Brand isn’t for the meek and mild. It takes commitment, hard work and a lot of intentionality.   Whether you are Building a Community, Branding an In-Credible You, or looking to make yourself visible, the road to successful PB is going to be paved with time, sweat equity and a lot of coffee.

So where do we start? How do we go about becoming ‘visible’ to the community that we’ve chosen to build in?  In my own journey, I’ve found that there as many variables as there are writer’s willing to give advice.

When I first started taking a look at how to go about developing a visible online presence, the task seemed completely over whelming, even daunting.  I meet with a local writers group twice a month, and when I would listen to them talk about the two thousand and one things a writer needs to do before even considering   sending out their first query letter, I have to be honest, there were more than just a few occasions when I found myself driving away thinking, “All I want to do is write. If I had wanted to be in sales and marketing, I would have stayed in interior design.”

But A Type personalities are never daunted for long, so I made a decision to begin educating myself as quickly as possible.  For the next couple of months, if I wasn’t writing, I was perusing  the internet and library, gathering together everything I could find on the subject of writers and developing visible branding.  At the end I found four items most frequently listed as ‘must do’s’ for building author visibility.

  • Blogging
  • Writer’s Groups
  • Commenting and Forums
  • Social Media (Twitter, FB)

Let’s start with: Blogging;

The powers that be almost unanimously agreed that anyone wanting to develop any type of PB or online presence has to have a web or blog site where they can post on a regular basis and let the community get to know them.

Now for most of you, the subject of blogging, is by now, probably blasé’, and you’re doing your best to keep from yawning.  Yet I wouldn’t be that quick to judge this part of my post as unworthy of your notice. There are some really great blogger-writers out there, and the really good ones have a following that is pretty impressive.  They’re like the E. F. Hutton’s of the blogging world; when they speak, everyone listens.

Now granted not all of them write novels or non-fiction work, but the quality of content they deliver on a regular basis makes it possible for others like me, to break down the process of developing a personal brand into bit size pieces that are do-able. And let’s face it; all the information in the world won’t ‘getter done’  if we can’t see the trees within the forest.

So with my brain loaded down with ‘How To, Where To, and How Often’, I set about finding a blog spot that fit me.

But finding the right blog site can be as challenging as finding a great fitting pair of tennis shoes for wide-flat-feet; one brand does not fit all.  Some sites require little or no knowledge of site construction, while others should be labeled: Enter at Your Own Risk. But after a few bungled attempts, I finally found one , WordPress.com (which  practically  uses crayons in the support and how-to tutorials with lots of pictures, videos and examples) that worked for me (Since this post is about building personal branding, not blog sites, I’ll leave that subject for another time.).

The next step in the journey was even more challenging than getting a blog that fit. What to write about? I wasn’t anywhere near the same playing field as those writers and bloggers I had begun to follow, but sharing the blather of everyday life had (and still has) absolutely no appeal.

As favor would have it, while I was out cruising through my favorite bloggers-authors sites, I came across this comment by Suzan Butler, author of pirate anthology, Spells and Swashbucklers, “As a writer, your blog is your showcase; much like a photographer’s online portfolio is theirs. It shows your personality, your voice, your writing style. People who mesh with your blog will mesh with your writing. And the more people who show up will see your name over and over. If it’s a familiar name, they’re more likely to pick up your book when it’s time.”

Our blogging posts are like a window into the soul of who we are as writers.  They need to be a reflection of what we’re passionate about, and if we’ve already got a manuscript or two under our belts, then they should also give our future readership insight into who they will be investing their time and money in,  every time they click, buy and read our work.

Writer’s Groups;

Almost every article I’ve ever read, from publisher, to editor, to agent to author, says the same thing;  become part of  local and online writing groups, where we can share our work, get critiqued by fellow authors, agents, and editors, and learn from their critique of others.  It’s often one of the best places for iron sharpening iron.

Being part of a community oflike-minded individual’s is also a great place to go when we need reminding,  that even if Uncle Carl doesn’t think our attempts to become a successful writer qualifies as a real job, there are still hundreds of others who do.

Here are a few to get you started:

  1. Authors.com.
  2. http://www.fanstory.com
  3. http://www.writing.com
  4. http://abctales.com/

Commenting & Forums;

Connecting with other bloggers and writers is one of the most powerful online tools we have for building visibility. What better way to establish our presence and get to know our neighbors than to read and comment on what they are writing about.  Nothing establishes rapport with fellow authors quicker than stopping by and saying something encouraging about their work.  It is especially powerful when we use something they’ve written in one or more of our own posts.  What better way to make someone feel honored   than when someone else likes what they have said enough to quote it?

Dan Schawbel,  author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success (Kaplan, April 09),  and owner of the award-winning Personal Branding Blog had this to say about using the comment‘ factor, ” Bloggers love comments. Don’t even deny it! When you comment on someone else’s blog it’s like a kudos or a pat on the back. A blogger is more apt to comment back on your blog, subscribe and link to your blog if you’re a part of their community. If you comment on every blog in your industry on a consistent basis, people will get to know you based on your avatar (go to gravatar.com) and your brand will flourish.”

It’s a great way to give what blogger>author Kristin Nador calls ‘shout outs’. Free PR. Who doesn’t love it!   Before you know it, you’ve just added one more person to the community of people who now know who you are.

Social Media;

Social Media or SM is such a ‘tag’ word now days that I don’t think a lot needs to be said. I would like to comment on some of the abuse I’ve seen though, like using it to air your personal grievances or bad mouth other social media or platforms. Whether we like it or not, once something gets on the internet, it will always be out there somewhere, just waiting to come back and bite you in the hinder parts of whatever you’re currently doing.

C. Hope Clark has some great net-etiquette user-friendly tips on how to Tweet in her post, Twitter Peeve’s.  She has also shares  11 things she believes helps people find us,   “How do People Find You”.

  • Your website
  • Your blog
  • Your Facebook
  • Your Twitter
  • Your LinkedIn
  • Your writing clubs
  • Your previous magazine editors
  • Your previous guest blogs
  • Your speaking engagements
  • Your blog posts on other blogs
  • Your guest appearances online and in person

“Notice that the above ways to find you, dictate that you be PROACTIVE. And it means that you KEEP being proactive. The minute you snooze, expecting others to spread the word, the word slows down and disappears. Ask anyone with an online business or multiple books in a backlist.”

Next time we’ll talk about what “Marketing the Goods” (which would be you and I) looks like and how and when we can begin to incorporate it into the PB community we’re building.

So what does your strategy for building author visiblity look like?

I’d love to hear your story.

From the laptop of an uncensored dreamer,

SSpjut

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Filed under Publishing @4GSpeeds, Uncategorized