Print or eBook: Which Is Right for You?

ebooksI spent much of this morning reading about trends in the sales of print vs. digital books. So what did I learn?

Well, the good news is that the traditional book definitely isn’t dead. Indie booksellers and traditionalist rejoice!

But here’s another thing that’s important to know: whether your book will sell well in print or ebook form may very well depend on your genre. Consider this…

  1.  Your nonfiction book will sell better in print. I would philosophize that this is because nonfiction books — self-help books, cookbooks, etc…. — are ones that people want to keep on their bookshelves with pride, and refer back to years later. You just can’t do that with an ebook.
  2. If your book is Sci-fi, paranormal romance, or Christian fiction, it’s likely to sell much better in electronic format. Statistics show that these are the three genres in which ebooks are far outpacing print.
  3. If you’re writing a children’s bookgo with both! Many people love the digital versions of children’s books and all its interactivity. Other people think of it as more “screen time” for kids and less “true reading.” As one person recently said in a letter to the editor printed in the NY Times, “If the tablet has Clifford the dog barking, then your child doesn’t have to imagine the sound of Clifford the dog barking. Electronic devices obviate the need for children to use their imagination because it does it for them.”
  4. Your erotica book is best suited for digital. Think about it. In an airport, on a beach or in any other public place … people can read erotica in ebook format without anyone having any idea what they’re reading. Holding a physical book? Not so much.
  5. Similarly, literary works do best in print … in which nosy people can actually see the covers. As an article in Britain’s The Guardian points out: “There is a literary snobbishness at play here, clearly. Reading has always been a competitive sport. Why else would anyone have read Ulysses?”

And finally, here’s a stat to really throw you for a loop. A recent study found that today’s electronic generation — kids between the ages of 16 and 24 — actually prefer print books to ebooks.

The top-rated reasons for preferring physical to digital products were: “I like to hold the product” (51%), “I am not restricted to a particular device” (20%), “I can easily share it” (10%), “I like the packaging” (9%), and “I can sell it when used” (6%).

So, if in doubt, do both. But if you have to choose, use these interesting stats above to determine which route is the right one for you to take. Happy Publishing!

Vlogging for Authors: Why a Video Presence is a Great Way to Connect (Part 2)

In my previous post, I discussed the ins and outs of video-blogging (or vlogging) for authors and why this can be a great way to keep your readers interested.

These days almost anyone can create a great video blog!

All you need is a decent internet connection, a laptop or desktop computer purchased in the last several years and a YouTube account and you can become a star.

Ok, it takes a bit more time and effort than just that, but it has never been easier to begin your vlogging career. Are you ready to make the plunge? If so, here is a guide on how to get started.

Step 1: Record your vlog(s)!

It is always good practice to begin with a few good bits of original content (rather than just one). There is a lot of information on the web and if you “launch” your career with more than one video, you probably have a greater chance of obtaining subscribers right off the bat. This shows that you intend to keep vlogging.

You can film yourself with a built-in webcam on your desktop or laptop computer. Here is a simple guide on how to record your first video blog!

Make sure that the subject matter is engaging and interesting to your audience. I know… easier said than done! If you aren’t sure just what to start talking about when you get in front of the camera, one good piece of advice is to think about some of your favorite video blogs. What makes these interesting? What type of content really grabs you?

Here are some good ideas for authors if you need a good starting place:

  • Upcoming book tours
  • The meaning behind certain events or characters in your books
  • Current events related to your genre
  • Ideas inspired by themes in your book
  • Other books you are reading and why you enjoy reading those authors
  • Potential future releases

Step 2: Start Your YouTube Career

Ok. Why YouTube?

There are endless reasons, but I explained one of the biggest in part 1 of this article. It just allows a huge degree of flexibility and makes it easy for you to track who is following your videos.

Once you have recorded your first videos, you can create a YouTube account and channel. This process is also very simple. You will be asked to link your YouTube account to you Google account, and then you will be asked to create a channel. Your channel name should be the name you go under as an author, even if it is a pen name. It needs to match what is on your book covers. This is because it makes you easy to find on YouTube via search. It would not be helpful if readers were looking for Michael Crichton’s YouTube channel and he has called himself Peyton Manning, for example. You get the idea.

YouTube’s video upload system is extremely simple, and from a technical perspective, it’s functionality is kind of amazing. You literally just need to drag your video file into the box that appears from your desktop and it will compress your video (pretty much any file type under the sun) into a viewer-friendly YouTube video which can be seen in multiple sizes across the web in many languages. Isn’t technology amazing?

The next screen (once your video has completed uploading) will encourage you to add keywords, a video title and a description for the video, all of which you should do.

It is important that your video can be discovered not only through your website, but through your YouTube channel as well. All the videos you upload are stored on your channel, and others can subscribe to your channel with ease.

The little red “subscribe” button is a key element to watch on your channel, as when others subscribe this number will continue to go up!

Step 3: Embed Your Videos on your site

The final step is to cross-post your vlogs onto your website. YouTube makes this EXTREMELY simple. This is all you need to do:

  1. Click on the main URL of your YouTube video you would like to embed on your WordPress author website, which will look something like this (just an example)
  2. Below the video click the “share” button (underlined in the image above)
  3. Click the “embed” button which appears beneath the row with the “share” button.
  4. If you want to size your video appropriately you can select a different video size from the dropdown menu beneath. This will determine how large the video will appear on your website after embedding
  5. You will see a few lines of code appear once selecting “embed”. Go ahead and copy this code, then go to your WordPress author website.
  6. Open your vlog post and click on the “Text” tab that appears above and to the right of the post editor (if it is not already selected), as you need to be in text move to embed videos
  7. Paste this code directly into your editor in the place you would like your video to appear.

That’s it! You are done!

You have just created a YouTube channel, added a video to YouTube’s system, and then cross-posted it to your website.

I hope this was a helpful guide in getting started adding videos to your repertoire of blogging. It really as a great way to reach your audience and is a very good way to jumpstart your traffic numbers in the early going.

4 Ways to Use Video for Online Book Promotion

video-cameraThere’s no doubt about it: people love watching videos. Just scour the web and you’ll see  … video is pretty darn popular nowadays.

But just how can an author use video to promote his or her book? Here are a few ways…

1. Book trailer. People often ask me what a book trailer is. Well, it’s just like a movie trailer, but for a book! Now that’s a bit simplified (after all, a movie trailer usually involves cuts from an actual movie). But the concept is the same; create a video that serves as a teaser for the book and tell the story in a way that really whets people’s appetites. There are a variety of ways to create a book trailer — from hiring a production firm and actors to doing your own voiceover and using photos — but my best advice is to make sure your book trailer is top-notch. After all, if your video looks amateurish, what will people expect your book to be like?

Example: http://www.lostinplainsight.net/

2. Vlogging. We’ve talked a lot about the importance of author blogs. So what are author vlogs? Well, they’re pretty much blogs in video format. In other words, instead of writing your blog entries, you’d turn on the camera and talk through them. Regardless of what your blog is about — from politics to animals to humor — if you have a strong personality, then you should consider vlogging in place of blogging.

If you’re interested in vlogging, here’s a good video to get you started:

3. A website welcome video. For many authors, I recommend a welcome message on the author homepage. This message would welcome visitors to the website and briefly explain what the author hopes people will get out of the book and the website. Usually, this is done in a brief paragraph. But there’s no reason why it can’t be done in a video. In fact, a video can be far more welcoming than a few written sentences. After all, a video gives you the chance to present yourself to your readers and let your personality shine through!

Example: http://themanopauseman.com/

4. Video interviews. A recent article on Publishers Weekly talks about how academic publishers are jumping on the video interview bandwagon. You should, too! After all, having someone ask you good questions about yourself and your book, and having it recorded on camera, can be a great way to get your message out there.

Gregory Kornbluh, Web Content Manager for Harvard University Press (HUP), has been leading their video effort. He tells Publishers Weekly that HUP author videos each attract about 1,500–2,500 views, though some authors, like mathematician Paul Lockhart, author of Measurement, a book that offers elegant solutions to complex math problems, has racked up more than 23,000 views.

Regardless of which format you decide to use video in, the one most important thing you can do with each and every video is to put it on YouTube! In fact, I highly recommend creating a YouTube channel to house all your videos.

The benefits of having your video on YouTube are plentiful, including:

  • It allows other websites/bloggers to embed your video on their site
  • It helps drive traffic from YouTube to your website or blog
  • People can find videos on YouTube that they probably wouldn’t find just on your blog

Think about the best way that you can incorporate video into your online book promotion efforts. Then upload your videos to your site and to YouTube and see where it takes you!

 

Vlogging for Authors: Why a Video Presence is a Great Way to Connect (Part 1)

In this two-part guide, I will discuss the benefits of vlogging for authors and show you how to start your own video channel on YouTube to connect with your readers! Stay tuned. Part 2 will be posted a week from today.

Do you have an author blog, but are struggling to find new ways to connect with your visitors? Are you frustrated with the lack of comments and readers your blog receives?

Maybe it’s time to put things in motion!

Vlogging (otherwise known as video-blogging) is still a relatively new concept, and the vast majority of our authors do not make use of it’s potentially-vast power.

In fact, there are many ways in which vlogging can actually be superior to the old-fashioned medium of words on a computer screen.

Benefits of Vlogging over Blogging

1. It is more personal

This one is pretty obvious, but it can pay very large dividends quickly. It is often difficult to get a sense of an author’s personality when it’s just letters on a screen, even with very frequent blog posts. You an only connect with your readers so much if they can’t actually see you.

A video blog is another level of connection between you and your readers. It’s a great way to convey emotion, humor, and insight, and even use visual tricks to keep your followers much more engaged.

2. It can look professional

If you have a good web camera and video-editing software (which comes with almost all computers today) you can put together some nice-looking videos that can help you come off as engaged, professional and even “state of the art.”

Let’s say you’ve written some great books on leadership and innovation, like our client Soren Kaplan. If you give weekly or monthly business tips delivered on video and you put time, effort and thought into keeping the quality of those videos fresh and original, you can bet that they will eventually draw interest.

3. It offers another great way to track metrics and traffic: YouTube

Using YouTube for storage of your video blogs is optional, but we strongly recommend it. When your videos live on YouTube, you can easily embed them on your vlog.

You read that right… your videos can then be found BOTH on your website AND on YouTube. If someone searches “great business ideas” and happens to land on your video on YouTube, watches your video there, and sees that you have a website and a book, you may very well have a new follower (and reader). Imagine gaining a wealth of new followers and eventually vlogging weekly, with readers commenting on your YouTube channel and your blog. Wouldn’t that be nice? It’s very possible!

YouTube is just another way you can be discovered, and their great built-in analytics help you target your videos to specific audiences.

Closing Thoughts

Starting to feel lost? Fear not!

In Part 2 of this series we will be talking about how to get started vlogging from a technical perspective. I will walk you through a step-by-step process of setting up a YouTube account launching your vlogging career!

Should You Create an App Spinoff of Your Book?

It’s hard to believe, but the word “app” has become an essential part of the English language. Nearly every person with a smartphone uses apps in one way or another; from the app that helps you find the nearest gas station to the one that keeps you abreast on the latest news and events.

But books have been kind of late to the party. Very few authors have thought about taking their books and creating corresponding apps (and potentially increasing their profit margin).

Here are a few stories of successful app offshoots of print books:

shifter_book_app‘Shifter’ Book App
According to Publishers Weekly, “Anomaly Productions, an indie comics publisher specializing in digitally enhanced graphic novels, has released an app verision of Shifter, a sci-fi graphic novel with augmented reality technology that features actor Wil Wheaton and a cast of voice actors. Since its release last week the app has been the #1 selling book app in 25 countries. … The app features 200 pages of comics material, 65 interactive touch points and two and a half hours of audio.”

berenstain_bearsThe Berenstain Bears and Too Much Car Trip App
Yup. There’s an app for that. This app allows kids (and their parents, I suppose) to join the Berenstain Bears as they embark on a family road trip. The app claims to help children learn new vocabulary, while they personalize the story with their own narration and select-a-scene navigation.

draculaDracula: The Official Stoker Family Edition
This app was recommended by Common Sense Media as a one of the best apps for tweens/teens. As they describe it, this “classic tale makes for bloody, unique iPad book experience.” Sounds … fun?

So what do these apps have in common? And should you think about having an app made for your book? A few things to keep in mind…

  • The genre that has most saturated the app market is children’s books. This isn’t a surprise, as apps keep kids busy (and that keeps parents like me happy).
  • The only other genre that has really delved into the app market is graphic novels. Again, this makes sense: the visual, interactive qualities of that genre are perfect for an app market.
  • A book has to be successful before an app can take off. It costs a fair amount of money to make an app to correspond with your book. And you have to be confident that you’re making a sound investment. Everyone knows who the Berenstain Bears are and who Dracula is. Being a “fan” of these books will make people buy the corresponding apps. But, if you’re a new novelist, the likelihood that your app will sell before your book becomes mainstream is relatively small.

In summary….

  • If you’re a children’s author or a graphic novelist, an app may be in your future.
  • Once your book takes off, you should definitely think about an app for it. After all, who can say no to an additional revenue stream?

What Is Your Goal for Your Author Website (and Your Writing Career in General?)

It’s probably the most important question I ask authors before putting together a proposal for them: What are your goals for your author website?

Generally, there are three overarching goals that an author may or may not have for the site. Many authors are interested in more than one. They include:

  1. Self promotion
    For some authors, the most important thing is getting his or her name out there to build a fanbase, get speaking engagements, and pre-sell future books before they come out.
  2. Selling books
    Other authors want to put more focus on the books themselves and keep his/her profile in the backburner. For these authors, the books speak for themselves. I’ve had many authors who fit in this category tell me, “I’m just not that interesting.”
  3. Spreading the word
    For some non-fiction authors, the most important thing about publishing the books and building the website is to get the message out there. Maybe the books are about mental health. Or animal rights. Or something political. Regardless, this type of author website focuses on using the web to further enhance the messages of the books.

Clearly, each one of these three types of websites would be different. For example, an author-focused site should would have a large photo of the author in a prominent spot in the design, while a site that’s more focused on spreading the word would have other images and graphics that represent the message of the books. In addition, a site that’s focused on selling the book would have a larger “Buy the Book” button, while a site for an author who is trying to build a following would be encouraging people to enter their email address and join the mailing list.

These are just a few examples of the ways that an author with different website goals might be vastly different in design, layout, action items, etc…

Now, I’ve always been focused on an author’s goals for his or her website. But what about an author’s goals for his or her career? That’s what I stumbled across on a conversation on in a LinkedIn group.

The question posed was as follows: How do you define success as an author?

And, of course, the responses varied greatly. Here are a few of the more interesting ones…

Success as an author (for example, with regard to a book) entails several components:
–Making a contribution in terms of the “message”–whatever it might be. . .leading to
–Enhancing one’s reputation. . .
–Furthering one’s career and,
–Generating meaningful royalties:or other remuneration.
George Gold

The short answer for my definition of success as an author is to reach a readership significant enough to sustain my writing as a full time vocation.
Sam Edge

Money! Unless you write as a hobby.
Kim Hillman

I know no author in the field of gardening writing that makes a living only off of royalties from a publisher. And I know some VERY famous garden book writers. The money comes from consulting, design work, lectures, workshops and other media events. (I do all of these in order to keep on writing.) Books are a good springboard to new professions. At least in my “field”. (My web site generates only about 10% of my income.)
Robert Kourik

For me, success as a writer is much, much more about the satisfaction of seeing my words in print, and envisioning some young reader discovering one of my books and becoming inspired by something inside.
Andrew A. Kling

Books sales are great, don’t get me wrong, but to me, it’s the human connection that’s priceless 🙂
Bonnie Groessl

How do you define success as an author? What are your goals? Share them with us!

An Interesting Observation About Bookstores…

This blog post is very much off the topic of my usual posts (author websites), but I had a realization over the holiday break that I had to share with all my author friends.

You see … I took a day to myself during the holiday break. That’s right, an entire day dedicated to doing whatever struck my fancy. I decided to spend it visiting my old stomping grounds: the neighborhood in New York City in which I lived for over a decade, but that I moved away from nearly a decade ago.

I spent the day walking miles and miles, retracing every step that I used to take. I found myself excited to see when some of my favorite stores and restaurants were still there, and appalled when others had been replaced by Starbucks.

But there’s one particular thing I noticed that I feel compelled to share with all of you… and it has to do with bookstores.

What Stayed, What Went
Interestingly, all the big, multi-level bookstores that I used to frequent are gone. The Borders. The B&Ns. They’re replaced by Staples. Or a gym. There really are no more super-sized bookstores. They’ve been usurped by Amazon.

But do you know what was still there? Every single one of the little, mom-and-pop, specialty bookshops that I had visited for years. The travel bookstores, the gay bookstores, the tiny little bookstores that you can barely fit through the door of. They are all still alive and kicking.

So no matter what anyone says, small bookstores are still going. Even Amazon hasn’t squashed them.

I take some solace in knowing that all those bookstore owners are still doing enough business to stay afloat. Do your part to support them. I hope when I go wandering those same streets again (hopefully in less than a decade!), they will still be there.

 

9 Ways to Get Book Reviews (Not All of Them Ethical)

newspaper_book_reviewRemember when getting a book review involved a pre-pub copy of your book being sent to the NY Times, Publishers Weekly, etc…? Boy, how times have changed.

And while those reviews are still golden, today’s world of self-published authors, Amazon, and online reviews have turned the concept of book reviews upside down.

With that in mind, here are some ways that authors like you can get reviews of their books nowadays (and my commentary at the end):

1. Reach out to reviewers and bloggers in your genre. Submit an e-copy of your book to a reviewer or blogger and explain why his/her readership would benefit from exposure to your book.

2. Offer to exchange reviews with another newly-published author. This type of authors swap is becoming very popular.

3. Email friends and family asking them to post reviews of your book on Amazon. Extra points if that same person has actually purchased it from Amazon; that way, the review is labeled as a “verified purchase”

4. Communicate with people on GoodReads who are interested in books in your genre. Bring your book to their attention.

5. Look for Amazon reviewers who commonly review books in your genre. Tell them about your book and see if they’d be interested in a free copy.

6. Make it easy for readers to contact you. Then, when people send you comments about your book, ask for their permission to use it as a sort of review. You can also ask them to reprint it on Amazon, if they don’t mind.

7. Remind, remind, remind. Do you have followers on Facebook? People who read your blog? Keep reminding them to review your book on Amazon or GoodReads.

8. Pay for a Kirkus review. Yup, you can do that now. Say what you wish.

And now on to #9 … a really interesting (albeit, controversial) method I read about on LinkedIn…

 

9. Incentivize it for your readers! Here’s the quote from one author, who will remain nameless:

Basically, readers earn points for making recommendations. A reader gets so many points for each recommendation and a larger number of points if the person emailed to purchases the book. Readers then earn a proportionate share in the profits based on the ratio of their points to total points.

In my case, I’m going to share 50% of the cash receipts (instead of profits because I think that works better) hoping that the extra volume of sales will provide me with a greater net return than if I did not share the cash receipts.

Well, that’s …. creative. Is it a marketing tactic? Of course! Is it legal? Yup. Is it ethical? Well, that’s questionable. After all, what reader would write a negative review of a book if he/she has a potential to reap a percentage of the profits?

And that’s where all of this gets sticky. In the old days, you knew that a book review you were reading was a real review. If a review had five stars, that’s because the book was good enough to deserve five stars.

But today, when you read a review, you have no idea about the “agreement” that went into the review. Was the reviewer a relative of the author? Was he/she being paid for it? Is he/she getting a percentage of the profits from the book?

So are these techniques ethical? Well, that’s not my place to judge. But they are techniques that can be used to generate some reviews for your book. Use them at your own peril.

And if you have other techniques for getting reviews, please share them with us!

Collecting Author Feedback: Great Minds … or Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

book-coverI came across a conversation on LinkedIn this morning. One author was bouncing a few book title ideas off the other members of the group. He/she wanted to know which one everyone liked better.

And this isn’t the first time I’ve seen something like that. I’ve seen other authors asking for feedback on book covers, website designs, and more.

So is this a good idea?

Reasons to Do It
What better way to utilize social media than to get feedback on things before they are finalized? Just like it makes sense to bounce baby names off of other people (they may notice something you don’t, like inappropriate initials or bad nickname combinations), it makes sense to bounce book titles off people as well. They may spot something that you don’t.

I can personally say that I’ve been the person providing that feedback/insight before. I once worked for a company that wanted to use the tagline on their site, “We’re all in this together.” Clearly, none of them had family members who watched High School Musical. Fortunately, I did. And I alerted them to this, which was honestly all I could think about as I heard that name:

Needless to say, they went in another direction. In cases like these, it’s a very, very good idea to put your ideas out there.

Reasons Not to Do It
If you think I’m convinced that every author should be doing this before titling a book, approving a book cover, or launching a website … well, I’m not. And here’s why.

Writing is, in many ways, an art form. Sure, it’s also a business. But at its core, it’s a skill and creative talent, not all that different from painting or sculpting. Do you think great artists run their ideas by the general public before finishing (or naming) their work? Probably not…

Many authors write out of inspiration. They have a vision. They have a message. Once you start questioning that vision and collecting feedback, the message begins to get watered down.

Think of it like the difference between an Oscar-winning movie and a TV movie that airs on one of the major networks: one is a true work of art (with little to no limitations) and the other is a watered down, shortened, cleaned up version. Which one is really better?

When it comes to art, there really is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen.

In Summary…
My philosophy in life is always this: do what works for you. Whether we’re talking about religion, medicine or authorship, there is no one “right” answer. Some authors may get incredible feedback by bouncing their ideas off of others. Other authors are better off following their instincts and sticking to their guns.

As with many things in life, it’s up to you to figure out which path to take.

That said, if you have any positive/negative experiences doing this in the past, please share them with us!

Is Blogging a Waste of Time for Authors?

Credit: JaneFriedman.com

A decade ago, blogging was a relatively new concept. Authors who jumped in grabbed a hold of the marketshare and never let go. Blogging was the hottest new thing.

Fast forward to 2013. Just about every author is told to start blogging when their book is released (or earlier). But does it have the same value that it used to?

I argue that it’s still worth an author’s time. After all, how are people going to learn about an author and his/her book if he or she doesn’t post regular blog entries about topics in the news related to the book’s subject matter. Sure, you can do something similar via Facebook/Twitter, but come on … you’re a writer. You need a place to … you know … write.

But not everyone agrees with me. In fact, I just read an article this morning by L.L. Barkat about why blogging is a waste of time for authors. Here’s an excerpt:

Does this mean I would recommend that everyone stop blogging? No. I encourage new bloggers, just the way I always have. It’s an excellent way to find expression, discipline, and experience. But if writers already have experience, and they are authors trying to promote themselves and their work, I tell them to steer clear. If they’ve already found themselves sucked into the blogging vortex, I suggest they might want to give it up and begin writing for larger platforms that don’t require reciprocity (an exhausting aspect to blogging and a big drain on the writer’s energy and time).

Someone will disagree with me and point to a case like best-selling author Ann Voskamp, and I will point them back to the facts. Yes, Voskamp made it big largely because of the power of her blogging platform, but she had the power of being first. Before blogging was a “thing,” Voskamp was already blogging quietly and steadily in 2003. Before blog networks came of age, she was writing for one of the few women’s sites that also had the power of being first. Time cannot be turned back. Few authors can make of themselves what Voskamp did—not for lack of talent but for lack of timing and sheer cyber-longevity.

Sure, he has a point. Blogging isn’t what it used to be. But is it time to give it up? I’m not sure I would quite go that far yet.

What do you think? Is it time for authors to quit blogging? Tell us your thoughts!