Thursday, May 31, 2012

Selling Books With Social Networking: #6, Google

I'm posting a series on using social networking to promote books,
based on material from my new book,

Google operates the Internet’s dominant search engine and the service responds to about one billion search requests daily in multiple languages from all over the world.
Its stated objective is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Google’s “bots” (computer robots) constantly scan websites so the site’s content is available to searchers.

While it is likely that your own website and blogs will be Googled, Google also allows you to post a “Profile” so you can “decide what the world sees when it searches for you.” This can help if you have a very limited presence on Google, or if you want to try to counteract bad online publicity. In the past, Google profiles were text-only, but now the feature has been merged with Google+ (more later) and allows photos as well. Here’s part of my profile:

(below) Like LinkedIn and Yahoo, Google hosts groups dealing with many subjects. Unfortunately, when I checked, they were filled with spam and there was little worth reading.

Search engines provide what I like to call "passive social networking." Google will make your information available without you doing any work.

Some people will find your website or blog by searching for terms that are within the site, and others may search for the name of your company (which may be your publishing company), a book or your personal name. If Google thinks your  blog or your company is important, it will provide links to interior pages—not just the home page.

My Silver Sands Books site gets treated just as well as book giant Simon & Schuster, which is part of CBS. Simon publishes about 2,000 book titles each year. In our best year, we did eight (and we’re cutting back)—but Google makes us look important.  

Here's how Google treats this blog:

One of my less important blogs has multiple links, but shows no details:

Google+ (pronounced “Google Plus”) is Google’s effort to build a social network to rival Facebook. You can set up a “profile” with basic information. “Circles” make it easy to share specific information, photos, videos, links, etc. There are “share boxes” on Google sites and +1 buttons elsewhere on the web which make it easy to share with your circles. You get to decide who sees what.

Mick Rooney’s profile is below. He’s an author, and also publishes the online Independent Publishing Magazine.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Selling Books With Social Networking: #5, Quora

I'm posting a series on using social networking to promote books,
based on material from my new book,

 Quora is “an information network that connects you to everything you want to know about.” Quora was founded by two former Facebook employees in 2009 and won a TechCrunch award for Best New Startup or Product of 2010. It says it “aims to be the easiest place to blend new content with the best of what’s on the web. We organize people and their interests so you can actually find, collect and share the information most valuable to you. When you want to know more about something, Quora delivers you answers and content from people who share your interests and people who have first-hand knowledge—like real doctors, economists, screenwriters, police officers, and military veterans. On Quora, it’s easy to create a personalized homepage of everything you want to know about by following topics, questions, people and boards.”

As with similar services, find a question that relates to your experience or expertise, and gently plug your book. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Selling Books With Social Networking: #4, Yahoo Groups

I'm posting a series on using social networking to promote books,
based on material from my new book,

Yahoo Groups are similar to LinkedIn Groups, and there is some overlap in both topics and participants. Some groups have fewer than a dozen members, some have thousands. Some participants are experts and some are newbies. If you write nonfiction, find some questions to answer. Point out that you’ve written a book on the subject that provides even more information. The signature of your message can provide links to your booksellers, website, blogs, Facebook page, etc.

(below) Yahoo also provides an Answers service where anyone can ask or answer anything. As with Yahoo’s groups, you can answer a question to build credibility and provide links to websites that sell your books.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chop his fingers off!

The asshole who tried to post this crap on my phone system forum should have his fingers removed without an anesthetic. I HATE SPAMMERS. This morning I had to delete more than 90 spam messages while approving four legitimate messages. It's a really annoying waste of time. People on a telecom forum should not have to deal with promos for designer shoes, mortgage refinancing, fake jewelry, gambling vacations, luggage and breast enlargement. Spamming is a horrible misuse of language and technology and should be punished with shariah-style justice.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Selling Books With Social Networking: #3, Twitter

I'm posting a series on using social networking to promote books,
based on material from my new book,

Twitter is said to have over 140 million active users. It’s a social network and microblogging venue which enables people to send and read tiny bits of text, known as “tweets.”

And now a confession: I do not tweet (at least not yet) so some of this section is based on research, not experience. I simply don’t think I can be entertaining or interesting with just 140 letters, spaces and punctuation marks to work with. Also, I don’t think people want to hear from me around the clock.

I’m quite satisfied with LinkedIn and Facebook for networking. (However, even Facebook has a page on Twitter.)

I’ve had a Twitter account for several years. It collects lots of useful inbound tweets for me but I have never used it to transmit a tweet. The screenshot below shows that I follow 38 others and have eight “followers.” I have no idea why. I wonder what they expect from me. 

For social networking, Twitter relies on followers. If you decide to follow another Twitterer, tweets [this sounds like a conversation in nursery school] from that person or company show up on your Twitter page.

If you want to promote books with Twitter, you must tweet, and tweets have to be interesting enough to develop followers who may be so impressed that they “re-tweet” your tweets to others. If you want followers, put your Twitter handle (user name with URL) in email signatures, in postings and on your websites, blogs, books and business cards. The handle must be unique, like "," and have no more than 15 characters (I think).

By the way, most Twits donlt know this, but "handle" is an old ham radio slang term for a nickname, that was later used by Citizens Band Radio addicts. My CB handle was Big Beard. I haven't thought about that in about35 years.

Every tweet has a unique URLlike a websiteand should be noticed by search engines; so include important keywords and the name of the book you want to promote.

Be prepared to respond to tweets from othersespecially readers and potential readers.

Twitter allows users to publish a “profile” page that can help sell books. Below is the profile for novelist Victoria Strauss, who is also the co-founder of Writer Beware, an important site for authors.

If you’re not sure of the difference between a handle and a hashtag, this glossary will help.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Selling Books With Social Networking: #2, LinkedIn

I'm posting a series on using social networking to promote books,
 based on material from my new book,

LinkedIn is a website mostly used for business and professional networking, particularly job seeking and employee seeking. It reportedly has more than 150 million users worldwide. Users upload resumes or profiles to show their work history and professional accomplishments, and list their objectives such as to make deals or get hired.

Writers can post information in their profiles that may help readers decide if their work is worthwhile. If you’ve won a Pulitzer Prize or are a member of a prestigious society, mention it. Your profile may also help you get a writing gig—or help old friends or bill collectors find you. Links may be put on your profile to direct people to your websites, blogs, booksellers, etc. The links may boost your search engine positionand sell some books.

(below) Here’s the profile for writer Ivan Berger, who specializes in electronics, photography and automotive topics. I’ve known Ivan since around 1969. Back then, his business card impressed me. It said, “Ivan Berger, Writer.” I copied that on my card and letterhead.

(below) LinkedIn hosts a huge number of groups dealing with subjects ranging from acne to Zimbabwe where people ask and answer questions. If you’ve written a book, presumably you are an expert on a subject or have had experience that’s relevant to someone else. Find some questions to answer. If you write nonfiction, point out that you’ve written a book on the subject that provides even more information. The “signature” of your message can provide links to your booksellers, website, blogs, Facebook page, etc.

(below) LinkedIn Answers allows people to ask questions to be answered by presumed experts, but doesn’t require selecting a group. Again, when you answer a question, your signature can contain links to promote your writing. If you answer a lot of questions well, you can be branded as an “Expert,” which gives you more visibility.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Selling Books With Social Networking: #1, Facebook

I'll be posting a series on using social networking to promote books,
 based on material from my new book,

If Facebook was a country instead of a social network, it would be one of the most populous countries on earth. Its population is approaching one billion “members”—including more than 40% of Americans.

With such widespread use and familiarity, it should not be necessary to devote much space to Facebook. But if your main activities on FB have been wishing people “happy birthday,” showing silly photos, complaining about politicians and announcing what you had for lunch, you’re missing a lot. It’s time to think of FB as a venue for selling books by interacting with friends, readers and potential readers.

An FB page can be a very powerful sales tool, and it has several advantages over a website:
·     It’s free.
·     You don’t need any special skills or any software (other than a web browser) to set up a Facebook page.
·     You can modify your page whenever you want, as often as you want, from any computer or computer-like device with Internet access.
·     Many people expect authors to be on Facebook.

If you already have a personal FB “page,” it can also be your author page. If you prefer, you can have multiple pages for you as a person, as an author and as a publisher. You can even have a page for a series of books. or for one book.

Many FB users have hundreds or even thousands of FB “friends” and “fans.” Some are people known since kindergarten, others are neighbors or business associates, and still others are friends of friends, or people met online who share common interests, or even unknown admirers. It should not be difficult to convert some friends into readers.

FB is a great place to tell the word about you and your books. If people “like” your page, or “like” or “share” your postings or comments, you may get additional fans and some of them may buy books. Use FB to let people know what you are working on, when future books will be available, where you will be making public appearances, etc.

The area at the top of your page is officially called the “timeline cover” and can be simple or elaborate. You can build it from scratch with any graphics program, or even with Microsoft Word. There are also templates online. Approximate dimensions for the cover are 850 by 315 pixels.

(above) Bestselling legal-thriller author John Grisham uses his FB page to announce new books and to interact with fans (but someone at publisher Doubleday apparently does most of the FB posting for him). His page is business-only. You won’t find what TV shows he likes or his email address.

(above) Sue Dent’s FB page identifies her as “Author Sue Dent” and it promotes her latest werewolf book. The page tells about Sue’s writing awards, has links to her websites and blogs, and includes personal information such as her birthday, family members, high school and email address.

(above) “ZoeWinters” is a pen name for a paranormal romance author, so her Facebook page exists to promote books, not to discuss childhood memories. Facebook generally requires members to use their real names, but writers and performers can use their professional names.
(above) Stephen King’s page shows just him, not his books. Interestingly, he felt the need to identify himself as a writer, unlike John Grisham who is just John Grisham. Maybe that’s because there are lots of Stephen Kings.

(above) J. K. Rowling apparently felt no need to develop a Facebook page, so Facebook shows information from Wikipedia.

(above) My own timeline cover shows a lot of silly photos, and recent books that I want to promote. I use the page for both personal and business use, and also have an incomplete page for my publishing company, Silver Sands Books.

(above) In addition to personal pages, FB hosts pages dealing with many topics including various New York City neighborhoods, the U. S. Civil War, Miles Davis, the Honeymooners, baby boomers, menopause, Star Trek, Star Wars, Pawn Stars and dinosaurs. If you’ve written a relevant book, make a relevant comment and plug the book.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rethinking how a book can be read

Since the time that books were scrolls, most of them were sequential devices, intended to be read from beginning to end.

And authors and publishers expected readers to stay focused on what was on the pages and not be distracted by outside influences.

An e-book like my new 499 Essential Publishing Tips for a Penny Apiece is very different. It's the first e-book I've written as an e-book, rather than converting an already existing printed book. It has color and hyperlinks and is searchable. I didn't have to be conscious of the number of pages I wrote because it costs nothing to print each page. The selling price has nothing to do with the production cost. An e-book with 1,000 pages is no heavier or bulkier than one with 32 pages.

While I wrote the e-book with a beginning and an end, you can start reading anywhere. You are free to choose a topic from the table of contents, or by searching for a specific term, or you can just keep swiping your finger across the screen and stop at something that interests you.

Rather than trying to monopolize your time and attention, I’ve provided lots of hyperlinks to send you into cyberspace for more information, opinions and entertainment.

If you are reading where you have Internet access, the book functions more like a website -- or maybe like an old library's "card catalog" -- than a book. For better or for worse, your reading experience will be affected by the links you choose to follow -- not only by what I’ve written.

(Torah scroll photo from The Foundation Stone)

Friday, May 18, 2012

there are no secrets in books

"Secrets" are exciting. Starting in childhood, everyone wants to learn some special, restricted bit of information. The American government has a Secret Service and the United Kingdom has an Official Secrets Act. Lots of very smart people spend their careers trying to uncover or protect secrets -- especially "top secrets."

"I've Got a Secret" was an extremely popular TV show that originally aired from 1952 until 1967. It was revived for brief sessions in 1972-'73 and in 1976 and from 2000-'03. There was even an at-home game based on the show.

In Animal House, Delta Tau Chi fraternity was put on "Double Secret Probation" by Faber College Dean Wormer who wanted to find a way to ban the fraternity for bad behavior and bad grades.  

Do you want to know a secret? was an extremely popular Beatles song from the 1963 album Please Please Me, sung by George Harrison.The single reached #2 on the Billboard chart in 1964 and the #1 position in 1981.

Apparently, lots of people want to know secrets, especially "dirty little secrets." lists more than 150,000 books with "secret" in the title. Some are fiction, and many are nonfiction. The term is a very popular book title cliche. A huge number of books use "secrets of success" in their titles.

Here's a dirty little secret: none of the books promising secrets actually reveal secrets because no secrets are secret after even one person reads the secret.

The author of Secrets of Self Publishing 2 is so proud of his secrecy that he put the title TWICE on the cover of the book. The slim book is badly written, badly formatted and apparently unedited. I found exactly one alleged secret in the book: "The secrets of self-publishing are the same as the secrets of success. One must be willing to research all outlets, and find a method which fits your program." That's not much of a secret.

I questioned the author about the apparent lack of secrets. He wrote to me: "In regards to your question (statement). It kind of reminds me of a many centuries old question millions of Christians and Muslims have about life. They read their holy books, go to services weekly. Yet beyond the parables have not been able to extract the simplicity of life that one does not need a book, treatise, big words or to be around others to understand. They go out into the world, and when they're out of their religious houses they're not good people at all. Yet life is very simple, all things are interconnected. All you have to do is Respect all life. This understanding is Love at its highest form. Both books display this. Yet the people don't see b/c its not spelled out to them. In regards to The Secrets of Self Publishing, self publishing as outlined can be done many ways. A business period in order to be a success needs to be built around the individuals personality and initiatives. Self Publishing is no different, the (book)work speaks about stepping outside of the box and developing a program based around the author/publishers abilities. This is so even though authors and publishers run around following and stealing programs and ideas from others. Some find success, most don't, and some of the ones who find early success will run into problems in the longrun. A copy is nothing like the original.  In so many words the work advises people to learn the basics of self publishing, then develop their own program. In this is the Secret. Be Blessed."

It's nice to be blessed, but I'd rather learn some secrets.

E-Book Publishing Secrets has 24-pages and sells for $15! When I checked, it had no reviews on Amazon and almost no sales. I’m not surprised. Who would pay more than sixty cents per page for a book? (The subtitle has several grammatical errors—bad for a book about publishing.) Of course, there are no secrets in the book. Strangely, the author likes to refer to himself as "Mr." John Wallace Hayes.

Please find some way to attract readers to your book without putting "SECRETS" in the title.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Don't ignore your back cover

Most authors -- but not enough authors -- pay a lot of attention the front covers of their books.

Every book that has a front cover also has a back cover (unless someone tore it off, or it’s an e-book).

In a physical bookstore, the back cover is an important selling tool. Your back cover is an advertisement. Make the most of it. It gives you an excellent opportunity to convince a prospective customer to purchase the book he or she has plucked from a shelf or display.

It’s very different when you are selling online. Amazon does not automatically show your back cover. If you want potential customers to see it and read it, you have to upload the image yourself by clicking on "Share your own customer images."

(above) It’s customary to indicate the book’s classification, such as “humor” or “gardening,” so bookstore people know where to put the book. There’s no rule against listing two classifications such as “history” and “geography” if they both apply. Find out how competitive books are classified, and check the huge book subject list at the Book Industry Study Group. The classification is usually printed at the top of the back cover.

(above) If you want your book to be sold by booksellers, your back cover must show an ISBN and its associated bar code, which usually go at the bottom of the back cover.

Many books have their prices printed near the ISBN bar codeand many don’t. If you don’t have a printed price, it makes it easier for you to experiment with price changes.

Here’s what else you should include on the back:
  • What the book is about and why people should buy it
  • Comments (blurbs) from readers and reviewers if available (see top photo)
  • Unless you are a superstar, your brief biography, to establish yourself as an authority in the field you are writing about (less important for fiction and poetry)
  • Your photo -- a studio portrait, not an amateur snapshot (unless it is elsewhere in the book)
  • Name of publishing company, with city, state and web URL
  • (Optional) list price for United States and possibly other countries, particularly Canada

Your back cover needs as much attention as your front cover -- in writing, editing, design and formatting. The back cover shown above has many problems:
  • The first two ‘sentences’ are not really sentences.
  • The second ‘sentence’ has three unnecessary apostrophes.
  • The last sentence has one unnecessary apostrophe.
  • The third sentence has an unnecessary comma -- and probably should be several sentences.
  • The text has full justification, but lacks hyphens, so there are horrible gaps between words.
  • The writing also has problems. In the last sentence in the second paragraph, “poses” is probably not the best word to use. In the last paragraph, Malik is described as “conscious.” The proper word is probably “conscientious.” Where was the editor?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Self-publishing authors: please try harder

Recently, on the SPAN website, I read a very poorly prepared book announcement written by a good storyteller who needs help making the transition to publisher.

The new book is in a genre (Christian "end times" fiction) that I have no interest in. I probably would not have read beyond the headline, but that headline was so terribly amateurish (and so unnecessarily terrible) that I read more and found more to complain about.

The announcement's title is "Times of Trouble a Christian fiction End Times novel."  (Emphasis added)

Author Cliff Ball says he has published six books and has a BA degree in English. Hey Cliff, I'd think that by now you'd know that it's not necessary to point out that a novel is fiction (unless it's being compared to a "non-fiction novel" like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood). I realize that  Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls is not Harvard or Yale, but surely some professor must've pointed that out. Sadly, the ugly template-derived book cover repeats the redundancy error.

The book promo is flawed by sloppy writing and grammatical errors:
  • Cliff says "many Americans had known for over two hundred years." Huh? How many Americans live for more than 200 years?
  • Also, "Told in first person point of view, Brian Atwood, our main character, is . . ." Brian is not told in first-person, the book is.
  • "His work involves mostly cyber terrorism . . . ." That sounds like he is a terrorist, not someone who fights terrorism.
  • Brian's faith is tested every day as he deals with a man that [should be "who"] has no morals . . . ." 
On the SPAN site, I pointed out some of the errors and said, "I hope the book is better edited than this promo, and I strongly urge you to re-do the promo before you circulate it further."

Sadly, I then found that the same poorly crafted promo is on Cliff's website, booksellers' sites, and even on the back cover of the book.

The back cover bio tells us that Cliff "was led to the Lord when he was five by his mother." How could anyone who writes such a crappy sentence have a degree in the English language? Could I be five by my mother? Cliff -- or an editor -- should have rewritten this.

Sadly, the book apparently had no editor ("Delaney's" is not the plural of "Delaney," "withdrawal of Iraq" should be "from Iraq," "look-out" doesn't need a hyphen) -- or a designer.

The cover uses a common and uninteresting CreateSpace template. The interior is ugly and screams "AMATEUR." The text is set flush-left, and there are no hyphens, so pages are ragged and jagged. Even if Cliff was too broke or too egomaniacal to hire a designer, a little bit of research could have led to a much nicer book.

The copyright page says that the book was published by Cliff Ball. This is not Cliff's first book. When he did his first book, he should have established a name for his publishing company.

An amateur's book that has to compete with professionals' books has to look professional. It's not difficult.

While I have no interest in Christian fiction (I'm not even sure why it exists) or the "end times," and almost never read fiction, I did read enough of the online preview to know that Cliff is a good storyteller. It's a shame that he doesn't care enough about his words to invest in professional editing and design.

Sadly, many other authors make the same mistake.

One Amazon reviewer wrote: "I found myself disappointed with this book, most especially because the cover of the book states that this is the author's sixth book, and his degree is in English. A good editing would have been a great help to the story. While the story line was an interesting one, I found the quality of writing left a lot to be desired. There were enough grammatical and punctuation errors to be distracting."


The mission of SPAN (Small Publishers Association of North America) is to support self publishing authors and independent publishing companies as a non-profit trade association. It provides a lot of valuable services to both established pros and newbies. I've been a SPAN member for several years, and recommend it.

Writers often use its website as a venue to announce new books, and perhaps to get the attention of other members, and maybe get them to buy, read and recommend the books.

Since SPAN is an alliance of sympathetic supporters of small publishers, I'd think that someone with a new book to promote would try really hard to impress members.