Tag Archives: self-publishing

Why Similarities Are Important In Book Marketing

We’re new to the publishing industry and so we have been, for the last year or more, eagerly devouring articles from industry notables in an attempt to “school” ourselves in the language and practice of publishing. We have, in particular, learned quite a bit from Peter McCarthy and Mike Shatzkin, founders of Logical Marketing. Their posts have not only enlightened us but have reassured us that we are heading down the right road in the development of our Audience Management Platform for Writers.

A recent presentation by McCarthy entitled The Big Ideas in Big (or Small) Marketing Data reinforced for us the critical role that “similarities” play in book marketing. The sweet spot, as McCarthy notes, is to use similarities to find the audience that is “unaware [of my book] and just might [buy)” it. These adjacent  or “look-alike” audiences are comprised of people who are similar to our own followers or to a specific profile. They share the same demographic characteristics, use the same hashtags, etc. They may, in fact, like the same books.

Set of Black and White Feather.

We have trod down the same path as McCarthy in searching for those look-alike audiences – though we may use different terms and perhaps have received different inspiration for doing so. We are inspired by the philosopher Wittgenstein’s meditations on how “language” means (through “family resemblances”) and also from the linguist de Saussure, who posited that language was comprised of similarities and differences between words or signs.

This is not a leap, of course, for most writers – or readers. Amazon, Netflix and other companies have fashioned their recommendation engines so that we are constantly reading or viewing or listening to “similar” things (fortunately we can be a fan of many genres!). And many social media users are experts at finding similar hashtags through the use of www.hashtagify.me and other tools.

So we have been, instinctively, using similarities (or analogies) all along in our search for an audience (and for meaning in general). And this makes sense – as Douglas Hofstadter writes in Surfaces and Essences, “analogy is the fuel and fire of thinking.” It also drives what we are doing at Find My Audience. We are trying to automate that process, however. Take, for example, the screen presented below.

 

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This is our Profile Screen. Here we ask writers to tell us what genre(s) their book fits into, similar books, and keywords or phrases that might describe their book. Later on, the writer will be able to provide a fuller profile, but for now, these inputs are sufficient. We use those inputs to search the social web not only for matches but for similarities to the inputs the writer entered. Below is a sample screen return from our search of Twitter.

 

fma-audience-twitter-people

 

Note that our application returns users who have been “ranked” as being potentially predisposed based on the language they are using. We then enable you to communicate directly with that user. By narrowing down the audience, we save the writer time and we provide a direct-to-consumer marketing vehicle.

There are a lot of neat feat features in our Audience Management Application and in the weeks to come we will start to share them with you. In the meantime, should you want to be on our beta list of users, send us an e-mail at mark@findmyaudience.com.

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Interview With Susan Hughes: Editor Par Excellence

susan2Susan Hughes

Hi Susan, can you describe for us what an “ideal” editor does?
An ideal editor is one who forms a bond and a level of trust with the writer, enabling the writer to have the confidence to hand over his/her precious words—to an absolute stranger!  That trust is built through prompt, friendly communication. Writers have lots of questions about editing, and an ideal editor will be there daily to answer those questions, even before the edit begins.  Then comes the edit itself, and if the bond has been formed, it will be a positive, rewarding, and successful experience for both writer and editor and will hopefully lead to a long working relationship and friendship between the two parties.

 What constitutes a successful edit?
Great question! I feel an edit is a success if the writer is satisfied with the end product. The icing on the cake, however, is when the writer sends me a second editing job—a sequel, perhaps—and I can see that my instruction and suggestions have been taken to heart and incorporated in the next manuscript. Then I know I did my job!

What is the editor’s relationship to the writer?
It’s very important for the editor and the writer to become a team in order for the edit to be successful.  As an editor, however, I accept the fact that I’m not the captain of the team.  I’m not the one who wrote the words or spent hours enveloped in the creative process.  The editor begins with a secondary role and then works to build that trust with the writer that will eventually level the playing field a bit.  

Writers come to you at different stages in their career, with different talents, writing in different genres, and so on. Do you have to customize your editing for each writer?
I edit in the same manner for each writer, regardless of writing skill level or genre.  I use MS Word Track Changes to allow the writer to accept or reject my suggestions.  Writers who have come to know and trust me often ask me to make the changes directly to their manuscript, saving them precious time as they head toward publication.  All edits are customized according to the type of edit the writer requests—whether it’s a basic proofread, a line edit, a developmental edit, or a combination of these.

Self-publishing has exploded in the last few years. Has this resulted in an increase of writers reaching out to you?
Absolutely!  Anyone can be a “published  author” today, thanks to the availability and ease of self-publishing.   I’ve done free edits for many people who think they can just put words on paper and someone will buy their book. Sadly, many people are putting their writing out there without going through the painstaking (and expensive!) process of editing.  It’s those people who have given self-publishing a bad name.

I think I’ve veered from your question; obviously this topic is one about which I have much to say!

But yes, I have seen an increase in the number of writers seeking editing, thanks in large part to the availability of self-publishing.

 You were an educator for 29 years. Do you see editing as an extension of what you did as an educator?
Yes, I do! As an editor I’m still an educator and see the writer as my student, to some extent.  My job is not only to make the words shine and the sentences flow more smoothly, but to actually teach the writer how to make this happen on their own. My edits contain lots of tips and suggestions that, if incorporated, will result in the writer being much better at his/her craft.  Once a teacher, always a teacher.

You offer a free edit to writers so they can see what you offer. Has this been an effective marketing technique for you?
Offering the free edit was by far the smartest thing I did when getting started as an independent editor.  I didn’t really see it as a marketing tool at first, though. My original focus was on finding a way to gauge a writer’s ability level before offering a quote for services.  The free edit was perfect for that. But then I began to notice that this free edit was drawing writers to me—writers who wanted to see what I could do for them. So the free edit turned into a win-win for both writer and editor. I get a good look at the writer’s skill level, enabling me to determine how long an edit will take and offer a fair quote for my services, and the writer gets to see firsthand what a professional editor can do for them.  It’s my chance to shine, to strut my stuff! If I can impress a writer through that free edit, I’ve got one foot in the door!

After all the editing you do, do you still feel like reading for pleasure?
Reading is my favorite pastime. I still try to save time for pleasure reading every evening, and it’s nice to be able to just enjoy a good story without trying to pinpoint errors and “fix” things. I do notice mistakes though, even when reading for pleasure. It can put a damper on things if I let it, but I try not to do that.

You have a new web site going up. When does that go live and why did you redesign it?
I’m actually going to be doing some revamping of the old site, at the suggestion of my wonderful tech guy.  I’m not sure exactly what he has in mind, but I know it will be wonderful.  I recently had a new PR photo taken to replace the one of me in the rocking chair.  While I am a proud grandma, I certainly don’t need to look like one! I also have some new testimonials and links that need to be added, so we’ll be doing some basic updating.  I expect it will be all polished and up by late next week.

 Lastly, how can writers get in touch with you?
I can be reached by email at myindependenteditor@gmail.com.  I also can be found on Twitter, promoting  my clients and marketing my business @hughesedits4u.

I encourage all writers who would like more information about me and my services to visit my website at www.myindependenteditor.com .  To take advantage of my free edit, 1000 words can be submitted directly from the website, using the link provided there.

In conclusion, I want to thank you for conducting this interview with me and giving me the opportunity to share a little bit about myself with your readers.  I’m honored to have been asked to do so.

Disclosure from FindMy Audience: We are, of course, biased in Susan’s favor, as one of our colleagues, Mark, had his work edited by Susan, and is encouraging the rest of us to do likewise!

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The Writer’s DashBoard: Game On!

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Where’s Your Audience?

In previous posts we have lamented the fact that we writers don’t have a Writer’s Dashboard that would enable us, through some “algorithmic magic,” to find out where our potential readers are on the web.  Certainly the technology is there – the semantic analysis, the predictive modeling, the natural language processing. Call us optimists (we are writers, after all), but we envisioned a time when those capabilities would be used on our behalf. We envisioned a time when, prior to sitting down to write, we could consult The Writer’ Dashboard and see the smiling faces of our potential readers, all of them out there on the web, just waiting for our work. What an impetus to create!

Well, that time is coming! FindMyAudience has just received seed funding and we hope to have a beta version of our software up and running in 4-6 months.

Here’s our Mission Statement:

Find My Audience helps Writers succeed by giving them the ability to locate and engage with targeted individuals and communities across the Social Web who are likely to appreciate their work.

Our team is comprised of tech industry veterans who between them have started multiple tech ventures; secured varying levels of angel and venture capitalization; taken companies through acquisition; worked in e-commerce and publishing; and earned advanced academic degrees in literature. All are passionate advocates of the arts who have created and marketed their own work. Here are their bios.

During the months ahead, we’d love to hear from you about what you would like to see when you wake up in the morning thinking about your audience!

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Talking ‘Bout A Revolution: This Ain’t It

I’ve always loved Penguin, more specifically, the Penguin Classics. When I was an undergraduate, I set myself the task of reading every single Penguin Classic that had been published. I can’t say I reached that goal, but my book shelves still contain quite a few of those works, and I remember my time with them with feelings of joy and, yes, nostalgia.

So it was with great interest that I read about Book Country, a service that the Penguin Group offers to writers of genre fiction. David Shanks, CEO of Penguin Group, told the WSJ that the company had invested a “substantial amount of money” in the new technology.

And there’s the rub. I’m just not seeing any innovative technology. Yes, there are community and networking elements, and while helpful, these are not new innovations. Indeed, it makes it look like Penguin was a little late to the game, and cobbled together a variety of functional (read: social) elements to cloak their true intent: that is, to sell high-priced services and to take a distribution fee.

The wonderful Joe Konrath said that he “threw up in his mouth” when he looked at what Book Country was offering. Perhaps he realized that the lamb he was eating was really mutton?

Konrath has done a great job at detailing what Book Country is all about: high-priced formatting services and a stake in your revenues. Makes sense: for lack of better ideas, services are where the lowest-hanging financial fruit swings.

But what bothers me is simply the lack of innovation. I’ve worked with many publishers in my professional career, and we share the same abiding interest: a love of books. But with the exception of a few publishing houses (O’Reilly comes to mind), most publishers do not attract the best and brightest “technology” minds. They can’t–there simply isn’t the upside (or environment) that the small start-up down the street offers. Instead, publishing houses tend to hire folks who have graduate degrees in English. Great people (trust me, I used to be one of them) but they aren’t thinking of algorithms in their spare time.

A suggestion to the publishing houses: if you really want to be of help, take a look at what’s happening in Silicon Valley. There are quite a few companies that provide models for what aspiring writers need to market themselves.

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