Showing posts with label The Book Designer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Book Designer. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 1

Joel Friedlander Interviews The Passive Guy/David Vandagriff

Ever seen David Vandagriff, aka The Passive Guy (PG)? Here's your chance! Joel Friedlander just put up an interview he did with PG--I'm going to continue calling him that--and introduces us to the man behind the The Passive Voice blog. Warning: It's over 40 minutes long, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Here are the highlights:

Joel asked PG something I've been wondering: Why so many posts? PG publishes 6 to 8 posts a day. Granted, curating an article--especially one without commentary--takes less time than writing 1,000 words (trust me, I know!) but it's still a significant investment of one's time. Thus the question: Why do it?

I enjoyed PG's answer. Joel came up with the image of an 'information whale' taking in information about the world of publishing just as a whale strains skims plankton from the ocean. Like me, PG has dozens of Google alerts and a huge list of blogs in his RSS reader, and he posts those few articles that catch his attention, that he thinks are remarkable or interesting in some way.

For those of us who have blogs and find it interesting to talk about where we get most of our traffic from, I thought it was interesting that both PG and Joel said Twitter accounts for a good percentage of their pageviews each day. PG said it accounted for at least 25% while Joel mentioned that it is his second biggest source of readers. My experience is similar.

Conclusion: If you're not tweeting your blog posts on Twitter you're missing out on potential readers.

At the end of his interview PG gave four tips for anyone thinking of publishing their own work:

1. It's not hard
It's one of those things that I'd say was simple but not easy. For instance, how to lose weight is simple: eat less, but it's far from easy to do that. Publishing your own work in the same. What you need to do can be explained simply enough, but seeing the process through to the very end is far from easy.

2. You can control everything
I often hear authors say that they hate the cover their publisher chose for their book. This never happens when you self publish because you are in charge of all those details. As Mr. Monk might say: a gift and a curse.

3. It's fast!
In traditional publishing it is common to wait a year or more before your book is published. PG's wife got her edits back and her book was up for sale on Amazon a week later. Her editor (who used to be her publisher) was astonished, that sort of speed is unheard of in the traditional publishing industry.

4. You can fix your mistakes
This is a boon of biblical proportions for perfectionists. Time and again it happens that an author's book is published and then you find a typo. Sometimes on the first paragraph. The author cringes, the fans cringe, but what can you do about it? In traditional publishing you can't do anything, not even with the ebook version. It has been published and that's that. Not so if you're the publisher. Just correct the typo and upload the new version of your book. It's as simple as that.

To see the PG's interview for yourself read Passive Guy Speaks over on Joel's blog, The Book Designer.

Sunday, August 7

The New Author Platform

Lately I have been obsessing over how to build that most mysterious of things: a platform. It, apparently, involves blogging and tweeting regularly. But it feels as though I should be doing something more. But what?

Alan Rinzler writes that:

It’s still about visibility, but today’s approach has changed. The New Author Platform requires a focus on developing an unobstructed back and forth between authors and their readers, with the authors — not the publishers — controlling the flow. Now it’s the author, not a publicist, who inspires readers to buy the book. The New Author Platform allows not only well-established authors, but unknown, first-time beginners to do an end run around the conservative gate-keepers and reach readers directly.

Here are Alan Rinzler's tips:

Successful authors today are designing websites filled with their work-in-progress, writing frequently updated blogs, tweeting, and shooting home-style, brief videos to post on their sites and on YouTube. They’re offering original content in samples and chunks, with invitations for feedback, and taking every opportunity to comment and join forums and other online venues on topics that relate to their own work.

In this way, they’re creating a public face that represents who they are and what they want to say.


Readers like to know and trust an author before buying their book. An artificial, smiley-face false front won’t do the trick. Instead, authors need to extend their literary skills to create a genuine bona-fide online persona that has human quirks, dimension, and nuance. You can be funny, cranky, indignant, nostalgic, didactic.

As long as you’re honest and persuasive, you have a better chance of getting potential readers interested to the point where they make the final commitment and put their money down.


Authors don’t need to be full professors at Harvard to contribute useful comments and information online. Post brief sections from your book, and take social networking seriously by commenting and tweeting to build your reputation and visibility. This is true whether your subject is science and technology, history and biography, food and cooking, parenting and relationships, really any subject in any genre, and whether you’re a fiction or non-fiction writer.

Consider yourself a public service resource in the field you’re writing about. Your reputation and expertise will flourish in proportion to the value of the content you offer.


A cardinal rule of the new author platform is never to actually ask people to buy your book. Rather promulgate your work by making an enduring connection. Establish an authentic online personality, offer valuable information, analysis, opinion, and inspiring entertainment.

These are the elements of the New Author Platform that will ultimately sell your book.

What I found especially useful were the examples at the end of Mr. Rinzler's article where he gives examples of authors who have built sites that exhibit the characteristics he discusses.

Here is a link to the article: The "New Author Platform" -- What you need to knnow

Thanks to The Book Designer for the link.

Monday, July 25

Blogging Tips

I'm always trying to write a better blog post so when I looked at The Book Designer and saw the article Writers’ Blogs: 5 Essentials for Engaging Your Readers I read it with interest.

Writers know blogging is important, and not just because we have to build that mysterious thing called a platform, but also because it's a great opportunity to fulfill the first rule of writing: writer's write. But still, again and again, the question looms large: what to write about?

The following points are inspired by The Book Designer's post.

What to do:

1. Figure out what your blog is about

When I began this blog I thought I might write about the experience of writing and post excerpts from stories I was working on. I also thought about making my blog focus on one small area such as, say, apps for the iPad.

I guess it's about both those things since I decided to focus on anything writing related with an emphasis on topics relevant to the self-published writer.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately!) that excludes as lot of subjects I think are important (the debt crisis) or worthy of coverage (the famine in Somalia) or just downright cute.

2. Post consistently

This is something I have trouble with. I shoot for twice a day with a tweet or two thrown in if I come across an article I think would interest my readers.

Of course--as anyone who reads this blog knows!--intentions are one thing and execution quite another. If I blog and tweet once a day, I'm happy. (If anyone comes across an article they think would be good material for this blog, send it to me!)

3. Be considerate

If someone takes the time to leave a comment, thank them for it.

Also, I think being considerate means taking points (1) and (2) seriously. Even though I think this video of Big Dog is amazing (and a little bit creepy) doesn't mean my readership wants to see it.

Similarly, just because I watched I Am Number Four last night and feel it would be a public service to tell everyone it was the worst movie in the history of bad movies, doesn't mean that's something I get to include in my blog. (Unless, that is, you can find some way of sneaking it in. ;))

4. Google Analytics is your friend

Your best friend.

Blogging can be lonely. How do you know if anyone is reading your blog? How do you know if your numbers are going up or down? When people do read your blog, what do they most want to read about?

Google Analytics can help you answer all of these questions, and many, many, more.

I was going to say a few words about how to use Google Analytics but that is a series of posts all on its own!

5. Get feedback directly from your readership

After all, who knows what they want to read about more than your readers!

Comments are already available on most blog posts but it's easy to give people polls if, for instance, you're trying to decide between book covers and would like feedback.

6. Be lucky

Blogging is like anything, you can do your best and results can take a long, long, time in coming. Sometimes you might wonder if it's worth it. As long as you persevere, keeping steps (1) through (5) in mind, you'll develop a readership.

Photo credit: "Maximum Comfort" by Alan under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0.

Monday, July 4

iA Writer for the iPad

I am always on the lookout for a cool new app for my iPad, but for a writing app to tempt we away from Pages it would have to be darn good. iA Writer looks like it may be that app.

What has me particularly excited is the two finger swipe, right and left, for the "do" and "undo" functions. Also very nice is the keyboard extension bar which lets you, among other things, advance word by word either backward or forward as well as character by character. Also, no longer do iPad users have to tap the ".?123" button to get to the ";" and ":" keys. A little thing but oh so very nice.

For more information about iA Writer for the iPad, click here.

On the con side (it can't be completely great, nothing ever is) some users have lost formatting (line breaks, etc) when emailing files.

For anyone interested in reading reviews of minimalistic word processing programs, head on over to The Book Designer and read his post on 7 Distraction-Ree Writing Environments for Authors.