Sunday, August 14

Community Building, Gaga Style

How do you build a community? How do you find the common thread that will bring you and your readers together?

Louis Marino, author of 5 Things Lady Gaga Can Teach Marketers About Community Building, writes about what folks can learn from musicians like Lady Gaga about building communities. I've paraphrased his points and whittled them down to three because this post is for writers and, lets face it, we tend to be a just a wee bit less social. I mean, have you ever heard of Nora Roberts groupies? ;)

1. Engage people with similar interests. Deliver a great experience that relates to something your fans are passionate about, something they will share amongst themselves and that will contribute to building the soul of the movement.

2. Be vulnerable. Know who you are, your strengths and weaknesses. By being honest and open about who you are you will attract those like you, people who can relate to you, and who you can relate to.

3. Your readers are your boss. Go out of your way to honor them, to show them that they are essential.

LM writes:
I worked for five years at Island DefJam, a label that has a wide-ranging artist roster covering everything from hip-hop to R&B to country. You might think that a rapper from Brooklyn wouldn’t have much reason (or desire) to connect with a country crooner out of Arkansas. But as it turned out, the opposite was true--I soon saw that they were actually a very tightknit community. No matter their genre or origins, these musicians unfailingly came out to support each other, watch each other’s performances, hang out backstage, share ideas, and make music together. It was clear that they truly loved and respected each other. That steady support and genuine respect formed the basis of their community. As do all communities, they shared common interests and a like-mindedness that was real and authentic.

These artists applied this unspoken value for community to their fans as well. One thing that I noticed always separated the great artists from the rest was their absolute devotion to their fans. They didn’t view their fans as walking wallets--for them, their most important task was to make sure that every fan experience was meaningful and memorable. They understood that it was the fans that make the artist a success. Essentially, they knew the fans were their bosses.

That's how these music artists carefully cultivated strong communities of fans that felt cared for--because they were. Those fans were loved. And the secret to that artist/audience love was always authenticity.
LM notes that this is true for Lady Gaga as well. Lady Gaga doesn't view being involved with her fans through social media as drudgery. For Gaga, her fans are her community, she is loyal to them just as they are to her.

The key to building community is loyalty and here I'm not speaking about a fan's loyalty to an author or to a celebrity, but the author's loyalty to their fans. Even though Gaga has millions of fans (35 million Facebook friends and 10 million Twitter followers) she acts as though she is a member of a small, intimate and fiercely loyal community.

In the comments to LM's article Claire makes the comment that communities aren't made, they are facilitated. She writes:
As for authenticity - you don't create communities, you facilitate them. That's perhaps semantics, but it's an important distinction. Communities do spring up themselves, but taking an interest and facilitating them is the best way forward. Gaga does that in so many ways and it's an extremely positive experience for fans. ... Talk to them, get involved in their community and support what they want to do with it.
Food for thought.

Saturday, August 13

Let's Get Digital, by David Gaughran

There is an excellent article about David Gaughran's book, Let's Get Digital, over on Mark Williams International.

David's book receives a glowing recommendation from indie-publishing success story Sibel Hodge who writes:
If you want to self-pub, you absolutely have to read this book. When I started out, I didn’t have a clue about all the things that an Indie author has to get involved in. It’s not just a question of writing a fab book – that’s the easy part! The hard bit is what comes next…

I didn’t have a clue where to find covers, good editors, how to market effectively and gain lovely readers and fans. PRC, MOBI, Epub sounded more like a scratchy disease than anything to do with e-pubbing. I had to learn it bit by bit and very slowly, but in LET’S GET DIGITAL you get you all the information you need in one place. David’s done all the hard work for you!

And the authors who contributed their stories to this book will show you that it really is possible to be a success as an Indie self-pubbing. Their experiences are uplifting and truly inspirational.

So do you want your manuscript sitting in a dusty drawer somewhere, or do you want to live your dream? If so, you need to get a copy of this book!
Click here to read the article: Don’t Believe The Hype – David Gaughran Separates Myth And Reality About Indie-Publishing

If you would like to buy David's book, here are the links. You can even get it free!
- Amazon UK
- Smashwords
- Free PDF file

Amazon Cracks Down on Spammers

Certain news stories make me want to get up and jump for joy -- without, of course, breaking anything! A little while ago I published a couple of posts about Ruth Ann Nordin (Stolen Books and Amazon Piracy) and how someone had the audacity to begin selling her books as their own. They didn't change her name as the author, they just started selling her books without her consent and without feeling the need to share any of their profits with her.

The Problem: PLR
Around that time there was a spate of articles about folks using Amazon's Kindle store to sell Private Rights Label (PLR) content. What is PLR content? I'm sure someone else could give you a better description, but imagine that you have a book to sell, "The Final Word On Widgets". Someone comes up to you and says, "I'll pay you to let me take your book, edit it a bit so it looks different, and then re-sell it." You say sure as opposed to "Heck no!" and they take your book and re-package it in a number of ways (different cover, different order of the chapters, etc) and sell each of these repackaged books on Amazon hoping that because they just uploaded 1,000 books that they'll sell something.

And, surprisingly, they do!

I'm not sure why anyone would sell their content to re-packagers, but obviously people do, so I suspect there's a lot about PLR that I don't understand.

The Good News!
A lot of folks were getting nervous because Amazon didn't seem to be doing anything to stop scammers from selling re-packaged content. Worse, some re-packagers weren't picky about legal niceties such as owning the content they re-packaged: enter the Ruth Ann Nordin story.

Not to worry. Yesterday Amazon announced that it was cracking down on re-packagers by sending out this letter to suspected offenders:

We’re contacting you regarding books you recently submitted via Kindle Direct Publishing.

Certain of these books are either undifferentiated or barely differentiated from an existing title in the Kindle store. We remove such duplicate (or near duplicate) versions of the same book because they diminish the experience for customers. We notify you each time a book is removed, along with the specific book(s) and reason for removal.

In addition to removing duplicate books from the Kindle store, please note that if you attempt to sell multiple copies or undifferentiated versions of the same book from your account, we may terminate your account.

If you have any questions regarding the review process, you can write to

Best regards,

Kindle Direct Publishing

Laura Hazard Owen (Amazon is Finally Cracking Down On Kindle Spammers) did some investigative journalism and went over to one of the forums where re-packagers like to hang out and talk shop. One writes:
I was less than a month from hiring a VA [virtual assistant] and scaling this up. I guess I dodged that bullet! Phew!
Another says:
Lol if it didn’t work on Amazon. Try Barnes and Noble (NYSE: BKS), as well as iBooks, maybe they don’t have much content police in their management. :)
Here is hoping that Barnes and Nobel and the Apple Store follow Amazon's lead. Quickly!

- The letter Amazon sent out to suspected re-packagers of content was from Laura Hazard's article, Amazon Is Finally Cracking Down On Kindle Spammers, as were the two quotations, above.
- Photo credit: DVD Reviews

Friday, August 12

Scrivener: A Great Tool for Writers

A couple of days ago, The Book Designer had a marvelous blog post about why Scrivener was the ultimate program for writers. It was as though this article was written for me since I have been thinking about switching from Word to Scrivener.

Here is the link: Scrivener: The Ultimate Multitool for Writers

A Blogging Start-Up Kit

You've never Blogged, Tweeted or Facebooked but now you're ready. What to do?

First, congratulations! This is a big step, it's a lot of work, but if you're a writer, or thinking about becoming a writer, building a platform is expected and essential.


It seems that the most popular blogging platforms are and I chose to use rather than because, while both are free to use, Blogger doesn't make one pay to take down advertisements. I know of people, though, who have a flourishing blog on Wordpress and couldn't be happier with the service.

Google Analytics. This is essential. It shows you, on a month to month basis, how the traffic on your site changes as well as what sort of traffic your site attracts.

You have your blog set up so it's time to get a Twitter account. In my opinion, if a writer had to choose between blogging and tweeting, I'd say tweet. After I tweet a link to one of my blog posts I get a spike of traffic that represents folks visiting my site to read the article.

Twitter drives traffic to my blog and my blog gives me a way to share longer pieces of content with my readers, but if I only had a blog ... well, who would read it? My friends and family, sure, but Twitter gives me a way to reach out to people I don't know. It gives me a way to connect with people looking for the kind of content I provide. Okay, that's my plug for Twitter. :)

Before I move on, here are some links to sites that help you gauge what sort of impact your tweets are having:

- Twitter Counter: While you're there, check out Twittercounter's Twitter Profile Checker and get recommendations on what to do to attract more followers.

- Tells you how many people your tweets have reached.

- Topsy Social Analytics: Tells you how many times your tweets were mentioned.

- Klout Score: Klout will give you a score that is based on your Score Analysis, your Network Influence, your Amplification Probability and your True Reach.

- TweetGrader: Gives you a grade out of 100

- Lots of interesting stats. For instance, looks at your tweets according to number of tweets and time of day

You've got a blog and you're tweeting up a storm, the next step is to take out an account on Facebook. I'm going to admit that I should do more with Facebook so this section is as much for me as it is for anyone.

A little while ago I wrote an article on how to set up a Facebook page. I like fan pages because it removes the uncertainty of whether a writer intends their page for real-life friends only or whether they are inviting anyone who is interested in their work to connect with them.

After you're blogged and tweeted for a bit you'll find yourself looking for new content. I've found the best source of content is other bloggers and news feeds. Below are the sources I've found most useful.

Joe Konrath: A Newbie's Guide to Publishing
Dean Wesley Smith
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Passive Voice Blog @PassiveVoiceBlg

News Sites:
The New Yorker


Google Alerts. Interested in who is talking about you? Your book(s)? To start out with, create an altert containing your name and one for each title you have available.

This post is by no means in-depth. My goal was to give a person new to blogging and tweeting a few useful links, links that I wish I had known about when I started.

Cheers, and good blogging!

The Secret of Amanda Hocking's Success

Kristine Kathryn Rusch hits the nail on the head. In her words, Amanda Hocking has "major storytelling chops".
Critics loathe folks who can tell stories but whose prose isn’t English-major perfect. Once Hocking got her deal with St. Martins, the literary critics all downloaded a copy of her e-books then came out guns blazing, calling St. Martins stupid for buying such a seriously bad writer.

As usual, the major literary critics—the same folks who dismiss James Patterson and Nora Roberts as hacks—fail to understand what readers read for. We don’t read for beautiful language (well, some of us do some of the time.) We read to be entertained. We read to get lost in a good story. We read to forget about the plunge in the Dow and the European Debt Crisis and the war in Afghanistan and the Somali famine. We read so that we can relax after a long day of searching for a job, or trying to figure out which bill to pay, or taking care of our ill parents. We read to go somewhere else.

Hocking takes us there. So does Patterson. So does Nora Roberts. Some do it with better prose than others. But they all take us out of our lives for the time we’re inside the book.

The writers who, year after year, continue to sell books through indie publishing or traditional publishing tell great stories. Bottom line: those writers aren’t really writers. They’re storytellers.
Read the rest of Kristine Rusch's article here: The Business Rusch: Comparisons

When I bought My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking -- it was the very first ebook I bought, by the way -- I couldn't put it down and finished it that day. Yes, I wanted to find out what happened at the end of the story, but it was more than that. She got me to care about her characters, about her universe.

Thursday, August 11

The Key To Being Talented: Work Hard!

Dean Wesley Smith writes that talent is "only a measure of craft at a certain point in time and nothing more," and that the way you become talented is by hard work and lots of it.

From Dean's blog post:

In school I hated writing because I was so bad at it. If I had listened to all the people who told me I had no talent for writing, I would have quit four decades ago. No, make that five decades ago, because all my early report cards said I had no talent for writing.

Now, after millions and millions of words practiced, many books and stories published, I get comments all the time like, “You are a talented writer, of course you can do it.”

Or one I got the other day. “You have the talent to write fast.”

Well, when I started to get serious about fiction writing, it took me hours and hours to do one 250 word page. Then that page would be so poorly written and riddled with mistakes that it got tossed away more often than not. (Remember, I was working on a typewriter.) Yup, I was a “naturally talented” fast writer. NOT!
The real bottom line is that to get past this myth, you have to believe in yourself and ignore everyone else’s belief system about you. Learn from others, but ignore what they say about your “talent.” Because the moment you take that alien belief system into your own mind and believe it, either good or bad, you are doomed.

Although I am a big fan of Dean's blog, this particular blog post is a gem. If you're a writer who has ever been intimidated by the question, "Am I talented?" this is a must-read. Enjoy!

Head on over to Dean's post: Chapter 12: Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: The Myth of Talent

Photo credit: DesignSwan

Wednesday, August 10

US Lawsuit Tries To Take A Bite Out Of Apple

Apple Inc. has been accused of price fixing.
Hagens Berman, a consumer rights class-action law firm, today announced it has filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit claiming that Apple Inc. is guilty of illegal price fixing related to the Agency Model for pricing e-books. HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin and S&S are also named in the suit.
Read the rest here: New US Lawsuit Accuses Apple of E-Book Price Fixing

Author Altert: Investigation Into Underpayment of Ebook Royalties

In the past I've written about the growing suspicion among writers that their publishers -- even big 6 publishers -- are under-reporting their ebook royalties, in some cases by a significant margin.

Are Big Six Publishers Stealing Royalties? (April 22, 2011)
Publishers are under-reporting electronic book sales (June 1, 2011)
Writers Despair (June 30, 2011)

Here is an update on the situation. Hagens Berman, a law firm, is
... investigating claims that several large e-book publishers are under-reporting the number of e-books sold, paying authors less than their share of royalties.

E-book authors typically receive royalty statements, which report the number of e-books sold in a specified time period. The authors are paid based on these sales numbers.

According to reports, the so-called “big six” e-book publishers may be using an outdated accounting systems to track the sales of e-books. As a result, some authors have reported various accounting errors on their statements, including the under-reporting of sales of the e-books.

Read the rest of the article here.

This is what Passive Guy, a former attorney, has to say about this:
With those caveats, it appears Hagens Berman is developing a practice that’s focused on big publishing. In the majority of cases, the losses of any single author from something like ebook royalty under-reporting would not justify the cost of mounting a lawsuit to collect royalties. What PG suspects is happening is Hagens Berman is collecting information and possible plaintiffs for a class-action suit on behalf of all authors who have been harmed by ebook royalty shortfalls.

If PG is correct, this is good for authors and bad for big publishers.

What are the implications for authors besides being paid proper ebook royalties? If the agency pricing suit and a class action suit on eroyalties move forward, big publishers will be spending serious money on legal fees and, quite possibly, settlements. We’ve already heard numerous reports that advances are down and we know publishing contracts are becoming more and more onerous. Serious lawsuits accelerate, but don’t change that trend.

If, as PG believes, big publishing is in a financial death/downsizing spiral because of indie publishing, ebooks, Amazon pricing pressure, death of physical bookstores, etc., that spiral will grow tighter if it has large losses in class action suits. You’ll see some consolidation, so unwary authors may end up publishing with a different house than the one who gave them their contract. Bankruptcy is also a possibility, so unwary authors may end up having their books unpublished or poorly published and their copyrights in a legal limbo.

Link to PG's post: Investigation into Underpayment of Ebook Royalties

Here are very informative blog posts PG wrote about this issue:
- All these royalty numbers are just so confusing for us literary types (April 16, 2011)
- Imaginary Sales Numbers on Royalty Statements – An Update (May 1, 2011)
- Publishers are Under-Reporting Ebook Sales (June 1, 2011)
- Random House Royalty Switcheroo (June 29, 2011)

Joanna Pen: How to Podcast

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn has written two excellent articles on podcasting (see below), and who better to do so than a lady who has created over 100 podcasts. Here are her stats:
there are around 2500 downloads per month of new and old episodes. 60% of the listeners are in the US, with 15% in China and 14% in UK and the rest spread between Australia, Germany, Canada and some other countries.
Joanna's tips:
Just start, even if you don’t know what you are doing. My first interview was with 4 Ingredients author Rachael Bermingham who is HUGE in Australia, self, published and has sold millions of books now. I did it on the landline phone, I held a recorder next to it. I edited in Audacity and loaded the file to my very new and pretty ugly blog (which has since been redesigned). I didn’t know about mics, or Skype or Pamela/ecamm or hosting or anything. Things have changed and here’s how I do it now.

Fear and nerves will always be there. Just do it anyway. I am still nervous before phoning anyone. I have to force myself every time. My heart races, my mouth is dry and I go to the bathroom three times before starting. I also do public speaking and its the same thing with that. But we need to get our ‘breadcrumbs’ of content out there, so it has to be done.

I credit the podcast with the growing success of The Creative Penn because of my ability to network and offer something that many blogs don’t offer i.e. multi-media interviews. I get requests all the time and other people promote the blog because of it. All the people I interview link back to their show so the incoming links have helped my SEO ranking. I have connected with you as listeners – you have heard my voice and laugh and mannerisms and annoying tics for years now. I know some of you have bought my books for which I am very grateful. I am also personally fulfilled by being useful and I feel this is useful to people, so I love to do it. I love to get emails from people who have found the information helpful.

You can learn from everybody. Podcasting is a great way to learn about writing, publishing and book marketing. It’s also an amazing way to network. The people I have had on the podcast I have connected with and got to know more. There is a widening circle of mutual support. I also firmly believe in no snobbery – you can learn from everyone. It doesn’t matter what they have written or done, you can’t underestimate anyone’s experience. You also never know where they will end up.

The quotations in my blog post are from Joanna's article: What I Have Learned In The Last 2 Years: 100th Podcast Celebration
Joanna has written a not-to-be-missed article on podcasting, How To Create A Podcast, for anyone who has ever enterained the notion.
Joanaa's YouTube feed is here.
I can't remember where I got the link to Joanna Penn's article, but since they write so many great blog posts let me just give a plug to The Passive Voice blog and The Book Designer.