Social Media for Writers

Vancouver Writer’s Mixer
December 4, 2010, 5-6:30 pm
Featuring Carol Doane:
Social Media for Writers

Saturday Carol’s got the internet wired for fun, for feedback and success! She’s the doyenne of Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, and many another virtual publicity websites.
Carol will be demonstrating the basics of navigating these treacherous technical waters.  Find out why you should dabble, even just a little, on-line. 
By the time we’re finished, you’ll be amazed and eager to get out there and start networking!  It’s so easy, even Smedley the bookstore cat tweets. Carol will touch on hot social media topics such asTwitter, Facebook, Foursquare, YouTube, Plancast and blogging.
Learn quick tips, easy to use shortcuts and what to do if you hate the idea of marketing yourself. 

Carol Doane was a top finalist in the 2010 Social Media Awards of the Pacific Northwest (SoMe Award) for her volunteer campaign for the Southwest Washington Blood Program. Winning campaigns awarded to Air New Zealand, Travelocity, PAX East, Mio Gelato, Portland Fit, Hotel Max, Mio Gelato.

She is also a published writer (chapter in Laughing Nine to Five: The Quest for Humor in the Workplace) and she has two completed fiction manuscripts now in the hands of literary agents on both coasts.

 Many, many thanks to Angst Gallery owner Leah Jackson for allowing us to hold the mixer in her venue. If you want to chat with Carol after the event we’ll be taking over the couch in Niche Wine & Art next door.

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Do not operate a submarine while reading this blog

I downloaded a new app to my smart phone and prior to engaging it the application required me to read the End-User License Agreement.

Most of the time I click the box that means, yeah, I “read” it.

Pay attention non-readers, not every boring End-User License Agreement is boring. In fact, these manufacturers believe that * I * am anything but boring, too!

Mostly, they’re right.

But to make sure we were on the same page, the End-User License Agreement detailed what was intended by high risk activities I should avoid conducting while using their product, and I quote:

HIGH RISK ACTIVITIES: The software is not fault-tolerant and is not designed, manufactured or intended for use in hazardous environment requiring fail-safe performance, such as the operation of:

  • Nuclear facilities
  • Aircraft navigation
  • Air traffic control
  • Implantable human medical devices
  • External human life-support machines
  • Explosives control devices
  • Submaries
  • Weapons systems
  • Or in controlling the operation of moving motor vehicles in which the failure of the Software could lead directly to death, personal injury, or severe physicial or environmental damage.

Let’s be clear. I agree. The above bullet points are high risk activities. I also think if you are intelligent enough to engage in the above activities, you are smart enough not to conduct the stated activity while using your cell phone.

But maybe not.

So, let’s be clear about you. I believe you are smart. You read my blog, follow me on Twitter and make comments on such, and due to your high use of good judgment it must also be stated that you are bright enough not to perform those activities while operating a phone (yours or mine), yelling at at kid (yours or mine) or entering into any life changing event such as getting married (while reading my blog).

In case you’re not that bright, this blog is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including, but not limited to anything I have said, might say or may never say and any of the preceding that may or may not appear in writing under my byline.

If you have any questions about the above, please leave a comment below. I will review your comments with my attorney and will craft a reply that will not place you in further danger of End-User Agreements.

If you do not place a comment, you proceed into life and future End-User Agreements at your own risk.

Cheers!


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Party starts at noon. You coming?

The party this year skews slightly vampirish because I’m asking all my friends to bring their blood. It’s a social media adventure started by  @SWBlood on Twitter. They sent me a direct message asking if I would spearhead a drive. I gave them an enthusiastic yes and started pressing friends and strangers into service.

The online appointment scheduler has a couple of open spots, so get yourself signed up! We want to fill the day to keep the Puget Sound Blood Center-Vancouver busy. And while you’re laying there saving lives you can think about all the presents you gave someone that they never used.

I realize this gift costs you something—your gas, your time to get to the center, maybe a little anxiety, but what does it cost if we do nothing? It costs someone their life.

And if you can’t come to my party, I promise there’ll be another one. The Blood-Mobile shows up at some of the finest places with juice and cookies, rockin’ music and friendly, encouraging smiles. But today, you’ll get to party with me, and that doesn’t happen very often.

Please come!

Carol’s Save a Life Birthday Party

Puget Sound Blood Center – Vancouver
9320 NE Vancouver Mall Blvd
Suite 100, Vancouver, WA 98662

Follow the Schmap to the Blood Center
Follow Google map to the Blood Center

Make your appointment online: http://bit.ly/9MBoxg

Want to, but can’t on the 31st?
Call 360-567-4800 for an alternate date.

EACH DAY our community needs 900 people to donate blood.

1. Eligibility: http://www.psbc.org/programs/blood.htm

2. First Time Donors: http://www.psbc.org/programs/drives_first_time.pdf

3. Donation FAQs: http://www.psbc.org/programs/faq.htm

If you would like to see the lives that are touched by blood donation visit the Puget Sound Blood Center patient videos page.


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I’m friendly but I have rules


I took a Saturday class, ‘Hands on Small Business,’ to understand how businesses can take advantage of social media. I dabble in what I thought was everything and wanted to see what I might be missing. Plenty. I received an introduction to Office Live, strolled through Kirtsy, and helped my proximity partner understand a bit about Twitter.

Twitter I get. I’ve got like a bazillion accounts. Well, two, me and my twin. She’s all about business, I’m all about fun.

When you’re a small business, your biggest issue is cash flow. Social media allows a small business, (and what is a writer other than a small business?) to reach beyond a geographical location (your butt in a chair in front of your computer getting inspiration from other writers). It offers ways to collaborate with professionals (publishing peeps), and research experts to pimp your publishable stuff (agents).

Social media allows you to jump in the stream without an outlay of cash.

The class taught us to use cloud computing (use products that don’t land on your laptop or your server). This stuff lives out there in the netherland and is managed by someone else. It is at this point I wish I had a lot more complicated words so I could really impress you that it was a hard class, and that I’m really smart. Just pretend: It was a hard class, I am really smart.

Katherine Gray, the teacher, is a ten-year veteran of online marketing. She is a social media maven who consults on web-design, site architecture, and she is a content strategist. In her Twitter life she is @thiskat and @dirttodish. (Oh, and @dirttodish is about food. Remind me not to cook any of her recipes. That is a two-way joke. I don’t cook).

Katherine is really smart, and she makes it happen by being a woman mentoring other women, and finding sponsors like Microsoft who pitched in a prize: Office Small Business ($449.95 value). Katherine had a drawing. I didn’t need win. Here is where we pretend I am smart, an excellent student, and lucky.

Since we’re pretending, we shall also say I am a twitterable expert, and I will share what I have learned after posting 2,000+ tweets.

When I become a bit more adept at Office Live and Kirtsy (holding out for prizes here) I’ll post my experiences.

Twitter. Let’s define the basics.

Definitions:

RT = retweet, this is copying someone’s tweet. It appears like this:

RT @TheFirstCarol: she said blah blah blah (You may enter your twitter account and copy this exactly as written. I won’t mind and I might follow you).

The RT credits whoever originated the thought. People who originate thoughts appreciate when you repeat their words and give them credit. This is the smile factor. Make someone smile.

@ = The @ sign is coding. It comes before someone’s twitter name, it highlights their name. (Here’s the complicated stuff, so pay attention…).When you start a tweet with someone’s name @theFirstCarol, for example, only TheFirstCarol will see your message, and anyone who both you and TheFirstCarol follows. This excludes everyone who does not follow both of you.

.@ = The .@ preceeded by a period .@theFirstCarol, allows everyone who follows you to see what you are writing. This is inclusive.

If you want to see everyone who is talking about to you in a stream (on your wall), look on the right hand column of the Twitter screen and click on the words @theFirstCarol (or whatever your name on Twitter is). This will gather all the messages in a stream. This will make you feel good.

DM = direct message – this is like sending an email, only the recipient sees a DM message. It never appears in your twitter stream and it does not appear in the sender’s stream. To view a DM, the recipient needs to be on their ‘Home’ page they have to click on the words ‘Direct Message.’ To the right of the words ‘direct message’ there is also a number. This tells you how many direct messages you have received. You send DM’s by clicking on ‘Direct Message.’

Unless you are using a client such as Co-Tweet or Hootsuite you will have to check the ‘@’ sign on your home page to see a stream of your messages. Ms. Gray, recommends Co-Tweet for a business who will have more than one person tweeting. Hootsuite works well for individuals.

OV = overheard, something you heard in real life. You would write:

OV @TheFirstCarol talking smack about having more followers than @Scupperlout #whatabraggert (Sure, tweet THAT, I won’t mind. I like attention).

# = hash tag, organizes an event #bwe9 (Blog World Expo 2009), or thought #beatcancer It puts your tweet into the stream with others using the same hash tag. Our class used the hash tag, #hosb (Hands on Small Business). There is a white bar on the right hand side of your Twitter screen where you can type in a word such as #hosb. When you do this you will see the stream, who is using it. You can also simply click on these specific words, or click on anything highlighted in your Twitter stream, and it will take you to the specific stream or web-site.

The hashtag can also emphasize a thought, #newfriends #wierd #quote, or make one up, #iamnotdense

Follow Friday – on Friday’s you will see tweets saying #FF or #FollowFriday This means they like this person and are encouraging others to follow that person. It is important that you ALWAYS say #FollowFriday @TheFirstCarol, like every Friday, okay? It’s a good thing, just do it.

Who to follow and why I might not follow you:

When someone follows me, I get an email and I go to Twitter and check them out. I click on ‘Follows’ (who they are following). Eventually, I will find @TheFirstCarol in their list of who they are following. If I am too deep into their list, i.e., more than three pages back, I don’t follow them. I assume they are only interested in having a big number, not a conversation. If they later RT me or @ me and demonstrate they are interested in a conversation I follow back.

I also check to see if the person has a web-site. If yes, I go to the web-site and if it says, INCREASE YOUR TWITTER FOLLOWING, or if it’s a blatant sales offering, I don’t follow. They are more about pushing something on me so they can make money. That’s not fun at a cocktail party and its not fun on Twitter. If their Twitter streams says, “get whiter teeth” I do not follow. If they have naughty pictures or invitations to see them naked, I do not follow back. If they have no RT’s or no @’s in their Twitter stream I do not follow. That is someone pushing information and not engaging with anyone else. Boring.

If everything in their stream is the EXACT same post:

@adamflater Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.

@Hannah899 Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.

@LouisPagan Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.

@avadakedevra Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.

This is a bot. It is on autopilot. It sends an auto post whenever you tweet their magic word. Again, who wants to talk to a machine? I’ll pass.

Get a Picture.

You need an Avatar. An avatar is the picture that represents you on the social media site. If the person who follows me does not have an avatar I do not follow them. If no picture, they may be a short-timer, not that interested, not that interesting. They need to care about their Twitter adventure enough to invest the time to put up a picture.

Write a bio.

This is one in the settings mode. Let it represent your personality. Be who you are. If you’re not funny, don’t force it. You can re-write it, edit it until it’s perfected and you feel a need to re-write it again. It is not set in stone. Experiment.

Say Thank You.

I thank my followers. I plan this on Hootsuite which allows me to write the tweet and send it at a later date. I can do this at my leisure when I have time to do a batch of days. I choose the day and time within 5 minutes.

I prefer thank-you’s to run first thing in the AM, between 6-7 AM, at 8 AM when people log on at work it doesn’t mess up the Twitter stream for the people who don’t care, but the person who it is intended for will see the message and know that I acknowledged them. Everyone loves to see that someone is talking to them, don’t be afraid to do it, it will make someone feel good.

If you cannot think of anything else to say, say thanks followers and write their Twitter names.

Always include the @ sign before the name (no space) or the tweep will not see it.

A typical thank you message looks like this:

Thanks followers: @GlennGThater @joomlawebmaster @iflashvideo @GilAsakawa @namenick Party Favors! Remember 2 feed petrock! http://ow.ly/v10w

The web-site link goes to a picture I’ve uploaded in TwitPic. Everyone who has a Twitter account automatically receives a Twitpic account. All you have to do is log-on using your twitter info and start uploading pictures. I copy the picture’s URL and paste into the window on Hootsuite to shorten the URL.

It makes this: http://twitpic.com/lal7r

Look like this: http://ow.ly/v10w

The ow.ly uses 11 characters, the other 18. Since you only have 140 characters available you want to keep your links short. By including a picture I make the tweet interesting to anyone else who may have tuned in and makes it fun for the person included in the tweet.

But what do I do…to get started?

Are you interested in advertising, web-design, jewelry, hiking, biking, writing, editing, publishing? Find a word that represents your interest or your business niche. Type the word in the white bar on the right hand column of your Twitter home page and see who/what comes up. Check these tweeps out. Pick a few that appear interesting. Follow them.

At the beginning of a Twitter adventure, no one thinks they have enough followers and some look for short cuts. Go for it if you want. There are plenty of people promoting ways to increase your following. That never interested me, I was more curious about how people found me, and then when they did, I checked out who they were following and followed some of their friends.

Ready to get started?

First, tell me who you want to find on Twitter… leave a note in the comments below. Come on, tell me the person that would get you so excited you’d tell everyone at work.

I’m serious, tell me. No one at work cares. Really.


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After the coffee comes the concussion

“Do you think anyone will show up who we know?” I asked Melanie as I jumped into her compact forest green convertible.

“Good Lord,” she replied, “I hope not.” She threw the car into reverse and sped out of the parking lot at a robust three miles an hour. Melanie is a safe driver.

We crossed the interstate bridge and left Washington State and the quiet life I lead and the exciting one Melanie leads—as an award winning writer—and within twenty minutes stood outside a big wooden 1930’s building in SE Portland. We glanced nervously at each other and I laughed like I’d done this a million times. “Come on, this will be fun,” I promised.

The door clanged open and the heady smell of ground coffee wafted our direction. We’d made it this far. We could surely cross the threshold. I tugged Melanie inside and we glanced around trying to locate a familiar landmark to shore up our quaking knees. There. We greeted Ed, our third friend, who was getting his head in the game by listening to his IPOD. He waved. Melanie and I drifted around the open tables and settled onto facing couches in front of the stage.

We fired up our laptops, clamped our jaws tight and flitted our eyes nervously around the room. Three of us, three of them—we had an audience—almost a full house. I took a picture to prove that point, but Teresa who tweets as Pdxsays made me take it down. I was ‘messing with her brand.’ (Note to self: ask before posting, not everyone likes their picture plastered around the internet, especially that one of me where I look like I’m a man, pretending to be not a man, or maybe pretending to be one, I don’t know it’s kind of confusing. And don’t you all go looking for it. It sucks. Sheesh).

Melanie and I concentrated on our laptops, as if it were a life’s mission. We waited for software to load, for wi-fi to connect, whatever would help pass the time between now and the appointed hour. Tonight, the magic would begin. Ed would play microtonal music composed by his computer via algorithmic patterns, and we would read from our unpublished manuscripts. This was Monday, and this was Three Friends Coffee House and we were the entertainment.

By eight o’clock it’d be over.

Hopefully, I’d still have two friends. Teresa was already a goner.

Luke, the organizer, strode in and his deep, vibrant radio voice steadied our rattling nerves. He shook our hands, confirmed pronunciations of last names, and I noted, “Ed’s going first.”

Ed gazed at me, his kind eyes full of piss and vinegar, and said, “You should go first, you’re The First Carol.”

I was almost relieved and agreed way more faster than I would have suspected, thinking, that might be a good idea, I’ll get it over sooner…but I’ll be left on stage, better make a plan. I scribbled some ‘next guest’ introductory notes. Proving again that last minute planning is microcosmically successful in any venue.

I met Ed by stalking him on Twitter. During the day he’s all geek. Late at night he’d share what he was listening to: allclassical.org. As a music major and geek wannabe I found the whole Ed package fascinating. I tried to lure an invitation out of him to meet a couple of times, he didn’t bite. Then all of sudden we were talking Linux and now I have Linux on my laptop and I have Ed as a friend.

Then it was 7 PM.

Luke welcomed the audience and welcomed me:

Hot pursuit of a career in advertising landed The First Carol a job in one of the largest newspapers in Southwest Washington. After numerous years of hacking out ad copy for the print ads she sold and making friends with everyone in her path, she can now claim connections in the highest echelons of covert government, Hollywood, and the janitorial staff (she works late). Welcome The First Carol!

I crawled on stage.

Took me awhile to stand up.

Took a little longer to find my voice, but I did manager to squeak out, “Take a good look around, pick a man, ask him to dance.”

Fifteen minutes later, three people clapped, (I suspicion they were Melanie and Ed and maybe Teresa). I nodded approvingly, although some people thought it was an avalanche of nervous shakes. Before I could actually decipher it myself, I launched into my Ed intro.

Ed explained the origin of his composition and we listened to the wild warblings of : “When Harry Met Iannis.” When the tune ended I jumped back up dodging wires and Roland speakers and the chatter of the happy patrons waiting for this to end so they could get to open mic part of the event. I smiled benignly at Melanie who sat contentedly on the couch refusing with the utmost grace to come up on stage. I just as graciously introduced her from the stage. Maybe I had my hands on my hips and glared at her…maybe not:

Melanie is not sure why she is here, except she is my friend and I told her doing this type of stuff would save us from being boring. I convinced her being out in public was practice for Oprah, and we can use the experience for a blog post. If we’re a bust, we can make up that we were brilliant, in other words lie…because after all we write fiction.

Melanie adjusted the mic Luke had provided for her couch delivery, and we heard chapter three of Melanie’s historical fiction work which plunked us on a brigantine in the Atlantic Ocean.

I listened and I’m sorry to say my mind wandered as I tallied the evening and my friends. Ed lives an exciting life of research, computer programming, music and social media. Ed has about 3 gadzillion followers on Twitter, znmeb is popular! Melanie is an award winning writer, with adventures to her credit from one coast of the US to the other (she recently moved her parents out west, which I deftly captured in the post: After the Rum, Comes the Reality). Her manuscript won second place in the 2009 Pacific Northwest Writers Assoction contest.

I am me and thus driven to compete amongst all this talent and seek attention.

And what am I telling my periphery friends who did not attend? Well, I’m saying, “I was absolutely brilliant.” (I don’t mention I’m brilliant at convincing my friends down the rabbit hole). Then I try to divert attention away from my performance and dwell on how difficult Melanie was…a true complicated artist type, and I mention as often as possible, “Melanie’s like all, ‘I’m not standing in front of these caffeinated hot heads, I’m staying on the couch. They can stand up to see me.’ Then when she finished, everyone started clapping and because they were standing she’s running around telling everyone she got a standing ovation! Can you even believe it.” Then I heave a huge sigh, like it’s such a problem dragging her anywhere.

And this is the truth, a guy chased Melanie out of the coffee house to shake her hand and thank her for coming and told her over and over again how much he liked it. I said, “Wow, you have a fan!”

Melanie said, “Yeah, but did you see him?”

I said, “Yes, and I smelled him, too.” <– I made that up just to be funny.

So, now the big question. Which two of your friends would go on stage with you?

Nothing’s original, but is that bad?


Music, inspiration and madness produced this piece of artwork in one evening of hard driving coffee house action. Fascinated by the spirit of its creation and the fervor of the artist, I snapped a photo before he carted it off to his vehicle.

A few days later I clicked on a Twitter link and discovered the picture below. The original I’d seen in its living, breathing essence, seemed somehow tainted. Not as pleasing. Even though the first was created using a brush and oils, and the one below is merely a manipulated photograph.

Man on Fire
The experience reminded me of discovering a local author, and exploring her work only to be disappointed that each book copied the identical concepts, down to at least one character in each work having clever, whiskey eye color. I felt quite critical, smug even, although she had reached the NY Times Bestseller list multiple times.

How unoriginal.

After listening to my rant, my sister reminded me writers don’t pump out several books a year. If you enjoy an author you usually wait a year for the next release. You forget their idiosyncrasies. I, however, forget little and tend to start with an author’s first work and read one right after the other in an effort to determine how their writing style has evolved, and most of all I don’t want every story to include:

Female protagonist who pep-talks self out-loud, saying things like ‘get yourself together, with more attractive siblings and one developmentally delayed or socially-underdeveloped one; she lives in a small town near a large city, and drives a jeep, rides horses bareback (ever tried it? Give me a saddle, geez), is from a wealthy, influential family, with a domineering father, makes bad choices in men, then suddenly makes a good one (?!), hooks her thumb at her chest and hitches her chin, has a sickly stomach and tends to throw up a lot.

A male character who sires a child with someone other than his wife and child is hidden, speaks basely about women, thinks about sex a lot and its not pretty, nor is it love, has a sex slave who is willing to do anything to keep him, which doesn’t seem to work out so well for her and ultimately is not appreciated by him, practices a sexual deviancy: brother to sister, father-daughter, or husband caught with under-aged girl…

Another male character who is a social outcast, as a youth has a trouble with the law, and who pines over the girl for years, and somehow was either misunderstood or magically got his life together.

Somewhere I read, perhaps on Nathan Bransford blog (wish I could find it), what sells, sells. The author had found a writing niche readers enjoyed and had exploited it.

I don’t want to be a copy, or imitate. That’s so uninspiring, I still can’t quite embrace it. Perhaps that was my inspiration to be first, as in The First Carol. Someone else can be next or last, and I hope they have a grand time trying to imitate me. Sure. Let’s run with that.

If given the chance (or talent), which author would you want to imitate and why?


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Ooligan: a small press perspective of publishing

Ooligan BookThe Pearl of Carol blog is giving away two copies of a mini-book, RETHINKING PAPER & INK regarding sustainability in publishing to celebrate the recent Write to Publish Conference sponsored by Ooligan Press. Mention ‘enter to win’ in your comments to participate. Drawing to be held at end of month.


Part One: The evolving marketplace of publishing, industry’s move from credit for unsold books to cash refunds, emerging print-on-demand options, the increase in the number of self-published books.

Part Two: Authors abandoned from the big houses use their savvy to generate the small press movement, wholesalers and distributors keep small press—literary non-fiction on the shelves, the influence of the mega-booksellers and Amazon.

Part Three: this is the final installment of the three part series.

How do new authors break in?

Besides inspired writing, what do new authors need to break into publishing? “Five years ago I would have said you need $200,000 and eat very little for the first five years to afford the cost of returns, in fact, keep your day job,” recommended Dennis Stovall, professor of English and Coordinator of Publishing Curriculum at Portland State University. Stovall opened the recent Write to Publish Conference with a talk on the state of the publishing industry. Today he adds, “Create a kind of word of mouth, viral marketing that reaches more people than traditional media or book store browsing.” Many are finding Facebook fans, swooping in for Twitter followers, and connecting with LinkedIN to begin their outreach to a potential fan base. [The First Carol on Twitter].

Despite these social media opportunities, bookstores remain the best distribution outlet. Established authors dominate the chains, and it’s hard to find anyone willing to open small shops unless they are far away from the mega-sellers. Add to that the current lag in the economy which has roughed up the remaining marketplace as sellers jostle for share, and you have all bad news. Right? Not necessarily. “Eating each other up leaves opportunity,” comments Stovall, and opportunity, he suggests, may lie in places other than paper and ink. “Forty percent of every print run goes into recycle—that’s the average. That doesn’t happen with digital books.”

Watch what happens when bookstores order books they can’t sell:

Sales and reading

Dennis Stovall challenged assumptions we’ve been making over the last twenty about reading. “The National Endowment of the Arts did two major surveys concluding reading is at risk. You read that and you became demoralized. It appeared all we were reading were cookbooks and weight loss books. It’s been nothing like that.” he said, and stressed the studies ignored a critical aspect of reading, namely all the new ways the new generation is reading, and it’s not always the traditional canon of literature. “I have particular interest in what constitutes writing as art and writing as commerce. It’s shifting so fast. I see it in the papers that I grade, an enormous shift. You don’t go back you only go forward.” But go forward into what? “Where does the potential lie?” Stovall asked, then answered, “We don’t KNOW what is going to happen next. It (publishing) can be invented again now, not only in this country but world-wide. It is being reinvented and reinvented quickly.

“Non-fiction continues to sell better than anything else. The average life of a book sells 5,000 copies, non-fiction 7,500, poetry under a 1,000. Performance poetry, revival of an oral tradition is finding its way into print,” Stovall noted. “Something very few of us thought we’d see happen. Now that audience becomes potentially much larger than it ever was before.” To grow any audience it must be nurtured.

Opportunities to develop audience abound for those willing to speak and to teach with the realization they do not generate enormous sales, but rather incremental gains in audience. “Lose the gleam in your eye that says, ‘I’m going to sell a million books.’ The realistic view is that if you pursue correctly you may not be able to make a great living, but you may be able to develop a body of work that won’t go out of print in a digital world.”

Stovall weighed in on the industry’s struggle with the pricing structure. “How do we price in this new model?” he asked. The marketplace is still deciding how much it will pay for a digital book.” Other sources indicate readers believe there is great savings when a book does not consume paper and ink, and they want that savings passed along not pocketed. But pricing the POD less than a printed book may not be the answer.

Small presses are discovering they are not making money on actual sales, but the associated ads on the web-site or on the events that come later. Again, speaking to your audience whether online or in-person is growing in significance while publishing encompasses smaller and smaller venues. “The short form is rising in popularity. Micro presses are doing short work and really short work. The best selling book in Japan was written on the I-phone for the I-phone.”

Mass vs. made-to-order printing

The print-on-demand machine looks like a large refrigerator, punch up the book you want, put in your credit card, and in 3-5 minutes you can hold a printed book completely bound with cover in your hands. It’s the ATM of books, making them more accessible, reviving books that are abandoned, no longer in print, or only available on library shelves. It can instantly put books where you want them when you want them, for example, an Espresso Book Machine at the trail head of a National Park spewing books on flora and fauna. You’re not likely to reach for that book anywhere else, but in that moment it has great value.

What are the advantages of breaking in with print on demand – one book at a time publishing? Digital short run printing is accomplished with liquid toners rather than powder and is rather economically produced. “We are a capitalist society, as the costs come down with new technology we’ll have a slightly more economic entry point.”

Currently, mass printing costs $1.50 per volume versus approximately $3 for print on demand. On the other hand, with POD you don’t have a distributor and a book store taking 10% and 40% along the way and the process produces little to no waste. “This gives you a more realistic view of what is actually selling, and offers what the small bookstores used to produce in our neighborhoods, a sense of community,” said Stovall, and he noted big players are entering the field. “Managing the digital process is being picked up by Amazon. They print, take their cut and send you your money. There’s no cost to store month to month.”

The Espresso Book Machine’s $100,000 price tag limits its mainstream access, but it is making inroads. Pocket Books who mass markets Paperbooks, is now promoting the Espresso Book Machine (EBM). Lightning Source Inc., an Ingram Content company announced EBM as a distribution channel to all publishers that work with the company. Stovall sees tremendous democracy in these actions, but admits machine owners still dictate content. “You’re going to see mix and match opportunities, enormous opportunities for both writers and publishers, but the problem for writers is they have taken the notion of self-publishing too far.”

Authors can’t do it all

All aspects of publishing cannot be tackled by a writer. “Editing it yourself is a mistake.” If you’re not a book designer you can’t know what others have studied earnestly to comprehend—visuals that sell. “Less than stellar projects do not create audiences, they get ignored, are not cataloged and are not bought,” Stovall said. In reality almost nothing is ready to go to press at the beginning. Writers need to remember their book is not done simply because they’ve completed their massive draft. “But books are being produced that have not been vetted in any way, and yet the more demanding the marketplace, the more it requires professionals.”

A manuscript is done when it’s received collaboration and received critical insight on whether the story is well told or not. Stovall presented publishers as the ideal filter. “Publishers always had a role of impresarios. We add value to what the author does by editing, packaging and still have that role, but if there are 560,000 books coming through the system, we need to mediate them so readers understand what ones have been well-developed. We don’t need to print all those books some are ephemeral,” but he quickly adds, “Better to have all of that and find among it the real gems.”

Literary Agencies along with publishers are another necessary mediator, “But if there is push for profit agencies may be driven out. We’ll see agents with a shifted role,” Stovall predicted, then lamented the lack of agent input, “Lulu has published the largest pool of bad poetry in the world.” He also noted a common query: grandparents with stories they told their kids. “Mushy stuff we should have kept to ourselves.”

Over and over again publishers read queries not appropriate to the press. “The onus is on the author to pay attention to what the press publishes and create a strong proposal.” Stovall advised. “Even a rough cut gem will get a serious reading, but direct yourself to the right publisher.”

To locate the correct publishing partner you need to first define your audience. Stovall offered several suggestions including, “Locate a magazine you know is read by the same people who would be interested in your book, and ask the magazine for their media kit, or look for their media kit online. It tells you the demographic of their audience and you now have the audience for your book.” He further added, “Go to Powell’s, imagine what shelf your book might be on, look at the shelf and check out the publishers.” A little research on those publishers can confirm whether they should be targeted. “Bet on that as an author and then you’ll get a hearing,” Stovall promised.

His final admonition critical to success. “When asked who would read your book, the worst thing you can say, ‘Anyone who likes a good read.’ You have to know who would read your book. You HAVE to know.”


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