Kendra Bonnett--Getting Read #13
Kendra Bonnett--Getting Read #13
Kendra Bonnett--Getting Read #12
Getting read…it’s what most writers want. Oh there are a few who write only for themselves. But most of us want someone—even if it’s just family—to read our stories, our thoughts, our legacy. In my columns I generally focus on what it takes to get published and how to market and sell one’s book going forward.
Writers in the 21st century have a useful tool in the Internet. But today I want to suggest something a little more traditional and low tech. It's editing, and good editing can make a big difference in your ability to get read.
If you like words and good writing--even simple sentences--you may be acutely aware of the sloppy writing, incorrect word usage and nonexistent grammar that passes for communication on the Internet. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t see someone confuse then/than, their/there, and your/you’re. Most of it carelessness, but not entirely. The mistakes are repeated too often to be simply silly mistakes.
I thought it would be fun to include a little quiz. It's just for fun, and your challenge is to determine what (if anything) is wrong with each example. At least one is correct. You'll find the answers at the bottom of this post.
So how did you do? Pretty well, I expect. But before you check your answers, I'd like to direct you to our first Author Conversation for 2010 over on Women's Memoirs. Matilda Butler and I had the pleasure recently to talk with Jid Lee. Jid is the author of To Kill a Tiger: A Memoir of Korea. It's a fascinating memoir--well written and interesting for its technique. Jid is most effective for the way she entwines her history and memories with those of her family and homeland.
Jid tells us that she used three editors before she was finished. She wasn't so much in need of a grammarian as someone to help her with structure...someone who could help her turn 230,000 words into a marketable book of just 130,000 words. I think you'll enjoy our conversation.
And while we're on the subject of editing...When you're ready, I hope you will consider the talented editors we have assembled for the Story Circle Network Editorial Service. These women represent a diverse range of editing skills. This year, we'll begin showcasing their talents by having them take turns blogging here on Telling HerStories. So you'll want to watch for that.
Now, why don't you check your answers to the quiz above.
Kendra Bonnett--Getting Read #11
This month’s post is a bit of a megillah. Sunday started innocently enough as I spent some time browsing several of the LinkedIn groups where I like to hang. But as I began reading and thinking…well one thing led to another. As is often the case among LinkedIn’s writing, marketing and blogging groups, I found several threads dealing with the challenges of getting published and using social media for book promotion. The discussion usually goes something like this:
Question: Do free social media sites really help you sell books? Or, Is Twitter a godsend or a waste of time? And sometimes, Who’s selling books thanks to Facebook?
And then the comments start. Respondents run the gamut: The Touters (as I like to call them) extol the benefits of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more. Each has his or her pet tool or resource. The Deniers (I see fewer of these all the time) either claim they are happily living in a pre-WordPress world of publishing (or, if they’re bona fide Luddites or honest-to-god curmudgeons, they must reside in a pre-Internet, alternate universe). Then sooner or later the Dupes show up, those who have suffered loss and mischief at the hands of Internet cons, crooks and scammers. And don’t doubt it, they are out there.
This Sunday was no different…although perhaps a bit more extreme.
The Touters Led Off the Discussion…
…with their praise for Facebook, Twitter, blogs, social networks, Ning, to name just a few of the tools—everyone has their own personal favorite. I read their words, agreed with most, but didn’t add a comment of my own. I noticed, however, that even the Touters had their caveats and cautions. Social networking is their religion, and yet almost universally they admit to making near Homeric commitments of time and energy, replete with the challenges, setbacks and strange encounters worthy of a modern-day Ulysses.
As I said, I didn’t comment on any of this. I know their journey all too well. It is true that the challenge of building a following exclusively via social networking is daunting. You must work at it every day and not expect any significant returns for a year. Yes, results in six months are possible but not the norm; you need to budget a year, which is why Matilda Butler and I always counsel clients to start their blog the same day they start writing their book.
As to which tool or tools to build your strategy around…I believe it depends on your personal preference. If you like Twitter’s microblogging approach, go for it. I recommend you commit to Tweeting a minimum of nine times a day: three in the morning, three in the early afternoon and three in the evening. And your Tweets must have teeth: solid content, links to your blog or links to interesting (related) content you found on the Internet.
If you like Facebook and if you haven’t yet set up a Fan
Page, what are you waiting for? I can’t say that Fan Pages are the future of
Facebook, but they are most definitely the present. Your posts are seen on
Facebook feeds (Groups do not appear on the feed) so if you post aggressively you’ll gain considerable visibility.
And with more than 300 million people on Facebook, you can draw on a large
universe. Fan pages also allow you to be more commercial in your posting. You
won’t get “slapped” or worse, thrown off Facebook, for promoting your book and
posting a link to your sales page.
For myself, I can’t complain about putting in the time and effort necessary for building social traffic, given that I’m not having to spend money on Google AdWords or banner ads. Time is money, and it all costs one way or another, but I personally don’t want to invest in buying traffic…at least not until I know I have a winning formula for converting visitors to paying customers.
And one more consideration: If you want to take advantage of the any of the many free social networking tools, don’t wait. These may not remain free forever. Investors want profits, and if advertising and corporate deals don’t bring in revenue, I think we can expect many tools to disappear, consolidate and/or become fee-based. My advice is put in the time now while the only cost is time and energy. To make social networking part of my day, I get up an hour or two earlier to do my blogging, Tweeting and posting so that it doesn’t cut into the rest of my day.
There’s Always a Denier…
This week only one joined into the discussion. Actually she didn’t discuss; it was more of a “drive by” comment. She made her pronouncement, gained the ire the Touters and disappeared into the night. In the midst of the cacophony of Touters talking up Fan Pages and Twitter Lists, Ms. Denier announced with all the tact of a Sherman tank that she has no use for book marketing (of any sort). She prefers to simply write her proposal, cash her advance, hand her book over to the publisher and wait for the royalty checks to arrive, and then begin the whole process over again.
I admit it. I had to comment, and I wasn’t alone. In addition to wishing her good luck with that, I pointed out that almost 75 percent of books never sell more than 100 copies. In other words, most authors will never see a royalty check if they put their fate exclusively in the hands of their publisher. Furthermore, if an author sells only a couple 100 books and doesn’t appear to be developing a reader base, I can’t believe that future book deals are waiting in the wings. This brings us back to marketing and social networking.
But Beware the Fate of the Dupes…
For all its benefits, the Internet is not without risks, and this week’s Dupes reminded us by alerting us to some new scams. Some authors have been using ezines to promote their work. But rather than submitting press releases or posting their articles on an established ezine aggregator such as EzineArticles.com, they have been hoping to get paid for their content. The results have not been universally positive. There are reports of what appear to be fraudulent (nonexistent) ezines that send authors forms to fill out with their name, address and Social Security number. But the payments never arrive. Now these authors are afraid they may become the victims of identity theft and have put a watch on their credit. Don’t give your Social Security number to any stranger online (or off, for that matter). And while I’m on the subject, if you list your birthday on your Facebook page and it’s visible to anyone other than you, go into your settings and fix this right now. An email address and your birthday may be all someone needs to steal your identity. Enjoy social media, but be careful with your personal information.
This is how I spent part of my Sunday…reading. As for the thinking and what I believe all of this means to authors, please follow this link to my post on Women’s Memoirs.
Kendra Bonnett--Getting Read #10
If I am forced to use just one word to describe the publishing world in 2009, that word has to be CHANGE. And as soon as I’ve uttered it, I’m going to cry foul and demand a second word. What would my second word be? I’m sure you guessed it, EBOOK.If you doubt me, then imagine what Rip Van Winkle would find upon waking from his 20-year nap. He falls asleep in 1989…probably waiting for his acoustic modem to connect to CompuServe. He awakes to a world of iPods, iPhones, and Kindles. It’s a world where bookstores in the United States are shuttering their doors at a rate of about 400 a year (according to Grant Thorton LLC’s August report on retail, and that number is up 500 percent from 2008). A world of print on demand, Amazon.com, and ebooks…thousands and thousands of ebooks and millions of downloads.
I love stats for their ability to give a quick view of trends. Here are a few I've corralled for you:
Do You Have Questions?
With so much going on in the publishing industry, I’m sure you must have questions. So why don’t you share your questions in the form of comments appended to this post. Helen has asked her panelists to suggest topics for our discussion. I thought it would be useful to open that request to all of you.
One More Word
I have one more word that I have to use when describing the publishing industry in 2009. But to learn what that is, you must follow this link to my post over on Women’s Memoirs.
See that little tree growing out of the tiniest crack in an otherwise solid rock surface. We marvel. What enables that sole plant to succeed? We can't help but anthropomorphize it and admire its tenacity when, in fact, it's just doing what nature has always done...persevering. A seed finds an opening and takes full advantage.
See that successful painter, photographer, playwright, novelist, poet...author. Again we marvel. Those of us in the arts know just how rarified is the air the great ones breathe. There are awards, great reviews, lucrative book deals, bestseller bragging rights up for grabs. We aspire. We dream. But what does it really take for us to succeed?
Kendra Bonnett--Getting Read #8
“If you build it they will come…” may work if you’re Kevin Costner, but the rest of us better have a back-up plan. This is something I tell authors and business owners alike who are trying to put the Internet to work. Creating a website or even a blog site, is only one step and no guarantee you’ll ever be found online. Pretty graphics and good content aren’t enough when you are just one out of more than 220 million websites (about the best estimate according to the Netcraft Web Server Survey, September 2009).
It’s Tough Out There…What We’re Up Against
By now, most of you have heard about the 2004 Nielsen Bookscan report that of the 1.2 million titles tracked, 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies. Nielsen further reported that the average book in the United States sold 500 copies annually. That was then; today the number is positively grim. As of 2008, the average book in the United States is selling fewer than 250 copies a year. There are two primary reasons:
Fewer readers. U.S. sales grew by just 3.5 percent between 2003 and 2008 (Association of American Publishers). But factor in inflation during that period and sales actually dropped 13.5 percent. This isn’t a huge surprise. We all know that books are competing against CDs, DVDs, movie rentals, TV, videogames and, of course, the Internet.
More books. If battling against other media wasn’t enough, we’re also competing against more books. R.R. Bowker reports that the number of new books published annually has doubled in the five years between 2003 and 2008. Last year 560,626 new books were published in the United States alone.
Shout From the Rooftops
About now you may be thinking that it’s time for a new profession. But that’s not realistic…especially not if writing is your passion. If you’re trying to earn a living as an author, it’s time to step up your marketing efforts. More than ever you have to generate interest and be heard above the competition.
So forget the traditional website. Build a blog site and set a realistic schedule for posting (and stick to it). And while you’re blogging, start attracting an audience. Go where your readers are…on social networking sites, YouTube and any of the many specialty sites (e.g., EzineArticles, Shefari, Podiobooks, Bookrix) and start establishing a presence. Get involved in social networking groups, comment on other people’s blogs, create a video book trailer, write brief articles, share an audio chapter of your book or even post a digital copy of your work.
But Don’t Stop There…You’re Just Warming Up
For my money, this is when the fun really begins because you get to let your creativity take flight…at least in the brainstorming stages. What can you say, do or market that will help you stand out from the crowd? It has to be distinctive…but inexpensive. We may be artists, but we’d like to show some profit,so run your numbers before you spend any money.
There’s no limit to the ideas you can come up with. Matilda Butler, my co-author and co-host of Women’s Memoirs, and I often come up with products that complement our books and blogs. For Women’s Memoirs, we have a line of herbal teas, soaps and lotions all designed to relax the soul, boost the memory and stimulate creativity. We have signature mugs and luxurious Thai silk bookmarks, notebook covers, pillows and neck wraps.But our most successful extension product has been the Rosie the Riveter Legacy bandana. I’m writing about this today over on Women’s Memoirs. And because this is interview Monday, I’ve posted a brief interview with “Ethel the Riveter” who was kind enough to talk with me last week…so join me over on Women’s Memoirs.
Kendra Bonnett--Getting Read #7
I read the other day that blogging was dead. Wow, I thought, I'm glad someone told me. I might have gone along blogging completely oblivious to the fact that my platform was dead, at least in terms of influence and relevance. Don't you believe it for a minute.
Actually, I read such a headline every few months, and it doesn't even phase me. You see, I've been through this before. In fact, it might interest you to know that Facebook is dying--now that young people are supposedly leaving because adults are joining in record numbers. Twitter is pronounced dead every other week for reasons ranging from too rapid a growth rate (at one point 1382 percent) to the fact that Google has yet to buy them. Podcasting is another technology tossed into the dead pool regularly because...well just because.
It's true that the rate of growth of blog posting has slowed. According to Technorati (the world's largest aggregator and networker of blogs) bloggers were posting at a rate of 1.5 million per day in March 2007; a year later the rate was between 900,000 and 1 million posts a day, and we don't yet know what 2009 will show. I don't know about you, but since I can only read between 10 and 20 posts on any given day--and still be productive--blogging will have to all but disappear for me to feel any of the tightening.
The truth is I can't think of a single technology that hasn't slowed after enjoying several years of growth at rates that few industries can imagine, let alone boast. And looking at the carnage and debris scattered about the current economic battlefield, bloggers should be pleased that slower posting rates are all they endure. No, I think the reports of the demise of blogging are not only greatly exaggerated they miss the real story.
But first, let's ground ourselves in a few stats so we know just what we're talking about. According to Technorati, the blogosphere In 2008 (2009 numbers are not yet released) looked something like this:
With numbers like these, you're probably wondering why anyone in their right mind would suggest that blogging has even a fever, let alone is in ICU or dead. I suspect much of the doomsaying comes from 1) technophiles who only have eyes for the next new thing, 2) some percentage of traditional journalists who feel threatened by the "citizen journalist," and 3) naysayers that love to decry the end and death of anything and everything.
So what's going on? And what does it mean to authors blogging (or planning to blog) to boost interest in their books? You'll find my answer over on the Women's Memoirs blog under the post entitled "Is Blogging Dead...and Should I Care?"
Kendra Bonnett--Getting Read #6
Kendra Bonnett--Getting Read #5
Kendra Bonnett--Getting Read #4
My detectives, armed with notepads, scoured the house looking for key evidence. They flipped through worn telephone books, ignoring the fact that more than one page had apparently been ripped out. They studied the ads in popular magazines; yes there were clues to be collected there. They scanned the shelves of cookbooks before selecting one that looked promising. Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Mexican, Vietnamese cookbooks, no classic French—suspicious but not germane to the case. The detectives were after the words, phrases and sentences that would solve the mystery.
I worked at headquarters. My job was to make sense of it all. I unlocked the secrets by creating sentences from the random word clues. Today I might have called myself a forensic editor. But back then, the detectives were my little sister and brother. Too young to read, they could copy letters and words, which was good practice for their handwriting. They loved playing sleuth. For me, the fun was in solving puzzles by trying to make sentences out of the random words and phrases they collected. It was a great game.
With few children in our neighborhood, we invented a lot of our own entertainment. Now as I look back on the variety of word games, play schools, and community newsletters I created, I wonder if these were the telltale clues to my future career as a writer and editor.
Did you ever stop to consider your own creativity? And what it says about you? If you're curious, I've found a way for you to measure your own creativity. CREAX has a free test. It’s fun and takes no more than 10 minutes to complete. The average score, according to CREAX, is 62.44; I tested at 92.15. You can follow this link to the test. How do you stack up?