Monday, August 22, 2011

Google Plus must be lame because here I am

If you know me at all, you know I'm not a "tech guy;" I've never exactly blazed any kind of a trail in the digital revolution. And I know that may seem kind of strange considering my first two novels have been published exclusively electronically.

The fact of the matter is I don't enjoy electronic gadgets, mostly because I don't care about taking the time to learn how to use them. This explains why the years when VCR's were changing over to DVD players was such a stressful time for me.

Sure, I have a cell phone - I have three kids, how could I not? - but while the rest of family owns Droid smart phones, and I'm constantly suffering serious pressure to join the club, I'm happy with my LG something-or-other that doesn't get the Internet. Although I can check my email on it, so maybe it does, I'm not quite sure.

See what I mean? I don't care much about that stuff.

But here's the thing: When I decided to start writing books, I knew I needed a way to market my work, as well as to network with readers and other writers.

The solution? I opened a Myspace account (or, to be more accurate, my wife opened it for me)! But just about the time I cowboyed up, everyone else was jumping the Myspace ship for that shiny new Facebook thing. I didn't want to leave Myspace, because, after all, I had taken all that time to learn how to use it and Facebook seemed so . . . foreign.

Eventually, though, I could no longer ignore the mass migration. I would make a post on Myspace and could practically hear it rattling around in cyberspace.

So, when I could no longer convince myself Myspace was where it was at, I opened up a Facebook account (or, to be more accurate, my wife started it for me)! But, you guessed it, just about the time I figured this Facebook thing out, everyone else had discovered that shiny new Twitter thing.

Well I haven't quite worked up the courage to start a Twitter account yet, although I'll probably do that fairly soon (are you listening, honey?). I still find it very hard to believe anyone besides my immediate family would want to hear my 140-character thoughts on anything, and I know even they're ignoring me most of the time.

And now there's another problem: there's a newer shiny thing taking off, called Google Plus, or maybe just Google +, I'm not too sure. This is supposed to be like Facebook, only better, and of course Facebook was supposed to be like Myspace, only better.

What's a Luddite to do? I'm just about ready to dip a toe into the Twitter ocean and here comes something else! Pretty soon the world will be all social media, all the time. Or maybe we're already there. As you may have noticed, I tend to lag a bit.

Anyway, I'd like to apologize to the folks at Google who, I'm sure, have worked very hard on their Google Plus (or Google +) project. I just joined, thanks to the possibly misguided invitation of Chris White at StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink.

This, of course, means you are no longer cool, Google Plus, because by the time I find you, all the cool kids are on to something else. Sorry about that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Digital Revolution Continues

I saw a couple of different things this week that really reinforced to me how much the digital revolution has taken over the publishing industry.

HarperCollins released their sales figures for the year, and my first thought was, "What the hell kind of calendar are they on?" I always thought the fiscal year went from October through October, but apparently that's not the case at Harper. Anyway, they claim ebook sales for the year of twelve percent, but for the third quarter of nineteen percent.

My suspicions have been that by Christmas ebook sales will account for close to twenty-five percent of book sales overall, and if the nineteen percent figure at HarperCollins for third quarter sales is accurate, I don't see anything to make me believe twenty-five percent won't happen. Unless the percentage goes higher.

On a related note, bestselling author Scott Nicholson blogged about the accelerating trend of bookstore closures, and how that fact doesn't necessarily mean shelf-space is declining. In fact, he says, it's just the opposite when you consider virtual shelf space. "The decline in new paper books is way more than offset by the avalanche of new digital titles."

"We aren't killing bookstore," he says. "We are birthing a new Golden Era of literature, by writing and reading and sharing ideas..." Whether you'd rather hold a paper-and-ink book in your hands or prefer the convenience of an ereader, it's a fascinating post and one well worth your time.

Another blog post from another of my favorite authors dealt with the digital publishing revolution as well. Noir author Heath Lowrance released his first book, THE BASTARD HAND, back in March as a trade paperback edition. The book is available now digitally as well, and in this post, Lowrance analyzes the pluses and minuses of both options:

"The feel of an actual book in your hand, one that requires you to turn pages and stuff, is comfortable to me and I suspect I’ll always prefer that...But: if you’re milling around Amazon, window-shopping at the Kindle store, you come across so many great books for SO cheap… a book for anywhere from .99 cents to 3.99 is, honestly, just a killer deal, especially considering that you get to read it within SECONDS of finding it."

Lowrance goes on to say his sales of THE BASTARD HAND have been much more brisk digitally than for the print edition. As an author, the whole point is to get your work in front of the readers' eyes, and he seems to recognize that the price advantage and ease of delivery for digital books makes a big difference.

My own experience is pretty one-sided. Both of my novels and my short story collection are available only digitally, and while I would love to see them all in print, I understand and accept that the vast majority of my sales would still come from the digital editions. It's much easier for readers to justify spending 99 cents or $2.99 or even $7.99 for a digital book from an author they don't know than spending much more than that for a hardcover edition or trade paperback.

Either way, I keep writing, knowing I can tell a story, taking full advantage of the breaks as they come my way...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

When a recommendation is not a recommendation

I'm the first to admit the nuances to technology escape me most of the time. When I was a kid there was no Internet, no computers. "Television" meant a huge black and white TV set with rabbit ear antennae sticking out of the top which received three stations. Four, if you counted PBS. Five, if you wanted to watch Channel Nine out of Manchester, NH, which came in as mostly snow.

The point is, while I'm as up on technology as a fifty-one year old man with little interest in tech stuff can be, a lot of the rules of the road associated with that tech stuff mystify me.

Case in point: Like most authors, I'm constantly looking for ways to promote my work. I thought I had stumbled upon one when I discovered the "Recommendations" section in Goodreads. If you're not familiar with it, that's where readers can go to post genres or other information they are looking for from potential books, and other Goodreads members can suggest books fitting their requirements.

Perfect! I figured I could network with readers looking for the things I write about, and respectfully suggest my book to those readers. Which I did. To probably a dozen or so readers, before being informed that what I was doing was highly inappropriate and could result in me being banned from Goodreads.


If you know me, you know self-promotion doesn't come easy to me under any circumstances. If I had my way, I wouldn't do any of it. The last thing I want to do is be known as someone who tries to skirt the rules. I looked at the Goodreads thing as an opportunity to connect with people looking for what I was offering. I didn't mass-email anyone, I personalized every contact I made, and I only contacted people interested in thrillers who were looking for a new book to read.

Obviously, I won't be doing that any more, although it still seems to make sense. Supply and demand, and all that.

I've always felt that if you didn't make a few mistakes every now and then you weren't trying hard enough, and it was an honest mistake, so it doesn't really bother me that much, but to everyone I contacted on Goodreads who was seeking a thriller recommendation, I apologize, although most of them didn't seem to mind.

So now I'm back to trying to think of ways to get my book in front of motivated readers' eyes. Anyone have any ideas? I'm open to suggestions...