Category Archives: self-publishing

The (Long) Tail of Self-Published Authors

I read Meghan Ward’s excellent Writerland blog post, Does Social Media Sell Books?, this morning, and thought I would share a version of my comments here:

I recently came across two terms that relate to me as a self-published and self-marketed author:

Googlable“: I have a blog that comes up on top of the first page of search results with my my name as the search string, so I guess that makes me “googlable”.

Long Tail Business Model“: Illustrated in the graph below, founder Bob Young verbalized this business model in a 2007 interview:

A [traditional] publishing house dreams of having 10 authors
selling a million books each. Lulu wants a million authors
selling 100 books each.

Long Tail Business Model Illustration (Picture by Hay Kranen / PD)

I guess I could have also titled this post “Are Self-Published Authors Skewed?”

On the topic of using social media to market books, I currently have about 20 folks who follow my blog, about 40 likes on my Facebook page, and a little over 300 followers on Twitter. Pretty meager numbers compared to many, but darn, it has taken an inordinate amount of time away from writing my next novel just to get to these levels. Going by gut feel, I can’t relate many–if any–book sales to my social media efforts. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. I adopted the “social media is about being social” mantra, and I hardly ever even mention my novel, let alone hawk it, although everything does link back to this blog.

While I sit with the vast majority, somewhere in the “long tail” of self-published authors, I’ve met some lovely folks through my social media socializing, and I’m enjoying posting weekly on my blog. Now it’s time to dive deeply into my next novel (think James Herriot meets Nora Roberts in Ireland!), because it’s the crafting of stories that I really enjoy.

All the best,

Tech Notes – HootSuite for Twittering Self-Marketers

Back when I gleefully signed on to be a Self-Publisher, I knew there would eventually be some marketing involved, but I was blithely ignorant of what that really entailed. To paraphrase a memorable They Might Be Giants verse, “I was young and foolish then. I’m feeling old and foolish now.” Perhaps I should have listened more carefully when my wise editor, Robin Martin of Two Songbirds Press, ominously intoned, “Rob . . . marketing is a bear.”

After I released An Irish Miracle, and the full impact of my new role as a Self-Marketer started to sink in, I felt very much alone. Fortunately, I had been following @KristenLambTX on Twitter for several months. Her book, We Are Not Alone – The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, sounded like just the ticket for a lonely Self-Marketer. (You can read my review of We Are Not Alone on goodreads here.)

Along with her overarching principle of approaching social media marketing with a servant’s heart, Kristen cites Twitter as one of the obvious keys to a successful, multifaceted social media platform, and she recommended TweetDeck to manage the quickly cantankerous and often unruly Twitter Timelines that come with following more than a handful of fellow tweeters. Since I rely on tabbed browsing in Firefox to manage lots of open websites in one place, when I realized that TweetDeck was a separate, standalone application, I went looking for a similar solution that was web-based . . . and that’s when I found HootSuite.

As a social network management dashboard, HootSuite is a web-based and mobile app tool to increase your productivity by allowing you to manage all your social networks (and multiple user profiles for each, if you have more than one) in one place. There are free and fee-based versions available. I’m using the free version, at least for now. Although I’m going to focus on HootSuite’s integration with Twitter, the dashboard can help you manage all of the following social networks:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+ Pages
  • Foursquare
  • Myspace
  • WordPress
  • Mixi
  • HootSuite Apps Directory, for Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr, and more

Here’s a brief overview of the main features I use in my HootSuite dashboard. There’s much more capability there that I am currently taking advantage of, but the HootSuite website has many resources to help us discover everything this tool has to offer.

From the HootSuite Dashboard, you can compose and send tweets, status updates and posts to any of the social networks you have connected your Dashboard to. The Dashboard can be organized with one or many custom Tabs. Here are the Tabs I am currently using:

  • Twitter Home (standard Twitter feeds)
  • Facebook (standard Facebook feeds)
  • Writing & Blogging (Twitter Lists)
  • Potential Readers (Twitter Lists)
  • Family & Friends (Twitter Lists)
  • News & Politics (Twitter Lists)
  • Popular Media & Technology (Twitter Lists)
  • Social Media Gurus (Twitter Lists)
  • Searches & Keywords (Custom hashtag and keyword searches)

Each tab is arranged in columns called Streams, which can contain standard data feeds such as your Twitter Home Feed, Sent Tweets, Mentions, several versions of your Facebook News Feed, and many others. Even more powerfully, Streams can also contain your existing Twitter Lists, searches for hashtags and streams based on keywords you enter.

HootSuite Dashboard

From the HootSuite Contacts Screen, you can see, interact with, and manage:

  • Twitter Profiles
  • Twitter Lists
  • People Following You
  • People You Follow

Anywhere within HootSuite, if you click on a user name, a popup window will display the available information for that user’s profile, along with several ways to directly interact with that user.

HootSuite Contacts Screen

As I mentioned above, HootSuite is available in web-based and mobile app forms, in both free and paid versions. Once you have Twitter, Facebook, and your other social networks set up and organized, I think you will see productivity improvements . . . maybe even a little peace of mind . . . building and managing your social media platform.

HootSuite for Web and Mobile Apps

Speaking as a newly minted Self-Marketer, I would be pleased to connect with you on one or more of the social networks of your choice:

Remember to get your copy of An Irish Miracle by Rob Mahan, too. It’s a story I think you will enjoy as a great summer read, or any time of the year! The e-book is also available from Barnes & Noble for Nook, kobo, the Diesel eBook Store, and Smashwords! The e-book will also be available on iTunes soon (I hope)!

All the best!

The Renaissance of Self-Publishing

Native American Storyteller

The term “disintermediation” seems to be popping up more these days, as if the concept is something new. It’s really just a fancy way of saying “cutting out the middle man” or “going right to the source”. If you remember Webvan from a few years ago, they tried (and quickly failed) to disintermediate the retail supermarket industry by delivering groceries direct to consumers. You succeed where Webvan failed every time you go to your local farmer’s market and buy what they’ve grown directly out of the back of their trucks. If you want to take this food supply chain disintermediation example to its ultimate level, grab a hoe and go plant your own garden.

I set out to talk about disintermediation in today’s publishing industry. I must be hungry.

The “traditional” publishing model puts many intermediaries—gatekeepers, if you will—between the author and the reader. In its simplest form, an author contracts with a literary agent to represent a manuscript to one or more publishers. If the manuscript is accepted, the author and literary agent contract with the publisher to finalize, produce, distribute, and market the manuscript in the form of a finished book. Only then is the reader presented with an opportunity to experience the author’s story, with very little chance of ever interacting directly with the author.

The “new” self-publishing model puts the author almost directly in contact with the reader. I think at least some of today’s self-published authors see themselves as pioneering disintermediators of the publishing industry, bypassing the gatekeepers of the Big Six and other publishers by taking their stories directly to the reader. But as far as being pioneers, I think those self-published authors and self-proclaimed iconoclasts have it a bit wrong.

In terms of human history, the “traditional” publishing model is relatively new. While Irish monks may have saved Western civilization by meticulously hand-copying and thus preserving many Greek and Latin texts, Gutenberg’s mechanical movable type started the Printing Revolution in the year 1440. Without movable type, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, and the Scientific Revolution all would have had a much tougher time getting off the ground. Without Gutenberg’s invention (and all those Irish monks with writer’s cramp) knowledge would have spread much more slowly. Our modern world would look much different without those six or seven centuries of literary agents, publishers, and printers intermediating to spread literature and knowledge to people of all walks of life.

But what was happening before the year 1440? From the dawn of human history until then, the vast majority of people received their literature and knowledge directly from another person, in the forms of myths, legends, tales, songs, epic poems, and folklore in our rich and now almost forgotten oral tradition. No writing systems. No intermediaries. The village medicine man, tribal elders, minstrels, bards, and other storytellers had the ears of anyone within the sound of their voice. From generation to generation in every culture, knowledge was passed along orally, with each generation adding new stories of their own. The Printing Revolution may have given birth to many vital movements, but it effectively put a halt to our rich traditions of person-to-person oral history, oral lore, oral law, and oral knowledge . . . until very recently.

Just a few short years ago, what is perhaps the ultimate disintermediator came into being. Without the Internet, today’s Renaissance of Self-Publishing may never have gotten off the ground. After a six or seven century hiatus, the storytellers of our time finally have the ears of their listeners again. Well, almost.