Espresso Book Machine in action at Northshire Bookstore

Following up on a posting of the other day, about the Espresso Book Machine 2.0, this article about the device’s introduction at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt., includes video of the machine, which has been nicknamed “Lurch” by store staff, in action. You can see all the machinations with a marketer’s narration (see below).

For those of you new to print terminology, a “perfect binding” does not mean a binding without flaws. Rather, it is a type of paperback binding that uses glue to hold the pages in place within the cover. The article does not discuss questions of how to facilitate browsing for more than one reader at a time, which I examined at length, but it does seem that the primary market has been self-publishers who visited the Northshire Bookstore to have copies of their own books published.

It’s my opinion that we will memorialize many events, even conversations, in printed form once efficient print-on-demand is available. That may be a bigger business than the eternal backlist business publishing envisions for P-o-D systems.

Using Twitter and blogs to drive book sales

Charlotte Abbott writes about the increasingly perennial question, does blogging and Twitter marketing help drive book sales. She points to several anecdotal examples of sales increases, and raises some interesting questions.

As co-founder of, and the author of the influence algorithm used by, BuzzLogic, I do believe it is possible to measure influence within networks. However, it takes a tremendous amount of information and an expensive infrastructure to do it right. In the case of Edelweiss, one of Charlotte Abbott’s examples, they have sought to correlate blog and Twitter mentions of books to sales, which is a blunt cause-and-effect measure that can be fruitful, if you want to believe there is a linear relationship between “buzz” and sales. The problem is, a bad buzz produces the inverse result in many cases.

If we believe a survey Abbott points out, 56 percent of respondents (self-selected) buy books based on their readings of blogs, it implies that positive buzz has a positive correlation to sales, so there must also be a negative correlation or, at minimum, a smaller positive correlation between negative buzz and sales. I am certain blogs have influence, but measuring that influence remains difficult.

The case of Hugh MacLeod, whose excellent new book, Ignore Everybody, is in the Amazon Top 25 in its first weeks on the market, is, I think, a special case of a blogger and artist with a strong following who is benefitting from his intimate relationship with his audience. It would be very hard to replicate his accomplishment without having laid the foundation with a multi-year relationship, as Hugh has.

It will be a long while before anecdotal evidence leads to an inspiration that reduces answering this complex question to a science. In the meantime, we can all be certain that blogs and Twitter, as well as other social channels, are tools we must begin to use and understand as we sell books.

How not to handle bad reviews, ever

Reviewers are the bane of writers’ existences, even when they are good reviewers they find something not to like about one’s work. So, it’s a good idea to engage the smart ones who want to be in dialogue with writers and ignore the bad reviewers and their bad reviews. Don’t do what Alice Hoffman did, according to AlleyCat.

Hoffman tweeted today in response to a Boston Globe review she did not like: “Now any idiot can be a critic. Writers used to review writers. My second novel was reviewed by Ann Tyler. So who is Roberta Silman [the freelancer who wrote the review]?”

She went on to tweet the reviewer’s email address and phone number and commented in another tweet that The New York Times Co. is selling The Boston Globe because it read its reviews and decided they were bad.  It looks petulant and is a losing proposition, because the argument moves away from the question of the book reviewed to the credentials of the reviewer.

Non-reviewers (that would be ordinary readers who have the guts to write and publish their opinion about a book) are often idiotic, but so are professional reviewers, even when they are established writers. Attacking an “amateur” reviewer is attacking the principle widely held that everyone is entitled to their opinion and now has the right to publish it. I write “widely held,” because Andrew Keen has written extensively about how amateurs ruin culture. Some people agree with Keen, though he forgets that all art begins as amateur endeavor.

No great book is universally welcomed as an accomplishment of genius. And reviewers have every right to dislike a book they took the time to read, because they are proxies for the reader, who must judge the review—and the book—for themselves.

It’s always easier to write a negative review than it is to write the book that received a poor review. Why, then, should the writer who put so much into the book rise to respond to a critic who spent a day or two with the book? Constructive engagement can add to the perceived worth of a book, but a vehement response like Hoffman’s is only going to take time away from positive promotion of her book.

List your book on Mobipocket, Amazon or both?

Steve Weber has a good primer on why it is advisable to publish an ebook to both Mobipocket (owned by Amazon) and through Amazon’s DTP service. The Amazon registration will get your book on Amazon’s site faster than Mobipocket does. You’ll also get enhanced reporting and U.S. royalty payments from Amazon that aren’t available through Mobipocket.

Author mills and first-time novelists

Ashlea Ramey writes about the risks of working with companies that promise to publish or sell your books. She suggest that some of these services can be helpful, but that many are running on empty promises.

Relates to my posting, A million little author presences, on the emerging class of services hoping to attract authors to their fee-based services that promise to promote sales of books and rights.

Ouch! Elsevier admits payola for positive reviews

InsideHigherEd.com has caught Elsevier’s textbook marketers in a payola scheme, which the company admits and has said violated its own rules, encouraging contributors to post positive reviews at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. In an email, the company offered $25 gift cards from Amazon in exchange for positive reviews.

The company’s director of corporate relations issued a statement:

“Encouraging interested parties to post book reviews isn’t outside the norm in scholarly publishing, nor is it wrong to offer to nominally compensate people for their time, some of these books are quite large. But in all instances the request should be unbiased, with no incentives for a positive review, and that’s where this particular e-mail went too far.”

So, Elsevier just put a toe over the line…. Right. With new restrictions on blogger payola coming from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, these “little slip-ups” could cost a company dearly. Don’t pay for reviews and make sure all forms of compensation are disclosed, including free books.

Authors Guild starts full-court press for Google agreement

Roy Blout Jr., president of the Authors Guild, has published a plea for support of the Google Books agreement he helped negotiate, arguing that the deal is being held up over fears about a “‘Monopoly’ of Orphans.” He argues that Google’s monopoly on scanned out-of-print books would be only over those books for which the rightsholder cannot be found, and points to the success of the Authors Registry, a non-profit the manages overseas photocopying rights, in finding 80 percent of rightsholders they seek. He signs it, in his signature Blountian way: “Unmonopolistically yours.”

I have problems with the settlement, because it sets a standard in revenue sharing for all books that will eventually be scanned and sold through Google Books that may shave away more of the tiny sliver of revenue currently going to authors when applied to copyrighted works. The math always works against an author, so this agreement should be combined with a move by the Authors Guild to separate e-book and online rights from paper publishing rights systematically, so that authors receive a higher share of online revenue because publishers have substantially lowered cost and risks when taking an author’s work to digital formats.

A primer on configuring a blog for Kindle distribution

pskl.us has a tutorial on configuring blog publishing on the Kindle. Covers all the steps, but doesn’t mention the need to remove all advertising and commercial links from the content (because pskl.us has none, he didn’t run into it). The terms and conditions of the Amazon Kindle Publishing for Blogs requires it:

You will deliver a full text, well formed XML feed of each publication from which you have removed all advertisements and other materials that are primarily intended to advertise or promote products or services and from which you have removed all video and / or user-generated links (e.g., Reddit, DIGG, and Technorati).

A million little author presences

As writers, we seek to develop a relationship with our readers. It can be a relationship of service, one that entertains, one that informs or that argues, among others. Without the relationship, there’s no next step, no story to be told. If you can’t keep the reader’s attention on the first page, they won’t get to the second. The same principle applies on the Web as you sell your book, e-book or site. Publishers share this burden and, if the wish to thrive in the post paper-centric world, will likely focus on this aspect of the reader-author relationship as a key value proposition.

In recent days, I’ve seen a half dozen new places for authors to sell books or list their work in some way in order to be found. Beyond the obvious search engine optimization (SEO) how-to business questions that are answered by other blogs, the proliferation of potential places of presence online confronts the author or publisher with critical questions about how to divide the time and financial resources they have available.

Early in the social media marketing discussion, there was an assumption that a brand had to be everywhere, on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, and a thousand other sites, but now we recognize that the “tradigital,” which mixes evangelical engagement with customers and judicious use of social networking where the return justifies Continue reading