Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Links and Observations

The last several weeks have seen us blogging about ebooks and e-publishing, e-socialization, promoting our work, and when to break the rules, among other things. So today I've pulled together some related links.

In case you haven't heard, Sony announced last month that they would support the ePub standard on its e-book readers. This opens up the number of books available to those with the Sony e-readers and means those who have a Sony e-reader are no longer limited to buying ebooks from the Sony store. That's the good news. This move, which is an attempt by Sony to position itself as a firm #2 behind Amazon and the Kindle, makes sense. What doesn't, at least in my opinion, is the fact that the ePub standard Sony will be using will still be "wrapped in copy protection". For more information, check out the Publishers Weekly article as well.

With regard to promotion, Market My Words has a great interview with Molly O'Neill, assistant editor for Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins). Just hitting the high points, she says every author:
  • needs a web presence,
  • needs to understand the tools he is using,
  • needs to understand that communication and relationships are the underlying root of every level of this business,
  • needs to realize that online networking is becoming more and more important,
  • should have a marketing plan for every book separate from the publisher's marketing plan,
  • and don't put all your efforts into one area.
She has more to say on the topic and there is a lot of food for thought there.

The agent Rachelle Gardner has a post on Social Networking in 15 Minutes a Day. She writes her blog posts for the week in one or two sittings and then schedules them for automatic postings. Facebook is generally reserved for friends and family. Twitter is not open when she's working and, when posting, she generally limits her time on to 2 minutes. There's more but, in short, she has a schedule that allows her to get her work done and not get lost in the time sink these various networks can quickly become. More than that, she's decided how best to use them so they help her.

Another agent, Jennifer Jackson comments in her weekly roundup about how important it is to follow the rules when submitting queries to agents. While she points out that she won't automatically toss out a query because it runs over the page limit. However, that doesn't mean when she says to send the first 5 pages that you can send the first 30 because, wow, she'll read more of your wonderful prose. I recommend her "Letters from the Query Wars", her weekly roundup of what's crossed her desk during the week, as well as Nathan Bransford's "This Week in Publishing". Ms. Jackson's LftQW help put into focus the query process and what to do and what not to do. Mr. Bransford's TWiP is a great mini-snapshot of what happened in the industry during the week, often giving insight into what publishers are looking for.

Now for the observation and I promise no soapboxes this week. (Sarah, quit looking like you don't believe me. I can do this without the soapbox. I promise.) The first author I met, had sign a book -- actually it was three books -- was Anne McCaffrey. She came to our small, very small neighborhood bookstore around 1978. This was a mom and pop store at the end of a strip mall in one of the small towns between Dallas and Fort Worth. Probably 25 - 30 folks showed up and Ms. McCaffrey was funny and gracious to every one of us. Two of those books still grace my bookshelf -- one, unfortunately, wandered off never to return.

That small bookstore had more signings and author appearances than any of the big box stores in our area now. Those signings were low key and enjoyable, not only for those of us there to meet the authors but for the authors themselves. They weren't "handled" by PR people and the fans were appreciative and supportive. You didn't have to worry so much about security and plenty of time was always scheduled for the signings. Afterwards, the author and bookstore owners, and any fans who wanted to tag along, went to dinner. It was great.

Don't get me wrong. There are still authors like that. But their opportunities to mingle with their fans during and after signings are growing more infrequent. There are fewer and fewer author tours these days. The independent bookstores are a dying breed. I miss them. How about you?


Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Good post, Amanda.

I took my boys to see Terry Pratchett. We lined up for nearly 3 hours, to be shuffled in front of him, have him sign two books and ushered away. By then he was exhausted and we were too. We didn't even speak.

I promised myself, if I ever became that famous, I wouldn't sign books (as such), I'd set up a space where I could talk with readers and reach out to them.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

I meant to add that I don't blame Terry Pratchett for the way things were set up on that signing day.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, thanks. It's been a rare day when I've blamed the authors for being too stressed or too tired to talk at a signing. I've seen too many of them where the PR types are rushing them from point A to point B with no time in between to breathe.

And, let me say, I'm jealous. I'd love to have been able to get a book signed by PTerry.

Kate said...

Ditto on the jealous. The North American Discworld Con is limiting PTerry autographs to 2 books per attendee, arrive at your time slot or you're SOL.

I understand why they're doing it - the man would spend the whole convention buried under a seething mass of fans wanting signatures otherwise. I just hope he's going to have time to have fun.

Amanda Green said...

Kate, why do I have this vision of you getting your books signed, running upstairs to disguise yourself and then running back down with more books? Oh, wait, sorry. That's what I'd be doing if I was going to be there ;-p

Dave Freer said...

The whole publicity idea... I often wonder just how much effect a signing has. As far as I know, no one's quantified it. I've never had more than a minor mob for signing, and I always get to at least exchange a few words. But the question of course is does a bookstore tour make more sales? or is this simply drawing the faithful in. Personally I believe even if it only the latter it still improves LATER sales. But I'd love to know by how much.

Amanda Green said...

Dave, I agree and will go one further. If, during the signing, someone who hasn't heard of you before stops and listens as you talk to your fans, you've made a future sale. Especially if they see you having fun with those who have come out to see you. In my opinion, most folks who go to bookstores tend to browse. So, the next time they are looking for something and they see your book on the shelf, they'll remember your name and pick it up, hopefully even buying it.

That's how I met my first barfly. I was browsing the sf/f shelves at the Borders across the street from where my son went to school and this fellow approached me and started talking. He'd seen me pick up one of Dave Weber's books. He talked knowledgeably about that book and then took me through the shelves pointing out your books, David Drake's and a few others. When asked, he'd started reading Weber after seeing him at a signing. So, from that signing, not only did he start buying and devouring Weber's books, but he was out there actively supporting not only Weber but other Baen authors as well.