The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide (Part V––iPads )

I started off this series by examining the Kindle, and then the NOOK, and then the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  This week, I’m going to take a (quick) look at the whole suite of Apple products that have by and large eroded any hold the dedicated e-reader held over the general reading public.  I’m talking about the computers you carry around in your pockets and backpacks, the mobile forward operating bases and command centers of your life, the little devices that have had a big impact on how we interpret our lives and arrange our days: the iPhone and the iPad.  Apple manufactures laptops, too, though making room for more traditional computers in this conversation might lengthen it to a mere century or two in length.  You might say that I could “talk for hours” about the changing role of the home or personal computer in everyday life.  I’m just going to allude to the fact that you can use an Apple Air or its predecessors to read e-books, using the same apps you might use on your mobile device.

It’s possible. It’s just that a laptop tends to not be the preferred device for most consumers who own more than one kind of Apple device.  And there are a lot of people who own multiple Apple devices.  In 2012, USA Today reported that roughly half of American households had at least one Apple product.  And the numbers didn’t end there; the article also stated that: “Americans don’t stop with just one device. Homes that own least one Apple, own an average of three. Overall, the average household has 1.6 Apple devices, with almost one-quarter planning to buy at least one more in the next year.”  And that was in 2012!  And when it comes to the iPad specifically, there’s even more reason to be hopeful: according to a report from the Stamford Advocate (drawing upon a longer piece for the Business Insider)  that’s so hot off the press it might smudge if you even look at it, Apple Inc just reported its quarterly earnings and the outlook for iPads remains good, despite a slight decline in total global tablet sales.  The Stamford Advocate’s Jay Yarow records Apple’s CEO Tim Cook as saying: “70% of people planning to buy a tablet plan to buy an iPad, per [a] ChangeWave survey.”  Seventy percent!  And that’s on top of the 200+ million units sold prior to 2014.  So, in summary … there are a lot of iPads out there, and there will be plenty more, as Apple continues to dominate the tablet market.

steve jobs with ipad

But what does this mean for you as an indie, hybrid, or self-publishing author?  Do people really use iPads the way they would use dedicated e-readers like Kindles and NOOKs?  As illustrated by this article for PC Magazine, the matter of what constitutes a dedicated e-reader and how it’s different from a tablet like the iPad has grown steadily more confusing.  Everyone more or less admits that they like the look and feel of the dedicated devices (which eschew backlighting, making for a more comfortable experience) but they are more likely to purchase a tablet like the iPad because of its versatility.  An iPad can simply do more, the general opinion runs, even though many devices like the new Kindle have a whole suite of apps a la tablet, and many tablets (including the iPad) have Kindle apps to sync a person’s reading experience via the Cloud.

In theory, it would be entirely possible to own a Kindle, an iPhone, an iPad, and a Macbook laptop, and move seamlessly from one device to another, picking up on one where you left off on the other––including if you happen to be listening to an audiobook version on your iPhone and use the WhisperSync function.  WhisperSync means you no longer have to worry about trying to find your place, even if you’re switching back and forth between reading and listening to a given book.  (Have I mentioned that I “nerd out” over technological innovations like this?  Ones that actually make life easier?  I do.  Often.)

So, yes, people really do use their iPads as their primary reading devices, in part because they’re so easily integrated into a larger “reading experience” as designed and made possible by Apple’s entire product line.  And because the iPad runs on an app-based (or “application-based”) operating system, you as an author need to know how best to make your books discoverable to the average iPad user.  Consider this list by ZDNet of top ebook apps as downloadable through the App Store:

  1. iBooks (Apple’s own signature e-reading app)
  2. Amazon’s Kindle app
  3. Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Library app
  4. The Kobo Books app
  5. The Google Play Books for iPad app
  6. The Bluefire Reader for iPad app

… and it’s worth noting, before even discussing the pros and cons of each app, that all of these apps are downloadable for free through the App Store, even if the content for them must be subscribed to, purchased, or loaned (in the case of both Bluefire and the Overdrive Media Console app, which are favorites of many public libraries which offer downloadable ebooks in addition to their physical lending collections).  Books with half a century under their belts are (for the most part) available under Public Domain, and many of these classics are available for free in a variety of formats.

Now, don’t get me wrong, but even while all of this is great news for readers, it doesn’t necessarily make for light work for you, the indie author.  Why?  Because, with so many reading app options easily available on the iPad, the chances of readers discovering your work diminishes with every app your book is not available through.  Not to mention, you probably want to make a profit, so a library’s free ebook loaning system doesn’t benefit your bottom line at all––unless readers run out of time and end up purchasing a copy in order to finish (which does, on occasion, happen).  In summary, it’s a good idea to cover all of your bases and not just the “big three” of ebook sales (Amazon, Apple, and B&N).  Google Play has been on the uptick ever since its creation as the primary sales conduit to devices running Android operating systems, but now it’s emerging as a contender for iPad owners as well, after the development of an attractive and intuitive app for iPads.  The Kobo Books app and the Adobe Reader app should also be kept in mind––many readers enjoy the streamlined experience of opening .PDF files with the Adobe Reader app, so you should not rule out offering a .PDF download of your book through some online retailer or your own personal website.  Basically, the more places a reader is likely to see your book, coupled with more ways and editions and formats in which it can be downloaded, the more likely that reader is to spend hard-earned currency on purchasing your book.  Balancing expense (of time, energy, and money) against discoverability is, perhaps, one of the trickiest of self-marketing arts that you must master––but you’re not alone.  We’re here to help, and to be a sounding board for your own strategic plan!

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide (Part I)

We’ve crossed the Rubicon, dear readers.  There’s no going back, when it comes to the print vs. digital divide, at least if we’re speaking on the commercial level.  There are quite substantial numbers of readers who are introduced to books via their smartphones and computer screens and then move into the musty world of mahogany bookshelves and neighborhood used-book stores … but these numbers represent not so much a desertion of one form for another, but rather the natural progression of addicts who will simply, and always, want more–more good words strung together, more stories in their hands, more eyes to peer through and lives to live in the way that only literature makes possible.

I’m here to speak about e-books and e-readers this week and in the weeks to come.  We’ve just finished a tour-de-force marathon of social media platforms spanning several months, so it’s time for a bit of a change of pace … but without sacrificing our desire to examine trends and patterns and possibilities with the fine eye of a book connoisseur.

ereaders

The data is in, and readers have spoken.  As this infographic (courtesy of Publishing Technology and Nielson BookScan) shows, e-book sales dropped slightly from an all-time high in early 2014, but they’re not going anywhere fast.  (I should also note that the initial speculations for this year seem to indicate continued stability.)  The digital market has matured, and readers are simply spreading their pocket change around, and being more selective as they do so.  Essentially, it’s not just “still” useful to publish your books in digital form, but it’s actually more useful than ever–readers now know how to find what they like, as the information infrastructure–including indexing search engines like Google and Bing, and social media platforms with a literary bent like Goodreads–has matured alongside the market itself.

ebooks vs print

But how does an author, especially an indie, hybrid, or self-published author, go about figuring out how to navigate both the debate and the process?  Well, first, you have to know a little bit about e-books and e-readers themselves.

And so we dive off into the deep end of a new series.  This time I’m going to walk you through the process by examining each big player in the e-reading market (past and present and future, at least so far as I can see it), from Kindles to Nooks to iPads to chips implanted into your brain.  Okay, okay, I’m kidding about that last one … for now.  In all seriousness, I hope that this series will be of use to you as you take next steps into the oft-hazy world of digital publication!

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

An Indie Author’s Social Media Primer | Summary Edition

Well, it’s been quite a project, this social media primer of ours!  I hope it’s proven as useful to you, our readers, as it has been enjoyable for me to write!  I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to take a lingering glance in the rear-view mirror, and write a bit of a retrospective on what it means to carry out a social media marketing campaign–and how a primer fits in.

We’re here,” I wrote in that initial blog post, first and foremost, to talk about how to market your self-published book.”  And therein lies both the value and danger of social media as a marketing tool.  If you really are using social media effectively, as a natural and organic extension of your existing work and personality, then you’ll most definitely benefit, and your book sales will most definitely benefit as well.  If you approach social media as an all-purpose tool and the only tool you need in your toolbox–or if you present yourself falsely, inauthentically, or otherwise find yourself at odds with your fans–or if you bite off more than you can chew–or if you find yourself slipping into social media as just another time-waster–then you’re missing the point of being an author on social media.  These are the pitfalls, or at least a few of them, and they should not be taken lightly or underestimated.

social media

Here’s the trick to being a self-published author on social media:  You must always remember that you are, first and foremost, a writer.  And as we’ve said before here on Self Publishing Advisor, the absolute best decision you can ever make in marketing your book is to write another book.  If social media helps you spread the word, and helps you keep writing, then it has a place in your campaign.  If it distracts you, or distresses you, or eats into time you would otherwise spend writing, then you should revisit the expression “effective marketing.”  There is, however, a great deal of value to trying something new, especially when you hit a roadblock.  It is my hope that, by providing a primer guide to each of the major (and some of the minor) social media platforms, I may take some of the guesswork and fear out of launching yourself into the world of social media.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to bypass some of the misery and second-guessing and mistakes that I myself have made over the years–and find a new home, a new community, and an engaged readership in some unexplored corner of our digital universe.

The List:

  1. First Thoughts
  2. Twitter
  3. Tumblr
  4. Instagram
  5. Snapchat
  6. YouTube
  7. Pinterest
  8. Goodreads
  9. Etsy
  10. LinkedIn
  11. Flickr
  12. Facebook

Thank you for helping me build this Social Media Primer!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

An Indie Author’s Social Media Primer | Facebook

It should come as no surprise that we’re going to take a quick look at Facebook as we work our way down the list of social media platforms the digitally-savvy indie or self-published author should consider using when launching a comprehensive self-promotion campaign.  And it probably is similarly unsurprising that we’ve looked at Facebook beforeseveral timesso many times–and that we’re just one blog among many to have done so.

Facebook

There are, in fact, so many resources out there about how indie authors can make use of Facebook, that the greater challenge is not in finding information–in contrast to, say, my posts about Etsy and Snapchat and so on–but in discerning which information is actually useful!  To that end, I’ve compiled and curated some of the better (and more well-maintained, that is, up-to-date) resources below for your easy review, as opposed to listing our own “best practices.”  My hope is that you’ll find all the appropriate details you might need at your disposal in order to navigate the intricacies of the complex proposition that is Facebook.

Debunking the Great Facebook Myth: “It’s just one giant moving target–there’s no point to trying to master anything about Facebook, because it’s just going to change again in a few months!”

While Facebook’s developers are constantly tweaking the algorithms and codes and format of things (it’s true, we must admit), the website itself remains fairly stable in a number of ways.  First of all, the fact remains true that Facebook is where the people are–the people, the relationships, the possible connections, and the real market for your books.  Consider this infographic, courtesy of Rebekah Radice:

Social-Media-Active-Users

The people are staying put, and sticking by Facebook, despite the not-uncommon doomsday forecasts to the contrary.  But that’s not the only aspect of Facebook that is stable: the features may alter a bit in form and function, but the concept of what you’re using those features for remains the same.  I’ve written a great deal throughout this series of primers about social media marketing targeting certain specific pillars of the online experience: findability, adaptability, usability, and authenticity.  If any of these four aspects is missing from an author’s social media presence, they’re bound to suffer.  If, however, you are conscientious in maximizing your Facebook presence, as these resources should help you to do, then you’re practically guaranteed to grow your reading audience.

Top 5 Best Resources:

1. “The Power of Facebook for Authors” by David Henry Sterry over at The Author Online.

2. “30 Ways to Build Your Fanbase with Facebook” by the folks over at Duolit.

3. “My Experiments with Facebook Ads” by Rami Ungar over at Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors.

4. “Facebook Ads: Should Indie Authors Buy Them?” by Joel Friedlander over at The Book Designer.

5. “7 Essential Elements for an Author’s Facebook Page” by Antonella Iannarino over at the David Black Agency’s official blog.

And a bonus additional resource:

The tag archive for “Facebook” over at ALLi‘s “How-to For Authors” blog.

Please keep us posted of your own successes as you experiment with new platforms.  You’re our most inspiring innovators, and the internet is your laboratory.  We can’t wait to see what you do!  And make sure to check back next week, as I wrap up this social media primer with the all-important summary edition!

If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of social media know-how. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

An Indie Author’s Social Media Primer | Flickr

Remember when I wrote a primer for indie and self-published authors looking to make their debuts on Instagram?  Well, I’m back this week with a new primer geared towards those of a visual bent.  But instead of looking at one of the Big Five (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram), I’m going to take a quick gander at one of the less talked-about tools in the indie author’s toolbox: Flickr!

flickr

There are, of course, several key differences between Instagram and Flickr.  If you’ll remember, the top 5 “best practices” I recommended for Instagram users were to (1) “Go for the gut;” (2) “Think regular, but not too regular;” (3) “You’re in the inspiration business, so share yours;” (4) “Use the hashtags and @username functions;” and last but not least, (5) “Don’t posture.”  While intuition, inspiration, reliability, authenticity, and metadata remain important when you make the leap to Flickr, the platform is so different that their manifestations must also be.  In fact, I’d suggest we rethink what makes a Flickr image “social” altogether.

Debunking the Great Flickr Myth: “It’s just a place to store photos.”

While it certainly is a place to store photos, Flickr isn’t just a high school locker we pack full to overflowing.  Other visually-oriented social media websites like Instagram or Pinterest “capture” their users by making it easy to interact with photos and share items within the platform itself, and while you can certainly share links to Instagram and Pinterest content, the format of said sharing creates a hit-or-miss prospect when it comes to non-users viewing your material.  That is, someone may choose to follow a link … or they may not.  You may also end up with duplicates of all of your pictures if you have Instagram set to upload photos directly to dedicated Facebook albums.  Not ideal, right?

A lot of people think Flickr is just another cloud storage option, like Dropbox, only complicated by the fact that you can also comment on and interact with the photos on Flickr itself.  Is it trying to be a social media platform, or cloud storage, or what?  When you approach Flickr with the expectation that it will look and feel and function like either Pinterest or Google’s outmoded Picasa Web Album system, you’re bound to get bogged down in a messy and unintuitive tangle of groups and discussion boards and so on.

It’s so much better just to skip all of that chaos and focus on what Flickr does really well, and what it can specifically do for you, an indie or self-published author.

Top 5 Best Practices:

1. Embed, embed, embed.  One of Flickr’s absolute best features is its embedability.  What do I mean by this?  I mean you can copy either a hyperlink for an individual photograph, or a hyperlink for an entire slideshow, and integrate this code into your blog or website to display continually there.  Why is this useful?  First off, you can create either one-off blog posts which feature beautiful high-resolution images (a Flickr specialty)––as The Daily Beast’s Nicole Villeneuve has done in her “Moveable Feast” article––or you can create a slideshow as a permanent feature of your website, as the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health demonstrates here.  While other social media platforms may enable you to interact with your friends’ photographs within the contained environment of their networks, Flickr fills in the gaps by breaking your images out into any web forum imaginable.

2. Ramp up the quality.  Instagram’s strength is that it relies upon timeliness, and a certain “in the moment” quality that brings immediacy and spontaneity to the table.  Flickr, on the other hand, allows its users to upload truly high-quality photographs with minimal compression and data loss (comparatively, at least).  Other social media platforms capitalize on users’ general satisfaction in simply sharing an image, no matter what quality that image is, quickly and easily.  But Facebook compresses all images by as much as 80 percent, which results in a great deal of fuzz and blur.  Flickr displays images at full resolution, making for giant and gorgeous incarnations of your photos in well-curated, smoothly synced pages.  It isn’t just a place where “hip” amateurs upload happy snaps; it’s a digital home for serious photographers.  Take advantage of both Flickr’s 1 terabyte of free storage and its cachet!

3. Think like a designer.  Perhaps this one’s a little … unconventional, but Elite Truong recently wrote a lovely article for Poynter that provides a lot of great pointers on how authors can learn a little from their more visually-inclined fellow artists––and I’m feeling inspired.  Think of Flickr as a medium, just as you do the white page of your word processor (or the physical paper of your notebook!).  How can you build narratives with images that reflect or complement the narrative you’ve already shaped into a book?  You don’t have to become a watercolorist or a professional photographer overnight––but, but––you can definitely steal a hand from their playbook when it comes to connecting with new audiences or better connecting with existing ones.

4. Cross-link your description fields.  As with any other website, Flickr is rich in possibility when it comes to metadata.  You can tag and even geotag your images, add titles and descriptions, and direct viewers to click on hyperlinks that lead back to your personal website.  You can create thematic sets, albums, and slideshows; each new collection that you curate generates its own wave of metadata, which renders you more findable.  There’s so much metadata on Flickr, in fact, that sometimes it can be a struggle to decide just where to begin.  The description field?  Definitely.  The title?  Oh, yes.  You can even tweak some of the camera settings (like aperture and focal length) that are displayed alongside your images.

5. Think “Portfolio” rather than “Scrapbook.”  This is not to say that scrapbooks aren’t awesome.  They are.  They simply aren’t a one-size-fits-all tool for every situation.  Sometimes, you need a beautifully-built, professionally-presented, visually stunning home for your images.  And whether you, as an author, are posting behind-the-scenes pictures of your writing space, or perhaps high-resolution illustrations of certain pages of your upcoming children’s book, or even art prints of certain favorite quotes from your works, there’s no better way to get new readers to do a double take than with a Flickr slideshow.  A handy rule of thumb might be: If a picture is something you simply want to share, then Instagram or Facebook may be well and good; if it’s something you want to sell, then Flickr will showcase your product to maximum visual impact.

Most Overlooked Feature:

Let’s face it, Flickr as a whole is an overlooked feature.  Sure, it may be making a bit of a comeback since its makeover at the hands of former Yahoo! executive Marissa Mayer, but it’s still not the first social media platform that authors think of when they’re looking to branch out into something new.  And as I mentioned before, there are some ways in which it converses easily with other platforms––there are groups, discussion boards, metadata fields, and profile pages to fill out––and ways in which it stands out.

When push comes to shove, Flickr is not a substitute for any of the Big Five, simply because its many users don’t quite amount to the critical mass of millions or even billions that the upper crust of social media websites has locked in.  Its specialized tools are, however, an asset and a credit to a much-needed niche if you happen to be looking for something a little … glossier … than Instagram.

I hope you’ll join me in building this Social Media Primer!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of social media know-how. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.