Guest Post – 5 Social Tools for Authors by John T. Meyer

You all know as readers of this blog the publishing industry has changed drastically. Whether you are an author or a publisher the game is different today: cost of production is down, marketing channels are everywhere, and you can even eliminate the middle man. Much of this change can be attributed to technology.

As a social technology consultant I spend everyday helping businesses, brands, and bloggers utilize today’s social technology. Today I thought I’d take a look at what specific tools and channels an author can take advantage of. I’m going to focus on authors, and I also want to point out that every single one of these tools is free.

  1. Name Chk – I’m sure the right way for authors to name a book is at the very end, but I just get excited about names. Use a tool like name chckr to scan across all social networks to see if your desired name is available. You still can name your book whatever you please, but you’re going to want to utilize social media to promote.
  2. Search.Twitter – This website is what takes Twitter to the next level. There are plenty of web apps that do similar things, but when it comes to listening on Twitter it doesn’t get any better. Run searches on keywords in your industry, topics related to your book, and influencers who can help promote. You can use Search.Twitter before writing as a research tool, or after publishing as a promotional tool.
  3. Facebook Ads – I know you’re thinking, I never click on a Facebook ad, but that isn’t the point. A successful author today has to target a specific audience of readers. The best-selling books are targeted at a niche that needs the content. Facebook Ads have an incredible ability to target to exactly who you’re looking for. With the ability to sort by age, gender, geography, education level, and interests you are bound to find your book’s audience. Facebook Ads can be affordable and build massive awareness.
  4. Square – When it is time to sell, you don’t need a POS system or the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble, just sell the book yourself – on the go! Square is that nifty sugar cube like credit card reader that plugs nicely into your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Android’s headphone jack. Just swipe a card and receive the payment. No monthly fees, no cost for the device, just a 2.75% transaction fee (which is quite competitive I might add).
  5. Google+ – Part of my job is jumping on and trying the latest and greatest in social technology, but usually I go into a new network with a lot of skepticism. Especially when Google (a search company first) attempts to do something social (e.g. Google Wave, Google Buzz). However, this time around I’m a bit more intrigued. I believe Google did something right this time with Google+ and I want to spend more time digging into it. As a brand new network, I think the opportunity is out there to build a strong brand on G+, and we all know a best-selling author needs a strong brand.

For questions on these tools or others hit me up on Twitter (@johntmeyer) or feel free to email me at john (at) 9clouds (dot) com. Also, learn more about social technology in our product Sandbox, an online community that makes social technology easy.


Guest Post – The Book Doctor

Q: I’m thinking about writing a controversial book about [subject deleted for privacy]. There have probably been a number of books already written on this subject, and there is a ton of information about the subject on the Internet.

I have two concerns. One, could plagiarism be involved if I take information from the Internet? My next concern has to do with the market. I wrote to some of the Web sites for permission to use their material, and a person wrote back and claimed that books of this nature do not sell well, even if you are an experienced writer. Any thoughts?

A: Research statistics and information are available to us all. You plagiarize only when you use the exact sentences and paragraphs someone else has written, but if you take information and rewrite it in your own words, you are not plagiarizing.

As to the issue of marketability, obviously the subject goes against popular thinking, which means one of several things can happen. It could hit a controversial note, catch a publisher’s eye, get published, get a great deal of publicity, and sell many copies. A few controversial books have done so. At the opposite end of the spectrum, it could be too controversial and not unique, and no traditional publisher will want to touch it. How can you guess which it will be?

Here’s the thing to remember: Only one percent of all manuscripts written ever get traditionally published, but people keep writing books, and publishers keep buying them, so people who are passionate about their subjects and diligent about polishing their writing and editing skills are still being successful, even in a tough market. Self-publishing means you take all the risks, but you could reap the benefits if your book becomes a hit.

The reason traditional publishers want a book proposal for nonfiction books is simple: Proposals make the author research the market and estimate the size of the market as well as the size and toughness of the competition. My suggestion is this: Instead of writing the whole book, write a proposal. Get a book on how to write a book proposal and perform all the research a proposal requires. Study the size of the market. Find other books on that subject and find out how they fared. Don’t listen to one person’s vague comment. Go to the publishers of similar books and ask for sales figures.

See what, if anything, you can do to make your book unique, better than others on the market, and more appealing to a broader audience. If you can’t come up with a unique selling point, you may decide not to write the book, or you may decide to self-publish a small quantity and test the market yourself, if you have an outlet for your book—that is, if you can find a way to reach into the niche market to which it is geared.


Share this Post

Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at http://www.zebraeditor.com.

The Book Doctor on Proposals

The book doctor shares submission info for the self-publishing and traditional author.

Q: This “book proposal” stuff is a fine kettle of fish. Too much advice, and much of it contradictory. Double-spaced, single-spaced, some of each, etc. When YOU write a proposal, do you use strict Standard Manuscript Format, including a Courier-style font, or do you write more like you’re writing a long letter and using a more Roman-type font? Do you single space ANY PART of the proposal? Do you underline, or do you italicize? And what about bold? And what about these double hyphens? (–) You see what I’m asking. A manuscript is written the way it is because it’s written for a typesetter. A proposal, however, is written for an agent to use to sell a manuscript. Can the proposal be written more like a letter, or is sticking close to the Standard Manuscript Format the best advice?

A: I, too, have seen conflicting guidelines about book proposals, including a recent one, in which a publisher allowed me to submit the whole proposal in the body of an e-mail, and to heck with all the formatting, because e-mail takes most of it out, anyway.

For the publisher who bought my most successful book, Write In Style, though, I followed the style set forth by Michael Larsen in his book simply titled How to Write a Book Proposal. His suggestion, and I followed it to a T, was that the entire book proposal as well as the sample chapters be in Standard Manuscript Format: double-spaced, 12-point Courier type, no boldface type, and underlines to indicate italics. Double hyphens are used to indicate a dash, and no space goes before or after dashes.

Yes, manuscripts are written in Standard Manuscript Format because it used to be the style typesetters required. Agents and publishers got used to seeing manuscripts that way, and most still want them that way, even though computers have changed things.

One ghostwriter I know zips together a quickie proposal in single-spaced Times New Roman and still gets many a job, but he has an extensive successful track record, and several of his books have won national awards. Until you feel as confident, you can never go wrong by following the rules, but you can sometimes go wrong by breaking them. I worked with one publisher who said he never even reads the first line of a manuscript that is not in standard manuscript format, because any writer who can’t or won’t follow rules is either uneducated or too much of a prima donna to make a good client.


Share this Post

Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at http://www.zebraeditor.com.