Dear FaceBook Friends: I Do NOT Like 50 Shades of Grey

January 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

A Digital Book World (DBW) post showed up on my wife’s FaceBook stream with a Photoshopped picture of a book cover for “50 Shades of Hunger Games” — and my face. “Since when do you like “50 Shades,” she chortled. The best I can figure out, because I had clicked “Like” on DBW’s Facebook page in get this — 2010 — Facebook had allowed DBW to send their post out to all my friends — as if I had done it. Just because I liked DBW in 2010 on Facebook doesn’t mean I want all my acquaintances with my mug talking about 50 Shades of Grey or The Hunger Games — I’m not the mindless, mass produced book mania kind of guy.

Now if DBW had asked and wanted to use me in their advertising campaign on FaceBook, I would have opted in if they were going to talk about why so much of traditional publishing’s backlist is unavailable in digital format along with a picture of Milan Kundera’s mug. Otherwise, leave me the hell out of your advertising campaign. It impugns my credibility and independence by co-opting my name and face for your ad.

I’m not sure who to be most angry at — DBW for an ill-advised ad campaign or FaceBook for making it possible to flood the streams of friends of unknowing FaceBook-ites.   I admit I’m somewhat of a FaceBook neophyte judging by the vast unanswered quantities in my various FaceBook icons on the top of my FaceBook page. I did a quick Google search for “facebook ads based on likes”. (Yes, I used Google to find the FaceBook stuff). In case you are wondering, it appears I was a victim of some form of “Connection Targeting.”

When you choose to target friends of connections your ad will be targeted to people whose friends are connected to your Page, app, or event. This is a great way to get more likes and potential customers because people are more inclined to interact with a Page, app, or event knowing that their friends are connected. Friends of connections are also more likely to be interested in what you’re advertising because they may share the same interests as their friends.

Uhh, more like a great way to piss off your connections who liked you once upon a time if you are going to put their Face up along with 50 Fucking Shades of Grey. So there DBW, be warned about your ill-conceived advertising bullshit. I apologize to any of my friends who seem to think I started smoking anything that is still illegal in Utah. I remain a literary snob.

As for you FaceBook, I get it — you went public and now you have to figure out some way to make money, but please leave my face out of it.

The Digital Tipping Point — Why 12% is More Like 80%

July 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Statistics can be such a misleading thing — take the latest: 12% of the United States has eReaders.   Not very many is it — only 12%.  Yet, something nags at my mathematical brain — a stat I remembered hearing.  I found a lot of reference to it, but could never verify it, yet it has that ring of truth — namely, 80% of American households didn’t buy a book in the last year (could never find the original source, so it may be apocryphal, but it smacks of relevance when 30% don’t know who the US declared independence from in 1776) . Now, that 80% chunk of the population is not going to buy an eReader and even assuming the other 20% buy an equal number of books, eReaders have tipped and most books are now bought in digital format. Amazon’s public announcements also mirror this.

Bottom line — the relevant stat is not what percentage own an eReader, but what percentage of book buyers buy digital books — and I know that is much higher than 12% .  If you want to sell a book these days, you better get it in digital format.

Digital Genres

July 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

What are the new digital genres? New lingo is springing up — “cross-platform” or in the phrase that shows up no where in Google, so that must mean I coined it (not saying I did, just that Google can’t find it — “re-sourcing digital content”, by resourcing digital content, I mean that when an artist or author creates digital content, how do you use that resource.   Each digital publisher needs a Digital Resource Department that operates like a Human Resource Department — assigning the digital content out to its numerous potential incarnations.  Digital genres aren’t so much new genres as new genres that have the potential to be monetized.

Some Potential Digital Generes:

Interactive fiction: A merging of the gaming genre with the literary world.  Many forms of game have long contained a form of interactive story telling — for my generation, Dungeons and Dragons.

Non-linear fiction: Using hyperlinks to create a non-linear narrative. This genre could easily split into multiple genres — romance, mystery, erotic, literary.   Traditional publishing has gone down the non-linear rabbit hole.   A memorable non-linear text for me was The House of Leaves.  James Joyce at least feels non-linear to me and almost anything by David Foster Wallace proves that footnotes are the print version of hyperlinks.  Poetry is replete with non-linear type images and narratives (thus the success of T.S. Eliot “The Wasteland” App on iTunes) .

Multi-media Fiction:  This seems to be the genre that gets the most attention, but also the one that I think in a way is a little overblown.  Is the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad, multi-media fiction because it contains a chapter that is a PowerPoint presentation?  What about DVD extras that include text?  Audio books?  The written or spoken word changed into digital form moves seamlessly across media, that isn’t genre, that is flexibility.

The difference between the artist and the publisher is the publisher’s concern over how to monetize a new digital genre.   The digital world only seems to exacerbate the century old conflict of cash and artistic purity.  Yet, the potential for profitably monetizing artistic efforts in the digital realm that expands your potential market into the millions and billions, you only need a micro-percentage, a relatively small tribe of followers to patronize the artist to artistic freedom.

The palate of digital expression is larger than any artists or writers  have had at their disposal in the history of the earth. The critical question is how do you sell what you do digitally. Where is your audience going to read it — a phone app, on their iPad, Kindle, Nook or computer screen? How are you going to get them to pay for it? I want exciting digital genres, but like any artist, you need to pay attention to your canvas and the gallery where you can sell your wares.

Prerequisite to Bitching About eBooks

October 20, 2010 § 5 Comments

Before you can bitch and complain about eBooks, you have to actually have purchased a book in the 21st Century and read it. Experience has taught me that most people yearning for the smell and feel of old musty volumes, haven’t read an old musty volume or an new, binding breaking volume in a very long time.

My biggest beef with most of the discussion about the Kindle is that it usually comes from people who don’t buy books. Can you name the last 7 books you bought? The last 20? Here is my October list (20 days). Unless otherwise noted, I bought them all on Amazon.

1. Dead Man’s Cell Phone Sarah Ruhl
2. Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Mark Vonnegut
3. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned Wells Tower
4. Why Theology Can’t Save Us John Gustav-Wrathall
5. The Proviso Moriah Jovan
6. Sons of the Fathers Paul Toscano
7. Out of the Mount Various Authors
8. TDTM JulieAnn Carter Winward
9. A Scattered Life Karen McQuestion
10. Reading Lolita in Tehran Azar Nafisi
11. Nemesis Philip Roth
12. The Great House Nicole Krause
13. At Home Bill Bryson
14. House of Meetings Martin Amis
15. Where Good Ideas Come From Steve Johnson
16. Breakthrough Dental Marketing Joel Harris
17. The Moral Landscape Sam Harris
18. Republic of Debtors Bruce Mann
19. Sister Wife Natalie Collins
20. The Fourth World Natalie Collins

When you buy that many books in a month and only spend around $100, your printed words that you possess are thriving, not dying.

I have them all with me now (along with 400 other books), not to mention the complete works of Dostoyevsky, Dickens and Austen — and I have five different tools to read or listen to them on (Kindle, iPad, Laptop, cell phone and iPod).

Do yourself a favor and get off the Luddite Express going nowhere and actually read something. Oh and while I was writing this post, I bought The Sayings of Confucius.

Packing Books

October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m moving my physical library. I’m at 30 boxes and not even half done. I’ve read countless articles on digital books and I love my 350+ digital library that is with me all the time, but I’ve never once read anything about whether an important metaphor will be lost with the digital flood.

Words are so heavy.

Words overwhelm me, press down on me. I pick up a box of books and the muscles strain and my breathing quickens. I hold in my arms the lives of people — authors, actors, translators, editors, typesetters, booksellers. Their words are heavy.

Dust has accumulated on the shelf were they sat. No book burning ash, but they have returned to dust. I could start reading my library today and if I did nothing else, I would be dust before I finished.

Tomes are tombs where we bury our dead. And the tombs are made of heavy granite.

Everyone Has Ink By the Barrel

October 18, 2010 § 1 Comment

Now everyone has ink by the barrel, the power will go to those who can hold our attention.

The changes in publishing are exciting, but how do you get past the narcissism of an audience of one? The CEO of Border’s stated, ” “Everyone has a story to tell, pictures to share or advice to give.” Yes, we want to hear other people’s stories, but even more so, we want our story heard, often to the exclusion of everyone else. The paradox is we want connectivity and individuality.

Facebook quickly turns into numbing sameness. Everyone may have pictures to share and advice to give — and most of it is bad or mediocre at best.

Places like Borders, Amazon, B&N, Apple that allow us to self-publish are cashing in on our narcissism — post your stuff for people to buy. Maybe only 3 people will buy it, but hey, that is OK, because we publish everyone and 3 times everyone is a lot of money for us. This is vanity publishing exploded into tiny little profitable bits.

I am in the race, but not the publish everything race. I’m in the filter race. Even the filter world will be fractioned, but the filter pie is the pie I want to eat — not the crumbs of self-publishing.

The Publishing Pendulum

October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

Traditional publishing is restrictive. The restriction comes from economic constraints on the publisher. Publishing has always been a few hits to lots of misses and the only way to eliminate the economic risk was an extreme conservative approach. Yes, many authors are feeling the liberation of not having to answer to those conservative publishing enclaves, but economics still govern.

The problem isn’t being “branded” as a self published author, but rather the author never gets a brand. JA Konrath has a brand, “the self-publish” brand, which he has been cultivating for a couple of years quite successfully. This is why his books sell. Everyone knows who he is, even people who don’t read his type of books.

Somewhere there is a happy in-between, a sweet spot where the author has freedom, the publisher allows it and readers get what they want and a lot of books get sold as everyone plays off each other’s strengths and needs. I think that is the future and that the self-publishing pendulum will swing back until it is resting somewhere in the middle — which is good news for the middleman.

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