The (Long) Tail of Self-Published Authors

I read Meghan Ward’s excellent Writerland blog post, Does Social Media Sell Books?, this morning, and thought I would share a version of my comments here:

I recently came across two terms that relate to me as a self-published and self-marketed author:

Googlable“: I have a blog that comes up on top of the first page of search results with my my name as the search string, so I guess that makes me “googlable”.

Long Tail Business Model“: Illustrated in the graph below, Lulu.com founder Bob Young verbalized this business model in a 2007 interview:

A [traditional] publishing house dreams of having 10 authors
selling a million books each. Lulu wants a million authors
selling 100 books each.

Long Tail Business Model Illustration (Picture by Hay Kranen / PD)

I guess I could have also titled this post “Are Self-Published Authors Skewed?”

On the topic of using social media to market books, I currently have about 20 folks who follow my blog, about 40 likes on my Facebook page, and a little over 300 followers on Twitter. Pretty meager numbers compared to many, but darn, it has taken an inordinate amount of time away from writing my next novel just to get to these levels. Going by gut feel, I can’t relate many–if any–book sales to my social media efforts. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. I adopted the “social media is about being social” mantra, and I hardly ever even mention my novel, let alone hawk it, although everything does link back to this blog.

While I sit with the vast majority, somewhere in the “long tail” of self-published authors, I’ve met some lovely folks through my social media socializing, and I’m enjoying posting weekly on my blog. Now it’s time to dive deeply into my next novel (think James Herriot meets Nora Roberts in Ireland!), because it’s the crafting of stories that I really enjoy.

All the best,
Rob

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Tech Notes – HootSuite for Twittering Self-Marketers

Back when I gleefully signed on to be a Self-Publisher, I knew there would eventually be some marketing involved, but I was blithely ignorant of what that really entailed. To paraphrase a memorable They Might Be Giants verse, “I was young and foolish then. I’m feeling old and foolish now.” Perhaps I should have listened more carefully when my wise editor, Robin Martin of Two Songbirds Press, ominously intoned, “Rob . . . marketing is a bear.”

After I released An Irish Miracle, and the full impact of my new role as a Self-Marketer started to sink in, I felt very much alone. Fortunately, I had been following @KristenLambTX on Twitter for several months. Her book, We Are Not Alone – The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, sounded like just the ticket for a lonely Self-Marketer. (You can read my review of We Are Not Alone on goodreads here.)

Along with her overarching principle of approaching social media marketing with a servant’s heart, Kristen cites Twitter as one of the obvious keys to a successful, multifaceted social media platform, and she recommended TweetDeck to manage the quickly cantankerous and often unruly Twitter Timelines that come with following more than a handful of fellow tweeters. Since I rely on tabbed browsing in Firefox to manage lots of open websites in one place, when I realized that TweetDeck was a separate, standalone application, I went looking for a similar solution that was web-based . . . and that’s when I found HootSuite.

As a social network management dashboard, HootSuite is a web-based and mobile app tool to increase your productivity by allowing you to manage all your social networks (and multiple user profiles for each, if you have more than one) in one place. There are free and fee-based versions available. I’m using the free version, at least for now. Although I’m going to focus on HootSuite’s integration with Twitter, the dashboard can help you manage all of the following social networks:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+ Pages
  • Foursquare
  • Myspace
  • WordPress
  • Mixi
  • HootSuite Apps Directory, for Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr, and more

Here’s a brief overview of the main features I use in my HootSuite dashboard. There’s much more capability there that I am currently taking advantage of, but the HootSuite website has many resources to help us discover everything this tool has to offer.

From the HootSuite Dashboard, you can compose and send tweets, status updates and posts to any of the social networks you have connected your Dashboard to. The Dashboard can be organized with one or many custom Tabs. Here are the Tabs I am currently using:

  • Twitter Home (standard Twitter feeds)
  • Facebook (standard Facebook feeds)
  • Writing & Blogging (Twitter Lists)
  • Potential Readers (Twitter Lists)
  • Family & Friends (Twitter Lists)
  • News & Politics (Twitter Lists)
  • Popular Media & Technology (Twitter Lists)
  • Social Media Gurus (Twitter Lists)
  • Searches & Keywords (Custom hashtag and keyword searches)

Each tab is arranged in columns called Streams, which can contain standard data feeds such as your Twitter Home Feed, Sent Tweets, Mentions, several versions of your Facebook News Feed, and many others. Even more powerfully, Streams can also contain your existing Twitter Lists, searches for hashtags and streams based on keywords you enter.

HootSuite Dashboard

From the HootSuite Contacts Screen, you can see, interact with, and manage:

  • Twitter Profiles
  • Twitter Lists
  • People Following You
  • People You Follow

Anywhere within HootSuite, if you click on a user name, a popup window will display the available information for that user’s profile, along with several ways to directly interact with that user.

HootSuite Contacts Screen

As I mentioned above, HootSuite is available in web-based and mobile app forms, in both free and paid versions. Once you have Twitter, Facebook, and your other social networks set up and organized, I think you will see productivity improvements . . . maybe even a little peace of mind . . . building and managing your social media platform.

HootSuite for Web and Mobile Apps

Speaking as a newly minted Self-Marketer, I would be pleased to connect with you on one or more of the social networks of your choice:

Remember to get your copy of An Irish Miracle by Rob Mahan, too. It’s a story I think you will enjoy as a great summer read, or any time of the year! The e-book is also available from Barnes & Noble for Nook, kobo, the Diesel eBook Store, and Smashwords! The e-book will also be available on iTunes soon (I hope)!

All the best!
Rob

Resources for Readers – goodreads

This is the first installment in a Resources for Readers series we can build together for those of us, and our friends, who are readers. From the voracious three-novel-a-week book consumer to the casual three-book-a-year reader, the tools and resources we will highlight will help them find great reads, and even share their thoughts on the gems they discover.

When we choose a book to read, cost is becoming less and less a factor in our decision. Many worthwhile e-books are less expensive than a large chai latte, and thanks to advances in printing technology, many impressive paperbacks are about the cost of a fast-food meal for two. Our reading decisions have always been about something much more precious. Our spare time. Choosing a book to read represents committing several hours of our valuable personal time, so the more help we can have in making good choices, the better our downtime will be spent.

So let’s get to the first resource we are going to explore together!

There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed
between people who love the same books.

Irving Stone
Author of The Agony and the Ecstasy

Plainly put, goodreads is a place where readers can find and share the books they love. goodreads users can also keep track of the books we plan to read, and the ones we’ve already read. If you stop right there, it’s a fun way to keep a diary of your reading life. But to really tap into the power of goodreads, you’ll need to make some friends. With nearly nine-and-a-half million members, we’re all bound to be able to find some reading friends there. Better yet, bring some of your friends along and sign up for free accounts together!

Let’s take a brief look at the major features of the goodreads website. There’s a lot there, and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t use all the available features—yet. So dabble here and there first. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, and I wouldn’t want you to do that. This is supposed to be fun!


Home – You’ll see recent updates from friends, like what they are currently reading and what they plan to read, and you can even start or participate in book discussions here. There’s a spot that displays what you are currently reading and your can do status updates on your progress. Your profile can also be seen and updated on the Home page.


My Books – Here is where you can build bookshelves to your heart’s content, and organize your books any way you want. goodreads starts everyone off with bookshelves named all, read, currently-reading, and to-read. There are several display settings, and I think it’s fun to see all the great covers of the books I’ve read, or plan to read. Clicking on any single book shows you all the details, including stats and a description, your review and rating (if you reviewed and / or rated it), and reviews from the goodreads community.


Groups – Participate in an existing group that’s discussing a topic you find interesting, or create your own group. Groups are great places to find new friends with similar interests, or who will help you learn everything you ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask. (I think I just dated myself. Oh well, we’re all older than we were yesterday, aren’t we?) And before the embarrassing comments start to flood in, no, I haven’t joined any goodreads groups yet . . . but it’s on my list of things to do!


Recommendations – goodreads has algorithms that kick in after you’ve rated at least twenty books. You’ll find personalized recommendations here, based on the books you’ve rated, your favorite genres, and the categories (bookshelves, like science fiction, or history) you have created.


Explore – This is a jumping-off page to all the rest of the great features goodreads has to offer. You can search for books by title, author or ISBN (as you can from the header of any page on the website), check out the highest ranking titles of the moment, see what book giveaways are happening, and see new releases by genre.


I know I haven’t mentioned lots of other available features, but I hope this gives you a sense of what goodreads has to offer We the Readers. If you sign up for a free member account, or you’re already a goodreads member, please find me and friend me. I’d love to compare bookshelves and swap a few recommendations with you!

Rob’s Resources for Readers Rating for goodreads

goodreads is a great Resource for Readers, although the one caveat I must mention is that it isn’t as intuitive and user friendly as I would like to see it become. It will require some digging on our parts to find and utilize everything this website has to offer, but I believe our efforts will be rewarded with a richer reading life.

I mentioned at the beginning that we can build this Resources for Readers series together. Your comments and input are always wanted, always welcomed, and always appreciated.

  • What goodreads features have you discovered that I missed mentioning?
  • What other Resources for Readers would you like to see featured in this series?
  • What’s the favorite book you’ve read this year so far? How about ever?