apps, Book Promotion, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media

Litsy: The Instagram Of Books?

 

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Last year I heard about a new social media app for bookworms called Litsy, from Writer’s Unboxed.  Then I heard about Litsy again on Publisher’s Weekly, who heralded it as the Instagram for books.  Needless to say, I ignored it, I really didn’t need to sign up to anymore social media sites.  Seriously, I have signed up and abandoned more social media sites than I care to count.  However, last month, I got an email announcing that Litsy had been purchased by LibraryThing.  Remember them?  They were the number three site for bookworms but they kind of fell off the map.  So why on earth would LibraryThing buy Litsy?  Perhaps they were going to merge platforms, Lord knows LibraryThing’s website is clunky and slow.  Plus, most companies buy others for either resources or in order to eliminate competition.  I’m assuming it’s the first and not the latter.  Anyway, I was intrigued and had to find out what was going on, so shamelessly, I signed up for yet another social media account.  *Sigh*

What Makes Litsy Different

Unlike Goodreads and LibraryThing, Litsy is a mobile app like Instagram and Snapchat but with books, of course.  What sets Litsy apart is their book recommendations based on real users rather than algorithms.  This can be a relief for those who are tired of algorithms and keyword based gate keeping.

Litsy is heavy on images and pretty easy to use, if you can figure out Instagram and Snapchat, Litsy will be a breeze.  Once you setup your account, you can choose to start posting reviews, pictures, quotes or even blurbs but be sure your text comes with a picture of some sort.  You can find free images to accompany your posts here:

 

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They don’t call it the Instagram of books for nothing!

 

Here Are A Few Tips: Don’t forget to upload a picture of your own book cover if it’s not in their database.  You can check that out by going to their search engine and typing either your author name or book title.

Also whatever you do, don’t forget to become a community member of your genre, that’s what social media is all about, so join a book club, or start one of your own.

What Do You Post?

Here is a list of things of ideas on what to post:

  • Share a short quote from your book
  • Upload pics of your book cover
  • Hold giveaways
  • Give a review on a book you enjoyed.
  • Ask a question or for a book recommendation

 

Problems Authors Might Have With Litsy

Litsy is new and therefore still finding it’s way in the online world, so authors are going to have to grow and evolve along side it.  This could be a dealbreaker for some who have come to expect certain sophistication and privileges with more mature social media sites.  Here are more cons:

  • The community size is much smaller compared to Goodreads
  • There is a limit of 300 characters per post
  • Members of the site sometimes refer to themselves as Littens. No, I’m not kidding.
  • There is no syncing between LibraryThing and Litsy yet.
  • Their database is small making it difficult to find certain books and authors.
  • People are given a score based on their account activity kind of like Snapchat. This is how they measure influence.

 

My Personal Experience

I used Litsy for about a month, okay, I lurked for about a month and during that time I followed a lot of interesting people who were passionate readers.  Though the community is small, it is engaged.  However, you have to get used to the idea of relying on images and not words to get your message across, this means I won’t be posting too often.  I don’t have the time to stage a photo shoot with my book nor do I want to scour the internet for images.  I’ll use Litsy for only strategic marketing or promotional purposes.

Also as I was writing this article, Litsy announced they were going to be offline for maintenance purposes and it would only affect the app for about two hours.  However, once the site was back up, there were major issues, people couldn’t see their notifications, or search the database for basic information.  It took a better chunk of the day for them to get the site back up and running normally again.  And since their site only allows 300 character posts, they had to take a screenshot of a Facebook post along with an apology.  Apparently, even their admins and support staff aren’t immune to the rules.

Litsy Explanation Full
My screenshot of a screenshot of a Facebook post.

 

I’ve never experienced anything like this with an app before.  I’m hoping this isn’t a frequent thing with Litsy.

The Verdict

All in all, I think Litsy is a great addition to the online book world.  Mainly, because they reach the younger demographic that live on their phones and love to take selfies.  Honestly, I believe Litsy could be a good thing for authors writing in the YA and romance genres since their demographic is mostly young and female.  However, like Snapchat, Litsy, may take some getting used to but I think it could be worth it for those having a hard time targeting Millennials and Gen Y using other channels.

 

Well what do you think, have you tried Litsy?  If so, let me know in the comments section.

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apps, Publishing, writing

Should Indie Authors Bother With Chat Fiction?

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Last year, I came upon a newish trend in fiction and that was chat fiction.  For those of you who aren’t hip to what teens are up to, chat fiction is basically storytelling presented as chat messages.  Chat fiction has caught the attention of Wattpad, as well Amazon, who have invested in this new form of storytelling.  In fact, some of these companies are actively looking to commission work in order to help populate their catalogs.  I’ll get to that later, but first, let me answer the question why?

Why Are Teens Reading Books On Their Phones?

To understand this trend or evolution in storytelling, you have to understand why teens are reading these stories on their phones and not on a laptop, or an ereader like a Kindle.  According to a 2013, Pew Research Center report 74% of teens aged 12 to 17, accessed the internet on phones and tablets.  Many also reported that they often share a computer with a family member like a parent or sibling.  This means that their phones are a personal item they own and don’t have to share.  Also, most phones can access the home wi-fi network, so bills won’t be too high.

Whose Idea Was This Anyway?

Chat fiction is a spin-off of cellphone fiction that became popular in Japan during the early 2000’s.  Called keitai shousetsu, meaning cellphone novel, this form of storytelling became a phenomenon among middle grade teens and commuters in Japan.  Several Japanese authors became very popular by writing poetry, as well as short, serialized stories that people, mainly teens, read on their phones.  The most popular cellphone stories were picked up by traditional publishers in Japan, or made into movies, and even anime.

Fast forward to 2012, a tech entrepreneur is on a sabbatical after selling her company, and as you can imagine, she’s writing a book.  While writing her YA novel, she has serious doubts as to whether it would resonate with teens and questioned whether kids even read books anymore.  So she and her husband did several experiments and learned that teens would read books but only if they were short and intense.  We’re talking just a few minutes or less than 1,000 words.  So this author had an idea to create stories that kids could read on their cellphones however, unlike keitai shousetsu, these stories would take the form of chat messages.  The app she created was called, Hooked and became popular in both the iTunes and Google Play stores.  This caught the attention of big companies like Wattpad, who created their own chat fiction app called, Tap and Amazon, not wanting to be left out of the party, created Amazon Rapids.

The most popular chat fiction apps include:

Good News: Hooked Will Actually Pay Authors

Hooked is currently looking for authors who can deliver an interactive experience for their readers.  That means choose your own adventure type stories as well short, fast paced stories.  However, this must all be written in a chat like format, so this will be a challenge for any author.  But if you’re up to it, here are some tips when submitting:

  • Must be familiar with smart phones particularly, chat features
  • You need to be able to write short fiction, as in three minutes short or under 1,000 words.
  • Though places like Hooked, accept multiple genres like sci-fi, they say horror and thrillers do best on their site.
  • The compensation isn’t a change your life type of pay but better than the nothing that the rest of the other apps seem to offer.

Stats About Hooked’s Users

  • 69% of users are between the ages of 18-24.
  • More than half of their users are female.
  • The majority of stories on Hooked are user generated but the most popular ones are from commissioned works.

 

Hooked Story 1
Sound of the Century from Hooked (Click on the pic to see the rest on Instagram)

 

Yarn is also considering paying writers somewhere down the road but as of this posting has yet to launch that project.

In Conclusion…

Is chat fiction a fad?  Who knows, many people thought online fan fiction was a fad but that’s still going strong since 1998.  Only time will tell if young people will continue reading on their phones.  Although I doubt it, like with most technology, phones will continue to evolve and if you know anything about young people, you know things that are cool now, quickly become obscure.  In the mean time, if you’re targeting middle graders or teens and aren’t having a lot of success reaching them, this might be a potential tool for you.

Business, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media

The Future Of Book Publishing: Figuring Out The Next Move

The Future Of Publishing
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It’s 2018, and 2017 is finally behind us which has a lot of authors wondering, what’s next?  Well, I took out my crystal ball and tried to see what the future holds for the publishing industry?  Will bots replace authors?  Short answer—not anytime soon.  Will AI technology replace word processing software like Microsoft Word and Scrivener?  In a nutshell—not yet.  Do we finally get our jet packs?  Again—not anytime soon.  So what will change next year?  Well, read on and find out…

Prediction #1: No More Superstars

It was pointed out at one news outlet that there were no breakout books in 2017.  Many blamed the slow down due to various political elections around the world and although, that could be the case, it could also be an ominous trend.  One only has to look to the music and movie industries to see where ours is heading post digital revolution.  For the past ten years, shelf space at brick and mortar stores has been disappearing and there are no indications that trend will cease.  When Barnes & Noble announced they would focus less on books, and applied for a liquor license, the publishing industry shuddered.  Amazon alone, now controls 71% of the ebook market, and accounts for 37% of all print book sales in the U.S. and has no serious rivals as of this posting.  This leaves the publishing industry at a huge disadvantage.

Major publishers are finding it harder and harder to introduce new books to the masses which has them turning to their backlists in order to make a profit.  Also, it’s been reported over the past few years, that midlist authors are being unceremoniously cut loose by major publishers.  So what does this mean to indie authors?  It means that the industry is getting careful about their spending and they’re doing everything they can to squeeze every last dime out all of their intellectual properties.  Many authors will have to either move on to another line of work, or seriously consider self-publishing.  This will ultimately mean more competition for indie authors.
In fact on the Creative Penn, this was discussed and the conclusion was made that the superstars like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King will become a thing of the past.  Mainly, because there won’t be any money to invest in an author’s career anymore.  This will lead to self-publishing becoming a default setting in an author’s early career.  In other words, self-publishing will become the norm and the only way to get a contract with a large publisher. That’s if large publishers can remain relevant.

Prediction #2: Social Media Is Going To Get A Lot Harder

In October, Facebook, began dividing their user’s newsfeeds in two, between personal and promotional posts in an experiment.  Without warning, people in six countries found their newsfeeds had changed, dramatically.  It was similar to what email services like Gmail and Outlook, did when they divided their inboxes between promotional and primary tabs.  Though Facebook says it doesn’t plan on rolling out these changes to every single country just yet, it does makes sense to begin shifting your marketing plan away from your page and possibly focus more on Facebook groups or maybe consider spending money to get your posts seen.

Prediction #3: Authors May Turn To Mobile Apps & Texting Services To Reach Readers Directly

With the effectiveness of email and social media marketing coming into question, those authors who went mobile won’t sweat it too much.  Believe it or not, apps and texting services aren’t for big businesses anymore, celebrities, athletes and even musicians are embracing the technology.  Romance author, H.M. Ward, said during an interview at the Self-Publishing Formula that most of her readers open her emails on their phones which is why she has a texting service to reach them now.  However, she does also say that your list has to be worth it (profitable) to warrant the expense.  The good news here is, is that these options are becoming less expensive with each passing year which, is perfect timing for authors looking for a new way to connect directly with their readers.

Prediction #4: AIs Will Make Books More Accessible   

You’ve probably heard by now that podcasts and audiobooks are very popular in this busy world we live in.  Instead of mindless corporate playlists on the radio, people are listening to niche podcasts and even audiobooks on their way to work, or at the gym.  Amazon saw this coming and developed their AI, Amazon Echo, to easily link with their ebooks and Audible library.  So readers can now have their audiobooks accessed and played while, ebooks can be read by Amazon’s AI for free.  Google and Apple are likely going to follow suit because they also have AIs and a somewhat healthy book catalog.  In fact, it’s believed that AI technology will only continue to evolve and affect every area of our lives from healthcare, to warfare.  Physicist and author, Stephen Hawking, has gone on record predicting that AIs will eventually take over the world.

Prediction #5: Virtual & Augmented Reality Will Present New Opportunities

In October of 2017, Harry Potter fans were treated to a thrill when Google announced it would be offering on their virtual reality platform Daydream, a gaming adventure based on the book series.  Also, this past year, The Washington Post, published an augmented reality article based on the Freddie Gray case.  It’s believed that in the future, media outlets will begin using augmented reality more in order to present complex stories.  As if that weren’t enough, The Washington Post also has a robot reporter who already published 850 articles.  Called Heliograf, it is being used to free up staff from redundant projects as well as helping with big data sets.  So what does this all mean?..

It means that it’s not beyond reason that publishers could use this type of technology when presenting both fiction and nonfiction books.  Several decades ago, publishers were producing choose your own adventure books where an author would write alternative endings to a story and readers would decided which one they wanted to follow.  This was popular for a short while but it may be revived if technology evolves.  That could mean interactive books will take on a whole new dimension and authors, as well as publishers, will have a new potential income stream.

It also means that big data is going to play a larger role in aquisitions, meaning data trends will soon play a role in how much a publisher will pay for an intellectual property.

In Closing

I hope I gave a balanced view of the future, there is a lot for indie authors to look forward to as well as several challenges.  Isn’t that always how reality goes?  Now, I’m handing the mic to you, if have any predictions of your own, add them in the comment section.

Book Promotion, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media, Writing Business

Why Authors Need To Learn Social Media: The New Reality

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Image via Pixabay

Lately it is becoming more and more common place for agents and publishers to assess an author’s platform before signing them.  That means they are looking for authors who can reach the readers they are targeting.  In fact at the Digital Book World Conference & Expo in 2017, representatives from Hachette and Perseus admitted they are checking out author platforms and social media engagement then reporting those findings at their acquisitions meetings.  Like it or not, publishers are using social media as a measuring stick so wouldn’t be nice if we could impress or at least pass the inspection?

While doing research for my upcoming book Social Media Hacks for Authors, I came across several resources, in the form of courses and tutorials that can help authors who struggle with social media.  And here’s the plus, many of these resources are available for free directly from the social media sites themselves!  I understand that many authors can’t afford the more expensive social media courses so I went on a mission to find the help we all need for free or at the very least, real cheap.

Below I list several resources and no, I’m not affiliated with any of the services or products mentioned.

Direct From The Horse’s Mouth

Did you know that Facebook has its own set of video tutorials that cover everything from advertising to analytics?  Twitter, also has a Skillshare video featuring their marketing manager Sandra Vega and you can view it for free.  Below I list the top 7 social media sites in the English speaking world.

General Social Media Courses

If you want to go further in your education there are several websites that will help you with your social media marketing.  The course topics range anywhere from content creation to targeted marketing.  Some of these are free while others have both free and paid options.

Tip:  Take advantage of the free material and later, if you feel like taking a more targeted course like Mark Dawson’s Advertising for Authors then go for it.

In Closing

Don’t be discouraged if you’re not an overnight sensation because building a following takes time nonetheless, you do have to start.  Gone are the days where social media was optional, today’s authors are expected to have an online presence no matter if they choose to go the traditional route or not.  Yes, this is more work but it is also a good thing because whether we choose to go traditional or not, our audience will follow us, not our publisher.  It’s this connection to your audience that is the key to a long-term career and isn’t that what we all want?

Advertising, Book Promotion, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Networking, Publishing, Social Media, writing

How To Market Your YA Book Part 2

Book Marketing
Image via Pixabay

A few years ago, I wrote about marketing a YA novel and since then lots of things have changed for one, there are more marketing avenues as well as many more pitfalls.  When I wrote that post in 2013, mobile phone usage was on the rise worldwide and tablets were new.  Fast forward 4 years and mobile phones are a necessity, while tablets are now being used by cats and infants.  I kid you not.

In this post I answer the questions, where are the young people and what do they want?  Also, I address some important trends that are revolutionizing the publishing industry.  So let’s get started…

More Media, More Problems

In the past few years, Facebook, has reigned as the undisputed king of social media with over two billion monthly users but it does have competition particularly, when it comes to reaching young people.  However Facebook tried to resolve that issue by purchasing two popular apps Instagram and What’s App.  Despite that, it’s still hard to find teens on Facebook itself, preferring; Instagram, Snapchat, Kik or Periscope, to the overpopulated, Facebook.  These newer platforms have a growing and active user base of 13-34 year olds, which has the attention of online marketers looking to reach Gen Y and Z.

Why do young people favor these sites you ask?  Because most of them have richer forms of content like video and gifs which are ideal for quick scrolling.  You know they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and this is especially true for short videos which dominate the feeds of most teens.  That means if you want to reach this demographic, you’ll have to use visuals like video and eye-catching images.

Short Is The New Long

The trends in publishing on both the adult and teen market is shorter, serialized books.   In fact, many online retailers have launched programs like; Kindle Singles, Kobo Exclusive Shorts and Nook Snaps which all feature short books.  Even bestselling author James Patterson, has begun focusing on shorter and cheaper works.  It seems those within the publishing industry have been watching indie authors closely.

Your Advertising Has To Be Different

Indie authors have been told to build a strong brand which is good advice but most teens say they don’t feel connected to any particular brand.  In fact, they say most brands don’t understand them at all and sadly, they’re right.  Gone are the days where you could just yell BOGO (Buy One Get One) and get someone’s attention.  Today, the question is can you contribute to the conversation teens are having or are you just trying to take it over?  The advice that most marketers give today is to make your ads look like native content which basically means that your ads shouldn’t look like ads at all.  Your advertising has to add to the conversation —their conversation.  So if your book can’t mesh with what teens are talking about, then it may not be as marketable as you think.

Young People Don’t Wish For Diversity, They Demand It

We live in a global society and this generation of children has grown accustomed to being exposed to different cultures and customs.  Gone are the days of living in a homogenized bubble, young people want to explore and learn, if you can provide these things, you stand to make a splash.  In 2014, the hashtag: #WeNeedMoreDiverseBooks became a movement when a Twitter discussion about the lack of diversity in the children’s genre went viral.  Several major publishers finally heard the cry and began publishing books with diverse worlds and characters.  Since then books like Listen, Slowly, by Thanhha Lai, and The Jumbies, by Tracey Baptiste, have rose to the top of the bestsellers list.

Social Media Influencers Are The New Celebs

Gone are the days where the radio or television executives chose the next big star today, algorithms and SEO determine who gets an audience and who won’t.  The party is online for teens and young adults, because the internet offers them a plethora of choices that traditional media just cannot.  Many of these choices are DIY Youtube channels and Snaps where regular people entertain, post tutorials and review products.  I talked about this in a previous article called: Booktube for Indie Authors which opened the eyes of a lot of authors who knew nothing about this subculture of book reviewers.  To the shock of many marketers, teens consider Youtubers legitimate celebrities right along the lines of Taylor Swift and Kylie Jenner.  This means that to teens, Booktubers are seen in the same league as the New York Times reviewers.

Young People Aren’t Difficult, They’re Different!

This paragraph may anger a few people but I have to tell it like it is.  Many older people fall into the same trap of previous generations who criticized or dismissed their youth and did so at their own peril.  When the World War II Generation ignored the Baby Boomers (think Vietnam), they in turn were ignored and marginalized later on in politics, and pop culture.  If you don’t try to understand this generation then everything they say and do will be foreign or scary.  You will miss out on modern culture and even risk losing an opportunity to make relationships which is the backbone of any marketing strategy.  So don’t run from them, do your best to understand them, who knows maybe they will take the time to listen to you as well?

Business, Publishing, writing, Writing Business

Should Indie Authors Write According To The Trends?

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Image Via Pixabay

 

It’s controversial advice that’s been given to authors since nearly the beginning of the printing press, and that is to write according to the trends.  Most authors scoff at the idea citing that by the time they write this trendy story, and publish it, the trend will be over.  Sadly, they’re mistaken, it’s traditional authors who are restricted by the time constraints of corporate publishing.  Indie authors are flexible and have time on their side, if we don’t catch the first wave, we can always catch the next.

Besides trends are usually patterns, patterns that have repeated themselves over and over since the days of the Greek bards and campfires.  Let me show you…

Trendy or Familiar?

The first modern romance novel made its debut in 1740, it was called Pamela, by Samuel Richardson.  Since that time the story has been retold by generations of authors such as Jane Austen, Margaret Mitchell, Daphne du Maurier and even E.L. James.  But why?  Why do authors keep writing the same story and more importantly, why do readers keep reading those stories?  The prevailing theory is that the reader is trying to recreate or recapture a feeling.  That makes sense because according to Psychology Today: “When evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features, objective facts).”  This means readers gravitate towards the familiar but is that really a surprise?  If a certain book made you feel good about yourself or the world around you, why wouldn’t you want to repeat that experience over and over again?

Trends aren’t new to the publishing industry in fact, there are people who get paid big money to predict them.  There are patterns in every market whether it be real-estate, tech, or retail but if you are observant enough you can predict them too.

Everything Has Been Done Before—Everything!

Think your work is original?  Hardly, just ask any agent or editor who reads unpublished manuscripts for a living and they’ll tell you nothing is original.  They’ve seen werewolf billionaire erotica and even self-help books on sex in the afterlife.  Your book is probably not going to shock anyone let alone, surprise them.  Besides, they’re really not looking for originality, they’re looking for profitability.

Trendy or Cyclical?

Since the days of Homer and the Bible, salacious stories have been the norm in human literature.  E.L. James wasn’t the first to write about BDS&M try the Marquis De Sade or Anne Desclos.  Think thrillers are a bit too violent and filled with sex these days then, try the Iliad or the Cypria.

I’ll break this down even further: In 1990, vampires became huge when a series of Anne Rice’s novel Interview With A Vampire went to the big screen.  Then two of the biggest stars Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, were cast as the lead characters and the movie made a fortune so a few years later Queen of the Damned, was released.  History went on to repeat itself in 2008, when Stephanie Meyer’s vampire novel Twilight, was release and made into a series of movies as well.

Around that same time in the 90’s several of Danielle Steel’s romance novels ruled the bestsellers list and were eventually made into television movies.  Today, Nicolas Sparks and Nora Roberts, are enjoying that same success in the 21st century.  Noticing the cycle here?

Here is a small list of the genres that become trendy over and over again.

  • Romance
  • Erotica
  • Horror
  • Sci-Fi
  • Thrillers

How Authors Can Use Trends To Their Advantage

If you’ve already published an erotic novel and that genre becomes trendy again, you could relaunch with a new cover and maybe even a new title.  Your book doesn’t have to be brand new, many indie authors have relaunched books from their back catalog and found great success.  Why not cash in on a trend when the opportunity strikes?

Another thing to consider is to anticipate reoccurring trends, we all know that vampires will eventually come back.  Ever since Bram Stoker published his novel Dracula, in 1897, they have been making their rounds.  The same goes with romance novels that feature rich men and virtuous (virgin) women, remember Pamela?  Sure these books get modernized but the basic elements are always there because the publishing industry won’t mess with a sure thing.        

A Final Thought

I believe authors recoil at trends because of the notion of selling-out but there is no such thing in the business world.  Remember as an indie author you are a publisher and you need to understand the industry or suffer the consequences.  Every year millions of people start businesses all over the world and most of them fail.  Don’t be that business, take advantage of all of the opportunities that present themselves.  Don’t be shy and don’t apologize for making money with your art.  *Stepping off soapbox*

Beta Readers, Book Reviews, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing

Why Book Reviews Are Important: The Stats

why-book-reviews-are-important
Image via Pixabay

Recently, there was an article in Publisher’s Weekly, which featured a literary agent giving his opinion on book reviews.  It was called, “Why Most Amazon Reader Reviews Are Worthless” and despite what the title implies, I agreed with some of his views.  In it, he talked about how publishers used to con their way on to the NY Times bestseller’s list by purchasing books at the outlets they knew the NY Times used to gauge their list.  He then compared it to today’s Amazon algorithm which favors quantity over quality and drives some desperate authors to purchase reviews.  Anyway, he’s right the system is corrupt and always has been but reviews still matter when it comes to online marketing.  Let me show you how…

Reviews Aren’t Important, They’re Vital!

Today’s consumer usually does their research before making a purchase and online reviews either motivate them to buy a product or walk away.  Reviews in fact help them learn about your book from people other than you.  According to a 2014 survey by Bright Local, consumers are 84% likely to trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation.

So how many reviews does it take to form a positive or negative opinion in the mind of the consumer?  According to the survey, after ten reviews 88% of customers have already formed an opinion of a product.  So good reviews are important, don’t let anybody tell you anything different.  In fact, I’ve seen several authors incorporating Amazon reviews onto their websites via widgets.  Another technique I noticed is authors building a sales page for their book and including reviews right after the blurb.  Bestselling indie authors Bella Andre has her reviews right under her blurb as does J.F. Penn.

2-5-stars
Image via WikiCommons

Faking It Until You Make It Or Social Proof?

It’s been said by some marketers that people are sheep and will follow a crowd and sadly it seems to be true in certain aspects.  An old trick used by new restaurants desperate for buzz, was to hire people to stand in line or sit at tables to make the place appear busy.  Even if an identical restaurant was across the street serving the same food, the one that appeared busy was always chosen by patrons.

The psychology behind social proof is the idea of social influence, people following the crowd in order to avoid ridicule or missing out.  And it’s not limited to restaurants, in October of 2016, talk show host Wendy Williams, admitted to hiring screaming teenagers to stand outside of her studio and sit in the audience for pop star Justin Bieber’s television debut (at the 18:10 mark).  She says, they did it to make him look like a big deal.  This practice is called astroturfing and it’s used by politicians, corporations and yes, even artists.

This type of thing isn’t exclusive to show business, there are authors over the years who have used smoke and mirrors to inflate their image. For example, it’s been alleged that sci-fi author and founder of Scientology, L.Ron Hubbard’s followers purchased his books by the dozens to make him appear like a big deal after his death in 1986.  By the way, this  kind of stuff is considered black hat (unethical) marketing but that doesn’t stop a lot of desperate people who need that fifteen minutes of fame.

Back To The Point…

The reason why celebrities and artists do this is because it works.  I don’t recommend you buy fake reviews and astroturf your Amazon page because with technology today, that can be easily detected.  However I do recommend that you try to get at least ten good reviews in the beginning.  I know of authors who passively solicit for reviews years after their book’s been published.  Imagine if you pitch ten reviewers per week and only half of them respond, you’ll still have five new reviews per week.  That adds up to 260 at the end of the year.  Also, don’t stop at Amazon, try to get good reviews on Goodreads, as well as any other major outlet your book is sold.

In Closing

I know we grew up thinking that books made it to the bestseller’s list based on merit and popularity but that’s not 100% true.  The missing piece to this equation is hard work and smart marketing, you don’t have to be sleazy and trick people into thinking your books are popular.  If you’re in this for the long haul and want a career in publishing, then time is on your side.  I believe people who focus on their fifteen minutes of fame are selling themselves short.  Most readers these days don’t care if a book was a NYT bestseller, that’s been proven, but what does matter is if you connect with readers through your work.  The readers matter the most, not the lists or awards because without our readers all those things are meaningless.  This is the biggest reason why genuine book reviews not only matter but are vital.