Here are some key points of interest from the past month.
Is Twitter good for marketing books?
The Red Pen Of Doom certainly doesn’t think so. The Twitter, it is not for selling books makes a strong case that social networking sites are not the place to sell ebooks. What matters instead is name recognition. And most of that comes from the traditional media.
This seems counterintuitive when so many writers spend so much of their time using Twitter or Facebook to pubicise their work. It also discounts John Locke’s account in ‘How I Sold A Million Ebooks In Five Months’ where twitter was used as a means of building and creating a loyal readership, a targeted audience. But the maths in the RPOD article, are strangely unsettling. Here’s my version of it:
Market surveys suggest that of those that receive a posting, 1% respond and 5% of those buy.
(audience) x (% who pay attention) x (% who buy it) = sales
So for a well connected author with a great, well written book and 50,000 people who see this author’s tweets in a month, what would the outcome be?
(50,000) x (1 % pay attention) x (5 % buy it) = 25 sales/ per month.
So what if this author sends 10 different, well constructed tweets per day and the assumption is made that they all have an equivalent effect (that is the recipients don’t suffer, compassion fatigue), the total is just 250 sales/ month. If, as is likely, compassion fatigue reduces the impact of those tweets by 50%, the outcome is about 125 sales per month. And this will involve the author sending 300 well constructed tweets per month, itself a difficult and time consuming activity.
These numbers will look eerily familiar to a lot of authors who use Twitter.
RPOD contrasts this with a writer of a poor book who has name recognition via the traditional media of TV or magazines or movies. Say that a movie is made of that book and the trailer gets a fair airing. Up to 100,000,000 people could be exposed to this worldwide in a month. Then the maths look different:
(100,000,000) x (1 % pay attention) x (5 % buy it) = 50,000 sales/ per month.
And this is a bestseller.
It’s the sheer weight of numbers in the mass media that does the trick and you’re not going to get anywhere near those numbers in the social media networks. That’s the nub of RPOD’s case.
I think it’s clear that this does not take into account John Locke’s idea of identifying and addressing a target audience. But most writers are not good at doing this anyway.
As one of the respondents to the RPOD article comments, how then do indie writers get acess to the mainstream media? How do they build name recognition? These could be the outstanding questions.
A cautionary tale - author loses over $10,000 in price mix up
Matthew Humphries reports at Geek.com the cautionary experience of James Crawford and his novel 'Blood Soaked and Contagious', priced at $4.99 on amazon. He uploaded three chapters of the book and offered them for free on Nook. Amazon applied its policy of reducing their price to the lowest available elsewhere, assuming (incorrectly) that the Nook version was the full version and began selling the book for free. Before the change could be rectified, 6,111 copies had been downloaded. Amazon has refused to compensate the author who could have been deprived of over $10,000 in royalties (if you assume that he would have sold this number of copies at the proper price).
It seems to this writer that there are some real dangers here. Many authors on amazon also publish with smashwords. Smashwords make their books available to Kobo. Kobo often discounts its books, say reducing 99c to 49c. If amazon price matches, suddenly the book is on amazon at 49c whether the author wants it or not......
Plot Device - This is great!
'The Killing II' and strong language
Danish series 'The Killing' was a critical and commercial success with its long time span, excellent direction and acting and its use of strong language, faithfully translated in the English subtitles. (Not to be confused with the US remake which was nowhere near as good). So fans of Sara Lund, she of the oh so warm hand knitted fairlisle jumper and the all round gritty crime fighter fame, will be disturbed by reports that in the translation from Danish in the subtitles to 'The Killing II' punches have been pulled and euphamisms substituted for the expletives of the original.
The series is currently running on BBC4 and Danish speakers are invited to report on whether there is any truth in these assertions.
Of course, this raises the question for all types of writing - is the use of strong language justified? Lucky then that this very issue has been addressed in some detail in a blog thread 'Strong Language: Does It Have A Place? that I started over at Kindle Users Forum.
Oh, and here's an interview with Sofie Grabol:
And here's a blog-in with Sofie from the Guardian.
Much of the success of 'The Killing' comes from the sharp writing of Søren Sveistrup, also interviewed here.
Are women writers wining the Sci Fi battle of the sexes?
So asked Paul Bignell in a recent article for the Independent, thus giving him an excuse to feature a shot of Jane Fonda from the movie 'Barbarella'.
But he has a serious case to make when he points out that in the genre, far from being the window dressing that they were so often regarded as in the past, women are now calling the shots as authors of fantasy and sci fi:
'Lauren Beukes's new book, The Shining Girls, which features time travel, was secured last month by HarperCollins for a six-figure sum. Similarly, Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles, about a giant earthquake which knocks the world off its axis, slowing down time, was bought earlier in the year by Simon & Schuster for almost £500,000. And Deborah Harkness's historical fantasy, A Discovery of Witches, has been the toast of recent international book fairs.'
The high advances, he adds, signal a shift in direction by mainstream publishers towards fantasy and sci fi, and in particular towards women authors.
That's all so far, folks! Hope you've found this informative and entertaining.
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