Bob Baker's Full-Time Author Blog

What Is an Author Blog?

Last week I wrote about books, blogs and blooks. I firmly believe that any author would benefit from publishing a blog related to their book(s). But if you're new to this blog thing, you may be asking, "What is a blog?" and "Why should I publish one as an author?"



Here's my best attempt at answering those questions ...

What You Need to Know About Blogs

As you may know, the word blog is short for "web log." A blog is basically an online journal that its author uses to publish "posts," which are separate entries to the journal. Blogs can be used for any reason and subject matter imaginable. From teenagers and activists to politicians and best-selling authors, anyone can easily and inexpensively publish a blog.

In many ways, blogs are just another version of a web site with multiple pages. You can visit and read a blog page in the same way you would any other web page. The main thing that sets a blog apart from a basic web page is a nifty web-based file format called RSS.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. In general, it is used to publish and organize frequently updated digital content, such as blogs, news feeds and podcasts. The coolest thing about RSS is that it gives people the ability to subscribe to blogs and podcasts.

Feeding the RSS Monster

In the old days, when you found a web site you were interested in and wanted to stay on top off, you had two choices: 1) subscribe to the site's e-zine and get updates by e-mail, or 2) bookmark the site by adding it to your browser's favorites list (but you had to remember to visit it often).

In essence, an RSS feed allows you to subscribe to a web site, which just happens to be a blog. You can subscribe to blogs using something called a news reader, feed reader or aggregator. These readers are popping up everywhere. The latest versions of the Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers allow you to subscribe to feeds directly from the browser.

You can also subscribe if you have a personalized page set up on Yahoo, AOL or Google. Or you can use programs and sites such as NewsGator, Bloglines, Rojo, FeedDemon and more.

If you're not familiar with how these feed readers work, think about how your e-mail Inbox operates. You open your e-mail program and up pops all of your latest incoming e-mails, listed by subject line, with the most recent message at the top.

Feed readers work in a similar way. Open it up, and all of the blogs you've subscribed to will show up, with the latest content at the top, usually with just the headline and maybe the first few lines of the blog post displaying. It's a pretty awesome way to have only the information you want delivered to your desktop.

I'll write more about this soon. But in the meantime, check out this article and this great list.

-Bob

Success & the Law of Repulsion

If you ever reach any significant level of success in the book world, you had better grow a thick skin. For some authors (and some topics), the more popular you are, the more you'll find that certain people will want to take shots at you.




Such is the case with the runaway bestseller The Secret (which I wrote about and recommended last month.) According to a Publishers Weekly article titled "The Secret Bashing Begins," there are several books in the pipeline that dissect and attempt to debunk Rhonda Byrne's The Secret.

One book due out this summer is The Secret Revealed: Exposing the Truth About the "Law of Attraction" (Aug.) by Jim Garlow and Rick Marschall.

The PW article explains "Garlow is the author (with Peter Jones) of Cracking Da Vinci's Code, one of the most successful Da Vinci response books. FaithWords [the publisher] promises that The Secret Revealed will discuss the 'Law of Attraction' as typical of many false religions and movements throughout the centuries. FaithWords plans a 100,00 copy first printing."

I can't say I'm surprised. Since this is a spiritual topic for many people, it was bound to make waves the more popular it got. But regardless of what subject matter YOU write about, this backlash is an important principle to understand.

The Real Lesson Here ...

I contend that no matter what you do or what you write about, you will generally encounter three types of people: those who LOVE what you do, those who HATE what you, and those who either don't know you or don't care.

For most authors, that third apathetic group will be by far the largest. And that's just fine. You don't have to be a household name to be successful. Your job is to connect with that small sliver of the population that LOVES what you do -- and ignore the people who don't get it and put you down. Bless them and then forget about them.

Sadly, as the number of those who love you grows, so will the number who have issues with what you write about. It's part of life, so get ready to play the game.

And that's no secret!

-Bob

Book Publishing Basics: Copyright, ISBN, Printing

As you know, this blog is all about helping you work toward making a living (and hopefully making a difference) with your own book. So I write a lot about promotion and sales and semi-advanced publishing topics.




But I realize a lot of folks who stumble upon this blog may be just starting on their publishing journey. If you're one of them, I bet you could use some helpful resources on publishing basics.

Here are four web sites I recommend:

Registering a Copyright
Everything you need to know from the U.S. Copyright Office.

Applying for ISBNs
How to get your own set of International Standard Book Numbers.

Getting Your Book Printed
A nice primer from Dan Poynter.

Planning for Self-Publishing Success
A great overview of the do-it-yourself book publishing process.

Bonus suggestion:

Book Publishing Secrets to Success
A peek into my own path to full-time author status.

To your success!

-Bob

The James Brown, Don Knotts Publicity Blitz

Here's a great idea from Bill Stoller's Publicity Insider eZine:


In 1993, the citizens of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, held a vote and officially renamed a local bridge "The James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge." [The Godfather] himself showed up at the naming ceremony and a good time -- and lots of media coverage -- was enjoyed by all.

Try something similar. Run a campaign to name a local street or hill or park after a celebrity, a local notable, or even a fictional character.

Start a petition to rename something that will never really be renamed (the state capitol, Google, a major league ballpark) after, let's say, Don Knotts. I guarantee, if you can get 25,000 web visitors to sign a petition renaming Shea Stadium to Don Knotts Field, you'll get a news story out of it!


How could you use this to get exposure for your book? Hmm ... What about the Borat Public Library?

-Bob

Books, Blogs & Blook Publishing

Are you familiar with the term "blook"? If not, you should at least warm up to the idea, if not fully embrace it.

Basically, a blook is a blog that's been turned into a book. Or, put another way, it's a book made up of blog posts.

Here's part of an excerpt from Wikipedia's definition:

"With the advent of the blog people started to publish books serialized on their blogs. Chapters are published one by one as blog posts, and readers can then subscribe to the blook via an RSS feed, tag it and comment on it. This type of blook was popularized by Tom Evslin in 2005, with the launch of Hackoff.com, a murder mystery set in the dot-com bubble."

A more recent example is Seth Godin's latest book, Small Is the New Big, a collection of several year's worth of his most popular blog posts and articles. The format even inspired Lulu.com to sponsor an annual Blooker Prize.

This serialized concept actually isn't that revolutionary. In the 1800s, many of Charles Dickens' novels were exposed to the public one chapter at a time, published in newspapers.

You may be asking, "But if people can read all the chapters on my blog, why would they buy the book?" Well, if they enjoy your ideas enough, they'll appreciate having all of your words in a convenient, well-packaged form.

Cory Doctorow, a well-known author and blogger (who I've written about before), believes blooks change the nature of the creative process involved in writing:

"Previously such jottings might have been kept in the author's notebook," he says, "but something amazing happens when you post them online: readers help you connect them, flesh them out, and grow them into fully-fledged books or blooks."

So what you post on your blog may be early drafts of the more polished chapters that end up in your book.

Another blog/book approach is the one taken by Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail. For nearly two years before his book came out, he blogged about his topic. But he didn't publish book chapters per se. Instead, he blogged about the subject matter of the book and kept people updated on the progress he made as he wrote it. This created a buzz about the book and gave him regular feedback from readers, which he used to make the book better.

In fact, I'm using some combination of the above as I move toward the publication of my upcoming book, Full-Time Author: How to Make a Living With Your Self-Published Book.

-Bob

Seth Godin's Advice for Authors

Last year, Seth Godin (author of Small Is the New Big, Purple Cow and Permission Marketing) published a great blog post filled with 19 pieces of advice for aspiring authors. Here are my six favorite tips from the post:

The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you'll need later.

Don't try to sell your book to everyone. First, consider this: "58% of the U.S. adult population never reads another book after high school." Then, consider the fact that among people even willing to buy a book, yours is just a tiny little needle in a very big haystack. Far better to obsess about a little subset of the market -- that subset that you have permission to talk with, that subset where you have credibility, and most important, that subset where people just can't live without your book.

Think really hard before you spend a year trying to please one person in New York to get your book published by a "real" publisher. You give up a lot of time. You give up a lot of the upside. You give up control over what your book reads like and feels like and how it's promoted. Of course, a contract from Knopf and a seat on Jon Stewart's couch are great things, but so is being the Queen of England. That doesn't mean it's going to happen to you. Far more likely is that you discover how to efficiently publish (either electronically or using POD or a small run press) a brilliant book that spreads like wildfire among a select group of people.

Publishing a book is not the same as printing a book. Publishing is about marketing and sales and distribution and risk. If you don't want to be in that business, don't! Printing a book is trivially easy. Don't let anyone tell you it's not. You'll find plenty of printers who can match the look and feel of the bestselling book of your choice for just a few dollars a copy. That's not the hard part.

Bookstores, in general, are run by absolutely terrific people. Bookstores, in general, are really lousy businesses. They are often where books go to die. While some readers will discover your book in a store, it's way more likely they will discover the book before they get to the store, and the store is just there hoping to have the right book for the right person at the time she wants it. If the match isn't made, no sale.

Writing a book is a tremendous experience. It pays off intellectually. It clarifies your thinking. It builds credibility. It is a living engine of marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority. You should write one.

Smart advice. Read Seth's entire blog entry here.

-Bob

Develop a Guerrilla Book Marketing Calendar

It's the age-old dilemma: Having too many book promotion ideas and believing you don't have the time and money to pull them all off. Relax. Here's a good idea you can put to use right now.

In an article from Entrepreneur.com, Al Lautenslager writes about using a marketing calendar ...

A marketing calendar doesn't have to be fancy. I recommend a simple spreadsheet matrix. Across the top x-axis, I place column headings representing the months of the year. Down the y-axis, or the first left-hand column, I list each individual marketing initiative, event or activity I'll use during the plan year.

For instance, if I'm going to do a press release every other month starting in February, I would put an X in the February, April, June, August, October and December columns. If I were going to issue a print newsletter once a month, each monthly column would have an X in it for that item.

How do you know which activities to include in your calendar? Brainstorm all the marketing ideas that make sense for your plan year but keep in mind that you can't do everything. Balance your marketing workload with the other things you need to do for your business. Plan for what you can do completely, not halfway. Also plan what you feel comfortable with, emotionally and financially. Prioritize accordingly, then place your ideas in your matrix.

He then spells out the four reasons to use such a calendar:
  • It organizes, categorizes and prioritizes your marketing initiatives and activities.

  • It allows you to spot "bunches" in your marketing activity. Too many X's close together might indicate the need to spread out your activity.

  • It offers a way for you to spot gaps in your marketing activity.

  • It allows you to more easily evaluate your marketing.
Smart advice there from Lautenslager, who is the co-author (along with Jay Conrad Levinson) of Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days.

-Bob

P.S. For more in-depth guerrilla marketing advice specifically for musicians, check out my best-selling, self-published book and its sequel.