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AmazonLocal Arrives on the Kindle


Back in June (around the same time they dropped California Amazon affiliates) Amazon announced they were joining the Daily Deals arena with AmazonLocal. The service was initially launched for people in Boise, Idaho, but has since opened up to several more states, with more to come soon.

Amazon announced they’re bringing their daily deals to the Kindle, beginning with New York deals and expanding to more cities in 2012.

Some of the deals for the New York areas of Downtown, Midtown, Uptown (including the Upper East Side and Upper West Side) and Brooklyn will include:

  • $7 for a one-hour bike rental in Central Park ($15 value)
  • $5 for $10 at Dangerfield’s Comedy club
  • $59 for one month unlimited yoga classes at Bikram Yoga Grand Central ($180 value)
  • $5 for $10 worth of ice cream and ice cream cakes at Coldstone Creamery

Users can purchase a deal directly from their Kindle without having to enter payment information. Once you purchase the deal, it’s delivered to your Kindle device. To redeem your voucher, just show the merchant your Kindle with the offer.

I imagine Amazon will carry this over to their rumored tablet.

Do you think this will increase sales among the Kindle? For those of you who own a Kindle, what are your thoughts on the new service?

Amazon in Talks to Launch a Netflix-Like Service for Books


There aren’t a lot of details yet, but the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Amazon is in talks to launch a Netflix-like service for digital books.

The source says that for a fixed monthly fee, users would have access to an online library of books. They also report that the service would be available for Amazon Prime members (who pay $79 a year for perks like free shipping and access to online TV shows and movies).

Now before those of you who like to read the latest New York Times bestseller get too excited, the books would mainly be older works and there would be monthly restrictions on how many you would have access to.

As you might have expected, some publishers are not happy about this idea and feel it would “downgrade the value of the book business”. So, have any publishers signed on? No one knows yet but I’ll keep an eye out for any new developments.

What do you think about this service – a good or bad idea?

E-Reader Ownership Continues to Dominate Over Tablets


According to a recent study by Pew Internet, adults in the United States are buying e-readers at a much faster rate than tablets. The number of adults who own an e-book reader doubled to 12%, compared to only 8% who own a tablet.

Both numbers have seen growth over the past six months, but the e-reader owners jumped by a much larger percentage. Adults owning an e-book reader were at 6% in November 2010 and tablet owners were at 5%.

E-Readers Over Tablets

Other interesting growth statistics from the last six months include:

  • E-reader ownership among parents has grown more rapidly than it has among-non-parents.
  • E-reader ownership grew at a faster pace among Hispanic adults over white or African-American adults.
  • Ownership among adults ages 18-49 grew more rapidly than any other age group.

The study also tracked how many people owned both an e-reader and a tablet. 5% say they own a tablet but not an e-reader. I’m assuming they mean a physical Kindle or Nook. But … why would they when they can just download the app for free?

There’s definitely still a debate brewing over whether to purchase an e-reader or a tablet. While I personally would rather own a tablet with the Kindle app, I think it ultimately depends on what you plan to use it for, what you’re looking for, and how much you’re willing to spend. CNET has a great article that discusses the pros and cons of both.

So, tell us – do you own an e-reader, a tablet, or both?

Self-Published Author Joins ‘Kindle Million Club’


John Locke has reportedly become the first self-published author to hit the Kindle Million Club – selling over 1 million Kindle books. Locke is the eight author to receive the distinction, joining Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Charlaine Harris, Lee Child, Suzanne Collins and Michael Connelly.

Russ Grandinetti, Vice President of Kindle Content, says in a press release, “It’s so exciting that self-publishing has allowed John Locke to achieve a milestone like this. We’re happy to see Kindle Direct Publishing succeeding for both authors and customers and are proud to welcome him to the Kindle Million Club.

Locke himself says that Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has provided an opportunity for independent authors to compete with the rest of the book selling agency. Not only did KDP give me a chance, they helped at every turn. Quite simply, KDP is the greatest friend an author can have.

Locke attributes his success to his $0.99 eBook sales model, having said, “I saw that a self-published book could be offered on Kindle for 99 cents, and still turn a 35 cent profit. I was stunned! I walked around in a daze for, well, days, trying to explain to people what that meant.

He is now the internationally bestselling author of nine novels including “Vegas Moon,” “Wish List,” “A Girl Like You,” “Follow the Stone,” “Don’t Poke the Bear!” and the New York Times bestselling eBook, “Saving Rachel.” Locke is also the author of the marketing book for self-published authors: “How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months.”

Keep Your Contests Simple!


… by Steve Piacente

It seemed like a good idea. Everyone said it was a good idea. My idea for a contest for my self-published book. And yet, when it came time to actually taking the “Script -Trailer Challenge,” it turned out very few wanted to be bothered.

Contests and challenges have been around since our ancestors scratched out tic-tac-toe in the dirt a billion years ago. These days, even the government has joined the fun, launching http://challenge.gov/ … “a place where the public and government can solve problems together.

So I thought I was on solid ground with putting together a book trailer contest. The concept: read a one-page, near-final draft of the script for the trailer, watch the video, and spot the differences. The prize? A signed copy of Bella.

The trailer, at www.getbella.com, does a nice job of previewing the story of an anguished widow’s search for the truth about her husband’s death overseas. She lures a Washington journalist into the investigation, and together, they learn a bunch about the power of temptation and the futility of revenge.

The idea for the contest was spurred by those side-by-side, nearly identical photos you see in magazines. The object? Spot the differences.

I jumped in like Patton, who said, “Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.” I posted simple instructions on my website that said:

Good trailers begin with a good idea and a sharp script. Of course the first draft is never the final. We found a late draft, compared it to the trailer, and spotted at least six differences. Find them yourself to win a signed copy of the book.

I provided links so fans wouldn’t have to leave the website, and I offered an easy way for players to email me their findings. I was excited and a little concerned that I might have to wade though hundreds of entries.

Then reality happened. It turned out that few shared my enthusiasm, though I did wind up declaring two winners.

The lesson? For contests to work, they must be simple. A better idea might have been to ask visitors to watch the trailer and spot something hidden within. It was also suggested that asking people to cross two mediums – print and video – was asking too much.

So if you’re contemplating a contest, keep it simple, or be ready to offer up a prize most self-published authors probably can’t afford.

Steve Piacente is deputy communications director at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), an award-winning former reporter, and an adjunct professor at American University in Washington, D.C. In late 2010, he published Bella, a novel that centers on Isabel Moss’ quest to uncover the truth behind her husband’s mysterious death on an Afghan battlefield. Watch the video trailer at: www.getbella.com.

When an Article Can Start a Revolution #YAsaves


In this world of social media and vocal proponents of various topics, it still amazes me how something can go viral so quickly … how people can rally around a cause, share their stories, and become proponents for something. All in a matter of hours.

As I’ve said before, I’m entrenched in the world of books and young adult literature. As an aspiring author I’ve surrounded myself with amazing critique partners, contacts, and experts in writing. This last week I’ve been keeping an eye on the topic of #YAsaves – which became huge on Twitter this week. It all stemmed from an article written by Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal. It attacks violence and dystopian concepts in young adult literature, saying readers are now surrounded by images of “damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.”

How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

The article goes on to cite various recent, popular works and the issues they contain – rape, torture, abduction, self-injury, drugs – and says that it is possible that by speaking to these subjects, authors are normalizing them and spreading their plausibility.

A significant amount of people disagree. And disagree strongly. Shortly after the WSJ post came out, a backlash from YA authors and readers hit Twitter using the hashtag #YASaves. People expressed their views and many readers opened up to ways that their favorite young adult books helped them cope, or even saved their life. There have been over 33k tweets (and it climbs with each passing minute) containing the hashtag – and it topped at #3 as a trending topic in the US earlier this week. Tweets included:

Books are, at their heart, dangerous. Yes, dangerous. Because they challenge us: our prejudices, our blind spots. #yasaves -@libbabray

Honestly, @wsj, do you think we just make this stuff up? The darkest parts of many of my books came directly from my teenage life. #yasaves -@HollyBlack

Yeah. Go on. Tell teenagers that they shouldn’t read books. Know what you’ll get? Guaranteed literacy. #YAsaves -@AletheaKontis

Just curious, @wsj, do you have some kind of WRITTEN POLICY that you will only let idiots write about YA? Is it, like, a THING? -@maureenjohnson

And they didn’t stop at Twitter. Book bloggers, authors, and readers began taking the topic to their blogs – where they discussed in longer detail what reading YA means to them.

Other websites jumped on board with their view on the subject. NPR, The New Yorker, and The Guardian even weighed in.

And while I agree with most of the comments, most of the tweets – the social media analyst in me is waiting for the response. If there will even be one. While many companies with social media “fails” come out with explanations and apologies, I’m not sure that Ms. Gurdon will respond to the attacks. Because, for the most part, this was an opinion piece. It wasn’t a customer service fail. It wasn’t a PR pitch gone wrong fail.

Do you think that all Twitter campaigns need a formal response? Or is it better to sometimes let an upheaval die out altogether?

Image Source: SXC

Controlling the Message


… by Steve Piacente

I booked a booth at the recent BEA Conference in New York and, like every other self-published author, scrambled to attract media attention. As a former reporter, I was aware this was only part of the battle. The other part was remembering that success might not lead to the result I wanted – a positive review or story. The reporter might be hostile or unprepared.

So here are two good things to remember during interviews. First, the interviewer is not your audience; he’s the gateway to your audience. You’re using him to talk to them. Be polite, be friendly, but remember that this is a chance to reach your readers, or better yet, the readers you hope to attract.

Second, if you’ve got your core messages down, you can field any question, and then pivot to the point you really want to stress. As in, Yes, of course Sean Connery was the best Bond. Now his countrymen in Ireland will be able to read my novel because we just launched a Kindle version.

After I left journalism, I became a speechwriter in the federal government. As a speechwriter, the most you can hope for is that an audience remembers three of your principal’s key points.

I try to keep that in mind during interviews about my novel Bella. Specifically, I try to make sure the reporter knows:

  • The story is about a striking widow intent on proving the military lied about her husband’s death.
  • She lures a Washington journalist into the investigation. Working together, they discover more than they bargained for, namely:
    • The power of temptation,
    • The futility of revenge,
    • And the consequences of yielding to either.
  • I spent a year developing a social media-based marketing plan to promote and sell the novel, and we have a great trailer at www.getbella.com.

Third, don’t lose your sense of humor on the way to literary success. Yes, you spent years filling those blank pages with love, mystery and adventure. Know up front that not everyone cares, or shares your passion. Don’t take it personally. Enjoy the journey and have some fun. And make sure to control the message.

Steve Piacente is deputy communications director at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), an award-winning former reporter, and an adjunct professor at American University in Washington, D.C. In late 2010, he published Bella, a novel that centers on Isabel Moss’ quest to uncover the truth behind her husband’s mysterious death on an Afghan battlefield. Watch the video trailer at: www.getbella.com.

Was May 1 a Traditional Publishing Fail?


Here on the BlogWorld blog, I already wrote a bit about how social media is changing the face of historical moments. I know that a number of people found out about Osama bin Laden’s death via Twitter or Facebook, and even though I live in Washington, D.C., I opted to stay in and chat with friends online instead of partying on the streets, like so many chose to do in this and other cities across the United States. I think it’s really interesting to see how people all over the world are still talking about this historical event – and social media makes that possible.

I think there’s a deeper question here for those of us in the publishing industry – was the announcement of bin Laden’s death a fail for traditional media?

Yes. And no. At least, in my opinion.

How Traditional Publishing Failed

Before newspapers or magazines around the world even had time to yell “Stop the presses!” new media sources were deep in the analysis and reporting of this story. I’m a Twitter girl more than I am a Facebook girl, but both exploded with the news, with bloggers everywhere feverishly typing to post on the topic. Some of the interesting things I and other members of the BlogWorld team noticed:

  • Someone posted Osama bin Laden is DEAD as a page on Facebook a long time ago, asserting that the terrorist was never going to be found because he was dead. I’m not sure how popular that page was in the past, but as of right now, it has over 466,000 likes and TONS of comments, pictures, etc.
  • A man who lived in the neighborhood unknowing live tweeted the whole thing. At the time, he had no clue what was going on, but he happened to be awake and on Twitter, so now we have a first-person account of what was happening from someone who was really there.
  • Osama bin Laden’s Wikipedia page was updated before President Obama even spoke. Someone added a death date as May first, then someone else edited it to say that his death “was announced on May 1,” since there were rumors flying around that he had been dead for several days.

These are all things that aren’t possible with traditional print media. With a newspaper or magazine or even a static news website, there’s no feedback, no discussion, no life and movement to the story. Traditional media is not about conversation; it is about presenting the facts…and although those facts are important, without room for conversation, they’re not as attractive of an option to most people.

And then there’s the issue of speed.

This announcement was made on Sunday night, well after many people were actually in bed already. At the BlogWorld HQ, Rick picked up both the NY Times and the LA Times – NY made no mention of bin Laden’s death, while LA did. On the East Coast, it must have been just too late to reprint the morning paper.

Did your morning paper cover the story?

This is a problem that doesn’t effect new media. Blogs and social media accounts can be updated around the clock, and while some sites might not have had a story posted right away, they certainly didn’t publish for 24+ hours without addressing the news of his death. That’s essentially what happened with the NY Times though – it was over a day later until they printed a story.

How New Media Failed

As much as I love new media, the kinks aren’t completely worked out yet and perhaps never will be. There was a LOT of misinformation floating around – it would start as speculation or a joke and escalate until people thought it was the truth. Kinda like a massive game of telephone. That’s often a problem with new media – with thousands of people blogging about a topic or posting about a topic on their social media accounts, you’re bound to get one or two that don’t check their sources.

Not that you’d do that ever. You’re a good blogger, just like me. You and I never make mistakes.

Traditional print media? Well, they make mistakes too sometimes, but they have entire fact-checking departments. Plus, they have time to craft their stories, so they aren’t in a rush to spew out as much information, correct or otherwise, as quickly as possible so that they can be one of the first with breaking news.

Amber Naslund said something on Twitter that night that I thought was really interesting (and true, in my opinion):

@AmberCadabra: Dudes. Social media didn’t “win” to break the news. This isn’t a race. I’d rather have a prez that’s methodical and sure, thanks.

I agree, because while I can be as terribly impatient as the next person, I would hate for the president to get the facts wrong. Speed isn’t always the best.

So did new media win? Did traditional forms of publishing fail? Is this another nail in the coffin for newspapers and magazines? I’m not sure – but it certainly is interesting to see the evolution, isn’t it?

An End for Typewriters (and an important message about evolution)


Yesterday, I read some bittersweet news – the very last typewriter manufacturing plant has been closed. Later, I read that there were still production plants in China, Japan, and Indonesia, but the fact remains that after nearly 300 years in existence (and nearly 150 years in mass-production), we’re seeing an end to this tool for writers.

It’s sad because I’m still nostalgic for the little typewriter my dad bought me in fourth grade that I used to peck out, key by key, my first attempts at fiction…but I think there’s an important lesson here about the publishing industry that can be summed up in three words: evolve or die.

For those of you who have been around for a few years, think about how quickly blogging has changed in just the past decade. Would you have ever dreamed that WordPress, Blogger, etc. would be the blogging tools they are today? Could you have dreamed the importance of Twitter or Facebook to bloggers? Heck, when I first started, blogrolls and “buy my a coffee” buttons were all the rage.

Could you imagine if I was still updating my html manually on a site and relying on donations to make money? At one time, that was how bloggers did it – but since then, the bloggers who have wanted to survive have evolved. And the bloggers who haven’t…well, they’ve faded away.

Blogging is still evolving every day. Think about how new plugins and widgets and social media tools are changing the way we share content and connect with readers. I think we have slowed a little since the first days of blogging, but this is still an extremely fast-moving industry.

And this is an industry that is not in the least self-contained. Blogging and social media is relevant to almost every other type of business out there – it’s a marketing and public relation tool for businesses, not just a publishing tool for writers. Companies that choose to ignore this marketing evolution are missing out on some awesome opportunities.

Perhaps one day, it will be more than just a missed opportunity – one day, it might mean that your business fades away, just like a blog that doesn’t evolve. Food for thought.

Get a Signed eBook Copy of Your Fave Book!


I’m a sucker for book signings and signed copies of novels (I just went to a midnight book launch with Cassandra Clare and Holly Black last week), and I know there are a ton of people out there who feel the same way.

But what about the fans of eBooks, who don’t want hardcover novels lining their wall? What are they to do? There have been various workarounds – things like having an author sign a postcard or bookmark or even digitally signing a photo of their book – but there’s a new app in the works that sounds like the best solution of all … and it will debut at BookExpo America in May!

Autography Autography is a new tool that allows for a signed photo to be inserted IN to the eBook itself. Here’s how it works: A fan poses with the author for a photograph. The image immediately appears on the author’s iPad. The author uses a stylus to sign the photo and include a message if they choose. The author then taps a button that sends the fan an e-mail with a link to the image, which can be downloaded into the eBook.

It takes about 2.5 minutes, which is a little more than a normal autograph … but let’s face it, most fans want to sit and talk to the author for a minute anyway!

Autography also promotes the virtual tour, which is becoming pretty popular, especially with children’s book authors who do Skype tours with various schools. Now an author can have the tour and provide digital autographs, all without leaving their house.

And the app doesn’t just have to be used for eBooks. It can be a picture of concert tickets, a baseball card, a comic book, or whatever you want signed.

Some authors feel this further promotes a distance between themselves and the reader, but I think it can only help those who have already jumped on the eBook bandwagon. What do you think?

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