The man who puts the "gu" in marketing guru has decided to take his brand and go home. In essence, Seth Godin, bestselling author of close to a dozen books on marketing and social trends, has decided to cut out the middleman and self-publish his books. He's spent a number of years building his online platform and has developed a direct (albeit virtual) relationship with his readers. Godin's primary message in marketing is to react quickly to trends and technology, a philosophy that prompted this bold move.
Mr. Godin, a public speaker and proponent of nimbleness and the need for speed in marketing goods, has long delighted in shaking up traditional thinking. One of his many concerns about the current publishing market is that the process often takes 12 months or more to get a new title into the hands of his readers. Mr. Godin's most recent book, "Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?" has sold 50,000 copies to date since its release in January, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 75% of the retail book marketplace. Adrian Zackheim, publisher of Portfolio, said that "Linchpin" is Mr. Godin's fastest-selling book but declined to comment further.
Once upon a time, the debate raged over the quality of analog filmmaking compared to digital filmmaking. Digital was long thought to be the inferior format, but digital technology caught up and the naysayers slowly started to appreciate the new medium. Now the debate has shifted to the 3-D world. There are some who believe the analog 3-D technology used in the 1950s is far superior to the digital 3-D methods used today.
An irresistible topic of discussion among film industry pundits these days is whether the current multiplex 3-D wave has crested since the release of "Avatar" in late 2009. Starting Friday, Film Forum will state a persuasive case for the notion that 3-D movies peaked in quality 50 years before this debate even began, with a two-week, 15-film survey of Hollywood's first detour into depth-manipulating filmmaking from 1953 to 1954.
Trying to determine what caused the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has almost become a cottage industry. There's an odd curiosity focused on the circumstances of his passing that started shortly after his death and still lingers today. Scholars, physicians and music lovers alike have dedicated a good deal of time and research to uncovering the mystery. Was the genius composer murdered or did he die of a mysterious ailment? Here's an excerpt from a New York Times article on the subject.
Scholars have also examined accounts of Mozart's ailments in letters written by family members, especially his father, Leopold, to uncover signposts regarding his final sickness. Speculation about an abnormality in the shape of his ear has even led some to suggest that kidney failure was likely, since urinary tract deformities are sometimes related to ear abnormalities. The indirect evidence itself rests on a quicksand of changing medical definitions, sometimes mistranslated phrases from original testimonies and leaps forward in the understanding of diseases and how the body works.
I'm often asked by self-published authors just getting started what they should charge for their books. It's a tough question to answer because there are certain variables to take into account. Beyond trim size and page count, you have to know your market and demographic. Generally, a book with a narrow market will have a higher price than a book geared toward a broad market. Why? Because narrow-market titles usually have less competition. For example, not as many people write about proper diamond cutting techniques as they do about how to start and manage a small business. As a result, the two books may have significantly different prices, even if the binding, trim size, and page count are identical.
Now, I write for a broad market so my goal is to make my pricing as competitive as possible. When I was researching on what to charge for my books, the first thing I did was look at what other books in my genre were selling for by visiting various online retailers and local booksellers. Usually there was very little discrepancy in book pricing among titles in the same genre. Next, I consulted two other pricing resources.
BookStatistics.com - This is a site created by Dan Poytner, a highly regarded authority on self-publishing. Dan has collected various statistics pertaining to publishing over the years, and his Web site is a kind of dumping ground for that data. He doesn't add comment or catalog it in any particular order, so it really is just raw data. It was on this site where I found a study done by the Book Industry Study Guide in 2001 that revealed some interesting answers to the question: How much do people like to pay? The interesting part was when you took mass market paperbacks out of the mix, there was no clear preference on pricing.
The School Library Journal - The SLJ does an annual report on average book pricing to help librarians create acquisitions budgets every year. It's a great tool because it gives you pricing according to binding type, category, and intended market. The report gives you an excellent sense of pricing within the entire publishing industry.
No one can tell you the best price for your book, but if you do a little research, you can come up with a price that should make you competitive without selling yourself short.
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.
Few authors pursue a career in writing because they long to read their work on a public stage. In fact, many writers turn to writing to limit their need to appear and read their work in public. But in today's publishing world, the need to put a public face on books conflicts with many writers' lack of desire to be so public. What is such an author to do? Ben Myers of The Guardian has a few ideas.
So how does the performance-shy writer compensate? Well, fortunately it's the 21st century and there are many alternatives. Personally I've signed up to social network sites, built up mailing lists, and worked to maintain contacts with journalists and readers. With each inane tweet my dream of being a Salinger-esque enigma diminishes, yet it still feels a necessary evil. I've also schmoozed booksellers and chain stores' buyers, made audio recordings and printed up postcards that I leave in strategic places. It's shameless really.
So you usually make bank at the box office. You're the creator and executive producer of a popular HBO series. You have legions of fans all over the world. Getting a movie made should be no problem, right? Not so fast. Mark Wahlberg has a movie called "The Fighter" coming out in December for which he had to fight to get studio backing. Wahlberg spent four years trying to get backing.
Back in 2007 Paramount almost made "The Fighter" based on drafts by a pair of original writers, Eric Johnson and Paul Tamasy, with later script work by Lewis Colick, with Darren Aronofsky directing, and Matt Damon playing the half-brother, Dick Ecklund. But Mr. Damon moved instead to other projects, opening the door to a monthslong flirtation with Brad Pitt, and more writing at various points by Paul Attanasio and Scott Silver. Eventually Mr. Pitt dropped out, as did Mr. Aronofsky, who in the interim had made "The Wrestler"and decided against another trip to the ring. Mr. Bale then agreed to play Mr. Ecklund, a former boxer who helped train his younger half-brother, and whose addiction to crack cocaine was portrayed in the documentary "High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell." "It was always in danger of collapse," said David Hoberman, who with Todd Lieberman, his partner in Mandeville Films, originally took "The Fighter" to Paramount, and ultimately saw it through production on location in Massachusetts.
The Grateful Dead that is. The Grateful Dead are known for being at the top of the counterculture, yet they had (and still have) mass commercial appeal. How does something like that happen? According to David Meerman Scott, it takes a lot of good old fashioned marketing that begins with making a connection with their fans.
The Grateful Dead was a touring band that happened to sell records too. Most other bands of the time toured to support record sales. Artists today need a true connection to fans. That might be by doing what the Dead did and create improvisational shows that were each unique and then tour a lot to build a rabid following.
What do you do with the kind of talent that leads a premier author and writing mentor to personally pick up the phone and call you? Well, if you're Tom Grimes you let it lead you down a path of subtle ruin. Grimes has written a memoir that maps his journey from the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, directed by Frank Conroy, to his painful brush with success that eventually led to a bout with paranoid delusions that had him convinced the FBI was after him because he broke a lease years before. Grimes laments began with the very first book he published.
His editor at Little, Brown soon left, however, orphaning his book. He and Conroy had trouble attracting jacket blurbs from big names. (Norman Mailer declined, writing Conroy: "Every other day there's a new genius on the block. It's too hard to keep up.") An early review in Publisher's Weekly was brutally negative. There were some upbeat signs. People magazine took Mr. Grimes's photograph. But "Season's End" was marketed as a baseball book rather than a literary one, Mr. Grimes writes ruefully, and got lost in a pile of other baseball books. His book tour was tiny. The New York Times didn't devote a major review to the novel (though it did give it 140 words in the "Books in Brief" column in The New York Times Book Review). It barely sold. It did not go into paperback. Essentially, it vanished.
Ashton Kutcher is one of the few Hollywood movers and shakers who have successfully harnessed the power of Twitter to create a mega-career. He's gone from that guy who used to prank his buddies on MTV to a leading voice in the rising wave of new media. And, to hear him speak, social media is going to change films in a very simple yet powerful way.
At the Australian premiere of his new romantic comedy Killers, where he stars opposite Katherine Heigl, the 32-year-old was adamant he could maintain a dual career as Hollywood heart-throb and new media mogul. "Theatre co-exists with television, which co-exists with film," he said. "I think multimedium of entertainment will always be relevant because I think people like to consume things in different ways. The big thing that's going to affect this future is going to be the pricing model and what people can afford to do and what that does to production values."
Break Out That Old Mix Tape because It Looks Like They're Relevant Again!
The mix tape used to be a guy's way of telling a girl how he felt about her without having to actually talk to her. When the CD came along, the technology changed and put a crimp in an entire generation's style. We males held on by a thread with the mix CDs, but then came the digital downloads and the game seemed to be over. Well, hold onto your mullets and Flock of Seagulls hairdos, because the cassette tape is making a comeback.
"Tape orders have definitely picked up from almost nothing in the last couple years, and it's been almost entirely indie bands," said Michael McKinney, the president of M2 Communications, the Pasadena-based CD and DVD duplication plant where Burger(Records) presses its cassettes. M2 issues between 6,000 and 10,000 tapes a month at around 70 cents apiece, McKinney said, a number clearly down from its '80s heyday of hundreds of thousands but up from its '90s and '00s doldrums of virtually zero.
On this blog, we've talked quite a bit about how to market your book. When it comes to marketing, not all ideas are created equal, and it is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. A marketing strategy that works for one type of book may not work for another. In addition, some ideas are tailor-made for some personality types and ill-fitted pursuits for others. The secret to making marketing work for you is to know yourself and know your genre.
While not every idea fits, there is one marketing move that I feel is a surefire way to sink your career before you get it off the ground. It is a tactic that is generally frowned-upon, and it doesn't tend to sit well with other writers, publishers, retailers, and in particular customers. I haven't brought it up before because I thought it wasn't necessary to discuss, but I've seen and heard some marketing experts advocate the practice online lately, and I find it unsettling.
So what is the marketing strategy I think you should avoid at all costs? That would be reviewing your own book on retailer sites, message boards, other authors' Web sites, on radio shows, anywhere. I know most of you who just read that probably said to yourself, "Of course not. Who would do that?" Unfortunately, with the growing number of titles available for sale each year, some authors will feel tempted to do so.
That's not to say you shouldn't encourage others to read and review your title online. But you definitely shouldn't favorably review your book in online channels under the cloak of Internet "anonymity." Others have done it, and when they were found out (as they so often are), it caused an ugly backlash of Internet chatter that irreparably soiled their brand.
Your brand is your ticket to book sales. Don't take shortcuts that may jeopardize it.
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.
I find it interesting that in Mashable's story about the results of their online poll concerning what their readers prefer to read, print books or e-books, they chose the headline: Mashable Readers Choose Real Books Over E-books. The title itself suggests a certain bias. So, does paper make a book real, or does the content make a book real? Regardless of the answer to that question, the results of the poll are interesting.
The printed word scored the victory! With 41.9% of the tallies (898 votes), the printed book was the clear favorite over the e-book's 23.24% of the ballot (498 votes). Interesting enough, a lot of you voted that you like both formats for reading your favorite novel; 34.86% of you (747 votes) said that it was a tie between the e-book and the print book.
Should One Really Strive to Be a Suffering Artist?
So can misery and pain breed ambition and longevity? According to Jay Roach, it's been the key to his success. The star director has had a string of successes, but those came after traveling a long, hard road of obscurity. What's his secret to making it big? Keeping your head down and taking your lumps.
"It just hasn't gotten remarkably easier to get a new film launched, even at the level we're working at. So I guess all those years of working in the darkness were great preparation." He laughs the bittersweet laughter of the late bloomer. "It was good to learn to be miserable and be OK with it," he says finally. "Nothing scares me anymore. After what I've been through, I don't lose a lot of sleep. I feel I can handle anything now."
When Lyor Cohen took over Warner Music Group's North American recording business, his mother gave him some very sage advice: quit. She had been tracking the music business, and in her mind, working in the industry was a dead-end proposition. But Cohen ignored her advice and stuck with it. Since things didn't seem to be working the traditional way, he took the label in a new direction.
And today, WMG is on the verge of cracking the media world's most pressing business riddle: how to successfully replace analog dollars with what Goldman Sachs analyst Ingrid Chung calls a "river of nickels." Cohen's trick has been a clever twist on what the music biz calls a "360 deal," a full-service contract with artists that includes touring, merchandise, Web services, and more.
This year brings the 50th anniversary of the literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird. The book is an enduring coming-of-age story that set the bar for all coming-of-age stories that followed it. The author is as reclusive as the book is loved. Harper Lee, still living, has shied away from the limelight for decades, not even granting an interview to one of her biographers, Kerry Madden. Madden did the next best thing to interviewing Lee; she combed the streets of the author's hometown, Monroeville, Alabama, and talked to the people who know her as Nelle. She wrote about her visit to the small Southern town in the Los Angeles Times.
One story that didn't make it was how Lee chose to attend the University of Alabama Alumni Assn.'s first Capital Capstone Award ceremony in 1963 instead of the Cannes Film Festival for the screening of the film version of "To Kill a Mockingbird." The award was for "the graduate whose distinguished contributions to the national scene during 1962 have reflected the best traditions of this university." Legendary coach Bear Bryant was there, and Lee told a reporter: "Bear talked about literature and I talked about football... I was a rabid football fan long before I was a writer."
"Blue Velvet" Director Turns to the Web to Finance His Bio-Doc
The man who has made a career of making surreal films and television shows has decided to bypass Hollywood to make his next film. David Lynch is turning to his fans and the Internet to raise funds for a documentary about his career. It's known as crowd-funding and it used to be a tactic employed by unknown filmmakers. But the times they are a-changing. More and more high-profile filmmakers are joining the crowd.
Jon Nguyen, the producer for the film, Lynch Three, said he wanted to "give something back" to the fans who were being asked to donate money. "A film can take a long time to finance so we had this crowd-funding idea. We went to David Lynch for his seal of approval and he was up for it. He ended up making an abstract self-portrait and we're going to give an original print of it to anyone who chooses to donate $50 towards the film, or a T-shirt featuring the print. We hope to raise part of the money in this way," he said. The film will form the third documentary in a trilogy following Lynch's career and the making of his 2006 psychological thriller, "Inland Empire," starring Laura Dern and Jeremy Irons. As well as receiving the print, the online donators will have the chance to influence the content of the film, including the questions they would like documentary-makers to put to Lynch about his life and work.
It's likely a question you've heard from a family member or friend at some point in time. The life of a musician is hard, and oftentimes there is very little reward. Your loved ones are dying to know why you put yourself through it. You struggle to find the perfect answer. So, why? What drives you to live the life of a creative type? John 'Scott' G of Golosio Music Publishing recently tried to answer the question.
Still, the query does kind of hover in the atmosphere like fumes from a high school science lab experiment, mocking and challenging composers and performers alike. "Why make music?" Well, okay, here's a way to approach it: You could just as easily ask: why make anything? Artists are compelled to create. They still need to eat, have a place to sleep, and get around the town from time to time, but let's face it: Writers write. Singers sing. Actors act. Sculptors sculpt. Dancers dance.
Your author blog is the most crucial cog (yes, I rhymed) in your personal branding efforts. In my mind, it's more important than even the social networking sites because it is your platform. It's your online home where you control the conversation and play host to your fans. I know it seems like the World Wide Web is overcrowded with blogs, and that's true to a certain extent. But most blogs fail, so that means there's plenty of room for quality blogs. Most people fail at blogging for one reason: they lose interest and let the blogs lie dormant for weeks or months at a time. You can't build a consistent following if you don't update your blog frequently. That means you should post on your blog once a week at the very least, and a couple of times a day for the most ideal results. Content is king. The more you have, the more traffic it will bring to your blog. Here are a few authors that I feel do it right:
Alexandra Sokoloff - Sokoloff has a bit of a niche. Her blog is centered on adapting novels to screenplays. She's a published author, and she has a background in the film industry. She offers some great information, and she's been pretty consistent about updating her blog since it was created in 2006.
J.A. Konrath - Konrath is the king of transparency. He's known for being a straight shooter and gives his readers detailed information on everything from writing to the exact number of books he's sold per title. He uses his blog as an educational tool for all those interested in writing and the publishing industry.
John Scalzi - Scalzi is as transparent as Konrath, but he has a greater range of topics he covers on his blog, which he has titled Whatever. The slogan for his blog is "Taunting the Tauntable since 1998," and never has there been a truer statement written. Scalzi is provocative, entertaining, and informative, and there is no one better at adding content to a blog.
These are just three authors that I think get it right when it comes to blogging. They all have one thing in common - consistency. The key to succeeding in blogging is consistently adding useful content week after week.
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.
Ever been asked who your literary influences are and didn't know what to say? Maybe you have too many influences to choose from, or it could be that you write in a totally different genre than your favorite authors. Well, now you don't have to give an arbitrary answer, because now you can let science tell you who your literary influences are. The website I Write Like has developed an algorithm to tell you...well, who you write like.
The inner workings of I Write Like are invisible to the user, so it's impossible to know for sure whether the thing that makes you write like Charles Dickens are long, long, comma-connected sentences or use of 19th-century vocabulary. Check it out, and thanks for reading this Dan Brown-style post.
Audiences have come to expect certain events and stereotypes in their horror movies. It would take a brave filmmaker to break those rules. Or it could just take a smart filmmaker. What makes a scary moment scary is that it's unexpected. Your horror movie should catch people off guard. Here's an example of one rule to break.
Stay away from the local Sheriff. In a horror movie, the only character with a lower life expectancy rate than a teenager is a cop. Furthermore, if the lead characters try to tell the Sheriff about the gruesome goings on, most likely he 1) doesn't believe them; 2) is in on it; or 3) tries to help, but meets a gory death seconds later (Examples also too countless to mention).
Sure the Beatles were talented musicians. And, yes they were incredible songwriters. And, it is true they were at the forefront of a revolution in rock music. In short, they are legends. But does that mean they could make it in today's music business?
Today, even the road doesn't look the same. Members of Led Zeppelin aren't riding through the halls of a Los Angeles hotel on motorcycles. Van Halen isn't insisting on a bowl of M&Ms in its dressing room with all of the brown ones removed. Today, the vast majority of artists don't have tour support from major record companies and have to go out-of-pocket in order to ply their trades beyond their home bases. They look to MySpace and other social networking outlets to get the word out about appearances, and about the actual music they make.
If At First You Succeed, Watch Out for the Sophomore Slump!
The publishing industry is full of hardboiled business types with their noses to the grindstone, running business by the numbers; but unfortunately, the industry is not completely devoid of silly superstitions. There are some who believe that for those authors who have a successful debut novel, there is no way they can avoid the second book jinx. Publishing Perspectives studies the challenge of the follow-up novel.
Greer Hendricks, vice president and senior editor at Simon & Schuster, believes that the second book can often be the author's most difficult: "The first book is in an author's head for years. Often, it's been with them since they were a child. If the first book worked, there's pressure to match that success. If the first book didn't work, there's pressure, because an author can begin to second-guess herself. And from a business standpoint, we now have to overcome a writer's 'bad track record.'"
You Can Fix It in Post as Long as You Planned to Fix It in Pre-Production
Flying by the seat of your pants in the world of filmmaking can be expensive, not to mention it's not that great for your pants. Planning for every eventuality before you hire your actors and pick up a camera can save you money and headaches. Even planning your post-production strategy is crucial to smooth sailing in the movie biz.
Before shooting a single frame or pixel, the first decision any independent moviemaker should make is to scout an indie-friendly, post-production facility. Achieving success cannot occur without tediously planning for the end of the production. It becomes increasingly pertinent when working with tighter time constraints and the budget of an independent film, where the margin for error can make the difference between an enormous success or a disgraceful failure.
Bruce Warila of Music Think Tank argues that the key to achieving fame in the music business is to basically not seek it. He thinks you can't make yourself successful online because the internet has become so large and unwieldy that it's hard to control your brand and image. He believes that you should just let your fans do it for you.
Given these eight relatively recent social and technical phenomena, the only three things you have to get right now are: 1) incrementally improve your songs or a song, until it is, or they are, all over the Internet (via the efforts of fans); 2) incrementally improve your live show to the point where fans are asking you to turn up the volume; and 3) learn how to throw an ongoing party that keeps people coming back week after week, or month after month (to be covered in my next post). If you give fans great songs, a great show, and a great party... they can and will do everything else now. Everything.