Tips for bookish bloggers

I spoke recently at the Australian Booksellers Association Conference in Sydney on blogging and social reading and have been meaning to share my presentation more widely ever since.

Below is an outline of my tips for booksellers on writing blog posts. You can check out my social reading presentation (think Readmill, GoodReads etc) on Prezi here.

BLOGGING TIPS

How do you decide what to post about? I’d recommend you keep a list somewhere – perhaps in notes in your phone or in a notebook or diary – of ideas as they pop into your head.

You might be inspired by a conversation, a news report on television, another blog post or an article you read in a magazine like Bookseller+Publisher. Ideally in this case you’d look for a new angle on what you’ve read.

So for example, a couple of weeks back Pan Macmillan digital first imprint Momentum announced it would be the first major Australian publisher to ditch DRM.

I wanted to write about this – and to applaud it – but given it had already been announced had to find a way to take the story a step further.

I did some more reading on DRM and thought about it for a couple of days then wrote a note to Joel Naoum at Momentum to ask whether retailers had agreed to support the move, or whether it was only Momentum titles sold on the publisher’s own website that would be DRM-free.

Naoum wrote back acknowledging there were some issues with retailers, so I then contacted several key retailers and suppliers via Twitter and email to find out whether they would in future or were already set up to sell DRM free. All responded that they either already were or would soon be doing so, which I felt was sufficiently newsworthy to work into a blog post.

Some types of blog posts are:

  • Posts inspired by other blog/social media posts or media reports
  • Reviews (of books, online and bricks and mortar bookshops, other blogs and book-related platforms, a TV program/film/plays with book tie-ins, apps or YouTube videos)
  • Interviews with authors or experts in the industry
  • Descriptions of what you’ve been doing/thinking about books and the industry lately
  • A calendar of events related to your store and books and writing generally
  • An opinion piece on an issue in the industry
  • A discussion about such an issue
  • A news story – in the rare case that Bookseller+Publisher don’t beat you to it!
  • A campaign to achieve something
  • Information/how-to
  • Guest post from an expert/fellow blogger/staff member/visiting author/publisher/personality who loves your store
  • Your response to a guest post
  • A public letter to someone in a position of power
  • A list – of useful stuff eg people to follow on Twitter

Whatever you choose to write about, make sure it’s on topic and thus relevant to your niche audience. So for example, for me to post a vegetarian restaurant review on ebookish wouldn’t work at all.

Structure

No matter what type of blog post you’re writing, remember to write it so that the reader will be drawn in from the first paragraph. If that means cutting and pasting the most interesting or well written paragraph from further down in your post, or opening with a quote, great.

Try to keep your posts short – under 500 words is ideal. If you must write something that is much longer than that, consider writing a summary at the top so that readers get the general idea even if they don’t read on.

Style

Be yourself. Write the way you’d speak during an intelligent, but informal conversation. If you’re not sure whether a post is working, try reading it aloud to yourself or to a family member or friend. The clunky sentences will leap out at you that way.

Finally

Write about what you know and be passionate about it. Your enthusiasm will win readers over.

Ditch Google now: ABA president

How the news broke.

Australian Booksellers Association president Jon Page reckons Dymocks and Booktopia should immediately close their ebookstores and find a new partner after Google announced it would pull out of its deals with the pair from January 2013.

Page was not surprised by the development (read his blog post on it here).

“I always thought there were too many risks partnering with Google,” he said.

“If I were Dymocks or Booktopia I would shut down my eBook store ASAP and find an alternative quickly. ”

Google announced it was pulling the plug on its reseller program with booksellers just before Easter – shrewd timing that meant the mainstream media mostly ignored the news.

The program only launched in Australia five months ago.

Booksellers who had partnered with Google when they opened their ebookstore, including Dymocks and Booktopia in Australia, now face weeks or even months of uncertainty.

From the end of January next year, Google will move to selling ebooks through its Google Play interface only – though current retail partners could look to end the relationship and start afresh with a new supplier sooner.

According to the official announcement here, results to date demonstrated that “the reseller program has not met the needs of many readers or booksellers”.

I’m interpreting this as “no one much was buying Google eBooks via resellers” – and why would they, when they could always go direct to the Google eBooks site.

No matter how poor sales have been, the process will have been a worthwhile one for Google. The access it has had to Dymocks and Booktopia customers in terms of publicity and sales will have made sure of that.

Others agree. Here’s a quote from a comment on the Google announcement:

“Google eBooks was the only way the independent bookstore where I worked was able to jump into the digital book world, a necessary piece of the future of bookselling. It met the needs of all my customers who tried digital books for the first time and all my customers who wanted to support the little guy with every book purchase. Many of my customers got Google accounts so they could buy eBooks through our website. I feel betrayed, like Google strung us and the ABA along, using us as guinea pigs as they developed their eBook market presence.”

Here’s the official response I received to my email queries from Google Global Communications and Public Affairs Manager Kate Mason:

“Our ebooks reseller program has not been as successful as we’d hoped so we will be phasing it out next year. We want to give partners as much notice as possible so they have time to make adjustments. This change stems from that strategy and the feedback we’ve received from most ebook readers, publishers and resellers.”

Neither Dymocks nor Booktopia have responded to emails. Booktopia was still “proud to partner with Google to offer our Australian readers thousands of Google eBooks™ from a wide variety of international and local publishers” on its ebookstore homepage. Their only reference on Twitter was this:

@seandblogonaut: @booktopia are you still offering eBooks via google? hearing reports that you are not?
@booktopia: @SeandBlogonaut We are until next January.

Dymocks, too, is still spruiking the partnership on its website.

QBD The Bookshop and The Co-op Bookshop had both signed with Google ahead of the Google eBooks launch in Australia last November, but neither was yet selling ebooks by last week.

The other huge ebook news story of last week somewhat overshadowed the Google news (happily for Google). You can read it here. The US Justice Department and 15 states sued Apple Inc. and major book publishers last Wednesday, alleging a conspiracy that raised the price of electronic books.

Digital diary dates for 2012

Photo: Wolf Concepts' award-winning Caesar's Filofax ad (www.wolfconcepts.com).
Have you started filling in key dates for 2012 in your digital diary yet (read on for a list of ebookish events)?

I switched to using Calendar on the iPhone earlier this year and still miss my Filofax terribly. I am convinced that the act of physically writing an event into the diary ensures its details are etched into my memory too. Typing something in via a touchscreen doesn’t seem to have the same effect at all.

In fact, I’ve just read a blog post that explains why this is indeed the case very well, here on Lifehacker.com:

“With writing, you use your hand to form the letters (and connect them), thereby more actively engaging the brain in the process. Typing, on the other hand, involves just selecting letters by pressing identical-looking keys.”

The trouble is, the Filofax is too heavy to carry around everywhere, whereas the iPhone is always on hand. Sigh.

But back to key dates. There are already plenty of 2012 dates for digital publishing fiends to add to their diaries, written or otherwise. Here are just a few for you to ponder entering:

  • The Australian Society of Authors’ E-Exchange forum, February 18, Sydney, with other states to follow through the year.
  • Copyright Agency Limited member seminar and digital publishing guide launch, including guest speakers Mark Tanner (Google eBooks) and Sabine Heindl (NBN Co) February 23, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne.
  • Perth Writers Festival, February 10-March 3.
  • Adelaide Writers Week, March 2-18, 2012
  • The Australian Society of Authors’ Creating and marketing an app, March 16, Sydney, with other states to follow.
  • Creating your own ebook workshop, March 23-24, Melbourne, with other states to follow.
  • Sydney Writers Festival, May 14-20.
  • Australian Publishers Association’s ebook essentials for editors seminar, June 5 (Sydney) and June 7 (Melbourne).
  • Australian Booksellers Association annual conference, June 17-18, Sydney.
  • Emerging Writers Festival, TBA June, Melbourne.
  • How to publish your ebook course, University of Technology, Sydney, Tuesdays, 6-8pm, from mid-year with dates TBC.
  • Australian Society of Authors’ How to publish your ebook – six-week course (identical syllabus to UTS course above), from July 4, Sydney.
  • Australian Publishers Association digital marketing seminar, July 5 (Sydney) and July 10 (Melbourne).
  • Byron Bay Writers Festival, August 3-5.
  • Melbourne Writers Festival, August 23-September 2.
  • Brisbane Writers Festival, TBA September.
  • Various must-attend if:book events, dates and venues TBA.

    I’ll try to keep this page (and my iPhone calendar) up to date as the year goes on, and hope to see you at some of these events.

  • National Bookshop Day to be celebrated on 20 August 2011

    Support your community by joining with your local bookshop to celebrate the inaugural National Bookshop Day on Saturday 20th August, 2011.

    Boomerang Books applauds this initiative by the Australian Booksellers Association to provide publicity for local bookstores. Although we’re an online bookstore, we wholeheartedly support the future prosperity and longevity of Australian bricks-and-mortar booksellers, both chains and independents. These stores enable Australians to access books – a critical requirement in our community.  Unfortunately most Australian bookstores have been doing it tough over the past 12 months and we hope that the the National Bookshop Day will give these stores some of the attention that they deserve.

    About National Bookshop Day

    On Saturday 20th August 2011, in hundreds of locations across Australia, bookshops will be holding their very first National Bookshop Day. Individual shops will be focusing on their uniqueness, inviting local authors and all members of the community to participate in readings, conversation about books, book busking and a wide range of other activities.

    Supported by the Australian Booksellers Association, bookshops will promote the message that local bookshops are an integral part of the Australian way of life. They are the first point of contact between the reader and the books. They care about the customer, the reader, and the books they want to read.

    In 2010 66.2 million books were sold in the Australian retail book trade representing $1,257 million*. Based on US research, for every $100 of this spent locally, $68 of that stays in the community. Just under a quarter of all books sold in Australia are children’s books.* (Nielsen BookScan)

    “Bookshops have always been an anchor for the cultural and retail communities within Australia.  National Bookshop Day is a time when we can celebrate the unique role of bookshops within the community, and highlight the many ways in which bookshops contribute to the local community and to Australian literature, culture and society.” Joel Becker, CEO, Australian Booksellers Association

    So come together at your local bookshop on Saturday 20th August, and celebrate.