Monday, January 19, 2015

Goodreads Author Tools

In my last post, I went over the basics of setting up an author's account on Goodreads and mentioned a few ways in which writers can create a larger presence on that site and thereby attract more attention to their work.  The site offers several other features that can be extremely useful to those seeking to promote themselves.

The first of these is the ability to create a blog on the site itself.  I already have a blog, of course, the one you're reading now.  It would be optimal if Goodreads offered the ability to enter the RSS code  for my current blog just as Amazon does for its author pages.  In that scenario, when I published a post here on Google Blogger it would automatically appear on the Goodreads site without the need for any further action on my part.  Even though that's not the case, I can still post manually without much effort.  All that need be done is to simply cut and paste the content of each post from one site to the other.  I'm not particularly concerned about duplicating my posts.  Rather, I think it best to have them available on as many venues as possible.

Another feature on Goodreads is its Creative Writing section.  This is really just the means to publish work, such as a short story or an excerpt from a novel, to a section of the site where it will then become available to Goodreads members for free.  In other words, an author can provide "samples" of his writing to anyone interested enough to read them.  Admittedly, there's little chance that someone will stumble across this piece among the thousands already online and be so impressed that he or she will purchase that author's current book.  But even if such a submission does not lead directly to sales, it is still a convenient means for a writer to publish works that might otherwise languish unread on his hard drive.

On their Author Pages, writers are also given the chance to publicize upcoming events, such as book signings and speaking engagements.  This is for writers who actually have their work in print and are able to place a physical product on bookstore shelves.  It's not practical for ebook authors since it's only common sense that most stores are not going to schedule time for an author to do a reading if they have no chance of selling his books at their location.  Even if a writer has a work on paper, larger venues such as Barnes & Noble will probably not be willing to go to all the trouble of setting up a speaking engagement or reading without the expectation of selling a substantial number of volumes.  If one has had a book published by a third party that has not received much notice, it would probably be best to stick with smaller local stores.

Another Goodreads feature currently limited to physical books is the "Giveaways."  This is exactly what it sounds like - there are no sales involved here.   How valuable this is as a promotional tool is for the individual author to determine.  Since my work is currently available only in ebook format, it's a moot point as far as I'm concerned.  When Goodreads begins to offer electronic giveaways, I'll take it into consideration.  That does not seem likely to happen, though, any time in the near future.  At present, the Goodreads Help page contains only the following statement:
"At the moment, ebooks aren't eligible for giveaways simply because we haven't yet found a system that works as well and as seamlessly for them as it does for our print books. We are committed to providing a superior experience for the people who enter and win our giveaways, and until we can absolutely do that for ebook giveaways, we won't allow them. We are currently in the process of experimenting with a few different titles and a few different formats, so hopefully we will be able to allow ebook giveaways soon!"
A final form of self-promotion is to buy paid advertising on the site.  Before going this route, an author should be honest with himself.  In my own case, the novel I'm seeking to promote, New York Sonata, is a literary work whose characters are almost all classical musicians.  I knew when I began writing it that sales for this type of novel would be minimal at best.  If I had been writing for income, I would have published a genre novel instead.  But making money wasn't my primary motivation. Just as any other author, I'd like to see my book become a bestseller.  I have to recognize, however, that the chances of that actually happening fall somewhere between slim and none.  It would only be a waste of money for me to advertise such a work.  For a writer who has produced a book that's more likely to sell, paid advertising might actually pay off in the long run as there are a huge number of readers on the Goodreads site who'll see it.  In the end, it's a judgment call.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Goodreads

I first learned about Goodreads while reading Publishing E-Books for Dummies prior to publishing my first novel online.  I checked the site out and found it was an interesting resource for anyone, author or not, with a love of reading.  I joined then and there but did not make full use of the available features until after I'd already placed my book, New York Sonata, on Amazon.

I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of social media.  I don't belong to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.  Whatever marketing capabilities these sites may offer to other businesses, I don't think they are particularly useful for authors.  It's doubtful that anyone is going to purchase a book after having randomly encountered or befriended an author online.  Beyond that, I feel that constantly signing on to these sites to create posts or update one's status consumes an inordinate amount of time that could better be spent working on one's writing.  There is simply too poor a return on the investment of time to make the effort worthwhile.  On the other hand, Goodreads is a site specifically designed for those who love to read books and should logically be an excellent venue at which to market one's work.  Where else could an author find a site with a such a huge readymade audience looking for new books to consume?

Membership in Goodreads is an excellent way for readers (and what author doesn't love to read?) to discover new titles and to get the latest book news.  This not only allows an author to add to his or her own reading list, but also provides him with the means to keep track of the latest publishing trends.  In other words, it becomes a source of pertinent information, one of the best available, for the professional writer.

I would advise becoming a member of Goodreads even if one's book is not yet ready for publication.  Even as a non-author, one can make friends and join discussion groups and thereby create a presence on the site.  Though again, I can't see the point in randomly collecting friends for no other reason than to amass a huge following, it is fairly easy on such a site to find those who have similar interests to one's own and with whom one can establish a genuine acquaintance.  It is much easier to manage a small circle of friends whom one actually knows than to deal with an enormous conglomeration of strangers.

The best way to find friends is to join discussion groups.  There are a huge number available on Goodreads.  One can find them by clicking on the "Explore" tab at the top of the site's homepage and then clicking on "Groups" from the dropdown menu.  It's best to refrain from joining too many groups, especially at first, as participation in more than a few soon becomes unwieldy.  Rather, one should sort through the groups and find those that are a good fit either by book genre (e.g., mysteries and thrillers) or physical location (e.g., New York City).  Aside from the obvious marketing opportunities that group participation presents, joining them offers a chance to associate with those who share one's own tastes and to participate in group reads that allow one to gain a deeper understanding of the books under discussion.

One can further build one's presence on Goodreads by adding books to one's "shelves."  Upon joining, one will be presented with list after list of books in various genres to go through.  Each time I saw one I had read sometime in the past, I assigned it a rating (one to four stars).  In that way, I quickly built a shelf of over 100 titles.  Now, whenever I've finished reading a book, I find it on the site, assign it a rating, and give it a brief review.  Since I already post on my Google blog, The Aesthetic Adventure, reviews of art books I've read, I make it a point to cut and paste excerpts from those posts to corresponding Goodreads reviews.

Once an author has published a book, assuming it has an ISBN or Amazon ASIN number, he will be able to add that book to Goodreads.  If one has already been a member of Goodreads for more than 7 days, he will be able to add the book manually without the need to ask one of the site's librarians for assistance.  One also can download a cover image at the same time.  After having successfully added the book, one can then set up an Author Page with which to promote himself.  This can be accomplished by clicking on the author name on the ebook page and claiming it as one's own.  When setting up the Author Page, I think it is a good idea to include a photo of oneself.  People are apt to be more open with the individual with whom they're speaking if they are able to form an image in their mind of that person.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Pictorialist Models


I started 2015 by publishing a portfolio of my favorite black & white film photographs.  It is now available in a Kindle edition on Amazon.  

Pictorialist Models is a short photo essay containing scans of thirty black & white prints made in a wet darkroom using traditional methods.  It took its inspiration from Pictorialism, a fine arts movement in nineteenth century photography that culminated in the establishment of Alfred Stieglitz's Photo Secession.  In the present work, I  wanted to create a tribute to those earlier photographers while at the same time preserving my own distinct style.  In order to do so, I spent several years in the studio taking photographs of female art models on infrared film.


EDIT: Pictorialist Models is now also available as an ebook on the Barnes & Noble website.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!!!


I wish everyone reading this the very best of luck in 2015.  May you have good health and happiness and success in all that you attempt.

The past year was a great one for me - it was the year I finally realized my lifelong ambition to write and publish a novel.   My New Year's Resolution is to now finish my second novel Lucid and publish it as soon as possible.