Will Your Book Be Around in 100 Years?

My mom recently found an old book in her basement. My great grandfather’s name is written on the inside cover, along with his address in Chicago. The book was published in 1914. Yes, that’s right, 1914 – one hundred years ago.
Review of: Union And Communion or Thoughts on the Song of Solomon
My mom had never seen the book before. We don’t know why my father kept it, or the motivation of his mother before him. Yet we have the writing of J Hudson Taylor (a missionary to China, if you’re interested) passed down as a family heirloom. The book, by the way, is Union and Communion. Amazingly, it’s available today from Amazon as a Kindle download or used paperback. The copy I hold is a third edition hardcover (the only option back then).

This begs a thought-provoking question: How long will our writing last? Will the book we write today be around in one hundred years?

I think every writer hopes their work will outlive them. I know I do. That’s why we need to make the words we write today count, words that will last, words that will inspire future generations.

Then maybe, in one hundred years, people will still be talking about, selling, and reading our books.

Be Alert to What Others Say About Us Online

One day on my writing blog, Byline, I wrote about a book I really enjoyed. To my complete shock, the author commented on my post. She thanked me profusely for my kind words, added to the discussion, and then mentioned her upcoming book. I was smitten.

More recently, on my main blog, Spiritually Speaking, I posted a review of a book that highly influenced me. This time the author emailed me to thank me for my kind words. I was shocked he took the time to do so. Then he asked if I’d post a review on Amazon. Even though there were already hundreds, I was happy to do so. As a bonus, I reviewed the book on Goodreads, too!

Neither author knew I existed before I posted about their book. So how did they find my comments? Though I don’t know for sure, I suspect they used Google Alerts.

Google Alerts is a free service that emails users whenever a particular phrase appears online. I recommend all authors setup a Google Alert for their name and book titles. Google will then send an email alert whenever someone uses one of those phrases online.

Then, when it’s appropriate, we can respond to comments about us or our books. The important thing is to be respectful. Thank them; be kind. The goal is to form a positive impression with them and others reading our response.

Of course not everything written about us or our books is positive. Resist the urge to respond to negativity; it will never go well. We must not attempt to defend ourselves. (Let others do that.) Although hurtful, we need to develop a thick skin and learn to ignore the barbs of others. To help deal with online criticism, remember the adage, “The only thing worse than bad publicity is no publicity.”

But don’t focus on the negative. The goal is to add to the online discussion about us and our books, garnering followers and fans.

It only takes a couple minutes to setup a Google Alert. Do it today.

Is Amazon’s Purchase of Goodreads a Good Thing?

As March wound down, news surfaced of Amazon buying Goodreads. The announcement shocked me. Fearing the unknown, I mourned for what assuredly would be lost. Not so fast. Is Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads really a bad development? Here are four points of view:

Amazon’s Perspective: From a business standpoint, this is a great move by Amazon. The world’s largest online retailer started with and built its reputation on books. Goodreads focuses on books, celebrating them and serving as a haven for those who love to read. This is a wise move and smart investment for Amazon.

Booklovers’ Perspective: Amazon is a business with a profit motive; books are secondary. Goodreads puts books first, aiding in their discovery and offering a place for booklovers to connect. Proponents who embrace Goodreads as an egalitarian community of knowledge and sharing, fear its corruption by a profit-motivated owner. They cite accounts of Amazon summarily removing reader reviews from their website without warning and with no justification.

Publisher’s Perspective: People who produce and sell books need to promote them, with both Amazon and Goodreads being two places to do so. Few publishers can survive without Amazon but many worry about the juggernaut’s commanding power and ability to unilaterally dictate terms. It’s a love-hate relationship. Publishers worry Goodreads will be sucked into this, no longer providing an autonomous promotion platform.

My Perspective: Amazon also owns the popular movie resource IMDB, which continues to operate without interference from its parent. Amazon didn’t corrupt IMDB and I expect the same outcome for Goodreads.

Long live Goodreads!

“On the Media” Discusses the Publishing Industry

The November 23 edition of “On the Media” (Publishing: Adapt or Die) focused on recent developments and trends within the publishing industry. (It was an update of coverage from April 2012, so some portions were a repeat).

The segments include:

  • How Publishing and Reading Are Changing
  • No Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
  • Is Amazon A New Monopoly?
  • Are Publishers Stuck In The Past?
  • The Story of Pottermore
  • Taking On Amazon
  • The Problem of Knock-Off Books
  • Steal My Book, Please
  • Life After Publishers

You can listen to Publishing: Adapt or Die online or down the recording.

While I don’t agree with everything they said, there are many good segments and even some encouraging developments for publishers.

RIP Maghound: A Great Idea with One Problem

I’ve been a big fan of the “magazine membership services” website Maghound. With Maghound you select which magazines you wish to receive each month, are charged a fixed monthly fee, and they handle everything else. As a nice side-effect, the publisher doesn’t harass you with endless premature renewal notices or other annoying mailings.

Although I loved the service, there was one wrinkle. The model was built on the assumption of a monthly publication schedule, but few magazines come out monthly any more. Instead of simply charging less for those months, Maghound’s solution was a “substitute list,” which would provide a backup magazine when your preferred one was taking the month off.

Despite this small annoyance, I was greatly dismayed when Maghound emailed me the beginning of February to tell me they were shutting down the service, effective April 30.

Frustrated that I would need to resume interacting with individual publishers and endure their incessant mailings, I happily discovered that Amazon has a comparable magazine service. Interestingly, they handle theirs by the year, not the month.

So I am all set up with Amazon as my new magazine subscription provider, but I will miss Maghound, a great idea that didn’t quite work out.

Amazon’s New Tablet, The Kindle Fire

There is a buzz today about Amazon’s new Kindle Fire, a tablet intended to compete with Apple’s iPad. I first heard the announcement on the radio this morning while munching my breakfast — and I have already received three press releases about it.

Apple reportedly sells 7 out of every 10 tablets, with more than one competitive product left floundering — or having drowned — in its wake. Amazon’s Kindle Fire is competitively required to protect Amazon’s Kindle-loyal readers and all the books that they consume. Karl Volkman, of Chicago-based SRV Network, Inc., notes that Amazon’s foray may be successful because:

  • The Kindle Fire costs far less than Apple’s iPad 2.
  • The Kindle Fire will run a revved up version of Google’s Android software, an operating system that has given Mac’s iOS software a run for its money on smart-phones.
  • Kindle’s existing momentum as a more popular alternative for reading books than the iPad.

What does this mean? There is now one more device for publishers to work with and more more device for people to consider, with the e-reader/tablet market becoming more congested before it becomes clearer. The result is that publishers — and consumers — who pick the wrong device will be left with old hardware they can’t use and books that they can’t read. (How many audio cassettes, video disks, and VHS video tapes do you have laying around?)