Thursday 28 February 2008

City of Masks - NZ Printing

I just received my printing - hopefully the first of several - of 50 copies of City of Masks from Zenith.

It's been a drawn-out process, made two weeks longer by the fact that my email with the cover art never reached them and I didn't realize until I eventually asked why I hadn't heard back from them. They have much, much less functionality on their website than Lulu or CreateSpace - practically none at all, actually, it's just a brochure, and not even a particularly informative one. It doesn't even give their prices or any templates or sizes. This makes everything a lot more manual than dealing with Lulu or CreateSpace. On the other hand, you get personal service - their sales guy, Ocean Reeve, has been very helpful through the proofing process and gave me a second proof for free when the first one had an issue with the page numbers being cut off at the bottom. He also put the ISBN barcode on at no extra charge. In gratitude, I plan to write a layout guide for authors that they can put on their website, and which may help others to avoid some of the issues I had.

This is one of two events that I've been waiting for before launching Phase 2 of Operation Promote Novel. The other, which is entirely dependent on me and I should have done by now, is getting five episodes of my podcast of City of Masks together so that I can launch it on Podiobooks. I'll then put out press releases, send out review copies, and generally toot my own horn.

Speaking of which, I'm now on goodreads, which is a kind of social networking site for readers and authors. I'm thinking of putting one of their widgets in the sidebar here to show what I'm currently reading, once I get the time.

Thursday 7 February 2008

Three Books on Business Blogging

I recently read three books on business blogging, two of which I recommend highly. They are Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, and Blogging for Business: Everything You Need to Know and Why You Should Care by Shel Holtz and Ted Demopoulos.

The third, which doesn't offer anything the other two don't and which I found a bit lightweight, was Blogwild!: A Guide for Small Business Blogging by Andy Wibbels. (Clearly, his mistake was in not getting a bearded coauthor named Shel.) His book might work for you if you want a real once-over-lightly introduction to blogging, including detailed (and probably, by now, outdated) instructions on using TypePad. I skipped those, since I already know how to use the blogging platforms I have (none of which is TypePad), and finished it in an evening. (I do read fast - but it's a short book, is my point, with not much in it.)

The other two books, although of course they cover a lot of the same ground, give you a kind of stereoscopic view of business blogging, and it's worth reading both of them. To draw on the subtitle of the Holtz/Demopoulos book, it focuses more on "everything you need to know", while Scoble/Israel are more interested in "why you should care". Both cover both aspects very well, though.

Things move fast online, and Scoble/Israel (published 2005) is describing a somewhat different business blogging landscape even than Holtz/Demopoulos (published 2006), one in which there is considerable doubt in some quarters that blogs are even important or will last. I think that's well established now, though doubtless there are people still in business who are out of touch with that reality. Of course, some of the websites that the books refer to (notably Feedster) have either changed or disappeared in the interim, too. But because they talk about principles of blogging, this doesn't render them much less useful.

Going in, I knew how to blog - I've been blogging here and elsewhere for a while now, and reading other people's blogs for several years. What I didn't know, and what these books taught me, were how to optimize my posts, how to promote my blogs, and how to measure the effectiveness of doing so. Also, they taught me that just by being myself - an honest, straightforward guy who can write - I can promote my business more effectively than by trying to be an extroverted, annoying pushy sales guy full of marketing nonsense. And, not incidentally, I can do so for little or no money.

It's fairly early days of promoting my blogs. I don't really promote this one; it's my "cat blog", my personal ramblings about whatever interests me, and it's too diverse to gain much of a following in any case. But I've taken on the lessons of these two books in promoting the blog for my novel City of Masks, and I'm seeing subscriptions gradually rising.

I've also, as a direct result of reading these books, started a third blog (which is scary), Living Skillfully: Hypnotherapy and Health Science, in large part to give my hypnotherapy practice more "Google juice". It's not just a cynical marketing exercise, though; in finding material to post about, I'm learning a lot and becoming a better-informed therapist. (The books taught me how to find more material on my interests and subscribe to it in easily digested form, too.)

It's very early days there, as it's been up just over a month, so I've yet to see a big boost in traffic - but I am starting to appear on Google blog searches for "hypnotherapy", and I'm seeing people arrive at my site via my blog. Perhaps the important thing is that, while I may not get a lot more traffic - at least initially - the traffic I get will be more likely to be the traffic I want.

A closing anecdote. I got the Holtz/Demopoulos book out of the library when I already had the other two books out. I almost didn't get it, since I had two books already, but... Ted Demopoulos left a comment on my blog within 8 hours of my post about his other book, What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging and Podcasting: Real-Life Advice from 101 People Who Successfully Leverage the Power of the Blogosphere. I knew his books were good, from having read the earlier one, but that probably wouldn't have been enough for me to get a third book if I hadn't felt a sense of personal connection through that comment, which took him maybe a minute. (Of course, since I'm a cheap Scottish-descended person he didn't actually make any money out of me because I got his book from the library, but here I am giving him a glowing review.)

All of which goes to show that what these guys are saying is true: People who feel like they have a connection with you will be more likely to do business with you, and one of the best ways to create that sense of connection is by blogging.