Tag Archives: blogging

I am closing down this blog…

No, I haven’t abandoned you, my dear readers! I continue to publish posts on my other blog site here:

http://claudenougat.blogspot.it/

For a while, I experimented with publishing on this blog site here, using it as a “mirror” blog for those who don’t like Google and don’t wish to post comments there. But, as I am working hard on my new book about the United Nations, I have less and less time to duplicate posts. So please forgive me, you’ll find my new posts (I publish once a week) on my Blogspot address, and if you don’t like to leave comments there, you can contact me directly on my email or on Twitter and Facebook. I’ll be happy to read you and answer!

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A Writer’s Life: Can Blogging Help You Sell Your Books?

Conventional wisdom has it that blogging helps to sell books, and the more successful your blog, the more books you will sell.


Not so.

Yet, marketing gurus and hugely successful bloggers like Adrienne Smith maintain that with blogging you can “make a living” (see here).

Perhaps you can if you sell something else than books.

And here is why (in my humble opinion). There are two factors at work: (1) market saturation and (2) TV competition for your free time.

No question, of late, the ebook market has become saturated. If you have an e-reader, I bet it’s full of books you haven’t read, books you uploaded when they went free. 

Over the past three years, there has been a frenzy of giveaways to “gain new readers”, and I confess that I joined the crowd and made my books free several times, with decreasing success each time. Gone are the days of 10,000 downloads (at least for me)! Of course, now 99 cents (the launch price of an ebook) is the “new free” – I plead guilty, I’ve done it too, all the first book of my series are priced like that. 

The end result is the same: way too many books around.

Because the truth is, you’re never going to read all those books you’ve stored up in your Kindle (or elsewhere). 

Another major reason is that people don’t feel like reading novels the way they used to

Don’t get me wrong, the desire to be entertained is as strong as ever – who doesn’t like to unwind at the end of a hard day’s work in front of the TV with a drink in hand? So TV series like House of Cards or Game of Thrones replace long evenings of reading novels.

People read fiction only when there’s a blockbuster around, 50 Shades of Grey and the like. 

Otherwise people prefer to read non-fiction (if they read at all). This is why Thomas Piketty‘s book, Capital in the 21st Century, is immensely successful, in spite of forbidding reams of statistics and a title reminiscent of Karl Marx. 

Ditto for the worldwide success achieved by Karl Ove Knausgaard, an unknown Norwegian writer. His novel,  bizarrely called My Struggle which translates to “Mein Kampf” in German, reminiscent of Hitler’s famous book, is less a novel than a huge memoir thousands of pages-long that traces his “growing up”, his “struggle” to understand the world around him. Book 1 starts off with a witty observation: people love to watch death on TV – war reports from the Middle East, volcanic eruptions, fires,  floods etc  – but turn their eyes away whenever someone dies around them. The corpse is immediately covered with a blanket and whisked away in an ambulance, bodies are stacked in cold storage rooms etc Why, he asks, are we afraid to see a corpse in reality when we spend our time doing so on TV? Good question.

In general, books that express a personal point of view are big successes – much more so than novels that are often seen as fantasy and therefore a “waste of time”. How else do you explain the global success of Eat, Pray and Love, the story of a woman wounded by love who goes in search of herself across the world, from Italy to Indonesia? Elizabeth Gilbert has since written other novels, like, for example, “The Signature of All Things“, that in spite of its intriguing title and subject matter, hasn’t met with the same success – probably because it didn’t give off the same whiff of personal intimacy.

And herein lies the cause of the success of such memoir-like books: they don’t read like fiction, they are one man or one woman’s exploration of their own lives. Mind you, these are people who haven’t done anything remarkable; they have just lived their lives as someone’s child, lover, parent.  

In short they are like you and me and that’s why people are curious. Such books are “literary selfies“.

So if your fondest hope is to be the author of a break-through novel, write a “selfie”…and don’t bother with blogging!

I’ll tell you a secret. Contrary to what you might think, I’m not blogging in order to sell you my books (if you’re curious, you can see them displayed in the sidebars, if not, just ignore them). I only blog because I enjoy it, I simply like to share my ideas with you and hear what you think.

So tell me, how about you, why do you blog? Have you seen a connection between your book sales and your blog traffic?

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Readers vs. Watchers: The Digital Revolution is Not Over

Lately a huge controversy has developed around the theme “Indies are Beating Traditional Publishers”, and one publishing guru, Mark Coker,  the father of Smashwords, has loudly predicted that self-published authors will outrun traditional publishers by 2020, see here. Indie authors, carried forward by the digital revolution that has lowered production costs and leveled the field, are in a feisty revolt led by Hugh Howey; find all the rebels on his Author Earnings website here.

This race between indies and publishers, no matter how exciting, obscures something much bigger: the sea change that is investing the entertainment industry as readers lose out to watchers.

We’re into a brave new digital world where the written word is losing out to the image.

Evidence of this vast change is still anecdotal, but putting all of it together, it adds up.

Take ebook sales. After years of exuberant growth, ebook sales started to flatten out in 2013. I’ve blogged about this before (see here). At first, I thought it was nothing to worry about: a physiological slowdown that indicated the market had reached maturity, that it was better balanced between printed and digital books (good news for the publishing industry!). But now I’m convinced the situation is actually much more serious than that.

It’s the book market’s very survival that is threatened.

Why? Look at what’s happening to the entertainment industry and more generally to our cultural life. Particularly noteworthy:

  • people are about evenly divided between readers and watchers: those were the results of a recent survey carried out in the UK and reported by the BBC (see here) and it’s obvious that the divide is very likely to be the same in the US or any other Western country;
  • the performance of the tv and videogame industry suggests that more and more people watch films and play videogames and less and less people read books.

The videogame industry is huge and has become as big as Hollywood. It is projected to grow from $67 billion in 2013 to $82 billion in 2017, a change happening largely at the expense of the movie and music industries (see this interesting article here explaining why this is happening).

TV is no longer an ‘idiot box’. The ponderous New York Times itself in a recent article signed David Carr (see here) came out with that arresting statement. Look at what David Carr has to say about TV’s “New Golden Age”, here’s a screen shot of a high point in the article:

What a feast indeed! There’s no doubt that TV series, like House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones etc are entertaining and well worth watching.

What is worrisome is that more and more intellectuals who were once upon a time big readers now binge on TV series. I know I have – I recently enjoyed for several weeks the Danish political TV series called “Borgen” centered on a fascinating female politician. My consolation is that it is considered “the hottest show in Europe” (see here). And here’s the trailer, you can get it no matter where you live:

In our brave new digital world, the image is displacing the written word, it’s as simple as that.

The ebook has proved to be a neat way to make the written word more accessible to people – on your mobile devices the written word can now follow you anywhere, in the waiting room at the dentist’s, on the plane, in the bathroom, in your bed.  

But the written word has to fight against films and music and videogames, a tough fight!

As to the suggestion that Smashwords is a big success and therefore we shouldn’t have to worry (see article below), there’s no secret: the number of writers who decide to self-publish is increasing exponentially and Smashwords is the platform of choice for them – user-friendly and able to upload  ebooks everywhere, from Apple‘s ibook store to Kobo to Barnes and Noble (though you still have to upload yourself on Amazon’s KDP).

But please note: Smashwords’ success does not translate into increased sales for ebooks worldwide. The two aren’t related.

Don’t get me wrong. The flattening of ebook sales is not for tomorrow morning, there are still big markets to conquer, in particular India, the country that reads the most in the world, see the reading data here.

I’m talking about a long-term trend, that is affecting the written word in all its forms, including blogging. It is now well known that blogs based on the written word alone have much less traffic than those lavishly using videos and photos (see tips #9 and #25 in this comprehensive how-to article for bloggers, click here).

Images win out every time!

The handwriting is on the (digital) wall. This is the end of an era that opened with Cervantes’ Don Quixotte in 1605, the first great novel of modern times, and was propelled by Shakespeare, Molière, Voltaire, Dickens, Goethe, Tolstoy, Tolkien and so many fabulous writers over the next four centuries.

How this new video trend can ever be reversed, I have no idea.

Any suggestions?

Personally, I do see a silver lining: writers will always have a lot of work on their hands, even in this new image-obsessed world: because the images must tell a story, and writers are the story-tellers par excellence

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