Reaching Out to Readers on Social Media

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 at 8:07 AM | Category: Meryl's Notes Blog, Social Media, Writing 10 comments

Welcome to meryl’s notes blog (this here place you’re lookin’ at) in Plano, Texas. We’re honored to be a stop in Eleanor Vincent’s WOW! Women On Writing Blog tour. We’re giving away a copy of her moving memoir Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story. Read on to see how you can win. If you want to keep up with tweets on this book, the hashtag is #SWMaya.

Swimming with Maya bookReaching Out to Readers on Social Media by Eleanor Vincent

In an age when you can download a book to your e-reader in 9 seconds that costs less than the movie playing at your local Multiplex, what is the relationship between readers and writers? Judging from the 80-plus reviews of my book on the Swimming with Maya [affiliate] Amazon page,  it has the potential to be closer than ever.

In the nine years since the book was first published as a beautiful but pricey hardback, the landscape has changed dramatically. As I writer, I see this most vividly in the ease with which readers can now buy the book and communicate with me about how it has affected them. Blogs like Meryl’s make it even easier to connect directly.

The digital edition of Swimming with Maya has been downloaded approximately 20,760 times — that is ten times the number of readers of the hardback edition. Early in August, the book made the e-book edition of the New York Times bestseller list. Wow!

As I write this, Swimming with Maya in the 10th position on the Goodreads list of Bonds Between Mothers and Daughters.

Please visit the list and add your vote. This is just one way readers can weigh in directly!

When a writer has poured her life out on the page as I did in this memoir, it is gratifying to hear that readers are moved, or that their own lives have been changed. Not all readers react favorably, of course. Because of the immediacy of digital media I can hear exactly what they don’t like, which is valuable information.

If someone feels strongly enough to review my book — be it positive or not — I’m in the very privileged position of having readers who care enough to comment.

Like this recent review from my Amazon page: “What an incredibly powerful book. Both about the pain of losing a child and what it means to be human.”

Somebody really gets it! Swimming with Maya is a story about life — even though the trigger for telling the story was the death of my older daughter. It is about how life knocks all of us down and what it takes to get back up again.

Or this one: “I have a daughter who is like Maya was in many ways. Eerily, she is the same age now as Maya was when she died. This book made me realize how much I really love my daughter. I don’t think I will have any trouble showing her anymore. “

Affecting how someone relates to her daughter is about as high an honor as I can imagine. I was so moved by the recent batch of reader reviews on Amazon that I am responding to each one. I am sincerely blown away by some of the reader comments and touched that those 90,000 words I sweated bullets over for almost 10 years are out there in the world making a difference in people’s lives.

E-books are making books available to people who might never have had such easy access before. It’s a trend I welcome. Don’t get me wrong. If you feel moved to buy the paperback as a gift for yourself or someone else, I’ll be equally happy. Please be sure to write a review or send me an email. Readers and writers need one another — so keep the comments coming. And please enter to win a copy of Swimming with Maya.

Thanks to Meryl for hosting me today.

About the Author

Eleanor Vincent photoEleanor Vincent is an award-winning writer whose debut memoir, Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story, was nominated for the Independent Publisher Book Award and was reissued by Dream of Things press in 2013. She writes about love, loss, and grief recovery with a special focus on the challenges and joys of raising children at any age. Eleanor has been a national spokesperson on grief recovery and organ donation, appearing on CNN and San Francisco’s Evening Magazine. She has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, and been interviewed on radio and television programs around the country.

Called “engaging” by BooklistSwimming with Maya chronicles the life and death of Eleanor’s nineteen-year-old daughter, Maya, who was thrown from a horse and pronounced brain-dead at the hospital. Eleanor donated her daughter’s organs to critically ill patients and poignantly describes her friendship with a middle-aged man who was the recipient of Maya’s heart.

Comment and win: The prize: winner gets a copy of Swimming with Maya. For a chance to win, please leave a comment about losing someone, what it means to be human or ask the author a question. You have until 11:59pm on October 30, 2013  to qualify for the drawing. The unbiased and robotic Random.org has the honor of picking the winner.

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Adventures of Reading a Book on a Kindle

Monday, September 13th, 2010 at 9:33 AM | Category: Books, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech 5 comments

KindleMy book club met the day before I headed to Boston. While we planned out the 12 months of reads, we had a little change up because someone left the book club. Most of us weren’t enthusiastic about the departed member’s choice. Instead, we moved October’s book to September, and November’s to October and so on. Although I order a few books at a time to stay ahead, this time I didn’t have the next book I needed.

I knew that traveling to Boston would provide plenty of time for catching up on reading. I didn’t have time to go to the book store. Even if I did, it may or may not have The Girl from Foreign. So it forced me to buy my first Kindle book and download it.

Uh oh. Trouble.

We’re Having Technical Difficulties

It had been so long since I had looked at the Kindle, its battery died. I plugged in the charger to get it going. But the charger had a weak connector that kept coming loose causing the Kindle to stop charging.

<Wiggle wiggle> Finally. Stay… don’t move. Light stay on.

After the Kindle finished charging, I downloaded the book and promptly turned off the wireless. Leaving the wireless on can run down the battery faster as the Kindle keeps listening for whispers of a download.

eReading

I read a few magazines first to get through them. (I had a pile of magazines to go through and took a bunch with me.) Halfway through the flight, I turned on the Kindle and selected The Girl from Foreign. I liked the crispness and design of the contents. Comfortable and easy on the eyes.

The first annoyance was the turning of pages. At times, the Kindle would flicker and not instantly load the next page. It felt like I returned to the ’80s when computers were slower and things took longer to load. Or the Internet of the ’90s.

Formatting was also an annoyance. Sometimes spaces between words were missing. (I know this happens in print, but I noticed it more in reading this book.) Sometimes paragraphs got split into two pages leaving one page with half of a page’s worth of content.

Since this was a memoir, it had photos. None of the photos contained captions. I couldn’t tell what the photo was about from reading the paragraph before or after the photo. At the end of the book, I found a list of photos and associated page numbers. The page numbers matched the printed version’s page numbers, not the Kindle. In other words, three digit page numbers instead of four. I couldn’t click the photo caption to jump to look at the photo. It was tedious trying to match up the photos with the captions. Dark age computing.

Digital Page Numbers vs. Print Page Numbers

I couldn’t get used to having  four digit page numbers (line numbers). Why couldn’t it match the book? I knew it was possible because the passenger next to me had an ereader and it used page numbers. Plus, it had a clock at the top of the page. To see what time it was, I had to hit “Menu” and it’d appear there.  I understood that Amazon wanted to provide line numbers for easier searching — but it can do this while retaining print’s page numbers.

Using the print’s version’s page numbers would also make it feel like you’re making progress in the book. It took a long time to feel like I made progress even with the progress bar on the bottom.

The bookmark, search and notes features came in handy. I bookmarked facts for later and instant referencing. When a person’s name came up — and he had not been mentioned for a while — I searched the book to jog my memory. Took fewer than 10 seconds. In the print version, I’d be flipping longer.

It was a neat experience, but not enough of one to convince me to switch to ebooks. At least, I have the option of getting a book instantly or downloading a few if I ever manage to go on a long vacation. That way, I don’t carry multiple books — just one reader loaded with multiple books.

Update on September 22, 2010: I had my book club meeting on this book last night and it turns out the pictures don’t have captions with them. All the captions appear in the back of the book with the page numbers. Big mistake. They need to be with the photo. And the Kindle should be able to link those pages so you can jump to the picture associated with the captions.

What do you think of ereaders?

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Book Review: Sell Your Book on Amazon

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 at 8:00 AM | Category: Books, Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews, Tech, Writing No comments

Despite a way too long subtitle and “salesy” claims, Sell Your Book on Amazon surprises. Its format simplifies finding the sections of interest – couple that with the ratings from five stars indicating “a must do” item to one star meaning “Don’t waste your time.” Authors who publish their books using a print-on-demand (POD) service will benefit most from this book.

However, authors with books published through traditional publishers will find useful tactics. Nowadays, authors must do their own marketing instead of relying on the publisher. Most authors don’t reach the popularity of bestselling authors like the John Grishams, J.K. Rowlings, and Malcome Gladwells. These authors need not worry about marketing.

But that’s not the case for most of us. So we have to research and figure our way around sites like Amazon from a different point of view than a shopper’s. You may already be doing some or most of the recommended activities discussed in the book. Or maybe you could do more to boost sales.

Naturally, Sampson spends most of the book discussing Amazon’s Profile Page (which he often references as Author Profile Page, but that’s not what Amazon calls it) and Book Detail Page. Despite my using Amazon since the early ’90s when it was just an online bookstore, I’ve picked up a few things from the book.

For instance, I didn’t know that authors can set up a “Search Inside” page. I thought that was under the publisher’s control. You may have to deal with your publisher in terms of your contract and Amazon’s contract. These little tidbits may justify the cost of buying the book.

Authors certainly can request reviews. Sampson, however, recommends asking for a five-star review, rationalizing the advice by saying a book will get plenty of reviews that aren’t five stars. It’s just not right for an author to tell me (a reviewer) this.

Yes, a highly rated book will get a boost, but I believe requesting a review is enough. Ironically, in the letters I received for reviewing the book — they make no mention of recommending I provide a five-star review.

In the intro, the author mentions BXGY. What’s that? I look for BXGY in the index and find other pages covering the abbreviation that explain it. Most, if not all, writing style guides say to expand an acronym or abbreviation on first occurrence. Or else you waste the reader’s time in trying to figure out little things like this.

The tactic ratings are imperfect. For example, I disagree with the five-star rating on Amazon’s blog feature. Blogs do have a place — just not in Amazon. I would rather read the author’s blog on the author’s own site. It clutters Amazon with more marketing material. Furthermore, Amazon offers other ways to get your URL listed. Nonetheless, many probably find value in authors’ blogs. The important thing for authors remember is to use their best judgment in prioritizing what features to address. They know their target market and their needs.

Sell Your Book on Amazon works well as a resource. Authors can browse the tactics for what interests them. Then study those tactics and put them to work. The ratings offer a general guideline of a tactic’s importance — but ultimately the author can decide what’s best.

Not all tactics in the book are about things authors can do. A couple — like Amazon sales rank and Latest Activity features — explain what they are and how the processes work.

While the book’s description makes promises of increasing sales by 20 percent at a minimum and thousands of dollars in royalties — don’t expect a quick fix. It takes time to put the tactics to work and build on them. These tactics can increase book sales, if authors follow up and follow through.

Successful authors tend to read a lot. As such, they are also Amazon’s target market for the book section. Writers keeping this in mind will examine at other author’s profiles and book pages. In doing this research, they will discover what they like and don’t like about these pages. Authors who apply what they’ve learned to their own profiles and book pages will improve their Amazon presence.

Amazon lists the number of pages in the book as 184. The book only has 164 pages. Regardless, the book contains less content since the narrow margins stretch out the content. Notes appear on the sides for highlighting points, but there aren’t many to justify putting the contents in a narrower than normal margin.

Content nitpicks aside, the formatting speeds finding tactics you want to work on. Although this review points out issues, Sampson does a nice job of organizing Sell Your Book on Amazon and showing step-by-step how to do each tactic. Overall, the author offers common sense tips and advice for taking advantage of Amazon’s features. Since the book is an easy and light read, it won’t be difficult for overwhelmed authors to “get around” to using the book.

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Amazon Feedback and Marketplace Usability

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005 at 8:04 AM | Category: Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech 2 comments

I was reviewing feedback left for a Marketplace seller. Here are a couple of snippets:

“Great book for new moms to be!

“Excellent book!”

“Great book…”

“Great quality…”

“Great product…”

This person is a book seller. He doesn’t publish books or sell e-books. So if a person buys a book from him and the book stinks, does that mean the seller is bad, too? If you’re thinking the person could be describing the book’s condition, there are better ways to say that like these:

“As described…”

“Great condition…”

“The order arrived in a timely manner, however the book had water damage…it was listed as almost new.”

“Item arrived well packed and in great condition.”

I always forget where to find the feedback page and the product ordered page complete with its condition. You can’t find these in the same place.

The Recent Transactions page (you get there from Your Account > Amazon.com Payments: View All Your Recent Purchases > Sign in > Search transactions or click “Recent Transactions.”

Amazon Transactions Page.gif

The Transaction ID/Order ID page has the buyer’s shipping address, items ordered and price, payment date, and transaction activity.

Amazon Order Page

The Listing ID shows the item information, seller, seller’s ratings, condition seller listed, and seller’s comments.

Amazon Listing ID

Leave feedback is not reachable at any of these pages. It took me five minutes to find it again. I had to click on “Where’s My Stuff” from the Your Account page.

Why can’t all of this be in one convenient place? Perhaps, Amazon’s huge and complex backend may limit its ability. When I got stuck in the Marketplace account pages, I had to email the company because the Help didn’t help.

If I want to see my friends’ wish lists or check to see if I reviewed something, I click on “Your Wish List” > “Your Amazon Home.” It sounds like “Your Amazon Home” should be in the global navigation and this could take you to your accounts and everything else. Yeah, you can get to the account pages and “Where’s My Stuff” if you scroll to the very bottom of Your Amazon Home. It would be nice to get to this page in one click instead of two.

Amazon My Stuff Page

Wow. I’m ranked in the 1200s as a reviewer. You don’t get any awards for hitting top 1000 or top 500 reviewers, but the info appears by your name. Just have to get a few hundred more votes and I’m in. I haven’t been top anything for years.

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