BN vs Amazon for What’s Left of Books

As Borders closes, their discounts on books increase.

Books are dying. Actually, if you believe the pundits, almost all of print is dying.

As someone who used to work in print publishing, I see many friends looking for new jobs. So, yeah, I tend to agree with the pundits on this one. Books are dying, and I am not happy about it.

As Borders closes the book on their business as booksellers, you can’t help but wonder what’s next for the entire publishing business. As an author of four books (and a fifth one coming!), I am more than just a little concerned about the untimely but not entirely surprising demise of this significant retailer. Continue reading

Buying vs Earning Twitter Followers

Twitter logo as a blue square

I was an early adopter of Twitter, and yet, I’d failed to build a strong following. This was my fault, of course, since I was aware of the growing importance of the Twitter channel for social network engagement.

In fact, some of the people I’d helped to get started in Twitter were already miles ahead of me in building a strong following.

So, yeah, I was starting to feel like I needed to catch up. Fast.

I’d read a few interesting blog posts about purchasing Twitter followers, but I dismissed the concept. I mean, how good could these followers be, if they were willing to be bought and sold?

I was determined to build my followers the old fashion way: earn them. And then… Continue reading

Nook Upgraded & the 5 P’s of Marketing

Nook Color ereader

Nook Color ebook ereader now supports Android Apps

And just like that, the Nook matters again. Yes, in the war to win the hearts and eyeballs of readers continues to rage on, and Barnes & Nobles has just proved that it’s not out of the fight.

In 30 seconds or less, the Nook was upgraded from being a humble ebook reader with an attractive color screen, a market where Amazon dominates. A software patch pushed the Nook into the crowded space of tablets, where Apple dominates.

Soon the Nook will have full access to the Android Marketplace, which includes the kinds of games and apps that makes the iPad so popular.

Here are five reasons why this matters to you as it relates to the Five P’s of Marketing (loosely interpreted, of course):

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place (distribution)
  • Promotion
  • People

1.PRICE: Nook competes on price and features. Everyone from the media to the average buyer is enamored with tablets. The venerable iPad 2 is one of the most coveted gadgets on the marketplace, but with prices starting at $499, it’s not exactly within reach of all buyers. For a while, the Amazon Kindle was the device to beat, but it’s still a black and white technology in a color world. At $250, the Nook offers a sharp, full color display. It may not be as full featured or sensitive as the iPad, but it suddenly feels light years ahead of the Kindle, but with a very attractive price point. Continue reading

Cross Channel Book Marketing

Creating Comics book by Buddy Scalera

My new book Creating Comics from Start to Finish is just beginning to hit stores now. And despite the fact that I do this marketing thing every day for my clients, I’ve found it to be challenging to apply the same principals at home for my own projects. Crazy, right?

There’s an old saying, “the shoemaker’s children go barefoot.” That pretty much means the stuff you do at work is not the stuff you want to do when you get home. But a book being published is a timely event, and that time will soon pass, so I need to take the opportunity to market my book while I still can.

Initially, I was spending most of my efforts on my Facebook Fan Page, which had around 700+ followers and is now over 800. This group has been supporting my photo reference books, so they were most receptive of the new book. A good start.

Then I did a little bit of content seeding. I created a video flip through of my book, which I placed on the Facebook Fan Page, YouTube, Flickr, and even Amazon. I’m monitoring all of the channels through Google Analytics to see which drives the most qualified traffic.
Continue reading

Free Kindle? A Matter of Time

Free Kindle OfferWow, that was fast. Just a few short years ago, the Amazon Kindle ereader was a red-hot gadget that claimed a premium price. At launch in 2007, the Kindle was priced at $399. And, get this, the original Kindle sold out within just 5.5 hours. (Don’t worry, they made more.)

Soon after, the Kindle 2 released. Somehow, through the magic of Moore’s Law, the price dropped to $299. Still not cheap, but dramatically less expensive than the original. As of this writing, you can get a brand new Kindle for just $139.

But wait, there’s more. I’ll be a panelist at the upcoming DTC National Conference in Boston. And I noticed that there’s a crazy promo. Register for the DTC event, and they give you the conference materials on a Kindle. And you get to keep the Kindle.

From $399 to free.

Amazon’s sales of ebooks are skyrocketing. According to Amazon, ebooks already outsell paperback books. No surprise there. So it makes sense to keep dropping the price on the Kindle. Heck, Amazon can give the ereader away for free and (probably) still profit on the ebook sales.

How long before this pushes down the prices of competing ereaders? Something tells me that the Barnes & Noble Nook will probably be considering a price cut. The Apple iPad? Probably not just yet.

Last year, I predicted “5 Reasons You’ll Be Using an EReader in 2 Years.” Um, I’d like to revise that now to “1.5 years.”

Additional posts:

B&N & Traditional Publishing Strike Back

As the Amazon juggernaut continues to steamroll over the retail world, it’s hard to imagine how traditional brick and mortar stores can compete. It’s especially dire in the print world where traditional bookstores are closing constantly.

The Kindle and iPad ereaders have become amazingly efficient resources for consuming media.

While things may seem dark, there’s still a glimmer of hope out there. Barnes & Nobles seems to be getting smarter and competing harder. I like this, I really do. (Although I must admit, I am a little underwhelmed by the Nook.)

B&N in Paramus, NJ

Tonight at the Barnes & Nobles in Paramus, NJ, they were hosting a celebrity signing event featuring Alton Brown, who was promoting his book Good Eats 2: The Middle Years. The parking lot was mobbed, as people were trying to get into the store. Just for reference, today is a Tuesday in October. It’s not a day typically associated with crazed shoppers.

For all that they can do (and they can do a LOT), Amazon really can’t match this kind of retail-location event hoopla. Think of it. People got up, left their desktop computers, and trekked over to a store. That’s motivation and calls to action. That’s real action, not just clicking a link.

There are other bookstores, including the Bookends store in Ridgewood, NJ that has been surviving on celebrity appearances. Recent book celebs have included Vince Neil of Motley Crue, Marlo Thomas, Lance Armstrong, Ozzy, and Al Gore to name a few. You’ll notice in both stores the big marquee names are celebrities and other famous people. That’s okay because those kinds of books have always fueled the book industry. Both stores also include “real” authors, at least how mainstream fiction readers would define a real author. It’s a nice marketing mix that sells product.

I don’t want to see retail whither and die. There’s still something nice about being able to go to a real, physical store and discovering something new and interesting. It’s useful to be able to make an actual purchase and not wait for delivery. And if you go to a bookstore, you can meet the author and get your book signed. Take that, Kindle!

And because I am a published author, I like the idea of real bookstores selling real books. It’s good for the book ecosystem and for my royalty checks. Speaking of, my royalty checks have gotten smaller. Would it kill you to buy one of my books?

For Sale: Print

Marvel Comics on iPad

I have seen the future…and I am selling all of my books.

Okay, not all of them, but an awful lot of them. Books, comic books, magazines, and just about everything print. Y’see, I’ve had an Amazon Kindle 2 for over a year now. And don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing little machine.

But then I saw the iPad, and it changed the way I thought about books, particularly comic books.

Tablets have been around for quite a while. In fact, at work, we run tablet PCs with Microsoft Windows. It’s a nice technology, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t lend itself to reading full novels. Even comics were a little awkward, since you had to use a little stylus to turn the pages of a digital comic.

Apple’s iPad interface is amazing. It’s intuitive, pleasant, and fades quickly into the background. Admittedly, it’s not quite as good as the Kindle when it comes to reading plain text books. But it’s terrific for reading comics. And if they get that screen just a tiny bit larger on the next version — without increasing the total size of the device — it’ll be about a darn near perfect comic book reading experience.

Lots of comic book friends think this is just crazy, but I happen to think that it’s the way I’ll be consuming comics in the future. Sure, part of the comic book hobby is bagging, boarding, and saving your comics. But if you think about it, that’s just a tradition rooted in print and distribution.

Back in the early days, comic books were distributed on the news stand. If you wanted comics when you were a kid, you went to the nearest news stand, pharmacy, or convenience store and got your issues. The problem was that there were very few comic book stores, so it was difficult, and often very expensive, to find back issues of comic books. Scarcity increases price, so that’s the short version of why some old comics are expensive. More people want them than there are comics to buy, and suddenly, people are paying a million dollars for a single issue of Superman.

Because of this relative scarcity of back issues — and the fact that some comic book stories are one long serialized saga — people learned to buy and collect comics. A supporting industry sprung up that supplies bags, boards, boxes, and just about ever variation in between. Multiply that by a few decades of my personal collecting fervor, and I have a room that’s seemingly overrun with white boxes.

As I stare at the iPad, I wonder how many comics will fit on this device? Better yet, how many will fit on my Mac, which I can transfer over to an iPad or whatever device? How many boxes can I possibly clear out of my collection, and how much of my man cave will I be able to reclaim?

One by one, I have been getting rid of my regular books. I’ve donated them to book sales, shared them with friends, and have basically just purged many of my bookshelves. There are still keepers, but the vast majority have found a second life somewhere else.

High quality digital content is easier than ever to find. You can even do it legally through Amazon and Apple, which means that you’re not stealing from the pockets of your favorite writers or artists. The only thing that is changing is the distribution channel, and bookstores, comic stores, and newsstands are scrambling to adapt to this new profit model. Some will survive, but many will not.

In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out what to do with my comic book collection. It’ll be a few years before everything in my current collection is ready in the digital format. It’ll start with the mainstream publishers like Marvel and DC Comics, but it will move quickly to independent publishers. I’m a traditionalist, so if publishers offer comics on DVDs with large runs of back issues, I’ll be buying those disks. They are so compact that it’s easy enough to store huge collections.

The way content — including ebooks — is popping into the Apple iTunes store, I think the future is happening sooner rather than later. And that’s just fine by me.

In the meantime, does anyone want to buy some classic comics? Cheap.

Another eReader Convert

Another day, another ereader convert.

Yup, another co-worker came to the office today to show off his Kindle. He admitted that my relentless raving for the Kindle pushed him over the edge. That, and he ran the numbers, and realized that he’s actually going to spend less on his reading materials. He’s a heavy reader of new non-fiction books, so the cost of shipping alone from Amazon and BN.com was apparently adding up.

He loves the Kindle and was showing it around the room. His favorite feature? His back no longer aches from lugging around books. Nice.

The falling cost of ebook readers is increasing the amount of content that you can get electronically. The improved capabilities coming from the Nook, Kindle, and the Apple iPad are inspiring content creators and even marketers to look at new ways to distribute content electronically. It’s a beautiful circle of ever-increasing growth for electronic publishing. It’s a lot like the early incarnations of websites in the 1990s, except on an accelerated timeline.

Like the early Internet — heck, like anything early in the development stage — the ebook and ereader market is going to experience explosive growth in many different directions. Some of them will be logical, especially in hindsight. Some directions will be surprising, and perhaps even illogical. Other directions will fizzle and be left to Net history and Wikipedia entries.

People jump on new technology like it’s supposed to be fully de-bugged and realized in the first or even second release. It’s never been that way. Consider the first cars or telephones or televisions or even the first computers. These devices evolved naturally, as engineers and users determined was features were valuable and which were unnecessary. It’ll be the same way with ereaders and ebooks. You can wait it out or you can jump in and be part of the virtual team that de-bugs and priortizes our future technology.

Today, one of my co-workers joined the revolution. One day, we’ll laugh about how primitive the Kindle is compared to our more advanced devices.

Facebook Fan Pages Free and Fun

Facebook Fan Page Graph

The continued rise of Facebook means that all marketers — even those who have traditionally ignored social media tactics — are trying to figure out how to tap into this techno-social phenomenon.

One of the easier (and more affordable) ways to test the social waters is to set up a Facebook Fan Page. Plus, it’s free to get started.

I recently set up a fan page for my books (I’ve published three) and my CD-ROMs (again, three published). My books and CDs are resources that provide anatomy reference for comic book artists. Yeah, it’s a unique niche, I admit.

Setting up the “Photo Reference for Comic Artists Fan Page” was free and easy. If you were able to sign up for Facebook and set up a profile, you can figure out how to set up a fan page. For content, I uploaded sample photos from each of the books. It’s basically the same stuff that I have posted over in Flickr galleries and on my personal website.

Photo Reference for Comic Artists

So once you do that, you need to let people know about your page. Right now, I am promoting on the cheap. Basically, I shared the link with everyone in my Facebook Friends list who would be remotely interested in the page.

To my surprise, I got a dozen people on the first day, and then it quickly picked up from there. In less than two weeks, I had hit 200 fans. Not bad for word of mouth (WOM) promotion.

At that point, I had an audience. So I started uploading extra photos, like behind the scene shots that nobody has ever seen. As I posted pictures, people started giving it that thumbs-up “like,” which is a virtual endorsement. That resulted in more people signing up to be fans of the page. In the social marketing space, it’s all about relationships, so virtual approval is hugely important.

As a marketing channel, Facebook Fan Page is an free and easy way to begin spreading your brand message. Facebook even offers some rudimentary statistics and demographic information. It’s not very useful at this point, since my trends are just creating an initial baseline of information. At 10,000 fans you get access to more detailed analytics, but it’s unlikely that such a deep vertical like my books has that much of a broad-based appeal. But you never know.

Next month, I’ll try Facebook’s built-in advertising network to drive more awareness of the fan page. But for now, I am content recruiting fans organically, as they discover my page through their actual social network.

The next few weeks will be focused on posting new information and photos to get people engaged with the fan page. I’ll try running contest, just to see if people will participate. It will be at least six months before I get information about book sales, so I won’t know if this actually helps my long-term goal of selling books.

Stay tuned. More to come. Oh, and don’t forget to become a fan!

LINKS – NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS:

Kindle Sells Big for Holidays

Kindle DXAmazon’s announcement that they sold a lot of Kindle 2 ereaders comes as no surprise. The big news was that, according to Amazon, the Kindle was the best selling item ever on Amazon.com.

Okay, that’s big news for several reasons. For starters, the obvious is that the reading public seems ready for another tech toy, even if it’s kind of expensive and primarily a single-use device. It’s also big news for Barnes & Nobles, which seems to have missed a big opportunity by not being ready with their Nook ereader for this holiday season.

I went to the B&N store near my house and checked out the Nook. It was, as I expected, just like the Kindle. I mean, other than the somewhat minor difference in navigation (that little color strip at the bottom), it looked and felt like my Kindle. Except…well, except I couldn’t buy one on impulse. Ironically, I did leave purchasing a Sudoku book as a Christmas gift. Print, for my analog father.

Borders recently announced that they’d be selling ebooks. It’s sort of sad, though, since the Borders near my house is now going out of business. I’d purchased a lot of books from that store over the years and I’m sad to see them go, but Borders is starting to look like a casualty of a much larger war being waged among bigger, better armed opponents.

And, addressing the 800 pound gorilla in the room, everyone is talking about the eagerly anticipated Apple tablet. The tech press thinks that it will be dubbed the iSlate or iTablet, since Apple seems to own the domain name iTablet.com.

Anyway, if Apple actually enters the tablet PC market — and offers ebook reading software — this could have a significant effect on how we read and consume books. And if you read comics, a color tablet will quickly change how you buy and collect comic books. The aspect ratio of a vertical tablet will complement how current comic books are formatted.

If the iTablet is like a giant iPod Touch or iPhone, as some experts predict, it will be an amazing, game-changing device.

Lots of excitement out there. Sad to see Borders go. Looking forward to the iTablet. Hope the Barnes & Nobles near my house stays in business.