Aug 302014
 

I collect books about bookbinding, so when I was reading a review on Amazon about Little Book of Book Making, by Charlotte Rivers, I noticed the review was written by someone who had received the book from the publisher through a program called “Blogging for Books.” What’s that? I wondered. I’ve done book reviews on this Web site previously, usually books intended for giveaways, but always bought the books myself. It turns out that Blogging for Books is a Web site that solicits book reviews from bloggers by sending them a free book they request.

Are things as simple as they sound? Is there a catch? Well . . . the jury is still out because I went ahead and signed up, and now must wait for the first book to arrive. But the system sounds fair. You create an account in which you provide your name and address, some reading preferences, and of course your blog address. Then, you’re presented with a list of books that you can request. You choose one of them, it takes 10-14 business days to arrive, and you are required to provide a review within 90 days. The review must disclose, according to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules, that you received a free book in exchange for your honest review. You get to keep the book. The book I requested was A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home, by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman. I placed the request two business days ago, so the clock is now ticking concerning its arrival date.

A Beautiful Mess

There are a few details about the Blogging for Books program that I discovered only after I started my application. The first is that the number of books that are available for you to review can be quite small if you don’t have a lot of influence. Influence is measured on a Klout scale, and purportedly your Klout score needs to be 40 or higher before you get better access to books. I had no idea what my Klout score was because . . . surprise, surprise . . . I didn’t have a Klout account. So, I went ahead and signed up for that, learning that your Twitter activity is assessed for your Klout score. We’re in trouble here, I thought. I have a Twitter account, but don’t tweet a great deal. But I went ahead and completed the application, and sure enough, my Klout score was measured at a measly 23, not the magical number of 40 that gets you better access to books. I don’t know why, but Klout brings to mind a collective row of fists, a not-very-happy connection.

Image courtesy of Teerapun at DigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Teerapun at DigitalPhotos.net

But you can improve your Klout score by following the suggestions that are on your account page, such as following more people, posting more meaningful content more frequently, and connecting your Facebook, Google Plus and other social networking accounts. So, I did that, too, but there was no change in my score until this morning, after I switched the connection from my Facebook personal account to my Facebook fan page, This Creative Journey. Then, my Klout score jumped to 46, but of course I had already requested my book from the few available for me to review. I should add that I probably reduced significantly the number of available books by not choosing fiction books as one of my reading preferences. I love to read fiction, but for the most part don’t think that a review of fiction books fits the purpose of this Web site. But I reserve the right to change my mind. After all, if you read to the end of this post, you’ll note that my Blogging for Books experience thus far caused me to draw a connection between it and a book of fiction.

While I was on the Blogging for Books site, I noticed that you can also increase the number of books you can review by opting in to receive e-books. Well, I own an iPad Mini, so why not? In order to opt in, though, you need to download Bluefire Reader. I have five book reader apps on my iPad already, I thought, so what’s one more? But before I could do that, I had to sign up for an Adobe ID. I was pretty sure I had done that at some point, but when I visited the Adobe site to check, of course I had forgotten my password. So, I signed up for a password reset, took care of that, then visited the iTunes store to locate Bluefire Reader, which then asks for your Adobe password before you can use the reader. Happily, once I got my Bluefire Reader to open, I discovered hundreds, maybe thousands, of free classic books to download, many of which duplicate the classic books found on my Free Books for iPad reader by Digital Press Publishing, and that you can also find when you visit the Google Books Web site. The first book I opened showed a white screen with no title, so apparently it’s not as slick as these other free readers. But I’m getting away from my original point, and I suspect that free book sources is probably a future post.

After all of these account sign-ups, you might imagine I considered whether it was worth it to write a book review in exchange for a free book. I wondered again when I opened my e-mail this morning and found a message from Klout that said:

Hello,

Your Klout Score went up!

Your Klout Score has jumped up. Come on over to learn what’s working and what you can do to work on that momentum.

See My Score.

Sincerely,

Your Friends at Team Klout

I am reminded, I’m afraid, of a book I read earlier this year called The Circle, by Dave Eggers, about a future dystopian world in which everyone is connected by an Internet corporation called the Circle that ranks your social influence by the number of social networks you join, the people or entitities you follow, and the comments you make. The main character in that book, Mae Holland, loses her identify in the Circle and has no time for real relationships because she spends all of her waking hours with Circle social networking endeavors. Sound familiar? I think the future described in The Circle is actually here today, but perhaps not as exaggerated. And Klout reminds me eerily of the Circle. I don’t intend to change my social networking habits, but apparently it is a necessary evil to have an account there, if you want to participate in the Blogging for Books program and get more access to free books.

The Circle

To be fair, on the other hand, I suppose the publisher wants to feel it is getting its money’s worth out of the reviewer, and one way of determining whether anyone would even read yours is an assessment of your influence. The publisher expects you’ll write two or three paragraphs, not two or three sentences; it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the length of the review you write, and the responses you get, are built into the Klout algorithm. Some degree of accountability is necessary.

I’m open to learning about other ways to review books in exchange for receiving free ones. There is probably not a free lunch anywhere, but got any ideas?

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Aug 282013
 

In both the last post, Taking time to make time, and Finding time to create, I have focused on how precious time is for the things we find important. Obviously, different things are important to people for different reasons. In a marketing context, however, there are only so many hours in the day. If you are selling a product or products (as I do when I sell handmade goods online), it is critical for you to make good decisions about where to concentrate your time and energy. If you don’t, you will achieve neither your creative nor your marketing goals.  You just can’t do it all, at least not well.

ID-10076584 A Cartoon Dog As a Clown - Grant Cochrane

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Decades ago, motivational writer and organizational consultant Stephen Covey penned an entire series of books designed to help you make good use of your time: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, and the list goes on. Underlying all of these books is Covey’s four-quadrant model of time management, or the idea that that you can compartmentalize your life into categories that will help you prioritize what should be done first.  If you approach all tasks with the same degree of urgency, you’re basically “seeing the forest for the trees,” a phrase that refers to getting lost in the details and missing the big picture.

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Some people will tell you that for the best quality in life, you should aim to get done the tasks that fall into Covey’s Box Number 2, “Important, Not Urgent.” A very busy friend of mine who feels forced to concentrate only on what’s important and urgent in his life comments that the time it takes him to assign categories to everything is probably important but not urgent, thus negating the need for the entire exercise. But in reality, we all sort things consciously or unconsciously to determine what tasks we are going to tackle first, and ultimately which ones will simply fall by the wayside.

Covey ModelI have been selling handmade goods on Etsy for a little over 5-1/2 years now, and during that time I have learned a bit about marketing.  It’s one of the parts of selling that probably falls into the “important, not urgent” categories, but if you do no marketing at all, or you do so poorly, you tend not to sell. Part of marketing involves the use of social media such as Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and much more. There are so many social networking vehicles, in fact, that you must be choiceful about what you use. This is where quality is more important than quantity. I attended a conference a month ago at which social networking was discussed in the context of marketing. The speaker, Kim Carpenter, stressed that instead of using many social networks, it is more effective to use one or two well, and then drop the rest.  I would add a few more tips to this advice:

  1. Know your audience.
  2. Know your social network (and whom it reaches best).
  3. Adapt your message to both your audience and your social network.

So, how do you choose your social networks? If you are selling specific products, then good photos can be more impactful than words. Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest may be great choices for you. If you want people to associate you with a particular area of expertise, then words may be more important than pictures. According to HootSuite social content writer Evan LePage in his post, Google+ for Business – The 3 Best Types of Google+ Content, “Be it information on a product update, social media tips or new tools for learning, Google+ users have clearly expressed their thirst for knowledge.”

Whether you agree with LePage or not, it’s a fact that some social networking venues work better than others, depending on your intent. “It’s a big time suck,” say many users about social media. Yes, they can be. (See Covey’s Box Number 4: Not Important, Not Urgent.) But if you use the ones that are appropriate for your purposes, and use them intelligently, they can be great marketing tools. Manage your social networks; don’t allow them to manage you. As German playwright, poet and novelist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”

Image courtesy of James Barker/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of James Barker/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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