Don’t Underestimate Reader Recommendations | Mads Holmen

Reading people

The web has grown to become the main source of information and discovery for many people, and they depend on it to help build their perception of the world. However, at the same time the amount of information available has exploded.

Just think of Spotify’s 30m music tracks – there’s enough content just there to fill hundreds of human lifetimes. YouTube receives more video in a minute than you could ever watch and Facebook must choose from an average of 2600 relevant posts when you fire up your feed.

So, to manage the constant stream of potential information from overloading us, we all daily interact with recommender systems now. Some well-known examples include Facebook and Instagram’s Feed, Spotify’s Discover Weekly, movie and book recommendations on Netflix and Amazon – but recommenders are everywhere, assisting you to do everything from booking your travel to dating or ordering food.

However, there is one problem. Diversity.

The public discourse has now accepted terms like filter bubbles, echo chambers and fake news, but we’ve still done preciously little to consider the systems design that caused this new trend.

I heard a panelist in Amsterdam last week say that he genuinely believed Facebook and Google could incidentally cause the next global conflict by virtue of creating a more polarized media landscape. They didn’t plan to, but by rewarding attention-grabbing content that drives engagement, these companies have created a perverse incentive structure for content creators.

Ev Williams, the founder of Medium and Twitter, often uses the car crash analogy. The current systems rewards extremes he says. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course, you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply more of them.

It interprets what we do, as the person we are.

When popularity and engagement drive the publishing industry, we lose sight of what gave the industry its privileged status in society in the first place – trust and human aspiration. So, while it is tempting for businesses to interpret popularity as a signal that people simply want more of that stuff, that would be a mistake. People also want diversity, because it serves a different purpose in our lives – that of our better, future self. In the recommender systems space, we call this problem exploitation vs exploration.

One of the editors on our blog, Sam Lay, wrote beautifully about why diversity is an important counteract to popularity – and why the reason is human aspiration.

“Every Monday my unambitious and unsophisticated musical choices stare me in the face. I can clearly see why Discover Weekly is choosing the songs it does and that’s slightly embarrassing.…My saves, shares and playlist adds on Spotify indicate my aspirational self, the music I would like to be associated with, whilst what I actually listen to often serves a practical purpose or satisfies a guilty pleasure.”

In short, he argues that there is a difference between what our actual self may do in the moment and what future our aspirational self is trying to steer us towards – and that any product that helped him be more of the latter would be worth more to him. Daniel Kahneman calls this the difference between our experiencing self and our remembering self.

The problem is often that aspiration and long-term product satisfaction cannot be measured as easily and immediately as popularity. However, we know from research that users actually tend to be more satisfied with diverse recommendations, i.e. being exposed to a wider variety of content, which can prompt the experience of serendipity — discovering something new when we were not expecting it. Those sorts of discoveries have disproportionate value.

So, if our ugly actual self stares us in the face every time we open Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, the best business opportunity around might be to cater more for our better selves. We know from countless branding studies that aspirational brands can charge a premium on their products and services (think Apple vs Dell), so I see no reason to assume that this shouldn’t be true in the publishing space too.

When speaking to friends about this article, one thing that kept coming back was how bookstores like Foyle’s in London are offering superior value by having diverse staff pick tables and an aspirational store environment. People buy an experience, not just a book. It might feel counter-intutivie when you’re chasing short-term clicks, but that experience will become ever more valuable if it reaches out to our better selves, rather than just re-circulating our current tastes.

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The original article is here: https://www.thebookseller.com/futurebook/dont-underestimate-readers-when-it-comes-recommendations-642661

Should I Use A Publisher?

 

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As the self-publishing industry has grown and matured, it is natural that new service providers are now harnessing the growth in book publishing to create new businesses.

Over the last year or so, one of the biggest growth areas has been independent publishers. Many new authors are asking, ‘Should I use a publisher?’

For many reasons, the services of a publisher can offer many tempting benefits to an author, especially for those authors new to self-publishing.

For the computer and Internet savvy, self-publishing is quite easy, yet there could well be time-saving possibilities that a reliable and honest publisher could offer.

If an author can spend more time writing rather than fighting with technology and wasting hours on social media, this may be one very good reason to engage a publisher.

Independent publishers fall into two main categories. Those who offer ‘assisted‘ self-publishing, which is a service that is usually charged for with a ‘one off fee‘ to get a book correctly formatted, a cover designed, perhaps a well-written book description and then publishing on retail platforms such as Kindle and Smashwords.

The second is a full-service publisher, who will manage publishing, marketing, sales and then make their money from a percentage of your book sales royalties.

Should I use a publisher?

Before signing up with a publisher, ask these questions BEFORE you sign.

As with any service providers, there are good and bad, so make sure you do your homework before entering into an agreement.

If you are considering using the services of an independent publisher, here are ten questions that you really need to ask before signing up.

1. Do I retain all rights to my book?

There should be no reason whatsoever for a publisher to ask for the rights to your book. Unless the publisher is offering you a substantial advance, which is highly unlikely, never sign away the rights to your book.

2. How do I terminate our publishing agreement?

So many problems can occur in any contractual arrangement. When considering a publishing agreement, never sign up or agree without knowing how the contract can be terminated. If the terms of termination involve losing the rights to your book, do not sign!

3. What is the total cost?

For assisted self-publishing this is very important. Make sure you get a detailed account in writing of what services will be performed, and how much you will be charged for each item. Make sure it is a fixed price and that you will not be charged for extras at a later date.

4. What services will you provide as my publisher?

Will you edit, copy edit or at least proofread my book before formatting and publishing it? Is there a charge for these services? Or am I responsible for undertaking the expense of preparing the final manuscript?

5. What will my royalty rate be and how often or when will I get paid?

A full-service publisher will take a percentage of your book sales royalty, so be certain of what this will amount will be. As royalties vary with every online retailer, from approximately 35% up to 70%, ask for a detailed explanation of how much the publisher will take in each case. Most importantly, how and when will your royalties be paid.

6. Will I get sales reports?

If your publisher manages your retailer accounts, you will probably not have access to this information, so you will have to rely on your publisher supplying you with sales and royalty reports on a regular basis. These should be supplied to you on at least a quarterly basis.

7. Who will promote your book?

A publisher of any worth should have a solid marketing platform, and preferably one with a sizeable mailing list. Of course, you will be expected to do a lot of book promotion for your own book, but be sure to ask how the publisher how they intend to market your book and maximise its sales opportunities.

8. How long has the publisher been in business?

An obvious question. Do your homework.

9. How many authors and titles does the publisher manage?

While a publisher may be new and have only a small stable, this may not be a bad thing, as you may receive more attention. Beware of small publishers that publish a vast amount of titles in a short period, as they won’t necessarily have the resources to give each author the time they deserve.

10. Can I contact a couple of authors who you currently publish?

This is by far the best way to find out of a publisher is worth considering, and what they are like to work with. If the publisher refuses, beware.

There are more questions of course, depending on what you expect or would like from an independent publisher, so make sure you ask your questions, before making any commitments.

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Via:https://www.justpublishingadvice.com/should-i-use-a-publisher-10-questions-to-ask

How To Write A Killer Cover Letter

 

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A cover letter introduces you and your novel to potential agents or publishers. This letter is your first point of contact between you and a publishing professional, therefore, it is crucial that aspiring authors know how write a decent cover letter.

Here are three common questions, answered for writers looking to pave a successful path into the world of publishing with a cover letter that leaves a good impression:

What do I need?

1. An ‘elevator pitch’ & hook

An ‘elevator pitch’ is a brief and punchy summary of your novel that could be told to a publishing VIP between floors of a short elevator ride. Condense the core ideas of your novel into a dynamic and enthusiastic couple of sentences. Remember that your cover letter should be no longer than a page, so this section can only take a up a paragraph or two. Show them why it’s worth reading and be sure to include a ‘hook’ – something that drags your reader into the story, and leaves them dying to know what happens next.

2. A target audience

Outline your target audience. A good way to start is by looking at previous novels they have published and whether these books fall in the same category as yours, and share a target audience. Remember to be specific, publishers need more information than ‘Adult Fiction’. Include your audience’s gender, age group, interests, etc., if applicable.

3. Novel titles comparable to yours

Give two titles comparable to your novel (even better if they’re published by the publisher/agent you’re reaching out to). This is a great way to establish direct relevance and relation to potential publishers. More than that, it gives them an idea of where your novel will sit in the marketplace and how it will work with their existing list.

4. A word count

A simple and necessary step to let them know how long your novel is.

5. A killer author bio

Be interesting, be readable and draw them in with who you are and what you intend to do with your work. Here is also the place to list existing publishing credentials, and relevant education such as writing courses or degrees. You want to be able to get publishers/agents to see that you are a capable, focused and passionate writer.

6. Contact details

Give yourself the opportunity to be contacted if they decide to get in touch for further questions or details. Include your phone number, address and most importantly, your email address.

How do I put it together?

Put the above elements together in an easy-to-read, simple form. Keep sentences short, purposeful and in an active voice. The desired length of your letter should no longer than a page. Opt for a 12pt standard font such as Times New Roman, and at least 1.5 spacing.

Many new authors make the mistake of attempting to detail their background, life achievements and a lengthy breakdown of their novel. Long, unnecessary paragraphs will irritate the editor and an irritated submissions editor is not someone you want reading your life’s work and deciding its future.

In addition to being concise, remember to keep it error-free. Creatively-written content may help you stand out, but keep in mind that your letter is still a business proposal. It also goes without saying that a successful pitch leaves no room for error so before you click send, proofread it again and again. Better still, have other writer friends review it and provide you with feedback.

Do I include my manuscript? 

Always follow the agent’s/publisher’s submission guidelines. These guidelines are usually accessible on their website. The most common request is to include the first three chapters. In addition, you might also be asked for a synopsis (usually no longer than 300-words). I cannot stress enough the importance of adhering to the guidelines – this shows that you care about their work as well as yours.

Some other useful tips

  • Address your cover letter by name. Avoid clichés such as “dear sir/madam” or “to whom it may concern”. It is more genuine and respectful.
  • Use more formal language throughout the letter.
  • Have a logical and readable structure.
  • Thank them for their time.
  • Sign off gracefully – e.g. “yours sincerely” – before your name.

With these tips, you’re good to go!

Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/how-to-write-a-cover-letter-to-publishers/amp/

5 Reasons Agents Don’t Explain Rejections 

 

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Something I have heard a lot from Writer friends is how frustrating it is to receive a rejection without any other feedback as to why. Well, here from the horse’s mouth, are the reasons why:

Authors often express frustration that their rejection letters don’t contain any hint of the real reason the project wasn’t accepted (save for something generic like “the project doesn’t fit my needs at the present time.”) A writer told me she’s not asking for much — just “one word, maybe two” of explanation at the end of a form rejection. That’s not asking too much, is it?

We love helping authors reach their goals and realise their dreams, so we’re sad to say that it is asking too much. Here’s why:

1. We just don’t have the time.

The necessity to add “a word or two” of explanation could potentially triple or quadruple the time it takes for us to respond to each query. With a hundred or more queries a week, it adds up.

2. I know when a query doesn’t appeal to me, but it’s not easy to quickly explain why.

When you walk through the department store looking for clothes, do you stop at every single item of clothing and dissect why it’s not right for you? Of course not. But if you did, you’d spend an awful lot of time trying to identify exactly why it doesn’t appeal. Something about the style? The colour? Does it seem to old or too young? Too casual or too formal? Is it just plain ugly? Or is it…  just not what you’re looking for right now?

It doesn’t make sense spending all that time figuring out why you don’t like most of the clothes. You’re there to find something you can BUY, so that’s where the bulk of your time needs to be spent. It’s the same with queries. We must spend our time looking for what we can work with, and quickly dispense with the rest.

3. Our reasons might do more harm than good.

Would you really like to hear that we think your book idea is (in our opinion) unoriginal, boring, derivative, or poorly written? We don’t want to unnecessarily confuse, enrage, or depress you.  Any brief response we offer would only leave you with more questions than if we said nothing.

4. Our reasons, should we offer them, could be wrong.

No matter why we don’t want to pursue your project, we realise we are not the last word. The next agent might love it.

5. A literary agent is not obligated to help a non-client with their book.

Our obligation each and every day is to take care of our current clients. And yet, we try to  help the writing community anyway. We blog. We tweet. We teach at writers conferences. Hopefully, this is a good start start.

So where do you find the help you need? Critique partners, beta readers, editors, book doctors, and book mentors. And even reading blogs like this one!

So there you have it. Be reassured that the reason is not always because you suck and cannot write – writing, like any art form, is subjective, and just because one agent rejects it doesn’t mean they all will.

Good luck! x

Via: http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/reasons-agents-dont-explain-their-rejections/

LGBTQ+ Book Trade Network Launches | Bookseller

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Pride in Publishing (PiP), a brand-new networking group for LGBTQ+ people in the industry, has launched on Friday (25th August 2017) to create a way for queer members of the publishing industry to meet up, connect with others and find peer support.

The professional networking group aims to provide a space where LGBTQ+ employees in publishing can find fellowship and air suggestions for how to create progress for LGBTQ+ people and representation in the industry.

“It will be a members-led group, so various initiatives will be proposed and developed by members,” said Maisie Lawrence, one of the group’s co-founders and editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster. “In this important year, 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, we want to do everything we can to support and promote LGBTQ+ voices and books in the industry.”

PiP is open to professionals working at publishing-related concerns, such as publishing companies (from any department), agencies, bookshops and libraries.

Wei Ming Kam, co-founder of the BAME In Publishing network and sales and marketing executive at Oberon Books, said that the group wants to be as inclusive as possible, stating: “We aim to provide a welcoming space for all on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, including trans, non-binary, asexual and intersex people.”

It is hoped that in time the group willl inspire offshoots specialised in specific areas of publishing and where authors, who are keen on increasing LGBT representation in their books, can also get involved.

The idea for the group sprung from a offhand conversation in which several of the group’s co-founders were surprised that such an organisation wasn’t already in operation.

Louie Stowell, senior editor for non-fiction at Usborne and co-founder of PiP, told The Bookseller: “We were just really surprised that a network didn’t exist already. And lots of people had been having the conversation about why isn’t there a network so we just decided to do it.

“It’s less about benefitting us [as LGBTQ+ employees] as about making our output more inclusive and representative, because I still feel we have a long way to go and I think everyone is on the same page about that.”

Penguin Random House this year put on a Penguin Pride event in partnership with Stonewall to celebrate the importance of literature in the progression of LGBT equality at Proud, Camden, during London Pride fortnight, around which time W H Smith Travel ran a promotion dedicated to gay literature to mark 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Stowell added: “In the past few years I’ve definitely noticed a difference in visibility and representation already and it would be really good if everyone had a place to talk about it in the same room; that’s basically what we are after. Then, across publishers, we will have more impact.”

PiP’s seven co-founders – Maisie Lawrence, Wei Ming Kam, Eishar Brar, Louie Stowell, Kate Davies, Nicky Borasinski and Linas Alsenas – hail from publishers spanning Simon & Schuster, Oberon Books, Scholastic, Usborne Publishing, Thames & Hudson and Puffin & Ladybird.

The group will begin with monthly meet-ups. The first, described as an informal get-together, is scheduled for 27th September and will be held at Faber & Faber offices in London.

To join PiP and RSVP to the event, those interested are invited to email prideinpublishinguk@gmail.com with their name, company and job role.

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Via: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/pride-publishing-launches-lgbtq-network-book-trade

Print sales might be rallying, but don’t get complacent | Bookseller

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A very interesting article by Sam Missingham on the future of publishing:

First off, I feel the need to emphatically state that nobody wants a strong, vibrant book business more than me. I am a self-declared cheerleader for this industry. But it seems the right time to put my pom poms aside for a while to make a more cautionary point.

In many ways, the worst thing to happen to book publishing has been the persistent strength of print books and the drop in sales of ebooks. Namely, the stalling of the digital transformation of the industry.

Yeah, I did say that. Let me explain.

Some might say that book publishing has weathered the transformation very well and is in a strong position. The numbers would tend to agree with that. Print sales up a notch, new bookshops opening, children’s book sales going from strength to strength. Time to put the kettle on then, sit back and put our feet up, yes?

Well, I tend to agree with Andrew Keen, the Internet critic and author who spoke at FutureBook in December. To paraphrase, he said publishing had come through the digital transformation mostly unscathed. However, he went on to say that this was down to good luck and not by any strategic play.

Let’s call a spade a spade. Five years ago publishers had no idea that ebooks would stall or that bookshops would bounce back. Let’s not forget the many predictions that print was dead – not to mention bookshops – and that we were heading for digital obliteration. I had many a conversation with industry folk who said they thought Waterstones would last only a couple more years.

During the early stages of the transformation, publishers threw money at a variety of digital initiatives: apps, ecommerce platforms, their own community websites… even buying the odd start-up. But big publishers spent big and lost big. I could easily list 10 initiatives that were launched with much fanfare, to be left unloved for 18 months and closed with a whimper. The intent may have been there, but the commitment certainly wasn’t. And further, their structures, people and processes did not allow for successful innovation at any scale.

But what does this matter if print sales are up and ebook sales are down? We’re fine, right?

Well yes, if we anticipate no further transformation happening. Or put another way, if we hope nobody else enters the industry looking to disrupt it; if no companies come along with new business models for books; if readers do not change how or what they buy; if no new technology emerges to offer readers a different experience, and if – a big if – Amazon, Google et al don’t come up with yet more game-changing ideas. That’s a future dependent on a lot of unlikely ifs.

Instead, I would argue that this is exactly the time we should be building our own future, aggressively. Creating platforms that give us more ownership of the publishing & bookselling ecosystems. Building businesses which create new revenue streams.

The good news is that there are plenty of innovative models to draw inspiration from if we’re commited to forging ahead.

Wattpad – an online community for writers to post chapters of books, fan fic, poetry and reach engaged readers for feedback – launched in 2006 and now has 45 million users and 300 million stories uploaded.

Lost My Name – the platform for personalised picture books for kids – launched in 2012, has sold more than 2.6 million picture books, and has just signed a deal with Roald Dahl estate.

Scribd.com – a book subscroption service – says it has over 500,000 subscribers paying $8.99/month for ebooks, audiobooks, and now news.

BookBub – a simple daily email selling cheap ebooks – launched in 2012, has 5 million+ registered readers in US and 2 million in the UK, and recently launched in India. And

NetGalley – a blogger and influencer network offering publishers a seamless book review process pre-publication – has grown since 2012 to reach 360,000 members worldwide.

What were you doing when Wattpad launched 11 years ago?

There are many other companies I could have chosen, but these five all offer value and service at different stages of the publishing ecosystem. And all of the founders came from outside of the industry.

There’s plenty to learn, too, from companies that have diversified away from their core businesses to build new revenue streams. Conde Nast, the magazine publisher behind Vogue, now runs its own fashion & design collegeoffering degrees and courses, and has also recently launched a fashion ecommerce site. Sawday’s has transitioned from a travel guide publisher to a luxury travel company (that sells books). Marie Claire, the magazine published by Time Inc, now has its own cosmetics ecommerce platform and a physical shop in London. And Johnson’s Baby products launched a website called BabyCenter in the US nearly 20 years ago offering advice through pregnancy. This has grown to become a comprehensive resource for parents and now has 45 million global monthly unique visitors and generates huge amounts of advertising revenue. Of course, the site also provides Johnson’s with real-time audience behaviour data and a huge email database to sell to as well.

It’s interesting to note that all of the consumer-facing businesses above launched with new names and did not rely on their existing brands – we don’t have Johnson’s For Babies or the Marie Claire beauty shop. They displayed the confidence to build new brands even when they already have exceptional traction and recognition with the old ones – a bold step that was central to their success.

So, are book publishers in a position to diversify in such a way? I simply refuse to believe that they can’t do so, while also maintaining their core proposition: to publish sensational books and nurture authors’ careers. And I genuinely believe we must, if we want to survive long-term. We need to get ahead of the next phase of disruption by disrupting ourselves and innovating with vision and commitment. This is not the time to sit back and hope the status quo will last. We might not weather the next wave with such good fortune.

Via: http://www.thebookseller.com/futurebook/beware-complacency-book-industry-558476