Mark Felt - "Deep Throat"

Almost 40 years ago, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein began their now famous reporting on the Watergate break-in which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.  The developing story had to rely on anonymous sources both inside and outside the Nixon administration.  One of those sources, famously dubbed Deep Throat, was only recently revealed to be Mark Felt.   Today, WikiLeaks is practicing the art of the leak in a more sophisticated manner using electronic drop-boxes and other Internet tools.  But though the methods have changed the reactions of government to embarrassing leaks predictably mimics what occurred during the Watergate controversy.

According to its Wikipedia page, WikiLeaks is”an international non-profit organization that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources and news leaks.”  The WikiLeaks website was launched in 2006 under The Sunshine Press organization.  It claimed a database of more than 1.2 million documents within a year of its launch.  The WikiLeaks founders are described as a mix of Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians, and start-up company technologists from the United States, Taiwan, Europe, Australia, and South Africa.

julian-assangeThe site was originally launched as a user-editable wiki, but has progressively moved towards a more traditional publication model and no longer accepts either user comments or edits.  WikiLeaks has had its share of problems – financial, operational and legal.  But it has managed to emerge more popular and more talked about than ever.  WikiLeaks has released a wide range of information – war logs from Afghanistan, a trove of 250,000 US diplomatic cables, documents of secret deals between the US government and Japanese whalers and now it claims to have more than 500 US diplomatic cables on one broadcasting organization – Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.  According to Assange, these specific cables are “insurance files” that will be released “if something happens to me or to WikiLeaks”.

Julian Assange life currently reads like a soap opera.  He is accused of sexual assault in Sweden and is currently fighting extradition from the UK to Sweden.  The US government  is threatening legal action against the site, citing national security threats, and is claimed to be  privately pressuring media companies to sever their ties with WikiLeaks.  While it is not certain how the various legal actions will play out, one thing can be assured – the leaks will continue.  And, as the video below demonstrates, the whole WikiLeaks drama is proving a powerful whirlpool sucking in politicians and pundits across the political spectrum.

Love it or despise it, WikiLeaks would appear to be the latest evolution in whistle blower reportage on the still rough frontiers of online journalism.  Journalism is defined in part by the challenges it takes on and the boundaries it sets for itself.  The WikiLeaks saga may be helping define those boundaries in the Internet age.

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anthologize logoRecently, I became aware of a new tool for authors called Anthologize.  Anthologize is a WordPress plugin created as part of the One Week One Tool project at George Mason University in Washington DC.  According to the press release accompanying the launch of Anthologize,

. . . [the] project was inspired by the model of rural “barn-raisings” to bring twelve dynamic individuals to CHNM with the mission to create, build, and release a digital tool useful to humanities scholars in seven days. The project offered the team a short course in the principles of open source software development, collaborative project management, and community outreach. The project’s team included professors, graduate students, recent undergraduates, museum professionals, librarians, and digital humanities staff.

In a nutshell, Anthologize lets authors quickly gather information from blogs and combine it with their own posts to create electronic documents, published in a variety of formats including PDF and ePUB.  Inside the tool, you can set up projects which consist of “parts” (chapters) and items (“content”).  These can come from your own posts or be imported via feeds from other sites.  You can drag and drop items to any place within the project.

anthologize plugin

The strength of the tools is that it leverages all of the WordPress capabilities in terms for pulling together a rich variety of content. and provides an organizational structure well suited to a book.  While powerful, the tool isn’t perfect.  A review by Teleogistic flagged some of its weaknesses – e.g. in the export process.

None of these export processes are perfect. Some require that certain libraries be installed on your server; some do not offer the kind of layout flexibility that we like; some are not great at text encoding; etc. This release is truly an alpha, a proof-of-concept.

However, the reviewer acknowledges that the tool is a potent framework for further development in the world of independent authorship, publishing, and distribution.

According to the Anthologize website, future plans for the tool include:

  • Importing blog comments into your editing environment and transform them into end notes or footnotes
  • Importing content via URL when an RSS feed is unavailable
  • Maintaining version control of the individual items in a project
  • Creating editions of your electronic documents
  • Providing an annotation interface for adding editorial comments during the crafting process
  • Developing an interface to aid in the construction of document indexes

Anthologize is clearly a major step forward in the evolution of blog to book.  It gives authors a way to organize their blog posts, as well as externally derived information, into a coherent book structure and then publish in formats that are suitable for print or e-book.  One can easily imagine Anthologize becoming a must have base tool for authors that others developers contribute to through complementary plugins – much like the NextGen Gallery plugin has become in the image gallery arena.

anthologize on the iPad

Anthologize can be downloaded and installed from the tool website’s download page, or you can download it from the plugins section on Wordpres.org. Check it out!

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Sue CollierMarketing remains the toughest challenge for self published authors and publishers in a world where hundreds of thousands of books are published each year.   There are many channels and venues to consider and usually a  limited budget of time and money with which to address them.  We recently had the opportunity to talk again with book marketing expert Sue Collier and get her thoughts on how book marketing has evolved during the last 3 years and how authors and publishers can effectively promote their titles.

Complete Guide to Self Publishing book coverSue Collier is the president of Self-Publishing Resources, a firm that provides book writing, book production, and book promotion services for authors, entrepreneurs, professionals, and corporations. She is coauthor of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition (Writer’s Digest Books, 2010) and Jump Start Your Books Sales, 2nd Edition (Communication Creativity, 2011).  She is an active blogger and writes about self-publishing and the occasional off-topic rant at SelfPublishingResources.com.

FPP:  What are the most significant changes have you seen in book marketing over the past 3 years?

SC:  The use of social media, no question. Three years ago, I suspected social media would have its place in the future in terms of marketing, but I did not expect it to become so important in such a short amount of time. Writers, many of whom tend to be more introverted, have massive opportunities with this softer approach to promoting.

FPP:  What are the most effective ways for authors and / or publishers to use social media marketing?

SC:  They have to participate actively. It’s not enough to simply start a Facebook page or a Twitter account; you’ve got to reach out and build relationships. Set up Google alerts on your topic so you can participate in the conversation. Social media marketing is not about blatant promoting; it is about establishing connections with people.

FPP:  What time investment should authors should plan on for promoting their book via social media?

SC:  Losing track of time is one of the biggest challenges in using social media. You start chatting on Twitter about your new book, and the next thing you know an hour or more has slipped by and you are clicking on links that have nothing to do with promoting yourself. Some experts recommend spending twenty minutes or so in the morning and another twenty minutes in the late afternoon to respond to the day’s activities. I advise authors to make a decision on how much time they will spend–and stick with that.  Another problem is not defining your purpose for using social media and making a plan before you get started; this will serve as another way to help limit time.

FPP:  E-books have steadily increased in popularity.  Are there major differences in promoting / marketing an e-book vs. a print book?

SC:  There are the obvious differences between the two–and perhaps you will miss out on opportunities to promote to those who are still resistant to e-readers–but promoting is still promoting. I don’t think there are major differences in promoting one over the other.

FPP:  What do you think are the most essential elements for a book marketing plan today?

SC:  A good author platform. This many-sided book marketing mechanism is hands-down the best way for authors to reach their potential readers–and to sell books.

FPP:  If they go the traditional (vs. self publishing) route, what should an author expect the publisher to do from a marketing perspective and what should they plan on doing themselves?

SC:  They shouldn’t plan on the publisher doing much. In fact, publishers today will expect that any authors they sign on will already have a large network and strong author platform in place–well before the book deal. This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions today by authors seeking traditional publication. The fact is that the “trads” will spend the bulk of their marketing budgets on their biggest named authors; the midlist author is usually left languishing in a catalog and/or on a website. It’s up to the author to be proactive when it comes to marketing and promoting–whether they decide to self-publish or are picked up by a traditional publishing house.

FPP:  How do you see books being marketed three years from now?

SC:  Online communication between authors and readers will continue to grow. One’s online “influence,” including the use of social networks, will become more and more valuable both as a way to harness that influence–and to promote one’s self and one’s book.

You can reach Sue at sue@SelfPublishingResources.com.


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bed in bookstoreJust as libraries have been steadily overtaken by technology – in the form of computerized indexes, so too are bookstores now being drawn into the techno vortex.   Commentators have alternately speculated about the death of the book retailer and also a coming renaissance in book selling.

So I thought it was time to join the fray.  Here are a couple of thoughts about how the new bookstore might evolve:

  • Bookstore goes multi-format – Bookstore becomes multi-format selling e-books and print books together.  Barnes & Noble is already headed in this direction.  Customers might purchase a combination of e-books and p-books; an e-book to read on the airplane during a business trip, and a p-book to be sent as a gift for a friend’s birthday.
  • Library as bookstore – Libraries, strapped for cash during the Great Recession, might use an Espresso Book Machine to let patrons print and purchase a book they really like.  Or they sell older copies as used at a big discount and replace them with fresh copies.
  • Bookstore everywhere – Print or download at the point of purchase vending machines with built in Amazon style search capability could someday replace the retail bookstore and make bookselling as ubiquitous as snack dispensing.
  • Bookstore as new “book plus”Teleread also imagines a bookstore as a new “third place” for us (after home and the office) where we’ll have the comforts of home (food, comfortable place to hang out) and the convenience of office outside the office (good Internet connection).  Yet we’ll be surrounded by books.

In any of these or other forms, the new bookstore might pose a credible challenge to the online bookstores.  Higher margins on a larger number of e-book sales could even allow for lower prices for p-books.  It seems likely that bringing technology into the bookstore, as well as the economic pressures on bookstores today, will lead retailers to provide customers with an experience that combines the best parts of the old and new bookstore.


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stack of booksRecently, I put my house on the market, and as part of the staging process, the realtor had my wife and I pack up and store about two thirds of our over 5,000 books.  The idea is to reduce visual clutter and let prospective buyers imagine their own items on the bookshelves.  The entire agonizing process got me to thinking about e-books.  What if all those physical books were e-books?  How much easier it would be to move them!  Put the trusty Kindle or Sony Reader under my arm and walk out the door.

Then I started imagining the different kind of havoc technology could wreak on my all e-book library.  Think about the e-book players.  When technology invades an industry, it usually brings with it a fast and unforgiving pace of innovation.  The e-book is no exception.  e-book formats come and go; players quickly become extinct; the companies that store those digital libraries can go under or their libraries hacked.  As a reminder of the shaky ground of technology I had only to look at that box of old records – LPs – that I uncovered as part of the packing up effort.  They were made irrelevant and essentially useless (except as collector’s items) by CDs, which suffered the same fate at the hands of iPods and other MP3 players.  And those devices and the MP3 format itself may be in the gun sight of some garage technologist as I write this.

Suddenly my multi-ton load of print books didn’t seem so much trouble after all.  As long as I have eyes (and glasses) to read them with, I’ll always be able to enjoy the stories and information they have to share.  No batteries or tech smarts required.  I know the future belongs to the e-book; and I am excited by its possibilities.  After all, early readers  probably had similar angst about switching from scrolls to paged books.  Do not fear – I’ll march bravely forward with the e-book revolution.  But when my time comes, I want to my print books to accompany me on that journey to the other side.

Medieval helpdesk (with English subtitles)


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Successful authors – whether intentionally or not – usually develop a strong brand identity for their work and themselves.  In the past, this often entailed an expensive PR and marketing campaign.  Now, the advent of social media has made brand building  more accessible and affordable.  Social media marketing is still in its infancy and the playbook seems to be rewritten daily. To learn more about this evolving area of book marketing, I decided to consult a public relations expert, Patricia Vaccarino.

Patricia Vaccarino has over 20 years of experience working with a wide range of national and international clients, in all areas of public relations: managing worldwide campaigns for global companies and developing strategy for small companies, startup ventures, non-profits, foundations, and individuals. She is especially well known for her talents in strategic planning and branding for individuals who are experts in their respective fields. She owns her own public relations firm Xanthus Communications.  Patricia has also published a book, PR for People, that provides people all of the pieces they need to create a solid brand identity that will help them to get hired, develop their careers and increase their business.  She currently represents over 150 individuals, many of whom can be viewed on http://www.prforpeople.com.

I recently asked Patricia about the impact social media marketing is having on book marketing.

FPP –  How has the emergence of social media affected book marketing and PR during the last two years, if at all?

PV – Social Media has evolved to be one of the most important components of book marketing and PR. Not to oversimplify the matter but book marketing and PR is like a stool with three legs: Press, Networking and Social Media. You can’t be effective unless all three “legs” are strong and balanced.

FPP – You’ve often spoken about the “slow-cooked” branding process. Could you explain what you mean by that term and how social media plays a role in that process?

PV – The man who wakes up and one day and finds himself suddenly famous was not an overnight success. It takes a minimum of five years to build a strong brand. Take Facebook, for example, this is a company that is now celebrating its sixth birthday. For the first three years of Facebook’s life, it gained momentum over time among twenty-somethings. It wasn’t until its fourth year that the company gained traction among all the rest of us. It took five full years for this brand and business to become firmly entrenched in our psyche and to get many of us to become users.

FPP – What are some of the essential things an author should do to leverage social media in the marketing of his / her books?

PV – Set up a Facebook page that defines your persona as an author and clearly distinguishes how you are different from other authors. Facebook should tell the story of who you are personally and how you live without being maudlin or stupid in what you reveal. Use Twitter in a way that strategically points followers to your book. Create a tweet platform composed of all the individual tweets that you will post over a sustained period of time. Your tweet platform should have a theme and not just be a rambling of disjointed tweets that are purely self-promotional. Be creative come up with tweets that are saying something powerful and important and yet are all connected thematically.

FPP – Is there a rule of thumb publishers should follow regarding the investment in traditional marketing versus social media marketing for their titles?

PV – Every book and every author needs to be assessed according to the target audiences that they are trying to reach. For some books it may make much more sense to rely more heavily on traditional media whereas in other instances heavy use of social media is the most effective tool. Always ask yourself who is your audience? What do they read? What do they watch? Are they using social media? Let the audience dictate the type of media that you will choose to use.

FPP–  There are so many different social media venues these days.   How should an author prioritize his or her use of social media?

PV – You need to be very discipline d about using social media. Before you sign on to any social media site, you need to first decide exactly what you will do. If you are not clear and focused, you will spend more time than you should and that can seriously damage your overall marketing strategy. Remember time is your most valuable asset.

FPP – Is there a minimum time investment in social media that an author should plan on each week to maintain an effective presence?

PV – When you are in the building phase i.e., acquiring a following or gaining friends, it can take an hour or so a day. After your infrastructure or network has been established, you need to get your time down to a maximum of 15 minutes a day.

FPP – Are there social media venues that are more effective for marketing or PR purposes in non-fiction, fiction, or certain genres?

PV – It is different for every genre and there are new social media sites popping up every day. You need to do your research and keep it current.

FPP = How can an author avoid mixing personal and professional messages when using social media to promote a book?

PV – We have entered a time when there is a tremendous blurring of the boundaries between what is personal and what is professional. Anything you post, or tweet must be subject to a test: The test is what do you stand for? What you stand for defines your professional brand. Your professional brand speaks to who you are both professionally and personally, and must connote integrity, value and strength. So before you post, always ask yourself what do you stand for?

FPP – Are there guidelines to measure the effectiveness of social media marketing in selling more books?

PV – The thing speaks for itself. Are you getting an increase in book sales?

FPP – What trends do you see for the use of social media in book marketing during the next few years?

PV – The good news is social media and book marketing will help good to great books achieve a success that lasts. There is no longer the six-week shelf life to promote books. Good to great books can be promoted indefinitely and achieve classic status. The concept of Slow-cooked brand will endure.

1.  How has the emergence of social media affected book marketing and PR during the last two years, if at all?  Social Media has evolved to be one of the most important components of book marketing and PR.  Not to oversimplify the matter but book marketing and PR is like a stool with three legs: Press, Networking and Social Media.  You can’t be effective unless all three “legs” are strong and balanced.

2.  You’ve spoken about the “slow-cooked” branding process.  Could you explain what you mean by that term and how social media plays a role in that process? The man who wakes up and one day and finds himself suddenly famous was not an overnight success.  It takes a minimum of five years to build a strong brand.  Take Facebook, for example, this is a company that is now celebrating its sixth birthday.  For the first three years of Facebook’s life, it gained momentum over time among twenty-somethings. It wasn’t until its fourth year that the company gained traction among all the rest of us. It took five full years for this brand and business to become firmly entrenched in our psyche and to get many of us to become users.

3.  What are some of the essential things an author should do to leverage social media in the marketing of his / her books? Set up a Facebook page that defines your persona as an author and clearly distinguishes how you are different from other authors. Facebook should tell the story of who you are personally and how you live without being maudlin or stupid in what you reveal. Use Twitter in a way that strategically points followers to your book.  Create a tweet platform composed of all the individual tweets that you will post over a sustained period of time.  Your tweet platform should have a theme and not just be a rambling of disjointed tweets that are purely self-promotional.  Be creative come up with tweets that are saying something powerful and important and yet are all connected thematically.

4.  Is there a rule of thumb publishers should follow regarding the investment in traditional marketing versus social media marketing for their titles?  Every book and every author needs to be assessed according to the target audiences that they are trying to reach.  For some books it may make much more sense to rely more heavily on traditional media whereas in other instances heavy use of social media is the most effective tool.  Always ask yourself who is your audience?  What do they read? What do they watch? Are they using social media?  Let the audience dictate the type of media that you will choose to use.

5.  There are so many different social media venues these days.  How should an author prioritize his or her use of social media? You need to be very discipline d about using social media. Before you sign on to any social media site, you need to first decide exactly what you will do.  If you are not clear and focused, you will spend more time than you should and that can seriously damage your overall marketing strategy. Remember time is your most valuable asset.

6.  Is there a minimum time investment in social media that an author should plan on each week to maintain an effective presence?  When you are in the building phase i.e., acquiring a following or gaining friends, it can take an hour or so a day.  After your infrastructure or network has been established, you need to get your time down to a maximum of 15 minutes a day.

7.  Are there social media venues that are more effective for marketing or PR purposes in non-fiction, fiction, or certain genres?  It is different for every genre and there are new social media sites popping up every day.  You need to do your research and keep it current.

8.  How can an author avoid mixing personal and professional messages when using social media to promote a book?  We have entered a time when there is a tremendous blurring of the boundaries between what is personal and what is professional.   Anything you post, or tweet must be subject to a test:  The test is what do you stand for?  What you stand for defines your professional brand. Your professional brand speaks to who you are both professionally and personally, and must connote integrity, value and strength.  So before you post, always ask yourself what do you stand for?

9.  Are there guidelines to measure the effectiveness of social media marketing in selling more books?  The thing speaks for itself. Are you getting an increase in book sales?

10.  What trends do you see for the use of social media in book marketing during the next few years? The Good news is social media and book marketing will help good to great books achieve a success that lasts.  There is no longer the six-week shelf life to promote books. Good to great books can be promoted indefinitely and achieve classic status. The concept of Slow-cooked brand will endure.


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FAIL blog LOLcatsThe FAIL blog is a blog for our times.  It’s a visual celebration of human foibles and fallability.   The Wikipedia describes the site and its community thus:

. . . a comedic blog website originally created by Leechio in January 2008. The blog steadily grew in popularity, and in April 2008 was sold to Pet Holdings Inc., owner of I Can Has Cheezburger?.  The site prominently features pictures and videos of someone (or something) failing at something they are supposed to do, or displaying blatant stupidity or incompetence, captioned with the words “fail” or “epic fail”.

The site has become wildly popular and fostered its own FAIL community.  Visitors can upload their own fail pictures or videos and also vote on their favorite fails.  The success of the site has led to the word “fail” becoming the go to adjective or noun used for any kind of wacky failure.  There are degrees of fail – e.g. EPIC FAIL.  The inevitable imitation fail blogs have begun appearing – there’s even a FAIL-book social site.

BEST OF FAIL BLOG: VERSION 2 

FAIL Nation book coverNo surprise then that the folks who started the FAIL blog and I Can Has Cheezburger Blog sites have published a book based on the blog content called FAIL Nation.  Described as “. . . your silent guide and handler to the not-even-close-to-perfect nation of FAIL, chock-full of irrelevant tips and useless suggestions” the book has defied its title and marched to an Amazon sales rank of  6,873 since it’s release in October. 

Much like the print success of Frank Warren’s Post Secret series, FAIL Nation has proven that its highly visual blog material can translate to book success.  Can Hollywood be far behind? 

Sometimes FAIL is WIN.


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