Launch…Like No One Is Watching

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January hops onto the map like a young kangaroo, with not one but two BABS meetings. We’re in Belvedere Monday and in San Francisco on Wednesday, with two different groups hearing about tools for book launches and author platforms.

I’m excited to get my concept of independent book launches out onto the round table of our group. House launches, (I call traditional publishing “house” publishing), the source of great excitement in decades gone by, have very little in common with Indie launches. That’s what I’ll be talking about at this week’s meetings. Wednesday night in San Francisco, Anne Hill will shine more light on the author platform. Sign up here: BABS

The past three months, I’ve enjoyed the initiation of a formal ePub Club. Well, formal might be a bit of an exaggeration. Five of us meet on the phone and make use of Google docs and spreadsheets to move forward with a variety of tasks to help our ebook discovery. This month we will all get up to speed on Google Hangouts so we can build a presence on YouTube. See the Club Checklist tab for more information on how to create an ePub Club.

Also in January, I am offering two one-night classes for authors. On January 24th, authors will learn the basics of an author platform. At the end of the class, every participant will know what to do next. On January 30th, authors will start creating their outreach system to build a readership. This class is good for people who attended the first class, or authors who already have some web presence established and want to expand. Go to this page of Bel-Tib Rec and scroll to the bottom:
Author Platform Classes at Bel-Tib Recreation Department

Bay Area Bloggers Society has grown to over 600 members. This month we are offering a new option which will help us serve this large group with better venues and content. You can now become a Supporting Member at $30 per year. After January, BABS meetings will be $5.00 for the public, and free for Supporting Members, who will also be notified about meetings before they are announced publicly. We’ve had waiting lists for most of our meetings, so this is one way to help those most interested secure a seat. The membership dues will help pay for the Meetup site, allow us to reserve bigger venues, attract better speakers, and of course, more chocolate! If you’re on the Meetup site, you’ll receive an email describing all this in detail.

My second e-course, “Managing Reviews,” is available on Amazon. The continuum of a launch has a whole lot to do with effective and appropriate reviews. If you only have time to learn one thing about your author platform this month, I recommend this e-course. Reviews are not what they appear to be. Amazon is stripping reviews from author pages left and right. You need to know what works and what will result in a lot of disappointment. For an investment of a couple of hours and $3.99, you’ll be way ahead of the curve in this department.

Anne Hill and I are calling 2013 the year of Cutting-Edge Publishing. One thing I can tell you about that: It takes a village. Join us. We are having fun making our books and digital products discoverable.

Suzanna Stinnett

Suzanna on Twitter: @Brainmaker
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The Medium is the Message

Ouija board with fingers and hands pointing






Yep – he is doing it again. I can hardly wait to see how, the latest creation of Ev Williams and his team (Blogger, Twitter, and now Medium), fleshes out and starts to walk among us. Well, it already is, and my friend and local photographer, blogger, poet and amazing author Maria Benet, tweeting as @alembic, has a great post on the front page at Medium right now, here: Patience

Since I haven’t been invited yet (I know, right? The founder of Bay Area Bloggers Society? Come on!) — but I will play at the fringe anyway. I like the fringe. Playing with the ideas they are fostering over at Medium will help me understand it and be ready when it comes out of this deep beta phase.

It seems this is a site where posts are organized into “collections.” These remind me of categories, or even keywords, and of course there’s a correlation. But Medium has something more elegant in mind that they apparently hope will raise the bar of quality while keeping the bar of tech nice and accessible.

Elegant is the best word to describe what I’m seeing on the site so far. What fun to watch this process. As I browse the existing collections, I see several I’d like to contribute to. Until I can do that on Medium, I’ll do it here. Play Medium with me if you like!

I’ve got a lot of projects percolating, especially after meeting with Singer Yu, the Blog Director of the massive Twitter-echo site called “QQ” in the People’s Republic of China last week at the State Department in San Francisco. I think Medium might help me move some of those projects forward. Cool!

Suzanna Stinnett

Update: My invite to post on arrived in my email the next day. When I get oriented over there and have a post up, I’ll link to it here. See you on the webs, people.

Update: Suzanna Stinnett is now in collaboration on two projects with China to further cultural understanding. Watch for new collections to share and discuss these projects on

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Come Welcome Chinese Bloggers on Their First Visit to the U.S.A.

Lighthouse in pink sunset with light shining

How far is your reach?


One of the intriguing things about blogging as well as other forms of instant publishing is that you never really know where your influence might reach. This is something to hold close to your heart as you live with the daily demands of new media communication and connection.

I’ve led a user group in the SF area for about five years called Bay Area Bloggers Society. It’s a quiet thing, really, we just get together locally and share what we know, support each other, flatten the learning curves. It seems to work for people, because the membership is now approaching 600 and just keeps growing.

I haven’t blogged a lot about BABS, but here is where you’ll see me talk about it. Last year I was very fortunate to connect with Anne Hill of Creative Content Coaching who came on board as co-organizer and has given the group a big boost with her intelligent use of new media. That’s another place you’d see BABS mentioned, but mostly we talk on Twitter using the hashtags #blogsoc and #BABSPub.

So it came as a bit of surprise that a project of the State Department contacted me last week with a request to speak (via translators) with a group of Chinese bloggers, new media leaders and executives coming to the U.S. for the first time. Through the International Visitor Leadership Program, these brave people are coming to learn more about American freedom of speech, leading via blogging and microblogging, using new media to be more informed about the government, and the future of other media such as newspapers. Unlike most of us across the U.S. and elsewhere, these people use new media at risk. Some of them cannot live at home with their families, but must hide and keep moving in order to do what they feel is so important with new media.

I take this assignment very seriously. It’s such an opportunity for diplomatic connection and to grow new relationships globally. I posed some questions on #blogchat on Twitter Sunday evening to give people an opportunity to join the conversation. That invitation continues, open to any who have ideas about how Americans and Chinese citizens can deepen this new global collaboration.

Be well, keep blogging, and recognize this great freedom. It is not a given.

Suzanna Stinnett
Founder, Bay Area Bloggers Society
See the Author Platform E-Courses on Amazon:
How to Produce A Series for Digital Readers
Managing Reviews

Metadata and Reviews for our BABS Gathering

mix of words about metadata collage

We’ll be discussing metadata and reviews at the November 5th meeting of Bay Area Bloggers Society in Belvedere.

If you don’t quite know what metadata is, this article by Laura Dawson of Bowker, (the guest at Anne Hill’s Google Hangout interview earlier in October), will bring you right up to speed. You might realize, as I did, that metadata is a lot of the stuff we have been using to make our books more discoverable.

That’s what it has always been, only now, with the vast number of points of connection available to describe your products online, metadata is a much bigger animal.

The article: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Metadata”

And it’s more fun. An interesting thought from the article: Metadata is the filter that makes meaning out of the abundance brought forward by the digital universe.

One of the ways your metadata will reach out into the reader’s universe is through the effective use of press releases. Crafting these is yet another big world, which means you will want to use a great press release SEO service to dial in all your verbiage. One effective press release SEO service is Gnosis Media Group.

Amazon’s visibility machine includes those little boxes that say “people who bought this also bought that,” and tags, which function just like keywords, and which can be disputed by the public. You can agree or disagree with existing tags on a book’s Amazon page. You can say “this was helpful” — or not helpful — about any existing review. These activities all produce a form of metadata which is  social proof in action.

Now you know a little bit about why we are including reviews in our metadata conversation.

See the video of the Google Hangout with Laura Dawson here on Anne Hill’s YouTube site.

Metadata with Laura Dawson and Bay Area Bloggers Society

I’m currently reading about Maksim Tsvetovat (on Twitter, he’s @maksim2042), O’Reilly author and presenter of the November webcast “3 Reasons Why #Hashtags Matter.”

My (in progress) Author Platform e-course on Twitter for Authors revolves around the use of hashtags. From what I’ve learned listening to Laura Dawson, I’d say hashtags are another piece of the metadata animal. I hope you’ll make the November BABS meeting so I can ask what you think about it.

Suzanna Stinnett
Founder, Bay Area Bloggers Society
Twitter: Brainmaker

First up in the Author Platform E-Courses from Beyond Bestseller: How to Produce a Series for Digital Readers

Metadata with Anne Hill and Laura Dawson

Hey all you BABSters and soon-to-be BABS folk,

Don’t miss the next Google Hangout run by Anne Hill, co-organizer of BABS and Huff Post blogger, and Laura Dawson, Product Manager, Identifiers at Bowker. I’ll be there with my ears on!

Sign into Bay Area Bloggers Society at our Meetup site and then follow the instructions Anne posted for connecting to her on Google+. This is critical stuff for Authors Go Public, and that likely means every one of you!

See you there,

Suzanna Stinnett

Founder, Bay Area Bloggers Society

Suzanna on Twitter: Brainmaker

Laura Dawson on Twitter: ljndawson

Anne Hill on Twitter: AnneHill

BABS #blogsoc Google Hangout with Todd Sattersten

Today BABS Organizer Anne Hill held the first BABS Hangout, a new series of lunch time meetings on Google+. Todd Sattersten, O’Reilly Media author, spoke about the whole process of self publishing as a way to develop your project. Here is an excerpt straight from the Hangout.

Todd Sattersten talking about “Every Book is a Startup” on the Google Hangout run by Anne Hill for Bay Area Bloggers Society.

I’ve never talked about it as a book. I call it a project. It’s amazing what happens when you say “book” and what meaning people bring to that idea. Definitive: all ideas completely thought out. I tried to be very clear up front that this was a work in progress and we’re changing it as we go along.

Is change intrinsic to the process I’m using? Yes. There’s no way to avoid the idea that I am not waiting until I’m done to get this out. I can’t say speed is driving it, because it’s taken more than a year. But I think what ends up happening is that ideas in their nascent state attract a certain kind of reader. They tend to attract innovators and early adopters. As you move through that phase, books that tend to scale and get very popular have to appeal to a wider audience. So there was a set of people that this book was not for them. They wanted something complete.

So we tried as much as possible to price it to reduce the risk for the reader. We started at 1.99 and then made the promise that updates would go to early readers for free. I don’t know how to get around the complaint “I want this thing fully baked.” It wasn’t the intent from the start, so I just take those with a grain of salt.


Much insight was offered in this thirty minute interview attended by BABS Members who gained entry via the BABS site here:

Bay Area Bloggers Society

Tune in for future Google Hangouts with O’Reilly Media authors. The next one is in early September with Sarah Milstein, on Twitter for Authors. These are part of our year of Authors Go Public meetings supporting the process of modern publishing.

Watch the hashtag on Twitter for posts about these meetings. We are using #blogsoc, which is needing an adjustment as there is a new startup by that very name. Search also for #blogsociety for conversations among BABS members.

Suzanna Stinnett

Founder, Bay Area Bloggers Society

Does your email list get the love?

faceted heart with a crownRonald Skelton raised my interest in his query on Twitter about newsletters. I’m in a process of discovery that begins with the questions: What is sustainable for me? What course of communication can I commit to for the long haul?

Who’s in it with me?

The community I’m building here is mostly authors who are either making the transition from House Publishing (“traditional”) to a more author-centric world with digital publishing at its core. We are also long-time self-published authors plus writers and bloggers who are now entering the new planet of author-centric publishing. This newsletter thing is so important to the platforms we are building for our readers it could be considered the heartbeat. I’m in there with you, people, if you’re struggling to make a path for yourself with your own regular delivery of a newsletter or some sort. I’m thinking Ronald’s query and what comes next may help us find our way.

We know consistency is the baseline criterion, right?

Haphazard communication with our followers who have given us the open door to their email is the short route to a slammed door. We need to show up regularly, on a schedule, over time. There’s a human science reason for this. Our brains want to go down the same path again and again. It’s called a habit, but don’t let that dull your awareness of its importance. This brain wiring is where love germinates. Think about a favorite radio show or weekly podcast or TV series. Or Sunday choir. Whatever it is, if there’s something you’ve done weekly for months on end (or years) your brain has developed a neural cluster of familiarity which is similar to love and deeply attractive.

That’s the story from the reader’s side.

As creators of these regularly delivered love letters, we have to blend our obvious current topics with a bulls-eye future prophesy. Not a prediction of the business in the future, although that’s mighty attractive if you can produce it. This is a prediction of who you are a year or two or three down the road.

Who are you and what do you really want to convey over the long term?

This is why the content of a successful newsletter has to come more from the core of who you are than the tag cloud on your blog. And it’s why it can be very hard to initiate.

While you’re chewing on those ideas, I’ll tell you who I’ve followed over the years and recently, and why.

Letters that work

Smack in the middle of my pre-frontal cortex is the newsletter put out by Chris Brogan. If you’re reading it, you’re in his living room or some digital equivalent that is just as cozy. That’s what he delivers with some regularity. He doesn’t nail the timing like others do but he comes close and he keeps talking about it. It’s worthy and my brain knows exactly what the feel of it will be, every time.

I’ve listened to Sean D’Souza for at least five years. Lately I’ve missed some of his letters which deliver a blend of story, article, and promotion. I’m using a different email now and haven’t switched him over. It’s interesting to me that I have a sense of missing a friend in the background. My world is much more Twitter-based than anything else, and I just don’t see Sean on Twitter that often. So I keep forgetting to tend the “friendship” by handling that email issue. Great material, though, I have learned tons from Sean.

Going way back in brain-wire history, I find Dan Poynter. I followed Dan when email newsletters were so new no one was talking about them. Before that, I followed him via his books. We go back 30 years easy. His newsletters were like newspapers, with robust sections and too much to read in one sitting. They had classifieds and brought the community together. This is another one I’m missing after an email switch, but because of the longevity of the connection, I habitually go find his material on my own. Think about that as an effect of your communication. People have you stuck in their brains, need you, and regularly go find you on the web, no matter what you’re doing. Think about it.

A very recent experience is the email offerings of Mike Trow. I received just two or three interesting, focused pieces before he sent a generous invitation to his subscribers to connect by phone. He managed to deliver his angle in a way that triggered my curiosity, and a few days later I contacted him to take him up on it. That’s a surprisingly short road, but it was groomed by a series of interactions on Twitter. Twitter sure is good for laying that friendly groundwork.

Editorial Calendar Much?
My approach to solving what amounts to a fear of commitment for my own newsletter is to include it in my editorial calendar. My world springs from my creativity and is always under the overbearing prowess of right brain. It’s like my left brain enters the Queen’s court, a trembling hand holding out a gilt-laced spreadsheet with little birds flitting around it, as an offering to the terrible Chaos Queen to help make her dominion what she demands it to be. Did you notice the shift in language there? That’s what happens as I pull my process into the repeating squares of a calendar. The universe folds upon itself.

There are reasons why creating a newsletter is confounding for some of us creatives.

One thing I can say for sure. The format of a newsletter can ruin it for the reader. I’ve seen beautiful formats, but I’ve seen many more that don’t make it through the delivery process and they’re a mess of fonts and color columns. Sean D’Souza and Dan Poynter are two writers who know to stick with simple text and make the format deliver consistently without any frills. Your bright orange branding and those extra font styles do not help deliver your message. Unless you’ve figured out a way to deliver a soft puppy to me in your email, leave out the fancy formatting.

It occurs to me as I finish up this thought process and put it on my blog, hey, did I just write a letter for my subscribers? If you were on my email list to engage the conversation for authors using tech to develop a readership, would this be the kind of thing you’re looking for?

Maybe I’m figuring out how to please the Chaos Queen after all.

Suzanna Stinnett / @Brainmaker on Twitter

p.s. Guess what. I just realized that when I hit “Publish” on this blog there will be no turning back on the regular delivery of my newsletter to y’all. So here we go. Come on into my subscriber list and see what happens next.

Vampires love the soft necks of Independent Authors






As you enter the diversity that is independent publishing, you may be approached by a blood-sucking consortium that hopes you won’t know they are all under the umbrella of “Author Solutions.” They are not a solution.

Thanks to Emily Seuss and her blog, Seuss Pieces, I can steer you around this mess and maybe save you several hundred dollars and a couple of years of pointless anticipation.

Author Solutions, which is @authorsolutions on Twitter, bought a publishing company I worked with ten years ago: Trafford. I loved Trafford. Their mascot was a big white dog named Tyhe and I interacted with the owner and a small staff. Together we got my book, “Open Here,” into print-on-demand, and it was a thrilling experience.

–Flash of dark cape–
Things have changed. Trafford was bought by Author Solutions. Now that I know what happened, I know why I started getting these spammy calls from Trafford. Night and day. I used up a lot of time I could have been spending at the movies or staring at my manuscript, trying to convince them that I wasn’t interested. Not only was I not interested, that book wasn’t even supposed to be for sale. I had taken it off the market years ago, and somehow it had returned and even been put into Kindle without any notice from Trafford.

That’s how Author Solutions works. Spam, behind-the-scenes actions on your content, you get the picture.

Author Solutions owns a lot of the e-publishing and print-on-demand world. I recommend you read about the class actions and complaints against iUniverse, XLibris, and Trafford. Here are a whole herd of other relatives of Author Solutions which also should be avoided. No, more than that. They should be actively boycotted. More than that, we should make sure our circles know to stay away from these companies. Okay?

Writer’s Digest also has connections to Author Solutions. They shouldn’t.

Take a deep breath and read the scope of this travesty:

Bertram Capital
Author Solutions


Author House





Abbott Press

Balboa  (Hay House-branded line)

WestBow  (Thomas Nelson-branded line)

Inspiring Voices  (Guideposts Magazine-branded line)

Legacy Keepers

FuseFrame   (Previously Author Solutions Films)

Pitchfest   (Authors pay to come pitch their stories for film adaptations)

Author Learning Center  (Online learning tool hoping you’ll forget to cancel your credit card after the free trial ends)

WordClay  (Abandoned ebook imprint)

BookTango  (New ebook imprint)

AuthorHive (Book Marketing)

Meredith Vieira Productions

Kirkus Reviews

Clarion ForeWord Reviews

BlueInk Reviews
Join our group at Bay Area Bloggers Society if you want to learn the tools yourself, in person, with people in your community:

See you out there.

Suzanna Stinnett

Go read: Emily Seuss on Seuss Pieces

Twitter Hashtags and #ePubTip

#How #Does #This #Thing #Work #?

Don’t know what hashtags are or what they are for? You’re not alone. Hashtags are an important aspect of connecting on Twitter, so stick around and learn the why and the how.

As I finish up my love letter to authors who are working to become independent of the traditional publishing world, I’m watching the buzz around hashtags more closely than ever. I’ve created a simple way to teach people to use hashtags, even if they are new to the whole Twitter thang.

The hashmark: # — connected to a word with no spaces, creates a hot link on Twitter. That’s vital. You’ll need that. The word with no spaces is the tag, so we call this structure a “hashtag.”

You’ll see lots of hashtags as you wander and wade the rivers on Twitter. One I’ve been watching recently is the hashtag #PubTips, which was created in 2009 by @RachelleGardner for agents and editors to discuss the business and offer publishing tips. Cool!

I’m creating these series of Twitter posts as part of my new hashtag book marketing system, and I use hashtags so people can find me when they’re searching certain words. To me, a “pubtip” was just that — a tip about publishing. But there are subtleties to be noted, and as I mentioned, this one is for agents and editors. It has its distinct value, and it is distinctly different from the planet I’m populating. The next step was easy, once my brain opened up to it.

Enter the hashtag ePubTip. That one little letter, so terribly common in our language, takes us across the galaxy from one planet to the other. Agents and editors are part of the planet I’ll call “traditional publishing.” There are other names for it, such as “legacy,” but you’ll find out in Beyond Bestseller what I think about the use of that term.

The planet for #ePubTip is all about that letter E. We are authors going digital, and the electronic reader is the device our audience uses, including iPhones, iPads, Kindle and many others.

Authors learning to live on the Indie Planet of publishing can follow along on Twitter, even if they don’t know a thing about how “all this” works, by searching #ePubTip. Join in. Use the hashtag, and help strengthen the collective intel for our future full of readers and royalties.

Suzanna Stinnett

Bay Area Bloggers Society

Brainmaker on Twitter


Publishing While Driving









Earlier today on #writechat I made this statement: If authors are willing to wield the enormous responsibility of being in the driver’s seat, it is now available.

Let me “keyword” that out for you:




I said it in response to the question I hear every day from clients and people who attend my user group meetings and fellow Twitterians. “Should I publish into digital or wait and find an agent or a publisher?”

Driving is a big job. The thing to remember is that when you’re driving, you get to be on the road. As long as you want someone else to do the driving, you’re going to have to wait in line. It’s a very long line. And when you get “picked up,” you know what happens next? You’re going to get dropped off at the Market Your Own Book Corral, where you’ll run around the track with everyone else.

Pull on those sleek driving gloves, sister. It’s time to get behind the wheel and drive.

Suzanna Stinnett

Find me on Twitter:BRAINMAKER