Wednesday, February 28, 2007

MySpace for Book Lovers

The big announcement for the day?  Amazon has invested over one million dollars in Shelfari, a social book cataloging site.  Social book cataloging is probably the best New Thing for authors trying to reach readers.

MySpace has proven to be an excellent tool for authors trying to get their name out there.  Alison Kent talk about its advantages, and JA Konrath talks about how he markets efficiently at MySpace.

The things I don’t like about MySpace are the design (it’s ugly), the blog subscriptions (clumsy and overwhelming) and the clutter.  It’s messy.  To top it off, I never quite know what to do on MySpace.  Sure, I’ve added friends, and then I check out their profile and leave a comment.  What else is there to do?  I like to send Happy Birthday emails, but if you look at the Upcoming Birthdays and click out, you don’t get to see them again!  Annoying.

Ah! The bulletins.  Right.  Do those work?  Receiving the bulletins is awkward, because they’re in this little box that I never see amidst the cluttery pages.  If I do see them, they’re a TON of JUNK.  Spam.  I don’t read spam.  I do see the email announcements, and I’ve heard they are MySpace shareware programs that make marketing and friending on MySpace easy.

I wouldn’t guess you’d get a much better return than the typical 2% advertising statistic, but it’s free.  (Not counting time invested.  It can be a lot for “doing nothing,” LOL.)

The next best thing for authors, I predict, will be the social book cataloging sites. 

Library Thing, I think, is by far the best.  Unfortunately, their design isn’t pretty like Shelfari’s, and Amazon could make Shelfari the Next Big Thing quicker than we could blink.

But Tim Spalding has invested a lot of time into Library Thing, made it the biggest, and also has worked his ass off.  You gotta admire that.  It’s only free up to 200 books, then it’s a low and reasonable price.  He is constantly improving his product: he’s been saying that they are working hard to make it pretty, as well as add more and more new features.

I believe I heard there are a lot more members there than anywhere else, but I can’t be sure.

And you know what?  You have to respect a guy who lists his competitors (scroll down to Message 2) and invites people to try them.  There’s only one reason he can do that; because his site is better and he’s constantly improving his deficiencies.

They also have a really cool thingamabob that will post your favorite ten books in the sidebar or your blog.  Very cool.  They also link to buy the book at not just Amazon, but about four or five other sites.

Here are more sites:

  • aNobii comes in an interesting third place.  I like their wish list, but they don’t have the pictures of many book covers there, and you have to upload them yourself.
  • BookTribes’s slogan is: “In between publishing hype and bookseller promotions, where is the voice of the reader?  Here, actually.” 
  • I like how you can publish and create lists on ConnectviaBooks
  • Here is a random profile from Chain Reading; I love the tabbed lists! 
  • On Gurulib.org (sample page), they let you create different “shelves” (lists) and lots of books fit on one page—nice! 
  • Bookswellread offers RSS feeds to hear about updates/reviews from your favorite fellow readers. 
  • Readers2 isn’t a list site, but they have an awesome way to categorize and recommend books.
  • iBookdb shows some potential, with their featured author (and here’s a sample shelf).

My wishlist:

  • Unlimited Lists (so I can create Favorite, Currently Reading, To Be Read, Wish List, Favorites, Whatever you Want, etc…)
  • Reviews (more in-depth than comments)
  • Pretty Design, of course. (Pretty shelves, neat and small book cover thumbnails, a way to tab lists, etc.)
  • A way to start Book Clubs on each book (like with “reading guide” questions to discuss).
  • A way for people to “group” according to favorite books, i.e. “Spy Lovers” or “Mystery Lovers,” etc. 
  • Lots of ways for authors to connect with readers, without being pushy.  Just ways to hang out.
  • Featured Authors, Featured Debuts, etc.

I guess I want it all, and I want it all in one place.

With about forty social cataloguing sites out there, who will win the race to be the next MySpace for books?  Who knows?  But I’m willing to bet that one of these book catalogues will become a Very Big Thing for the book community. 

For an author, that Very Big Thing will be even better than MySpace, because it’s a way to reach readers who already love books.  A targeted advertisement gets much better than a 2% effectiveness percentage.

“They” often suggest that you should register all possible web addresses before launching your career, just to be on the safe side.  I also went ahead and did the same with my handles at hotmail, gmail, and yahoo.  It’s not that I’ll use all those accounts; it’s just that I don’t really want anyone else using them.  (I had/have that problem with my main business handle.)

One never knows.  Why not do the same with social book cataloguing?

What do I know about marketing?  NOTHING, aside from what I learned from my business, which isn’t related to books.  And don’t think I know much from that, because I barely marketed my own business before it was stock full.  My pseudonym is only now venturing into marketing, but my royalties and market are so small, I invest only a small amount of time.

But here’s my gameplan:

What do you think?  What’d I leave out?

3 bonus scribbles:

Kate S 2/28/2007 05:56:00 PM  

Cool - thanks for the links. I'd never heard of some of those things. I do have a MySpace, though, and completely agree with every point you made.

StarvingWriteNow 2/28/2007 06:04:00 PM  

I'm still trying to figure out the point of sites like Shelfari, etc... MySpace is kinda stupid, I agree. I made a page and haven't looked at it for months.

iBookDB Team 6/28/2007 03:52:00 PM  

Thanks for linking to us
- ibookdb team.

Here is a suggestion - if you use ibookdb, try out tagging to get the unlimited lists that you are talking about. Then you can use your tag cloud in the bookshelf to view each list.