Thursday, March 10, 2011

Something we writers can do for each other: Let's call it the NOOK Look

Hi all!

So, I learnt something very, very interesting the other day: When in Barnes and Noble, you may toy about with a live NOOK. Honestly, that's the smartest thing B&N has done yet. Making NOOKs usable in-store so that customers can see how they work is the only way to challenge the Kindle's supremacy on the eink ebook reader market. Why do you think Apple is kicking so much ass? You could toy around with an iPod, iPhone, or iPad from day one and see if you liked it. The iPhone could actually make calls from the store! As someone who is hearing impaired, I am glad that I can test the volume during an actual call from the iPhone - too many times I've had a phone that I haven't been able to hear through. I absolutely hate shopping for a cell phone these days. What does it DO??? Can I hear through it? I dunno, because I'm holding one that doesn't work! It's about time someone else copied Apple in this respect.

The Kindle display in Staples is an uncontrollable annoyance at best. Sony reader had a display in the mall I used to live next to, which was smart, but I'm pretty sure most people have not tried a Sony reader in person. I'm not sure how effective the marketing is. They should join B&N and Apple if they want to compete long-term, and make all in-store sample units fully functional. (hehheh. Sorry, geek humor)

But B&N? BAM! Right when you walk in the door! You have to walk around the NOOK. You have to try to avoid the NOOK. But you can't! (unless you're entering through the Starbucks, but not all B&N stores have that other entrance)

So, you know how some books are just everywhere when you walk into a bookstore? Or it seems that certain books are on the big display tables as well as the shelves? Or that some books have the sweet end-cap displays? Yeah, publishers PAY to have bookstores do that, and it's called co-op. That's why you walk into a bookstore and there's 9 stacks of the new James Patterson novel. It's why The Host by Stephenie Meyer is still shelved face-out on the "New Science Fiction" shelf, even though it came out three years ago. (Note: this is a good book, and a very different take on sci-fi. It is not like Twilight. Read it!)

So, if publishers pay money, and a lot of it, for display, how the heck do other books get noticed? And why the heck would B&N take up valuable display space right at the front of the store, especially when publishers will pay thousands of dollars per month for that space? Well, B&N knows what's coming, honestly. They're trying to get ahead of the curve, and as well they should. They know that to keep customers long-term, they have to sell something to read books on to as many customers as possible, and get them hooked. NOW. The bigger B&N locations with expensive rents will close, smaller stores focused on NOOKs will open. But they have to get the customers on board with the change, and position themselves as leaders if B&N wants to survive.

The next thing that B&N is doing is a stroke of genius! There's free wi-fi in every B&N. Every day, you can take your NOOK into B&N and read anything from the NOOK ebook store for an hour. It's just like flipping the pages of a book you're browsing in a store, but it's an ebook. But it's not just for actual NOOKs; This is good for the free app as well. That means that every person with an iPad, iPod touch, Android phone, or laptop computer can participate. They also have a free book every week that you can only download to your B&N account from inside the store. Smart move, B&N! That means that ereader customers keep coming back into the store for the purpose of ereading.

So, every B&N has a display set of NOOKs, usually one NOOK Color and two NOOKs in black & white eink, right as you walk in the door of every B&N store. Prime display space. Publishers would pay for that display space, but they aren't getting it anymore. This brings to mind a question: how can we turn that to our advantage as self-pubbed authors? Heck, as authors, period! The ones that the publishers ignore. The ones with the minuscule advances. The ones in the rapidly-shrinking midlist? The ones trying desperately to market with what few dollars we have?

Well, I have an answer to that, and I'm wearing a pretty big grin right now. Remember how I said earlier that the NOOKs are live at the store? They're live. Live live. As in, you can download any NOOK book from B& onto those NOOKs. And then, you can open the NOOK book to the cover of the book you selected. Then, you can set the NOOK down, and walk away.

Why would you do that? Because the next person who walks through that door is going to see the cover to the book you selected. The NOOK kiosk is an oasis of calm in the middle of a bunch of stacked-up, expensive, desperate advertising - and there are only 3 Nooks on it. 3 possible covers to see, not 3,000. Those 3 NOOKS, and any covers which happen to be on them, stand out like a beacon.

What if this were your book? What if you could do this periodically, or had other people do this for you? You'd have just got for free what publishers pay for through the nose, that's what!

So, here we are: there's a lot of us, we have a great community, and we're motivated. We also have an opportunity that costs us nothing but a few seconds of time. We have everything we need to make a change. J.A. Konrath is always saying how digital books level the playing field. He means online sales, usually, but here's an example of how it's done in real life, in a real store, with real books, and real people actually walking by them to look at what's on these ereaders.

The goodness continues! Even if someone changes what's on the main screen, the book is still there, downloaded and among the other customer downloads, flashing itself as a recent read and showing off its cover. The book I tested was one of maybe 10 other books, including very recent bestsellers. The appearance is that this book is the same as those other books, which is true, but the customer doesn't know that it's not a major publisher's release. A book downloaded onto one of these devices will have some extended selling time.

But how does this really help? Remember all those ereaders coming back into the store that I was telling you about? Every person with an iPad, iPod touch, Android phone, laptop, or NOOK can buy and download those books they see IMMEDIATELY. That's a lot of people! If there is a paper version of the book available, perhaps B&N has it available, or can order it. It might be what convinces someone to buy a NOOK, once they realize that not all books are available in paper any more. Plus, it builds recognition every time someone sees a cover.

Without any further fanfare, I am going to declare my new project. I hope you all will participate with me!

What's the project? NOOK Look

What do we do? When you're in a B&N store, pick up the NOOKs that are up front and download a book that you like, preferably an indie. Load the cover image to display. Set the NOOK down. Do the same to the other NOOKs if possible - try 3 different indies! Or your own book! Then, walk away and go about your shopping. Periodically swing by to reset the covers if you want. That's it!

How do I participate? That's easy! Do the above. Respond to this post, and share it with others. Jump in on the twitter discussion by using the hashtag #NOOKlook , and say who you promoted. Thank people who promoted you. Mention that you'd like to be promoted. Do the same on the Facebook Page I just set up for the project. Post photos of a NOOK with an indie author's book cover shown on twitter or on the Facebook page. Share the Facebook page. Retweet other people's NOOK Look tweets. Blog about it. Tell authors about it. I'll be starting a Kindleboards discussion shortly, so you can join in there if you like. Write to an author and tell them that you put their book up front at B&N because you think they're special. Put your own book on the NOOK, and feel good that you're in a real bookstore.

How is this good? It's free promotion for all indie authors, and could be very effective marketing.

Will this bite us in the ass? I doubt it, but it is in the realm of possibility. Nothing is set in stone in the world of ebooks.

Will the author make money from these "sales" in B&N? Nope, I already looked into that. :)

But I don't have my ebook on the B&N store!!! Well, you should! It's easy, via PubIt! It's very similar to the Kindle dtp/kdp option, and you can upload a variety of document formats, including Word.

Ergh, my formatting/cover isn't so good... Hire a pro! (like us!) Pros know how to get your cover and text looking their best. If you aren't computer savvy at all, or don't have a lot of time, this is a great option.

Wow, this is great!! Yep. Sure is!

Chime in, folks! What do you think??