This is Part 2 of a special blog on Amazon's reader community site, Shelfari. I've only just joined (last week) and created an account (http://www.shelfari.com/webbiegrrl) which so far, I can't even figure out how to link/combine with my "Sarah R. Yoffa" Author account there (Amazon created the Sarah R. Yoffa Author account for me; apparently, I cannot alter it? I'll keep working on this and report back when I figure it out! You know I'm relentless enough to figure it out or (half)die trying)
So I don't know a lot about Shelfari--yet--but I definitely don't think it's going to even come close to "replacing" a community-centered site like Goodreads. I jumped on this Amazon/Shelfari bandwagon for good reason. Two good reasons, actually.
One, Book Extras, although available for Kindle readers only, are some pretty powerful tools and two, Shelfari's site (together with your Amazon Author Central Page) is the easiest way to access, modify and control them. That's what I covered last week in Part 1 of this 2-part blog. (Read Part 1 here).
Today, I want to talk about a secondary, side effect of the Amazon/Shelfari Book Extras that will be of particular interest to Book Bloggers. Even if you're not a Book Blogger, click through the jump break to read more about this kewel potential for symbiotic viral marketing.
Who Can Create or Edit Book Extras?
Anyone. Absolutely anyone with a Kindle device, Kindle app (any platform), or Shelfari account can create new content for a book listed in the Amazon Kindle store via the Book Extra feature. Last week, I used the Nicholas Sparks book "The Lucky One" as an example of how a reader named Ria created the only "summary" of this book on Shelfari. This is the summary of the NYT Best Selling Author's story that everyone will see if they are browsing the Kindle Store checking out Nicholas Sparks's book. Sparks or his representative (or publisher) could change it, but the fact of the matter is, no one has. So someone named Ria is "famously" connected to Sparks's book.
To see a screen shot of this, just click on the "see section history" link to the right of the "EDIT" button on the book's page. You should get the following type of image:
If you look carefully, underneath the summary Ria wrote are 3 links, one to change her edits (so it's easy if an author wanted to do change something a troll entered), one link to report abuse (also good for trolls! *haha*) and the middle link is to "see Ria's edits." If you click on that, you'll get a page full of all of Ria's edits to any and all books in the Amazon Kindle Store/Shelfari web site. She's apparently edited 22 books so far (she got pretty busy on Jan. 3, 2011).
You also see a summary of her profile on Shelfari, including her short bio. This is like "free advertising" for a Book Blogger, isn't it? Assist in fleshing out the content of a book's Book Extras and your name gets attached to the book and anyone who wants to know "Who wrote this info anyway?" will find you and your profile on Shelfari. This is how Shelfari hopes community will be built, I'm sure, but I don't think anyone's exploiting this linkage yet.
I strongly encourage everyone reading this to exploit this linkage! If you're an Author, get others to edit your book's page information, using this "free advertising" as a rewards. If you're a Book Blogger, read on and consider contributing to an Author's book page data.
How To Create Book Extras
It's pretty easy. Amazon has some instructions on how to create Book Extras from inside the Kindle for PC app (presumably very much the same process from inside any other Kindle app), and the Shelfari blog has an article from 2010 which has pretty good instructions on how to do it from the Shelfari site. There's just one glitch in the whole process--and only Authors can correct it.
Book Extras created via Kindle devices, Kindle apps or the Shelfari web site won't propagate on their own unless or until the Author logs into their Author Central account, clicks through to the book's page on Author Central, and clicks on the Book Extras tab for that book. Just viewing them from that tab on the Amazon Author Central site apparently forces some kind of "data pull" from Shelfari and the data will then propagate out from Amazon to the Kindle world. I won't go so far as to call this a "bug" but it's definitely a glitch.
In other words, anyone can create Book Extras on the Shelfari web site, but unless or until the Author happens upon them on their Author Central Book Page, they won't be "active" for the world to see. I know this because I created some Book Extras for my tossaway/experimental book, Coming Home (Dicky's Story). In fact, I created a lot of Book Extras--12 sections total--including a complete TOC and none of them showed up in any of my Kindle gateways.
Amazon does warn in the help pages that your Book Extras won't show up unless or until you have "several" but my 12 didn't show up until I forced a pull into the Author Central page. I tried the Kindle app on my iPad, my Android and my Win7 machine. I even waited an hour and rebooted my web browser (and cleared the cache) and tried again. Nothing. I did not wait 24-hrs which I suppose might work but I don't think that's it. Why am I so sure?
When I loaded the Book Extras tab in Author Central, the changes propagated instantly to my other devices. I didn't even have to empty the cache, just click reload and voila! There they were.
Why Create Book Extras?
So now we come to the million dollar question. Why bother spending this kind of time and effort--especially if you're a Book Blogger and nothing will happen unless or until the Author logs into their Author Central Page for the book? Because as soon as your name is linked to a book, assuming the Author sends out links to promote the book, your name goes with it wherever it may go. It's free marketing for you, and your enhancements on the book's content is value-added to the Author. It's a symbiotic win/win, isn't it?
And it doesn't stop at the explicitly defined Book Extras. If a Book Blogger (or any reader) creates a "public highlight" or "public note" on the book, the entire Kindle world will see it anytime anyone accesses the book--and they'll see/get a link to the writer of said highlight or note. If you're a Book Blogger, this is also free advertising for you. In fact, your highlights and notes might even be viewed as a means of creating "street cred" with "mini-reviews" embedded in books.
If you put a link to your blog in your Shelfari bio (near the top to ensure it's seen) then anyone interested enough in your opinion to click through and find out "Who is this person who said this?" will have a link to your blog. Want to drive traffic to the blog? Work with the Authors and their books might do just that--free of charge, free of effort after that initial creation of a Book Extra, highlight or note.
It's unfortunate that this kind of feature is only available for Kindle books but that's still a large segment of the eBook reading world.
Book Bloggers I strongly urge you to:
(1) let Authors know after you've created or edited a Book Extra for their book on Shelfari so they can "activate" it by visiting their Author Central Page;
(2) solicit Authors to share the Shelfari link to their book if not "instead of" then "in addition to" the Kindle book page; and
(3) offer to highlight their book with "mini-review comments" (public highlights, public notes only). If you're going to read the book anyway, why not highlight and comment on it while reading? It's an inline process.
Authors, I urge you just as strongly to:
(1) solicit Book Bloggers to share their opinions "in line" by creating highlights and notes for your book; and
(2) appreciate the time and effort Book Bloggers spend enhancing your book and reward that by tweeting them a mention and otherwise promote their highlights (not just your book). Not only do they get the free exposure, you sound less obnoxious promoting a blogger's remarks instead of shamelessly shelf-promoting with a "Buy my Book! Buy my Book!" It's a true win/win all around!
Although I have several more Facebook-isms I want to blog about on Tuesdays, before I return to that topic, I have a couple more "how-to's" to add to the Twitter series. I'm going to upgrade (at long last) my free Hootsuite account to the for-pay Pro version so I can bulk-schedule and auto-tweet on a regular basis. In the next few weeks, I'll get into a few of the more advanced features of Hootsuite that come with the Pro version as I learn what they are and how to use them.
And speaking of shamelessly shelf-promoting (not a typo, just a bad pun) please follow me on Twitter @webbiegrrl to get more updates or stop by Webbiegrrl Writer on Facebook to say hello. Feel free to post to my Timeline or send me a Message (I'm so excited Facebook finally made it possible to message Pages not just people!!) We now return you to your regularly-scheduled advertisements.