Friday, June 10, 2011

Taking Our eBook to its Audience

Now that my students' chapters for Writing About Literature in the Digital Age are completed and submitted to our editing team, we are concentrating on making our project anything but an academic exercise; I've asked students to identify specific people who might find our eBook of value. That's right, this isn't going to be a launch into the void; we're going to take our eBook to its audience.

I'd like to formalize this audience discovery process into an assignment for my students, and then give them a number of starting points. As I tried to convey to them yesterday in class -- this is where things can really become a lot of fun. Why? Because when you connect people and content -- meaningfully, not spammily, that's when the sparks start to fly. (Did I, an English professor, just turn spam into an adverb? I think I did!)

Using this "Potential Readers" page in our eBook/course wiki, record the names and contact info for 20 people. Important note: names will not be used if you do not provide a legit rationale for why that potential reader might find value in this eBook. We are not spamming the Interent with our intellectual work; we are targeting people who could truly find this of value. I think some of my students will choke at the idea of finding 20 people, but I hope they will think differently after reading through my many suggestions for finding appropriate potential readers:

Potential Readers for Our eBook
  1. People into literature and writing Friends, peers, or acquaintances who enjoy literature or who identify themselves as writers (fellow English majors, teaching majors, students in the humanities.
  2. People into tech, new media, or eBooks
    Friends, peers, or acquaintances who are Kindle or iPad owners, smartphone users, etc.
  3. Homies
    Personal friends in your online social networks (on or offline) who are invested in what you are up to, generally). Be careful here: DO NOT SPAM YOUR FRIENDS
  4. Educators
    Teachers, professors, librarians with whom you have a relationship who would appreciate this project. OR, educators with whom you are not acquainted but who have a clearly documented interest in the main aspects of our research and writing.
  5. Readers
    People with a manifest interest in your particular literary text, or who use a social book site like Goodreads, LibraryThing, or Shelfari.
  6. Bloggers / Forum Participants
    People who are actively discussing your primary text or topics related to writing and literature in the digital age on blogs or in discussion forums.
  7. Authors and Reviewers
    People who have a literary stake online.
    1. Members of relevant online groups or networks
    2. Scholars
      People publishing scholarship in relevant fields (literature, educational technology, computers and composition, etc.)
    3. Speakers
      People who are speaking about these topics at conferences or events.
    4. Experimenters
      People playing with the book format, or who are piloting uses of media in school.
    5. Webinar Attendees
      People who have presented in or attended a webinar in a relevant topic (such as the Classroom 2.0 series)
    Starting Places to Find Relevant Potential Readers
    • Social Book Sites (Literary-oriented groups in Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing, etc.)
      Look up people who have recently rated or reviewed the primary text you are using
    • Social Bookmarking sites and groups (Diigo, Stumbleupon, etc.)
      You may have to poke around to find active groups or boomarkers.
    • The Blogosphere (search it using Technorati, IceRocket, or Google Blog Search, using relevant search terms like "eBook" "literary" "literature" "writing" "composition" 
    • Twitter (Use Twitter Search with similar search terms as hash tags: #ebook, etc.)
    • Organizations (literary, ed-tech, eBook publishing, library, literary)
    Perhaps the best way of all to find these potential readers is not as directly through searches, but through social discovery, which is the process I've often taught in my class of using content to find people who then link you to more people and content. A number of student examples are shown in this post about social discovery.

    Here's a quick example of social discovery. I find people in the educational technology field often mentioning Steve Hargadon. So, using I look up @stevehargadon (of course, I might have found his Twitter name through an advanced search or off his website). Bingo! Lots of tweets mentioning his work in Education 2.0. Since today is Friday, people on Twitter are recommending others (they use the hashtag #ff for "Follow Friday"). A few tweets down into the search results and I see that someone has grouped @stevehargadon with others she calls "forward thinkers." 

    I control-click the other seven names listed in the tweet to pull up those tweeters' Twitter page. Two of the Twitter names look promising: @coolcatteacher and @globalearner. On the Twitter page for @coolcatteacher I find her real name, Vicky Davis, and discover she's tweeting a lot about iPad apps and educational technology. Looks promising. The fact that she is listed in 1,470 Twitter lists catches my eye (an influencer?). I click on the link to her lists and find one called @Schmidjon/edchat, "a list of people who talk about edchat." Okay, I've seen the #edchat discussions on Twitter and know that is part of our audience. Vicky is definitely a potential audience member, and she is connected to a lot of other people in the ed-tech and teaching and writing fields that I can also follow up on.

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