Superfans!

My little boy, Jack, celebrated his seventh birthday last month. For his party, he wanted a “Real Steel” theme.

For those of you without a little boy in your home, “Real Steel” is a movie released in 2011 that tells the story of a down-on-his-luck fighter, Charlie, who reconnects with his biological son, Max. Together, they tour the country with their boxing robots and eventually, their sparring bot, Atom, takes on the world’s champion robot fighter. Leading up to this big fight, Atom conquers other robot boxes, including Metro, Twin Cities and the like. It’s kind of a rock’em, sock’em robot movie.

My son and I don’t share the same opinion of this film. Jack loves it. For me, the film is a waste of 90 minutes. My problem is the main character, Charlie, who literally hawks his son to buy a robot, Noisy Boy. Charlie is played by Hugh Jackman and is the only thing I like about this movie. For me, if Hugh can’t save a movie, it cannot be saved.

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Hugh Jackman with Atom, the little sparring bot who could.

I rate “Real Steel” 1 out of 5 stars. My son, on the other hand, loves it. He gives it five stars. Six, if he had a spare.

Jack loves the robots, and I admit they’re kind of cool. At least the possibility of them. But I just find a father who sells his son to be an unredeemable character. Sorry, Charlie.

But my son overlooks this. For him, it’s all about the robots. In fact, he often asks me, “Mom, do you know how Twin Cities fights?” Twin Cities is a robot. I always say, “No. Show me.” And Jack does, jumping up and down, swinging his fists in the air and adding a “crunch” for sound effect. Then he whirls around and punches the air again. “Like that,” Jack says.

Apparently, I’m alone in my distaste. The film grossed $300 million and was nominated for an Oscar for best visual effects.

My son is what I call a Superfan. Jack, with his endless adoration of this movie, is a super fan of “Real Steel.” The day before his seventh birthday, we traipsed from one party-supply store to another in Spokane, asking if they carried any “Real Steel” merchandise, like paper plates or banners or any of that stuff. I don’t think anybody but Jack was surprised to learn that there were no “Real Steel”-inspired decorations available. Some of the store clerks didn’t even know what “Real Steel” was.

Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, tells authors to grow their own Superfans. In his book, The Secrets to E-book Publishing Success, he talked about the importance of these folks.

“A fan will review your book positively and purchase your other books, and will anxiously await your next books. A fan is also a potential evangelist for your books, and an evangelist will not only recommend your book to friends, they will command their friends to read it…. Fans create word of mouth, and word of mouth separates the poor-sellers from the bestsellers.”

Well, I don’t know if I’m there yet, but I do have a few Superfans. Some are my family – my Aunt Mary Rose, my brother, Kevin, and my mother-in-law, Edith. Others are friends and former co-workers in Alaska who buy my books and read my blog.

Then there’s the patients to whom I provide nursing care. One of them, Joyce, bought both of my books and posted Amazon reviews. Thank you, Joyce. Reviews on Amazon are vital to indie authors. Some book review sites won’t even consider promoting unless the author has at least eight reviews.

Another patient, Shirley, a wisp of a girl at age 86, fawns over the characters in Celebration House and eagerly awaits the sequel. She made me laugh a few days ago when she said to me, “And what the hell kind of name is Sunshine anyway?” referring to a naughty character in Celebration House. I don’t know why, but it makes me laugh to hear octogenarians cuss.

The husband of one of my patients told me, “Carrie needs to buy a generator,” referring to the main character in Celebration House and her struggles to keep the lights on. As they were leaving the clinic, his wife said, “He tells everybody about your book.” Superfan!

Thanks to Facebook, I’ve reconnected with high-school classmates. Recently, I posted a photo of the print version of Bone Girl. Teasingly, I asked “Who wants one?” To my surprise, my classmates do. One friend from long ago said she wanted to buy four copies. Four? What? Buy that many and I come to your house and read them.

I’m so grateful for these readers. Sure, there’s no paper plates or banners featuring the cover art from Bone Girl. Not yet.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: making mistakes a long the whey.

How ereaders are changing the face of publishing

Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, spoke May 2 at the annual Romantic Times Booklovers convention in Kansas City. He presented the results of a survey that studied the e-book market and he made this prediction: “I predict that within three years, over 50% of the New York Times bestselling ebooks will be self-published ebooks. It’s possible I’m being too conservative.”

I’m a novice when it comes to ereaders. In fact, I haven’t bought mine yet. So, I’m going to defer to Meghan Somers, a volunteer at Digital Alberta. Her article, The Rise of the E-Book, in the Nov. 27, 2012, issue of the Calgary Herald, reviewed some eReader basics. Here is her article in its entirety.

“In the beginning ebooks were written and published to a select audience, and in a limited run. Then, in November 2007 Amazon.com released the Kindle and the industry changed. In early 2011 the company announced that they sold more ebooks than paper books – and that number is constantly growing. As this article from TechVibes points out, tablets and ereaders are doing to print what the iPod and iTunes did to music: changing the way people buy and consume content. The numbers certainly reflect this.

In the US 2012 so far has seen $282.3M spent on ebooks in adult literature alone. This is up from $220.4M in 2011. Children’s/young adult eBooks saw an increase of 475.1% from 2011 to 2012. In Canada, while the number of ebooks sold has not overtaken traditional book formats, ebooks account for 16.3% of all book sales – a number which surpasses the expectations of industry experts.

Reading in general seems to be on the rise as a result of ebooks and ereaders. This may have something to do with the ‘I’ve got it so I might as well use it’ mentality people develop towards their digital devices. Research says that on average people who own an ebook device read almost double the amount of books in a year than people who don’t own one. But there are other factors to consider as well. Speed of accessibility, ease of use while travelling and access to content are the top three reasons people prefer ebooks. What is even more interesting is that 88% of people who read ebooks also read printed books. The rise of ebooks has also heralded a rise in readership of books in general – half way through 2012 the total sales (ebooks and print) for books in adult literature alone is up $17.1M from the same time last year.

The rise of the ebook has also seen a rise in self-published material. Perhaps the most famous example of success in the self-published ebook industry is E.L. James’ ’50 Shades of Grey’, but she was not the first to see success in the self publishing world. Amanda Hocking is generally agreed to be the first self-published author to reach over a million dollars in sales with her ‘Trylle’ series. With series like Trylle and 50 Shades opening readers eyes to new avenues for reading content more ‘serious’ subject matter is also being broached in the self-publishing realm. Renowned journalists who spend a lot of time crafting a piece for a major news outlet are often left with a lot more research and material then what ends up on newsstands. Self-publishing allows them to take that leftover material and get it out to the public.

What we can take away from this is that the traditional book industry is not dying – it is simply evolving. People prefer to have multiple ways to consume content, a fact that seems obvious due to the rapid adoption of tablet and mobile content, but until you see the actual stats it is sometimes hard to wrap ones head around the concept.”

Meghan is a volunteer at Digital Alberta. In addition to being a digital media enthusiast she is an Account Executive at The Agency, a boutique PR firm that specializes in the technology sector.