Do you know Litsy? For the millions of people who use their smartphones more than they do laptop or desktop computers, this smartphone-specific app about books is growing on the scene.
It works on nearly all smartphones and was so easy to use that I started posting on it within five minutes of downloading and installing.
Litsy, which launched in April of this year, feels like a mashup of ideas other apps and websites have made popular.
Litsy draws from Twitter its simplicity, an emphasis on short messages and limitations on what you can do there; but it does include extensive search and hashtag capabilities. It gets from Goodreads an exclusive focus on books but is even more tightly aimed: While you can follow other people and authors on Litsy, the site is organized primarily around specific books, not authors.
Like Instagram, it is biased toward including pictures and other artwork alongside the text. Someone at Instagram several years back had the idea of appealing to book readers, and set up #bookstagram, a widely used hashtag on Instagram. Bookstagram emphasizes images relating to books, and like Instagram, it is easy to use on smartphones. However, a librarian who reviewed and compared it to Litsy noted an important limitation: “Litsy saw the issue with Bookstagram, and that was that you would see a book you thought was interesting. And then have to go and look it up on GoodReads separately. But with this app, you just click on the title in the picture and you can read a synopsis, see posts [showing] what other people think, and add it to a 'to read' list. Something that Instagram lacks.”
Authors can also post information and images about their own books.
The emphasis on individual book titles may provide some help to new authors who might have only one title available. In many other book-related sites focusing more on authors, those with many titles under their belt tend to stand out more.
Other services may be added over time. In their new-signup welcome email, Todd and Jeff (no last names given) said, “Litsy is in its infancy. There are bugs to be squashed and features to add. So it goes. What we have today will evolve, and the way you use Litsy helps pave the way forward.”
The app is available through the iTunes Apple store and the Android Play Store (where I obtained it for my smartphone).
Signup is quick and painless. I established my account using my Facebook information; approached that way, the forms were only three lines. You can also sign in with an email address, and that took only about twice as long.
There’s no cost. The site’s revenue stream eventually may come from advertising.
Once inside, you encounter a feed—something akin to Twitter or Facebook, but book-oriented. The feed includes plenty of images, short reviews of and quotes from and about various books.
Your options for engagement are limited but powerful. You can follow other users (and get lists of others reading or interested in the same books or topics).
A review on the book news and review site Book Riot said, “You can basically do only three things to add content to your page: quote from a book you’re reading, blurb a book you’re reading, and review a book you’re reading. Litsy forces you to tag a book title for every post, so this keeps the community focused on reading in a really satisfying way. Each one of these posts can be a picture, or text, or both.”
Bookriot also advised: “No privileged author space. There’s nothing stopping authors from joining the community and posting their books, but it’s set up to be reader-focused first. I would probably stop following someone who only ever posted about their own work, and then I’d never have to see their posts if I didn’t seek them out.”
That is good advice when marketing through any kind of social media. The lack of division between authors and readers can be an advantage in personal communications.
Litsy also uses algorithms to measure books and users. Its site suggests, “Measure Litfluence to discover your ‘bookprint’ in the world. Explore recommendations from readers, not algorithms.”
What’s Already Out There
In March 2014 we wrote about four apps useful for writers which worked on smartphones. Those, however, were more useful for people in the early stages of researching or writing a book, rather than authors with a finished product.
WriteChain is about the “WriteChain challenge” to write every day, using a smartphone app to help keep track of word counts. The TextExpander offers custom keyboard shortcuts, which are more easily put to use on computers and tablets than on smartphones. Those two apps can be used on most smartphones, but the following appear to be available for Apple only. These are the mind-mapping app iBlueSky, useful for writers but also other users, and Wikipanion, which provides shortcuts for people using Wikipedia.
Many smartphone apps are available for book-related services. Goodreads and Amazon, iTunes and Barnes and Noble, among many others, have all developed apps for smartphones to offer easy use of their conventional websites.
Litsy, by contrast, points itself directly to people who interact with their smartphones more than any other devices and may be well-positioned to capture a significant market. Indie authors would be well advised to pay attention.
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments, and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.
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