Archive for the ‘Profiles in Convergence’ Category

The mark of any good conference is how much conversation goes on about it after it is over. Last week in San Francisco, the Internet Archive hosted a conference that this year they called “Books in Browsers“. This was the second such conference held by the Internet Archive. Last year, I don’t think it had a name, but the overall effect was similar – it was nearly impossible to stop thinking about it or talking about it. On Twitter, the hash tag #BIB10 is still very active, and the mailing list Read 2.0 (also hosted by Peter Brantley of the Internet Archive) has enough fodder to keep it buzzing for the next 6 months.

There are some great accounts written about the meat of the conference by Kassia KrozserPatrick Brown, and Jeff Kaplan (and a special thanks to Eric Rumsey for pulling it all together). I encourage you all to read them.

However, the big take-away for me was about innovation in general. Leaving the conference (both years), I had a feeling similar to the one I had as a kid leaving the Year 2000 exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Believable fantasy was made into reality (or at least a prototype). Not everything I saw in 1964 is with us today, but some of those innovations are, and some of them took a long, hard road to get here.

For example, the video phone. It was a huge hit at the Worlds Fair, and AT&T went and built it, but the market wasn’t ready, and it failed miserably. But today, how many of us use Skype to communicate with close family over long distances? When you add in the eras of video conferencing and online meetings, you can see how this concept of communicating on multiple levels was way ahead of it’s time in 1964. But, the vision put us on a road to where we are today.

Back to #BIB10 – Many of the presentations gave me the same feeling. Some of them were BIG ideas, and others were very practical. Bob Stein’s much debated social reading platform was one of the big ideas, as was Brian O’Leary’s Unified Field Theory of Publishing. (Please allow me one quick aside – How cool is it that Bob Stein, a hero-innovator in electronic publishing is back creating controversial debate about reading?). Some ideas were innovative on a much more tangible level like Joseph Pearson’s Monocle software platform that is (it seems to Joseph’s surprise) powering several reading programs, or Kevin Franco’s transmedia demonstration. These were only some of the presentations, and I’m only citing them here for the purposes of making a point.

The good news: This all relates to the world of reading, writing, publishing, and experiencing the power of the written word.

I could write a tome on the examples of innovation I witnessed, but below are some tenants I came away with. What would you add to this list?

1. Innovation is often not a brand new idea, but one that expands upon an already given belief. (Social Reading)

2. Innovation is often a solution to the problems caused by limits of another technology. (Pandamian, Monocle, IBIS Reader)

3. Truly great innovations are often so ubiquitous that we take them for granted. (Goodreads, OLPC)

4. Broad based excitement about an innovation has a shelf life, after which the excitement is kept alive by only a few. (OPDS)

5. Innovations become great ideas only after they achieve success in their market. (Kobo).

6. Anyone can be an innovator, anyone willing to follow through on the execution of an idea. (Richard Nash)

7. Lack of mass market acceptance does not kill the innovation, it just puts it into obscurity. (Bob Stein and the original Voyager work)

8. Innovation is often not new, it’s just something happening outside our sphere of being. (Voyager Japan)

9. Innovation often isn’t sexy, but paves the way for the movement of larger ideas. (EPUB, HTML5)

10. Innovation often requires doing things for the sake of doing them, and deferring the idea of ROI. (FrancoMedia)

11. Sometimes innovation isn’t tangible, but a concept whose time has come. (Brian O’Leary’s unified field theory, Dominique Raccah‘s immersion vs. extraction reading talk)

12. Sometimes the greatest innovators are the ones who pull all the rest of them together! (Brewster, Peter)


Read Full Post »

As print book reviews shrink and independent bookstores face stiff competition from online retailers, will book bloggers assume the role of the hand-seller? Can their enthusiasm in spreading the word about great new books have a measurable impact on publishers’ bottom lines?

At the first annual Book Blogger Conference, the jury was still out on these questions, though judging by the number of online marketing specialists in attendance from the major houses, the potential for bloggers to have some sales impact is clear.

One blogger who is actively engaged with this question is Candace Levy (a.k.a. @bethfishreads on Twitter). A full-time freelance book editor for several decades, she also reviews books on her blog,  Beth Fish Reads, and in print publications as a freelance writer, in a range of genres from adult nonfiction to middle reader fantasy, and in formats from ARCs to classics.

I caught up with Candace recently to dig into the issues – read on, for our Q&A.  We also hope you will join us on Twitter this coming Thursday from 4-5pm ET, for a #followreader chat on this topic.

To what extent are book bloggers are influencing book sales right now?

I would like to think that book bloggers are beginning to have an effect, though I don’t have proof. But the industry is certainly paying more attention to us. One sign is the fact that BookExpo America (BEA) offered bloggers the same media passes they give to print journalists, and embraced the first-ever Book Bloggers Convention. And while last year at BEA many presses seemed uninterested in talking to bloggers, this year most were very welcoming.

What do the publicists you work with say about bloggers’s clout?

They definitely see our growing cultural influence. Caitlin Hamilton Summie, who handles publicity for Unbridled Books, recently told me, “Bloggers are driving much of the conversation nowadays about books (and publishing in general), and that conversation builds buzz, for both specific titles and for publishers’ brands. I expect the influence of bloggers only to build, especially because the blogging community is paying attention to all kinds of books the mainstream media is all too ready to dismiss.”

Erin Deedy at Peachtree Publishers says bloggers have helped raised awareness about the press: “We are still very new to book blogging and Twitter, having been involved for less than a year, so we are currently assessing the impact of blog tours, blog reviews, and social media. That being said, working with bloggers has increased peoples’ knowledge of Peachtree Publishers and our books. We’ve had so many more people seeking us out at shows and conferences or saying, “Hey, I love that book! I didn’t realize it was from Peachtree,” and we even have increased traffic on our blog and website on days when posts go up on [book] blogs.”

But it’s still not clear how much bloggers affect the bottom line, according to independent online publicist Lisa Roe: “Blogger coverage and the impact on book sales can be difficult to determine, given the variety of online purchasing options. The focus needs to be on how to utilize bloggers and their networks by connecting them with publicists, authors, and bookstores to create entire communities around titles. Personal attention to the readership goes a long way toward driving sales.”

How can book bloggers work together to have a bigger influence on book sales?

I can think of a few specific things bloggers have done that likely made a difference, although I have no way of measuring the effect. First, there have been several cases in which a single blogger has promoted a favorite book or author: For example, Alea from Pop Culture Junkie has been active in her support of Willow, by Julia Hoban, and Amy from My Friend Amy is hosting a reading challenge focused on books by one of her favorite authors, Beth Kephart. Some bloggers do an excellent job of covering author events and thus introduce their readers to authors in a personal and approachable manner. For example, Kathy from Berumdaonion’s Weblog reported on a local community event with author Jennifer Niven and then offered a signed book to one of her readers.

Some bloggers (like me) have run challenges or features that promote a particular imprint. I believe that I have made a difference for Amy Einhorn Books (even if slight). If nothing else, my readers now know the books, the imprint, and the editor. The authors in that imprint have been amazingly supportive and have helped promote the challenge. I plan to continue to promote favorite imprints and editors.

Do you think that bloggers partnering with booksellers might be a key to influencing sales?

Bloggers and independent bookstores can work together on a number of levels to hand-sell books and authors. If a bookstore publishes a newsletter, they could feature a local (or favorite) blogger’s review in each issue, and actively involve bloggers in their websites, through mutual links. Stores could also add a bloggers’ pick shelf to sit alongside the staff picks. I know of at least one instance where a bookstore (Just the Bookstore in Glen Ellyn, Illinois) printed up bookmarks to use in books that were recommended by particular bloggers (Jen of Devourer of Books was one of those bloggers – she tweeted a photo of her bookmark.

Some bloggers feel that if too many people cover the same books, it leads to a lack of variety on blogs. Yet, isn’t it important for bloggers to come to a consensus on a book – and spread the word widely – in order to have a significant impact on sales?

Very tricky question. I think if the buzz and mass of reviews come about naturally (perhaps like we saw with The Hunger Games or the Steig Larsson books), then there is a stronger impact and a longer-lasting wave. When 30 reviews appear of the same book appear within a week or so, but those reviews are the result of a tour, then there is a sense that the excitement is artificial, even if the book deserves the buzz.

Publicists and tour services have to walk a fine line between generating timely reviews and not over-saturating their audience. I think most companies have given up on the idea of a mass of reviews on a single day and are either asking their reviewers to post within a certain time period (say a two-month window) or are spreading out the tour stops.

The other side of this issue is that if everyone reviews the same books then how are we to discover the sleepers? I’m talking about the gems of books that used to be spotted by independent booksellers. This is an area in which bloggers could have an effect. I would love it if every blogger made an effort review at least one lesser-known book a month. If a blogger found a winner and if he or she promoted that book on the blog and/or by working with an independent bookstore, then maybe we’d see a revival of the hand-selling phenomenon.

Read Full Post »

“Let’s love one book together, our actual geographical location be damned.”

~Jeff Howe (aka @crowdsourcing)

Dear fellow FollowReader-ers,

Jeff Howe/@crowdsourcing

We have found a bookish soul mate. His name is Jeff Howe and he’s our guest on #FollowReader today. Jeff is a contributing editor at Wired Magazine, and coiner of the phrase and author of the book Crowdsourcing – which is all well and good, but not why we’re googly-eyed over him. We like Jeff ‘cuz Jeff has this really awesome idea about getting everyone on Twitter to read the same book at the same time and form a big international book club – kind of like IRL city/community-sponsored reading events, only on Twitter and with a much bigger virtual community.

He has dubbed the project, “One Book, One Twitter” or #1b1t. And, here’s how it envisions it working:

• Now: We collect nominations for what book we want to read.

• Soon: We pick a winner out of the top selections. Why not just pick the one with the most votes? Because it’s not too hard to game the system. The final selection needs to be of general interest. It needs to be translated into many, many languages, and ideally it should be freely available.

• Soon After That: We start reading, and tweeting, and reading, and tweeting.

Isn’t that just the best?

And don’t you really want to find out more and talk about title suggestions? Good! Then meet us on Twitter today at 4pm ET.

To join the #followreader conversation, here’s what to do:

  1. Just before 4pm ET today,  log in to Twitter or whatever interface you prefer. (We recommend Tweetchat, which refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.)
  2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
  3. I’ll start by asking Jeff a few questions, before opening up the discussion to the group.
  4. To post a comment to the discussion, make sure that the hashtag #followreader is in each tweet you write.

About Jeff Howe (@crowdsourcing)

Jeff Howe is a contributing editor at Wired Magazine, where he covers the media and entertainment industry, among other subjects. In June of 2006 he published “The Rise of Crowdsourcing” in Wired. He has continued to cover the phenomenon in his blog, crowdsourcing.com, and published a book on the subject for Crown Books in September 2008. Before coming to Wired he was a senior editor at Inside.com and a writer at the Village Voice. In his fifteen years as a journalist he has traveled around the world working on stories ranging from the impending water crisis in Central Asia to the implications of gene patenting. He has written for Time Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post, Mother Jones and numerous other publications. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Alysia Abbott, their daughter Annabel Rose and son Phineas and a miniature black lab named Clementine.

Read Full Post »

When it comes to building online communities around books, authors and publishing imprints, what are the top social media platforms and analytical tools? To what extent can the results of these online efforts be tied to increased book sales? And which independent publishers are ahead of the game, and what obstacles do they face?

These are some of the questions we explore in the second part of my conversation about building online communities with social media consultant Jesse McDougall, which picks up where we left off in Tuesday’s interview

Q&A with Jesse McDougall

What are the top two or three technologies have you found most valuable in engaging audiences online?

Twitter for daily conversation. A blog as a conduit for book, author, and community content. Blip.tv for serving up high-resolution video with no size or time restrictions.

For tracking your success and progress, ChartBeat, HootSuite, and Google Analytics are essential.

What concrete results have you achieved so far?

In the first year after Chelsea Green implemented the new social strategy, the company roughly doubled their web traffic. Eighteen months after launch, traffic regularly spiked to 150% over the starting point. In that time, Chelsea Green added several thousand people to the e-newsletter mailing list, grew to become the second-most-followed book publisher on Twitter, and established weekly content delivery relationships with top blogs in the niche (Huffington Post, PlanetGreen, Alternet, etc.). Also. many of Chelsea Green’s authors were invited to become regular contributors on many of these same blogs—increasing the exposure to new and major audiences.

To what extent can you tie your results to increased book sales?

At the present time, the effect social media promotions on book sales can be difficult to track. The only time a publisher can directly track sales from online promotion is if a person learns of a book “out in the digital wild” and then follows the accompanying link back to the publisher’s online bookstore where he or she purchases the book. If the person decides instead to purchase the book from their favorite local bookseller, or from a different online retailer, that sale is difficult (or impossible) to track directly back to online promotional efforts.

The best a publisher can do—if they would like to prove that their social media strategy improves sales—is to boost their own site traffic through social media outreach, and then focus on boosting their own site’s sales conversion rate to do a better job of converting the new traffic to sales.

Which publishers do you see as most effectively marketing their books this way?

Chelsea Green, obviously, is still doing a great job. O’Reilly is another great example. Greywolf Press in Minneapolis is doing a great job on Twitter. The keys to being effective are consistency, personality, and community involvement. These are not one-way media channels, they require that participants speak AND listen. The presses above do a great job of that.

What are the biggest obstacles for independent presses in building and maintaining these online audiences?

Time and staff. Some of these campaigns require significant upkeep. It can be difficult to find the time and people to maintain a consistent presence on any of these social media platforms. The key is to do something every (week) day—whether you can afford five people for five hours, or one person for ten minutes. People who reach out and contact you in any fashion on Twitter or Facebook or your blog will need a response, or they’ll disappear.

Do you see any downside to giving away books or content online?

Books should be owned and content should be free. Content is stolen when publishers make it easier to steal than to buy. By locking up digital content with DRM or asking readers to sign unholy licenses or making content exclusive to one vendor, publishers are making it more attractive to snub the law and steal (and distribute) the digital content than to buy it. Publishers should offer digital books and chapters for sale for a slightly reduced price straight from their web sites in an open-source (or universal) format. Currently, a DRM-free PDF gets my vote, but I see room for something better.

What technological tools or developments are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

I’m looking forward to the development of mobile media. I think that high-quality digital content delivery through mobile devices with screens big enough for reading long-format books will revolutionize book reading and book content. Paper books will continue to have their place and incredible value. Lifelong readers recognize that and will continue to buy paper books for their unique virtues. Electronic devices will never be as good as paper books for quiet, powerless, peaceful reading.

However, once high-quality digital mobile content delivery is done well, book content can grow beyond paper and e-ink devices. Books will slowly evolve to look more like web pages, with links, supplemental videos, audio clips, and the book publisher’s intended formatting and design. Of course, plain text should still be an option for readers who don’t want to be bothered with the flash and bother of videos, etc., but the option for all the bells and whistles we’re already used to on the web should be available as well. The ability to include such ancillary content will provide publishers with an entirely new product that offers more than the bound book can or should. This new product could be a powerful new revenue stream.

Read Full Post »

As the digital landscape evolves into subject areas with their own distinctive topographies and constituencies, some publishers have begun developing their own online “reader communities,” as a part of their long term marketing strategy for their books, authors and imprints.

One trailblazer in this area is social media consultant and web programmer Jesse McDougall, who I first met at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change conference in 2009, where he was clearly more evolved in his thinking on this topic than the other independent publishers in attendance that year.

Read on for the first installment in my two- part interview with Jesse – about the art and science of building reader communities.

Jesse McDougall in a nutshell: 

  • Current position: consulting under his own shingle at Catalyst Webworks—a web development and social media consulting firm in White River Junction, VT. Check out his blog here.
  • Biggest client to date: Chelsea Green Publishing, for whom he developed a web site redesign and online marketing strategies (for more details, see my Publishers Weekly article on how publishers use Twitter).
  • Recent star turns: at Tools of Change 2010, ran a social media workshop; at Digital Book World, appeared on my panel about Building Publisher Communities; and was a guest on our weekly #followreader chat on Twitter (recapped here)
  • Credits: author of Expand Your Business Using eBay and Start Your Own Blogging Business.

Questions for Jesse

What does online outreach to reader communities have in common with traditional book marketing, and how does it differ?

Books are social creations. They are borrowed, shared, recommended, and discussed in the physical world every day. Publishers send authors out to book signings, interviews, and speaking engagements in the hopes of bringing together like-minded book fans to ignite discussion and spark a hopefully-lively word-of-mouth campaign. The goal of marketing books online is no different. Social media platforms and new content recommendation tools not only make these digital communities possible, but they also increase the speed and range of the word-of-mouth campaigns ten-thousand times over. That means a person attending a digital webinar by an author has the ability to tell and invite 300+ friends with the click of a mouse, where a person attending a real-world seminar only tells his friends in town, and maybe only an out-of-work cousin can make it.

One of Chelsea Green’s most successful campaigns was to run a weekly contest on Twitter. This brief and easy 10-minute contest drew 40-50 people every week, and through them we were able to contact a total of 15,000+ people with links to our website. That exponential potential isn’t possible in traditional marketing.

In your work with Chelsea Green and other clients, what steps have you taken to build focused audiences within specific subject categories on the Web?

The internet is organizing itself into crowds. People are seeking out and aligning themselves with like-minded people. Home gardeners are finding other home gardeners, motorcyclists are finding other motorcyclists, and so on. These groups of people are taking part in conversations that can span all the major (and some niche) social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

The first step is to examine the niches in which you publish. Once you’ve got a clear idea of the audience (or audiences) you’d like to reach, you must seek them out online. For example, there may be thousands of stay-at-home mothers talking on Twitter for the quick interactions it allows, but very few of them visit YouTube because they don’t have time for a 4-minute video.

Find your audience—wherever they are—and listen to them. Join their groups, or feed, or page, and listen to them. Join the conversation only once you’ve got a clear idea of the conversation and etiquette. Add value to the conversation by offering friendly expertise from your books—when and where appropriate—with a link to find more. Do not offer sales pitches. The content should sell itself.

Over time, your participation in the discussion should come to be seen as valuable, and therefore folks will pass along the content you provide.

How do you evaluate whether or not your efforts are paying off?

One of the most exciting aspects of online marketing—and something that I think spoils us for untrackable offline campaigns—is the ability to gather information about the audience. Most social media networks and blog software has the ability to display demographic and location information about the people choosing to participate in your online efforts.

For example, if, after reviewing your audience statistics, you find that your Facebook page is trafficked by women in their 40 without kids at 4PM, you can tailor your Facebook efforts to suit that audience. Perhaps you’ll post more information from books designed for that audience. Or, you might run a contest on the page at 4PM.

The data a publisher can collect about the people engaging with their book content is one of the main benefits to participating in social media—second only to the exposure to new potential customers. The social strategy should be, after all, focused on meeting and learning about your ideal audience.

Part Two of this interview is here.

Read Full Post »

Ashleigh Gardner of The Dundurn Group

These days it’s a given that authors will be expected to take part in the marketing of their books. But, navigating the world of book marketing is no easy task for an author, and there are no hard and fast rules for them to follow.

Which is why it was such a pleasure to hear how one particular publisher’s marketing team has taken the lead in helping authors help them. In part three  (the last part) of our behind the scenes look into the world of book marketing, publicity and advertising,  I asked Ashleigh Gardner, Manager of Digital Development at The Dundurn Group, all about Dundurn’s innovative author marketing program, dubbed “The Author Countdown.”

KM: Can you sum up in a few sentences what your author countdown is?

AG: Starting on a bi-weekly basis — and increasing in frequency as the publication date nears — our authors are automatically sent a customized e-mail from us. Some of the messages are tutorials, some are informative to let the authors know what stage we’re at in-house, and some are just showing them some fun things that other authors are doing.

KM: What inspired you to create the author countdown program?

AG: Shortly after I started at Dundurn, close friends of mine found out they were expecting a baby. They signed up for those automated weekly e-mails that let them know what’s going on, and what they need to do based on their due date.

I loved hearing their updates each week and it was an easy jump to see the possibilities to inform authors. So many people refer to their books as their children, and there is so much worry and insecurity about the process and misdirected energy. When an author first signs, especially first-time authors, they want to do everything all at once. Our Countdown helps break down the process into manageable chunks so that both our team and the author get the information that they need when they need it.

KM: What kinds of info do you send to the author’s each week?

AG: Some weeks it’s just useful information, like a staff roster that lets you know who to contact with what questions. Other weeks it’s tutorials on popular social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook. We have some that give them direct tasks to aid our efforts. We’ve recently added some that are targeted to a smaller group, so only authors within a certain subject get a message that’s relevant to them.

KM: How have Dundurn’s authors responded to the countdown – are they all enthusiastic, do some object to being tasked with marketing responsibilities?

AG: Almost everyone is enthusiastic and it’s definitely helped communication. While some authors in the past have had the belief that their only job is to write the book, I think that’s definitely changing and not something I’ve experienced much of in my position. Almost everyone is going online for information these days — authors included. And with the attention the mainstream media is paying to author promotion online, it’s easier to get them on board.

As publisher we can (and do!) as much as we can for our books — but readers trust the author more than the publisher. They’re the authority, they’re the creators, and they’re the ones that the fans want to interact with.

KM: Have you made any changes to the countdown program based on author feedback?

AG: Definitely! Some of our authors have come back with more questions and, where the answers can be general, they often become their own message to everybody. We also have some authors who have been inspired to do really creative promotion from the letters and then we add their examples in for everyone to see.

It’s also been changed by outside influences. A good blog post or a new site launch can inspire a new countdown message. Meghan at Booknet Canada has recently posted some fantastic Social Media How To’s on their website. After reading those I incorporated some of their tips and added the links to our suggested reading.

KM: Can you give an example of a Dundurn author who done a really good of promoting their book? Did they need a lot of coaching? Did they just jump in and start promoting?

AG: The authors who are the best at social media are the best self-promoters, period. It’s only new tools for the same jobs. One of our savviest authors online, Jill Edmondson, is also the most creative with promotion offline.

I find most authors need help with the technical issues, and have a few questions about the culture of certain sites and how they work. Once they see a few examples and get comfortable, they’re often able to jump in and make it their own.

KM: Can you give an example where social media marketing just didn’t seem to work for the title or author?

AG: There have been some places where I didn’t think we’d have a big response online and I was proven wrong!

I think that as far as specific books go, you can find a place online for any title. The internet has made it so easy for communities to gather, it’s easier to find groups that are interested in our content. And, with good search engine optimization, it’s never been easier for them to find you!

Where social media marketing doesn’t work is where the author is resistant. It’s hard to create enthusiasm online for a book when the author is impersonal and hesitant to interact with their audience. A lot of older authors have fears of losing their privacy when it comes to online networking and I think it’s important to remember that you’re in control of what you put out there. You don’t have to be personal, but be personable.

KM: What one piece of advice would you give to publicists/marketing staff who are trying to get their authors to promote their books via social media?

AG: For the most part, work in baby steps. I think a lot of authors are overwhelmed thinking that they need to be on every site with a million followers and it paralyzes them into doing nothing. It’s so much better to strategically choose a few projects and do them well than to have an out-of-date profile on every site you can find. I usually have authors start with a Facebook Fan Page because these days almost everyone they know will be on Facebook and that instant growth and feedback is great for momentum.

KM: What one piece of advice would you give to authors about taking on the social media marketing of their books?

AG: Watch first, then act. Start reading the blog of an author you admire. Become a fan of lots of Facebook pages so you can decide what’s working and what isn’t. Sign up for every eNewsletter to see what the competition is doing.

And, most of all, have an idea of who you’re doing it for. Know who your reader is, where they are online, and what they’re interested in.

Read Full Post »

In this second of three posts all about book marketing, publicity and advertising, Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson of Verso Digital Advertising were kind enough to offer some really great advice to authors and publishing professionals alike on how to make the most of the many advertising and marketing options available — and yes, they even have advice for authors with no budget!

[Verso recently published an incredibly insightful survey of book-buying behavior which is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the book industry. Check it out here. And for more info about Verso, check out Charlotte Abbott’s interview with Tom and Denise from late last year.]

KM:What one piece of advice would you give to publicists/marketing staff who are trying to figure out online marketing?

DB: Know your book’s audience: everything you do flows from that—where you go, what you say, and how you say it. In terms of social media, this is obvious. But it’s also true of other, more traditional forms of marketing such as advertising, direct mail, and event marketing.

TT: Believe it or not, social media didn’t invent the idea of communities! It has only changed how many new ones tend to come together at the moment. While the mega-companies like Proctor and Gamble have had to reboot their entire marketing machine, book marketing has always been more about niche targeting than mass because we’ve never had the huge budgets that make major brand campaigns work.

DB: Looked at in this light, for example, the NYTBR is a highly important locus for the general book community: authors, agents, booksellers, publishers. While its ability to move massive sales has diminished, it has not disappeared – which is why we continue to find that ads there still work for the right book.

TT: It’s also important not to lose sight of scale in all the talk about community. To really have an impact, you need to reach a lot of people. This may seem obvious, but too often I see “marketing fibs” (e.g., $500 of Facebook ads, or a few Tweets) standing in for comprehensive marketing plans that will reach many hundreds of thousands of readers.

DB: In terms of social media, if you’re a publishing house that’s a full-fledged member of the relevant community, congratulations: you can now go to town with your Twitter account, Facebook fan page, blog, and comment fields far and wide. If you’re not the expert in your community—and let’s face it, most publishers aren’t at this point—then help your author develop his/her status in the community. If that author doesn’t have status, now’s the time to start building it.

KM: Self-publishing authors, and even traditionally published authors must be more involved than ever in the marketing efforts for their books. What one piece of advice would you give to authors who are trying to figure out online marketing?

TT: If you’re one of the vast majority of authors who don’t have a lot of money to spend, don’t worry about advertising, cut straight for social media. As an author you have an advantage over your publisher because you have the true passion, expertise in the field, and long-term brand commitment you need to make social media work. But if you try to do it all—Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc.—you will quickly run out of gas. There are still only 24 hours in the day, and you also have new books to write, a day job to work, and chickens to tend.

So the big lesson here is: pick one or two things that you do well and (here’s the real secret) that you really enjoy. If you hate the idea of the blog commitment, try Twitter. If you find Twitter inane, get busy in the comment fields of relevant websites.  If that’s all too much, maybe just try starting locally with a group at your local bookstore, or library. Nathan Bransford wrote a great post on this: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/01/key-to-marketing-your-book-time-well.html

DB: And if your publisher is offering any ad support, make sure they’re fully aware of your efforts, and tie in the ad campaign to your own outreach by driving people to your blog, your fan page, or whatever it is you are doing.

TT: There are a few (very few) authors who have the resources to run an ad campaign of their own across media with all guns blazing. At the agency, we have seen a lot more business on this front in the last few years from authors  taking care of their brands themselves. We love working with authors. They always get the big picture.

KM: What are the major differences between print advertising and online advertising?

DB: What’s even more interesting to me than the differences are the similarities. The golden rule of advertising is to be where your market is. Of course everyone’s online now, but print’s not dead yet, a hell of a lot of people still watch TV, and radio, billboards and bus ads continue to have their place.

TT: Gary Vaynerchuck gets a lot of air time these days for being a new media king, but even he took out ads on billboards, taxi tops and newspapers for his most recent book. Why? Because that’s where people are looking. The smart thing he did was to make sure that the ads all tied in to his other efforts, including online. He looked at it as all one marketing push, with many means.

KM: In a nutshell, can you tell us what Verso does? Can you give us a few examples of campaigns you’ve put together and results?

TT: Verso Advertising is a full-service agency. That means we plan and buy media as well as handling creative for all kinds of advertising: online, print, broadcast, and outdoor. Some of the most fulfilling campaigns are those in which we can work in several media at once and have all the pieces working together to support the book.

DB: An example of this is a recent campaign for Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta. We started by teasing the new hardcover months before publication in ads for the author’s previous book. We amortized the budget for video production over broadcast, online and publicity channels by shooting and editing spots for a :15 TV spot, a behind-the-scenes video for the author’s site, a book trailer, as well as a promotional video that was easily customizable for use on morning shows, websites, and more. We also made sure that the print and outdoor ads we ran drove people to all the online efforts.  It was the ideal campaign in that each piece worked to amplify every other piece.

KM: Can you further define, and give some advice to publishers AND authors about “marketing fibs?”

DB: Too often a publisher will announce that they’re putting a major push behind an author, but the reality is empty. Maybe they tout a book’s “national advertising campaign” to the author, bookseller or the media, but the campaign is really $100 worth of ads on Facebook. Or maybe they declare “a major social media campaign,” when all they’re doing is sending out a few tweets from the publisher’s username. The problem for publishers is that these kinds of “fibs” devalue real work they do in other areas, and make it less likely that a legitimately strong social media campaign will be taken seriously. See under: All hat, no cattle.

KM: Do you think anything has been, or risks being, lost as discussions about, and around books migrate more and more to the online ecosystem? What do you see as the benefits of this shift to an online book community?

TT: The immediate losses are the book reviews that can reach enough people in one go to make a real difference in book sales. The other problem with the loss of these book reviews that I don’t hear spoken of much, is the reality that the old print book reviews paid enough to give many authors the supplemental income to make a writing life possible as a career.

DB: I see a lot of potential benefits to the online book community, but frankly I don’t think they’ve kicked in yet. At some point, soon I hope, there will be a real process for discovery of new titles that will involve citizen readers. Maybe this will come from a book community like Librarything or Goodreads (where some of the most influential members are not well-known authors but regular reviewers). Maybe a singular online resource will emerge, like the New York Times Book Review was in its heyday, that will be able to introduce readers to new authors and make careers with a single review. But I doubt it will be one answer. I think it’s more likely to be collaborative: a review aggregation tool or a field of communities.

TT: People keep waiting for the device that will be like an iPhone for books. But the revolutionary thing about the iPhone isn’t the device. It’s the wickedly broad and divergent community the device opened up through apps.

DB: As we move away from desktops and laptops toward mobile computing, we will see that the most successful campaigns will tie in the digital with the physical world, be it through QR codes, geo-location communities like Foursquare and Gowalla, or simply more sophisticated geo-targeting. That’s where everyone with a stake in the future of publishing needs to be looking right now. I think there’s good news there for readers, publishers, booksellers, and authors.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »