publishing strategy


bed in bookstoreJust as libraries have been steadily overtaken by technology – in the form of computerized indexes, so too are bookstores now being drawn into the techno vortex.   Commentators have alternately speculated about the death of the book retailer and also a coming renaissance in book selling.

So I thought it was time to join the fray.  Here are a couple of thoughts about how the new bookstore might evolve:

  • Bookstore goes multi-format – Bookstore becomes multi-format selling e-books and print books together.  Barnes & Noble is already headed in this direction.  Customers might purchase a combination of e-books and p-books; an e-book to read on the airplane during a business trip, and a p-book to be sent as a gift for a friend’s birthday.
  • Library as bookstore – Libraries, strapped for cash during the Great Recession, might use an Espresso Book Machine to let patrons print and purchase a book they really like.  Or they sell older copies as used at a big discount and replace them with fresh copies.
  • Bookstore everywhere – Print or download at the point of purchase vending machines with built in Amazon style search capability could someday replace the retail bookstore and make bookselling as ubiquitous as snack dispensing.
  • Bookstore as new “book plus”Teleread also imagines a bookstore as a new “third place” for us (after home and the office) where we’ll have the comforts of home (food, comfortable place to hang out) and the convenience of office outside the office (good Internet connection).  Yet we’ll be surrounded by books.

In any of these or other forms, the new bookstore might pose a credible challenge to the online bookstores.  Higher margins on a larger number of e-book sales could even allow for lower prices for p-books.  It seems likely that bringing technology into the bookstore, as well as the economic pressures on bookstores today, will lead retailers to provide customers with an experience that combines the best parts of the old and new bookstore.


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Successful authors – whether intentionally or not – usually develop a strong brand identity for their work and themselves.  In the past, this often entailed an expensive PR and marketing campaign.  Now, the advent of social media has made brand building  more accessible and affordable.  Social media marketing is still in its infancy and the playbook seems to be rewritten daily. To learn more about this evolving area of book marketing, I decided to consult a public relations expert, Patricia Vaccarino.

Patricia Vaccarino has over 20 years of experience working with a wide range of national and international clients, in all areas of public relations: managing worldwide campaigns for global companies and developing strategy for small companies, startup ventures, non-profits, foundations, and individuals. She is especially well known for her talents in strategic planning and branding for individuals who are experts in their respective fields. She owns her own public relations firm Xanthus Communications.  Patricia has also published a book, PR for People, that provides people all of the pieces they need to create a solid brand identity that will help them to get hired, develop their careers and increase their business.  She currently represents over 150 individuals, many of whom can be viewed on http://www.prforpeople.com.

I recently asked Patricia about the impact social media marketing is having on book marketing.

FPP –  How has the emergence of social media affected book marketing and PR during the last two years, if at all?

PV – Social Media has evolved to be one of the most important components of book marketing and PR. Not to oversimplify the matter but book marketing and PR is like a stool with three legs: Press, Networking and Social Media. You can’t be effective unless all three “legs” are strong and balanced.

FPP – You’ve often spoken about the “slow-cooked” branding process. Could you explain what you mean by that term and how social media plays a role in that process?

PV – The man who wakes up and one day and finds himself suddenly famous was not an overnight success. It takes a minimum of five years to build a strong brand. Take Facebook, for example, this is a company that is now celebrating its sixth birthday. For the first three years of Facebook’s life, it gained momentum over time among twenty-somethings. It wasn’t until its fourth year that the company gained traction among all the rest of us. It took five full years for this brand and business to become firmly entrenched in our psyche and to get many of us to become users.

FPP – What are some of the essential things an author should do to leverage social media in the marketing of his / her books?

PV – Set up a Facebook page that defines your persona as an author and clearly distinguishes how you are different from other authors. Facebook should tell the story of who you are personally and how you live without being maudlin or stupid in what you reveal. Use Twitter in a way that strategically points followers to your book. Create a tweet platform composed of all the individual tweets that you will post over a sustained period of time. Your tweet platform should have a theme and not just be a rambling of disjointed tweets that are purely self-promotional. Be creative come up with tweets that are saying something powerful and important and yet are all connected thematically.

FPP – Is there a rule of thumb publishers should follow regarding the investment in traditional marketing versus social media marketing for their titles?

PV – Every book and every author needs to be assessed according to the target audiences that they are trying to reach. For some books it may make much more sense to rely more heavily on traditional media whereas in other instances heavy use of social media is the most effective tool. Always ask yourself who is your audience? What do they read? What do they watch? Are they using social media? Let the audience dictate the type of media that you will choose to use.

FPP–  There are so many different social media venues these days.   How should an author prioritize his or her use of social media?

PV – You need to be very discipline d about using social media. Before you sign on to any social media site, you need to first decide exactly what you will do. If you are not clear and focused, you will spend more time than you should and that can seriously damage your overall marketing strategy. Remember time is your most valuable asset.

FPP – Is there a minimum time investment in social media that an author should plan on each week to maintain an effective presence?

PV – When you are in the building phase i.e., acquiring a following or gaining friends, it can take an hour or so a day. After your infrastructure or network has been established, you need to get your time down to a maximum of 15 minutes a day.

FPP – Are there social media venues that are more effective for marketing or PR purposes in non-fiction, fiction, or certain genres?

PV – It is different for every genre and there are new social media sites popping up every day. You need to do your research and keep it current.

FPP = How can an author avoid mixing personal and professional messages when using social media to promote a book?

PV – We have entered a time when there is a tremendous blurring of the boundaries between what is personal and what is professional. Anything you post, or tweet must be subject to a test: The test is what do you stand for? What you stand for defines your professional brand. Your professional brand speaks to who you are both professionally and personally, and must connote integrity, value and strength. So before you post, always ask yourself what do you stand for?

FPP – Are there guidelines to measure the effectiveness of social media marketing in selling more books?

PV – The thing speaks for itself. Are you getting an increase in book sales?

FPP – What trends do you see for the use of social media in book marketing during the next few years?

PV – The good news is social media and book marketing will help good to great books achieve a success that lasts. There is no longer the six-week shelf life to promote books. Good to great books can be promoted indefinitely and achieve classic status. The concept of Slow-cooked brand will endure.

1.  How has the emergence of social media affected book marketing and PR during the last two years, if at all?  Social Media has evolved to be one of the most important components of book marketing and PR.  Not to oversimplify the matter but book marketing and PR is like a stool with three legs: Press, Networking and Social Media.  You can’t be effective unless all three “legs” are strong and balanced.

2.  You’ve spoken about the “slow-cooked” branding process.  Could you explain what you mean by that term and how social media plays a role in that process? The man who wakes up and one day and finds himself suddenly famous was not an overnight success.  It takes a minimum of five years to build a strong brand.  Take Facebook, for example, this is a company that is now celebrating its sixth birthday.  For the first three years of Facebook’s life, it gained momentum over time among twenty-somethings. It wasn’t until its fourth year that the company gained traction among all the rest of us. It took five full years for this brand and business to become firmly entrenched in our psyche and to get many of us to become users.

3.  What are some of the essential things an author should do to leverage social media in the marketing of his / her books? Set up a Facebook page that defines your persona as an author and clearly distinguishes how you are different from other authors. Facebook should tell the story of who you are personally and how you live without being maudlin or stupid in what you reveal. Use Twitter in a way that strategically points followers to your book.  Create a tweet platform composed of all the individual tweets that you will post over a sustained period of time.  Your tweet platform should have a theme and not just be a rambling of disjointed tweets that are purely self-promotional.  Be creative come up with tweets that are saying something powerful and important and yet are all connected thematically.

4.  Is there a rule of thumb publishers should follow regarding the investment in traditional marketing versus social media marketing for their titles?  Every book and every author needs to be assessed according to the target audiences that they are trying to reach.  For some books it may make much more sense to rely more heavily on traditional media whereas in other instances heavy use of social media is the most effective tool.  Always ask yourself who is your audience?  What do they read? What do they watch? Are they using social media?  Let the audience dictate the type of media that you will choose to use.

5.  There are so many different social media venues these days.  How should an author prioritize his or her use of social media? You need to be very discipline d about using social media. Before you sign on to any social media site, you need to first decide exactly what you will do.  If you are not clear and focused, you will spend more time than you should and that can seriously damage your overall marketing strategy. Remember time is your most valuable asset.

6.  Is there a minimum time investment in social media that an author should plan on each week to maintain an effective presence?  When you are in the building phase i.e., acquiring a following or gaining friends, it can take an hour or so a day.  After your infrastructure or network has been established, you need to get your time down to a maximum of 15 minutes a day.

7.  Are there social media venues that are more effective for marketing or PR purposes in non-fiction, fiction, or certain genres?  It is different for every genre and there are new social media sites popping up every day.  You need to do your research and keep it current.

8.  How can an author avoid mixing personal and professional messages when using social media to promote a book?  We have entered a time when there is a tremendous blurring of the boundaries between what is personal and what is professional.   Anything you post, or tweet must be subject to a test:  The test is what do you stand for?  What you stand for defines your professional brand. Your professional brand speaks to who you are both professionally and personally, and must connote integrity, value and strength.  So before you post, always ask yourself what do you stand for?

9.  Are there guidelines to measure the effectiveness of social media marketing in selling more books?  The thing speaks for itself. Are you getting an increase in book sales?

10.  What trends do you see for the use of social media in book marketing during the next few years? The Good news is social media and book marketing will help good to great books achieve a success that lasts.  There is no longer the six-week shelf life to promote books. Good to great books can be promoted indefinitely and achieve classic status. The concept of Slow-cooked brand will endure.


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FAIL blog LOLcatsThe FAIL blog is a blog for our times.  It’s a visual celebration of human foibles and fallability.   The Wikipedia describes the site and its community thus:

. . . a comedic blog website originally created by Leechio in January 2008. The blog steadily grew in popularity, and in April 2008 was sold to Pet Holdings Inc., owner of I Can Has Cheezburger?.  The site prominently features pictures and videos of someone (or something) failing at something they are supposed to do, or displaying blatant stupidity or incompetence, captioned with the words “fail” or “epic fail”.

The site has become wildly popular and fostered its own FAIL community.  Visitors can upload their own fail pictures or videos and also vote on their favorite fails.  The success of the site has led to the word “fail” becoming the go to adjective or noun used for any kind of wacky failure.  There are degrees of fail – e.g. EPIC FAIL.  The inevitable imitation fail blogs have begun appearing – there’s even a FAIL-book social site.

BEST OF FAIL BLOG: VERSION 2 

FAIL Nation book coverNo surprise then that the folks who started the FAIL blog and I Can Has Cheezburger Blog sites have published a book based on the blog content called FAIL Nation.  Described as “. . . your silent guide and handler to the not-even-close-to-perfect nation of FAIL, chock-full of irrelevant tips and useless suggestions” the book has defied its title and marched to an Amazon sales rank of  6,873 since it’s release in October. 

Much like the print success of Frank Warren’s Post Secret series, FAIL Nation has proven that its highly visual blog material can translate to book success.  Can Hollywood be far behind? 

Sometimes FAIL is WIN.


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Several interlinked shifts are leading to a whole new ecology within book publishing.   First is the loss of jobs in the industry.  Over the past year, for example, employment in print related industries, including book publishing, has fallen by almost 90,000 jobs.  Second, as technology plays a bigger role in all aspects of book publishing, many publishing jobs are becoming obsolete or are being radically transformed.  Third, the expectations that publishers have of authors is changing.  More and more, authors are asked to do a greater share of the marketing for their titles both before and after publication.

At the same time,  the continuing democritization of book publishing means that more books are being produced and marketed than ever before despite the down economy. These trends are symptomatic of an ongoing process of creative destruction and haves created a (mostly) freelance ecology of contractors who are retooling for the new era in publishing,

In addition to the traditional freelance jobs associated with the development of a book, here are some examples of non-traditional jobs this new ecosystem does or might include:

  • Ghost blogger – Many authors use blogs now as a way to build and maintain an audience for their work.  But blogging can be time consuming and the pace of frequent blogging can be demanding.  A ghost blogger is an individual that writes blog posts or tweets on behalf of an author.
  • Blog tour specialist – A person who sets up and manages blog tours, where an author’s work is reviewed on blog sites pertinent to the book’s content.

How to Create a Virtual Book Tour

  • Social media specialist – Someone who monitors and manages an author’s online presence, especially as it relates to the use of social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Shelfari and the like.  Many folks from the realms of traditional book PR are moving into this area.
  • Book project manager – As more of the work of marketing titles shifts to authors, they will need the assistance of a team of specialists who can help them get the greatest possible exposure for their work.  The role of this person is to help guide the author through the maze of choices and assemble / manage the right team of people for their book project.
  • Web developer – The continuing incursion of technology into book publishing arena brings with it the need for experts to help with author website development, widget creation, even database setup for certain types of titles.
  • E-book conversion specialists – There are now many e-book formats, some easier to navigate than others.  A number of companies and individuals now provide assistance with getting titles converted into all the major formats and making sure they look good in those formats.
  • Book video producers – Book trailers are becoming a popular and effective marketing tool.  Creating and distributing a quality video usually requires expertise outside that of the author or their publisher.
  • Analytics interpreter – These days, authors and publishers can be awash in numbers- e.g. website traffic, blog metrics, book sales data from BookScan, social media stats.  Gathering and interpreting this data will become more important as we move from intuition based to evidence based publishing.  Making sense of it all could become a specialty of its own.
  • Online writing coaches – This individual works with authors making the transition to new, compressed forms of writing – e.g. mobile phones, blogs, Twitter, etc.

The emergence of a new book publishing ecosystem is inevitable as the industry embraces technology.  It offers new opportunities and hope for those who have been displaced from book publishing firms over the last decade.


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Nick BelardesAs social media, like Facebook and Twitter, become more embedded into our lives, it seems only natural that writers would begin exploring how to use them as a new literary medium.  At first glance, it doesn’t seem feasible or sensible to consider a service like Twitter as a writing vehicle; after all what can you possibly say in 140 characters.  But, as Sarah Schmelling recently noted in the Huffington Post:

Twitter, too, is full of stories. It may be a cacophony of voices, but you can still easily “follow” someone through the establishment of their problem, rising tension, conflict, climax and resolution. And the trends like “first draft movie lines” can also be narrative entertainment: they’re like the movie scene where someone starts singing and little by little everyone, even that unlikely thug in the corner, eventually joins in.

Like full-blown blogs, Twitter microblogs could emerge as another form of writing in public.  The experiments are well underway.  These projects come in several flavors:

  • Story in chunks – A single author builds the story post by post.  He or she may already have a manuscript, but it gets chunked out a 140 or fewer characters at a time.  Author Nick Belardes has used this approach in his two Twitter novels Small Places and Bumble Square. 
  • Single post, single story – The ultra compressed novel.  An example is novelsin3lines by Félix Fénéon.  This is akin to the first draft movie lines that Ms. Schmelling refers to.
  • Collaborative story seeds -A starting post, followed by a sequence of  Twitter posts contributed by followers.  This process creates a story like one of those school science projects where you grow a crystal in a liquid.  One example is BBC Audiobooks America Twitter novel project.  Here is how it works.  Author Neil Gaiman kicked off the novel with the post:  Sam was brushing her hair when the girl in the mirror put down the hairbrush, smiled & said, “We don’t love you anymore.”  Thousands of people have responded with the next possible sentences.  The selected tweets are chosen by BBC Audiobooks and the final result will be posted on iTunes as a free podcast.

neil_gaiman_Twitter_post

For more examples, check out the Read Write Web which posted a nice list of Twitter novels in progress. 

Inspired?  Brandon Mendelson, who has written the Twitter novel The Falcon Can Hear the Falconer, has posted some good advice for wannabe Twitter novelists on TwiTips.  Key among his pointers is to maintain a separate site to provide the story’s updates from where it began and link to this site from the Twitter novel site.

So far, publishers aren’t lining up to sign Twitter novelists.  But as the medium evolves, it could become a good place to try out story ideas and see what can build a following.  Japanese cell phone novelists have shown that novels in short bites can be successful.  (Now, if we could only come up with a better name for this writing form – something that didn’t start with “Tw” and sound like baby talk.)


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The day of the m-book (e-books on mobile phones)  is rapidly approaching.  Recently one of the founders of LexCycle, the company that makes the Stanza e-book reader for iPhone, recently spoke at a Book Publishers Northwest meeting.  Stanaza’s numbers are impressive.  In a very short time, over 100,000 titles have been converted into Stanza books.  And there are now more than 1.3 million readers using Stanza on iPhones.  And Stanza has added some distribution muscle by teaming up with two major retail partners, Fictionwise and Smashwords (both of which also provide e-books in other formats as well). 

Stanza iPhone App Review – AppVee.com

LexCycle was purchased by Amazon in April.  Unlike the Kindle, it uses the open standard epub format for its e-books.  With the purchase of Stanza, Amazon may be hedging two bets – the popularity of reading books on a large form factor, single use device in a proprietary format versus a multi-function, small form factor, standard format mobile phone.  Single function mobile devices have an annoying habit of becoming obsolete.

The success of Stanza has me wondering – how will the spread of m-books change the way we regard books and the manner in which we read?   

Size won’t matter.  As books go digital, the notion of personal library becomes something you carry in your pocket.  It’s no big deal to have thousands of songs in your iPod; why not thousands of books on your iPhone (memory permitting).

We’ll need reading management apps.  Gigantic personal libraries means we’ll need apps to help sort it all out and find what we need when we need it. 

Read me a story.  When its difficult to read, we can switch to an audio mode.  Every book will come with two modes – text and audio. For example while commuting on a crowded bus or train,or in your car (there is already a controversy starting to brew about people reading books on their mobile phones while driving).  

Books will become more social.  Finding and texting interesting book snippets to friends will be easy.   

Books will be processed, as well as read.  Processing book content with other apps.  For example, clicking on a location mentioned in a title and using Google maps to view the locale.  Or mark inspiring passages and have them shown to us periodically. 

Perhaps none of this will happen.  It may be that the biggest change m-books will have is simply to make us read more, if in a different manner.  With libraries and educational institutions leading the way, books are being reconceptualized as downloads and reading as an app.   

A Reading Revolution – CBS News


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Google and book settlementThe Google Book Settlement has become the stuff of great courtroom fiction – a battle of titans over the future of digital publishing.  Google’s agreement with the American Association of Publishers and the Authors Guild had been plodding along toward what seemed like an uneventful conclusion.   However, last minute filings by the opposition have made court approval less certain.

The original settlement called for:

  • Payment of $125 million to settle claims and set up a book Registry
  • Give Google the right to store digital copies of books covered by the settlement
  • Let Google include these books in its search results, sell online versions and license book-scans to libraries
  • Allows millions of “orphan” works (books still under copyright but whose copyright-holders can’t be found) to be included in Google’s program

Opponents claim the settlement would, in essence, allow Google to create the world’s largest digital library and bookstore, stifling innovation and competition.  According to the New York Times, filings opposing the settlement have been submitted by a host of organizations, including:

  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • Yahoo!
  • Sony
  • groups representing authors and publishers
  • Some foreign governments
  • Antitrust and economics experts in academia
Gary Reback

Gary Reback

Some of these groups have joined a coalition called the Open Book Alliance, co-led by Gary Reback, an antitrust attorney in Silicon Valley who in the 1990s helped persuade the Justice Department to file its landmark antitrust case against Microsoft.  Many of these companies have a vital stake in the digital future of books and are anxious to block any attempt by Google to secure an advantage in managing the process by which readers access and consume book content.  According to the Wall Street Journal, no major publishers in the US have come out against the settlement, though some foreign publisher groups are opposed.

Judge Denny Chin

Judge Denny Chin

The settlement is being reviewed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York by Judge Denny Chin.  Now the Department of Justice has weighed in with a letter that could alter the course of the settlement.  An article in ZDNet reported that the DOJ letter characterizes the settlement as:

  • Being not “fair, reasonable and adequate to the class members
  • In violation of antitrust law
  • Shutting off competition in digital distribution

Pretty heavy stuff.  But the DOJ is providing some guidance on how to make the settle more palatable.  ZDNet quotes from the letter on this point:

This risk of market foreclosure would be substantially ameliorated if the Proposed Settlement could be amended to provide some mechanism by which Google’s competitors’ could gain comparable access to orphan works (whatever such access turns out to be assuming the parties negotiate modifications to the settlement).

According to CBS News, Google has promised to share its electronic index with its rivals.  The next round in the drama that has become the Goggle Book Settlement will be played out in court on October 7.  Stay tuned!


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