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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Social Media Pros-Cons For Book Publishing

Millions of Americans make daily blog entries, share video and photos, tweet, or post information on places like Facebook.  Certainly many do so for fun and to socialize online.  But what about those who do it because they want to profit from it?  Is it worth their time and effort to do it?

Before we answer that question, let’s examine the potential non-financial payoffs:
1.      Make new friends or keep up with existing relationships.
2.      Share ideas and information that is meaningful to you in hopes you will help or influence others.
3.      Serve your inflated ego and narcissistic leanings.
4.      Initiate a public dialogue on an issue or topic of importance.
5.      It may help you get noticed by major news media.

Now let’s look at the potential monetized payoff:
1.      It sells something, like a book -- hopefully lots of them.
2.      It brands you as an expert who can then charge higher fees for existing services/products.
3.      Generates more business or provides more client leads.
4.      Helps you raise funds for a project, non-profit, or foundation.
5.      It allows you to charge for advertising/sponsorship, or subscription fees.
6.      Increases Web traffic so you can sell a seminar/event or launch a new product/service..
7.      Captures e-mail addresses to market to in the future.

So, back to the question:  Is it worthwhile?  It’s worth trying, first because it’s free (except for your time) and second because it’s becoming less a choice and more of an obligation.  People expect authors to blog, tweet, and have a Web site.  If you were looking for a job – in almost any field – a potential employer will look at your online resume to see what you do and say, but in publishing magnify that by tenfold. You need to be out there, in the mix.

Still, aside from expectations or social pressures, authors and those in book publishing should be a part of the online dialogue where the book community now flourishes.  You will connect with others, learn, discover and share information, and create your marketing footprint.

Others have gone too far  in focusing on social media, as if that were the only way to promote a book. few people can blog their way to a best-seller list. A balanced attack is necessary to sustain long-term growth as an author. Traditional publicity, speaking engagements, direct marketing, select advertising, and social media are the pillars to launching and building a career in publishing. You can’t dismiss any of these parts and you can’t overly rely on any one of them.

The digital landscape will continue to evolve and change.  Perhaps Twitter will disappear in a few years or change significantly but it or something else will be the playground for ideas and a driving force in the marketplace. Like anything else, your success with social media is dictated by the quantity and quality of your efforts, by your level of creativity, by your relationships, by your willingness to experiment, and your ability to learn to do new tricks.

So the answer is yes to social media, but you should diversify your activities.  Allow it to fit your preferences, time demands, and needs, but don’t ignore it, dismiss it, or think it’s a big waste of time.  But don’t think it’s the savior either.  Continue to do other things to market yourself. It’s okay to still send letters via the post office or to actually call people or even meet them for lunch.  The world may have gone into a box that we hold in our hands but you should find a way to both live outside the box and in it.

Interview With Denise Zaza, Senior Editor, Harlequin Intrigue

1.      As the senior editor of a major publisher, how do you view the importance of your role in a book’s success? Finding a prolific author is still such a thrill for me.  Harlequin Intrigue readers are very loyal and they are always looking for new favorites.  At Harlequin Intrigue we want to make sure we give our readers the very best of what we know they love.  I take the role of delivering six high-quality books of romantic suspense and mystery every month very seriously.  But beyond great editorial, giving a book the best possible advantage in the marketplace at retail and in the digital market and other outlets is so important.  A great title is still a key piece of the success of a book.  But building an author’s profile with readers through strategic and frequent scheduling is also essential to an author’s success.  Readers love to get involved with ongoing series that develop over time.  Giving an author a forum to cultivate a growing readership is one of the best parts of my job.  And because the Intrigue series already has a good reader following it can really help a new author get established quickly.  Our readers know we publish monthly and return again and again for more new books.  New authors with the Intrigue line can benefit from an established and loyal base of readers.   For me it is important to make sure we don’t let those readers down by ensuring we have great books to offer readers each and every month.

2.      What are the challenges or opportunities the new publishing landscape poses for book publishing? It seems like the scope of the publishing business is changing on a nearly daily basis.  But no matter what, in my opinion, editorial content has to be good and has to resonate with readers.  I believe new reading devices will only expand the readership and the market.   So I see great opportunity.   Editors have to keep quality high because there is so much material available, which is a challenge.  Not in getting high-quality stories, but in getting those high-quality stories noticed in a very crowded market.  But in the end I think good stories will find a way to reach readers.  Because all readers appreciate a good book.

3.      What do you love most about being a part of it? I love the creative outlet.  It’s still exciting to find a great story and bring it to market.

4.      How do you make your books better without offending the authors? It’s important to remain true to the author’s style.  However, I see an editor’s role as that of focusing and guiding.  In a complex single title story with multiple characters and a deep mystery, an author can lose sight of all the moving parts.  Having an editor to corral those threads can help re-focus an author if she needs help.   In a series book an editor has to make sure every book is true to the line’s promise to the reader.  Series readers are very loyal and we have to meet their expectations.  So an editor is there to make sure authors keep the readers in mind.   Having a good relationship with an author and establishing trust over time is very important.  An author has to know that her editor knows the market and will help her reach the most readers with her stories.  She should also know the author’s strengths and weaknesses and direct her to the right stories—again if she needs the assistance.   It is also important for an editor to be flexible to accommodate an author’s creative needs as well.  Sometimes an editor will have to appreciate that an author has to tell a certain story a certain way.  As long as the quality is high, an editor will have to take a leap of faith.  It’s been my experience that readers more than anything want to read good stories that are well crafted.  You have to trust that if the text is good then readers will like it even if it somewhat pushes the boundaries of expectations.

5.      Does the use of technology help authors make their books better? How? I don’t know that technology has made the quality of books better.  Though certainly having access to sales information faster is helpful in knowing what is working with a particular series readership and helps me tailor my list accordingly.  I’m also able to communicate these findings with authors to let them know what is working with readers to give them more of what they want.  Using email instead of regular mail to deliver manuscripts is faster to be sure.  The use of various different digital programs has helped us make books available to the market sooner.   All of this makes it easier to increase the publishing frequency of authors, which I think helps build a readership more efficiently. 

6.      Is writing a lost art or is it healthier than ever? Writing will always be a special talent.  And I think that if you have the talent then you should develop the skill to write.  There are more and more outlets for publishing books more easily than ever.  But good books that resonate with readers will always be priceless.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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