Sunday, August 28, 2011

Interview With SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell

Wanda Jewell has served the past 21 years as the executive director of the Southern
Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA). She has been in book publishing for 33
years, including a stint as a school librarian. Below she shares her insights with Book
Marketing Buzz Blog:

1.      How is SIBA helping to support authors and publishers? SIBA works diligently to keep brick & mortar indie bookstores alive & well in their communities.  It is our belief that these bookstores support authors and publishers in a way that no other entity can.  As a showcase for both books, and its own community, an indie bookstore delivers to the customer a way into the morass of all things reading.  

2.      With Borders collapsing, do you see greater opportunity for the bookstores left standing? It is never good to lose ground on the ground.  Though consumers love the convenience and ease of on-line ordering, they also love the browsing and discovery of in-store shopping.  It is my hope that the brick & mortar bookstores will see an increase in traffic as a result of the Borders closings, but it is certainly no reason to celebrate.

3.      What do you love most about being in book publishing? That's a hard question for me.  I love everything about the printed book.  I love book jackets, how sometimes they are shiny, and slick, sometimes textured, and thick.  I love when the jacket has a surprise on the inside flap, or even on its reverse side.  Or when the actual book cover differs from the jacket in an unexpected way.  I love end papers, and title pages, indexes, and paper edges.  Sometimes they are rough, and other times, not.  I love maps, and family trees, photos, and images.  I love how chapters can be arranged, and tables of contents can be framed.  I like the space around the text, and the space between the lines.  I like chapter headings, quotes, fonts, and footnotes.  I like the author info and photo, the jacket copy, and the blurbs.  It's crazy, isn't it?  And all this before I even get to the story.  And then there is the story.  Books have changed my life, changed my mind, and changed my attitudes.  What's not to love?

4.      Where do you see the industry heading? Another hard question.  Humans crave story, and I don't see that changing.  What will change is how the story is delivered. We have gone from the oral tradition to the written tradition, and now I guess we are on the cusp of the electronic tradition. Much like music, I imagine a time in the near future where what will cost the most money will be seeing, and or hearing an author live and in person and it will be in the independent venues across the country where this will happen.  I hope to see you there.

5.      How effective are trade shows these days? There is no doubt that trade shows are quite effective when weighed against the effort of meeting face-to-face with hundreds of accounts across a large geographic area.  There is no time like show time.  Somehow at a trade show, one gets lost in that time.  There is nothing else but the vortex of that industry swirling around those people in that space in that time.  I really do love it.  I don't think there is anything else like it and the benefits build & morph over time.  I hope to see you there as well.

6.      You were a school librarian for over a decade prior to helping grow SIBA the past two decades. What can the book industry do to support the libraries? It could be said that the book industry has done more to support libraries than any other single entity except for tax-payers.  Book people know that an educated citizenry is the key to success.  The more you read the more you read.  Many publishers, booksellers, trade shows, and authors participate in literacy and literary efforts across the board.

7.      SIBA covers the southern United States. How is your region’s book sales faring comparing to other parts of the country?  We are kicking ass!

Strategic Tweeting

There are several schools of thought when it comes to being successful in Tweetville but it all depends on what your goal is.  If your goal is to use Twitter to engage in conversation that is useful, it is hard because it’s not a medium set up for that.  What can you say with 140 characters that offers depth, insight, feeling, information, and impact?  Twitter is more like speed dating – good for filtering out losers but there is not enough time to have a real date.

If your goal is to build up lots of followers, you can do this a number of ways:

1.      Beg people – sometimes asking for help works.

2.      Bribe people – incentivize someone to follow you and to get others to encourage their followers to follow you.

3.      Pay people – companies sell followers to others.

4.      Exchange followership – you follow me, I follow you.

5.      Share something that others would be moved to share with others.

6.      Praise people – they may start to follow you.

7.      Come off like you’re an authority and say something so insightful that people are drawn to you.

8.      Reply to other tweets and people may follow you.

9.      Retweet something so others get the impression you find interesting stuff to share with others.

10.  Engage someone with a ton of followers in a tweet debate/dialogue.

11.  Follow those who follow people you feel similar to and seek to connect with their followers.

12.  Note people who tweet on topics of interest to you – look up their profiles and click on their sites or blogs to get contact information – then email them with a proposition to get them to follow you on twitter.

13.  Anyone you are connected with on FB, Linked In and other social media should be asked to follow you on Twitter.

14.  Give people a reason to follow you and tune in to what you have to say – offer them a Groupon- type deal or something splashy.

15.  Make it easy for people to follow your tweets - - tweet often and tweet during prime hours and off-hours to capture people when they are online.

Maybe you can convince people you are someone else so they will follow you. Hey, if celebrities can get people to ghost-tweet for them then you can pose as someone famous! Well, ok, maybe don’t steal anyone’s identity, but work hard to build up your own!

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 He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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