Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Publishing Missing Twitter Opportunity

How come Lady Gaga has more Twitter followers than the president of the United States?  How does Britney Spears have two million more followers than Oprah?  Did you know CNN has more followers on Twitter than any other news outlet?

Although some of the above can be explained but not justified, a look at the top Twitter users on shows, to some degree, what you’d expect—the top dozens of spots occupied by celebrities, musicians, or some news outlets, and a sprinkling of athletes.  There were no less than three Kardashians in the top 35 spots.  Surprisingly, many washed up personalities ranked in the top 100.  Lance Armstrong, retired from biking after steroid allegations surfaced, was No. 31.  MC Hammer—it’s been decades since it was Hammer Time—is No. 58.

With 104 more followers, NBA All-Star Dwight Howard will cross the two-million-follower mark, something only 67 others have done.  However, none of those 67 are from the publishing world.

When you type in a category on the We Follow site, such as publishing, it tells you who it rates as “most influential,” which is not based purely on the number of twitter Followers.  For instances, Publishers Lunch, with 92,000 followers was deemed #2 though Penguin Books, Writers Digest, Simon and Schuster, and others ranked lower despite having more followers.  DigiBook World, with just 9431 followers ranked #14.  In fact, some of the top 20 “most influential” spots had people or companies with fewer than 12,000 followers, while others with more followers ranked lower, such as Tor Books, No. 34, with 78,000 followers.

Here’s the problem with publishing.  When you look at those with the most followers only six top 100,000.  19 top 50,000.  But this includes major publishers, magazines, book bloggers, and online communities.  With all of the content, creative talent and sizeable staffs on hand at these entities you’d think they’d have a zillion followers. 

Publishing needs to do a better job of branding itself.  The good news is that the marketplace is there for the taking, waiting for someone to take the lead in a big way.

However, under the category of “author” we see some bright stars.  Apparently authors brand themselves better than their own publishers.  Two top a million and six a quarter-million.  26 are at 100,000+.  However, only 48 top 50,000.  Out of millions of authors who are instructed to tweet and use social media, we only get four dozen who can each fill up a baseball stadium?

Is the lesson here that authors and publishers suck at tweeting?  Or is it that their success doesn’t depend on having large Twitter followings?  Or do publishers and authors place an emphasis on other promotions and strategies and intentionally avoid Twitter?

I have plenty of clients who will spend $10,000 and up for book publicity but they won’t invest a minute on the free tool that Twitter offers them.  I hear all kinds of reasons (excuses?).  Older people are befuddled by it.  Others say they don’t have time.  Many don’t know what to post.  Others think it’s a useless exercise in frivolous, egocentric pursuits.  Twitter can be a time suck and its 140-word policy frazzles some longwinded wordsmiths. .

Twitter can be something really powerful but it still seems many have not used it well to further their careers.  My advice to all who comprise book publishing:  Use Twitter, use it often, use it wisely.  The best investment you can make, before writing your book, engaging a publicist, or going on a speaking tour is to learn to become a proficient Twitter user.

In no time you may soon rank high on the Twitter charts because few in publishing apparently seem to know what they are doing.

Interview With Novelist Bradlee Frazer

1.  Bradlee, what is your new book about? To quote my tagline: “What if we had the cure for a catastrophic illness, but it lay hidden inside the blood and bones of just one man? Interweaving the styles of John Grisham and Michael Crichton, The Cure is a thriller that fuses genres while retaining its own unique voice to tell the story of Jason Kramer as he struggles with the knowledge that he is mankind’s last hope against an impending viral apocalypse.”

In short, there is a new viral pandemic spreading across the globe and no one can find the vaccine because the virus mutates too quickly.  The protagonist, Jason Kramer, possesses a natural immunity that kills all strains of the bug, and when pharmaceutical magnate Phillip Porter realizes that Jason is the only source of the cure, he strives to make sure that Jason’s serum is not disseminated since Porter profits from selling supposed vaccines and other treatments for the new illness. The story thus focuses on the conflict between Jason and Phillip Porter while everyone is getting sick and dying around them. Jason obviously does not possess the tools to get the stuff out of his blood and into a vaccine, so he is somewhat helpless—as he describes it, a “genie in a bottle—all the power in the world, but no way to use it.”

So, it is really about the cure, not the disease. Most “disease” stories, like Contagion and Quarantine and The Stand, are more about the illness than the cure. This book is about the one man who is blessed/cursed to be the only source of a cure to a worldwide pandemic.

2.  What inspired you to write it? When I was reading Stephen King’s novel The Stand, there was a line of dialogue in there between an Army researcher and one of the survivors of the “Captain Trips” superflu. The researcher says, in essence, “You killed it.  You just killed it,” meaning that the character’s body had somehow killed the virus.  I remember thinking, “Wow, how cool would that be to be immune to a plague.” But then I realized I wanted to know more about that aspect of the story: so he’s immune—then what? I wanted to explore the story more from the perspective of the man with the immunity and what that would mean to him and the rest of the world, many of whom are sick and dying. I give a nod to that source of inspiration by calling my fictional disease “Trip’s Lite.”

3. Though it is a novel, could the story ever come true? Yes, if we ever had an outbreak of a pandemic like this and if someone possessed natural immunity.  I tried to write a very realistic story based on sound scientific, medical and legal principles.  I believe that the outcomes I posit are pretty probable given the facts of the story.  For example, I researched viral structures and gene theory and cloning and other principles to make sure the story was not absurd or unrealistic. This is why I am drawn to this type of fiction and not necessarily fantasy, since I like constructs that are supported by real world data and precepts.

4. What do you love most about being a published author? I very much like feeling that someone has given an objective “thumbs up” to my work. I will be pleased if the book is commercially successful, yes, but the main reason I chose not to self-publish and go with a publisher like Diversion Books is because it was important to me to know that an industry professional thought my book was “good enough.”

5. What advice would you give a struggling writer? five words: “First, write a good book.” And then, three words: “Show, don’t tell.” And lastly, while trite, it is true: “Never give up.”  I would also ask what it is they hope to gain personally from the writing experience, and depending on that answer I might encourage them to try self-publishing or academic publishing or blogging or some other variant.

6. Where do you see book publishing heading? When this issue comes up, I always think about Napster and wonder what would have happened if the music industry had embraced digital distribution models and gotten into bed with Napster instead of trying to sue them into oblivion.  If the mainstream music industry had done that, there would be no iTunes today—Sony and the others would ~be~ iTunes. Similarly, I think publishing must embrace digital distribution models. If the Big Six had learned from the Napster model, there would be no Amazon Kindle today—the Big Six would ~be~ the Amazon e-book model and would have introduced the first e-reader.  I do not yet see the death of print, certainly, but I do see continuing growth in e-books and digital distribution of content.  This is one of the main reasons I signed with Diversion, because of the foresight they demonstrated in offering a traditional publishing model (no fees to publish) combined with digital distribution, which inherently means that everyone in the world with Internet access can immediately get a copy of your book. That is a very powerful truth, one that Diversion has, and all publishers should, embrace.

7. As an intellectual property lawyer, what do writers need to know about protecting their works against piracy in the digital era? Most importantly, they need to make sure they own the rights to their work and that they have not plagiarized or copied from some other source.  It is impossible to protect rights in content, digital or otherwise, if you do not own all the rights to your work. Once they have verified that they own all the rights by ensuring they are the sole author of the work and the entire work is their original creation, then it is important to register their copyright in the work with the Library of Congress ( It costs $35 to register a copyright, and without it, they have no real remedies to stop infringements. Ideally, they should register their copyright as soon as the book is in final form, whatever that means to them in each case. Then, they must be vigilant in monitoring the web and other distribution modalities for acts of infringement (like someone hacking the DRM on a digital book file and making it available for download for free). Attributor is a good tool for that ( Lastly, they must act quickly to address suspected infringements by sending letters and emails to the infringer, blogging about the infringer, using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Tweeting, or whatever to let the infringer(s) know that they are on to them and will seek redress (do not defame anyone, though, or they will sue you back for defamation!). But remember that in the U.S., a copyright owner has no real remedy for acts of copyright infringement unless they have first timely registered their copyright(s).
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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