Some Cheese with that Whine… Books and new media

This is the third part of my multi-part series, “Some Cheese with that Whine …”, a follow up to the first and second part, on books. Publishing companies have a lot to ‘whine’ about these days – social media, free web content, etc. But instead, some of them are actually going out and doing things about it. Some are investing in new marketing initiates and proving that books are still an entertainment sector, capable of entertaining the masses.

First, the Whine…..

Publishers complain that the web has stopped people from reading. The Steve Jobs quote is now imfamous in the industry (although look whats new at Apple…). Publishers say younger generations spend too much time online and on their phones, talking and texting. They create large numbers of products and ‘hope’ that the popular titles will pay for the less popular ones. So, below are some terms that you should know – if you’ve never heard of any of them, you’ve got some research to do.

Buzz Words
There are all sorts of new marketing initiatives that are effective and have arisen due to online media. Although in some ways digital word competes with printed word, it can also be used to promote the printed word, and expand it. There are some companies that are doing some really interesting and exciting things. Shared book offers consumers a way to choose free content from online and combine it into a book; daily lit is offering books in small snippets via text message or email. Some publishers have hopped on twitter…. or facebook or other forms of social media. Book trailers are becoming big; there are audio trailers and video trailers for books; authors are going on online book tours; everyone is blogging.

Typing in Success
As I’ve discussed in previous posts, I’m not a big fan of publishers jumping on the most recent band-wagon; you might as well drown your money in peanut butter and feed it to your dog. However, the only way any publisher is going to get ahead in the swamped, saturated book market of today is to careful research each of these methods and review them as possibilities.

Social networks like Twitter and blogs allow publishers and authors to connect directly to their target demographic. But consumers won’t come to you unless they get something too. So creating a facebook profile, while it may attract die-hard fans, won’t really increase readership. However, offering free books on twitter or contests on blogs are a completely different matter.

Essentially, these types of media can be used two ways (from my POV) : They can be used to directly achieve feedback (what the consumer gives) in exchange for free goods or services (what the company/manufacturer/publisher gives) or they can be used to creat Word of Mouth (WOM). However, don’t think you can create  your own blog and expect people to flock to it to decide if they like your product. Customers who are already fans will read, and customers who hate your product will use the idea to mock you. Rather, it’s better to find existing bloggers, who give honest opinions about the type of product you are trying to sell – they have built up a sense of trust with their readers. If they choose to review your book and give their honest opinion, and are pleased with your product/book/etc then THAT generates positive WOM.

Creating or trying to buy ‘false’ WOM is pointless. Consumers catch on, and it can damage the company’s reputation as well as whoever  you bribe to do it.

The newest big thing is the ebooks as apps for the iphone and itouch. I’ll be interested to see if this catches on… and I’ll be watching for Plastic Logic’s new reader rumored to be coming out in ’09.

Author Websites / Booksites
The only other thing I want to touch on, is author websites. Yes your authors should have them. But, while we all like to find that we have something in common with our favorite writer, and they should have a page about themselves, remember (and remind them) that this is their AUTHOR website. The primary contect should be about their books, futher informaiton on the topics found therein (if they write about WWII, their site should talk about WWII; if they are Sci-Fi, their site can give additional info about the ‘world’ characters live in, or, better yet short side tales – tell authors that this is a great place to add in that background about a character who ended up being a minor character but who they thought out anyway. This is a great way to see what readers respond to, and maybe spark ideas for future books – about subjects readers already want more info on!). No offense, (my favorite author does this) but I don’t really want to read on your author blog about your favorite sports team. I want to hear more about your books, or more about things that are happening to or about your books. A FAQ page is a great idea, with writing tips; but authors should remember that readers are primarly interested in them for their work, not for themselves. Their website should not be their biography (although a biography PAGE is fine) and it should not be their resume (although a bibliography is fine). It should be about writing, reading, and their books, past, present and future.

The cheese….

Publishers shouldn’t be afraid to test out new marketing methods. No one wants to be the last one in on a new market- but someone will be. Make sure it’s not you. Do your research; conduct study groups, poll readers (blogs are great for this – find a blog talking about twilight, offer them a free signed copy and see how many responses you get!) offer free copies to reviewers or to readers directly; encourage authors to interact with readers.

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