Sunday, June 03, 2007

Playing at Being Ginger Rogers*

Kristin Nelson had a great post up at Pubrants covering Michael Cader’s keynote speech for the Backspace conference called, “Things No one Understands About Publishing, and the Internet, Featuring the Most Important Thing No One Ever Tells Authors, and the Most Important Thing Publishers Don’t Know.”

Along with advising authors to campaign like they’re self-published even if they have a big house behind them and know your audience he had some great advice about using bloggers and the internet (bullets five and six) that bear (bare?) further discussion.

In bullet five Kristin summarizes Cader’s remarks on bloggers and how they know when they’re being marketed to, and it’s true. I get emails all the time from publishers (and authors) hawking this book or that, most of which I’m not interested in. The quickest way to turn me off is to just blitz me with a mass email with no personalization or originality. Great, you’ve got a book out that relates in no way to anything I’ve ever discussed on this blog. Why would I want to read that?

Answer: I don’t. You didn’t give me a reason to so I’m probably going to ignore the email.

But what if I’m a tiny bit interested? What if there is something there that makes me think, “Hmm, I want to learn more about this”?

I may not immediately shoot off an email saying “send me the goods.” Nope, I’ll probably do some research first, and almost every time I get this feeling I find absolutely nothing out there (except for a blurb about the sale at Publisher’s Marketplace).

Which leads me to Cade’s (as summarized by Kristin) bullet point six: “Publishing often has it backwards. They keep a big book a secret until the release day and then there is a big publicity push…The internet values what’s old, what can be found in a search, what is repeated over time.” If I go out there looking for information about your book not provided in the publicity release (and let me tell you, a lot of things are not included in the publicity release), I need to find more than that Publisher’s Marketplace blurb and an almost nothing Amazon page acting as a placeholder. Does the author already have a website I can look at? Is there some excerpt out there that I can read to give me some idea of this person’s writing? How can I create buzz for you if I have nothing to link to?

The internet, and buzz by bloggers, is built through those interconnected links.

As soon as you start putting out those emails or sending out those ARCs you should have something in place with more information than your publicity release. You should have something set up so that other lit bloggers can contact you to get on your list or find out more about your product. Say I read about something on someone else’s lit blog and think, “wow, I love this. This is totally up my readership’s alley,” only to find out I need a company letterhead and $0.41 in postage to try and get your attention (yes, Minotaur, I’m talking about you). It’s not like I can’t rise above the adversity that is my relationship with the US Postal Service, but if you are trying to build buzz—especially internet buzz—you should pander to the format used by bloggers: electronic.

The fastest way for me to tell 150 to 200 people about your book (and how excited I am by it) is not to send out a newsletter and pay $61.50 to $82.00 in postage but to hit post on blogger and tell them for free.

And the fraction of that readership that are interested in the title as well? They’re going to do their own readership. They’re going to see what other bloggers are saying and take a look at the web pages the author and publisher have provided. They are going to spin the great Google algorithm and see what they can find.

I fear that this is coming across muddled because I’m suffering the duel affects of too little sleep and mondo allergies, or that I’m perhaps asking too much, but the truth is as soon as those publicity emails go out, you need to have something in place for people online to learn about your book(s). Word of mouth can spread farther and faster in the electronic realm, but it needs something already established to feed off of or link back to. A lit blogger’s casual mention (with or without an accompanying snapshot) of an ARC or publicity statement they received is enough to spur more than a few people to go looking for information on your book.

Give it to them.

Throw up a simple website or make use of a free Blogger page to get started while you’re building the finished product. Set up some way for lit bloggers to email you about getting more info on the title or about receiving an ARC. If you’re afraid that they’re trying to scam you, require bloggers to submit a site address and have an intern check their content out. I don’t mind a publishing company asking me my daily traffic or who comprises my reading audience—that’s good business and hopefully it will help them specialize what publicity emails they send my way in the future.

What are your thoughts?

What’s the first thing you do on the internet when you hear about a book you might be interested in?

*And doing everything backwards while in heels


Anonymous said...

Here here BSC!
I'm trying to find a novel set in Africa for my book group so they can read it while I'm traveling. I do a search, come up with some titles, but then have a terrible time finding out anything about the books. Of course, I'm a little limited since the book has to be available in large print, but it shouldn't be so hard to find a paragraph synopsis at the very least, and preferably a excerpt so I can make sure my little old ladies won't be offended.
By the way - any suggestions? I'd prefer a book set in Kenya or Tanzania if possible.
~The Druggie

The Stealth Geek said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

I don't think I could seriously go to lecture that had a title using the poor aposotrophe so egregiously wrong about publishing. Seriously, please tell me there's a typo in there somewhere and someone at a conference about publishing didn't really have that "publishing's" thing.

Sorry, using aposotrophes for pluralization and "loose" for "lose" are the two things that drive me up a wall. :)

Bookseller Chick said...

Anonymous, you can thank Word for that typo, not the conference. You can also thank writing a blog column in between betting calls and running on too little sleep and too many allergies for the reason I didn't catch it. Thanks for pointing out the typo, I've fixed it.

Marta said...

Excellent post. When I'm interested in a book, the first thing I do is Google, baby, Google. I check out reviews and what people are saying about the book. I might check out the author's website or blog.

I rarely go to publishers' websites, because they tend to be sluggish and not very user-friendly. Also, these sites often don't offer anything more than PR blurbs.

I'll frequently go to Powell's website to see if they have more in-depth info on the book or author.

ORION said...

Hey I was in Norway and missed this post! This is so right on!
Blogging serves a lot of purposes - create a writing & reading community -- networking--and yes, author promotion. I know as a reader I love to google info on an author.
I have met more debut authors online blogging than I would have any other way. We support each other and struggle with learning the business together.
Thanks for this post.

asim said...

nice wording

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