by Jennifer Puglisi (@jenpugs)
When I think about the book publishing industry, I usually picture a tired, yawning dinosaur: powerful, but sleepy. The industry is in a position to create meaningful change to the ways readers interact with authors and their work, but have only recently begun to embrace the digital technology that makes these changes possible.
No one is denying that things have been rough for the book world lately. Advances and royalties are shrinking, and the Borders debacle certainly hasn’t helped. Troubling times, in my own humble opinion, call for a return to the basics. The heart of reading, no matter what the format or medium, is an engaging personal interaction between an author and his or her reader. Why not expand on that?
The problem is many publishing houses have neither the time nor the resources to give their lists of authors the individual time and attention they deserve. To be fair, publishers have made an effort: many major houses have created Twitter accounts and Facebook pages that provide excellent content for book nerds (like myself) and often ask followers what kind of subject matter they are interested in seeing the most.
HarperCollins went a step further and recently launched Bookperk, a social reading site that facilities interactions between authors and readers and gives readers access to special deals on books and special literary events. They’ve offered everything from back-to-school bundles to tickets to a pizza party with Laura Lippman to a free psychic reading with author Hollister Rand (the latter two offers have expired, sorry folks!). Missing from the site? Any offers related to eBooks.
Amazon went a different route and in January began offering Kindle Singles, designed for readers on-the-go and looking for a quick (and relatively inexpensive) read. These singles are gaining favor: they take considerably less time to produce than a printed book, and offer authors a way to comment upon timely & relevant topics or quickly share a short story with readers.
Ironically, many publishing insiders claim the reason it takes so long to publish a book is so publishers have time to establish a marketing campaign and create buzz via word-of-mouth.
Essentially, authors are a brand and must be treated as such. Though many authors are strongly encouraged by their publishers to promote themselves all over the social media world, don’t receive any financial backing to do so. It’s usually up to the author to build up his or her brand and gain readerships. Authors with the financial means sometimes hire social media gurus to handle this for the, but many others are left on their own.
It would seem to follow then, that publishers should focus on creating more meaningful interactions between author & reader than say, handing over large advances to project that are maybe less-than-deserving.
It’s time to wake the sleeping dinosaur.