Marketing in a Digital Age

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More than a year ago, I left a comment on the Booksquare blog by Kassia Krozser, on a post titled "Why Publishers Should Blog." Kassia argued that publishers needed to be more vocal about supporting the titles they publish. I responded:

Definitely agree, but I have to wonder if the lack of enthusiastic
comments direct from publishers is primarily due to lack of time (and
energy, sadly). If an editor (or whomever) is juggling dozens of
projects in a given year, accomplishing just the basics can be
enormously demanding. (Lean staffs!) The “friendly” online marketing or
buzz building has often been left to the authors, rightly or wrongly.

Kassia didn't agree with me then, and now I don't agree with me either.

However: I'm not convinced it's the publishers who need to market and promote as much as the individual people who work at the publisher. That's because Publishers speaking as Publishers may not be very interesting to listen to, and it's hard to develop a relationship or carry on a conversation with the corporate entity "Publisher" unless we're talking about an imprint known for a specific type of work (like Tor), or a publisher focused on a genre (like Harlequin). What is the "voice" or approach of a publisher if they have dozens and dozens of potential target audiences?

Maybe Publishers (as corporations) don't need to "blog," but an imprint and its community of editors must be involved in efforts to spread word to a community of readers, through whatever channels or tools make sense for a particular topic, since editors are unique in their position of knowing the content so intimately (and hopefully the audience too!)—not to mention very influential in how the book performs.

All this to say two things:

First, I'm participating in a free webinar hosted by Digital Book World, Marketing in the Digital Age: Batteries Not Included.

This webinar may not be specifically geared to aspiring writers, but the story I told above is an important one when you're considering who to publish with and what to expect.

Authority and influence no longer lie with traditional media outlets and traditional marketing techniques. The old buttons we all used to press don't work any more. And frankly, many of the new buttons don't work either, depending on how well you use them.

So this webinar promises to be a fascinating discussion about what it means to market books (or content or media) in a digital age. I'll be joined by Guy Gonzalez (Digital Book World), Diana Villibert (Marie Claire), Patrick Boegel (Media Logic), and Dan Blank (Reed Business).

It's an incredible honor to be included, and it's amazing to think how far my company F+W has come in its approach to publishing.

Which leads me to my second point: I recall in 2007 longingly reviewing the first Tools of Change Conference schedule, and wanting to be savvier and more forward-looking in my publishing approach. I recall hearing Mike Shatzkin speak that same year at BEA, and feeling the urgency of his message.

I don't think I would've believed it if God himself had told me: that my company would be hosting Digital Book World in January 2010 (with Shatzkin as program chair), and covering consumer publishing issues in a way that helps me keep Writer's Digest growing and profitable when so many things in the print-based business are changing (often diminishing).

Two sessions I am most looking forward to:

Back-Loaded Book Deals: No (and Low) Advance Contracts, Profit-Sharing and Other Innovative Business Models (with Robert Miller of HarperStudio, Rogert Cooper of Perseus Vanguard, and agent Susan Ginsburg of Writer's House)

New Business Models: Changing the Commercial Rules of Publishing (with Richard Nash, Eoin Purcell, Chris Morrow, and Diane Naughton)

In short, I don't have to be sad about not being able to attend TOC any more.