28 April 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments [3]

That was the name of the panel that I moderated at this year’s London Book Fair, and which featured Abby Blachly of LibraryThing, Lance Fensterman of Reed Exhibitions (in particular, BookExpo America and New York Comic Con), Bob Stein of the Institute for the Future of the Book, and Mark Thwaite of ReadySteadyBook.com, the Book Depository, and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

By design, this panel was more about new methods and ideas about marketing, and about the evolving relationship between publishers and their readers, rather than about how to market a particular book. That said, a lot of the discussion—and the particular ideas presented—centered around more “niche” books and how to find a particular audience for these sorts of books via the internet, LibraryThing, etc.

Rather than recap the whole event (not that my memory of what happened last Monday is all that clear anyway), here are a few of the bigger points that came out of this:

  • Mark Thwaite emphasized the importance of publishers having a good website. Not one that’s a confusing mess like this. Or this. This seems super obvious, but the most successful publisher sites are clear, easy to navigate, have individual pages for each book (so that bloggers can link to them, right HMH?), and provide additional content about books and authors.
  • If you’re going to include a blog, publishers should keep a few things in mind: 1) you have to keep blogging on a regular basis, rather than just putting up a couple posts and forgetting about it; 2) linking to other blogs and having other blogs link to you, which ties into the even more crucial point 3) which is to not treat a blog like a place to make hard-sells. All of this can be summed up by thinking of a blog as part of a ongoing conversation—not a place for a publisher to make repeated hard sells.
  • Which was a sentiment echoed by Abby about publishers on LibraryThing. Publishers frequently open accounts on LT, add all of their own books to their library, and then give each one 5 stars. Not effective at all. Everyone can smell a self-promoter, and this sort of thing turns real participants off. That said, editors who have their personal libraries on LT and legitimately participate in conversations, forums, etc., are welcomed into the community, and end up naturally sharing information about their publishing house and its books. Readers outside of the industry think publishing is sexy and love to meet editors—just not editors who begin messages with: “Hi, it was great meeting you the other day. I have a new book I think you would like to purchase.” Read Buying In by Rob Walker for more info on this sort of “marketing.” It really is the new paradigm and anyone trying to use social networks for hard sells is going to run into problems.
  • The Early Reviewers program is f’ing effective at putting books into the hands of the right reader. LT uses a complicated algorithm to match books with people who might be interested in that particular title. For instance, if a publisher is offering up free copies of a book on the Berlin Wall, someone who only have romance titles in their library won’t win the drawing.
  • Although he considered it a bit of a failure (the women participating weren’t keen on the book), Bob Stein’s Golden Notebook Project did lead to some interesting findings. The Institute knew this going in, but one thing that I found really interesting is the finding that by putting the “comments” section right next to the post/original text (in contrast to putting comments at the bottom of the page, like below . . .) readers are much more likely to respond and the conversation develops rather quickly. Very curious how the physical layout so greatly impacts the overall conversation and experience.
  • Lance already wrote a long post about this, but in his opinion, trade shows are dead. He doesn’t mean that the LBF and BEA are about to vanish, but that the very idea of what constitutes “trade” needs to shift. Things are in a bad way when a book critic who writes a dozen reviews a year is allowed to attend the industry’s one and only trade show, but the top reviewer on Amazon, who writes more than 100 reviews a year, isn’t allowed access. The boundary between “trade” and “non-trade” is very blurry these days, and rather than try and restrict access to BookExpo, Lance believes (and I second this wholeheartedly) that the show needs to be opened up to include the enthusiasts who can be as effective in promoting literature as a traditional critic. For the publishing industry to really thrive, we need both of these groups coming to BEA and getting excited about future offerings. Forward-thinking publishers who realize that a passionate reader is your greatest ally no matter where she/he works already know this—it’s just the stodgy corporations who are strangling the show’s potential.

Overall, this was one of the best London Book Fair panels I’ve ever been on. Great presentations and wonderful questions from the audience. And hopefully we came up with some interesting ideas that are of some benefit to publishers large and small.

31 December 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Over at Ready Steady Book Mark Thwaite has posted the “Books of the Year 2008 symposium” featuring recommendations from a host of authors, translators, and reviewers, including Scott Esposito (who recommends Adolfo Bioy Casares and others), Charlotte Mandell (who is all about Flann O’Brien), her husband Robert Kelly (who recommends Littell’s The Kindly One, Marias’s Dark Back of Time, and Nadas’s The Book of Memories), and Tom McCarthy (whose only recommendation is Toussaint’s Camera) among others.

Definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for good recommendations to kick off 2009.

19 May 08 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

Via Ready Steady, issue number 3 of the International Quarterly is online.

Time has flown since our previous issue this February, a month once characterized by Zulfikar Ghose as “nasty, British and short”. Ghose’s trenchancy is not confined to seasonal vicissitudes, as borne out by his essay published in this forum, spelling out the pitfalls of literary provincialism. He will surely feel at home here given the diverse cultural origins and universal voices of an array of writers such as: Michael Blumenthal, Denise Duhamel, Roberta Gordenstein and Geoffrey Hartman, each proving that American literature is the equal of any being written today; C.J.K. Arkell, Jill Dawson and Anthony Rudolf, reminding us that British literati are hardly lagging behind; and Marjorie Agosín and Irina Ratushinskaya, from Chile and Russia respectively, outstanding exponents of a poetry both lyrical and defiant.

6 September 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

At The Book Depository, Mark Thwaite has a longish post on the Sony Reader. Most of it is a recap of this review, which E.J. wrote about last week.

Mark does make a couple of interesting comments though:

I’d like to question why [Google Books and the Sony Reader] dominate publishers’ thoughts so much. Neither, it seems to me, need necessarily fundamentally alter the publishing business and before either does totally change the way publishers have to work there is a long road to travel.

I tend to agree with this. I don’t think the digital future of publishing is moments away, and I still believe that the book as book will survive, with a plethora of different ideas—instant pod, ebooks, things we have yet to even think of—also existing. Eventually the industry will focus on using technology to figure out the best way of distributing its product—of reaching readers in ways outside of the current distribution model. This will be especially true for books that fall outside of the mainstream, that aren’t best-sellers, that aren’t sold in Wal*Mart.

Although I’m personally resistant to eReaders, it sounds the technology is almost there . . .

I’m about as book mad as they come, and I’m interested in good technology. The Reader isn’t going to change my book reading and book buying habits yet, but it won’t have to improve that much before I start getting very interested.

30 July 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

Mark Thwaite has an interesting post on The Bookseller.com about an ongoing discussion at Mssv about the “Death of Publishers.”

The basic sentiment at Mssv is that as soon as it’s as easy to “rip” books (converting them into a digital, transferable format) as it is to rip CDs or movies, publishing will crumble as readers illegally download books, quit frequenting bookstores, etc.

This is a complicated issue with a number of subissues to explore—personally, I think commercial presses will be most screwed by technological innovations, whereas savvy indies are in a position to take advantage of this to bring more attention to their books—but generally, I agree with Mark.

The real change that’s coming is in the way that readers find out about books. The flow of information is changing from the days when publishers relied on static ads and print book reviews to get the word out. And the presses that seize on new ideas and ways of connecting with readers stand to reap the most benefits.

A lot more can be said about this—and probably will over time—but personally, I think the next 5 to 10 years for the book industry will be really interesting to watch.

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