25 August 08 | Chad W. Post

Richard Nash pointed this out on Friday, but Business Week ran an interesting article last week by Sara Lacy about how book publishers should learn from Web 2.0 ideas and revitalize their practices.

Publishing is a subject near and dear to me—and not only because for the past two years I have been writing my first book. One of my parents was a philosophy professor and the other taught high school literature. Books were everywhere in my upbringing.

bq, I want to keep it that way. A way to do that is to ensure that publishing learns how to exploit the full benefits of the social media tools now taking hold of the Web. Newspapers dragged their heels and look what’s happening to them. As great as the Kindle is, publishing has a long way to go.

She then goes on to list five lessons for book publishers:

  • Make it Social

“There has to be a way for Web 2.0—a movement whose raison d’etre is to connect people—to meet the ongoing need for building community around books. Every publisher should at a minimum build a Facebook app. around its titles. The limitation with book clubs is time- and space-related. Not everyone can get their schedules (and geography) to mesh, and not everyone can read a book in the same time frame. But social networking could do for book clubs what Scrabulous did for fans of Scrabble—it let them play games together online, whenever they want.”

  • Take book tours out of the stores.

“The conventional wisdom in publishing is that book tours no longer work. I agree, insofar as tours are confined to bookstores. The sad truth is that bookstores are declining in relevance. There are exceptions, of course, but even stores that draw big crowds for an author will struggle to reach the wide community of people interested in a particular author.”

  • Create stars—don’t just exploit existing ones.

“When an author is established, publishers have to do less to make a book sell. So bidding wars start. As a result, even some best-sellers aren’t very profitable.

Instead, publishers should take a page from the handbook of Gawker founder Nick Denton and create stars. Find micro-celebs with a voice, talent, a niche base of readers, and most important—enthusiasm. Then leverage the publisher’s brand (and the techniques I advocate, of course) to blow them out.”

  • Go electronic from the get-go.

“Publishers would do well to keep the book electronic— even if it’s PDFs of typeset pages. That would help them blast teaser chapters around the world (engaging bloggers and the long tail of the press). Presumably it would help get the book on Kindle and other e-books from day one.”

  • Make e-commerce even easier.

“Yes, Amazon transformed how we shop for books. But the industry can go much further. Take the titles far beyond Amazon.com—through one-click widgets appended to blogs, Facebook pages, and other sites across the Web. Link these tools directly to PayPal and Google Checkout (GOOG). Think: one-click purchase, not one click takes you to Amazon.”

Most of these things seem pretty basic, yet it’s true that there aren’t many publishers engaging in these kind of activities. At least not many getting a lot of exposure or press. Of course, her reference to low advances, like in the $50,000 range, indicates that the type of publishers she has in mind aren’t your New Directions or Archipelagos or New York Review Books.

Equally interesting though is a mention in the comments section of the recent slew of SEC filings from Amazon. I don’t claim to fully understand (or even partially understand) the stock market, but it does seem suspicious that in the couple weeks following the “leak” of info regarding Kindle sales (a number a lot of people—myself included—find rather suspicious) more Assistant Directors at Amazon sold off stock than at any other time this year. Which may be natural, since the price rose based on the rumors that the Kindle was doing so well . . . still, if the Kindle is about to really take off, and there’s a cool new version coming out in the near future, wouldn’t the stock rise continue to rise? I would think so, unless the sales figures weren’t very accurate . . .

Comments are disabled for this article.
I Remember Nightfall
I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio
Reviewed by Talia Franks

I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio (trans. From the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas) is a bilingual poetry volume in four parts, consisting of the poems “The History of Violets,” “Magnolia,” “The War of the Orchards,” and “The Native. . .

Read More >

Joyce y las gallinas
Joyce y las gallinas by Anna Ballbona
Reviewed by Brendan Riley

This review was originally published as a report on the book at New Spanish Books, and has been reprinted here with permission of the reviewer. The book was originally published in the Catalan by Anagrama as Joyce i les. . .

Read More >

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >