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“The Evolving Publishing Ecosystem” *

August 3, 2010

I cannot believe BlogHer is this week.  Just like most everything else in life, it seemed really far away at first, but now it is almost upon me.  I figured now was as good a time as any to check out the agenda.  I have to leave early on Saturday in order to get up early on Sunday and visit Soccer Girl at sleepaway camp, so I wanted to know which sessions exactly I really needed to be at.  There was one in particular that caught my I and I clicked “more” to get an idea of what it was about.

“The Evolving Publishing Ecosystem” at first glance seems to be a worthwhile panel talking about how authors and want-to-be authors can build their platforms to connect with readers, fostering a sense of community to promote their books to.  But upon closer inspection, the panels seems to be yet another way to bash traditional publishers.  Let me quote from the panel description…

We all know bloggers want to become authors.  Do we?  I’m sure some do, but some don’t aspire to such ideas. 

But with traditional publishers spending less and less on marketing, authors must now become marketers, and that means they must become bloggers too…

That’s a lot of “must” in there.  First off, traditional publishers in many cases are spending less on marketing.  But hear me out, it’s not just because of the recession, because we’re cheap, or because we don’t want to support our authors.  We’re spending less on traditional marketing because it isn’t reaching our customers.  Heck, we buy into the whole blogosphere and social media thing too…why spend a fortune on ads in newspapers that our customers are not reading when we can create a Facebook page and engage with readers in a way that makes sense to them and gets them to want to buy our books?  Or support an online community where people can discuss ideas from the book?  Or even help the author build a blog where she can continue what’s been written in a book and engage her readers?   You’re going to BlogHer, you must place some faith in the idea that it makes more sense to engage your customers through social media than a one-way ad.

Must authors be bloggers?  No, absolutely not.  Must authors get involved in social network to connect with readers?  I sure would like them to.  It’s not me being lazy and forcing them to do the job of marketers.  Think about it – if you are a fan of Ridley Pearson, as my daughter is, do you want to engage in a community where Mr. Pearson is an active participant, or do you want to hear from his PR agent or publisher?  You want to talk to the author, and that’s the expectation these days.  I can pretend to be an author, but that’s hardly right, and certainly not something I am good at. 

sometimes they take to it eagerly, sometimes dragged kicking and screaming. 

Just for the record, I would never force an author to blog if it was out of their comfort zone.  Why?  Because they would be doomed to failure, and why make the effort to do something poorly?  We at Wiley do arm our authors with quite a bit of hands-on tutorials and best practices to help them navigate what may for them be a brave new world.  But we certainly don’t force anyone, with claims of not being willing or interested or financially able to promote their book. 

Add to the mix how much easier than ever it is to self-publish and the book bloggers who are now being wooed by publishers and even authors directly, and you’ve got a new publishing eco-system.

I’m not sure how that adds up to a new eco-system.  I’d prefer the discussion to focus around what authors need to do to build up their platforms and engage communities, rather than make it seem like your options in publishing are to go to a big house where you will be ignored, or self publish and have control over your own destiny and everything turns out perfectly. 

Here is the panel…

 Kamy Wicoff from She Writes, book blogger Florinda, marketing expert Penny Sansevieri, and author Carleen Brice.

Hmm, not one person from traditional publishing.  Will that be a terrible omission, as it was at last year’s panel where I thought I was going to explode from all the misinformation being doled out as fact, until Jen Lancaster  literally stood up for traditional publishing?  I also have a thing about people who refer to themselves as “expert”. 

I’m certainly not saying you should never self publish, just like I never say don’t get an agent, or don’t go to a traditional publishing house.  There are many options in getting a book published, and no one size is right for everyone.  But you have to present more than one option, and that’s what I fear will not happen here. 

So, I plan to get my seat early, sit back and see how this goes.  But if it turns into a bash fest against traditional publishing, I’ll start opening my complimentary Quaker Oats snack bags from last year to be annoying.  There.  You’ve been warned. 

*quotes intentional.  Imagine me making quote-y fingers with disdain!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2010 9:55 am

    I love how you pulled apart the session description – very illuminating.
    And, of course, I agree with your points – traditional publishers have to become less “traditional” just as our readers are evolving.
    *quotes intentional. Imagine me making quote-y fingers with disdain
    Since I will be on the beach this weekend, I am looking forward to your reactions (Tweeted or blogged or Facebooked) to this panel in particular.

  2. August 3, 2010 10:32 am

    Thanks for your comments. This stems from last year’s panel which was very one sided. I don’t believe anything to be one sided, I think if you are trying to do a service to people, show them many ways to achieve your goal, which in this case is to get published. I’m also surprised to see a repeat panelist when BlogHer mades big noise about how they don’t allow people to speak year after year – each year, 75% of the panelists are new. Why not here? And why not with someone from a publishing house that’s doing this well (not even saying it has to be me!)

  3. talesofanunfinishedmom permalink
    August 3, 2010 10:56 am

    Great post, Ellen. I won’t be there this year but know you’ve got “us” covered!

  4. katie permalink
    August 3, 2010 11:15 am

    I want to write a long comment reply to this agreeing with everything but instead I’ll just say you rock 🙂

    I wil list one point regarding traditional marketing expenditures because as an editor I hear this gripe all the time from unengaged authors. Just because my MM isn’t taking ads out in some near-defunct newspaper or magazine no one reads anyway for the next edition of Java For Dummies does not mean she’s not spending her time and budget (and thus $$$ being spent) on other more creative and effective ways of marketing. I’d like to point out the Facebook App Challenge we did as one example. It didn’t fit the traditional mold of “marketing” but was amazing and effective at building a community. My engaged, involved authors are all very aware and appreciative of what we do to market their books.

  5. August 3, 2010 11:17 am

    Thanks Jen! And Katie? You rock too!

  6. Amy permalink
    August 3, 2010 12:07 pm

    Can’t wait to hear how it goes. Reading this reminded me of how I felt during last year’s discussion on this as well. Both happy and sad that I am missing it this year!

  7. August 3, 2010 2:14 pm

    This panel is a Room of Your Own session that I believe was cobbled together from several different community proposals. I’d proposed a book-blogging session, and when that didn’t get enough support to make the agenda, I was invited to represent book bloggers on this panel. And speaking as a reader, reviewer, and book blogger, I can tell you that many of us prefer working with traditional publishers and the authors they represent.

    Building author platforms is likely to be a big part of the conversation. Thanks for giving this session a chance!

  8. August 3, 2010 2:45 pm

    Thanks Florinda. I think you will do a good job of representing the spectrum of publishing and I am looking forward to seeing publishing discussed. Heck, not every day we’re on the panel anywhere, so I’ll take it.

  9. karen hoffman permalink
    August 4, 2010 9:18 am

    LOve how you break it down!! you make me want to go and stand up!!! lol


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