authors are doing it for themselves

Our Facebook Group is now approaching 250 members. Many thanks to everyone who has joined, contributed, posted links, images, and discussions. It’s come as no surprise to me that the most active members of this group are authors. This supports a little theory I’ve had for a while:
Authors are doing more with social media than publishers.
Some of the most interesting ideas and perspectives at the Google Unbound conference in January, for example, came from authors.
When I worked in publishing houses, the main complaint from authors – rightly or wrongly – was usually to do with marketing. Usually an accusation of a lack of marketing when a book didn’t sell. Which may have been for any number of reasons – possibly including poor marketing, but possibly also including unrealistic sales expectations, and simply publishing in a niche with a small readership, or in an area that was already crowded with competing titles.
Given the volume of titles produced, and finite resources, people and time, publishers must also prioritize. But authors have always had a role to play in marketing their own book, and the more successful ones are proactive about it.
And with the new web tools, it’s now easier than ever before for individual authors to create some word-of-mouth around their book. Even in those niche areas. Niche’s may be small and hard to reach with traditional marketing. But, when you use social media, they suddenly become large and global. It’s the Long Tail of publishing.
One author who uses these techniques himself – and explains them to other authors – is Steve Weber. You can find him on MySpace and on his blog. I regularly recommend his Plug Your Book (UK | USA). I recommend it to authors, for whom it is written, but also to publishers. And to students on publishing courses, because this stuff has to be second nature to the next generation of publishers.
It’s a really useful overview of some of the best ways you can use online marketing to create word-of-mouth buzz about your book – including websites, blogs, social networking, social search, RSS, wikis, online press kits and more.
Yes, publishers should do this too. But they should also facilitate the social media activities of their authors. Too many publishers don’t even know whether or not their authors have their own blogs – much less link to them. Don’t be one of them.

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Jon Reed

Jon Reed is a content writer, author, screenwriter, lecturer, blogger - and the founder of Publishing Talk. He was previously a publisher for 10 years. Publishing Talk aims to help new and emerging authors write, publish and sell books. Advice is available via the blog and our masterclasses and membership programme. More...

4 thoughts on “authors are doing it for themselves

  • 8th July 2008 at 10:40 am

    A good author needs a good publisher and vice versa. Partnerships and compromises all contribute to good marketing. A good author needs to assume personal responsibility and let his/her chosen future publisher know what is being planned regarding the marketing of a new novel. In turn, the publisher should at least investigate this and make a decision as to whether the whole project is worth pursuing. In my short experience, this isn’t happening and this is why I’m attempting to market my recently-completed co-authored novel. Have a look in at our blog site and see if we are getting on with it. See
    If the compromises were in place, then both author and publisher will move on and share in the success that the Internet provides. If there is nothing in place, then it will be the publisher who suffers most in the long run because the author will have learnt how to market, using all the tools available on the net. See me at Twitter for example
    Soon all us budding authors will be Twittering, Pinging, Digging and Zimbio-ing just to name a few of the most powerful tools yet invented for the Internet users.
    I’m only just starting out on this quest so I have a lot to learn. In the meantime it would be nice to know that I can make a few genuine friends along the way. I have a wonderful story to share. Anyone willing to come on board?
    Mike O’Hare
    Top Stories

  • 6th October 2007 at 1:21 am

    Thanks, Sue – and thanks for the shout-out, Chris.
    Yes, social media etiquette can be tricky – and the focus should be on building relationships, community, conversations and content rather than on selling. That’s why authors are often better-placed than publishers – even though both, quite rightly, want to sell books!
    When it comes to social media, the author is the brand to focus on. More than the book, more than the publishing company. But those publishers who facilitate this are the ones who will get the most out of it.

  • 5th October 2007 at 9:49 am

    It stands to reason that your average book reader will actually be interested in hearing what an author has to say. That’s another ingenious thing about authors doing their own social media: you can navigate the netiquette rules and regulations far more effectively than a publisher can.
    In conversation the other day, at the new RSA Special Interest Group for Media & Creative Industries, journalist Danuta Kean was bemoaning the receipt of yet ANOTHER publisher e-press release headed “Superb New Book!”
    Is this just another example of limp copywriting? Yes, maybe, but also typical of marketing and publicity teams whose resources are stretched across too many books with too little time.
    Be proactive and you can build your own audience and get feedback on your writing from those who really know: your readers. Just like the journalist, book buyers don’t want to read yet another superlative-laden marketing blurb. They like to engage with the author direclty.
    Jon is right: any publishers worth their salt should welcome this with open arms and work with an author to develop the social media strategy. Sadly, this is not always the case…

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