Author, Market Thyself

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smkinoshita
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Re: Rather ironic
smkinoshita   10/24/2011 4:27:05 PM
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"Distribution was always fairly silly, built around forcing books into channels because there was no provable demand for most of what was published."

I can understand the power of tradition and simply never stopping to think "Hey wait, we can probably do this better now".  Consider that when people come into a company, the first thing that happens is that they're shown "how we do things" and the "Why we do things this way" never really comes up.

Still, why distribute things that way through such an expensive medium these days?  Printing, shipping and shelf space all incur costs that could be avoided if what they amount to is more or less a "test run".

Why not use some analytics and open up a "library" that basically acts as a testing ground?  Pay the authors the same -- good content is good content -- and then reclaim value through the data. 

I really enjoyed your post John, and look forward to a follow-up soon!


Mitch Wagner
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Re: Rather ironic
Mitch Wagner   10/19/2011 11:57:41 PM
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John Barnes - Production and packaging were vital -- that element that made it clear that this was from a real and not a vanity press

Kind of like what happened with letterhead stationery a quarter-century ago. 

John Barnes
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Re: Rather ironic
John Barnes   10/19/2011 11:47:50 PM
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Sadly, though, the truth is they never did much marketing -- as marketing is understood in any industry other than publishing --  in publishing "marketing" often means kibbitzing on cover design, sending out a few dozen review copies, and arranging for some signings at bookstores and some appearances on talk radio.  No strategy, no target, just "this is what we always do" OR "Book X sold well, let's make sure Book Y's cover and cover copy looks like that."  That's why, as I pointed out up above, Sharyn November is so astonishing to meet in the publishing world: she knows the readers, she knows how they find books, she can look at a book and see who will read it and how they will find it.

So there wasn't much of that before.  Distribution was always fairly silly, built around forcing books into channels because there was no provable demand for most of what was published.  Production and packaging were vital -- that element that made it clear that this was from a real and not a vanity press -- but modern tech has obliterated that distinction, at least in the purely visual sense, and  it turns out that readers actually never paid any attention to publishers anyway. 

Mostly traditional publishers are whistling in the dark.  They have two major things going for them -- existing distribution contracts, and the ability to make a book look "professional."  Both are fading fast.  The time to have moved on this was about 2003 or 2005 at latest, and right now there are still senior people saying they don't need to move at all.

Mitch Wagner
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Re: Rather ironic
Mitch Wagner   10/19/2011 3:23:17 PM
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For many, perhaps most, writers, publishers will still be needed for packaging, distribution, and marketing. Sure, writers can do that work themselves without too much trouble, but how many of the temperment to learn how to do it and then do it?

John Barnes
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Re: Rather ironic
John Barnes   10/19/2011 12:07:03 PM
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And they have a point.  There was always a deep gap between what readers wanted and liked, what writers wanted to do, and what publishers, distributors, agents, and bookstores would/could do to make money.  Traditional publishing had an awful time bridging that gap even before it began to widen and re-shape.  There will probably be something called a publisher in 2030, but I doubt we'll recognize it, any more than we'd think the goldsmiths of 15th-century Florence were "bankers." 

Mitch Wagner
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Re: Rather ironic
Mitch Wagner   10/19/2011 11:26:55 AM
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There are some who say the entire publishing industry is literally a couple of months from collapse and restructuring, driven by internal inefficiencies and the spread of ebooks. I've only bought one or two print books in the past year, although I've bought more than 25 ebooks during that time.

kdawson
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At least in the US, not so long ago book publishing was a gentleman's game. I have a friend, from a blue-collar background, who worked in publishing in New York from the mid-60s through the 70s. She had a very hard time getting in the door at entry level, because salaries were pitifully low on the assumption that the young men and women who would take those jobs already had an income, from family money. There was a distinctly patrician cast to the editorial ranks — social snobbery to accompany the literary snobbery. "Our sort" of people would not stoop to mere marketing. That generation is mostly gone, but even a couple of decades after the soulless multinationals began taking over publishing in the 80s, the earlier heritage remains in pockets of the industry.

John Barnes
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Re: Rather ironic
John Barnes   10/19/2011 8:14:14 AM
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There are several other pieces of the problem.  Publishing has always been marketing-hostile, sometimes for good reasons (more traditional book people, concentrated in the editing and production staff, got into the business because they like to get people to read good books, and "This has a Famous Hot Person on the cover so it will be bought by people who just collect everything with Famous Hot Person's Picture, and never read" is not something that wins their hearts; it's like staffing a corn-chip factory with former organic farmers).  It has also been a situation where good marketers who happen to turn up there cannot do their best work, so there isn't much countervailing argument from the other side.  But upper management, which nowadays often comes from outside publishing, tends to allocate power and responsibility to marketing but not the things they would need to do the job well.  Mostly the people on the front lines are overloaded, undersupplied, and fighting each other -- a bad place to be in when the survival of traditional publishing is questionable.

magneticnorth
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Rather ironic
magneticnorth   10/19/2011 7:56:28 AM
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It's true that the publishing world doesn't spend much on market research for legitimate reasons. But I find it rather ironic that serious bloggers and internet marketers seem to put more thought into audience behavior and strategy than these big publishers do—even the most basic of the make-money-online-through-your-blog will talk about selecting and valuing target markets, no matter how crude their methods are. I think the publishing world is missing out on the fact that they could get a lot of consumer insight online.



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