by Julie Gwinn
B&H Publishing Group
We had a digital summit at B&H recently to try to get our heads around the changes taking place in the publishing industry. It was two days of information and presentations with some startling statistics: In 2006, there were 296,352 books published. In 2010, that number jumped to 3,092,740. Thank goodness I am in editorial and marketing and not math, so I won’t even try to give you the percentage increase other than a general WOW. More than three million books published in 2010. Industry trends show that about half of that number would be fiction (both adult and young adult), the other half a mix of non-fiction, academic, reference, Bibles, etc.
The growth of self-publishing and straight-to-digital options are contributing to the sheer number of titles flooding the market. So now instead of asking yourself “how do I get published?” the question may be, “how do I find readers in this sea of content?”
With the explosion of digital content, there is also an explosion in digital marketing. Facebook has 900 million users. If it were a country, it would be the third largest! Pinterest, which has been live less than a year, already has 4 million users. Authors are very adept at using these vehicles to find readers, connect with fans and promote their titles. But again, “how do you stand out in a sea of noise?”
We have found that the old adage of content sells content still holds true. For us, we encourage our authors to provide sample chapters on their website. We run aggressive discount (not free) pricing promotions to encourage “sampling.” We put links on blogs, twitter and Facebook that lead readers and fans to additional content, research notes, author interviews and pictures and video.
In a culture where nomophobia (the fear of being without a cellphone or cell phone coverage) is running rampent, how do you connect? In the book The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk, the author talks about business of old. The town where you bought groceries and the people knew your name and were concerned if you were happy or not. You knew who to go to if you didn’t like the produce or the meat was tough. He talks about how the digital revolution brought a virtual end to the “personal” contact and the direct connection with the consumer. You can buy, use and throw-away without ever making contact with a human. But is that really what readers and authors want?
My recommendation for breaking through the noise is to remember the individual buying your book. The message of hope, grace, humility, forgiveness, mercy that are offered in the pages of your story. Remember to explain those messages to the reader, and how their lives could be changed by reading your novel. If you have permission, post some of those comments. Respond to email, Facebook posts and Twitter tweets that mention you. Thank bloggers for posting and offer to do a guest blog for their readers. Host a Facebook or Twitter party where readers can connect with you directly. Post a podcast of you talking about why you write what you do. In an age of impersonal, strive to make it personal. Let them know they are important and are not just another “like” or retweet. That you care about what they think and you appreciate them. Seth Godin refers to this as building your tribe. If they like you and feel personally connected, they will do the selling and promotion for you!
Julie Gwinn has been a professional in the public relations, advertising industry for more than 20 years for organizations such as The American Red Cross, the YWCA and Dye, Van Mol and Lawrence public relations and advertising agencies in Nashville. She joined B&H Publishing Group in January 07, in the trade marketing and publicity department and is responsible for marketing their fiction line.