Another review of Google’s Unbound event for publishers. Quoting Chris Anderson, who notes that the average book sells 500 copies,
“If [authors] are writing books to be read, how can we maximize that?,” he asked. “De-stigmatize the mid-list, de-stigmatize the long tail — 999 readers is success! If you can turn that into 2,000, that’s doubling your success. Those tools typically do not require big marketing budgets from publishers. Yet if you’re expecting publishers to do it, you’ll probably be disappointed. The solution is for you [the author] to do it.”
The answer (of course) is to leverage every Web 2.0 tool out there. Anderson’s success story of spending two years blogging the writing of “Tail,” giving review copies to every blogger who requested one (”we didn’t discriminate by size – the copies cost $2 apiece”), crowd sourcing the cover art, and throwing MeetUps rather than bookstore signings was just the beginning of a panoply of author-orchestrated success stories.
And Corey Doctorow,
Cory Doctorow and Seth Godin have been giving their books away online for free for several years now, in some cases before the title appears in print. Doctorow, a vocal opponent of restrictive copyright protection, goaded the audience. Alluding to the file sharing endemic in music, film, and video, he asked, “Why don’t people care enough about literature to steal it? I think that’s genuinely alarming. It’s because books are Web-invisible. The Web is all about serendipity. When you’re on the Web searching for food, you should find books about food. Book search should work like Web search…Free e-books make commercial sense.”
and Seth Godin,
“The enemy is not piracy. The enemy is obscurity. If books are invisible, that’s a really good recipe for not getting stolen from — but not for selling. The Web is the greatest distributor for the frictionless sale of books in history,” chimed in Godin.
“I’ve read seven of Carl Hiaasen’s novels,” he continued, “Still, the publisher has no idea who I am, so they spam the reviewers. Why can’t they just say ‘Seth, it’s ready?’”
She goes on (really, just read the whole thing, but),
Free Sells Books
Of course, publisher converts to online were also present to extol their success on the Web. “Free sells books,” affirmed Dan Weiss of Barnes & Noble’s study guides, SparkNotes. “Everything that’s in print is free online,” he said, and over half his site’s traffic comes from Google search.
Cambridge University Press’ former Managing Director Michael Holdsworth talked about the imprint’s “zombie titles” that don’t sell at all, then rise from the dead in digital versions. The company has instituted a “Lazarus program” to bring back books that have long been out of print and make them available on Google Book Search “It’s pretty cheap to do, and we love it to pieces. Book search visitors look at more Cambridge pages, are twice as likely to order, and spend 50 percent more per visit.” Springer, too, is successfully reviving its backlist online, making once-defunct titles available via print-on-demand.
and the response from the audience,
Over lunch, I chatted with a number of publishers in attendance. Reactions were mixed. One publisher, specializing in reference books for the K-12 market just doesn’t see the value of online. His titles are bought exclusively by school systems, primarily for classroom use. An author in the audience felt all the blogging was great — if you’re a best selling author like Godin, or, like Doctorow, behind the Web’s most popular blog. Many others were convinced, but dreaded bringing the message home to the higher-ups.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. To do that, they need cooperation that won’t immediately be forthcoming from book publishers.
Next: BookSquare continues to talk to publishers about building brands, this time in reference to Warner Books’ move to being called Grand Central. No great insight, but as they say, a lot of crankiness.
Clarification on the etymology and use of ‘viral marketing’.
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