Editorial and Marketing 2.0: Thinking Digitally

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Guy LeCharles GonzalezBy Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Executive Optimist, Digital Book World

Now, publishing has gone from a business-to-business operation (publisher-to-distributor-to-bookstore-to-consumer) to a business-to-consumer operation, and so very many publishers have no idea why they are suddenly being portrayed as out of touch, clueless, etc. They’re doing what they’ve always done!

Laura Dawson, Publishing Consultant

Last December, I wrote a post entitled “5 Things Books Should Learn From Magazines“, making the argument that, as book publishers attempt to engage their readers directly, they could learn from the strengths and weaknesses of their periodical cousins.

One of those things was the seemingly obvious, “Be Connected”.

Long before email, blogs and Twitter came along, magazine editors were connected to their readers via mastheads and Letters to the Editor sections. There are 94 magazine editors currently ranked by Mediate, but there is no similar list for book editors, and the average reader would be hard-pressed to identify the editor of their favorite books or authors.

In the back pages of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee, arguably one of the most famous and influential editors ever, exposed an entire generation of readers (and future comics creators) to the people behind their favorite superheroes via the “Bullpen Bulletin“, and made a psychological connection that lingers several decades later:

“When I was a kid, there was this series of hardcover juvenile adventure books featuring a character named Jerry Todd. They were something like the Hardy Boys, but they had a lot of humor mixed in with the adventure. And at the very end of each book, the publisher printed letters from the readers as well as responses from the author himself. It was so informal, so warm…it made me feel like I knew these guys and they cared about what their readers thought. I was surprised at the time other books didn’t see what a great idea this was. I don’t know if I consciously remembered those books when I set out to do the Bullpen page years later, or if I was unconsciously influenced and only afterwards realized where I got the idea from. I do know that talking to the readers informally and indirectly seemed like the natural thing to do.”

Joe Quesada, Marvel’s current Editor-in-Chief, has continued Lee’s tradition of engaging readers via his Cup of Blog blog, appearances at comics conventions, and frequent interviews in the comics press, and many of Marvel’s editors are as well-known to comics fans as its top creators.

Today, publishers as varied as Chelsea Green, Harlequin and Writer’s Digest have similar relationships with their readers via forums, blogs, Facebook and Twitter, and while some editors and marketers have robust platforms of their own — eg: Carina Press’ Angela James and FSG’s Ryan Chapman — few (none?) have the name recognition, following or taste-making influence of a Chris Anderson, Andrew Sullivan or Anna Wintour.

If book publishers are serious about engaging directly with readers, some might be successful if they’re in the right niche and have already established a strong brand, but for the majority, it will be their editorial and marketing staff making those connections.

Our Digitize Your Career: Marketing & Editorial Forum was conceived to address exactly that problem, with a program designed specifically for editorial and marketing professionals, offering practical, actionable advice and tactics from colleagues who have made the transition. More interactive workshop than theoretical conference, it’s a unique opportunity to engage with forward-thinking professionals, learn from their successes and failures, and share your own ideas.

Are you ready for the digital transition?

Join us on Thursday, April 15th and give your career a digital boost!

NOTE: DBW Members save 40% off the registration rate, and if you’re not a member (WHY NOT?!?!), use “DBW2010″ to save 25%. Discounts are not cumulative; DBW Members always receive the lowest rates.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is the Chief Executive Optimist for Digital Book World.

About Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is an old and new media pragmatist, social media realist, and marketing strategist. He is the former Director of Programming & Business Development for Digital Book World, a published poet, writer, and active blogger since 2003. He views publishing as a community service, and is optimistic about its future.

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5 thoughts on “Editorial and Marketing 2.0: Thinking Digitally

  1. I think readers could be forgiven from not knowing the editor, since that person’s name doesn’t usually appear in a novel. But you are right that few readers pay attention to who the publisher of a book is. The recent Amazon/Macmillan kerfuffle highlighted that fact. Kindle owners were squawking about Macmillan but in fact, they had no clue which imprints were part of Macmillan and even, in many cases, which of their favorite books/authors were published by those imprints. I did a blog post on this (http://karen-w-newton.livejournal.com/#asset-karen_w_newton-180128) listing some recent spec fic books by big names in the genre, and none of my usual commenters (who are all writers!) could identify any of the publishers.

    One exception, which I think proves your point, is Baen Books, which has always worked to establish direct contact with readers; Baen has been selling ebooks direct from their site for years, and people are more aware of their books as being Baen titles.

    • Identifying an editor right in the book — a la a magazine’s masthead — would be a simple starting point. The book designer and cover illustrator are credited; why not the editor(s)?

      And, of course, the opportunities to identify editors online and increase reader engagement are endless; if not via the publisher’s website, than definitely via the editor’s own site. Most of the editorial blogs I’m aware of, though, are industry-centric, not reader-centric.

  2. This is not a direct analogy–but an editor is a cross between
    a manager, record producer and promoter–sans publicity.
    Maybe the publishing press should be more like Rolling Stone–
    with reviews, interviews, gossip–some good articles.
    Rolling Stone is very established now for a music pub–but a
    pub like this for publishing would be very fresh.
    Just a thought.

    • “Manager, record producer and promoter” is a viable analogy, I think, but it’s a role I see agents evolving towards much faster than editors. Of course, many agents are former editors, so there you go!

      As for the publishing press, a Rolling Stone-type outlet could be interesting, mixing in agents and editors with the authors they work with. Would seem like a natural evolution for Publisher’s Weekly to make, or else a savvy online startup. Hmmm…

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