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!
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.