The Roundtable is a live, interactive webcast gathering some of the most outspoken industry professionals to debate the hottest publishing issues of the week, as being discussed in traditional media, the blogiverse and on Twitter. From celebrity book deals to eBook rights and pricing to [insert YOUR pet topic here] — if it’s related to books, it’s on the agenda.
Topic: Community vs. Commerce
This episode of The Roundtable was webcast live at 1pm EDT on Thursday, June 24, 2010.
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Dir. of Programming & Business Development, Digital Book World
Recently, as I wandered around a museum with overwhelming breadth and depth of content, I was lucky to be guided in my travels by a professional. When she introduced herself to me, she used the term ‘docent’ to describe her function. A docent is a ‘knowledgeable guide’ and the function seems to me to perfectly complement the process of curation. In an online world, where more and more content appears to “carry the same weight,” we will look to and pay for the combination of curator and docent – sometimes the same person or entity – who can organize and manage a range of content and also engage with the user so they gain insight and meaning from the material
Everyone in book publishing has a website. We know Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound and Borders among others sell books on the web. Authors have web sites that tell you about their writing. But what do book publisher websites do? We wanted to know, so we looked at what’s out there to see if we could figure it out.
There’s a mix of blog content, video, book purchasing options and news. Some sites seemed neglected and with no personality, others were brimming with enthusiasm. Some had us clicking through for more, while others had us navigating away quickly. While many publishers have found ways to integrate blog content and social media, others remain essentially book-buying portals.
It’s been a while since I ranted about social media gurus and the “Blogs! Facebook! Twitter! GET ON IT!” mentality that most of publishing is still annoyingly mired in. It’s partly because I’m bored by the topic, and partly because I think the backlash finally started to set in late last year and not as many people are blindly drinking the Kool-Aid any more.
Or maybe they are and I’ve moved on? (Sadly, I know many still are.)
One thing’s clear, though: writers are being encouraged expected to be their own marketing and PR departments nowadays, building an audience BEFORE even thinking about a traditional publishing deal, and arguably needing one in order to have any real hope of DIY success. Sure, anyone can sell eBooks via Kindle just by uploading them with a decent cover and compelling description, but like blogs, the competition for attention is only going to increase, and the early adopter edge is fading fast.
I am not saying that it is a bad or dishonest thing to try to sell your work. It is not. What I am saying is that I am tired of the rush to commodify everything, to turn everything into products, including people. I don’t want a brand, because a brand limits me. A brand says I will churn out the same thing over and over. Which I won’t, because I am weird.
The first markets were filled with talk. Some of it was about goods and products. Some of it was news, opinion, and gossip. Little of it mattered to everyone; all of it engaged someone. There were often conversations about the work of hands: “Feel this knife. See how it fits your palm.” “The cotton in this shirt, where did it come from?” “Taste this apple. We won’t have them next week. If you like it you should take some today.” Some of these conversations ended in a sale, but don’t let that fool you. The sale was merely the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.
Twitter (as RTd by @DigiBookWorld)
RT @Stacy_Boyd: Book bloggers are the docents of the literary world. #dbw
RT @tstcpublishing: #dbw Groundswell by Charlene Li is good primer for efforts along these lines.
RT @Stacy_Boyd: Niche publishers are best positioned to move quickly to B2C model. Yay for romance! #dbw
RT @pa4culture: Thank God for librarians because they really do get the books into the hands of the kids. #dbw
RT @Stacy_Boyd: Interesting Q: Are writers’ websites, outreach geared toward readers or peers? #dbw
RT @pa4culture: Booksmith (SF) monthly book swap as community builder + interaction, gathering around books is brilliant. I want to go. #dbw
RT @kellymcclymer: #dbw Awkward authors and disinterested staff can kill a book signing/reading. Amen to that!
RT @Stacy_Boyd: Is it authors or publishers (or librarians or booksellers or agents) who should turn readers into fans? #dbw
RT @jfallone: Tor is curator + genre advocate building community, brand, fans. Genre first and the fan trust migrates to book sales #dbw
RT @jennybullough: Big pubs + self-pub arm: “lame”, “weird”, “shady” (@elenaroth) or “smart”, “forward-looking” (@glecharles)? Discuss! #dbw
RT @pa4culture: Pubs have been accused of not listening, no community building – self pub a response of a sort – @glecharles #dbw
RT @Stacy_Boyd: Thanks to @glecharles @ElanaRoth @weegee @vertigobooks for a great #DBW session. now, lunch time is officially over. (TY!)