Posts Tagged 'future of publishing'

Halvorsen says all organizations need a content strategy

content strategy

I started this book a while back, but got distracted by the rest of my life before getting past chapter one. I don’t work directly on web projects, and had to prioritize my reading.

But I found a blog post from the author the other day that blew me away and made me pull the book out so I could try to absorb her wisdom.

Of course, when I told my husband about Kristina’s insight he reminded me that he’s been saying something like this for a while. Content strategy is only the beginning, he says. Organizations really need an editorial strategy: not just the what but the how and the for whom.

And since he’s always right about these things, I now know how to focus my web studies. At least for the next few months.

My favorite quotes from Kristina’s post are below.

Most companies can’t sustain social media engagement because they lack the internal editorial infrastructure to support it.

They don’t have a content strategy.

And they need one, because

…more than ever before in the history of commerce, content has become one of our most valuable business assets.

Content strategy is, in fact, the next big thing by Kristina Halvorsen, Brain Traffic blog

The view from here…

DBW seminar
The view from the lobby at today’s forum.

Today’s Digital Book World forum, Digitize Your Career: Editorial and Marketing, gave me a lot to think about. Ideas for me, ideas for my company and lots of notes. (Did you doubt the last?)

But the two parts I can share right now, while my kid is getting ready for bed, are: 1) The view from the 50th floor lobby is GORGEOUS. Skyscrapers, Central Park, the rivers and the GW Bridge highlighted by spring greenery. How the receptionists keep from staring out the gigantic picture windows all day I don’t know. 2) The folks who presented at and attended today’s session were awesome, entertaining, thoughtful and full of practical advice.

If this is the future of publishing, I like the way it looks.

My personal TOC

There are a lot of solid wrap-ups for the Tools of Change for Publishing conference making the rounds today. DBW’s webinar chose TOC Take-Aways as today’s topic, though technical problems and catch-up work prevented me from listening. Mark Coker had a piece, as did Publishing Perspectives. [Update, 2/27/10, a few more TOC links: an insightful observation about the value of chance and open-mindedness at conferences from Debbie Stier; Kirk Biglione’s DRM slides; Don Linn’s observations; and a summary of Tim O’Reilly’s speech on Teleread.]

I’m still working my way through my notes, which are way more detailed than usual, thanks to typing them instead of writing them. But I do have some personal take-aways from the conference.

1) It’s really fun to take your computer into a room with free wifi and interesting speakers. I took notes, looked up URLs as they popped up on the big screen, added books to my Goodreads to-read list as they were mentioned and had my RSS feed right there for reading should I get bored, which only happened once or twice. I wish actively using your device was socially acceptable at every conference.

2) Social media is the new SEO, especially when it comes to selling more books via word of mouth. I found the panels by Bob Carlton, Chris Brogan and Angelina Ward to be immediately applicable in my daily business.

3) Analytics will become (or have already started to become?) the new sales numbers. The amount of information that will soon be available…I mean, you can actually know if the book was bought and not read. Or, if the reader started, but then lost interest at page 20. As one presenter put it, you’ll know the multiple differences between those who read at 2 am in bars and those who read at noon during lunch. Talk about niche markets.

4) Technical guys who can create their own version of xml, automate all of their publishing systems (e.g., turn a 2-day process into a 37-second process), publish all of their royalty data for everyone to see and make money…well, they make me wish I could write a book about code and publish it with them right now.

5) I don’t like to feel that my content is brought to me by sponsors. I found suspicion creeping in every time there was a product related to a presentation, even when some of the products were ones I want to try.

6) Mobile is everywhere, even in emerging markets. The coverage is only growing. So who needs ebook readers?

7) And the most important point: It’s all about the customer–know them, meet them, talk to them, engage them, give them all the information you can, give them their choice of devices and formats, add value for them. Then maybe you can publish what they will pay to read.

#DBW–day 1

So not only did I miss what seems to have been great discussions at Digital Book World today, I have been nearly offline for the last week and a half catching up on reading for work.

Now that my deadlines have loosened their grasp just a bit, I scrolled through as many #dbw updates on Twitter as I could handle.

I was especially impressed to see Angela James’ (@angelajames) impact on the New Business panel.

amywilkins: Heehee RT @IrisBlasi Audible gasp from the audience when @angelajames said Carina’s books have no DRM–across the board. #dbwnewbiz #dbw

booksquare: RT @rilnj: RT @calreid: #dbw @angelajames No advances, 30% royalty/cover price & no DRM. R. Nash howls “you’ll be pirated!” angie: probably.

Love the gasping visual! And I’m intrigued by Angela’s response to accusations of letting in the pirates.

The DBW webinar last Thursday dealt with piracy, in a limited way (focused mostly on O’Reilly titles.) But the guest researcher, Brian O’Leary, said the initial data shows that the most pirated titles are also the titles with the most sales. Correlation? Causality? It’s unclear. (If I remember correctly, he said that the titles that were the most pirated also had 2/3s more sales than titles that were not pirated.) It seems to lazy-ol’ me that when it’s easier to buy than to steal, people will pay for the convenience, if for nothing else.

Also, aren’t publishers always giving away free reads? Like dope pushers, they know a good book will bring the addicts back for more. Samples, excerpts, advanced review copies, and libraries. Free e-books, just from anecdotal evidence, seem to do the same job. So maybe encouraging piracy is a good thing?

And then the conversation took a turn:

IrisBlasi: Discussion about ebooks getting heated. @angelajames offers to “take it outside.” #dbw #dbwnewbiz

A duel at dawn? Thunder Road? If only… It was probably more like, “Time’s up. If you want to keep chatting let’s go outside.” In any case, I can’t wait to read more about this panel from Angela and others who were there.

A few other updates stood out that were not Carina Press-related.

concentricdots: Most crucial message for publishers from #dbw today is STOP marketing products and START cultivate customers. Use the tools of change

This is where social media comes in, I suppose–but only when done right. IMO, Harper Studio’s blog is an example of the publisher getting it right. I read their blog because the posts are interesting. The blog writers, who all work at Harper Studio, cover timely topics related to publishing, media, entertainment, editing and, of course, their books. But when they do get around to writing about their books, the posts are about more than just what’s coming out and why it’s great. Instead they discuss something cool or personal that is related to their books.

Those blogs that only say “see this book/interview/author”? Ugh.

charleenbarila RT @IrisBlasi: Mindshift: Publishers are not selling the book, we’re selling the author.-@R_Nash #dbw #dbwnewbiz

Is this really a mindshift for publishers? Hmm. Isn’t that what happens with those blockbuster names like Nora Roberts, James Patterson, etc.? Harlequin folks always talk about “growing the author.” The assumption is that authors will always write more than one book, and future books will be just as good as, if not better than, the one that first caught an editor’s eye. Holding that assumption as true, an author’s audience should grow as she becomes known by more readers. Other publishers don’t think this way?

geogeller we are in the business of selling experiences, food for imagination #dbw #140conf @jeffpulver @chrisbrogan @garyvee @lizstrauss

I love this! Reading is always about the narrative experience for me, even for non-fiction. Now we readers can add to the imaginary world with other virtual experiences. Like that time when I was ten and I baked scones to go with my Philippa Carr novel–except way better.

nyefwm RT @alicepope: Sara Nelson: One of the truisms in publishing is that publishers don’t spend money promoting their backlists. #dbw

As someone who works on backlist quite a bit, I found this truism interesting. If publishers don’t spend money promoting those older titles, and authors have nearly forgotten that they wrote those books, how can editors best help get the word out? Homework for me!

Do you love reading or do you love books?

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I listened to a fascinating report by “On the Media” about the status and future of book publishing.

Colin Robinson, of OR Books, claimed that now was a terrible time to be a reader:

…there is a huge overproduction of titles….if you give people a choice between a hundred things, that’s a real choice. If you give them a choice between half a million things, it’s no choice at all.

But Michael Cader, of Publishers Marketplace, argued the exact opposite:

For a reader, it’s boom times. There are more options. There’s price competition, there’s format competition. There’s new ways to read. You can get things delivered faster. They’re accessible online. There’s more voices, there’s more communities to serve you. So for readers, it’s terrific.

Is it possible for them both to be right?

As a reader, I want my books to be entertaining, enlightening and/or well-written. With traditionally published books, there is no guarantee that I will love a book. But there is an implied promise of quality, since the publisher invested time and money in the product. Hopefully, they will want each book to be good enough that I will come back for more. There may be no such promises with self-published titles, and more books in a crowded marketplace might very well make it harder to find the ones I will enjoy.

Maybe. But I’m not fully convinced.

There are always more books I’d like to read than ones I will have time to read. And I’m not one to plunk down large sums of money for the pleasure of one single story. I visit the library, the used bookstore, and read online. I find the price competition of a crowded market appealing.

Also, I like choosing for myself what makes a good read. Take this example. When the author of a blog I like put her self-published book up for sale, I bought it. I knew from reading the blog that I would enjoy her writing. In this case, my interest and my RSS feed made pretty good filters.

But then Brooke Gladstone moved on to this question: Do you love reading or do you love books?

Picking one or the other is almost like a mother admitting she has a favorite child.

If I think about browsing a bookstore, or the many books that litter my small apartment, or the smell of old pages mixed with a summer breeze coming through the window…I’m tempted to fall on the side of books.

But then I manage to be honest with myself. I do nearly half my reading online or on my laptop. I gobble up stories in various formats, some of which look nothing like books. I borrow more books than I buy, and I add very few books to my keeper shelf. In practice, I’m format-agnostic.

I like physical books because they are convenient.

But my love is reading.

So give me print books and digital books. Traditionally published books and self-published books. E-books and video books and enriched books.

I’ll take content in as many ways as I can get it, as long as the story is good.

Horizons: Going over the edge

Bloody fingers! Bloody fingers! (And I’m still chewing.)

I cannot express how frustrated I am not to be able to further the conversation about Horizons right this very minute. NYPL has given me a computer reservation that lasts less than half an hour, with page-load times that could barely beat molasses in January. That’s just enough time for me to approve all of the passionate, insightful and thought-provoking comments I’ve received so far, and not enough time to respond to any of them in any depth.

The one thing I do want to say in my limited time is that on this blog I am not acting as a “representative” of Harlequin, as some commenters have indicated. (My disclaimer on the right-hand side says this clearly.) This is my personal blog filled with my personal opinions about publishing, an industry I care deeply about.

I actually started this blog not long ago because of the many, many articles, posts and tweets I have been reading this year about self-publishing, vanity publishing, e-publishing, and other new and changing options and distribution models. I have a collection of links waiting to be posted that have nothing to do with Harlequin. It’s just that the company made some exciting announcements recently. Since my goal is to discuss how publishing works now and how it is evolving, I couldn’t very well ignore the winds of change that were fluttering the papers on my day-job desk.

If the only thing you know about me is that I work at Harlequin, you might think I’m touting the party line. An understandable mistake since this blog is so new I haven’t even filled in my About page! Honestly, nobody read my ramblings until yesterday when Angela James kindly alerted everyone to my presence on Twitter. (Thanks, Angela. I think.)

So, please forgive me for not being able to address your comments right now. I’m ready to discuss the future of good writing, wherever it may be published. As soon as I can get my hands on a real computer.

OMG, RWA!

[Update, 11/22/09: It was pointed out to me this weekend that this page did not originally include the disclaimer found on my home page. The template now includes the disclaimer, and in case you don’t want to look to the sidebar: This post does not necessarily represent the opinions of Harlequin.]

My computer crashed on Tuesday, and I have been culling together random moments of very slow access via the public library and the handmade-by-my-brother-in-law, Linux-run, back-up machine that doesn’t allow me to do anything I normally do on-screen.

I’m about to gnaw my fingers off in frustration!

What a week for my little laptop to go belly-up. First, I come back to the office on Wednesday (not having been able to check my email on Tuesday, see above) to find an announcement about Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin’s new self-publishing initiative. All well and good.

(I haven’t yet posted all of the info I’ve been collecting about self-publishing and POD, but these kinds of new and changing publishing models are a current passion of mine. My initial reaction to the release, as someone working in a completely different HQ division who had no access to the information about Horizons until yesterday, was unadulterated excitement.)

But then I received emails about author reactions. I received some phone calls laced with disappointment. My Google alerts went crazy. One author called the announcement of Horizons a “Harlequin s**tstorm.”

Now, this morning, I log on to an ancient public library computer–on which I’m about to run out of time–and find that RWA has officially pulled Harlequin’s eligible publisher status. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

I have so much to say, and yet the clock is running out. Two things, quickly:

First, the press release makes this venture sound, to me, much like a licensing agreement. Harlequin provides the “Harlequin” and Author Solutions provides the service and maintenance. As a separate division run by a partner company and distributed on a wholly separate model, Horizons is sort-of like (at least to my MBA-less mind) GE’s ownership of NBC. Related, but not by much. As such, RWA’s decision to equate Horizons with all of the thousands of Harlequin’s traditionally published books seems sort-of like deciding not to buy that nice new fridge because you don’t like Leno in prime time.

That said, Harlequin as a brand is beloved by many and known around the world. Harlequin has history; it’s part of people’s intimate lives; Harlequin–at least for me and many readers I know–was there when boys went from being icky to delicious and when love and sex were first lighting up the hormones. So, it makes me tear up a little to read the heartfelt emotions on some author blogs. There is an honest sense of betrayal here that has nothing to do with the future of publishing and everything to do with a love of reading, romance novels and the (paid) writing life.

When I can get my darned computer back together–or hack out a little more time from the public library–let’s discuss some of the issues others’ have raised:

What does Harlequin the company, which may or may not be synonymous with the Harlequin brand, already include?

MIRA and HQN, imprints that many non-category readers don’t associate with Harlequin when they see them on the shelves; manga and overseas sales that many North Americans don’t have contact with; a variety of category romances that are often misrepresented as being all one type of read (ex: everyone thinks all romance is like Presents, or that Harlequin Romance the series is the same as Harlequin romance the brand); and lots of other initiatives that have come and gone. Will a new company under the Harlequin umbrella change how readers see the brand?

Where does self-publishing stand today as an alternative to traditional publishing?

It’s growing. Lulu.com; Amazon’s self-publishing option, which they monitor for “best picks” that they then publish more traditionally in their Encore imprint; Greenleaf Book Group, which has some stellar books out now and several more in my TBR pile, calls themselves a publishing “incubator” but basically charges the author money for publishing and distribution services; Smashwords; West Bow Press–really the list keeps going.

Those watching the industry closely cannot help but see these kinds of services as a part of publishing’s future. (As a consumer, I find this very exciting. No longer are the books I want to read hemmed in by marketing guidelines. If I want it, I can probably find it published by someone.) Beyond the obvious differences in money (author advance vs. author fee), there is a huge rights difference. Authors keep all or most of the rights in self-publishing, which can offer unlimited opportunities for the right person. (The kinds of unlimited opportunities that might not happen in traditional publishing.)

Does Horizons offer false hope to aspiring authors?

This is the most eye-roll-worthy comment I’ve seen so far. Some have pointed to Horizons’ web copy, which mentions that Harlequin will monitor sales and hopefully find new authors through this program, and called it misleading. To me, the claim seems delightfully honest. Harlequin wants more bestselling authors; here’s a new way to find them. Most, if not all, of the self-publishing services I’ve seen (Author Solutions’ companies, Smashwords, Amazon, etc.) monitor sales and give special attention to the books that sell best. Harlequin is simply stating up front the hope that a few strong new voices will rise above the many. (New voices, I should add, that probably wouldn’t find an audience if forced to stay within the strict marketing plans and editorial submissions processes of traditional publishing.)

Also, when authors pay to use a service, I believe they are smart enough to do due diligence. Self-publishing is very different from traditional publishing, and anyone who chooses to pay good money for their book to be published will know the difference.

What does the rise of self-publishing in general say about the role of editors or the curation of book and author lists?

Editing is an apprenticeship skill: a little creativity, a little diplomacy, a little marketing, a little problem-solving. If everyone can publish anything they want, any time they want, is there a role for those of us who can make stories go from good to great? For those who relish the difference between a cleanly written manuscript and one that makes us laugh and cry? For those who want our favorite books in the hands of as many readers as possible? Maybe yes, maybe no. Sometimes the crowd’s choice can be much better than what is selected by the traditional model.

As an editor, as a former aspiring writer, as a voracious consumer of content in many forms, this brouhaha excites me.

It makes for a good story.

Now it’s the bozo-behind-me’s turn to use the computer. *Sigh.*


DISCLAIMER

I work as an editor at Harlequin, but the posts on this site are all mine and don’t represent my employer's positions, strategies or opinions.
my book shelf:
Stacy Boyd's book recommendations, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

%d bloggers like this: