Thursday, April 23, 2009

The New Role of Publishers

Umair Haque makes a fascinating point in his most recent blog post when he urges the New York Times to acquire Twitter in part to "help the NYT rebuild detailed information about people, products, services, and news." In other words, the NYT becomes not just a source for information published by the NYT, but an aggregator of information provided by everybody.

What if that’s what publishers need to do today? Not just to provide content, but to help their customers share content between each other as well?

While some publishers are beginning to do this in a rudimentary way--OUP has a blog on which readers can converse through comments; HarperCollins has various reading groups--nobody has yet set this as their new business model.

You wouldn't only have to have discussion forums; you'd have to have space for people to upload their own work and the capability for your editorial team to sort it and comment on it somehow, so readers know what their getting (after all, one of the most important functions of the editorial team is as gatekeeper to good information). But a lot of the work would just have to be automated.

Is this the world we're heading to?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

…from Quirk Books (publishers of “Worst-Case Scenarios” and nothing else I have heard of) has sold almost 14K copies since its release on Saturday! Perhaps more amazingly, only one of those was to me!

What is Quirk doing right about word-of-mouth book marketing? I initially heard about the P&P&Z weeks ago on NPR's “Wait Wait Don't Tell Me” and one of my coworkers reports it was covered on the BBC world news this morning. I certainly Twittered about it when I preordered, and got the most RT’s I’ve ever had (ok, like 3, but still). I've even written a blog post about it! (Ooh, so meta!)

Is this just a case of good author track record (I hear Austen’s pretty hot right now…and for the past two centuries), a catchy title and idea, or are they actually doing something other publishers can emulate (perhaps in their own nice, brand-appropriate way)? Check out the publisher’s website - - they’ve got plenty of space for reader feedback, tons of tschotschkes, quizzes, and much more. It's not all stuff that every publisher can do from a brand perspective (not all of us are publishing irreverent humor books), but there's certainly community-building inspiration here for all of us.