Friday, March 21, 2008

The Industry of Missed Opportunities

Have you updated your status today? Has anyone written on your wall? Have you spent any Linden dollars? Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? You’re excused for not knowing about mobcasts, microblogging, or avatars, but the rest? In the 21st Century podcasts, RSS feeds and blogs remain as opaque as String Theory to a frightening number of publishers. Many don’t even know if their authors have blogs. And social media? It’s a mystery to them.

While they are pimping their sales forecasts, their customers are pimping their MySpace and Facebook profiles. A savvy few trade publishers are investing in social media - Penguin, HarperCollins, Random House, Simon & Schuster - but many others remain on the fence.
Advertising industry leader Steve Hatch takes publishing companies to task in his article Communication Breakdown, which appears in the Spring edition of The Deal (found via and via) for the total mismatch between publishers’ online spending and their customers’ behaviour.

Last year, he says, the British publishing industry spent only 2.4% of its advertising budget on online promotion, whereas research has shown that most book readers are also very heavy internet users.

He also talks about last year's Booker shortlisted authors and claims only one (McEwan) had webpresence.

(How, oh how, could he have not noticed Indra Sinha's author website and his incredible in which he creates an entire fictional city (below)?? I don't think it is a coincidence that Sinha himself has an advertising background ...)

Booker winner Anne Enright's name came up in as many searches as McEwan's when the shortlist for the prize came out, but she had no presence online at all and this was a terrific marketing opportunity - missed!

A website would have cost her publisher about the same as a half-page ad in a magazine like The Bookseller or Time Out, Hatch says. And it would undoubtedly have reached a lot more people and, more's the point, globally.

Right now I'm doing my prep for an author I'm due to interview in a few days time and bless him, he has a great website with his bio, synopses of all his books, reviews, and pictures I can use. It makes my job as a journalist so much easier and I don't have to waste precious interview time when we meet asking him to fill in the gaps for my ignorance.

My point, as it was last time I brought this matter up, is that our local authors and publishers too shouldn't be blase about their online presence (or lack of) if they want to sell books.

Maybe authors like Enright aren't too comfortable getting their hands dirty with the marketing side of what they do, so this makes it even more important for the publisher to step in.

Just as a matter of interest, how many local publishers or bookshops are attracting fans and advertising events on Facebook??? None that I've noticed.

How many local authors? One or two. (Amir Muhammad and Sufian Abas (left) for example.)

A marketing opportunity missed and one that cost precisely (*gasp*) nothing! There are many thousands of Malaysian Facebook users many of whom confess to being addicted to the site.*

Second Life is also a great way to sell products and services. I got chatting to a woman who had opened a shop on Book Island (yeah, it is pretty surreal) to sell her services as a "book doctor" i.e. a freelance editor of fiction manuscripts, and she said that she had acquired more than enough real-life clients now to make a very lucrative living.

Authors and publishers are also discovering the site as a venue for showcasing their work and even holding virtual readings. I've even attended *ahem* one or two myself.

Interested? You can check out this very interesting post by Ronin Kurosawa on the Booksquare blog.

(*I'm not, I'm not ... just hang on while I make my move on Scrabbulous.)

(Picture at top is a screenshot of Book Island lifted from Booksquare.)


Chet said...

Looks like it's time I check out Second Life again.

Anonymous said...

You were on Second Life ? on our Internet connection ? it barely moves.

bibliobibuli said...

anon - is that the reason it keeps crashing? i was blaming my computer. and yes, it is terribly frustrating.

(hopefully we will have faster internet before too long and can use the site more easily?)

some parts of second life give fewer problems than others and book island and publishing island have been fine for me. it's better to go there when there are events on and more people around. (check the posters). there's also an interesting second life writing group called the inklings which has a daily writing prompt and competition.

i'm just getting the hang of things there but find it fascinating. (there's so much potential!)

one of the friends i've made through this blog became pretty rich (in real life) by selling land there.

ted told me ages ago to read neal stephenson's "snow crash" which is said to be the book that predicted/inspired second life ...

Felicius Cordiferanta said...

Nice article!