Issue 5: Trends in Establishing Authority and Credibility as a Publisher

Current Trends

Publishers are struggling with establishing dominance, credibility and authority in this age of overabundance. This editorial team will explore the past and current methods of establishing credibility, dominance and authority, and explore that evolution while thinking about publishing’s future.

Past methods of establishing dominance/authority have included mergers (1), print news best-seller lists, getting a book reviewed by certain critics/on Oprah, creating block-buster books that dominate the market.

Currently, publishers are still working hard to be visible – and visibility is crucial to establishing authority. From in-class survey results we learned that people still put credence in best-seller lists, like the New York Times, and while this approach continues, publishers are diversifying their efforts to draw readers in, and make their books known. Many publishers are focusing on the digital shift (2).

The major way publishers are trying to draw more eyes are by fully utilizing digital formats for their books. The push toward digital is beginning to take on profitability of its own by allowing publishers to revitalize their back list, and publishers are getting creative about licensing these titles out.

Some large publishing companies, like Harper-Collins are partnering with services offering digital subscription-based models (Scribd and Oyster) (3) similar to Netflix, putting emphasis on content, instead of container, as consumers shift toward a book ownership-free lifestyle (4). Other publishers are participating in bundling programs like Kindle Matchbook, offering digital copies of books along with hard copies, and others, like McMillan, are offering digital rights to libraries for e-book lending (5).  In any of these cases, the digital versions of books are finding new avenues to connect with readers, which will hopefully, in turn, interest the readers in more of the authors’ works and by extension the publisher.

Brick-and-mortar publishers are also paying attention to successful self-published works, some of which top Amazon and New York Times best-seller lists, and are focusing on acquiring these already-popular book series or authors (6). By attaching their name to an already-successful series they are increasing their dominance and authority.

Publishers are also relying on metadata to drive up visibility. Early promotion and SEO are still drivers of visibility and, to consumers, authority. If a publisher comes up first in a Google search of a certain book genre, searchers still consider it to be the best source. Also, as publishers make their content available on other websites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or even in e-libraries, the more (and more specific) metadata they make available, the easier a user can find a publisher’s books that appeal to them (7). Data on consumers, and consumption, is also quickly available to publishers to help inform their advertising and marketing decisions (8).

Publishers are beginning to create digital content to supplement books, especially how-to books, like cookbooks and build-it-yourself (9), which can come with interactive apps that integrate into the real world (10). In short, publishers are looking for new and improved ways to get their content to consumers, no matter how that happens.

In the future, interactivity will play a key role in driving interest and sales. Gaming theory seems to be cropping up in analyses of coming trends. Book consumption tends to be passive. To get readers engaged publishers must embrace the possibilities of interactivity, engagement and participation to encourage brand loyalty and repeat-patronage (11, 11a).


1. And the good, old-fashioned merger:

2. Digital switch will be profitable:

3. Subscription services:

4. Context not container again:

5. McMillan backlist to libraries:

6. Self-publishing successes:

7. Optimizing Metadata:

8. Data and a hell of a lot of guts:

9. Another e-cookbook:

10. Interactive cookbooks:

11. Gaming theory and publishers:

(11a) The slides for gamification:

Historical Trends

Publishing has been around for thousands of years dating back to when cave walls were used as a medium. In 1456, the Bible was the first book printed by Gutenberg in Germany using the first print press in the world. In 1638 a press was imported from England to Cambridge, Massachusetts. The first English book printed in the United States was The Whole Booke of Psalmes, also known as the Bay Psalm Book. Georgia was the last of the 13 colonies to get a printing press, in 1762. Books published in the north were religious titles whereas the south published books in law. Most often printers were the booksellers.

In was not until the 19 century that a pattern of trends was set in the publishing industry. New York, NY became the center of the publishing industry in the United States through the 21st century. The large publishing houses in New York exercised much influence, that they forced many local printers out of business. In 2000, Harper, Putnam, and Scribner were still popular names in the industry.

Harper took advantage of the lack of international copyright enforcement by printing pirated copies of books by British authors, such as Charles Dickens without paying royalties to the British authors or publishers. In 1842, Dickens traveled to the United States in hopes of recouping his royalties but was unsuccessful. Pirating works of foreign works ended when the United States entered into the International Copyright Act of 1891 to ensure American authors and publishers received their royalties due from sales outside the states.

The 1920s set the stage for a new generation of publishing. It was the beginning of the Modern Age in American literature. The new generation of writers required a new generation of publishers that dared to champion new, modern American literature. So came the birth of important publishing houses as Simon and Schuster, Random House, Alfred A. Knopf, and Viking Press. Random House grew to be the largest and most successful publisher in the United States but not until Simon and Schuler reintroduced mass-market paperback books.

Later, book clubs formed as a new way to market books but struggled to survive because of the rise in bookstore chains and Internet booksellers. Merging publishing houses became an economic trend as well as the consolidation of retail sales outlets. Today, online booksellers, such as Amazon have a profound effect on the way publishers market and sell books.

Comparing Historical and Current Trends in Becoming an Authoritative and Credible Publisher and Looking Forward

Prior to the International Copyright Act of 1891, publishers could essentially use whatever means necessary, such as content piracy, to get a leg up on their competition and establish dominance in the publishing community. However, after copyright laws were established, forcing publishers to use more ethical means of establishing authority among their competitors and credibility in the eyes of their audience, over time publishers became more conscious about how they conducted business, including more focus on content acquisition and marketing to audiences specific to this content. This evolution in business savvy, coupled by the expansion of literacy in the United States, eventually led to growth in the number of publishers in the publishing industry and thus a growth in competition. However, writers at that time did not have any means of publishing themselves and relied on publishers to print and distribute their content. This created a surplus of content for publishers to process, facilitating the formation of publishing goliaths like Random House.

Today, however, publishers large and small are facing a very different world than even a decade ago; authors are able to publish their own work, content is being shared freely like never before thanks to the internet, and the demand for digital content is growing every day. All of these factors are contributing to new ideas about what authority and credibility mean in the publishing industry and shaping different ways by which publishers establish it. Right now, trends for establishing authority in publishing appear to center around content quality (including ease and quality of access to digital content), effective promotion and marketing (using SEO, social media, etc.), and staying up to date with new changes in the evolving digital shift.

Nobody can say for sure where publishing will go next and by what means publishers will establish themselves in that landscape, but based on historical and current trends one can infer that 1) self-publishing is likely to become more sophisticated and continue to grow, 2) publishers will need to develop new marketing and business models to meet the growth in open access and the changing nature of the marketplace, and 3) digital content will continue to evolve.

Editorial Team 5:

Lindsey Jurd

Lisette Ortiz

Courtney Stackhouse



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Issue 4: Light Novels

Light Novels Are Ideal For Mobile Reading

Japan brought Americans anime, manga and Nintendo, which have been quite successful in the U.S. However, the popular light novel format in Japan has not caught on in the West. Why is that? And can they be successful here?

First, here’s an explanation of light novels. They are short books usually at novella length (less than 40,000 words) that are marketed to teens and typically focus on dialogue and action over literary descriptions. Many times, they are first published in serial form in magazines, are then collected into a light novel and are later turned into a manga and/or anime series.

This form of writing is ideal for mobile reading, yet it hasn’t been marketed that way. Companies such as TokyoPop, Viz, and Seven Seas Entertainment have published English translations of popular light novels. but they have yet to gain traction in America. One of the reasons may be that light novels are placed in the manga section of bookstores but should be placed in the teen fiction section. The reasoning is that those who go to the manga section expect to buy a manga filled with images. Therefore, when they pick up a light novel and open it up, they see that it’s a book and put it back down.

There is a better way to market them. The light novel format can be popular as e-books marketed to teens with smartphones or tablets. Since the average reading speed of teens is 200-250 words a minute, if a chapter is 4,000 words, it can be read in less time than it takes to watch a TV episode. This form is perfect for distribution as a serial novel. Plus, the entire book can be read in about the time it takes to watch a movie.

Many teens don’t want to read long stories with too much description, so I can see how light novels have the potential to be popular in the U.S. However, publishers must first change the way they go about marketing the stories and embrace digital editions published in serial form for mobile devices.

C.E. Adams





It Is A Good Time To Resurrect Light Novels

Light novels are essentially mangas and animes turned into short books with the occasional full-length illustration. If you like the story lines in mangas then maybe you might take a peek into a light novel, but I prefer to read the comic version or watch the anime. If I want to read a short novel I pick up a thin young adult book, but that is my preference. The reality is manga, anime, and Japanese enthusiasts make up a small portion of readers in the publishing world. The light novel, if left on its own, would most likely only appeal to this community.

I agree with Chad. If publishers picked these light novels up again and marketed them as paperback books and not as adaptations of mangas or animes, they would be more successful in enticing a larger group of readers to buy them. After all, when the Twilight series was at its height in popularity the first light novel adaptations came out in Japan . . . with illustrations. My high school friends were “frothing at the mouth”, so to speak, and bought the Twilight light novels just for the pictures. I think there is real potential with these short paperback reads, and now.

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) recently released their sales report for the first half of 2013. The Children’s/YA sales were rather interesting. It showed that the purchases for paperbacks are increasing while the hardcover and e-book sales are decreasing compared to the first half of 2012. This is a perfect opportunity for publishers to market light novels again. Publishers could turn the rest of The Hunger Games’ series into light novels and make a profit off of its hype. The added value would be illustrations, as with the Twilight light novels. This venture could kick-start a light novel movement.

Aislinn Boyter





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Issue 3: How Publishers Use Social Media

Social media has greatly changed the way we share information and interact with others. Social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter and blogs have made communicating with others easier, which has allowed more discussions to occur and more communities to be formed. This has great implications for publishing, an industry that operates to spread information, and social media has only strengthened its potential to grow and thrive. In this week’s e-newsletter, we look at how the publishing community is using social media to host community-wide teaching experiences , how social media affect’s the book publisher’s role in the marketing process and how the big six publishing companies are using social media. In all cases, social media is disrupting, but arguably improving, some of the main processes in the business of publishing.

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Social Media Within the Big Six

In the publishing industry, social media is now one of the biggest ways to interact with consumers. Book publishers are finding social media to be extremely successful within their marketing campaigns. The “big six” trade book publishers which include: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster, are finding sites such as: Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr as one of the best ways for advertisement. However, not all publishers are using these social media sites in the same way but they are experimenting in various ways. (MacManus,

For example, the Penguin Group has taken to Twitter verse and is using the social media site to host monthly book clubs with the help from hashtags and tweeting authors. Each month Penguin selects a book by one of their authors and then invites readers to tweet. The Penguin staff incorporates the hashtag #readpenguin and then holds the “mini book club meetings.” During the mini book club meetings, readers are able to interact with the current author and ask questions. The author then replies by tweet to the readers’ questions. With the use of Twitter, this allows consumers to interact with their authors in ways that have never been done before. There is no more writing fan-mail to the author and hoping to hear back from them. With this innovative Twitter account, Penguin has made way for the reader to have instant gratification. (MacManus,

Another example of social media within the publishing industry is the use of Facebook. Most of the big six trade publishers all have Facebook accounts but each of them uses their pages differently. Random House seems to enjoy interacting with their readers through Facebook because on average, they appear to update their status 3-4 times per day and have over 38,369 likes. Publishers are also encouraging their authors to create a Facebook page so readers are able to interact with them as well. For example, Hachette Book Group’s leading novelist James Patterson has over 3.4 million likes and appears to be regular and personal when it comes to updating his page. (MacManus,

A final example of social media within the publishing industry is Tumblr. This is perhaps the most popular among book publishers. For example, HarperCollins uses social media in a great way and their use of Tumblr is one of the best in their class. HarperCollins’s Tumblr page features a range of blog posts by their staff, eccentric promotional ideas and does a colorful Tumblr. This is a great way to grab the attention of readers and generate mass followers. (MacManus,

When it comes to social media, book publishers are definitely jumping on the band wagon. With the author and reader in mind, publishers are making way for social media to help promote them in new ways. Whether it is from a Twitter account, Facebook or Tumblr page, publishing houses understand the importance of the social web and the influence it has on people today. This is one of the best and most exciting new ways to engage their readers and publishers are at the top of their game! (MacManus,

Stephanie Price Henderson



Richard MacManus

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#MSWL Hashtag Gives Writers a Peek into Agents’ Wish Lists

On Tuesday September 24th, hundreds of editors, agents, and other publishing industry insiders shared their manuscript wish lists using the Twitter hashtag #mswl. While entry-level writers used to dream at having such easy access to insider knowledge, MSWL has become a popular rallying-point for the publishing and writing communities.

Standing for “Manuscript Wish List,” the #mswl tag is used by used by agents and editors to publicly let the writing community know what they would like to see in the manuscripts they receive. As the “Wish List” portion of the acronym implies, tweets tagged #mswl are not intended to be the only types of stories that agent or editor will accept. They typically refer to areas of a given genre that the agent/editor thinks could use more exploration. More often than not, these tweets simply share what type of novels that agent/editor personally wants to read.


Some even use #mswl to state what aspects of the genre are over-explored or to even imply what plot elements might cause them to immediately reject a manuscript.


Because MSWL is simply a hashtag, agents and editors tweet their wish lists throughout the entire year. The publishing community often selects random dates as loosely-organized “MSWL days,” which will attract hundreds of agents/editors to post their wish lists all at once. Previous MSWL days were held on June 30th and August 22nd.

There is no organization at the center of MSWL, although the tumblr “Agent and Editor Wish List” has become a de facto hub of MSWL activity. The unidentified author of the tumblr collects and posts all tweets tagged #mswl onto that page. The author also answers some general questions (directed towards writers) regarding editor/agent etiquette and protocol.

MSWL shows no signs of slowing down. Editors and agents continue to participate in droves, and the phenomenon has elicited “strong reactions of joy or disheartenment” from writers (I Believe in Story). Many of the disappointed writers came away from MSWL thinking that these editors/agents were only looking for fiction that matched their wish lists, which reinforces the stereotype that editors and agents are fickle people. These negative reactions (along with some misuses of the #MSWL tag, particularly from writers who used the tag to pitch their novels) prompted a swath of blog editorials on MSWL. Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room warned about writing to the wish lists, while Operation Awesome discussed the etiquette of pitching and how a writer might use MSWL in a polite and dignified way.

MSWL also has the potential to stimulate discussion about the state of various genres.  The tag has become particularly popular amongst genre fiction publishers, most likely because the genre fiction audience tends to be more inclined towards social media. The ability to see the publishers’ opinions on the over or under-use of genre elements is a valuable resource for readers. If there are hot-button debates that stem from MSWL, it may even result in shifting attitudes or trends within those genres.

Because MSWL is so new, no one knows whether or not it has directly resulted in a publishable manuscript. However useful it may prove to be, MSWL has humanized the people behind the acquisition process and uses today’s social media technologies towards earnestly helpful ends.

Daniel Mosier




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How Social Media Affects the Publisher’s Marketing Role

Social media has allowed anyone with the right access the ability to communicate with others that were previously unreachable: from strangers across the world to the creators of the content they consume, including actors, musicians, authors, and businesses. From a business perspective, social media allows us to bridge the gap between producer and consumer. While this open access allows for a variety of innovative changes and ideas to take shape in the book publishing industry, perhaps the area where it has the most important implications is marketing.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter give marketers what they’ve always wanted: direct access to their customers. One of the marketer’s goals is to learn and understand their market’s preferences, wants and needs. In the past, marketers have used surveys and focus groups to gain insight into the minds of their readers, but social media allows them to read their customers’ opinions, track their interests or even ask them directly how they feel about a product. This doesn’t only benefit the marketers and companies they work for, it also benefits the user. Consumers have an opportunity to be more involved in the way companies create the products they use, an opportunity for their voice to be heard.

In an article for the Huffington Post, Founder and CEO of FSB Associates Fauzia Burke makes an important distinction between social media and social networking, a distinction that’s important to note when approaching how to utilize these tools and concepts to improve any aspect of a business. Burke’s differentiation of the two comes down to basic grammar: social media, a noun, refers to the content users upload (blogs, videos, newsletters, e-books), whereas social networking, a verb, refers to using this media to engage with others. While many can create social media, it takes expertise and knowledge to use social networking effectively.

Burke’s company, FSB Associates, is an Internet marketing firm that specializes in online marketing for books; their website describes their company as “the premier Internet marketing firm specializing in creating online awareness for books and authors.” FSB’s clients include some of the top publishers, such as McGraw-Hill, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. FSB’s marketing strategy offers insight into how the shift from print-to-digital is affecting the publisher’s role in marketing books; past marketing strategies, tools and trends are being replaced with ones that are more applicable to the digital market in which they’re operating and the digital audience that they’re trying to reach. FSB’s digital marketing innovations include Amplify, launched in 2011, a marketing plan that approaches books and their authors from a more comprehensive and ongoing perspective. FSB’s Founder and President Fauzia Burke explains how Amplify and her company’s approach to marketing is a necessary break from the traditional event marketing model most publishers use. In the interview below, Burke describes Amplify (and social networking) as an opportunity for authors to bond with their readers and create lasting, continued relationships with them, which will benefit all stakeholders in the publishing process.

This direct access that social media allows benefits authors who want to self-publish their books. Authors don’t need a marketing team to translate sales data or trends to understand their markets, they can just ask them over Twitter or other social networking sites. While social media allows authors to bypass the publisher in a lot of the marketing he or she needs, it doesn’t make the publisher’s role in this process completely obsolete.

In an article for, independent publishing-writer and analyst Jim Parsons discusses how current publishers are approaching social media in their marketing strategies. CEO of Greenleaf Book Group Tanya Hall; Meredith McGuinnis, director of marketing for several Random House imprints; and Mark Ferguson, associate online marketing director at Harper Books/HarperCollins, speak about the attention they pay to advising their authors on using social networking. As Ferguson explains, “Most publishers, Harper included, are spending a lot of time and energy to help guide authors toward the right social media strategy. Strategy varies depending on the genre and the author’s particular expertise and level of interest.” Parsons concludes that “the publishers’ response [to social marketing] should be one of facilitation, giving each author as much support and strategic advice as possible, and to set expectations based on the author’s skills and available time.”

In his article, Parsons stresses an important philosophy publishers need to adopt when approaching how to use social media to market their books and authors: social media should not be seen as a way to just sell, but as a way to engage with readers. He quotes Meredith McGuinnis:  “Social media is a way for authors to engage with a community, not a path to direct sales. In some cases, the fans do purchase but the overall goal of social media is to connect, create a community and establish credibility.” Publishing companies are in the business of creating credibility for themselves, their clients and their products, and it’s their professional experience and knowledge that allows them to do this well; authors need to recognize that while most can use social media on their own, the resources of a publishing company will allow them to transform that media to an organized, effective social networking strategy to maximize their reach.

Nicole Wiesenhahn

Additional Sources:



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Issue 2: Self Publishing

Kickstarter: Jump Starts Self Publishing

The people have taken control of the content they read. If you have a great idea and haven’t had a lot of luck with publishing houses, do it yourself with the help of your peers! Kickstarter is a crowd-funding website which allows people to post their projects and get donations to fund them. The common misconception is that publishing is some how fading into the background or becoming obsolete. This is not the case as evidenced by the amount of successfully funded publishing projects by ambitious creators. Kickstarter allows creators not only a chance to make their vision come to life, but also helps with identifying potential customers as well. Kickstarter is one of many crowdfunding sites, where self-publishers get the funds they need to be able to create! Examples of popular genre’s are children’s fiction, and fiction.

Kickstarter’s mission is to help creative idea’s come to life. Publishing may be in a state of turmoil but those with great idea’s and people who believe have the ability to change how things have been going in the industry this far.Now publishing can focus on niche markets versus the one size fits all or throw something until it sticks approach that has been adopted.

According to kickstarter these are the most popular projects of the week:

1. Dragon Scale will be a 7 x 10 inch full color book celebrating dragons via whimsical paintings and drawings! The book will feature a minimum of 101 dragons.  Some will be full two page spreads, others will be smaller dragons and appear several to a page.


2. The Quest for Rividia: Creating book two (The Quest for Rividia) of my fantasy-genre series of interactive role-playing game books with professional artwork!


3. Home Is Where You Park It: A photographic exploration of #vanlife by Foster Huntington.


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