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.
Tag Archives: Issue 3
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, Readwrite.com)
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, Readwrite.com)
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, Readwrite.com)
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, Readwrite.com)
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, Readwrite.com)
Stephanie Price Henderson
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.
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 BookBusiness.com, 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.