Traditonal Publishing & Social Media New BBF?


Book and mouse This morning, after I washed the news print off of my fingers from the Sunday New York Times, I downloaded some sample chapters on to my Kindle. Several of those books were recommended to me by my dear friends at Others I found on blogs and through Twitter. The world of publishing is not simply changing .. it is colliding with technology and the world of social media.

Don't just take the word of a digital author but people in traditional publishing are taking out their red pens and looking at their current models with a critical eye. If the publishing business is to stay in business I would encourage publishers and editors to take a cue from the lessons that marketers have learned over the past few years. What is important to understand is that these changes come with options for the reader/customer. The "delivery channel" choice may be as important as the content. Do your readers want digital or traditional or an integration of both?

 This month Debbie Stier @debbiestier - SVP, Associate Publisher, Harper Studio, Kaylie Jones @KaylieJones - best selling novelist ("Lies My Mother Never Told Me." "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries"), Kevin Heisler (@KevinHeisler - literary executor and Ron Hogan @RonHogan - curator, gave their insights about the future of publishing at the 140 Character Conference. The video  is well worth a view.   

Then there is the other Big Question: How are readers finding books in the new world of tweets, Facebook, blogs? Is the library still important? How has the promotion and building a readership community changed? Publishers and agents tell me not to even consider submitting a proposal without a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes social media tactics. The rules of engaging with editors are in flux also. If you follow me on Twitter or you Friend me on Facebook does that mean it's okay to send you a proposal without an agent?

Nathan Bransford, Literary Agent recently asked his readers- "Where did you hear about the book you're reading?" Over 300 people responded. I was curious about the break down and did a very informal tally. What is probably valid is not the count but the weight of each category.

  • Friends (including book clubs) - 78
    Blogs (including author blogs) - 62
    Bookstores - 45
    Websites/reviews sites - 33
    Library - 22
    Amazon recommendation/reviews - 22
    Twitter - 19
    Book tours/met the author - 11
    Blog promotion/contests - 5
    Read other books by author - 4
    Other (ezines, book fairs, TV, Radio, book reviews, podcasts, cover/jacket - 29

It will be interesting to see how social media impacts traditional publishing, what emerges as new publishing model/s, who will lead the innovation and who will close their doors. In the mean time I'm curious .. "Where did you hear about the book you're reading?"


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Fascinating post, Toby. As a business author, I experienced the impact that social media has on promotion and the sales channel. Exposure is no longer limited to being on a bookstore shelf as it now comes from online reviews & recommendations and virtual book tours. This brave new world of publishing has also opened doors and welcomed new authors who couldn't get the time of day from traditional publishers.

Posted by: Sybil on Jun 29, 2009 10:15:05 AM

Very good post! It doesn't surprise me that 78% come from friends. I've been in this business for 27 years and its always been about word of mouth. 25 yrs. ago I learned about "target marketing" and now its come full circle - just with newer technology and more ways to reach the actual reading audience and of course different ways to re-purpose content.
It will be interesting to see how publishers get a grasp on how social media can affect reading choices - not many publishers have gotten it right yet.

Posted by: Karen Strauss on Jun 29, 2009 10:29:51 AM

Hi Toby,

Insightful stuff. That survey is fascinating and raises a lot of other questions about how to deliver content. I love printed books, but can see how the speed, editability, cost, and interactivity of digital make it a powerful competitor.

Digital publishing tools, from blogs to ebooks to Twitter and more, are constantly getting easier to use. The day may be coming when authors and their readers don't need "publishers" for most written work. That's the Publishing 3.0 we've been talking about.

And, to continue your survey, I heard about the book I'm reading from Yvonne directly. But now I've been to the author's blogs, both his main blog and the one he publishes specifically to support the book and communicate with readers -- another blurring of the lines between print and digital.


Posted by: Tom Collins on Jun 29, 2009 11:26:22 AM

Interesting post Toby....would also be curious to follow the interaction between the categories on the "road" to purchase....e.g. heard about it first in an article, then saw on Twitter, went to Amazon, downloaded sample chapter, purchased.

Posted by: Marianne Richmond on Jun 29, 2009 2:05:41 PM

Social media is influencing a lot of things.As far as traditional publishing is concerned we'll just have to wait and watch.Thanks.

Posted by: web development on Nov 27, 2009 12:18:30 AM

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