Pub Rants

On Publishing—Michael Cader Style

 19 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: Tired and ready for bed. Pardon any typos. I’ll proofread and fix tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME by Jewel

Today I was at the Backspace conference—which was a blast. Michael Cader of Publishers Marketplace did the keynote and I have to say that I felt like leaping out of my chair at several points in the speech just to say “Amen” but thought that might sound too much like a revival meeting.

Let’s just say he was singing my song. Preaching to the choir. Well, you get the picture.

So here are some of my notes on some of the great points he made today (and these are just quick paraphrases since I wrote in shorthand and even I can’t read my own handwriting sometimes).

The keynote was entitled “Things No one Understands About Publishing, and the Internet, Featuring the Most Important Thing No One Ever Tells Authors, and The Most Important Thing Publishers Don’t Know.”

In short, Mr. Cader discussed what he felt where principles that the publishing world has been reluctant to embrace because of being entrenched in the old way of doing things.

1. Even if you never self-publish, have no intention to, and pursue traditional publishing venues, go forward and market your book as if it was self published and getting the marketing and the distribution was all on you.

2. You know your material and you know your readership and how best to reach them. Don’t think of readers as only a dollar sign (as in they are there to buy your book and that’s there only purpose). What is important to you as a reader? Answer that question. You have to think about what’s going to grab attention. What’s compelling? What’s passionate about your work? What ignites reader imagination? That’s how you sell your book.

3. You can create readership outside of your book. Internet is the great equalizer. Readers don’t want to be told what to get excited about and it drives marketers crazy. Word of mouth is simply readers talking about what they are passionate about and that’s the most trusted way to create buzz about a book. (And ultimately, that does lead to dollar signs). But that’s not the trade publishing model. They always begin a book campaign by thinking about how to get readers to part with their money rather than how to give readers what content they have to have. Blogs work because they are intimate and personal. Corporate blogs don’t because they can’t capture that authentic and personal feel because it’s about marketing and the bottom line.

4. If you want readers, what do you give away for free? There is the idea that if you give away too much for free, readers won’t buy the printed copy but that hasn’t proven to be true.

5. Genuine interest drives bloggers and they know when they are being marketed to and thus they ignore you. When you participate in the blog world, it’s because you have a genuine interest to make connections—not unlike how we develop relationships with people. It’s non-marketing.

6. Publishing often has it backward. They keep a big book a secret until the release day and then there is a big publicity push. But that’s not how the internet works effectively. The internet is a slow build. Buzz over time. People talking about what interests them about a topic or a book. The internet values what’s old, what can be found in a search, what is repeated over time.

19 Responses

  1. Kimber An said:

    All excellent stuff! I maintain blogs and I’ve seen this all to be true. I especially liked the part about not thinking of your readers as dollar signs. The ones I interact with are sensitive human beings and are rightfully annoyed when they’re regarded otherwise.

  2. Celeste said:

    Nice share. I agree with all that. It’s a blessing that we live in a time when readers can interact with the authors of the books like love. Whenever I encounter a really friendly author, it makes me want to support them by buying their new book, and plugging it for them. Word of mouth is some amazing stuff.

  3. Kimber An said:

    #4 is also excellent. What happens is you give a book to a person. She reads and loves it. She proceeds to order the author’s entire booklist new. And she tells all her friends. This is especially helpful when courting the readers who fear buying new. They’re not easily impressed, but are quite devoted once they find an author they love.

  4. jason evans said:

    Such great points about the intimacy of blogs and giving readers what they want rather than what you think they should want.

    In this world, I think beginning and midlist authors must be more approachable, accessible, and likeable.

  5. julia said:

    Yes, in Blogdom the slow build and sharing is not what a marketing person is geared towards. But that’s okay – bloggers go their own way, don’t they?

  6. Janny said:

    Nice to hear this, especially since the common modern wisdom among authors has become “If you blog, its sole purpose is to sell your books. Don’t blog about anything that doesn’t have to do with selling your books. All subject matter must tie in to something about your books. If it doesn’t, it’s wasting the time of readers, who are only there to find out more about your books (and, the implied end of the sentence goes on, how they can buy more and more of same).”

    I vehemently disagree with this nonsense, even if I’ve just sent entire marketing departments scurrying for aspirin by saying so. It’s nice to see common sense, reason, and an honest desire to connect with readers as PEOPLE applauded, commended, and recommended by an industry pro.

    And now to go blog about something distinctly unconnected with selling my books…:-)


  7. The Anti-Wife said:

    His speech was really amazing and most of the people in the room came away with a new perspective on what it takes. The statistics he gave were frightening, so it’s clearly time to rethink the traditional publishing paradigm.

    What I found interesting was some of the people in the room said they liked his speech, but had no intention of rocking the boat and following any of his advice.

    Things that make you go Hmmmmm!

    By the way, Kristin was a presenter/leader at several workshops and she totally rocked!

  8. The Anti-Wife said:

    Oh, and she may be too modest to mention it, but she was honored at the banquet in a really big way. She won the The Bob Kellogg Good Citizen Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Internet Writing Community.

    Congratulations Kristin!

  9. Janet said:

    #1 scares me a bit. Make that a lot. I would be willing to participate in marketing efforts, but not with the kind of dedication a self-published author has to have. I just don’t have the energy, among other things.

  10. Anonymous said:

    Congratulations, Kristin!!

    Now, maybe I’m in the minority, but I don’t have time to check out new blogs or websites of authors I don’t know. I pick up books by authors I don’t know all the time when the story sounds interesting. But clicking over to blogs and having someone expounding on their recent vacation? No, thank you. Everyone has a blog now (including me), but is it just getting to be information overload for the average reader? When there were more people visiting fewer blogs, the tactic might have had some teeth. But now, when there are more blogs to spread the readership thinner? Have to say I’m not convinced. Plus, the amount of time I’m spending on blogs now has certainly eaten into my reading time these past few months. Less time for non-blogging recreational reading = fewer books I’ll be buying.

  11. Simon Haynes said:

    Thanks for a great post – it reinforces many of the things I’d already taken for granted. (As an aside, my first couple of books were self-published even though I’m with a regular publisher now, and so it was easy for me to maintain the same level of promo and reader interaction once my ‘properly published’ books came out. Of course, it’s more effective now because my books are actually in the shops.)
    If you’re going to spend time on the ‘net in the hope of promoting yourself and selling books, you need to become a valued citizen and not just a brochure or marketing flyer. Give back whenever you can, whether it’s free advice for new writers, hints and tips on writing and the publishing industry, or a blog where you share the trials and tribulations of a published writer.

  12. fiona said:

    Excellent post, thanks 🙂

    anonymous said:
    But clicking over to blogs and having someone expounding on their recent vacation? No, thank you. Everyone has a blog now (including me), but is it just getting to be information overload for the average reader?

    I agree with you to a certain extent, yes – everyone has a blog these days, but not everyone has an ENTERTAINING blog that I want to read regularly and tell my friends about.

    IMO it all comes down to mastering the art of the anecdote. Those authors who have that skill, and who are willing to invest time and energy in to blogging regularly, will definitely see the pay off in new readers. THOSE are the authors who get added to my feeds.

  13. Liana said:

    Michael Kader’s speech was primarily a critique of contemporary publishing practices. His argument (and hope) was twofold: first, the internet will help democratize publishing; second, this democratization will increase quality. Both of these positions can be contested. However, the key point to note here, is Kader’s starting point, namely that contemporary publishing suffers in terms of quality.

    However, that this should be the case is not unrelated to both agents’ and publishers’ practices to assign little time to reading. This was blatantly demonstrated at the Backspace conference, especially through the so-called ‘Two minutes, two pages workshops’; but also through the admission of several of the agents present that they have little time to read – hence writers must make an extra effort to ‘sell’ themselves (either through their query letter or through their first couple of pages of manuscript …).

    I suppose, if we were to agree with Kader that the publishing sector is in need of reform, then we should also expect (or try to bring about) changes in the above practices too.