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Author blogs and their impact on sales

November 16, 2010

The sad truth about publishing is that it is to some degree an inefficient business and therefore invites complaint. Particularly from authors. This is largely because  the industry often has to deal with a hideous cocktail of  intellectual aesthetic, high production costs, poor value presentation, inefficient brand maximisation and extensive (and disproportionate) retailer power. But today, authors (and publishers) can give themselves a better chance by doing as well as demanding. Enter the author blog.

We know about Seth Godin and his “Tribes” of course and there is some great logic in his approach when it comes to publishing (not least because he practices what he preaches). Unless a publisher is truly “niche”, it will succumb to the inevitable and eventually dilute its brand, its position and its message on the altar of “survival by broad portfolio”.

With few resources available, and with a need to focus down on customer revenue drivers, publishers must encourage their authors to blog to their readership. After all, in the old days, publishers had little alternative but to bow to the author’s firm belief that “there is definitely a market for this book” when taking the decision whether to publish or not. Well, blogging lets us find out. So what’s the best approach to author blogging?

Godin of course is an excellent example but there was a time when even he had to get by without his blog and he’s already built a reputation which has allowed him to grow into a credible brand. Yet there are some excellent author blogs out there. Take Marie Lamba’s blog for example: simple, focused and with good interaction from readers. She also includes book reviews, a list of appearances and so much more.

Can you imagine how Marie might have coped in the old days? Just another author in a bloated portfolio? Not any more! Now the author becomes a key part of the marketing mix – more than just a name in a “list”; now an interactive personality and brand ambassador for both herself and the publisher.

Or, on the B2B side, what about the Freakonomics blog? Talk about authoritative – with a great feature list including writer biogs, radio, comments of the moment and more! Blogs bring books to life – they bring authors to life, concepts and so much more. Whereas in the past, publishers might have had to rely on interviews with authors or hope that some bored editor might pick up a press release, now authors can create the news and the vitality themselves. Interaction is the new testimonial. Trust-based social media is the new experiential marketing.

As we stated in yesterday’s A Brand Day Out, publishers need to have a much broader understanding of marketing than they did in the past; key to this is understanding the impact of author reach. Not only does a pro-active approach to blogging and digital PR encourage author exposure, it also builds publisher brand exposure. Bad publishers will not survive in this environment so strategic brand openness is a fundamental part of brand reach in the modern age.

If you are encouraging author blogging, what tools are you making available to help your authors? Can they get downloads of your logo, easy links to your website, digitised sample pages, special feature elements unavailable elsewhere, videos, podcasts? Do they understand the power of blogging? Can you provide them with a hit list of “how to make your blog successful”? Then think about their target audience – who are they talking to and interacting with? Are there other books and services which could be offered at special rates?

Author blogs take the commercial impact of reading and learning into new areas – areas which the end user actively joins as a result of focused enquiry. No more does the reader need to be on a moribund mailing list but instead elects to search for the information (or the joy) they require. So it is that publishers need to maximise this inquisitiveness to ensure that commercial opportunity is not wasted.

Of course, this does not mean that commercial focus of blogging comes first – today, audiences spot the “hard sell” a mile off. Social media does not render credible the forced “push” messaging of olden times marketers. Instead, blogging is contextual and subtle. But done correctly – author led with publisher support – author blogging can fundamentally leverage sales of your books and services to new and previously unknown audiences. At a low price and with a high ROI.

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