Monday, May 18, 2009

Expose the Publisher!

I appreciate the concept Carolyn Pittis is voicing in this article over at Book Business (my first time to the site, I followed a Harper Studio link). She frames this changing publishing landscape in a way that emphasizes the need for editors to come out from behind the protective wall put in place by publishers.
Publishers have little tradition of revealing what is inside their black box that isn’t focused on meeting specific author and title marketing goals. They have little practice of turning the spotlight toward their contributions in ways that are authentic in today’s marketplace—and that simultaneously support their authors and a community of readers. This is rooted in old conceptions of publicity as a department, as a discrete function with one-way, outbound messaging. Yet today, authentic, personalized, continuous engagement is the way the social economy works. Publishers need to be personally and organizationally engaged with the tools they are asking their authors to use. There are no wallflowers at this digital dance.

I appreciate this point and agree. I think the pressure point lies with the people running the houses, though, not the workers inside. The change needs to happen at the top, and that will make things messy. A corporate controlled blog, full of approved posts, will bore any half smart reader, so the publishing house would have to take into account the editor's ability to present her or himself online in a way that is once again conducive to acquisitions and selling books. This is a whole new level of interviewing!

And in some ways... I kind of love this idea. The publisher can blantantly hire engimatic personalities rather than just looking at the bottom line - can you acquire XX number of books and hit this profit margin? Now that's a surefire way to hire a line of robots to front your editorial initiatives. But hire an editor and give her room to create a list using her personality and smarts and good sense, and authors AND readers will be drawn to that person and to that person's list.

Pittis is a marketing gal, so her language is in that direction. Things get interesting when she raises the concept of digital publishing and the new challenges this format presents, as readers have more choices than ever:

Book publishers will need to help reinvent reading for the 21st century as well as help readers know about the best of the best, whether published by them or by someone else. And consumers will reward those who find ways to engage readers during the content creation process.

D'accord! If a reader comes to trust an editor and/or the publishing house she represents, there will be brand loyalty even as books and other assorted products emerge from its doors.

I like the idea of publishers throwing open their doors to involve readers and authors and creating community, though I maintain my concern about involving "textual content that integrates rich media audio and video" - ugh, seems like such a mess. But this community can be used for (political) good, so let's jump on this idea and make some progress, folks.

(Pittis saves some harsh words for fellow blogger Moonrat over at Editorial Ass, who I assume will respond. Pittis notes, "While Editorial Anonymous is to be commended for creating valuable content for aspiring writers and engaging online in concrete ways, I am saddened by his or her perceived need for anonymity." It will be interesting to see how this develops...)

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