Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bob Stein at TOC on building communities

This short snippet of Bob Stein's TOC presentation comes from Ed Nawotka's article in PW today:

In this brave new world, the key role of publishers “is to build and nurture vibrant communities for authors and tend to their readers.” They will be judged on their ability to “curate and build communities for their authors around their readers.”

The idea of building communities and becoming more attentive to reading audiences has been a major one at this year's TOC Conference. Interacting with the target audience is presenting a major challenge for many publishers today who have traditionally taken a very distanced approach when it comes to readers.

How many times have we all heard or participated in a discussion about the "good old days" of publishing when it was a glamorous and artistic endeavor, when publishers were the "gate-keepers" of literary and academic taste? In the past, book publishers were situated on the forefront of cultural movements. Significant and society-altering ideas were published in print before they appeared anywhere else. I am not arguing that books can no longer play that role, but today, technology has pushed book publishing back to the lagging edge of cultural trends. Often times, authors have blogged about their revolutionary ideas long before these ideas make it into a printed book.

Publishers have to engage their readers, build communities of readers, and let these communities take some of the burden of marketing every title off the publishers' shoulders. User-generated content and viral marketing are very powerful, but they depend on a strong network of dedicated fans. Let's spend some real energy opening up to readers so they can become champions for the book publishing cause (obviously, the question is how to do this, and if I had that answer, I would be rich).

UPDATE: Chad Post echoes my sentiments in his analysis of BEA's new structure.

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