Digital Book World: Disconnect and 10 Tweet Observations

I’ve been watching the tweets from Digital Book World 2011 and noticed the same trend from a conference on digital publishing and the future of books.

The vast majority of twitterers claim to be techno-savvy, publishing experts, masters of their domain.  They dispense wisdom about the digital world and where it’s going and how to use it, yada yada and I had the brisque.

But 90% of the so called techno-savvy publishing experts, when I check their twitter numbers, have less than 1000 followers and less than 1000 people they follow.  Which indicates to me they consider Twitter insignificant and not worth their time.  Yet, they sit on panels and preach the importance of social media for authors and selling books.

I call that do as I say, not as I do.  It also tells me many have no idea what they’re talking about when they discuss marketing books via social media.  Because most of them have no idea how to actually do it themselves.

There are exceptions.  @smartbitches is well established on social media (despite the shock of google at romance being #1 seller).  @JaneFriedman is a constant presence.  @MichaelHyatt of Thomas Nelson is one of the leaders in using social media as a publisher.  These are people who should be listened to.  Because they’ve done it.

In essence, 99% of the ‘advice’ coming out of it is generic, or too specific, or flat out pointed in the wrong direction, as you’ll see below where I pick 10 tweets and respond.

The other key is that most people are protecting their turf.  Publishers are trying to point out how they hold the keys to the future.  Brick and mortar bookstores are trying to hang on with their fingernails.  Libraries want to stay alive.  Tech people think the software and hardware and data mining hold the key.  Authors, well, actually I didn’t hear about any authors on panels or doing workshops.

So let’s comment on 10 tweets:

Good content without audience or distribution is a guarantee of $0 ROI.

Actually distribution isn’t hard any more.  It’s called digital, which is the name of the conference.  We’ve got great ROI and audience at Who Dares Wins Publishing, but started with great content.

Trial and error is sometimes the best way to figure out what customers want.

Actually, it’s not, but an expert said it, so it must be true.  We had plenty of trial and error at WDWPUB, so I will agree it is one way to find out.  But there’s a difference between trial and error and being ignorant.  Remember I want my MTV and the music business?  I want my Kindle and content.

What can we do to help indies?

What can indies do to help authors?  Most genre authors, especially romance, are treated with disdain by indies.  And why do we care so much about brick and mortar?  WDWPUB is an indie bookstore.  Go to our web site.  Buy some books.  Please support us.  We’re not going out of business, BTW.  Last week was our best week ever and our web site outsold our books on Amazon, but we do enjoy our Amazon business.  Want a business model for selling books that works?  We’d be glad to speak at your next conference.

Zero mention of word of mouth.  How to spark that tsunami of trad and self-pubbed books?

Good point.  Word of mouth is #1 way to sell books.  Look at Snooki.  Because if someone knew how to do it, they’d have been doing it for decades.

You can build something wonderful but you have to have someplace to sell it (and someone to sell it to).

Really?  So profound, I’m speechless.

Are there any authors at #DBW11?

ROFL.  Are you kidding?  We only produce the product.  Most of these conferences don’t think authors have anything to contribute, or if they do, they recruit bestsellers or the usual suspects.  But most of publishing has treated all but their superstar authors as replaceable parts for decades.

Every book is going to become a bookstore. Every book is an e-commerce opportunity.

Huh? Sounds neat, but what exactly does that mean?  Actually, I think at WDWPUB we’ve already done it.  Wondering why we weren’t invited to speak?  Did the person who said this, do this?  That’s my big question—all these great quotes.  Say ‘em when you’ve done ‘em and proven ‘em.

Highly disappointed that the State of the Union address doesn’t discuss the effect of ebooks on small businesses.

This was a tongue in cheek tweet.  But it highlights something that has always bothered me.  An indie bookstore goes out of business, it’s a story in the local paper, people rally to try to save it, everyone laments.  An indie writer goes out of business the only people who notice are the author’s family.  eBooks are making my small business, Who Dares Wins Publishing.  Awfully sorry we followed the business, saw what was coming, took advantage of opportunity and are now selling thousands of books a month.  I’m sure there were many people lamenting the fate of their local blacksmith and carriage maker as they drove by in their new car.  Damn nice fella, old Smithie, maybe he can go work in the new Ford factory.  I love bookstores.  But I also love being in reality.

@SmartBitches: Publishers are not willing to underwrite costs of social media. Pubs are ok with losing money in old ways, not in new ways #dbw11

Exactly.  Reacting, not acting.

What can pubs do to help indies?

Once more, I’m an indie.  I don’t need publishers’ help.  Because I’m also a publisher.  And a bookstore.  And an author.  All we need at Who Dares Wins Publishing are the most important people in the entire business:  READERS.

10 tweets and comments tomorrow.

Write It Forward!

About Bob Mayer

Bob Mayer is a NY Times Bestselling author, graduate of West Point, former Green Beret (including commanding an A-Team) and the feeder of two Yellow Labs, most famously Cool Gus. He's had over 60 books published including the #1 series Area 51, Atlantis and The Green Berets. Born in the Bronx, having traveled the world (usually not tourist spots), he now lives peacefully with his wife, and said labs, at Write on the River, TN.

Posted on January 25, 2011, in DBW11, Publishing Options, Social Media and the Writer and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Jenni Holbrook-Talty

    I find the DBW11 tweets frustrating at times. I try to follow, and I think there is a fair amount of good information, but there are some tweets that just make me go WTH?

  2. Thank you for citing me as a social media expert. I don’t know if I’m an expert, but I do enjoy it, and think the conversations I have with people while I’m at a conference and they’re many miles away are educational and thought-provoking. At least, they are for me.

    I do want to make one correction: “@SmartBitches: Publishers are not willing to underwrite costs of social media. Pubs are ok with losing money in old ways, not in new ways #dbw11″

    That quote came from the DBW panel on Author Branding, and was said by agent Steve Axelrod. I was quoting him and I apologize that that was not clear. Another constraint of the Twitter medium and character limit. That panel was an excellent example of citing the strengths and drawbacks of Twitter – my own use included!

  3. Good information to know isn’t always good advice to follow. I watched the dbw tweets flood in, too. Listened. Considered. Then I started talking with other writers about the trends that were being bandied about as absolutes. Thanks for adding to the discussion and paving the way and helping think the one-liners through just a little little deeper ;o)

  4. Even the lamentations over financial troubles at Borders strike me as disingenuous. The former big-box bully has been ceremonially rededicated as a hollowed member of the brick-and-mortar club. Those entrenched in the traditional publishing model routinely retreat with their ramparts to surround themselves with the current lesser-of-an-evil.

    I’ve heard enough expert sound-bites to assemble a casino buffet. Most of it tastes the same. Now, I get it. They’re eating elsewhere . . .

    Great post!

  5. Sarah– I knew you were quoting someone, but it’s also something I think you agree with. Publishers don’t want to help authors with promoting. They never really have, unless you are one of their top clients, then they aren’t helping, they’re doing it for you. My editors at Random House would constantly tell me all the great things they would do for my books, but when release date came, it was essentially nothing. One year they did give out hats to book reps with Area 51 written on the front. Bottom line is we just can’t do business as usual.

  6. Some Wednesday we should collaborate and all write a blog on the same topic: our successes and failures in this new world of publishing. Wonder how much attention that would garner? Personally, unless I’m looking at a flesh and blood editor from one of the Big Six at a con, I rarely consider them anymore. And they know it.
    Joy

  7. I was following Jane Friedman’s coverage during the conference and found some of her tweets insightful.

    So, for those of us trying to build platforms, if you haven’t made it yet, what do you do in the mean time in trying to provide service to your followers?

    • Jenni Holbrook-Talty

      I started blogging long before I was published. I wrote a lot of posts about what I was learning and my experiences at conferences. I’m still building on that. When Bob teaches Warrior Writer he uses a clip from Walk The Line. I was actually listening to it this morning with some writer friends as we were discussing platform, etc. It’s what you bring to the table that is uniquely you. It also changes over time.

  8. Quick correx: I think you may be confusing the Jane Friedman, who’s a visiting professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati, and the Jane Friedman, former CEO of Harper and head of ORIM.

    I was disappointed with DBW too, but I think the main problem is that the organizers have a mixed agenda. Because they’re trying to get as many people to attend as possible the panel discussions and even some of the break outs are too general to be of much value to such a varied audience. And, some of the presenters, since they’re consultants to the industry, don’t have much of an incentive to deliver the goods on the cheap. They want to say just enough to raise build their reputation and perhaps hook some prospective clients. Sorry to sound cynical, but business is, after all, business. As always, buyer be ware.

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