. . . . But so will Search

And you say “Doh!”
It may seem obvious that search will drive change because Search seems to be changing everything. Well firstly that is not true, Search is changing quite a lot of things but not everything. After all, as the first part of this series argued, a book is a book etc. Search will not make a novel a non-fiction book nor will it make a non-fiction book a children’s’ picture book. The books themselves will remain essentially the same though their occurrence in different media, be that paper, audio CD, MP3 file, e-book or serialised on a webpage, will surely become more frequent.

What will change is that these books will need to be open to Search and that means that the digitised versions will become valuable marketing tools. Publishers know this. That is probably why they are resisting Google Book Search so strenuously. Marketing will become more and more about how well your book places in terms of native (non-paid for) search results (Sponsored links and contextual ads will be important here too). And that placement will influence sales.

It’s about marketing
I have discussed before, one of the key issues self-publishers face, marketing. Well in the digital, Author driven, Search driven future world of publishing, there will be no difference. Great opportunities to go it alone will offer themselves and authors will think that simply putting a book online will result in huge sales and no problems.

But many books will die on the web, a lonely, unread, unnoticed death.

Why? Because in the same way that real world selling and marketing takes more than just producing a good product, online marketing takes hard work, graft, contacts, networking and a degree of luck.

Having pleased every author yesterday with my post on their ability to drive change I have to now throw them back down to earth. Unless you learn to harness the web you will be faced with two options, obscurity and disappointment or falling into the arms of the revived publishing firms, or the new ones who emerge from the wreckage of the current industry. You may laugh at that but read on.

Amusingly Search may well rescue publishers
Search and books are made to go together. They are friends, publishers just have not admitted it yet or rather they have admitted it they just wish they owned the game when in fact it is quite clear that right now Google, Yahoo and MSN own the search game and everyone else has to just accept a minor role for the time being. That could change with new innovation but for now it’s a solid rule.

Consider the discussion yesterday on the role of publishers. They act as aggregators of authorial content, risking capital on many projects to gain traction with the rare few. Well they have advanced marketing skills and they also have great tools at their disposal, brand names.

The traditional strengths of the publisher are eroding. Editing can be purchased in online auctions for a few hundred dollars, design and typesetting for only a little more, manufacture for next to nothing if you sacrifice some quality and for the not too comfortable a full print run of a tiles is not an unimaginable cost. There will be little profit in offering these services to authors in twenty years time.

Publishers can survive the onslaught of digitisation not by screwing the author, not by owning the whole process but by moving up field and becoming even more intimately involved in the one field of their business that is not rapidly commoditising, marketing. Slicing off their non-productive cores and outsourcing is the way forward. It is harsh but otherwise publishing will not have the capital to invest in new tools to build book profile online, to promote author blogs and seed the web with viral videos promoting their newest title. They need to shrink.

And when they do, armed with new skills and new weapons, they will once again insert themselves on the value chain and place themselves between the pot of gold (Small as it is) and the author. And what is more authors who fall into their hands will, like authors now faced with little option see it as just the way it is.

And that’s the fault of Search?
Well not quite, it’s more that Search will be the catalyst and driver than the actual cause. Technology in general is the cause. Change can be a terrible thing. How is it that Chinese quote is supposed to go: “May you live in interesting times?” it is safe to say that we do!

Packed and ready,
Eoin

Yesterday . . . Authors will drive change . . .
Tuesday . . . A book is a book is a book

2 comments

  1. I suspect you’re right about search. I’ve given up being surprised by the number of people who think it’s enough to put a website up, with no links to anything, fail to take any action to make sure it’s included in directories etc and then wonder why they don’t get any hits. It will be the same with this brave new digital future. – there will be many writers who don’t get that it doesn’t stop with uploading your book to the web or whatever – you will have to take a pro-active role in bringing it to people’s attention. Unfortunately for many people this will mean a whole new skillset to learn, when all they want to do is write.

  2. I also meant to say that there’s a similar article by Clare Alexander in either this week’s or last week’s Bookseller. Even though she’s writing from an agent’s perspective what she says is still similar – publishers should concentrate on building brands in the sense of taking a long term view of author development.

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