Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Kathy Meis of Bublish

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I talk to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us better understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing, books and reading culture, and how we can ourselves both understand and influence the future of books and reading.

There has been alot of talk around the publishing business this year about “book discovery” as it is clear that the decline of bricks and mortar bookstores has lessened the opportunity for readers to discover books they want to read through the kinds of browsing and personal recommending that have been the hallmarks of physical bookselling up to now.  Online bookselling and even social media have thus far been less than perfect mechanisms for either writers or readers, with lots of frustration expressed especially by publishers and writers about the whole process.  We’re not sure we know what readers think about all this, but there is doubtless much to be inferred.

The relatively steep decline in overall sales of print books, and the increase in the concentration of sales to best sellers (witness 50 Shades of Gray, among others) suggest that readers are not finding it easy or practical to take advantage of the online availability of just about every book in print.  There are too many books and not enough connection tools for most of them.

Meanwhile, there are intelligent people out there seeking to solve these twin “problems” of too many choices for readers, and ineffective online marketing tools for authors and publishers.  One new project that is the result of some deep thinking about both issues is Bublish, which seeks to create opportunities for social discovery of books by readers.  One of the founders is Kathy Meis, whom I met briefly at this year’s IDPF summit at Book Expo in New York City.

Here is what Kathy said about Bublish in an online interview she did recently with Madison Woods:

With Bublish, authors share book bubbles, and readers get to browse through them. A book bubble consists of an excerpt and an author’s insight about that excerpt. We call this the story behind the story. Both of these elements are presented in a beautifully designed book bubble that also includes the author’s photo and bio, the book’s cover and synopsis as well as links to the author’s website. It’s about as close to the bookstore discovery experience as you can get online. And because we match writers and readers by genre and keywords, we can connect the right authors and books with the right readers without ruining the serendipity of browsing. In an age of immense content abundance, you need a few filters when you’re looking for good books.

Bublish is designed to solve a number of problems for writers and readers. For authors, Bublish will let them repurpose their best writing, the content of their books, and enrich it with the story behind the story. This creates an entirely fresh piece of content for authors to share across multiple social networks. Authors have a lot of demands on their time. We think it’s important to make it as easy and effective as possible for them to facilitate discovery of their work without feeling like salespeople. With Bublish, the social conversation starts with the voice of the author, just like it does in the bookstore. And since authors can create and share book bubbles in seconds, Bublish significantly lightens the author’s promotional content load.

For readers, Bublish recreates online all the pleasure of the bookstore discovery experience. No ads, no algorithms, no distractions…just browsing. Of course, once a reader finds a book or author they love, they’ll want to share it. Word-of-mouth continues to be the most popular way for readers to find new books. That’s why book bubbles are highly shareable across multiple social networks. Finally, Bublish will create a wonderful community for writers and readers to engage around stories. Imagine getting an invitation to chat with one of your favorite authors or being able to follow the book bubbles of an author you’ve never even heard of before.

In my interview with Kathy we talked about Bublish and also about many of the perplexing issues surrounding writing and reading, as we enter a new stage in the ways that writers, publishers and readers will relate to each other, indeed a very exciting and challenging time for us all.

Kathy Meis has been a professional writer for more than twenty years. She founded Serendipite Studios to empower those who create and enhance quality content. You can follow her on Twitter @katmeis or @BublishMe.

Shama Hyder Kabani: The Zen of Social Media Marketing

May 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

978-1936661633 – Ben Bella Books – $16.95 – paperback (ebook versions are available)

If you’re involved in any business or any form of communication arts or entertainment, you already know that social media has rapidly become the buzz term of the new century.  Increasing numbers of people all over the world spend hours a day online in some level of engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Tumblr and now Pinterest.   That the book I am talking about here, The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue, is an updated 2012 edition of a book first published less than two years ago, indicates how dynamic and fast changing online social media have become.

Over the last four or five years, I have voraciously read or skimmed any number of books that cover either specific social media platforms, or more broadly on social media marketing and strategies for businesses and professionals.  Quite a few of them were very good and taught me valuable lessons.  None, however, was as penetrating and inspiring as this book.  Author Kabani deeply understands how social media marketing is so different from traditional marketing – and requires a very different approach from anyone attempting to “use” social media for their business or profession.  Zen is the right term.

Shama Kabani started her own marketing business, The Marketing Zen Group, right out of graduate school, and built it into a successful operation, learning as she went.  Her company used social media to attract clients; she practices what she preaches.  In the book, Shama lays out her  basic principles, contrasting the conversational and participatory approach of social media marketing to the megaphone approach of traditional product marketing that worked in the one way world of broadcast and publishing media for so many years.  Her core structure is compelling and simple: ACT: Attract followers, Convert them to consumer or customer, Transform your successes into magnetic attraction.

Throughout the book, Shama features anecdotes, guest experts in a wide range of subjects providing useful advice, and a steady stream of really powerful tools and behaviors that will help anyone from beginner to expert become a better social media participant and therefore a marketer.  For many businesses, becoming adept at working in social media has been the magic that has helped them succeed and thrive in a challenging and constantly changing environment.  I do believe that if you only have time to read one book on social media, this is the one to have.  So many of your customers (and potential customers) are so deeply involved with social media, you cannot afford to ignore them.

Talking to Shama was great fun, highly rewarding for me, and I think this interview will be useful and extremely valuable to all.  Writers and publishers in particular will find this conversation of particular value.  You can reach Shama directly in a variety of ways:

Email: shama@marketingzen.com; Facebook; Twitter; LinkedIn; Google+ 

Please post comments and any ideas and suggestions this discussion engenders.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Dan Blank

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I talk to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us better understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing, books and reading culture, and how we can ourselves both understand and influence the future of books and reading.

Dan Blank is a very smart and perceptive guy.  He works with writers and publishers – as he says on his website,  to “make an impact and build their legacies.”  Through his company, We Grow Media, he offers a great deal of really valuable free advice – a terrific email newsletter and always interesting blog – along with paid courses and speaking engagements.  I’ve assiduously read just about everything he has written for quite a while now, and have watched some of his presentations on video as well.

Marketing is a tough subject for most authors and many publishers.  Dan always has clear and sensible advice and ideas for writers and publishers.  His ideas and perceptions have influenced my own thinking about how writers can operate in the new media environment.

So I am really pleased and honored to have had the opportunity to talk to him for Publishing Talks and bring what he has to say to my audience about marketing for writers and publishers.  I am certain that you will hear more than one actionable piece of advice or a cogent idea that will make you think, and question your assumptions. And if you get a chance to hear Dan speak in public, make sure you do, it will be well worth your while.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Allee Willis

December 28, 2010 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks, Technology, The Future

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Allee Willis is one of my all-time favorite people.  She is best known as a spectacular and hugely successful songwriter; her songs for Earth, Wind and Fire and the Pointer Sisters were giant hits, she wrote the theme song for “Friends,” the music for the Oprah Winfrey produced Broadway musical production of “The Color Purple, collaborated with the web sensation Pomplamoose (Jungle Music), and as of the date of this posting, her song “I’m Here” was sung by Jennifer Hudson for Oprah Winfrey’s Kennedy Center Honor Award.  But all of this musical success notwithstanding, as she herself says, Allee is “a one-woman creative think-tank. A multi-disciplinary artist and visionary thinker whose range of imagination and productivity knows no bounds, her success exuberantly defies categorization-’unique’ pales as a descriptor.”  You have to visit her website to begin to get an idea of what a creative powerhouse she is.  Her Allee Willis Museum of Kitsch is not to be missed.  She’s constantly creating, integrating music, art, video, multi-media technology and lifestyle via a series of work which she co-composes, sings, plays, produces, draws, animates, directs, designs web worlds for and stars in. The first release, “Allee Willis Presents Bubbles & Cheesecake “It’s A Woman Thang”-part of a 6-song collaboration with singer-songwriter Holly Palmer (aka Cheesecake) was selected as Official Honoree in the 2008 Webby Awards, and won three 2008 W3 Awards. Her second video, “Allee Willis Presents Bubbles & Cheesecake “Editing Is Cool” was also ‘featured’ on YouTube. At one point, Willis’ 2009 video “Hey Jerrie,” co-starring 91-year-old female drummer on an oxygen tank Jerrie Thill, was the 12th most popular video in the world on YouTube.

I wanted to talk to Allee mainly because she has been working with the internet in her work almost since the ‘web went public – as she points out, the ‘web itself is her medium.  She is the ultimate social being, her work itself is social art, her medium is her life.  Anyone working in an artistic discipline today can learn from what she knows and how she conducts herself as an artist.  I loved talking to Allee about her work and what she knows – which is a tremendous amount.  And now I am addicted to her website too.  Writers and publishers, please pay attention to what she has to say: art is social! books are bait!

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Vikram Narayan

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

It’s more or less common knowledge that today more books are written and published than at any time in human history, and the current rate of production certainly shows no sign of slowing anytime soon.  This is true of all other art forms as well – we are surrounded by more music, video and every other form of art.  Being found, heard, seen, and ultimately having one’s work experienced by an audience in an environment of vast abundance must therefore be the goal of all creators, writers, musicians, film-makers, etc.  All content is competing for the valuable time that audiences have to give.  This “attention economy” is at the heart of how the web affects the business of publishing.

For some writers, the social sphere, the engagement with readers, and the marketing work they undertake is a natural extension of their creative work.  There are many other writers, of course, for whom marketing is a foreign concept, or who simply do not understand or feel comfortable with the emerging social network of the web.  Whether they are sophisticated marketers or novices just starting to figure out how to find their communities, writers who are trying to take their work from the private to the public sphere are faced with a vast and sometimes opaque ecosystem of human culture.

Of course in this environment, tools have emerged to help them navigate this fluid and highly challenging environment, and learning how to use those tools becomes another challenge for writers.

A couple years ago I met Vikram Narayan, a young technologist from India, who was setting out to launch a business dedicated to creating marketing easier for writers and publishers.  He started with one automated tool that would enable writers to make their books more visible on the web, and over the past couple of years, the business, now called BookBuzzr, has continued to evolve interesting, fun and easy-to-use tools that writers can use to better understand how they can connect with readers and to help them make that process more efficient and less daunting.  Vikram recently sent me a PDF booklet called “The 10 Book Marketing Mistakes that Authors Make” and that spurred me to talk to him about his work.

Vikram is the founder of BookBuzzr Book Marketing Technologies Pvt. Ltd. based in Bangalore.  His company provides a variety of book marketing and book promotion technologies to authors including the popular and free BookBuzzr Widget which has been referred to as a “portable author website” or “the calling card for the social Internet.” BookBuzzr also owns and operates Freado.com – the world’s biggest book-winning site with hundreds of books to be won (which is a cool way for authors to be discovered). Vikram has an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.  I recently talked to Vikram over Skype to hear some of his thoughts about marketing and books, what amounts to news from the front lines, where writers and readers are continually engaging, where the future of writing and reading can begin to be understood.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Ron Hogan

April 18, 2010 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks, The Future

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.
How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.
I believe these interviews give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed within the industry.

Ron Hogan has been a very busy guy in the book business over the past fifteen years or so, starting in the book business at the well known and now lamented Dutton’s Bookstore in Los Angeles.  He founded Beatrice.com in 1995 (the site is still going strong today as a popular book-centric blog), worked for Amazon, and then for Mediabistro’s Galleycat (“the first word on the book publishing business”), and is now the new Director of E-Marketing Strategy for publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in New York City.  If you look him up online, he seems to be everywhere at once, involved in many aspects of publishing, books and new media.  It’s difficult to imagine someone more aware of how books and readers interact in the online environment.

Ron is also an author, including The Stewardess Is Flying the Plane!: American Films of the 1970s and most recently Getting Right with Tao: A Contemporary Spin on the Tao Te Ching.

In his new role at HMH, he will now have an opportunity to apply what he knows about marketing and online communities to the practical issues of helping to connect books and readers.  In this interview, Ron talked with me about his past work, and particularly what he has learned from his experience in retail bookselling, as well as his extensive online experience, and provides some specific and useful advice for authors (and publishers) to help them thrive in the brave new world of publishing.