Aug 21, 2008, 12:26PM

Publishing 2.0

The business of books is failing to keep up with the changing information economy. Publishers are failing to use social networking, marketing, even something as simple as email. Here's a business writer's ideas for how technology can help keep those new hardcovers profitable.

Publishing is a subject near and dear to me—and not only because for the past two years I have been writing my first book. One of my parents was a philosophy professor and the other taught high school literature. Books were everywhere in my upbringing.

I want to keep it that way.

Make it social.

There has to be a way for Web 2.0—a movement whose raison d'etre is to connect people—to meet the ongoing need for building community around books. Every publisher should at a minimum build a Facebook app. around its titles.

Take book tours out of the stores.

There's a strong payback for intimately connecting with local audiences. Promoting anything—be it a Web site or book—is like running for office; nothing takes the place of face-to-face interaction. And by giving up on book tours because they happen in the wrong venue, publishers are throwing away a powerful tool.

Create stars—don't just exploit existing ones.

Publishers should take a page from the handbook of Gawker founder Nick Denton and create stars. Find micro-celebs with a voice, talent, a niche base of readers, and most important—enthusiasm. Then leverage the publisher's brand (and the techniques I advocate, of course) to blow them out.

Go electronic from the get-go.

You might be stunned to learn that in book publishing, once you get to the final manuscript stages, there is no electronic version. The manuscript is FedEx'ed back and forth with Post-it Notes. If FedEx were to lose it, publishers lose months' worth of copy edits, legal edits, and other elements of the painstaking publishing process. There's not even a photocopy. No joke. That makes publishing the book in other digital formats a challenge at the outset.



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