LiteraryArchitects

Literary Architects, LLC works with authors to combine the quality and standards of traditional publishing with the flexibility and control of self-publishing. Literary Architects' publishing professionals specialize in selecting and partnering with committed authors to produce trade-quality books, consulting with authors to plan and execute custom sales and marketing strategies, and providing authors with fulfillment and distribution of their books.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pointers Pointers

Related to a couple of Bryan's posts, I ran across some interesting posts on a few other blogs this week:

Joe Wikert points us to former editor Erik Dafforn's post on search engine optimization and specific things publishers and authors can be doing to make sure their books perform well in searches. He examined mainly tech publishing, but many of his recommendations apply to all sorts of trade titles. Plus, he reports that very few publishers seem to "get it" from a holistic perspective.

John Jantsch over at Duct Tape Marketing (a great small business marketing blog) is a huge advocate of blogging for businesses. I thought of his post on the "B" word when Bryan told me about his marketing meeting experience.

And via The Church of the Customer (one of my favorite blogs these days) we have Laurent Flores' post on why focus groups don't work. We're always known to some degree that this method was flawed (in book publishing as well as development for other consumer products) and Flores offers up some interesting theories why -- mainly that it's an aquarium. And our readers aren't fish. Which, you know, I'd wager is true.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Using Blogs in the Business World

I recently attended an online marketing seminar hosted by the Indianapolis Business Marketing Association. There were about 75 marketing professionals in the room to hear Hollis Thomases, president of Web Advantage, one of the most well-regarded online marketing strategies firms. She touched on all aspects of online marketing and what each is best for. When the topic of blogs came up, only about half the room raised their hands that they had read a blog. When asked how many of their companies had business blogs, less than a half dozen hands remained. When asked how many of those blogs allowed comments to be posted, mine was the only hand remaining up.
Not surprisingly, most of the people in the room (and the businesses they represent) were skeptical of allowing open two-way communication on what they view as a corporate communication tool. Embracing a website or an e-newsletter is easy, since the company controls the entire message -- and the broadcast communication is all one-way (or at least responses are private). However, that view ignores the whole point of a blog (and what we hope to do with this one), in which you can give people much more than a corporate communication vehicle -- a better view into your business, the people behind the business, your thought process, concerns your industry is facing, and then open an honest dialog with customers, industry professionals, and other interested parties. A successful blog is far from a corporate communications piece -- those blogs that are designed in that way will likely never produce the results intended. Sure, any good business person that creates a blog is hoping to gain something from it -- we hope to show potential clients who we are, what motivates us, what keeps us awake at night, and why you would benefit from doing business with us. But we also hope that our blog is a learning tool for us as well -- with honest discussions about our industry, about creative ideas, and occasionally about something we didn't think of or didn't get quite right.
Sure, you run the risk of allowing disgruntled customers or competitors to sabotage your company on your own site, but how a company responds to that situation again gives blog readers an insight into the company. How often have we heard that crisis management brings out the best and the worst in people? As a blogger, you has several tools for responding and building upon this situation. Quick, helpful responses to legitimate complaints and negative comments, deleting inappropriate posts, and posting new blogs addressing issues of concern are but three ways -- and ways that can show readers that you (and your business) are concerned, responsive, and respectful.
Viewing a blog as just an extension of your corporate mission statement, or a vehicle for further spreading a press release, or another controlled one-way media device is not to take advantage of the real benefits of a blog.

Our Next Indiana Appearance

It's no secret that we're into education about publishing, the industry, and the marketplace. It seems we spend just as much time educating our authors about the process as publishing their books. Look for us at the Writers Center of Indiana on April 4. I'm going to give a guest lecture in Ingrid Cummings' non-fiction writing class that evening. Additionally, we're considering putting together a class or seminar for later in the spring. Is there anything in particular that you think authors or writers really want to know? What direction should we go with a seminar? How publishing works? How a productive author/editor/publisher/agent relationship works? What kind of publishing works best for you? What else to do with your rights? Let us know.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ask, Don't Tell

Yesterday, in a launch meeting as we set manuscript submission deadlines, one of my authors jokingly said "Ask me to do something, don't tell me. I'll be a lot more likely to do it." He's a life and financial coach, so I tend to listen to his nuggets of wisdom. Plus, he really wasn't joking. Asking instead of demanding is pretty easy to do actually. "Could you get that chapter to me on May 1?" "Could you have your corrections back to us by Weds." "Would you be so kind as to send me your ideas?" We all tend to live in a world of demonstrating how important we are, not how important the person we're talking to is. So, I'm going to pay attention and see how it works. I suspect he'll be right, as usual.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Updates and Whatnot

I've added some links in the margins to some blogs I follow on a regular basis. You'll notice there are no author, publishing, or agent blogs yet. It's mainly because I haven't found an author, editor or company blogging on self-publishing without a) trying to blatantly sell something, b) giving their whole sad story of how it didn't work for them, and c) touting their ability to help make your book "A Bestseller!" It's no secret in this business that many self-publishing companies overpromise and underdeliver. They play on authors dreams of glory then happily take their money. It makes me queasy.

You'll find what seems to be a lot of hip marketing and/or technology blogs. We chose those because the represent some companies we feel "think like us". The future of publishing is hybrid models where authors have more control over how their content is sold and packaged. The future of publishing is digital, online, paper, color, black and white, web, bricks and mortar and more -- all those things, not just a plain traditional picture where a reader walks into a bookstore and finds your book on the shelf. It just doesn't work that way anymore.

Tim and I attended a meeting in New York last week where publishers were still lamenting that "digital was a dirty word." Are you kidding me? Some were aghast that outsourcing was a better option than editors in house, that B&N doesn't love them, and that Google is taking over the world! Well, hey, if Google can help me and my authors sell their books (in their programs that don't completely steal copyright), I'm happy to participate.

The future is coming and it's going to change the face of publishing. Many small presses aren't going to go easily, but they'll have to go in some way or face extinction. We believe that authors today have more options than ever as long as their content is good. And while we may be further out in front than we thought, we like it just fine out here. (And if you can recommend any blogs, please feel free to post them in the comments section.)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Why I'm Addicted to Google AdWords

I recently started an online advertising campaign for our first title, Play Golf Forever, using Google AdWords. For those of you that don’t know, Google AdWords are the advertisements that appear on the right-hand column of every Google Search results page (and on gmail, AOL, ask.com and many other pages). What has made this intriguing to me is the ad tracking website Google provides where you can see the results of all your advertisements – from the number of times each ad has appeared to the number of click-throughs that it has resulted in. I've found myself checking the results page for our advertisements every few hours, and modifying the ads, adding new search terms, and creating new ads nearly every time I go in.

It's become addictive – I now know the rush that those authors who've become addicted to their Amazon.com book rankings feel. There's something about being able to watch your results live -- a mix between fantasy baseball and televised election results, but with me in full command of the digital dashboard. I’ve seen the online advertising campaigns I’ve ran go from 30-40 impressions to over 1600 impressions a day, with the resulting clicks going up significantly. I’ll be the first to admit that I am far from an expert at this online advertising, but every time I check out stats I find myself reading two or three new postings on Google advertising tips and techniques. The ads that I have created lately are drawing significantly better results than my initial ads – and that is probably mostly because I've learned to hone the three 35-character lines of the ad. If nothing else, the Google AdWords advertisements make you learn to keep your message short and to the point.

Measuring the results of a traditional print advertising campaign is blurry at best and often dubious. How do you know who really paid attention to your advertisement? And how many impressions does it really take for an advertisement to stick with the consumer? There are plenty of case studies and focus groups that have been done that show typical results and typical consumer behavior, but on a limited marketing budget, that is an expensive unproven risk. What I like about the Google AdWords tracking is that I can see how many impressions were served up, how many people were motivated by the ad, which keywords resulted in the best interest, and then I can shoot to improve on that. Rarely does marketing or advertising allow these kinds of results (direct mail and phone campaigns come to mind).

I’ve yet to figure out what a good click-through rate is, or even whether all the statistics that Google has provided are really helpful, but I am determined to see my hits go up. Time will tell how many of those hits and click-throughs result in actual sales, but in the meantime, I know that my advertisements are getting visual impressions – and I will be checking those numbers and tweaking my advertisements every few hours.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Where Have All the Chicken Dinner Eaters Gone?

Tim and I are attending the AAP general annual meeting in New York in a couple of weeks. The Association of American of Publishers is an interesting and diverse group for both large and small publishers. The first day of the meeting is for the big guys. Executives from S&S, Random House, Penguin, and others will listen to presentations by top level government officials and corporate executives on the state of the industry. (All the trade publications will pick up any interesting news so we're skipping day one. I'm meeting with agents and other industry folks in the city that day before having dinner with one of my favorite food and wine writers!) The second day is the meeting for smaller publishers and much more practical including sessions on cover design, marketing, and financial strategy.

But the over-arching theme for the first day caught my eye: Where Have All The Readers Gone? (and Where Can We Find the New Ones?) I'm fascinated by this ongoing fixation the Big 5 have with the idea that Americans are reading less. Every year they release results of another study and groan about the death of the book, bookstores and "lit-er-a-ture". Please. Americans aren't reading less -- they're just buying fewer books through traditional channels! They're not reading less -- they're reading *differently*. Americans are just reading smaller segments for informational purposes and fewer rotten novels or bad political memoirs.

Americans today are more educated, do more research, and read more than any other time in history -- they just do it in smaller pieces and in different mediums. This isn't a reading problem or even a book problem. It's a *bookstore* and *book delivery* problem. The Big 5 have to figure out how to stop trying to cram products the public doesn't want down sales channels that their vendors don't want to support. (So, really, it's a publishing problem in that if they don't figure it out, they're going to have to downsize or retool which, ultimately, is why it's on the agenda for the big day at AAP.)

Think of it as a meat and potatoes problem. If you were a sit-down restaurant that only made chicken dinners with mashed potatoes for your customers (and you made great chicken, don't get me wrong), you'd be a hit if you were the only game in town. And you'd still be a hit if you were better than any other chicken dinner restaurants out there. But today, consumers have options like Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Moroccan, and steak. Plus, consumers don't have to sit to eat anymore. They have take out, fast food, and every option in between. So, it's not hard to imagine that they don't sit down and consume as many chicken dinners as before. What do you do? Lament the passing of the chicken dinner? (Where Have All the Chicken Dinner Eaters Gone?) Or do you figure out what your business is going to be. Do you take your customers chicken dinners where they want it eat them? Update them to make them oriental style? Make smaller, healthier chicken dinners? (Create edgier chicken dinners that cause indigestion and make you go on Oprah on defend your recipe?) Or do you decide you don't want to be in the chicken dinner business anymore?

Put in perspective, I can better understand the worry about the changing American reader. One answer is figuring out how to get books to readers more directly than relying on bookstore channels. (Niche and target marketing is a topic near and dear to our company's heart.) Another is to examine other models and methods for delivery of content. We had a great lunch this week with publisher and blogger Joe Wikert who is one of the smart folks, looking forward at what the future of publishing might look like. I understand -- and respect -- the "old school" idea that publishers are gatekeepers of what the public should read, but times are changing, the reader is changing, and the days of no-option sit-down chicken dinners are coming to a close. The winners will be those who can figure out how to keep serving up quality and getting it in the reader's hands.