On The Science of Publishing

May 14th, 2007 · 5 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

“We need much more of a direct relationship with our readers,” said Susan Rabiner, an agent and a former editorial director. Bloggers have a much more interactive relationship with their readers than publishers do, she said. “Before Amazon, we didn’t even know what people thought of the books,” she said.
. . .
“It’s the way this business has run since 1640,” he [Al Greco, a professor of marketing at Fordham University] says. That is when 1,700 copies of the Bay Psalm Book were published in the colonies. “It was a gamble, and they guessed right because it sold out of the print run. And ever since then, it has been a crap shoot,” Professor Greco said.

File Under: Quote of the Week

5 responses so far ↓

  • Joe Wikert // May 14, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    As a publisher, I totally agree with the notion that “We need much more of a direct relationship with our readers.” However, as a blogger, I think it’s overstating things to say that “Bloggers have a much more interactive relationship with their readers than publishers do.”

    Look at the typical blog and the ratio of those who read posts vs. those who comment on them. On my own blog I’d say the ratio is about 300-500 readings for every one comment. Granted, if that ratio were applied to a printed book, it would mean you’d get 2-3 comments for every thousand copies sold…more than we probably see today, but not exactly a lively exchange.

    My point? I definitely think blogging is a step in the right direction, but it’s a baby step. We need to figure out how to create more vibrant communities around books, especially ones that encourage participation by a lot more than 1 out of every 300-500 readers. Then again, most people buying a book don’t care about “community” or interacting with other readers, so we need to accept that fact as well.

    Just my two cents…

  • Kassia Krozser // May 14, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    Joe — Interesting point. And you’re right. Though you know I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t a little bit contrary. In addition to comments, I also need to factor links to what I post into the mix. The ripple effect of blogging is a key factor in community building. Even when the links are to the effect of “she’s full of !@##$”, at least we’re talking.

    I also think that I know my readers better (and have seen how they have evolved and changed and stuck with me since I started) than most publishers. I can see my stats and translate them to readers, I can see who comments regularly, sporadically, and out of the blue. I can — sorry kids, I’m a stats freak in my own lazy way — tell who skims the leads of the posts coming through the email newsletter and latches on to a topic that interests them. In many, many ways, I know that my blog is being read.

    Which, you know, when you’re a writer is like gold. You want to be read. You very rarely know so directly that it’s happening. So much about the blog experience offers direct feedback. Must consider this more for future drivel!

    As for creating more vibrant communities around books, see tomorrow’s guest post. We’re looking for ideas. I think the prevalence of book clubs indicates a serious desire for more book discussion. It has to be the right forum for the right people. That means a lot of different approaches.

    And I’m curious to know how publishers are doing this. Really.

  • Susan Helene Gottfried // May 15, 2007 at 5:01 am

    I love the idea of more community built around books. Not only do I have my blog that’s got a great sense of community, but I belong to a book site where we’ve gone past mere discussion of books to playing games with them (Yankee swaps, for instance) and even meeting in person — from around the world. Most of us read over 100 books a year; some read over 200.

    This is one of the most vibrant communities of book lovers I’ve ever met. I don’t understand why the publishing business doesn’t look to this sort of community and learn from us about trends and what readers are really thinking.

  • Joe Wikert // May 15, 2007 at 9:36 am

    Kazzia — I think we’re saying the same thing, or something fairly close to it. I’m just trying to point out that when we look back in 5 or 10 years, I truly hope we’ll chuckle at where the community levels are then in comparison to where they are today.

    Susan — kudos to you for building such a vibrant and popular book-centric blog — keep up the great work!

  • Susan Helene Gottfried // May 15, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks, Joe. Come hang out with us nuts, why don’t you. We could use a male influence!

    As long as it’s fun, I’ll keep doing it. More than a year into it, it’s more fun than I ever expected.