Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Online book promotion. Why don't publishers get it?

Online book promotion is how you reach the other 99% of potential book buyers these days. Why are so many book publishers either ignoring it or telling authors to figure it out for themselves? And why are so many book publicists clueless about what online book promotion is and so reluctant to learn?

Yesterday, I heard from yet another frustrated author whose publisher is promoting books in the same way as books were promoted 5 years ago: sending out books and media kits to the conventional media, following up, and trying to persuade journalists, reporters, producers, and hosts to choose their story, review their book, or set up an interview with their author.

"It's not working!" the author shouted at me in despair. I told him he was preaching to the choir. "Why doesn't my publisher do online book promotion? It's such an obvious way to let people know about my books! Do you do online book promotion? Every book publicist I've talked to doesn't do online book promotion! Help me!!!"

Of course I do online book promotion. I'm very excited about the fact that I do online book promotion. I agree: if you're not doing online book promotion these days, then you're not doing everything you can do to promote your book.

And as far as why publishers and book publicists have been so slow to get involved in online book promotion, I understand that. Online book promotion is a moving target. What I would have called online book prmootion two years ago isn't what I would call online book promotion today -- nor is what I call online book promotion today what I will be referring to as online book promotion in six months.

Technology evolves so quickly, and opportunities turn up so quickly (whoever even heard of Twitter two years ago?) that staying current can be a challenge. Also, online book promotion -- which is highly effective and represents a great value -- can be threatening to the old book promotion school that did things the hard way -- and counted on getting paid to lots of high-pain, low-gain grunt work. Online book promotion, which produces results instantly and inexpensively, bears little relationship to the old book promotion model, and I can see why that drives traditional book promotion specialists crazy.

And besides all that, some people don't like change. And some people won't explore new book promotion opportunities because "new" requires energy and enthusiasm and experimentation, and they'd rather rely on what used to work and hope that, one day, we'll all snap out of the Web 2.0 world and go back to stuffing envelopes, bringing them to the post office, making phone calls, and trying to convince 100 media contacts to please, please, please pursue a particular story angle (that may have been relevant when those envelopes were stuffed but, surely, will be have no relationship to anything going on in the news by the time they land on the media's desks).

In short, too many book promotion professionals are too lazy to get involved in the world of online book promotion, and that laziness is costing authors and publishers time, money, and results. It infuriates me, and I'm hearing from an increasing number of authors that it's starting to make them feel short-changed, too.

Okay. That's my rant about online book promotion and about those who are too frightened to explore it. You know where I stand on the subject of online book promotion. And you?