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18 posts from April 2005

Author Blogs -- Pros and Cons

Dave Taylor picks up on a posting by Steve O’Keefe regarding the pros and cons of author blogs. Steve’s original point was that author blogs aren’t worthwhile unless the maintenance expense can be spread over more than one book.

Dave notes that as long as an author is blogging about something they’re passionate about, a blog is a great addition to a book. In fact, a comment by PR Diva on Steve’s post goes on to say “If the author hosts her own blog, then she has the opportunity to interact with her fan base, share information and create more of a relationship (all words that marketers love).”

Amen! The only thing I’d add to that is that a blog is a great way for an author to extend their book with additional information, points of view, examples, etc. – all things that either (a) didn’t make it into the original book or (b) are better discussed on a dynamic forum rather than in a static book.

This is a core element for the future of book publishing: I feel it will become more important to truly augment and extend the original product with other types of content delivery including blogs, RSS feed updates, etc. OK, maybe this doesn’t add a lot of value for the novel you read on the beach but there are plenty of books where it does make sense.

The book entitled Why Not? is a great example. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this book was so-so, but the companion website is outstanding. It’s not a blog, but it’s a community site where you can contribute and comment on solutions to common problems. If it weren’t for this website, I would have put the book aside and not thought twice about it. The ideas discussed are so interesting that I find myself reading through them every couple of days – other than Google, Yahoo!, Amazon and a handful of others, there aren’t too many sites I can say that about. I don’t know how much work the authors invest in this site every week/month, but given the volume of interesting ideas and comments, I’ll bet they would say it’s been a worthwhile venture. It’s also a great way to extend their book, communicate directly with readers and promote their other products.

Book Buying Decisions

Have you ever thought about what goes through your head before you purchase a book? Are you a “destination buyer” or an “impulse buyer”? Do you search out a particular author? Do you risk making a purchase simply on what you may have read on a cover or an Amazon description/review? Are you influenced by reviews on websites, blogs or in major magazines?

Before I share my buying habits, let me first explain the difference between a destination buyer and an impulse buyer. The destination buyer is one who is looking for a specific book or type of book. Maybe you want the latest Grisham novel or a book on Windows XP. You’re going to a store or a website with a particular book in mind. Contrast that with the impulse buyer who is browsing around when something catches their eye. They aren’t necessarily looking for a book on Lou Gehrig, but the one on promotion gets their attention. Although they didn’t plan this purchase, the price was right and it looks like a great story.

I’m a destination buyer almost 100% of the time. I rarely wind up buying something I didn’t originally set out for. I’m also highly unlikely to buy a book without some sort of recommendation. That advice might come from a magazine review or word-of-mouth from a friend. On rare occasions I’ll let myself be swayed by several strong Amazon reviews.

I also use one other tool for some of my purchases: Bestseller lists. Like most people, I’m curious to see what others are reading. If I’m not that familiar with the topic area or I just want to see what’s hot, I’ll look through Amazon’s top 25 to see what’s selling. This approach probably only produces 10-20% of my overall purchases though. Even when I notice an interesting title on a bestseller list I generally wind up Googling it to see where it might be reviewed and what people have to say about it. The point here is to get away from all the noise on Amazon and see what other people/sites have to say.

How does this match up with your book buying habits? Does your checklist look considerably different?

The Development Editor’s Role

One of the goals of this blog is to discuss how things work within a typical publishing company. I think the best way to accomplish this is to let you hear from some of the people who do the real work. With that in mind, I’m asking some of my colleagues to start their own blogs. I’m also asking some of them to chime in on mine.

I recently asked Jodi Jensen, a Senior Development Editor on our team, to summarize her role in the publishing process. Here’s what she had to say:

As development editors (DEs), we have the sometimes challenging job of acting as a middleman between the deadlines of the book and the quality of the text. Our mission is to make sure the final published book fulfills the vision determined at the start and also keeps the promises we make to readers in our marketing materials.

As DEs, we look at the chapter from 10,000 feet and leave the details of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure to our highly skilled copy editors. We're the first line of defense regarding the quality of the book, and we look closely at structure, content, tone, audience, formatting, and consistency. A key piece of a DE's job is to help guide authors through the labyrinth of elements that make up our key series. Our goal is to find a way to make each book fit comfortably into the brands that the market knows and trusts.

Last, but certainly not least, the DE functions as the ringmaster for the project. We monitor the submission of chapters from authors, coordinate the technical edit, act as a liaison between authors and the Graphics Dept. to ensure high-quality images, and work with the Production Dept. to make sure chapters go through layout as seamlessly as possible.

Having written a few computer books many years ago, I can say from personal experience that a great Development Editor can be a difference-maker. Although I sometimes groaned at the extra work the DE asked me to do, I can look back now and say that their guidance made the finished product more usable and understandable. What could be more important than that?