Authors and Platform Building

by Adam on February 25, 2010

We’ve begun thinking in new ways at The Harvard Common Press, most especially about the way we work with authors. We’ve come to a juncture within the digital publishing world where we can no longer think about the old ways of doing business working as they used to. This especially applies to our acquisition of new authors.

One big change we’ve made pretty much across the board (with the exception of legacy authors) is that we’re no longer taking on authors without a platform (or those with no plans to build one). We’re very supportive of authors who are either already out there, or who have plans for Facebook and Twitter stardom – so much so that we throw a ton of marketing energy behind those efforts (going so far as to create unique web properties for a number of authors where they can blog to their hearts content). While some of our legacy authors have put up a bit of a barrier to getting out online, we are seeing engagement for the most part – and for those that don’t, we try like hell in-house to make those connections ourselves.

Especially from a small publisher’s point of view, this makes a ton of sense for a few reasons:

1) It’s an incredible savings in terms of resources for our marketing/publicity program. Having to invest a minimal amount of time getting our authors setup with their platforms and then letting them run with their own efforts multiplies the reach of our marketing/publicity department exponentially.

2) It translates into extra eyes and ears on the ground. Being a cookbook publisher, we’re trying to capitalize on trends (even if that means trying to look 2-3 years down the road and see what’s coming). So much of that research can now be done online and with an author active in communities related to their own expertise, that just increases the chance that they’ll find the next great book idea by listening to what consumers are talking about right now (it also comes in handy if people are talking about the book, in whatever way they may be, because the author can become a spokesman for their own brand).

3) It keeps authors thinking about the book on a constant basis. Engaging regularly with consumers and the larger community about the book really gets authors into the mindset of what’s best for their published work. For a publisher, this is great news because it invests the author all the more in the process and increases the chances for success.

4) Hopefully (and I mean hopefully) it opens up those authors who are not thinking so much about digital books. By keeping their nose to the grindstone with digital outreach, the ability to educate authors about the benefits of instant outreach and purchase that ebooks offer will make it even easier for publishers to get more authors on board with the movement.

If anyone else has benefits they see from the move of authors to self-promoters, please post away!

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