The future of books
How to innovate your way into increased readership and sales?
Jeff spoke about what innovation in the industry looks like—from a writer, publisher and resellers perspective. He reviewed some best practices and looked at the role technology, social media and building communities plays in attracting audiences and keeping them engaged.
Jeff Povlo talks about the industry, his favorite things about books and what reading will be like in the future.
Here’s what he had to say after his keynote
I really enjoyed learning more about the book industry. It was a new category for me. I expected it to be struggling with the same effects of technology as the music and film industry. What I found out was that there’s a magic in books that is maintaining the sector’s strength. In 2008, everyone speculated that physical books were dead and e-readers would take over. Traditional publishing, self-publishing, hardback, paperback, e-book, streaming, subscription, physical & digital retailers, known and unknown authors, bloggers—ALL COMPETING FOR SAME EUROS and against other forms of reading and entertainment—AND THE BOOK IS STILL HERE. It’s 2017, e-reader sales are flat and independent book stores are thriving.
It’s all about the author
Authors are becoming more public facing and more and more are recognizing the need to be proactive in building active communities. Successful authors like John Green built an ardent fan base with his brother on YouTube as the Vlog Brothers. They talked about writing The Fault in our Stars and fans began to take note. So much so that it shot to #1 on Amazon with 150,000 pre-orders 6 months before it was released! The fans call themselves Nerdfighters and are still quoting lines and debating their favorite parts of the book. To thank the fans, John Green signed every pre-ordered copy. Amazing stuff but also really clever to build loyalty with his fans via YouTube videos, his blog, and his endless Twitter stream.
Those online outlets aren’t just fun hobbies and outlets for self-expression. They’re the pillars of a platform, and they are powerful tools for connecting with people. They create a direct, one-to-one connection between authors and readers, and they allow readers to feel like they really know an author–like the author is their friend, not just a name on a book jacket. That direct connection is just as valuable for fiction authors as it is for nonfiction authors.
Publishers are the new artist managers
Not only are publishers the new artist managers, they are also brand builders. They have a key role to play in helping the author understand how to navigate through the new media waters. How to position the author? How to identify and connect with fans? How to leverage the fan base and through what medium? These are all questions that publishers should be able to help authors beyond giving them a deal, telling them to go write their book and going through the traditional book marketing/launch motions. One really interesting role of publishers is building author collectives from their stable of writers—work together, learn from each other–high tide raises all ships.
Bookstores are the heartbeat of local communities
Physical bookstores still serve a vital role as showcases for books,” Alexandra Petri argued recently in the Washington Post. “Their ability to bring us into contact with hundreds of things we did not know we wanted is not to be underestimated.” Independent booksellers are even better than their chain rivals at this function. Smaller and less corporate, they leverage their close connections with local communities to provide personalized book recommendations based on store employees’ or frequent customers’ testimonials.
One of the most frequent comments I received was how conservative the industry was. Combine that with stable sales figures and it’s easy to see the lack of urgency to consider doing things differently. But when I asked “What if we do nothing?”, everyone felt more could and should be done. Building communities takes time, dedication and some money. It’s no guarantee but the chances of building a loyal fan base and selling more copies is much more likely than doing nothing. A day with the industry gave me belief that there’s still a lot of opportunity to help secure the book’s future forever.