Social Media and the Publishing Industry Today
Alyssa DelPrete is a junior at Hanover College in Indiana. She is currently an intern for Book Business and Publishing Executive.
I should begin by admitting that I am addicted to social media. As a member of the generation upon which a majority of the blame for driving the publishing industry away from print has been placed, I openly admit that I have a serious attachment to the smartphone that I have recently become the proud owner of. I've been completely reeled in by the lure of technology, sucked into the all-consuming and time consuming digital world of hyper-connectivity. While I still prefer a traditional print book to an eBook that feels too cold and detached to a book-lover like myself, I'm very interested in the ways that social media can play a role in publishing today. When I attended the 2013 Publishing Business Conference & Expo last week, I was eager to sit in on sessions that addressed this issue, listening to experts whose companies have found creative ways to utilize this new platform.
The session entitled "Finding Content in Unexpected Places," led by a great panel of leading women in the industry, concentrated on this issue. Rachel Fershleiser, Head of Publishing Outreach at Tumblr, has found a number of ways to use Tumblr to find and create great content. She said the key to creating new content is collecting something in an interesting way that generates engagement among a vast array of people, such as the picture-blog-turned-published-book My Parents Were Awesome, which began as a trend on Tumblr where a large number of people found and posted pictures of their parents and included a short piece detailing the story depicted in the photo.
However, quality is still essential. 80 book deals have resulted from Tumblr blogs, but Fershleiser warned that you mustn't overlook the quality of the content for the sheer number of likes that something obtains. Another panelist, Francesca Levy, Senior Editor at LinkedIn, offered similar advice, saying that the content must produce conversation. On LinkedIn, members can share articles highlighting their skills and intelligence related to their career interests, which not only is beneficial to their own image but also helps others with similar interests gain knowledge on issues.
Another trend related to social media and the take-over of technology is self-publishing. Many authors are choosing to by-pass traditional means of publishing in favor of self-publishing, a trend that publishers need to be aware of. Jill Schwartzman, Executive Editor at Dutton, discussed the ways that traditional publishing houses can use this trend to find content. She explained how she has found and traditionally published originally self-published eBooks that have gone on to become successful, but again, she cautions publishing a book that has merely generated a large audience. Like Fershleiser, she stressed the need to find high-quality content that will spark interest over a long period of time, and not just content that has been popular for a week or two but will quickly fade into obscurity after the initial hype.
Bottom line, there are definitely ways to take advantage of this new digital age. Publishers need to be creative about it (and smart), but taking the time to look into the ways that social media can create new, interesting content will be beneficial.