Increasing Sales, One Chapter at a Time
Technology books, of course, are an exception to this challenge, as they reflect a topic that is constantly evolving. “Every year you seem to have one or two or more key software releases that give you a lift,” says Joe Wikert, vice president and executive publisher in the professional/trade division of John Wiley & Sons Inc., with headquarters in Hoboken, N.J. “Most recently, it’s been Windows Vista and Office 2007 for Microsoft, but there’s always something else out there … that seems to cause things to bounce up.”
As many professional publishers work to find material that will stand out in a crowded marketplace, the focus on the author’s role has become even more intent, and the concept of the all-important author platform has broadened in its scope.
Vondeling believes that publishers need to tap into authors who already have established audiences, or communities. “We are seeing that the books that are working are by people, professionals, authors who have an established community of people who know them, know their work and are hungry to learn more,” she says. “And they might know their work because they do training or do a lot of speaking, or they blog regularly … the reality is, if we just publish an interesting idea, the book is going to be dead on arrival.”
Vondeling sees a distinction between what has traditionally been called an author platform and what Berrett-Koehler views as an author community. “A platform is traditionally: Is the author nationally famous, have they been on ‘Good Morning America’ or ‘Oprah’? … We see it very differently. I don’t think you have to be famous to have a community. I would much rather sign an author who has regular, annual access to 10,000 people who know their work and … are passionate about what the author is doing, than someone who maybe twice was on ‘Good Morning America’ for 10 minutes at a pop, because that’s just a flash in the pan … ,” she says.