ContentDirector: Read Any Good Books Lately?
Have you read any good books lately? This question is not merely empty rhetoric for me. I go about the world asking this question of people—of my friends, family and colleagues, and of random strangers in random places. I am frequently known to walk up to someone engaged in the act of reading by the side of a swimming pool or a ball field, to lean over their way as I strap-hang above them on some public mode of transportation, and inquire about their literary selection: What is it? What's it about? Do they like it?
It is only by engaging with readers that we can continue to hone our craft of publishing and do it successfully. But how engaged are we really with this end user? What do we know about them?
Charles Duhigg, author of "The Power of Habit" and a keynote speaker at our September Publishing Business Virtual Conference & Expo, has studied and written extensively about the consumer products industry and its methods of researching and introducing new products. Through Duhigg, many of us have learned the story of the invention of Febreze®, and about the many hours researchers spent observing consumers cleaning their homes to learn exactly how people make their beds, mop their floors and perform other household chores, in order to manufacture a product buyers would actually use.
Where is our home video of readers curled up in bed with a good book? Readers on the beach fighting off sun and sand to tackle their beach book, be it "Gone Girl" or "Middlemarch"? Where is the hidden camera that captures readers on the train, the subway, in line at the bank or supermarket?
Do we know exactly how people use our books? Do we understand how they choose what to read and why? At every editorial and sales meeting, we certainly talk about the importance of reviews and media coverage, the need for word-of-mouth and blog posts and grassroots marketing—these are all on our agenda. But do we understand the actual physical way readers interact with these physical objects, the way Proctor & Gamble knows how people use their mops? (Now, mind you, I'm not equating a book with a mop, so please don't accuse me of such. I'm merely drawing a comparison between two different industries, and suggesting that one may have much to learn from the other, differences in their products—yes, products—notwithstanding.)