by Dan Balow
Last century (sounds more dramatic than “15 years ago”), I made a presentation to a group of authors on book marketing with the intention of helping them understand how best to work with their publishers. I ran across my notes the other day and was not really very surprised to see almost everything I presented that day is no longer entirely valid. The material was true in a publishing world where the frogs were swimming in the kettle and the heat hadn’t been turned on yet!
One of my outdated statements from fifteen years ago was about the relatively few “gatekeepers” involved in buying and selling a book. A gatekeeper would be a book buyer for Barnes & Noble, Family Christian Stores, Lifeway Stores, Mardel Stores, etc. These buyers make the decisions what books that respective retailer stocked. If they didn’t like your book, the hopes of having a bestseller were greatly diminished. It was true then, but a bit less so today.
In the current world of publishing and distribution of content has been described as the diminishing role of gatekeepers. Those few gatekeepers have been supplemented by millions of gatekeepers…your readers.
A generation ago the most powerful people in the country were newspaper editors, network television executives, advertising executives and decision-makers for retailers. They decided what our culture would believe, read, see, wear or eat. No longer do they hold all the power, as the Internet “democratized” commerce in a way that revolutionized everything we buy or give our attention.
There has also been a significant change over the years in the development of the publisher marketing plans. Years ago it was the “plan of attack” for marketing devised months ahead of the release of the book. Now, publishers find themselves spending as much time managing social media comments and online reviews, which can be both positive and negative. (a result of the consumer/gatekeeper) Consumers, after all, are far more unpredictable than the buyer/merchandiser for a chain of bookstores.
But before you run off and feel like you need to please everyone all the time with your writing, consider something from Roy Williams at the Wizard of Ads and his Monday Morning Memo which arrives in my email inbox on Monday morning (go figure). A while ago, he made a point about advertising that works for books as well. With apologies to Roy for changing “ads” to apply to books…
“A message in a (book) that is soft enough not to repel anyone is also too weak to attract anyone. If you evaluate each (book) by asking, ‘Who might this offend?’ you will never (write a book) sharp enough to pierce the clutter. “
You can’t please everyone, so don’t sweat it.
What issues do you think are not being sufficiently addressed in Christian books today?