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First Authorlink / Star-Telegram Conference A Huge Success

Pub Date: Apr 2, 1998 | Columnist: Multiple Contributors

The Internet has become what old 'hand-selling' used to be.

–Laurie Chittenden, Editor, Simon & Schuster

First Authorlink!/Star-Telegram Conference a Huge Success

New York Editors/Agents Offer Insights

More than 130 people attended the first Authorlink!/Star-Telegram conference on successful Internet marketing for writers, May 2. Called, "Electrify Your Writing," the one-day event was held at Ramada Plaza Hotel in Fort Worth. Featured speakers included:

Thomas J. Colgan, Senior Editor, Berkley Publishing Group (Tom Clancy’s paperback editor) Laurie Chittenden, Editor, Simon & Schuster, who has edited several bestsellers Greg Durham, marketing/community manager, Simon & Schuster Online William Clark, The Vines Agency, New York David Hale Smith, DHS Literary, Dallas Doris Booth, Editor, Authorlink! Bonnie Bradshaw, online marketing manager, Star-Telegram.com

Some 98% of the audience rated the conference "excellent" or "good" and praised Authorlink! and Star-Telegram for a highly-informative, well-organized event. Many said they had never before heard the kind of information they received in this conference, which focused on how to use the Internet to market one’s work.

Highlights from the Sessions

Greg Durham

Online Community/Marketing Manager

Simon & Schuster

Greg Durham, who is on the cutting edge of selling books online, discussed the endless possibilities open to authors for marketing their books via the Internet. "The marketing logic is the same whether I’m doing it [for Simon & Schuster] or you’re marketing on your own."

The Internet is perfect, Durham said, for reaching niche audiences without a large outlay of capital. As promotional budgets in most publishing houses shrink, the Internet can take up the slack.

Each week, Durham starts new campaigns for books. He targets the audience, then searches Internet sites for those readers, while offering online interviews and chats with his authors.

Although he doesn’t see the downloading of books to every replace the hard copy, and advises strongly against publishing one’s entire book online, the publication of the first chapter is proving to be a viable marketing hook. And he predicts that in the future, all books will be digitized, thus making the idea of out-of-print books obsolete as a bookstore owner can just download and print the book, slap on a cover, and sell it on the spot

Doris Booth

Editor-in-Chief

Authorlink!

Providing "Seven Strategies for Marketing on the Internet," Doris Booth explained how to explore online booksellers and writers’ communities to help find the right publishing house and agent for one’s manuscript.

"The Internet has changed the way books will be marketed, distributed and delivered to the consumer, but it will not change the product itself. A book is still a book," she said.

"We’ll have to learn a whole new set of communications skills for querying editors and agents via the net. And we need to learn to look at the information we find online in a totally different way."

She suggested that writers should "affiliate" with the right online community as part of their marketing efforts, and said that while individual web sites were okay, a more effective way to market is through like-minded online "neighborhoods," such as Authorlink! and others.

Panel Discussion:

Book Publishing in the 21st Century

 

"Books are a product," said Laurie Chittenden, Editor, Simon & Schuster, "and that’s not going to change. Look to the Internet for marketing, distribution, and that sort of thing, not to publish books."

She added that publishing, being a traditional industry, is slow to change. But the Internet compliments the new technology, and helps to promote books and authors.

David Hale Smith, president of DHS Literary, Inc., agreed, adding, "The Internet won’t ever take away the hard cover or paperback book. What it will do is give us more and more early-look access for books online."

Smith said he uses the Internet now with every major department at a publisher–contracts are emailed for changes; the art department emails a photo of the book’s cover, etc.

"Technology also helps the smaller publishers go head to head with the major ones," Smith said. He also sees a possibility of contracts based strictly on Internet subsidy rights, and books initiated just as electronic products. "It depends on the money to be made," he said. If the money is there, "then you’ll see lots of agents and lawyers swimming in the bloody waters."

Greg Durham, Online Marketing Manager for Simon & Schuster, said, "The Internet is an extremely important new channel for marketing and distributing books. Publishers are moving toward online services because they have no choice. Right now," he added, "my department is very small. But more and more resources will be dedicated to it in the future."

Also, Durham sees the Internet allowing for more niche marketing. And look for increasing numbers of publishers to launch authors online as gimmicks.

Bonnie Bradshaw told writers how they can become "cybercolumnists" for Star-Telegram.com, and introduced them to the site’s "Virtual Texan section.

William Clark

Literary Agent

The Vines Agency, Inc.

In the 150 email queries William Clark receives every week, he looks for the three C’s: Concept (what the book is about), Creator (why the author is the only person to write this book), and Category (audience–who’s going to read it).

"The difference in an email query," Clark said, "is that the pressure is really on the writer to reflect tone and structure of the book as much as possible, and to do so concisely. The author must present his or her very best foot as soon as possible."

An information junky (he reads 50 magazines per month), Clark said that "part of my job is gathering as much information as possible." Spending time daily with editors comprises part of that, as does searching the web, both for proactive queries–where he requests manuscripts off of Internet sites–to contact with publishers (sending sample chapters, letters, etc.).

No matter the technology, however, Clark maintains that publishing still comes down to "words on paper." He’s looking for someone writing about something that they know, and focuses more on literary than commercial fiction.

Seventy-five percent of his queries come through the Internet. "And that’s been a conscious effort on my part."

He reads every email query he receives and says he doesn’t know of many agents who do that. "I can’t sell a good manuscript unless I’m exposed to it," he concluded.

Thomas J. Colgan

Senior Editor

Berkley Publishing Group

"Publishing is very much a business fighting against low profit margins. Unfortunately there is a gap between the technology available and the technology used in publishing," he said.

Colgan said he uses the Internet primarily as a research tool, to explore other publishers’ back lists, and the activities of independent and regional publishers. The Internet is the wave of the future, he conceded, but your biggest concern as a writer should be to write the best book you can. "Good writing will always find a home," he said. "Nobody who is successful out there in publishing is faking it. They’re good at what they do. Your beliefs and interests will come through on the paper. So, concentrate on writing what you know and love."

Laurie Chittenden

Editor

Simon & Schuster

The Internet has become what the old "hand-selling" of books used to be, said Laurie Chittenden. The net is very "niche" oriented. Laurie uses the net in three ways:

to find books worthy of publishing to research the market for acquisitions and launches to get ideas for marketing and publicity

Laurie often types keywords that interest her into Internet search engines just to see what comes up. For example, the keyword "yo-yo," turned up a possible book project. Using the net to do acquisitions research can help increase the value of a book project.

She uses the net to help her compose her sales hook, key selling points, and competitive information—all of which she must present to her editorial board before a project is accepted.

Marketing and publicity ideas often come from her research on the net. For one recent project mentioning the title in various reading groups helped build an audience for the book.

"Don’t rely on the publisher to launch your writing career," she said. " Use the Internet to invest in yourself, and help you launch your own career."

Information about next year’s conference and the Authorlink! New Author Awards contest will be announced on authorlink.com soon.

 

Copyright, Authorlink! 1998