Traditionally, what a book publisher brings to the table is two sets of relationships.
1. Relationships with the people who buy books…the middle men (not the readers).
2. Relationships with the people who review books…the editor of the Times book review section.
There's a problem with this. Books are now being bought
directly by the readers, increasingly online from sites like Amazon.
The readers are increasingly being influenced by a different type of
reviewer. This reviewer doesn't write for the Times, she writes for
herself, and her blog audience.
There's a huge opportunity here. The question is who will figure it out first? The authors or the publishers.
We all agree, that successful authors have nascent tribes. The opportunity lies in connecting authors with their audience.
Authors make the bulk of their income from their advance. If a publisher wants a successful author they offer them a larger advance than their current publisher and there's a decent chance the author will walk.
But, what if the publishers
actively helped their authors build tribes online? They'd be doing the authors a huge service and no
author could afford to leave their publisher, because they'd be walking away from their tribe.
If the publishers don't help the authors do this, the
authors will start doing it themselves. And once they've developed their own tribe, what do they need the publisher for? I believe that publishers are in the
perfect position to do this, because authors are used to the publisher
brokering these relationships and most authors have no idea where to
At this point, the publishers by and large don't get this (with the notable exception of Hachette). A couple of
months ago I received a referral from a publicist at a large NY publishing house who wanted
me to help one of her authors build his tribe (on the author's dime). What most publishers still haven't
thought through is that they should be the ones building the communities (so they own the tribe).
If publishers helped their authors build and serve their
tribes they just
might save the publishing industry.