where the writers are
Highlights from the industry social media panel at Thrillerfest

I promised to write a little bit about the social media panel I moderated at THRILLERFEST, the annual conference of International Thriller Writers, the association of writers of thrillers, mysteries and suspense, which was held in NYC last week. 

This was an industry panel, not an authors panel. We had representatives from Random House Publishing Group and HarperCollins in addition to publicists, and marketing professionals. Developments in social media move quickly and the repercussions for not staying abreast and involved are more serious for writers than they were even a year ago. I will include a bit from my opening comments because I think they will help set the stage:

 “Thank you very much for joining us this morning. I’m thrilled to be moderating the panel this morning on a very important topic not only for authors, but for the book publishing business. You don’t need me to tell you that we’re all at an incredibly volatile time in the book business as more and more of our connection to readers moves online. Now, this may have been the new reality for the past five years or so, but we are no longer facing the same simple landscape of platforms that we had five years ago.

The days of authors asking, should I be on Twitter? are long gone. The question of how we find and connect with readers has become increasingly complex as new tools and online services pop up literally every day and the questions facing authors & publishers alike as we race to stay abreast with all the changes, are which ones work, which ones will work the day after tomorrow, which ones are worth my time and effort?

The second part of the equation, which we probably won’t explore so much today but I wanted to put on your radar, is the increasing importance on the data associated with all this online activity. The field of data analytics or quantitative analysis will revolutionize our ability to understand all behaviors associated with our products, and there are a lot of people trying to develop the tools to enable us to do this. There’s some really interesting work going on out there, but overall this field is still in its infancy. I’m hoping we might have a little bit of time to talk about the dashboard tools that provide the analysis that publishers are currently using as they develop their online media strategies."

Here are the bios of the people on the panel:

Jennifer Barraco is currently a marketing partnerships associate at Harper Collins. Prior to this, Ms. Barraco worked at several PR firms, including Quinn & Co and Ketchum, and also as a freelance journalist. Ms. Barraco has also written a memoir, The Butterfly Groove, and is shopping around to agents. 

Claire Goldwitz is the Director of Marketing Partnerships at HarperCollins and was a Co-Founder of www.bookperk.com.  In previous roles, she headed business development at Last.fm and worked as an analyst at Goldman Sachs. She is a graduate of Harvard Business School, and her specialties include online product development, strategy and business development. 

  
Kristen Lamb is the author of the best-selling books We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. Kristen worked in international sales before transitioning into a career as an author, freelance editor and speaker. She takes her experience in sales & promotion and merges it with her time as a writer to create a program designed to help authors construct a platform in the new paradigm of publishing.

Kevin Kaiser is a brand consultant and digital strategist, currently serving as Senior Brand Manager at Creative Trust where he currently oversees global brand development for bestselling author Ted Dekker. He is also an author himself and has produced seven graphic novels as well as a recently published zombie versus cowboy series titled Double Barrel

Meryl L. Moss is President of Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc., a marketing and publicity firm that for over 20 years has worked with authors to build best sellers and maximize exposure through groundbreaking traditional and social media campaigns.  Meryl is the co-creator ofBookTrib (www.booktrib.com), the booklovers community that offers book news, original author content, giveaways and creative promotion solutions for authors and publishers.   
Matt Schwartz is currently the vice-president for digital marketing and strategy at Random House Publishing Group. Matt has more than 10 years of online marketing and merchandising experience with entertainment properties, focusing primarily on books and genre content. He is also a former adjunct professor in the NYU publishing program, former director of online marketing at Simon & Schuster, consultant to ecommerce sites and worked for Barnes & Noble. 

Sadly, we were not able to get to a lot of topics of interest. I’ll talk about some of the new tools that have come out recently in future blog posts.  I’m not going to be able to reproduce all the discussion here—you can order a recording from the session from ITW if you’re interested—but some of my favorite points (and please bear in mind that I’m paraphrasing the speakers): 

---One of the biggest challenges is that facing bookstores. We’re at a point where online sales overtook sales in brick and mortar store. Marketing online is completely different. Publishers have no control over how third party online booksellers choose to market or which books they’ll feature.

---The consumer is making the decision of which book to purchase before they go to the bookstore/online seller. Discoverability is a big problem, especially with online sellers. If they find your book online, you have very little time - a minute to a minute and a half, tops - to get people excited to buy your book.

---Four things your website should be doing for you: (1) when people look for you in a search engine, your website should be at the top; make it easy for people to find you; (2) typically,your website is for fans, not for people who don’t know who you are and who are just beginning to check you out; populate it with things your fans will want (3) reviews of your books should be out on social platforms (Goodreads, etc); (4) your website should make it easy to know how to follow you on social media (your Twitter, FB, etc) and where to buy your book. 

---Don't forget the basics: try to broaden your online networks beyond people who are part of the book discussion (book bloggers and readers) as they represent a small part of your potential audience. Enlist as many people as you can and try to make them evangelists for your books, as well.

---Be authentic, and don't make it all about you or your books. Remember that your followers are interested in you as a person and don't want to be constantly pressured to buy your book. They want to be engaged and to be involved in a conversation. Social media is aobut building relationships.