Reaching Readers: Thoughts from BookCamp TO

The BNC intern report from BookCamp TO 2009:

I’m going to combine some thoughts from four of the sessions I attended at BookCamp TO: When Every Book is Connected to Everyone, Listening to Readers, How to be a Digital Marketing Rock Star, and Discovering Books.

While there was a lot of positive feedback, great new ideas, and lively conversation, there still seemed to be fear, confusion, and frustration surrounding all things digital.

In my opinion the majority of this fear is a result of the online world revealing some cracks in the foundation of our publishing housesparticularly when we look at marketing and publicity. Many Canadian publishers either don’t know how to reach their readers now that they’re online, or don’t know how to spread their limited resources over a wide-ranging list and thus a wide-ranging audience.

I seemed to keep dropping into discussions about reaching readers in an online world throughout the day. Attention is scarce, which seems to make a lot of publishers feel like they need to be everywhere at once and reach a lot of people for a little amount of time, instead of connecting with fewer people for an extended amount of time. Mitch Joel brought up the always relevant point that it’s about quality over quantity. And he’s right.

Here are some of the nuggets of inspiration I pulled out of the aforementioned sessions.

  • Be valuable. Know your audience and know where to find them. Don’t waste resources by trying to be everywhere. Instead, find your niche. If you are finding the right readers, then your content will be valuable to them. When marketing your books to your audience, provide freebies that are value-added features, not replacements.
  • Be discoverable. Make sure that when someone searches for one of your books your website is at the top of the results. How many times has a wrong cover/title/price/etc. been listed on a third party website? If your readers are finding information on your website and then linking out (or walking down the street) to buy, you will finally be in control of the information they receive.
  • Be transparent. Let readers leave negative feedback in comments, but think of it as constructive feedback and respond to it. This will lead to a more credible image in the long run. Readers who know that you are confident enough with your list to allow all feedback to remain online will go to your website as an information source instead of a third party website.
  • But most of all… be fearless. Try new things. If it doesn’t work out then cut your losses and move on.

BookCamp TO was a great day and one I hope is repeated in the future. Thanks to all the organizers and attendees who made it what it was!