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'Agile' publishing at Digital Book World

Publishers may be falling out of love with apps, but they need to fall in love with their consumers, according to talk at Digital Book World, the New York-based e-book conference, which opened today (24th January). 

Statistics presented at the beginning of the show, and based on research undertaken by Digital Book World and Forrester Research among 74 US book executives, showed that 15% of US publishers think that apps represent a significant revenue opportunity, down from 34% a year ago. However, 75% of publishers produce apps, even though half of all publishers think that apps cost too much to produce. According to a report from Publishers Marketplace, Forrester's James McQuivey also found that 70% of those executives indicated that to succeed in the future, they "must have a direct consumer relationship", with 66% now intent on investing in "acquiring customer data".

At the follow-up c.e.o panel Sourcebooks chief executive and publisher Dominique Raccah argued that building audience participation before the writing and publication of a book was a way to help readers discover new work, as well as leading to greater sales. Raccah used the event to unveil a new, rapid and interactive publishing model where the content evolves through authors and their communities. Raccah said the model allowed for a more modern form of publishing where readers were involved in the end product.

According to a report on DBW's own website, Raccah told the audience: “We’re going to develop the book and build a community [around it] and the community is going to influence how the book is developed.”

The Agile Publishing Model promises to make the development of books, e-books, videos and other content faster with real-time feedback from readers and viewers. She said: “The traditional publishing model—long schedules, creating in a vacuum, lack of involvement with the readers of the end product—drives some authors crazy. This model is a great fit for experts who are highly immersed in their field and where the field is evolving rapidly.”

Raccah said the model was inspired by work done by O’Reilly Media. “What was really interesting to me was having a physical book come at the end of a community-building process,” Raccah said. Entering the Shift Age, by futurist and advisor David Houle, who is also speaking at Digital Book World, will be the first book published under the Sourcebooks Agile Publishing Model in autumn 2012.

Raccah invited attendees of the conference to receive an exclusive e-book, featuring an excerpt from The Shift Age and a compilation of his publishing-related columns, and will be invited to join the Entering the Shift Age blog that will serve not only as the community site for review and discussion of the book, but also as a platform for the development of the Sourcebooks APM.

According to Publishers Marketplace, Digital Book World conference chair Mike Shatzkin also addressed interacting with the consumer in his opening address. "Until very recently, when we'd sold the customer the book, our job was complete. Not any more. Every book sold can be the beginning of a conversation that can lead to more engagement and ultimately more sales," he said.

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Doesn't social media already give authors and readers plenty of ways to interact? Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, Tumblr etc. This looks like Publishers trying to find a way of inserting themselves in a process that seems to work just fine without them.

That's why I think it is pretty smart Tom - most authors won't have these skills, others may have the skills but would prefer to be writing than managing communities, so it is exactly the right place for publishers to be insinuating themselves. Authors such as Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking are few and far between.

Philip, does this mean that publishers will be acting more in the role of agent in order to interface with their client's readership?
I'm wondering how the readers will relate to the publisher in this model and whether they will see it as a credible alternative to being able to follow and comment on (for example)Konrath's blog.

Apparantly he spends 17 hours a day at the the computer, clearly not everyone wants to do that. At the same time though if there is a market for a more collaborative style, are writers like him not going to have clear advantage over those that get their publisher to do their social networking?

It depends how good the publisher is and how authentic they can be when playing the role of intermediary, or how discretely they can insinuate themselves - ie creating the tools but not authoring the posts. There is talk of agents performing this role too, but clearly publishers have bigger resources. Either way, there's a gap here in a space created by the likes of Konrath. Interestingly, St Martins Press/Macmillan has recently created a new web presence for Amanda Hocking, http://www.worldofamandahocking.com it is worth comparing and contrasting it with her actual self-created blog and seeing whether publishers can replicate the authenticity of the unfiltered author voice.

Thanks for getting back to me. It will be interesting to watch. Many of the publishers and Agents I've queried are clearly struggling just to keep their own websites up to date (Aitken Alexander's was closed for repairs for nearly six months)whereas others such as Canongate look a lot more savvy.
I'll be self publishing my book in early March and whilst I would love to have a 'top six' publisher in my corner I can hardly complain about the range of free resources available to me afterall, they're the same ones the publishers use.

Tom,

Thank you very much for the question. Where the Agile Publishing Model differs a little from traditional social media author interaction is that the goal of the program is to build a community around the creation of the book - and around the book itself. Our authors will set the direction and be leading the conversation, but the community will have the opportunity to provide feedback, direction, ideas, and even criticism.

To those who don't participate in the community, I believe that they will experience Entering the Shift Age in the same way they would another book. I don't think that lack of involvement will alienate them but rather provide a sense of confidence that the work was carefully thought about and crafted in this unique way.

I think it will be fun! Will you join up?

Greg Avila
Sourcebooks, Inbound Marketing Manager

Greg,

Replied via email to this feed so not sure if you saw my answer. In short it was 'yes'. How do I get signed up?

Tom,

I've sent an email to you directly but the easiest way to get involved in the conversation is to come out to our website (http://bit.ly/enteringtheshiftage) and Join Our Community by leaving your name and email. We will then keep you notified as our project moves forward.

We would love to have people who will ask thought provoking questions on both the author's content as well as the model itself.

Thanks,

Greg Avila

Doesn't social media already give authors and readers plenty of ways to interact? Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, Tumblr etc. This looks like Publishers trying to find a way of inserting themselves in a process that seems to work just fine without them.

That's why I think it is pretty smart Tom - most authors won't have these skills, others may have the skills but would prefer to be writing than managing communities, so it is exactly the right place for publishers to be insinuating themselves. Authors such as Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking are few and far between.

Philip, does this mean that publishers will be acting more in the role of agent in order to interface with their client's readership?
I'm wondering how the readers will relate to the publisher in this model and whether they will see it as a credible alternative to being able to follow and comment on (for example)Konrath's blog.

Apparantly he spends 17 hours a day at the the computer, clearly not everyone wants to do that. At the same time though if there is a market for a more collaborative style, are writers like him not going to have clear advantage over those that get their publisher to do their social networking?

It depends how good the publisher is and how authentic they can be when playing the role of intermediary, or how discretely they can insinuate themselves - ie creating the tools but not authoring the posts. There is talk of agents performing this role too, but clearly publishers have bigger resources. Either way, there's a gap here in a space created by the likes of Konrath. Interestingly, St Martins Press/Macmillan has recently created a new web presence for Amanda Hocking, http://www.worldofamandahocking.com it is worth comparing and contrasting it with her actual self-created blog and seeing whether publishers can replicate the authenticity of the unfiltered author voice.

Thanks for getting back to me. It will be interesting to watch. Many of the publishers and Agents I've queried are clearly struggling just to keep their own websites up to date (Aitken Alexander's was closed for repairs for nearly six months)whereas others such as Canongate look a lot more savvy.
I'll be self publishing my book in early March and whilst I would love to have a 'top six' publisher in my corner I can hardly complain about the range of free resources available to me afterall, they're the same ones the publishers use.

Tom,

Thank you very much for the question. Where the Agile Publishing Model differs a little from traditional social media author interaction is that the goal of the program is to build a community around the creation of the book - and around the book itself. Our authors will set the direction and be leading the conversation, but the community will have the opportunity to provide feedback, direction, ideas, and even criticism.

To those who don't participate in the community, I believe that they will experience Entering the Shift Age in the same way they would another book. I don't think that lack of involvement will alienate them but rather provide a sense of confidence that the work was carefully thought about and crafted in this unique way.

I think it will be fun! Will you join up?

Greg Avila
Sourcebooks, Inbound Marketing Manager

Greg,

Replied via email to this feed so not sure if you saw my answer. In short it was 'yes'. How do I get signed up?

Tom,

I've sent an email to you directly but the easiest way to get involved in the conversation is to come out to our website (http://bit.ly/enteringtheshiftage) and Join Our Community by leaving your name and email. We will then keep you notified as our project moves forward.

We would love to have people who will ask thought provoking questions on both the author's content as well as the model itself.

Thanks,

Greg Avila