May 22 2009
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Update: Pam Jaffee, Avon’s Publicist, responded to the AAR interview here. As stated in my article below, I have had a good relationship with Avon’s publicists.
Dear Avon Books:
I’ve come to understand that you don’t have much of anything good to say about the “online world”. Yesterday Katiebabs pointed me to an interview that two editors from Avon Books did with All About Romance. During the interview, your editors a) were dismissive of the impact that the internet had on sales and b) evinced no understanding about the ability of publishing to harness the internet to create brand identity and loyalty.
First, let me address the concept of ranking because according to Lucia Macro, she’s shocked at how low some blogs rank. I’m not sure what services that you are using but the fact that you use ranking to determine the value of a blog misunderstands the internet community and how it works.
I’m not sure that the vast majority of readers recognize all the online sites. When checking their rankings I’m often surprised at how little traffic they really get.
You shouldn’t be measuring bloggers by their traffic, but by their influence. For example, KristieJ got over 23 bloggers to read/review James’ small press book, Broken Wing. KristieJ is an influencer. Her stats might not measure up to Publishers Weekly or Romantic Times, but within her circle, she’s a persuader with influence. You claim, Avon Books, to be plugged in and so you should know this. If you don’t know this, then how can you truly measure the impact online sites have on a book?
May Chen: In my opinion, the online world still doesn’t have much impact on sales as, anecdotally, I’ve seen books get horrible online reviews but have done well. As far as I know, we still don’t include online reviews on our books, but that can certainly change if we see them start making a difference. Right now, the best endorsements for us still seem to be from NYT bestselling authors and from major traditional print reviewers.
I completely agree with Ms Chen that negative reviews may have little to no effect on sales. I would argue that horrible reviews of a book can actually increase sales. But the online community isn’t solely about reviews. Reviews are simply a way that we can build trust relationships with other readers. The true value of the online community is our inner connectedness.
Avon: The internet is a factor in marketing. We do “browse inside” on our books, post our covers early, and have author microsites on the main Harper Collins Server. However, we aren’t seeing that any review driven website has the power to “make” a book. Yet.
Yes, Avon, it is true that one blogger can’t make a book but the fact that you use that as a measuring tool again misunderstands how the internet communities work. Let’s set aside that other websites rank higher than you do on specific books and authors (in other words, so much for the posting of your covers, titles, and “Browse Inside” widgets).
Little known fact about Dear Author. Google is our number one referrer and by that I mean on a daily basis much of our traffic comes from people using Google to find out something about books. For example, “from dead to worse” google search shows the DearAuthor review as the no. 2 link. “Black Dagger Brotherhood” google search gives a Dear Author link as the number one result. Nearly every minute, we have a new visitor via Google or some other search engine.
But let’s move on to the second and more important feature of the internet. Better known facts about Dear Author? We love to recommend books and give away books and generally foster the love of reading romance. We are developing what Kassia Krozser calls “trust networks” with others. Some readers recommend books to us both in the comments and via email and we recommend books to you via our reviews. We interact about the genre in a very passionate way and by doing this, I believe we foster within each other a renewed love and growing loyalty for the genre. Internet communities like Dear Author and Smart Bitches and so many others are not about book promotion, but instead about developing relationships.
I actually feel like I have a good relationship with the Avon publicity department but it seems that at least some of Avon doesn’t get it. What the “online world” does is provide exposure for a title and this is vital for new authors and midlist authors where the sale of a 1000 more books can make a difference.
Your interviewees display a very old media point of view. In the old media paradigm, influence only flowed one way. All of their efforts: facebook, the author sub sites; the nearly unnavigable Harpercollins website with its Google ads; their covers; and their browse inside is all about talking at us instead of engaging us.
New media is about interaction, about developing relationships, and empowering your consumer base to advocate on your behalf. I highly doubt that Avon is really plugged in because if they were, they would realize that while we may only account for a few thousand of the millions of romance readers, we are the fiery base that loves this product so much we spend hours of our free time devoted to developing relationships around romance books. You can ignore and dismiss the internet but you do so at your peril. Also? Avon Books, you kind of suck at relationship building. Just saying.
The full irony of this interview was summed up brilliantly by Amy:
Why bother doing an online interview if online community is irrelevant?