“Community” in Motion
by Kimberly A. Edwards
Insights abounded recently as Dominique Raccah (Sourcebooks), Clint Greenleaf (Greenleaf Book Group), Stephanie Chandler (Authority Publishing), Karl Palachuk (Relax Focus Succeed), Linda Lee (Smart Women, Stupid Computers), and others spoke at the Northern California Publishers and Authors Conference.
One theme permeated conversations at the event: community. This simple noun, shaken up by the digital shift, has swelled to encompass meanings that lead to new visions of possibilities.
Below are four provocative aspects of the term that I, as a somewhat seasoned observer, gleaned at the event, and that I intend to make use of in my own business.
Exercising Leadership Opportunities
Now that community in the context of the Internet refers to virtual neighborhoods, we know that authors and publishers can immerse themselves in these communities to lead and/or follow trends, to identify shared interests, and to find out who cares about issues and events relevant to their books.
A blog can be the center of such a community. An author or publisher who blogs and comments on other people’s blogs and Web sites by tossing out ideas, engaging in dialogue, and testing responses will emerge—if luck, effort, and strategy align—as a thought leader in a subject area.
Publishers and authors focused on community should concern themselves not just with how many (readers, followers, attendees), but with who: which readers; what market segment.
Testimonials by the right reviewers yield unfathomable dividends. Writers and publishers can comb relevant association listings to offer newsletter articles or presentations. Whatever provides value to the right people at the right time increases value for all parties involved.
Competitors in a community can form ad hoc pairings. Authors can comment positively on each others’ books. Bloggers can exchange guest posts, book reviews, and interviews and otherwise engage in mutual support. Colleagues can submit reviews to Amazon. Other colleagues can rate the reviews as helpful, propelling a book higher in search results.
A spontaneous stop at a bookstore to sign books can secure premium shelf placements and increase the bookseller’s revenues. Signed books, especially when heralded by an “Autographed by Author” sticker, carry a higher perceived value.
A book and its Web site serve as business brochures for community members. Publishing an interesting electronic newsletter with good content fortifies the base. Traffic doubles when a blog is added to a Web site. A clean font, smooth delivery process, and instant gratification with a good shopping cart system keep activity pulsing.
Connections to professional associations and speakers’ bureaus broaden the base. No author should ever just sit and sign books; instead, authors should teach or entertain the members of their community they encounter.
Gifting a book to an interested person can lead it into influential hands. Savvy publishers and authors break their books into small, free e-books that whet the appetite for more. Similarly, they give books free to Webinar participants.
Today’s technology fast-tracks the capacity to join communities, vitaminize them, and spawn new ones. Authors and publishers can start with simple outreach. As a gathering grows, passersby stop, gaze, circle, return, and hop aboard.
Kimberly A. Edwards serves on the board of directors of the California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch, and belongs to the Northern California Publishers and Authors.