Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Competitive Reading, Marketing appeal and Intrusive Publicity.

I'd like to apologise for my long absence. In my defence, I've been quite busy, but also I don't like to write useless posts, just for the sake of it! I like to be interested in what I write and at least -hopefully- contribute to the hottest debates.
So, I was attending a few very interesting sales meetings by some of the publishers we represent with the agency. I must admit I'm a sucker for conferences, I love them. I could spend my life taking notes and eating at buffets. But, yes, there's more to it than food and free tea and coffee (weirdly enough)!
What happens at these conferences is that the editors present their products and the ideas behind them. The marketing team will then explain the campaign that will be in place in order to sell, sell, sell. Hopefully. I must say that apart from a couple of big, fat marketing campaigns for big titles, the rest was pretty much confined to 'social media marketing'.
Is social media marketing still the big thing? I don't know if you could simply rely on it, fact is that you need your title to go VIRAL. This means that the more the title is out there - through a transmedia campaign -, and people talk about it, the more that title should be well-known and ultimately sell more.
Anyhow, a publisher, speaking of targeting sales, came out with a name I had read around the net a few times, but never really bothered to check out: KOBO.
You might have heard of it for its readers and apps, and the fact that it allows you to buy ebooks on any given device. But Kobo is so much more than this. For what I understood, it allows readers to check-in their books, earn badges, and keep track of their reading stats — and share all of these activities to their Facebook profiles etc. It's a proper Social Reading Device!
There are many social media communities focused on books out there. For instance I've been registered with Anobii for ages and, even though I'm not really using it anymore, I thought it was a great idea! A way to share your passion for books (physical ones at the beginning!) with other readers. Exchanging reviews and rates, and the thrill that comes with seeing your huge virtual library right in front of you, for the world to see (and for you to brag about!).
I love how it's possible to search the books you have in real life and add them to your virtual shelf. I have a lot of fun writing reviews and rating titles, discovering books I had forgotten and comics I wish I had known already.
So let's see, would you like an app on your reader, or even just an option on your Anobii profile to suggest you what to read next?
Sure, they already tell you, Amazon-style, what other people who have already gone through the book you're reading just now, moved to next - but is that enough? What do you think if they actually tracked you down, compared notes (FB, MSN, four squares, G+) and made their own profile of you and send you personalized suggestions? And what if they sent it to you via email, in your own personal space, when you're a few pages away from the end of your beloved book?
If you're like me you probably have another 50 books lined up for the next read, and you'd be terribly disturbed by the invasion of technology, but I bet a lot of people would actually pay attention to it. Maybe people who are pretty straightforward in their literary choices and preferences.
I'm definitely not that easy to read or to study, my dear tech device. I have trouble finding something I like in a book shop. I'm so bad I get desperate before going on holiday because I don't know which books I should bring with me, and consequently end up with random stuff. An example? My latest holiday in Greece randomly featured a thriller by Rick Mofina, the autobiography of a lesbian-feminist-republican writer, a fantasy tale by Neil Gaiman, and a fictional story of violence and incestuous relationships in London. (I can give you the titles if interested!).
I mean, not very common, straightforward stuff!!
But in a world where everywhere you go and wherever you buy (especially online) things get suggested to you non-stop, would book suggestions make any difference?
I probably wouldn't like it. Reading is some sort of past time for me, something I do to unwind and relax, something I do in the privacy of my bedroom or in a solitary corner, and I don't want any intruders. That's why maybe I wouldn't register to a website that tracks your reading progress. This is not a competition! I can be a terribly slow reader (it depends on the book and on how tired I am), or a tremendously fast one, but I don't need to push my limits in order to impress my peers online or in real life. Because we all know how it works. You start befriending your co-workers, your friends, and then people you don't really know but who are working in the industry and you're following on Twitter.
That's probably why I'll never have a reader. It'll happen, you'll see. You buy and download your ebooks, and they'll send you first chapters of this and that. Sure, you might discover some amazing new books you would otherwise never hear of, but it's more likely something big publishers have paid big money to publicize.
It'll be like fake suggestions in bookshops - well, in chains like Waterstone's and WhSmith - where the publishers pay quite a lot for their books to be in the front shelf, or in the suggested list.
I don't want that. I want to get lost in a book shop and being attracted by a cover, a title, a format.

Am I just an old, grumpy elitist?