A former F&W Publications VP by the name of David Lewis used to be huge into customer surveys and focus groups, and here's why: He was always wary of us trying to tell customers what they want, instead of the other way around. Even though, many of us were the target audience, he wanted to avoid having two or three decision makers speak for the entire group.
Of course, I know there are times when customers don't know they want something, or they can't imagine something ever existing. For instance, it wasn't long ago that I'd have scoffed at the idea of owning a phone that allowed me to take (and store) images and video while checking e-mail, surfing the Internet, playing video games, and whatever else my phone can do. That said, all content doesn't have to be a smartphone.
Just because readers prefer to consume their novels, magazines, and how-to books on Kindles, Nooks, etc., it doesn't mean they want every other word to link to some subplot, back story, or e-commerce page. Often times, readers just want to read.
This doesn't mean the bells and whistles are meaningless, but most people would rather own an ugly car that works over a beautiful car that doesn't start. If you can make something beautiful and interactive, that's great. Just don't compromise the functionality of what your audience really wants: in this case, excellent content.
Another issue brought up in this article was how products are discovered in the storefronts. Hearst President David Carey basically says that products have to land in the upper carousel of the storefront to sell well. I'm sure most sales on Amazon have to rank well too. So, does that mean all publishers and writers are held at the mercy of Apple, Amazon, and other booksellers?
Umm, it shouldn't. This merely underscores how important it is for publishers and writers to have a direct line to their audience. It underscores the importance of an author platform. Publishers and writers can't just call it a day after a book gets in the bookstores; they have to shine a spotlight on their creations.
While fulfilling an audience's needs should always be priority one, working on discoverability (and yes, I know it's not a real word) is priority one-A.
As I mentioned above, discoverability should be a close second priority for writers, editors, and publishers--if they want to sell books. But it's one thing to talk about promotion, and anyone can just start throwing up links like crazy after a book is published. That doesn't mean anyone is going to pay attention. No, what writers, editors, and publishers need is to create platforms and make meaningful connections with their target audience and the influencers of their target audience.
This means you connect with bloggers, program directors, and editors of magazines and websites related to your writing and that in turn connect with your target audience. These are the gatekeepers to your target audience (your potential readers and book buyers).
For writers, editors, and publishers to find the most success in the future, it is imperative that they work to combine these three elements. They need to figure out what their audience needs and then deliver it in a way that their target audience knows that it exists and that it is exactly what they want. If the content really is great, this is the recipe that creates bestselling products and earns writers, editors, and publishers adoring fans, which ultimately leads to more fun projects in the future.
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Check out these other helpful Not Bob posts:
- How to Blog and Make Money Blogging.
- How to Build (or Improve) Your Writer Platform in 30 Days.
- Best Blogs for Writers to Read in 2012.
And if you want a way to make a super investment in your author platform, check out the latest offering from Writer's Digest: Author Platform Consultations. There are three different levels--from a basic package (that is anything but basic) to an 8-week program that involves 30-minute consultations each week. Click here to learn more.