|Kathy Dempsey, Accidental Library Marketer, and David Vinjamuri, Accidental Branding|
Brand expert and NYU professor David Vinjamuri spoke to an audience of more than 200 librarians at the 2013 PR Forum. A few of us who were on ALA's Public Awareness Committee that brought him to speak had the good fortune of having dinner with him the night before. What a treat. Libraries are lucky to have someone like Vinjamuri thinking about ways libraries can work with authors and publishers.
Vinjamuri has two books on the shelves, Accidental Branding: How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands” and the novel “Operator." I think the one that has given him something to think about is Operator because he ended up publishing it himself. Self-publishing had a bad rap in the golden age of book publishing. If your work wasn't good enough for a publisher, then it wasn't good enough for readers. And then there was the whole PR campaign that was needed to get people to want to read it. It was pretty much an impossible feat.
That was then. Today's best-selling lists are sure to have at least one self-published book.
Things are changing but it’s a slow change. While the Internet has opened doors for writers to build a fan base without a publisher, they are still the outliers rather than the norm. The challenge of self-publishing isn't insurmountable, yet there may still be a stigma for writers to overcome with some readers and even some published writers.
Keep in mind that David's book was picked up by two agents and probably would have been picked up by a publisher if he had the patience. But after facing setback after setback for two years he took the jump and has done quite well. But while there are a few self-published books making it to NY Times best-selling list, it's obviously still a tough battle. Poor editing, lack of reviews often leave readers to sort through a lot of crap before they get to a good book like Operator.
On another front, libraries are facing costs of upward of $84 to purchase ebooks and battling with the big six publishers to get a lending model that works for them. Vinjamuri suggests that if librarians demonstrated the collective power to drive a book to be a best seller then publishers would start to see them in another light and want to make deals with them. What better place to start than to find a worthy self-published book and make that a best seller.
It was exciting to hear Vinjamuri talk about libraries uniting and flexing their muscles for publishers. Whether it’s realistic that ALA or any other group of librarians would effectively lead a charge like that, well that's a horse of a different color. But it all made for a great talk.
Vinjamuri suggests the natural progression for authors will be a hybrid mix- authors publishing some books on their own and some with publishers. When Seth Godin returned to his traditional publisher after his experiment with Amazon, he suggested another hybrid model. Authors would kick start sales and if they demonstrated enough interest, then a publisher could come in. No one can say for sure what it will look like, but self-publishing is here to stay. If nothing else, I think it would be worth our while to start thinking of the kind of partnership opportunities we could create that will help get these authors' works to our readers.
- Slides from the PR Forum: The $84 Question
- A Conversation with David Vinjamuri
- What’s In a Name? Branding Comes to the Nonprofit World
- Why Public Libraries Matter: And How They Can Do More
- The Wrong War Over eBooks: Publishers Vs. Libraries
- What's the Problem with Self Publishing
- Publishing Lessons from Seth Godin
Mr. Vinjamuri has written a two-part post about libraries and e-books on his Forbes.com blog. He is the author of “Accidental Branding: How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands” and the novel “Operator"