Using the New to push the Old

Another Wired piece, this time looking at the example of Dzanc Books, a publisher of print-on-paper books. Started by a former car-parts supplier, Dan Wickett, Dzanc is an independent publisher doing OK at a time when independents are doing it tough. The Wired piece looks at how a company like Dzanc uses the net to do business, focussing on working and building communities around its titles. From the article:

[Dzanc] avoids traditional advertising and relies on viral marketing. The company has hit hundreds of online journals, blogs and web writers with promotional news.

“I have been as much of a pain-in-the-neck presence online as I could have been in last five years,” says Wickett. “We have developed fairly large communities of readers and writers we believe will support us. If half of our members ran out and bought a book, it would be more successful than many small-press books.”

Of most interest to me is the net experience. On the back of the myspace and music experience, it seems clear that authors and publishers *can* reach a global market by finding and building communities of interest around their titles, and Wired cites a couple of examples of the experimenting that is going on:

To promote Matthew Sharpe’s Jamestown, Soft Skull Press put up a MySpace page for Pocahontas, one of the novel’s main characters. Unbridled Books produces regular YouTube videos and podcasts.

But the question that remains is who’s going to do all the extra online work. Publishers, on the whole, don’t have the resources required to maintain countless blogs; let alone spend the time online required to build communities. They probably expect authors to do it all as part of their unpaid promotional duties. But it’s hard, and time consuming work – and every blog post authored, every comment posted on somebody else’s forum is time not spent on the new novel… I guess sleep will just have to become optional 🙂

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