Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
By LANA POPOVIC
She may have the face of an ingénue, but Lissa Warren is a seasoned publishing veteran, with twenty years of experience in the industry. She has worked for David R. Godine and Perseus Books Group, and is now the publicity director and VP of Da Capo Press, a Cambridge-based publisher of high quality nonfiction. Here’s what she has to say about the digital revolution.
How have publicity strategies changed over the last several years, when the industry began transitioning to digital?
We haven’t jettisoned the tried-and-true strategies—reviews and author profiles in newspapers and magazines, national radio (especially NPR), national TV (everything from the network morning shows, to evening shows on Comedy Central, to daytime talk shows like Ellen and The View, to shows on cable channels like CNN and MSNBC), and bookstore events at chains as well as indies. But I would say we’re pushing for Web coverage harder now than we did, say, five years ago. That means websites like the Huffington Post, AOL, Salon, Slate, and Daily Beast, but also some influential niche websites and well-trafficked blogs.
Also, when we get a call from old-guard media outlets like the New York Times and Time magazine, it’s often for pieces that’ll run exclusively on their website rather than in their print publications. We used to be a little disappointed by that. Not anymore. In fact, for certain books it seems more important to get coverage in online media outlets than it does in dead-tree ones.
We haven’t published any ebook originals yet, but we are mindful of the fact that our printed books are also available as ebooks and that, consequently, we need to be even more aggressive about getting online coverage since people who read about books online likely also read ebooks.
Has the digital revolution made it easier or more difficult to effectively reach a broader audience?
Both! Easier in that there are more ways and outlets to get the word out to people; harder in that there’s so much info floating around about so many titles that it’s tough to get folks to focus on any particular one. We do make a point of it to let our marketing department know of any big media hits we get so that they can tweet and/or Facebook about it—thus giving us a sort-of double or triple hit. We send them links to video of our authors on TV, audio files of our authors on NPR, and of course links to reviews. They’re also good about spreading the word about events we’ve arranged so that readers know where they can go to meet our authors and hear them speak about their books.
Given your extensive experience in publishing, where do you think the industry is heading in terms of print versus ebooks?
I certainly don’t think printed books will go away anytime soon, if ever. But I do think ebooks will continue to become a larger and larger part of every title’s sales life, and that publishers will need to learn to adjust their print runs—and their marketing and publicity strategies—accordingly. I worry most about how ebooks will impact bookstores, which to me are just about the best places on earth.
Do you prefer to read in print or digital, or some combination thereof?
I don’t own a Kindle or any other ereader, and to be honest I don’t really have a desire to. I work in publishing—I spend enough of my day looking at a screen, thank you very much! Plus I regard books as a tactile experience. I’d miss the physical act of turning the page. I’d miss searching for my bookmark between the couch cushions and the bedsheets.
How do you think the rise of tablets—the iPad, Kindle Fire, and the B&N Tablet—will ultimately impact publishing?
I think they’re what will guarantee the next generation actually still reads books. And, for that reason, I have to be for them. But I’m not interested in a world where Amazon and B&N are the only game in town in terms of content providers and content deliverers. And I have to believe that most readers wouldn’t want that either.
What are your thoughts on the big three—Apple, Amazon, and Google?
Let’s put the big three in a room with the big six (publishing houses) and let them duke it out! I’m kidding, of course…except that’s kind of exactly what we’re doing.