This one isn’t technically a Corps Mission post, because I’m not writing about my work for my author-brand. Instead, I need to ruminate on some interesting parallels. I think there’s some valuable insight hidden under the murk. I want to compare and contrast the Internet Marketing / SEO world with the Publishing industry.
On one hand: SEO, Social Media and Internet Marketing
Internet marketing and SEO are in a constant state of flux. It is based on ever-changing technology: search algorithms change weekly, and are reported monthly (at least by Google). New tools and platforms are developed and launched every day. There is constant churning, constant upheaval. As my title states: Change is the only constant.
I freaking love that about this industry. It’s part of the reason why I’m here. The moving target of search and social is what makes it so interesting to go to work everyday. The testing cycle to see what works (and what doesn’t) to improve reach or rankings… it’s delightful fun. Especially when it works.
I’m not an expert by a long shot, but if I don’t know the answer, I do know who to ask. I get the industry. I understand its challenges. I’ve been here long enough that essentially, I’m at the eye of this hurricane, looking out. I didn’t realize that until recently.
The constant change is a pain point for people who are not steeped in Internet Marketing but who know they need to pay attention to it. How can they learn to do it right, if the answer will change tomorrow? With millions of experts out there, whose voice can they trust? (Because there are so many slimy opportunists just waiting to take advantage of this person.)
On the other hand: The Publishing Industry
Because of the state of flux in technology, the Publishing industry is also in upheaval. I have to guess that they are in somewhat earlier in their “storming” phase of change than the Internet business world is (we’re used to it). In spite of the fact that the printing press kick-started the entire industrial revolution, the book publication industry has been pretty stable in terms of technology.
Then along came print-on-demand, e-readers, online publishing and self-publishing. With the advent of cheaper, easier ways to format and create books, the publishing business landscape got very crowded and convoluted very quickly.
Consumers are just as confused about the options as people in the industry are. Some people (like me) still want to hold a print and paper version of a book. Some people (my husband included) would rather hoard all of their books on a single electronic device to slip into a pocket and read where ever, whenever.
Traditional publishing houses are trying to ride this wave of change and still be viable businesses. This is not easy. Everyone’s expectations are changing about what that means. The vision of the publishing landscape in 2025 is completely unimaginable.
This storm, however, I’m on the outside looking in. I’m a little afraid of getting swept up in it, and I’m certainly wary of getting taken for a ride. There are dozens of conflicting messages about what I should be doing to make myself marketable as a new author. I don’t know whose opinion I can trust.
Meet the Need: A Guide?
An interesting idea for both industries might be a guide. A list – somewhere – of reliable opinions. In my world, I’d tell you to keep an ear to the ground via Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land. I trust them because they spot things I haven’t had time to spot, but frequently, we all draw the same conclusions. These are smart folks interested in sharing information (with the bonus of a byline) not trying to sell you any services directly. I’d tell you to subscribe to the official Google and Bing blogs – because getting information straight from the engines is always a little murky, but useful.
I have yet to figure out that same hit-list for the publishing world. I wish someone would tell me the best experts to follow for advice for a wanna-be author.
A major difference between internet and publishing is the level of individual subjectivity and taste involved. I think this is part of the reason why it’s so confusing.
In internet marketing, you’re trying to expand reach and impact a larger number of people – macro, big picture stuff. In SEO, you’re trying to translate your website into the best possible answer Google can provide for high-traffic query strings. A little more detailed, but you’re only talking to bots, so there’s no subjectivity or taste involved (at a high level – CTR, bounce and social does reflect to an extent the subjective opinions of audience, but I digress).
In traditional publishing, you have to appeal to an individual agent or an individual editor. That agent or editor might post blog posts about what works for them, or what intrigues them about a query. But you have to research each individual agent or editor to learn how to tweak your approach.
So, when I’m at this phase – I guess you’d call it expanding reach or platform building – I’m left without any tangible goals. Some agents just want you to be findable and reachable online. Others want you to have your marketing plan laid out. Some don’t think author marketing is worthwhile. Others say it is essential. Who do I listen to? Who is trustworthy?
I want to do everything I can to position myself well for a shot at publication. But no one will tell me what that means, in tangible terms. If my midterm goal is to get picked up by an agent and then a house, my long term goal is to sell books, I’m still really hazy about my short term goals.
Any insights? Anyone? ….. Beuller?