Testing books isn’t a common practice in the publishing industry. It makes sense, considering that for the majority of the industry’s history acquiring a new title relied on an individual editor’s intuition and skill. In the past, the only way to find out if a book would be successful in a certain demographic was simply publishing it and seeing how the sales performed.
Although digital technology, social media, and a slew of new marketing tools enable more testing than ever before, publishers are by in large using the same guesswork system of the past. In part there is a hesitance to turn literature into a science — a machine that churns out the same type of bestseller over and over. But that fear is unfounded. Today tested literature is already a reality, and it’s resulting in some fantastic titles. But these titles are thriving in the self-publishing arena, leaving traditional publishers out of a significant revenue stream and an opportunity to develop a direct connection with their readers.
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Novels too are finding traction on social media. Photographer and author Rachel Hulin is currently publishing an entire novel in segments on Instagram, titled Hey Harry Hey Matilda. The project began in September and is slated to run for nine months. It shares the story of twins Harry and Matilda as they write letters to one another about their lives and hopes for the future. The Instagram account has over 7,500 followers to date, as well as a dedicated website with extra content and “secrets” about the two characters. Hulin’s website should be even more troubling for publishers. It raises a problematic question for the industry: if an author can create their own high-quality platform to reach readers, why work with a publisher at all and give up a share of their revenue?
That question is why publishers need to enter this field of social-media-tested stories now. Why let the initial publicity and audience of these tests go directly to the author and in turn lose the revenue from the first self-published title? And why run the risk of an author opting out of traditional publishing all together? Publishers could lose the primary value they provide authors — the scale they can bring to the marketing of a book.
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Test stories where the audience actually is, on social media. Not only will this grow the direct relationships many publishers are seeking with their readers, but it will become a critical part of the editing and acquisition stage.
Link to the rest at BookBusiness and thanks to Iola for the tip.