Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dinosaurs stumbling badly into new media

As the publisher of a book review web site that is now entering it's third year, with it's third major re-themeing and having acheived a level of success, in terms of visitors, page views, ad revenues, Alexa ranking and Google Page Rank, I have become used to corresponding via e-mail with other web entrepreneurs and to working with other web publishers as well as with traditional book publishers and their publicity departments.

Sometimes an unsolicited approach can lead to a very mutually rewarding co-operation. And in my humble opinion, being successful on the web is all about building relationships. Relationships wiith other web publishers, with the source people in the field your web site covers and with your readers and audience. I have made tons of friends in online forums and through e-mail corresponce with strangers who responded to my web site. I am lucky that my spam filters mostly filter out the real junk. But this past week I had an un-solicited e-mail from a company (that apparently has "professional" level funding and PR. The PR agent (let's call her "Karen") wrote to tell me that she had "found my site" and thought that I "might want to share" with my readers the exciting news that HER COMPANY was introducing a new book promotion portal site. And surely I would love to give them some free publicity on my site. This was my reply to "Karen"

Hi Karen,

I checked out your site. I can't quite figure out whether you are very naive on how to approach and make deals with other web publishers or if you assume every site you find out there is a fan site that will be happy to promote your brand new un-ranked web site for free. It appears to me that what your firm is trying is a lot like Library Thing and Shelfari but you are trying to make it pay by having authors and/or their publishers pay for the privilege of being listed in your directory. Who knows, enough authors may take you up on it for you to make it a viable business, but honestly there is a Ton of competition in book promotion web sites and all of those sites (including yours and mine) are trying to reach the same Internet audience. (Do you even know what an Alexa rating is? Or Google Page Rank? Here's a hint, as of today mine are Much better than yours.)

My site is a Book Review site. Occasionally I make things a little bit more personal but mostly it is just all book reviews. I am in the process of opening my own online store to sell the books that I write about. I have never written about Library Thing or Shelfari, though at one time very early on I did use Library Thing widgets to display book covers in the side bar. I will not review your site for the same reason I never reviewed Library Thing or Shelfari. I review books, not websites. The publishers (of books) seem to get the book review web publishing community rather better than you do. They shower us with respect, advanced reading copies and review copies and NEVER ever require that we Post about let alone Recommend any particular title. By contrast you've approached a competing web publisher with an offer or suggestion that I give YOU free publicity. Like I said, I can't figure out if you're simply naive or utterly slimy.

If you would like to discuss advertising rates on or the possiblity or a reciprocal linking agreement, please let me know. You might consider having a third section of your site for book reviewers (in addition to readers and authors) since we are a Huge part of the book promotion scene. I hope this reply will be helpful to you in learning how better to approach established book review web publishers.

After two years of hard work and sweat equity I have steady, solid though not at all spectactular search engine traffic. I have 350 well tagged posts that will continue to draw search engine traffic. I have finished and ready to go a brand new template and some dynamite SEO optimized content about some of the Hottest and most popular books being published today in the can and ready to roll after the launch date. My e-mail address book has nearly a dozen publicists, including the Abolutely Fabulous Miriam Parker at Hachette, who could teach every newbie out there like "Karen" how to build a successful online book campaign a life time's worth of lessons.

My site revenue at this time and if I had to pay hosting fees (which due to the generostiy of one of my cherished friends who prefers to remain anonymous, I do not. Even though libdrone IS professionally hosted by an IT professional with specific expertise in the library and WordPress markets who, out of friendship gives me better hosting and tech support for my sites than the professionally funded "Karen" can buy at any price) my revenues would be barely break even. But unlike Karen I am working on a ten year marketing plan. And I actually took a lifetime of work in the book industry to learn how to deal with publishers and publicists and two years of hard sweat equity to learn about being an internet publisher in the book promotion field.

They tell writers that when you read something in a published book or magazine and you KNOW that you could have written it better, that's when you know you're Really a writer. I can now say that when you get a very naive letter from a newbie in your business who clearly doesn't know anything at all about the field she is entering, even though she has professional backing. Is the day you know that you are a Serious web publisher.


Margaret said...

Very well done response to someone who obviously approached you in what she thought was confident but was actually patronizing manner.

My little BR site is nothing at all compared to yours. I just read a lot and thought it would be fun to write book reviews. Your reviews are so well done that the knowledge you have about the writing and publishing industry shines through. I'm "just" a reader and know nothing more than what I like to read.

Yes, your Mom would be proud and agree that perhaps you have attained a measure of maturity. Don't worry -- you'll revert sometime in the next 20 years :lol:

Laura said...

I'm glad to have found your purely personal blog. I write but I don't want to read about reading. I do like to read about people though. Also, it's very sad, but my reading interests are kind of low brow. Don't even ask? :)

Alan said...

Hi Laura,

Welcome to my personal space. On the books blog I try to be a librarian and share books I think my readers will enjoy. Here I just talk about whatever happens to be on my mind, when and if I feel like it. Lately I have been using this site to talk about my experiences doing the other site, but at other times you are as likely to read about my spouse, my job or whatever else is on my mind. Thanks again for visiting.