Saturday, January 16, 2010

What do Today’s Readers Want? Fauzia Burke - President of FSB Associates Answers the Question

2945026921_352f69227f_mHere is an article from the president of FSB Associates – Fauzia Burke. An interesting and light editorial about what she believes is important for today’s readers and where the book industry is heading. Enjoy!


I'll Take a Community With That Book, Please!
By Fauzia Burke

With today's search empowered readers, do we need to market and publish books differently? Does general publishing make sense in an age of Google searches, micro communities and niche marketing?

Today's readers are tech savvy and resourceful. They know how to get the information they need and have higher expectations from publishers and authors. They don't just expect a book, they expect a community with their book.

I often hear publishers say that there are "very few brands in book publishing." But to thrive in today's competitive, niche markets, perhaps brands are exactly what we need. What readers choose to read is personal and an extension of who they are. Shouldn't their book choices be supported by a publisher, a brand that is invested in their interests? 

Many small publishing companies have done an enviable job of branding themselves and building reader communities around their books. Take O'Reilly, TOR and Hay House. You may not read their books, but you know what they publish. Their communities trust them. People who share their point-of-view flock to their lists. These companies publish for a niche community, and are trusted members of their community. They provide extra resources, and often their authors are members of the community itself. TOR has even launched a bookstore to meet their readers' needs. These publishers show passion for their books and an understanding of their readers, and as such their readers reward them with loyalty.

Publishing books for the community

Besides reader loyalty, publishing for micro communities may have other long-term benefits as well. For example, the focus would help publishers save money on marketing. Marketing through online communities is less expensive and much more powerful than trying to reach the general public and hoping to find the right match. The publisher's Web site wouldn't have to cater to a wide variety of people, it would be designed to serve the needs of a small group. Instead of expensive advertising, they could announce the book to the community that has already bought into their brand. Publishers and authors could enlist the support of the community to spread the word (which will always be the most efficient method for marketing books.) The logo on the book spine would mean the readers have a promise that the book is worth reading. The readers would know that the publisher looked at over a thousand manuscripts all on the same topic and is offering them the very best. 

So are large, general publishers at a disadvantage with today's search-empowered, community oriented readers? I think so. General trade publishing is for everyone, yet there is no "everyone" out there.  Readers are part of micro communities. They want good books, and they need publishers who will support their interests and passions. 

The bottom line is that publishers and authors need to evolve their marketing and publishing strategies to accommodate for a new kind of reader. A reader whose expectations demand more interaction and community. A reader whose loyalty you can have once you have earned it. A reader who wants more than a 6 week marketing campaign so you can sell a book. This new reader requires an investment of months and years.

Is that too much to expect? Perhaps. But this is your new reader, and she will stay with you if you stay with her.

Stay tuned for Web marketing tips in future weeks, or follow FSB on Twitter to see our results in real time:

©2009 Fauzia Burke

fauzia_burkeAuthor Bio
Fauzia Burke is the Founder and President of FSB Associates, a Web publicity firm specializing in creating online awareness for books and authors.  She is currently a featured blogger on The Huffington Post new books vertical where this article originally debuted. 

For more information, please visit


So two questions for thought are: As readers, is having community an important aspect of your reading choices? Are there specific publisher which you prefer and follow due to their specific genre content or do you prefer a generalized book resource?

Have a wonderful Saturday everyone!


Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Provocative article, Shellie. I need to think about all those morsels she laid out for us.

Sounds good, though.

Unknown said...

Laurel -
Yes it really is thought provoking and perhaps a bit more complex than it first seems...

Come back with your thoughts, it would be great to chat about them. :)

Alexia561 said...

Very interesting article, and I think she's brought up several valid points.

I tend to get most of my book recommendations online now, and put more faith in good reviews from trusted blogs as opposed to reviews in magazines or huge marketing campaigns.

I do agree that publishers and authors need to evolve, but I'm not sure if they should all concentrate on niche markets. I've found several books I've enjoyed via review offers and contest wins that I wouldn't have picked up otherwise, as they were outside my usual genres.

Will be interesting to see how the various publishing houses adapt to the changing environment, and see which ones survive.

Great post Shellie!

Charlie said...

I agree with Burke. While the Big Five publishers are marketing their money-makers like Patterson and Nora Roberts, the niche companies are where the discerning readers go.

My example: SOHO Press and their fantastic backlist of long-out-of-print mysteries. Thanks to them, I've read half of Magdalen Nabb's and Colin Cotterill's books, ALL of which I've truly enjoyed. I can also purchase directly from them.

Here's a link to their crime backlist:


Hypatia Theon said...

Hi, muse. Well, I certainly can't claim to have mastered anything, but I did manage to get something posted. It's just kind of a trial balloon with a bit of this and that. *Blush*
Hey, not to change the subject or anything, Shellie, but those pictures of you and JD taken last August? They're from the city I was born in many l-o-n-g years ago. :D Yep. Born in the Mercy Hospital in Mission Hills... Hm... wonder if that had any kind of influence on me?
Have you fully recovered from those blogulations yet? My trial by Windows Live Writer is at [ ] <-- Please let me know what I can do to make the blog look a bit less stark?

Unknown said...

Alexia -
I feel very similarly... I do like to see generalized reviews in one place. But for me one place would probably never be enough... I also like niche sites and am starting to find some great reviewers which I relate too...

I too have a number of books that I have recently read due to publishers sending me copies, wins..etc that I would have never chosen but absolutely loved. Like Serena by Ron Rash...

This article has been sitting in my email box for awhile.. I think it would have been lost during the holidays if I had published it... I am glad that it creating some discussion here.

Charlie -
Thanks for the link. It is now in my favorites.. I like the country specific links.

I also go to genre specific sites for special interest reads - like for speculative fiction. It would be wonderful to find an all purpose and very special one like your Soho Crime here... but I am not sure they exist with my eclectic tastes. But I will dream and keep searching.

Dennis -
Derailing the conversation again?????
I will be by your blog tomorrow. It takes a while for them to come up in Google Reader after following. I will then give you my honest opinion. :)

We love San Diego...California girl here.... I think we were right outside of Carlsbad at the time. I know living in CA most of my life has definitely had a big effect on me... so how could you escape.

As for the Bloggiesta....I have decided to go back on that river in Egypt in regards to my 250 links that are dead... until we come back from the UK... in 3 weeks. So beyond drinking a lot - denial is the next best thing... What dead links???? ;)

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