Everyone Has Written a Book!

Contraband - Now Is Gone

Go to enough social media conferences (like two maximum), and you will inevitably have a conversation about the cliche, “Everyone’s written a book.” This meme references the seemingly endless proliferation of social media books published. Consider this author a two-timer in that sense. But in reality, the meme isn’t true.

It’s really hard to write a book. This brutal, laborious process takes months, including endless rewrites and revisions, all part of a difficult editing process. This commitment to write everyday for very little money also significantly sacrifices numerous portions of your personal life. It can endanger your personal relationships and your physical well being. Having completed four books (two business published, two unpublished novels), these texts took almost three years to write… Before editing.

Scores of social media bloggers have been asked to write books because they have already demonstrated they can produce content on a regular basis (in addition to the ongoing demand for subject matter knowledge). Publishers figure the blogger can actually put in the effort necessary to succeed. Writing a book requires the daily commitment that many bloggers have already demonstrated.

But if you think the actual book writing is the hardest aspect of the process, you are sorely mistaken. It is the easy part.

Moving $15 Books

Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra)
Amber Naslund discusses the Now Revolution at last Friday’s YouToo 2011 Conference.

Book marketing beats the spirit out of authors. It requires travel, events, clever blogging and updates with a consistent focus on the same thing. You feel like a broken record talking about the same thing over and over again. It takes great creativity to make the same topic seem fresh over and over again.

There is non-stop pressure from a publisher to move books. Publishers provide almost no support for marketing (their editing support is questionable, too), insisting that their authors do the work. Publishes ask YOU, the author to hire a publicist these days. If you can’t market your own book then it won’t sell.

As a result, very rarely do you see Gary Vaynerchuk types of book deals. Books don’t sell without significant marketing, and Gary has one hell of a following. In 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. These days, the average book sells less than 250 copies a year. Most books fail, and the publishing industry won’t invest in the average book.

About the only thing publishers really do is provide access to Amazon, Barnes & Noble online and most importantly, shelf space at book stores. Unfortunately, distribution is hit or miss depending on the the publisher (and their faith in the book). Now that the Kindle and other readers are starting to dominate the market, brick and mortar book stores are closing throughout the United States. This in turn, even further diminishes the value that publishers bring to bear.

Given that so much of the work relies on the author, the very low financial reward, and the declining power of publisher distribution, self publishing makes more and more sense. It’s something that will definitely happen personally, if only for the novels (publishers see fiction as even less viable option than business books).

Of course, that truly means that everyone can write a book. Now if only they can actually write it; figure out the editing, publishing and distribution processes, and of course, market the book. That all assumes the book concept is actually interesting and worth reading. So since everyone has written a book, where is yours?

Mindfulness the Key to Finding Female Speakers

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It’s late in another summer, and another thought “leader” has said that the blame for the lack of female speakers (or success) should be laid squarely on the shoulders of women. While there have been several great direct responses to this latest link frenzy, I felt that instead of participating directly (like I did last summer), the best commentary I could make is to outline how as a conference organizer I successfully garnered approximately 50% female speaker rates for all three BlogPotomacs.

First, I co-organized the first BlogPotomac with Debbie Weil, and together we set the precedence for the event series. We mindfully decided that at least three of the seven speakers will be women. This seemed like the right thing to do, especially considering that there are more women in communications than men. We wanted to represent our stakeholders with a group of speakers that at least came close to matching our audience.

Each of the three BlogPotomacs had predetermined topic areas, and speakers were matched to the topics. In almost every instance there were natural choices that made sense. A couple of times the would-be speaker was not available. So we found someone else! In one case, I held the spot for two months until my networking yielded the speaker.

But I didn’t give up. And when men asked for speaking spots (women rarely solicited a speaking spot, in fact I cannot remember one), I said no. I did not want the loudest chest beater. I wanted quality lady speakers, was committed to achieving that result, and would not be distracted.

We had some fantastic lady speakers including KD Paine, Maggie Fox, Kami Huyse, Shireen Mitchell, Liz Strauss, Amber Naslund, Jen McClure (emcee), Beth Kanter, Natalia Luckyanova, Jane Quigley, and Shonali Burke (emcee). Two of them are so great, they are now my business partners.

So, the morale of this story is as a conference organizer, it’s a conscious decision to either have women or not. As I told my friend Allyson Kapin, “If you spend time in a homogeneous social network like Silicon Valley’s VC community, then you will only get white, male venture backed candidates. It’s your job to go beyond the comfort zone. Victimization may be an easy out, but it won’t stop the criticism of your inability to break out of limited social circles.”

BTW, if you would like to hear some outstanding lady speakers sign up for some of the WomenWhoTech Telesummit on September 15. I’ll happen to be one of the few men participating, a refreshing change.