The Publishing House Social Media Built

This article originally appeared in the March 2011 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter.

In a past issue, Distilling Twitter Down to 140 Characters, we discussed how social media makes it possible to disseminate good ideas without the traditional requirements of money and brand. This ongoing communications revolution is quickly transforming the publishing industry. Together with the online-advertising revolution, social media are responsible for the demise of once-great newspapers, magazines and publishing houses.

We recently observed this phenomenon from the author’s viewpoint, when we interviewed technology expert Phil Simon, author of Why New Systems FailThe Next Wave of Technologies, and, most recently,The New Small.

Simon conceived The New Small as combining aspects of a management book and a technology book, and profiled creative uses of emerging technologies by small business. The “new small,” according to Phil , is a company whose size both affords and demands flexibility and innovation, at a time when technology is enabling capabilities once available only to larger players.

(Note: in the course of Phil’s research, he approached NSI Partners to ask if he could profile us as an innovative technology company. We said yes, and in the discussions that followed we gained a better understanding of how even Phil’s book project exemplifies the “new small” concept.)

“The book isn’t just a guide per se; it really does tell a lot of stories…[in a] unique approach,” Phil told me. “I’m writing about emerging technologies…social media, clouds, open source, mobility…, but I’m doing it within a business context. How have companies specifically adopted cloud computing ?…If you’re a believer in ‘show me, don’t tell me,’ then I think this is the book for you,” he said.

Phil felt a previous publisher had priced him out of the market they were targeting, and offers from several publishers to produce The New Small failed to meet Phil’s price or timing objectives. They wanted to take twice as long to publish, and charge two or three times the price tag Phil was looking for.

Before social media, the publisher would have had the final say. But Phil found Kickstarter.com, a site that bills itself as a “new form of commerce and patronage” and “the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world.” Using Kickstarter’s platform Phil was able to crowdsource the funding for his own publishing house, Motion Publishing, LLC.

“I don’t know a single author who’s happy with his or her publisher for one reason or another,” Phil said. “The reason…why I started my own company was (a) I wanted to control price, and (b) I wanted to control the timing… If anything surprised, it was how quickly you can move if you’re small.”

Working small allowed Phil to work at his own (frenetic) pace. He completed the entire project, from research to cover art to publication, in only five months. This allowed him to publish in time for the Christmas season. “That’s unprecedented for a big publishing firm,” unless the book covers a reality star or news event, according to Phil.

Phil’s use of social media didn’t end with the book’s funding process.  He also crowdsourced his research through Help A Reporter Out (HARO), which invited recipients to nominate prospective companies for him to profile.

After writing and publication, Phil used social media to publicize The New Small, as well as to network with journalists in both traditional and new-media outlets. His YouTube video interviews and Amazon author’s channel expanded his audience, and podcasts on sites like SmallBizTrends.com also developed a following and additional buzz. By r etweeting reviews and authors’ messages, he extended his reach to thousands of Twitter users. Blog outreach contests generated still more interest.

Such inexpensive and user-friendly social media enabled Phil to turn down expensive traditional-media advertising, including one pricey television segment that would have cost nearly $6000. Opting instead for a custom Facebook page template – at just $300 – Phil not only saved cash but leveraged Facebook’s viral network and strong social influence. Reducing his marketing bill allowed Phil to priceThe New Small at less than $20 a copy, one-third the cost of his previous book.

After selling nearly 100 copies a week, in only its third month at the time of our interview, The New Smallhas already achieved remarkable rankings of 8,000 on Amazon, and between 260 and 270 in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper. Phil expects to sell at least 10,000 copies of the book, largely through non-traditional marketing channels.

And he’s paying close attention to what he’s learned this time around. Phil plans to recruit other writers to publish books via Motion Publishing, LLC. He told me he’s after “authors with good ideas but, more importantly, strong social-media presence.”

Michael is responsible for client SEO work, reporting, FB ads, and web hosting. Prior to joining NSI Partners, Michael received his Bachelor of Science in Business Management Information Systems from Liberty University, and worked at the school’s Network Operations Center. Michael resides in Lynchburg, VA, with his wife, Megan. His hobbies include gaming, watching Atlanta Falcons football, and reading.

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A digital marketing company with almost two decades of experience, NSI Partners helps clients achieve robust results in search marketing, social media, and other digital marketing spaces.

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