Authorship, publishing, and the business of visibility

With the information barrage we face on a daily basis, everyone and their dog are competing for attention. Advertisers have always known that attention is worth big money. This is what they need media for: eyeballs. In today’s digital world, this is all the more truer with sophisticated consumer profiling from analytics.

While commanding attention is fleeting, aiming for visibility is more longer lasting. To be an authority on anything these days, you not only need expertise but relevancy, accessibility, and findability. This means search engine optimization. Boosted social media posts for maximum engagement potential. And as in the case of being an actual “author”, maybe a selfie update here and there, or at the very least a decent profile photo to appeal to likeability.

These are among the important takeaways I’ve had from attending the 2016 Frankfurt Publishers Training Program organized by the Taipei International Book Exhibition. It’s held right after the Chinese New Year holidays at the World Trade Center from across Taipei 101. Among the trends covered were internationalization, glocalization, and personalization.

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The concepts of attention and visibility were discussed in the lecture by Prof. Vincent Kaufmann of the St. Gallen University. He mapped the evolution of the book according to media spheres, or the environment that shapes an era such as dominant technologies and socio-cultural revolutions. The idea of the author also closely relates to these spheres – from scholars, celebrities, to digital influencers. Moreover, a critical look at the publishing industry would reveal that authorship isn’t confined to actual writers and creators, but is determined by market and network forces.

Prof. Kaufmann also said to treat books not just as a product but as a service. Categorizing the intent – such as whether to educate or to entertain, to advance knowledge or to offer a novelty gift item, and the like – is key to unlocking business potential. This is beyond “positioning” (which apparently originated from book-selling, as in on-shelf placement). Service is where publishers can extend opportunities for visibility and continued engagement beyond the page.

The sooner we understand the challenges of publishing in today’s generation, the easier it will be to deliver value. Some two years ago, I’m the prospective book buyer looking between shelves for any interesting book I could devote time for. Now as greenhorn publisher with three books out and a couple more on the pipeline soon, it’s only clearer to me that a cross-media strategy is the way to go.


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