Being Part of a Community

by Jane Litte

Lately we’ve seen a lot of encouragement for publishing folks, like the editors and marketers, to come to communities and participate.  It’s a great sentiment, but I can see reluctance on the part of these people to fully engage in a reader community, or any community for that matter.  Perhaps in order for the people who make publishing hum to come and share their thoughts about books, there need to be some guidelines and tips and here are a few of mine (which are by no mean exhaustive or mandatory).

From the publishing side

First, I think that each publishing house should have a set of guidelines on how to interact with a community of readers.  The guidelines will help the editors and marketers have certainty regarding their behavior online so that these individuals can participate without fear of internal reprisals.

Second, the publishing house should have some kind of time set aside each day which would allow for the editor or marketer to participate in online communities whether it be message boards, blogs, twitter or facebook.

Third, the publishing house needs to allow the editors and marketers to have a personality.  Readers want to interact with people, not marketing machines.  People have personalities. It’s what makes them interesting.

In the community

Once the editor and marketer is allowed to be set free on the internet, I would offer these helpful tips in participating in online communities.

First, choose a community of which you actually want to be a part.  In other words, that community doesn’t need to be a specific reader community.  Perhaps you have great interest in knitting and would be more interested in interfacing with other knitters.  I get quite a few link backs and referrals from ravelry.com.  The point is to find a robust community around a topic or two that interests you the most.  This way, participating in a community won’t be a chore, but a pleasure.  Readers are everywhere, even at knitting sites.

Second, don’t push your books right away.  At Tools of Change, one presenter said that you have to talk up other products, goods, services, etc twelve times to build credibility before you can push your own products, goods, services, etc.

Third, go with the purpose of being part of the community.  If you go with the specific purpose of being part of the community instead of seeing it as a target for marketing books, then one and two fall into place.  Further, your interaction in that community will be far more natural.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to toot your horn.  In almost every community, there is a time to introduce yourself and make known your background.  You don’t have to hide the fact that you work for a publisher.  You should wear that badge proud.  This way, when someone has a question about publishing or books, you are the go to person for this knowledge.  (Just don’t preface every comment or post with “As an editor” or “As a marketer”.  That can get old fast).

I feel like readers are always looking for recommendations and if you are part of a community and have built credibility in that community, readers will trust you and your recommendations.