The Blook Network – Farewell to the Slush Pile

Blog networkshave been around for awhile and represent a new form of online publishing – functioning as online magazines or newspapers.  In earlier posts, I have talked in general terms about how blog networks might serve as the foundation for a more open model of book publishing.  Now it’s time to talk specifics.

slush pileFirst, the rationale.  Publishing is risky business.  The biggest risk, and the progenitor of most other risks in publishing, is title selection.  Publishers have experiemented with different modelsin an effort to address this risk.  In the past, publishers have relied on the judgment and experience of editors or agents to act as gatekeepers to the publishing kingdom.  Sometimes celebrity status or previous publishing success serve as good rpoxies for judgment and experience.  And sometimes the title acquisition process is more subjective and opaque.  More often that not the results are less than satisfactory.

vote symbolAnother approach is to substitute voting for gate keeping.  How would this work?  Enter the blook network.  It starts with the premise that anyone might be a successful author; we just don’t know which ones.  So provide anyone who has a story, an idea or a manuscript the opportunity to try and find an audience big enough to be book-worthy.  The tool for this is a blog.  The publisher rents the writer space in a blog network with a style guide for blogging in a manner that makes it relatively easy to go from blog to book.  The rental also includes an appropriate set of metrics to track how the writer’s audience building efforts are doing.

Blogs on related topics are linked.  In this way, stronger established blogs help direct traffic to newer blogs.  Blog statistics are tracked by the publisher to determine which blooks are developing an audience.  When pre-established audience targets are met, the publisher is alerted and may decide to publish the writer’s work.  The publisher correlates audience statistics with sales data for books in the category (e.g. from Book Scan) to make the final publishing determination.  In this way, analytics guide the decision to make the publishing investment.  Since the blog has been structured to be easily converted to a book, time to market is faster.  Editors use metrics to identify the best content in the final manuscript, thus helping to ensure a more marketable product.

royalty checkThe blook network helps the publisher find authors who can build an audience sufficient to warrant publication.  And the discovery engine pays for itself (or even earns a profit).  Even writers who are not successful in terms of getting published will have useful information (in the form of metrics, reader comments, etc.) that they can use to refine or retarget their efforts.

The process can be summarized as:

  • Replace manuscripts with blogs
  • Replace the slush pile with a publisher’s blog network
  • Structure network blogs so their content can be readily converted into books
  • Combine blog metrics and book sales data to determine when and who to publish
  • Reinforce traffic to new writer blogs with links from high traffic network blogs

The benefits to publishers of using this approach are that it:

  • Creates added capacity for publishers to take on new writers without expense
  • Generates service revenue while the writer is developing an audience
  • Provides detailed knowledge of the market before the book is published
  • Provides a speedier path to market

The blook network is a potentially powerful tool for helping publishers better manage the risk of title acquisition and provide a firmer rationalization of their investments in editing, production and marketing.

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