Guest Post: Book Publicist Helen Heath Answers Questions From Twitter’s South Pacific Book Chat (#spbkchat)

Hello, for those of you that don’t know me my name is Helen Heath. I’m a book blogger, Facebook user and Tweeter. I also work for a small New Zealand publishing house as a publicist.

I came late (i.e. the next morning) to the recent Twitter conversation about book bloggers promoting their blogs and working with booksellers and publishers but I thought I could provide you with some feedback. I pulled out some questions and statements from the thread to form a kind of interview between you, me and the South Pacific Book Chat participants.

timjonesbooks:
Here’s a question: do publishers put too much weight on newspaper/magazine reviews, and not enough on book bloggers’ reviews?

Helen:
I think that old school print media are good at providing publishers with statistics about readership, whereas we have no idea about what the readership of most blogs are. Some book bloggers are taken very seriously in New Zealand such as Bookman Beattie and Quote Unquote.

Having worked many years in bookshops I can tell you that there are a few traditional media reviews/interviews that really make sales for your average New Zealand book. Kim Hill, the New Zealand Listener, the weekend papers, North & South magazine and Metro magazine are the ones that immediately come to mind.

However we are watching the blogosphere carefully and are interested in working with bloggers, especially with “Long Tail” publications.

Amanda467:
Would like to see publishers taking us more seriously. I buy most of my books on the recommendations of other bloggers.

Helen:
I think you will find this will start to happen, it already is to a small extent. Part of the problem is bloggers need to unify and make it easier for publishers to find them and provide readership statistics for them. Often we just don’t know who you are or how to find you.

hennaotoko:
More than that, I think perhaps we need an Asia-Pacific bloggers mailing list/directory (runs and hides too).

Helen:
Totally! I know it’s a big ask for someone to set one up but a professionally put together directory with links, specialist areas and readership statistics would do you all a lot of good and show a united front. Strength in numbers…

timjonesbooks:
What counts as your blog’s profile? Visits? Links? Followers? Link retweets? Comments? Is there one metric that sums it all up?

Helen:
I think all of those things together along with the kudos you hold in your blogging community. There is no one tidy metric.

timjonesbooks:
I imagine publishers (booksellers/consultants) find it hard to measure the ROI (Return On Investment) on social media use. Is that an issue for you?

Helen:
Yes it is. We look at click through rates, website stats and the general level of interactivity. We do want to primarily be part of a community though and that is hard to measure, it’s more of a feeling.

MargReads:
Twitter is definitely very good. I have met people on here when I wouldn’t have found their blogs easily.

Helen:
Yes, I agree. I’ve met a lot of book people and journalists through Twitter and it only seems to be growing. What I’d really like to do is meet more Tweeps who are purely readers.

justaddbooks:
I also find that linking blog posts here helps. Well, a little bit …

Helen:
Yes, for sure. I check my RSS feeds less frequently these days as more people link to their updates. You don’t want that to be your only tweets but some of the best reading I find on the web comes from tweeted and Re-Tweeted links now.

BethFishReads:
Following non-USA publishers and interacting with them on Twitter is definitely good.

Helen:
Yes, please! It’s hard for publishers to know you exist if you don’t say hello. I know some are more responsive than others but smaller publishers seem to be more so.

BethFishReads:
I know there was an Aukland Writers and Readers festival last May — is it yearly? Can bloggers hook up with that?

Helen:
That’s a good idea, the more you do things like that, especially as a group, the better. Just make sure you let the publishers know so they can be suitably impressed! 🙂

hennaotoko:
An Asia-Pacific event, properly marketed, may also help publishers take bloggers in our region seriously.

Helen:
Anything like that is great. Even a blog carnival is start.

MargReads:
So do you have authors local to you? Maybe start a feature on NZ authors.

Helen:
That’s another great idea. Also what about getting in touch with the New Zealand Book Council? They have a very well visited independent website promoting authors and a regular newsletter with a large readership.

BethFishReads:
Don’t forget your local bookstores. If they have author event, attend and blog about it; send link to publisher.

Helen:
More and more independent bookshops have their own websites, use social media and want to make contact with bloggers and tweeters. So yes, make contact and let everyone know what you’ve written. Maybe they might even want to host a tweet-up?

Well, thanks Tim for the opportunity to belatedly partake in the discussion. I hope these answers shed some light on the mystery of the publisher’s brain! Feel free to ask me more questions or contradict me on Twitter. I always follow back booky tweeps and I don’t bite 🙂

Tim adds: The South Pacific Book Chat book discussion takes place on Twitter each Thursday evening at 6pm Japanese time/8pm Eastern Australian time/10 pm New Zealand time. If you join Twitter, you can then join the chat by adding the hashtag #spbkchat to your tweets at that time, and searching for other tweets with the #spbkchat hashtag. You can also see recent #spbkchat tweets online.

3 thoughts on “Guest Post: Book Publicist Helen Heath Answers Questions From Twitter’s South Pacific Book Chat (#spbkchat)

  1. Thanks for posting that. It's a useful and interesting discussion on the issue of promoting books online. Really interesting to hear the thoughts of someone on the publishing side as well as writers and readers.

  2. I also use Twitter as my news and info aggregator and trawl my RSS feeds less and less – much easier to get the main threads of what is going on – but also means I miss some gems in the detail sometimes…

  3. Thanks, Debbie. I was really pleased Helen decided to give a publisher's perspective. #spbkchat is great, but 10pm isn't an ideal time for publishers to take part!

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