This was a workshop with Carolyn Pittis, SVP, Publishing of HarperCollins, Nina von Molkte, SVP, Director of Digital Publishing Development, Random House and Jennifer Weltz, VP, Jean Naggar Literary Agency.
One major point made by the agent was that some authors are learning how to use and manipulate social media and those who do are treated better by publishers when it comes to contract time. However, the publishers reps said that there still needs to be a lot more education for authors in the fundamental knowledge of web stuff. They mentioned that there was supposed to be an extra day at DBW aimed at authors and teaching them some web and social media fundamentals, but this was cancelled because of a lack of interest. They felt that this was a shame.
The publishers both said that they are collecting more and more data to help drive marketing, but the agent said that she has still yet to see this trickle down to authors. As always, the dichotomy between what publishers say they are doing for authors and what the authors (through their agents) actually think is being done is still there. One of the most interesting points made by Weltz, the agent, was that there is a very high opportunity in publishers’ backlists. A lot of these backlist titles are still in print, she says, even though selling only a few copies here and there. Converting these to digital and marketing them strongly could be a good sales opportunity – if they are still selling then they must be good. Getting publishers to listen to this, however, is like beating their heads against a wall.