Science Online 2010 is a confluence of writers, scientists, bloggers, and folks figuring out how the internet, science and writing are coming together.
This session is an exploration of how to be a scientific author in today’s online world.
One of the main messages of the session is what I’ve been doing with this blog. The idea is that long before the book comes out, to build a community of people who are interested in the subject matter.
I’ve been doing that here, long before my book is ready. To me it seemed like “gut instinct” as part of the things I do now that I’ve learned a lot about marketing.
But it is clear that this is not a natural approach for many people. At the conference today, Thomas Levenson discussed how he had failed to do this for previous books, and they hadn’t been as successful as he’d hoped. He pointed to the example of Rebecca Skloot (who was also there at the session) who had been building an audience for years through blogging and twitter before the release of her upcoming book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”.
Blogs (and social media) are all about having a discussion. As Rebecca pointed out, you can’t just show up and say “hey, I’m here, buy my book!” Would you do that at a dinner party? Nope. You have to get people interested first.
From the perspective of marketing (what I’m writing about in my own book), this is about a value exchange. You have to give people something to get something from them. So, if you want people to follow you and pay attention to you, you have to give them value. Value is the key medium of exchange, but few of us are taught about the importance of this.
I think that comes from a perspective where most people work in paid jobs of some kind where there is no clear concept of the “value exchange”. Often when working for pay, that equation gets lost. It just becomes a “job” that one “has to do” rather than “hey, I’m giving my time in exchange for the salary I’m getting.”
But in business, this equation comes clear quickly! If you don’t pay attention to this in business, that business won’t be around for long! The business must offer value to its customers in order to get their money.
So, my take on this session is to give out great value, and build an audience based on that value – then publish your book. That audience will probably go buy it because you’ve already given them lots of value, and they will probably want more of it.