"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Publishing and Marketing Strategies: An Interview with Atilla Vekony of Wheatmark Publishing

by Bill Corbett, aka Will Edwinson

You grew up in an Eastern Bloc country. Would you like to share a little bit of that with our readers?

Certainly! I grew up in Hungary, behind the Iron Curtain. I know that may sound somewhat intriguing and even dangerous, particularly to an American audience, but growing up at that time as a child was quite uneventful. Looking back though, it is hard to believe today that such a political system and ideology actually existed, and that it did not that long ago.

You are the Vice President of Wheatmark, Inc., a publishing and marketing firm. Tell us about Wheatmark.

Wheatmark was one of the pioneers of the publishing revolution that started at the turn of the century. This revolution has enabled a lot more authors to have their books published by using digital printing technology. The combination of on-demand printing and the emergence of Internet booksellers like Amazon created the perfect condition for writers not only to get published, but also to get their books sold to a wider audience. And all this without the need for the all-powerful middleman, the traditional "New York" publisher.

While there are now hundreds of publishing outfits that can help you get your book published to varying degrees of quality, Wheatmark has always placed an emphasis on working with excellent writers with great manuscripts. Over the last several years we have shifted focus to educating our authors about how to build their author platforms, how they can be better marketers. Because, the truth is, no matter how great your book is and how well it has been edited and produced, if you don't have a platform and a megaphone, it will be a lot harder to reach your audience and sell your book.

You are also a senior faculty member at the Authors Academy, a service of Wheatmark. What are the goals of the Authors Academy?

As I mentioned before, after publishing the books of a thousand or so authors we realized the importance of educating authors about marketing. The truth is, just because a book can be brought to market relatively inexpensively, it does not mean that there is a hungry market waiting for its release.

And so we decided to launch the Authors Academy in 2010. Through monthly webinars, teleseminars, and other resources we teach our members the importance of building a list and engaging with their audience in order to sell more books.

We help our members build their online platform by building them a custom author website, a blog, and connect it with their social media accounts and an email marketing system to maximize their reach. We now regularly explain this method in a free webinar called "The One Way to Market Your Book," which you can sign up for at http://authorsacademy.com.

In your Authors Academy presentations you stress the importance of blogging. Can you expand a little bit about that here and tell us why you think blogging is important?

Blogging equals publishing, to put it simply. It's writing and publishing on a digital platform over a period of time. What you have to say today as a writer, you write it and post it on your blog today. Then tomorrow you write a new post, and so on. Your writing then is available on your blog for anyone to search or browse.

The reason why blogging is important for writers is because your audience is on the internet every day, looking either for the information or the entertainment value that only you can provide to your audience. If you don't put your writing out there, by publishing it online on your blog, the chances of people finding and getting to know you and your writing is significantly less than if you do.

Whereas in the past writers had to publish books and be placed on bookshelves in order to be discovered and to connect with their audience, today all you have to do is blog. Yes, publish books too if you must!

I recently read a blog that said blogs should be short. The author of the blog said that if you have to scroll down, you’ve said too much. What do you think about that?

I disagree with the part that you’re saying too much if your readers have to scroll down. A fascinating writer, a master wordsmith, much like an eminent composer, can go on for long stretches before the audience grows tired.

Yet I can certainly identify with the sentiment that a blog post should not be too long. You regularly see articles from top news organizations spanning several pages, each linked from the other, rather than one long endless scroll.

However, blog posts should be as long as it takes to communicate your message to your audience, so there is no hard and fast rule as to how long a post should be. There are many blogs that feature long, content-rich posts, as well as blogs that are very short. One such example is of a short blog is Seth Godin’s.

If what you have to say is complex, such as articles involving research, don't make it short just because you've heard blogs should be short. It is true that people reading on the internet have much shorter attention spans than people reading magazines or books. However, if your audience is interested in what you have to say, who is to say that they will stop reading before you've made your point?

Additionally, Google loves blogs with rich content that answer questions people might be searching for. That is how you can gain new readers to your blog: write about what your audience is interested in. They will find your blog through a simple Google search. Then, your readers come back to your blog if they liked what they read and if they believe you regularly publish meaningful content. Your blog should also have a mechanism to entice visitors to come back.

How do you think the publishing world and marketing have changed in the last decade, and where do you think it’s headed in the future?

The Internet is the best thing that ever happened to writers, authors, artists, musicians, entertainers, and generally anybody who is in the content creation business. But particularly writers.

It is a great time today to be a writer. For the first time in history, you as the writer have direct access to your audience via your own website, blog, and your own social media connections. Call it your own media company with several broadcast channels. You have the power to create something and with the click of a button publish it for the world to see, for your audience to consume it instantly. You don’t have to knock on doors and convince publishers--those controlling both media production and distribution--that your content is ready for your audience. You can build an audience online and interact with them whenever you want to. Your blog writing does not have to go through months and years of production before it is brought to market. Your writing can be published and brought to market minutes after you’ve completed your last sentence.

You should absolutely make sure that your books and e-books, anything you charge for, are professionally edited, produced, and are without blemish. Your blog posts, on the other hand, while they should not contain misspellings or grammatical mistakes, do not need to be as polished as your printed book.

I said that the Internet has been kind particularly to writers, because even though media such as voice recordings, pictures, and videos are much easier to consume than writing, when someone searches for information on the Internet, they complete that search by writing, by typing in their search query into a search engine. And search engines will always primarily index and serve up written content to these consumers. Therefore writers are the best match for this age of Google and content creation.

How can people get in touch with you if they have more questions?

I highly recommend that you download the "Author’s Guide to Choosing a Publishing Service" from our website at http://www.wheatmark.com if you’re pondering about the myriad of choices when it comes to publishing your book. I'd be also happy to answer any questions about publishing or marketing. To be true to what we teach regarding the importance of building your digital author platform, I'd like to challenge you to ask me any questions you may have either via Twitter (my account is @vekony or http://twitter.com/vekony) or on Google Plus (my account is +AtillaVekony or http://google.com/+AtillaVekony. That way other people will be able to participate in the discussion. But if you're not yet comfortable with these platforms, you can also email me at avekony@wheatmark.com.

You can also check out Bill's blog at the following address: