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Publishing Your Book: What Has Changed in 7 Years?

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A lot has changed since I wrote my last book in 2006. When I launched Speed Lead, I was largely reliant on the way the publishing trade worked to promote the book. Books were sent out in the mail to the traditional press for review, launch dates were set to coincide with the publisher's cycle of book fairs and sales force briefings, launch activity was targeted at the traditional print media.

Seven years later, the picture is very different. Even before my new book Making the Matrix Work is published, I can distribute executive summaries via our website, blogs and social media networks and engage in direct conversation with key opinion formers. The value of a good online media source or blog can be higher than that of quality print media as the online links last longer, and can contribute to the ranking of your website.

This brings great opportunities to create engagement and interest, but it also carries some risks.

The first is quality control. There are very few barriers to entry to publishing a book today. The Kindle charts are often full of very low price 'business books' with little way to evaluate quality. Many are very badly written.

In the past, you needed to get past the barrier of professional editors and publishers, who wanted to ensure that the writing was factually correct and edited for errors before they would be prepared to put their name on the cover.

Today, self-publication gives everyone a voice, but makes it hard to tell which voices we should really pay attention to. Not everyone's opinion is equally valid or useful in a world where some people are experts and others really aren't. Of course, if it's an opinion on celebrity or sports, then it may not really matter -- I have lots of opinions about football, but they are based on a complete absence of competence.

The second problem is too much focus: In online bookstores, your book needs to be easily findable. Where my first book (Speed Lead) was about the topic of 'speed' in business -- a broad topic which was attractive to publishers looking for a large market -- I wrote my second book specifically around the kind of questions that I was being asked by clients and other audiences: "How do I make the matrix work?" I also use the word 'matrix manager' in the subtitle because it is the most searched term in this field.

This approach makes books easy to find online, but it also means that you need to be looking specifically to find them. We rely on people knowing they have a problem before they look for the specific solution: If the problem or solution is not specific -- and in the title -- then people may never find it.

If search engines take into account our browsing history and only serve up what they think we already agree with or what we've already shown an interest in, then our media consumption will become increasingly narrow and blinkered. We also need serendipity to be introduced to new ideas, a lot of innovation comes from cross fertilizing one field with a completely different one.

So on balance are these changes good or bad? The democratization of information and ability for everyone to have a voice is clearly a positive development. However, I do think we need help to make sense of all the voices out there and to find some way of filtering the mass of mud to help us find the occasional nugget of gold.

If you follow experts and knowledgeable enthusiasts in social spaces such as Twitter, they keep a close eye on articles, books, etc., in their field of expertise and this can help filter. For example, if you follow me on 'matrix management' you can be pretty sure I'll share any interesting resources I find. (I monitor carefully.)

Do these new tools make a difference to our ability to get books out to a larger audience? I will let you know!