Lunchtime Talk on Digital Marketing for Books Attracts Dozens of Young, Nervous Publishing People

Debbie Stier, the director of digital marketing at HarperCollins, gave a talk yesterday to an audience of publishing people eager to learn how to use the Web to promote their books. Ms. Stier, who is also the associate publisher of the experimentally minded HarperStudio imprint, spoke enthusiastically and hopefully about the potential that new Web applications and mobile devices have to build audiences and attract the attention of readers.

“I think people are reading more now than they ever were,” Ms. Stier said. “It’s just that they’re doing it differently, and in different places.”

Ms. Stier’s talk, which attracted about 100 people, many of them in their 20s, was the first in a series of sessions organized by the start-up reading Web site DailyLit.com, which lets people “subscribe” to books and receive them in small pieces delivered at regular intervals through email or RSS. Currently, DailyLit has just under 1,500 books to choose from, some of which you can subscribe to for free while others cost money.

Yesterday’s event with Ms. Stier, which drew so much interest after it was announced last week that the organizers had Ms. Stier deliver the same talk twice to different separate groups, was held at the Random House building, in a 14th floor conference room, which was decorated generously with Dr. Seuss posters.  

By way of introduction, DailyLit CEO Susan Danziger said at the outset of the second session that the point of the series—which is co-sponsored by the nonprofit Book Industry Study Group—is to “empower” people by teaching them about “the new social space.”

“This is exciting because nobody knows what’s going on or what’s next,” Ms. Danziger said, hoping perhaps to quell the anxiety of those in the audience who are more bewildered than pumped up about how their jobs are changing. 

Ms. Stier did some more of that after taking the stage and introducing herself.

“A lot of people feel like it’s scary times out there—newspapers are closing, book publishing is having so many problems—but I think there’s a contingent of us who feel excited,” she said. “We used to be dependent on the newspapers and Oprah, and we were always on the begging end of it. Always.” Now, she said, “you can feed it out in all directions … and the media comes calling. The power is definitely shifting.”

She proceeded to talk about Twitter and Tumblr, and encouraged everyone in the room to get accounts at both if they haven’t already. 

“Is everybody on Twitter here? Is anybody not on Twitter here?” she asked, prompting several hands around the room to go up sheepishly.

Shortly thereafter Ms. Stier opened the floor to questions. One of the first was, “How do you save your job these days?” Ms. Stier agreed that it wasn’t totally self-evident. “You have to bring value,” she said. “But the value that we bring is changing.”

For their next study group on the future of publishing, DailyLit is bringing in the head of digital marketing at Martha Stewart. That event will be held on June 8, and will focus on the foundational question, “What is a publisher?” 

Lunchtime Talk on Digital Marketing for Books Attracts Dozens of Young, Nervous Publishing People