Book world tunes into Internet social networks

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Faced with the challenge of marketing a book with a vulgarity in the title, publisher Rick Wolff turned to Internet blogs and social networking sites to spread the word about his latest business book.

Bob Sutton’s “The No A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t” was published earlier this year by Grand Central Publishing.

Executive editor Rick Wolff said he heard a constant refrain from his marketing team -- “nobody is going to print that word” -- so he told the author to e-mail everybody he knew and targeted bloggers and readers through networking sites.

“All of a sudden we began to see tremendous demand for this book, which quite frankly was not getting any print coverage,” Wolff said on Thursday at a panel discussion on the Internet in publishing at the BookExpo America trade fair in New York.

HarperCollins Children’s Books recently used, the largest social networking site, to promote a competition for teenagers to write successive chapters of a novella that were voted on by visitors to the site as the book progressed.

Susan Katz, who set up the “FanLit” competition, said it was an effective way of luring potential readers.

“It worked incredibly well in reaching teens,” Katz said. “We had 6 million page views. For us that is an extremely high number.”


Carl Rosendorf, president of, described his site as a “social networking site for grown-ups.”

Gather announced on Thursday the winner of a contest in which unpublished authors were invited to submit the first chapter of a book to the site where readers would vote on their favorites. The contest drew 2,676 entries.

“Just before Christmas I was told by an agent that it was ‘just impossible to sell a first novel, unless you’re a celebrity or have the flavor of the month’,” winner Terry Shaw said in a statement.

His novel “The Way Life Should Be” will be published by Simon & Schuster in September.

Organizers said the quality of entries was so good that Simon & Schuster also awarded a publishing contract to the runner-up, Geoffrey Edwards, for his book “Fire Bell in the Night.”

“There was always a concern: Will there be something great? Will there be something publishable?” Rosendorf said at the BookExpo event.

“There were two books that were so damn good from people never published before, that didn’t have agents, that are now going to be published.”

BookExpo launched a partnership this year with new Web site BookExpo director Lance Fensterman said the site, which allows users to create a virtual “bookshelf” and discuss and recommend books, was a valuable tool for creating buzz.

“Seventy-six percent of our users say they’re going to buy their next book from recommendations on Shelfari,” Josh Hug, chief executive of Shelfari, told Reuters in an interview.

He said the site’s demographic is above 25 years old and weighted toward women, with discussion groups on subjects as varied as fictional teen magician Harry Potter to black feminist literature.

A similar site where readers can show off their bookshelves is, which has a little over 200,000 users.

The site’s librarian, Abby Latchley, said it started as a “nerdy” site for bookworms but became a social network almost like a cocktail party.

“If you find things on their bookshelves that are in yours, you have something in common,” she said.

A number of authors are using the site to build loyalty.

“Fans can browse their favorite author’s personal libraries,” Latchley said. “They love that they’re somehow connected to that author.”