The Publisher's New Website

I suppose everybody remembers the story of the emperor's new clothes, how an emperor was conned into walking naked through town wearing "invisible" clothing. The emperor was taken in because the con men explained that the clothes could only be seen by intelligent people who were competent to fill their posts. This led the king, his trusted advisors, and everybody else who heard the story to pretend they could see the clothing, so as not to appear stupid and unqualified.

Publishers spend a lot of money on new websites and occasional make-overs when the old website proves to be useless, but they rarely understand what they are paying for. They end up acting just like the emperor, who walked through town naked and even held his head high after a little boy pointed out he had nothing on. I have a lot of sympathy with people who are trying to learn something new and having trouble grasping the basics, but I have no sympathy for people who put on a show that they know what they are doing and assume that their money will compensate for their shortcomings.

The publisher's challenge, when setting up a new website or embarking on a major redo of an existing website, is deciding what its purpose will be. A publisher who counts on a web designer to design a publishing business website is a fool. What do web designers know about the publishing business? It would be like a home building company hiring an interior decorator to build their model home. A professional designer might have some useful suggestions when it comes to tweaking the aesthetics or the usability, but the business structure and content of the website has to come from the publisher.

Another problem I've seen publishers run into is building a website based on their ideal business goals, rather than tying it in to the reality of their current publishing business. Unfortunately, it's a lot easier to create a new website that looks like an ideal business model than to create a publisher website that will actually generate business and profits. The aesthetics and the mission statements are the easy part. Attracting customers to buy books and the media attention that translates into free public relations is the hard part. Most publishers rely on the opinions of their friends and of the very people they are paying to design the website, and don't even realize they've failed until a small boy points from the crowd and say, "Nobody goes to that website and their books don't sell!"

So here's the video publishing lecture of the week from Moe Two Times:

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