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Are Books Going The Same Way As The Dodo?

Penny Sansevieri is the CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts. She is a bestselling author and internationally recognized in the book marketing and media relations arena. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and she has got a number of great strategies for helping authors to publicize their books.

I recently interviewed Penny on my weekly radio show, Goldstein on Gelt, when I found out about the future of the book industry and how new writers can market their work.

If you would like to watch a video of this interview, click here.

Below is a transcript of the interview.

Douglas Goldstein: If someone is starting out as an author and wants this to be their business, what would you suggest?

Penny Sansevieri: There are more and more books published every day, even as much as 1500 books published right now. And this does not include all of the e-book numbers, which have not been calculated or tabulated into this number. The really bright side, though, is that there has been a tsunami of e-books and the ability to get your book into e-book format in less than an hour has opened up even more doors for authors. It's both good and bad. There are lots of books, but lots of new ways to publish.

The first thing that an author should look at is what the landscape is. A lot of authors go into publishing and don't take the time to realize that like anything else, this is a business. You would never open up a store in a shopping center or a mall without doing the proper research. I'm always amazed that how many authors get into publishing a book for a lot of money without doing any research. Is there a market for the book? What is the best time to release it? What do you need to do to prepare for a book launch? There a lot of good questions, all of which should be addressed prior to that book being born.

Douglas Goldstein: When you say that an author is getting into publishing, do you mean that he is publishing himself or that he is actually working with some sort of publisher?

Penny Sansevieri: Frankly, both, even if a publisher chooses to publish your book. So even if Random House or Simon & Schuster steps in to publish your book, hopefully they've done the research and they know that there's a market for the book, but they're not always right and we see this by the amount of books that they fail.

You definitely have to take responsibility for this product because it is your product. It is a book and hopefully it's part of a career that you want to grow. Remember that regardless of how you're published, you'd still have to market your own book.

Douglas Goldstein: Can a person become a book author as a career?

Penny Sansevieri: Yes, absolutely, but it takes time. You don't wake up one day and decide, "I'm going to do this, I don't like my job, or I lost my job, or whatever." It takes time. I would make achievable and realistic goals because if you don't, you're going to end up six months down the road thinking, why isn't this working? It's not working because everything takes time.

The other piece of this is you know that you want to build your platforms, so the earlier that you can start with that, the better. In some cases, it's just a matter of putting up a website and getting out and starting to blog, building a Facebook page, or those types of things that start an online conversation and help you dip your toe into your market.

Douglas Goldstein: Social media is so big these days, with 600 million users on Facebook. There's so much material that we're bombarded with every day. How can an author stand out?

Penny Sansevieri: I was at Blog World last week, or the week before last. One of the topics that came up over and over again was that you have to be relevant and you have to have interesting content. I think that the biggest issue for authors is that if you're going to get out there and start talking, how are you different from everybody else? I understand that your book is different, but you have to relay that in a manner that people are going to be able to grasp very quickly, because most of us don't have a lot of time to figure something out. If we see a website, for example, we're not going to spend 10 minutes trying to figure out what this author is doing and how they're different. You have to be super clear with that.

The first step in getting online is figuring out how you're different. What is your message and how are you unique? Then, how are you going to share this message with the world, because a lot of times that we don't do our homework, we end up getting out there and just becoming part of the white noise, and then people wonder why they're not being paid attention to.

Douglas Goldstein: Where's the best way to go if you want to be economically successful as a writer?

Penny Sansevieri: You really have to simplify it. If I'm going to be attracted to a message, it has to really matter to me. It has to really hit my hot buttons. An author needs to know what their readers' hot buttons are, because people will beat a path to your door if you offer them a solution to a problem and that's the thing.

Publishing is a business, and like a business, you're offering a solution, whether you're selling jackets, widgets or books. You're selling a solution to a problem. Even if you're writing fiction and the book is solely for entertainment, this is also a solution. It's an escape. People like to lose themselves in a good fiction book. Remember that it is a business. It's such a big topic.

Douglas Goldstein: Do you think people have the patience to follow a book or even to read a whole book like they used to?

Penny Sansevieri: I do. There's a really good book out right now called The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. They talk about us having a diminished attention span, which is part of the reason why Twitter has been so successful, because we have this attention span of a tweet. But I think that we're very selective about the messages we follow, because we all get a lot of information and we don't read at all. There are certain bloggers that I will always follow, like, for example, the social media examiner and Gaikowski, and some of these internet people because it's of specific interest to me, and they have proven to me time after time that their information is relevant, timely, and it is something that I can implement.

You have to win that trust for your consumer. That's part of the reason why success in publishing takes a while. You first have to earn the trust of your reader before that reader is going to invest their money. I don't care if it's $15 or $20 - it's still an investment on their part. They're investing not just the money but their time in reading what you've put in that book. So you have to first earn their trust. You probably have newsletters and things that you read and you do that because they've earned your trust.

Douglas Goldstein: What do you think about the future of printed books versus e-books?

Penny Sansevieri: I think that they will always peacefully co-exist. I do think e-books are outselling print books for many publishers by about 30%, so that's a pretty big number, but it's like back in the 60s, when paperback books were introduced. Everybody thought, "Oh my God, we don't know what we're going to do with this. Who wants to read a book in paperback?" and now both hardcover and paperback do peacefully co-exist, and I think the same thing is true for e-books.

I still love to read printed books, even though I have my iPad. I love my iPad, and I think that if anybody is publishing these days, you've got to make sure that your book is available in all formats. It doesn't necessarily mean it has to be hardcover, but it's got to be in digital because that will not only help to increase your sales and the availability of the book, but the exposure of the book, because you can get into more markets that way.

Douglas Goldstein: As people are now able to market on the internet, doesn't that diminish the value of traditional major publishers? Do they really bring value to the table?

Penny Sansevieri: I know a lot of people that work in publishing, so I just want to say this as a caveat, but they've become less relevant as more opportunities have opened up, and several publishers, like Penguin and Simon & Schuster, are starting self-publishing arms. Yes, you can build your platform online and you can market yourself online, but most people struggle with it because Twitter intimidates them. They're not sure how to use Facebook, but publishers have not really marketed the books. The majority of the books that they've published have not received marketing support for the last five to seven years. We've been in business for 12 years, and 90% or I would say an even higher percentage of the books that we've worked with from major publishing houses, have not received any traditional marketing support at all.

Douglas Goldstein: Could you just tell people how could they follow you or learn more about what you're doing?

Penny Sansevieri: Our website is www.amarketingexpert.com and you can find links to our Twitter and our Facebook. We have a bunch of free webinars that you can learn more about publishing and marketing. We also have a newsletter that goes out every two weeks which is packed full of information. If anybody has any questions, they can reach me directly at penny@amarketingexpert.com. I got a ton of email so it may take me a little bit to get back to you, but I do try to respond all the queries that come in.