At the very start of 2011, Kindle e-books sales overtook paperback books on Amazon.com. This weekend, we reported that Amazon is in talks to launch its very own Netflix for books. With all these shifts in the ebook biz, how do traditional book publishers compete? Like all businesses from the pre-Internet era, book publishing has had a tough time finding new revenue models and keeping up with swiftly changing social marketing and sales channels.

In past years, publishers have had to launch and manage social campaigns in-house or outsource to agencies - which for publishers with thousands of individual titles to market, is both time-consuming and cost-prohibitive. Today, Odyl, a New York City based startup, launches its social marketing platform for publishers and authors wanting to better market themselves in social media.

Odyl designed its SaaS-based platform for publishing houses of all sizes, including individual authors wanting to maximize Facebook’s platform without having to learn to program. The platform is available publicly starting today, and is already in use by the “Big Six” publishing houses: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House and Simon & Schuster, as well as numerous New York Times bestselling authors including Katie Couric, Suze Orman and Janet Evanovich.

“Avon has used Odyl’s tools successfully for over a year in support of our marketing efforts on Facebook,” said Pamela Spengler-Jaffee, senior publicity director, Avon/Morrow at HarperCollins Publishers in the release. “We created the “Pretty New Face” tab for our Avon Romance Facebook page to offer our readers access to giveaways, excerpts, book trailers, fun quizzes and seductive polls. Over the past year, we’ve more than doubled audience and readers have published nearly a million News Feed stories to their friends directly from the Odyl-powered Pretty New Face app.”

The Odyl platform allows customers to offer exclusive content such as book excerpts, trailers, author interviews, music playlists and games in exchange for a ‘Like. It lets publishers and authors issue giveaways and provide prizes like books, galleys, e-readers and trips, which all conform to Facebook’s promotion guidelines. It also provides tools to create reader polls, quizzes, virtual gifts and offerings for free, branded gifts that fans can give to friends. Odyl provides reader growth analytics like key audience metrics and imports Goodreads reviews, Scribd docs, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and more.

Odyl’s platform is similar to efforts put forth by Buddy Media, an industry-agnostic leader in Facebook marketing and RootMusic, a similar service that’s geared toward musicians. But Odyl says its the first social marketing platform designed purely for book publishing.

We caught up with Odyl CEO Mike Taylor who says, “Without a proper social media push, authors may just as well be passing out copies of a book from their front steps on a rainy day. Odyl helps authors and readers bond in exciting and previously unachievable ways, bringing readers into the author’s world and massively expanding the trusted friend-to-friend relationship on Facebook. This connection sells books.”

CBM: What are 5 tips you have for publishers launching a book in today’s market?

Mike Taylor: There are 3 layers to using Facebook: creating your presence, customizing your appearance, and engaging with your readers through applications. Here are five tips that progress through that framework.

  1. Create a Facebook Page for your author. With 800 million people on Facebook, having a presence here is more important and cost-effective now than having a website.
  2. Customize your Page appearance. Make your Facebook Page looks like your author, so it matches well to author’s readers and personality.
  3. Add author and book-specific applications to your Facebook Page. You want to connect readers with your author’s content and create sharable conversations. This is how you move from reaching just one person at a time, to reaching whole groups of readers who are excited to connect with your author.
  4. Invite your fans. Use your Page Wall to invite your readers into your author engagements. Spread the word.
  5. Update your Page content regularly. When we see a great movie, listen to music or read a book we love, we naturally want to share this experience with our friends. This makes Facebook a perfect place in particular for the content-rich world of books. Keeping your content flowing creates inspiring connections between readers and authors, and gives readers something to talk about with their friends.

CBM: Where do you see social technologies taking Odyl in the future?

MT: Odyl is 100% dedicated to authors, books and readers. As a result, we learn a great deal about readers across all our categories of authors and books, and this creates an extremely useful store of information for our publishers and authors. We already provide dashboards with great reader and author-specific insights; expect our pipeline to include even more actionable uses of this information, as well as ongoing development of tools perfectly suited for exciting conversations between authors and readers.

CBM: What’s your preferred reading device?

MT: I like holding a real book in my hands, but I also love Apple and my iPad.

CBM: What are your favorite new books we should be reading?

MT: The Dalai Lama has a new book coming out with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt titled Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World. He has an incredible gift for handling life-changing topics through simple stories. I’m looking forward to this one.

shutterstock 80236570 520x363 Odyl launches a Facebook marketing platform for authors and book publishers

Image Credits: Shutterstock/Dudarev Mikhail/Gunnar Pippel