Orion Publishing Group, one of Big Five house Hachette‘s imprints, has just relaunched its women’s fiction (dare I say: chick lit?) reader community platform Cherry Picks as One Book Lane, repurposed as a general book lovers’ community, although for now, still appearing under the Cherry Picks microsite at Orion’s website.
“Cherry Picks is now One Book Lane!” announces the microsite. “Join our online community for book lovers! We know you love discovering new books and we want to help you do just that. Pop in to One Book Lane and find: Competitions you won’t get anywhere else; Exclusive features from your favourite authors (and some rising stars too!); Great book recommendations; Special giveaways for book clubs.” A Facebook page with the new branding has already gone up, with 3,286 Likes at the time of writing – though for now at least, almost all of the posts appear to be from One Book Lane itself. “One Book Lane is a community of readers, here to make sure you’re never short of a good book to get lost in. Formerly known as Cherry Picks,” states the page’s blurb.
The Cherry Picks branding has disappeared from Facebook and Orion’s own site, as far as I can see, but so it may not be forgotten, I’m posting it here – after all, there’s now more than enough One Book Lane branding to go around. The Bookseller quotes Orion digital marketing manager Marissa Hussey as saying: “We’ve spent quite a lot of time hearing directly from readers and we know the last thing they want is for us to ‘cherry pick’ what they see.” Okay, so if that’s the case, why did Orion ever launch with a monicker like Cherry Picks in the first place?
Just to nitpick, One Book Lane is not a community of readers. It is a platform launched – or rather, rebranded – by a publisher. Maybe it will attract enough independent buzz and vigor to become a real community. But if we’re talking communities, this one looks more like a company town, or a holiday camp, with official fun but not much authentic homegrown autonomous spirit.
I could carry on in the same snarky vein about Big Five antics, but I’d like to just underline the point, which is not by any means confined to publishing: Social media puts a huge premium on authenticity. In theory, a publishing imprint with a strongly defined community of followers (think Mills & Boon, for instance, or Games Workshop’s Black Library) ought to be able to create a social media or online platform dripping with authenticity and genuine commitment from fans. But the difference between the real thing and by-the-numbers efforts becomes ever more glaring – especially when Big Publishing is still trying to own the marketing process that long since migrated, with or without Amazon, into the hands of the actual readers.
First, chick lit and women’s fiction are not the same thing. Chick lit, which has all but disappeared, has a main character who is in her early twenties who has a smart mouth, an obsession with fashion and shopping, and finding the right guy in as stupid a way as possible. Women’s fiction is about a woman finding community with other women and family issues with romantic interests very secondary.
A publisher site that does it right is Tor.com which not only covers books by Tor but other publishers, as well. It also covers topics of interest to the science fiction and fantasy community including TV and movies, geek issues, conventions, etc.