“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” — E. L. Doctorow
We hear a lot about CX, Customer Experience, these days. Scott Liewehr will be leading a CMS Expo panel on Customer Experience Management In The Real World discussing how “Some CMS vendors are betting big on CX as the next big thing.” Experience marketing has been around for some time and blossomed on the Interactive Web. Pine & Gilmore outlined The Experience Economy in their 1999 book stating "The newly identified offering of experiences occurs whenever a company intentionally uses services as the stage and goods as props to engage an individual." CX has indeed become an important realm for engagement with targeted and personalized content adding value to customer experiences.
But we don’t hear much about Author Experience. Sure, customers are important, but if “Content is King,” as they say, who's lording over all that content? Has anybody checked in on the content authors lately? Do we have any metrics on AX? Maybe we need to invest in some AXM to get things on track. Oh, what's that you say: we've moved on to aggregation and curation—we no longer have actual authors!
Wait a minute. I'm a publisher. I work with authors and troll for more authors. In my career as an editor, content wrangler, and publisher, I’ve worked with hundreds of writers. In my Internet life I’ve engaged with thousands upon thousands of people and the content they’ve written in blogs, wikis, websites, forums, and now through web apps, ebooks, and more.
We should not neglect the source of all this content consumed by customers everywhere, as we manage, market, and target the heck out of it. Authors are the invisible content grunt workers behind the scenes. But not for long. They are begging for, no demanding our attention.
On Twitter there is a 24/7 fire hose of tweets with free ebook offers from the self-published boom of emerging authors, from amateurs to fakes to cultish egos to undiscovered talents. On LinkedIn and Google+ my groups and circles barrage me with free news and blog posts across an incredible range of topics. Who is composing this never-ending stream of content for free? How does it get done? And what of their experience?
We know there is a path to success and reward for authors. There are breakthrough ‘“hybrid authors” like Erika Leonard, a.k.a E.L. James, whose Fifty Shades trilogy began as online fan fiction and then sold over 70 million copies, or Hugh Howey who self-published his Wool series as Kindle ebooks, sold a half million, and then signed a hefty contract with Simon and Schuster for print rights only.
Howey says, “I expected nothing. I wrote as one might garden or knit, simply because they enjoy the act of creation.”
If we look a bit closer at an actual author at work, we'll see the author nervously clutching a mouse as a pointer hovers just above the jewel-like icons of the WYSIWYG toolbar. Ah, let's try a new font. OOPS, that didn't work... I wonder if this button will fix―DOH! Everything turned pink. Don't panic. There's help. Click Help.
CONTENT CONSTRUCTION: When your article attains Draft mode, be sure to edit the Excerpt field to exactly 140 characters. Select one Category, and at least two Tags, but no more than five. If you have not inserted Media elements, you should select at one image from the appropriate Library section, or you may assign your Avatar as a thumbnail. Be sure that your Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts have been authenticated, unless you are a guest blogger, in which case, the editor will review your Klout score.
Thought leader Guy Kawasaki in his new book APE says “A successful self-publisher must fill three roles: Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur—or APE. These roles are challenging, but they are not impossible—especially if people who have done it before explain it to you.”
“But I just want to write,” laments the author perplexed by all the buttons, forms, notifications, and cryptic terminology of the typical content management system interface. No worries, real help is on the way for authors.
Try Zen mode in WordPress, one of Matt Mullenweg's favorite features of that CMS. Just your words on a white screen without the tech mess. Or try the trendy geek mode of markdown, as opposed to HTML markup. You just have to remember how you typed formatting hints into that wiki so many years ago. Inline editing is all the rage too, where you actually type right onto the web page itself. Take your pick; all of these do away with that ornery, hideous CMS interface.
Author Experience is the next big thing. Now we just need a CMS that hides itself completely as we finally focus on what matters the most: the content. The perfect AX would have only 3 buttons:
There's an automagic algorithm for all that extra content strategy, modeling, semantics, metadata, formatting, tagging, management, marketing, targeting, personalization, contextualization, and APIs. Right?
David Skarjune will give a talk on Content Publishing at CMS Expo, where he'll get serious about the Author Experience revolution.