The Red Sofa Chats: Rusty Shelton, of Shelton Interactive

Honestly I never thought upon becoming an agent, pre-Twitter and pre-Facebook, that the business of book publishing would change so much.  I still remember the days of “suggesting” that an author start a website.  Today there’s NO option.  To enter the world of publishing means getting intimately acquainted with the many social media outlets, providing an active website, and generally being creative, i.e. thinking outside the figurative box.

Being an agent who primarily works with nonfiction, platform is key.  It’s mandatory.  Something that can be accomplished by going digital.  Rusty Shelton knows this.  I like what he has to say, and he adds to the overall value of resources available for authors looking to get published, as well as building (or expanding) their current writing platforms. 

Thanks to Rusty for joining the Red Sofa Chats! 🙂   Yet again I’m amazed and excited about this newest interview.  Enjoy!  And as usual, let us know what you think, or if you have any questions!

BIO: Rusty Shelton is the founder of Shelton Interactive, an interactive agency established to help authors and publishers design and develop digital platforms focused on generating more media attention and building better social media buzz. The agency has a a strategic partnership with Cave Henricks Communications and represents a variety of clients, including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Zondervan, IBM, Harvard Health Publications and others and has represented numerous best-selling books since its founding last summer (2010).

Twitter: @rustyshelton

1. Why did you choose to work with authors in establishing digital platforms within today’s publishing industry?

RS- I spent the last seven years at a traditional publicity firm and during my time there I observed a large shift in the way that media members were covering our clients. Instead of waiting to be pitched, increasingly they were taking a “don’t call us…we’ll call you” approach to publicity and searching for sources directly–often via social media.

A recent Cision/George Washington University survey backs up this trend, saying that 89% of media members look to social media when researching stories and, as a result, Google has become an increasingly important publicist for clients. When you combine PR opportunities with the growth of digital publishing, it’s clear that the most important tool for an author in today’s publishing environment–beyond a wonderful book–is a solid digital platform. I could never find a firm that worked closely with authors and publishers to build out smart digital strategies (from interactive websites to social media strategy), so I decided to start one.

2. Obviously you’ve found your niche with Shelton Interactive. Is there any other capacity you would have been interested in working in publishing? If so, what would you be doing?

RS- I have a lot of respect for the job that agents do and I think that would be a lot of fun. My favorite thing about the work we do is getting a chance to work closely with authors over the long-term–as their careers grow–and I think I would get a lot of that same satisfaction out of being an agent.

3. What are you reading right now (for personal reading)?

RS- THE THANK YOU ECONOMY, by Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary is one of my favorites and I’m enjoying his latest book. He brought the house down at SXSW Interactive this year and I think the book is a great resource for authors looking to get into the right mindset for social media.

4. How do you personally utilize Twitter? How do you believe it has changed the way we go about publishing books?

RS- I use Twitter for so many different purposes, but I primarily use it as a relationship builder and a research tool (to learn more about media contacts, clients, potential clients, publishing news, etc.).

In terms of how it has changed the way we go about publishing books, other than giving publishers another way to gauge an author’s platform, I’m not sure it has changed much about the way that we publish. It has certainly changed a ton about the way that we promote. I personally think it is the second most important piece of an author’s digital platform–behind a great website (with an online press room and dynamic blog).

5. If you had a crystal ball, where do you think (or hope) publishing will be in 5 yrs?

RS- Tough question. I’m not sure that anyone knows where we will be in five years. If I had to guess, I would say that we will continue to see more brands not normally synonymous with book publishing throw their hats in the ring. In recent months we have seen announcements from major brands–from TED starting TEDBooks to the New York Times announcing an upcoming book about WikiLeaks–and I think we will see more and more of this.

As we move forward, having a well-known, trusted brand may be more important than being known as a book publisher. As the barriers to entry fade away, I think the jump for big brands to publisher is an easier one than the jump from publisher to big brand. As a result, book publishers will start competing with major brands that now have the ability to publish under their own imprints, leveraging their established brand equity. It should be an interesting back and forth.