CARLSBAD — Vision and determination set the path for a local couple to bring authors into the digital age.
In the early 1990s, John and Fauzia Burke had a chance meeting at a conference in Las Vegas even though they both worked for Wiley Publishing, a traditional New Jersey publishing house.
In 1995, Fauzia Burke saw the potential of the internet and publishing, although her superiors at Wiley Publishing did not. While Fauzia Burke was in marketing, John Burke was in sales, but he said there was no excitement for promoting books online.
Ironically, Amazon launched in November 1995 as an online bookseller.
“I remember my boss said, the internet is like the Beta tape, it’ll go away,” Fauzia Burke said. “I saw the potential at that time. Book publishing is an established, old-school business. I decided to resign and go figure this thing out.”
John Burke said the couple was fortunate to be focused on computer books, which pushed them to the internet. Computer books, in 1995, were the only ones promoting online, he added.
So in 1995, they branched out on their own, creating a publishing marketing company, FSB Associates. They focus on digital branding, marketing, publicity, social media and website development.
Their first coup was designing a website for author Sue Grafton, one of the biggest names in publishing. Grafton wrote the Alphabet Series, one of the most popular detective series ever.
“This was about the time ‘M’ was coming out,” John Burke said. “I learned html and left my day job and started doing websites, also.”
The Burkes were the first of their kind, at least in the publishing world, as they blazed a new path of promoting authors and books online. Until they hear differently, Fauzia Burke said they believe Grafton’s website was the first-ever author website, even with a story in the New York Times.
The Burkes’ efforts took off and with it more big-name authors such as Alan Alda, Robin Cook and Tom Clancy hired the couple to build their websites and conduct publicity efforts.
As for the websites, they are specifically catered to authors, incorporating the tools and resources, such as an e-commerce component, to have a functional site.
“Eighty percent of our business is online publicity,” Fauzia Burke said. “In the beginning it was blogs, then websites, then social media, then podcasting. Every few years, there’s a new trend for how to share content. Right now, podcasts are all the rage.”
As the internet and publishing evolved, the two moved to Carlsbad several years ago and found another niche — self-publishers. In addition to a variety of authors, the West Coast is more open to self-publishing than back east, John Burke said.
As such, the two launched Pub Site, a tool for self-publishers to start their own affordable website. The Burkes have also held a pair of free public workshops through San Diego Writers, Ink., to help beginning authors to launch their own website and navigate the world of publishing.