The book business has always struck me as a bit bipolar, prone to bouts of dire pessimism followed by flights of exaggerated optimism.
This Monday, Bowker published a report that offers a fascinating picture of the migration of book sales to online retailers. (Bowker is the industry’s key source of bibliographic data and market research.) For publishers, this data isn’t really news. They know full well just how dramatically online sales are growing.
In a recent post, Mike Shatzkin took note of how some publishers were reshaping their publishing lists around their core strengths and strategic vision. Along the way, Mike offers his view on how the diminished role of booksellers and the rise of online discovery may effect sales of publisher backlist titles.
When digital first started to happen, it seemed like the backlist might be the biggest beneficiary. After all, stores had limited shelf space and online merchants can “carry” all the books they want, particularly if there is no pre-purchased inventory required. (There isn’t for ebooks and there increasingly isn’t for printed books either, which can be purchased from wholesalers for next day delivery, even if they are printed on demand!)
But, Mike goes on to say that, “it turns out that the current state-of-the-art for merchandising and presentation of books online is not very helpful to backlist.” I have a somewhat different view on this.
If you’re involved in direct-to-consumer marketing of books you already know that your central challenge is time management. There is simply no end to what you can spend your time doing. So how do you prioritize your efforts? Of course, there’s no one answer to this question. It all depends on where your readers and customers are and what works best in connecting with them. And, naturally, what works changes over time and at least somewhat depends on what book genre we’re talking about.
I see this general topic of prioritization come up all the time in my work with publishers. So, I’ve been trying to come up with a list of simple questions that that I would want to ask myself to help keep my marketing efforts on point:
A recent blog post on“Writing on the Ether,” by Porter Anderson—an always a very thoughtful and nuanced journalist and commentator on the publishing industry—got me thinking about what seem to be common misperceptions authors and readers hold about what traditional trade publishers do, what they do well, and what they do not-so-well.
In commenting on Porter’s post, I wrote “One function of traditional publishers is as an investor in future revenue” — in other words that “publishers subsidize some portion of their published list.”
Porter replied, “There’s a concept on the street now that advances have fallen apart and publishers are investing very little at all in their new authors. So while your point is right, I’m not sure it will fall on very receptive ears in a community that has largely decided the traditional publishers are abdicating their own leadership.” Continue Reading…
Who’s the number 3 most popular online bookseller? The answer is surprising and it says something really important about what motivates people to buy books and where.
As my grade school social studies teacher used to say, let’s define our terms.
Smart and smartly written recent posts by Brett Sandusky and Jessie McDougall, and comments by Brian O’Leary following these posts, got me wondering again about the debate over eBook DRM–a debate that has going on for millennia when measured in digital book years. It’s a topic I’ve thought about first as a publisher and now as an industry observer, specifically, “What are the benefits and risks to publishers of going DRM-free.”
Every chance I get I like to ask folks in publishing to explain to me the possible rational(s) for sticking with DRM. The only coherent answer I’ve ever here goes like this:
While it’s true that DRM doesn’t really have anything to do with piracy, that’s really not the question. The question is, would causal file-sharing–which DRM-free eBooks would more readily allow–negatively affect sales.
During a very long highway drive to northern Maine, I remembered something a philosophy professor said to me when I was in school: “Most philosophical problems are caused not by having the wrong set of assumptions,” she said, “but by having assumptions you’re not aware of.” Later on this week, I’m meeting with some friends to lay the groundwork for a new publishing model I’ve been kicking around for a while now. That got me thinking about my own assumptions. Here are a few of the most essential. Some may see obvious or too abstract, but they do lead in a direction.
The only two constants in the publishing value chain are authors and readers. Authors create, readers consume. Everyone else in the middle serves merely to make that exchange as efficient, scaled, and pleasurable as it can be.
Whether you agree or not is likely to turn how the word merely strikes you. I expect it would cause many literary agents, editors, publishers, marketers, and publicists to scoff. The arbiters and gatekeepers of what counts as worthy of publication naturally feel that their role is crucial. It is. I’d say the function they provide is more essential to the vitality of the author-reader relationship than ever before, but it’s migrating away from the domain of traditional publishers in myriad different directions and taken up by: Continue Reading…