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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:
One of the key dramas in the book world–one that has played itself out over the last decade or so–is the story of the evil empire known as Amazon. Publishers fear Amazon. Booksellers complain about Amazon. Readers secretly (or not) love Amazon. Self-published authors seem to think Amazon is the best thing to happen since the invention of the word processor.
I’m willing to admit that it’s been kind of fun to get caught up in the drama of it all. (In a previous post, I listed my five favorite reasons for hating Amazon.)
In a recent post, I suggested a few things publishers should keep in mind as they develop their D2C strategy. Here are four more:
1. Always Test First:This is one of the basic rules of direct sales and marketing. Whether it’s mailing lists, co-op data bases, CTAs (“call-to-actions”), alternate landing pages, etc.–you always start with a small test to optimize results. Of course, testing necessarily involves data capture and analysis, so be sure you and your marketing team clearly think through what data to focus on for each marketing channel given your overall strategy.
For a couple of years now, people like Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, and Brian O’Leary at Magellan Media, have been talking about the implications of content abundance. I don’t know if they would agree, but I would argue that content abundance is the single biggest threat and the biggest opportunity facing traditional publishing. I’ll explain why I think so in a minute. Continue Reading…
In a recent blog post, Mike Shatzkin commented that many publishers have come to understand that they have to develop effective direct-to-consumer strategies. Mike quoted Markus Dohle, CEO of Random House, “We have to change from being a B2B company to B2C over the coming years.”
While I certainly agree that D2C marketing (and I would add, direct sales) is essential for many publishers moving forward, I’m actually not seeing much evidence of a big move in this direction.
Beginning about ten years ago, I worked with the folks at Shambhala Publications–a medium-sized niche trade house–and helped them build that side of the business. The goal was to see what degree of efficiency we could realize in acquiring customers as a hedge against online retailers. I’ll share a bit about what we learned in another post. In the meantime, I’d recommend to any publisher that wants to take the D2C route consider the following: Continue Reading…
I’ve been in and around the book industry many years–first as a bookseller, then as an editor, marketer, publisher, and CEO. I can’t imagine a better time to be in publishing industry than right now.
If you’re a publisher yourself, I know what you’re thinking: “Is he crazy? Bookstores are going out of business left and right. My business is in a smack-down wrestling match with Amazon over discounts. And I’m having to manage eBook and print book work-flows while constantly keeping up with new sales and marketing platforms?”
Right, but step back and refocus for a second. Here’s an equally true but very different picture: Continue Reading…