While it is probably still true that picking the “right books” is the single most critical set of decisions influencing the success of publishers, it is increasingly true that a house’s ability to get those books depends on their ability to market them. As the distribution network for print shrinks, the ebook distribution network tends to rely on pull at least as much as on push. The retailers of ebooks want every book they can get in their store — there is no “cost” of inventory like there is with physical — so the initiative to connect between publisher and retailer comes from both directions now. That means the large sales force as a differentiator in distribution clout is not nearly as powerful as it was. Being able to market books better is what a house increasingly finds itself compelled to claim it can do.
Snarky and brilliant piece on discoverability from Chris McVeigh over at FutureBook:
Discoverability is a problem for publishers precisely because it’s NOT a problem for readers. There are so many books, so many places to buy them, so many routes to the checkout, so many subtle nudges towards choosing a title – the fact is, what remains is that publishers need to find some way of getting their products in front of potential customers.
The problem with the discoverability debate is that it’s often been framed the wrong way around. The real discoverability problem for publishers is how to they can discover their audience, not the other way around.
The team closely tracks events and milestones that may present an opportunity—including some of the more offbeat occasions—and keeps a large white board in Open Road’s downtown offices to track potential openings. Chou recalled one such offbeat milestone: Geek Pride Day. Last year, Open Road used this occasion to push out a video with author James Gleick, who talked about being a science nerd. And in another video, bestselling fantasy author Barbara Hambly donned a pirate costume.
According to Chou, Open Road’s targeted videos in various outlets have a “significantly” better click-to-buy rate than traditional ads. Milestone marketing recently helped to propel Walter Lord’s classic bestseller, A Night to Remember, a definitive account of the Titanic’s last hours originally published in the 1950s, to #1 on the New York Times e-book nonfiction bestseller list, tied to the anniversary of the ship’s sinking.
Yes, the retailer is now a publisher, rolling out a multichannel network filled with original editorial content spanning everything from how-to videos and gift guides to new-technology primers and behind-the-scenes looks at popular movies. The network, called Best Buy On, includes a website it bills as an “online magazine” and a huge in-store component with its content and ad messaging “broadcast” on screens across the store, including in the TV, mobile and portable entertainment sections.
Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews to close. Frankly I find this a little strange. Even spinning them off might have been better, though survival on their own would have been pretty unlikely without serious reorganization and a fundamental rethinking of the business models. Here
Canongate is profiled in the Wall Street Journal, that Jamie Byng has an eye for a book that can be packaged. It’d almost make ya jealous. Here
Frankly, I don’t buy this Apple Tablet nonsense much. Apple cannot single-handedly change the industry, though they may try. In any case when Steve Jobs announces this on a stage somewhere, I’m sure I’ll want it, but until then, I shall waste no energy waiting or wanting. Here
On the other hand, both Mike Shatzkin and Michael Hyatt have articles about new display systems for content that they claim will change the book world as we know it. I think both are right that change is coming but I have more sympathy with the Sports Illustrated demo video on Michael Hyatt’s post. After all that looks like a faster webpage with some extra features rather than something new. Webpages are the answer and so putting the web in every hand you can is the way forward for publishers and makes more sense than creating new, confusing and unnecessary formats. The trick is to make the customer pay for access to your content, not find a fancy way to display it.
Beastly goings on
There have been a few pretty big moves in the last few days towards what seem (At least to me) sensible models for getting digital and quickly. The first is Tina Brown’sThe Daily Beast‘s deal with Perseus Press that the NYT featured yesterday:
Ms. Brown said that Beast Books would select authors from The Daily Beast’s cadre of writers, most of whom are paid freelancers, to write books with quick turnarounds. She said she planned to publish three to five books in the first year.
The beauty of the deal though is that they making digital first publications:
Beast Books, that will focus on publishing timely titles by Daily Beast writers — first as e-books, and then as paperbacks on a much shorter schedule than traditional books.
I rather hope this works, it certainly sounds like a good news story if it does. The model seems sensible, it capitalises on the eyeballs the Daily Beast is dragging and as The Big Money puts it in a sensible and thoughtful paragraph:
The good news is that this is exactly what digital publishing needs to fuel its growth: a product ideally suited to a new technology. Brown’s entry into the field validates the idea of writing specifically for the Kindle and its competitors, a huge vote of confidence in the tools. The less-great news is that for all of Brown’s talent for attention-getting, the Daily Beast may not have the right content to drive sales. Which just might be the point of the whole deal—with Brown using the book deal as a back door to better content.
In what it bills as an industry-defining moment — though rivals are sure to be skeptical about that — Disney Publishing plans to introduce a new subscription-based Web site. For $79.95 a year, families can access electronic replicas of hundreds of Disney books, from “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too” to “Hannah Montana: Crush-tastic!”
DisneyDigitalBooks.com, which is aimed at children ages 3 to 12, is organized by reading level. In the “look and listen” section for beginning readers, the books will be read aloud by voice actors to accompanying music (with each word highlighted on the screen as it is spoken). Another area is dedicated to children who read on their own. Find an unfamiliar word? Click on it and a voice says it aloud. Chapter books for teenagers and trivia features round out the service.
I like this idea because it is heading more towards the type of product that can win the battle for attention and hold its own against numerous distractions. What is more, a site like this (and being a site is crucial) has a certain seamless quality, it fits into the web rather than standing aside from it in a “connected” device. It will simply be a rich content website that you happen to pay for! That is important! that, I believe, is the future.
Both these moves are taking big publishing digital very rapidly. This is a space to watch! Eoin
Bad ideas sometimes have a long half-life* Damian Horner has an opinion blog in the bookseller today and it is a pretty shameless self-defence piece:
That is why we are moving forward with the Bookaholic concept. It gives a new twist to the mantra “You can’t put a good book down”, one that provokes comment and debate. And with limited resources, that debate will be crucial in providing the campaign with the oxygen it needs to get noticed.
The comments on the piece are developing nicely and are worth paying some attention to.
Perhaps I’m flogging a dead horse here, but it really does seem that the statement ‘I’m a Bookaholic’, as you’ve presented it Damian, ie “Hello. My name is Damian Horner and I’m a Bookaholic.” which relies on implicit irony to have any impact at all, is a slap in the face to alcoholics, especially AA members for whom that statement is part of a ritual of overcoming their addiction. Even if it’s funny, it’s insensitive. You may as well try ‘I’ve got book flu’ (or indeed ‘I’m Booktarded’). It’s asinine and that’s why it’s under attack and not recieving the support it might require to ‘work’.
“Bookaholism” – that’s what they came up with. Yes people, we’re going to liken a love of books to an addiction to alcohol. That’s classy. And it gets worse. Apparently ”among the slogans likely to be seen in the campaign – which, having been green-lit, will be prioritised and rolled out before Christmas – are “Consume no less than one a month”, “Class A reading material”, “This book is seriously addictive”, “Once you’ve started it’s hard to stop” [sorry, but that was Pringles – are we now likening our industry to crisp-selling?], and “Books are mind expanding” – I can’t see those working in our children’s bookshop or among the Morningside matrons who make up a large part of our customer base: “Yes madam, do try the new Eoin Colfer, I believe it’s very similar to crack cocaine”… Maybe not.
She wasn’t shy about offering other ideas either, this was no lame attack without substance or alternative, it was informed, clever and well thought through:
It also struck us that unlike the addiction-based scheme, it needs to be a campaign which can easily be adapted to appeal to all parts of the trade from children to older people, from avid readers to people who read only a few books a year. We also loved the American Booksellers Association slogan of “Eat. Sleep. Read.” and I’m sure that the UK could license that from them. It is quite similar to 2008’s National Year of Reading but to be fair, the message is pretty much the same with the new campaign just being tweaked to encourage people to buy books. I don’t know how ‘bookaholism’ encourages buying books specifically rather than borrowing them from the library.
I’m very partisan on this front and cannot help but think that the Bookaholic idea is a dud of gigantic proportions and I look forward to it being buried in lead-lined concrete bunkers along with the other toxic and radioactive waste!