Publishing Books in a Slow Economy
by Wendy Woudstra
world economy seemingly crashing down while we watch, both companies
and consumers are becoming more aware, and more wary, about where their
even with less consumer spending, I believe it is possible for book
publishers not only to survive but thrive in these economic times.
Previous economic downturns have shown that people continue to spend on
entertainment. In fact, movie attendance actually spiked during the
Great Depression. Some have attributed this to the need to escape bleak
reality, and what's better escapism than spending a few
hours with a book?
a few tips for staying solvent as the economy crumbles:
yourself into the marketing conversation at all levels, down to the end
Don't leave the end user contact to the bookstores. Don't leave
bookstore contacts to the distributor. Know who the category buyers are
in the chains and independent bookstores. Talk to them! Find out what's
working for them, what's selling for them, and what they'd like to see
more of from you.
Claim your readers! Use your Web site and your author's web sites to
get in touch with readers of your books. Get their contact information
and use it often. Keep them in the loop about new projects. Ask their
opinions on cover designs. Offer them freebies, contests, sample
chapters, and exclusive content. Make them feel like your imprint or
author 'belongs' to them.
doing what you do best
If you know how to sell to business people, treehuggers, vegetarians,
motorbikers, treasure hunters or any other market niche, stick with it.
Use your knowledge of the market, the consumers, and the store book
buyers to expand in those areas you know how to service best.
Breaking into a new niche during tough times might be harder than
usual. Consumers will want to stick to what they know and trust, and if
they don't know you, you might want to tap into the name and reputation
of someone they do know -- an endorsement or foreword by a celebrity or
guru of the niche, for example. Breaking new ground in a recession can
be done, but don't gamble more than you're willing to lose.
be afraid of going digital
scares the bejeebers out of most publishers, but refusing to offer
digital editions because someone might copy them is almost as crazy as
not publishing in print because someone might scan it and put it online.
The future of publishing is digital. Paper isn't
going to disappear, but as devices get better and more abundant, ebook
sales are going to make up a larger and larger percentage of total book
sales. If you don't believe me, take a bus in a major city for a few
days, and you'll see people reading from cellphones, ipods, PDAs and
dedicated book readers. A few months ago when I last flew on a
commercial airline, I saw three ebook readers, and two people reading
from PDAs or ipod type devices on a plane with about 100
passengers. Even as little as a year ago, I was often the only person reading an electronic copy of anything on a typical flight.
The Kindle platform is a great opportunity, and a wonderful place to
start. But don't forget about the Sony Reader, Bebook Reader, and other
dedicated ebook hardware. The two things you absolutely know about
Kindle and other ebook reader owners is that 1) they're dedicated readers and
2) they're frequent book buyers, because they wouldn't buy a $300 piece
of hardware if they weren't really into reading.
the Web and social networking sites to your advantage
This is a great time to be a publisher on the Web. People are
connecting and interconnecting in record numbers with tools like
Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. As authors and publishers, you have
worthwhile things to say. As long as you work these sites
conversationally and personally, the crowds are gonna love you.
Podcasts are becoming mainstream, blogs are becoming influential, book
tours are going virtual, and a top 100 Amazon reviewer can make a huge
difference in sales. Don't stick your head in the sand when it comes to
online marketing. It may not be 'what you've always done', but it's
cost effective, and the results can be measured much easier than an ad
in the New York Times.