One of the most misused words in the publishing business is “marketing.” Some people think it’s synonymous with “selling,” but it is not. Others think it means “publishing,” but it does not. Marketing involves a distinct philosophy that, if understood and applied properly, will help your business become more profitable.
Four concepts of marketing are popular with publishers. Only one will yield long-term success.
What I call the “Publishing Concept” holds that consumers will favor titles that are widely available and low in cost. Its devotees focus on a mass market and concentrate on achieving high production efficiency and wide distribution.
The “Product Concept” is the “better mousetrap” philosophy. It assumes consumers will favor titles that offer the most quality in terms of appearance and content. Here the emphasis is on cover design and writing, and publishers sometimes get caught up in love affairs with their titles, failing to notice if the market is less enamored.
Product-oriented publishers often create their titles with little or no reader input. They believe readers cannot know what kind of books they want until they see what is available. Trusting that their authors and editors understand the market, they often do not even examine competitors’ titles.
The “Selling Concept” rests on the belief that consumers, if left alone, will ordinarily not buy enough of the publisher’s books. The company must therefore sell and promote aggressively to coax readers to purchase. Publishers adhering to this philosophy seek to attract customers through heavy promotion that accentuates aspects of the book rather than benefits.
The Better Way
All three of these concepts focus on the needs of the company and its desire to convert a title into cash. The emphasis is on making the sale by selling what they publish rather than on publishing what the market wants. This short-term focus leads typically to lower profits and possibly to eventual failure.
By contrast, I define a true “Marketing Concept” as a long-term business philosophy that maintains that the key to achieving success lies in giving prospective readers what they want to read. In this case, customer retention is as important as customer attraction.
This marketing concept rests on four pillars: target market, customer needs, integrated marketing, and profitability. Accordingly, to implement it, you need to take four steps:
Step #1. Identify and define your target market. Few publishers can operate successfully in every market because no title is of interest to everybody. A good example is a title about how to find a job. You could say, “Everyone needs to get a job at some point, so this book is good for all adults,” and then launch a heavy, broad promotional campaign selling the title’s detailed information on writing resumes and cover letters and succeeding in interviews.
But the publisher with a marketing philosophy knows that the broad market of job-seeking adults is divided into a variety of targetable segments and assesses the book to see which of them it serves. Target markets for this book could include female managers seeking executive positions, laid-off white-collar men in their 50s, college students entering the job market, immigrants who may not be fluent in English, and blue-collar workers interested in moving up, among many others. Clearly, people in different segments have different needs for information.
Step #2. Determine those customers’ needs. The obvious next step, therefore, is to determine what those needs are. Consider the college target market, for example, which in turn consists of buyers with diverse needs.
College teachers are looking for textbooks or supplementary reading material. They need information that is presented sequentially, discussion questions at the end of each chapter, and perhaps an accompanying instructor’s guide.
Students need concise, clear, and inexpensive information that will help them find a job quickly.
Career placement officers need to increase the number of college students who graduate with jobs.
Alumni associations need to provide alumni with useful information that will increase the value of their alma mater and increase the size of donations to the school.
College bookstores need to make a profit selling the books they decide to stock.
Marketing to these people according to their individual needs will help you sell more books.
Step #3. Design and integrate the four Ps. Good marketers know that all parts of the marketing process must be coordinated or the results will be diluted. Specifically, product, place, price, and promotion must be integrated into your marketing campaigns.
Product. You may think of your product as a 6″ x 9″ perfect bound, softcover book. But buyers define it in terms of what they need and are willing to pay for.
Place. A heavy sales campaign–even one including an appearance on Oprah–will sell very few books in bookstores if copies aren’t on the store shelves. A modest sales campaign in special-sales channels serving target markets might yield better results.
Pricing. Instead of matching competitors’ prices, the good marketer considers what the reader is willing to pay for the value received. This may be more–or less–than the price competing titles. Marketers also consider using incentives such as bundling, free shipping, or two-for-one deals to increase sales.
Promotion. The thrust and content of your promotion–including publicity, advertising, sales promotion, book-signings, direct mail, and media appearances–must change with each target segment, each new product, each distribution and pricing strategy.
Step #4. Maximize profitability. The Selling Concept emphasizes profitability as the goal in the publishing process, even if short-term revenue comes at the expense of long-term success.
Profitability is also important in the Marketing Concept, but it’s not the only objective. The emphasis is on “doing the right things” instead of on “doing things right.” The intuitive marketer will work at performing all the tasks well that will generate profits; and then profits will come.
Brian Jud is an author, seminar leader, book-marketing consultant, and creator of the Book Market Mapä
directories for special sales. For more information, contact him at P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; 800/562-4357; firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit