PUBLISHING UNIVERSITY PREVIEW
How You Can Prosper in Tough Times (And Other Lessons to Be Learned at Publishing University)
by Robin Bartlett
I recently had the good fortune to talk with Tom Woll, who runs Cross River Publishing Consultants and is one of Publishing University’s financial-management experts. Tom will be teaching a class at the 2009 Publishing University called “How to Grow Your Publishing Company in Times of Turmoil.”
In talking about this class, Tom provided savvy advice for both new and established publishers. I found his insights so valuable that I want to give you a preview of them now, and also to draw your attention to other classes at this year’s Publishing University that will teach you more about each opportunity to increase revenue that Tom identifies.
Here are Tom’s 12 tips to help you to prosper in these tough economic times and make better publishing decisions over the next several months.
Be cautious about digital publishing. We are all excited about jumping on the digital bandwagon and creating e-books to be sold via social media and the Internet. However, only about 10 percent of any publisher’s sales come from digital products (except for science, technical, and medical publishers), and in some cases the figure is less than 1 percent. Smart publishers will concentrate on where the vast majority of their books are selling—typically in print-on-paper through well-established channels.
For more on this topic: 2B. Q&A with B&N, Borders, and Independents; 102 and 3E. You Can Get There from Here
Get all data into your trading partners’ systems on time and accurately. Take extra care to register your titles properly with all appropriate databases (distributors, Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Amazon, B&N.com, and more). Don’t lose a sale because you’ve input the wrong title or ISBN or because you’ve overlooked other critical data elements.
For more on this topic: 3D. Terms, Technology, and Timelines; 7D. Linking Marketing and Editorial Calendars
Target, target, target. Savvy publishers make sure they are getting the maximum response from the promotional dollars they spend. You need to put your money where your audience shops and spends. Stay focused on knowing who your target audience is, and talk with people in that audience through surveys and in person to find out as much as you can about them. Then use targeted sales promotions to reach them and spend your funds to maximum advantage.
For more on this topic: 3C. Marketing from the Inside Out; 5C. How to Negotiate Large-Quantity Sales
Establish a budget and stick to it. Publishers should not just talk about having a budget; you need to put the numbers down on paper, or in a spreadsheet in a computer, and you need to keep accurate records of where the money goes. Use a software program or just keep a notebook for each title, but write the numbers down. You can never do enough marketing, but you can easily spend too much on activities that are not productive.
For more on this topic: 2F. Budgeting: A Step-by-Step Approach; 8A. How to Grow Your Publishing Company
Refine your tactics as you begin to see results. Just as it is important to target, target, target, it is important to review and analyze the spending you are doing. Keep track of how much you spend (including a dollar amount for your own time and overhead) and evaluate what was spent against the number of books sold. If one of your programs is not pulling its own weight, abandon it and move on to more productive activities.
For more on this topic: 1E. Octopus Marketing; 6D. Marketing the Wow Factor
Find new markets and partners. Have you checked your Web site analytics lately? Where are your customers coming from? Where are you shipping books to? Where are your customers buying? Geography may play an important role in spurring sales, so savvy publishers always go beyond bookstores to discover new markets and/or distribution/sales partners that can take them into new venues and generate incremental revenue. If you haven’t been thinking about this technique, the time to do so is now.
4B. Selling to the Niches; 4C. How You Slice It; 5B. Not Just for Bookstores Anymore
Chunk your content online. If it’s appropriate for your books, make sure you are maximizing the sales of your content by creating minibooks and offering pieces of your content in different formats to appropriate audiences online for added revenue.
For more on this topic: 4D. Chunking Your Content; 5E. Turning Printed Books into Downloadable E-Books; 8B. Expanding Sales Through Book-Related Products
Be cautious about giving content away. Don’t get so immersed in generating exposure for your book or books that you fail to answer the critical question: Did this sell copies? We have all made the mistake of getting too excited about the potential sales from a PR campaign or publicity opportunity, but in the long run we must make sure that exposure is valuable and contributes to bottom-line sales.
For more on this topic: 6B. Converting Promotion into Book Sales; 7B. The Author’s Pivotal Role in Profitable Sales and Marketing
Keep expenses down. There’s an age-old rule of thumb that you’re bound to hear at Publishing University: Do what you do best and outsource the rest. Keep control of your expenses by making smart outsource and freelance decisions.
For more on this topic: 6A. How to Get the Most out of Your Publicity Dollars; 6C. Creating a Living Brand
Use social-networking sites. While they require investments of time and talent, these promotional opportunities are otherwise free and a great way to gain added exposure for your books.
For more on this topic: 2C. Book Trailers and Beyond; 2E. 13 Web-Savvy Ideas; 3B. Online Retailers; 3F. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Fundamentals of Web 2.0; 4F. How to Build a Strong Technical but Manageable Presence on the Social Web; 6E. How to Create Massive Visibility Online; 7E. Using Advanced Social-Media Tools
Don’t overestimate the power of the Web. Competition for attention is fierce on the Internet, and we must be careful not to use too many blogs or too many e-blasts, and careful not to rely on the Web as our sole source of revenue.
For more on this topic: See the list above.
Think about your book’s long-term success. As most IBPA members will tell you, success in book publishing is built over time. There are very few short-term success stories. If you get a big order from a chain, it may be necessary to reduce your returns risk by cutting the order in half. And it may be wise, or necessary, to fill small orders by using print-on-demand technology, even if this means you earn less profit on each copy sold.
For more on this topic: 5C. How to Negotiate Large-Quantity Sales; 6C. Creating a Living Brand; 7C. The Publisher’s Repair Kit; 5D. Understanding POD and Digital Printing
Robin Bartlett is director of pharmaceutical corporate relations for the American Heart Association and serves as educational chair of the Publishing University. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.