Publishers can get caught in a marketing rut if they only produce titles similar to those that were successful in the past. Blind adherence to programs that led to past marketing successes leads to inertia. A sense of rigidity develops if you fail to recognize market drift, the gradual but substantial shift in customer preferences, business conditions, and competition.
For example, even if a potential title is about the better mousetrap an author has developed, consumers may not automatically beat a path to your door. Ask yourself three questions to determine if it is a possible winner.
- Are you sure your customer’s problem is mice?
Deciding which titles to publish is a marketing decision, not necessarily a literary decision. The path to success does not begin with a good book, but with a customer need.
- Are you sure the customers know they have mice? If you plan to introduce a title that requires significant market development, your marketing mix would require heavy promotion.
- If your customers have mice and know it, do they truly want to get rid of them?
You cannot determine the number of the prospective customers for a new title by relying on a past head-count. Each title meets a different need, and its potential must be determined separately.
Don’t Just Do Something,
Before you introduce a new title, take time to think about how it could or should be different from those you have previously published. Create a product-development plan that defines your mission and stimulates a dynamic program of successful new titles.
Your mission statement sets the overall direction of your product choices, and is a concise answer to two questions. First: “What business are we in?” This may seem obvious because you are a producer and purveyor of books. But publishers should practice a customer-satisfying process that begins with market needs, not a goods-producing process that ends with the sale of a book.
The next question is: “Who are we trying to serve?” One customer segment is your distribution channel. In addition, the purchasing process of a title only concludes when a satisfied customer purchases the next title by that same author.
: Now create your product-line strategies. Think of these as statements of the general direction you will take in developing new titles to address market drift. Think of not just books but all merchandise you can create that will satisfy the needs of your customers. In the process, discuss these decision alternatives:
- Should you expand your product strategy?
You could continue publishing your current line of books, but you might add books-on-tape, eBooks, video tapes, audio-cassette programs, or any medium that will deliver the information to your customers in the form in which they want to receive it.
- Should you maintain your current product strategy?
There are still decisions to make even if you decide to remain a printed-book publisher. Now you must decide to adopt a limited-line or a broad-line strategy.
attempts to cover a broad market with a single title or a limited line of titles. Conversely, a
identifies a series of pockets of demand, each with peculiar and distinct characteristics of its own. In this case, you would publish more, different titles for deeper penetration into each segment.
- Should you introduce product-line extensions?
If your backlist is strong, you might consider introducing product-line extensions such as a calendar, television show, or party game based on your existing titles.
- Should you reposition a title or line?
A viable title may go stale even if the information contained within is not obsolete. In this case, a makeover may be necessary to rejuvenate it. This does not always require a new edition, but perhaps a new cover design, a new promotional concept, new markets, and/or new uses.
- Should you discontinue the product or line?
Eventually there comes the time to consider cutting your loses and taking a title out of print.
The product-planning process is similar to using a kaleidoscope. Although there are a finite number of pieces, you can create an infinite number of combinations simply by rearranging them. Manipulate your product line with the needs of today’s consumers in mind. As you proceed, new information will be added to the mix and you will need to re-evaluate your direction and progress. But each turn will bring you closer to your ultimate, long-term mission. The process is challenging, but motivating and manageable.
Brian Jud is an author, publishing consultant, and host of the book-marketing seminar to be held in Newark, New Jersey, on October 14 and 15. You can reach Jud at 800/562-4357, firstname.lastname@example.org, or at http://www.strongbooks.com.