Last week my six-year old son asked me who made all these books we have at home. I tried to explain him what authors and illustrators do, how publishers work, and we talked about bookstores and booksellers. Since he was very interested in understanding who is doing what, this question kept flying around my head even hours later. I was not exactly intrigued by the question of what a publisher does but how her thinking and working has changed in the digital age.
Traditionally, selecting and acquiring books were the key roles of a publisher. This gateway function acted as a quality filter for readers and was a real challenge for authors since there were few alternatives other than finding a publisher to get their work out to the public. In the digital age, this is changing as authors have now the possibility to self-publish their works.
The other, even more disruptive impact, is taking place at the end of the value chain: getting the book to potential buyers. Before online channels developed, the world was easy. You shipped your books to bookstores and the bookseller took care of the selling. Apart from the word-of-mouth amongst friends and family, most of the decision-making actually took place in bookstores.
Nevertheless, this is changing as chains and online channels more and more replace traditional bookstores. Readers find less quality prescription in physical stores. At the same time, Internet has become THE medium to search for information, to share opinions and to talk about books. As a consequence, although most sales are still closed in stores, decision-making happens increasingly online.
Knowing this, as a publisher, what’s your online strategy for the launch of new titles? How do you integrate your retail communication with your online marketing? Do you know how to reach your audience on the Internet? Are you sure Facebook is an efficient channel? (In fact, looking at publishers’ Facebook pages and analyzing who is interacting with these pages you realize that most of them are professionals, not final customers. So, you don’t reach your readers there.)
We are boring when it comes to telling the story about these books
For me, it looks like that all publishers make huge efforts in creating the best possible books and, in comparison, spent very little time and effort in thinking how to get them out to the readers. We are creating great stories inside the books, but, too often, we are boring when it comes to telling the story about these books. Making some banners is not a online strategy. We know that ads telling a story are much more efficient than ads focusing on the product.
For Andy Stalman, “Mr. Branding” and one of the most considered experts in branding in Spain and Latin America, we are entering an era in which, due to the proliferation of communication channels and the portability of new information technologies and telecommunications, media are becoming ubiquitous. While communication is extended, it is producing an interesting change in the way we consume media, mixing versatility, multi-participation and interactivity.”
The challenge for publishers in the future is to understand these changes and to identify the inherent opportunities, integrating technology and Internet both in the product development (including transmedia and crossmedia elements) and the marketing strategy. In the digital era, the one-fits-all strategy does not work anymore. Every book tells a different story and we have to figure out how convert this uniqueness into an engaging and emotional story in our communications. How to use the opportunities Internet gives us to reach our readers in any case. In the past, publishers’ most efforts went mainly into product development; today reaching out to the readers has become equally important, taking into account that today the decision is not made in the bookstore in most cases.