March 2008

gamerVideo games can now cost $20 million and up to produce.  Such high production costs raise the risk for bringing new games to market and have spawned a search for ways to extend a game’s IP via cross marketing in other media – notably books, merchandise and film.  Though long familiar to Hollywood moguls, this approach is now being pioneered by Electronic Arts in the gamer world. 

Dead Space comic bookOne example where this is being used in a new game due out in Fall 2008 called Dead Space.  A series of 6 graphic novels (or comic books) will be used as a prequel to the game to provide users with background information.   They will be offered for sale at $2.99 each, though a premium edition of the first issue with special cover art will be sold at a higher price point.  As reported on Kotaku, the series will be created by Image Comics with Ben Templesmith and Antony Johnston.  There’s even a book trailer that’s been created for the series.

Marvel comic charactersThis is somewhat the reverse of the journey made by Marvel Comics a few years ago, as chronicled in the New York Times.  Marvel’s comic books sales had slowed and the company almost went out of business.  But, like one of the super heroes it markets, the struggling publisher morphed into a Hollywood entertainment power with its own studio and licensing business.  Marvel has combined making its own super hero movies (where it can reap more of the rewards) with innovative financing (using its comic book IP as collateral) to emerge as a successful, profitable moviemaker.

movie directorBook to movie deals are continuing at a brisk pace, as evidenced by the regular reports in Publishers Weekly and industry sites such as Freelance Writing.  Major book publishers are also getting into the movie game.  This past fall, HarperCollins, a division of News Corp., announced a partnership with Sharp Independent to develop movies based on HarperCollins books.  These new collaborations, according to an article by Rachael Donadio, give publishers greater participation in movie profits (if there are any) and allow authors to have more say in the selection of screenwriters, directors and actors.   The closer ties with Hollywood may eventually change the nature of literary fiction as writers realize they may need to structure their stories for multiple mediums. 

Entertainment IP in the hgh stakes world of big media wants to be everywhere.  Look for lots more cross media collaborations (some might say contamination); and look for tomorrow’s most successful artists among those who are able to cross media divides and become multiple media “multi-talents.”

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barnes & noble storeThe bookstore chains are still a dominant force in book retail.  According to Para Publishing, in 2007, big chain retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Borders accounted for 33% of unit book purchases.  However, their dominance is steadily eroding.  The primary challengers are online booksellers, notably  Purchases made through online retailers represent approximately 20% of book purchases.  In fact, books are the most popular product sold on the internet according to Nielsen Online which surveyed 26,312 people in 48 countries.  It found that 41% of internet users had bought books online.  In some countries the percentage was much higher – for example in Korea 58% of internet users had purchased books online.  And in the U.S., 57.5-million had purchased books online.  In all, the direct-to-consumer (Internet, book clubs, book fairs, catalog and other) channel accounted for 35% of book purchases.

More book publishers are also exploring non-traditional retail channels.  In some cases these channels can have a greater impact on book sales than the traditional bookstore channel.  Why?

The primary problem with the bookstore channel is returns.  These can cost a publisher and generally the cash flow timing with wholesalers, distributors and bookstores is not favorable.  Returns were implemented by publishers during the Great Depression as a way to help out the bookstores.  They have remained entrenched ever since and are a drag on publishers’ profits.  Sales are generally final in non-bookstore retail channels making them more attractive.  The downside is that access can be much more difficult or require a specialized salesforce.  The other problem is payment.  Publishers often don’t get paid for 60, 90 or (more usually) 120 days.  This can wreak havoc with cash flow.  In the non-traditional retail channel, publishers can avoid both of these problems.

book shoppers at CostcoNon-bookstore retail venues use different selling models.  For example, Starbucks sells only one book at a time in its stores, featuring a title for several months. Costco, Walmart and other big box retailers carry bestsellers as well as a selection of lesser known titles.   A recent New York Times article on non-reported that sales of consumer books sold through such nontraditional outlets grew by more than $260 million. 

These can be broken down into:

  • warehouse clubs – e.g. Costco, Sam’s Club
  • mass market retail –  e.g. Walmart
  • non-traditional accounts – big box retailers (e.g. Home Depot), drugstores and grocery stores, gift and specialty stores
  • mass market wholesale

Gentleman series titleNon-traditional book channels can often offer a book greater exposure to its primary audience.  An interesting example was highlighted on the bNet Business Network.  A book titled “A Gentleman Gets Dressed Up” was picked up by Borders, and was placed in the Health and Diet section.  According to Nielsen BookScan, since 2003, the book has sold 4,000 copies in the retail bookstore channel.  By contrast, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers and Brooks Brothers have purchased 8,000 and 15,000 copies for their stores, respectively. 

Another instructive example comes from the world of children’s books.  In an article, Better Than Bookstores: Prime Channels for Selling Children’s Books, written for the PMA Independent, Florrie Binford Kichler examines innovative approaches to using non-bookstore venues for selling children’s books, including:

  • Associations
  • Children’s book clubs
  • Museums/historic sites
  • Schools

Potentially, the biggest threat to bookstore retailers could come from the new print at the point of purchase technologies which I have often discussed on this blog.   As the technology matures, it will allow virtually any organization to print and sell books without the need for wholesalers, distributors or inventory.  Publishers have many bookselling options today and may continue to migrate away from bookstore retailers as long as their outdated and onerous returns and payment policies remain in effect. 

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book vid lit iconSheila Clover-EnglishBook Vid Lit

by Sheila Clover-English

Sheila Clover English, the CEO of Circle of Seven Productions, has been a pioneer
in book video production, marketing and distribution for authors and publishers.

There are two ways to get video promotion for your book.

  1. You can create a book video that is meant to be entertaining and place it on user-generated video upload sites such as YouTube or MySpace. From there you hope others will see it and then share it with friends, thus making it viral.
  2. You can create a book video ad and pay for placement.

Your video is going to look different, perform differently and be viewed differently according to where you place the video.

Viral videos, those that are made and uploaded for free to social media sites have to have an element of entertainment to them. Social media sites are meant to be “social”, they are not meant to be advertisement platforms. The argument can be, and has been, made that all book video are ads.  Keep in mind that all music videos are ads as well.  Yet, it is easy to forget that and look at music videos as an entertainment or art form.  Book videos should have an element of entertainment to them if you want them to go viral.

How do you make an ad entertaining? First of all you want it to NOT look like a commercial. If you make it 15 or 30 seconds long it is going to look like and acts like a commercial. People on social media sites are becoming more and more savvy. They will look at that and know that you just can’t afford proper placement of your commercial so you’re trying to fool them into thinking it’s entertainment, or that you don’t care that you just tricked them into watching a commercial.

Like a music video, you need to have a story. People want to know what the story is. You can’t make general statements or claims such as, “This is the greatest story ever told” or “An epic love story unfolds within a mystery” and think that’s going to impress people. You can say those things in your video, but you had best follow it up with telling people what the story is actually about. Include exciting and/or appropriate elements such as music, narration or text, enticing visuals, etc. Make it worth the viewer’s time to watch it.

Viral videos = entertainment = appropriate to place on social media sites

viral video adBook video ads are meant to be more informative and factual. People know it is an ad. People know that ads try to sell you something. People are used to seeing ads. Your ad still should be exciting or enticing, but it is going to be brief. The briefer, the better. Most ads are 15 or 30 seconds long.

Book video ads are placed in areas where people know they are ads. You can pay for placement on sites like VideoEgg, YouTube (if you can afford it), Viddler or anywhere that allows video ads. They can also play on television or out-of-home advertising. Book video ads should get to the point right away.

A book video ad should concentrate efforts toward a single message. The message can focus on who the author is, which is an advantage if the author is already well known. The message can focus on the storyline if the author is not well known, but the story has a good hook, or current, relative message.

Monitoring the effectiveness of a book video.

Many people are under the impression that the number of views are the greatest measurement of effectiveness for video. That is not true. But, CPM is a well-known, accepted way of charging for ad placement with the number of views being a focal point. The shift for online marketing needs to, and is in many areas, move away from impressions to engagement. It is the engagement of an ad that is most likely to result in an actual sale.

Troy YoungOne of the most respected companies that deals in online video, both with ads and viral video, is VideoEgg. YouTube often follows their lead, as do many other video companies. Here you will find a link to a valuable bit of information discussed by VideoEgg CMO, Troy Young

Be sure to read the description next to the video.  This is very helpful in understanding where the future of video ads is going.

Impressions to Engagement– Troy Young, CMO VideoEgg

Impressions & engagementThe great thing about VideoEgg’s idea with the rollover/expand option is that the video will still play, but the expanding information would allow graphics and text. Here you could have a picture of the book cover and/or author photo or even photos to represent the storyline of the book. You can also have the back cover copy of something similar, which appeals to traditional readers. The drawback to this is that it is an ad and you have to pay for it. The up-side is that it is pay-per-engagement and not impressions. So, you only pay when someone is motivated enough to click on the ad and activate it.

If you are going to go the route of a rollover/expand ad I strongly suggest not using the author’s name as the primary enticement to engage. If it is a well known author then you’re going to get clicks from fans. You don’t need to advertise to fans. You can get to that target audience through easier, less expensive ways. My recommendation is to have the storyline itself be the enticement.

Whether you decide to try a viral video or a book ad it is important to know the difference. It is important to realize that you can’t mix those medias and expect a successful campaign. You need to know what your goal is when you have a video created.  Let that goal guide you in whether or not you’re going to go with a viral video or an ad.

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survey takerFirst consider the size and structure of the blogosphere.  The popularity of blogs has soared in the last few years.  There are now over 100 million blogs tracked by Technorati, which doesn’t even include the more than 70 million Chinese blogs.  According to recent demographic surveys by the Pew Internet Study and the New York Times / CBS News, blogs have become mainstream and represent virtually every audience and topic area. 

Blogs focused on a given topic tend to link to similar blogs.  What this means is you can use blogs to:

  • Develop an audience for your work while you write
  • Promote your book effectively and at low cost once it is written

A blog bears many resemblances to a book. Both have a title and subtitle that reflect the content of a book. Blog posts can be organized into categories which serve as a kind of table of contents to classify and group related material. Blog posts, typically 300-500 words in length, represent the raw content of a book. Links within posts or on the blog roll serve as a bibliography, showing references to source material.

man on soapboxHow do you attract people to your blog? Initially, through searches individuals make on popular search engine sites like Google, Yahoo, Ask and MSN. By using popular keywords in your blog title, subtitle, categories and posts, your blog will begin to turn up in these searches. You can discover these keywords using keyword discovery tools or simply checking out popular blogs in your topic area. The more you blog, the more others discover and link to your blog content, the higher will be the ranking of your blog site in search results, and the greater the traffic you will receive.

Blog software usually provides a basic set of statistics that allow you to track important information such as number of visitors, page views, referring sites and average time spent by each visitor. Page views and comments left by visitors for specific blog posts provide an indicator of popular content. This makes blogs an excellent way for you to field test and select material to be included in your book.

Once you have cultivated an audience, you can transform your blog into a great marketing platform. For example, you can:

  • Feature your book on a special blog page, with your bio, a book description, excerpts, press releases and testimonials; thus your blog can double as a book website.
  • Promote your book to a wider audience by arranging a blog tour.  A blog tour is a series of scheduled guest appearances on related blogs, where you have the opportunity to talk about your book. This is a low cost, high impact method to discover new readers for your work. 

The blogosphere is not the only place to market your work, but it can one of the best. 

manuscript by computerWhether you are publishing independently or trying to sign on with a traditional publisher, blogging can be key to your success. More publishers are now starting to view the blogosphere as a fertile ground to find promising writers. Why? As an author who blogs, you can quantify your audience and this is attractive to risk averse publishers.  This is, in essence, the new author book pitch.

Blogging is a low risk, low cost way to build your audience while you are developing your work, and then promote your finished book to that same audience. Give it a try!

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