March 2009


child-wirth-ebookThe ebook continues on a roll.  March 8-14 was national Read an e-Book week and by all accounts was well received.  As if to underscore the continued success of the electronic reading format, the American Association of Publishers announced that e-books sales were up 68.4 percent for 2008.  This amid a mostly gloomy assessment of down publisher sales. Smashwords, a blog focused on ebooks, characterizedd the  growing popularity of the ebook format thus:

For the five years between 2002 and 2007 (Click herefor data, opens a PDF), overall trade book sales averaged an annual increase of 2.5% (lower than inflation, which means unit sales probably decreased), while ebooks for the same period turned in a 55.7% average annualized increase.

As any numbers guy or gal will tell you, it’s easy to show great sales growth when you’re growing off of a small base. But when sales show sequential acceleration off of sequentially increasing bases (meaning, you grow faster as you grow larger), then something really interesting is taking place.

If you extrapolate the 70% growth for five more years (and I would argue 70% is a relatively conservative number), then ebooks rise to $1.6 billion, and assuming a 2% growth rate of the overall trade book sales to $26.7 billion (generous), ebooks would then represent a respectable 6% of sales.

stanzaNot quite a tipping yet, but approaching one.  Other news on the ebook front underscored the continuing interest by authors and publishers in exploring the ebook domain.

  • Novelist Danielle Steel released 71 of her works, including the new One Day at a Time, as ebookson Amazon.com and The eBook Store by Sony. This is the first time Steel’s books, which are published by the Random House division of Bantam Dell, have been made available in digital format.
  • In November, Random House announced it would be making 8,000 to 15,000 additional books from its list  available in digital form.
  • Apple’s popular iPhone, now in use by nearly 20 million people, is also creating a a new market for e-books with free applications like Stanza, an e-book reader for the iPhone, making it easier to read books on the go. Users download the app for free directly from their phones. The popularity of the application is told by the nearly one million downloads so far. 
  • The Canadian bookselling chain Indigo has launched a service called Shortcoversto market e-books to smartphones and computers.  The firm will initially offer about 50,000 titles, priced from $4.99 to $19.99 (US$4.02 to US$16.11), and chapters will be available for 99 cents (80 US cents) each.  Some 200,000 sample chapters will be available for free.  Shortcovers will offer recommendations to users based on their reading habits and is creating a forum where self-published and unpublished writers can submit a chapter from a novel, a short story or an article, and list them for free, with ads or for 99 cents without ads.

The ebook continues to march steadily toward mainstream acceptance despite ebook reader war, pricing confusinos and a still modest inventory of titles.  While it’s still difficult to predict exactly what an ebook world will look like, it does seem more certain that we are heading toward one.

 


 

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fight-for-your-money-book-coverRecently, Broadway Books, (part of the Crown Group, a division of Random House), launched an innovative marketing strategy to promote David Bach’s new book Fight for Your Money which uses Facebook and Twitter as an integral part of its campaign.  The Facebook page created around the title offers a hybrid of standard Facebook functionality – e.g. discussion forums, video and picture albums – but also custom applications for free chapter previews, pre-ordering the book, as well as applications that integrate with the book content. For example, there is a ‘savings calculator’ that tracks users’ savings based on tips from the book and generates viral messages throughout the reader’s network of friends whenever money is saved.

vidar-brekke

Vidar Brekke

The strategy was engineered b Vidar Brekke , the CEO of Social Intent, and his team at Social Intent.  The company is a social software studio serving marketers with social networking strategy and application development.  Previously, Mr. Brekke served as a VP Marketing at JPMorgan, Strategist with Ogilvy and VP Marketing at Linkstorm.  We talked with him about the Random House project and his views about social media marketing for book publishers.

FPP:  You mention that your company, Social Intent, is a “social software studio.” Can you give us an example of that?

VB:  Web 2.0 was not just a seismic shift in technology (video, mobile, blogs, micro-messaging, etc.) and user engagement models (social networking, viral, peer-to-peer, etc.) but it brought a new cast of customer characters onto the stage – the networked user, the user-broadcaster, the activist, the tastemaker, the activist, the stalker, the crowd, and so on.

Catering to this new audience has also created a new cast of service providers; technologists reinventing themselves as marketers, and marketers turning technologist, PR specialists becoming social relations specialists. It was, and still is, a big social science project where the sheer number of factors in flux makes it hard to understand cause and effect – and neither traditional marketers, PR pros nor technologists (no matter how much they desired to reinvent themselves) could completely grasp what was going on. At Social Intent, traditional marketers, strategists, technologists and user experience professionals have shed their labels and looked at this new world with fresh eyes and found ourselves back to basics. It’s about people and their relationships to others, and it’s about using technology to create new experiences that cater to basic human needs for recognition, self-actualization, being included & staying informed. That’s what makes software social.

FPP:  How did your team hook up with Broadway Books?

David Bach

David Bach

VB:  David (who already had a passionate and loyal following) had been looking for the right social media tools for his Finish Rich community for some time. He introduced us to Broadway, and together we worked up a plan to make Facebook a key part of the release strategy for the book.

FPP:  Can you describe the Facebook application you created for Broadway Books?

VB:  As social media specialists, it was our task to take our customer’s ‘social intent’ and craft a strategy that aligns their marketing goals with social networking best practices. A key differentiator for us as an agency is that we truly believe that social networking is the new customer relationship management (CRM). Thus we set out to develop a Facebook presence for David Bach that, while serving the short-term goal of promoting his new book Fight For Your Money, also created a sense of community among his fans that would thrive between book releases.

david-bach-facebook-1

We tell our clients to also look at their social media investment as a product extension. Customers should get additional value from engaging with the brand via social media; prospects should get to sample what the brand is all about, be it utility, fun or anything in between. When marketers help people achieve their goals, people will return the favor through both evangelism and purchase.

So in the case of Fight For Your Money, which is a book full of advice on how to make smarter purchase decisions and ‘fight back’ against companies that are overcharging you, we extracted dozens of tips and embedded them into a custom ‘savings calculator’ that allowed users to read a tip, act on it and then the calculator would show them their annual savings – and send a message to the user’s friends newsfeed announcing how much money was saved and encouraging them to do the same. We would also show how much money all Americans have saved by acting on these tips – creating a sense of a ‘larger mission’. We built several other applications that would function as a trigger for further viral messaging and engagement, such as reading a free sample chapter, downloading bonus content, RSVP’ing to tuning into a TV or radio appearance, etc. All measurable in its effectiveness to the marketer, of course.

david-bach-facebook-2

Our strategy for David Bach was to bring his book and the whole “Finish Rich” franchise to life in a way that allowed fans to take ownership of the brand and make the benefits of the David Bach “experience” tangible to both fans and (through viral channels) friends of fans.

Also key to growing his fan base is to give the evangelists a voice and a medium – and when done right, these voices convert their peers in a way that a marketer couldn’t. Truth is, people trust each other, not brands and marketers. At the same time, social media makes the brand and its representatives more approachable and peer-like, a strategy that David Bach has fully embraced by engaging his fans both via Facebook and Twitter.

FPP:  What other applications does Broadway Books have planned to support the content of the book once it gets into customers’ hands?

VB:  We recently upgraded David Bach’s page to the new Pages for Brands product that Facebook offers, which we’re “tricking out” to the fullest to create even more engagement and virality. There are more custom applications for David Bach in the works that will further enable fans to share their story about how they are ‘fighting for their money’ using the David Bach brand as a symbol and reference point.

FPP:  In general, how can social marketing help book publishers better connect with readers?

VB:  First and foremost, book marketers need to understand and define their brand promise and readership. Then they need to quantify what marketing and business success means to them. This will help us narrow down the list of platforms and types of engagements that are appropriate.

Secondly, publishers need to figure out if their role in social media is to engage directly with their readers or are they seeking to provide tools for reader-to-reader engagement? Social media isn’t a set-and-forget tactic, it’s a commitment, and publishers need to be realistic about what it takes to remain engaged over time.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to social media for publishers or other marketers. Creating a social marketing program is not necessarily as inexpensive as many have come to believe.

A successful social marketing program requires expertise that spans design, usability, branding, advertising, technology and PR. It’s not something an intern offering to set up a blog is likely to pull off successfully.

And finally, if you build it, they won’t come until you put some marketing dollars behind it.

 


 

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book-a-minuteRecently, Penguin Books announced it would be bringing out more ultra short run teaser editions to better test the market for new titles and avoid the risk of longer book runs.  This cautious attitude is not surprising given the economic climate and mounting evidence of declining book sales.  Will this trend catch on and continue beyond the current recession (or mini-depression)?  Hard to say, but sometimes practices started during hard times become standard procedure even after the economy recovers.  For instance, the much hated (by publishers anyway) returns policy used by most bookstores today was begun during the Great Depression as a way for bookstores to survive.

Teaser editions may also be part of a longer term trend wherein every aspect of a book is tested to ensure a viable market or at least cut one’s losses before too many resources are expended.  This is a valuable discipline for publishers to follow even in good times.   A short run, however, has to be accompanied by a well targeted marketing  campaign since it is, in essence, a statistical sample that will be used to validate a larger production run.  

How could such test market testing work?  Here are some thoughts.

  • measure-manA brief pay-per click ad campaign to test book covers, title and pitch to see what works best and learn something about the motivation of potential purchasers.
  • Data from BookScan to identify sales trends for similar titles and provide a guide as to which channels offer the best results.
  • Blog tours and social media campaigns n lieu of book tours and other traditional book marketing to save money and get the buzz started with target groups of readers.
  • In some cases, the initial test runs could be with e-books rather than print books.  As the market for e0books broadens, this will no doubt become more commonplace.

In addition to being low cost and targeted, everything done during these teaser campaigns would have to be clearly measurable if the are to be of any use as barometers for consumer interest.  

Every industry adopts the technology of its age.  Mass production and mass marketing co-evolved.  In this century, the uber technology is the Internet.  Book publishing businesses may begin to look and act more like software development companies.

 


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