Special Report: The Brand's the Thing
Despite his successes, Koenig cautions that there are roadblocks. "To me, a brand is simply who your customer thinks you are. The more authentic you are, the easier it is for the customer to understand, remember and engage with you. To define your brand to your customer, you have to be able to first define it to yourself. This is a difficult thing for book publishers because many of them really don't know who they are."
Choosing an area of focus is vital to branding success.
Rachel Bressler, executive director of corporate and publisher relations at The Park Literary Group, and formerly an associate publisher at Ecco—a division of HarperCollins—says that in her experience, general interest publishers focus their branding efforts at the author level. "Authors are the brand," she says. "That's where readers connect to the material. Publishers are seeking out authors who can be successfully branded or are pursuing already successfully branded authors." This focus gives bigger houses—with a wide array of topics—more flexibility to publish potentially profitable books from any pre-determined niche.
However, Bressler argues, due to the rise of self-publishing and Amazon's publishing efforts, there is a growing need for publishing houses—of all sizes, but particularly the general interest publishers—to communicate to the readers the value of their curation work. "There's a reason publishers choose not to publish hundreds of thousands of books per year. It's the editorial work we still do that makes us valuable." Branding—boosting name-recognition and communicating the value of curation—is one way general interest publishers can compete with the avalanche of unvetted, unedited content online.
Bruce Shaw, president and publisher, and Adam Salomone, associate publisher, of The Harvard Common Press have a publishing catalog that straddles two distinct—though compatible—niches: cookbooks, and childbirth and parenting guides. They also argue that brand development is vital, but that it shouldn't necessarily always be targeted toward consumers.
Related story: Identity Publishing
- New York City