Editor’s Note: Show Your Readers the Way … to Your Content
In this issue, Jesse McDougall's E-marketing Strategy column talks about the benefits of e-mail newsletters (or e-mail communication of any kind, really) for communicating directly with your audience. In magazine publishing, e-newsletters are a primary source for maintaining direct communications with readers, providing valuable content and for cross-promoting products. I guess I'm surprised that more book publishers don't utilize this means of communication when it offers potentially great value.
One of the best examples I've seen of a publisher taking advantage of readers' interests is HarperCollins' AuthorTracker, which not only serves as a source of e-mail communication, but also as a means for building an audience list and what the audience likes. When HarperCollins first introduced its Author Tracker, I signed up to receive communications about several authors, including Clive Barker, one of my longtime favorite writers. (It's a shame that his imagination and ability to combine beautiful writing with frightfully realistic "horror" stories has not been adequately represented in film.) The other day, I received an e-mail from AuthorTracker with the subject "Now Available from Clive Barker." The e-mail announced Barker's new release "Abarat," available in paperback, e-book and audio. It gave a brief teaser for the book and a link to read more, as well as a link to "Start Reading Now," which takes you to the Browse Inside page for the new book in The New York Times Best-Selling series. A "BookPerk" link takes you to a "Welcome!" page, that suggests readers enter their e-mail addresses to receive exclusive perks and continue to see current offers.
It's brilliant. Fans of specific authors can receive alerts about when the author's next book is out. I would love to have this capability to find out when new content is available for many other authors. I'd love to know when they might be in my area for a book signing (those are still done, right?) … or when one of their books is being made into a film. If I'm lucky, I'll hear about it some other way, but that's leaving an awful lot to chance.
Especially with many publishers pondering ways to sell books direct to consumers, following Borders' collapse, and fewer and fewer bookstores and book shelves on which to sell their books, inviting fans of your content to sign up to receive more of the same is a great way to build your audience list/database, to promote your authors to their fans, and even to cross-promote other books. (Think of Amazon's "others who ordered [this book] also ordered [this other book].")
An example shown in the E-Marketing Strategy column is an e-newsletter by Shambhala Publications in which a quote of the week, from one of Shambhala's books on Buddhism and "classics of the wisdom traditions," is featured.
And what if you embedded video in the e-mail of an author talking about a new book? I would, by all means, watch a video of Clive Barker talking about "Abarat," and it likely would even inspire me more to buy the book.
Different tactics would work for different companies, but the point is to think about what assets you have to promote. Are your authors the ones with the following, or is your subject matter (e.g., self help, religion, travel, cooking, etc.) what would appeal most to your audience? How can you get them to sign up for something? What can you offer them for free? (Read a free chapter from "This New Book" and get a sneak peek at other new titles; or get a quote of the day from "XYZ Business Book," and famed business strategist Joe Business.) Put a QR code on your books' covers taking readers to a sign-up page for more information about that author, new titles coming out, other books similar to that one, or books recommended by the author. Cookbooks could send readers to a landing page for an e-newsletter offering a new recipe every week or month. Travel books could offer travel tips or featured travel hot spots.
Today, the closer you can get to your audience, the better it seems you will be, and the more likely you are to be able to sell them additional products.
Book publishers have the awesome ability to bring books into peoples' homes, into their lives. Books have power. Authors have power. That power can be used to benefit the reader—who craves more content that will impact their lives—as well as to benefit you, the publisher. After all, that's pretty much what you do—making unbelievably valuable content (and authors) available to the world. Why not take advantage of every way you can to make sure the world knows about what you have to offer?