Sourcebooks CEO Says It's "Not Business as Usual"
Dominique Raccah—Publisher and CEO of independent book publisher Sourcebooks and co-chair of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG)—focused on the changes facing the book industry and how publishers need to adapt, during her presentation “Not Business as Usual” at BISG's Making Information Pay event on May 7 in New York.
First, she stressed the importance of “category leadership” in today's marketplace. As shelf space for books continues to decline, “Retailers will be showing the top two or three things in a category,” she said. The key to being among those selected for such limited space, she said, is focus—be the best publisher of vegan cookbooks, not just cookbooks, for example.
“We are today a much more focused publishing company. We're going to compete harder in fewer categories,” she said. “We're starting to organize internally around certain categories.”
Raccah also advised that publishers focus on “publishing authors, not books.” “What will make this author a leader in this category?” she posed. Likewise, today's marketplace demands a greater partnership between publishers and authors, she said.
As an example of how she is heeding her own advice, Sourcebooks launched its new “Author Toolkit” several weeks ago, including author webinars, media training classes and other author services, such as a tool that enables authors to turn their book covers into an e-card.
The “Content Continuum”
Raccah suggested that publishers also need to embrace the concept of the “content continuum,” or “unbundling of the publishing process,” making content accessible any way that consumers want it. “This is the largest opportunity I've seen in 22 years as a book publisher,” said Raccah.
The content continuum is a “niche publishing strategy,” she added. As an example, Raccah mentioned Sourcebooks' successful books “The Complete Book of Baby Names,” and “Best Baby Names”; Sourcebooks is now publishing its baby-name content in e-book format and as an iPhone application (which Raccah says should be profitable by the end of the year).
In addition to illustrating the potential for multimedia content sales, this shows the potential for developing a “deep vertical,” she said. Publishers should think about what the next step is in the line of content products serving a market niche, she suggested. For Sourcebooks, that could be creating a baby-name consultancy. “I'm not sure we want to be in that,” laughed Raccah, but that would be another possibility.
Another opportunity for publishers, she noted, is in enhanced digital books. Sourcebooks, for example, is publishing the title “My Hippo Has the Hiccups” with audio of the author reading (or “performing,” as Raccah said) the book. Another example is Sourcebooks' publication of “Country Music: The Masters,” a photographic tribute to country music legends, which features audio narration by the book's author Marty Stuart, explaining the context and circumstances behind the photos.
Raccah also touched on challenges facing the industry as it develops new approaches to content—such as digital rights management and pricing—and general issues the industry needs to improve, such as inventory management. “Can we create a zero-inventory model, and if not, how low [in quantity] can we go?” she asked.
Overall, to best adapt to a transforming book publishing landscape, she said, “Build a more flexible organization. Create a real DNA for change.”
Editor's note: Check out the June issue of Book Business for more coverage from Making Information Pay. For more information on the event, visit http://www.BISG.org.