Internet Extends Endless Opportunity
"It's never complete." There are always more interesting places to take it," comments Kelly Maragni, director of marketing for Health Communications. Maragni is speaking of the corporate Web site (http://www.hci-online.com), which she's been working on continuously for the past two years, with the help of technical and developmental expertise provided by Worldwide Publishing.
For example, though blurbs and excerpts and covers are up on the Web, she wonders whether she should videotape an upcoming book signing event and run video clips on the Web.
Her clients--bookstores, distributors, wholesalers and chain stores--are also excited about the Internet and want sample covers, book excerpts or promotional blurbs, page count data, or other information for their own Web sites.
Benefits of the Internet
The benefits the Internet can provide are so enormous that they are revolutionizing book marketing. "You know how the book business works: When you come out with a book, you might have two months to make that book a success. If it doesn't start flying off the shelves it's going to be replaced," Maragni explains.
But Web marketing changes this cycle. "As soon as we have a book cover available, and a working title, we can get an ISBN number and a price." That can all be put on the Web site, possibly as far ahead as a year before the publication date. "The Web is faster than print," concludes Maragni.
The Web also gives new life to older titles. "Now the back list becomes almost a front list," says Maragni, adding that the company is just beginning to see the impact of this on overall corporate sales.
For example, Internet surfers looking for a specific topic, such as alcohol abuse, for example, are now likely to find a Health Communications title, including some either not available in retail stores or no longer given prime shelf space.
As part of her job, Maragni must decide what to post and how to best help browsers find what they need quickly. In just two years, she's developed strong convictions as to what makes a Web site effective. Maragni believes that good Web site management demands attention to the following principles
Make the copy count. While previews, excerpts and synopses are all used on the Web, there's no magic formula applicable to every title.
"You can't always just take copy off of a book jacket. It doesn't always work. You need to warm it up and massage it for maximum impact so it can be read really quickly," she explains. Selecting the right approach for individual titles and collecting the clips or images to be posted is, in fact, "the most cumbersome part" of developing a Web site, says Maragni. "It really requires someone knowing the books."
It's also important to consider how much information is too much. A long, rambling description of a book may force the browser to lose interest entirely. "Get your message out and lead them on to another title if it is not what they are looking for," advises Maragni.
Within the Web site, "One of the things that's really important is categorizing the books properly."
Web files have a "keyword" file that browsers search in addition to titles. It's important to make sure those keywords include the words a browser might type into a search engine. Accurate and creative keywording allows readers to locate multiple titles quickly.
Making the most of linking. Authors can be encouraged to link their own pages to the publisher, and vice versa. Each helps promote the other this way.
Health Communications offers commissions to (preregistered) authors and other organizations when they link browsers to the Health Communications site who ultimately buy books.
In building a Web site, "You can't always just take copy off of a book jacket," says Kelly Maragni, director of marketing for Health Communications. Often, copy must be modified or rewritten for maximum impact in the new medium, she explains.