Down the Long Tail
Along with producing a number of books on its own, the company continues to co-publish, primarily through agreements with British libraries. “They will produce nearly half [of the titles],” he says, “so that means we can produce twice as many books with half the people involved.”
While nearly everything it releases is in print format, Oak Knoll took an early interest in digital rights management, realizing that some of its bibliographical reference material could find an audience online. Recently, it allowed its all-time best-selling title, John Carter and Nicolas Barker’s “ABC for Book Collectors,” to be offered as a downloadable PDF. For cost reasons, a recently released definitive bibliography of John Updike was bundled with a CD of secondary reference information and images of dust jackets.
“You can’t really produce a 900-page book in full color and only sell 1,000 copies of it [and expect to turn a profit],” Fleck says. “It just doesn’t work.”
As Oak Knoll has evolved, one area in which it has differentiated itself has been its approach to marketing. “We made a corporate decision a number of years ago that we were going to learn how to do direct marketing, and that means every possible new innovation that comes to electronic marketing, we’re going to try to be part of that,” Fleck says. “[This is] one thing we really try to do much better than anyone else.”
Seeing the potential of e-marketing, Oak Knoll invested in its own proprietary software, allowing it to gather data on customers and put it to the best use. The company’s most important marketing platform is a monthly e-mail newsletter that goes out to 11,800 subscribers worldwide.
“We usually try to have some sort of article about what’s going on in the book world, or what’s new at Oak Knoll, or concerning new resources we have or we’ve found that would be helpful [to readers],” says Laura Williams, Oak Knoll’s marketing communications specialist. In its most recent newsletter, the company announced an exclusive sponsorship agreement with viaLibri, the only meta search engine on the Web aimed at people looking for bibliographic information about rare books.