Scholastic's Leslie Garych and Tracy Van Straaten Talk Up the Ins and Outs of Online Catalogs
Scholastic and its activity-focused imprint Klutz Press have, like many book publishers, been experimenting with different delivery methods for seasonal catalogs. This year, Scholastic and Klutz have been making their lists available online through the Edelweiss digital catalog service, gradually transitioning more of their catalog resources from print to online. (There is no target date at present for complete conversion to digital.) Extra caught up with Scholastic's Leslie Garych, vice president of marketing services, and Tracy Van Straaten, vice president of trade publicity, to discuss the finer points of making the transition from a print-only catalog to one that is available both in print and online.
Book Business Extra: How long has Scholastic been offering its catalog online?
Leslie Garych: Our digital catalogs debuted with our summer 2011 list. We are currently still printing seasonal catalogs as well as producing the Edelweiss online catalog.
Extra: I know that many other publishers are contemplating the leap to online catalogs. What were some of the factors you considered when making the leap?
Garych: There are cost and time savings. They're environmentally friendly. They're easily updated and give you the ability to include additional assets and information beyond the confines of the print catalog. And they align with the digital direction of the industry and culture.
Extra: Can you comment on how much you're seeing in cost-savings from eliminating your print catalog?
Garych: We have been continually reducing the number of print catalogs and the savings there has offset the cost of the digital catalog.
Extra: Were you concerned about adoption of the online catalog by your buyers? What has the response been?
Garych: Rep and account feedback has been very positive regarding the digital catalog. However, there was concern about going 100-percent digital immediately, hence our gradual transition.
Extra: There seem to be several genre- and topic-specific editions of your catalogs (for instance, the Bullies and Bullying edition). Does doing online cataloging allow you to more precisely target your titles and buyers?
Tracy Van Straaten: The genre-specific catalogs/lists are created by different groups. For example, the “teen/tween” and “science fiction/fantasy” catalogs are created by my team (publicity), and we had been doing those for years as print catalogs to send to select media outlets interested in those genres/age groups. They are now available digitally instead (at a lower cost) and to a wider distribution, which is great. Others are created for our sales team by their request, or based on trends in the industry. The great thing is that we can be very nimble, and create them quickly and easily.
Extra: What was the biggest challenge for you in converting to a digital-online catalog?
Garych: Lining up our systems to provide appropriate information at the right time. Understanding that once information is online, it is available to anyone with Internet access, whether it is an industry colleague or not. Great care must be taken in what information can be shared and when.
Extra: What are some types of information you need to be more careful about with an online catalog?
Van Straaten: We need to be sure that any book titles, publication dates, book covers, etc., that we are planning to announce in a special or exclusive way are not released in the digital catalog prior to the announcement—because once the catalog is live, the information is public. Also, especially with digital cover images, they can be copied/pasted digitally in a way that was not possible from a printed catalog. Once the catalog is live online, bloggers and other media outlets can copy/paste them to their web sites. Which is terrific exposure, of course, but not if we are planning a special “reveal” first. It’s just a matter of coordinating the timing of the flow of information in a more precise way than when the catalog was printed.
Extra: Can you offer any advice or comments to other publishers considering this same move?
Garych: We've had great success and we would recommend other publishers go digital. However, starting up is not just pushing a few buttons. Thought must be given as to how the information will be displayed, what information should be shared and the time involved in maintaining the online catalog.