Special Report: Publishing Business Conference and Expo 2012: Excellence and Innovation Take Center Stage
"Market research never reinvented anything," he said, "so be the reader. If you can't put out something that interests you, don't be surprised when it fails."
Prescriptions For Success
Marcus Leaver, outgoing president of Sterling Publishing, offered attendees what he called "common sense prescriptions" that he has found to be most important and relevant to his business.
Leaver's first bit of advice dovetailed nicely with Tyrangiel's message of focusing on quality. Book publishers, he said, should create "beautiful objects."
"When I talk about beautiful objects, I'm talking about the fact that quality will be the most important predictor of our success," he said. "In a new world order where consumers will have every conceivable option at their fingertips, quality—real quality—matters more than ever. It doesn't matter what the book is about. What matters is that it is really good at what it is supposed to do and that it looks amazing."
"If you focus on quality you will end up publishing fewer books," Leaver added, "so make each book really damn good."
Related to this is the idea that no book should be published without a clear idea of its appeal and purpose. As the market continues to segment, Leaver said, publishers must identify a specific market they are looking to target. Borrowing English terms for housemaids and flamboyant celebrities, Leaver identified books as either "skivvies"—serving a utilitarian purpose—or "luvvies"—an artistic object with inspirational appeal. "Books that are neither are toast," he said. "They are mid-list and have no clear purpose."
Align your sales and marketing efforts along these same lines, Leaver said, through targeted efforts utilizing SEO, mobile search marketing, social media and customer demographics, rather than mass publicity efforts. Smart targeting, along with an emphasis on discoverability (by going where audiences are and marketing to them directly) and multi-platform campaigns, are the key to cutting through the noise and reaching an audience.