Marketing Interview: 'Read-it-First' Lets Readers Try Before They Buy
Matthew Baldacci has been marketing books for 17 years. Currently St. Martin’s Press’ vice president of marketing and publishing operations, he has seen a number of marketing strategies come and go, and is constantly on the lookout for innovative and creative ways to market the company’s some 700 titles a year. He and his team may be on to something with its relatively new “try before you buy” model.
Read-it-First is a free e-mail service that allows subscribers to “test read” books via e-mail. Monday through Friday subscribers are sent a book excerpt that takes about five minutes to read. By the end of the week, after reading the first couple of chapters of a book, subscribers may purchase the book to continue reading it. Each week, a new book is featured. Frequently, the featured book has not yet been released to the public.
Here, Baldacci talks with Book Business about Read-it-First’s initial success, his team’s plans for significantly expanding the service and his outlook during a difficult time for the industry.
How does Read-it-First work?
Matthew Baldacci: We built [Read-it-First] from zero subscribers to the current 15,000 or so, so it’s been a nice marketing tool for us. …
The way Read-it-First works is [that] you get an e-mail every day, and there’s an introduction [before the book content] from … an editor who speaks to a certain audience. She [may talk] about baking cookies, gardening, cutting her finger, etc. It’s not really about the books, but people like to hear from her every morning.
Right now, we know what the audience likes, from experience, because we’ve tried some things that haven’t worked, too. But, going forward, we’re going to be trying some different stuff, too.
You’re set to embark on an effort to monetize this service and grow the subscription list to 100,000. How do you intend to achieve this goal?
Baldacci: What we’re attempting to do is [to] take the inherent value in the service, which is the [book content], and deliver it to a list of people who are really interested in trying before they buy. We’re doing this through our own in-house lists, our authors’ lists, we’re going to acquire some lists, and we’re also looking for partners. I’ve talked to a number of different Web sites with appropriate audiences [about potential partnerships]. It’s a very simple idea of taking this valuable content that readers want and broadening the reach of that audience.