Book Business December ’08
It’s a meltdown out there. Financial institutions are crumbling, the government is stumbling and your customers are about as bearish as a grizzly the day before it hibernates. When your retail customers’ sales are down, it means yours will be too—along with higher returns and slower payments. So how can you protect yourself? How can you hedge (do we dare use that term anymore?) your cash position and get payments more quickly? Here are 15 tips you can implement tomorrow to help you through this slough of despond.
“There’s nothing like a hot book to make things happen,” observes Peter Osnos, founder and editor-at-large of New York-based publisher PublicAffairs, a member of the Perseus Book Group. When Scott McClellan’s “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” got consumers fired up last spring, Osnos responded by utilizing digital print-on-demand (POD) technology. Here, Osnos provides eight tips for digital-printing success by recounting PublicAffairs’ experience with this overnight best-seller:
It is a challenging time to be a publisher, to be sure. David Hetherington, a 25-year book publishing veteran, describes the current climate as a “perfect storm, as various forces converge to create what may prove to be a truly unique ‘weather system’ for the book publishing industry.” He believes that the combination of the credit crisis and an economy in recession, coupled with a skittish consumer mentality, rising oil prices and the fluctuating dollar, will have a different impact on each major industry sector. “The question will be one of degree. Which sector,” he questions, “will have the toughest time, and how will they respond to the challenges?”
With a battered economy dragging down just about every retail sector, a salient fact making headlines has been the ability of discounters to maintain sales growth—a sure sign that the “Wal-Mart Effect” has permeated every corner of the business world, and that raising prices is probably not the way to realize profits. This leaves cost-cutting, which, for obvious reasons, book publishers would like to pursue aggressively without sacrificing either product quality or valued employees. Here are some tips from a cross-section of the publishing world for reining in costs without sacrificing too much in the process.
Book publishers are up against tough competition for readers’ attention, and nowhere is this more evident than in a Google search. On a search results page, we not only compete against other book titles and authors, but we also compete with our own distribution channels, free Web content, video, news and even Google’s own scanned copies of our books. If you find yourself frustrated that you don’t rank in Google as high as you think you should, you’re not alone. So what’s a book publisher to do?
Implementing a new content management system (CMS)—whether a traditional CMS, a Web CMS (often called a WMS), or both—is, to say the least, a daunting task. Integrating past content and anticipating future needs, all while trying to meet the requirements of present constituents, leaves the process riddled with potential for missteps. It’s no wonder experts in CMS implementation stress the need for adequate preparation.
$100,000 The value of what is said to be the world’s most expensive book. “Michelangelo. La Dotta Mano,” which was recently published by Italy-based FMR, is a 62-pound, velvet- and marble-bound tome depicting the life and work of Michelangelo. It takes six months to make each book, and more than 20 copies have been sold.
There are a host of practical tips for managing print production in the digital age—many are highlighted in this issue of Book Business. While working on a list of such tips—from effectively positioning outsource partners to support your supply chain goals to building content workflow around an XML-based strategy—I was diverted by a conversation with Howard Goldstein, vice president for strategic sourcing at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). Goldstein was recently relocated from Boston to Orlando to help oversee HMH’s major transition to outsourced manufacturing management and offshore manufacturing.
Two events occurred recently that some have called the biggest news to hit the industry in decades. First was the announcement of the settlement between Google, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Authors Guild, regarding Google’s controversial Book Search tool. The settlement allows Google to make millions of books available for consumers to read or buy through Google Book Search; but the big news is that Google will provide compensation to publishers and authors for their works. The settlement also established a Books Rights Registry (supported by the $125 million settlement paid by Google), which will monitor such compensation as well as work to resolve any additional disputes.
The world of content is in the midst of a nearly perfect storm. Decisions are required, but missteps are costly. These are not “bet your job” decisions. They are “bet your company” decisions. Many of these critical decisions pertain to the digital realm. Here are the top 10 ways to kill your business by making the wrong choices in digital strategy:
The Internet has changed the way that publishing companies market books, providing a myriad of new opportunities. But marketers shouldn’t forget lower-tech methods of getting the word out. Here, some experts explain how they promote their books using both the latest and the more traditional methods.