Partner Voices: Firebrand CEO Fran Toolan on Helping Publishers Drive Ebook Sales
There's nary a book publisher out there that wouldn't like to see its ebook revenues significantly grow in the next calendar year. And, in fact, many are ramping up their efforts to diversify the outlets for selling ebooks, whether that is through direct-to-consumer channels, ebook wholesalers, or third-party retailers.
Crucial to these efforts is putting in place the infrastructure needed to move ebooks through the supply chain efficiently and make ebook sales and distribution truly scalable. Here Firebrand Technologies CEO Fran Toolan shares insight and experience gained from working first-hand with publishers to boost their ebook revenue with an "industrial-strength" ebook sales and distribution mechanism.
To learn more about how other book publishers have overcome the challenges of getting their ebooks to market, download for free the white paper, "Demystifying eBooks: How publishers are decreasing the friction of eBook distribution & direct-to-consumer sales."
If a publisher wants to ramp up their ebooks sales in 2015, what should they make a priority?
The answer to this question is easy, but the execution of the answer is challenging. In order to ramp up ebook sales, the marketing messages about the book, and the ability to buy the book needs to be everywhere the customers are. Publishers have the opportunity to sell their ebooks into many more venues than ever before, and more are coming online every day. A good digital wholesaler can help finding these new markets. While it's true that the vast majority of ebook sales still come from just a few customers, we have seen a significant uptick in sales from non-traditional venues.
When working with potential and current clients, what are the major obstacles you see them facing when trying to grow their ebook revenue?
No two publishers are alike, and there seems to be a continuum of understanding digital marketing that ranges from the very sophisticated to those that believe that all that is necessary for success is good content. Unfortunately, there are not many publishers at the sophisticated end of that spectrum, and too many that believe their books will sell themselves. So, I see the main obstacle/challenge ahead of most publishers is to become students of digital marketing techniques. As our collective IQ in this area rises, I believe we will see a significant change in ebook sales.
Do you envision the clunkiness of the ebook supply chain will improve or stay the same? How do you see Firebrand fitting into that picture?
I already see signs that the "wild west" nature of the ebook supply chain is settling down. As I visit with publishers, I get a strong sense that their anxiety about ebooks has abated. They know the importance of ebooks now, and generally understand what their particular print/ebook revenue ratios are and will be for a while. I see more and more publishers abandoning the "bailing wire and tape" they used to hold their digital operations together in favor of more industrial strength solutions. This is clearly where Firebrand excels and we are excited about what we are seeing.
What role do you see direct-to-consumer sales playing in the industry five years from now?
Wow...five years? It's hard to see two years out, much less five, so my answer is a wild guess. My guess is based on the predictions I read about the use of mobile phones and wearables. I saw some recent data that suggest that the wearable market is expected to expand from $1.5 billion to over $30 billion by the end of 2016. This is an amazing statistic that suggests to me that personalized digital marketing and sales activities should be expanding exponentially as well in a few years. I think this bodes very well for publishing and publishers. The opportunities for curated and authoritative content will be very strong for those companies that develop those core competencies.
What should the book industry be doing to mitigate the Amazon stranglehold?
I think that we all need to come to terms with the fact that the "book industry" does not mean the same thing it did a few years ago. Too many of us still believe the definition of the book industry is the same as it was when all the players in ecosystem were dedicated to the success of books. That is no longer the case. Those of us involved in the development and marketing of books still share that dedication to the publishing of long form narrative documents, but most of the larger players involved in the retail end of things do not. We are delivering widgets into a retail machine. So, the only way to mitigate this situation is to develop products and services that don't sell through traditional retail machines. There are a few very smart folks out there in our traditional book industry that are doing amazing things with content and are increasingly deriving their revenues through different channels. They are paving some nice pathways for others to follow.
Is there anything else you'd like to offer on this topic?
While I am pleased to see that publishers are becoming more comfortable with ebooks in general and now understand much more about them, they cannot become complacent. We may have a lull in the digital disruption, but it is far from over, and with each new innovation, the opportunities for disruption will keep us all on the edge of our seats! Those companies that embrace the constant disruption will do very well. I think the future can be very bright for publishers who see change as an opportunity and not a threat.
Denis Wilson was previously content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzed and reported on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aimed to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.