3 Creative D2C Marketing Campaigns Worth Imitating
Trade publishers launched a number of new direct-to-consumer marketing initiatives this winter, all of which are efforts to make books more discoverable online and grow captive audiences. Recently three programs caught my attention: Crave, a romance fiction app launched in December by Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books; Signature, a consumer-facing site launched by Penguin Random House in January; and 4th Shorts a mobile-friendly short story site created by HarperCollins U.K.’s imprint 4th Estate in February.
All three initiatives exemplify publishers’ efforts to engage readers online and help them discover books naturally. But there are some strategies unique to each initiative that are worth implementing in your own marketing efforts. Here are three tactics I recommend borrowing to grow your audience and drive direct sales online:
1. Attract New Readers with a Free Sample
The ebook sample, discussed at length in a recent blog post by Joe Wikert, has long been an asset in the book marketer’s toolkit to increase exposure for a title and grow sales. But as Wikert notes, issues with DRM prevent the ebook sampling experience from being as seamless and user-friendly as it could be. HarperCollins U.K.’s solution to this issue is hosting full samples on its new short story hub 4th Shorts. 4th Shorts shares complete short stories selected from titles in the 4th Estate catalog. Stories from big-name authors like Hilary Mantel live along side the works of emerging authors. The site is optimized for mobile devices to capitalize on the brief moments mobile users have to read short, quick stories.
HarperCollins is providing book samples with user-friendliness in mind, eliminating DRM and integrating these stories into the mobile reading experience. And critically, at the end of each story is a buy button that directs readers to the 4th Estate ecommerce page to purchase the complete collection. This is an incredibly easy tactic to copy, especially if your company already has an ecommerce page and website.
2. Make Books a Part of the Conversation
Signature, Penguin Random House’s latest foray into D2C marketing, puts books within a larger conversation, adding context to the discussions people have every day. Whether consumers are enthusing about the latest Oscar nominations, or discussing complex issues like race in the U.S., there is a book that can help readers better appreciate and understand these topics. “Signature is for readers who want deeper context for what’s going on around them. At Signature, we want to provide that context and bridge the gap between those readers and the authors and books they’ll find inspiring and useful,” said Kristen Fitz, director of Signature in an interview with GalleyCat.
Signature is a content marketing and book discovery play. PRH is cleverly leveraging the topics that plugged-in, culturally engaged consumers would care about – not necessarily avid book fans. When consumers discuss these topics online, PRH can seamlessly slip a book into that conversation and drive those people to the PRH ecommerce page. This strategy can be replicated by other publishers, even without a content-driven website. Simply joining a conversation happening on social media and introducing a related book into that conversation, can engage new readers.
3. Create Ebook Add-Ons Ideal for Mobile
Simon & Schuster’s Crave app was released in December with the intent of engaging romance fans on mobile. The app serializes new novels by popular romance authors, releasing installments to subscribers’ phones each month. Subscribers pay $3.99 a month to access Crave. The app immerses readers into the story through add-on content like its “Book Boyfriends.” Book Boyfriends are actors posing as the love interest in Crave novels. Periodically the Book Boyfriends send video messages to subscribers, effectively making them a part of the story and even more importantly, reminding them to keep reading.
In addition, text messages from characters as well as “reaction gifs” will also appear as the reader progresses through the story, adding another layer to the novel. The goal of these add-ons, explained Judith Curr president and publisher of Atria Books, is to engage readers in ways that they are already consuming content online and on their mobile devices. “Truly the way readers consume, share, and talk about books has changed greatly, and with Crave we are able to marry new methods of delivery with high-quality, value-added content to engage readers in an entirely new type of experience,” Curr said in a press release.
All three of these strategies are worth testing in your own book marketing efforts. What steps can you take to make your ebook samples more accessible and drive readers to your ecommerce site? How can you make books a part of larger cultural conversations, converting non-readers into avid fans? And how can you translate the ebook into a mobile-friendly experience, engaging a new generation that consumes all forms of media through their mobile devices first?
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.