How to Reinvent Your Publishing Company for Sustained Growth
One difficulty that inhibits the growth of book publishing companies is that they think of themselves as book publishing companies, selling books through bookstores (bricks and clicks) and to perhaps to libraries. However, the advent of Amazon.com, ebooks, social media, and more demanding customer expectations challenges that philosophy. In order to compete, publishers need to explore new revenue opportunities and marketing strategies.
In fact, Amazon provides a good example of how revising and updating a business model can place a company in a better position to exploit opportunities and maximize long-term sales, revenue and profits.
Jeff Bezos founded Amzon.com in 1994 with the goal of using the Internet to revolutionize the way in which books were sold. As time went on, he recognized that his early model would not sustain the growth he desired. Around 1998 Amazon expanded from books into music, video, and games. These were logical modifications of Amazon's business model since they utilized the same logistics capabilities that books did. In 2005 Amazon introduced Amazon Prime. During this time period, Amazon ventured into on-demand book publishing with CreateSpace. An most recently Amazon has expanded into computing services, including storage and cloud computing.
The growth of Amazon from one person's idea into an enormous retail juggernaut was the result of regular, strategic adaptation to market changes and evolutionary opportunities. In other words, they re-evaluated and modified their business model. You can do the same.
There are four types of business models publishers should consider when it comes to marketing and selling their books.
1. Routine Book Marketing - The most widely practiced book-marketing strategy is to sell books through chain and independent bookstores, either physical or online. Selling books to libraries is included in this category. The focus is on unit sales sold to the general public.
Most independent publishers operate in this quadrant, competing for shelf space, customers' wallets, and media time. Books may be sold through online stores, but sales in brick-and-mortar stores are typically sold through a network of distributors and/or wholesalers. Mass communication is conducted through publicity, reviews and social media, as well as media appearances and placement.
2. Expansive Book Marketing - Some publishers seek to grow their businesses without significantly changing their routine business model. In this case they move to increase their unit sales by selling through non-bookstore retailers. Examples are gift shops, supermarkets, airport stores, military exchanges and specialty retailers. The business model is similar to routine book marketing.
3. Creative Book Marketing - In creative book marketing, publishers can find new users and uses for their existing products (printed and ebooks), or sell their content in different forms. New distribution channels may be necessary, but traditional marketing techniques suffice.
For instance, a publisher selling job-search books in routine fashion could sell them to prison libraries and through college bookstores and military exchanges. Similarly, publishers could sell existing content in a different form though new or existing channels. An example would be adding a video product to a cookbook, demonstrating the techniques described in the book.
4. Disruptive Book Marketing - Publishers seeking greater sales, revenue, and profits will disrupt their existing business activities. One way publishers have done this is to sell direct to their readers through proprietary websites and apps. But another avenue worth exploring is the world of non-retail selling. Here, books are not sold off the shelf, but are sold to buyers in businesses, associations, schools, and government agencies who use your books to solve a business problem. This is a parallel marketing strategy that does not replace work in the other three quadrants, but augments it.
For example, a marketing manager may want to increase sales of a product. You would demonstrate how giving your book away as a gift with purchase could do that. Associations want to increase revenue. Align your content with their cause for a cooperative marketing effort. Then show them how they could use your book as a fundraiser, or as a gift (premium) to people who join or renew their membership.
Disruptive marketing requires a new business model because there are no existing distributors or wholesalers to these end users. Your representative finds the potential buyers, prepares, and presents a proposal and then negotiates the sale.
There are ways to grow your publishing business without disrupting your existing comfort zone with drastic changes in your business model. Nor do you have to stretch the limits of your marketing competence. Change and expansion can be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Simply be aware of the different growth paths and investigate potential opportunities.
Brian Jud is an author, book-marketing consultant, seminar leader, television host and president of Premium Book Company, which sells books to non-bookstore buyers on a non-returnable, commission-only basis and conducts on-site training for publishers' sales forces.
Brian is the author of "How to Make Real Money Selling Books (Without Worrying About Returns)," a do-it-yourself guide to selling books to non-bookstore buyers in large quantities, with no returns. He has written many articles about book publishing and marketing, is the author of the eight e-booklets with "Proven Tips for Publishing Success," and creator of the series of "Book Marketing Wizards." He is also the editor of the bi-weekly newsletter, "Book Marketing Matters."
Brian is the host of the television series "The Book Authority" and has aired over 650 shows. In addition, he is the author, narrator and producer of the media-training video program "You're On The Air."