If you could start a publishing empire, where would you begin and what model would you choose? First, there would be some areas that would need to be fleshed out. Are you already a company established in a field trying to venture into a new field? Are you an individual who wants to start a publishing venture and already has a reserve of capital to fall back on? Are you a self-publisher that wants to build and brand your content from the basis of a skill or passion in which you excel or are expert at?
For arguments sake, we’ll say we are a large company that is an online consumer retailer. Since the business of selling items to home-based consumers is a win/win for anyone who can get into the business, we already have a market that we can channel into any of our new ventures. We are expert at customer service and always leave the consumer with a smile after they have made a purchase. This guarantees us a return purchase sometime in the future. Our cash-flow has left us in the enviable position of being debt free and in command of a huge cash reserve for future investments, acquisitions or capital expenditures. Our model is to build a sales infrastructure that may take an initial loss on our content sales, but will eventually have the same consumer buying continuously in other sections of our inventory of products.
For all intents and purposes, you can guess the company I have just described, but this post is more about how publishers can stay competitive and on the field while keeping one of their major distribution centers from extinguishing them as viable corporate entities. Merging to become larger will only take you so far in this battle where one side needs to make money from the product they produce, while the other side is content with losing money initially while market-share increases geometrically. What will keep Publishers in the Game?
- Direct sales: Look closely about upgrading internal online channels to keep a steady flow of products streaming to consumers directly from your company website. This will not alleviate the competition, but if you take the message back to the competition’s backyard, there may be repercussions that will help you increase your online sales. This would encompass your initial print books, Print on Demand backlist, and e-books of all varieties. Discount titles sold through your web sales portal to keep consumers returning.
- Better Research on Published Content: Keep an ear on the ground to know what your consumer market is craving. It only takes one Best Seller to offset every other problem you have encountered for the year. Shoot for a “50 Shades of Grey” each year. You may not get close, but the research you do will be helpful to your company down the road. Being in touch with your audience is crucial for sustained success within the publishing field.
- Look for a Partnership: Since publishing is going through many different levels of upheaval at this time, the sidelines are loaded with companies and individuals who may be interested in making a deal and helping keep content a revenue producing enterprise. Partnerships with bookstores, libraries, and other distributors in competition with the prime competition may yield fruitful results. Remember: The enemy of my enemy is my friend!
- Changing the Return Policy: Bookstores are allowed to return titles that they have over-purchased. Since we do not want to see bookstores going out of business due to a lack of cash flow, a better sales solution would be for the publisher to run analytic algorithms on the bookstore to foretell the number of books the bookstore should buy before a stipulated penalty fee might be included in any future purchase. Publishers need bookstores, and bookstores need publishers. A fair and equitable balance for books that do not sell would help both continue to harmoniously keep content producing mutual profits.
- Abandon the “Spaghetti” Model: The content you sell must be of the highest quality. The days of putting content out to make a specified number of products per year are long gone. I refer to this as the spaghetti model after the long mentioned practice of throwing a strand of boiled spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks. Content cannot be produced to stick. The research needs to make sure that a product will have a market before it hits the sales distributors. Even if a produced product is not a best-seller, a steady sale level and “Long Tail” will essentially guarantee a large return on the investment. This is easier said than done, but with better research and market analysis, a book can make money now and in the future. As Dick Vitale might say, “Profits Baby, Profits” are where it’s at.
- GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE: This is a key. Whatever avenue you use to get your products to the marketplace, the experience must be a good one for the customer. If there is a problem, make it right immediately and give the affected consumer a discount or credit for another purchase. Build a reputation as a publisher whose customer service is second to none. It’s working for Amazon!
Publishing like it Oughta Be! (Homage to the ’86 Mets!)
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