The Shatzkin Files

Publishers, brands, and the change to b2c

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I’ve been in the book business for a long time, more than 48 years since my first job on the sales floor of Brentano’s bookstore. For over 37 years it has been my fulltime occupation. My father started his career in books just before I was born, so I have been meeting publishing people more or less since I was in the cradle. And it isn’t that big a business. So, over the years, I’ve gotten to know many people in the industry.

But I hadn’t met Markus Dohle, the relatively new CEO of Random House, until we had lunch last month. He proved to be a very sharp, informal, and relaxed companion, very open with his opinions and observations and very straightforward. And since his prior experience was outside trade publishing (the reason I’d never previously met him), he brings a completely fresh personal perspective to the business.

One thing Markus said really struck me because I agree with it so wholeheartedly and because I hadn’t ever heard it said so explicitly by any of his counterparts. “We have to change from being a b2b company to b2c over the coming years,” he said. He expanded on this when I asked him whether I could attribute the quote for this piece. (I don’t want to disappoint my readers, but I make a living as a consultant, not a blogger, and my career would be crippled if I couldn’t have a conversation with an executive without a looming fear that whatever s/he said would end up in print. If some readers wonder why the sources of some comments remain anonymous, that’s your answer.)

Markus replied that he was fine being quoted because he was “convinced that publishers have to become more reader oriented in a marketing and trend finding/setting way rather than in a direct to consumer selling way.” I welcome the clarification and believe it is right in its emphasis on marketing over sales even though I think that sales, inevitably, becomes part of what a publisher has to do too. And direct contact with and tracking of individual consumers both seem absolutely essential.

(The politics of this are worth a digression to spell out. For several more years at least, big trade publishers will continue to depend primarily on a retail network to reach readers. Despite the fact that all the big retailers, in their way, compete with publishers to control content at its source, they are universally resentful if publishers compete with them to serve consumers. On the other hand, it is increasingly apparent that the retail network is reducing its size and scope and, unless publishers develop alternate channels to consumers, they’ll be reduced in size and scope as well.)

Although Markus was the first CEO whom I ever heard say explicitly that the shift to b2c was in any way a priority, there is evidence in other houses that the importance of direct consumer contact is on the radar. A senior digital officer at another large house is directing a wide-scale effort to organize their consumer contact names — which he found, as he would have in every other house — to be scattered, unorganized, and largely unusable. Pulling names together is one of a number of “first steps” the big publishers must take to act on Markus’s insight.

But there are other “first steps” that are just as important as rationalizing the contact database for consumers. Two of them are related. One is being committing to owning specific groups (or, in the current parlance: communities) of interest. This is what I refer to as “verticalization” and I have written and spoken about it exhaustively. But the commitment to verticalization, in order to be captured and turned into real equity going forward, must be expressed in branding.

The names of publishing houses and the imprints they create are their brands today. (Authors are brands for consumer marketing purposes, but publishers don’t own those brands: the authors do.) What publishers own really do work in a b2b context. Bookstore buyers, book review editors, and collection developers at libraries can discern meaning from company names and imprints. They work the way brands are supposed to work: as shortcuts to establish expectations. Brand tells an informed buyer to expect high-quality writing in a Knopf book and high-quality reproductions in an Abrams book. Brands will also signal them, before they see a finished package, whether a book is likely to feel overpriced or underpriced, and whether the publisher’s claims for promotion and media are likely to be fulfilled.

But most of these brands mean nothing to consumers. And mere knowledge of a brand doesn’t necessarily tell you what to expect if you buy it. Nor would knowledge necessarily provide you with a motivation to get “closer” to it.

The one consumer brand in publishing that means the most and provides the most equity to its owner is Harlequin. Consumers recognize it and have understandings about quality and price based on it. But because they also know that the Harlequin name means the “romance” genre, and because many romance readers buy and consume dozens, even hundreds, of titles in the genre every year, they have logical reasons to visit Harlequin’s web site repeatedly and to request and open email reminders of new publications from them.

In fact, Harlequin’s brand is so clear and so powerful that they can get people to subscribe to their books. When you think about alternative revenue sources, that might be the Holy Grail. It will certainly help publishers stay on the right track if they focus on creating brands and clusters of books around them that could conceivably deliver customers for a subscription proposition.

The Penguin brand is perhaps equally well-known, but it isn’t nearly as well defined. Penguin Classics certainly have a collective meaning, but many books are published under the Penguin imprint that aren’t classics. And while it is likely that sometimes the purchasing choice between one edition of Robinson Crusoe or Hamlet and another might be influenced by familiarity with the imprint, it is not clear that the “quality” signal is important there (because, after all, the words were set down long before Penguin or its competitors existed) as it is for a new romance novel. And it certainly would be harder for Penguin to attract regular web traffic with its brand or to make sales through an email list of brand adherents.

A brand that is in between these two is “Dummies.” It definitely creates a meaningful shortcut for a consumer; they recognize it and it tells them “this book explains the basics on the subject in a way that requires you to bring almost no knowledge to it for it to be useful.” But because Dummies covers many subjects under the sun, it would be difficult to make use of it for audience-gathering or direct marketing the way Harlequin is employed.

You wouldn’t “subscribe” to new offerings, sight unseen, from either Penguin or Dummies. That means that, in at least one very important way, those brands aren’t as useful as Harlequin. Why? They’re too broad. General Motors wouldn’t ever have sold nearly as many cars if they called all the cars “GMs” to create a megabrand and had lost the distinction between Chevrolet and Cadillac. Trying to create “one big brand” if it captures unrelated content or unrelated audiences could be “one big mistake.”

My own theory is that publishers have to completely re-think their imprints in light of the need to move from b2b to b2c. Imprints at big houses are almost always silos with no discernible b2c meaning. In fact, the names of smaller houses, because smaller houses tend to focus on subject areas, can more readily have meaning to consumers.

In fact, Random House just faced a branding question of exactly this nature and got it right. They had acquired a smaller, subject-dedicated company, Watson Guptill, a couple of years ago and had some overlap between what WG published and what Random House already did within their Clarkson Potter imprint. RH executives engineered a solution by which they preserved the venerable Watson Guptill name for “hardworking” instructional books on art and photography —  WG’s strongest historical categories — and made made Potter Crafts a subimprint of WG. They invested in building the crafts list to triple the previous output of WG. The two thirds to three quarters of the WG list that is not crafts will still be WG imprint books. By making Potter Crafts, which they owned before, a part of Watson Guptill (joining Amphoto, the well-known photo line, and WG’s other subimprints), they might get the best of all branding worlds.

And it is further worth noting that tripling down on title output to become a serious player in a niche is probably a move very few Big Six companies would be making these days, but it is necessary to think that way if you’re serious about making substantial b2c marketing efforts. Building a subscription business would almost certainly imply a growth in title output in any vertical.

Random House’s clarity on how publishers should structure brands to have content-specific meaning is still unusual. (There are other examples: Hachette’s invention of “Springboard”, a brand to do books for baby boomers, is a nod in the same direction.) Publishing Perspectives, the thoughtful online publication operated by the Frankfurt Book Fair, offered a piece on the subject six months ago that was locked into what is still publishing’s more normal b2b way of thinking. The catalyst for the post you are now reading, actually, was their editor Ed Nowatka’s piece with the provocative headline asking “Does a Publisher’s Brand Equity Translate to the Digital Age?” which (with all due respect, of which I have plenty, to Ed) I thought really didn’t address the question. But at least he asked it. I don’t recall ever reading a single piece on the subject of this one: how do what have always been b2b publishers create b2c brands?

In fact, Random House just faced a branding question of exactly this nature and got it exactly right. They had acquired a smaller, subject-dedicated company, Watson Guptill, a couple of years ago and had some overlap between what WG published and what Random House already did within their Clarkson Potter imprint. RH executives engineered a solution by which they preserved the venerable Watson Guptill name for “hardworking” instructional books on art and photography —  WG’s strongest historical categories — and made made Potter Crafts a subimprint of WG. They invested in building the crafts list to triple the previous output of WG. The two thirds to three quarters of the WG list that is not crafts will be WG imprint books. By making Potter Crafts, which they owned before, a part of Watson Guptill (joining Amphoto, the well-known photo line, and WG’s other subimprints), they are making an attempt to get the best of all branding worlds.
Random House’s clarity on how publishers should structure brands to have content-specific meaning is still unusual. (There are other examples: Hachette’s invention of “Springboard”, a brand to do books for baby boomers, is a nod in the same direction.) Publishing Perspectives, the thoughtful online publication operated by the Frankfurt Book Fair, offered a piece on the subject six months ago that was locked into what is still publishing’s more normal b2b way of thinking. The catalyst for the post you are now reading, actually, was their editor Ed Nowatka’s piece with the provocative headline asking “Does a Publisher’s Brand Equity Translate to the Digital Age?” which (with all due respect, of which I have plenty, to Ed) I thought really didn’t address the question.

This is a subject that has been on my mind for a long time. I wrote a post 18 months ago about an imprint started at another house that I considered to be, similarly, the product of the same b2b thinking that characterizes the Publishing Perspectives piece. And about a year ago, I stressed the importance for publishers of building b2c brands going forward.

I believe Markus’s insight is the necessary first step that others haven’t yet taken and, whether or not it started with Markus, the awareness of the need for consumer focus certainly helped Random House make sensible decisions to exploit the brand equity in the WG name they had acquired. Once publishers accept that being consumer-focused is essential to their long-term survival, it follows logically (although not automatically or instantaneously) that they need to think about discrete audiences on more than a book-by-book basis; that they need to gather those audiences on web sites and in mailing lists; that they need to publish books that satisfy them repeatedly, not occasionally; and that all these efforts will make more sense if each separate audience has a brand facing them with real meaning. We’re seeing that from the big publishers right now in genres; they are trying to build science fiction and romance communities and branding them. Random House built a vertical in travel earlier in the decade, developing business models out of a critical mass of content that went beyond simply selling books. That, and the efforts at Random and other big houses to build communities around genres, is a start. But a lot more development of this kind is going to be needed to replace the marketing clout being lost as the old channels to consumers wither in the months and years to come.

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  • Brilliant, but I am not sure publishers have time to make the transformation if they are too broad at this point. In fiction, the author brand is far more important than the publisher brand and it is quite clear publishers need those authors more than vice versa (assuming future distribution models to replace the current bookstore model). It may work for non-fiction, but only if the categories are fairly narrow. So it appears publishers would need multiple niches, which I believe you are suggesting. But at that point, they are already behind those small publishers or authors who were already doing it. It's really hard to see much economy of scale at this point unless publishers quickly transform their energy into developing valuable connections with readers instead distributors.

    Scott Nicholson

    • Very insightful summary of the things people buying into this have to think

      about. But the very first step is to map the world of your content and your

      content interests to the world of the web. That's the only way to begin to

      define either the boundaries of “niche” or the opportunities. That leads to

      strategies: acquisition, partnership, within publishing and without,

      monetization partners, etc.

      I agree that time is tight but not that scale isn't of value. But I have to

      say that I've racked my brain and this is really the only solution I can see

      for any but one surviving general trade publisher in the next decade or two.

      Imagine bookstores 15 or 20 years from now. Then try to imagine general

      trade publishers without bookstores.


  • Nicely brought together there Mike. Totally agree and I've been saying this for a while.

    I think the majors have an opportunity here, if they move quickly, because they possess content that can be parlayed into eyeballs.

    But as Scott notes, the window is limited.

    • Thanks, Eoin. The content can lead to eyeballs, but the eyeballs need to

      connect to a *strategy* and that means bandwidth over time to figure things

      out. In a big company, it will also mean a significant commitment, so

      therefore additional investment. All *that* means you have to start with a

      survey of the landscape internal and external and make plans. Or at least,

      that's how a consultant looks at it. It's fine to be spontaneous with your

      social marketing experiments (although those should be measured and

      programmatic as well…) but you can't build new vertical businesses by the

      seat of your pants.


      • I'd agree with that too. Content is nothing without strategy.
        Though I suspect that many people have in the past because they were unfettered by “big six” thinking and will in the future for the same reason.

      • So far, those building verticals by the seat of their pants didn't have to

        compete with companies that will have plans and resources. The cottage

        industry phase of this “industry” is going to come to an end. Time's running

        out for a *lot* of people.


  • Editor

    I'd add an additional suggestion that's particularly important as sales move online. Consumers want one stop they trust and they want it to have any book they might want. That's the great advantage that Amazon has. Publishers who start their own web stores are likely to be disappointed. As you've mentioned, they'll only attract customers who find their brand appealing.

    What's needed is an online run for publishers that'd give each of them a front-end that would work like Amazon. The front end would provide a store front, taking care of book searches and the display of information. It'd also handle billing, so customers wouldn't need multiple accounts. The rest of the store, the copy that describes the book and tracking and follow up for customers, telling them about new books, would be controlled by the publisher.

    This system wouldn't be something totally new. In the B2B model, publishers typically go to wholesalers such as Ingram for their books rather than direct to the publisher. This would do the same thing for consumers. In fact, someone like Ingram would be a good way to run this system. They'd provide both the public front-end for publisher and its billing/shipping services. They'd provide the link for a robust B2C model.

    This same system could also allow speciality front ends, similar to the displays in brick-and-mortar bookstores. Fans of a particular author would find his own online display. Fans of a particular genre could find displays run by a particular publisher or by a broader display that cover an entire genre. Everyone would benefit by the great exposure and larger sales.

    • I am not as concerned with the retail mechanisms as I am about a lot of

      other things. If publishers think of “verticals” as a cover for running a

      bookstore, they're doomed to fail. Verticals have to be about *serving a

      community*. One of the by-products of doing that effectively is a fabulous

      position to be an infomediary on sales. That can lead to other opportunities

      including, ultimately, selling some subscriptions. But “book sales” — and

      particularly *direct* book sales — have to be *low *on the monetization


      I agree that there needs to be a book and ebook supply mechanism that allows

      wide distribution of retail curation. I envision that coming from an

      aggregator, though, not from the publishers.


  • Lloyd Jassin

    The question is, “Is it too late to shift to a B2C model?” Not only are the big six competing with free, they are competing with Amazon and Google, who know their customers better than they do. (who have morphed into celestial publishers).

    Communities built around genres is a grand idea, but won't customers be suspicious of uni-brand communities built by publishers to flog their own books?

    What will it take to get readers to flock back to quality paperbacks, stiff backed hardcovers, or buy eBooks direct from the publisher's store? A single mushroom hunting enthusiast led astray by an anonymous Wiki editor who misidentifies a poisonous mushroom as “safe” and “delicious atop a bed of arugula” would be a good start.

    If I were marketing manager of the Peterson’s Guides, I’d gladly forgo my entire (imaginary) marketing budget for the “A Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America,” for one severely ill, penny wise, but dollar foolish, mushroom enthusiast, who relied to his detriment on a Wiki.

    Trademarks identify the source and quality of a product. Many stand for reliability. Yes, recommendations and reviews matter, but brands matter, too. If you are familiar with Vertigo, you know in advance something about the “flavor” of their graphic titles, which are marketed to late-teens and adults. From a marketing point of view, most publishers get failing grades. Mike, you are correct; publishing imprints, do not, as a rule, resonate with book buyers. But, is that an immutable rule? I think that is changing; at least among cutting edge indie publishers, many who populate Brooklyn's northern shore. Soft Skull is today's ESP Disk. Akashic is Stiff Records. Ig is Verve. Even spine out, these brands communicate with prospective purchasers.

    So, the it comes down to two words. “Negligent publication.” Negligent publication is a legal action for publishing defective advice. While the web is edgy and cool, and can fit in your pants' pocket, if you plan to birth your baby at home, rewire your home, or pick mushrooms in the wild, consult a recently revised and updated “big six” bound book. That's the “Got Milk” message the Association of American Publishers (AAP) should be shouting from roof tops. Wikis kill. How do you compete with free? Convince readers that cheap is dear.

    Trademark is the new copyright. It is part of the key to competing with free on the internet. The quality of information and its pedigree still matters (to some). But, quality alone isn't enough. Amazon and Google got might algorithms, and they really don't need Random House, or the big six.

    But, I think Random House has the right idea. If you are being disintermediated, create communities and rebrand your company as a trusted source. The paradox is Random House is a strong B2B brand, but not a strong B2C brand. Their focus has been on selling to bookstores not marketing to consumers. Bookstores, both online and physical, are basically self-service retailers.

    The concept of building genre communities is a grand idea. Narrow the focus. But how do you do it? Maybe the key is thinking small. Buildi communities around editors. If you can't leverage your distribution might, establish internet brands around your editors.

    I lot to think of in your post.

    • Lloyd, the first rule of developing a community focus is to be a member of

      the community, not in the book business. That's really what makes this so

      hard for general trade publishers. If you look at Cool Springs Press as a

      model, which I wrote about in a recent

      post<http: blog=”” cool-springs-press-a-gardening-publisher-that-really-understands-vertical=””“”>


      see hints of the right approach. But it can't be primarily about books. The

      advantages of being a book publisher are that you have content (which can be

      used as bait to attract eyeballs), you presumably have connections within

      the world of the content (and you certainly do if you publish repeatedly in

      the same subject area, which is a pre-requisite anyway), and you can

      monetize further connections through your book publishing operation. If you

      approach this with as a process of gathering names and then systematically

      pitching them books, *particularly *if it is just *your *books, at best

      you'll only appear to succeed for a little while until somebody who really

      does want to serve the community takes your audience away completely.

      So the Peterson-type cred doesn't come from a book or series of books

      (alone), it comes from being a known and trusted leader of the community.


  • Right now, the big publishers throw their considerable marketing clout behind the few titles they feel will appeal to the commonest denominator. They are going to have to step into the 21st Century, and start working the data that's available to them and being more intuitive, more responsive to the specific needs of the consumers. Try walking into a drugstore and just asking for a tube of Crest toothpaste anymore.

    • Actually, Wendy, some of the big publishers are very sophisticated about

      analyzing sales data from bookstores and making sure they're putting the

      right books in across their list, not just the bestsellers.They're not

      really the culprits there. The reduction of shelf space is more to blame,

      but that's happening because of sales moving to ebooks and the internet.

      It's a vicious cycle as the infrastructure and the books that benefited from

      it suffer together.


  • Alan Gilliland

    Hi Joshua. The email version of your blog today has overwritten text at bottom left. By the way, tiny news on the home front. I’m meeting a friend of yours towards end of month: Bob Kasher is coming to my garden shed in Billingshurst, West Sussex, UK, to convince me Bookmasters are the way forward into the US (physical and e-). Since you answered my reply a couple of months ago (“but, having achieved this much, I think your Korea sale is just the first of many you'll make around the world.”) I sold translation rights to an Israeli publisher a month later and Big Apple agency have 2 Indonesian publishers interested. Sales nearly 6,000 now and two Aussie 3D film modellers out of Pinewood Studios were so taken with Curd the Lion and friends they are now creating some of the characters for me in their spare time for free. How cool is that? So I’m now working on creating a U-Tube video introduction to ‘The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion (and us!) in the Land at the Back of Beyond’ . Exhibiting Frankfurt beginning October on IPG (UK) stand A934 in Hall 8 (if you are going there, pleasse drop by) []. Oh, and Joshua Tallent built my e-Book after instantly solving the formatting problems (thanks for introduction)!

    • I am wondering if you meant “Hi, Mike”, since Bob Kasher is a friend (and

      client) of mine. I don't think this actually constitutes a legit “comment”

      on the post but we'll leave it up in case there is a Joshua and he's

      counting on seeing your message here.


      • Alan Gilliland

        Stupid me. I meant Mike. Only legit was fact end of post unreadable on email. Thought I’d use that opportunity to let you know how I’ve progressed since you first helped me out referring me through Kirk Biglione to Joshua Tallent. No contact to do so except through this. Apologies. Just thought might interest you.

  • Peter Turner

    Great piece, Mike. It's refreshing to hear Markus confess to what's been pretty obvious for a while: if you're losing bookstores, you need customers. So, you have to figure out a way for them to need you. Our publishing house, Shambhala, has been distributed by Random for nearly 40 years. It's a wonderful house with a ton of smart, committed people–I hope they move quickly, overcoming internal politics, to remain vital.
    As a small, niche publisher, I did want to offer another perspective. Over 10% of our business is d2c, which is pretty good for a trade house, but growing that base is very challenging. We dominate the Eastern spirituality vertical but don't have enough content or ways of monetizing our traffic to invest aggressively in growing that side of our business. To my mind, the essential question for smaller niche oriented publishers, or maybe for publishing in general, is can we discover the most truly cost-effective ways of growing community and making sales conversions at a rate that will make up for the shrinking bookstore market.

    • Peter, I think the key for you (and for many others in your position) is to

      figure out how to monetize the vertical (“Eastern spirituality”) in ways

      that go beyond just selling them content. There have to be other

      opportunities — travel, teaching, gathering in groups — that you can

      exploit if you gather the right eyeballs. I'm afraid selling content alone

      is just not going to cut it going forward, unless there are commercial

      customers for the content (and, thus, back to b2b, which I'll write about

      another day!)


      • Peter Turner

        Thanks, Mike. Actually, we're starting to do live-streaming and digital download of author/teacher events. So, we're in the video business I guess. Strange new world.

  • Tod Shuttleworth

    Mike – I agree with Markus and with your post. Some may see Thomas Nelson as already in a vertical; perhaps inspirational publishing, Christian publishing or both. As a company we are wrestling with defining our verticals or tribes (from Seth Godin). As with any change, this is hard. It's not what we have done. It would of course be so much easier to still count on our retailers as we have previously and live in a B2B world, but being that one dimensional simply does not seem prudent any longer. Thanks for reminding us why we must push forward with this hard work.

  • Roland

    The problem with “b2c” as shorthand, it seems to me, is that it suggests a one-way relationship, whether it's meant to or not. Whether a strategy is built around “verticals” or around the more active concept of “communities,” it seems like two-way engagement is crucial (at least the opportunity for two-way engagement) to build brand, loyalty, extensibility, and all that. I am reminded by all this of an excellent book titled Net Gain:Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities, written by a couple of McKinsey consultants and published by Harvard Business School Press in, ahem, 1997. I know, it's as old as the hills in Internet time, but it's amazing how relevant it is today. [disclosure: I have absolutely no affiliation with the publisher or authors]

    • You're right about the erroneous implications in the term b2c. The term

      itself sort-of encourages the “spam them with a product catalog” which is

      exactly the wrong approach. Point taken, although I'm not sure how best to

      accommodate it.


  • Susan Hawthorne

    Independent publishers have already taken the lead in this since we have loyal readerships. At Spinifex Press we have always sold direct to the customer and our eBook program which has been running now for four years allows readers to decide whether to buy a print book or an eBook on the same page. Since we also distribute our own titles – both to booksellers and to customers we have a good balance between b2b and b2c. It's a both/and approach since both are important.

    • I suspect indies have “loyal readerships” because there's enough similarity

      between the books they do to please an audience consistently. The marketing

      and sales tactics arise from that.


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  • Robert Collings

    And yet the internet is c2c. Where does that leave a b2c content biz in the next 5-7?

    • The internet *enables* c2c and there will, of course, be more and more

      amateur or non-commercial content being made available and crowd-curated.

      That's part of my supply-and-demand-based thesis that the price of content

      inexorably goes down and that entities that make money selling content today

      are going to have to augment their business models in the future.


  • marytod

    Hi Mike – I enjoyed your post as always. I have a thought for publishers who are working hard to collect data about readers/customers/consumers in the new B2C world. They should look at the banking world to understand what NOT to do. Big banks happily collected customer information over the years then discovered to their dismay that each line of business had separate data about the same customers. They then launched complex, costly and time consuming efforts to integrate cranky old databases into a seamless, high-functioning systems to serve their customers as well as the banks. Publishers with multiple divisions and imprints might fall into the same trap.

    My second point is the use of the word ‘owning’ as in your phrase ‘one is being committed to owning specific groups’. I find this word offensive and used to say so when I worked at IBM, an organization that loves to talk about owning their customers. No company owns its customers. Perhaps other words like serving, engaging, attracting, linking might be better. A private peeve of mine 🙂

    • Your sensibility about using the word “owning” is well-taken, but it is

      still the approach that should be taken internally (but not expressed that

      way to the communities you want to “own.”)

      You're right about databases. We're about to start a little series of posts

      about publishers applying direct mail techniques and consolidating the

      information across databases is definitely a part of that conversation.


  • Judypiatkus

    Very interesting article Mike. Hay House are a terrific example of how to do b2c well. Piatkus also built a huge following for their personal development titles and have a devoted following. All companies must begin to understand how to create direct relationships with their readers. It is always a surprise to see how slow some companies are at doing this when it is so vital. Brands being launched at the present time will have the opportunity to distinguish themselves by creating innovative models using new technological developments. The challenge will be how to execute it fast and profitably.

    • It's hard in proportion to how horizontal you are. Piatkus is taking on a

      very difficult challenge, from my cursory look at your web presence, trying

      to shoehorn a wide range of interests into a consolidated

      relationship-building effort. My guess is that you'd do better to pick one

      (or five or eight) areas and really build out beyond your own content and

      into the wider web community. What makes it work so well for Hay House — or

      a big part of it — is their focus.


  • Judypiatkus

    Since 2007 Little Brown UK have owned Piatkus which was previously a well-established indie in the UK. The point is that Piatkus built a website and were selling direct to consumers ten years ago . We promoted our website in a big way inside all our printed publications. This helped build a mailing list who were regularly mailed with info about all our new publications which were targeted to their niche interests. Every time our internet mailing list went out, we saw the pre-orders rise immediately and we were also able to engage with our readers and build strong brand recognition.

    It is still taking many publishing houses too long to recognise that they need to be doing this. It isn't always easy where there are a number of brands, as you say, but it is essential for the fast-changing times ahead.

    • Thanks for all of this, Judy. No question this is something it makes sense

      for everybody to do.


  • Peter Turner

    Another key point about the value of growing d2c sales is that it is an essential metric in determining which marketing strategies are effective in making sales conversions, whether on your own sight or elsewhere.

    • It is one and it is critical. But I think publishers have missed

      opportunities to measure the effectiveness of their marketing through

      intermediary accounts as well. Bookscan and the various data reports issued

      by accounts to publishers offer ample opportunities to do that which are

      usually not exploited.


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  • Paula

    That was a very intersting and instructive read 🙂 I’m actually going to explore this topic in my M.A. thesis so I would be extremly glad for any tips and suggestions from your side- first of all, how should the precise topic of thesis sound?

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