New strategic avenues for publishers was a recurring theme during the last day of Digital Book World, as topics from acquisition to marketing have all undergone significant makeovers, according to panelists and experts.
Audience-centric publishing has changed not only because of new avenues opened up by digital, but already it’s evolving because of new and creative ways publishers are utilizing their consumers. Lonely Planet, for example, employs a core group of brand loyalists that guides decisions; Sara Domville, president of F+W mentioned the new ways to test the market like webinars and live events, but also stressed that publishers shouldn’t get caught up in new technological opportunities, and that humanizing brands is even more essential given how much more consumers are exposed to. And putting a human face on a brand isn’t the only way to personalize it: Domville said that in order to convey curation to the consumer, F+W favors setting a higher volume of a smaller number of products.
“Data” has been a buzzword in publishing for a while now, and industry experts delved into the opportunities that it can provide. Osprey Group’s CEO Rebecca Smart said that Osprey expanded beyond military history into science fiction because of data that indicated readers of military history and readers of science fiction overlapped. From there, Osprey acquired sci-fi imprint Angry Robot from HarperCollins in 2010, and has further expanded with a YA sci-fi imprint: Strange Chemistry.
Panelists said data can help broader things like midlist titles; Random House’s Nina Von Moltke stated that because data is so much deeper now, it can tell publishers what works and what doesn’t, which allows budgets to be more effectively allocated—for instance, did a cover reveal work for a specific author in the past and, if so, should it be used to market that author’s next title? Tailoring marketing efforts to each specific author, made possible partially because of data, is becoming more and more necessary and, as HarperCollins’s Carolyn Pittis said: there’s not a general framework for the author-publisher relationship. “Inauthentic marketing doesn’t work,” she said.
When it comes to marketing, it’s easy to get caught up in shiny new technological opportunities, but panelists throughout the day at DBW emphasized that content is, and always will be, king. Harlequin’s Brent Lewis said everyone’s looking for “the magic bullet” when it comes to a cure-all for marketing, and that everyone wants that magic bullet to be Facebook. “But there is no magic bullet,” he said, “what you publish is what people have an attachment to.”