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New, New Marketing and Merchandising
Margaret Langstaff -- 6/26/00
Tinseltown teachings
Over the last few years, the notion of what constitutes a business book has undergone a transformation. "The market for business books has gotten much wider in the last five or 10 years," Perseus publisher David G hring tells PW. "It is no longer just white male suits, but is now a true cross-section of society." Gayle Treadwell of Harvard Business School Press agrees. "Business issues are covered more and more by the general media--business is a larger part of our lives." Gene Brissie, publisher at Prentice Hall Press, remarks, "There is a broader market and a broader concept than there used to be for business books. They are more accessible, more 'real,' than ever before and seem to intersect with our lives at more points. The trend away from academics writing business books continues." Danielle Egan-Miller of NTC/Contemporary sees "the softer side of management getting greater response than ever, including pop things, like our last year's title Movies to Manage By--cute packages and very light fare."
With the ever-expanding definition of the "business book" has come a new set of marketing realities and principles spawned by the Web. "We have a tremendous interest in using our online presence better," Egan-Miller says, "and in all ways. For instance, we want to take full advantage of the free space in our title listings on Amazon.com and B&N.com. Also we're going after all opportunities for sale of online sub-rights. As the book clubs fade in importance, this is the new frontier for sub-rights."

"The old business models for hardcover and paperback editions don't apply anymore," notes Crown Business publisher Steve Ross. "There is greater demand for hardcover editions for a longer period of time and virtually no price resistance." Treadwell says, "I would like to see more 'literary' bookstores consider business books as an important part of their mix. There is very little price resistance. The rules about who buys these books have changed."

Not to mention the physical entity, the 'book' itself. Business book publishers have been busy digitalizing their wares so they can be delivered in any format, for any platform, whether e-book, online, print on demand, or something we haven't yet dreamed of. Amacom publisher Steve Arkin says, "There are a number of good years left for books on paper, but we are now covered, whatever happens. All of our books are in electronic form--that's a major accomplishment. A few years ago, publishers weren't sure where to put their investment." Though copyright protection remains an irritating issue ("Publishers have even considered giving away their books," says Simon & Schuster's Fred Hills), new encryption technologies and timely and aggressive litigation against potential pirates promise publishers a safe haven for their rights. Surely this is critical to all publishers, but especially to business book publishers whose product is aimed at readers who spend a lot of time glued to their monitors or are otherwise connected.
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