Category Close-Ups

Of Aging and Ailments, Boomers and Bodyfat, Calories and Carbs
-- 11/27/00
- continued -

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PW : Regarding health books--in this age of specialization, are very specialized topics outselling general titles, or vice versa?
Miller: Very specialized titles usually sell into our accounts in smaller numbers than general titles do, but if they catch on and find their markets, they have the capacity to keep selling for years and years.

Model: I believe our more general titles are outselling specific titles. We have specific titles--a gluten-free cookbook and lactose-free cookbooks--that are for a very targeted market and they're definitely needed, but the more general book is selling better.

Baroni: We have found that our sales are better on health books that focus on specific topics, rather than more general ones. Breast cancer and prostate cancer books have done better for us than books on general cancer prevention and treatment. Similarly, we've done well with books focused on diabetes, fibromyalgia, hypertension, thyroid function and premenopause. This is true in the fitness area as well--for instance, we have a book coming up that offers a workout program designed, both physically and psychologically, for plus-size women.

Moran: Our experience has favored the specialized titles--specific diseases like hepatitis, diabetes, osteoporosis.
G hring: In signing up a
diet book, credentials and
distinctiveness are critical.
G hring: Depends. We publish general health books that sell terrifically well, year in and year out. Consumers like having this kind of general health information available. But we have also enjoyed great success with specialized topics, such as Prostate & Cancer or Good Fat, Bad Fat.
Bollh fer: People are always seeking out medical reference books. We have a section for those in the store. We started out with a general health section and now we have 25 subsections, such as special diseases, alternative health, body work or nutrition.

Massey: People are interested in very specific topics. The big, overall tomes are not as popular; people don't want them any more. They may have one page on arthritis, but if people want to know about arthritis, they want a whole book on it.

PW: Are there increased opportunities today to publish and sell books targeted to specific demographic markets, such as African-American, gay or lesbian, etc.?

Silverman: Yes, as long as the book truly deals with issues specific to that population, rather than just being packaged to that audience with little or no difference in information from another book on the subject.

Gold: As a consumer and a trends pundit my response is yes, of course. Toothpaste is being marketed in a microniche way--there are many flavors of whitening toothpaste for older people, for example. This would naturally apply to books and health books, too. We all love to feel that "this was done just for me!"
Shepherd: Today's health
consumer is more highly
educated than previously.
Shepherd: Yes. Again, we've done very well with the Spanish-language edition of Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Recetas Nutritivas Que Curan) and I suspect we'll be adding more titles for the Latino market.
Dinas: The African-American market particularly is wide open and there are more and more books. We publish a whole line of books called African-American Health Library, and they are written specifically for the African-American community on issues like blood pressure that impact that community a lot more statistically than the other general parts of the community. In the Hispanic community, the health perspective seems to be a lot more on alternative and folk medicine as opposed to traditional medicine. Seniors have a certain perspective, gay and lesbians have a certain perspective, although it's a little bit broader based. But you have to be careful you don't splinter too much or you're going to be perceived as playing a three-card monte game where you're just repackaging information for somebody else.

Meredith: Absolutely. I think the African-American market is really growing. We have a really great book coming out in May called Prime Time. It's the African-American woman's complete guide to midlife health. It's written by the assistant surgeon general of the United States, who is a midlife African-American woman, and her co-author is an equally impressive psychologist. And this is the first book to target the midlife African-American woman and her specific health challenges, including the big four: diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer.

Jones: Yes. The Web has made niche marketing much easier. Now that we're on the Web, we no longer look at every book. That's for Amazon.com. We focus on books we like, books we feel good about recommending.
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PW: With aging baby boomers having a huge impact on many areas of society, will they increase the demand for health, diet and aging titles?

Jones: A gigantic bulge in the population is aging and for them health is a major issue. I think health will be a major issue over the next 10 to 12 years. The baby boomers ask, "How do I stay well? How do I manage my health care financially?" They want to stay healthy as long as possible. My grandparents accepted the fact that when they got to be 65, they'd have health problems. That was a natural part of aging. Now baby boomers will want to feel like they're 20 when they're 75. They're focusing not just on dealing with aging, but how to stay young, how to conquer disease and move forward.

Gold: The best example I can give you is this: Modern Maturity (AARP) Magazine, with a readership of 34 million, just hired me to be their new food columnist. What's the angle? Healthy Cooking 1-2-3! All of the recipes use only three ingredients (my signature style of cooking) and each one fits into one or more categories: fat free, low fat or low calorie.

Jorgensen: Yes. Books on aging. People are more educated now on how their bodies work. They want to be more proactive. They want to treat themselves and to do it inexpensively.

Meredith: It seems so. It's the boomers who established the market for increased markets in women's health and the increased receptivity to sex-specific advice.

Bollh fer: I think we'll see a continued interest in new books for alternative cancer treatments and a lot of books on breast cancer, as well as a parallel interest in prostate cancer. However, the men's health section d sn't sell as well as the women's.

Raymond: Absolutely. People are simply living longer with the advances in health-care technology and need the information as their bodies change and adapt. People are much more active in later years now and they are looking for better diet and nutrition information to help maximize their physical and immune system fitness as they age.

Perez: As boomers age, they're becoming more and more interested in health issues, and we're certainly publishing to these concerns. For instance, menopause remains a very important health topic, and we have a new book by Christiane Northrup, M.D., The Wisdom of Menopause, coming in March 2001. Dr. Northrup shows women how they can be physically and emotionally healthy during menopause. Obviously baby boomers are also interested in aging. Next April we're publishing Aging with Grace by David Snowdon, who has been studying hundreds of nuns since 1986 in what is commonly referred to as "The Nun Study." Nuns aged 75-104 have allowed Dr. Snowdon access to their medical and personal records. This landmark book will teach us all how to lead longer, healthier lives.

PW: On the other side of that coin, how are publishers addressing the health concerns of 20- and 30-somethings?

Post: Prevention is important for these customers. Nicotine cessation is important, because we know that so many diseases can be avoided when a person d s not smoke.

Shepherd: I don't think the 20- and 30-somethings are buying the majority of the health books on the market, but I do think they're the ones buying the yoga books and the holistic books on Eastern medicine. I think the spiritual component of these health books appeals to this market quite a bit. Obesity is prevalent among younger people, too, and in fact is dramatically on the rise. This group will gravitate toward the general fitness books more and more as their health concerns become more critical.

Jones: There are some books out there, but I don't think 20-year-old men have health concerns, nothing short of knee and back injuries. Women in their 20s are a little more concerned, but their emphasis is on weight loss. They too care about knee injuries because there are a lot of women going into athletics today, and there aren't a lot of books focusing on the needs of women athletes. There are also child-bearing issues. Books on pregnancy are always good, but women who are having their first babies when they're over 35 find that books on pregnancy don't deal with questions from people their age.

Bollh fer: I don't think they're as driven to come in and get these books, although Body for Life [HarperCollins] has sold. So have books on yoga. People having sinus problems have bought Sinus Survival [Putnam]. But I still see many people out smoking on the sidewalk. They think they're invulnerable.

Jorgensen: I think they're being forgotten. They could use books on yoga and Pilates. Any book on abdominals will sell to 30-year-old men. Rodale's doing a good job addressing this group.

L wenthal: I don't think publishers are specifically addressing the needs of people in their 20s and 30s, as their needs are not as great. Exceptions are books on pediatric health and healthy pregnancies. I also believe younger people are more open to alternative approaches and are largely the market for books on new fitness trends like Pilates.

Meredith: Not a damn thing right now, I'll tell you. You guys are too healthy. What do you need us for? Name me a health concern of a young adult. If there is one, yeah, will do it!

Silverman: I don't think they really are publishing much to 20-somethings per se. Again, an old saw is that until you have a particular ailment or until you reach a "certain age," you just don't believe there's much of a threat to your health. Since many health books deal with prevention of these threats, this is an audience that's tough to reach.

Massey: People in their 20s don't worry about their health. They are, however, interested in organic food--in a healthy lifestyle instead of specific diseases. They care about the health of the planet and their own health. We haven't addressed this area in the past, but we just bought a book that we'll probably publish in winter 2002. Right now it's titled Food Coach. It's by a young, vibrant woman who makes food information and food education appealing to a younger group.

PW: What kinds of promotional tools/ campaigns are proving effective in the crowded and competitive marketplace?

Dinas: The most effective is radio. It's very important. Also, we're finding that we're getting a lot of attention from doing ads in specialized publications that deal with the alternative health community. Also in free giveaways or magazines that focus on health--and not just mainline health but health in the alternative community--that go into health stores. Internet marketing is key. Traditional marketing, author tours and all that--we've been finding that's not necessarily the way to go because it's very expensive and you don't get the word out. One thing we've been doing is working with the supplement companies and the providers of natural health product to promote the books as promotional tools. There are two major shows in the year, one in Anaheim and one in Baltimore, National Products Expo. We bring our authors there, they sign and the companies give away thousands of these books to their clients so the word about us as an ethical publisher or the value of a certain book is being brought out on a grassroots level. It's a very powerful tool.

Moran: The Internet and Web marketing.

Raymond: We've tested a number of promotional giveaways and sweepstakes but in the end the strongest marketing vehicle is publicity, publicity, publicity.

Bollh fer: We have limited space for displays, although I can do a dump or two in my section. DK had a good display unit of the human body [for Complete Home Medical Guide by the American College of Physicians]. It was a big one, five feet wide, with blowups of things like blood cells, and then you could push a button to hear something about blood cells.

Jones: The most effective thing is to get authors writing articles for health magazines and to get them on speaking tours. When there's an article or an excerpt in a magazine, it generates sales. I look for information sheets from publishers telling me about articles by authors or where reviews of their books will appear. I want to know about authors making appearances, not autographing tours, though. People don't go to an autographing to get a health book signed--unless it's Deepak Chopra. Health book authors are not Stephen King. Galleys are very helpful to me, but I would rather a publicist e-mail me first to see if it's a book that we'd be interested in.

Massey: I can't say enough about national media. We do all the basic stuff--advertise, talk to booksellers, work with BookSense, work with the chains--but once you've got the book out there, media is what's important. The biggest hits are the morning shows--Good Morning America and Today--and Oprah.

Miller: Publicity and word of mouth are essential. Diet and health titles generally do not get much review attention on the book pages, so with our lead health titles, we launch coordinated publicity campaigns integrating national media appearances and off-the-book-page attention, local media and bookstore events, specialized online campaigns and targeted special sales campaigns. Once there has been a major publicity hit for a lead title, we like to do follow-up ads to keep it in the public attention and keep the word of mouth going.

Shepherd: We use several displays very effectively, especially for our core title, Prescription for Nutritional Healing. We do a lot of targeted mailings to our core health database and we do advertising at many of the smaller but targeted health magazines geared to the health food stores.
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