Open Road Integrated Media (OR/M) has had an incredible 2019. From its beginnings as an innovative publisher of digital backlist titles, the company has evolved into a leading e-book marketing platform. Rather than directly selling e-books, OR/M focuses on finding new readers for its publishing partners’ titles, thus boosting print and e-book sales. Through its data- driven approach to e-book marketing and its genre- and lifestyle-focused digital content brands, OR/M has helped its partners—which include Abrams, Grove Atlantic, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Ingram—double their e-book sales.
“The results are clear,” says Mary McAveney, Open Road’s CMO. “We double sales on average for titles in the program. Our success comes from a combination of adding audience and content.”
OR/M encompasses the Open Road e-book publishing house, which boasts a catalogue of thou- sands of titles available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Overdrive, as well as six content brands that strategically use data to engage readers across a variety of genres. These content brands—a set of carefully tailored websites and newsletters— utilize targeted articles, deals, excerpts, features, listicles, and social media to drive discoverability that results in audiences purchasing partner publishers’ e-books, in addition to print and audio editions.
Early Bird Books is one of OR/M’s e-newsletters; it delivers free and deeply discounted e-books to readers’ inboxes, helping them discover new authors. Early Bird Books is also a website designed for readers looking for the latest book recommendations, news, trends, and deals. The Lineup will appeal to fans of true crime, horror, and books about the paranormal. The Portalist brings science fiction and fantasy lovers a mix of content about television, films, gaming, books, and comics. Murder & Mayhem is for mystery and thriller fans. A Love So True is all about the world of romance. The Archive looks at history, science, biography, and autobiography, surfacing books that shed new light on those nonfiction subjects. And The Reader is an e-newsletter that delivers the latest book recommendations, news, trends, and deals directly to readers’ inboxes. OR/M has carefully developed these brands; each has its own dedicated newsletter audience eager to explore partner publisher titles. OR/M has seen traffic to these sites grow by 22% this year, as the company continues to fine-tune its content and data tools.
Ignition, OR/M’s flagship marketing program, delivers content to the voracious readers coming to the company’s web- sites. “It’s a discovery engine,” McAveney says. “We take in quality books and market them using our data tools, audience, and technology to improve the discover- ability for these titles and help readers find them.” Partner publishers pay nothing until OR/M’s marketing services generate revenue that exceeds a publisher’s baseline sales. At that point, a revenue split kicks in on the uplift for enrolled titles. OR/M absorbs all marketing costs. With more than 8,000 titles enrolled in Ignition’s premier “white- glove” program, OR/M has been able to deliver an average uplift of more than 100% in partner publishers’ e-book sales.
And the growth OR/M delivers isn’t limited to e-books sales. The company is now measuring print sales growth for corresponding e-book titles enrolled in Ignition. On average, print sales also increase 9.6%.
Ignition pays off for all kinds of partners, according to McAveney. “We have worked with large and small publishers across all genres and categories,” she says. “We have more than 30 partners, and all have earned money on their backlist through Ignition. If you are a publisher with good quality books, you will be successful in Ignition.”
OR/M is looking to expand its publishing partnerships even further. “We have built a scalable, data- driven, technology-enabled system that, based on any major publisher’s catalogue, can deliver at least $300-plus mil- lion in incremental high-margin revenue over five years,” OR/M CEO Paul Slavin says. “This is not ‘pie in the sky,’ as we have years of data to support this assertion, nor is there any ramp-up period. Nothing new needs to be developed. All we need is content and editorial prowess; combine these with our audience, data-driven marketing, and tech, and we will deliver.”