ePubDirect is an award-winning eBook Distribution service providing global digital publishing solutions direct to publishers. Their powerful business intelligence tools, vast market reach and outstanding customer service deliver tangible returns, with the result that the Random House Group recently retained them to distribute their eBook titles.
Supplying more 1,000 on-line retailers and over 25,500 libraries, ePubDirect’s primary objective is to simplify the process of getting publisher titles to market. Using state of the art software, they handle all the storage, distribution, administration, billing and sales reporting for their client publishers. Patrick Crowley is a key player in their team and has a thorough understanding of the eBook market – here are his top 5 reasons that a publisher’s eBook strategy fails – reasons authors can learn a lot from!
1. You don’t have a strategy
Let’s start with the obvious one. So, what were your eBook sales last month? Which markets are you performing best in? How are $ sales doing against £ sales? How did you do against target? All too often, once a publisher starts selling eBooks, the key decision makers can become too immersed in the on-going daily activities to take the necessary time to assess the sales progress. It is fine to establish operational goals and objectives, but you also have to measure how well your business is performing against those goals and objectives. Measuring against the identified goals and objectives will tell you whether or not modifications and alternate strategies are required.
It is very important to have specific goals and objectives for the first twelve months of operations. Even if the goals and objectives are just to get x amount of titles up, have all your new titles released in e and to cover the cost of conversions – publishers need a focus. There is a significant learning curve in this and you won’t make your millions in year 1! In creating your eBook strategy, construct goals and objectives for your eBook list. Break down goals and objectives by quarter – in other words, identify all of the things that must be done during the first quarter, the second quarter, the third quarter and the fourth.
Make sure you track your progress!
2. Sales are awful!
Quite often this is as a result of publishers not having a SMART digital mind-set, with unrealistic prices, poor metadata, poor eBook marketing, a lack of end-user customer engagement and a reluctance to try new things.
Another reason why sales suffer is a lack of direction. You‘ve heard the old saying “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you get there?” Too many publishers tend to just ‘give it a go’ and expect to succeed without a real strategy and this typically leads to disappointment in sales figures.
3. You are only concerned with the big “elephant” accounts
There is nothing wrong with wanting to focus on the big retailers like Amazon & Apple. However, there needs to be a balance. Publishers need to broaden their revenue base and maximise revenues across multiple sales channels. If you are relying on a small number of channels then you are losing 1) margin 2) revenue 3)opportunity. Letting anything over 55-60% come from the top 2 sales channels is dangerous and can put your eBook strategy at risk. After all, we are all living in a world where ‘The Long Tail’ cannot be ignored and quite often those ‘Long Tail’ retailers are at much lower discounts than the big brand retailers.
4. You’re still selling like its 1999
The publishing industry is witnessing a major transformation. Within a few years, the vast majority of all books sold will be sold online, either in print or digital. New publishing models and workflows have developed characterised by supply chain integration, cross functional co-operation and a two-way flow of information, rather than the traditional ‘push’ method.
Does your company have a coherent structure around creating, managing and outputting metadata? Often in publishing companies Editorial are arguing with Sales who are blaming Marketing because there isn’t a real understanding of the importance of integrating digital into traditional workflows. The result is delays, poor metadata, file errors, disappointed authors, poor sales and unhappy MD’s.
Even though print is probably representing the majority of your current sales, to begin future-proofing your publishing house you need bottom up buy-in from all department’s to ensure digital success.
It is clear that the rules are changing. Information flows quickly and in many different directions. Publishers are engaging with their readers and tailoring their list accordingly. Different departments are working closely together with the end goal in sight, using technology to control the supply chain from start to finish. Books have traditionally been the epitome of one-way information, but eBooks are changing that. SourceBooks and Osprey are two of the leading lights in this regard, but I had the good fortune to meet Hot Key Books recently in London and was very impressed with their publishing ethos. They seem to have an impressive understanding of the need to experiment and trial a number of strategies before they might hit upon the big-time. In acknowledgment of this, Hot Key Books much more equality between sales/marketing and editorial than most other publishers.
5. You Have a Social Presence…But You’re Doing Nothing With It
So you’ve set up a Facebook page and are engaging with customers on other social media platforms? Good. That’s great. Getting yourself established on a social network is a great step for publishers – it might well end up being the best choice you’ve ever made. Is your goal to build brand awareness? To push a particular genre niche? To promote special offers? But…what’s this? You’re not actually posting any content, informing people of new titles, book launches, author signings, price promotions, asking for reviews, responding to fans? Why did you go to all the effort of trying to go social in the first place, then? Harnessing social media to produce word of mouth online and build a tribe of dedicated followers requires goal setting and time investment. The goodwill, consumer insight and feedback gained from being close to your customers also translate into financial rewards.