Another Publisher Goes Direct to Readers as HarperCollins Launches Community Reading Site for Teens

By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

As part of a larger strategy to engage more directly with readers, HarperCollins has launched a community reading site aimed at connecting teens with the publisher’s books and authors.

Epic Reads, as the site is called, will provide readers content and a place to gather around three channels: the hub, featuring all HarperTeen books; pitchdark.com for dystopian and paranormal fiction; and storycrush.com for romance and contemporary fiction.

“This is part of an ongoing and larger strategy for the house to have more direct conversations and more customized and tailored conversations around books that we know that readers have identified that they like,” said Diane Naughton, vice president of integrated marketing at HarperCollins Children’s Books.

The site will feature author profiles and a lifestyle blog, among other original content. Users can also add their own content, including photos, videos, lists and links. To buy books, users are directed online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indie Bound, among many others. Users can log in to the site using Facebook and other social outlets.

“If they sign in through Facebook for instance, we are going to be capturing anything that’s available through Facebook,” said Naughton. “We’ll be able to see what their favorite books are and what music they like. We hope that informs us and we can serve up tailored content on the site as well as go directly to them and tailor specific offerings to them.”

Naughton added that HarperCollins will also be collecting email and other personal data through its own registration system.

A developing trend in digital book marketing is for publishers to create vertical online hubs for interested readers to engage with and sometimes buy their books. Sourcebooks recently launched vertical romance site, Discover a New Love, which is also an e-book-of-the-month-type subscription service. F+W Media (parent to Digital Book World) has long used vertical communities to market and sell books to consumers. Macmillan has announced plans to turn its Tor.com science fiction hub into a digital-rights-management-free e-bookstore.

As physical bookshelf space continues to erode, publishers are pursuing new ways to help readers discover their books. According to a recent report by Goodreads, book discovery today is a complicated endeavor: There’s no single path — whether social, search or traditional marketing — to effectively marketing a book.

Long having operated exclusively as business-to-business concerns, selling books to stores that sold them in turn to readers, publishers are now finding that they have good reason to engage directly with consumers. Aside from promoting books and authors through newly available communication channels, publishers are now gathering data about what consumers like to read and using that data to acquire, develop and market content.

“Our industry tends to not spend as much time talking to readers as we need to. It’s really important that we learn to make better books,” said Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah in an interview with Digital Book World in April. Sourcebooks is using data gathered at Discover a New Love to make cover image decisions and marketing decisions, among others.

In a recent blog post at the DBW Expert Publishing blog, e-book entrepreneur and founder of Jellybooks, a new book discovery platform, Andrew Rhomberg writes, “It is not the total sales that make a direct-to-consumer shop so valuable, but the ability to conduct experiments and make data-driven decisions.”

Request for comment on this story and about its larger direct-to-consumer strategy have been sent to HarperCollins.

Write to Jeremy Greenfield

Learn more about engaging directly with consumers and improving book discoverability at the Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing Conference in New York on Sept. 24 and 25.

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