Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
In my last post, I argued that publishers looking to invest in elements of a more robust digital strategy have to balance the costs of technology and the costs of implementing it with the expected savings in the overall publishing process. I also suggested that there’s a timing factor, too, and taking incremental steps early on can sometimes help maximize a return on investment.
- Sales and revenue collection
Digital makes direct sales easier and less expensive than ever before. Each publisher has to decide how best to use an array of different sales channels separately or in combination, but the choice is there. Direct sales need their own controls, so that’s an ‘extra’ to build in, but it should be one that is more than compensated for by the price received. The ‘shop’ is the publisher’s website. The payment route is direct. This is particularly useful for ebooks and print-on-demand but can potentially serve as a mechanism for print sales, too.
- Reporting and analysis
In a digital workflow, financial and management controls such as contracts—on the creative side and for the sale of rights (for the book as a whole or any of its components)—can be associated with the content modules they relate to, saving time and related costs. Have a look at my colleague David Wilcockson’s views on how this can be accomplished.
- Product and series development
Planning new products or developing series always benefits from market research. Conventionally, qualitative assessment is specially commissioned, for instance in focus groups, which can be expensive. The digital environment makes it both easier and less expensive to canvass readers and even test things like cover designs in the process of developing a title for publication. Comparing conventional costs with digital costs may lack like-for-like equivalence, but nevertheless the potential to do more in this area for less cost is clear.
- Secondary and subsidiary sales of rights or products
The process of exploiting rights, such as secondary, subsidiary, translation rights and special editions, is already as digital as it needs to be. But when a book is subdivided, or “chunked,” managing both copyright and licence rights risks increasing the complications. A digital approach, however, especially when coordinated through metadata, helps control the clutter without incurring much additional cost.
- Reader retention and brand loyalty
Publishers rarely know who their real customers are in any but the most general terms, so the digital identity of readers, the “consumer community,” if you will, is a new concept. While it is obviously valuable for publicity, marketing and sales analysis, acquiring a clearer portrait of your readers is the first step towards developing relationships that enhance consumers’ loyalty to publishers’ products and brands. The consumer community can even be seen as a publisher’s custom marketplace, every member of which is known. Exploring this new territory can be daunting for publishers who fear they lack the expertise or resources to test new marketing efforts and measure their success. But it needn’t be terribly high-tech, and it’s at least a territory that can be entered cautiously, even as gently as one book at a time.
Taken together, these ten areas suggest ways digital technology can complement conventional processes without losing any of the qualities that make the products of traditional publishing so good. In fact, one advantage of a fully digital workflow, when it’s all joined up, is that it’s easy for the conventional linear sequence to be rearranged without being discarded altogether.
Looking ahead, this low-risk approach to digital evolution provides a secure foundation on which to build the many innovative benefits digital technology can offer forward-looking publishers.