Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Many publishers think direct-to-consumer (D2C) programs are difficult to implement, expensive to operate and generate heaps of extra work that their bottom lines can never justify, leaving those initiatives the exclusive territory of only the biggest players in the industry.
But all publishers can and should be developing D2C strategies, including—and especially—small and mid-size publishers focused on a specific category or niche.
Many smaller and independent publishers have already proven that selling directly to customers is a necessity for remaining competitive, not to mention a major “value-add” that authors are looking for in publishers these days. But few of them have internalized the model as a defining feature of their brands and businesses.
The first goal for every author and publisher is to find 1,000 fans who will purchase your latest book the day it’s published. And the second goal is to give them not only an option but a reason to purchase it from your own website. Failing that, you should give those fans a reason to give you their contact information go on their way to buy it from an online retailer.
Because going direct-to-consumer isn’t just about the revenue you’ll gain from establishing a direct sales channel. Equally important—maybe even more so—is developing that customer relationship that in many cases doesn’t yet exist in the publishing world.
Speaking at Digital Book World 2015 last month, Squidoo.com founder Seth Godin underscored that point:
— Digital Book World (@DigiBookWorld) January 15, 2015
The key is knowing who that customer is so you can market to them much more effectively. In other words, D2C is at least as much about marketing and discovery as it is about sales. (After all, why do you think your largest retail partners, like Amazon, notoriously don’t share information about who is buying your books? It’s because they know that the most important thing is the direct customer relationship.)
And in that endeavor, small and mid-size publishers may actually have a leg up on their larger counterparts. Building out a robust D2C operation will be a long-term undertaking for even the most committed publishers. (HarperCollins, for instance, is putting considerable resources into to doing just that.) And historically, most publishers have shied away from going head-to-head with their biggest distributors in the process of building out a D2C program. But doing so is a necessity to survive in this industry and doesn’t have to mean biting the hand that feeds you.
Publishers focused on a niche area or genre stand a greater chance of identifying and building a fan-base that will buy direct than do large trade publishers with myriad imprints and vast catalogs—simply because those smaller presses already publish with a specific audience in mind.
One reason major trade publishers are thinking so hard about developing D2C strategies is precisely because readers so seldom say to themselves, “I can’t wait to buy that new Simon & Schuster book.” But smaller publishers can more readily get someone to say that of their own smaller, more tightly focused imprints and brands.
Potentially a lot of someones.