That special something

<p>Jonathan Dean</p><p>Premium food ranges and prettily-coloured consumer electronics are among the many value-added products devised by marketeers to help maximise profits. And while first editions and signed copies have always been popular with readers, canny publishers are now cashing in the new demand for extra special, or customised, editions.</p><p>One of the most successful new ideas has been crossover publishing--adult and children's editions of the same book, pioneered by Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury. The approach was picked up to massive success by Random House imprints Jonathan Cape and David Fickling, which released adult and young adult hardback versions of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time both at &#163;10.99.</p><p>"The whole thing was seen as the most brilliant marketing ever seen, but it wasn't rocket science," Dan Franklin, Jonathan Cape publishing director, says. "Basically, I read it and enlisted the help of my 13-year-old daughter to read it too. We both thought it was brilliant so the decision was made to release two different covers with two different sales forces, markets and publishers."</p><p>Author Mark Haddon saw the benefits: "The same book is reviewed in different places, advertised in different places and, most importantly, placed on two different shelves, and often in two different rooms, in the same bookshop. So I guess it may be happening a lot more often from now on."</p><p>Tailor made</p><p>Such differentiated marketing was used by Bloomsbury to promote Donna Tartt's The Little Friend. Initially released with an unsettling cover of a doll's face with a cut-out eye, Bloomsbury published a second version, more than two years after initial publication, with the jacket image of a child on a swing. "We wanted to take it to a new, summer reading, audience," Katie Bond, Bloomsbury publicity director, says. "Some readers were put off by the original cover, so we tried to appeal to them with a new, separately launched edition."</p><p>Publishing is following other industries which have tapped into the trend for differentiation too: the new iPod Mini in different colours (Pretty in Pink or Yer Blues, for example) can make people feel they have a more personally-tailored product. A pink iPod does exactly the same, technologically speaking, as a blue, green or champagne coloured one. Similarly, customers are now able to buy two different colours of Sony PlayStation 2--Charcoal Black, and, for an extra &#163;10, Satin Silver. Sony is tapping into design-conscious consumers who want a console to suit the colour scheme of their lounge.</p><p>"Customisation is rapidly becoming a big global marketing trend," Robert Williams, Penguin creative director, says. "We have to respond to what customers want or perish." Williams was responsible for the Pocket Penguins box set brought out to mark the company's 70th anniversary. It was an initiative that breathed new life and sales potential into dozens of old titles. "We take pride in re-invigorating old texts and finding new markets for them. We decided that we had to make it obvious: 'this book is for you'. If that means producing several editions of a text--each with a different cover--so be it." </p><p>Premium ranges</p><p>Supermarkets have led the way in devising food ranges with different price points to target demographically different shoppers. Tesco's Finest range and Sainsbury's Taste the Difference brand are examples of how small alterations in content (in this case food ingredients) can be seen to add value and therefore justify a higher price.</p><p>Enhancing content by adding extras has been pioneered by HarperCollins in its Harper Perennial paperbacks. All its paperbacks--both originals and former hardbacks--include a "PS" addendum of material about the author, and other titles that may appeal to readers. The range offers extras much like a DVD does--treats on top of the original to entice buyers.</p><p>"When you finish a book, there's that bereft feeling, so we offer an add-on that offers the reasons for reading and writing the book," Venetia Butterfield, Harper Perennial publisher, says. "We use the imprint to recommend books that our readers may like from a whole raft of titles, not exclusively from HarperCollins. We wanted our paperback editions to be genuinely new and offer the reader the chance to tie in with the author." They are not priced higher than other publishers' paperbacks, but HarperCollins hopes its enhancements make the books more competitive.</p><p>The practice of selling a superior experience with a premium price attached is common in the travel industry. A London to Budapest flight is &#163;85 with EasyJet and &#163;136 with British Airways, even though the flights leave on the same day and take the same time. BA's more upmarket brand promises a better quality of experience.</p><p>Beautiful books</p><p>In publishing, such an approach translates into added-value editions. The London Review Bookshop Limited series is the latest imprint to target the special editions market. It will produce a limited 150 slip-cased copies of Julian Barnes' Arthur&amp;George: 125 bound in cloth at &#163;50, and 25 in leather at &#163;125. The new imprint will publish two to three titles a year.</p><p>A pioneer in premium publishing, Bloomsbury originally produced Jonathan Strange&amp;Mr Norrell in three separate editions. There were two hardback versions, one cream with black lettering, and the other black with cream lettering, both with an r.r.p. of &#163;17.99; they were intended to appeal to male and female markets and to readers of both historical fiction and fantasy. On top of those, Bloomsbury produced 1,250 limited edition copies of a slip-cased, signed and numbered book priced at &#163;30.</p><p>Katie Bond, Bloomsbury publicity director, says: "We were very aware we had a unique novel that would do incredibly well and wanted to award the early adopters and offer them something that would become valuable. It was market savvy, but also a way to build up interest." Bloomsbury currently has green and red Christmas editions in the pipeline.</p><p>Taschen has a history of creating special books such as limited editions, innovatively designed books, and individually signed and numbered books, some of which are bound at the official Vatican bindery and can cost more than &#163;1,000. "We approach subjects in a fun and visual manner," Christa Urbain, Taschen marketing manager, says. "We use a high-quality paper and make unique books such as The Stanley Kubrick Archives, which costs &#163;100. Its design, cover, quality of images and closeness to source of the archive--it was made in co-operation with Christiane Kubrick--are important for our readers."</p><p>Editions for fans</p><p>Transworld has also found ways to produce high-quality, collectible editions of some titles, such as illustrated versions of The Da Vinci Code and Angels&amp;Demons. Originally launched in the US, the books feature religious imagery and drawings from the stories' many geographical locations. The hardcover illustrated r.r.p. of &#163;20 is a welcome premium on the paperback's &#163;6.99 price tag for booksellers and Transworld.</p><p>"They've been picked up with alacrity," Patrick Janson-Smith, Transworld publisher, says. "Such is the reputation of the books, their ardent fans buy it in any shape or form, but still they have exceeded our expectations. My instinct is that the new versions are bought by people who already own a copy and want an edition with added material too. I probably wouldn't try it from the off as we really want to establish a title in regular printed format first, but I think when a title reaches critical mass, it can be given an illustrated version."</p><p>As such, Transworld are due to bring out Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything: Special Illustrated Edition (1st November, &#163;20, 0767923227). Janson-Smith is confident of selling a "shed load". He believes the original was crying out for an illustrated edition, but warns that such titles need to be picked carefully. "It awakens one to the possibility and once someone's done it, everyone will look into it--especially considering the 'me too' nature of this industry--but someone will come a cropper. You need a body of work that says 'illustration, illustration'. The industry has to embrace cleverer marketing as the world is more gimmick prone now--what could add vim and vigour to the book?"</p><p>Orbit, Time Warner's fantasy imprint, produces omnibus editions of some of its titles, both to help streamline the backlist and to attract new readers. Terry Brooks' Shannara trilogy comprising The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara, was first published during the 1980s at &#163;7.99 apiece. Orbit last year released an omnibus edition of the three books in one hefty paperback at &#163;15.99. "We have sold 20,000 copies of the omnibus and have seen a strong, sustained sale," Tim Holman, Orbit publishing director, says. "We wanted to create a new look and attract a new readership. The omnibus edition hasn't cannibalised the individual books." Orbit also plans to bring out versions of some of its existing titles--such those by bestselling author Trudi Canavan--as children's hardbacks in Atom.</p><p>Sign wave</p><p>A tried and tested method of promoting in magazines and newspapers is by using cover mounts and giveaways. Transworld recently chose this approach to promote Sophie Kinsella's Undomestic Goddess. In an exclusive deal with Waterstone's, a limited number of shoppers also received an Ollie&amp;Nic designer bag. "Customers respond well to added value offers where the giveaway has a genuine value or is exclusive," Ben Hurd, Waterstone's marketing planner, says. "This has been the case with this particular offer and we've been very pleased with sales to date. Similarly, for the next Harry Potter, we're giving away a free copy of Lionboy (Puffin) with every purchase on launch day."</p><p>But while the industry is waking up to bright new marketing ideas, the traditional signed copy cannot be beaten. "For the past two and a half years, signings and instore events have been a very important part of our strategy," Vivienne Wordley, Foyle's commercial manager, says. "After any event, authors will sign and dedicate books and, additionally, we have a couple of people in a week to sign behind closed doors. People feel that signed copies by authors such as Ian McEwan, Jacqueline Wilson and Anthony Horowitz add value to a book."</p><p>Wordley says signings are both culturally and commercially valuable. "Readers like to be put in touch with writers and that whole experience adds to the book, while, of course, generating instore traffic," she says. "Our signed copies disappear off the shelves."</p>