Today's manifesto writer, Candide Kirk, shares with us some of the perspective of her experience in leading the Amman-based studio Quirkat. D2C, she writes, offers "opportunities for book imprints with more defined offerings to play a larger role in bridging the publisher-to-reader divide." And in getting there, she tells us, publishing needs to find a new tolerance for experimentation, "to keep pace with the digital landscape on which we're competing." — Porter Anderson
Let us be clear
“Direct to consumer” is not about selling books through your Web site.
Rather, it is a philosophy that puts your consumer, the reader, first and foremost in each and every activity that the business undertakes. That might seem straightforward enough, but with decades of complex author, agent and retail agreements piling up — not to mention territorial licensing, franchise deals and the like — readers may have taken a bit of a back seat in publisher corporate strategy.
The first phase of the digital evolution of the industry has taken place, and where we go next depends on publishers shifting their business away from B2B — we are no longer in the exclusive domains of resellers and middle men. Whoever makes the most of the unparalleled direct access to the consumers that digital platforms provide will emerge as the next dominant player in this ever-changing ecosystem.
Publishers must recognize that they are brand owners
They are the gatekeepers standing between fans and the authors and stories they love.
- Ask the average reader who their favourite author is and you get a clear-cut answer (or two, or more!).
- Ask who publishes that author and you see where the branding loses focus.
I look to my previous career in videogame publishing and how game publishers organized business verticals and brands around genres, and I see a lot of opportunities for book imprints with more defined offerings to play a larger role in bridging the publisher-to-reader divide. On noisy social networks, targeted content that speaks to individual interests is more likely to attract attention than general mass communication.
Authors, with varying degrees of success, have been better at connecting and communicating with their readers. Publishers can amplify those successes, instead of adding competing voices to the mix, by empowering and enabling these connections and by looking to innovators in the digital space to maximize the breadth and depth of these interactions.
So what is it that readers want?
The simple answer is more books to read. The detailed answer involves curation, personalization and greater engagement. Whether that engagement is with the publisher, imprint, author or book character depends on the book genre and reader habits, and there is no one-size-fits-all.
- For some reader types, that would mean high frequency interaction and more intimate online events.
- For others it could be a blockbuster annual convention with seasonal release lineups in the spirit of E3 and Eurogamer for games.
The detailed answer also involves a simpler way to find and buy books, and for that publishers have to think outside of the moulds that have been cast for online book retail.
- We have to experiment with new models and stop rejecting the unfamiliar.
- We have to break free of self-imposed restrictions to innovation.
- And, most importantly we have to learn to iterate with these trials quickly and efficiently to keep pace with the digital landscape on which we're competing.
We're interested in having your "Five-Minute Manifesto" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article, Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones renews his call for the FutureBook audience to reflect on five years of digital "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response is so robust that I've extended our deadline for submissions of manifestos to Monday (7th September). See below for details and a list of those published to date. Your statement, preferably no more than 500 words, should be sent to Porter.Anderson@theBookseller.com by 7th September. Please send along a headshot and short bio, as well.
And mark your diary for The FutureBook Conference, 4th December, The Mermaid, London. More details are coming Monday 7th September.
Main image - iStockphoto: Alexandr Timofee