Many publishers currently operating offline jump into the web for a variety of reasons that are often unclear. The best reason for a web presence is the awesome potential for reducing costs and efforts and/or increasing revenues and effectiveness.
However, depending on the type of publisher, the path or paths that lead to such outcomes are not as specific as one might think. The number one reason for any given business to go online can vary tremendously, but generally offer one of four different benefits:
1. A distribution channel,
2. A marketing channel,
3. A sales channel,
4. A communications (support) channel,
Or a combination of any of the above.
So here's a quick look at some examples based on those four benefits. Maybe this could enlighten you on potential breakthroughs hidden in your business:
Doing business online expands the marketplace to national and international markets, and offers the ability to reach new, untapped markets that would have been potentially unreachable otherwise. On the Internet, boundaries (at least in terms of communication) are nonexistent or less restrictive.
For one, a website can provide a supplementary sales channel that can reach, promote to and serve markets that would have been difficult or even impossible to reach in the real world. For another, the Internet provides a unique benefit not available elsewhere: Through what is often referred to as "viral marketing," the web can help propagate the knowledge of a website, publishing company or publication faster and more extensively than ever before.
An online business decreases administrative costs normally associated with managing paper-based information. It also lowers telecommunications costs since the Internet is more economical than other conventional forms of communication.
For example, for a totally bricks-and-mortar business the Internet mainly provides an additional and inexpensive form of advertising. Among others, it helps to reduce the costs associated with conducting business such as providing information - like a brochure or catalog - quickly and efficiently, without the need for publishing a physical one or for its postage.
It also reduces the time that normally lapses between the launch of a publication, building its consumer awareness, selling the publication and delivering it to the market. In other words, it reduces cycle times (like the adoption and sales cycles) and time-to-market, and shortens the distribution channel by delivering directly to the end-user or removing excess layers.
For instance, a new publication can be created, manufactured, launched and deployed - as well as promoted, sold and delivered to the marketplace - faster than any other traditional forms of media. As a result, increased market share can also be achievable in a vastly shorter period of time.
With the Internet, the need for human attention or involvement traditionally required in a bricks-and-mortar business, from labor to middle management, is considerably lessened. And the web increases and improves productivity, output, delivery of services at a reduced cost, effectiveness and quality.
Many parts of the traditional sales process can be completely automated with the help of a website, thus saving time, money and person-hours usually required. Also, being electronic especially in the sales order and fulfillment processes, the Internet eliminates much of the potential for human errors one often encounters when such are processed by personnel.
A web-based publishing business also allows reduced inventories and overhead by facilitating a "pull" type of supply chain management (e.g., "just-in-time" inventory) and allows for the customization of publications and publishing-related services, which in turn provides a significant competitive advantage often not available in the real world.
Above all, the greatest benefit of the web is the ability for online businesses to offer customized and/or personalized services. If current trends offer any indication, the demand for personalized services will continue to grow and the future of the Internet lies in personalized services supplied by small businesses and individuals.
Also, with the help of the web publications can be stocked and orders can be fulfilled more efficiently, thereby reducing the time between the outlay of capital and the receipt of inventory.
An added advantage to doing business online is that the web enhances communications within organizations, between business partners and with a publishing company's various publics (e.g., writers, bookstores and other retail outlets, the media, specific market segments, the government, related agencies, trade associations, etc).
To illustrate, news releases can be distributed quicker on the Internet. Additionally, complete follow-up information, among others, can be posted on one's website for retrieval by the press. On top of the rapid dissemination of information, the correction of errors, as well as the modification and update of data, can be done quicker and more effectively through the help of the web.
The Internet greatly facilitates the adoption and branding processes - such as with the ability to project a strong corporate identity and to build brand equity, both over a shorter period of time. Moreover, it removes potentially critical, physical comparisons (i.e., on the Internet, the element of size no longer exists).
Take for instance a large company like Dell and a smaller rival like Stupid PC. In essence, online you can look just as big and be just as effective as the "big guns." Similarly, the web offers the capacity to project a favorable, positive corporate image - and do so easily and cost-effectively - where in the physical dimension a mere fancy catalog will not cut it for most.
The web is an extraordinary market research tool. It facilitates intelligence gathering, tracking and measuring of marketing efforts (often referred as "data mining"). As well, it offers new promotional avenues, and opens new customer service and publication support channels.
For example, in a physical bookstore it's virtually impossible and often extremely difficult to track buyer behavior. You can't, for instance, follow your customers around your store with a video camera and track their every move in order to see which isles they visited, at which competing publications they looked, how long they looked at them, how many isles they visited, what their interests are by their shopping trajectories, who referred them to the store, where they are going and so on.
Agreeably, you can obtain this type of information through market research, focus groups, surveys and so on - which takes money, time and the willingness of customers. But with a website, all this and more can be mined from your server logs or tracking software - especially in a matter of seconds.
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The risks that publishers face have increased as steadily as the rewards have decreased over the past 10 years. All publishers must look carefully at the projects they are offered, and those they choose to pursue. The process of selling mid-list books to publishers has taken on painful proportions for authors, agents and packagers. It's become the rule that unless there is a guaranteed, quantifiable audience for a title, and a clear channel to sales over a short period of time, getting a commitment is near impossible. Publishers are most comfortable with titles that are as close as possible to ones they've already published. Title-cloning, in other words. That explains the success of many of the tightly-focussed niche publishers - one-topic wonders.
Until quite recently there were basically two choices an author had to publish content: try to garner the interest of a publisher or do it yourself. If brand name publishers didn't put your work out, you had two choices: "self-publish" or not publish. If you chose the self-publishing route, your actions tended to elicit looks of pity on the cocktail party circuit, and your sales were generally negligable. Nearly everyone - including booksellers - assumed that you, the pathetic author, just couldn't find a real publisher, and therefore your book was just not very good.
Things have changed in the past decade. Micro-publishing, in a bunch of guises, has become mainstream. Desktop publishing, the Internet and print on demand have turned all kinds of people and organizations - companies, academic institutions, non-profits (in fact, all the members of the ever more powerful and influential "third sector") - into just-in-time and just-right publishers.
Those organizations, societies, unions, community and social service groups, and institutions churn out boatloads of content to the benefit of their many constituents. Until recently, nobody thought of them as publishers, but they have come to account for a growing body of information that's printed, distributed and sold. And they're doing it direct, rather than through the ever more irrelevant bottleneck of book retailers. It's a "tipping point" that is fundamentally rewriting the script of publishing. And, to many, it's about time.
We're in a new world where the publishers' brand name remains critically important - but that name's not Knopf or Penguin or Putnam. The new power publishers are non-profits like AARP and the NRA, Sierra Club and Greepeace, trusts and foundations, research institutions, museums and universities, art galleries and agencies, companies like Microsoft, Pfizer and Dell, academic institutions, and a whole growing spectrum of others. In many cases these organizations are the originators of projects and they work with traditional publishers to get them produced and into the retail channel. But the control of the form and content is in the hands of those who are closest to the market.
The fascinating thing about this new publishing paradigm is that getting works of merit out there has become both much easier and more difficult than in the traditional-publishing past. Production has gotten much easier; the author of a book bangs out the manuscript on a computer, emails it to an editor and proofreader, makes the required changes, promotional material gets posted on a website, and the books are sold either directly or through digital intermediaries (Amazon and its ilk). It's reasonably easy to get an ISBN number, set up as a micro-publisher, and print up some books. Production is easy. Tens of thousands of books are published each year thusly. Anyone can publish and sometimes it seems like everyone does. The difficult part is getting your works noticed in a crowded world. How can one voice be heard when tens of thousands of others are yelling too? Easy: become a topical brand name yourself. Put in ten thousand hours building your personal brand, or take on the brand of the cause and/or organization that addresses the issues you address in your writing.
We propose a new model for publishing through the thoughtful, rigorous development of what we refer to as a "magnetic centre" that will enable you to build a substantive constituency for your work and works. The steps in the process we recommend are:
1. Set up an organization of some kind. Our suggestion is to establish the Suitable Name Institute with a mission statement applicable to your goals, background, and past/present/future products. The primary purpose of the Institute is to be the dissemination of information, one vehicle for which would be the Press, another the Website, and other future ones could include seminars, newsletters, and audio/video products. The mandate for the Institute would be to leverage your reputation, ideas and writings into a sustainable enterprise in the shortest period of time, using the most effective and ethical means possible.
2. Build a web presence around that organization. Populate several dozen pages with high perceived value materials, drawn from your archives. Ask for participation and subscriptions from visitors.
3. Establish cross-supportive relationships with other organizations, groups and individuals.
4. Secure endorsements for you and your works from opinion leading individuals and organizations.
5. Conduct a online and offline promotion and publicity campaign around yourself and your work.
6. Prepromote and take advance orders for your first title. Announce a publishing schedule.
7. Establish a positive going-forward relationship with potential trade copublishers and distributors.
This process is iterative -- build momentum over a period of time, by adding timely material to the website, encouraging contributions from all manner of other people and organizations, establish linkages that promote your ideas and products, drive traffic, and build critical mass.
Here's a couple of other examples (these are not projects we are involved in):
Healthy House Institute: http://www.hhinst.com - a couple of people with a mission have built a successful organization around their issue and their publications.
Creative Class: http://www.creativeclass.org - a rather dull professor writes a book which develops into a movement. A really good website, started almost a full year before the book came out, which has helped put this guy on the map in two short years. He now employs several fulltime assistants, and has sold hundreds of thousands of books.
Tallpath is part of the Media Futures Institute, which - along with a number of other services - provides guidance and solutions to publishing companies of all sizes, including micro-publishers. Okanagan Bookworks, like Tallpath, is a related service operation which provides book and print design, as well as website design and production. These services are bundled into a very attractively-packaged price for publishing companies who want to take maximum advantage of the emerging media landscape.
We would welcome an opportunity to work with you.
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