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Book publishers: this is it. The moment you’ve been dreading for years is right now.26-year old Amanda Hocking is making millions cutting you out. Hundreds of thousands of people are reading her vampire stories that you always turned down. And she’s selling them on Kindle for only $.99 to $3 a pop.
The writing’s on the wall.
So, how to not end up like the music industry?
Here’s the good news, though: this revolution also has tremendous opportunity if you adapt.
Here are some bright spots:
- You now have infinite shelf space. Hundreds of thousands of books are published every year and that number is only going to go up. Before sales came down to the dozen titles that could grab shelf space in a handful of retailers. That’s gone now.
- Your books don’t cost anything to print. Print runs. Inventory. Pulping. Gone too.
- People are reading more than ever. Kindle owners buy 3X as many books as other people. The Kindle is arguably a superior reading experience to dead trees — it’s certainly a better purchasing experience. And for all the supposed death of books, with smartphones and computers, humans now spend more time reading (and writing) than at any time in human history.
- People are willing to buy books. Unlike music, we don’t think piracy will be a big problem for the book industry. The convenience of e-readers and mobile purchasing is too great.
The bad news is: you’re now competing with Angry Birds. What you want to do is for us to spend a dollar every week to get a new chapter or a new story in a saga.
So, how do you do that? By aggregating readers intelligently.
The people who will be passionate enough to buy books (whether they’re $5 books on Kindle or $50 souvenir books) will be niches of people who are passionate about a particular topic.
Publishing houses must now identify and become trusted brands to those niches. (For the big publishing houses, dozens of niches.)
A great example of this is O’Reilly Media: they started out as a publisher of technical manuals but, through events, blogs, newsletters and other community building, they became a respected thought leader to a whole group of people. So now whenever they have a new book, they have a built-in audience they can sell it to. And of course there’s lots of other things they can make money on now, but that’s not even the point. The point is that they will always sell lots of books because they have a faithful audience of people who trust them.
Most books now have websites, but the goal shouldn’t be to promote the book. It should be to use the book to promote a brand or community around the topic the book is on. Whether it’s romance novels, Creole cooking or martial arts, you should go back to the Book of the Month Club: communities of people who care passionately about a topic and trust your brand. And you should use the tools of offline and online marketing to build those communities.
Once you have a strong brand and access to a group of people, then you can do what you really know how to do, which is the curation of authors and topics, and editing books and helping authors, knowing that you can be sure to sell to them.
There’s amazing businesses to be built and lots of money to be made. But you have to smell the coffee now.