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How Much, if Any, Should Publishers Diversify Beyond Publishing?

Producing movies, booking speaking tours, teaching creative writing…what more can publishers due to drive revenue?

By Edward Nawotka

20-dollar bill on a fishing hook

Publishers looking for ways to expand their revenue stream have expanded into offering a variety of services — from producing movies, to booking speaking tours, to — as mentioned in today’s feature story — opening creative writing schools and offering services to other publishers. Faber & Faber has even stopped calling itself “a publisher” and now describes itself as “a publishing house bringing services to readers, writers and others.”

How far can publishers go? Earlier this year it was suggested publishers might open their own bookshops, like they did in days past — but with the decline in shelf space and retail sales in general, this looks like a bad idea. What more can publishers due to drive revenue?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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  1. Posted June 10, 2011 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    The problem with Legacy Publishing is the broken “Produce Stand” mentality. They want to make $$ with a string of big hits they try to make happen through promotion, instead of getting to know their customers for the long term.

    There have been so many HUGE blunders it’ll be a challenge to “drive revenues” without signing QUALITY authors in mass – and selling directly to the customer, somehow.

    Amazon, Apple, B&N are cleaning up the mess with their CUSTOMER centric technology. Game over, basically. That is, unless Legacy Publishing can create a better reading experience than Kindle, like all of them agree on non-DRM & ePub 3 or even HTML 5, with an unbelievable quality, *CHEAP* to even free eReader. Sell direct, capture data, move forward in the vastly different landscape.

    And for God’s sake, figure out how to make every book available as a Gift Card, let the stores stock what they want, without the Distribution nightmares, register the sale, swipe on the above mentioned reader, instant download.

  2. Hannah Johnson
    Posted June 10, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Plenty of publishers are already looking beyond the printed word for revenue (film partnerships, transmedia projects, mobile apps, speakers’ bureaus, digital distribution platforms, etc), but it seems that the fundamental goal is still to sell more books — whether in print or digital form.

    While other media industries (online, magazine, newspaper, film, television, music) rely on advertising and sponsorship deals as revenue sources, book publishing has mostly tried to avoid that.

    Perhaps the “diversified” publisher of the future will look beyond book sales for revenue.

  3. Posted June 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    The main question is not how far should publishers go, but wich kind of content does The customers needs. And then The question will be will my Business fullfill their needs for content? I believe that The content is content, but The way The audience interact with this content and how they consume it is just a matter of preference and The companies have to be prepared to deliver it. Any time, anywhere, anyway. 

  4. Posted June 12, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps “diversified” publishers in future will look beyond book sales but they should try to make their basic business – producing and selling books – more efficient and effective in reaching their natural markets, their readers.

    At least 3 big legacy publishers have taken an important step in the right direction when they created Bookish.com, as an interactive platform with their readers. We’ll have to say how that pans out…

    Another thing publishers should do asap is commission real, good market research to try and figure out what their audience wants, what kind of books they really want to read.

    So far, publishers (in the US and UK primarily) have relied on literary agents to do a first screening for them as to what might be saleable material – but literary agents are not market researchers…And the situation is no better in France or Italy where publishers staff (editors) do the job of screening. The problem is: screening is a “passive” activity: you wait for the material to be sent to you and then decide on the basis of taste and “genre”. It’s not an active step which takes you out among readers to figure out what they’d really like to read…

  5. Ady001
    Posted June 12, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Personally, they have to widen their markets and consider the opinions of the readers. One is hiring translators and finding a viable product in one market and adopt it to another.

    Another is by doing a “test edition” before dipping your toe in the waters. a “test edition” is like publishing a limited amount of copies for a book that “might” not be commercially viable in the market it was aimed for. Not only will it stir up interest but also give an idea of an “artificial scarceness” in the product.

    For the likes of Amazon, they should also consider “terra incognita” markets like ours. I’ve been wanting to buy a Kindle book but since I don’t have a credit card myself, I may be reduced to buying Gift Cards myself.

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