By Emily Williams
Update: Read part two of our Digital Case Study of Spain
Spanish-language publishers have taken their time moving into the e-book market. However several of the more nimble companies have delved into Internet marketing and found it generates not only good will, but real-world results and sales of paper books. Two of those are the small independent publisher Maevea and Random House Mondadori.
Today, we look at the strategy each has taken for online marketing in Spain. Tomorrow, we look at their strategies for the mobile market and e-books.
Social Media Suits the Spanish
Maeva has been winning a reputation for digital savvy and for the importance they place on their relationship with readers. “Thanks to social networking, the rise of blogs, etc. today it’s possible to be in touch directly with readers, to ask their opinions, to listen to their concerns, to offer them a forum , sometimes even to give them the chance to speak with their favorite authors,” explained Publicity and Communications Director Laura Russo.
“Before, the only way to get the word out was our email newsletter,” said Russo. “Now we can work through Facebook, Twitter, [Spanish social networking site] Tuenti, literary blogs, not to mention other initiatives like online contests, polls, downloads of first chapters.”
Using the internet, they have also learned how to draw enthusiastic readers to readings. “One of our initiatives that worked really well was where we introduced Unseen by Swedish writer Mari Jungstedt to a few blog readers and chose the fan with the best review to present the author at a public bookstore event. That’s an example of how the digital world is not at all at odds with the traditional work of bookselling. We managed to combine the speed and massive reach of the Internet with that invaluable contact with the author that comes from having her present in an auditorium chatting with readers.”
This social aspect of web 2.0 seems especially well suited to Spanish culture and has caught the attention of bigger houses as well. Random House Mondadori entered the mix with Me Gusta Leer [I Like to Read] a sophisticated web portal for readers, and the more recent, Me Gusta Escribir [I Like to Write], a platform for amateur literary bloggers and aspiring writers.
Carmen Ospina, digital manager for Random House Mondadori’s, notes, “With social media, users in Spain are using the internet more and more to communicate and share what they like. Our Me Gusta Leer site is basically a catalog of 4,000+ books that we have. With Me Gusta Escribir, our idea is to create a space where users can create their own blogs around writing and the writing process. Eventually, our goal is to monitor these as a possible channel for talent spotting.”
Ospina has noticed that more than a quarter of their site traffic comes from outside of Spain, and says RHM has plans to expand the Me Gusta Leer strategy to the rest of their group in Latin America. “We work with our houses in Latin America to help them come up with online initiatives. We train them in what we do in Facebook. We have regular meetings with them.”
Expanding to the Americas
But while Me Gusta Escribir will be run from Spain with users from anywhere in the Spanish-speaking world, the houses in Latin America will have to adapt Me Gusta Leer to their own markets. “They have their own catalog. There are books that are available in Spain that are not available in Mexico. Rights are very segmented in Spanish,” she notes.
All the same, Ospina sees a lot of potential for their sister houses to reach Latin American readers online. “Their marketing departments are smaller and they have fewer resources to do offline marketing, which is very expensive, so they are interested in developing this a lot more. People who have book buying power in Latin America are very Internet oriented. In Latin America you have maybe 15 great retail channels, you have many more outlets for buying books online, so it makes more sense that their strategy is based online.”
Widgets, Bloggers and a One Destination
As for other initiatives that have taken off for RHM, Ospina points to book widgets that offer free samples of selected titles and can be posted and shared online. “The widget has been very successful, because no other publishing house in Spain or in Spanish-languages offers that. We’ve seen a lot of people posting it to their blogs and a lot of reading of the books inside the widget. We’re using the widget that we borrowed from our sister house in RH Germany. We also launched a widget early last year that was a little search box — you would see different books popping up, recommendations, and then you could search Me Gusta Leer from your widget. That worked really well.”
And on a more traditional marketing front, adapted to the new online world: “We are also working a lot with bloggers. We have a list of bloggers that we consider influencers. We will invite them to work with us on a campaign for a specific book, they’ll get the book and other useful information as if they were journalists. Spanish bloggers really like that because they’re not treated as journalists in Spain yet, especially by publishing houses.”
The Me Gusta Leer website is at the core of all these strategies and provides a focus and resource for their ongoing efforts. The name translates as “I Like to Read”, and the consumer friendly label was deliberate. “We decided that [the publisher] brand really is not important for us,” said Ospina. “For a few imprints it is, like Lumen for instance, that’s when we develop specific pages on Facebook. But our strategy online has been to develop a community around Me Gusta Leer and Me Gusta Escribir rather than Random House Mondadori because we think people would never know who we are and will never care.”
DISCUSS: Do readers care about publishers’ branding?