Could Publishers Start Charging for Office Tours?

In Ed's Perspective by Edward Nawotka

A view of Random Houses Lobby

A view of Random House's LobbyBy Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Perusing the new issue of The Atlantic this morning I ran across a breezy article by Megan McArdle entitled “The Genius of QVC” about the sales techniques of the QVC television shopping network — you know, those folks who hawk jewelry, appliances and electronics 24-7 on several of your basic cable or satellite channels.

Amid the discussion about how QVC manages to sell so much — their sales pitch is less pitch than a “coffee Klatch where friends trade tips” — was the news that QVC charges “fans” $75 to take an “All Access Tour” of its massive facility (said to be the size of 15 football fields) in an office part outside Philadelphia.

Apparently, it’s quite popular.

This got me to thinking that publishers could try the same thing to generate some much needed cash flow.

I maintain that the biggest audience for books these days isn’t necessarily readers, but aspiring writers. What if Random House turned itself into a tourist attraction — say, charge $75 per person for a tour once per week. Junior editorial assistant or interns could lead the tours, which would end with a ten minute Q&A with someone from marketing, publicity or editorial (again on a rotating schedule). You could rotate the tour among various imprints, so it’s not too disruptive.

The tour would start in room where guests would be shown a short video history of the company and a few book trailers; it would end in a small “gift shop,” with new books for sale, along with various branded items, such as totes and coffee mugs.

I personally know scores of aspiring writers and book lovers who would pay a decent sum just for a peek inside publishers offices. There’s a reason ice cream lovers love touring ice cream factories, so why not give book lovers the chance to do the same?

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.