By Sherrie Wilkolaski and Kevin DiCamillo
Art books are unique items and the fact is, says Charles Kim, Associate Publisher at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the “traditional spring/fall list” of publishers doesn’t apply to museum publishing and “much depends on the exhibition schedule…the dates for exhibitions determine the publication dates for many of our titles.” As such, the priority rests — at least initially — on reaching readers who have a vested interest in the museum. That number of potential buyers is significant, with some three million people visiting MoMA each year.
For marketing their books (both electronic and print), MoMA relies on a combination of traditional publishing tactics (ads in The New York Review of Books, mailings to reviewers and bloggers) and piggybacking on the Museum’s larger campaigns. “We take advantage of MoMA’s gigantic social network to inform people about our upcoming books,” says Kim. “For example, we regularly post 60- to 80-page PDFs of our books for free download on our website, through MoMA’s Inside/Out blog, and on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.” And that’s 1.77 million Twitter followers and 1.6 million Facebook likes. (And there’s no lack of fans across the pond either: the June 19th issue of The London Review of Books ran a full-page “At MoMA” piece by Hal Foster lauding the museum’s ongoing Sigmar Polke exhibition.)
“It’s easier than ever for niche publishers to find and connect with customers who value their products,” says Kim. “I also know that we, along with many of our colleagues in museum publishing, are trying to figure out how to reach new audiences by taking our new and existing assets and packaging them in new ways. I believe there are great opportunities for museum and art book publishers in online and digital learning. E-learning is currently a $100 billion market, and it is expected to grow at 15% per year. I think that, with our brand and our unique holdings, there is a niche in that market for us as well.”