It is difficult to make a living as an independent publisher if you view yourself as a purveyor of books through bookstores. When asked, “What do you do for a living?” you may respond, “I’m an author.” This is usually followed with, “But what do you do to earn money?” However, if you reply, “I’m a publishing professional,” you are usually received with nodding understanding. The difference is as enormous as it is subtle. A publishing professional runs a business, relying on multiple streams of revenue for maximum income.
Relying exclusively on book sales can limit your income. This wall could be reached because of seasonal demand for your content, or your reliance on sales only through bookstores – bricks and clicks. You may have a small target market, inadequate planning or insufficient funds for promotion. The list goes on, but the fact remains that a variety of circumstances can conspire to limit the sale of your books, and subsequently your income.
This concept of multiple sources of revenue does not necessarily mean adding additional titles. It implies various ways in which you could generate funds. This can be accomplished through a combination of products and services, such as product sales (line and brand extensions) combined with author extensions (conducting seminars, making personal presentations and consulting) or other activities that stimulate additional cash flow.
Two characteristics go into creating a profitable hybrid offering. The first is that the products and services are complementary. This refers to the degree that the value to the customer increases when both are used together. An example would be consulting with clients after they purchase your book. The other is independence, or the ability for your customer to derive value from each separately: your customer can learn from your book without also attending your seminar.
When combinations of products and services are examined through the lens of being complementary and independent, three bundles emerge. These are product-focused, brand-focused or author-brand focused bundles. Taken together as a hybrid marketing strategy they deliver a single message to several audiences in different ways. The result is increased revenue and profitability.
1) Product-focused bundles. If you prefer to focus on selling tangible products, you might choose a strategy of creating line extensions. Line extensions consist of introducing additional items in the same product category under the same brand name. Examples include offering an author’s content as an ebook, audio book, booklet or in a large-print edition.
The Chicken Soup for the Soul series provides examples of independent line extensions reflected in the titles Chicken Soup for the Dieter’s Soul, Entrepreneur’s Soul, Parent’s Soul and Writer’s Soul. Yet this series may also be complementary because the content is delivered in the form of cartoon books, picture books, daily inspirations, large-print books and Spanish titles.
There are many benefits of product-focused bundles. They are independent because customers could buy them separately, yet complementary because combining them can enhance their value. For example, I added a CD-ROM to my book, Beyond the Bookstore. The content of the individually available CD-ROM augmented what was in my book without duplicating it.
Product-focused bundles also expand your brand’s presence on retail shelves, offer customers more variety and can increase overall sales, revenue and profits. These extended lines yield more efficient prospecting since numerous titles and forms are more likely to meet the varied needs of potential corporate buyers. Independent, complementary extensions yield greater marketing efficiency since overall promotional costs are spread among a variety of products.
2) Brand-focused bundles. Implement this strategy by using an existing brand name to launch products in other categories. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen again provide good examples of brand extensions. There was a Chicken Soup for the Soul television series in addition to branded greeting cards, pet treats, giftware, puzzle books and sleepwear. These are also complementary since they may be sold in similar places and ways. These could be sold near their books online and through gift shops, direct marketing, pet stores, specialty stores, supermarkets and pharmacies.
There are many benefits for the publisher who implements a branding strategy. It can enhance brand equity among present and new users as it makes your brand more relevant and visible. It encourages sales of multiple products at the same time. And if you “own” the shelf it identifies you as the genre leader. In addition, it can help you build a customer following, maintain higher price and profitability levels, and meet price competition with one imprint while maintaining a higher price on another.
3) Author-brand focused bundles. Multi-talented authors may choose this strategy to stimulate revenue. While the publishers are not paid for the author’s additional services, they receive the revenue from the concomitant books sales. And the halo-effect from a well-known author stimulates book sales for current and future titles.
Your authors can extend their brand through writing articles, consulting or making personal presentations on their topics. They can also build revenue and an aura of expertise by conducting seminars and webinars, producing podcasts and contributing to blogs.
These actions are complementary since your authors can speak to groups and then sell books following their presentations. In addition to demonstrating their command of their subject they are paid a speaking fee and for the sale of their books. As their reputations grow from contributing articles and blog content their book sales increase proportionately.
An author-brand strategy is highly independent since each element stands on its own. Yet the combined impact of an assorted marketing strategy increases long-term revenue as it solidifies its base. It also helps authors differentiate themselves from their competitors while selling a commoditized product.
A hybrid marketing strategy can increase you top and bottom lines by using these examples to customize a productive bundle for each author. It can improve long-term market share and profitability by being scalable. Multiple sources of revenue permit sub-branding to leverage the halo effect. Hybrid offerings attract new customers and increase demand among existing ones by giving them more ways to purchase content. And they enable publishers to boost their revenue and improve liquidity at low risk.
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – www.bookapss.org), and the administrator of Book Selling University (www.booksellinguniversity.com) Contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.premiumbookcompany.com.