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9 posts from August 2005

Sybex Hits #1 on Amazon

Congratulations to authors Ellen Anon and Tim Gray for reaching the #1 position today on Amazon’s Computers & Internet page with their recent publication entitled Photoshop for Nature Photographers: A Workshop in a Book. Congratulations as well to publisher Dan Brodnitz, editor Pete Gaughan and the rest of the Sybex editorial team for this outstanding accomplishment.

Jack Welch – Winning

I just finished reading Jack Welch's Winning. My one-word review is…disappointing. I was a big fan of Welch’s previous book, Jack: Straight from the Gut. It was very inspiring and full of fascinating insights and techniques. You really got the feeling you were getting an insider’s look at GE in his earlier book. That’s simply not the case with this one.

Given how wildly successful Winning has been, I decided to take another look at some of the reviews over on Amazon. I have to agree with a couple on the first page: “A lot of effort for the reader for a few insights” and “Insightful at times, but mostly superficial.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. In fact, I almost put this one down after reading the first couple of chapters. Despite the never-ending gratuitous references to many of his former GE colleagues, how they’ve gone on to bigger and better things, etc., I fought my way through to the end of the book – I guess I can at least say Jack taught me something about perseverance.

If you haven’t read Jack: Straight from the Gut, get it. If you haven’t already bought Winning, don’t.


Marketing's Role -- Part One

One of the goals of this blog is to offer a forum where we can talk about the various responsibilities of each of the key areas and job functions within a publishing house.  Over the past few months we've had posts on the author's role, the acquisitions editor's role, the development editor's role and the sales rep's role.  The rest of this post is Part One of marketing's role, brought to you by our Director of Marketing, Ellen Gerstein:

Marketing - The View From 30,000 Feet
Part One

Ah the life of a marketer! 

Remember the Dilbert cartoon several years back where Dilbert was being transferred from engineering to marketing?  The final frame of the cartoon shows  Dilbert walking amongst these ethereal white-robed creatures in marketing, below an enormous banner that proclaims: "Marketing Department: Two Drink Minimum."

Admit it.  That's what you think when you hear marketing.  Most marketers when asked to talk about what he or she does on the job will fall into the trap of compensating for, or worse apologizing for what they do - that's it's really a lot of hard work, it's not all sunshine and swag, and you really don't know the half of what we have to do...blah...blah...

Well, I'm not going to do that.  Well, maybe just a little.  Because in my most humble opinion, because I am in marketing, I have one of the most exciting jobs in the building.   And yes, it's really a lot of hard work, it isn't all sunshine and sway, and you really *don't* know the half of what we do.  My team and I often hear from other employees that they want to come into marketing "because we have so much fun."  I'll admit through it all, we do have fun, but it's still a job. 

So what does a marketer do?  Traditional marketing talks about the Marketing Mix or the 4P's - product, price, place (distribution) and promotion.  These are the parameters that the marketing manager looks to control, subject to the external constraints of the marketplace.  For the most part, even if we are not conscious of it, we go about our planning in these parameters.  For me to get into that mindset, when I think about a new book, series or project, I always ask myself three questions:

1. Who is the customer?

2. Do they want/need a book?

3. How do we reach the customer?

With every proposal, if I cannot answer those questions, there is a problem.  If I don't know the answers, I can't tell the sales reps the right pitch to use to sell the book to the bookstores, and I can't truly support the book in the marketplace.  Once we have these questions answered, everything else falls into place. 

Wiley's unique in the industry, at least based on my experience in other publishing operations, and talking to my friends who are also in the business.  We operate in a collaborative model, which means that marketing works with editorial, production, sales and publicity together on a project from the get go.  When an editor is working with an author on a proposal for a book, we're right there with editorial, talking about who the customer is, what the size of the prospective market is, and how we are going to get the word out about the product to the marketplace.  At other houses, it's been more of a relay race.  Think of a book as a baton - the starting runner is the editor, who then passes it to the next runner, and so on and so on.  That doesn't work for me, for a number of reasons.  In our model, we're collaborative, and the book becomes OUR book.  Taking ownership of something is empowering for a book.  You know that you have the ability to affect the success of a book, and that makes you work harder.  You also know a lot more about a book which is also good for everyone involved. 

So, how do we go about market planning?  Our group publishes over 400 books per year.   For the purposes of selling to accounts, we divide the calendar year into 3 "seasons"- Fall, Winter and Spring.  No, that does not mean we take the summer off.  June and July books are considered Spring, August books are considered Fall.  Each season, we produce a catalog that lists all our titles.  These, along with other selling materials, are used by sales people  to present books to accounts, from major chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders, to online accounts like Amazon and The Bookpool, as well as independent stores like SoftPro and Quantum. 

Used to be that we would look at every season as a list, and try and slot books so that we had books spaced nicely through the months and that we were not publishing too many big books in one month.  For the most part, the marketers on the general interest and business programs still do that.  They can look at a business book and say that November is a bad month to publish it, and if it cannot come out sooner, it should be moved to February for better sell in and sell through potential.  In tech, we do not have that luxury.  Tech books can be like corn - once you pick them, they start to turn to starch fast, so you want to get them out in the market as soon as possible.   The other lines have more "shelf stable" product.*

*Note - Most marketing metaphors, and we have a ton of them, involve food.  Marketing is all about our next meal.

In the seasonal selling, this is where the "universal translator" function in marketing come in.  It's up to us to take what the editors tell us about that book, and craft that into something that conveys the true benefits to the customer of a book for sales to use with their accounts.  This is our chance to influence the sell in, as much as it is possible.  It's our opportunity to convey the excitement we have for a title to the sales force and start laying out what we want to do in our marketing activities.  If you get this right, it's a great way to kick off a successful book campaign. 

Next up - To market to market....How we promote books in the marketplace and set our go-to-market strategies.

eBay Insanity

I admit it. I’m a complete eBay novice. I’ve only bid on two items up to now, but the results have me scratching my head. I wanted to get my son a set of drum practice pads because they’ll enable him to keep playing while the rest of us want some peace and quiet. These sets are often available on eBay, so I started bidding a week or so ago…

I guess the bidding pattern is pretty common: The initial price is well below the true value and doesn’t budge a whole lot till the bidding is about to close. Suddenly, within the last 10-15 minutes people go absolutely nuts and wind up paying a price that’s at or above retail value! For example, the last set I bid on was hovering around $100 until the final 15 minutes. It closed at $177.50. Guess what? I found a comparable (and new!) set on Amazon for $9 more. In fact, when you roll in the shipping charges for both, it’s a wash.

Why in the world do people pay sticker price for a used product?! I can see where it’s possible to make good money selling things on eBay, but I wonder how the buyers feel when they figure out they overpaid? Does the winner of this particular auction even realize their boneheaded move, or are they mindlessly walking around talking about the “great deal” they just got on eBay?

Amazon Shorts: The Leader Keeps Inventing New Customer Options

Amazon is at it again. If you haven’t heard about it, check out Amazon’s new Shorts program. They tout it as “never-before-seen short works from a variety of well-known authors, available only on” Customers can buy these 2,000-10,000 word works for $0.49 each. Sounds like a great way to offer customers short stories, follow-ups to existing books, etc. It’s also why Amazon just keeps getting stronger and stronger. They’re not afraid to experiment and even though I don’t personally take advantage of all their new programs (see Amazon Prime), I like how they continue to explore new territory.