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25 posts from February 2008

Teaching Sells: What Can You Get for $1 These Days?

Teaching_sells_2Brian Clark is the brains behind Copyblogger, one of the most insightful marketing-related blogs on the planet.  Given Brian's marketing background, it's no surprise that he's pretty good when it comes to clever promotional ideas.

Brian has a multi-course training program on how to create membership websites that sell.  It's called Teaching Sells and it usually costs $97 per month to access the entire program, but Brian is currently offering a 7-day sneak peak to the entire series for one dollar.  This reminds me of the Suze Orman free e-book experiment on Oprah last week; it's a model that can work, assuming you're able to generate the buzz required to spark sufficient interest in long-term paying customers.

Still not convinced and unwilling to part with your precious dollar?  Why not sign up for Brian's free 22-page summary report and see if that changes your mind.  It's available as both a PDF and an MP3 file, so you can listen to it on your iPod if you prefer.  The free report talks about whether blogging is dead or not, why you should forget the "long tail" and how the true power of the Internet is being missed.  I'm going to grab a copy right now...

Wikitravel Press

Wikitravel_pressWikitravel is just what you'd expect: a wiki that's loaded with travel information provided by contributors from around the world.  What's somewhat new and interesting though is the Wikitravel Press, a print-on-demand (POD) alternative for Wikitravel content.  Launched earlier this month, the Press currently only offers a couple of destination titles (Chicago and Singapore) but I'm sure plenty more will be available shortly.  Lulu is the POD provider for this service and this is the second time I've stumbled across a Lulu project in the past couple of days.

One of the key benefits Wikitravel Press touts is the fact that all of their guides will be updated every month.  That's one of the true benefits of POD, right?  You get to refresh the material on an as-needed basis and I could see where travel content would benefit greatly from this flexibility.

It's interesting to see the various ways wiki content can be further distributed and monetized.  As I mentioned in this earlier post, I think there's a huge opportunity for someone to add a new distribution model to the wikipedia itself.

Borders Personal Publishing

Borders_personal_publishingThe first Borders concept store has been open about a week now and I wanted to take a look at one service that's part of their new "digital center" feature.  Borders is partnering with Lulu on an initiative they're calling "Personal Publishing."  If you consider visibility and distribution two of the key challenges in the self-publishing world, the Borders Personal Publishing program addresses both of these issues...sort of...

I like the fact that Borders is lending their brand name to a self-publishing platform like Lulu.  It helps build credibility and avoid the obvious question I've heard a few times: "what the heck is a lulu?!".  This is also a first step in converting a destination buying service into one with more impulse buying potential.  Up to now it's been pretty difficult to find a self-published title in a brick-and-mortar store.  Even though the Borders program isn't set up to provide immediate access to physical inventory just yet, I'd like to think that one day they'll have a high-speed POD machine in the store for those of us who always look for instant gratification.

Personal Publishing would be a nice addition to any bookstore and a good way for Borders to help distinguish themselves from all the other brick-and-mortar outlets.  Be sure to visit the Borders Personal Publishing FAQ (accessible from this page) for more details.

Does Free Sell?

Women_and_moneyIf your name is Suze Orman and Oprah Winfrey helps you promote, the answer is "yes", free does indeed sell.  As David Rothman points out in this PW article, Orman's Women & Money title is doing phenomenally well since the limited-time free e-version was announced last week (it's currently #4 for all books on Amazon).

Skeptics will point out that the reason this one-year old title is enjoying a resurgence has to do with Winfrey and not the free e-book.  While it's hard to separate the two factors (Winfrey/free e-book) I strongly believe one without the other wouldn't have produced the same results.  But since most of us will never benefit from an Oprah Winfrey PR blitz we should probably figure out how to leverage free content instead.

My gut tells me most books would benefit from content giveaways like this and that the paying customer upside would far outweigh all the freeloader cannibalization downside.  That's why I'm so intrigued with the model Smashwords is proposing for their e-content business; free sampling of up to 99% of the book's contents means the financial risk for the reader is almost zero (unless that last 1% is really disappointing!).

Who are Your Competitors?

Question_markAfter reading this excellent post by Kassia Krozser on Booksquare I kept thinking about this question: Who are my competitors?  My day gig involves publishing books for IT professionals, so the logical competitors include Pearson, Microsoft Press and O'Reilly, for example.  But who do I really compete with?

I have no stats to prove this but I've said before that I've lost more sales to Google than I have to all my traditional book publishing competitors combined.  These days it's so easy to get the answer to a question via Google that many, many people (myself included) find what they need in the search results and frequently skip the book option.  Fair enough.  As I've also said before, Google, or any search engine, provides free solutions that are "good enough" and force us book publishers to justify the value proposition of our (non-free) products.

So who are my competitors?  Besides those book publishers noted above, I have to consider these as well:

  • Google and every other search engine that serves up pointers to answers
  • Message boards and other forums that provide experts and community assistance
  • How-to sites that are starting to offer more and more video

The other interesting note Kassia made in her post had to do with how "publishers don't sell books to readers."  She went on to say that "publishers sell books to distributors who sell books to bookstores who sell books to readers."  Many of us also sell directly to the stores, not just distributors, but her point is still valid.  Most publishers haven't established direct lines to customers for one of two reasons, sometimes both: Either they don't want to risk channel conflict with their retailer/distributor partners or they just don't have the resources to invest in direct-to-customer relationships.

This dynamic started to evolve several years ago and continues to evolve today.  I tend to think the publishers who will come out on top in the future will be the ones who figure out how to establish more ties to their customers, without upsetting the apple cart of retailers/distributors, of course.  It can be done and tools like social networks, blogs, online video and other e-content offerings will help pave the way.