Publishers in turbulent times (1)

publishing is business

In the 29th Bogota International Book Fair (2016), the book Manual de edición: guía para estos tiempos revueltos was launched. We had the opportunity of interviewing their two authors, Manuel Gil and Martín Gómez, to find out what they think about certain editorial issues that are discussed in depth in their book. This is the first of two deliveries we have for you.

Ediciones UCC: With regard to the title of the book, why talk about “turbulent times” in the publishing world nowadays?

Authors: We talk about “turbulent times” because, for some years, the content industry in general —like many others— and the publishing industry in particular have been suffering a series of radical, accelerated transformations derived from various processes that, in some cases, are closely related to one another, such as the increasing concentration of publishers’ ownership. This is due to the creation and consolidation of large business conglomerates, technology disruption, economic recession, changes in people’s content consumption habits, and emergence of new business models.

The publishing industry and its environment are changing a lot and very rapidly in the middle of these turbulent times, after which things will never be the same as they were before 2008.

Ediciones UCC: Since we are in turbulent times, let’s talk about turbulent issues. When creating a publishing house, is there something we could take from publishing houses, on the one hand, and university presses, on the other, that serves as a model to create a successful project?

Authors: In the case of university publishing, we highlight the specialization in specific disciplines or thematic areas when building a catalog, the broad, deep knowledge of the community comprising the potential specialized audience of their titles, and their circulation in specialized circuits. In other words, thanks to their high level of specialization, university publishing favors the development of niche products addressed to market segments that, despite being relatively small sometimes, offer big possibilities for circulation, sale, reading, and review of their publications due to the huge interests shared by the members of specialized communities and their need for maintaining their knowledge updated.

With respect to commercial publishing, we emphasize the possibility of preparing a catalog based on the needs, interests, and trends detected in the market and adapting supply to demand, diversification of publishing lines, willingness to take risks, and allocation of resources for the design and realization of communication, promotion, and marketing strategies in order to make their titles known and boost their sales.

Ediciones UCC: Among the new business models in publishing, which is doing well?

Authors: Most of the new business models are currently in embryonic state, so we cannot say anything final in this regard, and any appreciation, remark, or statement we make is susceptible to losing its validity totally or partially in a very short time.

In the last couples of years, self-publishing in the digital realm has demonstrated its ability to create a large volume of visibility, sales, readings, and revenue. Therefore, it offers big opportunities to those who, in addition to creating attractive contents, get to build an audience for them, know how to promote and offer them, and have both the time and discipline required for managing these two tasks.

While they have a large critical mass of users, subscription models do not take off because of their inability to generate significant revenue for the managing platforms or the publishers and authors that resort to them.

Direct sale through a virtual store on their own website is a very effective alternative for publishers because marketing their titles on their own allows them not only to get by without intermediaries and increase their margins and revenue, but also to have direct contact with the buyers of their titles, collect data on their behavior, receive and manage feedback, and implement initiatives to ensure customer loyalty.

Social payment is a practice that is being tested more and more frequently, which may be effective when building an audience and creating a close, fluid, continuous relationship with its members. This allows to make resource investments more profitable in ways that are not necessarily economic and to leverage the network effect fostered by certain environments on the Internet, such as Web 2.0 generation platforms.

Crowdfunding is an interesting alternative for those who have good ideas, robust networks, deep knowledge of the interests and needs of their potential audience, and lack the investment capital involved in the implementation of a publishing project, because they have not only the knowledge and expertise needed to be successful, but also the trust of that network harboring willing supporters.

Product bundling including either several titles or versions of the same title in different formats is a business model that has a lot of potential and is increasingly being adopted.

Ediciones UCC: Making a change in the cultural attitude towards digital contents (especially, digital books) depends much on the presence of technology in the community. In countries where it is just emerging, which business models can be applied for a digital publisher to be successful?

Authors: While social payment may be a good positioning strategy with respect to the audience for launching and promoting a publishing house in the digital market, direct sale and product bundling are good alternatives to boost sales, create revenue, and increase margins.

Martín Gómez

Martín Gómez is publishing consultant and cultural promoter. He has worked for different publishing houses and cultural magazines, as well as for book fairs and cultural centres in Colombia, México and Spain. On his blog El ojo fisgón (The snooping eye) he analyses the current trends in the publishing market.

Manuel Gil

Manuel Gil has a Master’s Degree in Business Management and Marketing from the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid. He currently combines consulting work in the field of books and activities as a lecturer and professor of various master’s programs in publishing, both in Spain and Latin America. He is coauthor of El nuevo paradigma del sector del libroManual de Edición. Guía para editores, autores, correctores y diagramadoresEl paradigma digital y sostenible del libro and author of Prueba, experimenta y aprende: Marketing para librerías, in addition to being coeditor of the journal Texturas and managing the blog Antinomiaslibros.