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How to grow your publishing business

Published on 23rd September 2019

People still read, and they still consume print voraciously - but eBooks, iPads, and the Kindle are changing the way the publishing industry works. 

What you do may have not changed much in principle. Whether you publish magazines or books, you will need to find writers and readers, and the means to present the work of one group to the other in a way that generates profits. 

But how you do that has changed. Print is no longer king - at best it must sit alongside newer electronic ways to deliver content.

Selling print and digital titles may require new approaches, and so your publishing business will certainly need to look at new marketing techniques if it is to grow.

What is holding you back?

One issue that restricts the growth of book publishing companies is that they think of themselves as an extension to the printing industry. Selling books through bookstores, and perhaps to libraries and schools and colleges, is still important. However, with the internet and particularly with the advent of Amazon.com, ebooks and downloading mean new approaches are essential.  

Being able to offer a title in digital as well as print form may be vital to maximise its readership and, consequently, the level of revenue it generates.

You may need to invest in producing digital editions of your existing titles. Fortunately, this can be achieved with minimal cost by working closely with channels such as Amazon.

But there are several other strategies to consider. 

Looking to grow your publishing business, or invest in new ways to increase your customer base? Find out what solutions can benefit the publishing sector now

Updating your marketing 

The traditional book-marketing strategy is to sell through chain and independent bookstores, and also to libraries. The focus is on unit sales to the general public, and most publishers compete in this quadrant - competing for shelf space and customers' wallets. Sales in brick-and-mortar stores are typically sold through a network of distributors and wholesalers.

This type of marketing has not moved on for 50 years - and may be well behind the approach used by other businesses.

Modern marketing is data-driven. Instead of making decisions based on intuition, it allows those decisions to be based on a sound basis of data. If you know who is buying titles, you can have a more reliable basis for your marketing - you may be able to sell similar titles to the same customers.

This is the principle Amazon uses when they suggest new titles whenever a returning user logs in. If you can capture the details of readers who enjoy history, for example, you will be able to offer them a new title relevant to their reading habits when it becomes available. 

Traditional marketing may be likened to a ‘shotgun’ approach. News of all titles will be sent to all outlets and customers. A more modern approach is to take a ‘precision’ approach, and concentrate your marketing efforts on the channels and the readers who are most relevant. 

You may need to look at platforms such as Facebook to talk directly to readers. By providing links to your own website, you may be able to sell either physical print or ebook downloads directly.

To do this, you will need to invest in a database - in marketing software and expertise to provide the means to use the database to best effect - and in a responsive website that allows readers to place orders. 

  • Finding new channels - Some publishers may try to grow their businesses by finding new readers not catered for by traditional channels. To do this means selling through non-bookstore retailers. Examples are supermarkets, airport stores, gift shops, and speciality retailers. This can be effective if you have an appropriate list of titles. General mass market paperbacks can be sold through generic retailers as impulse buys alongside groceries, while specialist titles may be sold via specialist retail outlets. History titles, for example, are a natural choice for the gift shops of heritage attractions such as museums and stately homes.
  • Selling direct - In effect, creating a new channel directly to the reader can be effective. Direct marketing of titles can be done with mailings or electronically, and again its success will depend on building a database with the names, details and reading habits of readers
  • Cooperative Book Marketing - Publishers can find new users and uses for their existing printed and ebooks with a cooperative approach. An example would be adding a cookbook featuring the food to a sales promotion. Giving away travel books with holiday breaks might be another. Fashion, gardening, history - all have potential cooperative opportunities. For example, a marketing manager may be keen to increase sales of a product. You would demonstrate how giving your book away as a premium with the purchase could help lift sales. You could also work with an association or body to use your book as a fundraiser, or as a gift to people who join or renew their membership. Titles relevant to the association are the obvious choice. A special edition may be appropriate. Cooperative marketing requires you to find the potential buyers,  to prepare and presents a proposal and then negotiate the sale.
  • Print on demand - The possibilities of print on demand are well understood, but are currently reserved for lower quality niche marketing and vanity products. These may be profitable - but the same principle could also be used at the quality end of the business. Combined with direct marketing initiatives, it could help you reduce inventory and remove the need for the distribution channel altogether - driving down costs to a level closer to that of ebook production.  

What are the costs you will need to deal with?

To take on the new challenges of marketing as a publisher, you may need to invest in IT and expertise.

  • You may need new equipment - especially if you wish to bring print on demand in-house.
  • You will probably need to call in new experts who understand the challenges of the areas you are marketing in. 

As an experienced business manager, you will already know the solutions to some of these costs. You will certainly know the advantages of Asset Finance, allowing you to spread the cost of the digital print and finishing equipment you need.  

Leasing may allow you to bring in the latest equipment with no upfront cost. It could give your business an important competitive advantage over those of your competitors who are restricted by costly legacy equipment.

You may also need funding to pay for the new people you bring in with the specialist skills you need.

The publishing industry may be too complex and too specialised for many lenders. It is therefore essential to be able to call on a funding expert who can first help you help you find the most appropriate lenders, and then take you through each step to arrange the finance you want at the most cost-effective rates. 

A call to Rangewell can help. We work with all types of business, and we understand the challenges of taking a publishing business to the next level at a time when the market might appear to be shrinking.


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Richard Mitchell

Richard Mitchell

Content writer
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