If you hold a magnifying glass over a flammable substance on the brightest day of the year, you will never start a fire--as long as you keep the glass moving. But when you concentrate the sun. s energy on a specific point it will light immediately. Similarly, you will ignite your publishing business only when you focus your energy on your strengths, as you build a profitable product line upon your existing foundation.
Long-term, profitable growth does not come from introducing a disjointed series of new titles. Rather, it evolves by establishing expertise in one domain and publishing a succession of related titles. This can occur when you manage the life cycle of one title, expanding it into a cohesive, profitable product line.
Managing A Title. s Life Cycle
The typical life cycle of a title is comprised of a series of six predetermined stages: Pre-publication, Introduction, Growth, Maturity, Decline and Demise. Figure 1 depicts this sequence as a title moves through its life.
The phases are defined by the amount of revenue and profitability generated by the title over time. Your job is to recognize when your title makes the transition from one stage to the next and take the appropriate steps to stimulate or maintain its growth. Unfortunately, this is difficult to determine because there is no clear indication when each stage begins or ends. Nor is there any assurance as to how long each one will last, and some titles move from Introduction to Decline with very short periods of Growth and Maturity.
This concept is important to independent publishers because a title is generally not profitable until it is well into its Growth stage. There are steps you can take to shepherd a title through its infancy, past its break-even point (BEP--see Figure 2) and onward to a long and profitable Maturity.
Four scepters can help you shepherd your flock of products. These are your book, and the way you distribute, price and promote it. Success requires that you manipulate and apply these basic elements of marketing strategy. This may require the dexterity of a circus juggler because each title in your product line could be in a different life-cycle stage at any given time.
Fortunately, those in their later, profitable stages provide the funds to nurture growing titles. As Figure 2 demonstrates, a title. s profitability is greatest during its Growth and Maturity phases. By the time these phases begin, the high costs of Introduction of have been covered. Therefore, the key to maintaining a high level of contribution is to sustain the point at which revenue and profitability are the greatest.
The following discussion describes strategies you can implement to reach the highest level of profitability and sustain it for as long as possible.
Stage One: Pre-Publication.
Overall strategy: Preparation. Initially, focus all your activity on product development and strategic planning as you coordinate your book. s title, size, color, layout, cover design and printing.
Simultaneously, you must create your marketing plan, outlining how you will distribute, price and promote the title. Will you distribute to bookstores through the traditional channels or market directly to selective segments? Will you sell through book clubs or pursue serial and foreign rights? These decisions influence the price you will charge, which must also be decided before your books are printed.
Many promotional tactics are set in motion in the Pre-Publication period. Galleys are required by many book reviewers three to four months prior to the publication date. You must compose your press kit and send it to people at print and broadcast media. In addition, there are direct-mail campaigns to create, endorsements to be sought, book signings to arrange and myriad promotional events to plan.
Stage Two: Introduction.
Overall strategy: Promotion. Once your book is published, the emphasis shifts almost completely to promotion, making people aware that your new title exists. Book sales begin to generate some revenue, but profits remain negligible because earnings are reinvested into your marketing juggernaut.
A utopian goal is to reach every prospective customer frequently enough to motivate him or her to buy your book. You can accomplish this with varying degrees of success by strategically implementing an assorted promotional mix, combining publicity with advertising, sales promotion and personal selling activities. Emphasize low-cost activities such as targeted appearances on television and radio shows combined with publicity events and networking with people in the print media.
Stage Three: Growth.
Overall strategy: Penetration. Your initial focus on promotion will be rewarded as awareness and sales increase rapidly and the title reaches its Break Even Point (BEP--Figure 2). Rising profits provide an influx of income enabling you to attend more trade shows, conduct additional direct-mail campaigns or advertise in relevant publications. Market penetration becomes paramount as you attempt to persuade more potential customers to purchase your book, or if appropriate, convince previous buyers to acquire more copies.
During the Growth stage, there is no need to discount your price because people are willing to pay the full retail price. However, as your title enters its second printing, look for ways to increase profitability by lowering production costs. Revisit your distribution strategies to determine if it is time to address any special, direct markets that you decided not to address earlier.
Stage Four: Maturity.
Overall strategy: Maintain. Eventually sales begin to level off as your title enters Maturity. Figure 2 demonstrates that the cost to maintain the market presence of your title decreases, and subsequently, profitability increases. It makes sense to nourish this cash cow and sustain its revenue stream for as long as possible.
As new competitors begin to appear, your marketing strategies should shift. Start by testing a different promotional mix, investigating new product opportunities, evaluating different distribution channels and considering alternative pricing incentives.
Below is a case history about the title Job Search 101 a book which describes how to plan and implement a comprehensive job search. This discussion presents five possible marketing strategies to apply that will help revitalize and sustain your title. s earlier growth.
1. Create new markets.
Job Search 101 was published in 1991 and sold to bookstores and libraries via traditional distribution channels. As the economy worsened in the early 1990s, bookstore shelves became saturated with competitive job-search books. Incremental growth through conventional outlets became less profitable so a strategic marketing decision was created with the goal of seeking new markets.
For instance, research discovered an absence of career information available for the Hispanic market. Hence, Job Search 101 was translated into Spanish and published as Elementos basicos para buscar trabajo. This required a new distribution network, one more knowledgeable in servicing a market unfamiliar to the publisher.
Ensuing investigation uncovered an opportunity for entering the college market. Job Search 101 was sold to college career departments where students receive job-search assistance. These sales were invoiced at list price with no distributor discounts and no returns. Additional sales of Job Search 101 were made to instructors of job-search courses who used it as a textbook. This also increased sales to college libraries.
2. Provide the information in a different format.
By focusing on the contents of your book instead of the book itself, you can deliver the generic information in different ways. For example, sales of Job Search 101 began to slow down in the college market. Research among college students determined that they wanted job-search information in a more easy-to-use format.
Subsequently, a series of eight, 24-page booklets was created, each devoted to a traditional job-search tactic such as writing a resume or interviewing. Additionally, the booklets were easily adaptable to other markets. With minor changes, they were marketed to state unemployment offices in all fifty states. With further changes in content and strategy, they were sold to corporations to help employees who had been, or were about to be, laid off.
Another example of offering information in a different format was the video, The Art of Interviewing. In this case, the job-search techniques of correct posture, eye communication, gesturing and voice control were more easily communicated in a video format than in writing.
3. Find new users in fringe markets.
While performing seminars to promote the books, more opportunities were uncovered. For instance, some job seekers knew all the job-search techniques, but their attitude had eroded because of prolonged unemployment. As a result, the title Coping With Unemployment was released in 1994. Others knew how to write resumes and cover letters but did not know where to find the names of people to contact. To meet this need, the title Help Wanted: Inquire Within was published in 1995. This described the places to search for potential employers.
4. Implement creative promotional campaigns.
A proven marketing technique is to bundle two or more products together, using a new product to stimulate sales of a mature one. This tactic proved successful in a marketing campaign directed at parents of college students. A package comprised of The Art of Interviewing and Job Search 101 was offered at a discounted price to the parents of graduating students.
Between 1991 and 1995 a complete product line was created, addressing the diverse needs of people seeking job-search information from bookstores, colleges, corporations and state unemployment offices. The information was available in four books (one in Spanish), a video and eight different booklets. These actions prolonged the profitable life of the original title while creating additional revenue and profits through the line extensions. But with an improving economy and greater availability of employment, the market for job-search information began to erode. Additional planning was required to continue the publishing firm. s revenue stream.
5. Find new uses for the generic information.
Job Search 101 described the basic techniques of finding employment. It explained where to find the names of prospective employers, how to contact them and how to interview effectively. Fortunately, these are the same steps required to secure and conduct a performance on television and radio shows. Even the interview techniques of correct posture, eye communication, gesturing and voice control are similar. But these were as difficult to portray to authors as they were to job seekers.
This observation bore an entirely new product line, the foundation of which was the video, You. re On The Air, to help authors get on and perform on television and radio. Two companion guides, Perpetual Promotion and It. s Show Time extended this initial product offering.
Efforts to renew the growth of Job Search 101 created a complete product line of job-search products and spawned a new marketing opportunity. Strategic planning not only extends the growth of individual products, but it also fosters the longevity and profitability of your publishing company.
Stage Five: Decline.
Overall strategy: Harvest. After your title has spawned several offspring , its sales will eventually decline. Your distributors. sales. efforts vanish, and many of those books you thought were sold are returned for full credit.
As you consider your next steps, look into the reasons for the decline. In the case of Job Search 101, two uncontrollable factors led to its demise. First, the unemployment rate dropped from the highest rate in recent history to its lowest point in over twenty-five years. What was once a front-page topic became filler material on page 27. Second, Job Search 101 made no reference to online job-search techniques, which were relatively unknown when the book was first published in 1991. Subsequently, sales of Job Search 101 began to subside.
At the same time, You. re On The Air entered its growth stage, requiring a massive infusion of time and money. Therefore, the decision was made to remove Job Search 101 from the marketplace.
Stage Six: Demise.
Overall strategy: Abandonment. The time comes for most titles to enter their final life cycle stage. You may choose to remainder your books to recoup part of your investment, but do not choose that alternative too quickly. Instead, look for ways to leverage your investment.
For instance, giving away the remaining copies of Job Search 101 to groups involved in the welfare-to-work program generated thousands of dollars worth of free publicity. It also stimulated greater exposure and awareness of the remaining product line.
Giving away books may help you establish contacts among people in the media, smoothing the path for future coverage. You can do the same thing by finding groups and organizations that may be able to use your books. These could include prison libraries, shelters, nursing homes or hospitals. The goodwill you create may be worth more than the cost of your books.
Know when to hold . em and know when to fold . em
Carefully track the sales, revenue and profitability of all your titles. Manipulate their form, distribution, pricing and promotion as each title makes the transition from stage to stage. Cultivate the life cycles of your individual titles into a prolific, profitable product line and you will foster your long-term success.