Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Branding in E-publishing

Author Mike Stewart recently brought A Newbie's Guide to Publishing to my attention, and it is a pretty interesting column, both for Joe Konrath's postings, and for the numerous responses he receives.

But while I was reading all of the discussion at this useful site about recent changes in publishing and the emergence of e-readers as the publishing medium of the future, it occurred to be that we are in the early days of marketing, and that we can expect to see some new trends in branding.

Right now, people are paying $2.95 for an e-novel by their favorite authors, and downloading dozens of that author's books to the e-reader thinking that they'll get around to reading them sooner or later. As I look around my to-be-read shelf with it's a pile of 200 or so books, it's pretty obvious to me I should stop buying more books until I actually read some of those on my 'next' shelf. And if it weren't obvious to me, it's pretty obvious to my wife who tells me 'stop buying more books until you clean out some of this mess!' But with an e-reader, the temptation to just keep downloading is almost overwhelming — no pile of physical books to impose restraint or trigger it in a spouse. Instead, just gigs of empty space yearning to be filled with more books. Nature abhors a vacuum, and damn if every book lover doesn't want to have more books on their hard drive than anyone else.

Sooner or later, ebooks are going to start channels like Youtube or etc. Somebody is going to come along to help feed that feeding frenzie. So they are going to say, "hey, let's put all the Star Trek books ever written into a packet for $300 bucks, call it the ST library. And people will download that monster just because they can, or because they know their friend Jason is a huge ST fan and it is therefore an obvious xmas/birthday gift, even if Jason has already read 3/4 of the bundle and wouldn't actually by that for himself. And then next will be the Star Wars Bundle and the Honour Harrington bundle – then the stupid military SF bundle, and the rightwing SF bundle and eventually Allan Weiss or I will get around to editing the Canadian SF bundle — every Canadian SF book/collection ever published. And people will buy it, even if they have no intention of reading more than 1/4 of the titles, just 'cuz.

It's the same principle as cable channels. There are tons of cable channels that make my brain hurt because who watches this stuff? But sometimes the answer is nobody watches that channel. I certainly didn't order that channel, it just came with the bundle. Because when ever you give consumers options, there is always that percentage that say, "I want 'em all". So a bunch of completely hopeless channels survive because a lot of people are paying $1.50 a month for that channel because either they couldn't be bothered to filter it out of their order, or because the evil cable company included it in a bundle with 20 other channels the consumer wanted.

I see the same trend evolving for book bundles.

So while today everybody is scrambling to self publish, I think we should be keeping half an eye out for when someone — Sony or Amazon or whom ever — starts bundling books. Because, you want to be in on that bundle action! I'll take my 25 cents for every bundle sold.... And, you know, always a chance someone working their way through the bundle will stumble on my book and like it enough to hunt down other stuff I've writen, building me a reader base! Of course, Runte is pretty far down the list alphabetically, so I'm thinking of adopting the nom de plum Aaron Aabbi to give me a fighting chance of being among the first books read in the bundle, before readers realize they are never going to read it all, and that a lot of it reads like cable TV.

Robert — I mean Aaron.

(The problem is, when I write columns like this, even I'm not sure whether I'm being satrical or not...)

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