The first question you should be asking yourself is what actually is the concept of branding in publishing mean? Is it just about attracting and retaining loyal customers or is it something more? In the publishing world, branding is not necessarily what publishers initially take a keen interest in. Publishers rely on their authors to be their brands, which makes it hard to develop a consistent message that reflects the mission of the publishing house as a whole and distinguishes it from the competition.
Publishing brands are not on the mind of the consumer. For instance, take Random House. It’s not like Coke or Pepsi. The readers only pay attention only if the book is good or a must-have. But to be clear, most books or eBooks are sold through channel partners such as bookstores (offline & online) and wholesalers who service them. In essence, it is the stores that provide access to the consumer. This is where brand loyalty is more along the lines of author loyalty. This is important because it has a direct impact on profitability. In fact, Codex data shows that consumers are willing to pay a 66% premium for a book by a favorite author over an unknown author.
While it’s true that a great book will find its audience, author recognition tends to trump that in the larger scheme of things. For example, John Grisham, Stephen King or J.K. Rowling are brands in their own right. But in reality, it is their creation of a ‘series’ that have cemented their place as publishing behemoths. J.K. Rowling created Harry Potter and Stephen King, despite his numerous other books, had most of his success with The Dark Tower series. The latter is now being released as a major motion picture next month. Having an upcoming film also tends to increase sales as part of creation and distribution and provides greater return on investment.
In the 21st century, publishers have veered into presenting their books on digital books and platforms. Not only are they selling books, they are selling access to content. Marketing automation has certainly proved pivotal in branding and functionality. With a combination of metadata and analytics, publishers can target readers based on their reading habits and in essence, raise brand awareness. For instance, a publisher can automate their system to send book previews to the readers, where readers would essentially like the suggestions given by the publishers and buy one of the books. Assuming the reader is happy with the publisher’s suggestion; they will be more likely to subscribe to that publisher for their future reading preferences.
Publishers are always thinking of new ways of refining their , especially with the use of technology. For example, Wharton School of Marketing professor Jerry Wind says that “branding will allow a little more differentiation, especially as publishers are moving beyond just books to eBooks and multiple screens and more interactive offerings.” Publishers are getting more involved with interactive technology as more content is reproduced in 3D and virtual reality. This has more scope in academic publishing where interactive content could rise in the years to come. The larger point is that by specializing in one aspect of digital transformation, enhancement or reproduction of authors’ work in an interactive format, could serve certain publishers well in the long term.
In the years to come, there will be more varied trends and changes in technology. Publishers will reinvent their brands accordingly. If they don’t adapt to the changes, those publishers will be swept away in the sands of time.
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