Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Writer's Block Wednesday: Sell out?

Despite all the advances with e-book readers, online media, and creative marketing, the world of publishing continues to struggle. There hasn't been a jump in book sales, overhead for hardcovers is extremely high, and after everyone takes their cut, there's very little profit left over.

Lately, I've been musing over different ways for publishers to increase their profitability. Not just by selling more books, but actually increasing their profit margins. For ideas, I looked at newspapers and movies, to see what they're doing right.

Product Placement: In movies, whenever you see the actor drinking a can of Diet Coke or washing dishes with Palmolive, it's not a coincidence. Companies pay to have their products shown in films. So what about books? Bestsellers like James Patterson and Nora Roberts have an enormous following of readers, how much would a company pay to have Alex Cross talking on a Nokia or driving a Ford? Authors name products all the time, but putting a price on those product names could mean an increase in profit.

Advertising: When you purchase a Mass Market paperback, there is often advertising for the author's next book or other books by that publisher. What about selling that space and using it to house ads for other companies? Of course, to maintain integrity, the ads would have to be appropriate:
  • A Nike coupon in the back of Jamie Freveletti's RUNNING FROM THE DEVIL
  • A Bloomingdale's ad in the back of Sherrill Bodine's A BLACK TIE AFFAIR
  • An ad for the Kindle, Sony Reader or Nook "You could have read this on a ___"

If the advertising fit, not only would the publishers earn some money off that space, it could increase sales for the author. Would people purchase an $8 book if they knew they would receive $15 off a Kindle? This could also apply to e-books, in the same way Hulu or online newspapers use ad space. Would readers care if, when they load their e-book for the first time, they see an advertisement?

These are just a couple ideas I came up with and I welcome additional suggestions. Ultimately, fiction is art, and selling art is far different than selling a commercial product. But if publishers are willing to adapt and think of creative ways to make their art profitable, they'll stay in business longer and authors can earn a better living.


Quinn said...

I like the coupon idea. Maybe there could be coupons for other, similar books - something like Amazon's suggestions. Coupons are nice because they're an advertisement that's presented as a gift, and not as distracting as a normal ad.

There's always merchandise, too. Not every story lends itself to T-shirts and mugs or whatever, but the Homestar Runner guys have been giving away entertainment online for free for years, and are completely supported by merchandise.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Loved this. If there were ad placement in my series, it would be for: Johnnie Walker black, Spanx, Avon, Hardees, Wendys, and Walmart. There, my life in a nutshell! :)