What Hachette v. Amazon Meant For Publishing

Book publishers have fought hard to keep their control over ebook pricing. Pricing was the main dispute in the now infamous Hachette vs. Amazon story, and after defending their control to price books (because they don’t trust Amazon to do it) publishers are now forced to learn about their customers.

Learning through promotions

One of the ways publishers are experimenting with book pricing is launching new promotional brands that market to readers directly. These price promotion services include:

Building audience for these promotional brands requires subscribing readers to mailing lists. And using paid advertising (i.e. Facebook Advertising and Google Adwords) to grow newsletter subscriber lists is very expensive. Publishers will need to also find organic ways to successfully build audience.

Readers know authors, not publishers

The shift in publisher focus to promotional pricing is driven by a desire for direct relationships with the consumers (and to reduce Amazon’s control over the market). Alternatively, looking back at past initiatives, publishers seemed to be more focused on understanding general reader interests and publishing trends. Some publishers even went so far as building “publisher neutral” online communities around specific genres. These initiatives included the science fiction & fantasy sites Tor by Macmillan and Suvudu by Random House. Based on Tor’s success, Macmillan even launched additional publisher agnostic sites for romance and crime & mystery.

Most readers don’t know or care who publishes a book.

The reason publisher agnostic sites can work is most readers don’t know or care who publishes a book. They know and care about the author. Books are very similar to music in this way: Listeners almost never care—or even know—who the record label is for a song or artist.

Grow with the author brand

Publishers now say that developing direct relationships with readers is critical. Unfortunately, they don’t have the attention and resources to develop those connections in a meaningful way. Publishers have to see that empowering authors to build their audience—through sharing content—is their best chance to develop sustained and meaningful relationships with readers.

The aftermath of Hachette’s dispute with Amazon forced publishers to try new ways to build audience. To successfully market and sell directly to readers, publishers will need tremendous support from authors. But if this model becomes successful, it has the potential to revolutionize the publishing industry.