Many people discuss formulas for books to be saved in this changing publishing world. Social Media, the most labor intensive to the author and least costly to the publisher, is pushed as the solution to many incoming writers. “How many followers do you have?” is a common question to a new writer who has spent blood, sweat and tears crafting a story they hope they can share with many readers. We, as agents, both understand the economic realities that drive these new ways of promotion and are frustrated by the added burdens on our already beleaguered authors. But what more can be done besides begging for higher marketing budgets and praying for review coverage?
How do readers find our new fiction writers who do not yet have a name brand nor do they have a non-fiction hook or clout? How do we introduce them to readers who would love their work without constantly re-inventing the wheel and persuade them to slap down a hefty sum in these cash strapped times for an unknown writer?
I remember Jane Friedman, when she was head of HarperCollins, speaking about how branding was the key to the future survival of publishing and, while this did not ultimately work at HC, I do feel she was right. Up to now, few in publishing have succeeded in this endeavor. Penguin Classics, Harlequin, the Dummy Books and Tor are examples of imprints who have succeeded to brand themselves straight to the consumer. Readers know what to expect when they pick up one of these books. Their trust in the imprint to deliver a type of read has been tested and found to be reliable. The reader does not have to worry about a wasted investment even if they don’t yet know the name of the writer.
Before now, while people in the industry knew the distinct identities of imprints and publishers, the readers were not as familiar.
Now readers are on their own. They are in a sea of titles, mostly on-line, whether they are looking for print or e-books. How do they find a new voice without that friendly bookstore owner recommending it to them? We know how they can discover other books by particular authors. They can easily click on the author’s name and see all of that author’s books. Why? Because on-line stores are sophisticated search engines.
What if readers could also search by imprint? All of a sudden they could see that Unbridled Books are quirky literary reads or that Riverhead delivers great writing consistently. Through imprint branding we are able to take away some of the monetary risk for our readers and build trust and loyalty that could then make it easier for a new voice to be discovered. This would not only benefit the imprint/publisher but the brick and mortar as well as the on-line stores, the authors and the consumers.
By asking on-line bookstores to add this one crucial search at the top of the book pages, we have given the consumer a whole new wealth of knowledge to facilitate their discovery of their next purchase.
This would be one more way for the consumer to be able to find the perfect read.
And that is what we all want…Right?