Reaching the Reader: Direct-to-Consumer Marketing through New Publishing Partnerships

Mar 14, 2014

A pervasive characteristic of the digital shift in publishing is the attempt to connect directly with readers. Every publisher, and every self-publishing author, is urged to consider carefully not only who their target readers are, but also how to reach them directly. This is a huge paradigm shift for publishers, who have typically taken a business-to-business approach to sales and marketing, pitching their list to key agents within the industry supply chain; primarily sales reps who stood the best chance of getting their books sold into bookstores. Now that such a significant portion of the book retail business has moved online, publishers can’t rely as heavily on these sales channels, and many have adopted a consumer-facing approach to sales and marketing. 

A direct-to-consumer approach isn’t unique to the book business – the rise of digital has had a similar impact on every retail enterprise – but as purveyors of content, both publishers and self-publishing authors are in a unique position to engage their customers deeply, and to engender a loyal following among them. There are many intriguing examples of this kind of innovation. Here’s a recent standout example:

Last week, we participated in BookNet Canada’s annual TechForum, a leading industry conference about publishing innovation. From Page Two’s perspective, a highlight of the conference was a joint presentation by Dominique Raccah, head of US-based independent publisher Sourcebooks, and Ashleigh Gardner, head of content at Toronto-based reading and self-publishing platform Wattpad. Sourcebooks and Wattpad have recently partnered on a publishing experiment in which Sourcebooks selects works of young-adult fiction from Wattpad’s self-published authors and publishes them under one of Sourcebooks’ own imprints, giving the authors broad exposure through distribution to bookstores and other retail channels. Sourcebooks is simultaneously marketing its traditionally published books on Wattpad’s site, using the site to build its authors’ platforms in a new, rapidly-growing channel.

In our opinion, this partnership presents a rare opportunity for direct intersection between writers, readers, a publisher and an ebook distributor, all of whom are deeply invested in the same particular area of publishing. Writers and readers comment on and support each other’s work, Wattpad provides the space in which they can interact, and Sourcebooks adds several traditional publishing elements to the equation (such as professional editorial, design and distribution strategy) that makes the initiative especially multifaceted.

The experiment itself is smart and strategic, but it’s the spirit of partnership that really inspires us. In many ways, the author-publisher relationship has always been a form of partnership. In the new publishing universe, that partnership must expand to include other parties, including digital innovators and – most importantly – readers. If the Wattpad-Sourcebooks experiment is an indicator of possible new publishing directions, we think the future looks bright.