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Colleen Hoover – CoHo Impact

08.05.2022, No Comments, Uncategorized, by .

Colleen Hoover (CoHo) is the best-selling author in America this year. Prior to 2020, she was a best-seller, but after Tik-Tok “discovered” her, she has been on an enormous roll. Not only have her books risen to the top, she is capturing an elusive target market – teenage girls. This graph shows how much her sales have exploded over the past two years. There is a slight uptick in 2020, a more pronounced increase in 2021, and an explosion is 2022 (and this number only represents the first seven months of 2022).

  • Six of the top eight books on Amazon are from CoHo. This has been the case for months.
  • Six books on the New York Times trade paperback fiction list (including 3 of the top 4). Is this a record for most titles on a single list by the same author? I remember when Michael Crichton had four on the list at the same time, but that was because of movies. Of course, JK Rowling with Harry Potter.
  • Five of the top 15 titles on Barnes & Noble’s best-sellers list. B&N also has a sponsorship deal with TikTok.
  • From Independent bookstores to Target, CoHo books are selling.

Her books are mostly published by Atria, a division of Simon & Schuster. S&S just reported overall corporate sales up 34% YTD. I believe it is due to the 17 Hoover titles they publish. She also has a book with Hachette’s Grand Central Publishing. The book had been self-pubished and was smartly signed up by GCP in a two book deal. With a new title due next year in hardcover. She also has three titles published by Amazon’s imprint Montlake division.

Her astonishing success on TikTok has been documented by everyone. From Buzzfeed and Glamour to the Washington Post.

 

All of this has been widely reported. But it hit home when I witnessed the impact in person.

I was on vacation and we were shopping at the local bookstore with my teen daughter. We were looking for, of course, Colleen Hoover titles. It was actually hard to find any. We finally stumbled across three titles (single copy of each) on a back table. Almost hidden. The store didn’t have the first three titles my daughter wanted, so she went with one that was in stock. When we were checking out, the bookseller mentioned that they can not keep the books in stock. She did mention that it has brought a new, much younger audience into the store. I agree, CoHo is creating a new world of readers.

Then, as if on cue, four teenage girls come waltzing into the store. They started wondering out loud where Hoover’s books were. They sounded as if this was (and perhaps so) the first bookstore trip with comments like “do they sort these by name – first or last?”; “is there a special section for her?”; “there looks like a lot of boring school (non-fiction) titles here, ugh!”. They couldn’t find what they wanted. They didn’t have the patience to look or the desire to ask if the store carried any copies. The girls then left. I heard one of the saying they had 2-3 different titles that they wanted to buy.

I do wonder why the store didn’t order up big, create an endcap or section for all her titles and punch up the merch? I am sure many stores are doing this – but why not all? This phenomenon has been ongoing and this store just has yet to embrace. CoHo is bringing an entire new audience to the book. This generation that we fight to get them off their phones and reading.

They want print books.

They want to read.

This is a huge opportunity.

The CoHo Impact will be felt for years…

 

Content to Market

06.02.2022, No Comments, Uncategorized, by .

 

There are hundreds of methods to properly get your idea to market. Many have full business plans and details. This post is a brief overview of the process.

  1. CONTENT — this is what gets the end consumer. It may be a product, a service, an idea, or even a concept. It can be original or based on something else. But it is what has been created and to get to the market.
  2. WHY? — The first question to answer is why would anyone want this? In other terms, identify the “Unique Value Proposition” or the UVP. The UVP clearly states why a consumer would buy from your company and not others. What is the reason to exist? If a business can not clearly state the UVP, it is not going to be clear on messaging, target consumer, or marketing. It will fail.
  3. FOR? — Who is the core target market? What group is the heavy users that must have this item? The first users, the experts, the ones who will influence others. A startup must capture the core market before it can start to branch out to the wings or peripheral markets. Focus on the core and get them loyal.
  4. HOW? — One can have a great product, but if the pipeline to the consumer is not laid down, the product fails. The “how” is Operations. This includes logistics, production, sales, and customer service.
  5. MARKET — once all the other areas are covered, it is imperative to promote. One has to let the consumer know about the product. Awareness and discoverability are essential for success. Social media and other online tools have made this easier to compete, but it is much more than just setting up a Twitter account. It is difficult work to get potential customers to care about your product.
  6. FINANCIALS — underlying all of the functions above are the financials. This is a way to keep score. So know the numbers and how to legally manipulate so the game is won.
  7. SUCCESS? — what defines success? The biggest profit?  The best citizen and helping others? A bit of both? Decide what outcome is desirable, and plot to it. Even a non-profit must generate revenue.

 

Murakami

03.15.2022, Comments Off on Murakami, Books, by .

ARC, sampler, and galley

The other day one of the Gen Z’s in the office mentioned that she once read Haruki Murakami, but all his recent books seem the same. Could this be true? I’ve no idea. I have only read the earlier ones.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

I was the national accounts sales director at Knopf. I was about the same age then as the Gen Z mentioned above. This was when almost everyone from publisher would go to sales conference at a resort for 10 days. I think we were at Camelback outside of Phoenix, AZ. Each book was presented and discussed – some for 30 minutes or more. We would listen to editors talk up books but more importantly the sales reps could pontificate about a book they loved.

One of the more seasoned reps, Howie from the Bay Area stood up and started to talk about the greatness of Murakami. Howie was a crazy dude, who was known to champion the most obscure titles. He scared me a bit. He gave a 10 minute impassioned speech for THE WIND UP BIRD CHRONICLE. This publication was in hardcover and Murakami had not had a USA bestseller yet. I think he sold less than 5,000 of his previous titles. I don’t remember what Howie said, but it was convincing. That night at the party (every night there was a free bar), Howie gave another speech about the book.

I had to read it, I had to read Murakami. I did. WIND UP BIRD is not an easy read. It is confusing, It is here, it is there. Where? Is that a tower? Is that a talking cat?  Am I listening on the radio or is it in my head? Is this my beautiful wife? Exactly.

It worked for me. It opened me up to novels and the possibility that the real is not real. I became fascinated with Murakami.

I gave copies to my family — and they are “what is this?” But read WIND UP BIRD and you will be changed. This book is that profound.

I went on to read every Murakami that had been translated at that time:

I went back and read (with pub dates):

First page – WIND UP BIRD

Then I took a ten year break. I was starting and stopping KAFKA ON THE SHORE (2005). I looked at SPUTNIK SWEETHEART (2001) but never opened it. I carried around 198Q (2011)for months – i still want to read it but lost my copy.

I did go back and read one last novel:

COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE (2013)

Brilliant books, concepts, and hours of deep thought.

Until I just stopped. It did seem like books were repeating (they probably weren’t but this is my warped perspective) – perhaps the Gen Z editor was right?

I still find Murakami fascinating.

And I am sure his new stuff is great…

But there are so many great writers to discover, and only so much time.

Murakami autograph

 

 

 

The other night I was sketching out a four year sales plan. As I was thinking about it, I decided to create a quick graph. This is at the top of the page (1). It is obvious at first glance that the trend is up. The second part (2) is a description of what the same data. I could have gone on more but ran out of space.

The picture at the top conveys more information than the description. lesson? Use charts and graphs to make your point. Too much writing can dilute the message.

No doubt the detail is needed in words — but if the graph is effective, there is less need for text.

out…

It was just announced that Paul McCartney has an enormous book publishing that covers all his songs and the meanings behind them. the book will come out in Fall 2021 and is titled THE LYRICS: 1956 to the Present. It is two-volumes, 960 pages and costs $100. This will be one of the biggest gift books of the year.

Type in “The Beatles” in Books on Amazon and over 10,000 hits come up. The Beatles are probably the band that has more written about them than any other. There are thousands of articles on books about and by the Beatles and those close (or not so close) to them. There are also thousands of self-published works. Rolling Stone magazine recently ran an article on the “10 Best Beatles Books.”  Bookseller Barnes and Noble has a post titled “10 Essential Books About the Beatles.”  Reader’s Digest has “9 Beatles Books You Need to Read.”  There were at least 20 new books on the Beatles published in 2020 including James Patterson’s about the murder of John Lennon.

Why so many books on the band? It goes much deeper than the music. In the case of the Beatles, art didn’t imitate life; but art created the reality. The Beatles led the changes in society during the 1960s. Their actions created much of the style and the sense of the era. The Beatles were so much of the decade, they started at the onset of the decade and were done by the end of it. Their music changed so that they later stuff is as good or better than the earlier music. But it is also different. A quick listening to the compilation album 1 and the growth and change are obvious.

The impact of each of them separately also is enormous. Each had a successful solo career and extended the legend.

In addition to the books by the band members (see photo above) The books can be put into numerous sub-categories, I want to focus on a few bigger ones.

My favorite — books about the stories behind the songs. I devoured A HARD DAY’S WRITE over a long weekend a few years ago. Love to hear the origin of these classic tunes and meaning.

Another group is the “big books” that cover a tour or the recording sessions. The book GET BACK is coming this Fall too and is a tie in to a Peter Jackson doc on the classic album (aren’t all their albums classic though?

The next group are children;’s picture books by the Beatles. Some are just the songs assigned to an illustrator and others are originals – McCartney on being a “Grandude.”

 

And finally the group of the canon titles. Those that are written by experts and cover the history, the impact, the power of the band. Some of these came out last year. It is amazing how new material can continue to be found. Hw the Beatles will continue to be studied for centuries from now. 

 

Every January, a list of books becomes public domain. Generally is a bunch of little known titles that have lost commercial value. But, occasionally a huge seller expires and is open for anyone to publish. In January 2021, a major work of American fiction, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s THE GREAT GATSBY became public domain. The book had been under copyright to Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Over the decades, they have sold millions of copies. Now they will most likely to continue to sell thousands a week, but there are numerous other editions.

A quick count on Amazon, and I found over 75 editions (most of which have a pub date of January 2021). In addition to the basic text of the original novel; there are graphic novels, YA editions, illustrated editions, deluxe hardcovers, ebooks, mass market editions, trade paperback editions and gift editions. I wouldn’t doubt the total reaches 100 by mid year.

All of the “corporate five” publishers now have editions. Simon & Schuster has 5-6 editions; Penguin Random House has 7-10 (from deluxe hardcovers to mass market editions); Hachette; Macmillan; and HarperCollins also have editions. There are editions from numerous “unknown” publishers that crop up on Amazon. Given the low cost to create, print-on-demand, and Amazon’s access to millions of readers, a PD title like THE GREAT GATSBY is easy to pt up for sale. The key is how to cut through all the noise to get consumers to buy your edition. There are also hundreds of places to download a free copy of the book.

I am not going to drive through all of the options. If interested, John Williams in the New York Times wrote an excellent article of many of the editions.

How does a publisher separate from the others? The Scribner one has the classic cover and will continue to ride 75 years of being first.  The others from the corporate publishers will sell because of the strong branding of the lines (Penguin Classics, The Modern Library, Harper Perennial etc). Some will have a new introduction by a brand name author – Vintage has a John Grisham essay. Price is also a factor. But with so many free editions available, competing on price can be a losing proposition. Winning the Amazon SEO can also create interest, but it is a crowded market. And of course, the cover.

I looked at almost every cover. A lot of similarity in using an art deco typeface; a party set in the 20s; or Gatsby’s car.

There are the “classic look covers.” The iconic blue one still stands out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are the “party book covers.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are the “car book covers.”

We are living in historic times. Covid has permanently changed the way we shop, live, interact and work. Once through this, we will think of a “pre-covid” and “post-covid” world. These are disruptive times.

  • Pre-Covid (PR) – Yesterday
    • Independent bookstores thriving and farmer’s markets thriving. In the past decade, Independent bookstores grew from 1600 to 2500. A new flourish of people entering bookselling reinvigorated the business. Buy local.
    • B&N was the most powerful bookseller in America. But as all market leaders, they declined and lost market share. They were purchased by Elliott Management in summer of 2019.
    • Amazon dominates online bookselling. They are expanding and diversifying their book sales offering by opening 24 book store locations. Speculation they would open up to 400 locations.
    • Many startups entering publishing following digital money. Many failed, but some prevail. But no one had made a serious dent in Amazon’s online strength.
  • Covid: (CVD) – Today
    • Indie bookstores hurt by lock-down and sales down 31.6% from previous years. Some stores are closing and the run to open new ones has slowed. Move toward pick-up and online sales. Farmer’s markets are following the same pattern.
    • B&N decentralized buying decisions and laid off staff; remodeled and cleaned up 100’s of stores. But closed some iconic locations.
    • Amazon dipped initially and then roared back to expand market share They are hiring 100,000 people – projecting an enormous Q4.
    • Bookshop.org has gone from an idea to reality and is expecting 2020 sales of $50MM and recently opened in the U.K.
  • Post-Covid (PS) – Tomorrow
    • Indie bookstores will come back as the farmer’s markets will — both hyper-localized. But this crisis has shown the value of selling and marketing online more than ever. The strongest stores will have blended their stores with online. The shopping experience will have changed.
    • B&N will come back as Daunt looks to focus. Hyper-localized. How successful will B&N be? How many of the 600+ stores will be closed to find the right amount of stores? 100? 200? There will continue to be motion at B&N as Daunt figures it out. He will.
    • Amazon will continue to use data to hyper-localize. Amazon will start to expand their bricks and mortar locations. With all the retailers being knocked off by covid, there will be cheap retail real estate for Amazon to rent/buy. Use as mini-distribution centers. They may lose share in bookselling as they continue to focus on selling everything and there is growing online competition.
    • Some companies have prevailed and are thriving include Bookshop.org, EPIC! and Scribd. All part of the new world of selling books. All have grown in market share due to changing consumer patterns. Expect these booksellers to continue to expand.

The selling of books evolves as the country does. At one time department stores sold the most books; then independent stores; then mall based chain stores like Waldenbooks; then superstores B&N and Borders and clubs like Costco; then Amazon. Who is next?

Lots changing. This just scratches the surface as every sales channel will be different in the Post-Covid Era. I hope we get there soon, for we are in what seems to be an infinite loop. We are in the “Covid DMV Waiting Room” and just hoping to get through this as fast and safe as possible.

A new normal is being created. Why the farmer’s market and independent bookstore comparison? Because the factors in success for each are similar and connected.

 

Hyperlocal is selling and marketing to the smallest detail, to grab them when they are near, to communicate regularly with your consumer, and to provide a service that is part of the community. Dan Shewan has a good recap of hyperlocal marketing

 

Marketing as the Center

07.10.2020, No Comments, Uncategorized, by .

There is no one “correct” way to organize a publisher. Each organization is unique with different departments running the company. It could be Editorially-driven or Sales-driven. But regardless of which division is dominant, Marketing is at the center of it all.

Marketing can be defined differently by different publishers.

Marketing is the center of communications with every department. Every decision goes through it and the department then coordinates with all other stakeholders.

The American Marketing Association definition: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

 

The publishing circle – creating value throughout:

  • MARKETING  – connectors.
  • AUTHORS & ILLUSTRATORS – the creators of the value.
  • EDITORIAL – content. shaped and value is created.
  • DESIGN & PRODUCTION – creating the packages. the feel and look. value is created.
  • SALES – distribution to the market – value is created.
  • CONSUMERS – who the content is for – value is created.
  • PUBLICITY (MEDIA) – will learn from consumers and report on it – value is created.
  • MARKETING – it comes full circle.
  • FINANCE – hovers over it all. They are the ones who create the scorecard and tally the wins – value is recognized.

As long as the numbers are where they need to be — then publishers will continue to exist. Much has changed, but the basic structure has not. It is still about making public ideas and that is important.

Key external relationships – interacting with key partners:

  • MARKETING  – everyone.
  • AUTHORS & ILLUSTRATORS – other authors and illustrators.
  • EDITORIAL – agents and scouts.
  • DESIGN & PRODUCTION – freelancers and printers.
  • SALES – accounts, retail, school, and library.
  • CONSUMERS – to other consumers.
  • PUBLICITY (MEDIA) – to other media.
  • MARKETING  – everyone.
  • FINANCE – bankers and insurance.

There are, of course, many more direct relationships and therefore many more lines on the grid (for instance, authors to consumers is a connection that is direct, but it is still best to run through Marketing so what the authors are doing can be backed up with Marketing to the accounts (Sales) or the readers or Media. Editorial connects with Sales direct, but Marketing is also in the loop for the sales materials are created by marketing to help deliver the message.

 

 

 

 

A few weeks ago Arundhati Roy was interviewed on 60 Minutes. She said many things, but one part stood out. She discussed a sense of loss during these covid-19 days. That we have no “present” to bridge between what has happened (past) and what will happen (future).

Makes sense. Although I agree, millions do feel as if they are on hold waiting to speak, to listen, or simply to hang up. We are traveling in an airplane but can not land. We just circle the airport over and over. We will land eventually, and some things will be different. What? Who? How? Hard to tell. Many conversations I have had with publishers, “when this is over…” Now is the time to plan. Create various outcomes and be ready. Don’t let this time now go to waste – focus on the future and preparing now (the present) to create the path you want after Covid-19 goes away.

I was introduced to the work of Arundhati Roy with her debut novel, THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS. The book was published in 1997. It was published by Random House imprint of Random House corporate. This was prior to the Bertelsmann purchase and the Penguin merger. This was a first novel and the publisher/editor Ann Godoff was excited about this book and said it was brilliant. Her enthusiasm was contagious and as the sales reps started to read, copies started getting ordered. The novel was on its way to being a bestseller. The title was supported with an intensive marketing budget, including signed &. boxed ARCs. I have one. It’s great to have a physical sales item. A keepsake.

The book received rave reviews from most places including the NY Times, LA Times, and the Guardian. But to top it off, the novel won the Booker. Major success. The book continues to sell tens of thousands of copies each year — and it is closing in on 25 years in print.

She didn’t write another novel until 20 years later.

Covid-19 is having a profound impact on the world. It is changing publishing. Many things will be different after this is over, and publishers will be increasing the use of digital sales materials. That has already started, but the pandemic hastened it. I hope publishers still create these limited runs of potentially historic books. Sometimes a physical book is much better than an ebook.