Friday, 25 July 2008

Why are publishers so bad at advertising on TV?

By Darren E Laws

Book videos. Great to look at sometimes, but do they generate sales? Large established publishing houses occasionally dabble with TV commercials for established authors such as James Patterson, Penny Vincenzi and Stephen King but rarely do they place their advertising budget for such adverts in the hands of lesser-known authors. One has to ask is this because market research has shown that the book buying public is not persuaded by such a straightforward message, or is it solely due to expense. If expense were the issue then surely we would be seeing more low-cost options adopted by the big five, such as those embraced by smaller independent publishers using the net. Though not a new phenomenon, the book video as a sales marketing tool remains extremely popular especially amongst mainly independent publishers using the Internet. Many of these videos are inventive, entertaining and if targeted to a book buying audience should generate sales, but despite a proliferation of authors and publishers willing to invest part of their marketing spend on the production of these videos there appears to very little evidence that they generate sales at the moment.

Maybe the failure of larger publishers to explore TV and cinema advertising to its fullest extent is due to its approach when it has dabbled. Having seen the occasional attempt by various publishers one can only groan at the clumsiness of it all, and maybe it is the confusion of publishers to define a successful advertising model that works that has caused this reticence. How many adverts for novels can you remember? Now subtract those that you can remember for the right reasons…not many, eh?

Most independent publishers using ‘You Tube’ and various other Internet video outlets are showing a level of creativity that matches the efforts of its bigger brothers who have much larger budgets. How can it be that ‘John Doe Publishing’ can produce a video advert for under £200 ($400) that matches the creative output of one of the leading publishers in the world? The problem could lay with the fact that many publishers keep their advertising and marketing spend in-house, often refusing to employ outside agencies for a little creative input.

It strikes me that the joining of the written word into a visual medium for advertising novels has long been an uncomfortable fit for the established publisher. Maybe the injection of fresh ideas from independent publishers will help map a route that will drive readers to the bookstore in search of lesser-known ‘authors and publishers’ at the expense of the clumsy attempts of the publishing conglomerates. I also think the approach by the large publishing house can often reflect the arrogance of an established industry that thinks it knows best, even in the face of adversity and lack of success in terms of return of investment on its advertising spend. If at first you don’t succeed don’t give up, but for heavens sake, don’t keep repeating the same mistake and then blame the tool. The jury is still out on the success of using film or video to sell books but the net has allowed us all to play on a more even playing field and hopefully it won’t be long until a slick, inventive home produced video promoting a book captures the imagination of a vast audience, leading to those all important sales.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

The Kindle Swindle or a Myriad of Iliad?

By Darren E Laws

Nick Hornby this week raises a perfectly valid point by highlighting the exorbitant cost of electronic book reading machines. Whist the Kindle has some pretty neat built-in technology with the capability to fetch content from Amazon’s website (though not in the UK as of this moment) and a version of the Iliad (Kindle’s main rival) can also hook up to Wi-Fi to fetch content, these machines are coming in at the cost of more versatile computer hardware and lower-end laptops, all of which have greater versatility and the ability to deliver multimedia content. So the question has to be asked, is the industry serious about the delivery of ebook content or is has it misread the market. Let’s face it, given the choice of having a multi-functioning media delivery machine such as a laptop or PDA that can deliver ebook content in a legible form that is convenient; or a lump of plastic the size of a trade paperback with a dull colourless screen, which do you think would appeal most to the technically savvy readers of today?

Price as well as a little user-friendly redesigning has to be the issues that will begin to level the playing field and make the delivery of this electronic content more appealing to readers, and more importantly to engage and encourage new readers to use these machines. At the moment the Kindle and Iliad have the appeal of a 1980’s home computer, designed by geeks for geeks. There is little sophisticated or sexy about the bodies of these machines and I can honestly say there probably is not one person under 25 (maybe even 35) that would want to be seen using one in public. These machines are just not cool.

Countries like Japan already seem to have caught on to the fact, and this is born out through the uptake of mobile media content with novels being delivered directly to mobile (cell) phones that are quick to download through Bluetooth or via the Internet. Why buy a machine to read a novel when one is probably already in your pocket? Mobile phone technology is everywhere and increasingly more and more phones have Internet access. You may think it would be an unpleasant experience reading a novel on a standard mobile phone screen but most distributors of content use advanced font technology to east the strain on the eyes and make the whole experience pain free and enjoyable. A full novel can be downloaded in seconds from anywhere you can receive a mobile phone signal or through a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth portal making ease of access and sheer convenience a real plus point for mobile books.

If Nick Hornby, who let’s face it can probably afford to buy a Kindle or Iliad, thinks that they are overpriced then these machines are never going to take off and will remain piled high gather dust and awaiting a recall. I do applaud both Amazon and Irex Technologies though for making the machines in the first place. Now if only they could improve the design and make them cheaper we may all be tempted to read an ebook now and then.