by Dominique Raccah
About two years ago, I came to the conclusion that we needed to have a decidedly more direct relationship with our readers. I was especially intrigued by watching some of the smart ways publishers in other spaces (most notably O'Reilly and Baen) were engaging with their readers. It also came from watching how e-tailers like Amazon.com repeatedly used their customer information to build products, services and user engagement. Having a direct, ongoing relationship with our readers could not only make solid business sense, it could also help create enormous impact for our authors.
Discover a New Love is our first major project in this direction. Its focus is primarily on lovers of great romance novels, or novels with strong romantic elements. Among other things, we believe it will make us a stronger publisher—one better able to satisfy the desires of our readers. We believe we'll be better able to further the careers of our authors and to provide insights that may prove useful to our retail partners, as well as our authors, their agents and our international publishing partners. We think it will actually help us to create better books and market them in more interesting ways.
Specifically we’re hoping to accomplish 3 things:
- FEEDBACK: We need to be constantly learning to make better books, particularly in a world as noisy and crowded as that of romance novels. To do so, we actually need to ask more questions and gather more data. We need to learn more about what really can make a difference. It’s one of the essential ways that publishers can add value for authors.
- COMMUNITY: We think we can create new ways of connecting authors to readers. We’re going to start with regular parties online and several live events throughout the year. Your hostess is the incomparable Barbara Vey! We’re launching at the RT Booklovers Conference here in Chicago this week!
- TRENDS: Having a place to listen and learn: What do readers want more of? What do they want next? What new directions is romance fiction going? As Joe Wikert pointed out “One of the most important reasons publishers should invest in a direct channel is because of all the data it provides.”
Fundamentally, we’re interested in one problem: how can we help a reader discover the next book or author they will love?
We know people who read Susanna Kearsley love her books, so how do we help more readers to discover her books? (And so on for other authors obviously.)
Like many new developments, we expect how we tackle this problem to evolve—starting immediately. Here are some of the ideas we’re starting with:
- In response to reader demand, many of the eBooks will be available all over the world. It won’t be for all titles due to some contract restrictions, but we’re paying attention and looking for ways to connect the world-over.
- The eBooks offered will be Digital Rights Management (DRM) free and portable to ALL eReader devices. We want readers to own the ebooks and for those ebooks to be portable across eReading devices and platforms. DRM is controversial because on the one hand it offers some protection from piracy (people disagree with how much). On the other hand, it’s hard on consumers—they can’t share, they can’t take advantage of all the devices they own. And there are many who don’t like it. The question is how best to balance these competing interests?
- We invite other publishers to join us (though as the Wall Street Journal pointed out DRM may well be an issue for others). Possibly more to come on that topic.
Discover a New Love is not intended to replace our valued partnerships and promotions with other retailers. Many who know Sourcebooks know we’re aggressive in testing promotions that find both greater readership and value for our authors, so we do and will continue to do frontlist and themed ebook promotions with our retail partners. Discover a New Love is envisioned as another avenue to help readers. If you’re a romance reader, it’s one more platform for discovery (with loads of neat pluses). The data we’ve seen shows that romance readers are heavy users and that they buy from many different outlets. We see this is an expansion and addition to the current space.
Discover a New Love is a new model built directly in response to what we’ve heard from authors, agents and readers. Expect a lot of changes from us. This is just the beginning. And we look forward to learning together.
Thoughts, comments, suggestions are all welcome.
With warmest wishes,