The following is a guest post by Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rosemary Carlough on the long road to selling books in chunks of information.
Like all publishers, we are on a continual quest for additional revenue. One opportunity that seemed obvious was making the chapters of some of our larger books available individually. People are increasingly consuming information in smaller “chunks” online, and for our larger handbooks a chapter might have just the information they need, at a lower cost of course than buying the entire book.
We had a few titles that were obvious candidates for this test, including The AMA Handbook of Project Management and American Entrepreneur. And since some of the content – when broken into chapters – might also be used as supplemental reading in college classes, it provided an additional incentive. So why then did this idea turn into what felt like “The Project From Hell That Would Never Be Finished”?
Part of the answer to this question has to do with workflow. Every company develops a workflow that helps projects move toward completion, and we had no such cycle when it came to distributing chapters. There was also the question of metadata. Yes, there I go again, back on the subject of metadata, proof that I can’t escape this term. Or all the nitty-gritty little tasks that go along with supplying it to the data food chain. In order to sell content by chapter we needed to be able to have a description of the chapter for the customer to preview, and we also needed to be able to identify the sale so that the author was compensated.
In our current workflow there is nowhere we capture and store descriptions of chapters, or identify them by ISBN or DOI. So in order to distribute chapters for the 10 titles in this test we assigned more than 200 new E-ISBNs to each piece of content, and then needed to ensure we had descriptions, however short they might have been, for the 200 items of content. On the production side we wanted the content to still use the jacket art from the full book, but identify the content as just the chapter. Another 200 changes. Then the issue of copyright protection arose. Each chapter needed to have a copyright statement making clear where it came from. More file changes.
After weeks of work we finally managed to send the files and metadata to our DAD (digital asset distributor) so that they could create epub files and UPDF files (Universal PDF, which are free of printer crop marks) from our print PDFs (which have the crop marks), and distribute them. As I write this, we are still waiting for the final files for these 10 titles to be completely converted and distributed. In spite of much hard work on the part of many people, we missed the opportunity to have content used as reading in Fall 2011 classes. Here’s hoping we pick up some online sales and supplemental reading for the Spring 2011 semester. All of which means it will be many months before I can really report back on the results of this test. There are other titles we would like to distribute by chapter….but there must be a better way.
Rosemary Carlough is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at AMACOM. She started at AMA doing direct marketing when AMACOM had a monthly print newsletter, which was like a mini-catalog. Now she manages all of the marketing department, which includes creative, PR, trade sales, and our rights department. Check the AMACOM website for Sales and Marketing Inquiries.