I’ll admit it. I’m a writer. While I haven’t yet written (or even started writing) the Great American Novel, I have penned two tech books. Of course, my timing being what it is, they were published just as the Dot-Coms were all becoming Dot-Bombs, and the bottom fell out of the tech book market. It’s just now coming back. Lest you think this is sour grapes on my part, I offer up this factoid: In 2001, technical books was the number two category in sales at Barnes & Nobel, nationwide. Just one year later, it was 6th. That’s a huge drop, but it reflects economic conditions more than anything. When you get laid off, the last thing you think about is buying more tech books.
As an author of technical titles (mine were both on Macromedia Flash), I was curious to see how the publishers used technology. The surprising answer was “not much.” Here’s a for instance…many tech books come with a CD bundled with the book. Would you like to guess how many of them ask the user to register online when they fire up the CD? Zero. Nyet. Bupkiss. None. (I checked.) I was told that the publisher (or at least two of the biggest ones) weren’t set up to do that, nor would they have any use for the data, if they could harvest the names.
Pause with me for a nanosecond.
Don’t you think it might be helpful if you knew who was buying your books? Don’t you think that a buyer of one tech title might be more likely to buy another one, than the average guy in a bookstore? Don’t you think some kind of affinity program might bring in more sales?
I put my thinking cap on and came up with an affinity program that would encourage book buyers to build a library of tech titles (by way of a discount card) that would be co-sponsored by a bookseller and a publisher. To say that my proposal fell on deaf ears would be an understatement. They weren’t interested.
To this day, I don’t know of a major publisher that attempts to know who their customers are, and market directly to them. I think it’s fair to say that the publishing and bookselling business hasn’t really taken advantage of the Internet to any great degree – nor has the slightest clue as to how marketing – REAL marketing – can help sell books.