“Penguin Random House Makes Moves to Improve Bookseller and Reader Relations”
Since the July merger of Penguin and Random House, those in the publishing industry have been interested to see how the new publishing house will integrate the two companies and how they will fare in the face of internet giants like Amazon and Google. Penguin Random House was formed around the belief that fewer large publishers are better than many smaller publishers in such a competitive market. Now the largest consumer book publisher, Penguin Random House controls more than 25 percent of trade publishing. Of course, size isn’t everything, and some recent moves from Penguin Random House show how the company is working to improve their interaction with booksellers and engage their readership in innovative ways.
This past Wednesday, Penguin Random House announced their effort to make its supply chain for print text more effective. They created the United Fulfillment Group, which will be responsible for distributing over two million print texts to booksellers daily. The goal of this group is to combat the problem between bookstores and their distribution centers. Currently, when a bookseller sells one of their books, the title becomes out of stock simply because most only have one copy available on shelves and reorders only occur once per week. This means that the title wouldn’t be available at that bookstore for anywhere from one week to two weeks, with the consideration of how long it takes distributors to ship. Penguin Random House will now focus their attention on reestablishing their print vendor agreements and making the process more cost effective.
Penguin Random House has also set the bar high in terms of reader engagement; they recently teamed up with Flipboard to curate content for the social-network application. This partnership is kind of a big deal, because they are the first book publishers to do something of the sort. Flipboard has a whopping 85 million users, which means that the publishing house was on a mission to go above and beyond their norm to really grasp the attention of readers. But it gets better—the collaboration includes two digital magazines from Penguin Random House’s best-selling authors, Margaret Atwood and George R. R. Martin. Atwood’s magazine will be based on MaddAddam, her new novel, and will offer readers insight on unique information that wouldn’t be found elsewhere. The World of Ice and Fire will be Martin’s magazine, which will offer in-depth information on the infamous series, as well as current news, excerpts, and vast array of theories. Both magazines are set to drive traffic and get readers talking and engaging. It’s safe to say this was a smart move on Penguin Random House’s part.
“To Self-Publish, or Not To Self-Publish, That is A Trade Publisher’s Question”
To be described as a “legacy” in today’s publishing industry may sound more like mockery than a compliment, because it creates an image that predates the digital revolution and casts its mark in the past–and that’s not the impression long established publishers want to give. They want to be a viable force in this industry today. In an effort to compete, a few publishers have decided to not only add a self-publishing platform to their list of services, but to also vie for favors with authors by offering new features and lower prices. The Penguin Group has done something similar, by cornering the market with the launch of their self-publishing platform Book Country and with the purchase of Author Solutions in 2012. Following in their footsteps, Simon & Schuster has also added Archway Publishing in an effort to broaden its list of services. While many see this as an attempt by large publishers to establish a new relationship with their authors, others see this as a way for publishers to adopt a new business model.
Truth be told, economically, maintaining conventional publishing models has exacerbated the industry’s financial woes when it comes to both authors and publishers profiting from such a small pools of readers, even if readers are loyal. On the other hand, self-publishing makes for a good construct because authors can keep a larger percentage of their royalties and publishers can provide print options that can successfully reduce their overhead. This means that publishing services are now scalable and less of a financial imposition, and that publishers have more opportunities to partner with indie publishers in an effort to find ways to deliver the same value in smaller creative and marketing units. Additionally, this construct has brought more opportunities for the publishers to connect and maintain open communication with their authors, and subsequently their customers, instead of focusing solely on their products and services, which at times can exclude potential publishing markets.
There is evidence that other publishers are thinking along the self-publishing lines. Penguin and Simon & Schuster have tools that very few publishing companies have, and now there is the opportunity to explore where these services for their authors can provide efficiencies and how the expertise of these authors can add value in the long run.