The Direct To Consumer Cycle - from Publisher to Reader….and back!

Doug Lessing (Firebrand Technologies), Micah Bowers (Bluefire), Susan Ruszala (NetGalley)
Location: Broadway Ballroom North Level:
Average rating: ***..
(3.00, 4 ratings)

We currently live in a publishing world where the large retail book sellers have built impressive, albeit closed, ecosystems which have successfully created widespread ebook adoption in the general market. The success of this rapid adoption has been dependent on a few key factors such as quality, dedicated E Ink devices, instant and direct ebook delivery and established communities of book consumers. This has been an exciting ride for all players in the industry and ultimately positive for readers.

The challenge facing publishers today is to move past the closed retail ecosystems and to engage with, and sell, directly with readers. Ultimately, it will be the quality of the complete experience from discovery to purchase to reading that the consumer has that makes this relationship feasible.

Why would a publisher, in the first place, be interested in establishing this relationship? For several reasons.

First, developing brand equity is more relevant today for publishers than in the past, just as brand equity has always been relevant for retailers. The need to defend against obscurity is the main driver to develop a brand, given the abundance of choice available to consumers . The brand may not be the publisher’s imprint. Instead it may be a series, or author that demands their own brand and ecosystem.

Further, developing a direct relationship with individual readers can lead to the powerful advent of Communities. By communities we are not just talking about social interactions, but true communities built around common, passionate interests. Many publishers we speak to know where that potential is in their list, but don’t have the tools to exploit it.

Finally, although there are more constraints on Direct To Consumer domestically, there are growing opportunities for publishers to sell to international readers, where mobile reading, outside the major retail ecosystems prevalent in the US, may become the dominant market opportunity. Managing rights, understanding currency strategies, VAT and other local issues and developing an international Direct To Consumer ebook platform can help publishers position themselves today for this growing opportunity.

This leads us to the main theme of the proposed session. Rather than talking about an end to end perspective of publisher to reader, we will explore the complete cycle that a direct relationship between publishers and readers can enable. The purpose of this relationship may be greater than simply elevating the direct to consumer sales channel. It can also elevate the entire publishing program by learning, adapting and raising awareness and sales in all channels.
The foundation of a successful Direct To Consumer strategy must be a friction-less, positive experience for the reader. The proposed session would explore the many components required to accomplish this including:

1. High quality metadata to enable segmentation of titles so as to target individual communities
2. High quality Ebook content and supporting assets
3. Desktop and Mobile friendly Ecommerce websites with a minimum of clicks to order, tailored for each platform. These platforms must use the conventions of each device and follow the concepts of Luke Wroblewski’s Mobile First strategy.
4. Digital Library for purchased titles
5. Mobile Reader, connected to the reader’s digital library, for instant access and an easy reading experience
6. The Feedback Loop: metrics and analytics. What time of day to people read? Which books do people finish, which do they abandon part way through. Which books do people read multiple times. What do they search for? What do they bookmark.

We would also explore considerations that a publisher must take into account including:
• How quickly can you get the product to market? Windows close quickly now, and publishers must have speed and direction to move on opportunities immediately.

• What brands will support community-building over the long term? Will you have other products, content, etc to introduce to the community you are building?

• Is the community aspect authentic, or is it a thinly-veiled store?

• How will readers contribute their ideas? How will you tell them their ideas are being incorporated into content? What will keep readers coming back?

• What is the investment on the publisher’s side, and what is the potential return?

• Will you support current and emerging reading devices and platforms?

• How will you use data to drive direction?

• How will you market and build the community?

The format of the session will include short presentations from each of the three speakers (approx 30 minutes total). The balance of the time (approximately 10-15 minutes) would be spent soliciting experiences from attendees. This would be less of a Q and A and more of an interactive discussion. It is likely that attendees may have strong feelings on this topic given the power of the few big retailers.

1. Brief introduction to the concepts described above – Presented from a publishers perspective this would answer the questions Why would I? and How do I?
2. Doug Lessing will speak from the publishers perspective on metadata, ebook content and ecommerce platform considerations especially a mobile-first approach to design.
3.Micah Bowers will discuss the Digital Library and the readers experience enjoying the content on various devices
4. Susan Ruszala will speak about the critical interaction between the reader and the publisher and how the publisher can adapt to the behavior of readers. The emphasis of this segment will be on community building, fostering adoption and how to keep readers coming back utilizing the feedback and analytics available in a well-found platform.

The Speakers:
This topic requires insight into the complete cycle from publisher to reader and back. The three speakers represent a unique collaboration, bringing together experience from deep within publisher’s processes and challenges, readers’ experiences, and the feedback interaction between reader and publisher.

Photo of Doug Lessing

Doug Lessing

Firebrand Technologies

Doug Lessing is the President for Firebrand Technologies, a software and services company founded in 1987 dedicated to providing solutions for book publishers. Joining Firebrand in 1990, Doug has worked through the thorniest of publisher issues, often going well beyond technology to solve them. As President, Doug’s mission is to ensure that the Firebrand Community is being well served and ensuring that Firebrand is establishing new relationships. In this role, he is given the opportunity to preach often about Title ManagementEcommerce and the Firebrand philosophy.

Photo of Micah Bowers

Micah Bowers


Helping publishers, retailers, and libraries take charge of their digital future and build direct relationships with their readers. Bluefire offers customer-branded (white label) ereader apps for iOS and Android devices and is an authorized reseller of Adobe eBook Platform technologies such as ACS4, RMSDK, and Adobe Vendor ID.

Photo of Susan Ruszala

Susan Ruszala


Susan Ruszala is the President of NetGalley, which provides secure digital galleys to a growing community of professional readers in North America, the UK and Australia. Over 200 publishers and nearly 75,000 reviewers, media, booksellers, librarians and bloggers are using the service to discover and review upcoming books. Susan has been launching, pitching and polishing publishing technology ventures for over 15 years, the last five years as part of the NetGalley team. Susan is a frequent speaker at industry events, including recently at Digital Book World, FutureBook (London), and Booknet Canada’s Technology Forum.

Prior to joining NetGalley, Susan consulted with various publishing technology companies on business strategy, marketing plans and business development ventures, and was the International Marketing Director for a global publishing technology supplier. Susan got her start in publishing at a small independent press in NYC, where she learned the ropes of publishing from the very bottom.


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