By Brian O’Leary, Founder and Principal, Magellan Media
While there is little doubt that digital is coming to children’s books, the shift poses a new marketing challenge.
Of those buying children’s books, only half go to a store with a specific book in mind. Impulse purchases make up a quarter of all sales, while “browsing the bookstore” is the top way that print books are selected for children under the age of six.
Bookstores and libraries have played key roles in making books visible and available. These time-tested channels are not going away, but the overall marketing mix is changing as the sales of digital content for children grow.
To be sure, some things have not changed. Liking an author or having a friend recommend a book does more to influence a sale than anything else.
But across digital platforms, things like best-seller lists, online reviews and retailer recommendations are replacing the important role that in-store displays play for physical books. To maximize digital sales, publishers will need to cultivate both retailers and reviewers in ways no longer connected to shelf space.
They will also need to navigate digital storefronts that are just now coming to terms with the blended nature of digital content. Illustrated books, in particular, benefit from the ability to look inside, sample content or even read the entire book.
That’s how the print versions of children’s books are found, but this level of interaction and engagement is not widely supported through various e-tailers. As a result, the likelihood that a book will be discovered is lower. When digital books do get found, little of the content is available to be evaluated by a potential buyer.
This lack of access leaves publishers vulnerable. Fortunately, there are steps anyone can take now to prepare for digital discovery.
Making a digital facsimile of the full book is one option. For shorter books, this is easily done, and it helps show both the nature and the quality of illustrations. Publishers concerned with piracy can watermark the file or make it available only at a smaller size.
Cultivating communities can deliver significant results when a book is launched. A loyal following interested in the work of an author or illustrator can offer strong word-of-mouth support (both off and online).
As content has grown increasingly digital, newspapers and magazine are no longer the sole owners of respected reviews. A trusted community member can offer insights about a book that inform buyers and create sales. Publishers can look for ways to involve these respected advocates early on, well ahead of publication dates.
While marketing digital content does pose challenges, it also provides pathways to new and different solutions. Publishers and authors interested in growing the sales of digital content in the children’s market can be preparing now for a robust future.
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