iUniverse and the publishing path of the novel A Perfect Blindness
Being smart, self-publishers have swiped a key marketing idea from traditional publishers.
In marketing, there is a concept called signaling. When a brand puts money and effort behind something they are trying to sell, they are signaling that they believe that it’s not only good, but that it will sell. It’s a practice that has been used in the music industry for over a century, ever since songwriters paid vaudevillians to sing their songs, and publishers paid big band leaders to play their songs. In the publishing industry, big publishers still pay slotting fees to bookstores to place books on a front table or, if on shelves, for the books to be put at eye level, or with the cover showing, or both. If a song is bad or a book is a bomb, no amount of money will fix it: a few people will buy it, hate it, and then let the world know. In industries that thrive on popularity like music and publishing, no one willingly puts money behind something that they know will be unpopular.
What this money buys for a song or a book that would otherwise be lost in a blizzard of titles is the opportunity to get noticed, and if it’s as good as the publisher thinks it is, to sell.
In the early days of rock and roll, a few giant labels dominated the airwaves. Smaller labels like Atlantic, King and Chess Records had to pay DJs to get heard, and by doing so they revolutionized music. Similar to the way self-publishing imprints are revolutionizing publishing right now.
Why would a self-publishing company bother to signal they believe a book they publish is actually that good? After all, they make all their money upfront and so publishing everything and anything, right?
Sort of, but not really.
First of all, they won’t publish anything. They need to protect themselves from defamation and libel and prohibit plagiarism, and most presses have further restrictions to protect themselves from various lawsuits and bad publicity. For example, iUniverse will not publish anything with explicit sex or drug use involving minors.
Second and more importantly, not every author publishes a book in order to sell it. Probing why a given book is being published is one of the very first questions iUniverse asks.
Next up, purpose plus quality = how money is made.