For many publishers, direct sales is an untapped opportunity

John Oakes on OR Books' alternative business model.


This post is part of the TOC podcast series. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.

Our June TOC theme is retailing, and there’s never been a more important time for publishers to build a direct sales channel for their customers. Far too many publishers still ignore this opportunity, claiming their existing retail partners already do a good job and they don’t want to compete with them. That should put a smile on the faces of the biggest book retailers who are only too happy to compete with publishers by creating and distributing their own content.

OR Books isn’t like these other publishers. I recently spoke with company co-founder John Oakes (@johnghoakes) about the importance of a direct-to-consumer channel and why OR Books has made it a priority.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • Start by scrapping distribution & production — It’s a classic example of how a startup isn’t weighed down by The Innovator’s Dilemma; OR Books is an alternative publisher in many ways. [Discussed at the 1:00 mark.]
  • Requires title-specific marketing — Because OR’s books cover many different genres, they have to develop unique marketing campaigns for each rather than just trying to get a bunch of copies stocked at a retailer. [Discussed at 2:07.]
  • Another DRM-free advocate — Despite the fact that all OR Books products are sold DRM-free, John points out that piracy has never been an issue for them. [Discussed at 4:07.]
  • Non-returnable, prepaid basis — Those are the terms OR Books has with print book retailers. It probably means they don’t get huge placement, but it also eliminates the pain and expense of returns. [Discussed at 6:30.]
  • Less gambling, more hand-selling — John feels there’s still an important role for brick-and-mortar retailers, but they need to change their purchase and selling models. [Discussed at 10:55.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.


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