Friday, July 20, 2012

Penguin, self-publishing, and analytics

Yesterday news hit of Pearson (parent company of Penguin) acquiring the self-publishing vendor Author Solutions. From Publishers Weekly:

In a move that can be traced to last year’s launch of Book Country, Penguin’s writer community and self-publishing venture, Pearson has acquired Author Solutions Inc.,one of the largest self-publishing ventures in the world, for $116 million from Bertram Capital. In a conference call from ASI’s headquarters in Bloomington, Ind., Penguin CEO John Makinson and ASI CEO Kevin Weiss, said the deal marks the “mainstreaming” of self-publishing, will provide Penguin with “scalable” data and expertise on self-publishing and offers opportunities for global growth and wider distribution to selected ASI authors through Penguin’s channels.
More than likely, Pearson are paying to acquire the expertise of ASI's database analysts. All trade publishers really, really need more information on who buys their books and how and why. There again, I'd thought that was the role Penguin had assigned to Book Country: to provide a window into the book-buying habits of their customers--or those who they probably should begin to see as their customers. That is, you, dear readers: individual buyers of books. (Traditional publishers' customers historically have been wholesalers and distributors, to a lesser degree retailers, and only very rarely individual customers.)
Makinson cited ASI’s expertise in "managing data analysis, online marketing and user-generated content," while Weiss said, "Penguin does distribution and curation." Makinson said that , "at first we didn’t understand rich consumer data, but we’re in the data analysis business now and ASI will give us a big lift with data analysis and online marketing. We’re gaining access to real scale, hundreds of thousands of customers and authors and ability to analyse across a large database."
Perhaps Book Country wasn't living up to Penguin's hopes. As a community for emerging writers, I think it's probably not too bad (though still young). As a publishing solution, a source of revenue or the right data to analyse, I'm guessing it's a failure. ASI's annual revenues, on the other hand, exceed $100m and, as noted, its staff are expert analysts. It wouldn't shock me if Book Country quietly folded its tent and was absorbed by the ASI encampment...
This blog has moved. My blog now lives here: