Mousetraps & Marketing

December 2000
by Brian Jud

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Publishers can get caught in a marketing rut if they only produce titles similar to those that were successful in the past. Blind adherence to programs that led to past marketing successes leads to inertia. A sense of rigidity develops if you fail to recognize market drift, the gradual but substantial shift in customer preferences, business conditions, and competition.
For example, even if a potential title is about the better mousetrap an author has developed, consumers may not automatically beat a path to your door. Ask yourself three questions to determine if it is a possible winner. Are you sure your customer’s problem is mice? Deciding which titles to publish is a marketing decision, not necessarily a literary decision. The path to success does not begin with a good book, but with a customer need. Are you sure the customers know they have mice? If you plan to introduce a title that requires significant market development, your marketing mix would require heavy promotion. If your customers have mice and know it, do they truly want to get rid of them? You cannot determine the number of the prospective customers for a new title by relying on a past head-count. Each title meets a different need, and its potential must be determined separately.

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