Book Review: Ulrich Huse: Verlagsmarketing. Frankfurt: Bramann, 2013 (Series: CAMPUSBasics – buch & medien 1).

Cover_CampusBasics_1_rgb_Ulrich Huse: Verlagsmarketing. Frankfurt: Bramann, 2013 (Series: CAMPUSBasics Buch & Medien 1). 160 pages. Paperback. €20. ISBN (Print): 978-3-934054-53-0. Also available as an E-Book. ISBN (PDF): 978-3-934054-72-1. ISBN (EPUB): 978-3-934054-73-8).

Review by Corinna Norrick-Rühl, Institute for Book Studies, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz

At this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the publisher Bramann introduced its new series of textbooks for students of book and media studies and for people involved in the book publishing industry: CAMPUSBasics – buch & medien. This new series, which will certainly have an impact on academic as well as vocational teaching in the fields of book and media studies, was inaugurated by the book under review here, Ulrich Huse’s “Verlagsmarketing” [Engl. “marketing strategies for publishers”].

The renowned publisher Kurt Wolff (founder of Pantheon Books) once said: “Either you publish books that you think people ought to read, or books you think people want to read” (qtd. on p. 14). In his introduction, Huse begins by explaining why traditional publishers (so-called “Kulturverleger”) may have had problems talking about books in economic terms, preferring instead an intellectual discourse on the contents of their books. Huse does not dwell on the reservations of the “Kulturverleger” long, however, and in Chapter 1, he presents the basics of marketing such as the Kano model of customer satisfaction or the relevant demographic typologies undertaken by the Sinus Institut (Sinus Milieus). He goes on to explain how a marketing mix is implemented for books. The four main instruments of this marketing mix are product, price, place, promotion; these “four Ps” are now supplemented by personnel/people and physcial facilities. He also discusses the decision-making process in advertising. Huse’s strength lies in his clear language and in choosing pertinent examples. Huse’s case studies for Push- and Pull-Marketing include calculations for advertising costs in relation to the projected sales, illustrating why only the most important books even have their own advertising budget.

In his brief second chapter, Huse focuses on the publishing house as a brand. Publishing houses have extreme difficulties establishing a brand amongst readers. While gatekeepers such as booksellers and journalists may be able to discern logos and publisher’s names, readers usually don’t care. While Huse confirms this, he also gives several examples of German firms that have successfully raised awareness for their brand, such as dictionary publisher Langenscheidt or literary publisher Reclam with its focus on cheap paperback editions for the classroom.

Chapter 3 deals with B2B (business-to-business) marketing strategies, that is publishers’ marketing tools that are directed at the booksellers, not the readers themselves. This chapter is fascinating from an international perspective because it gives insight into the extensive infrastructure of small bookstores and bookstore chains in Germany that still account for about 50% of sales. Huse deals with each step from the publisher to the bookseller, including sales representatives, publishers’ catalogs, promotion packages, complimentary copies, book launches, advertising in book trade magazines such as Börsenblatt and more. The illustrations in this chapter are extremely helpful. For example, several advertisements geared towards booksellers are shown in order to clarify how testimonials are used in advertising. It is particularly commendable that Huse chose all sorts of publishers’ advertisements as examples (the illustrations include ads by conglomerate-owned publishers such as Ullstein [Bonnier], Rowohlt [Holtzbrinck] or RandomHouse [Bertelsmann], independent mid-sized publishers such as Kosmos or Ravensburger, and small independents such as Mare).

Pages 84 and 85 of book

Two pages from Chapter 4 with illustrations showing examples (from left to right: cook book publisher Hölker Verlag, coffee-table book/lifestyle publisher TASCHEN and dictionary publisher Langenscheidt).

The final three chapters deal with marketing strategies visibile to and geared towards consumers/readers: Chapter 4 describes product-related marketing strategies, that is, marketing of the book as an object through special formats, materials, binding effects, dust jackets, etc. Here, Huse explains how Gérard Genette’s theoretical concept of “paratexts” can help book historians and publishing students pinpoint marketing strategies within and surrounding the book, giving additional information on how paratexts evolve and discussing their value as marketing tools. B2C (business-to-consumer) advertising is the topic of Chapter 5. Huse shows in which ways the interests of publishers and booksellers diverge and why both parties must work together nonetheless. An example of his precise descriptions is the subchapter about corporate publishing magazines such as Büchermenschen (published by bookseller Hugendubel) or buchjournal (published by the German book trade organization Börsenverein des deutschen Buchhandels). He highlights similarities and differences of a number of corporate publishing products. Online marketing is the topic of the final chapter (Chapter 6). Admittedly, it will be hard for this chapter to stay up-to-date, as the online marketing sector is changing rapidly. Nonetheless, Huse manages to give a good overview of the current developments and possibilities such as websites, newsletters, social media, and online reading communities. Huse also emphasizes that online marketing will not replace other marketing forms; instead, it is an additional channel.

The book is an extremely useful introduction which fills a void in the book and media studies textbook landscape. It is certainly ideal for students and for bookish people with a knack for economic questions. There are approximately 100 colored illustrations and the layout includes boxes for additional information on certain topics, which make the book easy to read. Each chapter ends with a bibliography, so chapters can be assigned to students piece by piece. Important terms are explained in the margins. In addition, there is an alphabetical glossary of all the technical terms which are marked by an orange hashtag in the text. It seems that the notes in the margins give additional infos, whereas the glossary defines central terms, though it is inconvenient that terms are explained in two different places. The review copy was the printed version, though the book has also appeared as an e-book (PDF and EPUB). In the print version, the inner margins are too slim, but this is a problem that can be solved easily in the following volumes of the series.

Overall, Huse’s “Verlagsmarketing” is a convincing introduction to the new textbook series, which readers can certainly look forward to. Among other topics, further titles are planned on distribution, copyright, media law, book trade history, reading research and book design.

A complimentary chapter of this book and the table of contents can be found here.

First published: October 18, 2013.

Last modified: October 21, 2013.


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