Okay, let me preface this by explaining that before I entered the self publishing business I had no experience in publishing other than adding to the slush piles of various publishers. I did however have a pretty good business foundation, from employee to manager to small business owner. So as I studied the market and the business I naturally applied what I knew and noticed that basic business practices transcend business types and categories. One of those concepts is that of pull through/push through sale and marketing. So what is this concept and how does it apply to us as writers/publishers? I’m glad you asked!
Pull through/push through is a concept that mostly applies to a ‘mature’ marketplace, that is a market that’s been around for some time, like publishing. It involves the method of getting the product (book) to the end user (reader) in the most efficient and profitable way. In most cases this is accomplished through a middleman or a series of middlemen. The manufacturer (publisher) produces the product then sells that product (book) to the distributor or wholesaler (book distributor or book store) who in turn sells the product (book) to the end user (reader). So how does pull through/push through apply to this process? Again, I’m glad you asked!
In push through marketing the manufacturer focuses its attention on the distributor. He/she tailors its products for the needs of the distributor. It is assumed by the manufacturer that the distributor’s decisions are based on the needs and wants of the end user (reader). But the distributor has other concerns as well, such as inventory volumes, purchase order statements and other stuff. So the final decision may not always be made based on what the customer (reader) wants and need. Also,scant consideration is made as to if there is something the customer (reader) wants and need that is not currently available. So the manufacturer’s customer is the distributor. This is the person he/she must satisfy.
Pull through marketing/sales is different. In this case the manufacturer sell directly to the end user (reader) and creates the demand. The distributor will fall in line because the customer (reader) is demanding said product and in the end, the customer (reader) knows best. This type of marketing requires more effort on the manufacturer’s part but also gives the manufacturer more control over the end user (reader) market. It also allows the manufacturer (publisher) to introduce and create demand for new products (books).
Okay, I hope you’re still with me. So what does this have to do with you as a mainstream writer/independent writer? Well, if you are a mainstream writer you are in the position of push through marketing. You are trying to convince the agent/editor/publisher to sell your story to the reader. So as much as you would like to think you are writing for the end user reader, you are writing for the agent/editor reader. You have to convince these folks that your story/novel is worth their time and effort to present to the end user reader. It is very important in this case that you spend more time meeting what the agent/editor requires in order to get your chance to be published. That’s why agents give you these long lists of things to do.
Now if you are an independent writer you’re in pull through mode. You’re dealing directly with the reader, writing your stories and presenting them any way you can. As we have seen many times, most recently with 50 Shades of Gray, if you win the end user reader everyone else falls in line. You’ve created the demand and everyone else wants a piece of it. Since you went directly to the source you don’t have to consider the other items that would concern the distributor, such as inventories or whether or not the reader will actually want this new type of writing or story. Pull through can be more effective for a writer but is challenging because it involves self marketing. Luckily social media had made that a bit easier.
And now I’m done. Whichever path you choose to publishing, take the time to study and understand the market and methods so your time won’t be wasted. It will help increase your chances of ‘success,’ whatever that means to you. Class dismissed; there will be a quiz on Friday.