Simon and Schuster and A Case of Viral Outreach

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Simon & Schuster, founded in 1924 by Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster, is one of the major players in the world of book publishing. Since its inception, Simon & Schuster has grown dramatically: It now employs 1,500 people and distributes books in more than 100 countries. These days, the publishing house is owned by CBS Corp., puts out about 2,000 titles a year, and has recently published best-sellers such as The Secret and The Best Life Diet. In 2007, Simon & Schuster partnered with TurnHere to launch the internet channel, employing internet videos as a means of marketing its books and authors. Simon & Schuster and its imprints have won 54 Pulitzer Prizes. It has been the recipient of numerous National Book Awards, National Book Critics Circle Awards, Grammy Awards, as well as Newbery and Caldecott Medals.

Companies all over the publishing industry are looking for ways to reach new audiences and to stay relevant. Book publishers are no exception. In the spring of 2009, Anne Zafian, VP, deputy publisher, children's books, says Simon & Schuster found itself with a "bestselling paranormal young adult series, The Mortal Instruments, by Cassandra Clare, whose sales we wanted to support and grow into the summer and beyond." More important, Zafian had a specific target audience in mind: "This is a paranormal series with lots of crossover appeal to adults, and we wanted to specifically target that crossover audience and to incrementally build Cassandra's audience."

VENDOR OF CHOICE will sound familiar to most Facebook members who have probably used its popular Visual Bookshelf app. LivingSocial is, essentially, a social discovery and cataloging network that allows people to review and share their favorite movies, books, games, music, restaurants, and beer. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the company now boasts 6.4 million users, made possible in part by the fact that it's one of the top developers on Facebook. LivingSocial is, perhaps, most well-known for its Pick 5 lists and, as previously mentioned, Visual Bookshelf. The Pick 5 application allows users to compile lists of their favorite things-from beers to 1980s cartoons-and share them with their friends. The Visual Bookshelf lets readers compile lists of books they have read, are reading, or would like to read. Users can rate and review books as well-all of which is open to a user's friends and the Facebook community.

The Problem In-Depth
Simon & Schuster did not have a problem per se. It was not looking to fix something that was broken; instead, Zafian's team was looking to innovate. Like so many book publishers, Simon & Schuster competes for readers' attention-a task made all the more difficult by increasing competition. Gone are the days when books were just competing with each other; gone too are the days when television and movies were the main competition for an audience's attention. Today, the internet provides almost infinite choices for the consumer: news, books, videos, and more all at a surfer's fingertips.

On the flip side, though, the internet also opens a new world of possibilities when it comes to promoting a book. If your readers are now spending several hours a day on social networking sites such as Facebook, what better way to get back in front of them than to use those same tools? Still, Simon & Schuster certainly isn't the only company to realize the potential that social networking sites hold.

"We marketed and continue to market this series, which spent 27 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list this year, in a variety of ways," says Zafian. "We had a great sales track already, a bunch of great author blurbs-including two great quotes from Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series. ..."

Clearly, Simon & Schuster has had some success in marketing these titles, in part, through its work with LivingSocial-leveraging web-based marketing techniques to promote its books in a new and interesting way in order to expand its reader base.

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