Partners and findability
Integration, integration, integration. The web is a web: a network of information that can travel in any direction. It is not a collection of pipes. What does this mean? It means that buyers and sellers can meet anywhere, at any intersection, and your job as a publisher is to have a hot dog stand at every one. In the print world, this would mean having supply agreements with thousands of individual retailers. On the web, all you need is to be linkable, findable by the curators that count. Those intersections could include Google Books, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, iBooks, Scribd, and others, as well as your own website, whose value is determined largely by its Google ranking. In web-speak, discoverability is everything.
Your easiest route to maximising discoverability is to partner with other organisations that add a particular kind of value (e.g. Exact Editions has a great iPhone app) and boost your Google and general discoverability (e.g. Scribd’s good Google rankings; Amazon’s status as the world’s biggest book catalogue).
Also, keep an eye on the Open Publication Distribution System, part of the BookServer project. It’s a standard way of distributing information about publications online, with links to buy and/or access those publications. Traditionally, a catalogue of books travels from one organisation to the next (e.g. from a publisher to an aggregator to a retailer) by way of an explicit agreement. The designers behind OPDS saw this an thought, wait a minute, that catalogue info doesn’t have to travel down these controlled, restricted pipes. If we pick an easy technology (in this case, Atom), anyone can send and receive catalogue information freely, resulting in more finding of books and more selling of books. Take time to get your head around this, it’s awesome once you get it. See if your technology team can build it into their work – it’ll be worth their while.