E-Book Advertising Is Here

There was a piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about Harry Hurt III’s upcoming e-book. Hurt sought out many sponsors for his book, which sounds like it involved a lot of travel (i.e., is expensive for the author to write). The sponsors gave him money, equipment and products in exchange for ads inside the book and “significant product placement woven throughout [the book’s] narrative.”

Will readers mind the advertisements in the book? Is it possible to work product placement into your narrative seamlessly?

I’m not sure how readers will feel about this. I suspect that they will demand a cheaper price if they can see that there were other revenue streams for the author. It’s not to say that they should necessarily get it because travel books are hard to finance and won’t always become profitable. Good on the author for finding a way to hopefully break even before publication. But book buyers seem to be questioning pricing, the cost of production and profit margins a lot these days. They may feel that advertising revenue should make the book cheaper.

But there’s something else interesting about the WSJ article:

Mr. Hurt’s literary agent, Don Fehr, who has had no hand in the publication of the e-book, said he plans to sell print rights to the work provided it achieves strong sales in its first few months.

Will this be the new business model for authors and agents? Publish an e-book independently first and then try to sell print. It’s not clear whether publishers will be interested in putting out the print version of a book that is selling well in electronic format. As e-books become more popular, will print remain profitable on its own? Will publishers invest in marketing a book when they’re splitting sales or will the e-book publisher (in this case, the author) split the cost of marketing to take the book to the next level?

More and more it looks as though print will not be as important a piece of the pie. Perhaps selling print in a case like this would just be the icing on the cake for the author? Perhaps sponsorship and ad placement will become the main source of author income.

This will be an interesting case to watch.

What do you think? Do you care if the next e-book you purchase has ads and product placement in it? Do you think successful e-books will become popular acquisitions for traditional publishers?